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Title: The Pastor's Wife
Author: Arnim, Elizabeth von, 1866-1941
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "The Pastor's Wife" ***

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and Andrea Ball & Marc D'Hooghe at
http://www.freeliterature.org (From images generously made


THE PASTOR'S WIFE

_By the Author of "Elizabeth and Her German Garden"_


_Illustrated by Arthur Litle_


GARDEN CITY     NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
       1914


[Illustration: "Tell me, Little One," he said when she rejoined him,
"will you marry me?"]


BY THE SAME AUTHOR

ELIZABETH AND HER GERMAN GARDEN
ADVENTURES OF ELIZABETH IN RÜGEN
FRÄULEIN SCHMIDT AND MR. ANSTRUTHER
PRINCESS PRISCILLA'S FORTNIGHT
THE SOLITARY SUMMER
THE CARAVANERS



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"Tell me, Little One," he said when she rejoined him, "will you
  marry me?"      _Frontispiece_

"Then why," she asked, with the courage of curiosity, "are you
  a pastor?"

"Will you not, Ingeborg," said Herr Dremmel, calling her for the
  first time by her name, "cut the cake?"

"But--father, I've been doing it too"

He could no longer walk around his own garden without meeting an
  interlaced couple

"You are married to her?" asked the elder Frau Dremmel, turning her
  pebble eyes slowly from one to the other

Especially her gaze lingered on her feet. Becoming aware of this,
  Ingeborg tried to hide them

"But these are very wonderful," she said, taking up the sketches.
  "I wish I were really like that."



PART I



CHAPTER I


On that April afternoon all the wallflowers of the world seemed to her
released body to have been piled up at the top of Regent Street so that
she should walk in fragrance.

She was in this exalted mood, the little mouse-coloured young lady
slipping along southwards from Harley Street, because she had just had a
tooth out. After weeks of miserable indifference she was quivering with
responsiveness again, feeling the relish of life, the tang of it, the
jollity of all this bustle and hurrying past of busy people. And the
beauty of it, the _beauty_ of it, she thought, fighting a tendency to
loiter in the middle of the traffic to have a good look--the beauty of
the sky across the roofs of the houses, the delicacy of the mistiness
that hung down there over the curve of the street, the loveliness of the
lights beginning to shine in the shop windows. Surely the colour of
London was an exquisite thing. It was like a pearl that late afternoon,
something very gentle and pale, with faint blue shadows. And as for its
smell, she doubted, indeed, whether heaven itself could smell better,
certainly not so interesting. "And anyhow," she said to herself, lifting
her head a moment in appreciation, "it can't possibly smell more
_alive_."

She herself had certainly never been more alive. She felt electric. She
would not have been surprised if sparks had come crackling out of the
tips of her sober gloves. Not only was she suddenly and incredibly
relieved from acute pain, but for the first time in her life of
twenty-two years she was alone. This by itself, without the business of
the tooth, was enough to make a dutiful, willing, and hardworked
daughter tingle. She would have tingled if by some glorious chance a
whole free day had come to her merely inside the grey walls of the
garden at home; but to be free and idle in London, to have them all so
far away, her family down there in the west, to have them so necessarily
silent, so oddly vague already and pallid in the distance! Yet she had
only left them that morning; it was only nine hours since her father,
handsome as an archangel, silvery of head and gaitered of leg, had waved
her off from the doorstep with offended resignation. "And do not return,
Ingeborg," he had called into the fly where she sat holding her face and
trying not to rock, "till you are completely set right. Even a week.
Even ten days. Have them all seen to."

For the collapse of Ingeborg, daunted into just a silent feverish thing
of pain, had convulsed the ordered life at home. Her family bore it for
a week with perfect manners and hardly a look of reproach. Then they
sent her to the Redchester dentist, a hitherto sufficient man, who
tortured her with tentative stoppings and turned what had been dull and
smooth into excitement and jerks. Then, unable to resist a feeling that
self-control would have greatly helped, it began to find the etiquette
of Christian behaviour, which insisted on its going on being silent
while she more and more let herself go, irksome. The Bishop wanted
things in vain. Three times he had to see himself off alone at the
station and not be met when he came back. Buttons, because they were not
tightened on in time, burst from his gaiters, and did it in remote
places like railway carriages. Letters were unanswered, important ones.
Engagements, vital ones, through lack of reminders went unkept. At last
it became plain, when she seemed not even to wish to answer when spoken
to or to move when called, that this apathy and creeping away to hide
could not further be endured. Against all tradition, against every home
principle, they let a young unmarried daughter loose. With offended
reluctance they sent her to London to a celebrity in teeth--after all it
was not as if she had been going just to enjoy herself--"And your aunt
will please forgive us," said the Bishop, "for taking her in this manner
unawares."

The aunt, a serious strong lady, was engaged for political meetings in
the north, and had gone away to them that very morning, leaving a letter
and her house at Ingeborg's disposal for so long as the dentist needed
her. The dentist, being the best that money could buy, hardly needed her
at all. He pounced unerringly and at once on the right tooth and pulled
it out. There were no stoppings, no delays, no pain, and no aunt. Never
was a life more beautifully cleared. Ingeborg went away down Harley
Street free, and with ten pounds in her pocket. For the rest of this one
day, for an hour or two to-morrow morning before setting out for
Paddington and home, she could do exactly as she liked.

"Why, there's nothing to prevent me going _anywhere_ this evening," she
thought, stopping dead as the full glory of the situation slowly dawned
on her. "Why, I could go out somewhere really grand to dinner, just as
people do I expect in all the books I'm not let read, and then I could
go to the play--nobody could prevent me. Why, I could go to a music-hall
if I chose, and _still_ nobody could prevent me!"

Audacious imaginings that made her laugh--she had not laughed for
weeks--darted in and out of her busy brain. She saw herself in her
mouse-coloured dress reducing waiters in marble and gilt places to
respect and slavery by showing them her ten pounds. She built up lurid
fabrics of possible daring deeds, and smiled at the reflection of
herself in shop windows as she passed, at the sobriety, the
irreproachableness of the sheath containing these molten imaginings.
Why, she might hire a car--just telephone, and there you were with it
round in five minutes, and go off in the twilight to Richmond Park or
Windsor. She had never been to Richmond Park or Windsor; she had never
been anywhere; but she was sure there would be bats and stars out there,
and water, and the soft duskiness of trees and the smell of wet earth,
and she could drive about them a little, slowly, so as to _feel_ it all,
and then come back and have supper somewhere--have supper at the Ritz,
she thought, of which she had read hastily out of the corner of an eye
between two appearances of the Bishop, in the more interesting portions
of the _Times_--just saunter in, you know. Or she could have dinner
first; yes, dinner first--dinner at Claridge's. No, not at Claridge's;
she had an aunt who stayed there, another one, her mother's sister, rich
and powerful, and it was always best not to stir up rich and powerful
aunts. Dinner at the Thackeray Hôtel, perhaps. That was where her
father's relations stayed, fine-looking serious men who once were
curates and, yet earlier, good and handsome babies. It was near the
British Museum, she had heard. Its name and surroundings suggested
magnificence of a nobler sort than the Ritz. Yes, she would dine at the
Thackeray Hôtel and be splendid.

Here, coming to a window full of food, she became aware that,
wonderfully, and for the first time for weeks, she was hungry; so hungry
that she didn't want dinner or supper or anything future, but something
now. She went in; and all her gilded visions of the Ritz and the
Thackeray Hôtel were swamped in one huge cup (she felt how legitimate
and appropriate a drink it was for a bishop's daughter without a
chaperon, and ordered the biggest size costing four-pence) of Aerated
Bread Shop cocoa.

It was six o'clock when she emerged, amazingly nourished, from that
strange place where long-backed elderly men with tired eyes were
hurriedly eating poached eggs on chilly little clothless marble tables,
and continued down Regent Street.

She now felt strangely settled in her mind. She no longer wanted to go
to the Ritz. Indeed the notion of dining anywhere with the cocoa
clothing her internally as with a garment--a thick winter garment,
almost she thought like the closer kinds of fur--was revolting. She
still felt enterprising, but a little clogged. She thought now more of
things like fresh air and exercise. Not now for her the heat and glitter
of a music-hall. There was a taste in that pure drink that was
irreconcilable with music-halls, a satisfying property in its
unadulteratedness, its careful cleanliness, that reminded her she was
the daughter of a bishop. Walking away from the Aerated Bread Shop
rather gravely, she remembered that she had a mother on a sofa; an only
sister who was so beautiful that it was touching; and a class of boys,
once unruly and now looking up to her--in fact, that she had a position
to keep up. She was still happy, but happy now in a thoroughly nice way;
and she would probably have gone back in this warmed and solaced
condition to her aunt's house in Bedford Square and an evening with a
book and an early bed if her eye had not been caught by a poster outside
an office sort of place she was passing, a picture of water and
mountains, with written on it in big letters:

              A WEEK IN LOVELY LUCERNE
            SEVEN DAYS FOR SEVEN GUINEAS

     THOSE WHO INTEND TO JOIN NEXT TRIP INQUIRE
                      WITHIN

Now Ingeborg's maternal grandmother had been a Swede, a creature of
toughness and skill on skis, a young woman, when caught surprisingly by
the washed-out English tourist Ingeborg's grandfather, drenched in frank
reading and thinking and in the smell of the abounding forests and in
wood strawberries and sour cream. She had lived, up to the day when for
some quite undiscoverable reason she allowed herself to be married to
the narrow stranger, in the middle of big beautiful things--big
stretches of water, big mountains, big winds, big lonelinesses; and
Ingeborg, who had never been out of England and had spent years in the
soft and soppy west, seeing the picture of the great lake and the great
sky in the window in Regent Street, felt a quick grip on her heart.

It was the fingers of her grandmother.

She stood staring at the picture, half-remembering, trying hard to
remember quite, something beautiful and elusive and remote that once she
had known--oh, that once she had known--but that she kept on somehow
forgetting. The urgencies of daily life in episcopal surroundings, the
breathless pursuit of her duties, the effort all day long to catch them
up and be even with them, the Bishop's buttons, the Bishop's speeches,
the Bishop's departures by trains, his all-pervadingness when at home,
his all-engulfing mass of correspondence when away--"She is my Right
Hand," he would say in stately praise--the Redchester tea-parties to
which her mother couldn't go because of the sofa, the county
garden-parties to which Judith had to be taken, the callers, the
bazaars, the cathedral services, the hurry, the noise--life at home
seemed the noisiest thing--these had smothered and hidden, beaten down,
put out and silenced that highly important and unrecognized part of her,
her little bit of lurking grandmother. Now, however, this tough but
impulsive lady rose within her in all her might. Her granddaughter was
in exactly the right state for being influenced. She was standing there
staring, longing, seething with Scandinavia, and presently arguing.

Why shouldn't she? The Bishop, as she had remarked with wonder earlier
in the afternoon, seemed to have faded quite pallid that long way off.
And arrangements had been made. He had engaged an extra secretary; his
chaplain had been warned; Judith was going perhaps to do something; her
mother would stay safely on the sofa. They did not expect her back for
at least a week, and not for as much longer as her tooth might ache. If
her tooth were still in her mouth it _would_ be aching. If the dentist
had decided to stop it, it would have been a fortnight before such a
dreadful ache as that could be suppressed, she was sure it would. And
the ten pounds her father had given her for taxis and tips and other
odds and ends, spread over a fortnight what would have been left of it
anyhow? Besides, he had said--and indeed the Bishop, desirous of taking
no jot from his generosity in the whole annoying business, had said it,
and said it with the strong flavour of Scripture which hung about even
his mufti utterances--that she might keep any fragments of it that
remained that nothing be lost.

"Your father is very good to you," said her mother, in whose prostrate
presence the gift had been made.--"But bishops," flashed across
Ingeborg's undisciplined and jerky mind, "have to be good"--(she caught
the flash, however, and choked it out before it had got
half-way)--"you'll be able to get yourself a spring hat."

"Yes, mother," said Ingeborg, holding her face.

"And I should think a blouse as well," said her mother thoughtfully.

"Yes, mother."

"My dear, remember I _require_ Ingeborg here," said the Bishop, uneasy
at this vision of an indispensable daughter delayed by blouses. "You
will not, of course, forget that, Ingeborg."

"No, father."

And here she was forgetting it. Here she was in front of a common poster
forgetting it. What the Ritz and the Thackeray Hôtel with all their
attractions had not been able to do, that crude picture did. She forgot
the Bishop--or rather he seemed at that distance such a little thing,
such a little bit of a thing, a tiny little black figure with a dab of
white on its top, compared to this vision of splendid earth and heaven,
that she wilfully would not remember him. She forgot her accumulating
work. She forgot that her movements had all first to be sanctioned. A
whirl of Scandinavianism, of violent longing for freedom and adventure,
seemed to catch her and lift her out of the street and fling her into a
place of maps and time-tables and helpful young men framed in mahogany.

"When--when--" she stammered breathlessly, pointing to a duplicate of
the same poster hanging inside, "when does the next trip start?"

"To-morrow, madam," said the young man her question had tumbled on.

A solemnity fell upon her. She felt it was Providence. She ceased to
argue. She didn't even try to struggle. "I'm going," she announced.

And her ten pounds became two pounds thirteen, and she walked away
conscious of nothing except that the very next day she would be off.



CHAPTER II


She was collected by the official leader of this particular Dent's
Excursion at Charing Cross the next morning and swept into a
second-class carriage with nine other excursionists, and next door there
were more--she counted eighteen of them at one time crowding round the
leader asking him questions--and besides these there was a crowd of
ordinary passengers bustling about with holiday expressions, and several
runaway couples, and every single person seemed like herself eager to be
off.

The runaway couples, from the ravaged expressions on their faces, were
being torn by doubts, perhaps already by repentances; but Ingeborg,
though she was deceiving her father who, being a bishop, should have
been peculiarly inviolate, and her mother who, being sofa-ridden, should
have appealed to her better nature, and her sister who, being exquisite,
should have been guarded from any shadow that might dim her beauty, had
none. She had been frightened that morning while she was packing and
getting herself out of her aunt's house. The immense conviction of the
servants that she was going home cowed her. And she had had to say
little things--Paddington, for instance, to the taxi driver when she
knew she meant Charing Cross, and had blushed when she changed it
through the window. But here she was, and there was a crowd of people
doing exactly the same thing whose secure jollity, except in the case of
those odd, sad couples, was contagious, and she felt both safe and as
though she were the most normal creature in the world.

"What _fun_," she thought, her blood dancing as she watched the
swarming, surging platform, "what _fun_."

Often had she been at the Redchester station in attendance on her
departing father, but what a getting off was that compared with this
hilarity. There was bustle, of course, because trains won't wait and
people won't get out of the way, but the Bishop's bustlings,
particularly when their end was confirmations, were conducted with a
kind of frozen offendedness; there was no life in him, she thought,
remembering them, he didn't let himself go. On the other hand, she
reflected, careful to be fair, you couldn't snatch illicitly at things
like confirmations in the way you could at a Dent's Tour and devour them
in secret with a fearful hidden joy. She felt like a bulb must feel, she
thought, at the supreme moment when it has nosed its little spear
successfully up through the mould it has endured all the winter and gets
it suddenly out into the light and splendour of the world. The freedom
of it! The joy of getting _clear_!

The excursionists in the carriage struggled to reach the window across
her feet and say things to their friends outside. They all talked at
once, and the carriage was full of sound and gesticulations. The friends
on the platform could not hear, but they nodded and smiled
sympathetically and shouted at intervals that it was going to be a good
crossing. Everybody was being seen off except herself and the runaway
couples; indeed, you could know which those were by the gaps along the
platform. She sat well back in her place, anxious to make herself as
convenient as possible and to get her feet tucked out of the way, a
typical daughter of provincial England and a careful home and the more
expensive clergy, well-dressed, inconspicuous, and grey. Her soft
mouse-colour hat, as the fashion that spring still went on decreeing in
the west, came down well over her eyes and ears, and little rings of
cheerful hair of a Scandinavian colouring wantoned beneath it. Her small
face was swallowed up in the shadow of the hat; you saw a liberal mouth
with happy corners, and the nostrils of a selective nose, and there was
an impression of freckles, and of a very fair sunny sort of skin.

The square German gentleman opposite her, knowing nobody in London and
therefore being, but for a different and honourable reason, in her
position of not having any one to see him off, filled up the time by
staring. Entirely unconscious that it might be embarrassing he sat and
stared. With the utmost singleness of mind he wished to see the rest of
her, when he would be able to determine whether she were pretty or not.

Ingeborg, absorbed by the wild excitement on the platform, had not
noticed him; but immediately the train started and the other passengers
had sorted themselves into their seats and were beginning the furtive
watchfulness of one another that was presently to resolve itself into
acquaintanceship, she knew there was something large and steady opposite
that was concentrated upon herself.

She looked up quickly to see what it was, and for a moment her polite
intelligent eyes returned his stare. He decided that she had missed
being pretty, and with a faint regret wondered what God was about.

"Fattened up--yes, possibly," he thought. "Fattened up--yes, perhaps."

And he went on staring because she happened to be exactly opposite, and
there was nothing else except tunnels to look at.

The other excursionists were all in pairs; they thought Ingeborg was,
too, and put her down at first as the German gentleman's wife because he
did not speak to her. There were two couples of young women, one of
ladies of a riper age, and one of earnest young men who were mentioning
Balzac to each other almost before they had got to New Cross. Indeed, a
surprising atmosphere of culture pervaded the compartment. Ingeborg was
astonished. Except the riper ladies, who persisted in talking about
Shoolbred, they were all presently saying educated things. Balzac,
Blake, Bernard Shaw, and Mrs. Florence Barclay were bandied backwards
and forwards across the carriage as lightly and familiarly as though
they had been balls. In the far corner Browning was being compared with
Tennyson; in the middle, Dickens with Thackeray. The two elder ladies,
who kept to Shoolbred, formed a sort of dam between these educated
overflowings and the silent back-water in which Ingeborg and the German
gentleman sat becalmed. Presently, owing to a politeness that could not
allow even an outlying portion of any one else's clothing or belongings
to be brushed against without "Excuse me" having been said and "Don't
mention it" having been answered, acquaintanceships were made;
chocolates were offered; they introduced each other to each other; for a
brief space the young men's caps were hardly on their heads, and the air
was murmurous with gratified noises. But the two riper ladies,
passionately preoccupied by Shoolbred, continued to dam up Ingeborg and
her opposite neighbour into a stagnant and unfruitful isolation.

She tried to peep round the lady next to her, who jutted out like a
mountain with mighty boulders on it, so as to see the three people
hidden in the valley beyond. Glimpses of their knees revealed that they
were just like the ones on the seat opposite. They were neat knees, a
little threadbare; not with the delicate threadbareness of her own home
in the palace at Redchester, where splendours of carved stone and black
oak and ancient glass were kept from flaunting their pricelessness too
obviously in the faces of the local supporters of Disestablishment by a
Christian leanness in the matter of carpets, but knees that were
inexpensive because they had to be. Who were these girls and young men,
and the two abundant ladies, and the man with the vast thick head and
unalterable stare? All people who did things, she was certain. Not just
anything, like herself, but regular things that began and stopped at
fixed times, that were paid for. That was why they were able to do
frankly and honourably what she was snatching at furtively in a corner.
For a brief astonishing instant she was aware she liked the corner way
_best_. Staggered at this, for she could in no way reconcile it with the
Bishop, the cathedral, the home, nor with any of her thoughts down there
while enfolded in these three absorbing influences, she tried to follow
her father's oft-repeated advice and look into herself. But it did not
help much. She saw, indeed, that she was doing an outrageous thing, but
then she was very happy--happier than she had ever been in Redchester,
plied with legitimate episcopal joys. There was a keenness about this
joy, the salt freshness of something jolly and indefensible done in
secret. She did look at penitence sideways for an instant, but almost,
at once decided that it was a thing that comes afterwards. First you do
your thing. You must of course do your thing, or there couldn't be any
penitence.

She sat up very straight, her face lit with these thoughts that both
amused and frightened her, her lips slightly parted, her eyes radiant,
ready for anything life had to offer.

"A little fattened up," thought the German gentleman; "a _little_ even
would probably suffice."

There was to be a night in Paris--no time to see it, but you can't have
everything, and Paris is Paris--and next morning into the train again,
and down, down, all down the slope of the map of France to Bâle, the
Gate of Beauty, surely of heavenly beauty, and then you got there, and
there were five whole days of wonder, and then....

Her thoughts hesitated. Why then she supposed, making an effort, you
began to come back. And then....

But here she thought it wisest not to go on thinking.

"Excuse me, but do you mind having that window up?" asked the lady on
her right.

"Oh, no," said Ingeborg, darting at the strap with the readiness to help
and obey she had been so carefully practised in.

It was stiff, and she fumbled at it, wondering a little why the man
opposite just watched.

When she had got it up he undid the woollen scarf round his neck and
unbuttoned the top button of his overcoat.

"At last," he said in a voice of relief, heaving an enormous sigh.

He looked at her and smiled.

Instantly she smiled back. Any shreds of self-consciousness she may have
had clinging to her in her earlier days had been finally scraped off
when Judith, that amazing piece of loveliness, came out.

"Were you cold?" she asked, with the friendly interest of a boy.

"Naturally. When windows are open one is always cold."

"Oh!" said Ingeborg, who had never thought of that.

She perceived from his speech that he was a foreigner. From the
turned-down collar and white tie beneath his opened scarf she also was
made aware that he was a minister of religion. "How they pursue me," she
thought. Even here, even in a railway carriage reserved for Dent's
excursionists only, one of them had filtered through. She also saw that
he was of a drab complexion, and that his hair, drab, too, and
close-cropped and thick, seemed to be made of beaver.

"But that's what windows are _for_," she said, after reflecting on it.

"No."

The two large ladies let Shoolbred pause while they looked at each
other.

They considered Ingeborg's behaviour forward. She ought not to have
spoken first. Impossible on a Dent's Tour not to make friends--indeed
the social side of these excursions is the most important--but there are
rules. The other end of the carriage had observed the rules. The two
ladies hoped they had not joined anything not quite high-toned. The
other end had carried out the rules with rigid _savoir-vivre_; had
accidentally touched and trodden on; had apologised; had had its
apologies accepted; had introduced and been introduced; and so had
cleared the way to chocolates.

"No?" repeated Ingeborg inquiringly.

"The aperture was there first," said the German gentleman.

"Of course," said Ingeborg, seeing he waited for her to admit it.

"And in the fulness of the ages came man, and mechanically shut it."

"Yes," said Ingeborg. "But--"

"Consequently, the function of windows is to shut apertures."

"Yes. But--"

"And not to open that which, without them, was open already."

"Y'es. But--"

"It would be illogical," said the German gentleman patiently, "to
contend that their function is to open that which, without them, was
open already."

Reassured by the word illogical, which was a nice word, well known to
and quite within the spirit of a Dent's Tour, the two ladies went on
with Shoolbred where they had left him off.

"The first day I was in England I went about logically, and shut each
single window in my boarding-house. I then discovered that this
embittered the atmosphere around me."

"It would thicken it," nodded Ingeborg, interested.

"It did. And my calling after all being that of peace, and my visit so
short, that whatever happened could be endured, I relinquished logic and
purchased in its place a woollen scarf. This one. Then I gave myself up
unrestrictedly to their air."

"And did you like it?"

"It made me recollect with pleasure that I was soon going home. In East
Prussia there are, on the one hand, drawbacks; but, on the other, are
double windows, stoves, and a just proportion of feathers for each man's
bed. Till the draughts and blankets of the boarding-house braced me to
enduring instead of enjoying I had thought my holiday too short, and
when I remembered my life and work at home--my official life and
work--it had been appearing to me puny."

"Puny?" said Ingeborg, her eyes on his white tie.

"Puny. The draughts and blankets of the boarding-house cured me. I am
returning gladly. My life there, I say to myself, may be puny but it is
warm. So," he added, smiling, "a man learns content."

"Taught by draughts and blankets?"

"Taught by going away."

"Oh?" said Ingeborg. Had Providence then only led her to that poster in
order that she should learn content? Were Dent's Tours really run,
educationally, by Providence?

"But--" she began, and then slopped.

"It is necessary to go away in order to come back," said the German
gentleman, again with patience.

"Yes. Of course. But--"

"The chief use of a holiday is to make one hungry to have finished with
it."

"Oh _no_," she protested, the joy of holiday in her voice.

"Ah. You are at the beginning."

"The very beginning."

"Yet at the end you, too, will return home reconciled."

She looked at him and shook her head.

"I don't think reconciled is quite the--" She paused, thinking. "To
what?" she went on. "To puniness, too?"

The two ladies faltered in their conversation, and glanced at Ingeborg,
and then at each other.

"Perhaps not to puniness. You are not a pastor."

There was a distinct holding of the breath of the two ladies. The German
gentleman's slow speech fell very clearly on their sudden silence.

"No," said Ingeborg. "But what has that--"

"I am. And it is a puny life."

Ingeborg felt a slight curdling. She thought of her father--also, if you
come to that, a pastor. She was sure there was nothing in anything he
ever did that would strike him as puny. His life was magnificent and
important, filled to bursting point with a splendid usefulness and with
a tendency to fill the lives of every one who came within his reach to
their several bursting points, too. But he, of course, was a prince of
the Church. Still, he had gone through the Church's stages, beginning
humbly; yet she doubted whether at any moment of his career he had
looked at it and thought it puny. And was it not indeed the highest
career of all? However breathless and hurried it made one's female
relations in its upper reaches, and drudging in its lower, the very
highest?

But though she was curdled she was interested.

"It might not be amiss," continued the pastor, looking out of the window
at some well-farmed land they were passing, "if it were not for the
Sundays."

Again she was curdled.

"But--"

"They spoil it."

She was silent; and the silence of the two ladies appeared to acquire a
frost.

"It is the fatal habit of Sundays," he went on, following the
disappearing land with his eyes, "to recur."

He paused, as if waiting for her to agree.

She had to, because it was a truth one could not get away from. "Yes,"
she said, reluctantly. "Of course. It's their nature." Then a wave of
memories suddenly broke over her, and she added warmly "Oh _don't_
they!"

The frost of the ladies seemed to settle down. It grew heavy.

"They interrupt one's work," he said.

"But they _are_ your work," she said, puzzled.

"No."

She stared. "But," she began, "a pastor--"

"A pastor is also a man."

"Yes," said Ingeborg, "but--"

"You have no doubt observed that he is, invariably, also a man."

"Yes," said Ingeborg, "but--"

"And a man of intelligence--I am a man of intelligence--cannot fill up
his life with the meagre materials offered by the practice of the tenets
of the Lutheran Church."

"Oh--the _Lutheran_ Church," said Ingeborg, catching at a straw.

"Any church."

She was silent. She felt how immensely her father would not have liked
it. She felt it was wicked to sit there and listen. She also felt,
strange and dreadful to observe, refreshed.

"Then," she began, knitting her brows, for really this at its best was
bad taste, and bad taste, she had always been taught, was the very
worst--oh, but how nice it was, a little bit of it, after the swamps of
good taste one waded about in in cathedral cities! She knitted her
brows, aghast at her thoughts. "Then what," she asked, "_do_ you fill
your life up with?"

"Manure," said the German gentleman.

The ladies leapt in their places.

"Ma--" began Ingeborg; then stopped.

"I am engaged in endeavouring to teach the peasants of my parish how
best to farm their poor pieces of land."

"Oh, really," said Ingeborg, politely.

"I do it by example. They do not attend to words. I have bought a few
acres and experiment before their eyes. Our soil is the worst in
Germany. It is inconceivably thankless. And the peasants resemble it."

"Oh, really," said Ingeborg.

"The result of the combination is poverty."

"So then, I suppose," said Ingeborg, with memories of the Bishop's
methods, "you preach patience."

"Patience! I preach manure."

Again at the dreadful word the ladies leapt.

"It is," he said solemnly, his eyes glistening with enthusiasm, "the
foundation of a nation's greatness."

"I hadn't thought of it like that," said Ingeborg, seeing that he
waited.

"But on what then does a State depend in the last resort?"

She was afraid to say, for there seemed to be so many possible answers.

"Naturally on its agriculture," said the pastor, with the slight
irritation of one obliged to linger over the obvious.

"Of course," said the pliable Ingeborg, trained in acquiescence.

"And on what does agriculture depend in the last resort?"

Brilliantly she hazarded "Manure."

For the third time the ladies leapt, and the one next to her drew away
her dress.

He showed his appreciation of her intelligence by nodding slowly.

"A nation must be fed," he said, "and empty fields will feed no one."

"Of course not," said Ingeborg.

"So that it is the chief element in all progress; for the root of
progress flourishes only in a filled stomach."

The ladies began to fan themselves violently, nervously, one with _The
Daily Mirror_ the other with _Answers_.

"Of course," said Ingeborg.

"First," said the German gentleman, "you fill your stomach--"

The lady next to Ingeborg made a sudden lunge across her at the strap.

"Excuse me, but do you mind putting that window _down_?" she said in a
sort of burst.

The German gentleman, stemmed in his speech, used the interval while
Ingeborg opened the window in buttoning up his overcoat again with care
and patience and readjusting his muffler.

When he had attended to these things he resumed his enthusiasm; he
seemed to switch it on again.

"The infinite combinations of it!" he exclaimed. "Its infinite
varieties! Kali, Kainit, Chilisaltpetre, Superphosphates"--he rolled out
the words as though they were the verse of a psalm. "When I shut the
door on myself in the little laboratory I have constructed I shut in
with me all life, all science, every possibility. I analyse, I
synthesize, I separate, reduce, combine. I touch the stars. I stir the
depths. The daily world is forgotten. I forget, indeed, everything,
except my research. And invariably at the most profound, the most
exalted moments some one knocks and tells me it is Sunday again, and
will I come out and preach."

[Illustration: "Then why," she asked, with the courage of curiosity,
"are you a pastor?"]

He looked at her indignantly, demanding sympathy. "Preach!" he repeated.

"Then why," she asked, with the courage of curiosity, "are you a
pastor?"

"Because my father made me one."

"But why are you still one?"

"Because a man must live."

"He oughtn't to want to," said Ingeborg with a faint flush, for she had
been carefully trained to shyness when it came to pronouncing
opinions--the Bishop called it being womanly--"he oughtn't to want to at
the cost of his convictions."

"Nevertheless," said the pastor, "he does."

"Yes," said Ingeborg, obliged to admit it; even at Redchester cases were
not unknown. "He does," she said, nodding. "Of course he does." And
unable not to be at least as honest as the pastor she added: "And so
does a woman."

"Naturally," said the pastor.

She looked at him a moment, and then said impulsively, pulling herself a
little forward towards him by the window strap--

"_This_ woman does. She's doing it now."

The two ladies exchanged glances and fluttered their fans faster.

"Which woman?" inquired the pastor, whose mastery of English, though
ripe, was not nimble.

"This one," said Ingeborg, pointing at herself. "Me. I'm living at this
very moment--I'm whirling along in this train--I'm running away for this
holiday _entirely_ at the cost of my convictions."



CHAPTER III


After this it was not to be expected that Dent's Tour should look
favourably on either Ingeborg or the German gentleman. Running away? And
something happened at Dover that clinched it in its coldness.

The train had slowed down, and the excursionists had become busy and
were all standing up expectant and swaying with their bags and umbrellas
ready in their hands, except Ingeborg and the pastor. The train stopped,
and still the two at the door did not move. They were so much interested
in what they were saying that they went on sitting there, barbarously
corking up the congested queue inside the carriage while streams of
properly liberated passengers poured past the window on their way to the
best places on the boat.

The queue heaved and waited, holding on to its good manners till the
last possible moment, quite anxious, with the exception of the two
ladies who were driven to the very verge of naturalness by the things
they had had to listen to, lest it should be forced to show what it was
feeling (for what one is feeling, Dent's excursionists had surprisingly
discovered, is always somehow something rude), and seconds passed and
still it was kept there heaving.

Then the pastor, gazing with a large unhurried interest at the people
pushing by the window, people disfigured by haste and the greed for the
best places on the boat, said in a voice of mild but penetrating
complaint--it almost seemed as if in that congested moment he saw only
leisure for musing aloud--"But why does the good God make so many ugly
old women?"

It was when he said this that the mountainous lady at the head of the
queue flung behaviour to the winds and let herself go uncontrolledly.
"_Will_ you allow me to pass?" she cried. Nor did she give him another
instant's grace, but pressed between his and Ingeborg's knees, followed
torrentially by the released remainder.

"To keep us all waiting there just while he blasphemed!" she panted on
the platform to her friend.

And during the rest of the time the party was together it retired, led
by these two ladies, into an icy exclusiveness, outside which and left
together all day long Ingeborg and the pastor could not but make
friends.

They did. They talked and they walked, they climbed and they sight-saw.
They did everything Dent had arranged, going with him but not of him,
always, as it were, bringing up his rear. Equally careful, being equally
poor, they avoided the extras which seemed to lurk beckoning at every
corner of the day. Their frugality was flagrant, and shocked the other
excursionists even more than the dreadful things they said. "Such bad
_taste_." the Tour declared when, on the third day, after having
provoked criticism by their negative attitude towards afternoon tea and
the purchase of picture postcards, they would not lighten its several
burdens by taking their share of an unincluded outing in flys along the
lake. Even Mr. Ascough, Dent's distracted representative, thought them
undesirable, and especially could make nothing of Ingeborg, except that
somehow she was not Dent's sort. And the German gentleman, though in
appearance a more familiar type, became whenever he opened his mouth
grossly unfamiliar. "Foul-mouthed" was the expression the largest lady
had used, bearing down on Mr. Ascough at Dover to complain, adding that
as she had done all her travelling for years with and through Dent's she
felt justified in demanding that this man's mouth should be immediately
cleansed.

"I'm not a toothbrush, Mrs. Bawn," replied the distracted Mr. Ascough,
engaged at that moment in struggling for air and light in the middle of
his clinging flock.

"Then I shall write to Mr. Dent himself," said Mrs. Bawn indignantly.

And Mr. Ascough, intimidated, fought himself free and followed her down
the platform, inquiring dreadfully--really he seemed to be a person of
little refinement--whether, then, the German gentleman's conversation
had been obscene.

"I can get rid of him if it's been obscene, you know," said Mr. Ascough.
"Was it?"

So that Mrs. Bawn, incensed and baffled, was obliged for the dignity of
her womanhood to say she was glad to have to inform him she did not know
what that word meant.

But the pastor--his name was Dremmel, he told Ingeborg: Robert
Dremmel--took everything that happened with simplicity. They might shut
him out, and he would never notice it; they might turn their backs, and
he would never know. Nothing that Dent's Tour could do in the way of
ostracizing would have been able to pierce through to his consciousness.
Having decided that the women of it were plain and the men uninteresting
he thought of them no more. With his customary single-mindedness he
concentrated his attention at first only on Switzerland, which was what
he was paying to see, and he found it pleasant that the young lady in
grey should so naturally join him in this concentration. Just for a few
hours at the very beginning he had thought her naturalness, her ready
friendliness, a little unwomanly. She was, he thought, a little too
productive of an impression that she was a kind of boy. She had no
self-consciousness, which he had been taught by his mother to confound
with modesty, and no desire whatever apparently to please the opposite
sex. She went to sleep, for instance, towards the end of the long
journey right in front of him, letting her mouth open if it wanted to,
and not bothering at all that he should probably be looking at it.

Herr Dremmel, who besides his agricultural researches prided himself on
a liberal if intermittent interest in womanly charm, regretted these
shortcomings, but only for a few hours at the very beginning. By the end
of the first day in Lucerne he was finding it pleasant to pair off with
her, womanly or unwomanly. He liked to talk to her. He discovered he
could talk to her as he had been unable to talk to the few East Prussian
young ladies he had met, in spite of the stiff intensity of their desire
to please him. He searched about for a reason, and concluded that it was
because she was interested. Whatever subject he discoursed upon she
came, so it seemed, running to meet him. She listened intelligently, and
with a pliability--he did not then know about the Bishop's
training--rarely to be found in combination with intelligence.
Intelligent persons are very apt, he remembered, to argue and object.
This young lady was intelligent without argument, a most comfortable
compound, and before a definite opinion had a graceful knack of doubling
up. And if her doublings up were at all, as they sometimes were, delayed
while she put in "But--" he only needed repeat with patience to bring
out an admirable submissive sunniness. He could not of course know of
her severe training in sunniness.

By the end of the second day he had told her more about his life and his
home and his work and his ambitions than he had ever told anybody, and
she had told him, only he was unable to find that so interesting, about
her life and her home and her work. She had no ambitions, she explained,
which he said was well in a woman. He was hardly aware of the Bishop, so
lightly did she skim over him.

By the end of the third day he had observed what had, curiously, escaped
him before, that she was pretty. Not of course in the abundant East
Prussian way, the way of generous curves and of what he now began to
think were after all superfluities, but with delicacy and restraint. He
no longer considered she would be better fattened up. And he was
noticing her clothes, and after a painstaking comparing of them with
those of the other ladies applying to them the adjective elegant.

By the end of the fourth he admitted to himself that, very probably, he
was soon going to be in love.

By the end of the fifth he knew without a doubt that the thing had
happened; the, to him incontrovertible, proof being that on this day
Switzerland sank into being just her background.

Even the Rigi, he observed with interest, was nothing to him. He walked
up it, he who never walked up anything, because she wanted to. He toiled
up panting, and forgot how warmly he was dissolving inside his black
clothes in the pleasure of watching her on ahead glancing in and out of
the sunshine that fell clear and white on her as she fluttered above him
among the pine trunks. And when he got to the top, instead of looking at
the view he sat down in the nearest seat and became absorbed in the way
the burning afternoon light seemed to get caught in her hair as she
stood on the edge of the plateau, and made it look the colour of flames.

This was very interesting. He had never yet within his recollection
preferred hair to views. A curious result, he reflected, of his harmless
holiday enterprise.

He had not intended to marry. He was thirty-five, and dedicated to his
work. He felt it was a noble work, this patient proving to ignorance and
prejudice of what could be done with barrenness if only you mixed it
with brains. He was fairly comfortable in his housekeeping, having found
a woman who was a widow and had therefore learned the great lesson that
only widows ever really know, that a man must be let alone. He was poor,
and what he could spare by rigid economies went into the few acres of
sand that were to be the Light he had to offer to lighten the Gentiles.
Every man, he thought, should offer some light to the abounding Gentiles
before he died, some light which, however small, might be kept so clear
that they could not choose but see it. A wife, he had felt when
considering the question from time to time, which was each year in the
early spring, would come between him and his light. She would be a
shadow; and a voluminous, all-enveloping shadow. His church and the
business of preaching in it were already sufficiently interrupting, but
they were weekly. A wife would be every day. He could lock her out of
the laboratory, he would reflect, and perhaps also out of the
sitting-room.... When he became aware that he was earnestly considering
what other rooms he could lock her out of, and discovered that he would
want to lock her out of nearly all, he, as a wise and honest man,
decided he had best leave the much-curved virgins of the neighbourhood
alone.

The question occupied him regularly every year in the first warm days of
spring. For the rest of the year he mostly forgot it, absorbed in his
work. And here he was on the top of the Rigi, a cool place, almost,
wintry, with it suddenly become so living that compared to it his
fertilizers seemed ridiculous.

He examined this change of attitude with care. He was proud of the way
he had fallen in love; he, a poor man, doing it without any knowledge of
whether the young lady had enough or indeed any money. He sat there and
took pleasure in this proof that though he was thirty-five he could yet
be reckless. He was greatly pleased at finding himself so much attracted
that if it should turn out that she was penniless he would still manage
to marry her, and would make it possible by a series of masterly
financial skirmishings, the chief of which would be the dismissal of the
widow and the replacing of her dinginess, her arrested effect of having
been nipped in the bud although there was no bud, by this incorporate
sunshine. The young lady's tact, of which he had seen several instances,
would cause her to confine her sunshine to appropriate moments. She
would not overflow it into his working hours. Besides, marriage was a
great readjuster of values. After it, he had not a doubt his wife would
fall quite naturally into her place, which would, though honourable, be
yet a little lower than the fertilizers. If it were not so, if marriage
did not readjust the upset incidental to its preliminaries, what a
disastrous thing falling in love would be. No serious man would be able
to let himself do it. But how interesting it was the way Nature, that
old Hostility, that Ancient Enemy to man's thought, did somehow manage
to trip him up sooner or later; and how still more interesting the
ingenuity with which man, aware of this trick and determined to avoid
the disturbance of a duration of affection, had invented marriage.

He gazed very benevolently at the little figure on the edge of the view.
Why not marry her now, and frugally convert the tail-end of Dent's
Excursion into a honeymoon?

With the large simplicity and obliviousness to banns and licences of a
man of scientific preoccupations he saw no reason against this course.
It was obvious. It was desirable. It would not only save her going back
to England first, it would save the extra journey there for him. They
would go straight home to East Prussia together at the end of the week;
and as for doing it without her family's knowledge, if she could run
away from them as she had told him she had done just for the sake of a
jaunt, how much more readily, with what increase of swiftness, indeed,
would she run for the sake of a husband?

"Tell me, Little One," he said when she rejoined him, "will you marry
me?"



CHAPTER IV


Ingeborg was astonished.

She stared at him speechless. The gulf between even the warmest
friendliness and marriage! She had, she knew, been daily increasing in
warm friendliness towards him, characteristically expecting nothing
back. That he, too, should grow warm had not remotely occurred to her.
Nobody had ever grown warm to her in that way. There had always been
Judith, that miracle of beauty, to blot her into plainness. It is true
the senior curate of the Redchester parish church had said to her once
in his exhausted Oxford voice, "You know, I don't mind about faces--will
you marry me?" and she had refused so gingerly, with such fear of
hurting his feelings, that for a week he had supposed he was engaged;
but one would not call that warmth. As the sun puts out the light of a
candle so did the radiance of Judith extinguish Ingeborg. They were so
oddly alike; and Ingeborg was the pale, diminished shadow. Judith was
Ingeborg grown tall, grown exquisite, Ingeborg wrought wonderfully in
ivory and gold. No man could possibly fall in love with Ingeborg while
there before his very eyes was apparently exactly the same girl, only
translated into loveliness.

From the first it had been the most natural thing in the world to
Ingeborg to be plain and passed over. Judith was always beside her.
Whenever there was a pause in her work for her father it was filled by
the chaperoning of Judith. She accepted the situation with complete
philosophy, for nothing was quite so evident as Judith's beauty; and she
used, in corners at parties, to keep herself awake by saying over bits
of the Psalms, on which, not being allowed to read novels, her literary
enthusiasms were concentrated.

It was, then, really a very astonishing thing to a person practised in
this healthy and useful humility to have some one asking her to marry
him. That it should be Herr Dremmel seemed to her even more astonishing.
He didn't look like somebody one married. He didn't even look like
somebody who wanted to marry one. He sat there, his hands folded on the
knob of his stick, gazing at her with an entirely placid benevolence and
asked her the surprising question as though it were a way of making
conversation. It is true he had not called her Little One before, but
that, she felt as she stood before him considering this thing that had
happened to her, was pretty rather than impassioned.

Here was an awkward and odd result of her holiday enterprise.

"It's--very unexpected," she said, lamely.

"Yes," he agreed. "It is unexpected. It has greatly surprised me."

"I'm very sorry," she said.

"About what are you sorry, Little One?"

"I can't accept your--your offer."

"What! There is some one else?"

"Not _that_ sort of some one. But there's my father."

He made a great sweep with his arm. "Fathers," he said; and pushed the
whole breed out of sight.

"He's very important."

"Important! Little One, when will you marry me?"

"I can't leave him."

He became patient. "It has been laid down that a woman shall leave
father and mother and any other related obstacle she may have the
misfortune to be hampered with, and cleave only to her husband."

"That was about a man cleaving to his wife. There wasn't anything said
about a woman. Besides--" She stopped. She couldn't tell him that she
didn't want to cleave.

He gazed at her a moment in silence. He had not contemplated a necessity
for persuasion.

"This," he then said with severity, "is prevarication."

She sat down on the grass and clasped her hands round her knees and
looked up at him. She had taken off her hat when first she got to the
top to fan herself, and had not put it on again. As she sat there with
her back to the glow of the sky, the wind softly lifted the rings of her
hair and the sun shone through them wonderfully. They seemed to flicker
gently to and fro, little tongues of fire.

"Why," said Herr Dremmel, suddenly leaning forward and staring, "you are
like a spirit."

This pleased her. For a moment her eyes danced.

"Like a spirit," he repeated. "And here am I talking heavily to you, as
though you were an ordinary woman. Little One, how does one trap a
spirit into marrying? Tell me. For very earnestly do I desire to be
shown the way."

"One doesn't," said Ingeborg.

"Ah, do not be difficult. You have been so easy, of such a comfortable
response in all things up to now."

"But this--" began Ingeborg.

"Yes. This, I well know--"

He was more stirred than he had thought possible. He was becoming almost
eager.

"But," asked Ingeborg, exploring this new interesting situation, "why do
you want to?"

"Want to marry you?"

"Yes."

"Because," said Herr Dremmel, immensely prompt, "I have had the extreme
good fortune to fall in love with you."

Again she looked pleased.

"And I do not ask you," he went on, "to love me, or whether you do love
me. It would be presumption on my part, and not, if you did, very modest
on yours. That is the difference between a man and a woman. He loves
before marriage, and she does not love till after."

"Oh?" said Ingeborg, interested. "And what does he--"

"The woman," continued Herr Dremmel, "feels affection and esteem before
marriage, and the man feels affection and esteem after."

"Oh," said Ingeborg, reflecting. She began to tear up tufts of grass.
"It seems--chilly," she said.

"Chilly?" he echoed.

He let his stick drop, and got up and came and sat down, or rather let
himself down carefully, on the grass beside her.

"Chilly? Do you not know that a decent chill is a great preservative?
Hot things decay. Frozen things do not live. A just measure of chill
preserves the life of the affections. It is, by a very proper
dispensation of Nature, provided before marriage by the woman, and
afterwards by the man. The balance is, in this way, nicely held, and
peace and harmony, which nourish best at a low temperature, prevail."

She looked at him and laughed. There was no one in Redchester, and
Redchester was all she knew of life, in the least like Herr Dremmel. She
stretched herself in the roomy difference, happy, free, at her ease.

"But I cannot believe," burst out Herr Dremmel with a passionate vigour
that astonished him more than anything in his whole life as he seized
the hand that kept on tearing up grass, "I cannot believe that you will
not marry me. I cannot believe that you will refuse a good and loving
husband, that you will prefer to remain with your father and solidify
into yet one more frostbitten virgin."

"Into a what?" repeated Ingeborg, struck by this image of herself in the
future.

She began to laugh, then stopped. She stared at him, her grey eyes very
wide open. She forgot Herr Dremmel, and that he was still clutching her
hand and all the grass in it, while her mind flashed over the years that
had gone and the years that were to come. They would be alike. They had
not been able to frostbite her yet because she had been too young; but
they would get her presently. Their daily repeated busy emptiness, their
rush of barren duties, their meagre moments of what when she was younger
used to be happiness but had lately only been relief, those rare moments
when her father praised her, would settle down presently and freeze her
dead.

Her face grew solemn. "It's true," she said slowly. "I shall be a
frostbitten virgin. I'm doomed. My father won't ever let me marry."

"You infinitely childish one!" he cried, becoming angry. "When it is
well known that all fathers wish to get rid of all daughters."

"You don't understand. It's different. My father--why," she broke out,
"I used to dose myself secretly with cod liver oil so as to keep up to
his level. He's wonderful. When he praised me I usedn't to sleep. And if
he scolded me it seemed to send me lame."

Herr Dremmel sawed her hand up and down in his irritation.

"What is this irrelevant talk?" he said. "I offer you marriage, and you
respond with information about cod liver oil. I do not believe the
father obstacle. I do not recognize my honest little friend of these
last days. It is waste of time, not being open. Would you, then, if it
were not for your father, marry me?"

"But," Ingeborg flashed round at him, swept off her feet as she so often
was by an impulse of utter truth, "it's _because_ of him that I
_would_."

And the instant she had said it she was shocked.

She stared at Herr Dremmel wide-eyed with contrition. The disloyalty of
it. The ugliness of telling a stranger--and a stranger with hair like
fur--anything at all about those closely related persons she had been
taught to describe to herself as her dear ones.

"Oh," she cried, dragging her hand away, "let my hand go--let my hand
_go_!"

She tried to get on to her feet, but with an energy he did not know he
possessed he pulled her down again. He did not recognize any of the
things he was feeling and doing. The Dremmel of his real nature, of
those calm depths where lay happy fields of future fertilizers, gazed at
this inflamed conduct going on at the top in astonishment.

"No," he said, with immense determination, "you will sit here and
explain about your father."

"It's a dreadful thing," replied Ingeborg, suddenly discovering that of
all things she did not like being clutched, and looking straight into
his eyes, her head a little thrown back, "that one can't leave one's
home even for a week without getting into a scrape."

"A scrape! You call it a scrape when a good man--"

"Here's a person who goes away for a little change--privately. And
before she knows where she is she's being held down on the top of the
Rigi and ordered by a strange man--"

"By her future husband!" cried Herr Dremmel, who was finding the making
of offers more difficult than he had supposed.

"--by a strange man to explain her father. As though anybody could ever
explain their father. As though anybody could ever explain _anything_."

"God in Heaven," cried Herr Dremmel, "do not explain him then. Just
marry me."

And at this moment the snake-like procession of the rest of Dent's Tour,
headed by Mr. Ascough watch in hand, emerged from the hôtel, where it
had been having tea, on to the plateau, wiping its mouths in readiness
for the sunset.

With the jerk of a thing that has been stung it swerved aside as it was
about almost to tread on the two on the grass.

Ingeborg sat very stiff and straight and pretended to be staring
intently at the view, forgetting that it was behind her. She flushed
when she found there was no time to move far enough from Herr Dremmel
for a gap to be visible between them.

"Look at those two now," whispered the young lady last in the procession
to the young man brushing bread and butter out of his tie who walked
beside her.

He looked, and seemed inclined to linger.

"She's very _pretty_, isn't she?" he said.

"Oh, do you think so?" said his companion. "I never think anybody's
pretty who isn't--you know what I mean--really _nice_, you
know--lady-like--"

And she hurried him on, because, she said, if he didn't hurry he'd miss
the sunset.



CHAPTER V


Ingeborg spent most of the night on a hard chair at her bedroom window
earnestly endeavouring to think.

It was very unfortunate, but she found an immense difficulty at all
times in thinking. She could keep her father's affairs in the neatest
order, but not her own thoughts. There were so many of them, and they
all seemed to jump about inside her and want to get thought first. They
would not go into ordered rows. They had no patience. Often she had
suspected they were not thoughts at all but just feelings, and that
depressed her, for it made her drop, she feared, to the level of the
insect world and enter the category of things that were not going to be
able to get to heaven; and to a bishop's daughter this was disquieting.
Most of her thoughts she was immediately sorry for, they were so unlike
anything she could, with propriety, say out loud at home. To Herr
Dremmel she had been able to say them all as far as speech, a limping
vehicle, could be made to go, and this was another of his refreshing
qualities. She did not of course know of that absorbed man's habit of
listening to her with only one ear--a benevolent ear, but only
one--while with the other, turned inwards, he listened to the working
out in his mind of problems in Chilisaltpetre and super-phosphates.

She sat staring out of the window at the stars and chimney-pots, her
hands held tightly in her lap, and told herself that the moment had come
for clear, consecutive thought--_consecutive_ thought, she repeated
severely, aware already of the interlaced dancing going on in her brain.
What was she going to do about Herr Dremmel? About going home?
About--oh, about anything?

They had come down the Rigi soberly and in the train. Nobody, as usual,
spoke to them, and for the first time in their friendship neither had
they spoken to each other. They had had a speechless dinner. He had
looked preoccupied. And when directly after it she said good night, he
had drawn her out into the passage and solemnly adjured her, while the
hall-porter pretended he was out of ear-shot, to have done with
prevarications. What he would suggest, he said, was a comfortable
betrothal next day; it was too late for one that night, he said, pulling
out his watch, but next day; and as she retreated sideways step by step
up the stairs, silent through an inability immediately to find an answer
that seemed tactful enough, he had eyed her very severely and inquired
of her with a raised voice what, then, the ado was all about. She had
turned at that, giving up the search for tact, and had run up the
remaining stairs rather breathlessly, feeling that Herr Dremmel on
marriage had an engulfing quality; and he, after a moment's perplexity
on the mat at the bottom, had gone to the reading-room a baffled man.

Now she sat at the window considering.

Her journey home was only two days off, and the thought of what would be
said to her when she got there and of what her answers would be like,
ran down the back of her neck and spine as though some one were drawing
a light, ice-cold finger over the shrinking skin. She had been
persuading herself that her little holiday was harmless and natural; and
now this business with Herr Dremmel would, she felt, do away with all
that, and justify a wrath in her father that she might, else for her
private solace and encouragement, have looked upon as unreasonable. It
is a peculiarity of parents, reflected Ingeborg, that they are always
being justified. However small and innocent what you are doing may be,
if they disapprove something turns up to cause them to have been
altogether right. She remembered little things, small occasions, of her
younger days.... This was a big occasion, and what had turned up on it
was Herr Dremmel. It was a pity--oh, it was a pity she hadn't considered
before she left London so impulsively whether when she got back to
Redchester she was going to be untruthful or not. She had considered
nothing, except the acuteness of the joy of running away. Now she was
faced by the really awful question of lying or not lying. It was ugly to
lie at all. It was dreadful to lie to one's father. But to lie to a
bishop raised the operation from just a private sin which God would deal
with kindly on being asked, to a crime you were punished for if it was a
cathedral you did it to, a real crime, the crime of sacrilege.
Impossible to profane a sacred and consecrated object like a bishop.
Doubly and trebly impossible if you were that object's own daughter. Her
tightly folded hands went cold as she realised she was undoubtedly going
to be truthful. She was every bit as valiant as her Swedish grandmother
had been, that grandmother who was aware of the dangers of the things
she did with her mountains and her gusty lakes and defied them, but her
grandmother knew no fear and Ingeborg knew it very well. Hers was the
real courage found only in the entirely terrified, who, terrified, yet
see the thing, whatever it is, doggedly through. She was faint, yet
pursuing.

She saw much terror in her immediate future. She dreaded having to be
courageous. She felt she was too small really for the bravely truthful
answering of her magnificent father's questions. He would have the
catechism and the confirmation service on his side, as well as the laws
of right behaviour and filial love. It didn't seem fair. One couldn't
argue with a parent, one couldn't answer back; while as for a bishop,
one couldn't do anything at all with him except hastily agree. There was
just a possibility--but how remote--that her father would be too busy to
ask questions; she sighed as she reflected how little she could count on
that, and how the most superficial inquiry about her aunt or the dentist
would bring out the whole story.

And here was Herr Dremmel who thought nothing at all of him, even in
regard to an enormous undertaking like his daughter's marriage. There
was something sublime in such detachment. She felt the largeness of the
freedom of it blowing in her face like a brisk, invigorating wind. There
seemed to be no hedges round Herr Dremmel. He was as untied-up a person
as she had ever met. He cared nothing for other people's opinion, that
chief enslavement of her home, and he was an orphan. Sad to be an
orphan, thought Ingeborg sighing. Sad, of course, not to have any dear
ones. But it did seem to be a condition that avoided the dilemma whose
horns were concealment by means of untruths and the screwing up of
oneself to that clammily cold and forlorn condition, having courage.

Of course, Herr Dremmel didn't know her father. He hadn't faced that
impressive personality. Would he be quite so detached and easily
indifferent if he had? She thought with a shiver of what such a meeting,
supposing, just for the sake of supposing, that she allowed herself to
become engaged, would be like. Would Herr Dremmel in that setting of
carefully subdued splendour, of wainscoting and oriels, seem to her as
free and delightful as he seemed on a tour of frugal backgrounds? Would
she, in the presence of the Bishop's horrified disapproval, be able to
see him as she had been seeing him now?

She had not explored very far into her own resources yet, but she had
begun lately to perceive that she was pliable. She bent easily, she
felt, and deplored having to feel in the direction desired by the
persons she was with and who laid hold of her with authority. It is true
she sprang back again, as she had discovered so surprisingly in London,
the instant the hold was relaxed, but it seemed that she sprang only to
do, as she now with a headshake admitted, difficulty-bringing things.
And her training in acquiescence and distrust of herself was very
complete, and back in her home would she not at once bend into the old
curve again? Was it possible, would it ever be possible, in her father's
presence to disassociate herself from his points of view? What his view
of Herr Dremmel would be she very exactly knew. Did she _want_ to
disassociate herself from it?

She pushed back her chair, and began to walk quickly up and down the
narrow little room. If she didn't disassociate herself it meant
marriage; and marriage in stark defiance of the whole of her world.
Redchester would be appalled. The diocese would grieve for its Bishop.
The county would discuss her antagonistically at a hundred tea-tables.
Well, and while they were doing it, where would she be? Her blood began
suddenly to dance. She was seized, as she had been in London, by that
overwhelming desire to shake off old things and set her face towards the
utterly new. While all these people were nodding and whispering in their
stuffy stale world she would be safe in East Prussia, a place that
seemed infinitely remote, a place Herr Dremmel had described to her as
full of forests and water and immense stretches of waving rye. The lakes
were fringed with rushes; the forests came down to their edges; his own
garden ended in a little path through a lilac hedge that took you down
between the rye to the rushes and the water and the first great pines.
Oh, she knew it as though she had seen it, she had lured him on so often
to describing it to her. He thought nothing of it; talked, indeed, of it
with disgust as a God-forsaken place. Well, it was these God-forsaken
places that her body and spirit cried out for. Space, freedom, quiet;
the wind ruffling the rye; the water splashing softly against the side
of the punt (there was a punt, she had extracted); the larks singing up
in the sunlight; the shining clouds passing slowly across the blue. She
wanted to be alone with these things after the years of deafening hurry
at Redchester with a longing that was like home-sickness. She
_remembered_, somehow, that once she used to be with them--long ago, far
away.... And there used to be little things when you lay face downwards
on the grass, little lovely things that smelt beautiful--wild-strawberry
leaves, and a tiny aromatic plant with a white flower like a star that
you rubbed between your fingers....

She stood still a moment, frowning, trying to remember more; it wasn't
in England.... But even as she puzzled the vision slipped away from her
and was lost.

She wanted to read, and walk, and think. She was hungry to read at last
what she chose, and walk at last where she chose, and think at last
exactly what she chose. Was the _Christian Year_ enough for one in the
way of poetry? And all those mild novels her mother read, sandwiched
between the biographies of more bishops and little books of comfort with
crosses on them that asked rude questions as to whether you had been
greedy or dainty or had used words with a double meaning during the
day--were they enough for a soul that had, quite alone, with no father
giving directions, presently to face its God?

Her family held strongly that for daughters to read in the daytime was
to be idle. Well, if it was, thought Ingeborg lifting her head, that
head that drooped so apologetically at home, with the defiance that
distance encourages, then being idle was a blessed thing and the sooner
one got away to where one could be it, uninterruptedly, the better. In
that parsonage away in East Prussia, for instance, one would be able to
read and read.... Herr Dremmel had explained a hundred times about his
laboratory, and he himself locked into it and only asking to be left
locked. Surely that was an admirable quality in a husband, that he kept
himself locked up! And the parsonage was on the edge of the village, and
the little garden at the back had nothing between it and the sunset and
all God's other dear arrangements except a solitary and long-unused
windmill....

It was about one o'clock in the morning that her courage, however,
altogether ebbed at the prospect of going home. What would it be like,
taking up her filialities again, and all of them henceforth so terribly
tarnished? She would be a returning prodigal for whom no calf was
killed, but who instead of the succulences of a more liberal age would
be offered an awful opportunity of explaining her conduct to a father
who would interrupt her the instant she began and do the explaining
himself.

How was she going to face it, all alone?

If only she could have been in love with Herr Dremmel! With what courage
she would have faced her family then, if she had been in love with him
and come to them her hand in his. If only he looked more like the lovers
you see in pictures, like the one in Leighton's "Wedded," for
instance--a very beautiful picture, Ingeborg thought, but not like any
of the wedded in Redchester--so that if she couldn't be in love she
could at least persuade herself she was. If only he had proper hair
instead of just beaver. She liked him so much. She had even at
particular moments of his conversation gone so far as to delight in him.
But--marriage?

What was marriage? Why did they never talk about it at home? In the
Bishop's Palace it might, for all the mentioning it got, be one of the
seven deadly sins. You talked there of the married, and sometimes, but
with reserve, of getting married, but marriage itself and what it was
and meant was never discussed. She had received the impression, owing to
these silences, that though it was God's ordinance, as her father in his
official capacity at weddings reiterated, it was a reluctant ordinance,
established apparently because there seemed no other way of getting
round what appeared to be a difficulty. What was the difficulty? She had
never in her busy life thought about it. Marriage had not concerned her.
It would not be nice, she had felt, unconsciously adopting the opinion
of her environment, for a girl who was not going to marry to get
thinking of it. And it really had not interested her. She had quite
naturally turned her eyes away.

But now this question of facing her father, this need of being backed
up, this longing to get away from things, forced her to look. Besides,
she would have to give Herr Dremmel some sort of answer in the morning,
and the facing of Herr Dremmel required courage, too--of a different
kind, but certainly courage. She was so reluctant to hurt or disappoint.
It had seemed all her life the most beautiful of pleasures to give
people what they wanted, to get them to smile, to see them look content.
But suppose Herr Dremmel, before he could be got to smile and look
content, wanted to clutch her again as he had clutched her on the top of
the Rigi? She had very profoundly disliked it. She had been able to
resent it there and get loose, but if she were married and he clutched
could she still resent? She greatly feared not. She greatly suspected,
now she came to a calm consideration of it, that that was what was the
matter with marriage: it was a series of clutchings. Her father had no
doubt realised this as she was realising it now, and very properly
didn't like it. You couldn't expect him to. That was why he wouldn't
talk about it. In this she was entirely at one with him. But perhaps
Herr Dremmel didn't like it, either. Wasn't she rather jumping at
conclusions in imagining that he did? Hadn't he after all clutched
rather in anger up there than in anything else? And what about his
earnest wish, so often explained, to be left all day locked up in his
laboratory? And what about his praise, that very afternoon, of chill in
human relationships?

At that moment her eye was arrested by something white appearing slowly
and with difficulty beneath her door. She sat up very straight and
stared at it, watching its efforts to get over and past the edge of her
mat. For an instant she wondered whether it were not a kind of insect
ghost; then she saw, as more of it appeared, that it was a letter.

She held her breath while it struggled in. Nobody had ever pushed a
letter under her door before. She grew happy instantly. What _fun_. Her
heart beat quite fast with excitement while she waited to hear footsteps
going away before getting up to fetch it. Herr Dremmel, however, must
have been in his goloshes, objects from which he was seldom separated,
for she heard nothing; and after a few seconds of breathless listening
she got up with immense caution and went on tip-toe to the letter and
picked it up.

"Why," she thought, pausing for a moment with a sort of solemnity before
opening it, "I suppose this is my first love-letter."

There was nothing on the envelope and no signature, and this was what it
said:


"LITTLE ONE,

"_I wish to tell you that before going to my room to-night I instructed
the hall-porter to order a betrothal cake, properly iced and with what
is customary in the matter of silver leaves, to be in the small salon
adjoining the smoking-room to-morrow morning at nine o'clock. Since no
man can be betrothed alone, it will be necessary that you should be
there_."



CHAPTER VI


It was a perturbed betrothal, there were so many people at it.

Seven ladies besides Ingeborg appeared in the small _salon_ adjoining
the smoking-room next morning at nine o'clock. What Herr Dremmel had
done, being ignorant which was Ingeborg's room and after laborious
thought deciding that to demand her number of the hall-porter later than
dusk might very conceivably cast a slur on her reputation, young ladies
being, as he well knew, of all living creatures the most easily slurred,
was to write as many copies of the letter as there were doors on her
landing and thrust them industriously one by one beneath each door,
strong in the knowledge that she would in this manner inevitably get one
of them.

He was greatly pleased with this plan. It seemed of a beautiful
simplicity and effectiveness. "Being unaware of the context," he
reasoned, "no lady except the right one will be able to guess what the
letter can possibly refer to. She will therefore throw it aside as an
obvious mistake and think no more about it."

But the ladies did think. And none of the inhabitants of the third
floor, except Mr. Ascough who never thought anything about anything,
having discovered that if once you begin to think there is no end to it,
and a dried and brittle little man lately pensioned off by the firm he
had been clerk to and taking his first trip on the continent in a
condition of profound uninterestedness, threw it aside. These two did;
but the seven ladies not only did not throw it aside, they read it many
times, and instead of thinking no more about it thought of nothing else.
Even Mrs. Bawn, who had been a widow for six months and was heartily
tired of it, was pleased. She liked, particularly, being addressed as
Little One. There was a blindness about this that suggested genuine
feeling. She had not been so much pleased since her dear Bawn, now half
a year in glory, had told her one day, before their marriage, that he
did not care what anybody said he maintained that she was handsome.

They all thought the letter very virile, and that nothing could be more
gentlemanly than its restraint. Four of them expected a different male
member of the party to be waiting in the small _salon_, the remaining
three expected Mr. Ascough. Mr. Ascough had a caressing way with pats of
butter and the closing of the doors of filled flys that had before now
led him, on these tours, into misapprehensions. He was long since
married, but had omitted to mention it. The ladies, therefore, when they
arrived in the small _salon_ at nine o'clock did not find Mr. Ascough
nor any of the other four friends they expected. They found,
surprisingly, each other; and, standing thick and black near a decorated
table at the window and scowling in a fresh astonishment every time the
door opened and another lady came in, that very undesirable
fellow-tourist, the German gentleman.

Each one immediately knew it was Ingeborg who had been written to, and
that the letter had gone astray. Each one also thought she knew that
Ingeborg had not got the letter and would not come. But each one, except
Mrs. Bawn, was helped to cover up her shock by being sure the others did
not know of it; and the custom of life lying heavy on them they were
able, after one little start on first seeing Herr Dremmel, to drift into
the corners of the room and pretend that what they had come for was
books. Except Mrs. Bawn. Mrs. Bawn saw, stared, turned on her heel, and
went out again volcanically; and the corridor shook to her departing
footsteps and to the angry unintentional rhymes she was making aloud
with words like hoax and jokes.

With astonishment and disgust Herr Dremmel saw the seven ladies
accumulate. It was most unfortunate that on that morning of all mornings
the small _salon,_ so invariably empty, should be visited. His
inexperienced mind did not connect their appearance with his letters; it
never occurred to him that his reasoning as to what they would do on
receiving them could possibly be wrong. Nor did he, as he watched the
door open and shut seven times and seven times admit the wrong woman,
guess that their presence, if Ingeborg came, would immensely help his
betrothal.

The ladies, fingering dusty Tauchnitzes and magazines and eyeing the
table in the window with heads as much averted as could be combined with
the seeing of it, gradually found the shock they had had being soothed
by the interest they felt in what Herr Dremmel would do when he realised
that that unladylike Miss Bullivant, all unaware of what was waiting for
her, was not coming. Now that they were there they might as well stay
and see the end of it. It was really very interesting in its way; so
German; so unlike, thank goodness, what English people ever did. Would
he stand there all day, they wondered, with that really most improperly
suggestive cake, so very like a christening cake? One or two of them sat
down squarely on the sofas behind months-old magazines round whose edges
they peeped, making it clear to the unhappy man that they, at least,
intended to stay there; and they all coughed a little every now and then
in the way a waiting congregation coughs in church.

Then the door was pushed open with the jerk of somebody who is either in
a hurry or has come to a sudden determination, and who should appear but
that Miss Bullivant.

A thrill ran through the seven ladies, and they instantly became, behind
their magazines, stiff with excitement. Chance; what a chance; she had
chanced to look in; it was like a play; dear me, thought each of the
seven.

And Ingeborg, who believed as lately as the last moment on the doormat
outside that she had only come in order to tell Herr Dremmel she was not
coming, when she saw the cake, very white and bridal, on a white cloth
with white flowers in pots round it, and on either side of it a bottle
with a white ribbon about its neck, and on the other for the sake of
symmetry two glasses, was staggered. How could she, who so much loved to
please, to make happy, cruelly hurt him, spoil his little feast, wipe
out the glow, the immense relief that beamed from his face when he saw
her?

She turned round quickly, realising the presence of the seven ladies.
Amazed she stared at them, mechanically counting them. How could she
make him ridiculous, humiliate him, before all those women?

Hesitating, torn, poised on the tip of flight, she stood there. Her hand
was on the door to open it again and run; but Herr Dremmel's simplicity
came to his help more effectually than the cunningest plans. He forgot
the ladies, and stepping forward took her hand in his and quite simply
kissed her forehead, sealing her then and there, with the perfect
frankness of his countrymen when engaged in legitimate courtship, as his
betrothed. He then slipped a ring he wore on his little finger on to her
thumb, that being the only bit of her hand he could find that it would
stay on, and he being free from prejudices in the matter of fingers, and
the thing--at least so he supposed--was done.

Ingeborg in her bewilderment let these things happen to her. Her
thoughts as she stood being betrothed were jerking themselves into a
perfect tangle of knots. She was astonished at the tricks life stoops
to. A cake and the eyes of seven women. Her whole future being decided
by a cake and the eyes of seven women. Oh, no, it couldn't be. It was
only that she couldn't stop now. Impossible, utterly, to stop now. She
had never dreamed she wouldn't find him alone. These women were all
witnesses. He had kissed her before them all. His methods were really
overwhelming. Suppose her father could see her. But the kiss had been
administered very ceremoniously; it had been quite cooling; such a one
as even a bishop might feel justified in applying to the brow of a sick
person or a young child. Later, at a more convenient time, when the
pathetic cake was out of sight, when these women were out of ear-shot,
she would tell him she hadn't meant....

Amazingly she found herself advancing towards the cake with Herr Dremmel
and standing in front of it with him hand in hand. Oh, the _mischief_
people got into who came up to London to dentists! She now saw what
provincial dentists were for: they kept you in pain, and pain kept you
out of mischief. For the first time she understood what her spirit had
till then refused to accept, the teaching so popular with the Bishop
that pain was a necessary part of the scheme of things. Of course. You
were safe so long as you were in pain. In that condition the very
nearest you could get to the most seductive temptation was to glance at
it palely, with a sick distaste. And you stayed at home, and were
grateful for kindnesses. It was only when you hadn't anything the matter
with you that you ran away from your family and went to Lucerne and took
up with a strange man positively to the extent of letting him promise to
marry you.

Somebody coughed so close behind her that it made her jump. She turned
round nervously, Herr Dremmel still holding her hand, and beheld the
seven ladies flocked about her for all the world like seven bridesmaids.

They had hastily consulted together in whispers while she was being led
away to the cake as to whether they ought not to congratulate her. Their
hearts were touched by the respectful ceremony with which Herr Dremmel
had conducted his betrothal. It had had the solemn finality of a
marriage, and what woman can look on at a marriage unmoved? They had
agreed in whispers that this was one of those moments in which one lets
bygones be bygones. The two at the altar--they meant at the cake--had no
doubt said many terrible and vulgar tilings and had behaved in a way no
lady and gentleman would--the girl, for instance, openly admitting she
had run away from home; but what they were doing now at least was beyond
reproach, and, by uniting, two blacks were after all, in spite of what
people said about its not being possible, going to make one white. At
any rate it was charitable to hope so.

So they cleared their throats and wished her joy.

"Thank you," said Ingeborg a little faintly, looking from one to the
other, "it's so kind of you--but--"

They then shook hands with Herr Dremmel and said they were sure they
wished him joy, too, and he thanked them with propriety and bows.

"Such a thing has never happened on a Dent's Tour before--oh, no, never
before at all I'm sure," said the most elderly lady nervously, with a
number of nods.

"There isn't time enough, that's what I sometimes think," said the young
lady who had hurried her companion away to the sunset the evening
before. "What's a week?" And she stared at the cake and frowned.

"Dent's had a funeral once," said a square small lady who kept her hands
plunged in the pockets of a grey jersey.

"Now Miss Jewks, really--" protested the elderly lady. "One doesn't
mention--"

"Well, it wasn't their fault, Miss Andrews. They didn't _want_ to have
it, I'm sure. It was a gentleman from Gipsy Hill--"

"What a beautiful--er--cake," hastily interrupted the elderly lady.

"Funny thing, I sometimes think," continued Miss Jewks, "to go for a
holiday and die instead."

"Those silver leaves--" said the elderly lady, raising her voice, "I
call them dainty."

"It's like a wedding-cake, isn't it?" said the young lady of the sunset,
peering close at it with a face of gloom.

"Will you not, Ingeborg," said Herr Dremmel, calling her for the first
time by her name, "cut the cake? And perhaps these ladies will do us the
honour of tasting it."

[Illustration: "Will you not, Ingeborg," said Herr Dremmel, calling her
for the first time by her name, "cut the cake?"]

She did not recognise him in this persistent ceremoniousness. Every
trace of his usual lax behaviour was gone, his ease and familiarity of
speech, and he was as stiff and correct and grave as if he were laying a
foundation stone or opening a museum. They were the manners, though she
did not know it, which all Germans are trained to produce on public
occasions.

"Oh, thank you--"

"Oh, you're really very kind--"

"Oh, thank you very much I'm sure--"

There was a murmur of awkward and reluctant thanks. The seven ladies
were not at all certain that their cordiality ought to stretch as far as
cake. They had been moved by an impulse that did honour to their
womanliness to offer congratulations, but they did not for all that
forget the dreadful things the couple had constantly been heard talking
about and the many clear proofs it had provided that it was what Dent's
Tours were accustomed to describe as no class; and though they all liked
cake, and were getting steadily hungrier as the Dent week drew to its
close, they were doubtful as to the social wisdom of eating it. It would
be very unpleasant if these people, encouraged, were later on to
presume; if they were to try to use the eaten cake as a weapon for
forcing their way into English society. If, in a word, when the Tour got
back to England, they were to want to call.

So they took the cake reluctantly that Ingeborg, in a sort of dream, cut
and offered them; and with even more reluctance they sipped the wine in
which the German gentleman requested them to drink the newly betrothed
couple's health.

"But--" said Ingeborg, trying to rouse herself even at this eleventh
hour.

