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´╗┐Title: Watersprings
Author: Benson, Arthur Christopher, 1862-1925
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 "Watersprings" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



by Al Haines.



WATERSPRINGS



BY

ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON


  "For in the wilderness shall waters
  break out, and streams in the desert"


1913



CONTENTS

      I.  THE SCENE
     II.  RESTLESSNESS
    III.  WINDLOW
     IV.  THE POOL
      V.  ON THE DOWN
     VI.  THE HOME CIRCLE
    VII.  COUNTRY LIFE
   VIII.  THE INHERITANCE
     IX.  THE VICAR
      X.  WITH MAUD ALONE
     XI.  JACK
    XII.  DIPLOMACY
   XIII.  GIVING AWAY
    XIV.  BACK TO CAMBRIDGE
     XV.  JACK'S ESCAPADE
    XVI.  THE VISIT
   XVII.  SELF-SUPPRESSION
  XVIII.  THE PICNIC
    XIX.  DESPONDENCY
     XX.  HIGHMINDEDNESS
    XXI.  THE AWAKENING
   XXII.  LOVE AND CERTAINTY
  XXIII.  THE WEDDING
   XXIV.  DISCOVERIES
    XXV.  THE NEW KNOWLEDGE
   XXVI.  LOVE IS ENOUGH
  XXVII.  THE NEW LIFE
 XXVIII.  THE VICAR'S VIEW
   XXIX.  THE CHILD
    XXX.  CAMBRIDGE AGAIN
   XXXI.  MAKING THE BEST OF IT
  XXXII.  HOWARD'S PROFESSION
 XXXIII.  ANXIETY
  XXXIV.  THE DREAM-CHILD
   XXXV.  THE POWER OF LOVE
  XXXVI.  THE TRUTH



WATERSPRINGS


I

THE SCENE


The bright pale February sunlight lay on the little court of Beaufort
College, Cambridge, on the old dull-red smoke-stained brick, the stone
mullions and mouldings, the Hall oriel, the ivied buttresses and
battlements, the turrets, the tiled roofs, the quaint chimneys, and the
lead-topped cupola over all. Half the court was in shadow. It was
incredibly picturesque, but it had somehow the look of a fortress
rather than of a house. It did not exist only to be beautiful, but had
a well-worn beauty of age and use. There was no domestic adornment of
flower-bed or garden-border, merely four squares of grass, looking like
faded carpets laid on the rather uncompromising pebbles which floored
the pathways. The golden hands of the clock pointed to a quarter to
ten, and the chimes uttered their sharp, peremptory voices. Two or
three young men stood talking at the vaulted gateway, and one or two
figures in dilapidated gowns and caps, holding books, fled out of the
court.

A firm footstep came down one of the stairways; a man of about forty
passed out into the court--Howard Kennedy, Fellow and Classical
Lecturer of the College. His thick curly brown hair showed a trace of
grey, his short pointed beard was grizzled, his complexion sanguine,
his eyebrows thick. There were little vague lines on his forehead, and
his eyes were large and clear; an interesting, expressive face, not
technically handsome, but both clever and good-natured. He was
carelessly dressed in rather old but well-cut clothes, and had an air
of business-like decisiveness which became him well, and made him seem
comfortably at home in the place; he nodded and smiled to the
undergraduates at the gate, who smiled back and saluted. He met a young
man rushing down the court, and said to him, "That's right, hurry up!
You'll just be in time," a remark which was answered by a gesture of
despair from the young man. Then he went up the court towards the Hall,
entered the flagged passage, looked for a moment at the notices on the
screen, and went through into the back court, which was surrounded by a
tiny cloister.

Here he met an elderly man, clean-shaven, fresh-coloured,
acute-looking, who wore a little round bowler hat perched on a thick
shock of white hair. He was dressed in a black coat and waistcoat, with
a black tie, and wore rather light grey trousers. One would have taken
him for an old-fashioned country solicitor. He was, as a matter of
fact, the Vice-Master and Senior Fellow of the College--Mr. Redmayne,
who had spent his whole life there. He greeted the younger man with a
kindly, brisk, ironical manner, saying, "You look very virtuous,
Kennedy! What are you up to?"

"I am going for a turn in the garden," said Howard; "will you come with
me?"

"You are very good," said Mr. Redmayne; "it will be quite like a
dialogue of Plato!"

They went down the cloister to a low door in the corner, which Howard
unlocked, and turned into a small old-fashioned garden, surrounded on
three sides by high walls, and overlooking the river on the fourth
side; a gravel path ran all round; there were a few trees, bare and
leafless, and a big bed of shrubs in the centre of the little lawn,
just faintly pricked with points of green. A few aconites showed their
yellow heads above the soil.

"What are those wretched little flowers?" said Mr. Redmayne, pointing
at them contemptuously.

"Oh, don't say that," said Howard; "they are always the first to
struggle up, and they are the earliest signs of spring. Those are
aconites."

"Aconites? Deadly poison!" said Mr. Redmayne, in a tone of horror.
"Well, I don't object to them,--though I must say that I prefer the
works of man to the works of God at all times and in all places. I
don't like the spring--it's a languid and treacherous time; it always
makes me feel that I wish I were doing something else."

They paced for some minutes round the garden gossiping, Redmayne making
very trenchant criticisms, but evidently enjoying the younger man's
company. At something which he said, Howard uttered a low laugh, which
was pleasant to hear from the sense of contented familiarity which it
gave.

"Ah, you may laugh, my young friend," said Redmayne, "but when you have
reached my time of life and see everything going to pieces round you,
you have occasionally to protest against the general want of backbone,
and the sentimentality of the age."

"Yes, but you don't REALLY object," said Howard; "you know you enjoy
your grievances!"

"Well, I am a philosopher," said Mr. Redmayne, "but you are overdoing
your philanthropics. Luncheon in Hall for the boys, dinner at
seven-thirty for the boys, a new cricket-ground for the boys; you
pamper them! Now in my time, when the undergraduates complained about
the veal in Hall, old Grant sent for us third-year men, and said that
he understood there were complaints about the veal, of which he fully
recognised the justice, and so they would go back to mutton and beef
and stick to them, and then he bowed us out. Now the Bursar would send
for the cook, and they would mingle their tears together."

Howard laughed again, but made no comment, and presently said he must
go back to work. As they went in, Mr. Redmayne put his hand in Howard's
arm, and said, "Don't mind me, my young friend! I like to have my
growl, but I am proud of the old place, and you do a great deal for it."

Howard smiled, and tucked the old man's hand closer to his side with a
movement of his arm. "I shall come and fetch you out again some
morning," he said.

He got back to his rooms at ten o'clock, and a moment afterwards a
young man appeared in a gown. Howard sat down at his table, pulled a
chair up to his side, produced a corrected piece of Latin prose, made
some criticisms and suggestions, and ended up by saying, "That's a good
piece! You have improved a good deal lately, and that would get you a
solid mark." Then he sat for a minute or two talking about the books
his pupil was reading, and indicating the points he was to look out
for, till at half-past ten another youth appeared to go through the
same process. This went on until twelve o'clock. Howard's manner was
kindly and business-like, and the undergraduates were very much at
their ease. One of them objected to one of his criticisms. Howard
turned to a dictionary and showed him a paragraph. "You will see I am
right," he said, "but don't hesitate to object to anything I say--these
usages are tricky things!" The undergraduate smiled and nodded.

Just before twelve o'clock he was left alone for five minutes, and a
servant brought in a note. Howard opened it, and taking a sheet of
paper, began to write. At the hour a youth appeared, of very boyish
aspect, curly-haired, fresh-looking, ingenuous. Howard greeted him with
a smile. "Half a minute, Jack!" he said. "There's the paper--not the
Sportsman, I'm afraid, but you can console yourself while I just finish
this note." The boy sat down by the fire, but instead of taking the
paper, drew a solemn-looking cat, which was sitting regarding the
hearth, on to his knee, and began playing with it. Presently Howard
threw his pen down. "Come along," he said. The boy, still carrying the
cat, came and sat down beside him. The lesson proceeded as before, but
there was a slight difference in Howard's manner of speech, as of an
uncle with a favourite nephew. At the end, he pushed the paper into the
boy's hand, and said, "No, that isn't good enough, you know; it's all
too casual--it isn't a bit like Latin: you don't do me credit!" He
spoke incisively enough, but shook his head with a smile. The boy said
nothing, but got up, vaguely smiling, and holding the cat tucked under
his arm--a charming picture of healthy and indifferent youth. Then he
said in a rich infantile voice, "Oh, it's all right. I didn't do myself
justice this time. You shall see!"

At this moment the old servant came in and asked Howard if he would
take lunch.

"Yes; I won't go into Hall," said Howard. "Lunch for two--you can stay
and lunch with me, Jack; and I will give you a lecture about your sins."

The boy said, "Yes, thanks very much; I'd love to."

Jack Sandys was a pupil of Howard's in whom he had a special interest.
He was the son of Frank Sandys, the Vicar of the Somersetshire parish
where Mrs. Graves, Howard's aunt, lived at the Manor-house. Frank
Sandys was a cousin of Mrs. Graves' deceased husband. She had advised
the Vicar to send Jack to Beaufort, and had written specially
commending him to Howard's care. But the boy had needed little
commendation. From the first moment that Jack Sandys had appeared,
smiling and unembarrassed, in Howard's room, a relation that was almost
filial and paternal had sprung up between them. He had treated Howard
from the outset with an innocent familiarity, and asked him the most
direct questions. He was not a particularly intellectual youth, though
he had some vague literary interests; but he was entirely healthy,
good, and quite irresistibly charming in his naivete and simplicity.
Howard had a dislike of all sentimentality, but the suppressed paternal
instinct which was strong in him had been awakened; and though he made
no emotional advances, he found himself strangely drawn to the boy,
with a feeling for which he could not wholly account. He did not care
for Jack's athletic interests; his tastes and mental processes were
obscure to him. Howard's own nature was at once intellectual and
imaginative, but he felt an extreme delight in the fearless and direct
confidence which the boy showed in him. He criticised his work
unsparingly, he rallied him on his tastes, he snubbed him, but all with
a sense of real and instinctive sympathy which made everything easy.
The boy never resented anything that he said, asked his advice, looked
to him to get him out of any small difficulties that arose. They were
not very much together, and mostly met only on official occasions.
Howard was a busy man, and had little time, or indeed taste, for vague
conversation. Jack was a boy of natural tact, and he treated all the
authorities with the same unembarrassed directness. Undergraduates are
quick to remark on any sort of favouritism, but only if they think that
the favoured person gets any unfair advantage by his intimacy. But
Howard came down on Jack just as decisively as he came down on anyone
else whose work was unsatisfactory. It was known that they were a sort
of cousins; and, moreover, Jack Sandys was generally popular, though
only in his first year, because he was free from any touch of
uppishness, and of an imperturbable good-humour.

But his own feeling for the boy surprised Howard. He did not think him
very interesting, nor had they much in common except a perfect
goodwill. It was to Howard as if Jack represented something beyond and
further than himself, for which Howard cared--as one might love a house
for the sake of someone that had inhabited it, or because of events
that had happened there. He tried vaguely to interest Jack in some of
the things he cared about, but wholly in vain. That cheerful youth went
quietly on his own way--modest, handsome, decided, knowing exactly what
he liked, with very material tastes and ambitions, not in the least
emotional or imaginative, and yet with a charm of which all were
conscious. He was bored by any violent attempts at friendship, and
quite content in almost anyone's company, naturally self-contained and
temperate, making no claims and giving no pledges; and yet Howard was
deeply haunted by the sense that Jack stood for something almost
bewilderingly fine which he himself could not comprehend or interpret,
and of which the boy himself was wholly and radiantly unconscious. It
gave him, indeed, a sudden warmth about the heart to see Jack in the
court, or even to think of him as living within the same walls; but
there was nothing jealous or exclusive about his interest, and when
they met, there was often nothing particular to say.

Presently lunch was announced, and Howard led the way to a little
panelled parlour which looked out on the river. They both ate with
healthy appetites; and presently Jack, looking about him, said, "This
room is rather nice! I don't know how you make your rooms so nice?"

"Mostly by having very little in them except what I want," said Howard.
"These panelled rooms don't want any ornaments; people spoil rooms by
stuffing them, just as you spoil my cat,"--Jack was feeding the cat
with morsels from his plate.

"It's a nice cat," said Jack; "at least I like it in your rooms. I
wouldn't have one in my rooms, not if I were paid for it--it would be
what the Master calls a serious responsibility." Presently, after a
moment's silence, Jack said, "It's rather convenient to be related to a
don, I think. By the way, what sort of screw do they give you--I mean
your income--I suppose I oughtn't to ask?"

"It isn't usually done," said Howard, "but I don't mind your asking,
and I don't mind your knowing. I have about six hundred a year here."

"Oh, then I was right," said Jack. "Symonds said that all the dons had
about fifteen hundred a year out of the fees; he said that it wouldn't
be worth their while to do it for less. But I said it was much less. My
father only gets about two hundred a year out of his living, and it all
goes to keep me at Cambridge. He says that when he is vexed about
things; but he must have plenty of his own. I wish he would really tell
me. Don't you think people ought to tell their sons about their
incomes?"

"I am afraid you are a very mercenary person," said Howard.

"No, I'm not," said Jack; "only I think one ought to know, and then one
could arrange. Father's awfully good about it, really; but if ever I
spend too much, he shakes his head and talks about the workhouse. I
used to be frightened, but I don't believe in the workhouse now."

When luncheon was over, they went back to the other room. It was true
that, as Jack had said, Howard managed to make something pleasant out
of his rooms. The study was a big place looking into the court; it was
mostly lined with books, the bookcases going round the room in a band
about three feet from the floor and about seven feet high. It was a
theory of Howard's that you ought to be able to see all your books
without either stooping or climbing. There was a big knee-hole table
and half a dozen chairs. There was an old portrait in oils over the
mantelpiece, several arm-chairs, one with a book-rest. Half a dozen
photographs stood on the mantelpiece, and there was practically nothing
else in the room but carpets and curtains. Jack lit a cigarette, sank
into a chair, and presently said, "You must get awfully sick of the
undergraduates, I should think, day after day?"

"No, I don't," said Howard; "in fact I must confess that I like work
and feel dull without it--but that shows that I am an elderly man."

"Yes, I don't care about my work," said Jack, "and I think I shall get
rather tired of being up here before I have done with it. It's rather
pointless, I think. Of course it's quite amusing; but I want to do
something real, make some real money, and talk about business. I shall
go into the city, I think."

"I don't believe you care about anything but money," said Howard; "you
are a barbarian!"

"No, I don't care about money," said Jack; "only one must have
enough--what I like are REAL things. I couldn't go on just learning
things up till I was twenty-three, and then teaching them till I was
sixty-three. Of course I think it is awfully good of you to do it, but
I can't think why or how you do it."

"I suppose I don't care about real things," said Howard.

"No, I can't quite make you out," said Jack with a smiling air,
"because of course you are quite different from the other dons--nobody
would suppose you were a don--everyone says that."

"It's very kind of you to say so," said Howard, "but I am not sure that
it is a compliment--a tradesman ought to be a tradesman, and not to be
ashamed of it. I'm a sophist, of course."

"What's a sophist?" said Jack. "Oh, I know. You lectured about the
sophists last term. I don't remember what they were exactly, but I
thought the lecture awfully good--quite amusing! They were a sort of
parsons, weren't they?"

"You are a wonderful person, Jack!" said Howard, laughing. "I declare I
have never had such extraordinary things said to me as you have said in
the last half-hour."

"Well, I want to know about people," said Jack, "and I think it pays to
ask them. You don't mind, do you? That's the best thing about you, that
I can say what I think to you without putting my foot in it. But you
said you were going to lecture me about my sins--come on!"

"No," said Howard, "I won't. You are not serious enough to-day, and I
am not vexed enough. You know quite well what I think. There isn't any
harm in you; but you are idle, and you are inquisitive. I don't want
you to be very different, on the whole, if only you would work a little
more and take more interest in things."

"Well," said Jack, "I do take interest--that's the mischief; there
isn't time to work--that's the truth! I shall scrape through the Trip,
and then I shall have done with all this nonsense about the classics;
it really is humbug, isn't it? Such a fuss about nothing. The books I
like are those in which people say what they might say, not those in
which they say what they have had days to invent. I don't see the good
of that. Why should I work, when I don't feel interested?"

"Because whatever you do, you will have to do things in which you are
not interested," said Howard.

"Well, I think I will wait and see," said Jack. "And now I must be off.
I really have said some awful things to you to-day, and I must
apologise; but I can't help it when I am with you; I feel I must say
just what comes into my head; I must fly; thank you for lunch; and I
truly will do better, but mind only for YOU, and not because I think
it's any good." He put down the cat with a kiss. "Good-bye, Mimi," he
said; "remember me, I beseech you!" and he hurried away.

Howard sat still for a minute or two, looking at the fire; then he gave
a laugh, got up, stretched himself, and went out for a walk.

Even so quiet a thing as a walk was not unattended by a certain amount
of ceremonial. Howard passed some six or seven men of his acquaintance,
some of whom presented a stick or raised a stiff hand without a smile
or indeed any sign of recognition; one went so far as to say, "Hullo,
Kennedy!" and one eager conversationalist went so far as to say, "Out
for a walk?" Howard pushed on, walking lightly and rapidly, and found
himself at last at Barton, one of those entirely delightful pastoral
villages that push up so close to Cambridge on every side; a vague
collection of quaint irregular cottages, whitewashed and thatched, with
bits of green common interspersed, an old manorial farm with its byres
and ricks, surrounded by a moat fringed with little pollarded elms. The
plain ancient tower of the church looked gravely out over all. In the
distance, over pastoral country, rose low wolds, pleasantly shaped,
skirted with little hamlets, surrounded by orchards; the old untroubled
necessary work of the world flows on in these fields and villages,
peopled with lives hardly conscious of themselves, with no aims or
theories, just toiling, multiplying, dying, existing, it would seem,
merely to feed and clothe the more active part of the world. Howard
loved such little interludes of silence, out in the fresh country, when
the calm life of tree and herb, the delicate whisper of dry,
evenly-blowing breezes, tranquillised and hushed his restless thoughts.
He lost himself in a formless reverie, exercising no control over his
trivial thoughts.

By four o'clock he was back, made himself some tea, put on a cap and
gown, and walked out to a meeting. In a high bare room in the
University offices the Committee sat. The Vice-Chancellor, a big,
grave, solid man, Master of St. Benedict's, sat in courteous state.
Half a dozen dons sat round the great tables, ranged in a square. The
business was mostly formal. The Vice-Chancellor read the points from a
paper in his resonant voice, comments and suggestions were made, and
the Secretary noted down conclusions. Howard was struck, as he often
had been before, to see how the larger questions of principle passed
almost unnoticed, while the smaller points, such as the wording of a
notice, were eagerly and humorously debated by men of acute minds and
easy speech. It was over in half an hour. Howard strolled off with one
of the members, and then, returning to his rooms, wrote some letters,
and looked up a lecture for the next day, till the bell rang for Hall.

Beaufort was a hospitable and sociable College, and guests often
appeared at dinner. On this night Mr. Redmayne was in the chair, at the
end of a long table; eight or ten dons were present. A gong was struck;
an undergraduate came up and scrambled through a Latin Grace from a
board which he held in his hand. The tables filled rapidly with lively
young men full of talk and appetite. Howard found himself sitting next
one of his colleagues, on the other side of him being an ancient crony
of Mr. Redmayne's, the Dean of a neighbouring College. The talk was
mainly local and personal, diverging at times into politics. It was
brisk, sensible, good-natured conversation, by no means unamusing. Mr.
Redmayne was an unashamed Tory, and growled denunciations at a
democratic Government, whom he credited with every political vice under
the sun, depicting the Cabinet as men fishing in troubled seas with
philanthropic baits to catch votes. One of the younger dons, an ardent
Liberal, made a mild protest. "Ah," said Mr. Redmayne, "you are still
the prey of idealistic illusions. Politics are all based, not on
principles or programmes, but on the instinctive hatred of opponents."
There was a laugh at this. "You may laugh," said Mr. Redmayne, "but you
will find it to be true. Peace and goodwill are pretty words to play
with, but it is combativeness which helps the world along; not the
desire to be at peace, but the wish to maul your adversary!"

It was the talk of busy men who met together, not to discuss, but to
eat, and conversed only to pass the time. But it was all good-humoured
enough, and even the verbal sharpness which was employed was evidence
of much mutual confidence and esteem.

Howard thought, looking down the Hall, when the meal was in full fling,
what a picturesque, cheerful, lively affair it all was. The Hall was
lighted only by candles in heavy silver candlesticks, which flared away
all down the tables. In the dark gallery a couple of sconces burned
still and clear. The dusty rafters, the dim portraits above the
panelling, the gleam of gilded cornices were a pleasant contrast to the
lively talk, the brisk coming and going, the clink and clatter below.
It was noisy indeed, but noisy as a healthy and friendly family party
is noisy, with no turbulence. Once or twice a great shout of laughter
rang out from the tables and died away. There was no sign of
discipline, and yet the whole was orderly enough. The carvers carved,
the waiters hurried to and fro, the swing-doors creaked as the men
hurried out. It was a very business-like, very English scene, without
any ceremony or parade, and yet undeniably stately and vivid.

The undergraduates finished their dinners with inconceivable rapidity,
and the Hall was soon empty, save for the more ceremonious and
deliberate party at the high table. Presently these adjourned in
procession to the Parlour, a big room, comfortably panelled, opening
off the Hall, where the same party sat round the fire at little tables,
sipped a glass of port, and went on to coffee and cigarettes, while the
talk became more general. Howard felt, as he had often felt before, how
little attention even able and intellectual Englishmen paid to the form
of their talk. There was hardly a grammatical sentence uttered, never
an elaborate one; the object was, it seemed, to get the thought uttered
as quickly and unconcernedly as possible, and even the anecdotes were
pared to the bone. A clock struck nine, and Mr. Redmayne rose. The
party broke up, and Howard went off to his rooms.

He settled down to look over a set of compositions. But he was in a
somewhat restless frame of mind to-night, and a not unpleasant mood of
reflection and retrospect came over him. What an easy, full, lively
existence his was! He seemed to himself to be perfectly contented. He
remembered how he, the only son of rather elderly parents, had gone
through Winchester with mild credit. He had never had any difficulties
to contend with, he thought. He had been popular, not distinguished at
anything--a fair athlete, a fair scholar, arousing no jealousies or
enmities. He had been naturally temperate and self-restrained. He had
drifted on to Beaufort as a Scholar, and it had been the same thing
over again--no ambitions, no failures, friends in abundance. Then his
father had died, and it had been so natural for him, on being elected
to a Fellowship, just to carry on the same life; he had to settle to
work at once, as his mother was not well off and much invalided. She
had not long survived his father. He had taught, taken pupils, made a
fair income. He had had no break of travel, no touch with the world; a
few foreign tours in the company of an old friend had given him nothing
but an emotional tincture of recollections and associations--a touch of
varnish, so to speak. Suddenly the remembrance of some of the things
which Jack Sandys had said that morning came back to him; "real things"
the boy had said, so lightly and yet so decisively. He wondered; had he
himself ever had any touch with realities at all? He had been touched
by no adversity or tragedy, he had been devastated by no disappointed
ambitions, shattered by no emotions. His whole life had been perfectly
under his control, and he had grown into a sort of contempt for all
unbalanced people, who were run away with by their instincts or
passions. It had been a very comfortable, sheltered, happy life; he was
sure of that; he had enjoyed his work, his relations with others, his
friendships; but had he ever come near to any fulness of living at all?
Was it not, when all was said and done, a very empty affair--void of
experience, guarded from suffering? "Suffering?" he hardly knew the
meaning of the word. Had he ever felt or suffered or rebelled? Yes,
there was one little thing. He had had a small ambition once; he had
studied comparative religion very carefully at one time to illustrate
some lectures, and a great idea had flashed across him. It was a big, a
fruitful thought; he had surveyed that strange province of human
emotion, the deepest strain of which seemed to be a disgust for
mingling with life, a loathing of bodily processes and instincts, which
drove its votaries to a deliberate sexlessness, and set them at
variance with the whole solid force of Nature, the treacherous and
alluring devices by which she drove men to reproduction with an
insatiable appetite; that mystical strain, which appeared at all times
and in all places, a spiritual rebellion against material bondage, was
not that the desperate cry of the fettered spirit? The conception of
sin, by which Nature traversed her own activities and made them
void--there was a great secret hidden here. He had determined to follow
this up, and to disguise with characteristic caution and courtesy a
daring speculation under the cloak of orthodox research.

He had begun his work in a great glow of enthusiasm; but it had been
suspended time after time. He had sketched his theory out; but it lay
there in one of his table-drawers, a skeleton not clothed with words.
Why had he let this all drop? Why had he contented himself with the
easy, sociable life? Effective though he was as a teacher, he had no
real confidence in the things which he taught. They only seemed to him
a device of reason for expending its energies, just as men deprived by
complex life of manual labour sought to make up for the loss by the
elaborate pursuit of games. He did not touch the springs of being at
all. He had collapsed, he felt, into placid acquiescence; Nature had
been too strong for him. He had fitted so easily into the pleasant
scheme of things, and he was doing nothing in the world but helping to
prolong the delusion, just as men set painted glass in a window to shut
out the raincloud and the wind. He was a conformist, he felt, in
everything--in religion, intellect, life--but a sceptic underneath. Was
he not perhaps missing the whole object and aim of life and experience,
in a fenced fortress of quiet? The thought stung him suddenly with a
kind of remorse. He was doing no part of the world's work, not sharing
its emotions or passions or pains or difficulties; he was placidly at
ease in Zion, in the comfortable city whose pleasures were based on the
toil of those outside. That was a hateful thought! Had not the boy been
right after all? Must one not somehow link one's arm with life and
share its pilgrimage, even in weariness and tears?