"True. There are not enough glasses. I will ring for more," was the way
Herr Dremmel finished her sentence for her.

The immense official promptness of him! She felt numbed.

And when the glasses were brought there was another ceremony--a clinking
of Herr Dremmel's glass with each glass in turn, his heels together as
in the days of his soldiering, his body stiff and his face a miracle of
solemnity; and before drinking he made a speech, the Asti held high in
front of him, in which he thanked the ladies for their good wishes on
behalf of his betrothed, Miss Ingeborg Bullivant, whose virtues he dwelt
upon singly and at length in resounding periods, before proceeding to
assure those present of his firm resolve to prove, by the devotion of
the rest of his life, the extremity of his gratitude for the striking
proof she had given before them all of her confidence in him; and every
sentence seemed to set another and a heavier seal on her as a creature
undoubtedly bound to marry him.

Dimly she began to realise something of the steely grip of a German
engagement. She wondered whether there were any more room left on her
forehead for further seals. She felt that it must be covered with great
red things, scrawled over with the inscription:

                  DREMMEL'S.

Well, she was after all not a parcel to be picked up and carried away by
the first person who found her lying about, and the minute she was alone
with him she would, she _must_, tell him that what she had really come
down for, though appearances were certainly by this time rather against
her, was to refuse him. She would be as gentle as possible, but she
would be plain and firm. The minute these women left them alone she
would tell him.

With a start she saw that the women were leaving them alone, and that
the minute had come. She wanted them not to go; she wanted to keep them
there at any cost. She even made a step after them as the last one,
nodding to the end, went out and shut the door, but Herr Dremmel still
had hold of her hand.

When the door had finally shut she turned to him quickly. Her head was
thrown back, her eyes were full of a screwed-up courage.

"But you know--" she began, determined to clear things up, however much
it might hurt them both.

And again he promptly finished her sentence for her, this time by
enfolding her in his arms and kissing her with a largeness and abundance
which no bishop, her mind flashed as her body stood stiff with surprise
and horror, could possibly approve.

She felt engulfed.

She felt she must be disappearing altogether.

He seemed infinitely capacious and soft.

"Oh, but I can't--I won't--oh, stop--oh, stop--it's a mistake--" she
tried to get out in gasps.

"My little wife," was all the notice Herr Dremmel took of that.



CHAPTER VII


It was raining at Redchester when Ingeborg got out at the station a week
and a day after she left it--the soft persistent fine rain, hardly more
than a mist, peculiar to that much-soaked corner of England. The lawns
in the gardens she passed as her fly crawled up the hill were incredibly
green, the leaves of the lilac bushes glistened with wet, each tulip was
a cup of water, the roads were chocolate, and a thick grey blanket of
cloud hung warm over the town, tucking it in all round and keeping out
any draught that might bite and sting the inhabitants, she thought, into
real living.

The porter told her it was fine growing weather, and she wondered
stupidly why, after the years she had had of the sort of thing, she had
had not grown, then, more thoroughly herself. A retired colonel she knew
--she knew all the retired colonels--waved his umbrella and shouted a
genial inquiry after her toothache, and she looked at him with a dead,
ungrateful eye. A passing postman touched his cap, and she turned the
other way. The same sensible female figures she had seen all her life
draped in the same sensible mackintoshes bowed and smiled, and she
pretended she hadn't seen them. Everybody, in fact, behaved as though
she were still good, which was distressing, embarrassing, and productive
of an overwhelming desire to shut her eyes and hide.

There were the shops, with the things in the windows unchanged since she
left nine days ago, the same ancient novelties nobody ever bought, the
same flies creeping over the same buns. There was the book-seller her
_Christian Year_ had come from, his windows full of more of them,
endless supplies for endless dieted daughters, vegetarians in literature
she called them to herself, forcibly vegetabled vegetarians; and there
was the silversmith who provided the Bishop with the crosses after a
good Florentine fifteenth-century pattern he presented to those of his
confirmation candidates who were the daughters in the diocese of the
great. The Duke's daughter had one. The Lord-Lieutenant's daughter had
one. On this principle Ingeborg herself had been given one, and wore it
continually night and day, as her father expected, under her dress,
where it bruised her. It was pleasant to her father to be able to
recollect, in the stress and dust of much in his work that was
unrefreshing, how there was a yearly increasing though severely sifted
number of gentle virgin blouses belonging to the best families beneath
which lay and rhythmically heaved this silver reminder of the wearer's
Bishop and of her God.

"Father," Ingeborg said, after she had worn hers for a week, "may I take
my cross off at night?"

"Why, Ingeborg?" he had inquired; adding quietly, "Did our Saviour?"

"No; but--you see when one turns round in one's sleep it sticks into
one."

"Sticks, Ingeborg?" the Bishop said gently, raising his eyebrows at such
an expression applied to such an object.

"Yes, and I'm getting awfully bruised." She was still in the schoolroom,
and still saying awfully.

"By His stripes we are healed," said the Bishop, shutting up the
conversation as one shuts up a book.

In spite of the wet warmth she shivered as the silversmith's window
reminded her of this. It had happened years ago, but even farther back,
as far back as she could remember, every time she had asked leave of her
father to do anything it had been refused; and refused with bits of
Bible, which was so peculiarly silencing.

And now here she was about to face him covered with the leaves she had
not asked for at all but had so tremendously taken, and going to ask the
most tremendous one of all, the leave to marry Herr Dremmel.

For that was how the last two days of her Dent's Tour had been spent, in
being openly engaged to Herr Dremmel. She had found her attempts to
explain that she was not so really availed nothing against his
conviction that she was. And public opinion, the public opinion of the
whole Tour, also never doubted but that she was--had not seven of its
most reliable members actually seen her in the act of becoming it? In
fact it not only did not doubt it, it was sternly determined that she
should be engaged whether she liked it or not. It was the least, the
Tour felt, that she could do. So that there was nothing for it now but
to face the Bishop.

She felt cold. No amount of the familiar moist stuffiness could warm
her. Vainly she tried to sit up, to be proud and brave, to recapture
something at least of the courage that had seemed so easy just at the
end in Switzerland with Herr Dremmel to laugh at her doubts. Her head
would droop, and her hands and feet were like stones.

It was the place, the place, she thought, the hypnotic effect of it, of
her old environment. The whole of Redchester was heavy with
recollections of past obediences. Not once had she ever in Redchester
even dreamt of rebellion. She had questioned latterly, in the remoter
and less filial corners of her heart, but she had never so much as
thought of rebellion. And the moment she got away out of sight and
hearing of home, things she knew here were wicked had appeared to be
quite good and extremely natural. How strange that was. And how strange
that now she was back everything was beginning to seem wicked again.
What was a poor wretch to do, she asked herself with sudden passion,
confronted by these shuffling standards that behaved as if they were
dancing a quadrille? This was the place in which for years her
conscience had been cockered to size and delicacy; and though it had
become temporarily tough in Herr Dremmel's company she felt it relapsing
with every turn of the wheels more and more into its ancient softness.

Yet she undoubtedly, conscience-stricken and frightened or not, had to
tell her father what she had done. She had got to be brave, and if needs
be she had got to defy. She was bound to Herr Dremmel. He had only gone
home to set his house in order, and then, he announced, she meanwhile
having prepared the Bishop, he was coming to Redchester to marry her.
Prepared the Bishop! She shivered. Herr Dremmel had tried to marry her
in Lucerne; but the Swiss, it seemed, would not be hurried, so that here
she was, and within the next few hours she was going to have to prepare
the Bishop.

She shut her eyes and thought of Herr Dremmel; of Robert, as she was was
learning to call him. With all her heart she liked him. And he had been
so kind when he found she really disliked being engulfed in embraces,
and had restricted his exhibitions of affection to the kissing of her
hand, telling her he could very well wait till later on, sure that she
would after marriage warm, as he had explained to her on the Rigi all
women did, to a just appreciation of the value of the caresses of an
honest man. He had also produced a number of German love-names from some
hitherto fallow corner of his mind, and garnished his conversation with
them in a way that made her who, nourished as she had been on the noble
language of the Bible and the Prayer-book, was instantly responsive to
the charm of words, laugh and glow with pleasure. She was his Little
Heart, his Little Tiny Treasure, his Little Sugar Lamb--a dozen little
sweet diminished German things translated straight away just as they
were into English. The freshness of it! The freshness of being admired
and petted after the economies in these directions practised in her
home. And his ring at that very moment dangled beneath her dress on the
same chain as her father's cross. Yes, she was bound to him. Duty, she
perceived, could be a very blessed thing sometimes if it protected one
from some other duty. It was Herr Dremmel now who had become her Duty.

She put up her hand to get courage by feeling the ring, for her spirit
was fainting within her--she had just caught sight of the cathedral. The
ring had been slung on the chain alongside the confirmation cross
because it was impossible to wear it on her thumb; and out there in
Switzerland, where one was simple, it had seemed a most natural and
obvious place to put it. Yet now, as the fly rattled over the cobbles of
the Close and the familiar cathedral rose before her like a menace, she
hung her head and greatly doubted but what the juxtaposition was wicked.

Nobody was on the doorstep when she arrived beneath the great cedar that
spread its shade, an intensified bit of dripping gloom where all was
gloom and dripping, across from the lawn to the Palace's entrance,
except the butler, whose black clothes struck her instantly as very neat
and smooth, and his underling, a youth kept carefully a little on the
side of a suitable episcopal shabbiness. She had telegraphed her train
from Paddington, but that, of course, was no reason why any one should
be on the doorstep. It was she whose business lay with doorsteps when
people arrived or left, she was the one who welcomed and who sped, and,
since she could not welcome herself, there was nobody there to do it.

She stole a nervous look at Wilson as he helped her out, but his face
was a blank. The boy on her other side had an expression, she thought,
as though under happier conditions he might have let himself go in a
smirk, and she turned her eyes away with a little sick feeling. Did they
know already, all of them, that she had left her aunt's a week ago? But,
indeed, that seemed a small thing now compared with the things she had
done since.

"I'm a dead girl," thought Ingeborg, as she passed beneath her parents'
porch.

The servants brought in her luggage, off which in her newness at deceit
she had not thought to scrape the continental labels, and she crossed
the hall, treading on the dim splashes of lovely blurred colour that
fell from the vast stained glass windows on to the stone flags of its
floor. It was the noblest hall, as bare of stuffs and carpets as the
cathedral itself, and she looked more than insignificant going across it
to the carved oak door that opened into the wide panelled passage
leading to the drawing-room, a little figure braced to a miserable
courage, the smallest thing to be going to defy powers of which this
magnificence was only one of the expressions.

Her mother was as usual on her sofa near a fire whose heat, that warm
day, was mitigated by the windows being wide open. Beside her was her
own particular table with the usual flowers, needlework, devotional
books, and biographies of good men. It was difficult to believe her
mother had got off that sofa nine times to go to bed, had dressed and
undressed and had meals--thirty-six of them, counted Ingeborg
mechanically, while she looked about for the Bishop, if you excluded the
before breakfast tea, forty-five if you didn't--since she saw her last,
so immovable did she appear, so exactly in the same position and
composed into the same lines as she had been nine days before. The room
was full of the singing of thrushes, quite deafeningly full, as she
opened the door, for the windows gave straight into the green and soppy
garden and it was a day of many worms. Judith was making tea as far away
from the fire as she could get, and there was no sign of the Bishop.

"Is that you, Ingeborg?" said her mother, turning her face, grown pale
with years of being shut up, to the door.

Ingeborg's mother had found the sofa as other people find salvation. She
was not ill. She had simply discovered in it a refuge and a very present
help in all the troubles and turmoil of life, and in especial a shield
and buckler when it came to dealing with the Bishop. It is not easy for
the married, she had found when first casting about for one, to hit on a
refuge from each other that shall be honourable to both. In a moment of
insight she perceived the sofa. Here was a blameless object that would
separate her entirely from duties and responsibilities of every sort. It
was respectable; it was unassailably effective; it was not included in
the Commandments. All she had to do was to cling to it, and nobody could
make her do or be anything. She accordingly got on to it and had stayed
there ever since, mysteriously frail, an object of solicitude and
sympathy, a being before whose helplessness the most aggressive or
aggrieved husband must needs be helpless, too. And she had gradually
acquired the sofa look, and was now very definitely a slightly plaintive
but persistently patient Christian lady.

"Is that you, Ingeborg?" she said, turning her head.

"Yes, mother," said Ingeborg, hesitating in spite of herself on the
threshold.

She looked round anxiously, but the Bishop was not lurking anywhere in
the big room.

"Come in, dear, and shut the door. You see the windows are open."

Judith glanced up at her a moment from her tea-making and did not move.
Even in the midst of her terrors Ingeborg was astonished, after not
having seen it for a while, at her loveliness. She seemed to have taken
the sodden greys of the afternoon, the dulness and the gathering dusk,
and made out of their gloom the one perfect background for her beauty.

"We thought you would have written," said Mrs. Bullivant, putting her
cheek in a position convenient for the kiss that was to be applied to
it.

"I--I telegraphed," said Ingeborg, applying the kiss.

"Yes, dear, but only about your train."

"I--thought that was enough."

"But, Ingeborg dear, such a great occasion. One of _the_ great occasions
of life. We did expect a little notice, didn't we, Judith?"

"Notice?" said Ingeborg faintly.

"Your father was wounded, dear. He thought it showed so little real love
for your parents and your sister."

"But--" said Ingeborg, looking from one to the other.

"We wrote to you at once--directly we knew. Didn't we, Judith?"

"Of course," said Judith.

Ingeborg stood flushing and turning pale. Had one of the Dent's Tour
people somehow found out where she lived and written about her
engagement and the impossible had happened and they weren't going to
mind? Was it possible? Did they know? And were taking it like this? If
only she had called at her aunt's house on the way to Paddington and got
the letters--what miserable hours of terror she would have been spared!

"But--" she began. Then the immense relief of it suddenly flooded her
whole being with a delicious warm softness. They did know. Somehow. And
a miracle had happened. Oh, how _kind_ God was!

She dropped on her knees by the sofa and began to kiss her mother's
hand, which surprised Mrs. Bullivant; and indeed it is a foreign trick,
picked up mostly by those who go abroad. "Mother," she said, "are you
really pleased about it? You don't mind then?"

"Mind?" said Mrs. Bullivant.

"Oh, how glad, how glad I am. And father? What does he say? Does
he--does _he_ mind?"

"Mind?" repeated Mrs. Bullivant.

"Father is very pleased, I think," said Judith, with what in one less
lovely would have been a slight pursing of the lips. And she twisted a
remarkable diamond ring she was wearing straight.

"Father is--pleased?" echoed Ingeborg, quite awe-struck by the amount
and quality of these reliefs.

"I must say I think it is really _good_ of your dear father to be
pleased, when he loses--" began Mrs. Bullivant.

"Oh, yes, yes," interrupted the overcome Ingeborg, "it's a wonder--a
wonder of God."

"Ingeborg dear," her mother gently rebuked, for this was excess; and
Judith looked still more what would have been a little pursed in any
other woman.

"When he loses," then resumed Mrs. Bullivant with the plaintive
determination of one who considers it the least she may expect as a
sofa-ridden mother to be allowed to finish her sentences, "so much."

"Yes, yes," assented Ingeborg eagerly, whose appreciation of her
parents' attitude was so warm that she almost felt she must stay and
bask in its urbanity forever and not go away after all to the bleak
distance of East Prussia.

"Your father loses not _only_ a daughter," continued Mrs. Bullivant,
"but £500 a year of his income."

"Would one call it his income?" inquired Judith, politely but yet, if
one could suspect a being with an angel's face of such a thing, with
some slight annoyance. "I thought our grandmother--"

"Judith dear, the £500 a year your grandmother left to each of you was
only to be yours when you married," explained Mrs. Bullivant, also with
some slight annoyance beneath her patience. "Till you married it was to
be mine--your father's, I mean, of course. And if you never did marry it
would have been mine--I mean his--always."

Ingeborg had heard of her Swedish grandmother's will, but had long ago
forgotten it, marriage being remote and money never of any interest to
her who had no occasions for spending. Now her heart bounded with yet
more thankfulness. What a comfort it would be to Robert. How it would
help him in his research. Extraordinary that she should have forgotten
it. When he told her of his stipend of five thousand marks--£250 it was
in English money, he explained, and there was the house and land
free--most of which went in his experiments, but what was left being
ample, he said, for the living purposes of reasonable beings if they
approached it in a proper spirit, it all depending, he said, on whether
they approached it in a proper spirit. "And after all," he had added
triumphantly, throwing out his chest just as she was about to inquire
what the proper spirit was, "no man can call me _thin_--"--to think she
had forgotten the substantial help she was going to be able to bring
him!

The full splendour of her father's generosity in being pleased at her
engagement was now revealed to her. The relief of it. The glad, warm
relief. So must one feel who is born again, all new, all clean from old
mistakes and fears. She felt lifted up, extraordinarily happy,
extraordinarily good, more in harmony with Providence and the Bible than
she had been since childhood. She would have been willing, and indeed
found it perfectly natural, to kneel down with her mother and Judith
then and there and say prayers together out loud. She would have been
willing on the crest of her wave of gratefulness quite readily to give
up Herr Dremmel in return for the family's immense kindness in not
asking her to give him up. She had felt nothing like this exaltation
before in her life, this complete being in harmony with the infinite,
this confidence in the inherent goodness of things, except on the
afternoon her tooth was pulled out.

"Oh," she exclaimed, laying her cheek on her mother's hand, "oh, I do
_hope_ you'll like Robert!"

"Robert?" said Mrs. Bullivant; and at the tea-table there was a sudden
silence among the cups, as though they were holding their breath.

"His name's Robert," said Ingeborg, still with her cheek on her mother's
hand, her eyes shut, her face a vision of snuggest, safest contentment.

"What Robert, Ingeborg?" inquired Mrs. Bullivant, shifting her position
to stare down more conveniently at her daughter.

"Herr Dremmel. It's his Christian name. He's got to _have_ one, you
know," said Ingeborg, still with her eyes shut in the blissfulness of
perfect confidence.

"Herr who?" said Mrs. Bullivant, a sharper note of life in her voice
than there had been for years. "Here's your father," she added quickly,
hastily composing herself into the lines of the unassailable invalid
again as the door opened and the Bishop came in.

Ingeborg jumped up. "Oh, father," she cried, running to him with the
entire want of shyness one may conceive in the newly washed and forgiven
soul when it first arrives in heaven and meets its Maker and knows there
are going to be no more misunderstandings for ever, "how _good_ you've
been!"

And she kissed him so fervently in a room gone so silent that the kiss
sounded quite loud.

The Bishop was nettled.

Was he then at any time not good? His daughter's excessive gratitude,
really almost noisy gratitude, for what after all had been inevitable,
the permission to go up to London and place herself in the hands of a
dentist, suggested that humaneness on his part came to her as a
surprise. He did feel he had been good to let her go, but he also felt
he would have been not good if he had not let her go. Certainly
Redchester opinion would have condemned him as cruel even if he himself,
who knew all the circumstances, was not able to think so. What had
really been cruel was the terrible muddle his papers and letters had got
into owing to her prolonged absence. Grave dislocations had taken place
in the joints of his engagements, several with far-reaching results; and
all because, he could not help feeling, Ingeborg, in spite of precept
and example, did not in her earlier years use her toothbrush with
regularity and conscientiousness. Manifestly she did not, or how could
she have needed nine enormous days to be set in repair? He himself, who
regarded his body as a holy temple, which was the one solution of the
body question that at all approached satisfactoriness, and had
accordingly brushed his teeth, from the point of view of their being
pillars of a sacred edifice, after every meal for forty years, had never
had a toothache in his life.

"Let us hope now, Ingeborg," he said, reflecting on the instance she had
provided of the modern inversion of the Mosaic law which visited the
sins of the fathers on the children, the original arrangement, the
Bishop felt, being considerably healthier, and gently putting her away
in order to go over to the tea-table where he stood holding out his hand
for the cup Judith hastened to place in it, "let us now hope, now you
have had your lesson, that in future you will remember cleanliness is
next to godliness."

And this seemed to Ingeborg an answer so surprising that she could only
stare at him with her mouth fallen a little open, there where he had
left her in the middle of the carpet.

But the Bishop had not done. He went on to say another thing that
surprised her still more; nay, smote her cold, shook her to her
foundations. He said, after a pause during which the silence in the room
was remarkable, his back turned to her while at the tea-table he
carefully selected the particular piece of bread and butter he intended
to eat, "And pray, Ingeborg, why did you not write the moment you heard
from us, and congratulate your sister on her engagement?"



CHAPTER VIII


Ingeborg was dumb.

Her father's question was like a blow, shocking her back to
consciousness. The warm dream that all was well, that she was
understood, that there was love and kindliness for her at home after all
and welcome and encouragement, the warm feeling of stretching herself in
her family's kind lap, confident that it would hold her up and not spill
her out on to the floor, was gone in a flash. She was hit awake, hit out
of her brief delicious sleep. Her family had not got a lap, but it had
an entirely unprepared mind, and into that unprepared mind she had
tumbled the name of Dremmel.

"Judith--engaged?" she stammered faintly, on the Bishop's wheeling
round, cup in hand, to examine into the cause of her prolonged silence.

"Your incredulity is not very flattering to your sister," he said; and
Judith's eyelashes as she concentrated her gaze on the teapot were alone
sufficiently lovely, the curved, dusky-golden soft things, to make
incredulity simply silly.

Mrs. Bullivant avoided all speech and clung to her sofa.

"It's--so sudden," faltered Ingeborg.

"Much may happen in a week," said the Bishop.

"Yes," murmured Ingeborg, who knew that terribly, too.

"We never can tell what a day may bring forth," said the Bishop; and
Ingeborg, deeply convinced, drooped her head acquiescent.

"No man," began the Bishop, habit being strong within him, "knoweth the
hour when the bridegroom--" But he stopped, recollecting that Ingeborg
was not engaged and therefore could not with propriety be talked to of
bridegrooms. Instead, he inquired again why she had not written; and
eyeing her searchingly asked himself if it were possible that a child of
his could be base enough to envy.

"I--didn't get the letters," said Ingeborg, her head drooping.

"You did not? That is very strange. Your mother wrote at once. Let me
see. It was on Friday it happened. It _was_ Friday, was it not, Judith?
_You_ ought to know"--Judith blushed obediently--"and to-day is Tuesday.
Ample time. Ample time. My dear," he said, turning to his wife who at
once twitched into a condition of yet further relaxed defencelessness,
"do you think it possible your letter was not posted?"

"Quite, Herbert," murmured Mrs. Bullivant, closing her eyes and
endeavouring to imagine herself unconscious.

"Ah. Then that's it. That's it. Wilson is growing careless. This last
week there have been repeated negligences. You will make inquiries,
Ingeborg, and tell him what I have said."

"Yes, father."

"And you will discharge him if he goes on like this."

"Yes, father."

"Unfaithful servant. Unfaithful servant. He that is unfaithful in a few
things--"

The Bishop, frowning at it, took a second piece of bread and butter, and
went over to the hearthrug, where he stood from force of habit, in spite
of the warmth of the day, drinking his tea, and becoming vaguely and
increasingly irritated by the action of the fire behind him.

"Then," he said, looking at Ingeborg, "you know nothing about it?"

She shook her head. She was the oddest figure in the middle of the
splendid old room, travel-stained, untidy, her face white with fatigue,
her hat crooked.

Judith glanced at her every now and then, but it was impossible at any
time to tell what the delicate white rose at the tea-table was thinking;
so impossible that the young men who clustered round her like bees when
they first saw her gave it up and went on presently to more
communicative flowers. The local Duchess had hoped her first-born would
marry him--a creature so lovely, so entirely respectable with that nice
Bishop for a father, and so happily adapted in the perfection of her
proportions for the successful production of further dukes; and she
pointed out various aspects of the girl's exquisiteness to her son, and
told him he would have the most beautiful wife in England. But the young
man, after a reproachful look at his mother for supposing he could have
missed noticing even the humblest approach to a pretty woman let alone
Judith Bullivant, said he didn't want to marry a picture but something
that was alive and, anyhow, something that talked.

"She's right enough, of course," he remarked, "and I like looking at
her. I'd be blind if I didn't. But Lord, dull? The girl hasn't got a
word to say for herself. I never met any woman who looked so ripping and
then somehow wasn't. She won't talk. She won't _talk_," he almost
wailed. "She ain't got the remotest resemblance to anything approaching
_kick_ in her."

"You might end by being thankful for that," said his mother.

He would not, however, be persuaded, and went his way and married, as
the Duchess had feared, a young lady from the halls--a young lady nimble
not only of toes but of wits, nimble, that is to say, as he proudly
pointed out to his mother, at both ends, with whom he lived in great
contentment, for she amused him, which is much.

"I have not observed you offer any congratulations, Ingeborg," said the
Bishop, becoming more and more displeased by her strange behaviour, and
not at all liking her crumpled and forlorn appearance. He again thought
of envy, but that alone could not crumple clothes. "And yet your
sister," he said, getting a little further away from the fire which had
begun to scorch him unpleasantly, "is to be the wife of the Master."

"The Master?" repeated Ingeborg, stupidly. For a moment her tormented
brain supposed Judith must be going to be a nun.

"There is only one Master," said the Bishop, in his stateliest manner.
"Everybody knows that. The Master of Ananias."

Ingeborg knew this was a great thing. The Master of Ananias, the most
celebrated of Oxford colleges, was in every way, except perhaps that of
age, desirable; but what was age when it came to all the other
desirabilities? Her father had rebuked her once for speaking of him as
old Dr. Abbot, and had informed her the Master was only sixty, and that
everybody was sixty--that is, said the Bishop, everybody of any sense.
He was not a widower, he was pleasant to look at in a shaven iron-grey
way, he was brilliantly erudite, and extremely well off apart from his
handsome salary, one of the handsomest salaries in the gift of the
Crown. Several years before, when Judith was still invisible in a
pinafore, he had stayed at the Palace--it was then Ingeborg spoke of him
as old--and had been treated by her father with every attention and
respect: He had on that occasion seemed glad to go. Now it appeared he
had been again, and must have fallen immediately--and overwhelmingly in
love with Judith for his short visit to bridge the distance between a
first acquaintance and an engagement. Who, however, knew better than
herself how quickly such distances can be bridged?

She wanted to go and kiss Judith and say sweet things to her, but her
feet seemed unable to move. She wanted to congratulate everybody with
all her heart if only they would be kind and congratulate her a little,
too. For Judith had heard what she said before her father came in, and
her mother had heard it, and the room was heavy with the uttered name of
Dremmel.

She looked round at them--her father waiting for her to show at least
ordinary decency and feeling, Judith so safe in the family's approval,
so entirely clear from hidden things, her mother lying with closed eyes
and expressionless face, and she suddenly felt intolerably alone.

"Oh, oh--" she cried, holding out her hands, "doesn't anybody love me?"

This was worse than her toothache.

Her family had endured much during those days, but at least there was a
reason then for the odder parts of her behaviour. Now they were called
upon to endure the distressing spectacle of a hitherto reserved relative
letting herself go to unbridledness. Ingeborg was going to make a scene;
and a scene was a thing that had never yet, anyhow not during the entire
Bullivant period, been made in that house.

[Illustration: "But father, I've been doing it too"]

Mrs. Bullivant shut her eyes tighter and tried to think she was not
there at all.

Judith turned red and again became absorbed in the teapot.

The Bishop, after the first cold shock natural to a person called upon
to contemplate nakedness where up to then there had been clothes, put
down his cup on the nearest table and, with an exaggerated calm, stared.

They all felt intensely uncomfortable; as uncomfortable as though she
had begun, in the middle of the drawing-room, to remove her garments one
by one and cast them from her.

"This is very sad, Ingeborg," said the Bishop.

"Isn't it--oh, _isn't_ it--" was her unexpected answer, tears in her
eyes. She was so tired, so frightened. She had been travelling hard
since the morning of the day before. She had had nothing to eat for a
time that seemed infinite. And yet this was the moment, just because she
had betrayed herself to her mother and Judith, in which she was going to
have to tell her father what she had done.

"It is the most distressing example," said the Bishop, "I have ever seen
of that basest of sins, envy."

"Envy?" said Ingeborg. "Oh, no--that's not what it is. Oh, if it were
only that! And I do congratulate Judith. Judith, I do, I do, my dear.
But--father, I've been doing it too."

It was out now, and she looked at him with miserable eyes, prepared for
the worst.

"Doing what, Ingeborg?"

"I'm engaged, too."

"Engaged? My dear Ingeborg."

The Bishop was alarmed for her sanity. She really looked very strange.
Had they been giving her too much gas?

His tone became careful and humouring. "How can you," he said quietly,
"have become engaged in these few days?"

"Much may happen in a week," said Ingeborg. It jumped out. She did try
not to say it. She was unnerved. And always when she was unnerved she
said the first thing that came into her head, and always it was either
unfortunate or devastating.

The Bishop became encased in ice. This was not hysteria, it was
something immeasurably worse.

"Be so good as to explain," he said sharply, and waves of icy air seemed
to issue from where he stood and heave through the room.

"I'm engaged to--to somebody called Dremmel," said Ingeborg.

"I do not know the name. Do you, Marion?"

"No, oh, no," breathed Mrs. Bullivant, her eyes shut.

"Robert Dremmel," said Ingeborg.

"Who are the Dremmels, Ingeborg?"

"There aren't any."

"There aren't any?"

"I--never _heard_ of any," she said, twisting her fingers together. "We
usedn't to talk about--about things like _more_ Dremmels."

"What is this man?"

"A clergyman."

"Oh. Where is he living?"

"In East Prussia."

"In where, Ingeborg?"

"East Prussia. It--it's a place abroad."

"Thank you. I am aware of that. My education reaches as far as and
includes East Prussia."

Mrs. Bullivant began to cry. Not loud, but tears that stole quietly down
her face from beneath her closed eyelids. She did not do anything to
them, but lay with her hands clasped on her breast and let them steal.
What was the use of being a Christian if one were exposed to these
scenes?

"Pray, why is he in East Prussia?" asked the Bishop.

"He belongs there."

Again the room seemed for an instant to hold its breath.

"Am I to understand that he is a German?"

"Please, father."

"A German pastor?"

"Yes, father."

"Not by any chance attached in some ecclesiastical capacity to the
Kaiser?"

"No, father."

There was a pause.

"Your aunt--what did she say to this?"

"She didn't say anything. She wasn't there."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I haven't been at my aunt's."

"Judith, my dear, will you kindly leave the room?"

Judith got up and went. While she was crossing to the door and until she
had shut it behind her there was silence.

"Now," said the Bishop, Judith being safely out of harm's way, "you will
have the goodness to explain exactly what you have been doing."

"I think I wish to go to bed," murmured Mrs. Bullivant, without changing
her attitude or opening her eyes. "Will some one please ring for
Richards to come and take me to bed?"

But neither the Bishop nor Ingeborg heeded her.

"I didn't _mean_ to do anything, father-" began Ingeborg. Then she broke
off and said, "I--can explain better if I sit down--" and dropped into
the chair nearest to her, for her knees felt very odd.

She saw her father now only through a mist. She was going to have to
oppose him for the first time in her life, and her nature was one which
acquiesced and did not oppose. In her wretchedness a doubt stole across
her mind as to whether Herr Dremmel was worth this; was anything, in
fact, worth fighting about? And with one's father. And against one's
whole bringing-up. Was she going to be strong enough? Was it a thing one
ought to be strong about? Would not true strength rather lie in a calm
continuation of life at home? What, when one came to think of it, was
East Prussia really to her, and those rye-fields and all that water? She
wished she had had at least a piece of bread and butter. She thought
perhaps bread and butter would have helped her not to doubt. She looked
round vaguely so as not to have to meet her father's eye for a moment
and her glance fell on the tea-table.

"I think," she said faintly, getting up again, "I'll have some tea."

To the Bishop this seemed outrageous.

He watched her in a condition of icy indignation such as he had not yet
in his life experienced. His daughter. His daughter for whom he had done
so much. The daughter he had trained for years, sparing no pains, to be
a helpful, efficient, Christian woman. The daughter he had honoured with
his trust, letting her share in the most private portions of his daily
business. Not a letter had he received that she had not seen and been
allowed to answer. Not a step in any direction had he taken without
permitting her to make the necessary arrangements. Seldom, he supposed
bitterly, had a child received so much of a father's confidence. His
daughter. That crumpled and disreputable--yes, now he knew what was the
matter with her appearance--disreputable-looking figure cynically
pouring itself out tea while he, her father whom she had been deceiving,
was left to wait for her explanations until such time as she should have
sated her appetite. Positively she had succeeded, he said to himself,
bitterly enraged that he should be forced to be bitterly enraged, in
making him feel less like a bishop should feel than he had done since he
was a boy.

"It's because I've had nothing to eat since Paris," Ingeborg explained
apologetically, holding the teapot in both hands because one by itself
shook too much, and feeling, too, that the moment was not exactly one
for tea.

The Bishop started. "Since where?" he said.

"Paris," said Ingeborg; adding tremulously, having quite lost her nerve
and only desiring to fill up the silence, "it--it's a place abroad."

Mrs. Bullivant murmured a more definitely earnest request that Richards
might be rung for to take her to bed.

"Ingeborg," said the Bishop in a voice she did not know. "Paris?"

"Yes, father--last night."

"Ingeborg, come here."

He was pointing to a chair a yard or two from the hearthrug on which he
stood, and his voice was very strange.

She put down the cup with a shaking hand and went to him. Her heart was
in her mouth.

"What have you been doing?" he said.

"I told you, father. I'm engaged to Herr--"

"How did you get to Paris?"

"By train."

"Will you answer me? What were you doing in Paris?"

"Having dinner."

She was terrified. Her father was talking quite loud. She had never in
her life seen him like this. She answered his questions quickly, her
heart leaping as he rapped them out, but her answers seemed to make him
still angrier. If only he would let her explain, hear her out; but he
hurled questions at her, giving her no time at all.

"Father," she said hurriedly, seeing that after that last answer of hers
he did for a moment say nothing, but stood looking at her very
extraordinarily, "please let me tell you how it all happened. It won't
take a minute--it won't really. And then, you see, you'll _know_. I
didn't mean to do anything, I really didn't; but the dentist pulled my
tooth out so quickly, that very first day, and so instead of coming home
I went to Lucerne--"

"To--"

"Yes," she nodded, in a frenzy of haste to get it all said, "to
Lucerne--I couldn't tell you why, but I did--I seemed pushed there, and
after a little while I got engaged, and I didn't in the least mean to do
that, either, really I didn't--but somehow--" Was there any use trying
to tell him about the white and silver cake and the seven witnesses and
the undoubting kind Herr Dremmel and all the endless small links in the
chain? Would he ever, ever understand?--"somehow I _did_. You see," she
added helplessly, looking up at him with eyes full of an appeal for
comprehension, for mercy, "one thing leads to another." And as he still
said nothing she added, even more helplessly, "Herr Dremmel sat opposite
me in the train."

"You picked him up casually, like any servant girl, in a train?"

"He was one of the party. He was there from the beginning. Oh, yes, I
forgot to tell you--it was one of Dent's Tours."

"You went on a Dent's Tour?"

"Yes, and he was one of it, too, and we all, of course, always went
about together, rather like a school, two and two--I suppose because of
the pavement," she said, now saying in her terror anything that came
into her head, "and as he was the other one of my two--the half of the
couple I was the other one of, you know, father--we--we got engaged."

"Do you take me for a fool?" was the Bishop's comment.

Ingeborg's heart stood still. How could her father even _think_--

"Oh, father," was all she could say to that; and she hung her head in
the entire hopelessness, the uselessness of trying to tell him anything.

She knew she had been saying it ridiculously, tumbling out a confusion
of what must sound sad nonsense, but could he not see she was
panic-stricken? Could he not be patient, and help her to make her clean
breast?

"I'm stupid," she said, looking up at him through tears, and suddenly
dropping into a kind of nakedness of speech, a speech entirely simple
and entirely true, "stupid with fright."

"Do you suggest I terrorize you?" inquired the incensed Bishop.

"Yes," she said.

This was terrible. And it was peculiarly terrible because it made the
Bishop actually wish he were not a gentleman. Then, indeed, it would be
an easy matter to deal with that small defying creature in the chair.
When it comes to women the quickest method is, after all, to be by
profession a navvy....

He shuddered, and hastily drew his thoughts back from this abyss. To
what dread depths of naturalness was she not by her conduct dragging
him?

"Father," said Ingeborg, who had now got down to the very bottom of the
very worst, a place where once one has reached it an awful sincerity
takes possession of one's tongue, "do you see this? Look at them."

And she held up her hands and showed him, while she herself watched them
as though they were somebody else's, how they were shaking.

"Isn't that being afraid? Look at them. It's fear. It's fear of you.
It's you making them do that. And think of it--I'm twenty-two. A woman.
Oh, I--I'm _ashamed_--"

But whether it was a proper shame for what she had done or a shocking
shame for her compunctions in sinning, the Bishop was not permitted that
afternoon to discover; because when she had got as far as that she was
interrupted by being obliged to faint.

There was a moment's confusion while she tumbled out of the chair and
lay, a creased, strange object, on the floor, owing to Mrs. Bullivant's
having produced an exclamation; and this to the Bishop, after years of
not having heard her more than murmur, was almost as disconcerting as
if, flinging self-restraint to the winds, she had suddenly produced
fresh offspring. He quickly, however, recovered the necessary presence
of mind and the bell was rung for Richards; who, when she came, knelt
down and undid Ingeborg's travel-worn blouse, and something on a long
chain fell out jingling.

It was her father's cross and Herr Dremmel's ring metallically hitting
each other.

The Bishop left the room without a word.



CHAPTER IX


A pall descended on the Palace and enveloped it blackly for four awful
days, during which Mrs. Bullivant and her daughters and the chaplain and
the secretary and all the servants did not so much live as feel their
way about with a careful solicitude for inconspicuousness.

This pall was the pall of the Bishop's wrath; and there was so much of
it that it actually reached over into the dwellings of the Dean and
Chapter and blackened those white spots, and it got into the hitherto
calm home of the Mayor, who had the misfortune to have business with the
Bishop the very day after Ingeborg's return, and an edge of it--but
quite enough to choke an old man--even invaded the cathedral, where it
extinguished the head verger, a sunny octogenarian privileged to have
his little joke with the Bishop, and who had it unfortunately as usual,
and was instantly muffled in murkiness and never joked again.

That the Bishop should have allowed his private angers to overflow
beyond his garden walls, he who had never been anything in public but a
pattern in his personal beauty, his lofty calm, and his biblically
flavoured eloquence of what the perfect bishop should be, shows the
extreme disturbance of his mind. But it was not that he allowed it: it
was that he could not help it. He had, thanks to his daughter, lost his
self-control, and for that alone, without anything else she had done, he
felt he could never forgive her.

Self-control gone, and with it self-respect. He ached, he positively
ached during those first four black days in which his natural man was
uppermost, a creature he had forgotten so long was it since he had heard
of him, thoroughly to shake his daughter. And the terribleness of that
in a bishop. The terribleness of being aware that his hands were
twitching to shake--hands which he acutely knew should be laid on no one
except in blessing, consecrated hands, divinely appointed to bless and
then dismiss in peace. That small unimportant thing, that small weak
thing, the thing he had generously endowed with the great gift of life
and along with that gift the chance it would never have had except for
him of re-entering eternal blessedness, the thing he had fed and
clothed, that had eaten out of his hand and been all bright tameness--to
bring disgrace on him! Disgrace outside before the world, and inside
before his abased and humiliated self. And she had brought it not only
on a father, but on the best-known bishop on the bench; the best known
also and most frequently mentioned, he had sometimes surmised with a
kind of high humility, in the--how could one put it with sufficient
reverence?--holy gossip of the angels. For in his highest moods he had
humbly dared to believe he was not altogether untalked about in heaven.
And here at the moment of much thankfulness and legitimate pride when
his other daughter was so beautifully betrothed came this one, and with
impish sacrilegiousness dragged him, her father, into the dust of base
and furious instincts, the awful dust in which those sad animal men sit
who wish to and do beat their women-folk.

He could not bring himself to speak to her. He would not allow her near
him. Whatever her repentance might be it could never wipe out the memory
of these hours of being forced by her to recognise what, after all the
years of careful climbing upwards to goodness, he was still really like
inside. Terrible to be stirred not only to unchristianity but to
vulgarity. Terrible to be made to wish not only that you were not a
Christian but not a gentleman. He, a prince of the Church, was desiring
to be a navvy for a space during which he could be unconditionally
active. He, a prince of the Church, was rent and distorted by feelings
that would have disgraced a curate. He could never forgive her.

But the darkest hours pass, and just as the concerned diocese was
beginning to fear appendicitis for him, unable in any other way to
account for the way he remained invisible, he emerged from his first
indignation into a chillier region in which, still much locked in his
chamber, he sought an outlet in prayer.

A bishop, and indeed any truly good and public man, is restricted in his
outlets. He can with propriety have only two--prayer and his wife; and
in this case the wife was unavailable because of her sofa. For the first
time the Bishop definitely resented the sofa. He told himself that the
wife of a prelate, however ailing--and he believed with a man's
simplicity on such points that she did ail--had no business to be
inaccessible to real conversation. With no one else on earth except his
wife can a prelate or any other truly good and public man have real
conversation without losing dignity, or, if the conversation should
become very real, without losing office. That is why most prelates are
married. The best men wish to be real at times.

When Ingeborg stripped off her deferences, and, after having most
scandalously run away and most scandalously entangled herself with an
alien clerical rogue, had the face to hold up her hands at him and
accuse him, accuse _him_, her father, of being the cause of their
shaking, the Bishop had been as much horrified as if his own garden path
on which he had trodden pleasantly for years had rent itself asunder at
his feet and gaped at him. He had made the path; he had paid to have it
tidied and adorned; and he required of it in return that it should keep
quiet and be useful. To have it convulsed into an earthquake and its
usefulness interrupted must be somebody's fault, and his instinct very
properly was to go to his wife and tell her it was hers.

But there was the sofa.

He desired to converse with his wife. He had an intolerable desire for
even as few as five minutes' real conversation with her. He wanted to
talk about the manner in which Ingeborg must have been brought up, about
the amount of punishment she had received in childhood; he wished to be
informed as to the exact nature of the participation her mother had
taken in her moral education; he wished to discuss the responsibility of
mothers, and to explain his views on the consequences of maternal
neglect; and he wanted, too, to draw his wife's attention to the fact
she easily apparently overlooked, that he had bestowed a name grown
celebrated on her, and a roof that through his gifts and God's mercy was
not an ordinary but a palace roof, and that in return the least he might
expect.... In short, he wanted to talk.

But when driven by his urgencies he went to her room to break down the
barricade of the sofa, he found not only Richards hovering there
tactfully, but the doctor; for Mrs. Bullivant had foreseen her husband's
probable desire for conversation, and the doctor, a well-trained man,
was in the act of prescribing complete silence.

It was then that, thwarted and debarred from the outlet a man prefers,
he sought his other outlet, and laid all these distressful matters in
prayer at the feet of heaven. On his knees in his chamber he earnestly
begged forgiveness for his descent to naturalness, and a restoration of
his self-respect. Without his self-respect what would become of him? He
had lived with it so intimately and long. Fervently he desired the
molten moments in which his hands had twitched, wiped out, and
forgotten. He asked for help to conduct himself henceforth with calm. He
implored to be given patience. He implored to be given self-control. And
presently, after two days of his spare moments spent in this manner, he
was sitting upon a chair and telling himself that the main objection to
praying, if one might say so with all due reverence, is that it is
one-sided. It is a monologue, said the Bishop--also with all due
reverence--and in troubles of the kind he was in one needs to be sure
one is being attended to. He did not think he could possibly be being
attended to, because, pray as he might, withdraw and wrestle as he
might, he continued to want to shake his daughter.

For there was the constant irritation going on of the affairs of the
diocese getting into a more hopeless disorder. All that time she was
away guiltily gadding, and now all this time she was not away but
unavailable till she should have utterly repented, his letters were
piling themselves up into confused heaps, and his engagements were a
wilderness in which he wandered alone in the dark. The chaplain and the
typist did what they could, but they had not been with him so long as
his daughter and were not possessed of the mechanical brainlessness that
makes a woman so satisfactory as a secretary. His daughter, not having
what might be called actual brains, was not troubled by thought. The
distresses of possible alternatives did not disturb her. She did not,
therefore, disturb him by suggesting them. She was mechanically
meticulous. She respected detail. She remembered. She knew not only what
had to be done, which was easy, but what had to be done exactly first.
And both the chaplain and the typist were men with ideas, and instead of
assisting him along one straight and narrow path which is the only way
of really getting anywhere, including, remembered the Bishop, to heaven,
they were constantly looking to the right and the left, doubting,
weighing, hesitating. The chaplain had as many eyes for a question as a
fly, and saw it from as many angles. Fairness, desirability, the
probable views of the other side, their equal Tightness, these things
faltered interminably round each letter to be answered, were hesitated
over interminably in the mellow intonations of that large-minded,
well-educated young man's voice, and he was echoed and supported by the
typist, who was also from Oxford, and had been given this chance of
nearness to the most distinguished of bishops at such a youthful age
that the undergraduate milk had not yet dried on the corners of his
eloquent and hesitating mouth, and gave a peculiarly sickly flavour,
thought the irritated Bishop, to whatever came out of it.

The Bishop felt that if this went on much longer the work of the diocese
would come to a standstill. In ten days the Easter recess would be over,
and he was due in the House of Lords, where he had been put down for a
speech on the Home Rule Bill from the point of view of simple faith, and
how was he to leave things in this muddle at home, and how was he to
have the peace of mind, the empty clarity, appropriate to a proper
approach of the measure if his inward eye went roving away to Redchester
all the time and to the increasing confusion on his study table?

The trail of Ingeborg was over all his day. When, warm and ruffled from
prayer, he plunged down into his work again, he could not do a thing
without being reminded she was not there. He was forced to think of her
every moment of his time. It was ignoble, but without her he was like an
actor who has learned not his part but to lean on the prompter, and who
finds himself on the stage with the prompter gone dead in his box. She
was dead to him, dead in obstinate sin; and dignity demanded she should
continue dead until she came of her own accord and told him she had done
with that terrible affair of the East Prussian pastor. He did not know
whether he would then forgive her--he would probably defer forgiveness
as a disciplinary measure, after having implored heaven's guidance--but
he would allow a certain amount of resurrection, sufficient to enable
her to sit up at her desk every day and disentangle the confusion her
wickedness alone had caused. In the evenings she would, he thought, at
any rate for a time, be best put back in her grave.

At this point he began to be able to say "Poor girl," and to feel that
he pitied her.

But it was not till the end of the week, as Sunday drew near, that his
prayers did after all begin to be answered, and he regained enough
control of his words if not of his thoughts to be able to reappear among
his family and show nothing less becoming than reserve. He even
succeeded, though without speaking to her, in kissing Ingeborg's
forehead night and morning and making the sign of the Cross over her
when she went to bed as he had done from her earliest years. She seemed
smaller than ever, hardly there at all, and made him think of an empty
dress walking about with a head on it. Contemplating her when she was
not looking his desire to shake her became finally quenched by the
perception that really there would be nothing to shake. It would be like
shaking out mere clothes, garments with the body gone out of them; there
would be dust, but little satisfaction. She had evidently been feeling,
he was slightly soothed to observe, for not only was her dress empty but
her face seemed diminished, and she certainly was remarkably pale. She
struck him as very unattractive, entirely designed by Providence for a
happy home life. And to think that this nothing, this amazing
littleness--well, well; poor girl.

On the Sunday afternoon he determined to help her by getting into touch
with her from the pulpit. On that day he several times assured himself
before preaching that his only feeling in the sad affair was one of
concern for her and grief. The pulpit, he knew from experience, was a
calm and comfort-bringing place when he was in it; it was, indeed, his
way with a pulpit that had brought the Bishop to the pinnacle of the
Church on which he found himself. He was at his best in it, knowing it
for a blessed spot, free from controversy, pure from contradiction, a
place where personal emotions could find no footing owing to the wise
custom that prevented congregations from answering back. Put into common
terms, the terms of his undergraduate days, he could let himself rip in
the pulpit; and the Bishop was in a ripped condition altogether at his
greatest.

He spoke that Sunday specially to Ingeborg, and he told himself that
what had come straight from his heart must needs go straight to hers.
The Bible was very plain. It did not mince matters as to the dangers she
was running. The punishment for her class of sin right through it was
various and severe. Not that the ravens of another age and the eagles of
a different climate--he had taken as his text that passage, or rather
portion of a passage--he described it as remarkable--in the Proverbs:
"The ravens of the valley shall pick it out and the young eagles shall
eat it"--were likely ever miraculously to appear in Redchester, though
even on that point the Bishop held that nothing was certain; but there
were, he explained, spiritual ravens and eagles provided by an
all-merciful Providence for latter-day requirements whose work was even
more thorough and destructive. He earnestly implored those members of
his flock who knew themselves guilty of the particular sin the passage
referred to, to seek forgiveness of their parents before Heaven
interfered. He pointed out that what is most needed, if people are to
live with any zest and fine result at all, is encouragement, and what
encouragement could equal full and free forgiveness? The Bible, he said,
understood this very well, and the Prodigal Son's father never hesitated
in his encouragement. It seemed difficult to suppose one could equal the
lavishness of the best robe, the ring, the shoes, and the fatted calf,
yet he felt certain--he _knew_ there were fathers at that very moment,
there in that town, nay, in that cathedral, ready with all and more than
that. Who would wish to punish his dear child, the soul given into his
hands to be whitened for heaven? One knew from one's own experience--all
who had once been children must know--how sorry one was for having done
wrong, how _bleeding_ one felt about it; and just then, just at that
moment of sorrow, of heart's blood, was not what one needed so that one
might get on one's feet again quickly and do better than ever, not
punishment but forgiveness? A frequent and free forgiveness, said the
Bishop, and his voice was beautiful as he said it, was one of the chief
necessities of life. What poor children want, poor frail children, so
infinitely apt to fall, so infinitely clumsy at getting up, is a
continual wiping out and never thinking again of the yesterdays, a daily
presentation by authority to yesterday's stumblers of that most bracing
object, the cleaned and empty slate. Why, it was as necessary, he
declared, his fine face aglow, if one was to work well and add one's
cheerful contribution to the world's happiness, as a nourishing and
sufficient breakfast--the congregation thrilled at this homely
touch--and to numb a human being's powers of cheerful contribution by
punishment was _waste_. How cruel, then, to force a father by one's
stubbornness to punish; how cruel and how sinful to hinder him, by not
seeking out at once what he so freely offered, to hinder him from
bringing forth his best robe, his ring, his fatted calf. What a heavy
responsibility towards their fathers did children bear, said the Bishop,
who had ceased himself being anybody's child many years before. This, he
said, is a sermon to children; to erring children; to those sad children
who have gone astray. We are all children here, he explained, and if
life has been with us so long that we can no longer find any one we may
still with any certainty call father, we are yet to the end Children of
the Kingdom. But, he continued, though every single soul in this
cathedral is necessarily some one's child, not every single soul in it
is inevitably some one's father, and he would say a few words to the
fathers and remind them of the infinite effect of love. To punish your
child is to make its repentance go sour within it. Do not punish it.
Love it. Love it continuously, generously, if needs be obstinately;
smite its hardness, as once a rock was smitten, with the rod of
generosity. Give it a chance of gushing forth into living repentance.
Generosity begets generosity. Love begets love. Show your love. Show
your generosity. Forgive freely, magnificently. Oh, my brothers, oh, my
children, my little sorry children, what could not one, what would not
one do in return for love?

The Bishop's face was lifted up as he finished to the light of the west
window. His voice was charged with feeling. He had forgotten the ravens
and eagles of the beginning, for he never allowed his beginnings to
disturb his endings, well knowing his congregation forgot them, too. He
was an artist at reaching into the hearts of the uneducated. Everything
helped him--his beauty, his voice, and the manifest way in which his own
words moved him.

And the typist, as he walked back to the Palace with the chaplain across
the daisies of the Close, was unable to agree with the chaplain that a
course at Oxford even now in close reasoning might help the Bishop. The
typist thought it would spoil him; and offered to lay the chaplain
twenty to one that Redchester that afternoon would be full of erring
children upsetting their fathers' Sunday by wanting to be forgiven.

It was; and Ingeborg was one of them.



CHAPTER X


She waylaid him after tea on the stairs.

"Father," she said timidly, as he was passing on in silence.

"Well, Ingeborg?" said the Bishop, pausing and gravely attentive.

"I--want to tell you how sorry I am."

"Yes, Ingeborg?"

"So sorry, so ashamed that I--I went away like that on that tour. It was
very wrong of me. And I went with your money. Oh, it was ugly. I--hope
you'll forgive me, father?"

"Freely, Ingeborg. It would be sad indeed if I lagged behind our Great
Exemplar in the matter of forgiveness."

"Then--I may come back to work?"

"When you tell me you have broken off your clandestine engagement."

"But father--"

"There are no buts, Ingeborg."

"But you said in your sermon--"

The Bishop passed on.

In her eagerness Ingeborg put her hand detainingly on his sleeve, a
familiarity hitherto unheard of in that ordered and temperate household.

"But your sermon--you said in your sermon, father--why, how can free
forgiveness have conditions? They didn't do it that way in the
Bible"--(this to him who was by the very nature of his high office a
specialist in forgiveness; poor girl, poor girl)--"You said yourself
about the Prodigal Son--his father forgave _everything_, and perhaps
he'd done worse things even than going to Lucerne--"

"We are not told, Ingeborg, of any clandestine engagement," said the
Bishop, pursuing his way hampered but, as he was glad to remember
afterwards, calm.

"But you know about it--how can it be clandestine when you know about
it?"

"Once more, Ingeborg, there are no buts."

"But why shouldn't I marry a good man?"

She was actually following him up quite a number of the stairs, still
with her hand on his arm, and her face, so unattractive in its unwomanly
eagerness, quite close to his.

"Why should I have to be forgiven for wanting to marry a good man?
Everybody marries good men. Mother did, and you never told her she
wasn't to. Oh, oh--" she went on, as his dressing-room door was quietly
closed upon her, "that isn't free forgiveness at all--it isn't what you
_said_--it isn't what you _said_--it's _conditions_."...

And her voice from the doormat became quite a cry, regardless of
possible listening Wilsons.

How glad he was that he had been able to put her aside quietly and get
himself, still controlled, into his dressing-room. How strange and new
were these reckless outbreaks of unreserve. And her reasoning, how
wholly deplorable. She wished, unhappy girl, to enjoy the advantages and
privileges of the forgiven state while continuing in the sin that had
procured the forgiveness. She wished, he reflected, though in educated
language, to eat her cake and have it, too. Yet was it not clear that a
free forgiveness could only be bestowed on an unlimited penitence? There
could be no reservations of particular branches of sin. All must be
lopped. And the East Prussian pastor was a branch that must be lopped
with the cleanest final cut before real submission could be said to have
set in.

But the Bishop in his dressing-room, though he retained his apparent
calm, was sore within him. His sermon had failed. The girl must be a
stone. It wasn't, he thought profoundly worried, as if he hadn't given
her nearly a week for undisturbed thought and hadn't approached her that
day with all the helpfulness in his power from the pulpit. Both these
things he had done; and she was no nearer recovery than before. Was
training then nothing? Was environment nothing? Was blood nothing? Was
the blood of bishops, that blood which of all bloods must surely be most
potent in preventing its inheritors in all their doings, nothing?

On the following afternoon there was a party at the Palace, arranged by
Mrs. Bullivant in the confident days before she knew what Ingeborg was
really like. It was a congratulatory party for Judith, and all
Redchester and all the county had been invited. Nothing could stop this
party but a death in the household--any death, even Richards' might do,
but nothing short of death, thought the afflicted lady, wondering how
she was to get through the afternoon; and as she crept on to her sofa at
a quarter to four to be put by Richards into the final folds and knew
that as four struck a great surge of friends would pour in over her and
that for three hours she would have to be bright and happy about Judith,
and sympathetically explanatory about Ingeborg--who looked altogether
too odd to be explained only by a long past dentist--she felt so very
low that she was unable to stop herself from thinking it was a pity
people didn't die a little oftener. Especially maids. Especially maids
who were being so clumsy with the cushions....

And the Master of Ananias had been there since before luncheon, and how
exhausting that was. She had had to do most of the entertaining of him,
the Bishop being unavoidably absent from the meal, and Ingeborg, who did
the conversation in that family, not being able to now because she was
in disgrace, and Judith, dear child, never saying much at any time. And
the Master had been very exuberant; and his vitality, delightful of
course but just a little overwhelming at his age, had reminded her that
she needed care. How difficult it had been to get him out into the
garden, to somewhere where she wasn't. She hadn't got him there till
half-past two, by which time he had been vital without stopping since
twelve, and even then she had had to invent a pear-tree in full blossom
that she wasn't at all sure about, and tell him she had heard it was a
wonderful sight and ought not to be missed. But how difficult it had
been. Judith had not seemed to want to show him the pear-tree, and he
would not go and look at it unless she went, too. Judith had gone at
last, but with an expression on her face as though she thought she was
going to have to bear things, and no girl should show a thought like
that before marriage. And then there had been an immense number of small
matters to see to because of the party, matters Ingeborg had always seen
to but couldn't now because she was in disgrace, and how difficult all
that was. Still, Mrs. Bullivant felt deeply if vaguely that nobody
temporarily evil should be allowed to minister to anybody permanently
good. Such persons, she felt, should be put aside into a place made
roomy for repentance by the clearing out of all claims. During the whole
of the week since her daughter's return she had not let her even pour
out tea, either when the riven family was by itself or when
congratulatory callers came. "Poor Ingeborg isn't very well," she had
murmured, quenching the inquisitiveness natural to callers. She had made
up her mind that first evening, when the full horror of what her
daughter had done became clear to her, that she would ask nothing of
her, not even tea.

But it did make difficulties. She felt entirely low, quite damp with the
exertion of meeting them, when she crept into position on the sofa at a
quarter to four and waited with closed eyes for the next wave of life
that would wash over her. And it all happened as she had feared--she was
perpetually having to explain Ingeborg. Guest after guest came up with
the expressions of rejoicing proper to guests invited to rejoice over
Judith, and the smiling laudations of what was indeed a vision of beauty
each ended with a question about Ingeborg. What had she been
doing?--(the awful innocence of the question)--how perfectly miserably
seedy she looked; poor little Ingeborg; was it really just that tiresome
tooth?

Mrs. Bullivant, as she murmured what she could in reply to this
ceaseless flow of sympathy from the retired officers and their wives and
daughters, and the cathedral dignitaries and their wives and daughters,
and the wives and daughters of the county who came without their men
because their men wouldn't come, felt vaguely but deeply that it was
somehow wrong that Ingeborg should both sin and be sympathised with. She
had no right, her injured mother felt, to look so small and stricken.
Her family had quite properly removed her outside the pale of their
affection till she should announce her broken-off engagement to that
dreadful German and ask to be forgiven for ever having been engaged at
all, but she ought not to look like somebody who is outside a pale. She
seemed positively to be advertising the pale. It was bad taste. It was
really the worst of taste when you were the sinner to look like the
sinned against; to look ill-used; to droop openly. Yet never could a
girl who had done such horrible, such detestably deceitful and vulgar
things, have been treated so gently by her family. It had been, Mrs.
Bullivant felt, the only good thing in a wretched affair, the perfect
breeding with which the Bullivants had met the situation. Not one of
them had even remotely alluded to the scene she had made the first
afternoon. No one had questioned her, no one had troubled her in any
way. She had been left quite free, and no one had exacted the smallest
sacrifice of her time to any of their needs. Her father had given her a
complete holiday, not allowing her at all in his study, and whenever she
had attempted to do anything for her mother or in the house Richards had
been rung for. Judith, dear child, seemed instinctively to do the right
thing, and without a word from her mother avoided Ingeborg; she was so
delicate about it, so fine in her feeling that here was something not
quite nice, that she turned red each time Ingeborg during the first day
or two tried to talk to her, and quietly went into another room. All the
last part of the week Ingeborg had spent in the garden, quite free,
quite undisturbed, not a claim on her. And yet here she was, standing
about at the party or sitting alone in foolish corners, thin, and pale,
and unsmiling, like a reproach.

Through a gap in the crowd Mrs. Bullivant presently saw her being talked
to by one who had once been a general but now in retirement wreaked his
disciplines on bees. She just had time to notice how her daughter
started and flushed when this man suddenly addressed her--such bad
manners to start and flush--before the crowd closed again. She shut her
eyes for a moment and felt very helpless. Who knew to what lengths
Ingeborg's bad manners might not go, and what she might not be saying to
the man?

What the general was telling her, with the hearty kindliness fathers of
other daughters use to daughters of other fathers--will use, indeed,
commented the Bishop observing the incident from afar and allowing
himself the solace of an instant's bitterness, to any created female
thing if only she will oblige them by not being their own--was that he
couldn't have her looking like this.

"Oh, like what?" asked Ingeborg quickly, starting and flushing; for her
week as an outcast had lowered her vitality to such an extent that she
was morbidly afraid her face might somehow have become a sort of awful
crystal in which everybody would be able to see the Rigi, and herself
being proposed to on its top.

"Shocking white about the gills," said the hearty man standing over her,
cup in hand and see-sawing on his toes and heels because his boots
creaked and it gave him a vague pleasure to make them go on doing it.
"You must come round and have a good game of tennis with Dorothy some
afternoon. You've been shut up working too hard at that letter-writing
business, that's what you've been doing, young lady."

"I wish I had--oh, I wish I had," said Ingeborg, pressing her hands
together and looking up at this stray bit of kindliness with a quick
gratefulness.

"We always think of you as sitting there writing, writing," the hearty
man went on, more intent on what he was saying than on what she was
saying. "Father's right hand, mother's indispensable, you know. I tell
Dorothy--"

Ingeborg twisted on her chair. "Oh," she said, "don't tell
Dorothy--don't tell her--"

"Tell her what? You don't know what I was going to say."

"Yes, I do--about that's how daughters ought to be--like _me_. And
Dorothy's so good and dear, and wouldn't ever in this world have gone
off to--"

She stopped, but only just in time, and looked at him frightened.

She had all but said it. The general, however, was staring at her with
kindly incomprehension. Her head drooped a little, and she gazed vaguely
at his toes as they rhythmically touched and were lifted up from the
carpet. "Nobody knows what anybody else is really like inside," she
finished forlornly.

"You come up and have some tennis," he said, patting her on the
shoulder. And later on to the Bishop he remarked, in his hearty desire
to have everything trim and in its proper place, the young in the fresh
air, older persons at desks in studies, white faces reserved for
invalids, roses blooming in the cheeks of girls, that he mustn't
overwork that little daughter of his.

"Overwork!" exclaimed the Bishop, full of bitter memories of an empty
week.

"Turn her out into the sun, Bully, my boy," said the general whose fag
the Bishop had been at Eton.

"Into the sun!" exclaimed the Bishop, having for six mortal days
observed her from windows horribly idling in it.

"If you keep 'em shut up you can't expect girls any more than you can
expect a decent bee to provide you with honey."

"Honey!" exclaimed the Bishop.

That Duchess who had wanted her eldest son to marry Judith tapped
Ingeborg on the arm with her umbrella as she passed her followed by her
daughter and said: "Little pale child, little pale child," and shook her
head at her and frowned and smiled, and whispered to Pamela that it
looked very like jealousy; and Pamela said Nonsense to that, and tried
to linger and talk to Ingeborg, but her mother, filled with the passion
for refreshment that seizes all persons who go to parties, dragged her
along with her to where it could be found, and on the way she was seen
by the Bishop, who at once left the old lady who was talking to him to
enfold Lady Pamela in his care and compass her about with a cloud of
little attentions--chairs, ices, fruit; for not only had he confirmed
her but he felt a peculiar interest in her particular kind of
clean-limbed intelligent beauty. Of all the confirmation crosses he had
given away he liked best to think of Lady Pamela's. Certainly in that
soft cradle, beneath the muslin and lace of propriety, he could be sure
it would not jangle against an illicit and alien ring.

"You still wear it?" he said, his beautiful voice, lowered to suit the
subject, charged with feeling as with his own hands he brought her tea;
and he felt a little checked, a little disappointed, when she said,
smiling at him, her grey eyes level with his so well grown was she,
"Wear what?"

And another thing this young woman did that afternoon that checked and
disappointed him--she showed a disposition to take care of him; and no
bishop of sixty, or indeed any other honest man of sixty, likes that.
"She thinks me _old_," he thought with acute and pained surprise as she
charmingly made him sit down lest he might be tired standing, and
charmingly shut a window behind them lest he should be in a draught, and
charmingly later on when he took her down the garden to show her the
pear-tree turned her pretty head and asked him over her shoulder whether
she were walking too fast. "She thinks me _old_," he thought; and it was
an amazement to him, for only last year he was still fifty-nine, still
in the fifties, and the fifties, once one was used to them, were nothing
at all.

He became very grave with Lady Pamela. He felt that the showing of the
pear-tree had lost a good deal of its savour. He felt it still more
when, turning the bend in the path that led to the secluded corner that
made the pear-tree popular as a resort, he perceived Ingeborg sitting
beneath it.

She was alone.

"Why is she always by herself?" asked Lady Pamela, who was, the Bishop
could not help thinking, being rather steadily tactless.

He made no answer. He was too seriously nettled. Apart from everything
else, to have one's daughter cropping up....

"Ingeborg--!" called Lady Pamela, waving her sunshade to attract her
attention as they walked on towards her, for Ingeborg, under the tree,
was sitting with her chin on her hand looking at nothing and once more
advertising by her attitude, Mrs. Bullivant would have considered, that
she was outside the pale.

"I think," said the Bishop pausing, "we ought perhaps to go back."

"Ought we? Oh, why? It's lovely here. Ingeborg!"

"I think," said the Bishop, now altogether annoyed at this persistent
determination to include his daughter--as though one could ever
satisfactorily include daughters--in what might have been a poetic
conversation between beauty and youth on the one side and prestige and
more than common gifts on the other, beauty, too, if you come to that,
and as great in its male ripe way as hers in its girlishness--"I think
that I at any rate must go back. My wife--"

"Ingeborg! Wake up! What are you dreaming about?"

Positively Lady Pamela was not listening to him.

He turned on his heel and left her to go on waving her sunshade at his
daughter if that was what she liked, and went back towards the house
reflecting that women really are quite sadly deficient in imagination
and that it is a great pity. Even this one, this well-bred, well-taught
bright being, was so unimaginative that she actually saw no reason why a
man's grown-up daughter.... Really a deficiency of imagination amounted
to stupidity. He hardly liked to have to admit that Lady Pamela was
stupid, but anyhow women ought not to have the vote.

He went away back into the main garden along the path by the great
herbaceous border then in a special splendour of tulips and all the
clean magnificence of May, thinking with his eyes on the ground how
different things would have been if when he was a curate he had been
sane enough not to marry. The clearness now in his life if only he had
not done that! Nobody sofa-ridden in it, no grown-up thwarting
daughters, and himself vigorous, distinguished, entirely desirable as a
husband, choosing with the mellow, yet not too mellow, wisdom of middle
life exactly who was best fitted to share the advantages he had to
offer. Even Lady Pamela would not then have been able to think of him as
old. It was his family that dated him: his grey-haired wife, his
grown-up daughters. The folly of curates! The black incurable folly of
curates. And he forgot for a gloomy instant what he as a rule with a
sigh acknowledged, that it had all been Providence, even then restlessly
at work guiding him, and that Mrs. Bullivant and the girls merely
constituted one of its many inscrutable ends.

The baser portion of the Bishop's brain was about to substitute another
word for guiding when he was saved--providentially, the nobler portion
of his brain instantly pointed out--by encountering the Duchess.

She was coming slowly along examining the plants in the border with the
interest of a garden-lover, and pointing out by means of her umbrella
the various successes to a man the Bishop took to be one of her party.
He was a big man in ill-fitting shiny black with something of the air of
one of the less reputable Cabinet Ministers and was, in fact, Herr
Dremmel; but no one except Herr Dremmel knew it. He had arrived that
afternoon, a man animated by a single purpose, which was to marry
Ingeborg as soon as possible and get back quickly to his work; and he
had come straight from the station to the Palace and walked in
unquestioned with all the others, and after a period of peering about in
the drawing-room for Ingeborg had drifted out into the garden, where he
had at once stumbled upon the Duchess, who was being embittered by a
prebendary of servile habits who insisted on agreeing with her as to the
Latin name of a patch of Prophet-flower when she knew all the time she
was wrong.

"You tell me," she said, turning on Herr Dremmel who was peering at
them.

"What shall I tell you, madam?" he inquired, politely sweeping off his
felt hat and bowing beautifully.

"This. What is its name? I've forgotten."

Herr Dremmel, who took a large interest in botany, immediately told her.

"Of course," said the Duchess. "I knew it was Arnebia even when I said
it was something else. It's a borage."

"_Arnebia echinoides_, madam," said Herr Dremmel peering closer. "A
native of Armenia."

"Of course they'll conquer us," remarked the Duchess to the prebendary.

"Oh, of course," he agreed, though he did not take her meaning, for he
had been a prebendary some time and was a little slow, intellectually,
at getting under way.

Then the Duchess dropped him and turned entirely to Herr Dremmel, who
though he had never seen a herbaceous border in his life by sheer
reasoning was able to tell her very intimately what the Bishop, who he
supposed did the digging, had been doing to it the previous autumn, and
the exact amount and nature of the fertilizers he had put in.

She was suggesting he should come back with her that afternoon to Coops
and stay there indefinitely, so profound and attractive did his
knowledge seem of what her own garden and her farm needed in the way of
a treatment he alluded to as cross-dressing, when he interrupted her--a
thing that had never happened to her before while inviting somebody to
Coops--to inquire why there were so very many people in the drawing-room
and on the lawn.

The Duchess stared. "It's a party," she said. "To celebrate the
betrothal. Don't you know?"

"I am gratified," said Herr Dremmel, "to find the parents so evidently
pleased. It adds a grace to what was already full of charm. But would it
not have been more complete if they had invited me?"

"I quite agree with you," said the Duchess. "Much more complete. Well,
anyhow, here you are. So you think my soil wants nitrogen?"

"Certainly, madam. In the form of rape cape and ammonia salts--but
combined with organic manure. Artificial manure alone will not, in hot
weather--who is that?" he broke off, pointing with his umbrella to the
Bishop advancing along the path, his eyes on the ground, sardonically
meditating.

"What?" said the Duchess, intent on the notes she was making of his
recommendations in her note-book.

"That," said Herr Dremmel.

The Duchess looked up. "Why, the Bishop, of course. Go on about the hot
weather."

"Her father," said Herr Dremmel; and he advanced, hat in hand, and the
other held out in friendliest greeting, to meet him.

The Duchess went after him. "Bishop," she said, "this is a man who knows
all the things worth knowing." And the Bishop, taking this to be her
introduction of a friend, cordially returned Herr Dremmel's handshake.

He was never cordial again.

"Sir," said Herr Dremmel, "I am greatly pleased to make your
acquaintance. My name is Dremmel. Robert Dremmel."

The Bishop had just enough self-control not to snatch his hand away, but
to let Herr Dremmel continue to hold and press it. His mind began to
leap about. How to get the Duchess away; how to get Herr Dremmel turned,
noiselessly, out of the house; how to prevent Ingeborg's coming at any
moment along the path behind them with Lady Pamela....

"We have every reason, sir," said Herr Dremmel, holding the Bishop's
hand in a firm pressure, "to congratulate each other, I you, on the
possession of such a daughter, you me--"

"Isn't she a lovely girl," said the Duchess, for whom only Judith
existed in that family. "Would rape cake and the other thing help my
flowers at all, or is it only for the mangels?"

"Mangels!" thought the Bishop, "Rape cake!" And swiftly glanced behind
him down the path.

"Sir," said Herr Dremmel, desiring to be very pleasant to the Bishop and
slightly waving the Duchess aside, "permit me also to congratulate
you--"

"_Have_ you had any tea?" inquired the Bishop desperately of the
Duchess, turning to her and getting his hand away.

"Thank you, yes. Well, Mr. Dremmel? Don't interrupt him, Bishop, he's
_most_ interesting."

"--on the results," continued Herr Dremmel to the Bishop, "of your
autumnal activities. This blaze of flowers is sufficient witness to the
devotion, the assiduity--"

"You don't suppose he did it himself, do you?" said the Duchess.

"And your costume, sir," said Herr Dremmel, concentrated on the Bishop
and earnestly desiring to please, "suggests a quite particular and
familiar interest in what this lady rightly calls the things really
worth knowing."

"But he can't help wearing that," said the Duchess.

Again Herr Dremmel, and with some impatience, waved her aside.

"It is a costume most appropriate in a garden," he continued. "Even the
gaiters are horticultural, and the apron is pleasantly reminiscent of
the innocence of our first parents. So Adam might have dressed--"

"Oh, but you _must_ come to Coops!" cried the Duchess. "Bishop, he's to
come back with me."

"Sir," said Herr Dremmel with something of severity, for he was
beginning to consider the Duchess forward, "is this lady Mrs. Bishop?"

"Oh, oh!" screamed the Duchess, while Herr Dremmel watched her
disapprovingly and the Bishop struggled not to seize him by the throat.

"My dear Bishop," said the Duchess, wiping her eyes, "I never had such a
compliment paid me. The best-looking bishop on the bench-"

"_Do_ come indoors," he implored. "I can't really let you stand about
like this--"

"Thank you, I'm not in the least tired. Go on, Mr. Dremmel."

"Sir, can I see you alone?" said Herr Dremmel, now without any doubt as
to the Duchess's forwardness. "On such an occasion as this, before we
begin together openly to rejoice it seems fitting we should first by
ourselves, unless this lady is your daughter's mother--"

"Oh, oh!" again screamed the Duchess.

The Bishop turned on him in a kind of blaze, quite uncontrollable. "Yes,
sir, you can," he said. "Come into my study--"

"What? Are you going to take him away from me?" cried the Duchess.

"My dear Duchess, if he has business with me--" said the Bishop. "I'll
take you indoors first," he said, offering her his arm. "This
gentleman"--he glared at him sideways, and Herr Dremmel, all unused as
he was to noticing hostility, yet was a little surprised at the
expression of his face--"will wait here. No, no, he won't, he'll come,
too"--for approaching round the bushes behind which grew the pear-tree
the Bishop had caught sight of skirts. "Come on, sir--"

"But--" said the Duchess, as the Bishop drew her hand hastily through
his arm and began to walk her off more quickly than she had been walked
off for years.

"Come on, sir--" the Bishop flung back, almost hissed back, at Herr
Dremmel.

"One moment," said Herr Dremmel holding up his hand, his gaze fixed on
what was emerging from the bushes.

"Come _on_, sir!" cried the Bishop, "I can only see you alone if you
come at once--"

But Herr Dremmel did not heed him. He was watching the bushes.

"Will you come?" said the Bishop, pausing and stamping his foot, while
he held the Duchess tight in the grip of his arm.

"Why," said Herr Dremmel without heeding him, "why--yes--why it
_is_--why, here at last appears the Little Sugar Lamb!"

"The little _what_?" said the Duchess, resolutely pulling out her hand
from the Bishop's arm and putting up her eyeglass. "Heavens above us, he
can't mean Pamela?"

But nobody answered her; and indeed it was not necessary, for Herr
Dremmel, gone down the path with a swiftness amazing in one of his
appearance, was already, in the sight of all Redchester and most of the
county, enfolding Ingeborg in his arms.

"Of course," was the Duchess's comment to the Bishop as she watched the
scene with her eyeglass up and the placidity of relief, "of course they
will conquer us."



CHAPTER XI


And so it came to pass that Herr Dremmel, armed only with simplicity,
set aside the resistances of princes, potentates, and powers, and was
married to Ingeborg by her father the Bishop in his own cathedral. And
it was done as quickly as the law allowed, not only because Herr Dremmel
was determined it should be, but because the enduring of his daily
arrival for courting purposes from Coops, where he was staying, became
rapidly impossible for the Bishop. Also there was the Master of Ananias,
spurred to a frenzy of activity by Herr Dremmel's success in getting
things hurried on, insisting that he had been engaged long enough and
demanding to be married on the same day.

In the end he was, and Ingeborg's wedding, being Judith's as well, was
unavoidably splendid. All along the line the Bishop's hand was forced.
The very wedding-dress had to be as beautiful for the one as for the
other of his daughters; and, absurdly and wickedly, he was obliged to
spend as much on her trousseau who was going into pauperdom and
obscurity for the rest of her days as on hers who would no doubt be
soon, though of course only in God's good time, the most magnificent of
widows. He never afterwards was able to feel quite the same to the
Duchess. Without knowing anything of the circumstances, of the secret
disgrace of the affair, of the blank undesirability in any case of such
a son-in-law, of the extraordinary inconvenience and pecuniary loss of
Ingeborg's marrying at all, she had taken up Herr Dremmel to an extent
that was positively near making her ridiculous, supposing that, humanly
speaking, were possible, and had rammed him down the county's throat
till at last it believed that of the two husbands Ingeborg had secured
the better. And this gossip filtered through into the Palace, and
Judith, who never did speak, spoke less than ever, but edging away more
and more decidedly from the blandishments of the Master, who had not
been invited to Coops, spent most of her time in her own room engaged in
not looking at her trousseau; and the Palace became such an
uncomfortable place what with one thing and another, and the strain of
remaining calm and becoming in conduct to the ducally protected Herr
Dremmel was so great, that at last the Bishop was as eager as any one to
get the wedding over and feverishly furthered any scheme that would, by
hastening it, deliver him.

To Ingeborg he never spoke, but turned away with the same cold horror
that came over the rest of the family when from windows he or it beheld
her being courted with what seemed a terrible German thoroughness in
places like the middle of the lawn. He could no longer walk round his
own garden without meeting an interlaced couple; and though he suggested
to Herr Dremmel with what he felt was really admirable self-restraint
that these public endearments might give rise to comment, Herr Dremmel
merely replied that as Ingeborg was his _Braut_ it ought to give rise to
much more comment, even to justifiable complaints, if his manner to her
were less warm.

"In England we do not--" began the Bishop; but broke off for fear of
losing his self-restraint. And Herr Dremmel and Ingeborg continuing to
perambulate the garden slowly, with a frequent readjusting of their
steps to each other's--for it is a difficult method, the interlaced one,
of getting along a path--the Bishop and Mrs. Bullivant retreated for
refreshment and comfort to the delicacy of Judith, to her lovely
withdrawals. That the Master should blandish was natural, because a man
is natural; but they knew that a woman, if she is to approach any ideal
of true womanhood, cannot be too carefully unnatural, and should she be
persuaded or betrayed into some expression of affection for her lover,
some answering caress, at least she must not like it. And there was
Ingeborg progressing round the garden as described, or in the middle of
the lawn openly having her hand held, and looking pleased.

It was rank.

[Illustration: He could no longer trail around his own garden without
meeting an interlaced couple]

Ingeborg, in fact, was pleased. She was more, she was extremely happy.
Here she was suddenly no longer a disgraced and boycotted and wicked
girl, but that strangely encouraging object, that odd restorer of faith
in oneself, a Little Sugar Lamb. The _cosiness_ of being a Sugar Lamb!
She had been so very miserable. She had dragged through such cold,
anæmic days. She had had such a horrible holiday, forced upon her on the
very scene of her activities, and had had it brought home to her so
freezingly, so blightingly, that she had done too dreadful a thing to be
allowed apparently ever again to associate with the decent. And
Robert--she quickly began calling him that to herself under the
influence of her family's methods of reclaiming her--had not written a
single letter.

"But he came," said Herr Dremmel, for whose enlightenment she was
picturing the week she had had.

And her father would not speak to her at all, would not look at her.

"Old sheep," said Herr Dremmel good-naturedly.

And Judith had seemed entirely horrified, and used to blush if she tried
to speak to her.

"Foolish turkey," said Herr Dremmel placidly.

But now somehow it did seem as if she needn't have been quite so
miserable, and might have had more faith.

"What ought the Little One to have had more of?" asked Herr Dremmel; for
his thoughts had not much time to spare, and he profitably employed them
while she talked in working out the probable results of, say, the
treatment of three acres of sugar-beet with sulphate of potash, sulphate
of ammonia, and nitrate of soda respectively, all of them receiving 400
lbs. of basic slag as well--would not sulphate of ammonia be more
effective as a nitrogenous manure than nitrate of soda in the case of
sugar-beets, whose roots grew smaller and nearer the surface than
mangels? "That is what little women should constantly have more of," he
said, breaking away from sugar-beets to a zestful embracing; for on this
occasion they were under the pear-tree, a place she seldom went to
because she had not yet acquired, in spite of his assurances that she
undoubtedly would, any real enthusiasm for embracings, keeping by
preference to the only immune place in the garden, which was the middle
of the lawn.

"I wonder," she thought while it was being done, "if this will really
grow on me...."

And, while it was still being done, "Mother must have been kissed, too,
and she's still alive...."

And presently, while it was still being done, "But mother isn't _much_
alive--there's the sofa--perhaps that's why...."

Well, he loved her, somehow; she did not now care how. Whether it was a
spiritual affection or one that would go on requiring at frequent
intervals to enfold her capaciously did not matter any more, for it was
a warm thing, a warm human thing, he was offering her, and she had been
half-dead with cold. What did it matter if she herself was not in love?
It was the dream of a schoolgirl to want to be in love. Life was not
like that. Life was a thing full of friendliness and happy affection;
and love, anyhow on the woman's side, was not a bit necessary. The
Bishop would have been surprised if he had known how nearly she
approached his ideal of womanhood. She was going to be so good, she said
to herself and to Herr Dremmel, too, her heart full of gratitude and
glad relief--oh, so good! She was never going to be dejected or beaten
out of hope and courage again. She would work over there, work hard at
all sorts of happy things in the parish, and among the poor and sick,
and she would help Robert in his work if he would let her, and if he
wouldn't then she'd help him when he had done--help him to play and
rest. They would laugh together and talk together and walk together, and
he would explain his experiments to her and teach her to understand. And
the first thing she would do would be to learn German very thoroughly,
so as to be able to write all his letters for him, and even his sermons
if needs be, and save his precious time.

"Those," said Herr Dremmel, who in the lush meadows of dalliance had
forgotten that what had first attracted him to her had been a certain
bright baldness of brain, "would be pretty little nonsense sermons the
small snail would produce."

"You'll see," said Ingeborg confidently; and she suddenly flung out her
arms and turned her face up to the sun and the blue through the little
leaves and all the light and promise of the world, and stretched herself
in an immense contentment. "Oh," she sighed, "isn't it all _good_--isn't
it all _good_--"

"It is," agreed Herr Dremmel. "But it is nothing to how good it will be
presently, when we are surrounded by our dear children."

"Children?" said Ingeborg.

She dropped her arms and looked at him. She had not thought of children.

"Then, indeed, my little wife will not wish to write letters or compose
sermons."

"Why?" said Ingeborg.

"Because you will be a happy mother."

"But don't happy mothers--"

"You will be entirely engaged in adoring your children. Nothing else in
the world will interest you."

Ingeborg stood looking at him with a surprised face. "Oh?" she said.
"Shall I?" Then she added, "But I've never _had_ any children."

"It was not to be expected," said Herr Dremmel.

"Then how do you know nothing else in the world will interest me?"

"Foolish Little One," he said, taking her in his arms, his eyes moist
with tenderness, for he knew that here against his breast he held in her
slender youth the mother of all the Dremmels, and the knowledge
profoundly moved him. "Foolish Little One, is not throughout all nature
every mother solely preoccupied by interest in her young?"

"Is she?" said Ingeborg doubtfully, quite a number of remembered family
snapshots dancing before her eyes. Still, she was very willing to
believe.

She looked at him a moment thinking. "But--" she said, gently pushing
herself a little way from him, both hands on his chest.

"But what then, small snail?"

"Wouldn't they be German children?"

"Undoubtedly," said Herr Dremmel proudly.

"All of them?"

"All of them?" he echoed.

"It wouldn't be like Roman Catholics and Protestants marrying, and half
the children be German and half English?"

"Certainly not," said Herr Dremmel emphatically.

"But Robert--"

"Continue, little hare."

"What are German children _like_?"

It was now Herr Dremmel's turn to say confidently, "You'll see."

       *       *       *       *       *

A week later they were married; and the Bishop, inscrutably watching
Ingeborg from the doorstep as she was being tucked by deft hands into
the rugs of the car that was to take her to the station, observing how
cushions were put in the right places at her back, how a footstool was
carefully inserted under her feet, how her least movement was
interpreted and instantly attended to, made his farewell remark to his
daughter--the last remark, as it happened, that he ever did make to
her.

"You will miss Wilson," he said; and re-entered the Palace a slightly
comforted man.

She never saw him again.



PART II



CHAPTER XII


On her honeymoon, which was only as long as it took to get from
Redchester to Kökensee, except for a day in Holland where a brief and
infinitely respectful visit, or rather waiting on, was made to the
eminent De Vries, Ingeborg said to herself at frequent intervals as she
had said to herself under the pear-tree in what now seemed a remote
past, "Perhaps this will grow on me." But even before they reached
Kökensee on the fourth day after their marriage she was deciding, though
a little reluctantly for she had always heard them praised, that
probably she had no gift for honeymoons.

Robert, luckily, was apparently liking his and was quite happy and
placid and slept sonorously in the trains. The meals were invariably
cheerful. From Bromberg on he woke up and became attentive to the
country they were passing through; and once in his own part of the world
he expanded into much talk, pointing out and explaining the distinctive
features of the methods employed on the different farms along the line.

Ingeborg drank it in eagerly. She was zealous to learn; resolute to be a
helpmeet. Had he not delivered her from the immense suffocation of
Redchester? She was obsequious with gratitude. It was a country of an
exhilarating spaciousness; no hedges, no shutting off of one field from
another, no shutting off, indeed, of the sky itself or of the blue
delicious distance by little interfering hills like those they had round
Redchester. It was all one great sweep, one great roll of earth up to
heaven and of heaven down to earth, fresh and free and with a quality in
the air of clear bright hardness she thought adorable after the wadded
effect of the climate at home. And once, when the train pulled up in the
open, she could hear from far away up in the blue the cry of a hawk.

From Allenstein they went on by a light railway with toy carriages and a
tiny engine through an infinity of rye-fields and seemingly uninhabited
country to the nearest station to Kökensee, a place called Meuk, of some
pretension to being a little town, with an enormous church rising out of
its middle and containing, among other objects of interest, explained
Herr Dremmel, his mother.

"Oh?" said Ingeborg, surprised. "Have you got one?" For he somehow
produced a completely motherless impression.

"Invariably, my treasure," said Herr Dremmel with patience, "do people
have mothers."

"Yes," she said, reaching down his hat for him and putting it carefully
on his head, "but then they say so."

"Perhaps. Sooner or later. I well remember, however, informing you that
my father was dead. From that it was possible to reason that my mother
was not. She is a simple woman. No longer young. We will visit her on
our way through the town."

Outside the station a high vehicle drawn by two long-tailed horses, one
of which reached a head and neck further than the other, so that when
you looked at them sideways and could not see that they both began at
the same place it seemed to be perpetually winning a race, was in
readiness to take them to Kökensee.

"This," said Herr Dremmel, introducing it with a wave of the hand, "is
my carriage. And this," he continued, similarly introducing the driver,
"is my faithful servant Johann. He has been with me now nearly a year."

Ingeborg shook Johann's hand, when he had carefully clambered down over
the sacks of kainit that filled the front part of the carriage, very
politely. "Do they all stay as long as that?" she murmured to Herr
Dremmel.

"All? There is but my widow, and she is adjusting her feathers for
flight. She will wing her way to some other bachelor nest as soon as my
Little One has been inducted."

"But does she like that?" asked Ingeborg. For she had acquired a habit,
due to much repetition of the Litany, of regarding widowers as brittle,
needing special care. There was an instant's vision before her eyes of
this one flapping blackly athwart the fields of East Prussia, turned
out, desolate and oppressed, and with perhaps some cackling trail of
curses stridulously marking her course.

"No doubt she will feel it. She, too, has been very faithful. She has
been with me now nearly eight months. But if it were less she would
still feel it. Widows," he continued abstractedly, peering among the
sacks of kainit in search of some Chilisaltpetre that was not there,
"are in a constant condition of feeling."

Johann explained--he was a shabby man, grown grey and frayed, Ingeborg
supposed, in service--that the previous stuff did not seem to have
caught its train, and Herr Dremmel went off to make anxious inquiries of
the stationmaster while Ingeborg stood smiling with an excessive
friendliness at Johann to make up for her want of words, and wondering
how her luggage would get on to a carriage already so much occupied by
sacks.

In the end most of it did not and was left at the station till some
future time, and clutching her dressing-bag with one hand and the iron
rail of the carriage with the other she was rattled away over the
enormous cobbles of Meuk with a great cracking of Johann's whip and
barking of dogs and kickings of the horses, whose tails were long and
kept on getting over the reins. The planks of the carriage's bottom
heaved and yawned beneath her feet. The horses shied in and out of the
gutters. Her hat wanted to blow off, and she did not dare let either of
her hands go free to hold it. She bent her head to try to keep it on.
Her skin pricked and tingled from the shaking. She had an impression of
red houses flush with the street, railless dwellings giving straight on
to it; of a small shop or two; of people stopping to stare; of straw and
paper and dust dancing together in the wind.

Herr Dremmel chose these flustered moments to expand conversationally,
and raising his voice above the tumult explained in shouts that the
three sacks in front were not so much sacks as mysterious stomachs
filled with the future. She strained to catch what he said, but only
heard a word now and then when she bumped against him--"divine
maws--richly furnished banquet--potential energy--" She found it
difficult to answer with any sort of connected intelligence, more
especially because he kept on breaking off to lean forward and hit the
horse-flies that alighted on the back of Johann's neck. When he did this
Johann started and the horses kicked.

"Faithful servant"--he shouted in her ear--"nearly a year--must not be
stung--"

It was a disorganized and breathless Ingeborg trying to rub things out
of her eyes who found herself finally in the passage of the elder Frau
Dremmel's house.

The door stood ajar, and her husband pushed it open and called loudly on
his mother to appear. "She lurks, she lurks," he said, impatiently
looking at his watch; and redoubled his cries.

"Does she expect us?" asked Ingeborg at last, who was trying to pin up
her loosened hair.

"She is a simple woman," he said, "consequently she never expects
anything." And he pulled open a door out of which came nothing but
darkness and a great cold smell.

"That is not my mother," he said, shutting it again.

"Does she know we're coming home to-day?" asked Ingeborg, a doubt
beginning to take hold of her.

"She is a simple woman. Consequently she never knows anything. Mother!
Mother!"

"Does she know you're married?" asked Ingeborg, the doubt growing
bigger.

"She is a simple woman. Consequently--" He broke off and stared down at
her, reflecting. "Is it possible that I forgot to tell her?" he said.

It evidently was possible, for at that moment Frau Dremmel came slowly
up some steps at the end of the passage from a lower region, and
perceiving her son and a strange young woman stood still and said
nothing whatever.

"Mother, this is my wife," said Herr Dremmel, taking Ingeborg's hand and
leading her to the motionless figure.

"_Ach_," said Frau Dremmel, without moving.

"Kiss her, Little One," directed Herr Dremmel.

"Yes, yes," said Ingeborg, blushing a vivid red and going a convulsive
step nearer.

Frau Dremmel was regarding her with sombre, unblinking eyes, eyes that
had the blankness of pebbles. From her waist downwards she wore a big
dark-blue apron. She was entirely undecorated. Her black dress ended at
the neck abruptly in its own binding and a hook and eye. Her hair was
drawn back into the smallest of knobs. Ingeborg felt suddenly that she
herself was a thing of fal-lals--a showy thing, bedizened with a white
collar and a hat she had till then considered neat, but that she now
knew for a monstrous piece of frippery crushed on to insufficiently
pinned-up hair.

"You are married to her?" asked the elder Frau Dremmel, turning her
pebble eyes slowly from one to the other.

"Undoubtedly," said Herr Dremmel; and to Ingeborg, in English, "Kiss
her, Little One, and we will go on home."

He himself put his arm round his mother's shoulder and gave her a hasty
kiss.

"My wife is English," he said. "She does not yet either speak or
understand our tongue. Kiss her, mother, and we will go on home."

But it did not seem possible to get the two women to kiss. Ingeborg went
another shy step nearer. Frau Dremmel remained immobile.

"This," said Frau Dremmel, moving her slow eyes over Ingeborg and then
fixing them on her son, "is a pastor's wife?"

[Illustration: "You are married to her?" asked the elder Frau Dremmel,
turning her pebble eyes slowly from one to the other]

"Undoubtedly. I regret I omitted to tell you, mother, but one does
occasionally omit." And, in English to Ingeborg, "She is a simple woman.
Consequently--"

"But I heard," said Frau Dremmel. "Through your housekeeper. And others.
Thus I heard. Of my only son's marriage. I a widow."

Ingeborg, not understanding, stood smiling nervously. She thought on
such an occasion somebody ought to smile, but she did not like doing it.
The immobility of Frau Dremmel, who moved nothing but her eyes, the dank
bare passage, the rush of cold smell that had escaped out of the one
door in it, the bleak air of poverty about her mother-in-law--poverty in
some strange way regarding itself as virtuous for no reason except that
it was poor--did not make her smiling easy. But she was a bride; just
coming home; just being introduced to her husband's people. Somebody,
she felt, on such an occasion must smile, and, trained as she had been
by her father to do the things no one else wanted to do, she provided
all the smiling for the home-coming entirely herself.

"Please, Robert, tell your mother how sorry I am I can't talk," she
said. "Do tell her I wish I weren't so dumb."

"How much has she?" Frau Dremmel was asking across this speech.

"Enough, enough," said her son, putting on his hat and making movements
of departure.

"Ah. I am not to know. More secrets. It is all to go in further
unchristian tampering with God's harvests."

Herr Dremmel bestowed a second abstracted kiss somewhere on his mother's
head. He had not listened to anything she said for a quarter of a
century.

"Nothing for the mother," she went on. "No, no. The mother is only a
widow. She is of no account. Yet your sainted father--"

"Farewell, and God be with you," said Herr Dremmel, departing down the
passage and forgetting in his hurry to get his bride home as quickly as
possible to take her with him.

For a moment she was left alone confronting her new relation. She made a
great plunge into filialness and, swiftly blushing, picked up her
mother-in-law's passive hand.

She had meant to kiss it, but looking into her eyes she found kissing
finally impossible. She shyly murmured an English leave-taking and got
herself, infinitely awkwardly, out of the house.

"One has to have them," was Herr Dremmel's only comment.

Kökensee lay three miles along the highroad between Meuk and
Wiesenhausen, and they could see the spire of its little church over the
fields on the left the whole way. The road, made with as few curves as
possible, undulated gently up and down between rye-fields. It was
carefully planted on each side with mountain ashes, on that day in full
flower, and was white and hard as though there had been no rain for a
long while. The wind blew gaily over the rye; the sky was flecked with
small white clouds. Ingeborg could see for miles. And there were dark
lines of forest, and flashes of yellow where the broom grew, and shining
bits of water, and larks quivering out joy, and everywhere on the higher
places busy windmills, and the whole world seemed to laugh and flutter
and sing.

"It's beautiful--oh, beautiful!" she said.

"Beautiful? I tell you what is beautiful, Little One--the fat red soil
of your girlhood's home. The fat red soil and the steady drip, drip of
the heavens."

And he bent forward and inquired of Johann when it had rained last, and
became very gloomy on hearing that it was three weeks ago, and said
things to himself in German. They seemed to be unpastoral things, for
Ingeborg saw Johann's ears lifted up by what was evidently, in the front
of his face, being a grin.

A weather-beaten sign-post with one bent arm pointed crookedly down a
field-track at right angles to the road, and with a lurch and a heave
they tilted round the corner. There was an immediate ceasing of sound.
She could now hear all sorts of little birds singing besides
larks--chaffinches, tits, yellow-hammers, black-caps. The carriage
ploughed along slowly through the deep sand between rye that grew more
reluctantly every yard. The horses were completely sobered and covered
with sweat. Before them on an upward slope was Kökensee, one long
straggling street of low cottages lying up against the sunset, its
church behind it, and near the church two linden trees which were the
trees, she knew for she had often made him tell her, in front of her
home.

Ingeborg felt a quick tug at her heart. Here was the place containing
all her future. There was nothing left to her to feel, she supposed,
that she would not feel here. The years lay spread out before her,
spacious untouched canvases on which she was presently going to paint
the picture of her life. It was to be a very beautiful picture, she said
to herself with an extraordinary feeling of proud confidence; not
beautiful because of any gifts or skill of hers, for never was a woman
more giftless, but because of all the untiring little touches, the
ceaseless care for detail, the patient painting out of mistakes; and
every touch and every detail was going to be aglow with the bright
colours of happiness. Exulting bits out of the Prayer-book, the book she
knew altogether best, sang in her ears--_Lift up your hearts.... We lift
them up unto the Lord our God_.... Oh, the beautiful words, the
beautiful world, the wonder and the radiance of life!

"When the Devil," said Herr Dremmel, who had been scanning the crops on
either side of the track with deepening depression, "took our Saviour up
on to a high place to tempt him with the offer of the kingdoms of the
earth, he was careful to hide Kökensee by keeping his tail spread out
over it, it was so ugly and so undesirable."

"Oh--the Devil," said Ingeborg, shrugging her shoulder in a splendid
contempt, her face still shining with what she had been thinking.

She turned to him and laughed. "You can't expect _devils_ to know what's
what," she said, slipping her hand through his arm and throwing up her
head in a kind of proud glee.

He smiled down at her. "Little treasure," he said, for a moment becoming
conscious that this was a very bright thing he had got and was bringing
home with him.

The carriage was hauled up through an opening between two cottages out
of the sand on to the stones of the village street by a supreme last
effort of the horses, and was dragged in great bumps across various
defects through an open gate on the opposite side.

There was a yard with sheds, a plough, a manure heap, some geese, some
hens, a pig, the two linden trees, and in between the linden trees
behind wire netting a one-storied house like a venerable bungalow, which
Herr Dremmel, on their drawing up in front of it, introduced to her.

"My house," he said, with a wave of the hand.



CHAPTER XIII


There followed a time of surprising happiness for Ingeborg. It was the
happiness of the child escaped from its lessons and picnicking
gloriously in freedom and unrebukedness. The widow, it is true, slightly
smudged the brightness of the beginning by, as it were, dying hard. Her
body clung to life--the life she had known, she lamented, for eight long
months. She was the last, she explained, of the Herr Pastor's widows,
who reached back in a rusty row to the days when he first came, elastic
with youth, to cure the souls of Kökensee, and as she had stayed the
longest it was clear she must be the best. She remained at the
parsonage, dingily persistent, for several days on the pretext of
initiating Ingeborg into the ways of the house; and each time Herr
Dremmel, who seemed a little shy of embarking on controversy with her,
mentioned trains, she burst in his presence into prayer and implored
aloud on his behalf that he might never know what it was to be a widow.
She did ultimately, however, become dislodged, and once she was gone
there was nothing but contentment.

Ingeborg was young enough to think the almost servantless housekeeping a
thing of charm and humour. Herr Dremmel was of the easiest unconcern as
to what or when or if he ate. It was early summer, and there was only
delight in getting up at dawn and pottering about the brick-floored
kitchen before the daily servant came--a girl known to Kökensee as
Müller's Ilse--and heating water, and making coffee, and preparing a
very clean little breakfast-table somewhere in the garden, and
decorating it with freshly picked flowers, and putting the butter on
young leaves, and arranging the jar of honey so that a shaft of sunlight
between the branches shone straight through it turning it into a miracle
of golden light. It was the sort of breakfast-table one reads about in
story books; and on its fragility Herr Dremmel would presently descend
like some great geological catastrophe, and the whole in a few convulsed
moments would be just crumbs and coffee stains. Then he would put on
leggings and go off with Johann to his experimental fields, and she
would give herself up eagerly to the duties of the day.

She could not talk at first to Ilse, a square girl with surprisingly
thick legs, because though she went about always with a German grammar
in one hand she found that what she had learned was never what she
wanted to say. Ilse, whose skirt was short, did not wear stockings, and
when Ingeborg by pointing and producing a pair had conveyed to her that
it would be well if she did, Ilse raised her voice and said that she had
no money to get a husband with but at least, and _Gott sei Dank_, she
had these two fine legs, and if the Frau Pastor demanded that she should
by hiding them give up her chances, then the Frau Pastor had best seek
some girl on whom they grew crooked or lean, and who for those reasons
would only be too glad to cover them up. Ingeborg, not understanding a
word but apprehending a great objection, smiled benevolently and put the
stockings away, and Ilse's legs went on being bare. They worked together
in great harmony, for there could be no argument. Cut off from
conversation, they sang; and Ingeborg sang hymns because her memory was
packed with them, and Ilse sang long loud ballads, going through them
slowly verse by verse in a sort of steady howl. The very geese paused on
their way to the pond to listen anxiously.

Dinner, which Ingeborg found convenient to prepare entirely in one pot,
simmered placidly on the stove from twelve o'clock onwards. Anybody who
was hungry went and ate it. You threw in potatoes and rice and bits of
meat and carrots and cabbages and fat and salt, and there you were. What
are these mysterious difficulties of housekeeping, she asked herself,
that people shake their heads over? Her dinners were wholesome always,
delicious if one were hungry, and quite amazingly hot. They stayed hot
as persistently as poultices. And once when Ilse had the misfortune to
be stung by a wasp on one of her admirable legs, Ingeborg, with immense
presence of mind, seized the dinner and emptying it into a fair linen
cloth bound it over the swollen place; so that when Herr Dremmel
arrived, as it happened hungrily that day, about two o'clock and asked
for his dinner, he was told it was on Ilse's leg and had to eat
sandwiches. He could not but admire the resourcefulness of Ingeborg; but
it was not until he had eaten several sandwiches that he was able still
to say, as he patted her shoulder, "Little treasure."

It was the busiest, happiest time. Every minute of the day was full. It
was life at first hand, not drained dry of its elemental excellences by
being squeezed first through the medium of servants. To have a little
kitchen all to yourself, to be really mistress of every corner of your
house, to watch the career of your food from its very beginning, to run
out into the garden and pull up anything you happened to want, to stand
at the back door with your skirt full of grain and call your own
chickens round you and feed them, to go yourself and look for eggs, to
fill the funny little dark rooms with flowers and measure the
stone-floored passage for a drugget you would presently order in the
only carpet shop you had faith in, which was the one in Redchester--what
pleasures did the world contain that could possibly come up to these?
Things were a little untidy, but what did that matter? It was possible
to become the slave of things; possible to miss life in preparation for
living.

And the weather was so beautiful--at least, Ingeborg thought it was.
There was the hottest sun, and the coolest wind, and bright, clear-skied
starry nights. It is true Robert, when he scanned the naked heavens the
last thing at night and peered at the thermometer outside his window the
first thing in the morning, said it was the Devil's own weather, and
that if there was not soon some rain all his fertilizers, all his
activities, all his expenditure would be wasted; but though this would
throw a shadow for a moment across her joy in each new wonderful morning
she found it impossible not to rejoice in the light. Out in the garden,
for instance, down there beyond the lime-trees at the end, where you
could stand in the gap in the lilac hedge and look straight out across
the rye-fields, the immense unending rye-fields, dipping and rising,
delicate grey, delicate green, shining in sunlight, dark beneath a
cloud, restlessly waving, on and on, till over away at the end of things
they got to the sky and were only stopped by brushing up against it--out
there with one's hand shading one's eyes from the too great brightness,
who could find fault with anything, who could do anything but look and
see that it was all very good? Oh, but it _was_ good. It made one want
to sing the Te Deum, or the Magnificat, or still better that hymn of
exultation, _We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify
Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory_....

Whenever there was a spare half hour, such as between where dinner ended
and tea began, she would run out to the lime-trees, and pacing up and
down that leafy place with the gooseberry bushes and vegetables and
straggling accidental flowers of the garden lying hotly in the sun
between her and the back of the house, she learned German words by
heart. She learned them aloud from her grammar, saying them over and
over again glibly, mechanically, while her thoughts danced about the
future, from the immediate future of what she would do to-morrow, the
future of an afternoon in the punt among the reeds and perhaps paddling
along to where the forest began, to the more responsible vaguer future
of further down the months, when, armed with German, she would begin
among the poor and go out into the parish and make friends with the
peasants and be a real pastor's wife. Particularly she wished to get
nearer her mother-in-law. It seemed to her to be her first duty to get
near her. Ceaselessly she trotted up and down repeating the German for
giants, umbrellas, keys, spectacles, wax, fingers, thunder, beards,
princes, boats, and shoulders. Ceaselessly her lips moved, while her
eyes followed the movements of the birds darting in and out of the
lilac hedge and hopping among the crumbs where breakfast had been; and
through her giants, umbrellas, keys, spectacles, and wax she managed
not to miss a word the yellow-hammers were chirping to each other
in cheerful strophe and antistrophe: _A little bit of bread and no
che-e-e-e-e-ese--a little bit of bread and no che-e-e-e-e-ese_.

At four she would go in and make some coffee by the simple method of
uniting the coffee to hot water and leaving them to settle down together
on the mat outside the laboratory's locked door. Herr Dremmel did not
wish to be disturbed once he was in there, and she would steal down the
passage on tip-toe, biting her under-lip in the intentness of her care
that no rattling of the things on the tray should reach his ears.

When he was in the house all singing ceased. She arranged that Ilse
should do her outdoor duties then--clean out the hen-house, milk the cow
whether it wanted to be milked or not, and minister to the pig. Johann
was away all day at the experiment ground, and Ilse waded about the
farmyard mess with her bare legs, thoroughly enjoying herself, for no
one ever scolded her whatever she did, and the yard was separated from
the village street only by a low fence, and the early manhood of
Kökensee, as it passed, could pause and lean on this and learn from her
manner of solacing the pig the comfortableness of the solacements
awaiting her husband.

At seven Ilse went home, and Ingeborg prepared a supper so much like
breakfast that nobody could have told it was evening and not morning
except that the ray of sunshine fell through the honey from the west
instead of the east, and there was cheese. At this meal Herr Dremmel,
full of his fertilizers, was mostly in a profound abstraction. He drank
the coffee with which he was becoming saturated and ate great slices of
bread and cheese in an impenetrable silence. Ingeborg sat throwing
crumbs to the birds and watching the sky at the edge of the world grow
first a mighty red, then fade, then light up into clear green; and long
after the shadows beneath the lime-trees were black and the stars and
the bats were out and the frogs down in the reeds of the lake and the
occasional creaking of the village pump were all that one could hear
outside the immense stillness, they would go on sitting there, Herr
Dremmel silently smoking, Ingeborg silently making plans.

Sometimes she would get up and cross over to him and bend her face down
close to his and try in the dark to explore his eyes with hers. "The
_noise_ you make!" she would say, brushing a kiss, so much used does
marriage make one to what once has seemed impossible, across the top of
his hair; and he would wake up and smile and pat her shoulder and tell
her she was a good little wife.

Then she felt proud. It was just what she wanted to be--a good little
wife. She wanted to give satisfaction, to be as helpful to him as she
had been to her father in the days before her disgrace; and more
helpful, for he was so much kinder, he was so dear. For this
extraordinary happiness, for this delicious safety from disapproval, for
these free, fearless, wonderful days, she would give in return all she
had, all she was, all she could teach herself and train herself to be.

Nearly always Herr Dremmel went back to his laboratory about ten and
worked till after midnight; and she would lie awake in the funny bare
bedroom across the passage as long as she could so as not to miss too
much of life by being asleep, smelling with the delight delicate sweet
smells gave her the various fragrances of the resting garden. And the
stars blinked in through the open window, and she could see the faint
whiteness of a bush of guelder roses against the curtain of the brooding
night. When Herr Dremmel came in he shut the window.

On Sundays there was a service at two o'clock once a fortnight. On the
alternating Sundays Herr Dremmel was driven by Johann to another village
three miles distant which was part of his scattered parish, and here he
preached the sermon he had preached to Kökensee the Sunday before. He
practised a rigorous economy in sermons; and it had this advantage that
an enthusiast--only there was no enthusiast--by waiting a week and
walking three miles, most of which was deep sand, might hear again
anything that had struck him the previous week. By waiting a year,
indeed, the same enthusiast, supposing him there, could hear everything
again, for Herr Dremmel's sermons numbered twenty-six and were planned
to begin on January 1st with the Circumcision, and leaping along through
the fortnights of the year ended handsomely and irregularly with an
extra one at Christmas. However inattentive a member of the congregation
might be, as the years passed over him he knew the sermons. They were
sermons weighty, according to the season, either with practical advice
or with wrathful expositions of duty. There was one every year when the
threshing time was at hand on the text Micah iv. 13, _Arise and thresh_,
explaining with patient exactitude the newest methods of doing it. There
was the annual Harvest Thanks-giving sermon on Matthew xiii., part of
verse 26, _Tares_, after yet another year of the congregation's
obstinate indifference to chemical manure. There was the sermon on
Jeremiah ix. 22, _Is there no physician there?_ preached yearly on one
of the later Sundays in Trinity when the cold, continuous rains of
autumn were finding out the weak spots in the parish's grandparents, and
the peasants, having observed that once one called in a doctor the sick
person got better and one had to pay the doctor into the bargain, evaded
calling him in if they possibly could, inquiring of each other gloomily
how one was to live if death were put a stop to. And there was the
Advent sermon when the annual slaughter of pigs drew near, on Isaiah
lxv., part of the 4th verse, _Swine's flesh_.

This sermon filled the church. In spite of the poor opinion of pigs in
both the Old and New Testaments, where, Herr Dremmel found on searching
for a text, they were hardly mentioned except as convenient receptacles
for devils, in his parishioners' lives they provided the nearest, indeed
the only, approach to the finer emotions, to gratitude, love, wonder.
The peasant, watching this pink chalice of his future joys, this
mysterious moving crucible into which whatever dreary dregs and leavings
he threw, uttermost dregs of uttermost dregs that even his lean dog
would not touch, they still by Christmas emerged as sausages, could not
but feel at least some affection, at least some little touch of awe.
While his relations were ill and having to have either a doctor or a
funeral and sometimes, rousing him to fury, both, or if not ill were
well and requiring food and clothing, his pig walked about pink and
naked, giving no trouble, needing no money spent on it, placidly
transmuting into the fat of future feastings that which without it would
have become, in heaps, a source of flies and corruption. Herr Dremmel on
pigs was full of intimacy and local warmth. He was more--he was
magnificent. It was the sermon in the year which never failed to fill
every seat, and it was the one day on which Kökensee felt its pastor
thoroughly understood it.

Ingeborg went diligently to church whenever there was church to go to.
She explained to Herr Dremmel that she held it to be her duty as the
pastor's wife to set an example in this matter, and he pinched her ear
and replied that it might possibly be good for her German. He seemed to
think nothing of her duty as a pastor's wife; and when she suggested
that perhaps she ought to begin and go the rounds of the cottages and
not wait for greater stores of language, he only remarked that little
women's duty is to make their husbands happy.

"But don't I?" she asked confidently, seizing his coat in both her
hands.

"Of course. See how sleek I become."

"And I can do something besides that."

"Nothing so good. Nothing half so good."

"But Robert, one thing doesn't exclude--"

Herr Dremmel had already, however, ceased to listen. His thoughts had
slid off again. She seemed to sit in his mind on the top of a slope up
which he occasionally clambered and caressed her. Eagerly on these
visits she would buttonhole him with talk and ask him questions so that
he might linger, but even while she button-holed his gaze would become
abstracted and off he slid, leaving her peering after him over the edge
filled with a mixture of affection, respect for his work, pride in him,
and amusement.

You might as well try, she thought, to buttonhole water; and she would
laugh and go back to whatever she was doing with a blithe feeling that
it was very ideal, this perfect independence of one another, this
spaciousness of freedom to do exactly what each one liked. The immense
tracts of time she had! How splendid this leisure was after the close
detail of every hour at home in her father's study. When she had got
over the first difficulties of German and need no longer devote most of
her day to it she would get books from England and read and read; all
the ones she had wanted to read but had not been allowed to. Oh, the
magnificence of marriage, thought Ingeborg, beating her hands together,
the splendour of its liberations! She would go off in the morning with
the punt full of books, and spend long glorious days away in the forest
lying on the green springy carpet of whortleberries, reading. She would
most diligently work at furnishing her empty mind. She would sternly
endeavour to train it not to jump.

All the books she possessed she had brought with her and spread over the
living-room: the wedding-presents which had enriched her with Hardy and
Meredith and Kipling and Tennyson and Ruskin, and her own books she had
had as a girl. These were three, the _Christian Year_, given to her on
her confirmation by her father, _Longfellow's Poems_, given her on her
eighteenth birthday by her mother, and Dumas' _Tulipe Noire_, given her
as a prize for French because Judith did not know any, one summer when
a French governess was introduced (thoughtlessly, the Bishop said
afterwards) into the Palace. This lady had been removed from the Palace
again a little later with care, every corner of her room being
scrupulously disinfected by the searching of Richards who found,
however, nothing except one book in a yellow paper cover called _Bibi et
Lulu: Mœurs du Montparnasse_; and even this was not in her room at
all, but in Judith's, beneath some stockings.

Herr Dremmel took up one of the wedding volumes when first he saw them
in the sitting-room and turned its pages. It was _The Shaving of
Shagpat_. "Tut, tut," he said presently, putting it down.

"Why, Robert?" asked Ingeborg, eager to hear what he thought. But he
patted her abstractedly, already slid off again down into regions of
reality, the regions in which his brain incessantly worked out possible
chemical combinations and forgot with a completeness that sometimes even
surprised himself that he had a wife. Invariably, however, he found it
pleasant on re-emerging to remember her.

She asked to be shown his experimental fields, and he took her with him
very amiably one hot morning, promising to explain them to her; but
instantly on reaching them he became absorbed, and after she had spent
an hour sitting on a stone at the edge of a strip of lupins beneath a
haggard little fir tree which gave the solitary bit of shade in that
burning desert watching him going up and down the different strips
examining apparently every single plant with Johann, she began to think
she had better go home and look after the dinner, and waving a good-bye
to him, which he did not see, she went.

A day or two later she asked whether it would not be good and pleasant
that his mother should come over to tea with them soon.

He replied amiably that it would be neither good nor pleasant.

She asked whether it might not be a duty of theirs to invite her.

He replied, after consideration, "Perhaps."

She asked whether he did not love his mother.

He replied unhesitatingly, "No."

She then went and sat on his knee and caught hold of his ears and pulled
his head up so that he should look at her.

"But Robert--" she said.

"Well, little sheep?"

Since their marriage he had instinctively left off calling her a lamb.
The universe, which for a time she had managed to reduce into just a
setting for one little female thing, had arranged itself into its proper
lines again; the lamb had become a sheep--a little one, but yet no
longer and never again a lamb. He was glad he had been able to be so
thoroughly in love. He was glad he had so promptly applied the remedy of
marriage. His affection for his wife was quite satisfactory: it was
calm, it was deep, it interfered with nothing. She held the honourable
position he had always, even at his most enamoured moments, known she
would ultimately fill, the position next best in his life after the
fertilizers. His house, so long murky with widows, was now a bright
place because of her. Approaching poetry, he likened her to a little
flitting busy bird in spring. Always he was pleased when she came and
perched on his knee.

"Well, little sheep?" he said, smiling at her as she looked very close
into his eyes.

Her face, seen so near, was charming in its delicate detail, in its
young perfection of texture and colouring. Scrutinizing her eyes he was
glad to notice once again how intelligent they were. Presently there
would be sturdy boys tumbling about the garden with eyes like that, grey
and honest and intelligent. His boys. Carrying on, far more efficiently,
the work he had begun.

"Well, little sheep?" he said, suddenly moved.

"_Oughtn't_ one to love one's mother?" she asked.

"Perhaps. But one does not. Do you?"

"Oh, poor mother--" said Ingeborg quickly.

Her mother, far away, was already becoming a rather sad and a quite
tender memory. All those days and years on a sofa, and all the days and
years still to come.... Now she knew better, now that she was married
herself, what it must have been like to be married to the Bishop, to
have twenty years of unadulterated Bishop. She no longer wondered at the
sofa. She was full of understanding and pity.

"One does, no doubt, at the beginning," said Herr Dremmel.

"And then leaves off? Is that all children are born for, that they may
leave off loving us?"

He became cautious. He talked of the general and the individual. Of many
mothers and some mothers. Of the mothers of the present generation--he
called them the _Gewesene_--and the mothers of the generation to be
born--he called them the _Werdende_. And presently, as she sat rather
enigmatically silent on his knee, he developed affection for his mother,
explaining that no doubt it had always been there, but like many other
good things when life was busy and a man had little time to go back and
stir them had lain dormant, and he now thought, indeed he recognised,
that it would be excellent to urge her to come over soon and spend an
afternoon--or still better a morning.

"But you're not here in the morning," said Ingeborg.

"Ah--that is true. I am present, however, at dinner."

"But nobody ever knows when."

"I might, perhaps, arrive early."

In this way the elder Frau Dremmel, who had her pride to consider as the
widow of her neglectful son's traditionally appreciative father, and who
would consequently never have taken what she called in her broodings the
first step, did, about seven weeks after the marriage, cross the
threshold of her daughter-in-law's home.



CHAPTER XIV


The visit was arranged to begin the following Friday at four, for
Ingeborg thought the afternoon feeling was altogether more favourable to
warmth than anything you were likely to get before midday, and Johann
drove in to Meuk to fetch Frau Dremmel in time for that hour.

There was to be tea out in the garden the first thing, because tea
lubricates the charities, and then, with the aid of a dictionary,
conversation. Ingeborg had had time to think out her mother-in-law, and
was firm in her resolve that no artificial barrier such as language
should stand in the way of the building up of affection. If necessary
she might even weave the German for giants, umbrellas, keys, and
spectacles into a sentence as a conversational opening, and try her
mother-in-law with that; and if Frau Dremmel showed the least
responsiveness to either of these subjects she might go on to wax,
fingers, thunder, and beards, and end with princes, boats, and
shoulders. That would be three sentences. She could not help thinking
they would be pregnant with conversational possibilities. There would be
three replies; and Frau Dremmel, being in her own language, would of
course enlarge. Then Ingeborg would open her dictionary and look up the
words salient in the enlargement, and when she had found them smile
back, brightly comprehending and appreciative.

This, including having tea, would take, she supposed, about fifty
minutes.

Then they would walk a little up and down in the shade, pointing out the
rye-field to each other, and that would be another ten minutes perhaps.

Then at five, she supposed, Frau Dremmel would ask for and obtain the
carriage and go away again. Ingeborg made up her mind to kiss her at the
end when the visit had reached the doorstep stage. It would not be
difficult, she thought. The doorstep, she well knew, was a place of
enthusiasms.

She and Ilse were immensely active the whole morning preparing, both of
them imbued with much the same spirit with which as children they
prepared parties for their dolls. But this was a live doll who was
coming, and they were making real cakes which she would actually eat.
The cakes were of a variety of shapes, or rather contortions, the coffee
was of a festival potency, sandwiches meant to be delicate and slender
were cut, but under the very knife grew bulky--it must be the strong
German air, Ingeborg thought watching them, perplexed by this
conduct--and there were the first gooseberries.

When the table was set out under the lime-trees and finished off with a
jug of roses she gazed at her work in admiration. And the further she
got away from it the more delightful it looked. Nearer it was still
attractive but more with the delusive attractiveness of tables at a
school treat. Perhaps there was too much food, she thought; perhaps it
was the immense girth of the sandwiches. But down from the end of the
path it looked so charming that she wished she could paint it in
watercolours--the great trees, the tempered sunlight, the glimpse of the
old church at one end, the glimpse of the embosomed lake at the other,
and in the middle, set out so neatly, with such a grace of spotlessness,
the table of her first tea-party.

Frau Dremmel arrived in a black bonnet with a mauve flower in its front
to mark that ten years had been at work upon the mitigation of her
grief. Her son came out of his laboratory when he heard the crashes of
the carriage among the stones and holes of the village street, and he
was ready at the door to help her down. He was altogether silent, for he
had been torn from the middle of counting and weighing the grains in
samples of differently treated rye, and would have to begin the last
saucerful all over again. Beside this brevity Ingeborg, in a white frock
and wearing the buckled shoes of youth, with the sun shining on her
freckled fairness and bare neck and her mouth framed into welcoming
smiles, looked like a child. She certainly did not look like anybody's
wife; and the last thing in the world that she at all resembled was the
wife of a German pastor.

Again Frau Dremmel, as she had done that day at Meuk, turned her eyes
slowly all over her while she was receiving her son's abstracted kiss;
but she said nothing except, to her son, _Guten Tag_, and passively
submitted to Ingeborg's shaking both her hands, which were clothed in
the black cotton of decent widowhood.

"Do say something, Robert," murmured Ingeborg. "Say how glad I am. Say
all the things I'd say if I could say things."

Herr Dremmel gazed at his wife a moment collecting his thoughts.

"Why should one say anything?" he said. "She is a simple woman. No
longer young. My wife," he said to his mother, "desires me to welcome
you on her behalf."

"_Ach_," said Frau Dremmel.

Ingeborg began to usher her along the passage towards the back door and
the garden. Frau Dremmel, however, turned aside half-way down it into
the living-room.

"Oh, not in there!" cried Ingeborg. "We're going to have tea in the
garden. Robert, please tell her--"

But looking round for help she found Robert had gone, and there was the
sound of a key being turned in a lock.

Frau Dremmel continued to enter the living-room. Before she could be
stopped she had arranged herself firmly on its sofa.

"But tea," said Ingeborg, following her and gesticulating, "tea, you
know. Out there--in the garden--"

She pointed to the door, and she pointed to the window. Frau Dremmel
slowly took off her gloves and rolled them together, and undid her
bonnet strings and looked at the door and at the window and back again
at her daughter-in-law, but did not move. Then Ingeborg, making a great
effort at gay cordiality and determined that when words failed
affectionate actions should fill up the gaps, bent over the figure on
the sofa and took its arm. "Won't you come?" she said, adding a sentence
she had taken special pains to get by heart, "_liebe Schwiegermutter_?"
And smilingly, but yet, when it came to touching her, rather gingerly,
and certainly with her heart in her mouth, she gently pulled at her
sleeve.

Frau Dremmel stared up at her without moving.

"_Liebe Schwiegermutter_--tea--garden--better," said Ingeborg, still
smiling but now quite hot. She could not remember a single German word
except _liebe Schwiegermutter_.

Frau Dremmel, urged and encouraged, was finally got out of the house and
into the garden and along between the gooseberry bushes to where the
tea-table stood and an armchair for her with a cushion on it. She went
with plain reluctance. She did not cease to stare at her
daughter-in-law. Especially her gaze lingered on her feet. Becoming
aware of this, Ingeborg tried to hide them, but you cannot hide feet
that are being walked on, and when she sat down to pour out the coffee
she found her short skirt was incapable of hiding anything lower than
above her ankles.

She grew nervous. She spilt the milk and dropped a spoon. Beside the
rigid figure in the armchair she seemed and felt terribly fluid and
uncontrolled. The cheek that was turned to her mother-in-law flushed
hotly. She acutely knew her mother-in-law was observing this, and that
made it hotter. If only, thought Ingeborg, she would look at something
else or say something. Over the rim of her cup, however, Frau Dremmel's
eyes moved up and down and round and through the strange creature her
son had married. The rest of her was almost wholly motionless. Ingeborg
had nervously swallowed three cups of the black stuff before Frau
Dremmel was half through one. At last a German word flashed into her
mind and she flung herself on it. "_Schön--wunderschön_!" she cried,
waving her hands comprehensively over all the scenery.

For an instant Frau Dremmel removed her eyes from her daughter-in-law's
warm and quivering body to follow her gesture, but seeing nothing soon
got them back again. She made no comment on the scenery. Her face
remained wholly impassive; and Ingeborg realized that the rye-field
would be no use as a means of entertainment.

[Illustration: Especially her gaze lingered on her feet. Becoming aware
of this, Ingeborg tried to hide them]

She could not again say _schön_, and the meal went on in silence. Frau
Dremmel's method of eating it was to begin a piece of each of the cakes
and immediately leave it off. This afflicted Ingeborg, who had supposed
them to be very lovely cakes. Frau Dremmel's place at the table--she had
pulled her chair close up to it--was asterisked with begun and abandoned
cakes. On the other hand she ate many of the sandwiches, and they drew
forth the only word she said to Ingeborg during the whole of tea.
"_Fleisch_," said Frau Dremmel, removing her eyes for one moment from
Ingeborg to the sandwiches that were being offered her, and with a
dingy, investigating forefinger lifting up that portion of each sandwich
which may be described as its lid.

"_Ja, ja_," said Ingeborg responsively, delighted at this flicker of
life.

It was, however, the only one. After it silence, complete and
impenetrable, settled down on Frau Dremmel. She did not even speak to
her son when half an hour later he came out in search of the coffee he
had failed to find on his doormat. Her manners prevented her, in his
house on this first visit after his marriage, from uttering the
unmanageable truths that come so naturally from the mouths of neglected
mothers; and except for those she had nothing to say to him. Herr
Dremmel expected nothing. His deeply engaged thoughts left no room in
him for anything but a primitive simplicity. He was hungry, and he ate;
thirsty, and he drank. The silent figure at the table, of whose presence
every nerve in Ingeborg's body was conscious, produced no impression on
him whatever.

"Robert--do tell your mother how I really _do_ want to talk to her if
only I could," said Ingeborg, pressing her hands together in her lap and
tying and untying her handkerchief into knots. There were little beads
on her upper lip. The rings of hair on her temples were quite damp.

He glanced at his mother, drawn up and taut in her chair, and
immediately she turned her eyes on to him and stared back at him
steadily.

"Little One," he said, "I have told you she is a simple woman, not used
to or capable of wielding the weapons of social arts. Be simple, too,
and all will be well."

"But I _am_ being simple," protested Ingeborg. "I'm dumb; I'm blank;
what can I be simpler than that?"

"Then all is well. Give me coffee."

He ate and drank in silence, and got up to go away again.

Frau Dremmel looked at him and said something.

"Is it the carriage?" asked Ingeborg.

"She wants to go indoors," said Herr Dremmel.

"Indoors?"

"She says she does not like mosquitoes."

He went away into the house. There was nothing for it but to follow. As
they reached the back door the church clock struck five, but Ingeborg,
glancing at her mother-in-law's impassive face, saw this sound meant
nothing to her. She followed her into the living-room and watched her
helplessly as she arranged herself once more on the sofa.

When the clock struck half-past five she was still on it. She seemed to
be waiting. For what was she waiting? Ingeborg asked herself, whose
handkerchief was now rubbed into a hard ball between her nervous hands.
Impossible either to move her or communicate with her. Rigidly she sat,
her eyes examining the room and each object in it but yet not for an
instant missing the least of her daughter-in-law's movements. Ingeborg
seized her dictionary and grammar and made a final effort to build a
bridge out of them across which their souls might even now go out to
meet each other, but Frau Dremmel did not seem to understand the nature
of her efforts, and only stared with a deepened blankness when Ingeborg
read her out a sentence from the grammar that dealt with weather they
were not that day having.

What was she waiting for? Seven o'clock struck, and still she waited.
The clock in the room ticked through the minutes, and every half hour
they could hear the church clock striking. Ingeborg brought her a
footstool; brought her a cushion; brought her, in extremity, a glass of
water; began to sew at a torn duster; left off sewing at it; fluttered
nervously among the pages of her grammar; pored in her dictionary; and
always Frau Dremmel watched her. She found herself struggling against a
tendency to think of her mother-in-law as It. At seven she heard Ilse go
home singing--happy Ilse, able to go away. Soon afterwards she finally
faltered into immobility, giving up, sitting now quite still herself in
her chair, the flush faded from her cheek, pale and crumpled. It was her
and Robert's supper-time. Soon it would be their bedtime. Quite soon it
would be to-morrow. And then it would be next week. And then there would
be winter coming on.... Was this visit never to end?

At eight it at last became plain to her that what Frau Dremmel was
waiting for must be supper. This was terrible, for there was none. At
least, there was only that repetition of tea and breakfast that made her
and Robert's lives so wholesome. She had calculated the visit on the
basis of tea only, and had prepared only and elaborately for that. For
half an hour she sat on and hoped she was mistaken. She did not know
that in East Prussia if you are invited to tea you also stay to supper.
But at half-past eight she realised that there was nothing for it but to
go and fetch it in.

When the ruins of the same meal that had been offered her once already
were produced a second time and set out clumsily on the unaccustomed
living-room table among the pushed-aside Merediths and Kiplings, the
bones of this skeleton being slowly put together under her very eyes,
and Ingeborg at last by ceasing to go in and out fetching things and
sinking into a chair indicated that that was all, Frau Dremmel, after
waiting a little longer, opened her mouth and startled her
daughter-in-law by speech.

"_Bratkartoffel_," said Frau Dremmel.

Ingeborg sat up quickly. After the hours of silence it was uncanny.

"_Bratkartoffel_," said Frau Dremmel again.

"Did you--did you speak?" said Ingeborg, staring at her.

"_Bratkartoffel_," said Frau Dremmel a third time.

Ingeborg jumped up and ran across the passage to the laboratory door.

"Robert--Robert," she cried, twisting the handle, "come--come
quickly--your mother--she's talking, she's saying things--" There was
the same excitement and wonder in her voice as there is in that of a
parent whose baby has suddenly and for the first time said Papa.

Herr Dremmel came out at once. From the sound of her he felt something
must have happened.

She seized him and pulled him into the living-room. "Now--listen," she
said, holding him there facing the sofa.

Herr Dremmel looked perplexed. "What is it, Little One?" he asked.

"Listen--she'll say it again soon," said Ingeborg eagerly.

"What is it, mother?" he asked in German.

Frau Dremmel, without moving her head, ran her eyes over the table.

"Are there not even--not even--" she began, but stopped. She was
evidently combating an emotion.

"Thunder of heaven," said Herr Dremmel, looking from one woman to the
other, "what is it?"

But Frau Dremmel was not able, after the hours of waiting for a supper
that seemed to her in every detail a studied insult on her
daughter-in-law's part, to bear harshness from her son. Drawing out a
handkerchief that had no end and that reached to her eyes while yet
remaining in her pocket, she began to cry.

Ingeborg was appalled. She ran to her, and, kneeling down, begged her in
English to tell her what was the matter. She called her _liebe
Schwiegermutter_ over and over again. She stroked her sleeve, she patted
her, she even laid her head on her lap.

But Frau Dremmel for the first time did not notice her. She was saying
detached things into her handkerchief, and they were all for her son.

"A widow," wept Frau Dremmel. "A widow for ten years. When I think of
your dear father. How much he thought of me. My first visit. My visit on
your marriage. Treated as though I were anybody. Forced to drink coffee
out of doors. Like a homeless animal. No sofa. No real table. Flocks of
mosquitoes. No supper. No supper at all. Nothing prepared for me. For
the mother. For your sainted father's wife. His cherished wife long
before you were thought of. If it had not been for me you would not have
been here at all. Nor she. And I am to go home unfed. Uncared for. Not
even the least one has a right to expect given one. Not even what the
poorest peasant has each night. Not even"--again she said the magic
word--"_Bratkartoffel_--"

"There, there," said Ingeborg soothingly, stroking her
anxiously--"there, there. Robert, what _is Bratkartoffel_?"

"But never mind. Never mind," said Frau Dremmel, wiping her eyes only to
weep afresh--"soon I shall be with him. With him again. With your dear
father. And this--this is nothing, all nothing. It is only the will of
God."

"There, there," said Ingeborg, anxiously stroking her.



CHAPTER XV


It was not until some days later that she discovered the reason for her
mother-in-law's tears.

She could get no information from Herr Dremmel. His thoughts were not to
be pinned a minute to such a subject. He swept her questionings away
with the wave of the arm of one who sweeps his surroundings clear of
rubbish, and the most that could be extracted from him was a general
observation as to the small amount of good to be obtained from
proximities. But Ingeborg one afternoon, walking longer than usual,
facing the hot sun and the flies and sand of the road beyond the village
to see where it led to instead of, as she generally did, exploring
footpaths in the forest, came after much heat and exertion to a thicket
of trees that were not firs or pines but green cool things, oaks, and
acacias and silver birches, and going through them along a grass-grown
road fanning herself with her hat as she walked in the pleasant shade,
found herself stopped by a white gate, a notice telling her she was not
to advance further, and a garden. Beyond the flower beds and long untidy
grass of this garden she saw a big steep-roofed house built high on a
terrace. On the terrace a dog was lying panting, with its tongue out.
Nothing else alive was in sight, and there were no sounds except the
rustling of the leaves over her head and such faint chirping as birds
make in July.

"Who lives in that big white house away over there?" she asked Herr
Dremmel when next she saw him, which was not till that evening at
supper; and she nodded her head, her hands being full of the coffee pot,
in the direction of the north.

Herr Dremmel was ruffled. He had been plunged in parish affairs since
breakfast, for it was the day appointed by him and recurring once a
fortnight into which by skilful organizing he packed them all. The world
in consequence on every second Tuesday appeared to him a place of folly.
People were born and lived embedded in ancient folly. The folly of their
parents, already stale when they got it, was handed down to them intact,
not shot at all, thought Herr Dremmel on these alternate Tuesdays, with
the smallest ray of perception of different and better things. The
school children were still learning about Bismarck's birthday, the
schoolmaster was still laboriously computing attendances and
endeavouring to obey the difficult law which commanded him to cane the
absent, the elders of the church were still refusing to repair the
steeple in time, the confirmation class was still meeting explanations
and exhortations with thick inattention, the ecclesiastical authorities
were still demanding detailed reports of progress when there was not and
could not be progress, couples were still forgetting marriage until the
last hurried moment and then demanding it with insistent cries, infants
were still being hastily christened before the same neglects that killed
those other infants who else might have been their proud and happy
grandparents carried them off, and peasants were still slinking away at
the bare mention of intelligence and manure.

He was exceedingly ruffled; for while he had been wrestling with these
various acquiescences and evasions his real work was lying neglected out
there in the sun, in there in the laboratory, and a whole day of twelve
precious hours was gone for ever; and when Ingeborg said, "Who lives in
that big white house?" Herr Dremmel, with his wasted day behind him, and
the continued brassiness of the heavens above him, and the persistence
in that place of trees of mosquitoes, stared at her a moment and then
said, bringing his hand down violently on the table, "Hell and Devils."

"Who?" said Ingeborg.

"We must call on them at once."

"What?"

"My patron. He will be incensed that I have not presented you sooner. I
forgot him. That will be another day lost. These claims, these social
claims--"

He got up and took some agitated steps about the table.

"No sooner," he said, frowning angrily at the path, "has one settled one
thing than there appears another. To-day, all day the poor. To-morrow,
all day the rich--"

"Do we call continuously all day?"

"--both equally obstinate, both equally encased from head to foot in the
impenetrable thick armour of intellectual sloth. How," he inquired,
turning to her with all the indignant wrath of the thwarted worker, "is
a man to work if he lives in a constant social whirl?"

Ingeborg sat regarding him with astonishment. "He can't," she said.
"But--do we whirl, Robert? Would one call what we do here whirling?"

"What? When my work has been neglected all day to-day on behalf of the
poor and will be neglected all day to-morrow on behalf of the rich?"

"But why will it take us all day?"

"A man must prepare, he cannot call as he is. He must," said Herr
Dremmel with irritable gloom, "wash." And he added with still greater
irritation and gloom, "There has to be a clean shirt."

"But--" began Ingeborg.

He waved her into silence. "I do not like," he said, with a magnificent
sweep of his arm, "clean shirts."

She stared at him with the parted lips of interest.

"I am not at home in them. I am not myself in a clean shirt for at least
the first two hours."

"Don't let's call," said Ingeborg. "We're so happy as we are."

"Nay," said Herr Dremmel, immediately brought to reason by his wife's
support of his unreason, "but we must call. There are duties no decent
man neglects. And I am a decent man. I will send a messenger to inquire
if our visit to-morrow will be acceptable. I will put on my shirt early
in order to get used to it. And I will endeavour, by a persistent
amiability so long as the visit lasts, to induce my patron to forget
that I forgot him."

Herr Dremmel had for some time past been practising forgetting his
patron. He had found this course, after divers differences of opinion,
simplest and most convenient. The patron, Baron Glambeck of Glambeck,
was a serious real Christian who believed that the poor should, like
some vast pudding that will not otherwise turn out well, be constantly
stirred up, and he was unable to approve of a pastor who except in
church and on every alternate Tuesday forbore to stir. It was for this
forbearance, however, that Herr Dremmel was popular in the parish.
Before his time there had been a constant dribble of pastor all over it,
making it never a moment safe from intrusion. Herr Pastor Dremmel might
be fiery in the pulpit, but he was quite quiet out of it; he was like a
good watchdog, savage in its kennel and indifferent when loose. Kökensee
had as one man refused to support the patron when he had wished some
time before to bring about Herr Dremmel's removal. Its pastor did not go
from house to house giving advice. Its pastor was invisible and
absorbed. These were great things in a clergyman, and should not lightly
be let go. Nothing could be done in the face of the parish's opposition,
and Kökensee kept its pastor; but Baron Glambeck ceased to patronise
Divine Service in Kökensee, and until Herr Dremmel brought Ingeborg to
make his wedding call he had had no word with him for three years.

The Dremmels had announced themselves for four o'clock, and when they
drove up to the house along the shady grass road and through the white
gate they were met on the steps of the terrace by a servant who, if he
had been in Redchester, would have been Wilson. On the top of the steps
stood Baron Glambeck, tightly buttoned-up in black, formal, grave.
Further back, beneath the glass roof of the terrace, stood his wife,
tightly buttoned-up in black, formal, grave. They were both, if Ingeborg
had known it, extremely correct according to the standards of their part
of the country. They were unadorned, smoothed out, black, she abundant
in her smoothness, he spare in his; and they greeted Ingeborg with
exactly the cordiality suitable to the reception of one's pastor's new
wife, who ought to have been brought to call long ago but was not in any
way responsible for those bygones which studded their memory so
disagreeably in connection with her husband, a cordiality with the chill
on. Dignity and coats of arms pervaded the place. Monograms with
coronets were embroidered and painted on everything one sat on or
touched. The antlers of deer shot by the Baron, with the dates and
places of their shooting affixed to each, bristled thickly on the walls.
They saw no servant who was not a man.

"Please take your hat off," said the Baroness in English, carefully
keeping her voice slightly on the side of coldness.

Ingeborg was very nearly frightened.

She would have been quite frightened if she had been less well trained
by the Bishop in unimportance. She had, however, owing to this training,
left off being shy years before. She had so small an opinion of herself
that there was no room in her at all for self-consciousness; and she
arrived at the Glambecks' in her usual condition of excessive
naturalness, ready to talk, ready to be pleased and interested.

But it was conveyed to her instantly on seeing the Baroness--there was
an astonishment in the way she looked at her--that her clothes were not
right. And just the request or suggestion or demand--she did not know
which of these it really was--that she should take off her hat, made her
realise she was on new ground, in places where the webs of strange
customs were thick about her feet.

She was, for a moment, very nearly frightened.

"You will be more comfortable," said the Baroness, "without your hat."

She took it off obediently, glancing beneath her eyelashes, as she drew
out the pins, at the Baroness's smooth black head and unwrinkled black
body, perceiving with the clearness of a revelation that that was how
she ought to look herself. Skimpier, of course, for the years had not
yet had their will with her, but she ought to be a version of the effect
done in lean. She resolved, in her thirst after fulfilled duty, to get a
black dress and practise.

She thought it wisest not to think what her hair must be looking like
when her hat was off, for she had not expected to be hatless, and well
did she know it by nature for a straggler, a thing inclined to wander
from the grasp of hairpins and go off on its own account into wantonings
and rings which were all the more conspicuous because of their lurid
approach in colouring to the beards of her ancestors--sun-kissed
Scandinavians who walked the earth in their strength hung, according to
the way the light took them, with beards that were either the colour of
flames, or of apricots, or of honey. Well, if they _would_ make her take
her hat off....

By the time she was on the sofa she was presently put on in the inner
hall she had caught up with her usual condition of naturalness again,
and sat on it interested and forgetful of self. The Baroness's eyes
wandered over her, and they wandered over her with much the same quality
in their look that had been in her mother-in-law's. And always when they
got to her feet they lingered. Her skirt again reached only to her
ankles. All her outdoor skirts did that. "But I can't help _having_
feet," thought Ingeborg, noticing this. They were small by nature, and
the artful shoes of the London shoemaker who had shared in providing her
and Judith's trousseau made them seem still smaller. She did not try to
hide them as she had tried when Frau Dremmel stared. It was Frau
Dremmel's heavy silence that had unnerved her. These people talked; and
the Baroness's English was reassuringly good.

Nobody, the Baroness was thinking, and also simultaneously the Baron,
who was fit to be a pastor's wife had feet like that--little, incapable
feet. Nobody, indeed, who was a really nice woman had them. One left off
having them when one was a child and never had them again. The errands
of domesticity on which one ran, the perpetual up and down of stairs,
the hours standing on the cold stone floor of servants' quarters seeing
that one was not cheated, the innumerable honourable activities that
beautified and dignified womanhood, necessitated large loose shoes. A
true wife's feet should have room to spread and flatten. Feet were one
of those numerous portions of the body that had been devised by an
all-wise Creator for use and not show.

As for the rest of the Frau Pastor's appearance there were, it is true,
some young ladies in the country who dressed rather like that in the
summer, but they were ladies in the Glambeck set, ladies of family or
married into family. That the person who had married one's pastor, a man
whose father had been of such obscure beginnings, and indeed
continuations, that even his having been dead ten years hardly made him
respectable, should dress in this manner was a catastrophe. Already they
had suffered too much from the conduct of their loose-talking,
unchristian pastor; and now, instead of bringing a neat woman in black
to be presented to them, a neat woman with a gold chain, perhaps, round
her high black collar, it being a state occasion and she, after all,
newly married--but only a very light chain, and inherited not
bought--and a dress so sufficient that it reached beyond and enveloped
anything she might possess in the way of wrist or ankle or throat, here
was the most unsuitable wife he could have chosen--short, of course, of
marrying among Jews. While as for her hair, when it came to her hair
their thoughts ceased to formulate. That small and flattened and
disordered head, like a boy's head run wild, like something on fire,
which emerged when she took off her hat....

Coffee was served on the big table in front of the sofa. The Baroness
sat beside Ingeborg, and the Baron and Herr Dremmel drew up chairs
opposite. The coffee was good, and there was one excellent cake. No
gooseberries, no flowers, no unwieldy sandwiches; just plainness and
excellence.

The two men talked to each other, not to the women, the Baron stiffly
and on his guard, Herr Dremmel taking immense pains to be amiable and
not offend. Between them hung the memories of altercations. Between them
also hung the knowledge of the three years during which the Baron and
his wife, as a result of the last and hottest difference of opinion, had
attended Divine Service in a church that did not belong to them. They
had altogether cut Kökensee. For three years their private gallery in
the church in which their ancestors had once a fortnight feared God had
been a place where mice enjoyed themselves. Its chairs were covered with
dust; its hymn-books, growing brown, still lay open at the place the
Glambecks had praised God out of last. Such a withdrawal of approval
would have made any other pastor's life a thing of chill and bleakness;
Herr Dremmel hardly observed it. He had no vanities. He was pleased that
the rival pastor should be gratified. He cared nothing for comment, and
had no eye for shrugs and smiles. His eyes, his thoughts, were wanted
for his work; and he found it a relief, a release from at least one
interruption, when his patron took to leaving him frigidly alone.

Indeed, when he drove up to the Glambecks' house and remembered he had
not had to go there for three peaceful years he felt really grateful,
and he showed his gratitude by performing immense feats of social
pleasantness during the visit. He agreed gigantically with everything
the Baron said. Whatever subject was touched upon---very cautiously, for
the Baron mistrusted all subjects with Herr Dremmel--he instantly
dragged it off the dangerous shoals of the immediate and close up to a
cosmic height and distance, a height and distance so enormous that even
what the Kaiser said last became a negligible tinkling and Conscience
and Dogma quavered off into silence; and he explained to the Baron, who
guardedly said "Perhaps," that though people's opinions might and did
vary seen near, if one spread them out wide enough, pushed them back far
enough, took them up high enough, bored them down deep enough, got them
away from detail and loose from foregrounds, one would come at last to
the great Mother Opinion of them all, in whose huge lap men curled
themselves up contentedly like the happy identities they indeed were and
went, after kissing each other, in placidest agreement to sleep.

"Perhaps," said the Baron.

Personalities, immediate interests, duties, daily life, were swamped in
the vast seas in which, with politeness but determination, Herr Dremmel
took the Baron swimming. One only needed, he repeated, warm with the
wish to keep in roomy regions, to trace back any two opinions, however
bitterly different they now were, far enough to get at last to the point
where they sweetly kissed.

"Perhaps," said the Baron.

"One only needed--" went on Herr Dremmel, making all-embracing movements
with his arms.

But the Baron cleared his throat and began to enumerate contrary facts.

Herr Dremmel agreed at once that he was right just there, and pushed the
point of kissing back a little further.

The Baron went after him with more facts.

Herr Dremmel again agreed, and went back further. In this way they came
at last to the Garden of Eden, beyond which the Baron refused to budge,
alleging that further back than that no Christian could go; and even in
that he repudiated the kiss. He was convinced, though he concealed it,
that at no period of human thought could his and Herr Dremmel's
opinions, for example, have kissed.

But it was an amiable view, and Herr Dremmel was extremely polite and
was bent evidently on peace, and the Baron, recognising this, became
less distrustful. He even contributed a thought of his own at last,
after having been negatively occupied in dissecting Herr Dremmel's, and
said that in his opinion it was details that made life difficult.

The Baroness, who loved him and overheard him, was anxious he should
have more coffee with plenty of milk in it after this.

"Men," she explained to Ingeborg in careful English as she poured it
out, "need much nourishment because of all this head-work."

"I suppose they do," said Ingeborg.

"When I was first married I remember it was my chief pride and joy that
at last I had some one of my very own to nourish."

"Oh?" said Ingeborg.

"It is an instinct," said the Baroness, who had the air of administering
a lesson, "in a true woman. She wishes to nourish. And naturally the joy
of nourishing two is double the joy of nourishing one."

"I suppose it is," said Ingeborg, who did not quite follow.

"When my first-born--"

"Oh, yes," said Ingeborg, glad to understand.

"When my first-born was laid in my arms I cannot express, Frau Pastor,
what happiness I had in being given yet another human being to nourish."

"I suppose it was delightful," said Ingeborg, politely sympathetic.

The Baroness's eyes drooped a moment inquiringly from Ingeborg's face to
her body.

"For six years," she went on, after a pause, "I had fresh reason for
happiness regularly at Christmas."

"I suppose you have the loveliest Christmases here," said Ingeborg.
"Like the ones in books. With trees."

"Trees? Naturally we have trees. But I had babies as well. Every
Christmas for six years regularly my Christmas present to my dear
husband was able to be a baby."

"What?" said Ingeborg, opening her eyes. "A fresh one?"

"Naturally it was fresh. One does not have the same baby twice."

"No, of course not. But--how did you hide it till Christmas day?"

"It could not, naturally," said the Baroness stiffly, "be as much a
surprise as a present that was not a baby would have been, but it was
for all practical purposes hidden till Christmas. On that day it was
born."

"Oh, but I think that was very wonderful," said Ingeborg, genuinely
pleased by such neatness. She leaned forward in her enthusiasm and
clasped her hands about her knees.

"Yes," said the Baroness, relaxing a little before this flattering
appreciation. "Yes. It was. Some people would call it chance. But we, as
Christians, knew it was heaven."

"But how _punctual_," said Ingeborg admiringly, "how _tidy_!"

"Yes, yes," mused the Baroness, relaxing still more in the warm moisture
of remembrance, "they were happy times. Happy, happy times. One's little
ones coming and going--"

"Oh? Did they go as well as come?" asked Ingeborg, lowering her voice to
condolence.

"About one's knees, I mean, and the house."

"Oh, yes," said Ingeborg, relieved.

"Every year the Christmas candles shining down on an addition to our
treasures. Every year the gifts of past Christmases gathered about the
tree again, bigger and stronger instead of being lost or broken as they
would have been if they had been any other kind of gift."