There came a tap at the door, and one of his shyest pupils entered--a
solitary youth, poor and unfriended, who was doing all he could to get
a degree good enough to launch him in the world. He came to ask some
advice about work. Howard entered into his case as well as he could,
told him it was important that he should get certain points clear, gave
him an informal lecture, distinctly and emphatically, and made a few
friendly remarks. The man beamed with unexpressed gratitude.

"What solemn nonsense I have been talking!" thought Howard to himself
as the young man slipped away. "Of course he must learn all this--but
what for? To get a mastership, and to retail it all over again! It's a
vicious circle, this education which is in touch with nothing but the
high culture of a nation which lived in ideas; while with us culture is
just a plastering of rough walls--no part of the structure! Why cannot
we put education in touch with life, try to show what human beings are
driving at, what arrangements they are making that they may live? It is
all arrangements with us--the frame for the picture, the sheath for the
sword--and we leave the picture and the sword to look after themselves.
What a wretched dilettante business it all is, keeping these boys
practising postures in the anteroom of life! Cannot we get at the real
thing, teach people to do things, fill their minds with ideas, break
down the silly tradition of needless wealth and absurd success? And I
must keep up all this farce, simply because I am fit for nothing
else--I cannot dig, to beg I am ashamed. Oh, hold your tongue, you
ass!" said Howard, apostrophising his rebellious mind. "Don't you see
where you are going? You can't do anything--it is all too big and
strong for you. You must just let it alone."



II

RESTLESSNESS


A few days later the term drew to an end, and both dons and
undergraduates, whose tempers had been wearing a little thin, got
suddenly more genial, like guests when a visit draws to a close, and
disposed to think rather better of each other.

Howard had made no plans; he did not wish to stay on at Cambridge, but
he did not want to go away: he had no relations to whose houses he
naturally drifted; he did not like the thought of a visit; as a rule he
went off with an undergraduate or two to some lonely inn, where they
fished or walked and did a little work. But just now he had a vague
feeling that he wanted to be alone; that he had something to face, some
reckoning to cast up, and yet he did not know what it was.

One afternoon--the spring was certainly advancing, and there was a
touch of languor in the air, that heavenly languor which is so sweet a
thing when one is young and hopeful, so depressing a thing when one is
living on the edge of one's nervous force--he paid a call, which was
not a thing he often did, on a middle-aged woman who passed for a sort
of relation; she was a niece of his aunt's deceased husband, Monica
Graves by name. She was a woman of independent means, who had done some
educational work for a time, but had now retired, lived in her own
little house, and occupied herself with social schemes of various
sorts. She was a year or two older than Howard. They did not very often
meet, but there was a pleasant camaraderie between them, an almost
brotherly and sisterly relation. She was a small, quiet, able woman,
whose tranquil manner concealed great clear-headedness and
decisiveness. Howard always said that it was a comfort to talk to her,
because she always knew what her own opinion was, and did what she
intended to do. He found her alone and at tea. She welcomed him drily
but warmly. Presently he said, "I want your advice, Monnie; I want you
to make up my mind for me. I have a feeling that I need a change. I
don't mean a little change, but a big one. I am suddenly aware that I
am a little stale, and I wish to be freshened up."

Monica looked at him and said, "Yes, I expect you are right! You know I
think we ought all to have one big change in our lives, about your age,
I mean. Why don't you put in for a head-mastership? I have often
thought you have rather a gift that way."

"I might do that," said Howard vaguely, "but I don't want a change of
work so much as a change of mind. I have got suddenly bored, and I am a
little vexed with myself. I have always rather held with William Morris
that people ought to live in the same place and do the same things; and
I had no intention of being bored--I have always thought that very
feeble! But I have fallen suddenly into the frame of mind of knowing
exactly what all my friends here are going to say and think, and that
rather takes the edge off conversation; and I have learned the
undergraduate mind too. It's an inconsequent thing, but there's a law
in inconsequence, and I seem to have acquired a knowledge of their
tangents."

"I must consider," said Monica with a smile, "but one can't do these
things offhand--that is worse than doing nothing. I'll tell you what to
do NOW. Why not go and stay with Aunt Anne? She would like to see you,
I know, and I have always thought it rather lazy of you not to go
there--she is rather a remarkable woman, and it's a pretty country.
Have you ever been there?"

"No," said Howard, "not to Windlow; I stayed with them once when I was
a boy, when Uncle John was alive--but that was at Bristol. What sort of
a place is Windlow? I suppose Aunt Anne is pretty well off?"

"I'm not very good at seeing the points of a place," said Monica; "but
it's a beautiful old house, though it is rather too low down for my
taste; and she lives very comfortably, so I think she must be rich; I
don't know about that; but she is an interesting woman--one of the few
really religious people I know. I am not very religious myself, but she
makes it seem rather interesting to me--she has experiences--I don't
quite know what they are; but she is a sort of artist in religion, I
think. That's a bad description, because it sounds self-conscious; and
she isn't that--she has a sense of humour, and she doesn't rub things
in. You know how if one meets a real artist in anything--a writer, a
painter, a musician--and finds them at work, it seems almost the only
thing worth doing. Well, Aunt Anne gives me the same sort of sense
about religion when I am with her; and yet when I come away, and see
how badly other people handle it, it seems a very dull business."

"That's interesting," said Howard musingly; "but I am really ashamed to
suggest going there. She has asked me so often, and I have sent such
idiotic excuses."

"Oh, you needn't mind that," said Monica; "she isn't a huffy person. I
know she would like to see you--she said to me once that the idea of
coming didn't seem to amuse you, but she seemed disposed to sympathise
with you for that. Just write and say you would like to go."

"I think I will," said Howard, "and I have another reason why I should
like to go. You know Jack Sandys, your cousin, now my pupil. He is
rather a fascinating youth. His father is parson there, isn't he?"

"Yes," said Monica; "there are two hamlets, Windlow and Windlow Malzoy,
both in the same parish. The church and vicarage are at Malzoy; but
Frank is rather a terror--my word, how that man talks! But I like Jack,
though I have only seen him half a dozen times--that reminds me that I
must have him to dinner or something--and I like his sister even
better. But I am afraid that Jack may turn out a bore too--he is rather
charming at present, because he says whatever comes into his head; and
it's all quite fresh; but that is what poor Cousin Frank does--only
it's not at all fresh! However, there's nothing like living with a bore
to teach one the merits of holding one's tongue. Poor old Frank! I
thought he would be the death of us all one evening at Windlow. He
simply couldn't stop, and he had a pathetic look in his eye, as if he
was saying, 'Can't anyone assist me to hold my tongue?'"

Howard laughed and got up. "Well," he said, "I'll take your advice. I
don't know anyone like you, Monnie, for making up one's mind. You
crystallise things. I shall like to see Aunt Anne, and I shall like to
see Jack at home; and meanwhile will you think the matter over, and
give me a lead? I don't want to leave Cambridge at all, but I would
rather do that than go sour, as some people do!"

"Yes," said Monica, "when you get beneath the surface, Cambridge is
rather a sad place. There are a good many disappointed men here--people
who wake up suddenly in middle life, and realise that if they had gone
out into the world they would have done better; but I like Cambridge;
you can do as you like here--and then the rainfall is low."

Howard went back to his rooms and wrote a short note to Mrs. Graves to
suggest a visit; he added that he felt ashamed of himself for never
coming, "but Monica says that you would like to see me, and Monica is
generally right."

That evening Jack came in to say good-bye. He did not look forwards to
the vacation at all, he said; "Windlow is simply the limit! I believe
it's the dullest place in the kingdom!"

"What would you feel if I told you that we shall probably meet?" said
Howard. "I am going to stay with Mrs. Graves--that is, if she will have
me. I don't mind saying that the fact that you are close by is a
considerable reason why I think of going."

"That's simply splendid!" said Jack; "we will have no end of a time. Do
you DO anything in particular--fish, I mean, or shoot? There's some
wretched fishing in the river, and there is some rabbit-shooting on the
downs. Mrs. Graves has a keeper, a shabby old man who shoots, as they
say, for the house. I believe she objects to shooting; but you might
persuade her, and we could go out together."

"Yes," said Howard, "I do shoot and fish in a feeble way. We will see
what can be done."

"There are things to see, I believe," said Jack, "churches and houses,
if you like that sort of thing--I don't; but we might get up some
expeditions--they are rather fun. I think you won't mind my sister. She
isn't bad for a woman. But women don't understand men. They are always
sympathising with you or praising you. They think that is what men
like, but it only means that it is what they would like. Men like to be
left alone--but I daresay she thinks I don't understand her. Then
there's my father! He is quite a good sort, really; but by George, how
he does talk! I often think I'd like to turn him loose in the
Combination Room. No one would have a chance. Redmayne simply wouldn't
be in it with my father. I've invented rather a good game when he gets
off. I try to see how many I can count before I am expected to make a
remark. I have never quite got up to a thousand, but once I nearly let
the cat out by saying nine hundred and fifty, nine hundred and
fifty-one, when my father stopped for breath. He gave me a look, I can
tell you, but I don't think he saw what I was after. Maud was seized
with hysterics. But he isn't a bad sort of parent, as they go; he
fusses, but he lets one do as one wants. I suppose I oughtn't to give
my people away; but I never can see why one shouldn't talk about one's
people just as if they were anybody else. I don't think I hold things
sacred, as the Dean says: 'Reticence, reticence, the true
characteristic of the English gentleman and the sincere Christian!'"
and Jack delivered himself of some paragraphs of the Dean's famous
annual sermon to freshmen.

"It's abominable, the way you talk," said Howard; "you will corrupt my
ingenuous mind. How shall I meet your father if you talk like this
about him?"

"You'll have to join in my game," said Jack. "By George, what sport; we
shall sit there counting away alternately, and we will have some money
on the run. You have got to say all the figures quite distinctly to
yourself, you know!"

Presently Jack said, "Why shouldn't we go down together? No, I suppose
you would want to go first? I can't run to that. But you must come as
soon as you can, and stay as long as you can. I had half promised to go
and stay a week with Travers. But now I won't. By George, there isn't
another don I would pay that compliment to! It would simply freeze my
blood if the Master turned up there. I shouldn't dare to show my face
outside the house; that man does make me sweat! The very smell of his
silk gown makes me feel faint."

"I'll tell you what I will do," said Howard, "I'll give you some
coaching in the mornings. If anyone ever wanted coaching, it is you!"

Jack looked rather blue at this, but he said, "It will have to be
gratis, though! I haven't a cent. Besides, I am going to do better. I
have a growing sense of duty!"

"It's not growing very FAST!" said Howard, "and it's a feeble motive at
best, you will find; you will have to get a better reason than that--it
won't carry you far. Why not do it to please me?"

"All right," said Jack; "will you scribble me a list of books to take
down? I had meant to have a rest; but I would do a good deal of work to
get a reasonable person down at Windlow. I simply daren't ask my
friends there; my father would talk their hindlegs off but he isn't a
bad old bird."



III

WINDLOW


Mrs. Graves wrote back by return of post that she was delighted to
think that Howard was coming. "I am getting an old woman," she said,
"and fond of memories: and what I hear of you from your enthusiastic
pupil Jack makes me wish to see my nephew, and proud of him too. This
is a quiet house, but I think you would enjoy it; and it's a real
kindness to me to come. I am sure I shall like you, and I am not
without hopes that you may like me. You need not tie yourself down to
any dates; just come when you can, and go when you must."

Howard liked the simplicity of the letter, and determined to go down at
once. He started two days later. It was a fine spring day, and it was
pleasant to glide through the open country all quickening into green.
He arrived in the afternoon at the little wayside station. It was in
the south-east corner of Somersetshire, and Howard liked the look of
the landscape, the steep green downs, with their wooded dingles
breaking down into rich undulating plains, dappled with hedgerow trees
and traversed by gliding streams. He was met at the station by an
old-fashioned waggonette, with an elderly coachman, who said that Mrs.
Graves had hoped to come herself, but was not very well, and thought
that Mr. Kennedy would prefer an open carriage.

Howard was astonished at the charm of the whole countryside. They
passed through several hamlets, with beautiful old houses, built of a
soft orange stone, weathering to a silvery grey, with evidences of
careful and pretty design in their mullioned windows and arched
doorways. The churches, with their great richly carved towers, pierced
stone shutters, and clustered pinnacles, pleased him extremely, and he
liked the simple and courteous greetings of the people who passed them.
He had a sense, long unfamiliar to him, as though he were somehow
coming home. The road entered a green valley among the downs. To the
left, an outstanding bluff was crowned with the steep turfed bastions
of an ancient fort, and as they went in among the hills, the slopes
grew steeper, rich with hanging woods and copses, and the edges of the
high thickets were white with bleached flints. At last they passed into
a hamlet with a church, and a big vicarage among shrubberies; this was
Windlow Malzoy, the coachman said, and that was Mr. Sandys' house.
Howard saw a girl wandering about on the lawn--Jack's sister, he
supposed, but it was too far off for him to see her distinctly; five
minutes later they drove into Windlow. It lay at the very bottom of the
valley; a clear stream ran beneath the bridge. There were but half a
dozen cottages, and just ahead of them, abutting on the road, appeared
the front of a beautiful simple house of some considerable size, with a
large embowered garden behind it bordering on the river; Howard was
astonished to see what a large and ancient building it was. The part on
the road was blank of windows, with the exception of a dignified
projecting oriel; close to which was a high Tudor archway, with big oak
doors standing open. There were some plants growing on the
coping--snapdragon and valerian--which gave it a look of age and
settled use. The carriage drove in under the arch, and a small
courtyard appeared. There was a stable on the right, with a leaded
cupola; the house itself was very plain and stately, with two great
traceried windows which seemed to belong to a hall, and a finely carved
outstanding porch. The whole was built out of the same orange stone of
which the churches were built, stone-tiled, all entirely homelike and
solid.

He got down at the door, which stood open. An old man-servant appeared,
and he found himself in a flagged passage, with a plain wooden screen
on his left, opening into the hall. It had a collegiate air which he
liked. Then he was led out at the opposite end of the vestibule, the
servant saying, "Mrs. Graves is in the garden, sir." He stepped out on
to a lawn bordered with trees; opposite him was a stone-built Jacobean
garden-house, with stone balls on the balustraded coping. Two ladies
were walking on the gravel path; the older of the two, who walked with
a stick, came up to him, put her hand on his shoulder, and gave him a
kiss in a simple and motherly way, saying, "So here you actually are,
my dear boy, and very much welcome." She then presented the other lady,
a small, snub-nosed, middle-aged woman, saying, "This is Miss Merry,
who lives with me, and keeps me more or less in order; she is quite
excited at meeting a don; she has a respect for learning and talent,
which is unhappily rare nowadays." Miss Merry shook hands as a spaniel
might give its paw, and looked reverentially at Howard. His aunt put
her hand through his arm, and said, "Let us walk about a little. I live
by rule, you must know--that is, by Miss Merry's rule; and we shall
have tea in a few minutes."

She pointed out one or two of the features of the house, and said, in
answer to Howard's loudly expressed admiration, "Yes, it is a nice old
house. Your uncle had a great taste for such things in days when people
did not care much about them. He bought this very cheap, I believe, and
was much attached to it; but he did not live long to enjoy it, you
know. He died nearly thirty years ago. I meant to sell it, but somehow
I did not, and now I hope to end my days here. It is not nearly as big
as it looks, and a good deal of it consists of unused granaries and
farm buildings. I sometimes think it is selfish of me to go on
occupying it--it's a house that wants CHILDREN; but one isn't very
consistent; and somehow the house is used to me, and I to it; and,
after all, it is only waiting, which isn't the worst thing in the
world!"

When Howard found an opportunity of scrutinising his aunt, which he did
as she poured out tea, he saw a very charming old lady, who was not
exactly handsome, but was fresh-coloured and silvery-haired, and had a
look of the most entire tranquillity and self-possession. She looked as
if she had met and faced trouble at some bygone time; there were traces
of sorrow about the brow and eyes, but it was a face which seemed as if
self had somehow passed out of it, and was yet strong with a peculiar
kind of fearless strength. She had a lazy and contented sort of laugh,
and yet gave an impression of energy, and of a very real and vivid
life. Her eyes had a great softness and brilliancy, and Howard liked to
feel them dwelling upon him. As they sat at tea she suddenly put her
hand on his and said, "My dear boy, how you remind me of your mother! I
suppose you hardly even remember her as a young woman; but though you
are half hidden in that beard of yours, you are somehow just like her,
and I feel as if I were in the schoolroom again at Hunsdon in the old
days. No, I am not sentimental. I don't want it back again, and I don't
hate the death that parts us. One can't go back, one must go
forward--and, after all, hearts were made to love with, and not to
break!"

They spent a quiet evening in the still house. Mrs. Graves said to
Howard, "I know that men always want to go and do something mysterious
after tea; but to-night you must just sit here and get used to me. You
needn't be afraid of having to see too much of me. I don't appear
before luncheon, and Jane looks after me; and you must get some
exercise in the afternoons. I don't go further than the village. I
expect you have lectures to write; and you must do exactly what you
like." They sat there, in the low panelled room, and talked easily
about old recollections. They dined in simple state in the big hall
with its little gallery, at a round table in the centre, lighted by
candles. The food was simple, the wine was good.

"Marengo chicken," said Mrs. Graves as a dish was handed round. "That's
one of Jane's historical allusions. If you don't know why it is called
Marengo, Jane will rejoice to enlighten you." After the meal she begged
him to smoke. "I like it," said Mrs. Graves; "I have even smoked myself
in seclusion, but now I dare not--it would be all over the parish
to-morrow."

After dinner they went back to the drawing-room, and Miss Merry turned
out to be quite a good pianist, playing some soft old music at the end
of the gently lighted room. Mrs. Graves went off early. "You had better
stop and smoke here," she said to Howard. "There's a library where you
can work and smoke to-morrow; and now good night, and let me say how I
delight to have you here--I really can't say how much!"

Howard sat alone in the drawing-room. He had an almost painful faculty
of minute observation, and the storage of new impressions was a real
strain to him. To-day it seemed that they had poured in upon him in a
cataract, and he felt dangerously wakeful; why had he been such a fool
as to have missed this beautiful house, and this home atmosphere of
affection? He could not say. A stupid persistence in his own plans, he
supposed. Yet this had been waiting for him, a home such as he had
never owned. He thought with an almost terrified disgust of his rooms
at Beaufort, as the logs burned whisperingly in the grate, and the
smoke of his cigarette rose on the air. Was it not this that he had
been needing all along? At last he rose, put out the candles, and made
his way to the big panelled bedroom which had been given him. He lay
long awake, wondering, in a luxurious repose, listening to the whisper
of the breeze in the shrubberies, and the faint murmur of the water in
the full-fed stream.



IV

THE POOL


Very early in the morning Howard woke to hear the faint twittering of
the birds begin in bush and ivy. It was at first just a fitful, drowsy
chirp, a call "are you there? are you there?" until, when all the
sparrows were in full cry, a thrush struck boldly in, like a solo
marching out above a humming accompaniment of strings. That was a
delicious hour, when the mind, still unsated of sleep, played softly
with happy, homelike thoughts. He slept again, but the sweet mood
lasted; his breakfast was served to him in solitude in a little
panelled parlour off the Hall; and in the fresh April morning, with the
sunlight lying on the lawn and lighting up the old worn detail of the
carved cornices, he recovered for a time the boyish sense of ecstasy of
the first morning at home after the return from school. While he was
breakfasting, a scribbled note from Jack was brought in.


"Just heard you arrived last night; it's an awful bore, but I have to
go away to-day--an old engagement made, I need hardly say, FOR me and
not BY me; I shall turn up to-morrow about this time. No WORK, I think.
A day of calm resolution and looking forward manfully to the future! My
father and sister are going to dine at the Manor to-night. I shall be
awfully interested to hear what you think of them. He has been looking
up some things to talk about, and I can tell you, you'll have a dose.
Maud is frightened to death.--Yours

"Jack.

"P.S.--I advise you to begin COUNTING at once."


A little later, Miss Merry turned up, to ask Howard if he would care to
look round the house. "Mrs. Graves would like," she said, "to show it
you herself, but she is easily tired, and can't stand about much." They
went round together, and Howard was surprised to find that it was not
nearly as large a house as it looked. Much space was agreeably wasted
in corridors and passages, and there were huge attics with great
timbered supports, needed to sustain the heavy stone tiling, which had
never been converted into living rooms. There was the hall, which took
up a considerable part of one side; out of this, towards the road,
opened the little parlour where he had breakfasted, and above it was a
library full of books, with its oriel overhanging the road, and two
windows looking into the garden. Then there was the big drawing-room.
Upstairs there were but a half a dozen bedrooms. The offices and the
servants' bedrooms were in the wing on the road. There was but little
furniture in the house. Mr. Graves had had a preference for large bare
rooms; and such furniture as there was, was all for use and not for
ornament, so that there was a refreshing lack of any aesthetic pose
about it. There were but few pictures, but most of the rooms were
panelled and needed no other ornament. There was a refreshing sense of
space everywhere, and Howard thought that he had never seen a house he
liked so well. Miss Merry chirped away, retailing little bits of
history. Howard now for the first time learned that Mr. Graves had
retired early from business with a considerable fortune, and being fond
of books and leisure, and rather delicate in health, had established
himself in the house, which had taken his fancy. There were some
fifteen hundred acres of land attached, divided up into several small
farms.

Miss Merry was filled with a reverential sort of adoration of Mrs.
Graves; "the most wonderful person, I assure you! I always feel she is
rather thrown away in this remote place."

"But she likes it?" said Howard.

"Yes, she likes everything," said Miss Merry. "She makes everyone feel
happy: she says very little, but you feel somehow that all is right if
she is there. It's a great privilege, Mr. Kennedy, to be with her; I
feel that more and more every day."

This artless praise pleased Howard. When he was left alone he got out
his papers; but he found himself restless in a pleasant way; he
strolled through the garden. It was a singular place, of great extent;
the lawn was carefully kept, but behind the screen of shrubs the garden
extended far up the valley beside the river in a sort of wilderness;
and he could see by the clumps of trees and the grassy mounds that it
must have once been a great formal pleasaunce, which had been allowed
to follow its own devices; at the far end of it, beside the stream,
there was a long flagged terrace, with a stone balustrade looking down
upon the stream, and beyond that the woods closed in. He left the
garden and followed the stream up the valley; the downs here drew in
and became steeper, till he came at last to one of the most lovely
places he thought he had ever set eyes upon. The stream ended suddenly
in a great clear pool, among a clump of old sycamores; the water rose
brimming out of the earth, and he could see the sand fountains rising
and falling at the bottom of the basin; by the side of it was a broad
stone seat, with carved back and ends. There was not a house in sight;
beyond there was only the green valley-end running up into the down,
which was here densely covered with thickets. It was perfectly still;
and the only sound was the liquid springing of the water in the pool,
and the birds singing in the bushes. Howard had a sudden sense that the
place held a significance for him. Had he been there before, in some
dream or vision? He could not tell; but it was strangely familiar to
him. Even so the trees had leaned together, and the clear ripples
pulsed upon the bank. Something strange and beautiful had befallen him
there. What was it? The mind could not unravel the secret.

He sat there long in the sun, his eyes fixed upon the pool, in a
blissful content that was beyond thought. Then he slowly retraced his
steps, full of an intense inner happiness.

He found his aunt in the garden, sitting out in the sun. He bent down
to kiss her, and she detained his hand for a moment. "So you are at
home?" she said, "and happy?--that is what I had wished and hoped. You
have been to the pool--yes, that is a lovely spot. It was that, I
think, which made your uncle buy the place; he had a great love of
water--and in my unhappy days here, when I had lost him, I used often
to go there and wish things were otherwise. But that is all over now!"

After luncheon, Miss Merry excused herself and said she was going to
the village to see a farm-labourer's wife, who had lost a child and was
in great distress. "Poor soul!" said Mrs. Graves. "Give her my love,
and ask her to come and see me as soon as she can." Presently as they
sat together, Howard smoking, she asked him something about his work.
"Will you tell me what you are doing?" she said. "I daresay I should
not understand, but I like to know what people are thinking
about--don't use technical terms, but just explain your idea!"

Howard was just in the frame of mind, trying to revive an old train of
thought, in which it is a great help to make a statement of the range
of a subject; he said so, and began to explain very simply what was in
his mind, the essential unity of all religion, and his attempt to
disentangle the central motive from outlying schemes and dogmas. Mrs.
Graves heard him attentively, every now and then asking a question,
which showed that she was following the drift of his thought.

"Ah, that's very interesting and beautiful," she said at last. "May I
say that it is the one thing that attracts me, though I have never
followed it philosophically. Now," she went on, "I am going to reduce
it all to practical terms, and I don't want to beat about the
bush--there's no need for that! I want to ask you a plain question.
Have you any religion or faith of your own?"