"But what happened when there weren't any more to give?"

"Then I gave my husband cigar-cases."

"Oh."

"After all, most women have to do that all their lives. I did not
grumble. When heaven ceased to provide me with a present for him, I knew
how to bow my head and went and bought one. There are excellent
cigar-cases at Wertheim's in Königsberg if you wish to give one to Herr
Pastor next Christinas. They do not come unsewn at the corners by July
or August in the way those one buys in other shops do. Ah, yes. Happy
years. Happy, happy years. First the six years of great joy collecting
my family, and then the years of happiness bringing it up. Of course you
are fond of children?"

"I've never had any."

"Naturally you have not," said the Baroness, stiffening again.

"So I don't know," said Ingeborg.

"But every true woman loves little children," said the Baroness.

"But they must be _there_," said Ingeborg.

"One has God-implanted instincts," said the Baroness.

"But one must _see_ something to practise them on," said Ingeborg.

"A true woman is all love," said the Baroness, in a voice that sounded
very like scolding.

"I suppose she is," said Ingeborg, who felt that she never could have
met one. She had a vision of something altogether soft and squelchy and
humid and at the same time wonderful. "Are any of your children at
home?" she asked, thinking she would like to test her instincts on the
younger Glambecks.

"They are grown up and gone. Out into the world. Some far away in other
countries. Ah, yes. One is lonely--" The Baroness became loftily
plaintive. "It is the lot of parents. Lonely, lonely. I had five
daughters. It was a great relief to get them all married. There was
naturally the danger where there were so many of some of them staying
with us always."

"But then you wouldn't have been lonely," said Ingeborg.

"But then, Frau Pastor, they would not have been married."

"No. And then," said Ingeborg, interested, "you wouldn't have been able
to _feel_ lonely."

The Baroness gazed at her.

"These things are _nice_, you know," said Ingeborg, leaning forward
again in her interest. "One does _like_ it somehow--being sad, you know,
and thinking how lonely one is. Of course it's much more delicious to be
happy, but not being happy has its jollinesses. There's a perfume...."
She sought about in her mind--"It's like a wet day. It looks gloomy and
miserable compared to what yesterday was like, but there _is_ an
enjoyment. And things"--she hesitated, groping--"things seem to grow.
Different ones. Yet they're beautiful, too."

But the Baroness, who did not follow and did not want to, for it was not
her business to listen to her pastor's wife, drooped an inquiring eye
again over Ingeborg's body and cut her tendency to talk more than was
becoming in her position short by remarking that she was still very
thin.

When they had sat there till the coffee was cold Ingeborg, in a pause of
the talk, got up to go.

The three others stared at her without moving. Even her own Robert
stared uncomprehending. It seemed a lame thing to have to explain that
she was now going home, but that was what she did at last murmur down to
the motionless and surprised Baroness.

"Are you not feeling well?" inquired the Baroness.

"What is it, Ingeborg?" asked Herr Dremmel.

The Baron went over to a window and opened it. "A little faint, no
doubt," he said, adding something about young wives.

The Baroness asked her if she would like to lie down.

Herr Dremmel became alert and interested. "What is it, Little One?" he
asked again, getting up.

"I think it would be good if the Frau Pastor rested a little before
supper," said the Baroness, getting up, too.

"Certainly," said Herr Dremmel, quite eagerly, and with a funny
expression on his face.

Ingeborg gazed from one to the other.

"But, Robert," she said, wondering why he looked like that, "oughtn't we
to go home?"

"Dear Frau Pastor," said the Baroness quite warmly, "you will feel
better presently. Believe me. There is an hour still before supper. Come
with me, and you shall lie down and rest."

"But Robert--" said Ingeborg, astonished.

She was, however, taken away--it seemed a sort of sweeping of her
away--through glass doors, down a carpetless varnished passage into a
spare bedroom, and commanded to put herself on the high white bed with
her head a little lower than her feet.

"But," she said, "why?"

"You will be better by supper-time. Oh, I know all these things," said
the Baroness, who was opening windows and had grown suddenly friendly.
"Do you feel sick?"

"Sick?"

She wondered whether the amount of cake she had eaten had appeared
excessive. She had had two pieces. Perhaps there was a rigid local
custom prescribing only one. She felt again that she was in a net of
customs, with nobody to explain. The Baroness seemed quite disappointed
when she assured her she did not feel sick at all. Ought guests to feel
sick? Was it a subtle way of drawing attention to the irresistibleness
of the host's food? It then occurred to her that it might very possibly
be the custom in these country places to put callers to bed for an hour
in the middle of their call, and that her omission to put her
mother-in-law there was one of the causes of her tears. Next to going
home as quickly as one did in England she felt going to bed was
altogether the best thing.

This thought, that it must be the custom, made her instantly pliable.
With every gesture of politeness she hastened to clamber up on to the
billows of feathers and white quilt. There was a smell of naphthalin as
she sank downwards, a smell of careful warfare carried on incessantly
with moth.

The Baroness came away from letting in floods of air, and looked at her.
"I am sure," she said, "you do feel sick."

"I think I do--a little," said Ingeborg, anxious to give every
satisfaction.

It was evidently the right thing to say, for her hostess's face lit up.
She went out of the room quickly and came back with some Eau de Cologne
and a fan.

Ingeborg watched her with bright alert eyes over the edge of a billow of
feathers while she fetched a little table and brought it to the bed and
arranged these things on it.

How odd it was, she thought, greatly interested. Was the Baron
simultaneously putting Robert to bed in some other room? She felt she
had grown suddenly popular, that she was doing all the right things at
last. Contrasted with its loftiness during the first part of the call
the Baroness's manner was quite human and warm. She put the table close
to her side, and told her the best thing she could do, quite the best
thing, would be to try and sleep a little; if she wanted anything she
was to ring, and the maid Tina would appear.

"Ah, yes," she said in conclusion, standing for a moment looking down at
her and heaving a great sigh that seemed to Ingeborg somehow to be
pleasurable, "ah, yes. When one has said A, dear Frau Pastor, one must
say B. Ah, yes."

And she went out again on tip-toe, softly closing the door and leaving
Ingeborg in a state of extreme and active interest and interrogation.
"When one has said A one must say B...." Why must one? And what was B?
What, indeed, if you came to that, was A?

She listened a moment, raised on her elbow, her bright head more ruffled
than ever after its descent into the billows, then she slid down on to
the slippery floor and ran across in her stockings to one of the big
open windows.

It looked on to a tangle of garden, a sort of wilderness of lilac bushes
and syringa and neglected roses and rough grass and hemlock at the back
of the house. There was nobody anywhere to be seen, and she got up on to
the sill and sat there in great enjoyment, swinging her feet, for it all
smelt very sweet at the end of the long hot day, till she thought the
hour, the blessed hour, must be nearly over. Then she stole back and
rearranged herself carefully on the bed.

"But this is _the_ way of paying calls," she thought, pulling the quilt
up tidily under her chin and waiting for what would be done to her next.



CHAPTER XVI


They did not get away till nine o'clock.

There was supper at seven, an elaborate meal, and they sat over it an
hour and a half. Then came more coffee, served on the terrace by
servants in white cotton gloves, and half an hour later, just before
they left, tea and sandwiches and cakes and fruit and beer.

Ingeborg was now quite clear about the reason for her mother-in-law's
tears. She saw very vividly how dreadful her behaviour must have seemed.
That groaning supper-table, that piling up as the end of the visit drew
near of more food and more and more, and the refreshment of bed in the
middle....

"I shall invite her all over again," she said suddenly, determined to
make amends.

When she said this the carriage had finally detached them from sight and
sound of the now quite cordial Glambecks, and was heaving through the
sand of the dark wooded road beyond their gate.

"Whom will the Little One invite?" asked Herr Dremmel, bending down. He
had got his arm round her, and at the bigger joltings tightened his hold
and lifted her a little. His voice was tender, and when he bent down
there was an enveloping smell of cigars and wine, mixed with the
india-rubber of his mackintosh.

Ingeborg knew that for some reason she could not discover she had made
herself popular. There was the distinct consciousness of having
suddenly, half way through the visit, become a success. And she was
still going on being a success, she felt. But why? Robert was
extraordinarily attentive. Too attentive, really, for oh, what a
wonderful night of stars and warm scents it was, once they were in the
open--what a night, what a marvel of a night! And when he bent over her
it was blotted out. Dear Robert. She did love him. But away there on
that low meadow, far away over there where a white mist lay on the
swampy places and the leaves of the flags that grew along the ditch
stood up like silver spears in the moonlight, one could imagine the damp
cool fragrance rising up as one's feet stirred the grass, the perfect
solitariness and the perfect silence. Except for the bittern. There was
a bittern, she had discovered, in those swamps. If she were over there
now, lying quite quiet on the higher ground by the ditch, quite quiet
and alone, she would hear him presently, solemnly booming.

"Whom will the Little One invite?" asked Herr Dremmel, bending down
across the whole of the Milky Way and every single one of all the
multitude of scents the night was softly throwing against her face.

He kissed her very kindly and at unusual length. It lasted so long that
she missed the smell of an entire clover field.

"Your mother," said Ingeborg, when she again emerged.

"Heavens and earth!" said Herr Dremmel.

"I know now what I did--or rather didn't do. I know now why she kept on
saying _Bratkartoffel_. Oh, Robert, she must have been _hurt_. She must
have thought I didn't care a bit. And I did so want her to be happy. Why
didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you what, little sheep?"

"About there having to be supper, and about her having to go to bed."

"To bed?"

"Did the Baron put you?"

"Put me?"

"To bed?"

Herr Dremmel bent down again and looked a little anxiously at as much of
her face as he could see in the moonlight. It seemed normal; not in the
least flushed or feverish. He touched her cheek with his finger. It was
cool.

"Little One," he said, "what is this talk of beds?"

"Only that it would save rather a lot of awful things happening if you
would just give me an _idea_ beforehand of what is expected. It wouldn't
take a minute. I wouldn't disturb you at your work for anything, but at
some odd time--breakfast, for instance, or while you're shaving--if
you'd _say_ about beds and things like that. One couldn't guess it, you
know. In Redchester one didn't do it, you see. And it's such a really
beautiful arrangement. Oh"--she suddenly flung her arms round him and
held him tight--"I _am_ glad I married one of you!"

"One of me?"

Herr Dremmel again peered anxiously at her face.

"One of you wonderful people--you magnificent, spacious people. In
Redchester we got rid of difficulties by running away. You face them and
overcome them. There isn't much doubt, is there, which is the finer?"

He transferred his cigar to the hand that was round her shoulder and
spread his right one largely over her forehead. It was quite cool.

"Who," went on Ingeborg enthusiastically, jerking her head away from his
hand, "would have a custom that makes calls last five hours without
rebelling? You are too splendidly disciplined to rebel. You don't. You
just set about finding some way of making the calls endurable, and you
hit on the _nicest_ way. I loved that hour in bed. If only I'd known
that the other day when your mother came! The relief of it...."

"But my mother--" began Herr Dremmel in a puzzled voice. Then he added
with a touch of severity, "Your remarks, my treasure, are not in your
usual taste. You forget my mother is a widow."

"Oh? Don't widows?"

"Do not widows what?"

"Go to bed?"

"Now kindly tell me," he said, with an impatience he concealed beneath
calm, for he had heard that a husband who wishes to become successfully
a father has to accommodate himself to many moods, "what it is you are
really talking about."

"Why, about your not explaining things to me in time."

"What things?"

"About your mother having to go to bed."

"Why should my mother have to go to bed?"

"Oh, Robert--because it's the custom."

"It is not. Why do you suppose it is the custom?"

"What? When I've just been put there? And you saw me go?"

"Ingeborg--"

"Oh, don't call me Ingeborg--"

"Ingeborg, this is levity. I am prepared for much accommodating of
myself to whims in regard to food and kindred matters, but am I to
endure levity for nine months?"

She stared at him.

"You went to bed because you were ill," he said.

"I wasn't," she said indignantly. Did he, too, think she did not know
how to control herself in the presence of cake?

"What? You were not?"

There was a note of such sharp disappointment in his voice that in her
turn she peered at his face.

"Now kindly tell me, Robert," she said, giving his sleeve a slight pull,
"what it is you are _really_ talking about."

"You did not feel faint? You feel quite well? You do not feel ill after
all?"

Again the note of astonished disappointment.

"But why should I feel ill?"

"Then why did you ask to be taken home almost before we had arrived?"

For the first time she heard anger in his voice, anger and a great
aggrievedness.

"Almost before we'd arrived? We'd been there hours. You hadn't _told_ me
a call meant supper."

"Almighty Heaven," he cried, "am I to dwell on every detail of life? Am
I personally to conduct you over each of the inches of your steps? Do
you regard me as an elementary school? Can you not imagine? Can you not
calculate probabilities? Can you not construct some searchlight of
inference of your own, and illuminate with it the outline of at least
the next few hours?"

She gazed at him a moment in astonishment.

"_Well_," she said.

If her father had asked her only one of these questions in that sort of
voice she would have been without an answer, beaten down and crushed.
But Robert had not had the steady continuous frightening of her from
babyhood. He could not hold over her, like an awful rod, that she owed
her very existence to him. He could not claim perpetual gratitude for
this remote tremendous gift, bestowed on her in the days of her
unconsciousness. He was a kindly stranger appointed by the Church to
walk hand in hand with her along the path of grown-up life. He had
admired her, and kissed her, and quite often during their engagement had
abased himself at her feet. Also she had seen him at moments such as
shaving.

"I believe," she said after another astonished pause, "that you're
scolding me. And you're scolding me because you're angry with me, and
you're angry with me--Robert, is it possible you're angry with me
because I'm _not_ ill?"

He threw away his cigar and seized her in his arms and began to whisper
voluminously into her ear.

"What?" she kept on saying. "What? You're tickling me--what? I can't
hear-"

But she did in the end hear, and drew herself a little back from him to
look at him with a new interest. It seemed the oddest thing that he, so
busy, so nearly always somewhere else in thought, so deeply and
frequently absent from the surface of life, so entirely occupied by his
work that often he could hardly remember he had a wife, should want to
have yet another object of the kind added unto him, a child; and that
she who lived altogether on the surface, who knew, as it were, the very
taste of each of the day's minutes and possessed them all, who never
lost consciousness of the present and never for an instant let go of her
awareness of the visible and the now, should be without any such desire.

"But," she said, "we're so happy. We're so happy as we are."

"It is nothing compared to what we would be."

"But I haven't even begun to get used to _this_ happiness yet--to the
one I've got."

"You will infinitely prefer the one that is yet to come."

"But Robert--don't rush me along. Don't let us rush past what we've got.
Let us love all this thoroughly first-"

He looked at her very gravely. "We have now been married two months," he
said. "I become anxious. To-night--I cannot tell you how glad I was. And
then--it was nothing after all."

She gazed at him with a feeling of a new incumbency. He had said the
last words in a voice she did not know, with a catch in it.

"Robert--" she said quickly, putting out her hand and touching his with
a little soft stroking movement.

She wished above all things to make him perfectly happy. Always she had
loved making people happy. And she was so grateful to him, so grateful
for the freedom she had got through him, that just her gratitude even if
she had not loved him would have made her try to do and be everything he
wished. But she did love him. She certainly loved him. And here was
something he seemed to want beyond everything, and that she alone could
provide him with.

He turned his head away; and as he did this did she see something
actually glistening in his eyes, glistening like something wet?

In an instant she had put her arms round him. "Of course I do--of course
I want one," she said, rubbing her cheek up and down his mackintosh,
"some--heaps--of course we'll have them--everybody has them--of course
I'll soon begin--don't mind my not having been ill to-night--I'm so
sorry--I _will_ be ill--dear Robert--I didn't know I had to be ill--but
I will be soon--I'm sure I will be--I--I feel quite like _soon_ being
ill now--"

He patted her face, his face still turned away. "Good little wife," he
said; "good little wife."

She felt nearer to him than she had ever felt, so close in understanding
and sympathy. She had seen tears, a man's tears. Of what tremendous
depths of feeling were they not the signal? The sentence, _A strong
man's tears_, floated up from somewhere and hung about her mind. She
pressed him to her in a passion of desire to make him altogether happy,
to protect him from feeling too much. She held him like that, her cheek
against his arm, rubbing it up and down every now and then to show how
well she understood, till they got home. When he lifted her down from
the carriage at their door she slipped her hand round the back of his
neck and kept it there a moment with the tenderest lingering touch.

"Dear Robert," she whispered, her lips on his ear while he lifted her
down; and implicit in the words was the mother-assurance, the yearning
mother-promise, "Oh, little thing, little man thing, I'll take _care_ of
you."

She hung about the parlour and the passage while he went, as he said,
for a moment into his laboratory for a final look round, waiting for him
in a strangely warmed exalted state, entirely at one with him, suddenly
very intimate, sure that after letting her see things so sacred as tears
he would only want to spend the rest of the evening with her, being
comforted and reassured, held close to her heart, talking sweetly with
her in the quiet dark garden.

But there were six saucerfuls of differently treated last year's rye
ready on the laboratory table for counting and weighing. Herr Dremmel
beheld them, and forgot the world. He began to count and weigh. He
continued to count and weigh. He ended by counting and weighing them
all; and it was dawn before, satisfied and consoled for his lost
afternoon, it occurred to him that perhaps it might be bedtime.



CHAPTER XVII


The winter came before Ingeborg, after many false alarms due to her
extreme eagerness to give Robert the happiness he wanted, was able to
assure him with certainty that he would presently become a father. "And
I," she said, looking at him with a kind of surprised awe now that it
had really come upon her, "I suppose I will be a mother."

Herr Dremmel remarked with dryness that he supposed in that case she
would, and refused to become enthusiastic until there was more
certainty.

He had been disappointed during the summer so often. Her zeal to meet
his wishes made her pounce upon the slightest little feeling of not
being well and run triumphantly to his laboratory, daring its locked
door, defying its sacredness, to tell him the great news. She would
stand there radiantly saying things that sounded like paraphrases of the
Scripture, and almost the first German she really learned and used was
the German so familiar in every household for being of Good Hope, for
being in Blessed Circumstance.

For some time Herr Dremmel greeted these tidings with emotion and
excitement; but as the summer went on, he had become so incredulous that
she fainted twice in December before he was convinced. Then, indeed, for
nearly a whole day his joy was touching. One cannot, however, keep up
such joy, and Ingeborg found that things after this brief upheaval of
emotion settled back again into how they were before, except that she
felt extraordinarily and persistently ill.

Well, she had had the most wonderful summer; she had got that anyhow
tucked away up the sleeve of her memory, and could bring it out and look
at it when the days were wet and she felt cold and sick. The summer that
year in East Prussia had been a long drought, a long bath of sunshine,
and Ingeborg lived out in it in an ecstasy of freedom. Her body, light
and perfectly balanced, did wonders of exploration in the mighty forests
that began at the north of the Kökensee lake and went on without
stopping to the sea. She would get Robert's dinner ready for him early,
and then put some bread and butter and a cucumber into a knapsack with
her German grammar, and paddle the punt down the lake, tie it up where
the trees began, and start. Nothing seemed to tire her. She would walk
for miles along the endless forest tracks, just as much suited to her
environment, just as harmonious and as much a creature of air and
sunshine as the white butterflies that fluttered among the enormous pine
trunks. Every now and then, for sheer delight in these things, she would
throw herself down on the springy delicious carpet of whortleberries and
lie still watching the blue-green tops of the pine-trees delicately
swaying backwards and forwards far away over her head against the serene
northern sky. They made a gentle sighing noise in the wind. It was the
only sound, except the occasional cry of a woodpecker or the cry,
immensely distant, of a hawk.

Nobody but herself seemed to use the forests. It was the rarest thing
that she met a woodman, or children picking whortleberries. When she did
she was much stared at. The forests were quite out of the beat of
tourists or foreigners, and the indigenous ladies were too properly
occupied by indoor duties to wander, even if they liked forests, away
from their home anchorage; and for those whose business sent them into
these lonely places to come across somebody belonging to the class that
can have dinner every day regularly in a house if it likes and to the
sex that ought to be there cooking, it was an amazement.

The young lady, however, seemed so happy that they all smiled at her
when she looked at them. They supposed she must be some one grown white
in a town, and come to stay the summer weeks with one of the Crown
foresters. That would explain her detachment from duty, her knapsack,
and the colour of her skin. Anyhow, just her passing made their dull day
interesting; and they would watch her glinting in and out of the trees
till at last, hardly distinguishable from one of the white butterflies,
the distance took her.

When she was quite hot she would sit down in a carefully chosen spot
where, if possible, a deciduous tree, a maple or a bird cherry, splashed
its vivid green exquisitely against the peculiar misty bloom of pink and
grey that hung about the pine trunks, a tree that looked quite little
down among these giants, hardly as if it reached to their knees, and yet
when she stood under it it was almost as big as the lime-trees in the
Kökensee garden. She did not sit in its shade; she went some distance
away where she could look at it quivering in the light, and leaning her
back against a pine-tree she would eat her bread and cucumber and feel
utterly filled with the love and glory of God.

Impossible to reason about this feeling. It was there. It seemed in that
summer to go with her where-ever she went and whatever she did. She
walked in blessing. It was in the light, she thought, looking round her,
the wonderful light, the soft radiance of the forest; it was in the air,
warm and fresh, scented and pungent; it was in the feel of the pine
needles and the dry crisp last year's cones she crushed as she went
along; it was in the cushions of moss so green and cool that she stopped
to pat them, or in the hot lichen that came off in flakes when her feet
brushed a root; it was in being young and healthy and having had one's
dinner and sitting quiet and getting rested and knowing the hours ahead
were roomy; it was in all these things, everywhere and in everything.
She would pick up her German grammar in a quick desire to do something
in return, something that gave her real trouble--shall one not say
somehow Thank you?--and she engulfed huge tracts of it on these
expeditions, learning pages of it by heart and repeating them aloud to
the pine-trees and the woodpeckers.

When the sun began to go down she set out for home, sometimes losing her
way for quite a long while, and then she would hurry because of Robert's
supper, and then she would get very hot; and the combined heat and hurry
and cucumber, to which presently was added fatigue, would end in one of
those triumphal appearances later on in his laboratory to which he was
growing so much accustomed.

In January, when she was just a sick thing, she thought of these days as
something too beautiful to have really happened.

There was from the first no shyness about her on the subject of babies.
She had not considered it during her life at home, for babies were never
mentioned at the Palace--of course, she thought, remembering this
omission, because there were none, and it would be as meaningless to
talk about babies when there were none as it would be in Kökensee to
talk about bishops when there were none. She arrived, therefore, at
Kökensee with her mind a blank from prejudice, and finding the
atmosphere thick with babies immediately with her usual uninquiring
pliability adopted the prevailing attitude and was not shy either.

The neighbourhood did not wait till they were born to talk about its own
children. It did not think of its children as unmentionable until they
had been baptised into decency by birth. They were important things, the
most important of all in the life of the women, and it was natural to
discuss them thoroughly. The childless woman was a pitied creature. The
woman who had most children was proudest. She might be poor and
tormented by them, but it was something she possessed more of than her
neighbours. Ilse had early inquired which room would be the nursery.
That obvious pattern of respectability, Baroness Glambeck, talked of
births with a detail and interest only second to that with which she
talked of deaths. It seemed to her a most proper topic of conversation
with any young married woman; and on her returning the Dremmel call a
fortnight after it had been made she was quite taken aback and annoyed
to find it had become irrelevant owing to Ingeborg's being perfectly
well.

Indeed, this failure of Ingeborg's entirely spoilt the visit. The
Baroness, who had arrived friendly, withdrew into frost with the manner
of one who felt she had been thawed on the last occasion on false
pretences. Impossible to meet one's pastor's wife--and such an
odd-looking and free-mannered one, too--with any familiarity except on
the Christian footing of impending birth or death. A pastor's wife
belonged to the class one is only really pleasant with in suffering or
guilt. Offended, yet forced to continue the call, the Baroness confined
such conversation as she made to questions that had a flavour of
hostility: where was it possible to get such shoes, and did the Frau
Pastor think toes so narrow good for the circulation and the housework?

Ingeborg could not believe this was the motherly lady who had fussed
round her bed that day at Glambeck. She felt set away at a great
distance from her, on the other side of a gulf. For the first time it
was borne in upon her that her marriage made a difference to her
socially, that here in Germany the gulf was a wide one. She was a
pastor's wife; and when asked about her family, which happened early and
searchingly in the call, could only give an impression of more pastors.

"Ah, that is the same as what we call superintendent," said the
Baroness, nodding several times slowly on learning that Ingeborg's
father was a bishop; and after a series of questions as to the Frau
Pastor's sister's marriage nodded her head slowly several times again,
and informed Ingeborg that what her sister had married was a
schoolmaster. "Like Herr Schultz," said the Baroness--Herr Schultz being
the village schoolmaster.

There was a photograph of Judith on the table that caught and kept the
Baroness's eye and also, in an even greater but more careful degree, the
Baron's. It was Judith dressed in evening beauty, bare-necked, perfect.

Ingeborg took it up with a natural pride in having such a lovely thing
for her very own sister and handed it to the Baroness.

"Here she is," said Ingeborg, full of natural pride.

The Baroness stared in real consternation.

"What?" she said. "This is a schoolmaster's wife? This is our pastor's
sister-in-law? I had thought--"

She broke off, and with a firm gesture put the photograph on the table
again and said she could not stay to supper.

Since then there had been no intercourse with Glambeck, and the Baroness
did not know of the satisfactory turn things had taken at the parsonage
till on Christmas Eve, from her gallery in church to which she and the
Baron had decided to return on the greater festivals as a mark of their
awareness that Herr Dremmel desired to make amends, she beheld during
the drawn-out verses of the chorale Ingeborg drop sideways on the seat
in her pew below and remain motionless and bunched up, her hymn-book
pushed crooked on the desk in front of her, and her attitude one of
complete indifference to appearances.

The Baroness did not nudge the Baron, because in her position one does
not nudge, but her instinct was all for nudging.

Herr Dremmel could not see what had happened, custom concealing him
during the singing in a wooden box at the foot of the pulpit where he
was busy imagining agricultural experiments. Till he came out the
singing went on; and suppose, thought the Baroness, he were to forget to
come out? Once he had forgotten, she had heard, and had stayed in his
box, having very unfortunately been visited there by a revelation
concerning potash that caught him up into oblivion for the best part of
an hour, during which the chorale was gone through with an increasing
faintness fifteen times. She knew about the hour, but did not know it
was potash. Suppose he once again fell into a meditation? There was no
verger, beadle, pew-opener, or official person of any sort to take
action. The congregation would do nothing that was outside the customary
and the prescribed. There was no female relative such as the Frau Pastor
would have had staying with her over Christmas if she had been what she
ought to have been, and what every other pastor's wife so felicitously
was, a German. And for her herself to descend and help in the eyes of
all Kökensee would have been too great a condescension, besides
involving her in difficulties with the wife of the forester, and the
wife of the Glambeck schoolmaster, who was also the postman, both of
whom were of the same social standing as the younger Frau Dremmel and
would jealously resent the least mark of what they would interpret as
special favour.

Herr Dremmel, however, came out punctually and went up into the pulpit
and opened his well-worn manuscript and read out the well-known text,
and the congregation sat as nearly thrilled as it could be waiting for
the moment when his eye would fall on to his own pew and what was in it.
Would he interrupt the service to go down and carry his wife out? Would
the congregation have to wait till he came back again, or would it be
allowed to disperse to its Christmas trees and rejoicings?

Herr Dremmel read on and on, expounding the innocent Christmas story,
describing its white accessories of flocks and angels and virgins and
stars with the thunderous vehemence near scolding that had become a
habit with him when he preached. His text was _Peace on earth, goodwill
among men_, and from custom he hit his desk with his clenched fist while
he read it out and hurled it at his congregation as if it were a threat.

He did not look in his wife's direction. He was not thinking of her at
all. He wondered a little at the stillness and attention of his
listeners. Nobody coughed. Nobody shuffled. The school children hung
over the edge of the organ loft, motionless and intent. Baron Glambeck
remained awake.

At the end of the service Herr Dremmel had to stay according to custom
in his wooden box till every one had gone, and it was not till he came
out of that to go through the church to its only door that he perceived
Ingeborg. For a moment he thought she was waiting for him in an attitude
of inappropriately childish laxity, and he was about to rebuke her when
it flashed upon him that she had fainted, that it was the second time in
ten days, and that he was indeed and without any doubt at last the
happiest of men.

In spite of the bitter wind that was raking the churchyard every person
who had been inside the church was waiting outside to see the pastor
come out. The Glambecks and elders of the church would have waited in
any case on Christmas Eve to wish him the compliments of the season and
receive his in return, but on this occasion they waited with pleasure as
well as patience, and the rest of the congregation waited, too.

They were rewarded by seeing him presently appear in the doorway in his
gown and bands carrying the bundle that was the still unconscious Frau
Pastor as if she were a baby, his face illuminated with joy and pride.
It was as entertaining as a funeral. Double congratulations were poured
upon him, double and treble handshakes of the hand he protruded for the
purpose from beneath Ingeborg's relaxed body, and his spectacles as he
responded were misty, to the immense gratification of the crowd, with
happy tears.

This was the first popular thing Ingeborg had done since her arrival.
She could not if she had planned it out with all her care and wits have
achieved anything more dramatically ingratiating. The day was the most
appropriate day in the whole year. It had been well worth waiting,
thought her overjoyed Robert, in order to receive such a Christmas gift.
The Baroness, who with the Baron was most cordial, felt flattered, as
if--only of course less perfectly, for she herself had produced her
children in actual time for the tree--her example had been taken to
heart and followed. The village was deeply gratified to see an
unconscious Frau Pastor carried through its midst, and her limp body had
all the prestige of a corpse. Everybody was moved and pleased; and when
Ingeborg, after much persuasion, woke up to the world again on the sofa
of the parsonage parlour it was to live through the happiest day she had
yet had in her life, the day of Robert's greatest joy in her and
devotion and care and pride and petting.

Once more and for this day she outstripped the fertilizers in interest,
and the laboratory was a place forgotten. She was pampered. She lay on
the sofa, feeling quite well again, but staying obediently on it because
he told her to and she loved him to care, watching him with happy eyes
as he tremendously hovered. He finished the arranging of the tree for
her and fixed the candles on it, interrupting himself every now and then
to come and kiss her hands and pat her. Beams seemed to proceed from him
and penetrate into the remotest corners. In a land where all homes were
glowing that Christmas night this little home glowed the brightest. The
candles of the tree shone down on Ingeborg curled up in the sofa corner,
talking and laughing gaily, but with an infinitely proud and solemn
gladness in her heart that at last he believed, that at last she was
fairly started on the road of the Higher Duty, that at last she was
going to be able to do something back, something in return for all this
happiness that had come to her through and because of him.

Ilse was called in, and came very rosy and shining from careful washing
to be given her presents. There were surprises for Ingeborg--she had to
shut her eyes while they were arranged--that touched and astonished her,
so totally blind had Robert seemed to be for weeks past to anything
outside his work--a pot of hyacinths twisted about with pink crinkly
paper and satin bows that he must have got with immense difficulty and
elaborate precautions to prevent her seeing it, a volume of Heine's
poetry, a pair of fur gloves, a silver curb bracelet, and a smiling pig
of marzipan with a label round its neck, _Ich bringe Glück_. She, not
realising what a German Christmas meant, had only a cigar-case for him;
and when, her lap full of his presents and her wrist decorated with the
bracelet in which he showed an honest pride, carefully explaining the
trick of its fastening and assuring her it was real silver and that
little women, he well knew, liked being hung with these barbaric
splendours, she put her arm round his neck and apologised for her
dreadful ignorance of custom and want of imagination and solitary,
unsurprising, miserable cigar-case--when she did this, with her cheek
laid on his furry head, he drew her very close to him and blessed her,
blessed her his little wife and that greatest of gifts that she was
bringing him.

Both of them had wet eyes when this blessing, solemnly administered and
received, was over. It was done in the presence of Ilse, who looked on
benevolently and at the end came and shook their hands and joined to her
thanks for what she had been given her congratulations on the happy
event of the coming summer.

"July," said Ilse, after a moment's reflection. "We must furnish that
room," she added.

Ingeborg felt as though her very bones were soft with love.



CHAPTER XVIII


But these high moments of swimming in warm emotion do not last, she
found; they are not final, they are not, as she had fondly believed, a
state of understanding and cloudless love at last attained to and rested
in radiantly. She discovered that the littlest thing puts an end to
them, just such a little thing as its being bedtime, for instance, is
enough, and the mood does not return, and not only does it not return
but it seems forgotten.

She became aware of this next morning at breakfast, and it caused at
first an immense surprise. She had got the coffee ready with the glow of
the evening before still warming her rosily, she was still altogether
thinking _dear_ Robert, and wondering, her head on one side as she cut
the bread--Ilse was a little cross after the marzipan--and a smile on
her lips, at the happiness the world contains; and when he came in she
ran to him, shiningly ready to take up the mood at the exact point where
bedtime had broken it off the night before.

But Herr Dremmel had travelled a thousand miles in thought since then.
He hardly saw her. He kissed her mechanically and sat down to eat. To
him she was as everyday and usual again as the bread and coffee of his
breakfast. She was his wife who was going presently to be a mother. It
was normal, ordinary, and satisfactory; and the matter being settled and
the proper first joy and sentiment felt, he could go on with more
concentration than ever with his work, for there would not now be the
perturbing moments so frequent in the last six months when his wife's
condition, or rather negation of condition, had thrust itself with the
annoyance of an irrepressible weed up among his thinking. The matter was
settled; and he put it aside as every worker must put the extraneous
aside. Just on this morning he was profoundly concerned with the
function of potash in the formation of carbohydrates. He had sat up
late--long after Ingeborg, feeling as if she were dissolved in stars and
happily certain that Robert felt just as liquidly starry, had gone to
bed--considering potash. He wanted more starch in his grain, more
woody-fibre in his straw. She was not across the passage into their
bedroom before his mind had sprung back to potash. More starch in his
grain, more woody-fibre in his straw, less fungoid disease on his
mangels....

At breakfast his thoughts were so sticky with the glucose and cane sugar
of digestible carbohydrates that he could not even get them free for his
newspaper, but sat quite silently munching bread and butter, his eyes on
his plate.

"Well, Robert?" said Ingeborg, smiling at him round the coffee pot, a
smile in which lurked the joyful importance of the evening before.

"Well, Little One?" he said absently, not looking at her.

"Well, Robert?" she said again, challengingly.

"What is it, Little One?" he asked, looking up with the slight
irritation of the interrupted.

"What? You're not pleased any more?" she asked, pretending indignation.

"Pleased about what?"

She stared at him at this without pretending anything.

"About what?" she repeated, her lips dropping apart.

He had forgotten.

She thought this really very extraordinary. She poured herself out a cup
of coffee slowly, thinking. He had forgotten. The thing he had said so
often that he wanted most was a thing he could forget, once he had the
certain promise of it, in a night. The candles on the Christmas tree in
the corner were not more burned out and finished than his tender
intensity of feeling of the evening before.

Well, that was Robert. That was the way, of course, of clever men.
But--the tears? He had felt enough for tears. It was without a doubt
that he had felt tremendously. How wonderful then, she thought, slowly
dropping sugar into her cup, for even the memory of it to be wiped out!

Well, that, too, was Robert. He did not cling as she did to moments, but
passed on intelligently; and she was merely stupid to suppose any one
with his brains would linger, would loiter about with her indefinitely,
gloating over their happiness.

She left her coffee and got up and went over to him and kissed him.
"Dear Robert," she murmured, accommodating herself to him, proud even,
now, that he could be so deeply preoccupied with profound thoughts as to
forget an event so really great: for after all, a child to be born, a
new life to be launched, was not that something really great? Yet his
thoughts, her husband's thoughts, were greater.

"Dear Robert," she murmured; and kissed him proudly.

But the winter, in spite of these convictions of happiness and of having
every reason for pride, was a time that she dragged through with
difficulty. She who had never thought of her body, who had found in it
the perfect instrument for carrying out her will, was forced to think of
it almost continuously. It mastered her. She had endlessly to humour it
before she could use it even a little. She seemed for ever to be having
to take it to a sofa and lay it down flat and not make it do anything.
She seemed for ever to be trying to persuade it that it did not mind the
smell of the pig, or the smell that came across from Glambeck when the
wind was that way of potato spirits being made in the distillery there.
When these smells got through the window chinks she would shut her eyes
and think hard of the scent of roses and pinks, and of that lovely
orange scent of the orange-coloured lupin she had seen grown everywhere
in the summer; but sooner or later her efforts, however valiant, ended
in the creeping coldness, the icy perspiration, of sick faintness.

As the months went on her body became fastidious even about daily
inevitable smells such as the roasting of coffee and the frying of
potatoes, which was extremely awkward when one had to see to these
things oneself; and it often happened that Ilse, coming out of the
scullery or in from the yard fresh and energetic with health, would find
her mistress dropped on a chair with her head on the kitchen table in
quite an absurd condition considering that everybody assured her it was
not an illness at all of feeling as though it were one.

Ilse would look at her with a kind of amused sympathy. "The Frau Pastor
will be worse before she is better," she would say cheerfully; and if
things were very bad and Ingeborg, white and damp, clung to her in a
silent struggle to feel not white and damp, she used the formula first
heard on the lips of Baroness Glambeck and nodded encouragingly, though
not without a certain air of something that was a little like pleasure,
and said, "_Ja, ja_, those who have said A must also say B."

When Ingeborg's spirit was at its lowest in these unequal combats she
would droop her head and shut her eyes and feel she hated--oh, she
faintly, coldly, sicklily hated--B.

The fun of housekeeping, of doing everything yourself, wore extremely
thin during the next few months. She no longer jumped out of bed eager
to get to her duties again and bless the beginning of each new day by a
charming and cheerful breakfast table for her man. She felt heavy;
reluctant to face the business of dressing; sure that no sooner would
she be on her feet than she would feel ill again. She talked of getting
another servant, a cook; and Herr Dremmel, who left these arrangements
entirely to her, agreed at once. But when it came to taking the
necessary steps, to advertising or journeying in to Königsberg to an
agency, she flagged and did nothing. It was all so difficult. She might
faint on the way. She might be sick. And she could not ask Robert to
help her because she did not know what problem nearing a triumphant
solution she might not disastrously interrupt.

It seemed to her monstrous to take a man off his thinking, to tear its
threads, perhaps to spoil for good that particular line of thought, with
demands that he should write advertisements for a cook or go with her in
search of one. And as no cook was to be found locally, every wife and
mother except ladies like Baroness Glambeck carrying out these higher
domestic rites herself, she did nothing. She resigned herself to a fate
that was, after all, everybody else's in Kökensee. It was easier to be
resigned than to be energetic. Her will grew very flabby. Once she said
prayers about cooking, and asked that she might never see or smell it
again; but she broke off on realising suddenly and chillily that only
death could get her out of the kitchen.

Herr Dremmel was, as he had always been, good and kind to her. He saw
nothing, as indeed there was nothing, but the normal and the
satisfactory in anything she felt, yet he did what he could, whenever he
remembered to, to cheer and encourage. When, coming out of his
laboratory to meals, he found her not at the table but on the sofa, her
face turned to the wall and buried in an orange so that the dinner smell
might be in some small measure dissembled and cloaked, he often patted
her before beginning to eat and said, "Poor little woman." One cannot,
however, go on saying poor little woman continuously, and of necessity
there were gaps in these sympathies; but at least twice he put off his
return to work for a few minutes in order to hearten her by painting the
great happiness that was in store for her at the end of these tiresome
months, the marvellous moment not equalled, he was informed, by any
other moment in a human being's life, when the young mother first beheld
her offspring.

"I see my little wife so proud, so happy," he would say; and each time
the picture dimmed his eyes and brought him over to her to stroke her
hair.

Then she would forget how sick she felt, and smile and be ashamed that
she had minded anything. The highest good--what would not one practise
in the way of being sick to attain the highest good?

"And he'll be full of brains like yours," she would say, pulling down
his hand from her hair and kissing it and looking up at him smiling.

"And I shall have to double the size of my heart," Herr Dremmel would
say, "to take in two loves."

Then Ingeborg would laugh for joy, and for quite a long while manage
very nearly to glory in feeling sick.

About March, when the snow that had been heaped on either side of the
path to the gate all the winter began to dwindle dirtily, and at midday
the eaves dripped melting icicles, and the sun had warmth in it, and
great winds set the world creaking, things got better. She no longer
felt the grip of faintness on her heart. She left off looking quite so
plain and sharp-nosed. An increasing dignity attended her steps, which
every week were slower and heavier. After months of not being able to
look at food she grew surprisingly hungry, she became suddenly
voracious, and ate and ate.

Ilse's amused interest continued. Her mother had had fourteen children
and was still regularly having more, and Ilse was well acquainted with
the stages. The Frau Pastor, it is true, took the stages more seriously,
with more difficulty, with a greater stress on them than Ilse's mother
or other Kökensee women, but roughly it was always the same story. "It
will be easier next time," prophesied Ilse inspiritingly; though the
thought of a next time before she had finished this one depressed rather
than inspirited Ingeborg.

She had written home to Redchester to tell her great news, and received
a letter from Mrs. Bullivant in return in which there was an extremity
of absence of enthusiasm. Indeed, the coming baby was only alluded to
sideways as it were, indirectly, and if written words could whisper, in
a whisper. "_Your father is overworked_," the letter went on, getting
away as quickly as possible from matters of such doubtful decency as an
unborn German, "_he has too much to do. Delicate as I am, I would gladly
help him with his correspondence if I could, but I fear the strain would
be too much. He sadly needs a complete rest and change. Alas,
shorthanded as he is and obliged now as we are to retrench, there is no
prospect of one_."

Whereupon Ingeborg impulsively wrote suggesting in loving and
enthusiastic terms a visit to Kökensee as the most complete change she
could think of, and also as the most economical.

The answer to this when it did come was an extraordinarily dignified No.

In April Baroness Glambeck drove over one fine afternoon and questioned
her as to her preparations, and was astonished to find there were none.

"But, my dear Frau Pastor!" she cried, holding up both her yellow kid
hands.

"What ought there to be?" asked Ingeborg, who had been too busy
wrestling with her daily tasks in her heavily handicapped state to think
of further labours.

"Many things--necessary, indispensable things."

"What things?" asked Ingeborg faintly.

She had little spirit. She was more tired every day. Just the difficulty
of keeping even with her housekeeping, of keeping herself tidy in
dresses that seemed to shrink smaller each time she put them on, took up
what strength she had. There was none left over. "What things?" she
asked; and her hands, lying listlessly on her lap, were flaccid and
damp.

Then the Baroness poured forth an endless and bewildering list with all
the gusto and interest of health and leisure. When her English gave out
she went on in German. Her list ended with a midwife.

"Have you spoken with her?" she asked.

"No," said Ingeborg. "I didn't know--where is she?"

"In our village. Frau Dosch. It is lucky for you she is not further
away. Sometimes there is none for miles. She is a very good sort of
person. A little old now, but at least she _has_ been very good. You
ought to see her at once and arrange."

"Oh!" said Ingeborg, who felt as if the one blessedness in life would be
to creep away somewhere and never arrange anything about anything for
ever.

But it did after this become clear to her that certain preparations
would undoubtedly have to be made, and she braced herself to driving
into Meuk with Ilse and going by train to Königsberg for a day's
shopping.

With sandwiches in her pocket and doubt in her heart she went off to
shop for the first time in German. Ilse, full of importance, and dressed
astonishingly in stockings and new spring garments, sat by her side with
an eye to right and left in search of some one to witness her splendour.
Herr Dremmel had laid many and strict injunctions on her to take care of
her mistress, and in between these wandering glances she did her best by
loud inquiries as to Frau Pastor's sensations. Frau Pastor's sensations
were those of a perilously jolted woman. She held tight to the hand rail
on one side while the Meuk cobbles lasted and to Ilse's arm on the
other, and was thankful when the station was reached and she somehow,
with a shameful clumsiness, got down out of the high carriage.
Incredible to remember that last time she had been at that station she
had jumped up into the same carriage as lightly as a bird. She felt
humiliated, ashamed of her awkward distorted body. She drew the foolish
little cloak and scarf she had put on anxiously about her. People
stared. She seemed to be the only woman going to have a child; all the
others were free, unhampered, vigorous persons like Ilse. It was as
though she had suddenly grown old, this slowness, this fear of not being
able to get out of the way of trucks and porters in time.

In Königsberg the noise in the streets where the shops were was
deafening. All the drays of all the world seemed to be spending that day
driving furiously over the stones and tram-lines filled with cases of
empty beer bottles or empty milk cans or long, shivering, screaming iron
laths, while endless processions of electric-trams rang their bells at
them.

Ingeborg clung to Ilse's arm bewildered. After Kökensee alone in its
fields, after the dignified tranquillities of Redchester, the noise
hammered on her head like showers of blows. There were not many people
about, but those there were stared to the extent of stopping dead in
front of the two women in order not to miss anything. It was at Ingeborg
they stared. Ilse was a familiar figure, just a sunburnt country girl
with oiled hair, in her Sunday clothes; but Ingeborg was a foreigner, an
astonishment. Men and women stopped, children loitered, half-grown
youths whistled and called out comments that her slow German could not
follow. She flushed and turned pale, and held on tighter to Ilse. She
supposed she must be looking more grotesque even than she had feared.
She put it all down to her condition, not knowing on this her first walk
in a German provincial town that it was her being a stranger, dressed a
little differently, doing her hair a little differently, that caused the
interest. She walked as quickly as she could to get away from these
people into a shop, little beads of effort round her mouth, looking
straight before her, fighting down a dreadful desire to cry; and it was
with thankfulness that she sank on to a chair in the quiet midday
emptiness of Berding and Kühn's drapery and linen establishment.

The young lady behind the counter stared, too, but then there was only
one of her. She very politely called Ingeborg _gnädiges Fräulein_ and
inquired whether her child was a boy or a girl.

"Lord God!" cried Ilse, "how should we know?"

But Ingeborg, with dignity and decision, said it was a boy.

"Then," said the young lady, "you require blue ribbons."

"Do I?" said Ingeborg, very willing to believe her.

The young lady sorted out small garments from green calico boxes
labelled _For Firsts_. There were little jackets, little shirts, little
caps, everything one could need for the upper portion of a baby.

"So," said the young lady, pushing a pile of these articles across the
counter to Ingeborg.

"God, God!" cried Ilse in an ecstasy at such tininess, thrusting her red
thumb through one of the diminutive sleeves and holding it up to show
how tightly it fitted.

"_Nicht wahr_?" agreed the young lady, though without excitement.

"But," said Ingeborg, laboriously searching out her words, "the baby
doesn't leave off there, at its middle. It'll go on. It'll be a whole
baby. It'll have legs and things. What does one put on the rest of it?"

The young lady looked at Ilse for enlightenment.

"It'll _have_ a rest, Ilse," said Ingeborg, also appealing to her.
"These things are just clothes for cherubs."

"_Ach so_," said the young lady, visited by a glimmer of understanding,
and turning round she dexterously whipped down more green boxes, and
taking off the lids brought out squares of different materials, linen,
flannel, and a soft white spongy stuff.

"Swaddle," she said, holding them up.

"Swaddle?" said Ingeborg.

"Swaddle," confirmed Ilse.

And as Ingeborg only stared, the young lady gradually plumbing her
ignorance produced a small mattress in a white and frilly linen bag, and
diving down beneath the counter, brought up a dusty doll which she
deftly rolled up to the armpits in the squares, inserted it into the bag
with its head out, and tied it firmly with tapes. "So," she said, giving
this neat object a resounding slap: and picking it up she pretended to
rock it fondly in her arms. "Behold the First Born," she said.

After that Ingeborg put herself entirely into these experienced hands.
She bought all she was told to. She even bought the doll to practise
on--"It will not do _everything_ of course," explained the young lady.
The one thing she would not buy was a sewing machine to make her own
swaddle with, as Ilse economically counselled. The young lady was
against this purchase, which could only be made in another shop; she
said true ladies always preferred Berding and Kühn to do such work for
them. Ilse said true mothers always did it for themselves, and it was
one of the chief joys of this blessed time, Ilse said, seeing the house
grow fuller and fuller of swaddle.

At this the young lady pursed her lips and shrugged her shoulders and
assumed an air of waiting indifference.

Ilse, resenting her attitude, inquired of her heatedly what, then, she
knew of _Mutterglück_.

The young lady, for some reason, was offended at this, though nothing
was more certain than that knowledge of _Mutterglück_ would have meant
instant dismissal from Berding and Kühn's. It became a wrangle across
the counter, and was only ended by Ingeborg's altogether siding with the
young lady and the interests of Berding and Kühn, and ordering, as the
Baroness had directed, ten dozen each of the ready-made squares. "I'd
die if I had to hem ten dozen of anything," she explained apologetically
to Ilse.

And it was very bitter to Ilse, who meant well, to see the young lady
look at her with a meditative comprehensiveness down her nose; it left
no honourable course open to her but to sulk, and in her heart she would
rather not have sulked on this exciting and unusual excursion. She was
forced to, however, by her own public opinion, and she did it
vigorously, thoroughly, blackly, all the rest of the day, all the way
home; and neither cakes nor chocolate nor ices earnestly and
successively applied to her by Ingeborg at the pastrycook's were allowed
to lighten the gloom.

"But I suppose," Ingeborg said to herself as she crept into her bed that
night in the spiritless mood called philosophical, for Ilse was her stay
and refuge, and to have her not speaking to her, to feel she had hurt
her, was a grievous thing, a thing when one is weary very like the last
straw--"I suppose it's all really only a part of B. Oh, oh," she added
with a sudden flare of rebellion that died out immediately in shame of
it, "I don't think I _like_ B--I don't think I _like_ B...."



CHAPTER XIX


There was nevertheless an absorption and an excitement about this new
strange business that did not for a moment allow her to be dull. She
might feel ill, wretched, exhausted, but she was always interested. A
tremendous event was ahead of her, and all her days were working up to
it. She lived in preparation. Each one of her sensations was a
preparation, an advance. There was a necessity for it; something was
being made, was growing, had to be completed; life was full of meaning,
and of plain meaning; she understood and saw reasons everywhere for what
happened to her. Things had to be so if one wanted the supreme crown,
and her part of the work was really very easy, it was just to be
patient. She was often depressed, but only because the month seemed so
endless and she was so tired of her discomfort--never because she was
afraid. She had no fears, for she had no experience. She contemplated
the final part of the adventure, the part Ilse alluded to cheerfully as
her Difficult Hour, with the perfect tranquillity of ignorance. On the
whole she was very free from the moods Herr Dremmel had braced himself
to bear, and continued right through not to be exacting. She had no
examples of more fussed over and tended women before her eyes to upset
her contentment, and saw for herself how the village women in like
condition worked on at their wash-tubs and in the fields up to the end.
Besides, she had been trained in a healthy self-effacement.

She only cried once, but then it was February and enough to make anybody
cry, with the sleet stinging the windows and the wind howling round the
dark little house. She put it down to February, a month she had never
thought anything of, and hid from herself as she hurriedly wiped away
her tears--where did they all come from?--that she was disgracefully
crying because she had been alone so long, and Ilse had gone out
somewhere without asking, and Robert hadn't spoken to her for days, and
there was nobody to bring in the lamp if she didn't fetch it herself,
and she couldn't fetch it because she felt so funny and might drop it,
and what she wanted most in the world was a mother. Not a mother
somewhere else, away in Redchester, but a real soft warm mother sitting
beside her in that room, with her (the mother's) arm under her
(Ingeborg's) head, and her (Ingeborg's) face against her (the mother's)
bosom. A mother with feathers all over her like a kind hen would be very
ideal, but short of that there was a soft black dress she remembered her
mother used to wear with amiable old lace on it that wouldn't scratch,
and the comfort it would be, the _comfort_, if for half an hour she
might put her cheek against this and keep it there and say nothing.

And she cried more and more, and told herself more and more eagerly,
with a kind of rage, that February was no sort of month at all.

When Herr Dremmel came out of his laboratory to ask why his lamp had not
been brought, and found no light anywhere and no Ilse when he shouted,
he was vexed; but when he had fetched a lamp himself and put it on the
table where it shone on to Ingeborg's swollen and blinking eyes, he was
still more vexed.

"This is foolish," he said, staring down at her a moment. "You will only
harm my child."

She did not cry again.

The spring had dried up the roads, but she did not for all that take
walks that obliged her to pass through the village; instead, she spent
hours in the budding garden up and down on one of the two available
paths, the one at the end on the edge of the rye-fields which were now
the vividest green, or the one on the east side of the house beneath
Robert's laboratory windows where the lilacs grew.

His table was at right angles to the end window, and she often stood on
the path watching him, his head bent over his work in an absorption that
went on hour after hour. He kept the windows shut because the spring
disturbed him. It had a way of coming in irrepressibly and wantoning
among his papers, or throwing a handful of lilac blossoms into his rye
samples, or sending an officious bee to lumber round him.

Ingeborg walked up and down, up and down on this path every day, taking
the exercise Baroness Glambeck had recommended, and for three weeks just
this path was the most beautiful thing in the world, for it was planted
on either side with ancient lilac bushes and they were a revelation to
her when they came out after the spare and frugal lilacs in the gardens
at home. Above their swaying scented loveliness of light and colour and
shape she could see Robert's low-coloured head inside the window bending
over his table every time she came to the end of her tramp and turned
round again. It was the best part of the whole nine months, these three
weeks of lilacs and fine weather on that scented path, with Robert busy
and content where she could see him. She loved being able to see him; it
was a companionable thing.

By June everything was ready. The nursery was furnished, the cradle
trimmed, a pale blue perambulator blocked the passage, neat stacks of
little clothes filled the cupboards, and Frau Dosch, a hoary person of
unseemly conversation, interviewed and told to be on the alert. The idea
of arranging for a doctor to be on the alert too would not of itself
have entered Ingeborg's head, and nobody put it there. Such a being was
indeed mentioned once by Baroness Glambeck, whose interest, increasing
with the months, brought her over several times, but only vaguely as
some one who had to be sent for when the midwife judged the patient to
have reached the stage. Then, apparently, the law obliged the midwife to
send for a doctor.

"There is much difference, however," said the Baroness, "between
thinking one is in extremity and really being in it," and the patient
was apt to be biassed on these occasions, she explained, and inclined
rashly to jump to conclusions. Therefore wisdom dictated the leaving of
such a decision to the midwife.

"Yes," said Ingeborg placidly.

"Of course," said the Baroness, "all this is different from other
illnesses, because it is not one."

"Yes," said Ingeborg, placidly.

"And when I speak of the patient I do not mean the patient, because
without an illness there cannot be a patient."

"No," said Ingeborg, placidly.

"Nor without a patient can there be an illness."

"No," said Ingeborg, placidly.

She was leaning back in a low chair watching the sun shining on the tops
of the lime-trees over her head, for it was the end of June and they
were in the garden. It all seemed very satisfactory. Nobody was ill,
nobody was going to be ill. There would be rather a troublesome moment
that would be met and got over with patience and Frau Dosch, but no
illness, just nature having its way, and then--it really seemed
altogether too wonderful that then, quite soon now, perhaps in a week or
two, any day really, there would be a baby. And she was going to love it
with this passion of love that only mothers know, and it was going to
fill her life most beautifully to the brim, and it would make her so
happy that she would never want anything but just it.

That is what they had told her. On her own account she had added to this
that the baby would be every bit as clever as Robert but with more
leisure; that it would have his brains but not his laboratory; that it
wouldn't be able, it wouldn't want, to get out of its perambulator and
go and lock itself up away from her and weigh rye grains; and that it
wouldn't mind, in fact it would prefer, being fetched out of its
thoughts to come and be kissed.

For ages, for years, it was going to be her dear and close companion,
her fellow-paddler in the lake, her fellow-wanderer in God's woods. Her
eyes were soft with joy at the thought of how soon now she was going to
be able to tuck this precious being under her arm and take it with her
lightly and easily into the garden, restored to her own slim nimbleness
again, and point out the exceeding beauty of the world to its new,
astonished eyes. She would show it the rye-fields, and the great
heaped-up sky. She would make it acquainted with the frogs, and
introduce it to the bittern. She would draw its attention to the delight
of lying face downwards on hot grass where tufts of thyme grew and
watching the busy life among the blades and roots. She would insist on
its observing the storks standing in their nest on the stable roof and
how the light lay along their white wings, and how the red of their legs
was like the red of the pollard willows in March. And at night, if it
were so ill-advised as not to sleep, she would pick it up and take it to
the window and impress its soft mind all over with shining little stars.
Wonderful to think that before the orange-coloured lupins, those August
glories, had done flowering, she would be out among them again, only
with her son this time, her flesh of her flesh and blood of her blood,
her Robertlet.

Baroness Glambeck watched her face curiously as she lay looking up at
the sunny tree-tops with the amused smile of these thoughts on it. It
was clear the Frau Pastor had forgotten her presence; and even her being
so near her Difficult Hour did not explain or excuse a social lapse.
Indeed, the Frau Pastor received her visits with an absence of
excitement and of realisation of the honour being done her that was
almost beyond the limits of the forgivable. Always she behaved as though
she were an equal, and a particularly equal equal. Much, however, could
be excused in a person who was not only English--a nation the Baroness
had heard described as rude--but so near her first confinement. When
this was over there would be a severe readjustment of relationships, but
meanwhile one could not really be angry with her; just her amazing and
terrible ignorance of the simplest facts connected with child-bearing
made it impossible to be angry with her. She reminded the Baroness of a
sheep going tranquilly to the slaughter, quite pleased with the
promenade, quite without a thought of what lay at the end of it. Did
English mothers then all keep their daughters in such darkness on the
one great subject for a woman?

For some subtle reason the expression of extreme placidness on
Ingeborg's face as she lay silently watching the tree-tops and planning
what she would do with her baby annoyed the Baroness.

"It will hurt, you know," she said.

Ingeborg brought her gaze slowly down to earth again, and looked at her
a moment.

"What?" she said.

"It will hurt," repeated the Baroness.

"Oh, yes," said Ingeborg. "I know. But it's all natural."

"Certainly it is natural. Nevertheless--"

The Baroness stopped grimly, screwed up her mouth, and shook her head
three times with an awful suggestiveness.

Ingeborg looked at her, and then suddenly some words out of her
cathedral-going days at Redchester flashed into her mind. She had
totally forgotten them, and now her memory began jerking them together.
They came, she knew, in the Prayer-book somewhere; was it in the Litany?
No; but anyhow they were in that truthful book, the Book of Common
Prayer, and they were--yes, that was it: _The great danger of
child-birth._ Yes; and again: _The great pain and peril of child-birth._

A quick flush came into her face, and for the first time a look of fear
into her eyes. She sat up, leaning on both her hands, and stared at the
Baroness.

"Is it so very dreadful?" she asked.

The Baroness merely shook her head.

"It can't be _very_" said Ingeborg, watching the Baroness's expression
in search of agreement, "or there wouldn't be any mothers left."

The Baroness went on screwing up her mouth and shaking her head.

"It must be _bearable_," said Ingeborg again, anxiously.

The Baroness would not commit herself.

"They'd die, you see, if it wasn't--the mothers all would. But there
seem"--her voice trembled a little in her desire for the Baroness's
agreement--"there seem to be lots of mothers still about."

She paused, but the Baroness continued not to commit herself.

"I can bear anything," said Ingeborg, with a great show of pride and a
voice that trembled, "if it's--if it's reasonable."

"It is not reasonable," said the Baroness. "It is the Will of God."

"Oh, that's the same thing, the same thing," said Ingeborg, throwing
herself back on her cushions and nervously pulling some white pinks she
had been smelling to pieces.

She was ashamed of her terror. But all that evening she was restless and
nervous, struggling with this new feeling of fear. She could not keep
still, but walked about the sitting-room while Robert ate his supper at
the table, pressing her cold hands together, trying to reason herself
into tranquillity again.

She stood still a moment watching Robert's quiet black back as he bent
over his supper. Then she went over to him impulsively and rubbed both
her hands quickly through his hair, which had not been cut for some
time, making it stand up on ends.

"There!" she said. "Now you look _really_ sweet." And she bent and
kissed him, lingeringly, on the back of his neck. He was near her, he
was alive, she could hold on to him for a little before she went alone
into whatever it was of icy and awful and unknown that waited for her.

"Good little wife," he said, still going on eating, but putting his left
arm round her while his right continued to do what was necessary with
the supper, and not looking up.

His affection at this time had watered down into a mild theory. She was
not a wife to him, though he called her so; she was a _werdende Mutter_.
This, Herr Dremmel told himself when he, too, felt bored by the length
of the months, is a most honourable, creditable, and respectable
condition; but no man can feel warm towards a condition. His little
sheep had disappeared into the immensities of the _werdende Mutter_. He
would be glad when she was restored to him.

The next day she got a letter from Mrs. Bullivant, dated from the
Master's House, Ananias College, Oxford.

"_It may interest you to hear_," wrote Mrs. Bullivant, "_that your
sister has a little daughter. The child was born at daybreak this
morning. I am worn out with watching. It is a very fine little girl, and
both mother and child are doing well. I am not doing well at all. We had
that excellent Dr. Williamson, I am thankful to say, or I don't know
what would have happened. Of course our darling Judith was mercifully
spared knowing anything about it, for she was kept well under
chloroform, but I knew and I feet very upset. I only wish I, too, could
have been chloroformed during those anxious hours. As it is I am
suffering much from shock, and it will be a long while before I recover.
Dr. Williamson says that on these occasions he always pities most the
mothers of the mothers. Your father_--"

But here Ingeborg let the letter drop to the floor and sat thinking.

When Robert came in to dinner late that day, hot and pleased from his
fields which were doing particularly well after the warm rains of
several admirably timed thunderstorms, she gave him his food and waited
till he had eaten it and begun to smoke, and then asked him if she were
going to have chloroform.

"Chloroform?" he repeated, gazing at her while he fetched back his
thoughts from their pleasurable lingering among his fields. "What for?"

"So that I don't know about anything. Mother writes Judith had some.
She's got a little girl."

Herr Dremmel took his cigar out of his mouth and stared at her. She was
leaning both elbows on the table at her end and, with her chin on her
hands, was looking at him with very bright eyes.

"But this is cowardice," he said.

"I'd _like_ some chloroform," said Ingeborg.

"It is against nature," said Herr Dremmel.

"I'd _like_ some chloroform," said Ingeborg.

"You have before you," said Herr Dremmel, endeavouring to be patient,
"an entirely natural process, as natural as going to sleep at night and
waking up next morning."

"It may be as natural," said Ingeborg, "but I don't believe it's as
nice. I'd _like_ some chloroform."

"What! Not nice? When it is going to introduce you to the supreme--"

"Y'es, I know. But I--I have a feeling it's going to introduce me rather
roughly. I'd _like_ some chloroform."

"God," said Herr Dremmel solemnly, "has arranged these introductions
Himself, and it is not for us to criticise."

"That's the first time," said Ingeborg, "that you've talked like a
bishop. You might be a bishop."

"When it comes to the highest things," said Herr Dremmel severely, "and
this is the holiest, most exalted act a human being can perpetrate, all
men are equally believers."

"I expect they are," said Ingeborg. "But the others--the ones who're not
men--they'd _like_ some chloroform."

"No healthy, normally built woman needs it," said Herr Dremmel, greatly
irritated by this persistence. "No doctor would give it. Besides, there
will not be a doctor, and the midwife may not administer it. Why, I do
not recognise my little wife, my little intelligent wife who must know
that nothing is being required of her but that which is done by other
women every day."

"I don't see what being intelligent has to do with this," said Ingeborg,
"and I'd _like_ some chloroform."

Herr Dremmel looked at her bright eyes and flushed cheeks in
astonishment. Up to now she had rejoiced in her condition whenever he
mentioned it, and indeed he could see no reason for any other attitude;
she had apparently felt very little that was not pleasant during the
whole time, known none of those distresses he had heard that women
sometimes endure, been healthily free from complications. There had been
moods, it is true, and he had occasionally found her lounging on sofas,
but then women easily become lazy at these times. It had all been normal
and would no doubt continue normal. What, then, was this shrinking at
the eleventh hour, this inability to be as ordinarily courageous as
every peasant woman in the place? It was a most unfortunate, unpleasant
whim, the most unfortunate she could have had. He had been prepared for
whims, but had always supposed they would be tinned pine apples. Of
course he was not going to humour her. Too much was at stake. He had
heard anæsthetics were harmful on these occasions, harmful and entirely
unnecessary. The best thing by far for the child was the absence of
everything except nature. Nature in this matter should be given a free
hand. She was not always wise, he knew from his experience with his
fields, but in this department he was informed she should be left
completely to herself. If his wife was so soft as not to be able to bear
a little pain what sort of sons was she likely to give him? A breed of
shrinkers; a breed of white-skinned hiders. Why, he had not asked for
gas even when he had three teeth out at one sitting two years before--it
was the dentist who had insisted he should have it--and that was only
teeth, objects of no value afterwards. But to have one's son handicapped
at the very beginning because his mother was not unselfish enough to
endure a little for his sake....

Ingeborg got up and came and put her arms round his neck and whispered.
"I'm--frightened," she breathed. "Robert, I'm--frightened."

Then he took her to the sofa, and made her sit down beside him while he
reasoned with her.

He reasoned for at least twenty minutes, taking great pains and being
patient. He told her she was not really frightened, but that her
physical condition caused her to fancy she thought she was.

Ingeborg was interested by this, and readily admitted that it was
possible.

He told her about the simple courage of the other women in Kökensee, and
Ingeborg agreed, for she had seen it herself.

He told her how God had arranged she should bring forth in sorrow, but
she fidgeted and began again to talk of bishops.

He told her it would only be a few hours' suffering, perhaps less, and
that in return there was a lifetime's joy for them in their child.

She listened attentively to this, was quite quiet for a few minutes,
then slid her hand into his.

He told her she might, by letting herself go to fear, hurt her child,
and would she not in that case find difficulty afterwards in forgiving
herself?

This completed her cure. An enormous courage took the place of her
misgivings. She rose up from the sofa so superfluously brave, so glowing
with enterprise, that she wanted to begin at once that she might show
how much she could cheerfully endure. "As though," she said, lifting her
chin, "I couldn't stand what other women stand--as though I wouldn't
stand _anything_ sooner than hurt my baby!" And she flung back her head
in the proudest defiance of whatever might be ahead of her.

Her baby, her husband, her happy home--to suffer for these would be
beautiful if it were not such a little thing, almost too little to offer
up at their dear altar. She would have been transfigured by her shining
thoughts if any thing could have transfigured her, but no thoughts
however bright could pierce through that sad body. Her outlines were not
the outlines for heroic attitudes. She not only had a double chin, she
seemed to be doubled all over. She looked the queerest figure, heavy,
middle-aged, uncouth, ugly, standing there passionately expressing her
readiness to begin; and Herr Dremmel unconsciously seeing this, and
bored by having had to explain the obvious at such length and spend a
valuable half hour bringing a woman to reason--why could they never go
to it by themselves?--wasted no more words having got her there, but
brushed a hasty kiss across her hair and went away looking at his watch.

And next day, just as she was putting the potatoes into that dinner-pot
that so much simplified her cooking, she uttered a small exclamation and
turned quickly to Ilse with a look of startled questioning.

"_Geht's los_?" asked Ilse, pausing in the wiping dry of a wooden ladle.

"I--don't know," said Ingeborg, gasping a little. "No," she added after
a minute, during which they stood staring at each other, "it wasn't
anything."

And she went on with the potatoes.

But when presently there was another little fluttering exclamation,
Ilse, with great decision, laid down her gloomy drying-cloth and sought
out Johann, Herr Dremmel not having come in, and bade him harness the
horses and fetch Frau Dosch.

"The first thing," said Frau Dosch, arriving two hours later,
surprisingly brisk and business-like considering her age and the heat,
"the first thing is to plait your hair in two plaits."

And still later, when Ingeborg had left off pretending or trying to be
anything at all, when courage and unselfishness and stoicism and a
desire to please Robert--who was Robert?--were like toys for
drawing-room games, shoved aside in these grips with death, Frau Dosch
nodded her head philosophically while she ate and drank from the trays
Ilse kept on bringing her, and said at regular intervals, "_Ja, ja_--was
sein muss sein muss."

Such were the consolations of Frau Dosch.



CHAPTER XX


These things began on Tuesday at midday; and on Wednesday night, so late
that bats and moths were busy in the garden and often in the room, Frau
Dosch, grown very wispy about the hair and abandoned in the dress,
dabbed a bundle of swaddle with a small red face emerging from it down
on to the bed beside Ingeborg and said, tired but triumphant, "There!"

The great moment had come: the supreme moment of a woman's life. Herr
Dremmel was present, dishevelled and moist-eyed; Ilse was present,
glowing and hot. It was a boy, a magnificent boy, Frau Dosch pronounced,
and the three stood watching for the first ray of _Mutterglück_, the
first illumination that was to light the face on the pillow.

"There!" said Frau Dosch; but Ingeborg did not open her eyes.

"There!" said Frau Dosch again, picking up the bundle and laying it
slantwise on Ingeborg's breast and addressing her very loudly. "Frau
Pastor--rouse yourself--behold your son--a splendid boy--almost a man
already."

She took Ingeborg's arm and laid it round the bundle.

It slid off and hung over the edge of the bed as before.

"Tut, tut!" said Frau Dosch, becoming scandalised: and stooping down she
shouted into Ingeborg's ear: "Frau Pastor--wake up--look at your son--a
magnificent fellow--with a chest, I tell you--oh, but he will break the
hearts of the maidens he will--"

Still the blankest indifference on the face on the pillow.

Herr Dremmel knelt down so as to be on a level with it, and took the
limp damp hand hanging down in his and patted it.

"Little wife," he said in German, "it is all over. Open your eyes and
rejoice with me in our new happiness. You have given me a son."

"_Ja eben_," said Frau Dosch emphatically.

"You have filled my cup with joy."

"_Ja eben_," said Frau Dosch, still louder.

"Open your eyes, and welcome him to his mother's heart."

"_Ja eben_" said Frau Dosch indignantly.

Then Ingeborg did slowly open her eyes--it seemed as if she could hardly
lift their heavy lids--and looked at Robert as though she were looking
at him from an immense distance. Her mouth remained open; her face was
vacant.

Frau Dosch seized the bundle, and with clucking sounds jerked it up and
down between the faces of the parents so that its mother's eyes must
needs fall upon it. Its red contents began to cry.

"Ah--there now--now we shall see," exclaimed Frau Dosch, who had been
secretly perturbed by the newborn's absence of comment while it was
being washed and swaddled.

"The first cry of our son," said Herr Dremmel, kissing Ingeborg's hand
with deep emotion.

"_Now_ we will try," said Frau Dosch, once more laying the baby on
Ingeborg's chest and folding her arm round it. This time she took the
precaution to hold the mother's arm firmly in position herself. "Oh, the
splendid fellow!" she exclaimed. "Frau Pastor, what do you say to your
eldest son?"

But Frau Pastor said nothing. Her eyelids drooped over her eyes again,
and shut the world and all its vigours out. The sound of these people
round her bed came to her from far away. There was a singing in her
ears, a black remoteness in her soul. Somewhere from behind the vast sea
of nothingness in which she seemed to sink, through the constant singing
in her ears, came little faint voices with words. She wanted to listen,
she wanted to listen, why would these people interrupt her--the same
words over and over again, faintly throbbing in a rhythm like the rhythm
of the wheels of the train that had brought her through the night long
ago across Europe to her German home, only very distant, tiny,
muffled--"From battle and murder"--yes, she had caught that--"from all
women labouring with child"--yes--"from all sick persons"--yes--"and
young children"--yes, go on--"Good Lord deliver us"--oh, yes--please....
Good Lord deliver us--please--please--deliver us....

"Perhaps a little brandy?" suggested Herr Dremmel, puzzled.

"Brandy! If her own son cannot cheer her--Does the Herr Pastor then not
know that one gives nothing at first to a lady lying-in but water-soup?"

Herr Dremmel, feeling ignorant, let go the idea of brandy. "Her hand is
rather cold," he said, almost apologetically, for who knew but what it
was cold because it ought to be?

Frau Dosch expressed the opinion that it was not, and that if it were it
was not so cold as her heart. "See here," she said, "see this beautiful
boy addressing his mother in the only language he knows, and she not
even looking at him. Come, my little fellow--come, then--we are not
wanted--come with Aunt Dosch--the old Aunt Dosch--"

And she took the baby off Ingeborg's passive chest, and after a few
turns with it up and down the room slapping the underside of its swaddle
in a way experience had taught choked out crying, put it in the pale
blue cradle that stood ready on two chairs.

"Well, well," said Herr Dremmel getting up, for his knees were hurting
him, and looking at his watch, "it is bedtime for all of us. It is past
midnight. To-morrow, after a sleep, my wife will be herself again."

He went towards the door, followed by Ilse with one of the two lamps
that were adding to the stifling heat in the room, then paused and
looked back.

Ingeborg was lying as before.

"You are sure only water-soup?" he said, hesitating. "Is that--will that
by the time it reaches my son nourish him?"

For all answer Frau Dosch advanced heavily and shut the door.

She was tired to death. She was not, at that hour of the night, going to
defend her methods to a husband. She locked the door and began pulling
off her dress. She could hardly stand. It had been one of those
perfectly normal births that yet are endless and half kill an honest
midwife who is not as young as she used to be. Before dropping on to the
bed provided for her she took a final look at the object in the cradle,
which was noiselessly sleeping, and then at the other object on the bed,
which was lying as before. Well, if the Frau Pastor preferred behaving
like a log instead of a proud mother--Frau Dosch shrugged her shoulder,
put on a coloured dimity jacket over her petticoat, kicked off her
slippers, and went, stockinged and hairpinned, to bed and to instant
sleep.

But the life in the parsonage puzzled Herr Dremmel during the next few
weeks. He had expected the simple joys of realised family happiness to
succeed the act of birth. It was a reasonable expectation. It occurred
in other houses. He had been patient for nine months, supported during
their interminableness by the thought that what he bore would be amply
made up to him at the end of them by a delighted young wife restored to
him in her slenderness and health, running singing about the house with
a healthy son in her arms. The son was there and seemed satisfactory,
but where was the healthy young wife? And as for running about the
house, when the fifth day came, the day on which the other women in the
parish got up and began to be brisk again, Ingeborg made no sign of even
being aware it was expected of her. She looked at him vaguely when he
suggested it, with the same vagueness and want of interest in anything
with which she lay for hours staring out of the window, her mouth always
a little open, her position always the same, unless Ilse came and
changed it for her.

Frau Dosch had left the morning after the birth according to the custom
of midwives, returning on each of the three following mornings to wash
the mother and child, and after that Ilse had taken over these duties,
and as far as he could see performed them with zeal and vigour.
Everything was done that could be done; why then did Ingeborg remain
apathetic and uninterested in bed, and not take the trouble even to shut
her mouth?

He was puzzled and disappointed. The days passed, and nothing was
changed. He could not but view these manifestations of want of backbone
with uneasiness, occurring as they did in the mother of his children.
The least thing that was demanded of her in the way of exertion made her
break out into a perspiration. She had not yet, so far as he knew,
voluntarily put her arms once round her son--Ilse had to hold them round
him. She had not even said anything about him. He might have been a girl
for any pride she showed. And that holiest function of a mother, the
nursing of her child, instead of being a recurring joy was a recurring
and apparently increasing difficulty.

He had pointed out to her that it was not only the greatest privilege of
a mother to nurse her child but it was an established fact that it gave
her the deepest, the holiest satisfaction. In all pictures where there
is a mother, he had reminded her, she is invariably either nursing or
has just been doing so, and on her face is the satisfied serenity that
attends the fulfilment of natural functions.

She had not answered, and her face remained turned away and flushed,
with beads rolling down it. Ilse held the baby, he observed; there was a
most regrettable want of hold in his wife.

And she appeared to have odd fancies. She imagined, for instance, that
the pieces of buttered bread Ilse put on a plate and laid beside her on
her bed at tea-time were stuck to the plate. He had found her struggling
one afternoon and becoming hot endeavouring to lift one of these pieces
up off the plate. He had asked her, Ilse not being in the room, what she
was doing. As usual she had whispered--it was another of her fancies
that she had lost her voice--and when he bent down he found that she was
whispering the word _stuck_.

He had taken up the piece to show her she was mistaken, and had shaken
the plate and made all the pieces on it spring about, and she had
watched him and then begun over again to behave as if she could not lift
one.

Then she dropped her hands down on to the sheet and looked up at him and
began to whisper something else. "_Heavy_," she whispered, but not, he
was glad to say, without at least some sort of a slight smile indicating
her awareness that she was conducting herself childishly, and Ilse,
coming in, had taken the bread and fed her as if it were she who were
the baby and not his son.

Herr Dremmel, therefore, was both puzzled and worried. He was still more
puzzled and worried when, on the very day week after the birth, Ilse
came to him and said that Frau Pastor was shaking her bed about and that
she feared if she did not soon stop the bed, which was enfeebled as Herr
Pastor knew by having two mended legs among its four, might break. She
had reminded Frau Pastor of this, but she did not seem to care and
continued to shake it.

"The good bed," said Ilse, "the excellent bed. The best we have in the
house. Would Herr Pastor step across?"

Herr Pastor stepped across, and found Ingeborg shivering with such
astonishing energy that the bed did, as Ilse had described, rattle
threateningly.

In reply to his questions Ilse told him, for Ingeborg was too busy
shaking to explain, that nothing had happened except that Frau Pastor
said she was thirsty and would like a glass of cold water, and she had
fetched it fresh from the pump and Frau Pastor had asked to be held up
to drink it and had drunk it all at one draught and immediately fallen
back and begun this shaking.

"Ingeborg, what is this?" said Herr Dremmel with a show of severity, for
he had heard severity acted as a sedative on those who, for instance,
shake.

When, however, Ingeborg, instead of replying like a reasonable being,
continued to shake and seem unaware of his presence, and when on
touching her he found that in spite of the shivering she was extremely
hot, he sent Johann for Frau Dosch, who on seeing her could only suggest
that Johann should drive on into Meuk and bring out the doctor.

And so it was that Ingeborg, coming suddenly out of a thin, high
confusion in which she seemed to have been hurrying since the world
began, found it was night, for lamps were alight, and people--many
people--were round her bed, and one was a man she did not know with a
short black beard. But she did know him. It was the doctor. It flashed
across her instantly. Then she had really got to being in extremity.
That woman had said so, that big woman who used to come and see her in
the garden long ago. And Ilse--that was Ilse at the foot of the bed
crying. When one was in extremity Ilse did cry. She found herself
stroking the doctor's beard and begging him not to let go of her. She
was reminded that it was unusual to stroke the doctor's beard by his
drawing back, but she thought it silly not to let one's beard be stroked
if somebody wanted to. She heard herself saying, "Don't let go of
me--please--don't let go of me--please--" but it seemed that he could
not hold her, for she was caught away almost immediately again into that
thin, hot, hurrying confusion, high up in the treble, high up at the
very top, where all the violins were insisting together over and over
again on one thin, quivering, anxious note....

"It is impossible," said the doctor, a Jew from Königsberg, lately
married and set up at Menk, looking at Frau Dosch, "that this should
have happened."

And he proceeded to explain to Herr Dremmel that the child in future
would have to seek its nourishment in tins.

"What?" exclaimed Herr Dremmel.

"Tins," said the doctor.

"Tins? For my son? When there are cows in the world? Cows, which at
least more closely resemble mothers than tins?"

"Tins," repeated the doctor firmly. "Herr Pastor, cows have moods just
as frequently as women. They are fed unwisely, and behold immediately a
mood. Not having the gift of tongues they cannot convey their mood by
speech, and baffled at one end they fall back upon the other and express
their malignancies in milk."

Herr Dremmel was silent. The complications and difficulties of family
life were being lit up into a picture at which he could only gaze in
dismay. On the bed Ingeborg was ceaselessly turning her head from one
side to the other and rubbing her hands weakly up and down, up and down
over the sheet. While he talked the doctor was watching her. Frau Dosch
stood looking on with a locked-up mouth. Ilse wept. The baby whimpered.

The doctor said he would send some tins of patent food out by Johann on
his return journey; if there should be much delay and the baby was
noisy, said the doctor, a little water--

"Water! My son fed on water?" exclaimed Herr Dremmel. "Heavens above us,
what diet is this for a good German? Tins and water in the place of
blood and iron?"

The doctor shrugged his shoulder, and gently putting down Ingeborg's
hand which he had been holding for a moment to see if he could quiet it,
prepared to go away, saying he would also send out a nurse.

"Ahh," said Herr Dremmel, greatly relieved, "you know of a thoroughly
healthy wet one?"

"Completely dry. For Frau Pastor. Impossible to leave her unnursed.
There will be bandages. There must be punctuality and care"--he looked
at Frau Dosch--"cleanliness, efficiency"--at each word he looked at Frau
Dosch. "I will come out to-morrow. Perfectly normal, perfectly normal,"
he said, as he got into the carriage while Herr Dremmel stood ruefully
on the doorstep.

The illness went its perfectly normal course. A nurse came out from the
principal Königsberg hospital and the disordered house at once became
perfectly normal, too. Ilse returned to her kitchen, the baby was
appeased by its scientific diet, Ingeborg's bed grew smooth and
spotless, her room was quiet, nobody knocked any more against the foot
of the bed in passing or shook the floor and herself by heavy treading;
she was no longer tended with the same vigour that made the kitchen
floor spotless and the pig happy; bandages, unguents, and disinfectants
stood neatly in rows, clean white cloths covered the tables, the windows
were wide open day and night, and lamps left off burning exactly where
they shone into her eyes. Everything was normal, including the behaviour
of the abscess, which went its calm way, unhurried and undisturbed by
anything the doctor tried to do to it, ripening, reaching its
perfection, declining, in an order and obedience to causation that was
beautiful for those capable of appreciating it. Everything was normal
except the inside of Ingeborg's mind.

There, in a black recess, crouched fear. She suspected life. She had
lost, on that awful night and day and night again of birth, confidence
in it. She knew it now. It was all death. Death and cruelty. Death and
nameless horror. Death pretending, death waiting, waiting to be cruel
again, to get her again, and get her altogether next time. What was this
talk of life? It was only just death. The others didn't know. She knew.
She had seen it and been with it. She had been down into the valley of
the shadow of it uncomforted. Her eyes had been wide open while she
went. Each step of the way was cut into her memory. They had let her
miss nothing. She knew. Out there in the garden the rustling leaves
looked gay, and the sun looked cheerful, and the flowers she had so
confidently loved looked beautiful and kind. They were death dressed up.
Oh, she was not to be taken in any more. She knew the very sound of him.
Often, while she was in that fever, she had heard him coming across the
yard, up the steps, along the passage, pausing just outside the door,
going back each time, but only for a little while. He would come again.
The horror of it. The horror of living with that waiting. The horror of
knowing that love ended in this, that new life was only more death.
Fearfully she lay staring at the realities that she alone in that house
could see. And she could hear her heart beating--if only she needn't
have to hear her heart beating--it beat in little irregular beats,
little flutters, and then a pause--and then a sudden _ping_--oh, the
weak, weak helplessness--nothing to hold on to anywhere in all the
world--even the bed hadn't an underneath--she was always dropping
downwards, downwards, through it, away....

Sometimes the nurse came and stood beside her, and with a big wholesome
hand smoothed back the hair from her absorbed and frowning forehead.
"What are you thinking about?" she would ask, bending down and smiling.

But Ingeborg never told.

To Herr Dremmel the nurse counselled patience.

He said he had been having it for ten months.

"You must have some more," said the nurse, "and it will come right."

And so it gradually did. Slowly Ingeborg began to creep up the curve of
life again. It was a long and hesitating creeping, but there did come a
time when there were definite and widening gaps in her vision of the
realities. The first day she had meat for dinner she lost sight of them
for several hours. The next day she had meat she shut her mouth. The day
after, a feeling of shame for her black thoughts crept into her mind and
stayed there. The day after that, when she not only had meat but began a
new tonic, she asked for Robertlet and put her arms round him all by
herself.

Then the nurse slipped out and called Herr Dremmel; and he, hurrying in
and finding her propped on pillows, holding his baby and smiling down at
him just as he had pictured she would, went down once more on his knees
beside the bed and took the whole group, mother, baby, and pillows, into
his arms, and quite frankly and openly cried for joy.

"Little sheep ... little sheep,..." he kept on saying. And Ingeborg,
having reached that point in convalescence where one never misses a
chance of crying, at once cried, too; and Robertlet beginning to cry,
the nurse, who laughed, broke up the group.

After that things grew better every day. Ingeborg visibly improved;
every hour almost it was possible to see some new step made back to her
original self. She clung to the nurse, who stayed on long after the
carrying into the next room stage had been passed and who did not leave
her till she was walking about quite gaily in the garden and beginning
to do the things with Robertlet that she had planned she would. She
seemed, after the long months of ugliness, to be prettier than before.
She was so glad, so grateful, to be back again, and her gladness lit her
up. It was so wonderful to be back in the bright world of free movement,
to be presently going to punt, and presently be off for a day in the
forests, to be able to arrange, to be in clear possession of her time
and her body. The deliciousness of health, the happiness of being just
normal made her radiant.

The September that year was one of ripe days and glowing calms. Neither
Herr Dremmel nor Ingeborg had ever been quite so happy. He loved her as
warmly as before their marriage. He found himself noticing things like
the fine texture of her skin, and observing how pretty the back of her
neck was and the way her hair behaved just at that point. She was the
brightest adornment and finish to a man's house, he said to himself,
independently busy with her baby and her housekeeping, not worrying him,
not having to be thought about in his laboratory when he wished to work,
absorbed in womanly interests, cheerful, affectionate, careful of her
child. It was delightful to have her sit on his knee again, delightful
to hear her talk the sweet and sometimes even amusing nonsense with
which her head seemed full, delightful to see her sudden solemnity when
there was anything to be done for the personal comfort of Robertlet.

"Aren't we _happy_," said Ingeborg one evening when they were strolling
after supper along the path through the rye-field, all the old
fearlessness and confidence in life surging in her again. "Did you ever
_know_ anything like it?"

"It is you, my little sun among sheep," said Herr Dremmel, standing
still to kiss her as energetically as though he had been beneath the
pear-tree in the Bishop's garden, "it is all you."

"And presently," she said, "I'm going to do such things--Robert, such
things. First, I'm going to be a proper pastor's wife at last and turn
to in the village thoroughly. And besides that I'm going to--"

She stopped and flung out her hands with a familiar gesture.

"Well, little hare?"

"Oh, I don't know--but it's fun being alive, isn't it? I feel as if I'd
only got to stretch up my hands to all those stars and catch as many of
them as I want to."

And hardly had the nurse left and the household had returned to its
normal arrangements, and the parlour was no longer disfigured by Herr
Dremmel's temporary bed, and life was clear again, and all one had to do
was to go ahead praising the dear God who had made it so spacious and so
kind, than she began to have her second child.



PART III



CHAPTER XXI


There was a little bay about five minutes' paddle down the lake round a
corner made by the jutting out of reeds. You took your punt round the
end of an arm of reeds, and you found a small beach of fine shells, an
oak-tree with half-bared roots overhanging one side of it, and a fringe
of coarse grass along the top. On this you sat and listened to the faint
wash of the water at your feet and watched the sun flashing off the
wings of innumerable gulls. You couldn't see Kökensee and Kökensee
couldn't see you, and you clasped your hands round your knees and
thought. Behind you were the rye-fields. Opposite you was the forest. It
was a place of gentleness, of fair afternoon light, of bland
colours--silvers, and blues, and the pale gold that reeds take on in
October.

Ingeborg did not bring Robertlet to this place. She decided, after four
months' close association with him had cleared her mind of
misconceptions, that he was too young. She would not admit, with all her
dreams about what she was going to do with him still vivid in her
memory, that she preferred to be alone. She would not admit that she did
anything but love him ardently. He was so good. He never cried. Nor did
he ever do what she supposed must be the converse of crying, crow. He
neither cried nor crowed. He neither complained nor applauded. He ate
with appetite and he slept with punctuality. He grew big and round while
you looked at him. Who would not esteem him? She did esteem him--more
highly perhaps than she had ever esteemed anybody; but the ardent love
she had been told a mother felt for her first-born was a thing about
which she had to keep on saying to herself, "Of course."

He was a grave baby; and she did her best by cheery gesticulations and
encouraging, humorous sounds, to accustom him to mirth, but her efforts
were fruitless. Then one day as she was bending over him trying to
extract a smile by an elaborate tickling of his naked ribs she caught
his eye, and instantly she jerked back and stared down at him in dismay,
for she had had the sudden horrid conviction that what she was tickling
was her mother-in-law.

That was the first time she noticed it, but the resemblance was
unmistakable, was, when you had once seen it, overwhelming. There was no
trace, now that she tremblingly examined him, of either Robert or
herself; and as for her own family, what had become of all that very
real beauty, the beauty of the Bishop, the dazzlingness of Judith, and
the sweet regularities of her mother?

Robertlet was as much like Frau Dremmel as he might have been if Frau
Dremmel had herself produced him in some miraculous manner entirely
unassisted. The resemblance was flagrant. It grew with every bottle. He
had the same steady eyes. He had the same prolonged silences. His nose
was a copy. His head, hairless, was more like Frau Dremmel's, thought
Ingeborg, than Frau Dremmel's could ever have possibly been, and if ever
his hair grew, she said to herself gazing at him wide-eyed, it would
undoubtedly do it from the beginning in a knob. Gradually as the days
passed and the likeness appeared more and more she came, when she tubbed
him and powdered his many creases, to have a sensation of infinite
indiscretion; and she announced to Herr Dremmel, who did not understand,
that Robertlet's first word would certainly be _Bratkartoffel_.

"Why?" asked Herr Dremmel, from the other side of a wall of thinking.

"You'll see if it isn't," nodded Ingeborg, with a perturbed face.

But Robertlet's first word, and for a long time his only one, was
_Nein_. His next, which did not join it till some months later, was
_Adieu_, which is the German for good-bye and which he said whenever
anybody arrived.

"He isn't very _hospitable_," thought Ingeborg; and remembered with a
chill that not once since her marriage had her mother-in-law invited her
to her house in Meuk. But she made excuses for him immediately.
"Everybody," she said to herself, "feels a little stiff at first."...

To this beautiful corner of the lake, for it was very beautiful those
delicate autumn afternoons, she went during Robertlet's dinner sleep to
do what she called think things out; and she sat on the little shells
with her hands round her knees, staring across the quiet water at the
line of pale reeds along the other shore, doing it. Presently, however,
she perceived that her thinking was more a general discomfort of the
mind punctuated irregularly by flashes than anything that could honestly
be called clear. Things would not be thought out--at least they would
not be thought out by her; and she was feeling sick again; and how, she
asked herself, can people who are busy being sick be anything _but_
sick? Besides, things wouldn't bear thinking out. Her eyes grew bright
with fear when one of those flashes lit up what was once more ahead of
her. It was like a scarlet spear of terror suddenly leaping at her
heart....

No, thought Ingeborg, turning quickly away all cold and trembling,
better not think; better just sit in the sun and wonder what Robertlet
would look like later on if he persisted in being exactly like Frau
Dremmel and yet in due season had to go into trousers, and what would
happen if the next one were like Frau Dremmel, too, and whether she
would presently be teaching a row of little mothers-in-law its infant
hymns. The thought of Frau Dremmel become plural, diminished into socks
and pinafores, standing neatly at her knee being taught to lisp in
numbers, seized her with laughter. She laughed and laughed; and only
stopped when she discovered that what she was really doing was crying.

"Perhaps it's talking I want more than thinking," she said to Herr
Dremmel at last, returning from one of these barren expeditions in
search of understanding.

She said it a little timidly, for she was already less to him than she
had been in that brief interval of health, and knew that with every
month she would be less and less. It was odd how sure of him she was
when she was not going to have a baby, of what an easy confidence in his
love, and how he seemed to slip away from her when she was. Already,
though she had only just begun, he was miles away from the loving mood
in which he folded her in his arms and called her his little sheep.

Herr Dremmel, who was supping, and was not in possession of the context,
recommended thinking. He added after a pause that only a woman would
have suggested a distinction.

Ingeborg did not make the obvious reply, but said she thought if she
might talk to somebody, to Robert, for instance, and with her hand in
his, rather _tight_ in his while she talked, so that she might feel
safe, feel not quite so loose and unheld together in an enormous, awful
world--

Herr Dremmel looked at his watch and said perhaps he would have time to
hold her hand next week.

A few days later she said, equally without supplying him with the
context, "It's blessing disguising itself, that's what it is."

Herr Dremmel, who again was supping, said nothing, preferring to wait.

"Blessing only pretending to be cruelty. Not really cruelty at all."

Herr Dremmel still preferred to wait.

"I thought at first it was cruelty," she said, "but now I think
perhaps--perhaps it's blessing."

"What did you think was cruelty, Ingeborg?" asked Herr Dremmel, who
disliked the repetition of such a word.

"Having this next baby so quickly--without time to forget."

Her eyes grew bright.

"Cruelty, Ingeborg?"

Herr Dremmel said one did not, when one was a pastor's wife, call
Providence names.

"That's what I'm saying," she said. "I thought at first it was cruel,
but now I see it's really ever so much better not to waste time between
one's children, and then be well for the rest of one's days. It--it will
make the contrast afterwards, when one has done with pain, so splendid."

She looked at him and pressed her hands together. Vivid recollections
lit her eyes. "But I'd give up these splendid contrasts very
_willingly_," she whispered, her face gone suddenly terror-stricken.

Herr Dremmel said that family life had always been praised not only for
its beauty but for its necessity as the foundation of the State.

"You told me," said Ingeborg, who had a trick which good men sometimes
found irritating of remembering everything they had ever said, "the
foundation of the State was manure."

Herr Dremmel said so it was. And so was family life. He would not, he
informed her, quibble over terms. What he wished to make clear was that
there could not be family life without a family to have it in.

"And don't you call you and me and Robertlet a family?" she asked.

"One child?" said Herr Dremmel. "You would limit the family to one
child? That is a highly unchristian line of conduct."

"But the Christian lines of conduct seem to _hurt_ so," murmured
Ingeborg. "Oh, I know there have to be brothers and sisters," she added
quickly before he could speak, "and it _is_ best to get it over and have
done with it. It's only when I'm--it's only sometimes that I think
Robertlet would have been enough family till--till I'd had time to
forget--"

Again the light of terror came into her eyes. She knew it was there. She
looked down at her plate to hide it.

Twice after that she came back from her thinking down by the lake and
attempted to talk to him about questions of life and death. Herr Dremmel
was bored by questions of life and death unless they were his own ones.
He met them, however, patiently. She arrived panting, for it was uphill
back to the house, desperately needing her vision rubbed a little
clearer against his so that she might reach out to reassurance and
courage, and he took on an air of patience almost before she had begun.
In the presence of that premature resignation she faltered off into
silence. Also what she had wanted to say got tangled into the silliest
sentences--she heard them being silly as they came out. No wonder he
looked resigned. She could have wept with chagrin at her
inarticulateness, her want of real education, her incapacity for getting
her thoughts torn away from their confusion and safely landed into
speech. And there stood Robert, waiting, with that air of patience....

But how odd it was, the difference between his talk before she was going
to have a baby and his silence--surely resigned silence--when she was!
She wished she knew more about husbands. She wished that during the
years at home instead of writing all those diocesan letters she had
ripely reflected on the Conjugalities.

As the days went by her need of somebody to talk to, her dread of being
alone with her imagination and its flashes, became altogether
intolerable. She went at last, driven by panic, to the village mothers,
asking anxious questions about how they had felt, how they had managed,
going round on days when she was better to the cottages where families
were longest. But nothing came of this; the attitude everywhere was a
dull acceptance, a shrug of the shoulder, a tiredness.

Then she sought out the postman's wife, who looked particularly motherly
and bright, and found that she was childless.

Then she met the forester one day in the woods, and was so far gone in
need that she almost began to ask him her anxious questions, for he
looked more motherly even than the postman's wife.

Then she thought of Baroness Glambeck, who before Robertlet's birth had
been helpful in practical ways--would she not be helpful now in these
spiritual stresses?--and she walked over there with difficulty one
afternoon in November through the deep wet sand, approaching her as one
naked soul delivered by its urgencies from the web of reticence and
convention approaches another. But nothing could be less naked that day
than the Baroness's soul. It was dressed even to gloves and a bonnet. It
had no urgencies; and Hildebrand von Glambeck was there, the only son in
the family of six, the member of it who had married most money, and his
mother was proudly pouring out coffee for him in festal silk.

It was entirely contrary to custom for one's pastor's wife to walk in
without having first inquired whether her visit would be acceptable; and
when the Baroness perceived the sandy and disordered figure coming
towards her down the long room she was not only annoyed but dismayed.
She had not seen this dearest of her children for six months, and it was
the first opportunity she had had since his arrival the evening before
of being alone with him, for he had brought a friend with him from
Berlin, and not till after luncheon had the friend, who painted, been
satisfactorily disposed of out of doors in the park, where he announced
his intention of staying as long as the sun stayed on a certain
beech-tree. She wanted to ask her boy questions. She had sent the Baron
out riding round his farms so as to be able to ask questions. She wanted
to know about his life in Berlin, to her so remote and so full of
drawbacks that yet glittered, a high, dangerous, less truly aristocratic
life than this of lofty stagnation in God's provinces, but shone upon
after all by the presence of her Emperor and King. In her heart she
believed that the Almighty had also some years ago, probably about the
time of her marriage when she, too, retired into them, withdrawn into
the provinces, and there particularly presided over those best of the
Fatherland's nobles who stayed with a pure persistency in the places
where they happened to have been born. On His departure for the country,
the Baroness decided, He had handed over Berlin and Potsdam to the care
of the First of His children, her Emperor and King; and so it was that
the provinces were higher and more truly aristocratic than Berlin and
Potsdam, and so it was that Berlin and Potsdam nevertheless ran them
very close.

And now, just as she had so cleverly contrived this hour with Hildebrand
for getting at all those intimate details of his life that a mother
loves but does not care to talk about before her husband, this hour for
hearing about his children, his meals, his money, his dear wife's
success in society and appearances, thanks to her having married into
the nobility, at Court, his own health, his indigestion--that ancient
tormentor of his peace, _armer Junge_--and whether he had seen or heard
anything of poor Emmi, his eldest sister, who had miserably married six
thousand marks a year and lived impossibly at Spandau and could not be
got to admit she did not like it--just as she was going to be satisfied
on all these points came that eccentric and pushing Frau Pastor and
spoilt it all. Also Hildebrand was in the very middle of one of those
sad stories of scandal that one wishes one had not to listen to but
naturally wants to hear the end of.

So great was the Baroness's disappointment that she found it impossible
to stop herself from affecting inability to recognise the Frau Pastor
till she was actually touching the coffee table. "Ah," she then said,
not getting up but slowly putting out her hand to take the hand that was
being offered, and staring as though she were trying to remember where
and when she had seen her before, "Ah--Frau Pastor? This is indeed an
honour."

"Present me, mamma," said Hildebrand, who had got on to his feet the
instant Ingeborg appeared in the doorway.

The ceremony performed he sank again into his chair and did nothing more
at all, being waited on by his mother and leaving it to her to see that
the visitor was given cream and sugar and cake, until the moment arrived
when Ingeborg, made abundantly and elaborately aware that she was
interrupting, prepared crest-fallen to go away again. Then once more he
started up, alert and with his heels together.

"Well, and what did her husband do?" asked the Baroness, turning again
to Hildebrand as soon as Ingeborg had been got quiet on a chair with
coffee, determined to hear the end of the story.

"My dear mother," said Hildebrand, shrugging his shoulders up to his
ears, "what could he do?"

"He shot her?"

"Of course."

"Naturally," said the Baroness, nodding approval. "Was she killed?"

"No. Badly wounded. But it was enough. His honour was avenged."

"And she will not," said the Baroness grimly, "begin these tricks
again."

Ingeborg roused herself with an effort to say something. She was
extraordinarily disappointed and unnerved by not finding the Baroness
alone. "Why did he shoot her?" she asked. It seemed to her in her
tiredness so very energetic of him to have shot her.

The Baroness turned a cold eye on her. "Because, Frau Pastor," she said,
"she was his sinning wife."

"Oh," said Ingeborg; and added an inquiry, in a nervous desire to make
for a brief space agreeable small talk before going away again, whether
in Germany they always shot each other when they sinned.

"Not each other," said the Baroness severely. "At least, not if it is a
husband and his wife. He alone shoots."

"Oh," said Ingeborg, considering this.

She was sitting inertly on her chair, holding her cup of coffee
slanting, too much dejected to drink it.

"And then does that make her love him again?" she asked, in her small
tired voice.

The Baroness did not answer.

"Only blood," said Hildebrand, "can wipe out a husband's dishonour."

"How _nasty_!" said Ingeborg dejectedly.

Life seemed all blood. She drooped over her cup, thinking of the cruelty
with which things were apparently packed. The Baroness and Hildebrand,
after a pregnant silence, turned from her and began to talk of somebody
they called poor Emmi. Ingeborg sat alone with her cup, wondering how
she could get away before she began to cry. Dreadful how easily she
cried now. She must buy some more handkerchiefs. They seemed lately to
be always at the wash.

She roused herself again. She really must say something. As her way was
when confused and unnerved, she caught at the first thing she found
tumbling about in her mind. "Why was Emmi poor?" she asked in her small
tired voice.

There was another pregnant silence.

To shorten it Ingeborg asked whether Emmi was the wife who had been
shot--"The sinning one," she explained as nobody answered.

The silence became awful.

She looked up, startled by it. From the expression on their faces and
the general feel of things she thought that perhaps they wouldn't mind
if she went home now.

She got up, dropping the spoon out of her saucer. "I--think I must be
going," she said. "It's a long way home."

"It seems hardly worth while to have come," said the Baroness with
extraordinary chill.

To which Ingeborg, absorbed in the failure of her effort to find help
and comfort, answered droopingly "No."

Outside the sun had just dropped behind the forest line, and she would
have to walk fast if she wanted to be home before dark. The mist was
already rising over the meadows beyond the trees of the garden and
beginning to mix with the rose and lilac of the sky. The sandy avenue
she had come along on that hot July day when first she discovered
Glambeck lay at her feet in the still beauty of the last of its dresses
for the year, very delicate, very transparent already, the leaves of the
beeches almost all on the ground, making of the road a ribbon of light.
A November smell of dampness and of peat smoke from cottage chimneys
filled the air. There was a brooding peace over the world, as though in
every house, in every family, brotherly love must needs in such
gentleness continue.

She went carefully down the steps, for her body was already growing
cumbersome, and along the golden way of the avenue. She tried not to
cry, not to smudge the beautiful evening with her own disappointments.
How foolish she had been to suppose that because she wanted to talk
Baroness Glambeck would want to listen! Moods did not coincide so
conveniently. She walked along, diligently stopping any stray tear with
her handkerchief before it could disgrace her by coming out on to her
cheeks. Presently Baroness Glambeck might passionately want to
listen--it was quite conceivable--and she herself would not in the least
want to talk. How foolish it all was! One had to stand on one's own
feet. It was no good going about calling out for help. It was less than
no good crying. Some day, if she continued intrepidly in this career of
maternity which seemed to be marked out for her, she, too, would be
happily pouring out coffee for a grown-up and successful man-child, all
her impatiences and pangs long since forgotten. You clearly couldn't
have a grown-up man-child to love and be proud of if you hadn't begun
him in time, he had at some period or other to be begun. And he had to
be begun in time, else one might easily be too old for acute
appreciation. She went as quickly as she could down the avenue, thinking
on large valiant lines and underneath her thinking feeling altogether
forsaken. It must be nice, a warm thing to live where one's friends and
relatives were within reach, where one could, for instance, when one
felt extra lonely go and have tea with one's mother....

A man carrying what seemed to be a great deal of something indefinite
was coming down the avenue towards her. She looked at him vaguely,
absorbed in her thoughts. It was not the Baron, and except for him she
knew nobody. She was within a yard or two of him when a quantity of
sheets of paper, long slender brushes, odd articles she did not
recognise, suddenly seemed to burst out from his person and scatter
themselves over the beech-leaves on the ground.

"Oh, damn!" said the man, making efforts to catch them.

Ingeborg, always eager to help, began clumsily to pick up those nearest
her. He had a camp-stool on one arm, and what appeared to be a
mackintosh, and was altogether greatly hampered.

"Look here, don't do that," he exclaimed, struggling with these things
which also apparently were slipping from him.

"Oh, but how lovely!" said Ingeborg, holding one of the sheets of paper
she had picked up at arm's length and staring with her red eyes at a
beech-tree on it, a celestial beech-tree surely, aflame with so great a
glory of light that it could not possibly be earthly but only the sort
of tree they have in heaven. Close, it was just splashes of colour; you
had to hold it away from you to see it at all. She blew away some grains
of sand that were on it and then held it once more as far from her as
her arm would go. "Oh, but how lovely!" she said again. "Look--doesn't
it _shine_?"

"Of course it shines. That was what it was doing," he said, coming and
looking at the sketch over her shoulder a minute, his hands full of the
things he had collected from the ground. "They said they'd send a
servant for all this, and they didn't. I hate carrying things."

"I'll carry some," said Ingeborg.

"Nonsense. And you're not going there."

"I've been. But I'd go back as far as the steps if you like."

"Nonsense. I'll leave them at the foot of this tree. He'll see them all
right."

"Not this--you mustn't leave this," she said, still gazing at the
sketch.

"No. I'll take that. And I'm coming with you a little way, because I
can't conceive where you can be going to at this time of the day that
isn't to the Glambecks', and I'm curious. Also because it's so funny of
you to be English."

"I think it's much funnier of you," said Ingeborg, picking up a pencil
out of a rut in the sand and adding it to the pile he was making against
the trunk of the nearest tree. "And I'm only going home."

"Home?"

He undid the pile and began again. He had got it wrong. The camp-stool,
of course, must be the foundation, then the smaller fly-away things,
then, neatly folded and tucking them all in, the mackintosh. She must be
an English governess or superior nurse on a neighbouring estate since
she talked of home. If so he did not want to go with her; nothing he
could think of seemed to him quite so tiresome as an English governess
or superior nurse.

He finished tucking in the mackintosh and turned round and took the
sketch from her. He was, she perceived, a long, thin-necked man with a
short red beard. She was, he perceived, somebody in a badly fitting
tweed coat and skirt, a person with a used sort of nose and weak eyes.

"Now then," he said, "I'll go with you anyhow to the end of the avenue.
Where is home?"

"Kökensee," said Ingeborg, trotting to keep up with him. "It's the next
village. I'm the pastor's wife."

Ingram--for it was that celebrated artist, then at thirty-five, already
known all over Europe as more especially and letting alone his small
exquisite things a surprising, indeed a disturbingly surprising painter
of portraits--glanced down at her and stepped out more vigorously.
"That's an amusing thing to be," he said. "And quite new."

"It isn't very new. I've been it eighteen months. Why do you think it's
amusing?"

"It's different from anything else. Nobody was ever a pastor's wife
in--what did you call it?--before."

"Kökensee."

"Kökensee. Kökensee. I like that. You're unique to live in Kökensee.
Nobody else has achieved that."

"It wasn't very difficult. I just stayed passive and was brought."

"And they didn't mind?"

"Who didn't?"

"Your people. Your father and mother. Or are you Melchisedec and never
had any?"

"Why should they mind?"

"Coming so far. It's rather the end of the world. You're right up
against the edge of Russia."

"I wanted to."

"Of course. I didn't suppose you were dragged across Europe by your hair
to Kökensee. I'll come all the way with you. I want to see Kökensee."

"Don't walk so fast, then," said Ingeborg, panting. "I _can't_ walk like
that."

He looked at her as he went slower. "Is that the effect of Kökensee?" he
said. "Why can't you walk like that? You're only a girl."

"I'm not a girl at all. I'm a wife, I'm a mother. I'm everything really
now except a mother-in-law and a grandmother. That's all there's still
left to be. I think they're rather dull things, both of them."

"You won't think so when you've got there."

"That's the dreadfullest part of it."

"It's a kindly trick Time plays on us. Are you a real pastor's wife who
goes about her parish being an example?"

"I haven't yet. But I'm going to."

"What--not begun in eighteen months? But what do you do then all day
long?"

"First I cook, and then I--don't cook."

They were out in the open, on the bit of road that passed between
meadows. Ingram stopped and looked at something over to the left with
sudden absorbed attention. She followed his eyes, but did not see
much--a wisp of mist along the grass, the top twigs of a willow emerging
from it, and above it the faint sky. He said nothing, and presently went
on walking faster than ever.

"_Please_ go a little slower," begged Ingeborg, her heart thumping with
effort.

"I think you know," said Ingram, suiting himself to her, "you should be
able to walk better than that."

"Yes," said Ingeborg.

"I suppose that's the danger of places like Kökensee--one lets oneself
get slack."

"Yes," said Ingeborg.

"You mustn't, you know. Imagine losing one's lines. Just think of the
horrible indefinite lines of a fat woman."

"Yes," said Ingeborg. "Do you paint much?" she asked, unable to endure
this turn of the conversation.

He looked at her and laughed. "A good deal," he said. Then he added,
"I'm Ingram."

"Is that your name? Mine's Dremmel."

"_Edward_ Ingram," he said, looking at her. It was inconceivable she
should not know.

"_Ingeborg_ Dremmel," she said, as though it were a game.

He was silent a moment. Then he stopped with a jerk. "I don't think I'll
come any farther," he said. "The Glambecks will be wondering what has
become of me. Glambeck brought me down for a couple of nights, and I
can't be not there all the time."

"But you wanted to see Kökensee--"

"Doesn't anybody ever read in Kökensee?"

"Read?"

"Papers? Books? Reviews? Criticisms? What the world's doing in all the
million places that aren't Kökensee? Who everybody is? What's being
thought and created?"

He had an oddly nettled look.

"Robert takes in the Norddeutscheallgemeinezeitung, and I've been
reading Kipling--"

"Kipling! Well, good-bye."

"But isn't Kipling--why, till I married I had only the Litany."

"What on earth for?"

"That and Psalms and things. I felt very _empty_ on the Litany."

"I can imagine it. I'd lose no more time then in furnishing my
emptiness. Good-bye."

"Oh, don't go--wait a moment. It's such ages since I've--Furnishing it
how? What ought I--?"

"Read, read, read--everything you can lay your hands on."

"But there _isn't_ anything to lay hands on."

"My dear lady, haven't you postcards? Write to London and order the
reviews to be sent out to you. Get some notion of people and ideas.
Good-bye."

"Oh--but won't you really come and look at Kökensee?"

"It's a dark place. I'm afraid what I'd see there would be nothing."

"There'll be more light to-morrow--"

"I'm going south again to-morrow with Glambeck. I only came for a day. I
was curious about provincial German interiors. Good-bye."

"Oh, but do--"

"My advice is very sound, you know. One can't shut one's eyes and just
sleep while the procession of men and women who are making the world
goes past one, unless"--his eyes glanced over the want of trimness of
her figure, the untidy way her loose coat was fastened--"unless one
doesn't mind running to seed."

"But I _do_ mind," cried Ingeborg. "It's the last thing I want to run
to--"

"Then don't. Good-bye."

He took off his hat and was already several steps away from her by the
time it was on his head again. Then he turned round and called out to
the dejected little figure standing where he had left it in the sandy
road with the grey curtain of mist blurring it: "It really is
_everybody's_ duty to know at least something of what's being done in
the world."

And he jerked away into the dusk towards Glambeck.

She stood a long while looking at the place where the gloom had blotted
him out. Wonderful to have met somebody who really talked to one, who
actually told one what to do. She went home making impulsive
resolutions, suddenly brave again, her chin in the air. Ill or not ill
she was not going to be beaten, she was not going to wait another day
before beginning to fill her stupid mind. It was monstrous she should be
so ignorant, so uneducated. What was she made of, then, what poor cheap
stuff, that she could think of nothing better than to cry because she
did not feel as well as she used to? Weren't there heaps of things to do
even when one was ill? Had she not herself heard of sick people whose
minds triumphed so entirely over their prostrate flesh that from really
quite perpetual beds they shed brightness on whole parishes?

She wrote that night to Mudie demanding catalogues of him almost with
fierceness, and ordered as a beginning the _Spectator_ and _Hibbert
Journal_, both of which at Redchester had been mentioned in her presence
by prebendaries. When they arrived she read them laboriously from cover
to cover, and then ordered all the monthly reviews they advertised. She
subscribed at once to the _Times_ and to a weekly paper called the
_Clarion_ because it was alluded to in one of the reviews; she showered
postcards on Mudie, for whatever books she read about she immediately
bought, deciding that that was as good a way of starting as any other;
and she had not been reading papers a week before she came across Edward
Ingram's name.

A great light dawned on her. "_Oh_--" she said with a little catch of
the breath, turning hot; and became aware that she had just been having
the most recognisably interesting encounter of her life.



CHAPTER XXII


In seven years Ingeborg had six children. She completely realised during
that period the Psalmist's ideal of a reward for a good man and was
altogether the fruitful vine about the walls of his house. She was
uninterruptedly fruitful. She rambled richly. She saw herself, at first
with an astonished chagrin and afterwards with resignation, swarming up
to the eaves of her little home, pauseless, gapless, luxuriantly
threatening choke the very chimneys. At the beginning she deplored this
uninterrupted abundance, for she could not but see that beneath it the
family roof grew a little rotten and sometimes, though she made feeble
efforts to keep it out, a rather dismal rain of discomfort soaked in and
dimmed the brightness of things. Good servants would not come to such a
teeming household. The children that were there suffered because of the
children that were soon going to be there. It was a pity, she thought,
that when one produced a new child one could not simultaneously produce
a new mother for it, so that it should be as well looked after as one's
first child had been. She could mend their stockings, because that could
be done lying on a sofa, but she was never sure about anything else that
concerned them. And there were so many things, such endless vital things
to be seen to if babies were to flourish. And when the first ones grew
bigger and she might have begun those intimate expeditions and
communions with them she used to plan, she found that, too, was
impossible, for she was so deeply engaged in providing them with more
brothers and sisters that she was unable to move.

The days between her first and second child were the best. She was still
strong enough to tub Robertlet every night and prepare his food, and
keep a watchful eye on him most of the time; also, he was only one, and
easy to deal with. And he was so exact and punctual in his ways that he
seemed like a clock you wound up at regular intervals and knew would
then go on by itself; and his clothes, naturally, were all new and
needed little mending; and she still had Ilse, who did not marry till a
year later; and she had persuaded herself, for one must needs persuade
oneself of something, that after this next baby there would be a pause.

This persuasion, and the few admonishments Edward Ingram had thrown at
her that afternoon, helped her extraordinarily. So easily could she be
stirred to courage and enthusiasm that she was able to forget most of
her fears and discomforts in the new business of training her mind to
triumph over her body, and she got through a surprising quantity of
mixed reading that winter and spring; and when at last in the following
May her hour had come, she marched off almost recklessly with her two
plaits already hanging down her back and her head held high and her eyes
wide and shining to the fatal bedroom where Death she supposed, but
refused to care, sat waiting to see if he could not get her this time,
so filled was she with the spirit she had been cultivating for six
months of proud determination not to be beaten.

She was, however, beaten.

It was the absence of pauses that beat her. She came to be, as the
German phrase put it, in a continual condition of being blest. She came
to be also continually more bloodless. Gradually sinking away more and
more from energy as one child after the other sapped her up, she left
off reading, dropping the more difficult things first. The _Hibbert
Journal_ went almost at once. Soon the _Times_ was looked at languidly
and not opened. The _National Review_ gave her an earache. Presently she
was too far gone even for the _Spectator_. The _Clarion_ lasted longest,
but a growing distaste for its tone caused it finally to be abandoned.
For she was becoming definitely religious; she was ceasing to criticise
or to ask Why? She would sit for hours contemplating the beauty of
acquiescence. It gave her a boneless satisfaction. The more anæmic she
grew the easier religion seemed to be. It was much the least difficult
thing to be passive, to yield, not to think, not to decide, never to
want explanations. And everybody praised her. How nice that was!
Baroness Glambeck approved, Frau Dosch approved loudly. The elder Frau
Dremmel came out each year twice and silently approved of a mother whose
offspring was so strikingly like herself; while as for Kökensee, it
regarded her with the respect due to a person becoming proverbial. It is
true Robert seemed to love her rather less than more, in spite of her
obviously deserving to be loved more than ever now that she was at one
with him about Providence; yet it was hardly fair to say that, either,
for nobody could be kinder than he was when he was not busy. He was busy
from morning to night. How nice that was, she thought, her hands folded;
she had always thought it nice to be busy.

Of her six children Robertlet flourished, and so did the sister who came
after him. The next two died, one doing it boldly of mumps, a thing that
had never been achieved before and greatly interested the doctor, who
predicted a memorable future for him if he had been going to have one,
and the other, more explicably, by falling out of the punt when his very
existence depended on his keeping in it. Then they took to being born
dead; two of them in succession did this; and it was after the second
had done it that Ingeborg reached her lowest ebb of vitality and could
hardly be got to say a sentence that did not include heaven.

When she had been up and dressed two months and still lay about on sofas
being religious, Herr Dremmel, who was patient but slowly becoming
conscious that there was an atmosphere of _chapelle ardente_ about his
parlour on his coming into it with the innocent briskness of a good man
to his supper, thought perhaps the Meuk doctor, who by now was a
familiar feature in his life, had better come over and advise; and so it
was that Ingeborg went to Zoppot, that bracing and beautiful seaside
resort near Danzig, leaving her home for the first time since her
marriage, going indeed with as much unwillingness as so will-less a
person could possess, but sent off regardless of her moist opposition by
the doctor, who would not even allow her to take Robertlet and Ditti
with her.

She went in the care of the nurse who had helped her after Robertlet's
birth, and she was to stay there all June and all July, and all August
and September as well if necessary.

"But what will they do without me?" she kept on feebly asking. "And my
duties--how can I leave everything?"

Tears poured down her face at her departure. She gave keepsakes to both
the servants. She sent for the sexton, with whom she had latterly grown
friendly, and tried to speak but could not. She folded the impassive
Robertlet and Ditti to her heart so many times that they were stirred to
something almost approaching activity and resistance.

"Your prayers--you won't forget what Mummy taught you?" she wept, as
though she were taking leave of them for ever.

"Dear Robert," she sobbed, clinging to him with her cheek against his on
the platform at Meuk where he saw her off, "do forgive me if I've been a
bad wife to you. I _have_ tried. You won't forget--will you--ever--that
I _did_ try?"

The nurse gave her a spoonful of Brand's Meat Jelly. The journey was a
journey of jelly combating grief. All the way each relapse into woe was
instantly interrupted by jelly; and it was not till the evening, when
they reached the little pension on the sands which was to be their home
for two months, and Ingeborg going to the open window gave a quick cry
as the full freshness and saltness and heaving glancing beauty burst
upon her, that the nurse threw the rest of the tin away and put her
trust altogether in the sea.

Herr Dremmel returned to his wifeless home in a meditative frame of
mind. As he jolted along in the same carriage, only grown more shaky, in
which he had brought his bride back seven years before, he indulged,
first, in a brief wonder at the ups and downs of women; from this he
passed to a consideration of the superior reliability of chemicals; from
this, again, he proceeded to reflect that, nevertheless, a man's life
should be decorated at the edges, and that the most satisfactory
decoration was a wife and family. Ingeborg, in spite of her ups and
downs, had been a good wife to him, and he did not regret having
attached her to his edges, but then he also had done his part and been a
good husband to her. Few marriages, he thought, could have been so
harmonious and successful as theirs. He loved her as an honest man
should love his wife--at judicious intervals. Always he had affection
for her, and liked being with her when she was feeling well. Her
money--every wife should have a little--had helped him much, indeed had
made most of the successes that had rewarded his labours possible, and
she had given him a child a year, which was, he was aware, the maximum
output and rendered him civically satisfactory. That these children
should, four of them, not have succeeded in staying alive, and that the
two who had should bear so striking a resemblance to his mother, a
person he knew for unintelligent, were misfortunes, but one did not
dwell on misfortunes; one turned one's back on them and went away and
worked. The central fact of life, its core of splendour, he said to
himself as, arrived at home, he hung up his hat in the passage and
prepared to plunge with renewed appetite into his laboratory, was work;
but, he added as he passed the open door of the sitting-room, and was
reminded by its untidiness of domesticities, since one had to withdraw
occasionally from the heat of that great middle light and refresh
oneself in something cooler, one needed a place of relaxation where the
interest was more attenuated, a ring of relative tepidity round the
bright centre of one's life, and this ring was excellently supplied by
the object commonly called the family circle. The harder he worked, the
more hotly he pursued knowledge, the more urgent was a man's need for
intervals of tepidity. One sought out one's little wife and rested one's
brain; one took one's son on one's knee; one pulled, perhaps, the plait
of one's daughter.

Life for Herr Dremmel was both great and simple. During the seven years
of his marriage it had become continually more so. There were times he
could remember previous to that event when he had lost sight of this
truth in a confused hankering, periods during which he had hankered
persistently, moments that astonished him afterwards to call to mind
when, the lilacs being out in the garden and the young corn of the
fields asprout in the warm spring sun, his laboratory, that place of
hopes and visions, had incredibly appeared to him to be mere bones.
Marriage had banished these distortions of perception, and he had lived
seven years in the full magnificent consciousness of the greatness and
simplicity of life. He was armoured by his singleness of purpose. He
never came out of his armour and was petty. Not once, while Ingeborg in
a distant corner of the house was fearing that she had hurt him, or
offended him, or had made him think she did not love him, had he been
hurt or offended or thinking anything of the sort. He was absorbed in
great things, great interests, great values. There was no room in his
thoughts for meditations on minor concerns. The days were not wide
enough for the bigness they had to hold, and it never would have
occurred to him to devote any portion of their already limited space to
inquiring if he had been hurt. His interested eyes, carefully examining
and comparing and criticising phenomena, had no time for introspection.
As the years passed and successes followed upon his patience, his
absorption and subjugation by his work became increasingly profound; for
a man has but a handful of years, and cannot during that brief span live
too inquisitively. Herr Dremmel was wringing more out of Nature, who
only asks to be forced to tell, each year. He was accumulating
experiences and knowledge of an interest and value so great that
everything else was trivial beside them. The passing day was forgotten
in the interest of the day that was to come. The future was what his
brain was perpetually concerned with, and an eye ranging with growing
keenness over a growingly splendid and detailed vision cannot observe,
it would be an interruption, a waste to observe, the fluctuations in the
moods of, for instance, a family or a parish.

Wives, children, and parishes are adornments, obligations, and means of
livelihood. They are what a man has as well, but only as well. Herr
Dremmel during these years had trained his parish to be unobtrusive in
return for his own unobtrusiveness, and in spite of occasional
restiveness on the part of Baron Glambeck, who continued from time to
time, on the ground that the parish was becoming heathen and displaying
the smug contentment characteristic of that condition, to endeavour to
persuade the authorities to remove him somewhere else, was more firmly
established than ever in the heart of a flock that only wanted to be
left alone; and as for his wife and children, he regarded them
benevolently as the necessary foundation of his existence, the airy
cellars that kept the fabric above sweet and dry. Like cellars, one had
to have them, and one was glad when they were good, but one did not live
in them. As a wise man who wished to do fine work before being overtaken
by the incapacitations of death, he had contrived his life so that it
should contain enough love to make him able to forget love. It is not,
he had come to know very well since his marriage, by doing without but
by having that one can clear one's mind of wanting; and it is only the
cleared mind that can achieve anything at all in the great work of
helping the world to move more quickly on its journey towards the light.

For some weeks after Ingeborg's departure he was immensely unaware of
her absence. It was June, that crowded month for him who has
experimental fields; and small discomforts at home, such as ill-served,
unpunctual meals and rooms growing steadily less dusted, at no time
attracted his notice. He would come out of his laboratory after a good
morning's work in much the same spirit with which the bridegroom issuing
from his chamber, a person details cannot touch, is filled, and would
eat contentedly any food he found lying about and be off to his fields
almost before Robertlet and Ditti had done struggling with their bibs
and saying their preliminary grace.

The children, however, took no base advantage of this being left to
themselves. Robertlet did not turn on Ditti and seize her dinner because
she was a girl; Ditti did not conceal more than her share of pudding in
her pocket for comfort during the empty afternoon hours. They sat in
silence working through the meal, using their knives to eat with instead
of their forks, for knives rather than forks were in their blood, and
unmoved by the way in which bits they had carefully stalked round and
round their plates ended by tumbling over the edge on to the tablecloth.
They were patient children, and when that happened they made no comment,
but dropping their knives also on the tablecloth picked up the bits in
their fingers and ate them. At the end Ditti said the closing grace as
her mother had taught her, Robertlet having officiated at the opening
one, and they both stood behind their chairs with their eyes shut while
she expressed gratitude in German to the dear Saviour who had had the
friendliness to be their guest on that occasion, and having reached the
Amen, in which Robertlet joined, they did not fall upon each other and
fight, as other unshepherded children filled with meat and pudding might
have done, but left the room in a sober file and went to the kitchen and
requested the servant Rosa, who was the one who would have been their
nurse if they had had one, to accompany them to their bedroom and see
that they cleaned their teeth.

They spent the afternoons in not being naughty.

Herr Dremmel, accordingly, because of this health and sobriety in his
children and his own indifference to his comfort, had no domestic
worries such as engulf other men whose wives are away to disturb him,
and it was not till July was drawing to a close and a long drought
forced leisure upon him that Ingeborg's image began to obtrude itself
through the chinks of his work.

At first he thought of her as a mother, as somebody heavy, continually
recovering from or preparing for illness; but presently he began to
think of her as a wife, as his wife, as his proper complement and
relaxation from all this toil shut up in a dull laboratory. She seemed
to grow brighter and lighter thought of like that, and by the time he
received a letter asking if she might stay away another fortnight to
complete what was being a thorough cure she was so brightly in his mind
that he felt extremely disappointed.

He wrote giving the permission she asked, and made the discovery that
his house looked empty and that a fortnight was long. He paced the
garden in the hot evenings, smoking beneath the lime-trees where he and
she at the beginning used so gaily to breakfast, and forgot how slow of
movement and mind she had been for several years, how little he had
really seen of her, how more and more his attitude towards her had been
one of patience; and when he went in to his supper, which he suddenly
did not like and criticised, what he found himself looking for was not
the figure he had been used to find lying silent on the sofa, but the
quick, light, flitting thing that laughed and pulled his ears, the
Ingeborg of the beginning, his little sheep.

On the day she came home, although it was the very height of harvesting
and the first samples of the year's grain lay on his table waiting to be
examined, he gave up the afternoon to driving in to Meuk to meet her,
and waited on the platform with an impatient expectancy he had not felt
for years.

"It is not good for man to live alone," were his first words as he
embraced her largely in the door of the railway carriage, while the
porter, in a fever to get out the hand luggage and run and attend to
other passengers, had to wait till he had done. "Little sheep, how could
you stay away so long from the old shepherd?"

She was looking very well, he thought--sunburnt and with many new
freckles, rounder, quite young, a sweet little wife for a long solitary
husband to have coming home to him.

He lifted her proudly into the carriage and drove through Meuk with his
arm round her, waving the other one at the doctor who rallied past them
in his own high shaky vehicle and shouting, "Cured!"

The doctor, however, seemed surprised at seeing Ingeborg, and did not
smile back but looked inscrutably at them both.

She asked about the welfare of the children, and whether their ears had
been properly washed.

"Ears?" exclaimed Herr Dremmel. "And what, pray, have the ears of others
to do with a reunited wedded couple?"

She hoped, a little hurriedly, that Rosa and the cook had been good to
him.

"Rosa and the cook?" he cried. "What talk is this of Rosa and the cook?
If you are not silent with your domesticities I will kiss you here and
now in the middle of the open highroad."

She said she had never really thanked him for letting her go to Zoppot
and be there so long.

"Too long, Little One," he interrupted, drawing her closer. "Almost had
I forgotten what a dear little wife I possess."

"But I'm going to make up for it all now," she said, "and work harder
than I've ever done in my life."

"At making the good Robert happy," he said, pinching her ear.

"And doing things for the children. Dreadful to think of them all this
time without me. Were they good?"

"Good as fishes."

"Robert--fishes?"

"They are well, Little One, and happy. That is enough about the
children. Tell me rather about you, how you filled up your days."

"I walked, I sailed, I bathed, I lay in the sun, and I made
resolutions."

"Excellent. I shall await the result with interest."

"I hope you'll like them. I know they'll be very good for the children."

She had so earnest a face that he pulled it round by the chin and peered
at it. Seen close she was always prettiest, full of delicacy and charm
of soft fair skin, and after examining her a moment with a pleased smile
he stooped down and did, after all, kiss her.

She flushed and resisted.

"What?" he said, amused. "The little wife growing virginal again?"

"You've made my hat crooked," she said, putting up her hands to
straighten it. "Robert, how are the fields?"

"I will not talk about the fields. I will talk about you."

"Oh, Robert. You know," she added nervously, "I'm not _really_ well yet.
I've still got to go on taking tiresome things--that tonic, you know.
The doctor there said I'm still anæmic--"

"We will feed her on portions of the strongest ox."

"So you mustn't mind, if I--if I--"

"I mind nothing if only I once more have my little wife at home," said
Herr Dremmel; and when he helped her down on to the parsonage steps,
where stood Robertlet and Ditti in a stiff and proper row waiting
motionless till their mother should have got near enough for them to
present her with the nosegays they were holding, he kissed her again,
and again pinched her ear, and praised God aloud that his widowerhood
was over.

They had tea, a meal that had long before been substituted for the
heavier refreshment of coffee, in a parlour filled with flowers by Rosa
and the cook, the very cake, baked for the occasion, being strewn with
them. Herr Dremmel lounged on the sofa behind the table looking placidly
content, with one arm round his wife, while Robertlet and Ditti, awed by
the splendours of the decorations for their mother's home-coming and
their own best clothes and spotless bibs, sat opposite, being more
completely good than ever. From their side of the table they stared
unflinchingly at the two people on the sofa--at their comfortably
reclining, pleased-looking father, whom they knew so differently as a
being always hurriedly going somewhere else, at their mother sitting up
very straight, with her veil pushed up over her nose, pouring out tea
and smiling at them and keeping on giving them more jam and more milk
and more cake even after, aware from their sensations that overflowing
could not be far off, they had informed her by anxious repetitions of
the word _satt_, which she did not seem to hear, that they were already
in a dangerous condition. And they wondered dimly why, when she poured
out the tea, her hand shook and made it spill.

"I will now," said Herr Dremmel when the meal was finished, getting up
and brushing crumbs out of the many folds that were characteristic of
his clothes, "retire for a space into my laboratory."

He looked at Ingeborg and smiled. "Picture it," he said. "The only
solace I have now had for two months and a half has been in the bony
arms of my laboratory. I grow weary of them. It is well to have one's
little wife home again. A man, to do his work, needs his life complete,
equipped in each of its directions. His laboratory seems bony to him if
he has not also a wife; his wife would seem not bony enough if he had
not also a laboratory. Bony and boneless, bony and boneless--it is the
swing of the pendulum of the wise man's life." And he bent over her and
lifted her face up again by putting his finger under her chin. "Is it
not so, Little One?" he asked, smiling.

"I--suppose so," said Ingeborg.

"Suppose so!"

He laughed, and pulled an escaping tendril of her hair, and went away in
great contentment and immersed himself very happily in the saucers of
new grain waiting to be weighed and counted.

It was a fine August afternoon, and his windows were open, for there was
no wind to blow his papers about, and he was pleased when he presently
became aware out of the corner of an eye withdrawn an instant from its
work that his wife had come out on to the path below and was walking up
and down it in the way she used to before the acuter period of the sofa
and the interest in life beyond the grave had set in.

He liked to see her there. There was a grass bank sloping up from the
path to beneath his windows, and by standing on tip-toe on the top of
this and stretching up an arm as far as it would go one was just able to
tap against the glass. He remembered how she used to do this when first
they were married, on very fine days, to try to lure him out from his
duties into dalliance with her among the lilacs. It amused him to find
himself almost inclined to hope she would do it now, for it was long
since there had been dalliance and he felt this was an occasion, this
restoration to normality, on which some slight trifling in a garden
would not be inappropriate.

But Ingeborg, though she loitered there nearly half an hour, did not
even look up. She wandered up and down in the cool shade the house threw
across the path in the afternoon, her hat off, apparently merely
enjoying the beauty of a summer day bending towards its evening, and
presently he forgot her in the vivid interest of what he was doing; so
that it was the surprised expression of some one who has forgotten and
is trying to recall that he looked at her when, after a knock at the
door which he had not heard, he saw her come in and stand at the corner
of his table waiting till he had done counting--a process he conducted
aloud--to the end of the row of grains he was engaged upon.

His thoughts were still chiefly with them as he looked up at her when he
had done and had written down the result, but there was room in them
also for a slight wonder that she should be there. She had not
penetrated into his laboratory for years. She had been tamed, after a
period of recurring insurrections, into respect for its sanctity. But he
did not mind being interrupted on this occasion; on the contrary, as
soon as he had fully returned to consciousness he was pleased. There was
a large warmth pervading Herr Dremmel that afternoon which made him
inclined not to mind anything. "Well, Little One?" he said.

Immediately she began to deliver what sounded like a speech. He gazed at
her in astonishment. She appeared to be in a condition of extreme
excitement; she was addressing him rapidly in a trembling voice; she was
much flushed, and was holding on to the edge of the table. It was so
sudden and so headlong that it was like nothing so much as the gushing
forth of the long corked-up contents of an over-full bottle, and he
gazed at her in an astonishment that did not for some time permit him to
gather the drift of what she was saying.

When he did she had already got to the word Ruins.

"Ruins?" repeated Herr Dremmel.

"Ruins, ruins. It _must_ stop--it _can't_ go on. Oh, I saw it so clearly
the last part of the time in Zoppot. I suppose it was the sea wind blew
me clear. Our existence, Robert, our decently happy existence in a
decently happy home with properly cared-for children--"

"But," interrupted Herr Dremmel, raising his hand, "one moment--what is
it that must stop?"

"Oh, don't you see all that will be in ruins about us--but in _ruins_,
Robert--all our happy life--if I go on in this--in this wild career
of--of unbridled motherhood?"

Herr Dremmel stared. "Unbridled--?" he began; then he repeated, so deep
was his astonishment, "Wild career of--Ingeborg, did you say unbridled
motherhood?"

"Yes," said Ingeborg, pressing her hands together, evidently
extraordinarily agitated. "I learned that by heart at Zoppot, on purpose
to say to you. I knew if I didn't directly I got into this room I'd
forget everything I meant to say. I know it sounds ridiculous, the way I
say it--"

"Unbridled motherhood?" repeated Herr Dremmel. "But--are you not a
pastor's wife?"

"Oh, yes, yes--I know, I know. I know there's Duty and Providence, but
there's me, too--there is me, too. And, Robert, won't you see? We shall
be happy again if I'm well, we shall be two real people instead of just
one person and a bit of one--you and a battered thing on a sofa--"

"Ingeborg, you call a wife and a mother engaged in carrying out her
obligations a battered thing on a sofa?"

"Yes," said Ingeborg, hurrying on to the principal sentence of those she
had prepared at Zoppot and learned by heart, desperately clutching at it
before Robert's questions had undermined her courage and befogged the
issues. "Yes, and I've come to the conclusion after ripe
meditation--after ripe yes--the production of the--of the--yes, of the
already extinct"--(dead seemed an unkind word, almost rude) "is
wasteful, and that--and that--....Oh, Robert," she cried, flinging out
her hands and letting go all the rest of the things she had learned to
say, "don't you think this persistent parenthood might end now?"

He stared at her in utter amazement.

"It--it _disagrees_ with me," she said, tears in her voice and in her
anxious, appealing eyes.

"Am I to under--"

"Anyhow _I_ can't go on," she cried, twisting her fingers about in an
agony. "There's so little of me to go on _with_. I'm getting stupider
every day. I've got no brains left. I've got no anything. Why, I can
hardly get together enough courage to tell you this. Oh, Robert," she
appealed, "it isn't as though it made you _really_ happier--you don't
really _particularly_ notice the children when they're there--it isn't
as though it made anybody _really_ happier--and--and--I'm dreadfully
sorry, but I've done."

And she dropped on to the floor beside him and put her cheek against his
sleeve and tried to make up by kissing it and clinging to it for her
subversion of that strange tremendous combination of Duty and Providence
that so bestrode her life. "If only you wouldn't _mind_--" she kept on
saying.

But Herr Dremmel, for the first time since he had known her, was deeply
offended, deeply hurt. She had pierced his armour at the one vulnerable
spot. His manhood was outraged; his kindness, his patience, his
affection were forgotten and spurned. He looked down at the head against
his arm with a face in which wounded pride, wrath, shockedness at so
great a defiance of duty, and the amazed aggrievement of him whose gifts
and blessings are not wanted, struggled together. Then, as she still
went on clinging and incoherently suggesting that he should not mind, he
rose up, took her by the hand, helped her to her feet, and led her to
the door; and there, after facing her a moment in silence with it opened
in his hand while she stood blinking up at him with appealing eyes, he
said dreadfully: "Evidently you do not and never have loved me."



CHAPTER XXIII


Ingeborg crept away down the passage with the sound in her ears of the
key being turned in the lock behind her.

She was crushed. That Robert should think she had never loved him, that
he should not even let her tell him how much she had and did! She stared
out of the little window at the foot of the stairs at the untidy
vegetables in the garden. This was the quality of life--Brussels
sprouts, and a door being locked behind one. It was all grey and
difficult and tragic. She had hurt Robert, offended him. He was in there
thinking she didn't love him. What he had said was peculiarly shattering
coming from a mouth that had been always kind. Yet what was there to do
but this? The alternative, it seemed, was somebody's dying; and if the
children did live there would be the death of the spirit, the decay of
all lovely things in the home, the darkening of all light; there would
be neglect, apathy, an utter running to seed. But she felt guilty and
conscience-stricken. She was no longer sure she was right. Perhaps it
was indeed her duty to go on, perhaps she was indeed being wicked and
cruel. The clearness of vision that had been hers at Zoppot was blurred;
she was confused, infinitely distressed. Yet through the distress and
confusion there kept on jabbing something like a little spear of light,
and always it pointed in this one direction....

She stood leaning against the wall by the open window, a miserable
mixture of doubt and conviction, remorse and determination. All her life
she had been servile--servile with the sudden rare tremendous
insurrections that upheave certain natures brought up in servility,
swift tempests more devastating than the steady fighting of systematic
rebels. Her insurrections were epoch-making. When they occurred the
destiny of an entire family was changed. Fathers and husbands were not
prepared for anything but continued acquiescence in one so constantly
acquiescent. As far as she was concerned they felt they might sleep
peacefully in their beds. Then this obedient thing, this pliable
uncontradicting thing would return, for instance, from an illicit trip
abroad, betrothed to an unknown foreigner, and somehow in spite of
violent opposition marry him; or, as in this second volcanic upheaval,
with no preliminaries whatever, refuse point blank--the final effect on
Herr Dremmel's mind of her incoherence was a point blankness--to live
with her husband as his wife.

Behind the locked door his anger was as great as her distressed
confusion outside it. She was to be his wife but not his wife. Under his
roof. A perpetual irritation. She had decreed, this woman who had
nothing to decree, that there were to be no more Dremmels. The
indignation of the thwarted ancestor was heavy upon him. Her moral
obliquity shocked him, her disregard for the give and take necessary if
a civilised community is to continue efficient. How was he going to work
with that constant reminder about his house of his past placidities?
Already it had begun, the annoyance, the hindering, for here he was
sitting in front of his samples making mistakes in weighing, adding up
wrong, forced by humiliatingly different results each time to count the
grains over and over again.

Driven by the stress of the situation to unfairness, he remembered with
a kind of bitter affection those widows who had darkened his past so
soothingly before his marriage, the emotional peace their bony
dustiness, their bonneted dinginess had secured him. They had been, he
perceived, like a dark blind shading his eyes from the tormenting glare
of too much domesticity. The most infuriated of that black and blessed
band had been better than this threatening excess of relationship. Not
one had ever come between him and his steady reaching forward. Not one
had even once caused him to count his grains twice over. A man who
wishes to work, he told himself, must clear his life of women; of all
women, that is--for there are certain elementary actions connected with
saucepans and bedmaking that only women will do--except widows. A wife
who is not a wife and who yet persists in looking as if she were one,
can be nothing but a goad and a burden for an honest man. Either she
should look like some one used up and finished or she should continue to
discharge her honourable functions until such time as she developed the
physical unattractiveness that placed her definitely on the list of
women one respects. That Ingeborg should choose the moment when she
seemed younger and rounder than ever to revolt against Duty and
Providence appeared to him in his first wrath deliberately malicious. He
was amazed. He could not believe he was being called out of his
important and serious work, beckoned out of it just when it was going so
well, in order to be hurt, in order to be made acquainted with pain, and
by her of all people in the world whom he used to call--surely he had
been kind?--his little sheep. To be hit by one's sheep! To be hit
violently by it so that the blows actually shook one at the very moment
of greatest affection for it, of rejoicing over its return, of plunging
one's hands most confidently into the comfort of its wool!

Herr Dremmel was amazed.

He stayed in his laboratory in this condition till supper; then, during
the meal, he carefully read a book which he propped up in front of him
against the loaf, while Ingeborg, ministering to him with the eager
deftness of the conscience-stricken, watched for a sign of forgiveness
out of the corners of red eyes.

He stayed after supper in his laboratory till past midnight, still being
amazed, reduced indeed at last to walking up and down that calm temple
of untiring attempts to nail down ultimate causes, considering how best
he could bring his wife to reason.

The business of bringing a woman to reason had always seemed to him
quite the most extravagant way of wasting good time. To have to discuss,
argue, explain, threaten, adjure, only in order to get back to the point
from which nobody ought ever to have started, was the silliest of all
silly necessities. Again he fumed at the thought of an untractable,
undutiful wife about him, and recognised the acute need to be clear of
feminine childishness, egotism, unforeseeable resiliences, if a man
would work. In his stirred stale it appeared altogether monstrous that
the whole world should be blotted out, the great wide world of
magnificent opportunity and spacious interest, even for a day, even for
an hour, by the power to make him uncomfortable, by the power to make
him concentrate his brains on an irrelevant situation, of one small
woman.

He went to their room about half-past twelve determined to have no more
of the nonsense. He would bring her then and there, by the shortest
possible route, to reason. He would have it out even to the extent of
severity and have done with it. He was master, and if she forced him to
emphasize the fact he would.

Carrying the lamp he went to their room with the firm footsteps of one
who has ceased to be going to stand things.

But the room was empty. It was as chillily empty of wifely traces as it
had been since the beginning of June.

"This is paltry," thought Herr Dremmel, feeling the offence was now so
great as to have become ridiculous; and determined to discover into what
fastness she had withdrawn and fetch her out of it, he went lamp in hand
doggedly through the house looking for her, beginning with the thorough
patience of one accustomed to research in the kitchen, where shy
cockroaches peeped at him round the legs of tables, examining the
parlour, stuffy with the exhaustion of an ended day, penetrating into a
room in which Rosa and the cook reared themselves up in their beds to
regard him with horror unspeakable, and at last stumbling up the narrow
staircase to where Robertlet and Ditti slept the sleep of the
unvaryingly just.

Here, in a third small bed of the truckle type, lay his defaulting wife,
her face to the wall, her body composed into an excess of
motionlessness.

"Ingeborg!" he called, holding the lamp high over his head.

But she did not stir.

"Ingeborg!" he called again.

But never did woman sleep so soundly.

He walked across to the bed and bent over, searching her face by the
light of the lamp. Most of it was buried in the pillow, but the one eye
visible was tightly shut, more immensely asleep than any eye he had ever
seen.

The indifference that could sleep while her outraged husband was looking
for her revolted him. Without making any further attempt to wake her he
turned on his heel, and slamming the door behind him went downstairs
again.

"That is thieves at last," remarked Ditti, who had been expecting them
for years, brought out of her dreams--good dreams--by the noise of the
door.

"Yes," said Robertlet, also roused from dreams that did him credit.

"We must now get under the clothes," said Ditti, who had settled long
ago what would be the right thing to do.

"Yes," said Robertlet.

"You needn't," said Ingeborg out of the darkness--they both started,
they had forgotten she was there--"it was only Papa."

Put the thought of Papa coming up to their room and banging the door in
the middle of the night filled them in its strangeness with an even
greater uneasiness; they would have preferred thieves; and after some
preliminary lying quiet and being good they one after the other withdrew
as silently as possible beneath the comfort of the clothes, where they
waited in neat patience for the next thing Papa might do until, stifled
but uncomplaining, they once more fell asleep.

There followed some days of strain in the Kökensee parsonage.

Herr Dremmel retired into an extremity of silence, made no allusion to
these regrettable incidents, became at meals a mere figure behind a
newspaper, and at other times was not there at all.

He had decided that he would not waste his energies in anger. At the
earliest opportunity he would drive in to Meuk, call on the doctor, and
after explaining the effect of Zoppot, a place which was to have cured
her, on his wife, request him now to prescribe a cure for the cure. It
was Ingeborg's business to come to her husband and ask for forgiveness,
and he would give her these few days in which to do it. If she did not
he would know, after consultation with the doctor, what course to
take--whether of severity, or whether, setting aside his manhood, it was
not rather an occasion on which one ought to coax. He was, after all,
too humane to resort without medical sanction to scenes. Perhaps what
she needed was only a corrective to Zoppot. There was such a thing as
excess of salubriousness.

Having made up his mind, he found himself calmer, able to work again in
the knowledge that in a few days he would be clear, with the aid of the
doctor, as to what should be done; and Ingeborg had nothing to complain
of except that he would not speak. Several times she tried to reopen the
so hastily closed subject, but got no further in the face of his
monumental silence than "But, Robert--"

She took the children for outings in the forest, and while they did not
chatter merrily together and did not play at games she thought over all
the ways that were really tactful of luring him to reasonable
discussion. She knew she had made a lamentable first appearance in the
_rôle_ of a retiring mother, but how difficult it was when you felt
overwhelmingly to talk objectively. And then there were tears. A woman
cried, and what a handicap that was. Before the first semicolon in any
vital discourse with one's husband was reached one was dissolved in
tears, thought Ingeborg, ashamed and resentful; and Robert grew so calm
and patient, so disconcertingly calm and patient when faced by crying;
he sat there like some large god, untouched by human distress, waiting
for the return of reason. It is true he cried, too, sometimes, but only
about odd things like Christmas Eves and sons if they were sufficiently
new born--things that came under the category surely of cheerful, at
most of cheerfully touching; but he never cried about these great
important issues, these questions on which all one's happiness hung.
Life would run more easily, she thought, if husbands and wives had the
same taste in tears.

Four days after her return home she asked him to forgive her.

It was at the end of supper, and he had just removed his book from the
supporting loaf and was getting up to go when she ran across to him with
the quickness of despair and laid hold of him by both his sleeves and
said, "Forgive me."

He looked down at her with a gleam in his eye; he would not have to go
to Meuk after all.

"Do," she begged. "Robert! Do! You know I love you. I'm so miserable to
have hurt you. Do let's be friends. Won't we?"

"Friends?" echoed Herr Dremmel, drawing back. "Is that all you have to
say to me?"

"Oh, do be friends! I can't bear this."

"Ingeborg," he said with the severity of disappointment, pulling his
sleeves out of her hands and going to the door, "have you then not yet
discovered that a true husband and wife can never be friends?"

"Oh, but how dreadful!" said Ingeborg, dropping her hands by her side
and staring after him as he went out.

Toward the end of the week, when her unassisted meditations continued to
produce no suggestions of any use for removing the stain that
undoubtedly rested on her, she thought she would go in to Meuk and seek
the counsel of the doctor. He had always been good to her, kind and
understanding. She would go to him more in the spirit of one who goes to
a priest than to a doctor, and inquire of him earnestly what she should
do to be saved.