"Ah," said Howard, "who can say? I am a conformist, certainly, because
I recognise in religion a fine sobering, civilising force at work, and
if one must choose one's side, I want to be on that side and not on the
other. But religion seems to me in its essence a very artistic thing, a
perception of effects which are hidden from many hearts and minds. When
a man speaks of definite religious experience, I feel that I am in the
presence of a perception of something real--as real as music and
painting. But I doubt if it is a sense given to all, or indeed to many;
and I don't know what it really is. And then, too, one comes across
people who hold it in an ugly, or a dreary, or a combative, or a formal
way; and then sometimes it seems to me almost an evil thing."

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves, "I understand that. May I give you an
instance, and you will see if I perceive your thought. The good Vicar
here, my cousin Frank, Jack's father--you will meet him to-night--is a
man who holds a rigid belief, or thinks he holds it. He preaches what
he calls the sinew and bone of doctrine, and he is very stern in the
pulpit. He likes lecturing people in rows! But in reality he is one of
the kindest and vaguest of men. He preached a stiff sermon about
conversion the other day--I am pretty sure he did not understand it
himself--and he disquieted one of my good maids so much that she went
to him and asked what she could do to get assurance. He seems to have
hummed and hawed, and then to have said that she need not trouble her
head about it--that she was a good girl, and had better be content with
doing her duty. He is the friendliest of men, and that is his real
religion; he hasn't an idea how to apply his system, which he learned
at a theological college, but he feels it his duty to preach it."

"Yes," said Howard, "that is just what I mean; but there must be some
explanation for this curious outburst of forms and doctrines, so
contradictory in the different sects. Something surely causes both the
form of religion and the force of it?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves, "just as in an engine something causes both
the steam and the piston-rod; it's an intelligence somewhere that fits
the one to the other. But then, as you say, what is the cause of all
this extravagance and violence of expression?"

"That is the human element," said Howard--"the cautious, conservative,
business-like side that can't bear to let anything go. All religion
begins, it seems to me, by an outburst of moral force, an attempt to
simplify, to get a principle; and then the people who don't understand
it begin to make it technical and defined; uncritical minds begin to
attribute all sorts of vague wonders to it--things unattested, natural
exaggerations, excited statements, impossible claims; and then these
take traditional shape and the poor steed gets hung with all sorts of
incongruous burdens."

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves, "but the force is there all the time; the old
hard words, like regeneration and atonement, do not mean DEFINITE
things--that is the mischief; they are the receipts made up by stupid,
hard-headed people who do not understand; but they stand for large and
wonderful experiences and are like the language of children telling
their dreams. The moral genius who sees through it all and gives the
first impulse is trying to deal with life directly and frankly; and the
difficulty arises from people who see the attendant circumstances and
mistake them for the causes. But I do not see it from that side, of
course! I understand what you are aiming at. You are trying to
disentangle all the phenomena, are you not, and referring them to their
real causes, instead of lumping them all together as the phenomena of
religion?"

"Yes," said Howard, "that is what I am doing. I suppose I am naturally
sceptical; but I want to put aside all that stands on insecure
evidence, and all the sham terminology that comes from a muddled
delight in the supernatural. I want to give up and clear away all that
is not certain--material things must be brought to the test of material
laws--and to see what is left."

"Well," said Mrs. Graves, "now I will tell you my own very simple
experience. I began, I think, with a very formal religion, and I tried
in my youth to attach what was really instinctive to religious motives.
It got me into a sad mess, because I did not dare to go direct to life.
I used to fret because your uncle seemed so indifferent to these
things. He was a wise and good man, and lived by a sort of inner beauty
of character that made all mean cruel spiteful petty things impossible
to him. Then when he died, I had a terrible time to go through. I felt
utterly adrift. My old system did not give me the smallest help. I was
trying to find an intellectual solution. It was then that I met Miss
Gordon, the great evangelist. She saw I was unhappy, and she said to me
one day: 'You have no business to be unhappy like this. What you want
is STRENGTH, and it is there all the time waiting for you! You are
arguing your case with God, complaining of the injustice you have
received, trying to excuse yourself, trying to find cause to blame Him.
Your life has been broken to pieces, and you are trying to shelter
yourself among the fragments. You must cast them all away, and thank
God for having pierced through the fortress in which you were
imprisoned. You must just go straight to Him, and open your heart, as
if you were opening a window to the sun and air.' She did not explain,
or try to give me formulas or phrases, she simply showed me the light
breaking round me.

"It came to me quite suddenly one morning in my room upstairs. I was
very miserable indeed, missing my dear husband at every turn, quite
unable to face life, shuddering and shrinking through the days. I threw
it all aside, and spoke to God Himself. I said, 'You made me, You put
me here, You sent me love, You sent me prosperity. I have cared for the
wrong things, I have loved in the wrong way. Now I throw everything
else aside, and claim strength and light. I will sorrow no more and
desire no more; I will take every day just what You send me, I will say
and do what You bid me. I will make no pretences and no complaints. Do
with me what You will.'

"I cannot tell you what happened to me, but a great tide of strength
and even joy flowed into my whole being; it was the water of life,
clear as crystal; and yet it was myself all the time! I was not
different, but I was one with something pure and wise and loving and
eternal.

"That has never left me. You will ask why I have not done more,
bestirred myself more; because that is just what one cannot do. All
that matters nothing. The activities which one makes for oneself, they
are the delusions which hide God from us. One must not strive or rebuke
or arrange; one must simply love and be. Let me tell you one thing. I
was haunted all my early life with a fear of death. I liked life so
well, every moment of it, every incident, that I could not bear to
think it should ever cease; now, though I shrink from pain as much as
ever, I have no shrinking whatever from death. It is the perfectly
natural and simple change, and one is with God there as here. The soul
and God--those are the two imperishable things; one has not either to
know or to act--one has only to feel."

She ceased speaking, and sat for a moment upright in her chair. Then
she went on. "Now the moment I saw you, my dear boy, I loved
you--indeed I have always loved you, I think, and I have always felt
that some day in His good time God would bring us together. But I see
too that you have not found the strength of God. You are not at peace.
Your life is full and active and kind; you are faithful and pure; but
your self is still unbroken, like a crystal wall all round you. I think
you will have to suffer; but you will believe, will you not, that you
have not seen a half of the wonder of life? You are full of happy
experience, but you have begun to feel the larger need. And I knew that
when you began to feel that need, you would be brought to me, not to be
given it, but to be shown it. That is all I can say to you now, but you
will know the fulness of life. It is not experience, action, curiosity,
ambition, desire, as many think, that is fulness of life; those are
delusions, things through which the soul has to pass, just that it may
learn not to rest in them. The fulness of life is the stillest,
quietest, inner joy, which nothing can trouble or shadow; love is a
part of it, but not quite all--for there is a shadow even in love; and
this is the larger peace."

Howard sat amazed at the fire and glow of the words that came to him.
He did not fully understand all that was said, but he had a sense of
being brought into touch with a very tremendous and overwhelming force
indeed. But he could not for the moment revise his impressions; he only
perceived that he had come unexpectedly upon a calm and radiating
centre of energy, and it seemed in his mind that the pool which he had
seen that morning was an allegory of what he had now heard. The living
water, breaking up so clearly from underground in the grassy valley,
and passing downwards to gladden the earth! It would be used, be
tainted, be troubled, but he saw that no soil or stain, no scattering
or disruption, could ever really intrude itself into that elemental
purity. The stream would reunite itself, the impregnable atom would let
the staining substance fall unheeded. He would have to consider all
that, scrutinise his life in a new light. He felt that he had been
living on the surface of things, relying on impression, living in
impression, missing the strong central current all the time. He rose,
and taking his aunt's hand, kissed her cheek.

"Those are my thanks!" he said smiling. "I can't express my gratitude,
but you have given me so much to think about and to ponder over that I
can say no more now. I do indeed feel that I have missed what is
perhaps the greatest thing in the world. But I ask myself, Can I attain
to this, is it for me? Am I not condemned by temperament to live in the
surface-values?"

"No, dear child," said Mrs. Graves, looking at him, so that for an
instant he felt like a child indeed at a mother's knee; "we all come
home thus, sooner or later; and the time has come for you. I knew it
the moment I opened your letter. He is at the gate, I said, and I may
have the joy of being beside him when the door is opened."



V

ON THE DOWN


Howard was very singularly impressed by this talk. It seemed to him,
not certainly indeed, but possibly, that he had stumbled, almost as it
were by accident, upon a great current of force and emotion running
vehemently through the world, under the calm surface of things. How
many apparently unaccountable events it might explain! one saw frail
people doing fine things, sensitive people bearing burdens of
ill-health or disappointment, placidly and even contentedly, men making
gallant, unexpected choices, big expansive natures doing dull work and
living cheerfully under cramped conditions. He had never troubled to
explain such phenomena, beyond thinking that for some reason such a
course of action pleased and satisfied people. Of course everyone did
not hide the struggle; there were men he knew who had a grievance
against the world, for ever parading a valuation of themselves with
which no one concurred. But there were many people who had the material
for far worse grievances, who never seemed to nourish them. Had they
fought in secret and prevailed? Had they been floated into some moving
current of strength by a rising tide? Were they, like the man in the
Gospel, conscious of a treasure hidden in a field which made all other
prizes tame by comparison? Was the Gospel in fact perhaps aiming at
that--the pearl of price? To be born again--was that what had happened?
The thought cast a light upon his own serene life, and showed him that
it was essentially a pagan sort of life, temperate perhaps and refined,
but still unlit by any secret fire. It was not that his life was wrong,
or that an abjuration was needed; it was still to be lived, and lived
more intently, but no longer merely self-propelled. . . .

He needed to be alone, to consider, to focus his thought; he went off
for a walk by himself among the hills, past the spring, up the valley,
till he came to a place where the down ran out into the plain, the
bluff crowned with a great earthwork. An enormous view lay spread out
before him. To left and right the smooth elbows of the uplands ran down
into the plain, their skirts clothed with climbing woods and orchards,
hamlets half-hidden, with the smoke going up from their chimneys;
further out the cultivated plain rose and fell, field beyond field,
wood beyond wood, merging at last in a belt of deep rich colour, and
beyond that, blue hills of hope and desire, and a pale gleam of sea
beyond all. The westering sun filled the air with a golden haze, and
enriched the land with soft rich shadows. There was life spread out
before him, just so and not otherwise, life organised and constructed
into toil and a certain order, out of what dim concourse and strife!
For whatever reason, it was there to be lived; one could not change the
conditions of it, the sun and the rain, the winter and the spring; but
behind all that definite set of forces, was there perhaps a stronger
and larger force still, a brimming tide of energy, that clasped life
close and loved it, and yet regarded something through it and beyond it
that was not yet? His heart seemed full of a great longing, not to
avoid life, but to return and live it in a larger way, at once more
engaged in it, and more detached from it, each quality ministering to
the other. It seemed to him that afternoon that there was something
awaiting him greater than anything which had yet befallen him--an open
door, through which he might pass to see strange things.



VI

THE HOME CIRCLE


He returned somewhat late, to find tea over and Mrs. Graves gone to her
room; but there was tea waiting for him in the library; he went there,
and for a while turned over his book, which seemed to him now to be
illumined with a new light. It was this that he had been looking for,
this gift of power; it was that which lay behind his speculations; he
had suspected it, inferred it, but not perceived it; he saw now whither
his thought had been conducting him, and why he had flagged in the
pursuit.

He went up to dress for dinner, and came down as soon as the bell rang.
He found that Jack's father and sister had arrived. He went into the
dimly lighted room. Mr. Sandys, a fine-looking robust man,
clean-shaven, curly-haired, carefully and clerically dressed, was
standing by Mrs. Graves; he came forward and shook hands. "I am
delighted to make your acquaintance, Mr. Kennedy," he said, "though
indeed I seem to know a great deal about you from Jack. You are quite a
hero of his, you know, and I want to thank you for all your kindness to
him. I am looking forward to having a good talk with you about his
future. By the way, here is my daughter, Maud, who is quite as anxious
to see you as I am." A figure sitting in a corner, talking to Miss
Merry, rose up, came forward into the light, and held out her hand with
rather a shy smile.

Howard was amazed at what he saw. Maud had an extraordinary likeness to
her brother, but with what a difference! Howard saw in an instant what
it was that had haunted him in the aspect of Jack. This was what he
seemed to have discerned all the time, and what had been baffling him.
He knew that she was nineteen, but she looked younger. She was not, he
thought, exactly beautiful--but how much more than beautiful; she was
very finely and delicately made, and moved with an extraordinary grace;
pale and fair, but with a look of perfect health; her features were
very small, and softly rather than finely moulded; she had the air of
some flower--a lily he thought--which was emphasised by her simple
white dress. The under-lip was a little drawn in, which gave the least
touch of melancholy to the face; but she had clear blue trustful eyes,
the expression of which moved him in a very singular manner, because
they seemed to offer a sweet and frank confidence. Her self-possession
gave the least little sense of effort. He took the small firm and
delicate hand in his, and was conscious of something strong and
resolute in the grasp of the tiny fingers. She murmured something about
Jack being so sorry to be away; and Howard to recover himself said:
"Yes, he wrote to me to explain--we are going to do some work together,
I believe."

"Yes, it's most kind of you," said Mr. Sandys, putting his arm within
his daughter's with a pleasant air of fatherliness. "I am afraid
industry isn't Jack's strong point? Of course I am anxious about his
future--you must be used to that sort of thing! but we will defer all
this until after dinner, when Mrs. Graves will allow us to have a good
talk."

"We will see," said Mrs. Graves, rising; "Howard is here for a holiday,
you know. Howard, will you lead the way; you don't know how my
ceremonial soul enjoys having a real host to preside!"

Maud took Howard's arm, and the touch gave him a quite unreasonable
thrill of pleasure; but he felt too quite insupportably elderly. What
could he find to talk to this enchanting child about? He wished he had
learned more about her tastes and ideas. Was this the creature of whom
Jack had talked so patronisingly? He felt almost angry with his absent
pupil for not having prepared him for what he would meet.

As soon as they were seated Mr. Sandys launched into the talk, like an
eagle dallying with the wind. He struck Howard as an extremely
good-natured, sensible, buoyant man, with a perpetual flow of healthy
interests. Nothing that he said had the slightest distinction, and his
power of expression was quite unequal to the evident vividness of his
impressions. He had a taste for antithesis, but no grasp of synonyms.
Every idea in Mr. Sandys' mind fell into halves, but the second clause
was produced, not to express any new thought, but rather to echo the
previous clause. He began at once on University topics. He had himself
been a Pembroke man, and it had cost him an effort, he said, to send
Jack elsewhere. "I don't take quite the orthodox view of education," he
said, "in fact I am decidedly heterodox about its aims and the object
that it has. It ought not to fall behind its object, and all this
specialisation seems to me to be dangerous, and in fact decidedly
perilous. My own education was on the old classical lines--an excellent
gymnastic, I think, and distinctly fortifying. The old masterpieces,
you know, Thucydides and so forth--they should be the basis--the
foundation so to speak. But we must not forget the superstructure, the
house of thought, if I may use the expression. You must forgive my
ventilating these crude ideas, Mr. Kennedy. I went in myself, after
taking my degree, for a course of general reading. Goethe and Schiller,
you know. Yes, how fine that all is, though I sometimes feel it is a
little Teutonic? One needs to correct the Teutonic bias, and it is just
there that the gymnastic of the classics comes in; it gives one a
standard--a criterion in fact. One must have a criterion, mustn't one,
or it is all loose, and indeed, so to speak, illusive? I am all for
formative education; and it is there that women--I speak frankly in the
presence of three intelligent women--it is there that they suffer.
Their education is not formative enough--not formal enough, in fact!
Now, I have tried with dear Maud to communicate just that touch of
formality. You would be surprised, Mr. Kennedy, to know what Maud has
read under my guidance. Not learned, you know--I don't care for
that--but with a standard, or if I may revert to my former expression,
a criterion."

He paused for a moment, saw that he was belated, and finished his soup
hastily.

"Yes," said Howard, "of course that is the real problem of
education--to give a standard, and not to extinguish the taste for
intellectual things, which is too often what we contrive to do."

"Now we must not be too serious all at once," said Mrs. Graves. "If we
exhaust ourselves about education, we shall have nothing to fall back
upon--we shall be afraid to condescend. I am deplorably ill-educated
myself. I have no standard whatever. I have to consult dear Jane, have
I not? Jane is my intellectual touchstone, and saves me from entire
collapse."

"Well, well," said Mr. Sandys good-humouredly, "Mr. Kennedy and I will
fight it out together sometime. He will forgive an old Pembroke man for
wanting to know what is going forward; for scenting the battle afar
off, in fact."

Mr. Sandys found no lack of subjects to descant upon; but voluble, and
indeed absurd as he was, Howard could not help liking him; he was a
good fellow, he could see, and managed to diffuse a geniality over the
scene. "I am interested in most things," he said, at the end of a
breathless harangue, "and there is something in the presence of a real
live student, from the forefront of the intellectual battle, which
rouses all my old activities--stimulates them, in fact. This will be a
memorable evening for me, Mr. Kennedy, and I have abundance of things
to ask you." He did indeed ask a good many things, but he was content
to answer them himself. Once indeed, in the course of an immense
tirade, in which Mr. Sandys' intellectual curiosity took a series of
ever-widening sweeps, Howard caught his neighbour regarding him with a
half-amused look, and became aware that she was wondering if he were
playing Jack's game. Their eyes met, and he knew that she knew that he
knew. He smiled and shook his head. She gave him a delighted little
smile, and Howard had that touch of absurd ecstasy, which visits men no
longer young, when they find themselves still in the friendly camp of
the young, and not in the hostile camp of the middle-aged.

Presently he said to her something about Jack, and how much he enjoyed
seeing him at Cambridge. "He is really rather a wonderful person," he
added. "There isn't anyone at Beaufort who has such a perfectly defined
relation to everyone in the college, from the master down to the
kitchen-boys. He talks to everyone without any embarrassment, and yet
no one really knows what he is thinking! He is very deep, really, and I
think he has a fine future before him."

Maud lighted up at this, and said: "Do you really think so?" and added,
"You know how much he admires you?"

"I am glad to be assured of it," said Howard; "you would hardly guess
it from some of the things he says to me. It's awful, but he can't be
checked--and yet he never oversteps the line, somehow."

"He's a queer boy," said Maud. "The way he talked to the Archdeacon the
other day was simply fearful; but the Archdeacon only laughed, and said
to papa afterwards that he envied him his son. The Archdeacon was
giggling half the afternoon; he felt quite youthful, he said."

"It's the greatest gift to be able to do that," said Howard; "it's a
sort of fairy wand--the pumpkin becomes a coach and four."

"Jack's right ear must be burning, I think," said Maud, "and yet he
never seems to want to know what anyone thinks about him."

That was all the talk that Howard had with her at dinner. After the
ladies had gone, Mr. Sandys became very confidential about Jack's
prospects.

"I look upon you as a sort of relation, you see," he said, "in fact I
shall make bold to drop the Mr. and I hope you will do the same? May we
indeed take a bold step into intimacy and be 'Howard' and 'Frank'
henceforth? I can't, of course, leave Jack a fortune, but when I die
the two dear children will be pretty well off--I may say that. What do
you think he had better go in for? I should like him to take holy
orders, but I don't press it. It brings one into touch with human
beings, and I like that. I find human beings very interesting--I am not
afraid of responsibility."

Howard said that he did not think Jack inclined to orders.

"Then I put that aside," cried the good-natured Mr. Sandys. "No
compulsion for me--the children may do as they like, live as they like,
marry whom they like. I don't believe in checking human nature. Of
course if Jack could get a Fellowship, I should like him to settle down
at Cambridge. There's a life for you! In the forefront of the
intellectual battle! It is what I should have liked myself, of all
things. To hear what is going on in the intellectual line, to ventilate
ideas, to write, to teach--that's a fine life--to be able to hold one's
own in talk and discussion--that's where we country people fail. I have
plenty of ideas, you know, myself, but I can't put them into shape,
into form, so to speak."

"I think Jack would rather like a commercial career," said Howard.
"It's the only thing he has ever mentioned; and I am sure he might do
well if he could get an opening; he likes real things, he says."

"He does!" said Mr. Sandys enthusiastically--"that's what he always
says. Do you know, if you won't think me very vain, Howard, I believe
he gets that from me. Maud is different--she takes after her dear
mother--whose loss was so irreparable a calamity--my dear wife was full
of imagination; it was a beautiful mind. I will show you some of her
sketches when you come to see us--I am looking forward to that--not
much technique, perhaps, but a real instinct for beauty; to be just, a
little lacking in form, but full of feeling. Well, Jack, as I was
saying, likes reality. So do I! A firm hold on reality--that's the best
thing; I was not intellectual enough for the life of thought, and I
fell back on humanity--vastly engrossing! I assure you, though you
would hardly think it, that even these simple people down here are most
interesting: no two of them alike. My old friends say to me sometimes
that I must find country people very dull, but I always say, 'No two of
them alike!' Of course I try to keep my intellectual tastes alive--they
are only tastes, of course, not faculties, like yours--but we read and
talk and ventilate our ideas, Maud and I; and when we are tired of
books, why I fall back on the great book of humanity. We don't
stagnate--at least I hope not--I have a horror of stagnation. I said so
to the Archdeacon the other day, and he said that there was nothing
stagnant about Windlow."

"No, I am quite sure there is not," said Howard politely.

"It's very good of you to say so, Howard," said Mr. Sandys delightedly.
"Really quite a compliment! And I assure you, you don't know what a
pleasure it is to have a talk like this with a man like yourself, so
well-read, so full of ideas. I envy Jack his privileges. I do indeed.
Now dear old Pembroke was not like that in my days. There was no one I
could talk to, as Jack tells me he talks to you. A man like yourself is
a vast improvement on the old type of don, if I may say so. I'm very
free, you see! And so you think Jack might do well in commerce? Well, I
quite approve. All I want is that he should not be out of touch with
human beings. I'm not a metaphysician, but it seems to me that that is
what we are here for--touch with humanity--of course on Church of
England lines. I'm tolerant, I hope, and can see the good side of other
creeds; but give me something comprehensive, and that is the glory of
our English Church. Well, you have given me a lot to think of, Howard;
I must just take it all away and think it over. It's well to do that, I
think? Not to be in a hurry, try to see all round a question? That is
my line always!"

They walked into the drawing-room together; and Howard felt curiously
drawn to the warm-hearted and voluble man. Perhaps it was for the sake
of his children, he thought. There must be something fine about a man
who had brought up two such children--but that was not all; the Vicar
was enthusiastic; he revelled in life, he adored life; and Howard felt
that there was a real fund of sense and even judgment somewhere, behind
the spray of the cataract. He was a man whom one could trust, he
believed, and whom it was impossible not to like.

When they reached the drawing-room, Mrs. Graves called the Vicar into a
corner, and began to talk to him about someone in the village; Howard
heard his talk plunge steadily into the silence. Miss Merry flitted
about, played a few pieces of music; and Howard found himself left to
Maud. He went and sate down beside her. In the dim light the girl sate
forward in a big arm-chair; there was nothing languorous or listless
about her. She seemed all alert in a quiet way. She greeted him with a
smile, and sate turned towards him, her chin on her hand, her eyes upon
him. Her shining hair fell over the curves of her young and pure neck.
She was holding a flower, which Mrs. Graves had given her, in her other
hand, and its fragrance exhaled all about her. Once or twice she
checked him with a little gesture of her hand, when Miss Merry began to
play, and he could see that she was much affected by the music.

"It seems to me so wrong to talk during music," she said; "perhaps it
wasn't polite of me to stop you, but I can't bear to interrupt
music--it's like treading on flowers--it can't come again just like
that!"

"Yes," said Howard, "I know exactly what you mean; but I expect it is a
mistake to think of a beautiful thing being wasted, if we don't happen
to hear or see it. It isn't only meant for us. It is the light or the
sound or the flower, I think, being beautiful because it is glad."

"Yes," said the girl, "perhaps it is that. That is what Mrs. Graves
thinks. Do you know, it seems to me strange that you have never been
here before, though you are almost her only relation. She is the most
wonderful person I have ever seen. The only person I know who seems
always right, and yet never wants anyone else to know she is right."

"Yes," said Howard, "I feel that I have been very foolish--but it has
been going on all the time, like the music and the light. It hasn't
been wasted. I have had a wonderful talk with her to-day--the most
wonderful talk, I think, I have ever had. I can't understand it all
yet--but she has given me the sense of some fine purpose--as if I had
been kept away for a purpose, because I was not ready; and as if I had
come here for a purpose now."

The girl sate looking at him with open eyes, and with some strange
sense of surprise. "Yes," she said, "it is just like that; but that you
could have seen it so soon amazes me. I have known her all my life, and
could never have put that into words. Do you know how things seem to
come and go and shift about without any meaning? It is never so with
her; she sees what it all means. I cannot explain it."

They sate in silence for a moment, and then Howard said: "It is very
curious to be here; you know, or probably you don't know, how much
interested I am in Jack; and somehow in talking to him I felt that
there was something behind--something more to know. All this"--he waved
his hand at the room--"my aunt, your father, yourself--it does not seem
to me new and unfamiliar, but something which I have always known. I
can't tell you in what a dream I have seemed to be moving ever since I
came here. I have been here for twenty-four hours, and yet it seems all
old and dear to me."

"I know that feeling," said the girl, "one dips into something that has
been going on for ever and ever--I feel like that to-night. It seems
odd to talk like this, but you must remember that Jack tells me most
things, and I seem to know you quite well. I knew it would be all easy
somehow."

"Well, we are a sort of cousins," said Howard lightly. "That's such a
comfort; it needn't entail anything, but it can save one all sorts of
fencing and ceremony. I want to talk to you about Jack. He is a little
mysterious to me still."

"Yes," she said, "he is mysterious, but he really is a dear: he was the
most aggravating boy that ever lived, and I sometimes used really to
hate him. I am afraid we used to fight a great deal; at least I did,
but I suppose he was only pretending, for he never hurt me, and I know
I used to hurt him--but then he deserved it!"

"What a picture!" said Howard, smiling; "no wonder that boys go to
their private schools expecting to have to fight for their lives. I
never had a sister; and that accounts perhaps for my peaceful
disposition." He had a sudden sense as he spoke that he was talking as
if to an undergraduate in friendly irony. To his surprise and pleasure
he saw that his thought had translated itself.

"I suppose that is how you talk to your pupils," said the girl,
smiling; "I recognise that--and that's what makes it easy to talk to
you as Jack does--it's like an easy serve at lawn-tennis."

"I am glad it is easy," said Howard, "you don't know how many of my
serves go into the net!"

"Lawn-tennis!" said Mr. Sandys from the other side of the room.
"There's a good game, Howard! I am not much of a hand at it myself, but
I enjoy playing. I don't mind making a spectacle of myself. One misses
many good things by being afraid of looking a fool. What does it
matter, I say to myself, as long as one doesn't FEEL a fool? You will
come and play at the vicarage, I hope. Indeed, I want you to go and
come just as you like. We are relations, you know, in a sort of way--at
least connections. I don't know if you go in for genealogy--it's rather
a hobby of mine; it fills up little bits of time, you know. I could
reel you off quite a list of names, but Mrs. Graves doesn't care for
genealogy, I know."

"Oh, not that!" said Mrs. Graves. "I think it is very interesting. But
I rather agree with the minister who advised his flock to pray for good
ancestors."

"Ha! ha!" said Mr. Sandys, "excellent, that; but it is really very
curious you know, that the further one goes back the more one's
ancestors increase. Talk of over-population; why if one goes back
thirty or forty generations, the world would be over-populated with the
ancestors of any one of us. I remember posing a very clever
mathematician with that once; but, as a fact, it's quite the reverse,
one finds. Are you interested in neolithic men, Howard? There are
graves of them all over the down--it is not certain if they were
neolithic, but they had very curious burial customs. Knees up to the
chin, you know. Well, well, it's all very fascinating, and I should
like to drive you over to Dorchester to look at the museum there--there
are some questions I should like to ask you. But we must be off. A
delightful evening, cousin Anne; a delightful evening, Howard. I feel
quite rejuvenated--such a lot to ponder over."

Howard went to the door to see them off, and was rewarded by a parting
smile from Maud, which made him feel curiously elated. He went back to
the drawing-room with that faint feeling of flatness which comes of
parting with lively guests; and yet it somehow gave him a pleasant
sense of being at home.

"Well," said Mrs. Graves, "so now you have seen the Sandys interior.
Dear Frank, how he does chatter, to be sure! but he is all alive too in
his own way, and that is what matters. What did you think of Maud? I
want you to like her--she is a great friend of mine, and really a fine
creature. Not very happy just now, perhaps. But while dear old Frank
never sees past the outside of things--what a lot of things he does
see!--she sees inside, I think. But I am tired to death. I always feel
after talking to Frank as if I had been driving in a dog-cart over a
ploughed field!"



VII

COUNTRY LIFE


Howard woke early, after sweet and wild dreams of great landscapes and
rich adventures; as his thoughts took shape, he began to feel as if he
had passed some boundary yesterday; escaped, as a child escapes from a
familiar garden into great vague woodlands. There was his talk with
Mrs. Graves first--that had opened up for him a new region, indeed, of
the mind and soul, and had revealed to him an old force, perhaps long
within his grasp, but which he had never tried to use or wield. And the
vision too of Maud crossed his mind--a perfectly beautiful thing, which
had risen like a star. He did not think of it as love at all--that did
not cross his mind--it was just the thought of something enchantingly
and exquisitely beautiful, which disturbed him, awed him, threw his
mind off its habitual track. How extraordinarily lovely, simple, sweet,
the girl had seemed to him in the dim room, in the faint light; and how
fearless and frank she had been! He was conscious only of something
adorable, which raised, as beautiful things did, a sense of something
unapproachable, some yearning which could not be satisfied. How far
away, how faded and dusty his ordinary contented Cambridge life now
seemed to him!

He breakfasted alone, read a few letters which had been forwarded to
him, and went to the library. A few minutes later Miss Merry tapped at
the door, and came in.

"Mrs. Graves asked me to say--she was sorry she forgot to mention
it--that if you care for shooting or fishing, the keeper will come in
and take your orders. She thinks you might like to ask Jack to luncheon
and go out with him; she sends you her love, and wants you to do what
you like."

"Thank you very much!" said Howard, "I rather expect Jack will be round
here and I will ask him. I know he would like it, and I should too--if
you are sure Mrs. Graves approves."

"Oh, yes," said Miss Merry, smiling, "she always approves of people
doing what they like."

Miss Merry still hesitated at the door. "May I ask you another
question, Mr. Kennedy--I hope I am not troublesome--I wonder if you
could suggest some books for us to read? I read a good deal to Mrs.
Graves, and I am afraid we get rather into a groove. We ought to read
some of the new books; we want to know what people are saying and
thinking--we don't want to get behind."

"Why, of course," said Howard, "I shall be delighted--but I am afraid I
am not likely to be of much use; I don't read as much as I ought; but
if you will tell me the sort of things you care about, and what you
have been reading, we will try to make out a list. Won't you sit down
and see what we can do?"

"Oh, I don't like to interrupt you," said Miss Merry. "But if you would
be so kind."

She sat down at the far end of the table, and Howard was dimly and
amusedly conscious that this tete-a-tete was of the nature of a
romantic adventure to the little lady. He was surprised, when they came
to talk, to find how much they appeared to have read of a solid kind.
He asked if they had any plan.

"No, indeed," said Miss Merry, "we just wander on; one thing suggests
another. Mrs. Graves likes LONG books; she says she likes to get at a
subject quietly--that there ought not to be too many good things in
books; she likes them slow and spacious."

"I am afraid one has to go back a good way for that!" said Howard.
"People can't afford now to know more than a manual of a couple of
hundred pages can tell them about a subject. I can tell you some good
historical books, and some books of literary criticism and biography. I
can't do much about poetry or novels; and philosophy, science, and
theology I am no use at all for. But I could get you some advice if you
like. That's the best of Cambridge, there are so many people about who
are able to tell what to read."

While they were making out a list, Jack arrived breathlessly, and Miss
Merry shamefacedly withdrew. Howard said: "Perhaps that will do to go
on with--we will have another talk to-morrow. I begin to see the sort
of thing you want."

Jack was in a state of high excitement.

"What on earth were you doing," he said, as the door closed, "with that
sedate spinster?"

"We were making out a list of books!"

"Ah," said Jack with a profound air, "books are dangerous
things--that's the intellectual way of making love! You must be a great
excitement here, with all your ideas!--but now," he went on, "here I
am--I hurried back the moment breakfast was over. I have been horribly
bored--a lawn-tennis party yesterday, the females much to the
fore--it's no good that, it's not the game; at least it's not
lawn-tennis; it's a game all right, but I much suspect it has to do
with love-making rather than exercise."

"You seem very suspicious this morning," said Howard; "you accuse me of
flirting to begin with, and now you suspect lawn-tennis."

Jack shook his head. "I do hate love-making!" he said, "it spoils
everything--it gets in the way, and makes fools of people; the longer I
live, the more I see that most of the things that people do are excuses
for doing something else! But never mind that! I said I had got to get
back to be coached; I said that one of our dons was staying in the
village and had his eye on me. What I want to know is whether you have
made any arrangements about shooting or fishing? You said you would if
you could."

"The keeper is coming in," said Howard, "and we will have a talk to
him; but mind, on one condition--work in the morning, exercise in the
afternoon; and you are to stop to lunch."

"Cousin Anne is bursting into hospitality," said Jack, "because Maud is
coming in for the afternoon. I haven't had time to pump Maud yet about
you, but, by George, I'm going to pump you about her and father. Did
you have a very thick time last night? I could see father was rather
licking his lips."

"Now, no more chatter," said Howard; "you go and get some books, and we
will set to work at once." Jack nodded and fled.

When he came back the keeper was waiting, a friendly old man, who
seemed delighted at the idea of some sport. Jack said, "Look here, I
have arranged it all. Shooting to-day, and you can have father's gun;
he hardly ever uses it, and I have my own. Fishing to-morrow, and so on
alternately. There are heaps of rabbits up the valley--the place crawls
with them."

Howard taught Jack for an hour, as clearly and briskly as he could,
making him take notes. He found him quick and apt, and at the end, Jack
said, "Now if I could only do this every day at Cambridge, I should
soon get on. My word, you do do it well! It makes me shudder to think
of all the practice you must have had."

Howard set Jack down to prepare some further work by himself, and
attacked his own papers; and very soon it was time for lunch.

Mrs. Graves greeted Jack with much affectionateness, and asked what
they had arranged for the afternoon. Howard told her, and added that he
hoped she did not object to shooting.

"No, not at all," said Mrs. Graves, "if YOU can do it
conscientiously--I couldn't! As usual I am hopelessly inconsistent. I
couldn't kill things myself, but as long as I eat meat, I can't object.
It's no good arguing about these things. If one begins to argue about
destroying life, there are such excellent reasons for not eating
anything, or wearing anything, or even crossing the lawn! I have long
believed that plants are conscious, but we have got to exist somehow at
each other's expense. Instinct is the only guide for women; if they
begin to reason, they get run away with by reason; that is what makes
fanatics. I won't go so far as to wish you good sport, but you may as
well get all the rabbits you can; I'll send them round the village, and
try to salve my conscience so."

They talked a little about the books Howard had been recommending, but
Mrs. Graves was bent on making much of Jack.

"I don't get you here often by yourself," she said. "I daren't ask a
modern young man to come and see two old frumps--one old frump, I mean!
But I gather that you have views of your own, Jack, and some day I
shall try to get at them. I suppose that in a small place like this we
all know a great deal more about each other than we suspect each other
of knowing. What a comfort that we have tongues that we can hold! It
wouldn't be possible to live, if we knew that all the absurdities we
pride ourselves on concealing were all perfectly well known and
canvassed by all our friends. However, as long as we only enjoy each
other's faults, and don't go in for correcting them, we can get on. I
hope you don't DISAPPROVE of people, Jack! That's the hopeless
attitude."

"Well, I hate some people," said Jack, "but I hate them so much that it
is quite a pleasure to meet them and to think how infernal they are;
and when it's like that, I should be sorry if they improved."

"I won't go as far as that," said Howard. "The most I do is to be
thankful that their lack of improvement can still entertain me. One can
never be thankful enough for really grotesque people. But I confess I
don't enjoy seeing people spiteful and mean and vicious. I want to
obliterate all that."

"I want it to be obliterated," said Mrs. Graves; "but I don't feel
equal to doing it. Oh, well, we mustn't get solemn over it; that's the
mischief! But I mustn't keep you gentlemen from more serious
pursuits--'real things,' I believe, Jack?"

"Mr. Kennedy has been sneaking on me," said Jack. "I don't like to see
people mean and spiteful. It gives me pain. I want all that
obliterated."

"This is what happens to my pupils," said Howard. "Come on, Jack, you
shall not expose my methods like this."

They went off with the old keeper, who carried a bag of writhing
ferrets, and was accompanied by a boy with a spade and a line and a bag
of cartridges. As they went on, Jack catechised Howard closely.

"Did my family behave themselves?" he said. "Did you want them
obliterated? I expect you had a good pull at the Governor, but don't
forget he is a good chap. He is so dreadfully interested, but you come
to plenty of sense last of all. I admit it is last, but it's there.
It's no joke facing him if there's a row! he doesn't say much then, and
that makes it awful. He has a way of looking out of the window, if I
cheek him, for about five minutes, which turns me sick. Up on the top
he is a bit frothy--but there's no harm in that, and he keeps things
going."

"Yes," said Howard, "I felt that, and I may tell you plainly I liked
him very much, and thought him a thoroughly good sort."

"Well, what about Maud?" said Jack.

Howard felt a tremor. He did not want to talk about Maud, and he did
not want Jack to talk about her. It seemed like laying hands on
something sacred and secluded. So he said, "Really, I don't know as
yet--I only had one talk with her. I can't tell. I thought her
delightful; like you with your impudence left out."

"The little cat!" said Jack; "she is as impudent as they make them.
I'll be bound she has taken the length of your foot. What did she talk
about? stars and flowers? That's one of her dodges."

"I decline to answer," said Howard; "and I won't have you spoiling my
impressions. Just leave me alone to make up my mind, will you?"

Jack looked at him,--he had spoken sharply--nodded, and said, "All
right! I won't give her away. I see you are lost; but I'll get it all
out of you some time."

They were by this time some way up the valley. There were rabbit
burrows everywhere among the thickets. The ferrets were put in. Howard
and Jack were posted below, and the shooting began. The rabbits bolted
well, and Howard experienced a lively satisfaction, quite out of
proportion, he felt, to the circumstances, at finding that he could
shoot a great deal better than his pupil. The old knack came back to
him, and he toppled over his rabbits cleanly and in a masterly way.

"You are rather good at this!" said Jack. "Won't I blazon it abroad up
at Beaufort. You shall have all the credit and more. I can't see how
you always manage to get them in the head."

"It's a trick," said Howard; "you have got to get a particular swing,
and when you have got it, it's difficult to miss--it's only practice;
and I shot a good deal at one time."

Howard was unreasonably happy that afternoon. It was a still, sunny
day, and the steep down stretched away above them, an ancient English
woodland, with all its thorn-thickets and elder-clumps. It had been
like this, he thought, from the beginning of history, never touched by
the hand of man. The expectant waiting, the quick aim, the sudden shot,
took off the restlessness of his brain; and as they stood there, often
waiting for a long time in silence, a peculiar quality of peace and
contentment enveloped his spirit. It was all so old, so settled, so
quiet, that all sense of retrospect and prospect passed from his mind.
He was just glad to be alive and alert, glad of his friendly companion,
robust and strong. A few pictures passed before his mind, but he was
glad just to let his eyes wander over the scene, the steep turf
ramparts, the close-set dingles, the spring sunshine falling softly
over all, as the sun passed over and the shadows lengthened. At last a
ferret got hung up, and had to be dug out. Howard looked at his watch,
and said they must go back to tea. Jack protested in vain that there
was plenty of light left. Howard said they were expected back. They
left the keeper to recover the ferret, and went back quickly down the
valley. Jack was in supreme delight.

"Well, that's an honest way of spending time!" he said. "My word, how I
dangle about here; it isn't good for my health. But, by George, I wish
I could shoot like you, Mr. Kennedy, Sir."

"Why this sudden obsequiousness?" said Howard.

"Oh, because I never know what to call you," said Jack. "I can't call
you by your Christian name, and Mr. Kennedy seems absurd. What do you
like?"

"Whatever comes naturally," said Howard.

"Well, I'll call you Howard when we are together," said Jack. "But
mind, not at Beaufort! If I call you anything, it will have to be Mr.
Kennedy. I hate men fraternising with the Dons. The Dons rather
encourage it, because it makes them feel youthful and bucks them up.
The men are just as bad about Christian names. Gratters on getting your
Christian name, you know! It's like a girls' school. I wonder why
Cambridge is more like a girls' school than a public school is? I
suppose they are more sentimental. I do loathe that."

When they got back they found Maud at tea; she had been there all the
afternoon; she greeted Howard very pleasantly, but there was a touch of
embarrassment created by the presence of Jack, who regarded her
severely and called her "Miss."

"He's got some grudge against me," said Maud to Howard. "He always has
when he calls me Miss."

"What else should I call you?" said Jack; "Mr. Kennedy has been telling
me that one should call people by whatever name seems natural. You are
a Miss to-day, and no mistake. You are at some game or other!"

"Now, Jack, be quiet!" said Mrs. Graves; "that is how the British
paterfamilias gets made. You must not begin to make your womankind
uncomfortable in public. You must not think aloud. You must keep up the
mysteries of chivalry!"

"I don't care for mysteries," said Jack, "but I'll behave. My father
says one mustn't seethe the kid in its mother's milk. I will leave Miss
to her conscience."

"Did you enjoy yourself?" said Mrs. Graves to Howard.

"Yes, I'm afraid I did," said Howard, "very much indeed."

"Some book I read the other day," said Mrs. Graves, "stated that men
ought to do primeval things, eat under-done beef, sleep in their
clothes, drink too much, kill things. It sounds disgusting; but I
suppose you felt primeval?"

"I don't know what it was," said Howard. "I felt very well content."

"My word, he can shoot!" said Jack to Mrs. Graves; "I'm a perfect
duffer beside him; he shot four-fifths of the bag, and there's a
perfect mountain of rabbits to come in."

"Horrible, horrible!" said Mrs. Graves, "but are there enough to go
round the village?"

"Two apiece," said Jack, "to every man a damsel or two! Now, Maud, come
on--ten o'clock, to-morrow, Sir--and perhaps a little fishing later?"

"You had better stay to lunch, whenever you come and work in the
morning, Jack," said Mrs. Graves; "and I'll turn you inside out before
very long."

Howard went off to his work with a pleasant sense of the open air. They
dined together quietly; after dinner he went and sate down by Mrs.
Graves.

"Jack's a nice boy," she said, "very nice--don't make him pert!"

"I am afraid I shan't MAKE him anything," said Howard. "He will go his
own way, sure enough; but he isn't pert--he comes to heel, and he
remembers. He is like the true gentleman--he is never unintentionally
offensive."

Mrs. Graves laughed, and said, "Yes, that is so."

Howard went on, "I have been thinking a great deal about our talk
yesterday, and it's a new light to me. I do not think I fully
understand, but I feel that there is something very big behind it all,
which I want to understand. This great force you speak of--is it an
AIM?"

"That's a good question," said Mrs. Graves. "No, it's not an aim at
all. It's too big for that; an aim is quite on a lower level. There's
no aim in the big things. A man doesn't fall ill with an aim--he
doesn't fall in love with an aim. It just comes upon him."

"But then," said Howard, "is it more than a sort of artistic gift which
some have and many have not? I have known a few real artists, and they
just did not care for anything else in the world. All the rest of life
was just a passing of time, a framework to their work. There was an
artist I knew, who was dying. The doctor asked him if he wanted
anything. 'Just a full day's work,' he said."

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves, "it is like that in a way; it is the one thing
worth doing and being. But it isn't a conscious using of minutes and
opportunities--it isn't a plan; it is just a fulness of life, rejoicing
to live, to see, to interpret, to understand. It doesn't matter what
life you live--it is how you live it. Life is only the cup for the
liquor which must else be spilled. I can only use an old phrase--it is
being 'in the spirit': when you ask whether it is a special gift, of
course some people have it more strongly and consciously than others.
But it is the thing to which we are all tending sooner or later; and
the mysterious thing about it is that so many people do not seem to
know they have it. Yet it is always just the becoming aware of what is
there."

"How do you account for that?" said Howard.

"Why," said Mrs. Graves, "to a great extent because religion is in such
an odd state. It is as if the people who knew or suspected the secret,
did all they could to conceal it--just as parents try to keep their
children ignorant of the ideas of sex. Religion has got so horribly
mixed up with other things, with respectability, social order,
conventions, doctrines, metaphysics, ceremony, music--it has become so
specialised in the hands of priests who have a great institution to
support, that dust is thrown in people's eyes--and just as they begin
to think they perceive the secret, they are surrounded by tiresome
dogmatists saying, 'It is this and that--it is this doctrine, that
tradition.' Well, that sort of religion IS a very special
accomplishment--ecclesiastical religion. I don't deny that it has
artistic qualities, but it is a poor narrow product; and then the
technically religious make such a fuss if they see the shoal of fish
escaping the net, and beat the water so vehemently that the fish think
it safer to stay where they are, and so you get sardines in tins!" said
Mrs. Graves with a smile--"by which I mean the churches."

"Yes," said Howard, "that is perfectly true! Christianity was at first
the most new, radical, original, anarchical force in the world--it was
the purest individualism; it was meant to over-ride all human
combinations by simply disregarding them; it was not a social reform,
and still less a political reform; it was a new spirit, and it was
meant to create a new kind of fellowship, the mere existence of which
would do away with the need for organisation; it broke meekly, like
water, through all human partitions, and I suppose it has been tamed."

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves, "it is not now the world against religion. It
is organised religion against real religion, because religion is above
and apart from all institutions. Christ said, 'When they persecute you
in one city, flee into another'; and the result of that is the Monroe
doctrine!"

"But are you not a Christian?" said Howard.

"I believe myself to be one," said Mrs. Graves; "and no doubt you will
say, 'Why do you live in wealth and comfort?' That's a difficulty,
because Christ meant us to be poor. But if one hands over one's money
to Christian institutions now, one is subsidising the forces of the
world--at least so I think. It's very difficult. Christ said that we
should bestow our goods upon the poor; but if I were to divide my goods
to-morrow among my neighbours, they would be only injured by it--it
would not be Christian of them to take them--they have enough. If they
have not, I give it them. It does less harm to me than to them. But
this I know is very irrational; and the point is not to be affected by
that. I could live in a cottage tomorrow, if there was need."

"Yes, I believe you could," said Howard.

"As long as one is not dependent upon money," said Mrs. Graves, "it
doesn't very much matter. The real point is to take the world as it
comes, and to be sure that one is on the side of what is true and
simple and sincere; but I do not pretend to have solved everything, and
I am hoping to learn more. I do learn more every day. One can't
interfere with the lives of people; poverty is not the worst evil. It
is nice to be clean, but I sometimes think that the only good I get
from money is cleanliness--and that is only a question of habit! The
real point is to be in life, to watch life, to love it, to live it; to
be in direct relations with everyone, not to be superior, not to be
KIND--that implies superiority. I just plod along, believing, fearing,
hoping, loving, glad to live while I may, not afraid to die when I
must. The only detachment worth having is the detachment from the idea
of making things one's own. I can't appropriate the sunset and the
spring, the loves and cares of others; it is all divided up, more
fairly than we think. I have had many sorrows and sufferings; but I am
more interested than ever in life, glad to help and be helped, ready to
change, desiring to change. It isn't a great way of living; but one
must not want that--and believe me, dear Howard, it is the only way."



VIII

THE INHERITANCE


The first day or two of Howard's stay at Windlow seemed like a week,
the succeeding week seemed like a day, as soon as he had settled down
to a certain routine of life. He became aware of a continued
sympathetic and quite unobtrusive scrutiny of him, his ways, his
tastes, his thoughts, on the part of his aunt--her questions were
subtle, penetrating, provocative enough for him to wish to express an
opinion. He did not dislike it, and used no diplomacy himself; he found
his aunt's mind shrewd, fresh, unaffected, and at the same time
inspiring. She habitually spoke with a touch of irony--not bitter
irony, but the irony that is at once a compliment and a sign of
affection, such as Socrates used to the handsome boys that came about
him. She was not in the smallest degree cynical, but she was very
decidedly humorous. Howard thought that she did people even more than
justice, while she was frankly delighted if they also provided her with
amusement. She held nothing inconveniently sacred, and Howard admired
the fine balance of interest and detachment which she showed, her
delight in life, her high faith in something large, eternal, and
advancing. Her health was evidently very frail, but she made light of
it--it was almost the only thing she did not seem to find interesting.
How could this clever, vivacious woman, Howard asked himself, retain
this wonderful freshness and sweetness of mind in such solitude and
dulness of life? He could imagine her the centre of a salon--she had
all the gifts of a saloniste, the power of keeping a talk in hand, of
giving her entire thought to her neighbour, and yet holding the whole
group in view. Solitary, frail, secluded as she was, she was like an
unrusted sword, and lavished her wit and her affection on all alike,
callers, villagers, servants; and yet he never saw her tired or
depressed. She took life as she found it, and was delighted with its
simplest combinations. He found her company entirely absorbing and
inspiring. He told her, in answer to her frank interest--she seemed to
be interested on her own account, and not to please him--more about his
own life than he had ever told a human being. She always wanted facts,
impressions, details: "Enlarge that--describe that--tell me some more
particulars," were phrases often on her lips. And he was delighted,
too, by the belief that her explorations into his mind and life pleased
and satisfied her. It dawned on him gradually that she was a woman of
rich experience, and that her tranquillity was an aftergrowth, a
development--"That was in my discontented days," she said once. "It is
impossible to think of you as discontented," he had said. "Ah," she
said lightly, "I had my dreams, like everyone else; but I saw at last
that one must TAKE life--one can't MAKE it--and accept its limitations
with enjoyment."