She found the position at home unendurable. If the doctor told her that
it was her duty to go on having children, and that it was mere chance
the two last had been born dead, she would resume her career. It was a
miserable career--a terrible, maimed thing--but less miserable than
doubt as to whether one were not being wicked and Robert was being
utterly right. Not for nothing was she the daughter of a bishop, and had
enjoyed for twenty-two years the privileges of a Christian home. Also
she well knew that the public opinion of Kökensee and Glambeck would be
against her in this matter of rebellion, and she felt too weak to stand
up alone against these big things. She had never been able to hold out
long against prolonged disapproval; nor had she ever been able to endure
that people round her should not be happy. By the end of the week she
was so wretched and so full of doubts that she decided to put her trust
in Meuk and abide by the decision of its doctor; and so it happened that
she set out on the five-mile walk to it on the same day on which Herr
Dremmel drove there.

He had driven off in the middle of the morning with sandwiches for
himself and the coachman in the direction of the experiment ground,
telling her he would not be in till the evening, so she seized the
favourable opportunity and, also armed with sandwiches, started soon
after twelve o'clock for Meuk. The doctor's consulting hour was, she
knew, from two to three, and if she were there punctually at two she
could talk to him, have her fate decided, and be home again by four.

She walked along the edge of the harvested rye-fields eating her
sandwiches as she went, and refusing to think for this brief hour and a
half of the difficulties of life. Her mind was weary of them. She would
put them away from her for this one walk. It was the brightest of August
middays. The world seemed filled with every element of happiness. Some
people, probably friends of the Glambecks, were shooting partridges over
the stubble. The lupin fields were in their full glory, and their
peculiar orange scent met her all along the way. There was a mile of
sandy track to be waded through, and then came four good miles of hard
white highroad between reddening mountain ashes to Meuk. Walking in that
clear fresh warmth, so bright with colour, so sweet with scents, she
could not but begin gradually to glow, and by the time she arrived at
the doctor's house, however wan her spirits might be, the rest of her
was so rosy that the servant who opened the door tried to head her off
from the waiting-room to the other end of the passage, persuaded that
what she had come for could not be the doctor, but an animated call on
the doctor's wife. She entered the waiting-room, a dingy place, with
much the effect of a shaft of light piercing through a fog; and there,
sitting at the table, turning over the fingered and aged piles of
illustrated weeklies, she found Herr Dremmel. For a moment they stared
at each other.

There was no one else there. Through folding-doors could be heard the
murmur of a patient consulting in the next room. Meuk was not usually a
sick place, and nine times out of ten the doctor read his newspaper
undisturbed from two to three; this was the tenth time, and though it
had only just struck two a patient was with him already.

Herr Dremmel and Ingeborg stared at each other for a moment without
speaking. Then he said, suddenly angered by the realisation that she had
come in to Meuk without asking him if she might, "You did not tell me
you were coming here."

"No," said Ingeborg.

"Why have you come?"

She sat down as inconspicuously as she could on the edge of a chair in a
corner and clung to her umbrella. It was the awkwardest thing meeting
Robert there.

"I--I just thought I would," she murmured.

"You do not look ill. You were not ill this morning."

"It's--psychological," murmured Ingeborg unnerved, and laying hold of
the first word that darted into her undisciplined brain.

"Psycho--?"

"Are _you_ ill, Robert?" she asked, suddenly anxious. "Why have _you_
come?"

"My dear wife, that is my affair," said Herr Dremmel, who was
particularly annoyed and puzzled by her presence.

"Oh," murmured Ingeborg. She had never yet heard herself called his dear
wife, and felt the immensity of her relegation to her proper place.

He fluttered the pages of the _Fliegende Blätter_; she held on tighter
to what seemed to be her only friend, her umbrella.

"Did you walk?" he asked presently, letting off the question at her like
a gun.

"Yes--oh, yes," said Ingeborg, with hasty meekness.

What had she come for? thought Herr Dremmel, fluttering the pages
faster. Ridiculous to pretend she needed a doctor. She looked, sitting
there with her unusual pink cheeks, like a flourishing sixteen--at most
eighteen.

What had he come for? thought Ingeborg, wishing life would not deal so
upsettingly in coincidences, and keeping her eyes carefully on the
carpet. Then a swift fear jumped at her heart--suppose he were ill?
Suppose he had begun to have one of those large, determined, obscure
diseases that seem to mow down men and make the world so much a place of
widows? She had observed that for one widower in Kökensee and the
surrounding district there were ten widows. The women appeared to ail
through life, constantly being smitten down by one thing after the
other, but at least they stayed alive; while the men, who went year by
year out robustly to work, died after a single smiting. "Perhaps it's
want of practice in being smitten," she thought; and looked anxiously
under her eyelashes at Robert, struggling with a desire to go over and
implore him to tell her what was the matter. In another moment she would
have gone, driven across by her impulses, if the folding-doors had not
been thrown open and the doctor appeared bowing.

"_Darf ich bitten_?" said the doctor to Herr Dremmel, not perceiving
Ingeborg, who was shuttered out of sight by the one half of the door he
had opened. "Ah--it is the Herr Pastor," he added less officially on
recognising him, and advanced holding out his hand. "I hope, my friend,
there is nothing wrong with you?"

Herr Dremmel did not answer, but seizing his hat made a movement of a
forestalling character towards the consulting room; and the doctor
turning to follow him beheld Ingeborg in her corner behind the door.

"Ah--the Frau Pastor," he said, bowing again and again advancing with an
extended hand. "Which," he added, looking from one to the other, "is the
patient?"

But Herr Dremmel's back, disappearing with determination into the next
room, suggested an acute need of assistance not visible in his wife's
retiring attitude.

"You'll tell me the _truth_ about him, won't you?" she whispered,
anxiously. "You won't hide things from me?"

The doctor looked grave. "Is it so serious?" he asked; and hurried after
Herr Dremmel and shut the door.

Ingeborg sat and waited for what seemed a long time. She heard much
murmuring, and often both voices murmured together, which puzzled her.
Sometimes, indeed, they ceased to be murmurs and rose to a point at
which they became distinct--"You forget I am a Christian pastor," she
heard Robert say--but they dropped again, though never into a pause,
never into those moments of silence during which Robert might be guessed
to be putting out his tongue or having suspect portions of his person
prodded. She sat there worried and anxious, all her own affairs
forgotten in this fear of something amiss with him; and when at last the
door opened again and both men came out she got up eagerly and said,
"Well?"

Herr Dremmel was looking very solemn; more entirely solemn than she had
ever seen him; almost as though he had already attained to that crown of
a man's career, that final touch of all, that last gift to the world, a
widow and orphans. The doctor's face was a careful blank.

"Well?" said Ingeborg again, greatly alarmed.

"Does the Frau Pastor also wish to consult me?" asked the doctor.

"Yes. I did. But it doesn't really matter now. Robert--"

Herr Dremmel was putting on his hat very firmly and going towards the
outer door without saying good-bye to the doctor. "I will wait for you
outside and drive you home, Ingeborg," he said, not looking round.

She stared after him. "Is he very ill?" she asked, turning to the
doctor.

"No."

"No?"

"No," said the doctor, with a stress on it.

"But--"

"And you look very well, too. Pray, keep so. It is not necessary,
judging from your appearance, to consult me further. I will conduct you
to your carriage."

"But--" said Ingeborg, who found herself being offered an arm and led
ceremoniously after Robert.

"Take your tonic, be much in the sun, and alter nothing in your present
mode of life," said the doctor.

"But Robert--"

"The Herr Pastor enjoys excellent health, and will throw himself with
more zeal than ever into his work."

"Then why--"

"And the Frau Pastor will do her duty."

"Yes."

She stopped and faced him. "Yes," she said, "I'm going to, but--what is
my duty?"

"My dear Frau Pastor, there is only one left. You have discharged all
the others. Your one duty now is to keep well in body and mind, provide
your two children with a capable mother, and your husband with a
companion possessed of the intelligent amiability that springs from good
health."

"But Robert--?"

"He has been consulting me about you. I will not allow you to turn him,
who deserves so well of fate, into that unhappy object, a widower."

"Oh? So really--?"

He opened the front door. "Yes," he said, "really."

And he handed her up into the seat next to Herr Dremmel and waved them
off on their homeward journey with friendly gestures.

And Ingeborg, now aware that the real cause of Robert's preternatural
gloom was the dread of losing her, not the dread of leaving her, was
deeply touched and full of a desire to express her appreciation. She
slid her hand through his arm and spent the time between Meuk and
Kökensee earnestly endeavouring to reassure him. He was not, after all,
she eagerly explained, going to be a widower.

He bore her comforting in silence.



CHAPTER XXIV


Being a wise man, Herr Dremmel lost no time in fidgeting or lamenting
over the inevitable, but having heard the doctor's summing up, which was
expressed in the one firm word repeated over and over again like a
series of blows, _ausgeschlossen_, he ruled Ingeborg out of his thoughts
as a wife and proceeded to train himself to contemplate her as a sister.

After a short period of solemnity, for he was not sure whether the
training would not be tormenting and grievously interfere with his work,
he became serene again, for to his satisfaction he found it easy. The
annoyance of having supposed his wife to be undutiful, the pain of
having believed her to be deliberately hurting him, was removed. He was
faced by a simple fact that had nothing to do with personalities. It was
unfortunate that he should have married some one who was so very, he
could not help thinking, easily killed, but on the other hand he was
less dependent on domestic joys than most members of that peculiarly
dependent profession, the Church, for he had his brains. He was
surprised how easy, once he recognised its inevitability, the
readjustment of the relationship was, how easily and comfortably he
forgot. She seemed to drop off him like a leaf off a tree in autumn, a
light thing whose detachment from the great remaining strength, the
reaching down and reaching up, was not felt. His mind became fitted with
wife-tight compartments. He ceased, he who had feared these things might
come to be an obsession, so much as to see that she was pretty, that she
was soft, that she was sweet. Just as when first he met her he had been
pleased and interested to find he could fall in love so now he was
pleased and interested to find, when it was a matter of reason and
necessity, he could fall out again. He was, it seemed, master of
himself. Passions were his servants, and came only as it were when he
rang the bell. All one had to do then was not to ring the bell. With
satisfaction he observed that in a crisis of the emotions (he supposed
one might fairly call it that) the training he had bestowed on his
reason, the attention he had given it from his youth up, was bearing
fruit not only abundant but ripe. Ingeborg was transformed in his eyes
with gratifying rapidity into a sister--a gentle maiden sister who on
the demise of his wife had taken over the housekeeping; and when in the
evenings he bade her a kind good-night he found himself doing it quite
naturally on her forehead. He did not tell her she had become a sister;
he merely rearranged his life on these new lines; and he did, as the
doctor had predicted, throw himself into his work with more zeal than
ever, and very soon was once again being pervaded by the blessed calms,
the serenities, the unequalled harmonies that are the portion of him who
diligently does what he is interested in.

But Ingeborg, who had neglected her reason in her youth and whose mind
consequently was strictly undisciplined, spent the first few weeks of
being a sister in a condition of what can only be described as fluffing
about. She took hold of an end of life here that seemed to be sticking
out and tugged it, and of an end of life there that seemed to be
sticking out and tugged it, and looked at them inquiringly and let them
go again. She did not quite know, so rich in liberty had she suddenly
become, where to begin. There were so many ends to life, and she was so
free to choose that she blinked a little. Here were her days, swept out
and empty for her at last. Here she was able to say magnificently, "Next
month I'll do this or that," sure of her months, sure of their being
arrangeable things, flexible to her will, not each just a great black
leaden weight holding her pinned down more and more heavily to a sofa.
And not only could she say confidently what she would do next month, but
also, and this small thing like many other small things of the sort
seemed curiously new and delightful, she could say confidently what she
would wear. All those dreary tea-gowns in which she had trailed through
the seven years of her marriage, dark garments whose sole function was
to hide, were given to Ilse, her first servant, who had married poverty
and who frugally turned them into trousers of assorted shapes for her
husband, embittering him permanently; and from long-forgotten cupboards
she got out small neat frocks again, portions of her unworn tremendous
trousseau, short things, washable and tidy, and was refreshed into
respect for herself as a decent human being by the mere putting of them
on.

Her days at first held any number of these new sensations or rather
recognitions of sensations that used in her girlhood to be a matter of
course, but now were seen to be extraordinarily precious. She spilt over
like a brimming chalice of gratefulness for the great common things of
life--sleep, hunger, power to move about, freedom from fear, freedom
from pain. Her returning health ran through her veins like some
exquisite delicate wine. She was now thirty, and had never felt so
young. Wonderful to wake up in the morning to another day of being well.
Wonderful being allowed to be alive in a world so utterly beautiful, so
full of opportunity. She had all the thankfulness, the tender giving of
herself up confidently to joy of the convalescent. She was happy just to
sit on fine mornings on the doorstep in the sun drinking things in.
Robertlet and Ditti had never been so much kissed; Rosa and the cook had
never been asked so often after their ailing mothers; Kökensee had never
been so near having a series of entertainments arranged for it. The very
cat was stroked with a fresh sense of fellowship, the very watchdog, at
one time suspected of surliness, was loved anew; and when she passed
through the yard she did not fail to pause and gaze with a sunny
determined kindness at the pig.

But though she passionately wanted to make everybody and everything
happy in return for Robert's goodness to her, in return for the kind way
she thought he was accepting her decision and not once after that first
outbreak reproaching her, she had been anchored too long to one definite
behaviour not to feel a little unsteady when first let loose. She
hovered uncertainly round the edges of life, fingering them, trying to
feel the point where she could best catch hold and climb into its
fulness again.

It was oddly difficult.

Was it that she had been out of things for so many years? Had she then
become a specialist? As the weeks passed and the first sheer delight in
just being well was blunted by repetition, she began to be puzzled.
Everything began to puzzle her--herself, Robert, the children, the
servants. Robert puzzled her extremely. Whenever before she had been
happy, a cheerful singing thing, he had loved her. She knew he had. She
had only to be in a gay mood, in the mood that recklessly didn't mind
whether he liked it or not but sat on his knee and insisted on his
listening while she talked, half in earnest and half amused, about the
bigger, vaguer, windier aspects of life, for him to come up out of the
depths of his meditations and laugh and pet her. Now nothing fetched him
up. He was quite unresponsive. He seemed beyond her reach, in some
strange retreat where she could not get at him. She had never felt so
far away from him. He was not angry evidently; he was quite kind. She
could not guess that this steady unenthusiastic kindness was the natural
expression of a fraternal regard.

"But he does _love_ me," she said to herself, altogether unaware of the
smallness of the place in the world occupied by negative persons like
sisters--"he does _love_ me."

She said it several times a day, hugging it to herself as the weeks went
on in much the same way that a coachman, growing cold on his box, hugs
his chest, not having anything else to hug, at intervals to keep his
circulation going; and particularly she said it on her way up to the
attic after the administration of the good-night kiss.

In spite of this assurance, she found herself presently beginning to
hesitate before she spoke to him or touched him, wondering whether he
would like it. She tried to shake off these increasing timidities, and
once or twice intrepidly stroked his hair; but his head, bent over his
dinner or his book, seemed unconscious that she was doing it, and she
felt unable to go on.

"But he does _love_ me," she said to herself.

It was not long before she perceived definitely that she had ceased to
amuse him, and the moment she discovered this she ceased to be amusing:
her gaiety went out like a light.

"But he does _love_ me," she still said to herself.

He called her Ingeborg regularly, never wife or Little One, and it soon
came to be unthinkable that she should ever have been his treasure,
snail, or sheep. He did it, however, quite kindly, with no trace of the
rebuke it used invariably to contain.

"But he does _love_ me," she still said to herself.

Puzzled, she racked her brain to think of ways to please him, and tried
to make his house as comfortably perfect for him as possible, performing
every duty she could find or invent with a thoroughness that by eleven
o'clock in the morning had exhausted the supply. Herr Dremmel, however,
was not accessible by ways of order and good food; he had never noticed
their absence, and he did not now notice their presence. She saw after a
while herself that his sum of happiness was not in the least increased
by them. How could she make him happy, then? What could she do to make
his life the brightest serene thing?

It was a shock to her, an immense and shattering surprise, the day she
realised that all this time he was, in fact, being happy. She walked in
the garden long that day, staring hard at this new perception,
pondering, astonished.

"But he does _l_--" she began; and stopped.

Did he? What was the good of saying he did if he didn't? Was everything
with him, and perhaps with other husbands--she knew so little about
husbands--bound up with parenthood? Was it true, what he said to her the
day she begged him to be friends, that a husband and wife could never be
friends? She felt so entirely able to love Robert, to love him tenderly
and deeply, without perpetually being somebody's mother. Perhaps wives
could be friends and husbands couldn't. She wished she knew more about
these things. She felt she did not rightly understand; and suspected,
walking up and down the damp October garden, that being a bishop's
daughter was an inefficient preparation for being anybody's wife. It
kept one's mind muffled. You were brought up not to look. If you wanted
to see you had to be furtive and peep at life over the edge, as it were,
of your Prayer-book, which made you feel wicked and didn't give you any
sort of a view. All bishops' daughters, she said to herself walking
fast, for her thoughts became tumultuous on this subject, ought to be
maiden ladies; or, if they couldn't manage that as St. Paul would say,
they should at least only marry more bishops. Not curates, not vicars,
not mysterious elusivenesses like German pastors, but bishops. People
they were used to. People they understood. Continuations. Second
volumes. Sequels. Aprons. Curates might have convulsive moments that
would worry souls blanched white by the keeping out of the light, souls
like celery, no whiter than anybody else's if left properly to
themselves, but blanched by a continual banking up round them of
episcopal mould; and even a vicar might conceivably sometimes be
headlong; while as for a German pastor.... She flung out her hands.

Well, Robert was not headlong. No one could accuse him of anything but
the most steady sequence in his steps. But he was, she thought, not
having the clue to Herr Dremmel's conduct, incomprehensible. With the
simple faith of women, that faith that holds out against so many
enlightenments and whose artless mainspring is vanity, she had believed
quite firmly that every sweet and admiring assurance he had ever given
her would go on changelessly and indefinitely holding good, she had
believed she knew and understood him better than he did himself, and
that at any time she wanted to she had only to reach out her hand to be
able to help herself to more of his love. This faith in herself and in
her power, if she really wished, to charm him, she called having faith
in him. It took six weeks of steadily continued mild indifference on
Herr Dremmel's part, of placid imperviousness to all approaches of an
affectionate nature, of the most obvious keen relish in his work, keener
than he had yet shown, to reveal the truth at last to her; and greatly
was she astonished. He was happy, and he was happy without her! "And
that," said Ingeborg, unable to resist the conclusion pressed upon her,
"isn't love."

She stopped a moment beneath the gently dripping trees and took off her
knitted cap and shook it dry, for she had inadvertently brushed against
an overhanging branch on which last summer's leaves still wetly clung.

She pulled out her handkerchief and rubbed her cap thoughtfully. It had
been raining all the morning, and now late in the afternoon the garden
was a quiet grey place of fallen leaves and gathering dusk and
occasional small shakings of wet off the trees when a silent bird
perched on the sodden branches. Some drops fell on her bare head while
she was drying her cap. She put up her hand mechanically and rubbed them
off. She stood wiping her cap long after it was dry, absorbed in
thought.

"I don't know what it is," she said presently, half aloud, "but I do
know what it isn't."

She put on her cap again, pulling it over her ears with both hands and
much care, and staring while she did it at a slug in the path in front
of her.

"And what it isn't," she said after another interval, shaking her head
and screwing up her face into an expression of profoundest negation, "is
love."

"_Well_," she added, deeply astonished.

Then, with a flash of insight, "It's because he works."

Then, with a quick desire to cover up the wound to her vanity, "If he
didn't get lost in his work he'd _remember_ he loves me--it's only that
he _forgets_."

Then, with a white flare of candour, "He's a bigger thing than I am."

Then, with the old eagerness to help, "So it's my business to see that
he can be big in happy peace."

Then, remembrance smiting her with its flat, cold hand, "But he _is_
happy."

Then, "So where do I come in?"

Then, with a great, frank acceptance of the truth, "I don't come in."

Then, swept by swift, indignant honesty, "Why should I _want_ to come
in? What is all this coming in? Oh"--she stamped her foot--"the simple
fact, the naked fact when I've pulled all the silly clothes off, is that
I only want him to be happy if it's I who make him happy, and I'm
nothing but a--I'm just a--" She twisted round on her heels, her arms
flung out, in search of the exact raw word--"I'm nothing but just a
common tyrant."

At tea-time her condition can best, though yet imperfectly, be described
as chastened.



CHAPTER XXV


Nevertheless, though she tried to face it squarely and help herself by
indignation at her own selfish vanity, she felt a great emptiness round
her, a great chill.

It was impossible to get used all at once to this new knowledge, so
astonishing after seven years of conviction that one was loved, and so
astonishing when one remembered that as recently as August--one could
positively count the days--just coming home again after an absence had
drawn forth from Robert any number of manifestations of it. It had the
suddenness and completeness of the switching off of light. A second
before, one was illuminated; another second, and one was groping in the
dark. For she did grope. She was groping for reasons. It seemed for a
long time so incredible that her entire importance and interest as a
human being should depend on whether she was or was not what he called a
true wife that she preferred to go on groping rather than take hold of
this as an explanation.

She had been so sure of Robert. She had been so familiar with him and
unafraid. When she thought of her days at home, of her abject fear of
her father, of her insignificance, she felt that Robert's love and
admiration had lifted her up from being a creeping thing to being a
creature with quite bright brave wings. He had come suddenly into her
life and told her she was a _süsses Kleines_: and behold she became a
_süsses Kleines_. And now he didn't think her even that any more; he had
dropped her again, and she was already falling back into the old state
of timidity towards the man in the house.

She turned to the children and the housekeeping and to a search for
something she could do in the parish, so that at least while she was
making efforts to clear her confusion about Robert she might not be
wasting time. If she was no use to him she might be of use to the less
independent. She was entirely humble at this moment, and would have
thanked a dog if it had been so kind as to allow her to persuade it to
wag its tail. It had always been her hope throughout each of her
illnesses that presently when that one was over she would get up and
begin to do good, and now here she was, finally up, with two children
who had not yet had much mother, two servants whose lives might perhaps
be made more interesting, a whole field outside her gates for practise
in deeds of mercy, and enormous tracts of time on her hands. All she had
to do was to begin.

But it was rather like an over-delayed resurrection. Things had filled
up. Everybody seemed used to being left alone, and such a thing as
district-visiting, so familiar to a person bred in Redchester, was
unknown in East Prussia. The wife of a country pastor had as many duties
in her own house as one woman could perform in a day, and nobody
expected to see her going about into other houses consoling and
alleviating. Also, the peasants thought, why should one be consoled and
alleviated? The social difference between the peasant and the pastor was
so small and rested so often only on education that it would have
appeared equally natural, if the thing could from any point of view have
been made natural, for the wife of the peasant to go and console and
alleviate the parsonage. Who wanted sympathy in Kökensee? Certainly not
the men, and the women were too busy with family cares, those many
crushing cares that yet kept them interested and alive, to have time for
consolations. And those with most cares, most children who died, most
internal complaints, most gloom and weariness, achieved just because of
these things almost as much distinction and popularity in the village as
those with most money. Ingeborg herself was popular so long as her
children were drowned out of punts, or died of mumps, or were stillborn;
but now that nothing happened to her and she went about, after having
had six of them, still straight and slender, Kökensee regarded her
coldly and with distrust. Doing nothing for anybody on a sofa in an
untidy black tea-gown she had been respected. Trim and anxious to be of
use she was disapproved of.

When she went round to try to interest the women in the getting up of
little gatherings that were to brighten the parish once a fortnight
during the winter months, they shook their heads over their washtubs and
told each other after she had gone that it was because she kept two
servants. _Hausfraus_ who did not do their own work, they said, shaking
their heads with many _ja, ja's_, were sure to get into mischief. All
they asked of the pastor's wife was that she should attend to her own
business and let them attend to theirs. They did not walk into her
living-room; why should she walk into theirs? They did not want to
brighten her winter; why should she want to brighten theirs? She should
take example from her husband, they said, who never visited anybody. But
a Frau who kept two servants and who after six children still wore
skirts shorter than a Confirmation candidate's--_ja, ja, das kommt
davon_.

And things had filled up at home. Rosa and the cook had been used so
long to managing alone, and were so completely obsessed by the idea that
the Frau Pastor was half dead and that her one real function was to lie
down, that they regarded her suddenly frequent appearances in the
kitchen with the uneasiness and discomfort with which they would have
regarded the appearances of a ghost. No more than if she had been a
ghost did they know what to do with her. She did not seem real,
separated from her bedroom and her beef-tea. They could not work with
her. She would make them jump when, on looking up, they saw her in their
midst, having come in unheard with her strange lightness of movement.
Their nerves were shaken when they discovered her on her knees in odd
corners of the house doing things with dusters. To see her prodding
potatoes over the fire, and weighing meat, and approaching onions
familiarly made them creep.

It was like some dreadful miracle.

It was like, said Rosa, whispering, being obliged to cook dinners and
make beds with the help of--side by side with--

"With what then?" cried the cook, pretending courage but catching fear
from Rosa's face.

"_Mit einem Lazarus_," whispered Rosa, behind her hand.

The cook shrieked.

They did not, however, give notice, being good girls and prepared to
bear much, till they saw their names in red ink in one of the squares
ruled on a sheet of paper the Frau Pastor pinned up on the sitting-room
wall above her writing-table.

For a day or two they were filled with nameless horror because the ink
was red. Then, when they discovered what the numbers against the square,
3--4, meant, the horror was swept away in indignation, for it was the
hour in the afternoon in which they usually mended or knitted and
gossiped together, and it appeared that the Frau Pastor intended to come
and sit with them during this hour and read aloud.

"Nice books are so--so nice," said Ingeborg, explaining her idea. "Don't
you think you'll like nice books?"

She faltered a little, because of the expression on their faces.

"There is the pig," said the cook desperately.

"The pig?"

"It has to be fed between three and four."

"Oh, but we're not going to mind things like _pigs_!" said Ingeborg with
a slightly laboured brightness.

The next day they gave notice.

But the plan pinned up in the parlour had nothing, except during this
one hour, to do with Rosa and the cook; it had been drawn up solely on
behalf of Robertlet and Ditti.

Ingeborg had pored over it for days, making careful squares with a ruler
and doing all the principal words in red ink, her hair touzled by the
stresses of thinking out, and her cheeks flushed. The winter was upon
them, and already rain and gales made being out of doors impossible
except for one daily courageous trudge after dinner with the children in
waterproofs and goloshes, and she thought that with a little arranging
she might shorten and brighten the long months to the spring. The
children were so passive. They seemed hardly conscious, she thought, of
the world round them. Wouldn't they enjoy themselves more if they could
be taught to look at things? Their resemblance to the elder Frau Dremmel
was remarkable, it is true, but of course only superficial. Why they
were apathetic was because they had had so little mother in their lives.
She had only been able to teach them their prayers and their grace, and
beyond that had had to leave them to God. Now, however, she could take
over her charge again, and teach them things that would make them
lissom, quick, interested, and gay.

What would make Robertlet and Ditti lissom, quick, interested, and gay?
She pored profoundly over this question, and was steeped in red ink and
with the end of her pen bitten off and the floor white with torn-up
plans before she had answered it.

At the end of the winter she thought she could not have answered it
right. There was something wrong with education. The children had been
immensely patient. They had borne immensely with their mother. Yet by
the end of a whole winter's application of the plan they knew only how
cats and dogs were spelt, and the sole wonder that they felt after six
months' parental effort to stir them to that important preliminary to
knowledge was a dim surprise that such familiar beasts should need
spelling.

It was very unfortunate, but they could not be got, for instance, to
like the heavenly bodies. Useless for their mother to press them upon
their notice on clear evenings when all the sky was a-blink. From first
to last they saw nothing in the sunsets that lit the white winter world
into a vast cave of colour except a sign that it must be tea-time. Not
once could they be induced to shudder at the thought, on great starry
nights, of infinite space. They were unmoved by the information that
they were being hurled at an incredible speed through it; and they
didn't mind the moon being all those miles away. In the dancing class it
was Ingeborg who danced. In the gymnastic class it was she who grew
lissom. The _English and German Chatting_, owing to an absence in
Robertlet and Ditti of any of the ingredients of chat, was a monologue;
and for the course on _Introductions to Insects Collected in the House_
it was Ingeborg who caught the flies.

They were, however, very good. Nothing to which they were subjected
altered that. When their mother in spite of discouragements went on
bravely, so did they. When out of doors she snowballed them they stood
patiently till she had done. She showed them how to make a snow man, and
they did not complain. She gave them little sledges at Christmas, and
explained the emotions to be extracted from these objects by sliding on
them swiftly down slopes, and they bore her no ill-will when, having
slid, they fell off, but quietly preferred the level garden paths and
drew each other in turn on one sledge up and down them, while their
mother on the other sledge did the sorts of things they had come to
expect from mothers, and kept on disappearing over the brink of the
slope to the frozen lake head first and face downward.

"It's very _difficult_," thought Ingeborg sometimes, as the winter
dragged on.

There she was, heavy with facts about flies and stars and distances
extracted in the evenings during her preparation hours from the
"Encyclopædia Britannica" which had been procured from London for the
purpose--the parsonage groaned beneath it--and longing to unload them,
and she was not able to because the two vessels which ought to have
received them were fitted so impenetrably with lids.

They seemed to grow, if anything, more lidded. Quieter and quieter. The
hour at the end of the day, marked on the plan Lap, an hour she had
thought might easily become beautiful, something her children would
remember years hence, which was to have been all white intimacy, with
kisses and talks about angels and the best and quickest ways of getting
to heaven while Robertlet sat in the lap on Mondays, Wednesdays, and
Fridays, and Ditti sat in it on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays
(there being scarcity in laps), was from the beginning an hour of
semi-somnolence for the children, of staring sleepily into the glow of
the stove, resting while they waited for what their mother would do or
say next.

Ingeborg was inclined to be disheartened at this hour. It was the last
one of the children's day, and the day had been long. There was the
firelight, the mother's lap and knee, the mother herself ready to kiss
and be confided in and more than ready to confide in her turn those
discoveries she had made in the regions of science, and nothing
happened. Robertlet and Ditti either stared fixedly at the glow from the
open stove door or at Ingeborg herself; but whichever they stared at
they did it in silence.

"What are you thinking of?" she would ask them sometimes, disturbing
their dreamless dream, their happy freedom from thought. And then
together they would answer, "Nothing."

"No, but tell me really--you can't _really_ think of nothing. It's
impossible. Nothing is"--she floundered--"is always _something_--."

But the next time she asked the same question they answered with one
voice just as before, "Nothing."

Then it occurred to her that perhaps they were having too much mother.
This also happened in the hour called Lap.

"A mother," she reflected, both her arms round her children according to
plan, "must often be rather a nuisance."

She looked down with a new sympathy at Ditti's head reposing, also
according to plan, on her shoulder.

"Especially if she's a devoted mother."

She laid her cheek on the black smooth hair, parted and pigtailed and as
unlike Robert's fair furry stuff or her own as it was like the elder
Frau Dremmel's.

"A devoted mother," continued Ingeborg to herself, her eyes on the
glowing heart of the stove and her cheek on Ditti's head, "is one who
gives up all her time to trying to make her children different."

"_I'm_ a devoted mother," she added, after a pause in which she had
faced her conscience.

"How dreadful!" she thought.

She began to kiss Ditti's head very softly.

"How, too, dreadful to be in the power of somebody different; of
somebody quick if you're not quick, or dull if you're not dull, and
anyhow so old, so very old compared to you, and have to be made like
her! How would I like being in my mother-in-law's power, with years and
years for her to work at forcing me to be what she'd think I ought to
be? And what she'd think I ought to be would be herself, what she tries
to be. Of course. You can't think outside yourself."

She drew the children tighter. "You _poor_ little things!" she exclaimed
aloud, suddenly overcome by the vision of what it must be like to have
to put up with a person so fundamentally alien through a whole winter;
and she kissed them one after the other, holding their faces close to
hers with her hands against their cheeks in a passion of apology.

Even to that exclamation, a quite new one in a quite new voice, they
said nothing, but waited patiently for what would no doubt happen next.



CHAPTER XXVI



What happened next was that they went to school.

Just as Ingeborg was beginning to ask herself rather shy questions--for
she was very full of respects--about the value of education and the
claims of free development, the State stepped in and swept Robertlet and
Ditti away from her into its competent keeping. In an instant, so it
seemed to her afterward when in the empty house she had nothing to do
but put away their traces, she was bereft.

"You never told me _this_ is what happens to mothers," she said to Herr
Dremmel the day the brief order from the Chief Inspector of Schools
arrived.

Herr Dremmel, who was annoyed that he should have forgotten his parental
and civic duties, and still more annoyed, it being April and his fields
needing much attention as a new-born infant, or a young woman one
wishes, impelled by amorous motives, to marry, that there should be
parental and civic duties to forget, was short with her.

"Every German of six has to be educated," he said.

"But they _are_ being educated," said Ingeborg, her mind weighted with
all she herself had learned.

He waved her aside.

"But, Robert--my children--surely there's some way of educating them
besides sending them away from me?"

He continued to wave her aside.

There was no doubt about it: the children had to go, and they went.

Of the alternatives, their being taught at home by a person with
Government certificates, or attending the village school, Herr Dremmel
would not hear. He was having differences of a personal nature with the
village schoolmaster, who refused with a steadiness that annoyed Herr
Dremmel to recognise that he was a _Schafskopf_, while Herr Dremmel
held, and patiently explained, that a person who is born a _Schafskopf_
should be simple and frank about it, and not persist in behaving as if
he were not one; and as for a teacher in the house, that was altogether
impossible, because there was no room.

"There's the laboratory," said Ingeborg recklessly, to whom anything
seemed better than letting her children go.

"The lab--?"

"Only to sleep in," she eagerly explained, "just sleep in, you know. The
teacher needn't be there at all in the daytime, for instance."

"Ingeborg--" began Herr Dremmel; then he thought better of it, and
merely held out his cup for more tea. Women were really much to be
pitied. Their entire inability to reach even an elementary conception of
values...

The children went to school in Meuk. They lodged with their grandmother,
and were to come home on those vague Sundays when the weather was good
and Herr Dremmel did not require the horses. Ingeborg could not believe
in such a complete sweep out of her life. She loved Robertlet and Ditti
with an extreme and odd tenderness. There was self-reproach in it, a
passionate desire to protect. It was the love sometimes found in those
who have to do all the loving by themselves. It was an acute and
quivering thing. After her experiences in the winter she had doubts
whether education at present was what they wanted. It was not school
they wanted, she thought, but to run wild. She knew it would have been
perhaps difficult to get them to run in this manner, but thought if she
had had them a little longer and had thoroughly revised her plan,
purging it of science and filling them up instead with different forms
of wildness, she might eventually have induced them to. There could have
been a carefully graduated course in wildness, she thought, beginning
quietly with weeding paths, and going on by steps of ever-increasing
abandonment to tree-climbing, bird-nesting, and midnight raids on
apples.

And while she wandered about the deserted garden and was desolate,
Robertlet and Ditti, safe in their grandmother's house, were having the
most beautiful dumplings every day for dinner that seemed to fit into
each part of them as warmly and neatly as though they were bits of their
own bodies come back, after having been artificially separated, to fill
them with a delicious hot contentment, and their grandmother was saying
to them at regular intervals with a raised forefinger: "My children,
never forget that you are Germans."

There was now nothing left for Ingeborg but, as she told Herr Dremmel
the first Sunday Robertlet and Ditti had been coming home and then for
some obscure reason did not come, thrusting the information tactlessly
at tea-time between his attention and his book, her own inside.

"After all," she said, as usual quite suddenly, breaking a valuable
silence, "there's still me."

Herr Dremmel said nothing, for it was one of those statements of fact
that luckily do not require an answer.

"Nobody," said Ingeborg, throwing her head back a little, "can take that
away."

Herr Dremmel said nothing to that either, chiefly because he did not
want to. He had no time nor desire to guess at meanings which were, no
doubt, after all not there.

"Whatever happens," she said, "I've still got my own inside."

"Ingeborg," said Herr Dremmel, "I will not ask you what you mean in case
you should tell me."

There was a drought going on, and Herr Dremmel, who justly prided
himself on his sweetness of temper, was not as patient as usual; so
Ingeborg, silenced, went into the garden where the drought was making
the world glow and shimmer, and reflected that on the object she called
her inside alone now depended her happiness.

It was useless to depend on others; it was useless to depend, as she had
done in her ridiculous vanity, on others depending on her. After all,
each year had a May in it and the birds sang. She would send away the
extra servant and do the work herself, as she used to at first. She
would begin again to develop her intelligence, and write that evening to
London for the _Spectator_. Something, she remembered, had warmed and
quickened her all those years ago after her meeting with Ingram--was it
the _Spectator_? She would make plans. She would draw up plans in red
ink. There were a thousand things she might study. There were languages.

She walked up and down the garden. If she let herself be beaten back
this time into neglect of herself and indifference she would be done
for. There was no one to save her. She would lapse and lapse; and not
into fatnesses and peace like other women in Germany lopped of their
children, and of a class above the class that stood at that instrument
of salvation, its own washtub, not into afternoon slumbers and
benevolences of a woolly nature that kept one's hand knitting while
one's brains went to sleep till presently one was dead, but into
something fretful and nipped, with a little shrivelled, skinny, steadily
dwindling mind.

Her eyes grew very wide at this dreadful picture. Now was the moment,
she thought, turning away from it quickly, now that there had come this
pause in her life, to go over to England for a visit and see her
relations and talk and come back refreshed to a new chapter of existence
in Kökensee. She had not been out of Kökensee, except to Zoppot, since
her marriage, and her throat tightened at the thought of England. But
the Bishop had never forgiven her marriage; and her having had six
children had also, it seemed from her mother's letters when there used
to be letters, made an unfavourable impression on him. It had, in fact,
upset him. He had considered such conduct too distinctively German to be
passed over; and when she added to the error in taste of having had them
the further error or rather negligence--it must have been criminal,
thought the Bishop--of not being able to keep them alive, the Palace,
after having four times with an increasing severity condoled, withdrew
into a disapproval so profound that it could only express itself
adequately by silence.

And a stay with Judith was out of the question. One had for a stay with
Judith to have clothes, and she had no clothes; at least, none newer
than eight years old--her immense unworn trousseau dogged her through
the years--for Judith gave many parties at the Master's Lodge, brilliant
gatherings, her mother called them in her rare letters, where London,
come down on purpose and expressed in Prime and other ministers as well
as in the fine flower of the aristocracy and a few selected fragrances
from the world of literature and art--once her mother wrote that Ingram,
the great painter, had been at the last party, and was so much enslaved
by Judith's loveliness that he had asked as a favour to be allowed to
paint her--sat at Judith's feet.

No; England was not for her. Her place was in Kökensee, and her business
now was to do what her governesses used to call improve her mind.
Perhaps if she improved it enough Robert would talk to her again
sometimes, and this time not on the Little Treasure basis but on the
solid one of intellectual companionship. Might she not end by being a
real helpmeet to him? Somebody who would gradually learn to be quiet and
analytical and artful with grains?

She went indoors and wrote then and there to London, renewing the
long-ended subscriptions to the _Times_, _Spectator_, _Clarion_,
_Hibbert's Journal_, and the rest. She asked for a catalogue of the
newest publications that were not novels--her determination was too
serious just then for novels--ordered Herbert Spencer's "First
Principles," for she felt she would like to have some principles,
especially first ones, and said she would be glad of any little hint the
news-agent could give her as to what he thought a married lady ought to
know; and she spent the rest of the evening and the two following days
laying the foundations of intellectual companionship by looking up the
article _Manure_ in the "Encyclopædia Britannica" and paraphrasing it
into conversational observations that sounded to her so clever when she
tried them on Herr Dremmel three days later at tea-time that she was
astonished herself.

She was still more astonished when Herr Dremmel, having listened,
remarked that her facts were wrong.

"But they can't _possibly_--" she began; then broke off, feeling the
awkwardness of a position in which one was unable to argue without at
once revealing the "Encyclopædia."



Chapter XXVII


This was in May. By the end of the following May Ingeborg had read so
much that she felt quite uncomfortable.

It had been a fine confused reading, in which Ruskin jostled Mr. Roger
Fry and Shelley lingered, as it were, in the lap of Mr. Masefield. The
news-agent, who must have lived chiefly a great many years before,
steadily sent her mid, early, and pre-Victorian literature; and she,
ordering on her own account books advertised in the weekly papers, found
herself as a result one day in the placid arms of the Lake Poets, and
the next being disciplined by Mr. Marinetti, one day ambling
unconcernedly with Lamb, and the next caught in the exquisite
intricacies of Mr. Henry James. She read books of travel, she learned
poetry by heart, she grew skilful at combining her studies with her
cooking; and propping up Keats on the dresser could run to him for a
fresh line in the very middle of the pudding almost without the pudding
minding. And since she loved to hear the beautiful words she learned
aloud, and the kitchen was full of a pleasant buzzing, a murmurous sound
of sonnets as well as flies, to which the servant got used in time.

But though she set about this new life with solemnity--for was she not a
lopped and lonely woman whose husband had left off loving her and whose
children had been taken away?--cheerfulness kept on creeping in. The
chief obstacle to any sort of continued gloom was that there was a
morning to every day. Also she had enthusiasms, those most uplifting and
outlifting from oneself of spiritual attitudes, and developed a pretty
talent for tingling. She would tingle on the least provocation, with joy
over a poem, with admiration over the description of a picture, and
thrilled and quivered with response to tales of Beauty--of the beauty of
the cathedrals in France, miracles of coloured glass held together
delicately by stone, blown together, she could only think from the
descriptions, in their exquisite fragility by the breath of God rather
than built up slowly by men's hands; of the beauty of places, the
lagoons round Venice at sunrise, the desert toward evening; of the
beauty of love, faithful, splendid, equal love; of all the beauty men
made with their hands, little spuddy things running over dead stuff,
blocks of stone, bits of glass and canvas, fashioning and fashioning
till at last there was the vision, pulled out of a brain and caught
forever into the glory of line and colour. She longed to talk about the
wonderful and stirring and vivid things life outside Kökensee seemed to
flash with. What must it be like to talk to people who knew and had
seen? What could it be like to see for oneself, to travel, to go to
France and its cathedrals, to go to Italy in the spring-time when the
jewels of the world could be looked at in a setting of clear skies and
generous flowers? Or in autumn, when Kökensee was grey and tortured with
rainstorms, to go away there into serenity, to where the sun burned the
chestnuts golden all day long and the air smelt of ripened grapes?

And she had only seen the Rigi.

Well, that was something; and it seemed somehow appropriate for a
pastor's wife. She turned again to her books. What she had was very
good; and she had found an old woman in the village who did not mind
being comforted, so that added to everything else was now the joy of
gratitude.

It seemed, indeed, that she was to have a run of joys that spring, for
besides these came suddenly yet another, the joy so long dreamed of of
having some one to talk to. And such a some one, thought Ingeborg,
entirely dazzled by her good fortune--for it was Ingram.

She was paddling the punt as usual down the lake one afternoon, a pile
of books at her feet, when, passing the end of the arm of reeds that
stretched out round her hidden bay, she perceived that her little beach
was not empty; and pausing astonished with her paddle arrested in the
air to look, she recognized in the middle of a confusion of objects
strewn round him that no doubt had to do with painting, sitting with his
elbows on his drawn-up knees and his chin in his hand, Ingram.

He was doing nothing: just staring. She came from behind the arm of
reeds, half drifting along noiselessly out towards the middle of the
lake, straight across his line of sight.

For an instant he stared motionless, while she, holding her paddle out
of the water, stared equally motionless at him. Then he seized his
sketching book and began furiously to draw. She was out in the sun and
had no hat on. Her hair was the strangest colour against the background
of water and sky, more like a larch in autumn than anything he could
think of. She seemed the vividest thing, suddenly cleaving the pallors
and uncertainties of reeds and water and flecked northern sky.

"Don't move," he shouted in what he supposed was German, sketching
violently.

"So it's you?" she called back in English, and her voice sang.

"Yes, it's me all right," he said, his pencil flying.

He did not recognise her. He had seen too many people in seven years to
keep the foggy figure of that distant November evening in his mind.

"I'm coming in," she called, digging her paddle into the water.

"Sit still!" he shouted.

"But I want to talk."

"Sit _still_!"

She sat still, watching him, unable to believe her good fortune. If he
were only here again for a single day and she could only talk to him for
a single hour, what a refreshment, what a delight: to talk in English;
to talk to some one who had painted Judith; to talk to some one so
wonderful; to talk at _all_! She was as little shy as a person stranded
on a desert island would be of anybody, kings included, who should
appear after years on the solitary beach.

"Well?" she called, after sitting patiently for what she felt must be
half an hour but which was five minutes.

He did not answer, absorbed in what he was doing.

She waited for what seemed another half-hour, and then turned the punt
in the direction of the shore.

"I'm coming in," she called; and as he did not answer she paddled
towards the bay.

He stared at her, his head a little on one side, as she came close.
"What are you going to do?" he asked, seeing she was manoeuvring the
punt into the corner under the oak-tree.

"Land," said Ingeborg.

He got up and caught hold of the chain fastened to the punt's nose and
dragged it up the beach.

"How do you do?" she said, jumping out and holding out her hand. "Mr.
Ingram," she added, looking up at him, her face quite solemn with
pleasure.

"Well, now, but who on earth are you?" he asked, shaking her hand and
staring. Her clothes, now that she was standing up, were the oddest
things, recalling back numbers of _Punch_. "You're not staying at the
Glambecks', and except for the Glambecks there isn't anywhere to stay."

"But I told you I was the pastor's wife."

"You did?"

"Last time. Well, and I still am."

"But when was last time?"

"Don't you remember? You were staying with the Glambecks then, too."

"But I haven't stayed with the Glambecks for an eternity. At least ten
years."

"Seven," said Ingeborg. "Seven and a half. It was in November."

"But you must have been in pinafores."

"And you walked down the avenue with me. Don't you remember?"

"No," said Ingram, staring at her.

"And you scolded me because I couldn't walk as fast as you did. Don't
you remember?"

"No," said Ingram.

"And you said I'd run to seed if I wasn't careful. Don't you remember?"

"No," said Ingram.

"And I had on my grey coat and skirt. Don't you remember?"

"No, no, no," said Ingram, smiting his forehead, "and I don't believe a
word of it. You're just making it up. Look here," he said, clearing away
his things to make room for her, "sit down and let us talk. Are you
real?"

"Yes, and I live at Kökensee, just round the corner behind the reeds.
But I told you that before," said Ingeborg.

"You do live?" he said, pushing his things aside. "You're not just a
flame-headed little dream that will presently disappear again?"

"My name's Dremmel. Frau Dremmel. But I told you that before, too."

"The things a man forgets!" he exclaimed, spreading a silk handkerchief
over the coarse grass. "There! Sit on that."

"You're laughing at me," she said, sitting down, "and I don't mind a
bit. I'm much too glad to see you."

"If I laugh it's with pleasure," he said, staring at the effect of her
against the pale green of the reeds--where had he seen just that before,
that Scandinavian colouring, that burning sort of brightness in the
hair? "It's so amusing of you to be Frau anything."

She smiled at him with the frankness of a pleased boy.

"You're very _nice_, you know," he said, smiling back.

"You didn't think so last time. You called me your dear lady, and asked
me if I never read."

"Well, and didn't you?" he said, sitting down, too, but a little way off
so that he could get her effect better.

"Yes, do sit down. Then I shan't be so dreadfully afraid you're going."

"Why, but I've only just found you."

"But last time you disappeared almost at once into the fog, and you'd
only just found me then," she said, her hands clasped round her knees,
her face the face of the entirely happy.

"After all I seem to have made some progress in seven years," he said.
"I apparently couldn't see then."

"No, it was me. I was very invisible--"

"Invisible?"

"Oh, moth-eaten, dilapidated, dun-coloured. And I'd been crying."

"You? Look here, nobody with your kind of colouring should ever cry.
It's a sin. It would be most distressing, seriously, if you were ever
less white than you are at this moment."

"See how nice it is not to be a painter," said Ingeborg. "I don't mind a
bit if you're white or not so long as it's you."

"But why should you like it to be me?" asked Ingram, to whom flattery,
used as he was to it, was very pleasant, and feeling the comfort of the
cat who is being gently tickled behind the ear.

"Because," said Ingeborg earnestly, "you're somebody wonderful."

"Oh, but you'll make me purr," he said.

"And I see your name in the papers at least once a week," she said.

"Oh, the glory!"

"And Berlin's got two of your pictures. Bought for the nation."

"Yes, it has. And haggled till it got them a dead bargain."

"And you've painted my sister."

"What?" he said quickly, staring at her again. "Why, of course. That's
it. That's who you remind me of. The amazing Judith."

"Are you such friends?" she asked, surprised.

"Oh, well, then, the wife of the Master of Ananias. Let us give her her
honours. She's the most entirely beautiful woman I've seen. But--"

"But what?"

"Oh, well. I did a very good portrait of her. The old boy didn't like
it."

"What old boy?"

"The Master. He tried to stop my showing it. And so did the other old
boy."

"What other old boy?"

"The Bishop."

"But if it was so good?"

"It was. It was exact. It was the living woman. It was a portrait of
sheer, exquisite flesh."

"Well, then," said Ingeborg.

"Oh, but you know bishops--" He shrugged his shoulders. "Italy's got it
now. It's at Venice. The State bought it. You must go and see it next
time you're there."

"I will," she laughed, "the very next time." And her laugh was the laugh
of joyful amusement itself.

Ingram was now forty three or four, and leaner than ever. His high
shoulders were narrow, his thin neck came a long way out of his collar
at the back and was partly hidden in front by his short red beard. His
hair, darker than his beard, was plastered down neatly. He had very
light, piercing eyes, and a nose that Ingeborg liked. She liked
everything. She liked his tweed clothes, and his big thin hands--the
wonderful hands that did the wonderful pictures--and his long thin
nimble legs. She liked the way he fidgeted, and the quickness of his
movements. And she glowed with pride to think she was sitting with a man
who was mentioned in the papers at least once a week and whose pictures
were bought by States, and she glowed with happiness because he did not
this time seem anxious to go back to the Glambecks' at once; but most of
all she glowed with the heavenliness, the absolute heavenliness of being
talked to.

"And you're her sister," he said, staring at her. "Now that really is
astonishing."

"But everybody can't be beautiful."

"A sister of hers here, tucked away in this desert. It _is_ a desert,
you know. I've come to it because I wanted a desert--one does sometimes
after too much of the opposite. But I go away again, and you live in it.
What have you been doing all these years, since I was here last?"

"Oh, I've--been busy."

"But not here? Not all the time here?"

"Yes, all of it."

"What, not away at all?"

"I went to Zoppot once."

"Zoppot? Where's Zoppot? I never heard of Zoppot. I don't believe
Zoppot's any good. Do you mean to say you've not been to a town, to a
place where people say things and hear things and rub themselves alive
against each other, since last I was here?"

"Well, but pastors' wives don't rub."

"But it's incredible! It's like death. Why didn't you?"

"Because I couldn't."

"As though it weren't possible to tear oneself free at least every now
and then."

"You wait till you're a pastor's wife."

"But how do you manage to be so alive? For you shine, you know. When I
think of all the things _I've_ done since I was here last--" He broke
off, and looked away from her across the lake. "Oh, well. Sickening
things, really, most of them," he finished.

"Wonderful pictures," said Ingeborg, leaning forward and flushing with
her enthusiasm. "That's what you've done."

"Yes. One paints and paints. But in between--it's those in between the
work-fits that hash one up. What do _you_ do in between?"

"In between what?"

"Whatever it is you do in the morning and whatever it is you do in the
evening."

"I enjoy myself."

"Yes. Yes. That's what _I'd_ like to do."

"But don't you?"

"I can't."

"What--_you_ can't?" she said. "But you live in beauty. You make it. You
pour it over the world--"

She stopped abruptly, hit by a sudden thought. "I beg your pardon," she
said. "I don't know anything really. Perhaps--you're in mourning?"

He looked at her. "No," he said, "I'm not in mourning."

"Or perhaps--no, you're not ill. And you can't be poor. Well, then, why
in the world don't you enjoy yourself?"

"Aren't you ever bored?" he answered.

"The days aren't long enough."

He looked round at the empty landscape and shuddered.

"Here. In Kökensee," he said. "It's spring now. But what about the wet
days, the howling days? What about unmanageable months like February?
Why"--he turned to her--"you must be a perfect little seething vessel of
independent happiness, bubbling over with just your own contentments."

"I never was called a seething vessel before," said Ingeborg, hugging
her knees, her eyes dancing. "What an impression for a respectable woman
to produce!"

"What a gift to possess, you mean. The greatest of all. To carry one's
happiness about with one."

"But that's exactly what _you_ do. Aren't you spilling joy at every
step? Splashing it into all the galleries of the world? Leaving beauty
behind you wherever you've been?"

He twisted himself round to lie at full length and look up at her. "What
delightful things you say!" he said. "I wish I could think you mean
them."

"Mean them?" she exclaimed, flushing again. "Do you suppose I'd waste
the precious minutes saying things I don't mean? I haven't talked to any
one really for years--not to any one who answered back. And now it's
_you_! Why, it's too wonderful! As though I'd waste a second of it."

"You're the queerest, most surprising thing to find here on the edge of
the world," he said, gazing up at her. "And there's the sun just got at
your hair through the trees. Are you always full of molten enthusiasms
for people?"

"Only for you."

"But what am I to say to these repeated pattings?" he cried.

"You got into my imagination that day I met you and you've been in it
ever since. I was in the stupidest state of dull giving in. You pulled
me out."

He stared at her, his chin on his hand. "Imagine me pulling anybody out
of anything," he said. "Generally I pull them in."

"It's true I've had relapses," she said. "Five relapses."

"Five?"

She nodded. "Five since then. But here I am, seething as you call it,
and it's you who started me, and I believe I shall go on now doing it
uninterruptedly for ever."

Ingram put out his hand with a quick movement, as though he were going
to touch the edge of her dress. "Teach me how to seethe," he said.

"That's rather like asking a worm to give lessons in twinkling to a
star."

"Wonderful," he said softly, after a little pause, "to lie here having
sweet things said to one. Why didn't I find you before? I've been being
bored at the Glambecks' for a whole frightful week."

"Oh, have you been there a week already?" she asked anxiously. "Then
you'll go away soon?"

"I was going to-morrow."

"That's like last time. You were just going when I met you."

"But now I'm going to stay. I'm going to stay and paint you."

She jumped. "_Oh!_" she exclaimed, awe-struck. "_Oh_--"

"Paint you, and paint you, and paint you," said Ingram, "and see if I
can catch some of your happiness for myself. Get at your secret. Find
out where it all comes from."

"But it comes from you--at this moment it's all you--"

"It doesn't. It's inside you. And I want to get as much of it as I can.
I'm dusty and hot and sick of everything. I'll come and stay near you
and paint you, and you shall make me clean and cool again."

"The stuff you talk!" she said, leaning forward, her face full of
laughter. "As though I could do anything for _you_! You're really making
fun of me the whole time. But I don't care. I don't care about anything
so long as you won't go away."

"You needn't be afraid I'm going away. I'm going to have a bath of
remoteness and peace. I'll chuck the Glambecks and get a room in your
village. I'll come every day and paint you. You're like a little golden
leaf, a beech leaf in autumn blown suddenly from God knows where across
my path."

"Now it's you making _me_ purr," she said.

"You're like everything that's clear and bright and cool and fresh."

"Oh," murmured Ingeborg, radiant, "and I haven't even got a tail to
wag!"

"Already, after only ten minutes of you, I feel as if I were eating
cold, fresh, very crisp lettuce."

"That's not nearly so nice. I don't think I like being lettuce."

"I don't care. You are. And I'm going to paint you. I'm going to paint
your soul. Tell me some addresses for lodgings," he said, snatching up a
sheet of paper and a pencil.

"There aren't any."

"Then I must stay at your vicarage."

"You'll have to sleep with Robert, then."

"What? Who is Robert?"

"My husband."

"Oh, yes. But how absurd that sounds!"

"What does?"

"Your having a husband."

"I don't see how you can help having a husband if you're a wife."

"No. It's inevitable. But it's--quaint. That you should be anybody's
wife, let alone a pastor's. Here in Kökensee."

She got up impulsively. "Come and see him," she said. "You wouldn't last
time. Come now. Let me make tea for you. Let me have the pride of making
tea for you."

"But not this minute!" he begged, as she stood over him holding out her
hand to pull him up.

"Yes, yes. He's in now. He'll be out in his fields later. He'll be
frightfully pleased. We'll tell him about the picture. Oh, but you did
_mean_ it, didn't you?" she added, suddenly anxious.

He got up reluctantly and grumbling: "I don't want to see Robert. Why
should I see Robert? I don't believe I'm going to like Robert," he
muttered, looking down at her from what seemed an immense height. "Of
course I mean it about the picture," he added in a different voice,
quick and interested. "It'll be a companion portrait to your sister's."

He laughed. "That would really be very amusing," he said, stooping down
and neatly putting his scattered things together.

Ingeborg flushed. "But--that's rather cruel fun, isn't it, that you're
making of me now?" she murmured.

"What?" he asked, straightening himself to look at her.

The light had gone out of her face.

"What? Why--didn't I tell you my picture of you is to be the portrait of
a spirit?"

He pounced on his things and gathered them up in his arms.

"Come along," he said impatiently, "and be intelligent. Let me beg you
to be intelligent. Come along. I suppose I'm to go in the punt. What's
in it? Books by the dozen. What's this? Eucken? Keats? Pragmatism? O
Lord!"

"Why O Lord?" she asked, getting in and picking up the paddle while he
gave the punt a vigorous shove off and jumped on to it as it went. She
was radiant again. She was tingling with pride and joy. He really meant
it about the picture. He hadn't made fun of her. On the contrary....
"Why O Lord?" she asked. "You said that, or something like it, last time
because I _didn't_ read."

"Well, now I say it because you do," he said, crouching at the opposite
end watching her movements as she paddled.

"But that doesn't seem to have much consistency, does it?" she said.

"Hang consistency! I don't want you addled. And you'll get addled if you
topple all these different stuffs into your little head together."

"But I'd rather be addled than empty."

"Nonsense! If I could I'd stop your doing anything that may alter you a
hairbreadth from what you are at this moment."

To that she remarked, suspending her paddle in mid air, her face as
sparkling as the shining drops that flashed from it, that she really was
greatly enjoying herself; and they both laughed.

Ingram waited in the parlour, where he stood taking in with attentive
eyes the details of that neglected, almost snubbed little room, while
Ingeborg went to the laboratory, so happy and proud that she forgot she
was breaking rules, to fetch, as she said, Robert.

Robert, however, would not be fetched. He looked up at her with a great
reproach on her entrance, for as invariably happened on the rare
occasions when the tremendousness of what she had to say seemed to her
to justify interrupting, he thought he had just arrived within reach,
after an infinite patient stalking, of the coy, illusive heart of the
problem.

"Mr. Ingram's here," she said breathlessly.

He gazed at her over his spectacles.

"In the parlour," said Ingeborg. "He's come to tea. Isn't it wonderful?
He's going to paint--"

"Who is here, Ingeborg?"

"Mr. Ingram. Edward Ingram. Come and talk to him while I get tea."

She had even forgotten to shut the door in her excitement, and a puff of
wind from the open window picked up Herr Dremmel's papers and blew them
into confusion.

He endeavoured to catch them, and requested her in a tone of controlled
irritation to shut the door.

"Oh, how dreadful of me!" she said, hastily doing it, but with gaiety.

"I do not know," then said Herr Dremmel, mastering his annoyance, "Mr.
Ingram."

"Rut, Robert, it's _the_ Mr. Ingram. Edward Ingram. The greatest artist
there is now. The great portrait painter. Berlin has--"

"Is he a connection of your family's, Ingeborg?"

"No, but he painted Ju--"

"Then it is not necessary for me to interrupt my afternoon on his
behalf."

And Herr Dremmel bent his head over his papers again.

"But, Robert, he's _great_--he's _very_ great--"

Herr Dremmel, with a wetted thumb, diligently rearranged his pages.

"But--why, I told him you'd love to see him. What am I to say to him if
you don't come?"

Herr Dremmel, his eye caught by a sentence he had written, was reading
with a deep enormous appetite.

"Tea," said Ingeborg desperately. "There's tea. You always _do_ come to
tea. It'll be ready in a minute."

He looked up at her, gathering her into his consciousness again. "Tea?"
he said.

But even as he said it his thoughts fell off to his problem, and without
removing his eyes from hers he began carefully to consider a new aspect
of it that in that instant had occurred to him.

There was nothing for it but to go away. So she went.



CHAPTER XXVIII


Ingram's visit to the Glambecks, had in any case been coming to an end
the next day, when he was to have gone to Königsberg on his way to the
Caucasus, a place he hoped might trick him by its novelty for at least a
time out of boredom, and the Baron and Baroness were greatly surprised
when he told them he was not going to the Caucasus but to Kökensee
instead.

With one voice they exclaimed, "Kökensee?"

"To paint the pastor's wife's hair," said Ingram.

The Baron and Baroness were silent. The explanation seemed to them
beyond comment. Its disreputableness robbed them of speech. Herr Ingram,
of course, an artist of renown--if he had not been of very great renown
they could not have seen their way to admitting him on terms of equality
into their circle--might paint whoever's hair he pleased; but was there
not some ecclesiastical law forbidding that the hair of one's pastor's
wife should be painted? To have one's hair painted when one was a
pastor's wife was hardly more respectable than having it dyed. People of
family were painted in order to hand down their portrait to succeeding
generations, but you had to have generations, you had to have scions,
you had to have a noble stock for the scions to spring from, and the
painting was entered into soberly, discreetly, advisedly, in the fear of
God, for the delectation of children, not lightly or wantonly, not for
effect, not, as Herr Ingram had added of Frau Pastor's hair, because any
portion of one's person was strangely beautiful. Strangely beautiful?
They looked at each other; and the Baroness raised her large and
undulating white hands from her black lap for a moment and let them drop
on to it again, and the Baron slowly nodded his entire agreement.

Ingram had found a room in the village inn at Kökensee, a place so
sordid, so entirely impossible as the next habitation after theirs for
one who had been their guest, that the Baron and Baroness were concerned
for what their servants must think when they heard him direct their
coachman in the presence of their butler and footman, as he clambered
nimbly into the dogcart, to take him to it. And the Baroness went in and
wrote at once to her son Hildebrand in Berlin, who had introduced Ingram
to Glambeck, and told him she did not intend permitting Herr Ingram to
visit her again. "_To please you_," she wrote, "_I did it. But how true
it is that these artists can never rise beyond being artists! I have
finished with outsiders, however clever. Give me gentlemen_."

She did not mention, she found she could not mention, the hair; and to
the Baron that evening she expressed the hope that at least the picture
would only be in watercolour. Watercolour, she felt, seemed somehow
nearer the Commandments than oils.

It was impossible to paint a serious picture of Ingeborg in the dark
little parlour at the parsonage, and as there was no other room at all
that they could use Ingram began a series of sketches of her out of
doors, in the garden, in the punt, anywhere and everywhere.

"I must get some idea of you," he said, perceiving that a reason for his
coming every day had to be provided. "Later on I'll do the real picture.
In a proper studio."

"I wonder how I'll get to a proper studio?" smiled Ingeborg.

"I've got a very good one in Venice. You must sit to me there."

"As though it were round the corner! But these are very wonderful," she
said, taking up the sketches. "I wish I were really like that."

"It's exactly you as you were at the moment."

"Nonsense," she said; but she glowed.

She knew it was not true, but she loved to believe he somehow, by some
miracle, saw her so. The sketches were exquisite; little impressions of
happy moments caught into immortality by a master. Hardly ever did he do
more than her head and throat, and sometimes the delicate descent to her
shoulder. The day she saw his idea of the back of her neck she flushed
with pleasure, it was such a beautiful thing.

"That's not me," she murmured.

"Isn't it? I don't believe anybody has ever explained to you what you're
like."

"There wasn't any need to. I can see for myself."

"Apparently that's just what you can't do. It was high time I came."

"Oh, but wasn't it," she agreed earnestly.

He thought her frankness, her unadorned way of saying what she felt, as
refreshing and as surprising as being splashed with clear cold shining
mountain water. He had never met anything feminine that was quite so
near absolute simplicity. He might call her the most extravagantly
flattering things, and she appreciated them and savoured them with a
kind of objective delight that interested him at first extraordinarily.
Then it began to annoy him.

[Illustration: "But these are very wonderful," she said, taking up the
sketches. "I wish I were really like that."]

"You're as unselfconscious," he told her one afternoon a little crossly,
when he had been ransacking heaven and earth and most of the poets for
images to compare her with, and she had sat immensely pleased and
interested and urging him at intervals to go on, "as a choir-boy."

"But what a nice, clean, soaped sort of thing to be like!" she said.
"And so much more alive than lettuces."

"I wonder if you _are_ alive?" he said, staring at her; and she looked
at him with her head on one side and told him that if she were not a
bishop's daughter and a pastor's wife and a child of many prayers and
trained from infancy to keep carefully within the limits of the
allowable in female speech she would reply to that, "You bet."

"But that's only if I were vulgar that I'd say that," she explained.
"Gentility is the sole barrier, I expect really, between me and excess."

"You and excess! You little funny, cold-watery, early-morningy thing.
One would as soon connect the dawn and the fields before sunrise and
small birds and the greenest of green young leaves with excess."

He was more near being quite happy during this first week than he could
remember to have been since that period of pinafore in which the world
is all mother and daisies. He was enjoying the interest of complete
contrast, the freshness that lies about beginnings. From this
remoteness, this queer intimate German setting, he looked at his usual
life as at something entirely foolish, hurried, noisy, and tiresome. All
those women--good heavens, all those women--who collected and coagulated
about his path, what terrible things they seemed from here! Women he had
painted, who rose up and reproached him because his idea of them and
their idea were different; women he had fallen in love with, or tried to
persuade himself he had fallen in love with, or tried to hope he would
presently be able to persuade himself he had fallen in love with; women
who had fallen in love with him, and fluffed and flapped about him,
monsters of soft enveloping suffocation; women he had wronged--absurd
word! women who had claims on him--claims on him! on him who belonged
only to art and the universe. And there was his wife--good heavens, yes,
his wife....

From these distresses and irksomenesses, from a shouting world, from the
crowds and popularity that pushed between him and the one thing that
mattered, his work, from the horrors of home life, the horrors of
society and vain repetitions of genialities, from all the people who
talked about Thought, and Art, and the Mind of the World, from
jealousies, affections, praises, passions, excitement, boredom, he felt
very safe at Kökensee. To be over there in the middle of the distracting
emptiness of London was like having the sour dust of a neglected
market-place blown into one's face. To be over here in Kökensee was to
feel like a single goldfish in a bowl of clear water. Ingeborg was the
clear water. Kökensee was the bowl. For a week he swam with delight in
this new element; for a week he felt so good and innocent, exercising
himself in its cool translucency, that almost did he seem a goldfish in
a bib. Then Ingeborg began to annoy him; and she annoyed him for the
precise reason that had till then charmed him, her curious resemblance
to a boy.

This frank affection, this unconcealed delight in his society, this
ever-ready excessive admiration, were arresting at first and amusing and
delicious after the sham freshness, the tricks, the sham daring things
of the women he had known. They were like a bath at the end of a hot
night; like a country platform at the end of a stuffy railway journey.
But you cannot sit in a bath all day, or stay permanently on a platform.
You do want to go on. You do want things to develop.

Ingram was nettled by Ingeborg's apparent inability to develop. It was
all very well, it was charming to be like a boy for a little while, but
to persist in it was tiresome. Nothing he could say, nothing he could
apply to her in the way of warm and varied epithet, brought the faintest
trace of self-consciousness into her eyes. What can be done, he thought,
with a woman who will not be self conscious? She received his speeches
with enthusiasm, she hailed them with delight and laughter, and, what
was particularly disconcerting, she answered back. Answered back with
equal warmth and with equal variety--sometimes, he suspected, annoyed at
being outdone in epithet, with even more. To judge from her talk she
almost made love to him. He would have supposed it was quite making love
if he had not known, if he had not been so acutely aware that it was
not. With a face of radiance and a voice of joy she would say suddenly
that God had been very good to her; and when he asked in what way, would
answer earnestly, "In sending you here." And then she would add in that
peculiar sweet voice--she certainly had, thought Ingram, a peculiar
sweet voice, a little husky, again a little like a choir-boy's, but a
choir-boy with a slight sore throat--"I've missed you dreadfully all
these years. I've been lonely for you."

And the honesty of her; the honest sincerity of her eyes when she said
these things. No choir-boy older than ten could look at one with quite
such a straight simplicity.

Every day punctually at two o'clock, by which time the daily convulsion
of dinner and its washing up was over at the parsonage, he walked across
from his inn, while Kökensee's mouths behind curtains and round doors
guttered with excited commentary, telling himself as he gazed down the
peaceful street that this was the emptiest, gossip-freest place in the
world, to the Dremmel gate; and dodging the various rich puddles of the
yard, passed round the corner of the house along the lilac path beneath
the laboratory windows to where, at the end of the lime-tree avenue,
Ingeborg sat waiting. Then he would sketch her, or pretend to sketch her
according as the mood was on him, and they would talk.

By the second day he knew all about her life since her marriage, her six
children--they amazed and appalled him--her pursuit, started by him, of
culture, her housekeeping, her pride in Robert's cleverness, her
solitude, her thirst for some one to talk to. Persons like Ilse and
Rosa, Frau Dremmel, Robertlet and Ditti, became extraordinarily real to
him. He made little drawings of them while she talked up the edge of his
paper. And he also knew, by the second day, all about her life in
Redchester, its filial ardours, its duties, its difficulties when it
came to disentangling itself from the Bishop; and his paper sprawled up
its other edge with tiny bishops and unattached, expressive aprons. The
one thing she concealed from him of the larger happenings of her life
was Lucerne, but even that he knew after a week.

"So you can do things," he said, looking at her with a new interest.
"You can do real live things."

"Oh, yes. If I'm properly goaded."

"I wonder what you mean by properly goaded?"

"Well, I was goaded then. Goaded by being kept in one place
uninterruptedly for years."

"That's what is happening to you now."

"Oh, but this is different. And I've been to Zoppot."

"Zoppot!"

"Besides, _you're_ here."

"But I won't be here for ever."

"Oh, but you'll be somewhere in the same world."

"As though that were any good."

"Of course it is. I shall read about you in the papers."

"Nonsense," he said crossly. "The papers!"

"And I shall curl up in your memory."

"As if I were dead. You sometimes really are beyond words ridiculous."

"I expect it's because I've had so little education," she said meekly.

At tea-time almost every day Herr Dremmel joined them in the garden, and
the conversation became stately. The sketches were produced, and he made
polite comments. He discussed art with Ingram, and Ingram discussed
fertilizers with him, and as neither knew anything about the other's
specialty they discussed by force of intelligence. Ingeborg poured out
the tea and listened full of pride in them both. She thought how much
they must be liking and admiring each other. Robert's sound sense, his
quaint and often majestic English, his obviously notable scientific
attainments must, she felt sure, deeply impress Ingram. And of course to
see and speak to the great Ingram every day could not but give immense
gratification to Robert, now that he had become aware of who he was. She
sat between the two men in her old-fashioned voluminous white frock,
looking from one to the other with eager pride while they talked. She
did not say anything herself out of respect for such a combination of
brains, but she was all ears. She drank the words in. It was more
mind-widening she felt even than the _Clarion_.

Ingram hated tea-time at the parsonage. Every day it was more of an
effort to meet Herr Dremmel's ceremoniousness appropriately, and his
scientific thirst for facts about art bored Ingram intolerably. He
detested the large soft creases of his clothes and the way they buttoned
and bulged between the buttonings. He disliked him for having sleeves
and trousers that were too long. He shuddered at the thought of the six
children. He did not want to hear about super-phosphates, and resented
having regularly every afternoon to pretend he did; and he did want, and
this became a growing wish and a growing awkwardness, to make love to
Herr Dremmel's wife.

Herr Dremmel's large unconsciousness of such a possibility annoyed him,
particularly his obliviousness to the attractiveness of Ingeborg. He
would certainly deserve, thought Ingram, anything he got. It was
scandalous not to take more care of a little thing like that. Every day
at tea-time he was enraged by this want of care in Herr Dremmel, and
every day before and after tea he was engrossed, if abortive efforts to
philander can be called so, in not taking care of her himself.

"You see," said Ingeborg when he commented on the immense personal
absences and withdrawals of Herr Dremmel, "Robert is very _great_. He's
wonderful! The things he does with just grains! And of course if one is
going to achieve anything one has to give up every minute to it. Why,
even when he loved me he usedn't to--"

"Even when he loved you?" interrupted Ingram. "What, doesn't he now?"

"Oh, yes, yes," she said quickly, flushing. "I meant--of course he does.
And besides, one always loves one's wife."

"No, one doesn't."

"Yes, one does."

They left it at that.

At the end of his second week in Kökensee Ingram found himself
increasing the number of his adjectives and images and comparisons,
growing almost eagerly poetical, for the force of proximity and want of
any one else to talk to or to think about was beginning to work, and it
was becoming the one thing that seemed to him to matter to get
self-consciousness into her frank eyes, something besides or instead of
that glow of admiring friendliness. He was now very much attracted, and
almost equally exasperated. She was, after all, a woman; and it was
absurd, it was incredible, that he, Ingram, with all these opportunities
should not be able to shake her out of her first position of just wonder
at him as an artist and a celebrity.

She was so warm and friendly and close in one sense, and so nowhere at
all in another; so responsive, so quick, so ready to pile the sweetest
honey of flattery and admiration on him, and so blank to the fact
that--well, that there they were, he and she. And then she had a sense
of fun that interrupted, a sense most admirable in a woman at any other
time, but not when she is being made love to. Also she was very
irrelevant; he could not fix her; she tumbled about mentally, and that
hindered progress, too. Not that he cared a straw for her mentality
except in so far as its quality was a hindrance; it was that other part
of her, her queer little soul that interested him, her happiness and
zest of life, and, of course, the graces and harmonies of her lines and
colouring.

"You know, I suppose," he said to her one evening as they walked slowly
back along the path through the rye-field, and the cool scents of the
ended summer's day rose in their faces as they walked, "that I'd give a
hundred days of life in London or Paris for an hour of this atmosphere,
this cleanness that there is about you."