One morning, when he was called, the butler gave him a letter--he had
been there about a fortnight--from his aunt. He opened it, expecting
that it was to say that she was ill. He found that it ran as follows:


"MY DEAR BOY,--I always think that business is best done by letter and
not by conversation. I am getting an old woman and my life is
uncertain. I want to make a statement of intentions. I may tell you
that I am a comparatively wealthy woman; my dear husband left me
everything he had; including what he spent on this place, it came to
about sixty thousand pounds. Now I intend to leave that back to his
family; there are several sisters of his alive, and they are not
wealthy people; but I have saved money too; and it is my wish to leave
you this house and the residue of my fortune, after arranging for some
small legacies. The estate is not worth very much--a great deal of it
is wild downland. But you would have the place, when I died, and about
twelve hundred a year. It would be understood that you should live here
a certain amount--I don't believe in non-resident landlords. But I do
not mean to tie you down to live here altogether. It is only my wish
that you should do something for your tenants and neighbours. If you
stayed on at Cambridge you could come here in vacations. But my hope
would be that you might marry. It is a house for a family. If you do
not care to live here, I would rather it were sold. While I live, I
hope you will be content to spend some time here, and make acquaintance
with our neighbours, by which I mean the village people. I shall tell
Cousin Frank my intentions, and that will probably suffice to make it
known. I have a very great love for the place, and as far as I can see,
you will be likely to have the same.

"You need not feel overburdened with gratitude. You are my only near
relation; and indeed I may say that if I were to die before I have
signed my will, you would inherit all my fortune as next-of-kin. So you
will see that instead of enriching you, I am to a great extent
disinheriting you! Just tell me simply if you acquiesce. I want no
pledges, nor do I want to bind you in any way. I will not say more,
except that it has been a very deep delight to me to find a son in my
old age. I had always hoped it would turn out so; and in my experience,
God is very careful to give us our desires, just or unjust, great or
small.--Your loving Aunt,

"ANNE GRAVES."


Howard was stupefied for a moment by this communication, but he was
more affected by the love and confidence it showed than by the prospect
of wealth--wealth was not a thing he had ever expected, or indeed
thought much about; but it was a home that he had found. The great lack
of his life had been a local attachment, a place where he had reason to
live. Cambridge with all its joys had never been quite that. A curious
sense of emotion at the thought that the sweet place, the beautiful old
house, was to be his own, came over him; and another far-off dream
darted into his mind as well, which he did not dare to shape. He got up
and wrote a short note.


"MY DEAR AUNT,--Your letter fills me with astonishment. I can only say
that I accept in love and gratitude what you offer me. The feeling that
I have found a home and a mother, so suddenly and so unexpectedly,
fills me with joy and happiness. I think with sadness of all the good
years I have missed, by a sort of stupid perversity; but I won't regard
that now. I will only thank you once more with all my heart for the
proof of affection which your letter gives me.--Your grateful and
affectionate nephew,

"HOWARD KENNEDY."


The old house had a welcoming air as he passed through it that morning;
it seemed to hold him in its patient embrace, to ask for love. He spent
the morning with Jack, but in a curiously distracted mood.

"What has happened to you?" said Jack at the end of the morning. "You
have not been thinking about what you are doing. You seem like a man
who has been stroking a winning crew. Has the Master been made a Dean,
and have you been elected Master? They say you have a chance."

Howard laughed and said, "You are very sharp, Jack! I have NOT been
attending. Something very unexpected has happened. I mustn't tell you
now, but you will soon know. I have drawn a prize. Now don't pump me!"

"Here's another prize!" said Jack. "You are to lunch with us to-morrow,
and to discuss my future career. There's glory for you! I am not to be
present, and father is scheming to get me invited to luncheon here. If
he fails, I am to take out some sandwiches and to eat them in the
kitchen garden. Maud is to be present, and 'CONFER,' he says, 'though
without a vote'!"

Howard met Mrs. Graves in the drawing-room; she kissed him, and holding
his hand for a moment said, "Thank you for your note, my dear boy.
That's all settled, then! Well, it's a great joy to me, and I get more
than I give by the bargain. It's a shameless bribe, to secure the
company of a charming nephew for a sociable old woman. Some time I
shall want to tell you more about the people here--but I won't bore
you; and let us just get quietly used to it all. One must not be
pompous about money; it is doing it too much honour; and the best of it
is that I have found a son." Howard smiled, kissed the hand which held
his, and said no more.

The Vicar turned up in the afternoon, and apologised to Mrs. Graves for
asking Howard to luncheon on the following day. "The fact is," he said,
"that I am anxious to have the benefit of his advice about Jack's
future. I think we ought to look at things from all sorts of angles,
and Howard will be able, with his professional knowledge of young men,
to correct the tendency to parental bias which is so hard to eliminate.
I am a fond father--fond, but I hope not foolish--and I trust we shall
be able to arrive at some conclusion."

"Then Jack and Maud can come and lunch with me," said Mrs. Graves; "you
won't want them, I am sure."

"You are a sorceress," said Mr. Sandys, "in the literary sense of
course--you divine my thought!"--but it was evident that he had much
looked forward to using a little diplomacy, and was somewhat
disappointed. He went on, "It will be very kind of you to have Jack,
but I think I shall want Maud's assistance. I have a great belief in
the penetration--in the observation of the feminine mind; more than I
have, if you will excuse my frankness, in their power of dealing with a
practical situation. Woman to interpret events, men to foresee
contingencies. Woman to indicate, man to predicate--perhaps I mean
predict! No matter; the thought, I think, is clear. Well, then, that is
settled! I claim Howard for luncheon--a very simple affair--and for a
walk; and by five o'clock we shall have settled this important matter,
I don't doubt."

"Very well," said Mrs. Graves; "but before you go, I must claim YOU for
a short stroll. I have something to tell you; and as Howard and Jack
are dying to get away to deprive some innocent creatures of the
privilege of life, they had better go and leave us."

That evening Howard had a long, quiet talk to his aunt. She said, "I am
not going to talk business. Our lawyer is coming over on Saturday, and
you had better get all the details from him. You must just go round the
place with him, and see if there is anything you would like to see
altered. It will be an immense comfort to put all that in your hands.
Mind, dear boy," she said, "I want you to begin at once. I shall be
ready to do whatever is necessary." Then she went on in a different
strain. "But there is one other thing I want to say now, and that is
that I should above all things like to see you married--don't, by the
way, fall in love with dear Jane, who worships the ground you tread on!
I have been observing you, and I feel little doubt that marriage is
what you most need. I don't expect it has been in your mind at all!
Perhaps you have not had enough to marry on, but I am not sorry for
that, for a special reason; and I think, too, that men who have the
care of boys and young men have their paternal instinct to a large
extent satisfied; but that is only a small part of marriage! It isn't
only that I want this house to be a home--that's merely a sentimental
feeling--but you need to love and be loved, and to have the anxious
care of someone close to you. There is nothing like marriage. It
probably is not quite as transcendental an affair as you think. That's
the mistake which intellectual people so often make--it's a very
natural and obvious thing--and of course it means far more to a woman
than to a man. But life is not complete without it. It is the biggest
fact which happens to us. I only want you just to keep it in your mind
as a possibility. Don't be afraid of it! My husband was your age when
he married me, and though I was very unreasonable in those days, I am
sure it was a happy thing for him, though he thought he was too old.
There, I don't want to press you, in this or in anything. I do not
think you will be happy living here without a wife, even if you go on
with Cambridge. But one can't mould things to one's wishes. My fault is
to want to organise everything for everybody, and I have made all my
worst blunders so. I hope I have given up all that. But if I live to
see it, the day when you come and tell me that you have won a wife will
be the next happiest day to the day when I found a son of my heart.
There, dear boy, I won't sentimentalise; but that's the truth; I shall
wake up to-morrow and for many days, feeling that some good fortune has
befallen me; but we should have found each other some time, even if I
had been a poor and miserable old woman. You have given me all that I
desired; give me a daughter too, if you can!"

"Well," said Howard, smiling, "I have no theory on the subject. I never
regarded marriage as either impossible or possible. It seemed to me
that one was either caught away in a fiery chariot, or else was left
under one's juniper tree; and I have been very comfortable there. I
thought I had all I wanted; and I feel a little dizzy now at the way in
which my cup of life has suddenly been seized and filled with wine to
the brim. One doesn't find a home and a mother and a wife in a
fortnight!"

"I don't know!" said Mrs. Graves, smiling at him. "Some of the best
marriages I know have been made in haste. I remember talking to a girl
the other day who was engaged to a man within ten days of the time they
had met. I said, 'Well, you have not wasted time.' 'Oh,' she said,
apparently rather hurt, 'I kept Henry waiting a long time. I had to
think it all over. I wasn't by any means sure I wanted to marry him.' I
quoted a saying of an old friend of mine who when he was asked why he
had proposed to a girl he had only known three days, said, 'I don't
know! I liked her, and thought I should like to see more of her!'"

"I think I must make out a list of possible candidates," said Howard,
smiling. "I dare say your Jane would help me. I could mark them for
various qualities; we believe in marks at Cambridge. But I must have
time to get used to all my new gifts."

"Oh, one doesn't take long to get used to happiness," said Mrs. Graves.
"It always seems the most natural thing in the world. Tennyson was all
wrong about sorrow. Sorrow is always the casual mistress, and not the
wife. One recovers from everything but happiness; that is one's native
air."



IX

THE VICAR


The Vicarage was a pleasant house, with an air of comfort and moderate
wealth about it. It was part of Frank Sandys' sense, thought Howard,
that he was content to live so simple and retired a life. He did not
often absent himself, even for a holiday. Howard was shown into the
study which Mr. Sandys had improved and enlarged. It was a big room,
with an immense, perfectly plain deal table in the middle, stained a
dark brown; and the Vicar showed Howard with high glee how each of the
four sides of the table was consecrated to a different avocation. "My
accounts end!" he said, "my sermon side! my correspondence end! my
genealogical side!" There were a number of small dodges, desks for
holding books, flaps which could be let up and down, slits in the table
through which papers could be dropped into drawers, a cord by which the
bell could be rung without rising from his place, a cord by which the
door could be bolted. "Not very satisfactory, that last," said the
Vicar, "but I am on the track of an improvement. The worst of it is,"
said the good man, "that I have so little time. I make extracts from
the books I read for my sermons, I cut out telling anecdotes from the
papers. I like to raise questions every now and then in the Guardian,
and that lets me in for a lot of correspondence. I even, I must
confess, sometimes address questions to important people about their
public utterances, and I have an interesting volume of replies, mostly
from secretaries. Then I am always at work on my Somersetshire
genealogies, and that means a mass of letters. The veriest trifles, of
course, they will seem to a man like yourself; but I fail in mental
grasp--I keep hammering away at details; that is my line; and after all
it keeps one alert and alive. You know my favourite thesis--it is touch
with human nature that I value, and I am brought into contact with many
minds. I don't exaggerate the importance of my work, but I enjoy it;
and after all, that is the point! I daresay it would be more dignified
if I pretended to be a disappointed man," said the Vicar, with a smile
which won Howard's heart, "but I am not--I am a very happy man, as busy
as the fabled bee! I shouldn't relish a change. There was some
question, I may tell you, at one time, of my becoming Archdeacon, but
it was a relief to me when it was settled and when Bedington was
appointed. I woke up in the morning, I remember, the day after his
appointment was announced, and I said to myself--'Why, it's a relief
after all!' I don't mean that I shouldn't have enjoyed it, but it would
have meant giving up some part of my work. I really have the life I
like, and if my dear wife had been spared to me, I should be the
happiest of men; but that was not to be--and by the way, I must
recollect to show you some of her drawings. But I must not inflict all
this upon you--and by the way," said the Vicar, "Mrs. Graves did me the
honour of telling me yesterday her intentions with regard to yourself,
and I told her I was heartily glad to hear it. It is an immense thing
for the place to have some one who will look into things a little, and
bring a masculine mind to bear on our simple problems. For myself, it
will be an untold gain to be brought in touch with a more intellectual
atmosphere. I foresee a long perspective of stimulating discussions. I
will venture to say that you will be warmly welcomed here, and indeed
you seem quite one of us already. But now we must go and get our
luncheon--we have much to discuss; and you will not mind Maud being
present, I know; the children are devoted to each other, and though I
have studied their tastes and temperaments very closely, yet 'crabbed
age and youth' you know, and all that--she will be able, I think, to
cast some light on our little problem."

They went together into the drawing-room, a pleasant old-fashioned
room--"a temple of domestic peace," said the Vicar, "a pretty phrase of
Carlyle's that! Maud has her own little sitting-room--the old
schoolroom in fact--which she will like to show you. I think it very
necessary that each member of a family should if possible have a
sanctum, a private uninvaded domain--but in this room the separate
strains unite."

Maud was sitting near the window when the two came in. She got up and
came quickly forward, with a smile, and shook hands with Howard. She
had just the same look of virginal freshness and sweetness in the
morning light--a little less mysterious, perhaps; but there came upon
Howard a strange feeling, partly of intense admiration, partly a sort
of half-jealousy that he should know so little of the girl's past, and
a half-terror of all other influences and relations in the unknown
background of her life. He wanted to know whom and what she cared
about, what her hopes were, what her thoughts rested upon and concerned
themselves with. He had never felt any such emotion before, and it was
not wholly agreeable to him. He felt thrown off his balance, interfered
with, diverted from his normal course. He wanted to do and say
something which could claim her attention and confidence; and the frank
and almost sisterly regard she gave him was not wholly to his mind.
This was mingled, too, with a certain fear of he knew not what; he
feared her criticism, her disapproval; he felt his own dulness and
inelasticity. He seemed to himself empty, heavy, awkward, disconcerted
by her quiet and expectant gaze. This came and went like a flash, and
gave him an almost physical uneasiness.

"Well, here we are," said the Vicar. "I must say this is very
comfortable--a sort of family council, with matters of importance to
discuss." Maud led the way to the dining-room. "I said we would have
everything put on the table," said the Vicar, "and wait on ourselves;
that will leave us quite free to talk. It's not a lack of any respect,
Howard--quite the contrary; but these honest people down here pick up
all sorts of gossip--in a quiet life, you know, a little gossip goes a
long way; and even my good maids are human--I should be so in their
place! Howard, a bit of this chicken--our own chickens, our own
vegetables, our country cider--everything home-grown; and now to
business, and we will settle Master Jack in a turn. My own belief is,
in choosing a profession, to think of all possibilities and eliminate
them one by one."

"Yes," said Howard, "but we are met by this initial difficulty; that
one might settle a dozen professions for Jack, and there is not the
smallest guarantee that he would choose any of them. I think he will
take his own line. I never knew anyone who knew so definitely what he
intended to do, and what he did not intend to do!"

"You have hit it," said the Vicar, "and I do not think you could have
said anything which could please me more. He is independent; it is my
own temperament over again! You will forgive a touch of vanity, Howard,
but that is me all over. And that simplifies our plan of action very
considerably, you know!"

"Yes," said Howard, "it undoubtedly does. I have no doubt from what
Jack told me that he intends to make money. It isn't, in him, just the
vague desire to have the command of money, which most young men have. I
have to talk over their careers with a good many young men, and it
generally ends in their saying they would like a secretaryship, which
would give them interesting work and long holidays and the command of
much of their time, and lead on to something better, with a prospect of
early retirement on a pension."

The Vicar laughed loudly at this. "Excellent!" he said, "a very human
view; that's a real bit of human nature."

"But Jack," said Howard, "isn't like that. He enjoys his life and gets
what fun out of it he can; but he thinks Cambridge a waste of time. I
don't know any young man who is so perfectly clear that he wants real
work. He is not idle as many young men are idle, prolonging the easy
days as long as they can. He is an extraordinary mixture; he enjoys
himself like a schoolboy, and yet he wants to get to work."

"Well, I think that a very encouraging picture!" said the Vicar; "there
is something very sensible about that. I confess I have mostly seen the
schoolboy side of Jack, and it delights one to know that there is a
serious side! Let us hear what Maud thinks; this kind of talk is really
very enjoyable."

"Yes," said Maud, looking up. "I am sure that Mr. Kennedy is quite
right. I believe that Jack would like to go into an office to-morrow."

"There," said the Vicar, "you see she agrees with you. It is really a
pleasure to find oneself mistaken. I confess I had not discerned this
quality in Jack; he had seemed to me much set on amusement."

"Oh yes," said Howard, "he likes his fun, and he is active enough; but
it is all passing the time."

"Well, this is really most satisfactory," said the Vicar. "So you
really think he is cut out for business; something commercial? Well, I
confess I had rather hankered after something more definitely academic
and scholastic--something more intellectual! But I bow to your superior
knowledge, Howard, and we must think of possible openings. Well, I
shall enjoy that. My own money, what there is of it, was made by my
grandfather in trade--the manufacture of cloth, I believe. Would cloth
now, the manufacture of cloth, appear to provide the requisite opening?
I have some cousins still in the firm."

"I think it would do as well as anything else," said Howard, "and if
you have any interest in a particular business, it would be worth while
to make inquiries."

"Before I go to bed to-night," said the Vicar, "I will send a statement
of the case to my cousin; that will set the ball rolling."

"Won't you have a talk with Jack first?" said Howard. "You may depend
upon it he will have some views."

"The very thing," said the Vicar. "I will put aside all my other work,
and talk to Jack after tea; if any difficulty should arise, I may look
to you for further counsel. This is really most satisfactory. This
matter has been in my mind in a nebulous way for a long time; and you
enter the scene with your intellectual grip, and your psychological
penetration--if that is not too intricate a word--and the situation is
clear at once. Well, I am most grateful to you."

The talk then became general, or rather passed into the Vicar's hands.
"I have ventured," he said, "to indicate to Maud what Cousin Anne was
good enough to tell me last night--she laid no embargo on the news--and
a few particulars about your inheritance will not be lacking in
interest--and on our walk this afternoon, to which I am greatly looking
forward, we will explore your domains."

This simple compliment produced a curious effect on Howard. He realised
as he had not done before the singular change in his position that his
aunt's announcement had produced: a country squire, a proprietor--he
could not think of himself in that light--it was like a curious dream.

After luncheon, Mr. Sandys excused himself for a few minutes; he had to
step over and speak to the sexton. Maud would take Howard round the
garden, show him her room, "just our simple background--we want you to
realise that!"

As soon as they were alone together, Howard said to Maud, "We seem to
have settled Jack's affairs very summarily. I hope you do agree with
me?"

"Yes," said Maud, "I do indeed. It is wonderful to me that you should
know so much about him, with all your other pupils to know. He isn't a
boy who talks much about himself, though he seems to; and I don't think
my father understood what he was feeling. Jack doesn't like being
interfered with, and he was getting to resent programmes being drawn
up. Papa is so tremendously keen about anything he takes up that he
carries one away; and then you come and smooth out all the
difficulties. It isn't always easy--" she broke off suddenly, and
added, "That is what Jack wants, what he calls something REAL. He is
bored with the life here, and yet he is always good about it."

"Do you like the life here?" said Howard. "I can't tell you what an
effect it all produces on me; it all seems so simple and beautiful. But
I know that one mustn't trust first impressions. People in picturesque
surroundings don't always feel picturesque. It is very pleasant to make
a drama out of one's life and to feel romantic--but one can't keep it
up--at least I can't. That must come of itself."

Howard felt that the girl was watching him with a look of almost
startled interest. She said in a moment, "Yes, that's quite true, and
it IS a difficulty. I should like to be able to talk to you about those
things--I hear so much about you, you know, from Jack, that you are not
like a stranger at all. Now papa has got the gift of romance; every bit
of his life is interesting and exciting to him--it's perfectly
splendid--but Jack has not got that at all. I seem to understand them
both, and yet I can't explain them to each other. I don't mean they
don't get on, but neither can quite see what the other is aiming at.
And I have felt that I ought to be able to do something. I can't
understand how you have cleared it up; but I am very glad and grateful
about it: it has been a trouble to me. Cousin Anne is wonderful about
it, but she seems able to let things alone in a way I can't dare to."

"Oh, one learns that as one gets older," said Howard. "One can't argue
things straight. One can only go on hoping and wishing, and if possible
understanding. I used to make a great mess of it with my pupils at one
time, by thinking one could talk them round; but one can't persuade
people of things, one can only just suggest, and let it be; and after
all no one ever resents finding himself interesting to some one else;
only it has got to be interest, and not a sense of duty."

"That is what Cousin Anne says," said Maud, "and when I am with her, I
think so too; and then something tiresome happens and I meddle, I
meddle! Jack says I like ruling lines, but that it is no good, because
people won't write on them."



X

WITH MAUD ALONE


They were suddenly interrupted by the inrush of the Vicar. "Maud," he
said with immense zest, "I find old Mrs. Darby very ill--she had a kind
of faint while I was there. I have sent off Bob post haste for Dr.
Grierson." The Vicar was evidently in the highest spirits, like a
general on the eve of a great battle. "There isn't a moment to be
lost," he continued, his eye blazing with energy. "Howard, my dear
fellow, I fear our walk must be put off. I must go back at once. There
she lies, flat on her back, just where I laid her! I believe," said the
Vicar, "it's a touch of syncope. She is blue, decidedly blue! I charged
them to do nothing, but if I don't get back, there's no knowing what
they won't pour down her throat--decoction of pennyroyal, I dare say;
and if the woman coughs, she is lost. This is the sort of thing I
enjoy--of course it is very sad--but it is a tussle with death. I know
a good deal about medicine, and Grierson has more than once
complimented me on my diagnosis--he said it was masterly--forgive a
touch of vanity! But you mustn't lose your walk. Maud, dear, you take
Howard out--I am sure he won't mind for once. You could walk round the
village, or you could go and find Jack. Now then, back to my post! You
must forgive me, Howard, but my flock are paramount."

"But won't you want me, papa?" said Maud. "Couldn't I be of use?"

"Certainly not," said the Vicar; "there's nothing whatever to be done
till Grierson arrives--just to ward off the ministrations of the
relatives. There she must lie--I feel no doubt it is syncope; every
symptom points to syncope--poor soul! A very interesting case."

He fled from the room like a whirlwind, and they heard him run down the
garden. The two looked at each other and smiled. "Poor Mrs. Darby!"
said Maud, "she is such a nice old woman; but papa will do everything
that can be done for her; he really knows all about it, and he is
splendid in illness--he never loses his head, and he is very gentle; he
has saved several lives in the village by knowing what to do. Would you
really like to go out with me? I'll be ready in a minute."

"Let us go up on the downs," said Howard, "I should like that very
much. I daresay we shall hear Jack shooting somewhere."

Maud was back in a moment; in a rough cloak and cap she looked
enchanting to Howard's eyes. She walked lightly and quickly beside him.
"You must take your own pace," said Howard, "I'll try to keep up--one
gets very lazy at Cambridge about exercise--won't you go on with what
you were saying? I know your father has told you about my aunt's plan.
I can't realise it yet; but I want to feel at home here now--indeed I
do feel that already--and I like to know how things stand. We are all
relations together, and I must try to make up for lost time. I seem to
know my aunt so well already. She has a great gift for letting one see
into her mind and heart--and I know your father too, and Jack, and I
want to know you; we must be a family party, and talk quite simply and
freely about all our concerns."

"Oh, yes, indeed I will," said Maud--"and I find myself wondering how
easy it is to talk to you. You do seem like a relation; as if you had
always been here, indeed; but I must not talk too much about myself--I
do chatter very freely to Cousin Anne; but I don't think it is good for
one to talk about oneself, do you? It makes one feel so important!"

"It depends who one talks to," said Howard, "but I don't believe in
holding one's tongue too much, if one trusts people. It seems to me the
simplest thing to do; I only found it out a few years ago--how much one
gained by talking freely and directly. It seems to me an uncivilised,
almost a savage thing to be afraid of giving oneself away. I don't mind
who knows about my own concerns, if he is sufficiently interested. I
will tell you anything you like about myself, because I should like you
to realise how I live. In fact, I shall want you all to come and see me
at Cambridge; and then you will be able to understand how we live
there, while I shall know what is going on here. And I am really a very
safe person to talk to. One gets to know a lot of young men, year by
year--and I'm a mine of small secrets. Don't you know the title so
common in the old Methodist tracts--'The life and death and Christian
sufferings of the Rev. Mr. Pennefather.' That's what I want to know
about people--Christian sufferings and all."

Maud smiled at him and said, "I am afraid there are not many Christian
sufferings in my life; but I shall be glad to talk about many things
here. You know my mother died more than ten years ago--when I was quite
a little girl--and I don't remember her very well; I have always said
just what I thought to Jack, and he to me--till quite lately; and that
is what troubles me a little. Jack seems to be rather drifting away
from me. He gets to know so many new people, and he doesn't like
explaining; and then his mind seems full of new ideas. I suppose it is
bound to happen; and of course I have very little to do here; papa
likes doing everything, and doing it in his own way. He can't bear to
let anything out of his hands; so I just go about and talk to the
people. But I am not a very contented person. I want something, I
think, and I don't know what it is. It is difficult to take up anything
serious, when one is all alone. I should like to go to Newnham, but I
can't leave father by himself; books don't seem much use, though I read
a great deal. I want something real to do, like Jack! Papa is so
energetic; he manages the house and pays all the bills; and there
doesn't seem any use for me--though if I were of use, I should find
plenty of things to do, I believe."

"Yes," said Howard, "I quite understand, and I am glad you have told
me. You know I am a sort of doctor in these matters, and I have often
heard undergraduates say the same sort of thing. They are restless,
they want to go out into life, they want to work; and when they begin
to work all that disquiet disappears. It's a great mercy to have things
to do, whether one likes it or not. Work is an odd thing! There is
hardly a morning at Cambridge when, if someone came to me and offered
me the choice of doing my ordinary work or doing nothing for a day, I
shouldn't choose to do nothing. And yet I enjoy my work, and wouldn't
give it up for anything. It is odd that it takes one so long to learn
to like work, and longer still to learn that one doesn't like idleness.
And yet it is to win the power of being idle that makes most people
work. Idleness seems so much grander and more dignified."

"It IS curious," said Maud, "but I seem to have inherited papa's taste
for occupation, without his energy. I wish you would advise me what to
do. Can't one find something?"

"What does my aunt say?" said Howard.

"Oh, she smiles in that mysterious way she has," said Maud, "and says
we have to learn to take things as they come. She knows somehow how to
do without things, how to wait; but I can't do that without getting
dreary."

"Do you ever try to write?" said Howard.

"Yes," said Maud, laughing, "I have tried to write a story--how did you
guess that? I showed it to Cousin Anne, and she said it was very nice;
and when I showed it to Jack, and told him what she had said, he read a
little, and said that that was exactly what it was."

"Yes," said Howard, smiling, "I admit that it was not very encouraging!
But I wish you would try something more simple. You say you know the
people here and talk to them. Can't you write down the sort of things
they say, the talks you have with them, the way they look at things? I
read a book once like that, called Country Conversations, and I
wondered that so few people ever tried it. Why should one try to write
improbable stories, even NICE stories, when the thing itself is so
interesting? One doesn't understand these country people. They have an
idea of life as definite as a dog or a cat, and it is not in the least
like ours. Why not take a family here; describe their house and
possessions, what they look like, what they do, what their history has
been, and then describe some talks with them? I can't imagine anything
more interesting. Perhaps you could not publish them at present; but
they wouldn't be quite wasted, because you might show them to me, and I
want to know all about the people here. You mustn't pass over things
because they seem homely and familiar--those are just the interesting
things--what they eat and drink and wear, and all that. How does that
strike you?"

"I like the idea very much indeed," said Maud. "I will try--I will
begin at once. And even if nothing comes of it, it will be nice to
think it may be of use to you, to know about the people."

"Very well," said Howard, "that is a bargain. It is exactly what I
want. Do begin at once, and let me have the first instalment of the
Chronicles of Windlow."

They had arrived by this time at a point high on the downs. The rough
white road, full of flints, had taken them up by deep-hedged cuttings,
through coverts where the spring flowers were just beginning to show in
the undergrowth, and out on to the smooth turf of the downs. They were
near the top now, and they could see right down into Windlow Malzoy,
lying like a map beneath them; the top of the Church tower, its leaden
roof, the roofs of the Vicarage, the little straggling street among its
orchards and gardens; farther off, up the valley, they could see the
Manor in its gardens; beyond the opposite ridge, a far-off view of
great richness spread itself in a belt of dark-blue colour. It was a
still day; on the left hand there was a great smooth valley-head, with
a wood of beeches, and ploughed fields in the bottom. They directed
their steps to an old turfed barrow, with a few gnarled thorn trees,
wind-swept and stunted round it.

"I love this place," said Maud; "it has a nice name, the 'Isle of
Thorns.' I suppose it is a burial-place--some old chief, papa says--and
he is always threatening to have him dug up; but I don't want to
disturb him! He must have had a reason for being buried here, and I
suppose there were people who missed him, and were sorry to lay him
here, and wondered where he had gone. I am sure there is a sad old
story about it; and yet it makes one happy in a curious way to think
about it all."

"Yes," said Howard, "'the old, unhappy, far-off things,' that turn
themselves into songs and stories! That is another puzzle; one's own
sorrows and tragedies, would one like to think of them as being made
into songs for other people to enjoy? I suppose we ought to be glad of
it; but there does not seem anything poetical about them at the time;
and yet they end by being sweeter than the old happy things. The 'Isle
of Thorns'! Yes, that IS a beautiful name."

Suddenly there came a faint musical sound on the air, as sweet as
honey. Howard held up his hand. "What on earth or in heaven is that?"
he said.

"Those are the chimes of Sherborne!" said Maud. "One hears them like
that when the wind is in this quarter. I like to hear them--they have
always been to me a sort of omen of something pleasant about to happen.
Perhaps it is in your honour to-day, to welcome you!"

"Well," said Howard, "they are beautiful enough by themselves; and if
they will bring me greater happiness than I have, I shall not object to
that!"

They smiled at each other, and stood in silence for a little, and then
Maud pointed out some neighbouring villages. "All this," she said, "is
Cousin Anne's--and yours. I think the Isle of Thorns is yours."

"Then the old chief shall not be disturbed," said Howard.

"How curious it is," said Maud, "to see a place of which one knows
every inch laid out like a map beneath one. It seems quite a different
place! As if something beautiful and strange must be happening there,
if only one could see it!"

"Yes," said Howard, "it is odd how we lose the feeling that a place is
romantic when we come to know it. When I first went up to Cambridge,
there were many places there that seemed to me to be so interesting:
walls which seemed to hide gardens full of thickets, strange doorways
by which no one ever passed out or in, barred windows giving upon dark
courts, out of which no one ever seemed to look. But now that I know
them all from the inside, they seem commonplace enough. The hidden
garden is a place where Dons smoke and play bowls; the barred window is
an undergraduate's gyp-room; there's no mystery left about them now.
This place as I see it to-day--well, it seems the most romantic place
in the world, full of unutterable secrets of life and death; but I
suppose it may all come to wear a perfectly natural air to me some day."

"That is what I like so much about Cousin Anne," said Maud; "nothing
seems to be commonplace to her, and she puts back the mystery and
wonder into it all. One must learn to do that for oneself somehow."

"Yes, she's a great woman!" said Howard; "but what shall we do now?"

"Oh, I am sorry," said Maud, "I have been keeping you all this
time--wouldn't you like to go and look for Jack? I think I heard a shot
just now up the valley."

"No," said Howard, looking at her and smiling, "we won't go and look
for Jack to-day; he has quite enough of my company. I want your company
to-day, and only yours. I want to get used to my new-found cousin."

"And to get rid of the sense of romance about her?" said Maud with a
smile; "you will soon come to the end of me."

"I will take my chance of that," said Howard. "At present I feel on the
other side of the wall."

"But I don't," said Maud, laughing; "I can't think how you slip in and
fit in as you do, and disentangle all our little puzzles as you have
done. I thought I should be terrified of you--and now I feel as if I
had known you ever so long. You are like Cousin Anne, you know."

"Perhaps I am, a little," said Howard, "but you are not very much like
Jack! Show me Mrs. Darby's house, by the way. I wonder how things are
going."

"There it is," said Maud, pointing to a house not far from the
Vicarage, "and there is Dr. Grierson's dogcart. I am afraid I had not
been thinking about her; but I do hope it's all right. I think she will
get over this. Don't you always have an idea, when people are ill,
whether they will get well or not?"

"Yes," said Howard, "I do; but it doesn't always come right!"

They lingered long on the hill, and at last Maud said that she must
return for tea. "Papa will be sure to bring Dr. Grierson in."

They went down the hill, talking lightly and easily; and to Howard it
was more delightful than anything he had known to have a peep into the
girl's frank and ingenuous mind. She was full of talk--spontaneous,
inconsequent talk--like Jack; and yet with a vast difference. Hers was
not a wholly happy temperament, Howard thought; she seemed oppressed by
a sense of duty, and he could not help feeling that she needed some
sort of outlet. Neither the Vicar nor Jack were people who stood in
need of sympathy or affection. He felt that they did not quite
understand the drift of the girl's mind, which seemed clear enough to
him. And yet there fell on him, for all his happiness, a certain
dissatisfaction. He would have liked to feel less elderly, less
paternal; and the girl's frank confidence in him, treating him as she
might have treated an uncle or an elder brother, was at once delightful
and disconcerting. The day began to decline as they walked, and the
light faded to a sombre bleakness. Howard went back to the Vicarage
with her, and, at her urgent request, went in to tea. They found the
Vicar and Dr. Grierson already established. Mrs. Darby was quite
comfortable, and no danger was apprehended. The Vicar's diagnosis had
been right, and his precautions perfect. "I could not have done better
myself!" said Dr. Grierson, a kindly, bluff Scotchman. Howard became
aware that the Vicar must have told the Doctor the news about his
inheritance, and was subtly flattered at being treated by him with the
empressement reserved for squires. Jack came in--he had been shooting
all afternoon--and told Howard he was improving. "I shall catch you
up," he said. He seemed frankly amused at the idea of Howard having
spent the afternoon with Maud. "You have got the whole family on your
back, it seems," he said. Maud was silent, but in her heightened colour
and sparkling eye Howard discerned a touch of happiness, and he enjoyed
the quiet attention she gave to his needs. The Vicar seemed sorry that
they had not made a closer inspection of the village. "But you were
right to begin with a general coup d'oeil," he said; "the whole before
the parts! First the conspectus, then the details," he added
delightedly. "So you have been to the Isle of Thorns?" he went on. "I
want to rake out the old fellow up there some day--but Cousin Anne
won't allow it--you must persuade her; and we will have a splendid
field-day there, unearthing all the old boy's arrangements; I am sure
he has never been disturbed."

"I am afraid I agree with my aunt," said Howard, shaking his head.

"Ah, Maud has been getting at you, I perceive," said the Vicar. "A very
feminine view! Now in the interests of ethnology we ought to go
forward--dear me, how full the world is of interesting things!"

They parted in great good-humour. The whole party were to dine at the
Manor next day; and Howard, as he said good-bye to Maud, contrived to
add, "Now you must tell me to-morrow that you have made a beginning."
She gave him a little nod, and a clasp of the hand that made him feel
that he had a new friend.

That evening he talked to his aunt about Maud. He told her all about
their walk and talk. "I am very glad you gave her something to do," she
said--"that is so like a man! That is just where I fail. She is a very
interesting and delightful girl, Howard; and she is not quite happy at
home. Living with Cousin Frank is like living under a waterfall; and
Jack is beginning to have his own plans, and doesn't want anyone to
share them. Well, you amaze me! I suppose you get a good deal of
practice in these things, and become a kind of amateur
father-confessor. I think of you at Cambridge as setting the lives of
young men spinning like little tops--small human teetotums. It's very
useful, but it is a little dangerous! I don't think you have suffered
as yet. That's what I like in you, Howard, the mixture of practical and
unpractical. You seem to me to be very busy, and yet to know where to
stop. Of course we can't make other people a present of experience;
they have to spin their own webs; but I think one can do a certain
amount in seeing that they have experience. It would not suit me; my
strength is to sit still, as the Bible says. But in a place like this
with Frank whipping his tops--he whips them, while you just twirl
them--someone is wanted who will listen to people, and see that they
are left alone. To leave people alone at the right minute is a very
great necessity. Don't you know those gardens that look as if they were
always being fussed and slashed and cut about? There's no sense of life
in them. One has to slash sometimes, and then leave it. I believe in
growth even more than in organisation. Still, I don't doubt that you
have helped Maud, and I am very glad of it. I wanted you to make
friends with her. I think the lack in your life is that you have known
so few women; men and women can never understand each other, of course;
but they have got to live together and work together; and one ought to
live with people whom one does not understand. You and your
undergraduates don't yield any mysteries. You, no doubt, know exactly
what they are thinking, and they know what you are thinking. It's all
very pleasant and wholesome, but one can't get on very far that way.
You mustn't think Maud is a sort of undergraduate. Probably you think
you know a great deal about her already--but she isn't the least what
you imagine, any more than I am. Nor are you what I imagine; but I am
quite content with my mistaken idea of you."



XI

JACK


The next day's dinner was a disappointment. The Vicar expatiated, Jack
counted, and became so intent on his counting that he hardly said a
word; indeed Howard was not sure that he was wholly pleased with the
turn affairs had taken; he was rather touched by this than otherwise,
because it seemed to him that Jack was really, if unconsciously, a
little jealous. His whole visit had been rather too much of a success:
Jack had expected to act as showman of his menagerie, and to play the
principal part; and Howard felt that Jack suspected him of having taken
the situation too much into his own hands. He felt that Jack was not
pleased with his puppets; his father had needed no apologies or
explanations, Maud had been forward, he himself had been donnish.

The result was that Howard hardly got a word with Maud; she did indeed
say to him that she had made a beginning, and he was aware of a
pleasant sense of trustfulness about her; but the party had been
involved in vague and general talk, with a disturbing element
somewhere. Howard found himself talking aimlessly and flatly, and the
net result was a feeling of dissatisfaction.

When they were gone, Mrs. Graves said to Howard, "Jack is rather a
masterful young man, I think. He has no sense of respect in his
composition. Were you aware of the fact that he had us all under his
thumb this evening?"

"Yes," said Howard, "it was just what I was thinking!"

"He wants work," said Mrs. Graves; "he ought not to dangle about at
home and at Cambridge; he wants tougher material to deal with; it's no
use snubbing him, because he is on the right tack; but he must not be
allowed to interfere too much. He wants a touch of misfortune to bring
him to himself; he has a real influence over people--the influence that
all definite, good-humoured, outspoken people have; it is easier for
others to do what he likes than to resist him; he is not irritable, and
he is pertinacious. He is the sort of man who may get very much spoilt
if he doesn't marry the right woman, because he is the sort of person
women will tell lies to rather than risk displeasing him. If he does
not take care he will be a man of the world, because he will not see
the world as it is; it will behave to him as he wishes it to behave."

"I think," said Howard, "that he has got good stuff in him; he would
never do anything mean or spiteful; but he would do anything that he
thought consistent with honour to get his way."

"Well, we shall see," said Mrs. Graves; "but he is rather a bad
influence for Maud just now. Maud doesn't suspect his strength, and I
can't have her broken in. Mind, Howard, I look to you to help Maud
along. You have a gift for keeping things reasonable; and you must use
it."

"I thought you believed in letting people alone!" said Howard.

"In theory, yes," said Mrs. Graves, smiling; "I certainly don't believe
in influencing people; but I believe very much in loving them: it's
what I call imaginative sympathy that we want. Some people have
imagination enough to see what other people are feeling, but it ends
there: and some people have unintelligent sympathy, and that is only
spoiling. But one must see what people are capable of, and what their
line is, and help them to find out what suits them, not try to conform
them to what suits oneself; and that isn't as easy as it sounds."



XII

DIPLOMACY


A few days later Howard was summoned back to Cambridge. One of his
colleagues was ill, and arrangements had to be made to provide for his
work. It astonished him to find how reluctant he was to return; he
seemed to have found the sort of life he needed in this quiet place. He
had walked with the Vicar, and had been deluged with interesting
particulars about the parish. Much of it was very trivial, but Howard
saw that the Vicar had a real insight into the people and their ways.
He had not seen Maud again to speak to, and it vexed him to find how
difficult it was to create occasions for meeting. His mind and
imagination had been taken captive by the girl; he thought of her
constantly, and recalled her in a hundred charming vignettes; the hope
of meeting her was constantly in his mind; he had taught Jack a good
deal, but he became more and more aware that for some reason or other
his pupil was not pleased with him.

He and Jack were returning one day from fishing, and they had come
nearer than Howard had liked to having a squabble. Howard had said
something about an undergraduate, a friend of Jack's. Jack had seemed
to resent the criticism, and said, "I am not quite sure whether you
know so much about him as you think. Do you always analyse people like
that? I sometimes feel with you as if I were in a room full of
specimens which you were showing off, and that you knew more about them
dead than alive."

"That's rather severe!" said Howard; "I simply try to understand
people--I suppose we all do that."

"No, I don't," said Jack; "I think it's rather stuffy, if you want to
know. I have a feeling that you have been turning everyone inside out
here. I think one ought to let people alone."

"Well," said Howard, "it all depends upon what one wants to do with
people. I think that, as a matter of fact, you are really more inclined
to deal with people, to use them for your own purposes, than I am. You
know what you want, and other people have got to follow. Of course, up
at Beaufort, it's my business to try to do that to a certain extent;
but that is professional, and a matter of business."

"But the worst of doing it professionally," said Jack, "is that you
can't get out of the way of doing it unprofessionally. You seem to me
to have rather purchased this place. I know you are to be squire, and
all that; but you want to make yourself felt. I am not sure that you
aren't rather a Jesuit."

"Come," said Howard, "that's going too far--we can't afford to quarrel.
I don't mind your saying what you think; but if you have the right to
take your own line, you must allow the same right to others."

"That depends!" said Jack, and was silent for a moment. Then he turned
to Howard and said, "Yes, you are quite right! I am sorry I said all
that. You have done no end for me, and I am an ungrateful little beast.
It is rather fine of you not to remind me of all the trouble you have
taken; there isn't anyone who would have done so much; and you have
really laid yourself out to do what I liked here. I am sorry, I am
truly sorry. I suppose I felt myself rather cock of the walk here, and
am vexed that you have got the whole thing into your hands!"

"All right," said Howard, "I entirely understand; and look here, I am
glad you said what you did. You are not wholly wrong. I have interfered
perhaps more than I ought; but you must believe me when I say
this--that it isn't with a managing motive. I like people to like me; I
don't want to direct them; only one can overdo trying to make people
like one, and I feel I have overdone it. I ought to have gone to work
in a different way."

"Well, I have put my foot in it again," said Jack; "it's awful to think
that I have been lecturing one of the Dons about his duty. I shall be
trying to brighten up their lives next. The mischief is that I don't
think I do want people to like me. I am not affectionate. I only want
things to go smoothly."

They drew near to the Manor, and Jack said, "I promised Cousin Anne I
would go in to tea. She has designs on me, that woman! She doesn't
approve of me; she says the sharpest things in her quiet way; one
hardly knows she has done it, and then when one thinks of it
afterwards, one finds she has drawn blood. I am cross, I think! There
seems to be rather a set at me just now; she makes me feel as if I were
in bed, being nursed and slapped."

"Well," said Howard, "I shall leave you to her mercies. I shall go on
to the Vicarage, and say good-bye. I shan't see them again this time.
You don't mind, I hope? I will try not to use my influence."

"You can't help it!" said Jack with a grimace. "No, do go. You will
touch them up a bit. I am not appreciated there just now."

Howard walked on up to the Vicarage. He was rather disturbed by Jack's
remarks; it put him, he thought, in an odious light. Was he really so
priggish and Jesuitical? That was the one danger of the life of the Don
which he hoped he had successfully avoided. He was all for liberty, he
imagined. Was he really, after all, a mild schemer with an ethical
outlook? Was he bent on managing and uplifting people? The idea
sickened him, and he felt humiliated.

When he arrived at the Vicarage, he found the Vicar out. Maud was
alone. This was, he confessed to himself with a strange delight,
exactly what he most desired. He would not be paternal or formative. He
would just make friends with his pretty cousin as he might with a
sensible undergraduate. With this stern resolve he entered the room.

Maud got up hastily from her chair--she was writing in a little
note-book on her knee. "I thought I would just come in and say
good-bye," he said. "I have to go back to Cambridge earlier than I
thought, and I hoped I might just catch you and your father."

"He will be so sorry," said Maud; "he does enjoy meeting you. He says
it gives him so much to think about."

"Oh, well," said Howard, "I hope to be here again next vacation--in
June, that is. I have got to learn my duties here as soon as I can. I
see you are hard at work. Is that the book? How do you get on? You have
promised to send it me, you know, as soon as you have enough in hand."

"Yes," said Maud, "I will send it you. It has done me good already,
doing this. It is very good of you to have suggested it--and I like to
think it may be of some use."

"I have been with Jack all the afternoon," said Howard, "and I am
afraid he is rather vexed with me. I can't have that. He drew a rather
unpleasant picture of me; he seemed to think I have taken this place
rather in hand from the Don's point of view. He thinks I should die if
I were unable to improve the occasion."

Maud looked up at him with a troubled and rather indignant air. "Jack
is perfectly horrid just now," she said; "I can't think what has come
over him; and considering that you have been coaching him every day,
and getting him shooting and fishing, it seems to me quite detestable!
I oughtn't to say that; but you mustn't be angry with him, Mr. Kennedy.
I think he is feeling very independent just now, and he said to me that
it made him feel that he was back at school to have to go up with his
books to the Manor every morning. But he is all right really. I am sure
he is grateful; it would be too shameful if he were not. Please don't
be vexed with him."

Howard laughed. "Oh, I am not vexed! Indeed, I am rather glad he spoke
out--at my age one doesn't often get the chance of being sincerely
scolded by a perfectly frank young man. One does get donnish and
superior, no doubt, and it is useful to find it out, though it isn't
pleasant at the time. We have made it up, and he was quite repentant; I
think it is altogether natural. It often happens with young men to get
irritated with one, no doubt, but as a rule they don't speak out; and
this time he has got me between the joints of my armour."

"Oh, dear me!" said Maud, "I think the world is rather a difficult
place! It seems ridiculous for me to say that in a place like this,
when I think what might be happening if I were poor and had to earn my
living. It is silly to mind things so; but Jack accuses me of the same
sort of thing. He says that women can't let people alone; he says that
women don't really want to DO anything, but only to SEEM to have their
way."

"Well, then, it appears we are both in the same box," said Howard, "and
we must console each other and grieve over being so much misunderstood."

He felt that he had spoken rather cynically, and that he had somehow
hurt and checked the girl. He did not like the thought; but he felt
that he had spoken sensibly in not allowing the situation to become
sentimental. There was a little silence; and then Maud said, rather
timidly: "Do you like going back?"

"No," said Howard, "I don't. I have become curiously interested in this
place, and I am lazy. Just now the life of the Don seems to me rather
intolerable. I don't want to teach Greek prose, I don't want to go to
meetings; I don't want to gossip about appointments, and little
intrigues, and bonfires, and College rows. I want to live here, and
walk on the Downs and write my book. I don't want to be stuffy, as Jack
said. But it will be all right, when I have taken the plunge; and after
I have been back a week, this will all fade into a sort of impossibly
pleasant dream."

He was again conscious that he had somehow hurt the girl. She looked at
him with a troubled face, and then said, "Yes, that is the advantage
which men have. I sometimes wonder if it would not be better for me to
have some work away from here. But there is nothing I could do; and I
can't leave papa."

"Oh, it will all come right!" said Howard feebly; "there are fifty
things that might happen. And now I must be off! Mind, you must let me
have the book some time; that will serve to remind me of Windlow in the
intervals of Greek prose."

He got up and shook hands. He felt he was behaving stupidly and
unkindly. He had meant to tell Maud how much he liked the feeling of
having made friends, and to have talked to her frankly and simply about
everything. He had an intense desire to say that and more; to make her
understand that she was and would be in his thoughts; to ascertain how
she felt towards him; to assure himself of their friendship. But he
would be wise and prudent; he would not be sentimental or priggish or
Jesuitical. He would just leave the impression that he was mildly
interested in Windlow, but that his heart was in his work. He felt
sustained by his delicate consideration, and by his judicious
chilliness. And so he turned and left her, though an unreasonable
impulse seized him to take the child in his arms, and tell her how
sweet and delicious she was. She had held the little book in her hand
as they sate, as if she had hoped he would ask to look at it; and as he
closed the door, he saw her put it down on the table with a half-sigh.



XIII

GIVING AWAY


He was to go off the next day; that night he had his last talk to his
aunt. She said that she would say good-bye to him then, and that she
hoped he would be back in June. She did not seem quite as serene as
usual, but she spoke very affectionately and gently of the delight his
visit had been. Then she said, "But I somehow feel--I can't give my
reasons--as if we had got into a mess here. You are rather a disturbing
clement, dear Howard! I may speak plainly to you now, mayn't I? I think
you have more effect on people than you know. You have upset us! I am
not criticising you, because you have exceeded all my hopes. But you
are too diffident, and you don't realise your power of sympathy. You
are very observant, very quick to catch the drift of people's moods,
and you are not at all formidable. You are so much interested in people
that you lead them to reveal themselves and to betray themselves; and
they don't find quite what they expect. You are afraid, I think, of
caring for people; you want to be in close relation with everyone, and
yet to preserve your own tranquillity. You are afraid of emotion; but
one can't care for people like that! It doesn't cost you enough! You
are like a rich man who can afford to pay for things, and I think you
rather pauperise people. Here you have been for three weeks; and nobody
here will be able to forget you; and yet I think you may forget us. One
can't care without suffering, and I think that you don't suffer. It is
all a pleasure and delight to you. You win hearts, and don't give your
own. Don't think I am ungrateful. You have made a great difference
already to my life; but you have made me suffer too. I know that like
Telemachus in Tennyson's poem you will be 'decent not to fail in
offices of tenderness'--I know I can depend on you to do everything
that is kind and considerate and just. You won't disappoint me. You
will do out of a natural kindliness and courtesy what many people can
only do by loving. You don't claim things, you don't lay hands on
things; and it looks so like unselfishness that it seems detestable of
me to say anything. But you will have to give yourself away, and I
don't think you have ever done that. I can say all this, my dear,
because I love you, as a mother might; you are my son indeed; but there
is something in you that will have to be broken; we have all of us to
be broken. It isn't that you have anything to repent of. You would take
endless trouble to help anyone who wanted help, you would be endlessly
patient and tender and strong; but you do not really know what love
means, because it does not hurt or wound you. You are like Achilles,
was it not, who had been dipped in the river of death, and you are
invulnerable. You won't, I know, resent my saying this? I know you
won't--and the fact that you will not makes it harder for me to say
it--but I almost wish it WOULD wound you, instead of making you think
how you can amend it. You can't amend it, but God and love can; only
you must dare to let yourself go. You must not be wise and forbearing.
There, dear, I won't say more!"