"I don't think a hundred's much. I'd give them _all_ to be with you.
Here. Now. In the rye-field. Isn't it wonderful this evening--isn't it
beautiful? Did you smell that?" She stopped and raised her nose
selectingly. "Just that instant? That's convolvulus."

"You have such faith in my gods," he went on, when he could get her away
from the convolvulus, "such a bravery of belief, such a dear bravery of
belief."

"Well, but of course," she said, turning shining eyes on to him. "Who
wouldn't believe in your gods? Art, love of beauty--"

"But it isn't only art. My gods are all sweet things and all fine
things," said Ingram, convinced at the moment that he had never done
anything but worship gods of that particular flavour, so thoroughly was
he being purged by the hyssop of life in Kökensee.

"Oh," said Ingeborg with an awed enthusiasm, "how wonderful it is that
you should be exactly what you are! But it's _clever_ of you," she added
with a little movement of her hands, smiling up at him, "to be so
_exactly_ what you are."

"And do you know what exactly you are? You're the open window in the
prison-house of my life."

She held her breath a moment. "How very beautiful!" she then said. "How
_very_ beautiful! And how kind you are to think of me like that! But why
is it a prison-house? You of all people--"

"It isn't living, you see. It's existence in caricature over there. It's
like dining perpetually with Madame Tussaud's waxworks, or anything else
totally unreal and incredible."

"But I don't understand how a great artist--"

"And you're like an open window, like the sky, like sweet air, like
freedom, like secret light--"

"Oh," she murmured, deprecating but enchanted.

"When I'm with you I feel an intolerable disgust for all the chatter and
flatulence of that other life."

"And when I'm with you," she said, "I feel as if I were stuffed
with--oh, with stars."

He was silent a moment. Then, determined not to be outdone, he said:

"When I'm with you I begin to feel like a star myself."

"As though you weren't always one."

"No. It's only you. Till I found you I was just an angry ball of mud."

"But--"

"A thirsty man in a stuffy room."

"But--"

"An emptiness, a wailing blank, an eviscerated thing."

"A what?" asked Ingeborg, who had not heard that word before.

"And you," he went on, "are the cool water that quenches me, the scent
of roses come into the room, liquid light to my clay."

She drew a deep breath. "It's wonderful, wonderful," she said. "And it
sounds so real somehow--really almost as though you meant it. Oh, I
don't mind you making fun of me a bit if only you'll go on saying lovely
things like that."

"Fun of you? Have you no idea, then, positively no idea, how sweet you
are?"

He bent down and looked into her face. "With little kisses in each of
your eyes," he said, scrutinizing them.



CHAPTER XXIX


In Redchester nobody talked of kisses. They were things not mentioned.
They were things allowable only under strictly defined conditions--if
you did not want to kiss, for instance, and the other person did not
like it--and confined in their application to the related. Like pews in
a parish church, they were reserved for families. Aunts might kiss:
freely. Especially if they were bearded--Ingeborg had an aunt with a
beard. Mothers might kiss; she had seen her calm mother kiss a new-born
baby with a sort of devouring, a cannibalism. Bishops might kiss, within
a certain restricted area. As for husbands, they did kiss, and nothing
stopped them till the day when they suddenly didn't. But no one, aunts,
mothers, bishops, or husbands, regarded the practice as a suitable basis
for conversation.

How refreshing, therefore, and how altogether delightful it was that
Ingram should be so natural, and how she loved to know that, though of
course he was pretending about the little kisses in her eyes, he thought
it worth while to pretend! With glee and pride and amusement she
wondered what Redchester would say if it could hear the great man it,
too, honoured being so simple and at the same time so very kind. For the
first time she did not answer back; she was silent, thinking amused and
pleasant thoughts. And Ingram walking beside her with his hands in his
pockets and a gayness about his heels felt triumphant, for he had, he
thought, got through to her self-consciousness, he had got her quiet at
last.

Not that he did not enjoy the incense she burned before him, the
unabashed expression of her admiration, but a man wants room for his
lovemaking, and once he is embarked on that pleasant exercise he does
not want the words taken out of his mouth. Ingeborg was always taking
the words out of his mouth and then flinging them back at him again
with, as it were, a flower stuck behind their ear. He had known that if
once he could pierce through to her self-consciousness she would leave
off doing this, she would become aware that he was a man and she was a
woman. She would become passive. She would let go of persisting that he
was a demi-god and she a sort of humble pew-opener or its equivalent in
his temple. Now apparently he had pierced through, and her silence as
she walked beside him with her eyes on the ground was more sweet to him
than anything she had ever said.

Before, however, they had reached the gap in the lilac hedge that formed
the simple entrance on that side to the Dremmel garden there she was
beginning again.

"In Redchester-" she began.

"Oh," he interrupted, "are you going to give me a description of the
town and its environs so as to keep me from giving you a description of
yourself?"

"No," she laughed. "You know I could listen to you for ever."

The same frankness; the same shining look. Ingram wanted to kick.

"I was thinking," she went on, "how nobody in Redchester ever talked
about kisses. Even little ones."

"So you are shocked?"

"No. What a word! I'm full of wonder at the miracle of you--_you_--being
so kind to me--_me!_ Saying such beautiful things, thinking such
beautiful things."

This trick of gratitude was really maddening.

"Tell me about Redchester," he said shortly. "Don't they kiss each other
there?"

"Oh, yes. But they don't have them in their eyes."

He shuddered.

"And people don't mention them, unless it's aunts. And then not like
that. No aunt could ever possibly be of the pregnant parts needful for
the invention of a phrase like that. And if she were I don't suppose I'd
want to listen."

"You do at least then want to listen?"

"Want to? Aren't I listening always to every word you say with both my
ears? What a mercy," she added with thankfulness, "what a real mercy,
what an escape, that you're _not_ an aunt!"

"You can't call it exactly a hairbreadth escape," he said moodily. "I
don't feel even the rough beginnings of an aunt anywhere about me."

He walked with her through the darkness of the lime-tree avenue,
refusing to stay to supper. Why could he not then and there in that
solitary dark place catch her in his arms and force her to wake up, to
leave off being a choir-boy, a pew-opener? Or shake her. One or the
other. At that moment he did not much care which. But he could not. He
told himself that why he could not was because she would be so
limitlessly surprised, and that for all her surprise he would be no
nearer, not an inch nearer to whatever it was in her he was now so eager
to reach. She might even--indeed he felt certain she would--thank him
profusely for such a further mark of esteem, for being, as she would
say, so very kind.

"Are you tired?" she asked, peering up at his face in the scented gloom,
for it was the time of the flowering of the lime-trees, on his suddenly
stopping and saying good night.

"No."

"You're feeling quite well?"

"Perfectly."

"Then," she said, "why go away?"

"I'm in slack water. I have no talk. I'd bore you. Good night."

The next day, having found the morning quite intolerably long, he
approached her directly they were alone on the difficult subject of
husbands.

"It's no good, Ingeborg," he said, "yes, I'm going to call you
Ingeborg--we're fellow pilgrims you and I along this rocky
ridiculousness called life, and we'll soon be dead, and so, my dear, let
us be friends for just this little while--"

"Oh, but of course, of course--"

"It's no good, you know, barring certain very obvious subjects because
of that idiotic prepossession one has for what is known as good taste.
The only really living thing is bad taste. All the preliminaries to real
union, union of any sort, mind or body, consist in the chucking away of
reticences and cautions and proprieties, and each single preliminary is
in bad taste. If we're going to be friends we'll have to go in for that.
Bad taste. Execrable taste. Now--"

He stopped.

"Well?"

She was looking at him in a kind of alarm. This was the longest speech
by far he had made, and she could not imagine what was coming at the
end. He was busy as usual flinging her on to paper--the number of his
studies of her was by this time something monstrous--and was glancing at
her swiftly and professionally at every sentence.

"About husbands. Tell me what you think about husbands."

"About husbands? But _they're_ not bad taste," she said.

"Tell me what you think about them."

"Well, they're people one is very fond of," she said, with her hands
clasped round her knees.

"Oh. You find that?"

"Yes. Don't you?"

"I never had one."

"The advantages of being a woman! They're people one is fond of once and
for all. They rescue one from Redchester. They're good and kind. They
help one roll up great balls of common memories, and all the memories
grow somehow into tender things at last. And they're patient. Even when
they've found out how tiresome one is they still go on being patient.
And--one loves them."

"And--they love you?"

She flushed. "Of course," she said.

"You're amusing with your of courses and once for alls. Really you know
there are no such things. Nothing necessarily follows. I mean, not when
you get to human beings."

Ingeborg fidgeted. Too well did she know the dishonesty of her Of
course; too well did she remember the sudden switching off, after
Zoppot, of Robert's love. But the rest was strictly true anyhow, she
thought. She did love him--dear Robert. The difference between him and
an amazing friend like Ingram was, she explained to herself, that she
was interested in Ingram, profoundly interested, and she was not
interested in Robert. That, she supposed, was because she loved Robert.
Perfect love, she said to herself, watching with careful attention the
approach of a hairy and rather awful caterpillar across the path towards
her shoes, perfect love cast out a lot of things besides fear. It cast
out, for instance, conversation. And interest, which one couldn't very
well have without conversation. Interest, of course, was an altogether
second-rate feeling compared to love, and because it was second-rate it
was noisier, expressing itself with a copiousness unnecessary when one
got to the higher stages of feeling. One loved one's Robert, and one
kept quiet. Far the highest thing was to love; but--she drew her feet up
quickly under her--how very interesting it was being interested!

"Well?" he said, looking at her, "go on."

"Well, but I can't go on because I've finished. There isn't any more."

"It's a soon exhausted subject."

"That's because it's so simple and so--so dear. You know where you are
with husbands."

"You mean you know you're not anywhere."

"Oh," she said, throwing back her head and facing him courageously, "how
you don't _realise_! And anyhow," she added, "if that were true it would
be a very placid and restful state to be in."

"Negation. Death. Do you find it placid and restful with me?"

"No," she said quickly.

He put down his brushes and stared at her. "What a mercy!" he said.
"What a mercy! I was beginning to be afraid you did."

By the end of the third week an odd thing had happened. He was no nearer
piercing through her outer husk to any emotions she might possess than
before, but she, astonishingly, had pierced through his.

The outer husk of Ingram at this time and for some years previously was
a desire at all costs to dodge boredom, to get tight hold of anything
that promised to excite him, squeeze it with diligence till the last
drop of entertainment had been extracted, and then let it go again
considerably crumpled. It was the kind of husk that causes divergences
of opinion with one's wife. And behind it sat, wrapped in flame, the
thing that was with him untouchably first, his work. He did not know how
or why, but in that third week Ingeborg got through this husk and became
mixed up in a curious inextricable way with the flaming holy thing
inside.

High above, immeasurably above, any interest he had ever felt in women
was his work. The divers love-makings with which his past bristled as an
ancient churchyard bristles with battered tombstones, had all been
conducted as it were on his doorstep. He came out to the lady, the lady
destined so soon to be a tombstone, often with passion, sometimes with
illusions, and always with immense goodwill to believe that here was the
real thing at last, but she never came in. She might and did catch cold
there for anything he cared, she should never cross the threshold and
start interfering, delaying, coming between. In the end she got left out
there alone, along with the scraper, feeling chilly.

And here was Ingeborg through the door, and not interfering, not
delaying, but positively furthering.

The increasing beauty of his studies of her first made him suspect it.
Their beauty began to surprise him, to take him unawares, as though it
were a thing outside and apart from his own will. He had found so few
things in humanity that seemed beautiful, and his pictures had been
pictures of resentments--impish and wonderful exposures by a master of
the littleness at the back of brave shows. For a fortnight now he had
sketched and sketched and splashed about with colour just as an excuse
for staying on, in the desire to make love to Ingeborg, to refresh
himself for a space at this unexpectedly limpid little spring. He had
been attracted, irritated, increasingly attracted, greatly exasperated,
greatly attracted. He had grown eager, determined, almost anxious at
last. But these various emotions had been felt by him strictly on his
doorstep. She was merely a substitute, and at that only a temporary
substitute, for the Caucasus.

Then in the third week he perceived that she had left off being that.
She was no longer just an odd little thing, an attractive, delicious
little thing to him, of the colouring he best loved, the fairness, the
whiteness, a thing that offered up incense before him with unflagging
zeal, a thing full of contentments and generous ready friendship; she
still was all that, but she was more. Like Adam when God breathed into
his nostrils the breath of life, she had become a living soul, and that
of which she was the living soul was his work. Not only her soul but his
had begun to get into his studies of her. Each successive study unveiled
more of an inner beauty. Each fixed into form and colour qualities in
her and qualities in him who apprehended them that he had not known were
there. It was as if he watched, while his hand was held and guided sure
swift touch by sure swift touch by some one else, some one altogether
greater, some splendid master from some splendid other world, who laid
hold of him as one lays hold of a learner and showed him these things
and said at each fresh stroke, "Look--this is what she is like, the
essence of her, the spirit ... and see, it is what you are like, too,
for you recognise it."

In that third week late one afternoon they went on the lake. Ingeborg
paddled slowly along the middle of the quiet water towards the sunset,
and Ingram sat at the other end with his back to it and watched her
becoming more and more transfigured as the sun got lower.

Very early in their acquaintance he had conveyed to her that she ought
always to wear white and that hats were foolish and unnecessary;
therefore she did wear white, and sat hatless in the punt. The light
blinded her. She could see nothing of him but a dark hunch against a
blaze of sky. But when she wanted to turn the punt towards the relief of
the shadows along the shore he instantly stopped her, and told her to
keep on straight into the eye of the sun.

"But I can't see," she said.

"But I can. It's for my picture. It's going to be a study of light."

"Shall you be able to do it from the sketches?"

"No. From you."

"Why, you said you couldn't anywhere here because there wasn't a proper
place."

"There isn't. I'm going to do it in Venice. In my studio there."

"But can you from memory?"

"No. From you."

She laughed. "How I wish I could!" she said. "I ache and ache to see
things, to go to Italy--"

She sighed. The vision of it was unendurably beautiful.

"Well, you'll have to. Not only because it's monstrous you shouldn't,
monstrous and shocking and unbelievable that you should be stuck in
Kökensee for years on end and never see or hear or know any of the big
things of life, but because you can't spoil my great picture--the
greatest I shall ever have done."

"Robert could never leave his work."

"I don't want Robert to leave anything. It's you I'm going to paint. And
I can't do without you."

"How very awkward," she smiled, "because Robert can't do without me,
either."

He plunged his arm into the water with sudden extreme violence, scooped
a handful of it high into the air, and dashed it back again.

It had seemed to him obvious throughout his life that when it came to
the supremest things not only did one give up everything oneself for
them but other people were bound to give up everything, too. The world
and the centuries were to be enriched--he had a magnificent private
faith in his position as a creator--and it was the duty of those
persons who were needful to the process to deliver themselves, their
souls and bodies, up to him in what he was convinced was an entirely
reasonable sacrifice. If any one were necessary to his work, even only
indirectly by keeping him content while he did it so that he could
produce his best, it was that person's duty to come to his help. A
paramount duty; passing the love of home or family. He would do as much,
he was convinced, for some one else who should instead of him possess
the gift. Here had he been in a state of dissatisfaction and
restlessness for years, and his work, though his reputation leapt along,
was, he very well knew, not what it could have been. Boredom had seized
him; a great disgust of humanity. There had been harassing private
complications; his wife had turned tiresome, refusing to understand. And
now he had found this--this thing, he thought, looking at her in the
kind of fury that seized him at the merest approach to any thwarting
that touched his work, of light and fire and cleanness, this little
hidden precious stone, hidden for him, waiting for him to come and make
of her a supreme work of art, and she was putting forward middle-class
obstacles, Philistine difficulties, ludicrous trivialities--Robert, in
short--to the achievement of it.

"Do you realise," he said, leaning forward and staring at her with his
strange pale eyes, "what it means to be painted by me?"

"My utter glorification," she answered, "my utter pride."

He waved his hand impatiently. "It means," he said, "and in this case it
would supremely mean, another one added to the great possessions of the
world."

"Oh," said Ingeborg; and then, after a slight holding of her breath,
again "Oh."

She was awe-struck. His voice came out of the black shadow of him at her
through clenched teeth, which gave it a strange awe-striking quality.
She felt, with the sunset blinding her and that black figure in front of
her and the intense clenchedness of the voice issuing from it, in the
presence of immensities. She wondered whether it would have been any
worse--instantly she corrected the word (it had been the merest slip of
her brain) to more glorious--to be sitting in a punt with,
simultaneously, Shakespeare, Sophocles. Homer, and the entire
Renaissance. Weak a thing though her paddle was she pressed it tightly
in her arms.

"It's--a great responsibility," she said lamely.

"Of course it is," he said, still in that clenched voice. "And it has to
be met greatly."

"But what have _I_--"

"Here's this picture--I feel it in me, I tell you I feel it and know
it--going to be the crowning work of my life, going to be a thing of
living beauty throughout the generations, going to be the Portrait of a
Lady that draws the world to look at it during all the ages after we are
dead--"

He broke off. He left off hurling the sentences at her. He began to beg.

"Ingeborg," he said, "you've cleaned me up and glorified me like the
sunshine during this stay here, without meaning to clean or bothering to
clean a bit. You've become the eyes of the universe to me, and if it
weren't for you now the whole thing would be an eyeless monster and a
mask and a horror. Without you--why, even during the mornings here when
I mayn't come to you I'm like a ship laid up in an out-of-the-way port,
an aeroplane without an engine, a book with the first and last pages
lost. The mornings are like a realistic novel of Gissing's after a fairy
tale. The afternoons are like a bright vision in a crystal, like a
dream, like one of the drops into fairyland quite common people
sometimes take. You're the littlest thing, and you leave the most
enormous blank. It's extraordinary the _goneness_ of things directly I'm
away from you. I did poor work before I found you, poor I mean compared
to what I know it might be, and I'll do none at all or mere ruins if I
have to work without you now. Work is everything to me, and I'm not
going to be able to do it if you're not there. Jeer at me if you like.
Jeer at me for a parasite. I've been an empty thing without you all
these years. You can't let me go again. You can't let me drop back into
the old angers, into the old falling short of the highest. You're the
spirit of my inmost. You're my response, my reality, my glorification,
my transmuter into a god. And the picture I'm going to do of you will be
the Portrait of a Lady who gave him back his Soul."



CHAPTER XXX


She stared at his black outline helplessly. She was overwhelmed. What
could a respectable pastor's wife say to such a speech? It had the
genuine ring. She did not believe it all--not, that is, the portions of
it which that back part of her mind, the part that leapt about with
disconcerting agility of irrelevant questioning when it most oughtn't
to, called the decorations, for how could any one like Ingram really
think those wonderful things of any one like her?--but she no longer
suspected him of making fun. He meant some of it. What was underneath it
he meant, she felt. She was scared, and at the same time caught up into
rapture. Was it possible that at last she was wanted, at last she could
help some one? He wanted her, he, Ingram, of all people in the world;
and only a few weeks ago she had been going about Kökensee so completely
unwanted that if a dog wagged its tail at her she had been glad.

"It--it's a great responsibility," she murmured a second time, while her
face was transfigured with more than just the sunset.

It was. For there was Robert.

Robert, she felt even at this moment in the uplifted state when
everything seems easy and possible, would not understand. Robert had no
need of her himself, but he would not let her go for all that to Venice.
Robert had altogether not grasped Ingram's importance in the world; he
could not, perhaps, be expected to, for he did not like art. Robert, she
was deadly certain, would not leave his work for an hour to take her
anywhere for any purpose however high; and without him how could she go
to Venice? People didn't go to Venice with somebody who wasn't their
husband. They might go there with a whole trainful of indifferent
persons if they were indifferent. Directly you liked somebody, directly
it became wonderful to be taken there, to be shown the way, looked
after, prevented from getting lost, you didn't go. It simply, as with
kissing, was a matter of liking. Society seemed based on hate. You might
kiss the people you didn't want to kiss; you might go to Venice with any
amount of strangers because you didn't like strangers. And in a case
like this--"Oh, in a case like this," she suddenly cried out aloud,
flinging the paddle into the punt and twisting her hands together,
overcome by the vision of the glories that were going to be missed,
"when it's so important, when it so tremendously matters--to be caught
by convention!"

He had got her. The swift conviction flashed through him as he jerked
his feet out of the way of the paddle. Got her differently from what he
had first aimed at perhaps, still incredibly without sex-consciousness,
but she would come to Venice, she would come and sit to him, he was
going to do his masterpiece, and the rest was inevitable.

"How do you mean?" he said, his eyes on her.

"To think the great picture's never going to be painted!"

"And why?"

"Because of convention, because of all these mad rules--"

She was twisting her fingers about in the way she did when much stirred.

"It's doomed," she said, "doomed." And she looked at him with eyes full
of amazement, of aggrievedness, of, actually, tears.

"Ingeborg--" he began.

"Do you know how I've longed to go just to Italy?" she interrupted with
just the same headlong impulsiveness that had swept her into Dent's
Travel Bureau years before. "How I've read about it and thought about it
till I'm sick with longing? Why, I've looked out trains. And the things
I've read! I know all about its treasures--oh, not only its treasures of
art and old histories, but other treasures, light and colour and scent,
the things I love now, the things I know now in pale mean little
visions. I know all sorts of things. I know there's a great rush of
wistaria along the wall as you go up to the Certosa, covering its whole
length with bunch upon bunch of flowers--"

"Which Certosa?"

"Pavia, Pavia--and all the open space in front of it is drenched in
April with that divinest smell. And I know about the little red monthly
roses scrambling in and out of the Campo Santo above Genoa in
January--in January! Red roses in January. While here.... And I know
about the fireflies in the gardens round Florence--that's May, early
May, while here we still sit up against the stoves. And I know about the
chestnut woods, real chestnuts that you eat afterwards, along the steep
sides of the lakes, miles and miles of them, with deep green moss
underneath, and I know about the queer black grapes that sting your
tongue and fill the world with a smell of strawberries in September, and
what the Appian way looks like in April when it is still waving flowery
grass burning in an immensity of light, and I know the honey-colour of
the houses in the old parts of Rome, and that the irises they sell there
in the streets are like pale pink coral--and all one needs to do to see
these things for oneself is to catch a train at Meuk. _Any_ day one
could catch that train at Meuk. Every day it starts and one is never
there. And Kökensee would roll back like a curtain, and the world be
changed like a garment, like an old stiff clayey garment, like an old
shroud, into all _that_. Think of it! What a background, what a
background for the painting of the greatest picture in the world!"

She stopped and took up the paddle again. "I wonder," she said, with
sudden listlessness "why I say all this to you?"

"Because," said Ingram, in a low voice, "you're my sister and my mate."

She dipped the paddle into the water and turned the punt towards home.

"Oh, well," she said, the enthusiasm gone out of her.

The water and the sky and the forests along the banks and the spire of
the Kökensee church at the end of the lake looked dark and sad going
this way. At first she could see nothing after the blinding light of the
other direction, then everything cleared into dun colour and bleakness.
"How one talks," she said. "I say things--enthusiastic things, and you
say things--beautiful kind things, and it's all no good."

"Isn't it? Not only do we say them but we're going to do them. You're
coming with me to Venice, my dear. Haven't you read in those travel
books of yours what the lagoons look like at sunset?"

She made an impatient movement.

"Ingeborg, let us reason together."

"I can't reason."

"Well, listen to me then doing it by myself."

And he proceeded to do it. All the way down the lake he did it, and up
along the path through the rye, and afterwards in the garden pacing up
and down in the gathering twilight beneath the lime-trees he did it.
"Wonderful," he thought in that submerged portion of the back of his
mind where imps of criticism sat and scoffed, "the trouble one takes at
the beginning over a woman."

She let him talk, listening quite in silence, her hands clasped behind
her, her eyes observing every incident of the pale summer path, the
broken twigs scattered on it, some withered sweet-peas she had worn that
afternoon, a column of ants over which she stepped carefully each time.
Till the stars came out and the owls appeared he eagerly reasoned. He
talked of the folly of conventions, of the ridiculous way people
deliberately chain themselves up, padlock themselves to some bogey of a
theory of right and wrong, are so deeply in their souls improper that
they dare not loose their chain one inch or unlock themselves an instant
to go on the simplest of adventures. Such people, he explained, were in
their essence profoundly and incurably immoral. They needed the straight
waistcoat and padded room of principles. Their only hope lay in chains.
"With them," he said, "sane human beings such as you and I have nothing
to do." But what about the others, the free spirits increasing daily in
number, the fundamentally fine and clean, who wanted no safeguards and
were engaged in demonstrating continually to the world that two friends,
man and woman, could very well, say, travel together, be away seeing
beautiful things together, with the simplicity of children or of a
brother and sister, and return safe after the longest absence with not a
memory between them that they need regret?

Why, there were--he instanced names, well-known ones, of people who, he
said, had gone and come back openly, frankly, determined demonstrators
for the public good of the natural. And then there were--he instanced
more names, names of people even Ingeborg had heard of; and finding this
unexpectedly impressive he went on inventing with a growing
recklessness, taking any people well-known enough to have been heard of
by Ingeborg and sending them to Venice in twos, in haphazard
juxtapositions that presently began to amuse him tremendously. No doubt
they had gone, or would go sooner or later, he thought, greatly tickled
by the vision of some of his couples. "There was Lilienkopf--you know,
the African millionaire. _He_ went to Venice with Lady Missenden." He
flung back his head and laughed. The thought of Lilienkopf and Lady
Missenden.... "They, too, came back without a regret," he said; and
laughed and laughed.

She watched him gravely. She knew neither Lilienkopf nor Lady Missenden,
and was not in the mood for laughter.

"Even bishops go," said Ingram. "They go for walking tours."

"But not to Venice?"

"No. To shrines. Why, Cathedral cities are honey-combed with secret
pilgrims."

"But why secret? You said--"

"Well, careful pilgrims. Pilgrims who make careful departures. One has
to depart carefully, you know. Not because of oneself but because of
offending those who are not imbued with the pilgrim spirit. For instance
Robert."

"Oh--Robert. I _see_ his face if I suggested he should let me be a
pilgrim."

"But of course you mustn't suggest."

"What?" She stood still and looked up at him. "Just go?"

"Of course. It was what you did when you ran away to Lucerne. If you'd
suggested you'd never have got there. And you did that for merest fun.
While this--"

He looked at her, and the impishness died out of his face.

"Why, this," he said, after a silence, "this is the giving back to me of
my soul. I need you, my dear. I need you as a dark room needs a lamp, as
a cold room needs a fire. My work will be nothing without you--how can
it be with no light to see by? It will be empty, dead. It will be like
the sky without the star that makes it beautiful, the hay without the
flower that scents it, the cloak one is given by God to keep out the
cold and wickedness of life slipped off because there was no clasp to
hold it tight over one's heart."

She began to warm again. She had been a little cooled while he laughed
by himself over Lady Missenden's unregretted journeyings. To go to
Italy; to go to Italy at all; but to go under such conditions, wanted,
indispensable to the creation of a great work of art; it was the most
amazing cluster of joys surely that had ever been offered to woman.

"How long would I have to be away?" she asked. "How long is the shortest
time one wants for a picture?"

He airily told her a month would be enough, and, on her exclaiming,
immediately reduced it to a week.

"But getting there and coming back--"

"Well, say ten days," he said. "Surely you could get away for ten days?
To do," he added, looking at her, "some long-delayed shopping in
Berlin."

"But I don't want to shop."

"Oh, Ingeborg, you're relapsing into your choir-boy condition again. Of
course you don't want to shop. Of course you don't want to go to Berlin.
But it's what you'll say to Robert."

"Oh?" she said. "But isn't that--wouldn't that be rather--"

"Why can't you be as simple as when you went to Lucerne? You wanted to
go, so you went. And you were leaving your father who tremendously
needed you. You were his right hand. Here you're nobody's right hand.
I'm not asking you to do anything that would hurt Robert. All you've got
to do is to arrange so that he knows nothing beyond Berlin. Surely after
these years he can let you go away for ten days?"

She walked with him in silence down the lilac path as far as the gate
into the yard. She was exalted, but her exaltation was shot with doubt.
What he said sounded so entirely right, so obviously right. She had no
reasoning to put up against it. She longed intolerably to go. She was
quite certain it was a high and beautiful thing to go. And yet--

Herr Dremmel's laboratory windows were open, for the evening was heavy
and quiet, and they could see him in the lamplight, with disregarded
moths fluttering round his head, bent over his work.

"Good night," Ingram called in at the window with the peculiar cordial
voice reserved for husbands; but Herr Dremmel was too much engrossed to
hear.

Towards two o'clock there was a thunderstorm and sheets of rain, and
when Ingeborg got up next morning it was to find the summer gone. The
house was cold and dark and mournful, and it was raining steadily.
Looking out of the front door at the yard that had been so bright and
dusty for five weeks she thought she had never seen such a sudden
desolation. The rain rained on the ivy with a drawn-out dull dripping.
The pig standing solitary in the mud was the wettest pig. The puddles
were all over little buttons made of raindrops. Invariably after a
thunderstorm the weather broke up for days, sometimes for weeks. What
would she and Ingram do now? she thought; what in the world would they
do now? Shut up in the dark little parlour, he unable to work, and no
walks, and no punting--why, he'd go, of course, and the wonder-time was
at an end.

"A week of this," said Herr Dremmel, coming out of his laboratory to
stand on the doorstep and rub his hands in satisfaction, "a week of this
will save the situation."

"Which situation, Robert?" she asked, her mind as confused and dull as
the untidy grey sky. He looked at her.

"Oh, yes," she said hastily, "of course--the experiment fields. Yes, I
suppose this is what they've been wanting all through that heavenly
weather."

"It was a weather," said Herr Dremmel, "that had nothing to do with
heaven and everything to do with hell. Devils no doubt might grow in it,
wax fat and big and heavy-eared, devils used to drought, but certainly
not the kindly fruits of the earth."

And for an instant he gave his mind to reflection on how great might be
the barrier created between two people living together by a different
taste in weather.

Ingram arrived at two o'clock in a state of extreme irritation. He
splashed through the farmyard with the collar of his coat turned up and
angrily holding an umbrella. In his wet-weather mood it seemed to him
entirely absurd and unworthy to be wading through an East Prussian
farmyard mess in pouring rain, beneath an umbrella, in order to sit with
a woman. He wanted to be at work. He was obsessed by his picture. He was
in the fever to begin that seizes the artist after idleness, the fever
to get away, to be off back to the real concern of life--the fierce
fever of creation. He had not yet had to come into the house on his
daily visits, and when he got into the passage he was immediately and
deeply offended by the smell that met him of what an hour before had
been a German dinner. The smell came out, as it were, weighty with
welcome. It advanced _en bloc_. It was massive, deep, enveloping. The
front door stood open, but nothing but great space of time could rid the
house in the afternoons of that peculiar and all-pervading smell. He was
shocked to think his white and golden one, his little image of living
ivory and living gold, must needs on a day like this be swathed about in
such fumes, must sit in them and breathe them, and that his communings
with her were going to be conducted through a heavy curtain of what
seemed to be different varieties of cabbage and all of them malignant.

The narrow gloom of the house, its unpiercedness on that north side by
any but the coldest light, its abrupt ending almost at once in the
kitchen and servant part, struck him as incredibly, preposterously
sordid. What a place to put a woman in! What a place, having put her in
it, to neglect her in! The thought of Herr Dremmel's neglects, those
neglects that had made his own stay possible and pleasant, infuriated
him. How dare he? thought Ingram, angrily wiping his boots.

Herr Dremmel, Kökensee, everything connected with the place except
Ingeborg, seemed in his changed mood ignoble. He forgot the weeks of
sunshine there had been, the large afternoons in the garden and forest
and rye-fields, the floating on great stretches of calm water, and just
hated everything. Kökensee was God-forsaken, distant, alien, ugly,
dirty, dripping, evil-smelling. Ingeborg herself when she came running
out of the parlour to him into the concentrated cabbage of the corridor
seemed less shining, drabber than before. And so unfortunately active
was his imagination, so quick to riot, that almost he could fancy for
one dreadful instant as he looked at her that there was cabbage in her
very hair.

"Ingeborg," he said the moment he was in the parlour, "I can't stand
this. I can't endure _this_ sort of thing, you know."

He rubbed both his hands through his hair and gnawed at a finger and
fixed his eyes on hers in a kind of angry reproach.

"I was afraid you wouldn't like it," she said apologetically, feeling
somehow as though the weather were her fault.

"Like it! And I can't idle here any more. You can't expect me to hang on
here any more--"

"Oh, but I never _expected_--" she interrupted hastily, surprised and
distressed that she should have produced any such impression.

"Well, it comes to the same thing, your making difficulties about coming
away, your wanting such a lot of persuading."

He stopped in his quick pacing of the little room and stared at her.
"Why, you're giving me _trouble_!" he said, in a voice of high
astonishment.

And as she stood looking at him with her lips fallen apart, her eyes
full of a new and anxious questioning, he began to pace about again,
across and round and up and down the unworthy little room.

"God," he said, swiftly pacing, "how I do hate miss-ishness!"

And indeed it seemed to him wholly, amazingly monstrous that his great
new work should be being held up a day by any scruples of any sort
whatever.

"This grey headache of a sky," he said, jerking himself for a moment to
the window, "this mud, this muggy chilliness--"

"But--" she began.

"The days here are lines--just length without breadth or thickness or
any substance--"

"But surely--till to-day--"

"I feel in a sort of well in this place, out of sight of faith and
kindliness--you shutting them out," he turned on her, "you deliberately
shutting them out, putting the lid on the glory of light and life, being
an extinguisher for the sake of nothing and nobody at all, just for the
sake of a phantom of an idea about Robert--"

"But surely--" she said.

"I'm bored and bored here. This morning was a frightful thing. I daren't
in this state even make a sketch of you. I'd spoil it. It'll rain for
ever. I can't stay in this room. I'd begin to rave--"

"But of course you can't stay in it. Of course you must go."

"Go! When I can't work without you? When you're so everything to me that
during the hours I'm away from you little things you've said and done
float in my mind like little shining phosphorescent things in a dark
cold sea, and I creep into warm little thoughts of you like some
creature that shivers and gets back into its nest? I told you I was a
parasite. I told you I depend on you. I told you you make me exist for
myself. How can you let me beg? How can you let _me_ beg?"

They stood facing each other in the middle of the room, his light eyes
blazing down into hers.

"You--you're sure I'd be back in ten days?" she said.

And he had the presence of mind not to catch her to his heart.



CHAPTER XXXI


From the moment she said she would go Ingram was a changed creature. He
became brisk, business-like, cheerful. Not a trace was left of the
exasperated wet man who had come round through the rain, and there were
no more poetic images. He was reassuringly like a pleased elder brother,
a brother all alert contentment. The table was cleared by his swift
hands of the litter of her English studies, and the map out of the
_Reichskursbuch_ spread on it; and with the help of an old Baedeker his
sharp eyes had noticed lurking in a corner he expounded to her what she
was to do. He wrote down her train from Meuk to Allenstein and her train
from Allenstein to Berlin; he told her where she was to stay the night
in Berlin, a city he appeared to know intimately; and he made a drawing
in pencil of the streets that led to it from the station.

"The dotted line," he said, explaining his drawing, "is Ingeborg's
little footsteps."

She was to stay at one of those refuges for timid ladies with
connections in the Church which are scattered about Berlin and called
_Christliche Hospiz_, places where, besides coffee and rolls, there are
prayers and a harmonium for breakfast. She was to meet him next day at
the Anhalter station, that happy jump-off for the south, and he would
leave Kökensee at once, perhaps that evening, and wait for her in
Berlin. They would proceed to Venice intermittently, getting out of the
train at various points in order to see certain things--there was a walk
he wanted to take her across the hills of Lake Maggiore, for instance--

"But I've only ten days," she reminded him.

"Oh, you'll see. One can do a lot--" And there was Bergamo he wanted to
show her; she would, he assured her, greatly love Bergamo; and certainly
they would go to Pavia if only to see if the wistaria were still in
flower.

Her eyes danced. The sight of the map and the time-table was enough. She
hung over him eagerly, following his pointing finger as it moved over
mountains and lakes. She was like a schoolboy watching the planning out
of his first trip abroad. There was no room in her for any thoughts but
thoughts of glee. The names were music to her--Locarno, Cannobio, Luino,
Varese, Bergamo, Brescia, Venice. She lost sight of the higher aspect of
the adventure, the picture, her position as indispensable assistant in
the production of a great work; her brain was buzzing with just the idea
of trains and places and new countries and utter fun. After the years of
inaction in Kökensee, just to go in a train to Berlin would have been
tremendous enough to set her blood pulsing; and here she was going on
and on, farther and farther, into more and more light, more and more
colour and heat and splendour and all new things, till actually at last
she would reach it, the heart of the world, and be in Italy.

"Oh," she murmured, "but it's too _good_ to be true--"

And the Rigi, which up to then had been the high-water mark of her
experience, collapsed into a little lump of pale indifferent mould.

When the tea began to bump against the door and she went out to help the
servant, Ingram put every sign of intending travel neatly away, and by
the time Herr Dremmel joined them there was no hint of anything anywhere
in the room but sobriety except in Ingeborg's eyes. They danced and
danced. She longed to jump up and fling her arms round Robert's neck and
tell him she was off to Italy. She wanted him to share her joy, to know
how happy she was. She felt all lit up and bright inside, while Ingram,
on the contrary, looked forbiddingly solemn. He presently began to make
solemn comments on the change in the weather, and after hearing Herr
Dremmel's view and sympathising with his gratification, said that as
regarded himself it put an end to his work of preparation for the
painting of Frau Dremmel's portrait, and therefore he was leaving the
next morning and would take the opportunity, when Herr Dremmel presently
retired to his laboratory, of making his farewells.

Herr Dremmel expressed polite regrets. Ingram politely thanked him.
Ingeborg felt suddenly less lit up, and her eyes left off dancing. She
wanted, for some odd reason, to slip her hand into Robert's. It grew and
grew on her, the desire to go and sit very close to Robert. If only he
would come, too, if only he would for once take a holiday and come and
see these beautiful things with her, how happy they would all be! It
seemed a forlorn thing to leave him there alone in the rain while she
went jaunting off to Italy. Well, but he wouldn't come; he liked rain;
and he wouldn't let her go, either, if she were frankly to ask him to.
The example of Lady Missenden or of any of those well-known persons
would not, she knew, move him. Nor would anything she could say on the
shameful absurdity of supposing evil. Liberal though he was and large as
were his scoffings at convention, he was not as liberal and large, she
felt sure, as Ingram, and she suspected that the conventions he scoffed
at were those which did not touch himself. She could not risk asking.
She must go. She must, must go. Yet--

She got up impulsively, and on the pretext of taking his cup from him
went to him and put her hand with a little stroking movement on his
hair. Herr Dremmel did not observe it, but Ingram did; and after tea and
until he left that evening not to see her again till they met at the
Anhalter station in Berlin, he was amazingly natural and ordinary and
cheery, more exactly like a brother than any brother that had ever been
seen or imagined.

"Of course," he said quite at the last, turning back from the doorstep
before finally committing himself to the liquid masses of the dissolved
farmyard--"of course I can _depend_ on you?"

She laughed. She stood on the top step with the light of the lamp in the
passage behind her, a little torch of resolution and adventure and
imagination well let loose.

"I'm going to Italy," she said, flinging out both her arms as though she
would put them round that land of dreams; and so complex is man and so
simple in his complexity that Ingram went away in the wet twilight quite
sincerely offering thanks to God.

But when it came to the moment of telling Robert about Berlin and
shopping, her heart beat very uncomfortably. It was at tea-time the next
afternoon. All day she had been trying to do it, but her tongue refused.
At breakfast she tried, and at dinner she tried, and in between she went
twice to the laboratory door and stood on the mat, and instead of going
in went away again on the carefullest toe-tips. And there was Ingram
getting to Berlin, got to Berlin, kicking his heels there waiting....

At tea-time, after a tempestuous walk in the wet during which, as she
splashed through sodden miles of sad-coloured wilderness, she took her
gods to witness that the thing should be done that afternoon, she did
finally bring it out. She had meant to say with an immense naturalness
that she wished to go to Berlin in order to buy boots. She had thought
of boots as simple objects, quickly bought and resembling each other;
not like hats or dresses which might lead later on to explanations. And
she needed boots. She really would buy them. It would, she felt, help
her to be natural if what she said so far as it went were true.

But so greatly was she chagrined in her soul that she should have to
talk of boots at all instead of telling him, her Robert, her after all
_hind_ Robert, with delight of Italy and of her discoveries in beautiful
new feelings, that when she had gulped and cleared her throat and gulped
again and opened her mouth she found herself not talking of boots nor
yet of Berlin, but addressing him with something of the indignant
irrelevance of a suffragette who because she has been forcibly fed
demands the vote.

He had, as his custom was, brought literature with him, and was sitting
bent over his cup with the book propped against the hot-water jug. It
was called _Eliminierung der Minusvarianten_, and was apparently, as all
the books he brought to meals also were apparently, absorbing. The sound
of the dripping of the rain on the ivy was unbroken at first except by
the sound of Herr Dremmel drinking his tea, and the room was so gloomy
under the pall of heavy sky that almost one needed a lamp.

"You see," said Ingeborg, most of the blood in her body surging up into
her face as she suddenly, after ten minutes' silent struggle, leaned
across the table and plunged into the inevitable, "my feeling so
uncomfortable about a simple thing like this is really the measure of
the subjection of women."

Herr Dremmel raised his head but not his eyes from his book, expressing
thereby both a civilised attentiveness to anything she might wish to say
and a continued interest in the sentence he was at. When he had finished
it he looked at her over his spectacles, and inquired if she had spoken.

"Why should I not go and come unquestioned?" she asked, flushed with
indignation that his prejudices should be forcing her to the low cunning
that substituted boots for Italy. "_You_ do."

He examined her impartially. "What do I do, Ingeborg?" he asked with
patience.

"Go away when you want to and come back when you choose. You've been
quite far. You went once to a place the other side of Berlin. Oh, I know
it's business you go on, but I don't think that makes it any better--on
the contrary, it isn't half as good a reason as going because it's
beautiful to go, and fine and splendid. And it isn't as though I even
had to ask you to give me money for it. I simply roll in that hundred a
year you allow me. I haven't spent a quarter of it for years. My
cupboard upstairs is stuffed with notes."

He looked at her, but finding it impossible to discover any meaning in
her remarks began to read again.

"Robert--"

With patience he again removed his eyes from his book and looked at her.
Beneath the table she was pressing her hands together, twisting them
about in her lap.

"Well, Ingeborg?" he said.

"Don't you think it's unworthy, the way women have to ask permission to
do things?"

"No," said Herr Dremmel; but he was thinking of the _Minusvarianten_,
and it was mere chance that he did not say Yes.

"When husbands go away they don't ask their wives' permission, and it
never would occur to the wives that they ought to. So why should the
wives have to ask the husbands'?"

Herr Dremmel gazed at her a moment, and then made a stately, excluding,
but entirely kindly movement with his right hand. "Ingeborg," he said,
"I am not interested." And he began to read again.

She poured herself out some more tea, drank it hastily and hot, and said
with a great effort, "It's nonsense about permissions. I--I'm going to
Berlin."

Then she waited with her heart in her mouth and both hands clutching the
edge of the table.

But nothing happened. He read on.

"Robert--" she said.

Once more he endeavoured to place his attention at her disposal,
dragging it away reluctantly from his book. "Yes, Ingeborg?" he said.

"Robert--I'm going to Berlin."

"Are you, Ingeborg?" he inquired with perfect mildness.

"Why?"

"I've got to get things. Shop."

"And why Berlin, Ingeborg? Is not Meuk nearer?"

"Boots," she said. "There aren't any in Meuk. I never _saw_ any in
Meuk."

"And in Königsberg? That also is nearer than Berlin."

"You must have heard," she said, laying hold, because she was afraid, of
the first words that came into her head, "of Berlin wool. Well, the same
thing exactly applies to boots."

He stared at her as one who feels about for some point of contact with
an alien intelligence.

"Naturally if you have to go you must," he said.

"Yes. For ten days."

"Ten, Ingeborg? On account of boots?"

She nodded defiantly, her hands beneath the table twisted into knots.

He adjusted his mind to the conception.

"Ten days for boots?"

"Ten, ten," she said recklessly, prepared to brave any amount of
opposition. "I want to see a few things while I'm about it--the
galleries, for instance. It isn't going to be _all_ boots. I haven't
stirred from here since our marriage, except to go to Zoppot--it's time
I went--it's really _ridiculously_ time I went--"

"But," said Herr Dremmel, with the complete reasonableness of one who is
indifferent and has no desire whatever to argue, "but naturally. Of
course, Ingeborg."

"Then--you don't mind?"

"But why should I mind?"

"You--you're not even surprised?"

"But why should I be surprised?" And once again he reflected on her
apparently permanent obtuseness to values.

She gazed at him with the astonishment of a child who has screwed itself
up for a beating and finds itself instead being blessed. She felt
relief, but a pained relief; an aggrieved, almost angry relief; such as
he feels who putting his entire strength into the effort to lift a
vessel he fears is too heavy for him finds it light and empty. Her soul,
as it were, tumbled over backwards and sprawled.

"How funny!" she murmured. "How very funny! And here I've been afraid to
tell you."

But once more he had ceased to listen. His eye had been caught by a
statement on the page in front of him that interested him acutely, and
he read with avidity to the end of the chapter. Then he got up with the
book in his hand and went to the door, thinking over what he had read.

She sat looking after him.

"I expect--I think--I suppose I shall start to-morrow," she said as he
opened the door.

"Start?" he repeated absently. "Why should you start?"

"Oh, Robert--I can't get there if I don't start."

"Get where, Ingeborg?" he asked, his eyes on hers but his thoughts in
unimaginable distances.

"Oh, Robert--but to Berlin, of course."

"Berlin. Yes. Very well. Berlin."

And, deeply turning over the new and pregnant possibilities suggested to
him by what he had just been reading, he went out.



CHAPTER XXXII


As though to assure her of what she already knew, that she was on the
threshold of the most glorious ten days of her life, the world when she
looked out of the window next morning was radiant with sunshine and
sparkling with freshness. Far away on the edge of Russia the great rain
clouds that had come up to Kökensee from the west and folded it for two
days in a stupor of mist were disappearing in one long purple line. The
garden glistened and laughed. Sweet fragrances from the responsive earth
hurried to meet the sun like eager kisses. If she had needed reassuring,
this happy morning warm and scented would have done it; but now that the
night was over, a time when those who are going to have doubts do have
them, and the dark sodden days when if facts are going to be blurred
they are blurred, she felt no scruples nor any misgivings--she had
simply got to the beginning of the most wonderful holiday of her life.

Everything was easy. Robert went away after an early breakfast to his
fields to see the improvement forty-eight hours' soaking must have made,
and obviously did not mind her impending departure in the least; one of
the horses, till lately lame, was recovered, Karl told her, and able to
take her in to Meuk; the servant Klara seemed proud to be left in sole
charge; the train left Meuk so conveniently that she would have time to
visit Robertlet and Ditti on the way. Singing she packed her smallest
trunk; singing she thrust money from the cupboard where it had so long
lain useless into her blouse--one, two, three, ten blue German notes of
a hundred marks each--while she wondered, but not much, if it would be
enough, and wondered, but equally not much, if it would be too little;
singing she pinned on unfamiliar objects such as a hat and veil, and
sought out gloves; singing she handed over the keys to Klara; singing
she stood on the steps watching Karl harness the horses. All the birds
of Kökensee were singing, too, and the pig sunning itself in a thick
ecstasy of appreciation also sang according to its lights, and it was
not its fault, she thought excusingly, if what happened when it sang was
that it grunted.

"Life is really the heavenliest thing," she said to herself, buttoning
her gloves, her face sober with excess of joy. "The _things_ it has
round its corners! The dear surprises of happiness." And when the
buttons came off she didn't mind, but excused them, too, on the ground
that they were not used to being buttoned, and let her gloves happily
dangle. She would have excused everything that day. She would have
forgiven everybody every sin.

Klara brought her out a packet of sandwiches with her luggage, and a
little bunch of rain-washed flowers.

"How kind every one is!" she thought, smiling at Klara, wondering if she
would mind very much if she kissed her, her heart one single
all-embracing Thank you that reached right round the world. And then
suddenly, just as Karl was ready and the carriage was actually at the
door and the little trunk being put into it, and her umbrella and
sandwiches and flowers, she ran back into the house and scribbled a note
to Robert and put it on the table in his laboratory where he would not
be able to avoid seeing it when he came in that afternoon.


"I _can't_ not tell him," was the thought that had winged her impulse,
"I _can't_ not tell the truth this heavenly, God-given day of joy."

"_It wasn't true about the boots_," she wrote, inking her gloves, too
frantically hurried to take them off. "_I'm going to Italy with Mr.
Ingram--to Venice--it's his picture--and of course other things, too on
the way--if you think it over you won't really mind--I must run or I'll
miss the train--_

"INGEBORG."


And she climbed up into the carriage and drove off greatly relieved and
strong in her faith, if you gave him time and quiet, in Robert's
understanding of a thing so transparently reasonable. She would write
again, she said to herself, a real letter from Berlin and put her points
of view and Ingram's before him. Of course that was the right thing to
do. Of course a highly intelligent man like Robert was bound ultimately
to understand.

But her train did not get to Berlin till eleven o'clock that night, and
when she reached the _Christliche Hospiz_ she found a letter from Ingram
telling her she must be at the Anhalter station next morning at nine,
and though she meant to get up early and write she spent the time, being
very tired, asleep instead, and it was only when the strains of a
harmonium penetrated into her room and wandered round her head making
slow Lutheran noises that she woke up and realised how nearly she was on
the verge of missing the train to Italy.

Breakfastless and prayerless and almost without paying her bill she
hurried forth from the _Christliche Hospiz_, her clothes full of an odd
smell of naphthalin and the meals that had been eaten there before she
arrived, the ancient meals of all the yesterdays. From the smell she
concluded, cautiously and reluctantly sniffing while she put down both
windows of her cab, that what they had to eat in the _Christliche
Hospiz_ was the chorales of the harmonium expressed in cabbage; and
whether it was the cab or whether it was her clothes she did not know,
but there inside it with her still was cabbage.

"It's the odour of piety," she explained hastily to Ingram when he on
meeting her at the station looked at her with what she thought a severe
inquiry.

"It's that you're within an ace of missing the train," he said, catching
hold of her elbow and hurrying her down the platform to a door that
still stood open, with an angry official, glaring dreadfully in spite of
his tip, waiting beside it to shut it.

"I'm so sorry," she said, panting a little as she dropped into a corner
of the carriage opposite him and the train slipped away from the
station, "but I couldn't get here any sooner."

"Why couldn't you?" he asked, still severely, for he had spent a
distressing and turbulent half hour. "You only had to get up in time."

"But I couldn't get up because I was asleep."

"Nonsense, Ingeborg. You could tell them to call you."

"Well, but I didn't tell them."

"And why don't you button your gloves? Here--I'll button them."

"You can't. There aren't any buttons."

"What? No buttons?"

"They came off."

"But why in heaven's name didn't you sew them on again?"

"Do buttons matter? I was in such a tremendous hurry to start." And she
smiled at him a smile of perfect happiness.

"To come to me. To come to me," he said, his eyes on hers.

"Yes. And Italy."

"Italy! Well, you very nearly missed me. What would you have done then?"

"Oh, gone to Italy."

"What, just the same?"

"Well, Italy _is_ Italy, isn't it? Look at this sky. Isn't it wonderful
to-day, isn't it perfectly glorious? Can the sky in Italy possibly be
bluer than this?"

He made an impatient movement. "Choir-boy," he said; and added, catching
sight of her finger-tips, "Why is your glove all over ink?"

"Because I wrote to Robert in it."

"What? You came away without saying anything at all?"

"Oh, no. I said all the things about Berlin and shopping, and he didn't
mind a bit."

"There, now--didn't I tell you? But what did you write?"

"Oh, just the truth. That I'm going with you to Italy."

"What? You did?"

"I couldn't bear after all to start like that, in that--that lying sort
of way."

"And you wrote that you were going with me?"

"Yes. And I said--"

"And he'll find the letter when he comes in?"

"Yes. He can't help seeing it. I put it on his laboratory table, right
in the middle."

Ingram leaned forward, his face flushed, laughter and triumph in his
eyes, and caught hold of her right hand in its inky glove.

"Adorable inkstains," he said, looking at them and then looking up at
her. "You little burner of ships."

And as she opened her mouth in what was evidently going to be a question
he hurried her away from it with a string of his phrases.

"You are all the happiness," he said, with an energy of conviction
astonishing at half-past nine in the morning, "and all the music, and
all the colour, and all the fragrance there is in the world."

"Then you haven't noticed the cabbage?" she asked, immensely relieved.

He let go her hand. "What cabbage?" he asked shortly, for it nettled him
to be interrupted when he was spinning images, and it more than nettled
him to be interrupted in the middle of an emotion.

But when she began--vividly--to describe the inner condition of the
_Christliche Hospiz_ he stopped her.

"I don't want to talk of anything ugly to-day," he said. "Not to-day of
all days in my life." And he added, leaning forward again and looking
into her eyes, "Ingeborg, do you know what to-day is?"

"Thursday," said Ingeborg.

The conductor--it was a corridor train, and though they had the
compartment to themselves the passage outside was busy with people
squeezing past each other and begging each other's pardons--came in to
look at their tickets.

"There is a restaurant car on the train," he said in German, giving
information with Prussian care, a disciplinary care for the comfort of
his passengers, who were to be made comfortable, to be forced to use the
means of grace provided, or the authorities would know the reason why.

"Yes," said Ingram.

"You do not change," said the conductor, with Prussian determination
that his passengers should not, even if they wanted to and liked it, go
astray.

"No," said Ingram.

"Not until Basel," said the conductor menacingly, almost as if he wanted
to pick a quarrel.

"No," said Ingram.

"At Basel you change," said the conductor eyeing him, ready to leap on
opposition.

"Yes," said Ingram.

"You will arrive at Basel at 11.40 to-night," said the conductor, in
tones behind which hung "Do you hear? You've just got to."

"Yes," said Ingram.

"At Basel--"

"Oh, go to _hell_!" said Ingram, suddenly, violently, and in his own
tongue.

The conductor immediately put his heels together and saluted. From the
extreme want of control of the gentleman's manner he knew him at once
for an officer of high rank disguised for travelling purposes in
civilian garments, and silently and deferentially withdrew.

"If there's a restaurant car can I have some breakfast?" asked Ingeborg.

"Haven't you had any? You poor little thing. Come along."

She followed him out into the corridor, he going first to clear people
out of the way and turning to give her his hand at the crossings from
one coach to the next. The restaurant was in the front of the train, and
it required perseverance and the opening of many difficult doors to get
to it. Each time he turned to help her and gripped hold of her hand as
they swayed against the sides and were bumped they looked at each other
and laughed. What fun it all was, she thought, and how entirely new and
delicious being taken care of as though she were a thing that mattered,
a precious thing!

He had had breakfast in Berlin, but he sat watching her with an alert
interest that missed not the smallest of her movements, very reminiscent
in his attitude and pleasure of a cat watching its own dear mouse,
observing it with a whiskered relish, its own dear particular mouse that
it has ached for for years before it ever met it, filling itself
dismally meanwhile with the wrong mice who disagreed with it--its mouse
that, annexed and safely incorporated, was going to do it so much good
and make it twice the eat it was before; and he buttered her roll for
her, and poured out her tea, and did all the things a cat would do in
such a situation if it were a man, pleased that its mouse should fatten,
aware that anything it ate and drank would ultimately, so to speak,
remain in the family.

The splendid June morning, the last morning of June, shone golden
through the long, continuous windows of the car. The fields of the Mark
lay bathed in light. It was early still, but it had already begun to be
hot, and haymakers straightening themselves to watch the train go by
wiped their faces, and the prudent cows were gathered in the shade of
trees, and in the ear the ventilator twirled and hummed, and the waiter
in his white linen jacket who brought her strawberries, each one of
which had been examined and passed as fit and sound by the proper
authorities suitably housed in Berlin in buildings erected for the
purpose, was a credit to the Prussian State Railway by-law which
decrees, briefly and implacably, that waiters shall be cool.

She pulled out one of the blue German hundred mark notes from her blouse
when he brought the bill, and more of them came out with it.

"What on earth is all that for?" Ingram asked.

"To pay with. And you must tell me how much my ticket was to--wasn't it
Locarno you said we got out at?"

"You can't go about with money loose like that. Give it to me. I'll take
care of it for you."

She gave it to him, nine blue notes out of her blouse and the change of
the tenth out of a little bag she had brought and was finding great
difficulty, so much unused was she to little bags, in remembering.

"I hope it's enough," she said. "Don't forget I've got to get back
again."

He laughed, tucking the notes away into his pocket-book. "Enough? It's a
fortune. You can go to the end of the world with this," he said.

"Isn't it all glorious, isn't it all too wonderful to be true?" she
said, her face radiant.

"Yes. And the most glorious part of it is that you can't go anywhere
now," he said, putting the pocket-book in his breast pocket and patting
it and looking at her and laughing, "without me."

"But I don't want to. I'd much _rather_ go with you. It's so
extraordinarily sweet that you want me to. You know, I never can quite
believe it."

He bent across the table. "Little glory of my heart," he murmured.

The waiter came back with the change.

"I wish Robert were here," said Ingeborg, gazing round her out of the
windows with immense contentment. "If only he could have got away I
believe he'd have loved it."

Ingram pushed back his chair with a jerk. "I don't think he'd have loved
it at all," he said; and going back through the length of the train to
their compartment though he helped her at the difficult places, it was
by putting out his hand behind him for her to clutch, he did not this
time turn round and look into her eyes and laugh.

It grew very hot as the day wore on, and extremely dusty. The
thunderstorm that had deluged East Prussia had not come that way, and
there had been no rain from the look of things for a long while. The
dust came in in clouds, and they were obliged to shut the windows, but
it still came in through chinks and settled all over them and choked
them, and even lay in the delicate details of Ingeborg's nose. He had
made her take off her hat and veil, so she had nothing to protect her,
and he watched her with a singular annoyance turning gradually
drab-coloured. He wanted to lean forward and dust her, he hated to see
her whiteness being soiled, it fidgeted him intolerably. He himself
stood long train journeys badly; but though it was so hot, so
insufferably hot, she was as active and restless as a child, continually
jumping up and running out into the dreadful blazing corridor to see
what there was to see that side.

They passed Weimar; and she was of an intemperate zeal on the subject of
Goethe, putting down the window and craning out to look and quoting
_Kennst Du das Land wo die Citrone blüht_--quoting to him, who loathed
quotations even in cool weather. They passed Eisenach; and again she
displayed zeal, talking eagerly of Luther and the Wartburg and the
inkpot and the devil--and of St. Elizabeth, of course: he knew she would
get to St. Elizabeth. She told him the legends--told him who knew all
legends, told him who had a headache and could only keep alive by going
into the lavatory and plunging his head every few minutes into cold
water, and she did not in the least mind when she craned out of the
window to look at things that she should come back into the carriage
again with her hair in every sort of direction and her face not only
dusty but with smuts.

At the hottest moment of the day he felt for a lurid instant as if it
were not one choir-boy he was with but the entire choir having its
summer treat and being taken by him single-handed for a long dog-day to
the Crystal Palace; but that was after luncheon in the restaurant car, a
luncheon that seemed to his fevered imagination to consist of bits of
live cinder served in sulphur and eaten in a heaving, swaying lake of
brimstone. Even the waiter who attended to their table was, in the teeth
of regulations, a melted man; and when the inspector passed through,
looking about him with the eye of a Prussian eagle to see that all was
in order and the standard set by law was being reached of cool waiters
and hot food and tepid passengers, he instantly pounced on the
manifestly melted waiter who, unable to deny the obvious fact that he
was beaded, put his heels together and endeavoured to escape a fine by
anxious explanation that he knew he was in a perspiration but that it
was a cold one.

They were having tea when they passed Frankfurt, and dinner when they
passed Heidelberg. A great full moon was rising behind the castle at
Heidelberg, and the Neckar was a streak of light. The summer day was
coming to an end in perfect calm. The quiet roads leading away into
woods and through orchards were starred on either side with white
flowers. In the dusk it was only the white flowers that still shone, the
stitchworts, the clusters of Star of Bethlehem, the spikes of white
helleborine; and all the colours of the day, the blue of the chickory
and delicate lilac of dwarf mallows, the bright yellow of wood
loosestrife and rose-colour of campions, were already put out for the
night.

Ingeborg gazed through the window with the face of a happy goblin. Her
eyes looked brighter than ever out of their surrounding smuts, and her
hair was all ends, little upright ends that stirred in the draught. The
dreadful day, the hours and hours of heat and choking airlessness, had
made no impression on her apparently, except to turn her from clean to
dirty, while Ingram lay back in his corner a thing hardly human, wanting
nothing now in the world but cold water poured over him and he to lie
while it was poured on a slab of iced marble. But the sun was down at
last, dew was falling and quieting the dust, and the final journey to
the restaurant car had been made, a journey on which it was Ingeborg who
opened the doors and nobody helped anybody at the crossings. He had
walked behind her, and had fretfully observed her dress and how odd it
was, like old back numbers of illustrated papers, the sleeves wrong, the
skirt wrong, too much of it in places, too little in others, but mostly
there was too much, for it was the year when women were skimpy.

"You'll have to get some clothes in Italy," he said to her at dinner.

"What for?" she asked, surprised.

"What for? To put on," he said with a limp acerbity.

But now at last between Strassburg and Bâle, when all glare had finally
departed and the lamp in their compartment was muffled into grateful
gloom by the shade he drew across it, and the windows were wide open to
the great dusky starry night, and a thousand dewy scents were stirred in
the fields as the train passed through them, he began to feel better.

At his suggestion she had gone out and washed her face, so that he could
look at it again, delicately fair in the dusk, with satisfaction. And
presently because of some curves the rails took the moon shone in on her
while he still sat in shadow, and her face, turned upwards to the stars
with the wonder on it of her happiness, once more seemed to him the most
spiritual thing he had yet found in a woman--unconscious spirit,
exquisitely independent and aloof. He watched her out of the shadow of
his corner for a long time, taking in every curve and line, trying to
fix her look of serenity and clear content on his memory, the expression
of an inner tranquillity, of happy giving oneself up to the moment that
he had not seen before except in children. To watch her like that
soothed him gradually quite out of the fever and fret of the day. As his
habit was, he forgot his other mood as if he had never had it. Growing
cool and comfortable with the growing coolness of the night, his
irritations, and impatiences, and desire--it had for several hours in
the afternoon been paramount with him--for personal absence from her,
were things wiped out of recollection. He forgot, in the quiet of her
attitude, that she had ever been restless, and in her expressive and
beautiful silence that she had ever quoted, and, watching her whiteness,
that she had ever been drab. She was, he thought considering her, his
head very comfortable now on the cushions and a most blessed draught
deliciously lifting his hair, like the soft breast of a white bird. She
was like diamonds, only that she was kind and gentle. She was like
spring water on a thirsty day. She was like a very clear, delicate white
wine. Yes; but what was it she was most like?

He searched about for it in his mind, his eyes on her face; and
presently he found it, and leaned forward out of the shadow to tell her.

"Ingeborg," he said, and at the moment he entirely meant it, "you are
like the peace of God."



CHAPTER XXXIII


At Bâle there was hurry and bustle, the half hour they ought to have had
there wasted away by some unaccountable loosening of the bandages of
discipline on the German side to four minutes--the conductor when
questioned said the engine had gone wrong, and explained, with a shrug
that was to help hide his shame in this failure of the infallible, that
engines were but human--and again there was an undignified scamper down
steps and up steps and along platforms, and they arrived panting, pushed
in by porters, only just in time into a compartment studded round with
sleeping Swiss.

Ingram left Ingeborg sitting temporarily on the edge of the seat
clasping her umbrella and coat and little bag, while he walked through
the train in search of more space, refusing to believe such a repulsive
thing could happen to him as that he should be obliged to travel to
Bellinzona with four sleeping Swiss; but the train seemed to be a
popular one, else a national festival was preparing or some other
upheaval that caused people to move about that night in numbers, and all
the compartments were full.

He went back to Ingeborg in a condition of resentful gloom. The four
Swiss were sleeping in the four corners, and the carriage smelt of
crumbs. He opened the window, and there was an immediate simultaneous
resurrection of the four Swiss into angry life. Ingram, fluent in
French, met them with an equal volubility, standing with his back to the
open window protecting it from their assaults, while Ingeborg looked on
in alarm; but the conductor when he came pronounced in favour of the
four Swiss. Pacified, they instantly fell asleep again; and Ingram, at
least not taking care of their legs, strode out into the corridor, where
he stood staring through the open window at midnight nature and cursing
himself for not having broken the journey at Bâle, while Ingeborg peeped
anxiously at his back round her coat and her umbrella.

From Bâle to Lucerne he was as unaware of her as if he had never met
her, so very angry was he and so very tired. Then at Lucerne two of the
Swiss got out, and turning round he saw her asleep in the compartment,
tumbled over a little to one side, still holding her things, and once
again she filled his heart. She was utterly asleep, in the most
uncomfortable position, dropped away in the middle of how she happened
to be sitting like a child does or a puppy; and he went in and sat down
beside her and lifted her head very cautiously and gently on to his arm.

She opened her eyes and looked up at him along his sleeve without
moving, in a sort of surprise.

"This is Lucerne," he whispered, bending down; how soft she was, and how
little!

"Is it? Why, that's where Robert and I--"

But she was asleep again.

She slept till he woke her up before Bellinzona, and so she never knew
the moment she had thrilled to think of when they would in the dawn of
the summer morning come out on the other side of the St. Gothard into
what, in spite of anything the Swiss might say, was Italy; and still
half asleep, mechanically putting on her hat and pausing to rub her eyes
while he urged her to be quick, she did not realise where she was. When
she did, and looked eagerly at the window, it was to turn to him
immediately in consternation.

"_Oh!_" she said.

"Yes," said Ingram, passing his hand quickly over his hair, a gesture of
his when annoyed.

It was raining.

They got out on to what seemed the most melancholy platform in the
world, a grey wet junction with a grey level sky low down over it and
over all the country round it. The Locarno train was waiting, and they
went to it in silence. It was a quarter to six, a difficult time of day.
The train, almost empty, jogged slowly through the valley of the Ticino.
Down the windows raindrops chased each other. On the road alongside the
railway, a road bound also for Locarno and dreary with brown puddles, an
occasional high cart crawled drawn by a mule and driven by a huddled
human being beneath a vast umbrella. The lake when they came in sight of
it was a yawn of mist.

Ingeborg stared out at these things in silence. It was incredible that
this should be Italy--again in spite of anything the Swiss might
say--while on the other side of the Alps all Germany, including
Kökensee, lay shimmering in light and colour. Ingram sat in the farthest
corner of the carriage, his hands thrust in his pockets, his hat pulled
over his eyes, looking straight in front of him. He was a mass of varied
and profound exasperations. Everything exasperated him, even to the long
trickle slowly creeping towards him down the floor from Ingeborg's wet
umbrella. There was nothing she could have said or done at that moment
that would not have rubbed his exasperation into a flame of swift and
devastating speech. Luckily she said and did nothing, but sat quite
silent with her face turned away towards the blurred window panes. But
if she did not speak or do she yet was; and he was acutely conscious,
though he never took his eyes off the cushions opposite, of every detail
of her in that grey and horrible light, of her crumpled clothes, her
drooping smudgedness, her hat grown careless, and her hair in wisps. He
had wanted to show her Italy, he had extraordinarily wanted to show her
Italy in its summer magnificence, and there was--this. As a result what
he now extraordinarily wanted was to upbraid her. He did not stop to
analyse why.

At the hôtel in Locarno where they went for baths and breakfast--he had
planned originally to show her the beautiful walk from there along the
side of the lake to Cannobio, but now beyond baths and breakfast he had
no plan--a person in shirt sleeves and a green apron who inadequately
represented the hall-porter, for it was not yet seven and the
hall-porter was still in bed, unintelligently and unfortunately spoke to
Ingeborg of Ingram in his hearing as _Monsieur votre père_.

This strangely annoyed Ingram. "It's your short skirt," he said, with
suppressed sulphur. "You positively must get some clothes. Dressed like
that you suggest perambulators."

"But this is my _best_ dress," she protested. "It's quite new. I mean,
I've never had it on before since it was made."

And with the easy tactlessness of one who has not yet learned to be
afraid, she looked at him and laughed.

"Why," she said, "this morning I'm perambulators and only last night,
quite late last night, I was the peace of God."

To this, however, he did not trust himself to reply, but vanished with a
kind of pounce into his bathroom.

He came to breakfast clean, but in a mood that could bear nothing, least
of all good temper. Ingeborg was by nature good tempered. She sat there
pleased and refreshed--after all, he remembered resentfully, she had had
five hours' sleep in the train while he had not had a wink--gaily making
the best of things. She pointed out the strength of the coffee and the
crispness of the rolls. She asked him if he did not think it a nice
hôtel. She did not agree when he alluded to the waiter as blighted. She
predicted a break in the weather at eleven, and said that it had always
come true what her old nurse used to tell her, that rain at seven meant
fine at eleven.

He hated her old nurse.

Until he had had some sleep, a long steady sleep, he would, he knew, be
nothing but jarred nerves. When then after breakfast she inquired, with
a cheerful air of being ready for anything, what they were going to do
next, he briefly announced that he was going to sleep.

"Oh? Shall I have to go, too?" she asked, her face falling.

"Of course not."

"Then," she said eagerly, "I'll go out and explore."

"What, in this rain?"

"Oh, I've got goloshes."

Goloshes! He retreated into his room.

It annoyed him intensely that she should be not only ready but pleased
to go out for her first walk in Italy without him. He threw himself
angrily on the bed, rang the bell, and bade the person who answered it,
the same young man in shirt sleeves and a green apron who had welcomed
them, tell Madame that if he were not awake by luncheon time she was not
to wait for him, but was to have luncheon at the proper hour just the
same.

The young man sought out Ingeborg in her room. She was tugging on her
goloshes, one foot on a chair, her face flushed with effort and
expectancy.

"_Monsieur votre père_--" he began.

"_Ce n'est pas mon père_," said Ingeborg, turning an amused face to him
as she tugged.

"_Monsieur votre mari_--"

"_Quoi? Certainement pas_," said Ingeborg, who in spite of her prize for
French was unacquainted with the refinements of that language. "_Ce
n'est pas mon mari_," she said, energetically repudiating.

"_Ah--Monsieur n'est pas le mari de Madame_," said the young man
trippingly.

"_Certainement pas_," said Ingeborg. "_Mon mari est à la maison_."

"_Ah--tiens_," said the young man.

"_C'est mon ami_," said Ingeborg.

"_Ah--tiens, tiens_," said the young man; and he delivered his message
with a sudden ease and comfort of manner.

But though the young man's manner grew easy, after his report of this
brief dialogue the hôtel's manner grew stiff, for on the slip of paper
presented to Ingram to be filled in with his name he had, unaware of the
things Ingeborg was saying, described himself and her as Mr. and Mrs.
Dobson, and the hôtel, in which English Church services were held, and
which was at that moment, though the season was over, being stayed in by
several representative English spinsters, and a clergyman also from
England with a wife and grown-up daughters, most respectable nice ladies
who all took him out every day twice, once after breakfast and once
after tea, for a little walk--the hôtel decided, putting its heads
together in the manager's office, that it would, using tact, encourage
the Dobsons to depart.

It could do nothing, however, for the moment, for the lady had
disappeared with an umbrella into the wet, and the gentleman, it could
hear, was sleeping; and this condition of things continued for many
hours, the lady not coming into luncheon but remaining in the wet, and
the gentleman, it could hear, going on sleeping. Then it became aware
that they were both having tea in a distant corner of the slippery
windowed wilderness of bamboo chairs and tables described in its
prospectus as the Handsome Palmy Lounge, and that they had drawn up a
second table to the one their tea was on and piled it with undesirably
dripping branches of the yellow broom that grew high up in the hills,
and that they were being noticed with suspicion by the hôtel's authentic
guests who were used to having their tea in the silent stupor of the
really married, because the gentleman, contrary to the observed habits
of genuine husbands, was talking to the lady instead of reading the
_Daily Mail_.

The hôtel was nothing if not competent. It could handle any sort of
situation competently, from runaway couples to that most unpleasant form
of guest of all, the kind that came alive and went away dead. Full of
tact, it allowed the lady and gentleman to finish their tea undisturbed;
then it sent some one sleek to inform them that, most unfortunately,
their rooms had been engaged for weeks beforehand for that very night,
and therefore--

But before this person could even begin to be competent the gentleman
requested him to have a carriage round in half an hour as he intended
going on that evening; and thus the parting was accomplished, as all
partings should be, urbanely, and the manager was able to display his
doorstep suavity and bow and wish them a pleasant journey.

The Dobsons departed in a gay mood, with the branches of yellow broom
rhythmically nodding between them over the edge of the waterproof apron
that buttoned them in. Ingram had slept soundly for seven hours, and
felt altogether renewed. He was taking her to Cannobio, along the road
he had hoped to walk with her in sunshine; but Ingeborg, who had climbed
hills till her blood raced and glowed, saw peculiar beauties even in the
wetness, and would not believe that sun could make things lovelier.
Outside Locarno, in that flat and grassy place beyond the town where the
beautiful small hills draw back for a little from the lake, and the
ox-eyed daisies grow so big, and the roads are strewn white with the
blossoms of acacias, it stopped raining and Ingram had the hood put
down. The mountains on the other side of the lake were indigo-coloured,
with pulled-off tufts of woolly clouds lying along them down near the
water. The lake was a steely black. The valley brooded in sullen
lushness; and the branches of broom they carried with them in the
carriage cut through the sombre background like a golden knife.

"The one doubt I have," said Ingeborg, breathing in the warm scented air
in long breaths, "is that it's all too good to be true."

"It isn't," said Ingrain, safely disentangled for a while from the
intricate effect on his enthusiasms of fatigue and dirt and headaches,
"it's absolutely good and absolutely true. But only," he said, turning
and looking at her, "because you're here, you dear close sister of my
dreams. Without you it would be nothing but grey empty space in which I
would just hang horribly."