Howard took her hand and kissed it. "Thank you," he said, "thank you a
hundred times for speaking so. It is perfectly true, every word of it.
It is curious that to-day I have seen myself three times mirrored in
other minds. I don't like what I see--I am not complacent--I am not
flattered. But I don't know what to do! I feel like a patient with a
hopeless disease, who has been listening to a perfectly kind and wise
physician. But what can I do? It is just the vital impulse which is
lacking. I will be frank too; it is quite true that I live in the
surface of things. I am so much interested in books, ideas, thoughts, I
am fascinated by the study of human temperament; people delight me,
excite me, amuse me; but nothing ever comes inside. I don't excuse
myself, but I say: 'It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves.' I
am just so, as you have described, and I feel what a hollow-hearted
sort of person I am. Yet I go on amusing myself with friendships and
interests. I have never suffered, and I have never loved. Well, I would
like to change all that, but can I?"

"Ah, dear Howard," said his aunt, "that is the everlasting question. It
is like you to take this all so sweetly and to speak so openly. But
further than this no one can help you. You are like the young man whom
Jesus loved who had great possessions. You do not know how much! I will
not tell you to follow Him; and your possessions are not those which
can be given away. But you must follow love. I had a hope, I have a
hope--oh, it is more than that, because we all find our way sooner or
later--and now that you know the truth, as I see you know it, the light
will not be long in coming. God bless you, dearest child; there is pain
ahead of you; but I don't fear that--pain is not the worst thing or the
last thing!"



XIV

BACK TO CAMBRIDGE


"I HAD a hope . . . I have a hope," these words of his aunt's echoed
often through Howard's brain, in the wakeful night which followed.
Nothing was plain to himself except the fact that things were tangled;
the anxious exaltation which came to him from his talk with his aunt
cleared off like the dying away of the flush of some beaded liquor. "I
must see into this--I must understand what is happening--I must
disentangle it," he said again and again to himself. He was painfully
conscious, as he thought and thought, of his own deep lack both of
moral courage and affection. He liked nothing that was not easy--easy
triumph, easy relations. Somehow the threads of life had knotted
themselves up; he had slipped so lightly into his place here, he had
taken up responsibilities as he might have taken up a flower; he had
meant to be what he called frank and affectionate all round, and now he
felt that he was going to disappoint everyone. Not till the daylight
began to outline the curtain-rifts did he fall asleep; and he woke with
that excited fatigue which comes of sleeplessness.

He came down, he breakfasted alone in the early morning freshness. The
house was all illumined by the sun, but it spread its beauties in vain
before him. The trap came to the door, and when he came out he found to
his surprise that Jack was standing on the steps talking to the
coachman. "I thought I would like to come to the station with you,"
said Jack. Howard was pleased at this. They got in together, and one by
one the scenes so strangely familiar fled past them. Howard looked long
at the Vicarage as he passed, wondering whether Maud was perhaps
looking out. That had been a clumsy, stupid business--his talk with
her! Presently Jack said, "Look here, I am going to say again that I
was perfectly hateful yesterday. I don't know what came over me--I was
thinking aloud."

"Oh, it doesn't matter a bit!" said Howard; "it was my fault really. I
have mismanaged things, I think; and it is good for me to find that
out."

"No, but you haven't," said Jack. "I see it all now. You came down
here, and you made friends with everyone. That was all right; the fact
simply is that I have been jealous and mean. I expected to have you all
to myself--to run you, in fact; and I was vexed at finding you take an
interest in all the others. There, it's better out. I am entirely in
the wrong. You have been awfully good all round, and we shall be
precious dull now that you are going. The truth is that we have been
squabbling over you."

"Well, Jack," said Howard, smiling, "it's very good of you to say this.
I can't quite accept it, but I am very grateful. There WAS some truth
in what you said--but it wasn't quite the whole truth; and anyhow you
and I won't squabble--I shouldn't like that!"

Jack nodded and smiled, and they went on to talk of other things; but
Howard was pleased to see that the boy hung about him, determined to
make up for his temper, looked after his luggage, saw him into the
train, and waved him a very ingenuous farewell, with a pretence of
tears.

The journey passed in a listless dream for Howard, but everything faded
before the thought of Maud. What could he do to make up for his
brutality? He could not see his way clear. He had a sense that it was
unfair to claim her affection, to sentimentalise; and he thought that
he had been doubly wrong--wrong in engaging her interest so quickly,
wrong in playing on her unhappiness just for his own enjoyment, and
doubly wrong in trying to disengage their relation so roughly. It was a
mean business; and yet though he did not want to hold her, he could not
bear to let her go.

As he came near Cambridge and in sight of the familiar landscape, the
wide fields, the low lines of far-off wolds, he was surprised to find
that instead of being depressed, a sense of comfort stole over him, and
a feeling of repose. He had crammed too many impressions and emotions
into his visit; and now he was going back to well-known and peaceful
activities. The sight of his rooms pleased him, and the foregathering
with the three or four of his colleagues was a great relief. Mr.
Redmayne was incisive and dogmatic, but evidently pleased to see him
back. He had not been away, and professed that holidays and change of
scene were distracting and exhausting. "It takes me six weeks to
recover from a holiday," he said. He had had an old friend to stay with
him, a country parson, and he had apparently spent his time in
elaborate manoeuvres to see as little of his guest as possible. "A
worthy man, but tedious," he said, "wonderfully well preserved--in
body, that is; his mind has entirely gone to pieces; he has got some
dismal notions in his head about the condition of the agricultural
poor; he thinks they want uplifting! Now I am all for the due
subordination of classes. The poor are there, if I may speak plainly,
to breed--that is their first duty; and their only other duty that I
can discover, is to provide for the needs of men of virtue and
intelligence!"

Later on, Howard was left alone with him, and thought that it would
please the old man to tell him of the change in his own position.

"I am delighted to hear it," said Mr. Redmayne: "a landed proprietor,
that's a very comfortable thing! Now how will that affect your position
here? Ah yes, I see--only the heir-apparent at present. Well, you will
probably find that the estate has all been run on very sentimental
lines by your worthy aunt. You take my advice, and put it all on a
business-like footing. Let it be clear from the first that you won't
stand any nonsense. Ideas!" said Mr. Redmayne in high disdain, "that's
the curse of the country. Ideas everywhere, about the empire, about
civic rights and duties, about religion, about art"--he made a long
face as though he had swallowed medicine. "Let us all keep our distance
and do our work. Let us have no nonsense about the brotherhood of man.
I hope with all my heart, Howard, that you won't permit anything of
that kind. I don't feel as sure of you as I should like; but this will
be a very good thing for you, if it shows you that all this stuff will
not do in practice. I'm an honest Whig. Let everyone have a vote, and
let them give their votes for the right people, and then we shall get
on very well."



XV

JACK'S ESCAPADE


The college slowly filled; the term began; Howard went back to his
work, and the perplexities of Windlow rather faded into the background.
He would behave very differently when he went there next. It should all
be cool, friendly, unemotional. But in spite of everything, his aunt's
words came sometimes into his mind, troubling it with a sudden thrill.
"Power, spirit, the development of life,"--were these real things, had
one somehow to put oneself into touch with them? Was the life of serene
and tranquil work but marking time, wasting opportunity? Had one
somehow to be stirred into action and reality? Was there something in
the background, which did not insist or drive or interfere with one's
inclinations, because it knew that it would be obeyed and yielded to
some time? Was it just biding its time, waiting, impelling but not
forcing one to change? It gave him an impulse to look closer at his own
views and aims, to consider what his motives really were, how far he
could choose, how much he could prevail, to what extent he could really
do as he hoped and desired. He was often haunted by a sense of living
in a mechanical unreality, of moving simply on lines of easy habit.
That was a tame, a flat business, perhaps; but it was what seemed to
happen.

And yet all the time he was more and more haunted by the thought of
Maud. He could not get her out of his head. Over and over again he
lived through the scenes of their meetings. Against the background of
the dusk, that slender figure outlined itself, the lines of her form,
her looks, her smiles; he went again and again through his talks with
her--the walk on the down, the sight of her in the dimly-lighted room;
he could hear the very tones of her low voice, and see the childlike
appeal of her eyes. Worst of all the scene at the Vicarage, the book
held in her slender fingers, her look of bewilderment and
distress--what a pompous ass he had been, how stupid and coarse! He
thought of writing to her; he did write--but the dignified patronage of
his elder-brotherly style sickened him, and he tore up his unfinished
letter. Why could he not simply say that he cared for her, and was
miserable at having hurt her? That was just, he thought, what he must
not do; and yet the idea that she might be making other friends and
acquaintances was a jealous horror to him. He thought of writing to his
aunt about it--he did write regularly to her, but he could not explain
what he had done. Strangest of all, he hardly recognised it as love. He
did not face the idea of a possible life with Maud. It was to be an
amiable and brotherly relation, with a frank confidence and an
outspoken affection. He lost his old tranquil spirits in these
reveries. It was painful to him to find how difficult it was becoming
to talk to the undergraduates; his mild and jocose ironies seemed to
have deserted him. He saw little of Jack; they were elaborately
unaffected with each other, but each felt that there had been a sort of
exposure, and it seemed impossible to regain the old relation.

One morning he had an unpleasant surprise. The Dean of the College, Mr.
Gretton, a tall, rather grimly handsome man, who was immensely
conscientious and laborious, and did his work as well as a virtuous man
could, who was not interested in education, and frankly bored by the
irresponsibility of undergraduates, walked into his rooms one morning
and said, "I hope I don't interrupt you? I want to have a word with you
about Sandys, as he is your cousin. There was a dinner in College last
night--a club, I think--Guthrie and that lot--and Sandys got undeniably
drunk. They were making a horrible row about two o'clock, and I went
down and dispersed them. There were some outside men there whose names
I took; but Sandys was quite out of control, and spoke very
impertinently to me. He must come and apologise, or I shall ask that he
may be sent down. He is a respectable man on the whole, so I shall not
push it to extremes. But he will be gated, of course, and I shall write
to his father. I thought you had better see him, and try if you can do
anything. It is a great nuisance, and the less said about it the
better; but of course we can't stand this kind of thing, and it had
better be stopped at once."

"Yes, I will see him at once," said Howard. "I am very sorry. I did not
think he would play the fool like that."

"One never knows!" said the Dean; "to speak plainly, I don't think he
is doing much good here. Rather too much a man of the world for my
taste. But there is nothing particular against him, and I don't want to
be hard on him."

Howard sent for Jack at once. He came in, in an obviously rebellious
frame of mind.

"I know," he said. "Yes, of course I was a fool; but it isn't worth
making a row about. I don't go in for soaking, like some of the men who
don't get caught, and I have no intention of going to the bad, if that
is what you mean."

"You are an ass!" said Howard, "a real ass! Now don't say a word yet,
till I have told you what I think. You may have your say afterwards. I
don't care twopence about your getting drunk once in a way. It's a
stupid thing to do, to my mind, and I don't see the point of it. I
don't consider you a reprobate, nor am I going to take a high line
about drunkenness; I know perfectly well that you are no more likely to
take to drink than the Master is. But it isn't good enough. You put
yourself on the wrong side, you give people a wrong idea of yourself.
You get disapproved of by all the stupid and ordinary people who don't
know you. Your father will be in an awful state of mind. It's an
experiment, I suppose? I imagine you thought you would like to see how
it felt to be drunk? Well, living at close quarters like this, that
sort of thing can't be done. And then you were rude to Gretton. What's
the point of that? He is a very good fellow, minds his own business,
doesn't interfere, and keeps things very straight here. That part of it
seems to me simply ungentlemanly. And in any case, you have no business
to hurt the people who care for you, even if you think they ought not
to be distressed. I don't say it is immoral, but I say it is a low
business from beginning to end."

Jack, who bore signs of his overnight experience, gave Howard a smile.
"That's all right!" he said. "I don't object to that! You have rather
taken the wind out of my sails. If you had said I was a sensual brute,
I should have just laughed. It is such NONSENSE the way these men go
on! Why I was lunching with Gretton the other day, and Corry told a
story about Wordsworth as an undergraduate getting drunk in Milton's
rooms at Christ's, and how proud the old man was of it to the end of
his life. Gretton laughed, and thought it a joke; and then when one
gets roaring drunk, they turn up their eyes and say it is unmanly and
so on. Why can't they stick to one line? If you go to bump-suppers and
dinners, and just manage to carry your liquor, they think you a good
sort of fellow, with no sort of nonsense about you--'a little natural
boyish excitement'--you know the sort of rot. One glass more, and you
are among the sinners."

"I know," said Howard, "and I perceive that I have had the benefit of
your thought-out oration after all!"

Jack smiled rather sheepishly, and then said, "Well, what's to be done?
Am I to be sent down?"

"Not if you do the right thing," said Howard. "You must just go to
Gretton and say you are very sorry you got drunk, and still more sorry
you were impertinent. If you can contrive to show him that you think
him a good fellow, and are really vexed to have been such a bounder, so
much the better. That I leave to your natural eloquence. But you will
be gated, and he will write to your father."

Jack whistled. "I say, can't you stop that?" he said. "Father will be
fearfully upset."

"No, I can't," said Howard, "and I wouldn't if I could. This is the
music, and you have got to face it."

"Very well," said Jack rather glumly, "I suppose I must pay the score.
I'll go and grovel to Gretton. I was simply beastly to him. My frank
nature expanded in his presence."

Howard laughed. "Well, be off with you!" he said. "And I will tell you
what. I will write to your father, and tell him what I think."

"Then it will be all right," said Jack, greatly relieved. "Anything to
stop the domestic howl. I'll write too. After all, it is rather
convenient to have a cousin among the Dons; and, anyhow, you have had
your innings now. I was a fool, I admit. It won't happen again."

Howard wrote at once to the Vicar, and was rewarded by a long and
grateful letter. "It is a disreputable affair," he wrote, "and it has
upset me very much, and Maud even more. But you have put it in the
right light, and I am very grateful to you for your good offices. I
couldn't have believed it of Jack, but I look back to dear old
Pembroke, and I remember there was one occasion--but I need not revive
ancient memories, and I am sufficiently versed in human nature not to
waste indignation over a boyish escapade. I have ventured to address
letters to Mr. Gretton and the Master on the subject, apologising for
Jack's misdemeanour, and saying how much I appreciate the excellence of
the tone that prevails in the College."

What, however, pleased Howard still more was that Gretton spoke to him
after Hall and said, "I am much obliged to you, Kennedy, for your
prompt action. Sandys came and apologised to me in a very proper
manner, and entirely removed the disagreeable impression from my mind.
I owe this to your kindly intervention; and I must honestly say that I
thought well of Sandys. He did not attempt to excuse himself, or to
extenuate his fault. He showed very good feeling, and I believe that
henceforth his influence will be on the side of order. I was really
pleased with him."

Howard spoke to Jack again the following day, and said he was glad he
had done the thing thoroughly.

"Thoroughly?" said Jack; "I should think I did. I fairly licked the old
man's boots. We had quite an affecting scene. I rather think he gave me
his blessing, and I went away feeling that I had been almost
recommended to repeat my performance. Gretton's a sensible man. This is
a good College. The thing would have been mismanaged anywhere else; but
now I have not only an unblemished character, but I am like gold tried
in the furnace."

"One more thing," said Howard; "why not get your people to come up for
two or three days? It will clear off the whole affair. I think they
would like to be asked, and I should be very glad to help to look after
them."

"It will be a bore," said Jack, making a grimace; "it wrecks my health
to take people round to King's and Trinity. It simply knocks me up; but
I expect you are right, and I will ask them. You won't fail me? When I
go off duty, you will go on? If that is clearly understood, they shall
come. I know Maud would like to realise my background, as she says; and
my father will rush to the 'Varsity Library, and break the spirit of
the Pemmer Dons. He'll have the time of his life; but he deserves a
treat--he really wrote me a very decent letter. By George, though,
these emotional experiences are not in my line, though they reveal the
worth of suffering, as the Chaplain said in his Hospital Sermon last
Sunday."

Howard wrote a further note, saying that he hoped that Mr. Sandys and
Maud would be able to come; and it was soon arranged that they should
spend the inside of a week at Cambridge, before the May week, as the
Vicar said he had little taste for social pleasures, and had some
matters of considerable importance to turn up in the Library, to say
nothing of the intellectual stimulus he anticipated.



XVI

THE VISIT


THE visit began on the usual lines of such visits, the home team, so to
speak--Howard and Jack--having to fit a round of festivities into a
life which under normal circumstances was already, if anything, too
full, with the result that, at all events, Howard's geniality was
tense, and tended to be forced. Only in youth can one abandon oneself
to high spirits; as one grows older one desires more to contemplate
one's own mirth, and assure oneself that it is genuine.

Jack met them at the station, and they had tea in his rooms, Howard
refusing firmly to come.

"You must just give them a chance of a private word or two!" he said.

"Why, that's exactly what I want to avoid!" said Jack. "Besides, my
family is never private--we haven't any company manners. But I expect
you are right. Father will want one innings, and I think it's fair he
should have it!"

They were, however, to dine with Howard, who, contrary to his wont,
lavished some care on flowers and decorations, to make the place
unobtrusively pretty and home-like, and he determined that he would be
as quiet and straightforward as he could, but promised himself at least
one afternoon with Maud strolling round the place. But this was all to
happen as if by chance, and with no scheming or diplomacy.

They came; and Howard saw at once that Maud was timid and somewhat out
of spirits; she looked tired, and this, so far from diminishing her
charm, seemed to Howard to make it almost intolerably appealing to him.
He would have desired to take her in his arms, like a child, to pet and
caress her into happiness. Jack was evidently feeling the weight of his
responsibilities, and was frankly bored; but never had Howard been more
grateful for Mr. Sandys' flow of spirits than he was that evening. Mr.
Sandys was thirsting for experience and research, and he was also in a
state of jubilant sentimentality about Cambridge and his old
recollections. He told stories of the most unemphatic kind in the most
emphatic way, and Howard was amused at the radiant hues with which the
lapse of time had touched the very simplest incidents of his career.
Mr. Sandys had been, it seemed, a terrible customer at
Cambridge--disobedient, daring, incisive, the hero of his
contemporaries, the dread of the authorities; but all this on
high-minded lines. Moreover, he had brought with him a note-book of
queries, to be settled in the Library; while he had looked up in the
list of residents everyone with whom he had been in the remotest degree
acquainted, and a long vista of calls opened out before him. It was a
very delightful evening to Howard, in spite of everything, simply
because Maud was there; and he found himself extraordinarily conscious
of her presence, observant of all she said and did, glad that her eyes
should rest upon his familiar setting; and when they sat afterwards in
his study and smoked, he saw that her eyes travelled with a curious
intentness over everything--his books, his papers, his furniture. He
had no private talk with her; but he was glad just to meet her glance
and hear her low replies--glad too to find that, as the evening wore
on, she seemed less distraite and tired.

They went off early, Mr. Sandys pleading fatigue for Maud, and the
necessity for himself of a good night's rest, that he might ride forth
on the following day conquering and to conquer.

The next day they lunched with Jack. When Howard came into the room he
was not surprised to find that two undergraduates had been
asked--Jack's chief allies. One was a big, good-humoured young man, who
was very shy and silent; the other was one Fred Guthrie, who was one of
the nicest men in the College; he was a Winchester boy, son of a
baronet, a Member of Parliament, wealthy and distinguished. Guthrie had
a large allowance, belonged to all the best clubs, played cricket with
the chance of a blue ahead of him, and had, moreover, a real social
gift. He had a quite unembarrassed manner and, what is rare in a young
man, a strong sense of humour. He was a prominent member of the A. D.
C., and had a really artistic gift of mimicry; but there was no touch
of forwardness or conceit about him. He had been in for some
examination or other; and when Howard came in he was describing his
experiences. "What sort of questions?" he was saying. "Oh, you know the
kind--an awful quotation, followed by the question, 'Who said this, and
under what circumstances, and why did they let him?'" He made himself
entirely at home, he talked to Mr. Sandys as if he were welcoming an
old family friend, and he was evidently much attracted by Maud, who
found it remarkably easy to talk to this pleasant and straightforward
boy. He described with much liveliness an interview between Jack and
the Master on the subject of reading the lessons in chapel, and
imitated the suave tones of that courteous old gentleman to the life.
"Far be it from me to deny it was dramatic, Mr. Sandys, but I should
prefer a slightly more devotional tone." He related with great
good-humour how a heavy, well-meaning, and rather censorious
undergraduate had waited behind in his room on an evening when he had
been entertaining the company with some imitations, and had said, "You
are fond of imitating people, Guthrie, and you do it a great deal; but
you ought to say who it is you are imitating, because one can't be
quite sure!"

Mr. Sandys was immensely amused by the young man, and had related some
of his own experiences in elocution--how his clerk on the first
occasion of reading the lesson at Windlow was reported to have said,
"Why, you might think he had been THERE, in a manner of speaking."

Guthrie was not in the least concerned to keep the conversation in his
own hands, and received Mr. Sandys' stories with exactly the right
amount of respectful interest and amusement. But the result of all this
upon Howard was to make him feel extraordinarily heavy and elderly. He
felt that he and Mr. Sandys were the make-weights of the party, and he
was conscious that his own contributions were wanting in liveliness.

Maud was extraordinarily amused by the bits of mimicry that came in,
because it was so well done that it inspired everyone with the feeling
that mimicry was the one art worth practising; and Mr. Sandys himself
launched into dialect stories, in which Somersetshire rustics began by
saying, "Hoots, mon!" and ended by saying, "The ould divil hissilf."

After luncheon it became clear that Jack had given up the afternoon as
a bad job, and suggested that they should all go down to the river. The
rowing man excused himself, and Howard followed his example, pleading
occupation of a vague kind. Mr. Sandys was enchanted at the prospect,
and they went off in the charge of Guthrie, who was free, promising to
return and have tea in his rooms. Guthrie, who was a friend of
Howard's, included him in the invitation, but Howard said that he could
not promise, but would look in if he could.

As a matter of fact, he went out for a lonely walk, ashamed of himself
for his stupidity. He could not put himself in the position, he
dismally thought, of competing for Maud's attention.

He walked off round by Madingley, hardly aware of what road he was
taking. By the little chalk-pit just outside the village a rustic pair,
a boy and girl, stood sheepishly clasped in a dull and silent embrace.
Howard, to whom public exhibitions of emotion were distasteful, walked
swiftly by with averted eyes, when suddenly a poignant thought came on
him, causing him to redden up to the roots of his hair, and walk faster
than ever. It was this, then, that was the matter with him--he was in
love, he was jealous, he was the victim of the oldest, simplest,
commonest, strongest emotion of humanity. His eyes were opened. How had
he not seen it before? His broodings over the thought of Maud, the
strange disturbance that came on him in her presence, that absurd
desire to do or say something impressive, coupled with that wretched
diffidence that kept him silent and helpless--it was love! He became
half dizzy with the thought of what it all meant; and at the same
instant, Maud seemed to recede from him as something impossibly pure,
sweet, and unapproachable. All that notion of a paternal close
friendship--how idiotic it was! He wanted her, at every moment, to
share every thought with her, to claim every thought of hers, to see
her, to clasp her close; and then at the same moment came the terrible
disillusionment; how was he, a sober, elderly, stiff-minded
professional person, to recommend himself? What was there in him that
any girl could find even remotely attractive--his middle-aged habits,
his decorous and conventional mind, his clumsy dress, his grizzled
hair? He felt of himself that he was ravaged with age and decrepitude,
and yet in his folly he had suggested this visit, and he had thrown the
girl he loved out of her lonely life, craving for sympathy and
interest, into a set of young men all apt for passion and emotion. The
thought of Guthrie with his charm, his wealth, his aplomb, fell cold on
his heart. Howard's swift imagination pictured the mutual attraction of
the two, the enchanting discoveries, the laughing sympathy. Guthrie
would, no doubt, come down to Windlow. It was exactly the kind of match
that Mr. Sandys would like for Maud; and this was to be the end of this
tragic affair. How was he to endure the rest of the days of the visit?
This was Tuesday, and they were not to go till Saturday; and he would
have to watch the budding of a romance which would end in his choosing
Maud a wedding-present, and attending at Windlow Church in the
character of the middle-aged squire, beaming through his glasses on the
young people.

In such abject reflections the walk passed away. He crept into College
by the side-entrance, settled down to his evening work with grim
tenacity, and lost himself in desperate imaginings of all the pleasant
things that might be happening to the party. They were to dine at a
restaurant, he believed, and probably Guthrie would be free to join
them.

Late that night Jack looked in. "Is anything the matter?" he said. "Why
didn't you come to Guthrie's? Look here, you are going to play fair,
aren't you? I can't do all the entertaining business myself. I really
must have a day off to-morrow, and get some exercise."

"All right," said Howard, "I'll take them on. Suppose you bring them to
luncheon here. And I will tell you what I will do. I will be
responsible for to-morrow afternoon. Then on Thursday you shall come
and dine here again; and on Friday I will try to get the Master to
lunch--that will smooth things over a bit."

"Thanks very much," said Jack; "that's splendid! I wish we hadn't let
ourselves in for quite so much. I'm not fit to lead a double life like
this. I'm sure I don't grudge them their outing, but, by George, I
shall be glad to see the last of them, and I daresay you will be too.
It's the hardest work I've had for a long time."

The two came and lunched with Howard. After luncheon he said, "Now, I
am absolutely free to-day--Jack has got a lawn-tennis match on--what
shall we do?"