"You wouldn't. You couldn't not be happy in this," she said, gazing
about her.

"If you weren't here I wouldn't see it," said Ingram, firmly believing
it in the face of the fact that nothing ever escaped his acute vision.
"I see all this only through you. You are my eyes. Without you I go
blind, I grope about with the light gone out. You don't know what you
are to me, you little shining crystal thing--you don't begin to realise
it, my dear, my dear sweet Found-at-Last."

"And this morning," said Ingeborg, smiling at him, but only with a
passing smile on her way to all the other things she wanted to look at,
"you said I suggested perambulators."

For a space they drove on in silence, for he deplored her trick of
reminding him of past moods. But beyond Ascona, where the mountains come
down to the lake and leave only just room enough between them and the
water for the road to twist through, he recovered again, consoled by her
joy in the beauty of the drive and unable to see her happiness without
feeling pleased. After all, what he most loved in her was that she was,
so miraculously, a child; a child with gleams of wisdom flickering like
a lizard's tongue in her mouth, and who even when she was silly was
silly also somehow in gleams--gleams of silver and sunshine. And always
at the back of her, far away, hidden in what he thought of as depths of
burning light, was that elusive thing by which he was so passionately
attracted, the thing he was going to paint, the thing his own secret
self crept to, knowing that here was warmth, here was understanding, her
dear, dear little soul.

The evening at Cannobio was unsatisfactory. Ingeborg manifestly enjoyed
herself, but it was with an absorption in what she was seeing and an
obliviousness to himself that seemed to him both excessive and tiresome.
Here was everything to make two people so happily alone whisper--warmth,
dusk, the broad shadow of plane-trees, unruffled water, lights
romantically twinkling in corners, the twanging of a distant guitar,
laughter and singing and the glint of red wine from the little lit-up
tables along the front of the restaurants beneath the arcade at the back
of the piazza, and he there, Ingram, after all a person of real
importance, Edward Ingram at her feet, only asking to be allowed to
explain to her in every variety of phrase how sweet she was. But she was
dead to her opportunities. There wasn't another woman in Europe, he told
himself angrily, who would not have whispered.

They wandered out of their hôtel after dinner, a square pink Italian
albergo facing the lake where the town left off, and free, as indeed
Cannobio altogether was, from transitory English with their awful eyes,
and they strolled about looking at things. He did not look much, for he
knew these Italian sights and sounds by heart, and at that moment only
wanted to look at her; but the least little thing caught her attention
away from him absolutely, to the exclusion of anything he might be
saying. Positively she even preferred to listen to the throb of the
steamer coming nearer from the other end of the lake than to him; and
she interrupted him in the middle of a sentence that intimately
concerned herself to stand still in the piazza and ask him what he
thought of the smells.

"I don't think about them at all," he said shortly.

"Oh, but there are such a lot of them," she exclaimed, sorting them out
with her lifted nose. "There's the smell of roses, and the smell of
lake, and the smell of frying, and there's more roses, and then there's
garlic, and then there's a quite dim one, and then there's a little puff
of something else--I don't know what--sheer Italy, I expect. _I_ never
smelt so many smells," she ended, with a gesture of astonishment.

He tried to get her away from them. He led her to a bench beneath a
plane-tree. "Come and sit by me and I will tell you things," he said,
luring her. "Look, there's the moon got free from the clouds--and do you
see how the coloured lights of the steamer that's coming shine right
down a ladder of light into the water? And what do you think of the feel
of the air, little sister? Isn't it soft and gentle? Doesn't it remind
you of all kind and tender things?"

"But much the most wonderful of anything are these smells," she said,
absorbed in them. "There are at least twelve different ones."

"Never mind them. I want to talk."

"But they're so amusing," she said. "There are interesting ones, and
exciting ones, and beautiful ones, and disquieting ones, and awful ones,
and too-perfect-for-anything ones, and they're all chasing each other up
and down and round and round us."

He lit a cigarette. "There," he said, "that will blot the whole lot of
them into only one, and you'll talk to me reasonably. Let us talk while
we can, my dear. In a little time we shall be dead to all feeling for
ever and ever."

"Yes, we shall be little shreds of rottenness," she said placidly.

"God, who wastes a sunset every night--" he said, getting up to stamp on
the match he had thrown away--

"If they were mine," she interrupted, "I'd keep them all in a gallery or
a portfolio."

"--understands, I suppose," he went on, sitting down again, "why such
dear things as this evening here, this time of being alone together
here, should end and be forgotten."

"As long as I live," she said with earnestness, "it will not be
forgotten. All my other memories will be like a string of--oh, just
beads and nuts and fir-cones, till I get to this one, and then on the
string there'll be suddenly a shining jewel."

"Really? Really?" he murmured, stopping to look into her eyes, revived
by this speech. "Little flame in my heart, really?"

"Oh," said Ingeborg dreamily, in her husky, soft voice, "but the
wonderfullest thing, the wonderfullest jewel. My first Italian
town--Cannobio...."

He ceased to be revived. He smoked in silence. The effect on her of
Italy was as surprising as it was unexpected. At Kökensee she had been
entirely concentrated on him, eagerly listening only to him, drinking in
only what he said, worshipping. Here she seemed possessed by a rage for
any sights and sounds merely because they were new. There had been
moments from the very start in Berlin when he almost felt of secondary
interest, and they appeared to be becoming permanent. It was disturbing.
It was incredible. It was grotesque. Perhaps it would be as well to take
her away from the lakes, from all that part of the country which
apparently caught her imagination on its most sensitive side. Perhaps
Milan for a while, with pavements and museums.

"Please, will you give me some of that money?" she asked across his
reflections.

"Which money?" he said, looking at her.

"My money."

"What on earth for?"

"I want to send Robert a picture postcard."

He threw his cigarette away. "It would be most improper," he said,
passing his hand rapidly over his hair. "Highly improper."

"Improper?" she echoed, staring at him. "To send Robert a picture
postcard?"

"Grossly. It simply isn't done."

"What? Not send Robert--but he'd like to see where we've got to."

"For heaven's sake don't _talk_ about Robert," he exclaimed, getting up
quickly; the idea of the picture postcard profoundly shocked him.

"Not talk about him?" she repeated, staring at him in astonishment. "But
he's my husband."

"Exactly. That's what makes him so improper."

"What? Why, I thought husbands were just the very things that never
could be improper."

"Ingeborg," he said, walking angrily up and down in front of her, "are
you or are you not being taken care of on this--this holiday by me? Are
you or are you not travelling with me?"

"Yes, I know. But I don't see why I shouldn't send Rob--"

"Well, then, if you don't see you must believe. You've just got to
believe me when I tell you certain things are impossible."

"But Robert--"

"Good heavens, don't _talk_ of Robert. If I beg you not to, if I tell
you it spoils things for me, if I ask you as a favour--" He stopped in
front of her. "My dear, my little mate, my everything that's central and
alive among the husks--"

"Of course I won't, then. At least, I'll try to remember not to," she
said, looking at him with a smile that had effort in it as well as
surprise. "But I don't see why a picture postcard--"

The steamer they had seen for so long, the last one of the day from
Arona to Locarno, was nearing the pier, and the piazza suddenly swarmed
with busy groups preparing to go on it or see each other off.

"Let's come away," said Ingram, impatiently. "Let's come _away_!" he
repeated with a stamp of his foot. "I hate this crowd."

She got up and walked beside him towards the hôtel, her eyes on the
ground.

"I really can't see why I shouldn't send Robert--" she began.

"Oh, damn Robert!" he exclaimed violently.

She looked at him. "Damn Robert?" she echoed, immensely surprised.
"But--don't you _like_ Robert?"

"No," said Ingram. "No," he said, even louder. "Not here. Not now. Now
don't," he added in extreme irritation as he saw her mouth opening, "ask
me why, don't ask me to explain. Go to bed, Ingeborg. It's time all
children under ten were in bed. And get up early, please, because we're
going to start the first thing for--anyhow, for somewhere else."



CHAPTER XXXIV


Ingram was not only a great painter, he was practised in minor
accomplishments, and among them was the art of running away. He had done
it several times and had attained fluency. Indeed, so easy had practice
made it that it grew to be hardly running so much as walking. He walked
away, at last quite leisurely, from an uncommenting wife to a lady whose
affection for him was invariably already so great that there was nothing
left for it to do but to decline; and when it had declined, assisted and
encouraged in various ways by him, the chief cooling factor being his
expressed impatience to get to his painting again undisturbed by
non-essentials--each lady found it cooling to be called a
non-essential--he avoided the part that is sometimes a little difficult,
the part in which recriminations are apt to gather like clouds about a
sunset, the part that lies round ends, by skilful treatment, by a
gradual surrounding of her who was now not so much a lover as a patient
with an atmosphere of affection for her home. She came by imperceptible
degrees to thirst for her home. She came to thirst, and such was his
skill that she thirsted healthily, for her husband or her father or
whoever it was she had left, for worries, catastrophes, disgrace--for
anything so long as it was so obliging as not to be love. If poorer in
other ways she departed at least richer in philosophy, without a trace
of jealousy of what he might do next, not minding what he did if only
she did not have to do it, too, and he, until such time as he again was
lured from paths of austerity and work by the hope that he had found the
one predestined mate, enjoyed the condition in which he was altogether
happiest, the freedom of spirit that disdains love.

But how different from those comfortable excursions, as straightforward
and as uneventful to him in their transitory salubrious warming as bread
and milk, was this running away! It was distressingly different. Almost,
except that he had no desire to laugh, ridiculously different. The first
step, the process of the actual removal from Kökensee to Berlin, from
legality to illicitness, had in its smoothness been positively glib; and
he had supposed that, once alone together, love-making, which was the
very marrow of running away--else why run?--would follow with a similar
glibness. Nothing, however, seemed less inclined to follow. The only
things that did follow were two confused exasperating days in which his
moods varied with every hour, almost at last with everything she said.
The capaciousness of her beliefs and acceptances amazed him. They were
as capacious as her enthusiasms. She believed so firmly what he had told
her over there away in Kökensee, where of course a man had to say things
in order to get a beginning made, about the friendly frequent
journeyings of other people, she had so heartily accepted his assurance
that it was absurd and disgraceful in its suggestion of evil-mindedness
not to travel frankly anywhere with anybody--"Are we not the children of
light, you and I?" he had asked her--the things a man says! he thought;
but they should not be brought up against him in this manner, clad in an
invincible armour of acceptance--"And shall we be hindered in our free
comings and goings by the dingy scruples of those heavy others, the
groping and afraid children of darkness?"--that plainly the idea that
she was doing anything even remotely wrong had not occurred to her. The
basis of her holiday was this belief in frank companionship. She had no
difficulty, he observed, himself infinitely fretted by this constant
closeness to her, in being just a frank companion. She was so carelessly
secure in friendship, so empty of any thought beside, that she could and
did say things to him which said by any other woman in the same
situation would have instantly led to lovemaking. But Ingram, who was
fastidious, could no more make love to her, violently begin, robustly
stand no nonsense, so long as she was steeped in obliviousness, than he
could to a child or a chair. There must be some response, some
consciousness. Her obtuseness to the real situation was so terribly
healthy minded that it was almost a disease; the awful candour of soul
of bishops' daughters and pastors' wives appalled him.

For three days the weather continued heavy, pressing down on his eyes.
He did not sleep. He was all nerves. In the morning, a time he had not
yet known her in, for at Kökensee they were together only in the
afternoons, she produced the effect on him of some one different and in
some subtle annoying way strange. Was it because she flickered more in
the mornings? He could not describe it better than that--she flickered.
She always flickered mentally, her thoughts just giving each subject a
little lick and then blowing off it to something else, but in the
afternoons and evenings the flickering was often beautiful, or at those
warmer more indulgent hours it seemed so, and in the morning it was not.
A man in the morning wants somebody pinned down for a companion,
somebody reasonable and fixed. Nothing but a rather silent
reasonableness, and if enunciations are unavoidable brief ones, go well
with coffee and with rolls. At breakfast he found he could hardly speak
to her so exceedingly then was she on his nerves--her dreadful healthy
restedness when he had been tossing all night, her fearful readiness for
the new day when he had not even begun to recover from the old one, her
regularity of enthusiasm, her punctual happiness. And every evening he
was in love with her.

He was exasperated. This being with her among the hills and lakes of
Italy that he had thought of as going to be the sweetest time he had
known was sheer exasperation; for even in the evenings when he was in
love with her--the condition, indeed, set in at any time from tea
onwards, and could on occasion be induced before tea if she happened to
say the right things--he was irritably in love, and hardly knew whether
it would give him more satisfaction to shake her or to kiss her. And
annoying and perplexing as her untroubled conscience was it was yet not
so annoying and perplexing as her wild joy in Italy. Who would not be
galled by the discovery that he has become a background? Who would have
supposed that she who in Kökensee thought him so wonderful, so clearly
realised who he was, who walked with him there in the rye-fields and
offered him every sort of incense that sweet words could invent, would,
let loose in Italy, take the background he had so carefully chosen for
his lovemaking and hug it to her heart and be absorbed in it and adore
it beyond reason, and that he himself would turn into the
background--incredible as it seemed, into just the background of his own
background?

When he took her up into the hills, into solitary places where the
chestnut woods went on for miles and no one ever came but
charcoal-burners, he was not, as it were, there. When he took her on the
lake in a sailing-boat and they hung motionless on the goodwill of the
wind, he was not there, either. When they rested after a hot climb, deep
in some high meadow not yet reached by the ascending haymakers, and
through the stalks of its bee-haunted flowers, its delicate bending
scabious and frail ragged-robins, could see little bits of lake far
below and the white villages on the mountains opposite, and the whole
world was only asking to be made a frame of for love, where, he inquired
of himself, in the picture that was in her mind and irradiating her
eyes, was he? He had not imagined, so far behind him were his own
discoveries of the new, that any one could be so greedily absorbed.
Watching her, while she watched everything except him, he decided he
would take her to Milan. He would try something ugly. Milan this heavy
hot weather ought to give her back to him if anything would. They would
stay in a street where there were tramcars and noises, and they would
frequent museums. They would walk much on pavements, and have their food
in English tea-rooms. While the cure was in progress she might be
getting herself some decent clothes, for really her clothes were
distressing, and when it was accomplished, and she was thoroughly bored
with things, and had come back to being aware of him, he would carry her
off to Venice and begin work--work, the best thing in life, the one
thing that keeps on yet is never monotonous, the supreme thing always
new and joyful. But he was afraid of Venice. Venice was too beautiful.
She would not sit quiet there while he painted her; she would want to go
out and look. Impossible to take her there until she had learned to blot
out everything in the world with his image alone. This blotting out, he
perceived, would have to be achieved in Milan, and quickly. He was
starving for his work. So acute was his hunger to begin the great
picture that right underneath all his other emotions and wishes and
moods was a violent impatience at being kept from it by what his
subconsciousness alluded to with resentful incorrectness as a parcel of
women.

It was the evening at Luino that he definitely decided on Milan.

They had walked that day along the wooded paths that lead ultimately
across to Ponte Tresa, and she had once again, on returning to Luino and
seeing a revolving column of picture postcards outside a tobacconist's
shop and catching sight of some that showed the place of rocks and
falling water in which they had eaten their luncheon, wanted to send one
to Robert. She had not said so, but she had hovered round the column
looking hungry. Picture postcards seemed to have a dreadful fascination
for her; and as for Ingram, the mere sight of them at this point of
their journey made him see red. He had instantly observed her hungry
hovering, and had flared out into a leaping rebuke in which there was
more of the angry schoolmaster than the lover. He had felt it himself,
and seen, quick as he was to see, a little look of surprised and
questioning fear for a moment in her eyes.

"Well, it's because you're always thinking of Robert," he flashed at her
in an attempt that caught fire on the way to apologise.

"Not _always_," she said hesitatingly, with a smile that for the first
time was propitiating; and the accidents of the pavement making him walk
for a few yards in front of her she found herself looking at his back,
his high thin shoulders and the rims of his ears, with a startled
feeling of entire strangeness.

A dim thought rose and disappeared again somewhere in the back of her
mind, a whisper of a thought, hardly breathed and gone again--"I'm
_used_ to Robert."

He took her to Milan next day. That loud and sweltering city was, by its
hot dulness, to bore her into awareness of him, to toss her by sheer
elimination of other interests to his breast. Inexorably he kept her on
the steamer and turned a deaf ear to her prayers that they might land
when it stopped at attractive villages on its journey down the lake. She
thought this unreasonable; for why come at all to these lovely places,
come so close that one could almost touch them, and then whisk away and
hardly let one look? And she could not help feeling, after he had been
short with her about the Borromean Islands, at one of which
unfortunately the steamer touched, that it would be both blessed and
splendid to travel round here alone--free, able to get out at islands if
one wanted to.

"Yes, those are islands," he said, when first they loomed on her
enraptured gaze. "Yes, one can land on them, but we're not going to.
Yes, yes, beautiful--but we've got to catch the train."

She began to turn a slightly perplexed attention to him. Surely he was
different from what he was at Kökensee! And there were the Borromean
Islands slipping away, the beautiful islands; there they were being
passed, going out of her life; it was unlikely she would ever see them
again....

To Ingram on that leaden afternoon the lake looked like a coffin, and
the islands as dull and shabby as three nails in it; to Ingeborg they
looked like three little miracles of God. Just as he who for the first
time goes abroad would give up Rome if he might stop at Calais, so did
Ingeborg hanker after detailed exploration of new places she was
inexorably whisked away from. The Borromean Islands were beautiful, but
if they had been dull she still would have hankered after them.
Beautiful or dull they were different from Kökensee; and when the
travelled Ingram put his hopes in Milan he did not realise how great on
Ingeborg after her strictly cloistered Kökensee existence was the effect
of the merely different. The platform at Arona, the flat fields the
train presently lumbered across, the factories and suburbs of Milan, the
noisy streets throbbing heavily with heat that grey and lowering
afternoon, the shapes of things, of dull things, of tramcars and cabs
and washerwomen, the shop windows, the behaviour and foreign faces of
dogs, the behaviour of children, the Italian eyes all turned to her, all
staring at her--they fascinated and absorbed her like the development of
a vivid dream. Who were these people? What would they all do next? What
were they feeling, thinking, saying? Where were they going, what had
they had for breakfast, what were the rooms like they had just come out
of, what sorts of things did they keep in their cupboards?

"If one of them would lend me a cupboard," she exclaimed to Ingram, "and
leave me alone with what it has got inside it, I believe I'd know all
Italy by the time I'd done with it. Everything, everything--the desires
of its soul and its body, and what it works at and plays at and eats,
and what it hopes is going to happen to it after it is dead."

And he had been supposing, from her silence as she walked beside him,
that she was finding Milan dull. Hastily he led her away from the
streets into an English tea-room and made her sit with her back to the
window and gave her rusks.

But though her childhood had been spent among these objects, which were
esteemed at the Palace because falling just short at the last moment of
quite sweetness and quite niceness they discouraged sinful gorging, they
had none of their ancient sobering effect on her there in Milan. She ate
them and ate them, and remained as brightly detached from them as
before. Their dryness choked out none of her lively interest, their
reminiscent flavour did not quiet her, not even when combined, as it
presently was, with the sound of church bells floating across the roofs.
She might have been in Redchester with those Sunday bells ringing and
all the rusks. Sitting opposite to her at the marble-topped table in the
deserted shop Ingram decided he would give her no meals more amusing
than this in Milan. So long as she kept him there she should, except
breakfast, have all her meals in that one place: modest meals, meals
damping to the spirits and surely in the long run lowering, the most
inflaming dish provided by the tea-room being--it announced it on its
wall--poached eggs.

He kept her there as long as he could, long after the tea was cold, and
tried, so deeply upset was he becoming by the delays her curious
immaturity was causing in the normal development of running away,
actually in that place of buns to make love to her. But how difficult it
was! He, too, had eaten rusks. He wanted to tell her he adored her, and
it reached her across the teapot in the form of comments on the
uncertainties of her behaviour. He wanted to tell her her body was as
delicate as flowers and delightful as dawn, and it came out a criticism
of the quality--also the quantity--of her enthusiasms. He endeavoured to
sing the praise of the inmost core of her, the inexpressible,
illuminating, understanding, and wholly sweet core, and instead he found
himself acidly deprecating her clothes.

Ingeborg sat listening with half an ear and eyes bright with longing to
be out in the streets again. She was fidgeting to get away from the
shop, and was sorry he should choose just that moment to smoke so great
a number of cigarettes. Even the young lady who guarded the cakes
appeared to think the visit for one based only on tea and rusks had
lasted long enough, and came and cleared away and inquired in English,
it being her native tongue, whether she could not, now, get them
anything else.

"The curious admixture in you," said Ingram, starting out with the
intention of comparing her to light in the darkness and immediately
getting off the rails, "the curious admixture in you of streaks of
childishness and spasmodic maturity! You are at one moment so entirely
impulsive and irresponsible, and a moment before you were quite
intelligent and reasonable, and a moment afterwards you are splendid in
courage and recklessness."

"When was I splendid in courage and recklessness?" she asked, bringing
more attention to bear on him.

"When you left your home to come to me. The start off was splendid. Who
could dream it would fizzle out into--well, into this?"

"But has it fizzled out? You're not"--she leaned across the table a
little anxiously--"you're not scolding me?"

"On the contrary, I'm trying to tell you all you are to me."

"Oh," said Ingeborg.

"I intend somehow to isolate my consciousness of your streaks--"

"Streaks?"

"As bees wax up a dead invader."

"Oh--a dead invader?"

"I don't, you see, believe in the damning effect of one specific
outbreak, nor of one or two--"

"You're not--you're not _really_ scolding me?" she asked, again a little
anxiously.

"On the contrary, I'm believing in and clinging to your dear innermost."

"Oh," said Ingeborg.

"I believe these streaks and patches and spots your superficial self has
may be good in their ultimate effect, may save us, by interrupting, from
those too serene spells that dogs'-ear love with usage and
carelessness."

She gazed at him, her mouth a little open. He lit yet another cigarette.

"But it's rather like," he said, flinging the match away into a corner
whither the young lady followed it and with a pursed reproachfulness
trod it out, "it's rather like finding a crock of gold in one's garden
and only being able to peep at it sometimes, and having to go away and
work very hard for eleven shillings a week."

She went on gazing at him in silence.

"And not even for eleven shillings," said Ingram, reflecting on all he
had already endured. "Work very hard for nothing."

She leant across the table again. "I never _mean_ to be tiresome," she
said.

"Little star," he said stoutly.

"It's always involuntary, my tiresomeness," she said, addressing him
earnestly. "Oh, but it's so involuntary--and the dull surfaces I know I
have, and the scaly imperfections--"

He knocked the ashes off his cigarette with unnecessary vigour, almost
as though they were bits of an annoying relative's body.

"I'm warped, and encrusted, and blundering," went on Ingeborg, who was
always thorough when it came to adjectives.

In his irritable state, to have her abjectly cheapening herself vexed
him as much as everything else she had done that day had vexed him. He
might, under provocation, point out her weaknesses, but she must not
point them out to him. He wanted to worship her, and she persisted in
preventing him. Distressing to have a god who refuses to sit quiet on
its pedestal, who insists on skipping off it to show you its
shortcomings and beg your pardon. How could he make love to her if she
talked like this? It would be like trying to make love to a Prayer-book.

"Is it because it is Sunday," he said, "that you are impelled to
acknowledge and confess your faults? You make me feel as if a verger had
passed by and pushed me into a pew."

"Well, but I _am_ warped and encrusted and blundering," she persisted.

"You are not!" he said irritably. "Haven't I told you you are my star
and my miracle?"

"Yes, but--"

"I tell you," he said, determined to believe it, "that you are the very
bath of my tired spirit."

"How kind you are!" she said. "You're as kind to me as if you were my
brother. Sometimes I think you are rather like my brother. I never _had_
a brother, but you're very like, I think, the one I would have had if I
had had one." She warmed to the idea. "I feel as if my brother--" she
said, preparing to launch into enthusiasm; but he interrupted her by
getting up.

"It seems waste," he said, reaching for his hat, "to talk about your
brother, as you've never had him. Shall we go?"

She jumped up at once with the air of one released. He himself could not
any longer endure the tea-room or he would have stayed in it. Gloomily
he went out with her into the streets again and noted that if anything
she seemed more active and eager than before--thoroughly, indeed, rested
and refreshed. Gloomily he realised during the next hour or two that she
had an eye for buildings, and that they were always the wrong ones.
Gloomily he discovered an odd liking in her for anything, however bad,
that was wrought in iron. He could not get her past some of the iron
gates of the palaces. He hated bad gates. Without experience she could
not compare and did not select, and her interest was all-embracing,
indiscriminating as a child's. He took pains to avoid the Piazza del
Duomo, but by some accident of a twisting street and a momentary
inattentiveness he did find himself at last, after much walking as he
had thought away from it, all of a sudden facing it. Urging her on by
her elbow he hurried her nervously across it, hoping she would not see
the Cathedral; but the Cathedral being difficult not to see she did see
it, and remained, as he had feared she would, rooted.

"Ingeborg," he exclaimed, "if you tell me you like that--"

"Oh, let me look, let me look," she cried, holding his sleeve while he
tried to get her away. "It's so funny--it's so _different_--"

"Ingeborg--" he almost begged; but from its outside to its inside was an
inevitable step, and that she should gasp on first getting in seemed
also, after she had done it, inevitable.

Ingram found himself sight-seeing; looking at windows; following her
down vaults; towed by beadles. He rubbed his hand violently over his
hair.

"But this is intolerable!" he cried aloud to himself. "I shall go mad--"

And he strode after her and caught her arm just as she was disappearing
over the brim of the crypt.

"Ingeborg," he said, his eyes blazing at her in a bright astonishment,
"do you mean to tell me that I shall not reach _you_, that I'm not going
to get ever at _you_ till I paint you?"

She turned in the gloom and looked up at him.

"Oh, I know I'll get you then," he went on excitedly, while the
interrupted beadle impatiently rattled his keys. "Nothing can hide you
away from me then. I don't paint, you see, by myself--"

She stared up at him.

"And all this you're doing, all this waste of running about--have you
then forgotten the picture?"

It was as though he had shaken her suddenly awake. She stared at him in
a shock of recollection. Why, of course--the picture. Why--incredible,
but she had forgotten it. Actually forgotten it in the wild excitement
of travelling; actually she had been wanting to linger at each new
place, she who had only ten days altogether, she who had come only after
all because of the picture, the great picture, the first really great
thing that had touched her life. And here she was with him, its waiting
creator, dragging him about who held future beauty in his cunning guided
hand among all the mixed stuff left as a burden on the generations by
the past, curious about the stuff with an uneducated stupid curiosity,
wasting time, ridiculously blocking the way to something great, to the
greatest of the achievements of a great artist.

She was sobered. She was overcome by the vivid recognition of her cheap
enthusiasm.

"Oh," she said, staring up at him, wide awake, entirely ashamed, "how
_patient_ you've been with me!"

And as he still held her by the arm, his eyes blazing down at her from
the top step of the crypt, she could find no way of expressing her shame
and contrition except by bending her head and laying her cheek on his
hand.



CHAPTER XXXV


They stood there for what seemed to the beadle at the bottom an
intolerable time, the lady, evidently nobody certificated, with her
cheek on the gentleman's hand, and he himself, as honest a man as ever
wanted to get his tip and be done with it, kept waiting with nothing to
do but curse and rattle his keys; and though it was summer the crypt was
cold, and so would his feet be soon; and what could the world be coming
to when people carried their caressings even into crypts? Becoming
maddened by these delays the beadle cursed them both, their present,
past, and future, roundly and thoroughly and also profanely--for by the
accident of his calling he was very perfect in profanity--beneath his
breath.

"I'm so sorry, so sorry," Ingeborg was murmuring, who did nothing by
halves, neither penitence, nor humility, nor gratitude.

"My worshipped child," whispered Ingram, immensely moved by this swift
change in her, and changed as swiftly himself by the softness of her
cheek against his hand.

"Oughtn't we to go to Venice to-night?" she asked, still standing in
that oddly touching attitude of apology.

"Not to-night."

"But how can a picture get painted in just that little time?"

"Ah, but you know I'm good at pictures."

"But I can't stay a minute longer than Thursday. I have to be back on
Saturday at the very latest."

"You'll see. It will all be quite easy."

"But to think that I _forgot_ the picture!" she said, looking up at him
shocked, while the ancient humility in which the Bishop had so carefully
trained her descended on her once more, only four-fold this time, like a
garment grown voluminous since last it was put on.

They had for some reason been talking in murmurs, and the embittered
beadle, losing his self-control, began to say things audibly. Strong in
the knowledge of tourist ignorance when it came to real language in
Italian, he said exactly what he thought; and what he thought was so
monstrous, so inappropriate to beadles and to the atmosphere of a crypt,
besides being so extremely and personally rude, that it roused Ingram,
who knew Italian almost better than the beadle--for his included
scholarly by-ways in vituperation, strange and curious twists beyond the
reach of the uneducated--to pour a sudden great burning blast of red-hot
contumely down on to his head; and having done this he turned, and
holding Ingeborg's hand led her up the steps again, leaving the beadle
at the bottom, solitary, shrivelled, and singed.

They thought no more of crypts and beadles. They looked neither to the
right nor to the left. Ingram held her by the hand all the way down the
Cathedral, and the piazza when they came out on to it with its crowds of
vociferating men and bell-ringing tramcars and sellers of souvenirs
seemed to Ingeborg nothing now but a noisy irrelevance. Whole strips of
postcards were thrust unnoticed into her face. The purpose of her
journey was the picture. Marvellous that she should have lost sight of
it and of the wonder and pride of being needed for it--needed at last
for anything, she who so profoundly had longed to be needed, but needed
for this, as a collaborator actually, even though passive and humble, in
the creation of something splendid.

He put her into a cab and drove with her away from the fuss and din. She
was exquisite again to him, adorable altogether. The memory of the fret
and hot irritation of the day was wiped out as though it had never been
by that other memory of her sweet apology on the steps of the crypt. He
told the driver, for it was towards evening, to take them to those
gardens described by the guide-book as probably the finest public park
in Italy; and presently, as they walked together in the remoter parts,
the dusk dropped down like a curtain between them and the Sunday night
crowd collecting round the fountains. Tall trees, and clumps of box, and
rose-bushes shut out everything except mystery; and she in that quiet
place of trickling water and dim flowers began again to talk to him as
she had talked at Kökensee, softly, deliciously, about nothing except
himself. It was like the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land; it
was infinite refreshment and relief.

She talked about the picture, with reverence, adoringly. She told him
how in the rush of new impressions she had been forgetting everything
that really mattered, not only that greatest of them all, but the other
things she had to thank him for besides--Italy, her unexpected holiday,
due so entirely to him. She said, her husky voice softer than ever with
gratitude, "You have been giving me happiness and happiness. You've
heaped happiness on me with both your hands." She said, searching only
for words that should be sweet enough, "Do you know I could cry to think
of it all--of all you've been to me since you came to Kökensee. When I'm
back there again, this time with you will be like a hidden precious
stone, and when I'm stupid and thinking that life is dull I'll get it
out and look at it, and it will flash colour and light at me."

"When you talk like that," said Ingram, greatly stirred, "it is as
though a little soul had come back into a deserted and forgotten body."

"Is it?" she murmured, so glad that she could please him, perfectly
melted into the one desire to make up.

"When you talk like that," he said, "life becomes a thing so happy that
it shines golden inside. You have the soul I have always sought, the
thing that comes through me like light through a stained-glass window,
so that I am lit, so that my heart is all sweet fire."

"And you," said Ingeborg, picking up his image as she so often
irritatingly did, only now it did not irritate him, and flinging it back
with a fresh adornment, "the thought of you, the memory of you when I've
gone back to my everyday life, will be like a perfect rose-window in a
grey wall."

"As though we could be separated again. As though being in love with
somebody miles away isn't just intolerable ache. Oh, my dear, why do you
look at me?" he asked with a large simplicity of manner that made her
ashamed of her surprise; "because I talk of being in love? Why shouldn't
two people simply love each other and say so? And if I love you it isn't
with the greedy possessive love I've had for women before, but as though
the feeling one has for the light on crystals or for clear shining after
rain, the feeling of beauty in deep and delicate things, has become
personified and exalted."

She made a little deprecating gesture. He was almost too kind to her;
too kind. But nobody could reasonably object to being loved like
crystals and clearness after rain. Robert couldn't possibly mind that.

She cast about for things to say back, shining things to match his, but
he found them all first; it was impossible to keep up with him.

"You are delicate and fine, like translucent gold," he said. "And you
are brave, and various, and alive. And you are full of sweet little
fancies, little swirls of mood, kind eager things. Never in my life is
there the remotest chance that I shall meet so good and deep a happiness
as you again, and I put my heart once and for all between your dear cool
little hands."

She felt bent beneath this generosity, she who had been so tiresome; and
not only tiresome, but she who had had doubts, unworthy ones she now
saw, round about breakfast time, for instance, piercing through her
silly delight in Italy, as to whether she were giving even any
satisfaction.

"I perceive," he went on, "I've never really loved before. I've played
with dolls, and expressed myself to dummies--like a boy with a ball he
_must_ play with, and failing a playfellow he bumps it against a wall
and catches it again. But you play back, my living dear heart--"

More and more was she invaded by a happy surprise. The _things_ she had
been doing without knowing it! All the right ones, apparently, the whole
time--playing back, coming up to his expectations; and moments such as
those at the Borromean Islands, and when there were picture postcards,
and just recently in the tea-room, had not in the least been what she
supposed. She had not understood. She glowed to think she had not
understood.

"I've been so wearied and distressed with life," he went on, talking in
a low, moved voice. "It has seemed at last such an old hairy thing of
jealousies and shame and disillusionments, and work falling short of its
best, and endless coming and going of people, and me for ever left with
a blunted edge. And now you come, you, and are like a great sweet wind
blowing across it, and like clear skies, and a moon rising before
sunset. It is as though you had taken up a brush and painted out the old
ugly tangles and made a new picture of me in luminous, clear
watercolour."

Her surprise grew and grew, and her gladness that she had been mistaken.

"Those streaks," she thought. "He didn't really _mean_ what he said
about those streaks--"

"Somehow, though quite intelligent all along," continued Ingram, "I've
been shallow and hard in my feelings about everything. Now I feel love
like a deep soft river flowing through my heart. I love every one
because I love you. I can set out to make people happy, I can do and say
fine and generous things because of the love of you shining in my
heart--"

"That beadle," she thought, "he didn't really _mean_ what he said to
that beadle--"

"You're what I've been looking for in women all my life," he went on.
"You're the dream come true. I've only tried to love before. And now
you've come, and made me love, which we all dream of doing, and given me
love, which we all dream of getting--"

Her pleasure became tinged with a faint uneasiness, for she wouldn't
have thought, left to herself, that she had been giving him love.
Pastors' wives didn't give love except to their pastors. Friendship,
yes; she had given him warm friendship, and an abject admiration
of his gifts, and pride, and gratefulness--oh, such pride and
gratefulness--that he should like being with her and saying lovely
things to her; but love? She had supposed love was reserved for lovers.
Well, if he liked to call it love ... one must not be miss-ish it was
very kind of him.... It was, also, more and more wonderful to her that
she had been doing and being and giving all these things without knowing
it. Her suddenly discovered accomplishments staggered her. "Is it
possible," she thought with amazement, "that I'm _clever_?"

And as if he had heard the word lovers in her mind he said it.

"Other lovers," he said, "are engaged perpetually in sycophantic
adaptations--"

"In what?"

She thought he had been going to say engaged to be married, for though
she had known even at Redchester, in spite of the care taken to shut
such knowledge out, that the world included wicked persons who loved
without engagements or marriages, sometimes indeed even without having
been properly introduced, persons who were afterwards punished by the
correctly plighted by not being asked to tea, they were, the Bishop
informed an anxious inquirer once when he had supposed her out of the
room, in God's infinite mercy numerically negligible.

But Ingram did not heed her. "Except us," he went on.

"Us?" she echoed. Well, if one took the word in its widest sense.

"We fit," he said. "We fit, and reflect each other. I in your heart, you
in my heart, like two mirrors that hang opposite one another for ever."

A doubt as to the expediency of so much talk of hearts and love crept
into her mind, but she quieted it by remembering how much worse the Song
of Solomon was--"And yet so respectable really," she said, continuing
her thought aloud, "and all only about the Church."

"What is so respectable? Come and sit on that seat by the bush covered
with roses," he said. "Look--in this faint light they are as white and
delicate as you."

"The Song of Solomon. It--just happened to come into my head. Things
do," she added, beginning to lay hold of the first words that occurred
to her, no longer at her ease.

She sat down on the edge of the seat where he put her.

"It's stone," she said nervously, looking up at him, for he had taken a
step back and was considering her, his head on one side. "Do you think
it's good for us?"

"You beautiful little thing," he murmured, considering her. "You
exquisite little lover."

Her hands gripped the edge of the seat more tightly. A sudden very
definite longing for Robert seized her.

"Oh, but--" she began, and faltered.

She tried again. "It's so _kind_ of you, but--you know--but I don't
think--"

"What don't you think, my dear, my discoverer, my creator, my
restorer--"

"Oh, I know there was Solomon," she faltered, holding on to the seat,
"saying things, too, and they meant something else, but--but isn't this
different? Different because--well, I suppose through my not being the
Church? I'm very _sorry_," she added apologetically, "that I'm not the
Church--because then I suppose nothing would really matter?"

"You mean you don't want me to call you lover?"

"Well, I am _married_," she said, in the voice of one who apologised for
drawing his attention to it. "There _is_ no getting away from that."

"But we have got away from it," said Ingram, sitting down beside her and
loosening the hand nearest him from its tight hold on the seat and
kissing it, while she watched him in an uneasiness and dismay that now
were extreme. "That's exactly what we have done. Oh," he went on,
kissing her hand with what seemed to her a quite extraordinary emotion,
"you brave, beautiful little thing, you must know--you can't not
know--how completely and gloriously you have burned your ships!"

"Ships?" she echoed.

She stared at him a moment, then added with a catch in her breath:

"Which--ships?"

"Ingeborg, Ingeborg, my fastness, my safety, my darling, my reality, my
courage--" said Ingram, kissing her hand between each word.

"Yes," she said, brushing that aside, "but which ships?"

"My strength, my helper, friend, sister, lover, unmerited mate--"

"Yes, but won't you leave off a minute? It--it would be _convenient_ if
you'd leave off a minute and tell me which ships?"

He did leave off, to look into her eyes in the dusk, eyes fixed on him
in a concentration of questioning that left his epithets on one side as
so much irrelevant lumber.

"Little worshipful thing," he said, still gripping her hand, "did you
really think you could go back? Did you really think you could?"

"Go back where?"

"To that unworthy rubbish heap, Kökensee?"

She stared at him. Their faces, close together, were white in the dusk,
and their eyes looking into each other's were like glowing dark patches.

"Why should I not think so?" she said.

"Because, you little artist in recklessness, you've burned your ships."

She made an impatient movement, and he tightened his hold on her hand.

"Please," she said, "do you mind _telling_ me about the ships?"

"One of them was this."

"Was what?"

"Coming to Italy with me."

"You said heaps of people--"

"Oh, yes, I know--a man has to say things. And the other was writing
that letter to Robert. If you'd left it at boots and Berlin!"

He laughed triumphantly and kissed her hand again.

"But that wouldn't have helped, either, really," he went on, "because
directly the ten days were up and you hadn't come back he'd have
known--"

"Hadn't come back?"

"Oh, Ingeborg--little love, little Parsifal among women, dear divine
ignorance and obtuseness--I adore you for believing the picture could be
done in a week!"

"But you _said_--"

"Oh, yes, yes, I know--a man has to say things at the beginning--"

"What beginning?"

"Of this--of love, happiness, all the wonders of joy we're going to
have--"

"Please, do you mind not talking about those other things for a minute?
Why do you tell me I can't go back, I can't go home?"

"They wouldn't have you. Isn't it ridiculous--isn't it glorious?"

"What, not have me _home_? They wouldn't _have_ me? Who wouldn't? There
isn't a they. I've only got Robert--"

"_He_ wouldn't. After that letter he couldn't. And Kökensee wouldn't and
couldn't. And Glambeck wouldn't and couldn't. And Germany, if you like,
wouldn't and couldn't. The whole world gives you to me. You're my mate
now for ever."

She watched him kissing her hand as though it did not belong to her. She
was adjusting a new thought that was pushing its way like a frozen spear
into her mind, trying to let it in, seeing, she could not keep it out,
among all those happy thoughts so warmly there already about Ingram and
her holiday and the kindness and beauty of life, without its too cruelly
killing too many of them too quickly. "Do you mean--" she began; then
she stopped, because what was the use of asking him what he meant? Quite
suddenly she knew.

An immense slow coldness, an icy fog, seemed to settle down on her and
blot out happiness. All the dear accustomed things of life, the small
warm things of quietness and security, the everyday things one nestled
up to and knew, were sliding away from her. "So that," she heard herself
saying in a funny clear voice, "there's only God?"

"How, only God?" he asked, looking up at her.

"Only God left who wouldn't call it adultery?"

The word in her mouth shocked him.



CHAPTER XXXVI


She sat quite still after that while he talked. After that one
deplorable bald word she said no more at all; and Ingram's passionate
explanations and asseverations only every now and then caught her ear.
She was going home. That was all she knew and could think of. Back to
Robert. Away from Ingram. Somehow. At once. Robert would turn her
out--Ingram was saying so, she heard that. Robert might kill her--Ingram
was saying so, she heard that, too; he didn't say kill, he called it
ill-using, but whatever it was who cared? She would at least, she
thought with a new grimness, be killed legitimately. She was going back
to Robert, going to tell him she was sorry. Anyhow that. Then he could
do what he chose. But how to get to him? Oh, how to get to him? Her
thoughts whirled. Ingram wouldn't let her go, but she was going. Ingram
had her money, but she was going. That very night. Her thoughts,
whirling and whizzing, went breathless here in dark, terrifying places.
And while she was flying along on them like a leaf on a hurricane blast,
Ingram was still kissing her hand, still pouring out phrases as he had
been doing ever since--surely ever since Time began? She stared at him,
remembering him in a kind of wonder. She caught a word here and there:
pellucid, he was saying something was, translucent. She felt no
resentment. She had deserved all she had got. Not Ingram and what he had
told her or not told her mattered, but Robert. How to reach Robert, how
to get near enough to him to say, "See--I've come back. Draggled and
muddied. Everybody believes it. You'll believe it, though I tell you
it's not true. And if you believe it or not it's your ruin. You'll have
to leave this place, and all your work and hopes. Now kill me."

"A man," she heard Ingram going on, still passionately explaining what
was so completely plain, "must pretend things at the beginning to get
his dear woman--"

"Of course, of course," nodded her thoughts in hurried agreement,
rushing past him to the swift turning over of ways of reaching
Robert--who cared about dear women?--how to hide from Ingram that she
was going, how to keep him from suspecting her, from watching her every
instant....

A vision of herself in the restaurant car handing him over the money she
had, chaining herself of her own accord to him, rose for a
moment--danced mockingly, it was so ludicrously important an action and
at the same time so small and natural--before her eyes. The chances of
life! The way small simplicities worked out great devastations. She
threw back her head in a brief, astonished laugh.

Instantly Ingram kissed her throat.

"I--I--" she gasped, getting up quickly.

"It--has been so hot all day," she said with a little look of
apologising, remembering to gather her terror and misery tightly round
her like a cloak, so that it should not touch him, so that he should not
by so much as a flutter of it feel that it was there; for then he would
watch her, and she--she gripped her hands together--would be lost,
lost....

"I think I'm--tired," she said.

He became immediately all reasonableness, the kindly reasonableness of
one who has cleared away much confusion and can now afford to wait.

He got up, too, agreeing about the heat of the day, and reminding her
also of its length, of the journeys by land and water it had contained,
and of the inadequate meal of rusks that had been their sole support for
nearly six hours. No wonder she was tired. He was tenderness and concern
itself. "Poor little _dear_ thing," he whispered, drawing her hand
through his arm and holding it there clasped in his other hand as he led
her away towards the entrance and went with her out into the streets
again, making her walk slowly lest she should be more tired, restraining
her when she tried to hurry; and seeing a cheerful restaurant with
crowded tables on the pavement in front of it, he suggested they should
stop at it and have supper.

But Ingeborg said in a low voice, kept carefully controlled, that she
was afraid she would go to sleep over supper she was so tired; might she
have some milk at the hôtel and go to bed?

His tenderness for her as he conceded the milk was nurse-like.

But he, she murmured, he must have supper--would he not send her back in
a cab and stay here and have some?

No, he would certainly not trust a thing so precious to some careless
cabman; he would take her back to the hôtel, and then perhaps have food.

But the hôtel, she murmured, was so stuffy--did he think he would like
food there?

Well, perhaps when she was safely in it he would come out again to one
of these pavement places.

She seemed more pliantly feminine as she went with quiet steps through
the streets on his arm than he had yet known her. It was as though she
had wonderfully been converted from boyhood to womanhood, smitten
suddenly with womanhood there in those gardens, and every muscle of her
mind and will had relaxed into a sweet fatigue of abandonment. He adored
her like that, so gentle, giving no trouble, accepting the situation and
his comfortings and his pattings of the hand on his arm and all his
further explanations and asseverations with a grown-up dear
reasonableness he had not yet seen in her. In return he took infinite
care of her, protective and possessive, whenever they came to a crowd or
a puddle. And he stroked her hand, and looked into her face, demanding
and receiving an answering obedient smile. And he wanted her and asked
her to lean heavily on his arm so that she should not be so tired. In a
word, he was fond.

They were staying at an hôtel near the station, just off the station
square down a side street, a place frequented by middle-class Italians
and commercial travellers, noisy with passing tramcars, and of little
promise in the matter of food. Ingram had taken rooms there that
afternoon when the determination was strong upon him that Ingeborg, in
Milan, should not be comfortable. Now he was sorry; for the happy turn
things had taken, the immense stride he had made in the direction of
Venice by opening her eyes to the facts of the situation, made this
excess of martyrdom unnecessary. But there they were, the rooms, engaged
and unpacked in, on the first floor almost, on a level with the
ceaseless passing tops of the bumping tramcars, and it was too late that
night to change.

He felt, however, very apologetic now as he went with her up the dingy
stairs to the door of her room in case some too cheery commercial
traveller should meet her on the way and dare to look at her.

"It's an unworthy place for my little shining mate," he said, "but
Venice will make up for it all. You'll love my rooms there--the
spaciousness of them, and the sunset on the lagoons from the windows.
To-morrow we'll go--"

He searched her face as she stood in the crude top light of the
corridor. Naturally she was tired after such a day, but he observed a
further dimness about her, a kind of opaqueness, like that of a lamp
whose light has been put out, and it afflicted him. The light would be
lit again, he knew, and burn more brightly than ever, but it afflicted
him that even for a moment it should go out; and swiftly glancing up and
down the passage he took both her hands in his and kissed them.

"Little dear one," he said, "little sister--you do forgive me?"

"Oh, but of course, of course," said Ingeborg quickly, with all her
heart; and she felt for a moment the acute desolation of life, the
inevitable hurtings, the eternal impossibility, whatever steps one took,
of not treading to death something that, too, was living and
beautiful--this thing or that thing, one or the other.

Her eyes as she looked at him were suddenly veiled with tears. Her
thoughts stopped swirling round ways of escape. And very vivid was the
perception that her escape, if she did succeed in it, was going to be
from something she would never find again, from a light and a warmth,
however fitful, and a greatness.... If he had been her brother she would
have put her arms round him and kissed him. If she had been his mother
she would have solemnly blessed him. As it was there was nothing to be
done but the bleak banality of turning away into her room and shutting
the door.

She heard his footsteps going down the passage. She went to the window,
and saw him going down the street. There was not an instant to lose--she
must find out a train now, while he was away, have that at least ready
in her mind for the moment when she somehow had got the money. First
that; then think out how to get the money.

She stole into the passage again--stole, for she felt a breathless fear
that in spite of his being so manifestly gone he yet would hear her
somehow if she made a noise and come back--stole along it and down the
stairs into the entrance hall where hung enormously a giant time-table,
conspicuous and convenient in an hôtel that supplied no _concierge_ to
answer questions, and whose _clientèle_ was particularly restless.

Nobody was in the hall. It was not an hour of arrival or departure; and
the man in the green apron she had seen there before, who at odd moments
became that which in better hôtels is uninterruptedly a _concierge_, was
nowhere to be seen, either. She had to get on a chair, the trains to
Berlin were so high up on the great sheet, and tremblingly she kept an
eye on the street door, through whose glass panels she could see people
passing up and down the street, and they in their turn could and did see
her. Yes--there was a night train at 1.30. It came from Rome. Travellers
might arrive by it. The hôtel door would be open. Her thoughts flew. It
got to Berlin at six something of the morning after the next morning.

Suddenly the glass door opened, and she jumped so violently that she
nearly fell off her chair, and she fled upstairs, panic-stricken,
without even looking to see if it were Ingram.

Safe in her room she was horrified at herself for such a panic. How was
she going to do everything there was to be done if she were like that?
She stood in the middle of the floor twisting her hands. If in her life
she had needed complete self-control and clear thinking and calm acting
she knew it was now. But how to keep calm and clear when her body was
shaking with fear? She felt, standing there struggling with herself, so
entirely forlorn, so entirely cut off from warmth and love, so horribly
with nothing she could look back to and believe in and nothing she could
look forward to and hope in, that just to speak to somebody, just to
speak to a stranger who because he was a stranger would have no
prejudices against her, would simply recognise a familiar distress--for
surely the other human beings in the hôtel must all at some time have
been unhappy?--seemed a thing of comfort beyond expressing. Her longing
was intolerable to get close for a moment to another human soul, to ask
of it how it had fared when it, too, went down into the sea without
ships, leaving its ships all burned behind it, and yet its business had
inexorably been in deep waters. "Oh, haven't you been unhappy, too?" she
wanted to ask of it "haven't you sometimes been very unhappy? Dear
fellow-soul--please--tell me--haven't you sometimes felt _bitter_ cold?"

But there was no one; there was no brotherhood in the world, except at
the rare obvious moments of common catastrophes and deaths.

She began to walk up and down the room. Half-past one that night was the
hour of her escape, and somehow between now and then she must get the
money. Perhaps by some chance he had left it in his room? Forgotten in a
moment of carelessness in the pocket of the coat he had changed when
they arrived that afternoon? It was not likely, for he was, she had
noticed, of an extreme neatness and care about all such things. He never
forgot. He never mislaid. Still--there was the chance.

She opened the door again, this time in deadly fear, for perhaps he
would be coming back, not choosing after all to stay out there having
supper.

There was no one in the passage. His room, she knew, was farther down;
she had seen him going into it, four doors down on the same side as
hers. She went out and stood a moment listening, then began to walk
along towards it with an air of unconcern as though rightfully going
down the corridor till she came to his door; then with her heart in her
mouth she bolted in.

The lights from the street and the houses opposite shone in through the
unshuttered window, and she could see into every corner of the shabby
hôtel bedroom, a reproduction of the one she was in herself, trailed
over dingily by traces of hundreds of commercial travellers and smelling
memorially, as hers did, too, of their smoke and their pomades. She was
hot and cold with fear; guilty as a thief. His coat hung behind the
door. She ran her trembling fingers over it. Not a thing in any of his
pockets. Nowhere anything that she could see. His unpacking had been
done with orderliness itself. Of course he would not forget his
pocket-book. With a gasp that was almost relief she slipped out of the
room, shut the door quickly behind her, and assuming what she tried to
hope was an unconcerned swagger, a sort of "I am-as-good-as-you-are" air
for the impressing of any one she might meet, walked down the passage
again.

Just as she reached her door Ingram appeared, hurrying up the stairs two
steps at a time.

She clutched hold of the handle of her door, suddenly unable to stand.

"I--I--" she began.

But he did not seem surprised to see her there; he was intent on
something else.

"Just think," he said, coming quickly towards her. "I left my
pocket-book in my room, full of notes. The whole afternoon lying in the
drawer of the table. I wonder--"

He hurried past her almost at a run.

She got into her room somehow, feeling Heaven had forsaken her.

After a minute or two she heard him coming along again. He stopped at
her door and called to her softly:

"It's all right. It was still there. Wasn't it lucky?"

"Very," said Ingeborg; but so faintly that he did not hear.

"Good night, my Little One," she heard him say. "Now I'm going out to
get that supper."

"Good night," said Ingeborg, again so faintly that he heard nothing; and
after a pause of listening he went away.

She tumbled down on to the bed. She felt sick. It was a quarter past
ten. She had three hours to wait. She knew what she was going to do, try
to do. At one o'clock she would take off her shoes and go down the
passage and see if his door were locked. He would be asleep. He must,
oh, he must be asleep--she twisted about in the terror that smote her at
the thought that he might perhaps not be asleep....

"God _does_ love me," she said to herself, "I _am_ His child. Haven't I
sinned and repented? Haven't I done all the things? He's bound to help
me, to save me. It _is_ the wicked He saves--I _am_ wicked-"

Her heart stood still at the fearful thought that perhaps she had not
yet been after all wicked enough, not wicked enough to be saved.

People belonging to the other rooms began to come back to bed. Somebody
in the next room sang while he was undressing, a gay Italian song, and
presently he smoked, and the smoke came in under the door between her
room and his.

She lay in the dark, or rather in the lights and shadows of the
uncurtained room, and every two or three minutes a tramcar passed and
shut out other sounds. Ingram must have come in long ago. When it was
midnight she got up and arranged her shoes and hat just inside the door
so that she could seize them as she came back, supposing she had been
successful, and rush on straight downstairs and out and to the station.
All other thoughts were now lost in the intentness with which she was
concentrated on what she had to do exactly next. She would not let
herself look aside at the abyss yawning if she were not successful. She
gripped hold of the thing she had to do, the getting of the money, and
fixed her whole self on that alone.

She lay down on the bed again, her hands clenched as though in them she
held her determination. Once her thoughts did slip off to Robert, to the
extreme desolation of what was waiting for her there, and tears came
through her tightly shut eyelids.

"It's what you've deserved," she whispered, struggling to stop them.
"Yes, but _he_ hasn't deserved it. Robert hasn't deserved it--you've
ruined _him_--" she was forced to go on.

She shook off the unnerving thoughts. By her watch it was a quarter to
one.

She stood up and began to listen.

The tramcars passed now only every ten minutes. In between their passing
the hôtel was quiet. She would wait for the approach of the next one--in
the stillness she could hear it coming a long way off--then she would
run down the passage in her stockinged feet to Ingram's door and open it
just as the noise was loudest.

An icy hand seemed holding her heart, so icy that it burned. She had not
known she had so many pulses in her body. They shook her and shook her;
great, heavy, hammering things. She crept to her door and opened it a
chink. There was a dim light in the passage. She heard the distant
rumbling of a tramcar. Now--she must run.

But she could not. She stood and shook. There it was, coming nearer, and
not another for ten minutes. She began to sob and say prayers. The
tramcar struck its bell sharply, it had reached the corner of the
piazza, it would be passing in another minute. She wrenched the door
open and ran like a flying shadow down the passage, and just as the car
was at its loudest turned the handle of Ingram's door.

It was not locked. She stood inside. The tramcar rumbled away into the
distance. Ingram--she nearly wept for relief--was breathing deeply, was
asleep.

"But how funny," she thought, after one terrified glance at him as he
lay in the bar of light the street lamp cast on the bed, thinking with a
top layer of attention while underneath she was entirely concentrated on
the pocket-book, "how funny to go to bed in one's beard!..."

She stole over to the table and peered about frantically among the
things scattered on it, saw nothing, began with breathless care to try
to open its drawer noiselessly, listening all the while for the least
pause in the breathing on the bed, and all the while with the foolish
detached layer of thoughts running in her head like some senseless
tune--

"_Funny_ to go to bed in a beard--_funny_ to sleep in a thing like
that--_funny_ not to take it off at night and hang it up outside the
door with one's clothes and have it properly brushed--"

The drawer creaked as it opened. The regular breathing paused. She stood
motionless, hit rigid with terror. Then the breathing began again; and,
after all, there was nothing in the drawer.

She looked round the room in despair. On the little table by his pillow
lay his watch and handkerchief. Nothing else. But in the table was a
small drawer. She must look in that, too; she must go over and look in
that; but how to open it so close to his head without walking him? She
crept across to it, stopping at each step. Holding her breath she waited
and listened before daring to take another. The drawer was not quite
shut, and the slight noise of pulling its chink a little wider did not
interrupt Ingrain's breathing. She put in her hand and drew out the
pocket-book, drew out some notes--Italian notes, the first she found, a
handful of them--pushed the pocket-book into the drawer again, and was
in the act of turning to run when she was rooted to the floor.

Ingram was looking at her.

His eyes were open, and he was looking at her. Sleepily, hardly awake,
like one trying to focus a thought. She stood fascinated with horror,
staring at him, not able to move, her hand behind her back clutching the
money. Then he put out his arm and caught her dress.

"Ingeborg?" he said in a sleepy wonder, still half in the deep dreams he
had come up out of, "You? My little angel love--you? You've come?"

"Yes--yes," she stammered, trying to pull her dress away, wild with
fear, flinging herself as usual in extremity on to the first words that
came into her head--"Yes, yes, but I must go back to my room a
minute--just one minute--please let me go--just one minute--I--I've
forgotten my toothbrush--"

And Ingram, steeped in the heaviness of the first real sleep he had had
for nights and only half awake, murmured, with the happy, foolish
reasonableness of that condition--

"Don't be long, then, sweetest little mate," and let her go.



CHAPTER XXXVII


Two days later the porter at the Meuk station beheld Frau Pastor Dremmel
trying to open the door of a third-class compartment in the early
afternoon train from Allenstein, and going to her assistance, there
being no other passenger to distract him, was surprised to find she had
no luggage. Yet only the week before with his own hands he had put in a
trunk for her and labelled it Berlin. With the interest of a lonely man
whose time is his own, he inquired whether she had lost it and was
surprised to find she did not answer. He then told her, or rather called
after her, for she was moving away, that the pastoral carriage had not
yet come for her, and was surprised again, for again she did not answer.
He stood watching her, wondering what was wrong. He was too much
accustomed to dilapidations and dirt in himself to see them in others,
so that these outer signs of exhaustion and prolonged travelling escaped
him. Puzzled, he shook his head as she disappeared through the station
door; then he remembered that the poor lady was an _Engländerin_, and
was able to turn away calmed, with the satisfaction of him who has found
the right label and stuck it on.

Meuk, as she passed through it, shook its head over her, too, consoling
itself when she returned no greetings, did not even seem to see
greetings, with the same explanation and shrug--_Engländerin_. Robertlet
and Ditti, walking along neatly to afternoon school, and suddenly aware
of the approach down the street towards them of a disordered parent who
not only did not stop but apparently did not see them, murmured to each
other, being by now well instructed by their grandmother, the same
explanation--_Engländerin_. Frau Dremmel, leaning on her window-sill to
watch her charges safely round the corner, and lingering a moment in the
mellow summer air, explained her daughter-in-law, who went by without a
glance, walking conspicuously in the middle of the road, with no parcel
in her hand to legitimise her being out and not so much as an umbrella
to give her a countenance, just with empty ungloved hands hanging down,
and a scandalous scarcity of hairpins, and her clothes all twisted, in
the same brief manner, _Engländerin_. Baroness Glambeck, driving towards
the town along the shade-flecked highroad, bent on one of those errands
of mercy that are forced at intervals upon the great, with a basket of
the properties, principally home-made jam and mittens, at her feet,
endeavoured though vainly to mitigate the shock she received on being
cut by her own pastor's wife, and a pastor's wife producing curiously
the effect of somehow being in tatters, by using the same word to the
female dependent who accompanied her on these occasions because somebody
had to carry the jam--_Engländerin_. The very birds in the branches,
being German birds, were no doubt singing it; the dogs, as they met her,
scented misfortune and barked furiously, instantly detecting the alien,
angered by her batteredness, discovering nothing in her clothes however
diligently they sniffed that an honest German dog could care about; and
when on a lonely stretch of the road she came to a tramp, instead of
begging he offered her a drink.

The lane turning off to Kökensee was so lovely that afternoon in the
bright bravery of early summer, and so glanced and shone and darted with
busy birds and insects and the glory of young leaves in the sun, that
the dingy human figure faltering along it seemed an indecency. In that
vigorous world what place was there for blind fatigue? In that world of
triumph what place for a failure? It was the sort of day that used to
make Ingeborg's heart lift up; now she saw nothing, felt nothing, except
that the sand was deep.

She began to cry presently because the sand was deep. It seemed to give
way on purpose beneath her feet, try on purpose to make her stumble and
not get home. The line of roofs up against the afternoon sky did not
appear to come any nearer, and yet she kept on trying to get home. The
tears fell down her face as she laboured along. She was afraid she
wouldn't get home in time before she had to leave off walking because
she couldn't walk any farther. It seemed to her a dreadful thing that
she who could walk so well should not be able to walk now and get home.
And this white sand--how fine it was, how it slid away on each side of
one's feet wherever one put them! And it got into one's shoes, and one
couldn't stop and empty them for fear if one sat down one wouldn't be
able to get up again, and then one wouldn't get home. Slower and more
slowly she laboured along. By the time she reached the steep part just
before the village she was crawling like a hurt insect. She had
forgotten to eat on the journey, and in Milan there had only been the
rusks.

The street was asleep, empty that fine afternoon, the inhabitants away
at work in the fields, and only the pig and the geese were visible in
the parsonage yard. Luckily the gate in the wire-netting fence that shut
off the house and garden was not latched, for she could not have opened
it, but would have stood there holding on to it and foolishly sobbing
till some one came and helped. The least obstacle now would be a thing
that in no way could be got over. The front door was shut, and sooner
than go up the steps and try to get it open, she went round the path to
the side of the house where the lilacs grew and Robert's window was.
That way she could reach the kitchen, whose door stood always open and
was level with the garden. Robert would be out in his fields. She would
go into his laboratory and wait for him. Nobody but Robert _knew_ yet.
She had come back before the end of her leave. His shame was not yet
public property. If he just beat her, she thought, in a disinterested
weak way, and there was an end of it, wouldn't that do? Then no one need
ever know, and he could stay on in Kökensee and go on with his work, and
she wouldn't have ruined him. It was the thought of having ruined Robert
that clove her heart in two. To have ruined him, when all her ambition
and all her hope had been to make him so happy....

Well did she know that a pastor whose wife had broken the seventh
commandment would be driven out, would be impossibly scandalous in any
parish. And her not having broken it was quite beside the point; it
didn't matter what you didn't do so long as you looked as though you had
done it. And if Robert killed her it wouldn't help him, either; he would
have done the only decent thing, as the Baroness and her son Hildebrand
had said that time long ago, and avenged his honour in the proper German
way, but there were drawbacks to avenging one's honour--one was,
illogically, punished for doing it, and even though it were mild
punishment, any punishment ended a pastor's career.

She crept round the corner of the house. She was so tired that if she
had to wait for him long in his laboratory she felt sure she wouldn't be
able to keep awake. Well, if he came in and killed her while she was
asleep it would be for her the pleasantest thing; she was so very tired
that it would be nice, she thought vaguely, to wake up afterwards, and
find oneself comfortably dead. But Robert was not in his fields. From
the path beneath his window she could see his head, as she had seen it
hundreds of times, bending over his desk.

At the sight she stopped, and her heart seemed to shrink into quite a
little, scarcely beating thing. There he was, her dishonoured husband,
the being who in her life had been kindest to her, had loved her most,
still working, still going on doggedly among the ruins she had created,
up to the last moment when public opinion, brutal and stupid, making her
the chief thing when she so utterly was not, while it thrust her and her
wishes and intimate knowledge aside as not mattering when, as in the
question of more children, or no more children, they so utterly did,
would on her sole account, on the sole account of what seemed to her at
that moment the most profoundly naturally unimportant thing in life, a
woman who had been silly, put a stop to his fine work and refuse to give
the world a chance to profit by his brains.

Well, she couldn't think about that now. She couldn't hold on to any of
her thoughts for more than an instant. She only knew that the moment had
come for facing him, and that she was very tired. She really was
extraordinarily tired. Her mind was just as dim and reluctant to move as
her body. Whatever Robert was going to do to her she would cling to him
with her arms round his neck while he did it. She was so tired that she
thought if he didn't mind her just putting her arms round his neck she
would very likely go to sleep while he beat her. But poor Robert, she
thought--how hot it was going to make him to have to be violent, to have
to beat! It was not at all good beating weather.... And it was almost a
pity to waste punishment on somebody too tired to be able properly to
appreciate it, to take it, as it were, properly in.

She moved along down the path towards the back door. When one came to
think of it it was a strange thing to be going in to Robert to be hurt.
Well, but she had deserved it; she perfectly understood about his honour
and its needs. Oh, yes, she perfectly understood that. A man has
to--what had she just been going to think? What does a man have to? Oh,
well. If only what he did to her could blot out every consequence of
what she had done to him, be a full, perfect, and sufficient--no, that
was profane; tiresome how one thought in the phrases of the Prayer-book
and how difficult it was if one had had much to do with prayer-books not
to be profane. As it was, her punishment wouldn't do anybody any good
that she could see. Funny, the punishment idea. Of what use was it
really? The consequences of the things one did were surely enough in
their devastating effect; why increase devastation? And forgiveness
didn't seem to be of much use, either. It blotted out the past, she had
heard people in pulpits say, but it didn't blot out the future, that
daily living among consequences which she perceived was going to be so
dreadful.

Well, she couldn't think now. And here was the kitchen door; and
here--yes, wasn't that Klara, staring at her open-mouthed, arrested in
the middle of emptying a bucket? Why did she stare at her? Did she then
_know_?

"_Allmächtiger Gott_" exclaimed Klara, dropping the bucket.

Yes, evidently Klara knew, she thought, dragging her dusty feet across
the kitchen into the passage, and _allmächtiger Gott_ was what one said
in Germany when one's disgraced mistress came back, instead of _guten
Tag_. Well, it didn't matter. The dark little passage; one almost had to
grope one's way along it when the front door was shut. And it had not
been aired apparently since she went away, and it was heavy and choked
with kitchen smell. She supposed it must be this thickness of atmosphere
that made her, on Robert's doormat with her hand on the latch, feel
suddenly so very like fainting. And it really was dark; surely it didn't
only seem dark because she suddenly couldn't see? Alarmed, she
remembered how she had fainted after her conscience-stricken journey
back from Lucerne. Was she then to go through life making at intervals
conscience-stricken journeys back, and fainting at the critical moment
at their end?

In terror lest she should do it now if she waited a moment longer, and
so twist things round in that dishonourable womanly way which commits
the wrong and then bringing in the appeal of bodily weakness secures the
comforting, secures, almost, the apology, she seized all her courage,
swept its fragments together into a firm clutching, and opened the door.

Herr Dremmel was at his table, writing. He did not look up.

"Robert," she said faintly, her back against the door, her hands behind
her spread out and clinging to it, here I am.

Herr Dremmel continued writing. He was, to all appearances, absorbed;
and his forehead, that hot afternoon, was covered with the drops of
concentration.

"Robert," she said at last again, in a voice that shook however hard she
tried to keep it steady, "here I am."

Herr Dremmel finished his sentence. Then he raised his head and looked
at her.

Staring back at him in misery and fear, and yet beside the fear with a
dreadful courage, she recognised the look. It was the look he had when
he was collecting his attention, bringing it up from distant deep places
to the surface, to herself. How strange that he should at this moment
have to collect it, that it did not instantly spring at her, that she
and the havoc she had brought into his life should not be soaked into
every part of his consciousness!

"What did you say, Ingeborg?" he said, looking at her with that so
recognisable look.

For all her study of him she felt she did not yet know Robert.

"I only said," she stammered, "that I--that here--that here I _was_."

He looked at her for a further space of silence. Then it flashed upon
her that he was, dreadfully, pretending. He was acting. He was going to
torment her before punishing her. He was going to be slowly cruel.

Herr Dremmel, as though he were gathering himself together--gathering
himself, she thought watching him and growing cold at his uncanniness,
for a horrible spring--inquired of her if she had walked.

"Yes," said Ingeborg even more faintly, her eyes full of watchful fear.

He continued to look at her, but his hand while he did so felt about on
the table for the pen he had laid down.

She recognized this look, too--amazing, horrible, how he could act--it
was the one he had when, talking to somebody, a new illumination of the
subject he was writing about came into his mind.

She felt sure now that the worst was going to happen to her; but first
there was to be torture, a long playing about. These revealed depths of
cunning cruelty in him, of talent for cleverest acting, froze her blood.
Where was Robert, the man of large simplicities she believed she had
known? It was a strange man, then, she had been living with? He had
never, through all the years, been the one she thought she had married.

"Please-" she said, holding out both her hands, "Robert--don't. Won't
you--won't you be natural?"

He still looked at her in silence. Then he said with a sudden air of
remembering, "Did you get your boots, Ingeborg?"

This was dreadful. That he should even talk about the boots! Throw in
her face that paltry preliminary lying.

"You _know_ I didn't," she said, tears of shame for him that he could be
so cruel coming into her eyes.

Again Herr Dremmel looked at her as though collecting, as though
endeavouring to remember and to find.

"I know?" he repeated, after a pause of reflective gazing during which
Ingeborg had flushed vividly and gone white again, so much shocked was
she at the glimpse she was getting into inhumanity. It was devilish, she
thought. But Robert devilish? Her universe seemed tumbling about her
ears.

"I think," she said, lifting her head with the pride he ought to have
felt and so evidently, so lamentably, didn't, "one should give one's
punishment like a man."

There was another pause, during which Herr Dremmel, with his eyes on
hers, appeared to ruminate.

Then he said, "Did you have a pleasant time?"

This was fiendish. Even when acting, thought Ingeborg, there were depths
of baseness the decent refused to portray.

"I think," she said in a trembling voice, "if you wouldn't mind leaving
off pretending--oh," she broke off, pressing her hands together, "what's
the good, Robert? What's the _good_? Don't let us waste time. Don't make
it worse, more hideous--you got my letter--you know all about it--"

"Your letter?" said Herr Dremmel.

She begged him, she entreated him to leave off pretending. "Don't, don't
keep on like this," she besought--"it's such a dreadful way of doing
it--it's so unworthy--"

"Ingeborg," said Herr Dremmel, "will you not cultivate calm? _You_ have
journeyed and you have walked, but you have done neither sufficiently to
justify intemperateness. Perhaps, if you must be intemperate, you will
have the goodness to go and be so in your own room. Then we shall
neither of us disturb the other."

"No," said Ingeborg, wringing her hands, "no. I won't go. I won't go
into any other room till you've finished with me."

"But," said Herr Dremmel, "I have finished with you. And I wish," he
added, pulling out his watch, "to have tea. I am driving to my fields at
five o'clock."

"Oh, Robert," she begged, inexpressibly shocked, he meant to go on
tormenting her then indefinitely? "please, please do whatever you're
going to do to me and get it over. Here I am only _waiting_ to be
punished--"

"Punished?" repeated Herr Dremmel.

"Why," cried Ingeborg, her eyes bright with grief and shame for this
steady persistence in baseness, "why, I don't think you're to punish me!
You're not _fit_ to punish a decent woman. You're contemptible!"

Herr Dremmel stared. "This," he then said, "is abuse. At least," he
added, "it bears a close resemblance to that which in a reasonable human
being would be abuse. However, Ingeborg, speech in you does not, as I
have often observed, accurately represent meaning. I should rather say,"
he amended, "a meaning."

She moved across to the table to him, her eyes shining. He held his pen
ready to go on writing so soon as she should be good enough to leave off
interrupting.

"Robert," she said, leaning with both hands on the table, her voice
shaking, "I--I never thought I'd have to be _ashamed_ of you. I could
bear anything but having to be _ashamed_ of you--"

"Perhaps, then, Ingeborg," said Herr Dremmel, "you will have the
goodness to go and be ashamed of me in your own room. Then we shall
neither of us disturb the other."

"You are being so horrible that you're twisting things all wrong, and
putting me in the position of having to forgive _you_ when it's _you_
who've got to forgive _me_--"

"Pray, then, Ingeborg, go and forgive me in your own room. Then we shall
neither of us--"

"You're being cruel--oh, but it's unbelievable--you, my husband--you're
playing with me like a cat with a miserable mouse, a miserable, sorry
mouse, something helpless that can't do anything back and wouldn't if it
could--and see how you make me talk, when it's you who ought to be
talking! Do, do, Robert, begin to talk--begin to say things, do things,
get it over. You've had my letter, you know perfectly what I did--"

"I have had no letter, Ingeborg."

"How dreadful of you to say that!" she cried, her face full of horror at
him. "When you know you have and you know I know you have--that letter I
left for you--on this table--"

"I have seen no letter on this table."

"But I _put_ it here--I put it _here_--"

She lifted her hand to point out passionately the very spot to him; and
underneath her hand was the letter.

Her heart gave one great bump and seemed to stop beating. The letter was
where she had put it and was unopened.

She looked up at Herr Dremmel. She turned red; she turned white; she
tasted the very extremity of shame. "I--beg your pardon," she whispered.

Herr Dremmel wore a slight air of apology. "One omits, occasionally, to
notice," he said.

"Yes," breathed Ingeborg.

She stood quite still, her eyes on his face.

He pulled out his watch. "Perhaps now, Ingeborg," he said, "you will be
so good as to see about tea. I am driving to my fields--"

"Yes," breathed Ingeborg.

He bent over his work and began writing again.

She put out her hand and slowly took up the letter. Tradition, copious
imbibing of the precepts of bishops, were impelling her towards that
action frequently fatal to the permanent peace of families, the making
of a clean breast.

"Do you--do you--do you want to--" she began tremblingly, half holding
out the letter.

Then her voice failed; and her principles failed; and the precepts of a
lifetime failed; and she put it in her pocket.

"It's--stale," she whispered, explaining.

But Herr Dremmel went on writing. He had forgotten the letter.

She turned away and went slowly towards the door.

In the middle of the room she hesitated, and looked back. "I--I'd _like_
to kiss you," she faltered.

But Herr Dremmel went on writing. He had forgotten Ingeborg.


THE END





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