"Well," said Mr. Sandys genially, "I will be entirely selfish for once.
I have come on the track of some very important matters in the Library,
and I see they are going to take up my time. And then I am going in to
have a cup of tea at Pembroke with the Dean, an old friend of mine.
There, I make no excuses! I did suggest to Herries that I had a
daughter with me; but he rather pointedly didn't ask her. Women are not
in his line, and he will like a quiet talk with me. Now, what do you
say to that, Howard?"

"Well, if Miss Maud will put up with me," said Howard, "we will stroll
about, and we might go to King's Chapel together. I should like to show
her that, and we will go to see Monica Graves, and get some tea there."

"Give Monica my love," said Mr. Sandys, "and make what excuses you can.
Better tell her the truth for once! I will try to look in upon her
before I go."

Maud assented very eagerly and gratefully. They walked together to the
Library, and Mr. Sandys bolted in like a rabbit into its hole. Howard
was alone with her.

She was very different, he thought, from what she had seemed that first
night. She was alert, smiling, delighted with everything and everybody
about the place. "I think it is all simply enchanting!" she said; "only
it makes me long to go to Newnham. I think men do have a better time
than women; and, what is more, no one here seems to have anything
whatever to do!"

"That's only our unselfishness," said Howard. "We get no credit! Think
of all the piles of papers that are accumulating on my table. The other
day I entertained with all the virtue and self-sacrifice at my command
a party of working-men from the East end of London at luncheon in my
rooms, and took them round afterwards. They knew far more than I did
about the place, and I cut a very poor figure. At the end the
Secretary, meaning to be very kind to me, said that he was glad to have
seen a glimpse of the cultured life. 'It is very beautiful and
distinguished,' he added, 'but we of the democracy shall not allow it
to continue. It is always said that the Dons have nothing to do but to
read and sip their wine, and I am glad to see it all for myself. To
think of all these endowments being used like this! Not but what we are
very grateful to you for your kindness!'"

They strolled about. Cambridge is not a place that puts its
characteristic beauties in the forefront. Some of the most charming
things lurk unsuspected beyond dark entries and behind sombre walls.
They penetrated little mouldering courts; they looked into dim and
stately halls and chapels; they stood long on the bridge of Clare,
gazing at that incomparable front, with all the bowery gardens and
willow-shaded walks, like Camelot, beside the slow, terraced stream.

It was a tortured kind of delight for Howard to feel the girl beside
him; but she showed no wish to talk intimately or emotionally. She
asked many questions, and he could see that she drank in eagerly the
beauty of the place, understanding its charm in a moment. They went in
to see Monica, who was in a mood of dry equanimity, and rallied Howard
on the success of his visit to Windlow. "I hear you entered on the
scene like a fairy prince," she said, "and charmed an estate out of
Cousin Anne in the course of a few hours. Isn't he magnificent, Maud?
You mustn't think he is a typical Don: he is quite one of our brightest
flowers."

"When am I to come again to Windlow?" she added; "I suppose I must ask
Howard's leave now? He told me, you know," she said to Maud, "that he
wanted a change--he was bored with his work; so I abandoned Aunt Anne
to him; and he set up his flag in a moment. There are no diplomatists
like these cultured and unworldly men, Maud! It was noble of me to do
as I did. If I had exercised my persuasion on Aunt Anne, and kept
Howard away, I believe she would have turned over Windlow to me, and I
would have tried a social experiment there. It's just the place for an
inebriate home; no public-houses, and plenty of fine spring water."

Maud was immensely amused by Monica. Howard contented himself by saying
that he was much misinterpreted; and presently they went off to King's
together.

Maud was not prepared for King's Chapel, and indeed the tame, rather
clumsy exterior gives very little hint of the wonders within.

When they passed the swing-door, and saw the fine soaring lines leading
to the exquisite intricacies of the roof, the whole air full of rich
colour; the dark carved screen, with the gleaming golden trumpets of
the angels on the organ, Howard could see her catch her breath, and
grow pale for an instant at the crowded splendour of the place.

They sat in the nave; and when the thin bell died down, and the
footsteps passed softly by, and the organ uttered its melodious voice
as the white-robed procession moved slowly in, Howard could see that
the girl was almost overcome by the scene. She looked at him once with
a strange smile, a smile which he could not interpret; and as the
service slowly proceeded--to Howard little more than a draught of sweet
sensation--he could see that Maud was praying earnestly, deeply, for
some consecration of hope and strength which he could not divine or
guess at.

As they came away, she hardly spoke--she seemed tired and almost rapt
out of herself. She just said, "Ah, I am glad I came here with you. I
shall never forget this as long as I live--it is quite beyond words."

He took her back to the lodgings where they were staying. She shook
hands with him, smiled faintly, almost tearfully, and went in without a
word. Howard went back in a very agitated frame of mind. He did not
understand what was in the girl's mind at all. She was different,
utterly different. Some new current of thought had passed through her
mind. He fancied that the girl, after her secluded life, with so many
richly perceptive faculties half starved, had awakened almost suddenly
to a sense of the crowded energies and joys of life, that youth and
delight had quickened in her; that she foresaw new relations, and
guessed at wonderful secrets. But it troubled him to think that she had
not seemed to wish to revive their former little intimacy; she had
seemed half unconscious of his presence, and all alive with new
pleasures and curiosities. The marvellous veil of sex appeared to have
fallen between them. He had made friends with her, as he would have
made friends with some ingenuous boy; and now something wholly new,
mysterious, and aloof had intervened.

The rest of the visit was uneventful enough. Maud was different--that
was plain--not less delightful, indeed even more so, in her baffling
freshness; but Howard felt removed from her, shut out from her mind,
kept at arm's length, even superseded.

The luncheon with the Master as guest was a success. He was an old
bachelor clergyman, white-haired, dainty, courteous, with the
complexion of a child. He was very gracious to Mr. Sandys, who regarded
him much as he might have regarded the ghost of Isaiah, as a spirit who
visited the earth from some paradisiacal retreat, and brought with him
a fragrance of heaven. The thought of a Doctor of Divinity, the Head of
a College, full of academical learning, and yet perfectly courteous and
accessible, filled Mr. Sandys' cup of romance to the brim. He seemed to
be storing his memory with the Master's words. The Master was delighted
with Maud, and treated her with a charming and indulgent gaiety, which
Howard envied. He asked her opinion, he deferred to her, he made her
come and sit next to him, he praised Jack and Howard, and at the end of
the luncheon he filled Mr. Sandys with an almost insupportable delight
by saying that the next time he could visit Cambridge he hoped he would
stay at the Lodge--"but not unless you will promise to bring Miss
Sandys as well--Miss Sandys is indispensable." Howard felt indeed
grateful to the gallant and civil old man, who had so clear an eye for
what was tender and beautiful. Even Jack, when the Master departed, was
forced to say that he did not know that the old man had so much blood
in him!

That night Mr. Sandys finished up his princely progress by dining in
Hall with the Fellows, and going to the Combination Room afterwards. He
was not voluble, as Howard had expected. He was overcome with
deference, and seized with a desire to bow in all directions at the
smallest civility. He sat next to the Vice-Master, and Mr. Redmayne
treated him to an exhibition of the driest fireworks on record. Mr.
Sandys assented to everything, and the number of times that he
exclaimed "True, true! admirably said!" exceeded belief. He said to
Howard afterwards that the unmixed wine of intellect had proved a
potent beverage. "One must drink it down," he said, "and trust to
assimilating it later. It has been a glorious week for me, my dear
Howard, thanks to you! Quite rejuvenating indeed! I carry away with me
a precious treasure of thought--just a few notes of suggestive trains
of inquiry have been scribbled down, to be dealt with at leisure. But
it is the atmosphere, the rarefied atmosphere of high thought, which
has braced and invigorated me. It has entirely obliterated from my mind
that odious escapade of Jack's--so judiciously handled! The kindness of
these eminent men, these intellectual giants, is profoundly touching
and inspiring. I must not indeed hope to trespass on it unduly. Your
Master--what a model of self-effacing courtesy--your Vice-Master--what
a fine, rugged, uncompromising nature; and the rest of your
colleagues"--with a wave of his hand--"what an impression of reserved
and restrained force it all gives one! It will often sustain me," said
the good Vicar in a burst of confidence, "in my simple labours, to
think of all this tide of unaffected intellectual life ebbing and
flowing so tranquilly and so systematically in old alma mater! The way
in which you have laid yourself out to entertain me is indeed
gratifying. If there is a thing I reverence it is intellect, especially
when it is framed in modesty and courtesy."

Howard went with him to his lodgings, and just went in to say good-bye
to Maud. Jack had been dining with her, but he was gone. He and Guthrie
were going to the station to give them a send-off. "A charming young
fellow, Guthrie!" said Mr. Sandys. "He has been constantly with us, and
it is very pleasant to find that Jack has such an excellent friend. His
father is, I believe, a man of wealth and influence? You would hardly
have guessed it! That a young man of that sort should have given up so
much time to entertaining a country parson and his daughter is really
very gratifying--a sign of the growing humanity of the youth of
England. I fear we should not have been so tolerant at dear old
Pembroke. I like your young men, Howard. They are unduly careless, I
think, about dress; but in courtesy and kindness, irreproachable!"

Howard only had a few words with Maud, of a very commonplace kind. She
had enjoyed herself very much, and it was good of him to have given up
so much time to them. She seemed to him reserved and preoccupied, and
he could not do anything to restore the old sense of friendship. He was
tired himself; it had been a week of great strain. Far from getting any
nearer to Maud, he felt that he had drifted away from her, and that
some intangible partition kept them apart. The visit, he felt, had been
a mistake from beginning to end.



XVII

SELF-SUPPRESSION


As soon as the term was over, Howard went down to Windlow. He was in a
very unhappy frame of mind. He could not capitulate; but the more that
he thought, the more that he tried to analyse his feelings, the more
complex they became. It really seemed to him at times as if two
perfectly distinct people were arguing within him. He was afraid of
love; his aim had always been to simplify his life as far as possible,
and to live in a serene and cheerful spirit, for the day and in the
day. His work, his relations with colleagues and pupils, had all amused
and interested him; he had cared for people, he had many friends; but
it was all a cool, temperate, unimpassioned kind of caring. People had
drifted in and out of his life; with his frank and easy manner, his
excellent memory for the characteristics and the circumstances of
others, it had been easy for him to pick up a relationship where he had
laid it down; but it was all a very untroubled business, and no one had
ever really entered into his life; he did not like dropping people, and
took some trouble by means of letters to keep up communication with his
old pupils; but his friendships had never reached the point at which
the loss of a friend would have been a severe blow. He felt that he was
always given credit for more affection than he possessed, and this had
made him careful not to fail in any duty of friendship. He was always
ready to take trouble, to advise, to help his old pupils in their
careers; but it had been done more from a sense of courtesy than from
any deeper motive.

Now, however, it was very different; he felt himself wholly preoccupied
by the thought of Maud; and he found himself looking into the secret of
love, as a man might gaze from a hill-top into a chasm where the rocky
ridges plunged into mist, doubting of his way, and mistrusting his own
strength to pursue the journey. He did not know what the quality of his
love was; he recognised an intense kind of passion, but when he looked
beyond that, and imagined himself wedded to Maud, what was the emotion
that would survive the accomplishment of his desires? Would he find
himself longing for the old, comfortable, isolated life again? did he
wish his life to be inextricably intertwined with the life of another?
He was not sure. He had a dread of having to concede an absolute
intimacy, he wished to give only as much as he chose; and then, too, he
told himself that he was too old to marry so young a girl, and that she
would be happier if she could find a more equal partner for her life.
Yet even so the thought of yielding her to another sickened him. He
believed that she had been attracted by Guthrie, and that he had but to
hold his hand and keep his distance, and the relation might broaden
into marriage. He wondered if love could begin so, so easily and
simply. He would like to have believed it could not, yet it was just so
that love did begin! And then, too, he did not know what was the nature
of Maud's feelings to himself. He thought that she had been attracted
to him, but in a sisterly sort of way; that he had come across her when
she was feeling cramped and dissatisfied, and that a friendship with
him had seemed to offer her a chance of expansion and interest.

He often thought of telling the whole story to his aunt; but like many
people who seem extraordinarily frank about their feelings and fancies,
and speak easily even of their emotions, he found himself condemned to
silence about any emotion or experience that had any serious or tragic
quality. Most people would have thought him communicative, and even
lacking in reticence. But he knew in himself that it was not so; he
could speak of his intimate ideas very readily upon slight
acquaintance, because they were not to him matters of deep feeling; but
the moment that they really moved him, he felt absolutely dumb and
tongue-tied.

He established himself at Windlow, and became at once aware that his
aunt perceived that there was something amiss. She gave him
opportunities of speaking to her, but he could not take them. He shrank
with a painful dumbness from displaying his secret wound. It seemed to
him undignified and humiliating to confess his weakness. He hoped
vaguely that the situation would solve itself, and spare him the
necessity of a confession.

He tried to occupy himself in his book, but in vain. Now that he was
confronted with a real and urgent dilemma, the origins of religion
seemed to him to have no meaning or interest. He did not feel that they
had any bearing whatever upon life; and his pain seemed to infect all
his perceptions. The quality of beauty in common things, the
hill-shapes, the colour of field and wood, the lights of dawn and eve,
the sailing cloud, the tints of weathered stone, the old house in its
embowered garden, with the pure green lines of the down above, had no
charm or significance for him any more. Again and again he said to
himself, "How beautiful that would be, if I could but feel it to be
so!" He saw, as clearly and critically as ever, the pleasant forms and
hues and groupings of things, but it was dull and savourless, while all
the attractive ideas that sprang up like flowers in his mind, the happy
trains of thought, in which some single fancy ramified and extended
itself into unsuspected combinations and connections, these all seemed
hardly worth recognising or pursuing. He found himself listless and
distracted, just able by an effort to talk, to listen, to exchange
thoughts, but utterly without any zest or energy.

Jack had gone off for a short visit, and Howard was thus left mostly
alone. He went once or twice to the Vicarage, but found Mr. Sandys an
unmixed trial; there seemed something wholly puerile about his absurd
energies and activities. The only boon of his society was that he
expected no reply to his soliloquies. Maud was there too, a distant
graceful figure; but she, too, seemed to have withdrawn into her own
thoughts, and their talk was mostly formal. Yet he was painfully and
acutely conscious of her presence. She, too, seemed to be clouded and
sad. He found himself unable to talk to her unconstrainedly. He could
only dumbly watch her; she appeared to avert her eyes from him; and yet
he drew from these meetings an infinite series of pictures, which were
as if engraved upon his brain. She became for him in these days like a
lily drooping in a shadowed place and in a thunderous air; something
fading away mutely and sorrowfully, like the old figure of Mariana in
the Grange, looking wearily through listless hours for something which
had once beckoned to her with a radiant gesture, but which did not
return. There were brighter hours, when in the hot July days a little
peace fell on him, a little sense of the fragrance and beauty of the
world. He took to long and solitary walks on the down in search of
bodily fatigue. There was one day in particular which he long
remembered, when he had gone up to the camp, and sate in the shade of
the thicket on the crisp turf, looking out over the valley, unutterably
quiet and peaceful in the hot air. The trees were breathlessly still;
the hamlet roofs peeped out above the orchards, the hot air quivered on
the down. There were little figures far below moving about the fields.
It all looked lost in a sweetness of serene repose; and the thoughts
that had troubled him rose with a bitter poignancy, that was almost a
physical pain. The contrast between the high summer, the rich life of
herb and tree, and his own weary and arid thoughts, fell on him like a
flash. Would it not be better to die, to close one's eyes upon it all,
to sink into silence, than thus to register the awful conflict of will
and passion with the tranquil life that could not surrender its dreams
of peace? What did he need and desire? He could not tell; he felt
almost a hatred of the slender, quiet girl, with her sweet look, her
delicate hands, her noiseless movements. She had made no claim, she did
not come in radiant triumph, with impressive gestures and strong
commanding influences into his life; she had not even cried out
passionately, demanded love, displayed an urgent need; there had been
nothing either tragic or imperious, nothing that called for instant
solution; she was just a girl, sweet, wayward, anxious-minded, living a
trivial, simple, sheltered life. What had given her this awful power
over him, which seemed to have rent and shattered all his tranquil
contentment, and yet had offered no splendid opportunity, claimed no
all-absorbing devotion, no magnificent sacrifice? It was a sort of
monstrous spell, a magical enchantment, which had thus made havoc of
all his plans and gentle schemes. Life, he felt, could never be the
same for him again; he was in the grip of a power that made light of
human arrangements. The old books were full of it; they had spoken of
some hectic mystery, that seized upon warriors and sages alike, wasted
their strength, broke their energies, led them into crime and sorrow.
He had always rather despised the pale and hollow-eyed lovers of the
old songs, and thought of them as he might think of men indulging in a
baneful drug which filched away all manful prowess and vigour. It was
like La Belle Dame sans merci after all, the slender faring child,
whose kiss in the dim grotto had left the warrior 'alone and palely
loitering,' burdened with sad thoughts in the wintry land. And yet he
could not withstand it. He could see the reasonable and sensible
course, a placid friendship, a long life full of small duties and quiet
labours;--and then the thought of Maud would come across him, with her
shining hair, her clear eyes, holding a book, as he had seen her last
in the Vicarage, in her delicate hands, and looking out into the garden
with that troubled inscrutable look; and all the prudent considerations
fell and tumbled together like a house of cards, and he felt as though
he must go straight to her and fall before her, and ask her to give him
a gift the very nature of which he did not know, her girlish self, her
lightly-ranging mind, her tiny cares and anxieties, her virginal
heart--for what purpose? he did not know; just to be with her, to clasp
her close, to hear her voice, to look into her eyes, to discourse with
her some hidden secret of love. A faint sense of some infinite beauty
and nearness came over him which, if he could win it, would put the
whole of life into a different plane. Not a friendly combination, but
an absolute openness and nakedness of soul, nothing hidden, nothing
kept back, everything confessed and admitted, a passing of two streams
of life into one.



XVIII

THE PICNIC


Jack arrived at Windlow in due course, and brought with him Guthrie to
stay. Howard thought, and was ashamed of thinking, that Jack had some
scheme on foot; and the arrival of Guthrie was embarrassing to him, as
likely to complicate an already too complicated situation.

A plan was made for a luncheon picnic on the hill. There was a tower on
the highest eminence of the down, some five miles away, a folly built
by some wealthy squire among woodlands, and commanding wide views; it
was possible to drive to a village at the foot, and to put up vehicles
at a country inn; and it was proposed that they should take luncheon up
to the tower, and eat it there. The Sandys party were to drive there,
and Howard was to drive over with Miss Merry and meet them. Howard did
not at all relish the prospect. He had a torturing desire for the
presence of Maud, and yet he seemed unable to establish any
communication with her; and he felt that the liveliness of the young
men would reduce him to a condition of amiable ineffectiveness which
would make him, as Marie Bashkirtseff naively said, hardly worth
seeing. However, there was no way out, and on a delicious July morning,
with soft sunlight everywhere, and great white clouds floating in a sky
of turquoise blue, Howard and Miss Merry started from Windlow. The
little lady was full of decorous glee, and her mirth, like a working
cauldron, threw all her high-minded tastes to the surface. She asked
Howard's opinion about quite a number of literary masterpieces, and she
ingenuously gave utterance to her meek and joyful views of life, the
privileges she enjoyed, and the inspiration which she derived from the
ethical views of Robert Browning. Howard found himself wondering why it
was all so dreadfully uninteresting and devoid of charm; he asked
himself whether, if the little spinster had been personally more
attractive, her optimistic chirpings would have seemed to have more
significance. Miss Merry had a perfectly definite view of life, and she
made life into a distinct success; she was a happy woman, sustained by
an abundance of meek enthusiasm. She accepted everything that happened
to her, whether good or evil, with the same eager interest. Suffering,
according to Miss Merry, had an educative quality, and life was haunted
for her by echoes of excellent literature, accurately remembered. But
Howard had a feeling that one must not swallow life quite so
uncritically, that there ought somehow to be more discrimination; and
Miss Merry's eager adoration of everything and everybody reduced him to
a flatness which he found it difficult to conceal. He could not think
what was the matter with her views. She revelled in what she called
problems, and the more incomplete that anything appeared, the more
certain was Miss Merry of ultimate perfection. There did not seem any
room for humanity, with its varying moods, in her outlook; and yet
Howard had the grace to be ashamed of his own sullen dreariness, which
certainly did not appear to lend any dignity to life. But he had not
the heart to spoil the little lady's pleasure, and engaged in small
talk upon moderately abstract topics with courteous industry. "Of
course," said his companion confidingly, "all that I do is on a very
small scale, but I think that the quality of it is what matters--the
quality of one's ideal, I mean." Howard murmuringly assented. "I have
sometimes even wished," she went on, "that I had some real trouble of
my own--that seems foolish to you, no doubt, because my life is such an
easy one--but I do feel that my happiness rather cuts me off from other
people--and I don't want to be cut off from other people; I desire to
know how and why they suffer."

"Ah," said Howard, "while you feel that, it is all right; but the worst
of real suffering is, I believe, that it is apt to be entirely
dreary--it is not at all romantic, as it seems from the outside; indeed
it is the loss of all that sense of excitement which makes suffering
what it is. But really I have no right to speak either, for I have had
a very happy life too."

Miss Merry heard him moist-eyed and intent. "Yes, I am sure that is
true!" she said. "I suppose we all have just as much as we can
use--just as much as it is good for us to have."

They found that the others had arrived, and were unpacking the
luncheon. Maud greeted Howard with a shy expectancy; but the sight of
her, slender and fresh in her rough walking-dress, renewed his strange
pangs. What did he want of her, he asked himself; what was this
mysterious and unmanning sense, that made him conscious of every
movement and every word of the girl? Why could he not meet her in a
cheerful, friendly, simple way, and make the most of her enchanting
company?

Mr. Sandys was in great spirits, revelling in arrangements and
directions. But the wind was taken out of his sails by the two young
men, who were engaged in enacting a bewildering kind of drama, a saga,
of which the venerable Mr. Redmayne appeared to be the hero. Guthrie,
who was in almost overpowering spirits, took the part of Mr. Redmayne,
whom he imitated with amazing fidelity. He had become, it seemed, a man
of low and degrading tastes--'Erb Redmayne, he was called, or old 'Erb,
whose role was to lead the other authorities of the college into all
kinds of disreputable haunts, to prompt them to absurd misdeeds, to
take advantage of their ingenuousness, to make scapegoats of them, and
to adroitly evade justice himself.

On this occasion 'Erb Redmayne seemed to have inveigled the Master,
whose part was taken by Jack, to a race-meeting, to be introducing him
to the Most unsatisfactory company, to force him to put money on
certain horses, to evade the payment of debts incurred, to be detected
in the act of absconding, and to leave the unfortunate Master to bear
the brunt of public indignation. Guthrie seemed at first a little shy
of enacting this drama before Howard, but Jack said reassuringly, "Oh,
he won't give us away--it will amuse him!" This extravaganza continued
with immense gusto and emphasis all the way to luncheon, 'Erb Redmayne
treating the Master with undisguised contempt, and the Master
performing meekly his bidding. Mr. Sandys was in fits of laughter.
"Excellent, excellent!" he cried among his paroxysms. "You irreverent
young rascals--but it was just the sort of thing we used to do, I am
afraid!"

There was no doubt that it was amusing; in another mood Howard would
have been enchanted by the performance, and even flattered at being
allowed to overhear it. Mr. Redmayne was admirably rendered, and Jack's
performance of the anxious and courteous Master, treading the primrose
path reluctantly and yet subserviently, was very nearly as good. But
Howard simply could not be amused, and it made it almost worse for him
to see that Maud was delighted, while even Miss Merry was obviously
though timidly enjoying the enlargement of her experience, and exulting
in her freedom from any priggish disapproval.

They made their way to the top and found the tower, a shell of masonry,
which could be ascended by a winding staircase in a turret. The view,
from the platform at the summit, was certainly enchanting. The tower
stood in an open heathery space, with woods enclosing it on every side;
from the parapet they looked down over the steeply falling tree-tops to
an immense plain, where a river widened to the sea. Howard, side by
side with Maud, gazed in silence. Mr. Sandys identified landmarks with
a map. "How nice it is to see a bit of the world!" said Maud, "and how
happy and contented it all looks. It seems odd to think of men and
women down there, creeping about their work, going to and fro as usual,
and not aware that they are being looked down upon like this. It all
seems a very simple business."

"Yes," said Howard, "that is the strange thing. It does seem so simple
and tranquil! and yet one knows that down there people have their
troubles and anxieties--people are ill, are dying--are wondering what
it all means, why they are set just there, and why they have so short a
time to stay!"

"I suppose it all fits into itself," said Maud, "somehow or other. I
don't think that life really contradicts itself!"

"I don't know," said Howard, with a sudden access of dreariness; "that
is exactly what it DOES seem to do--that's the misery of it!"

The girl looked at him but did not speak; he gave her an uneasy smile,
and she presently turned away and looked over her father's map.

They went down and lunched on a green bank among the fern, under some
old oaks. The sunlight fell among the glades; a flock of tits,
chirruping and hunting, rushed past them and plunged downward into the
wood. They could hear a dove in the high trees near them, crooning a
song of peace and infinite content. Mr. Sandys, stung by emulation,
related a long story, interspersed with imitations, of his
undergraduate days; and Howard was content to sit and seem to listen,
and to watch the light pierce downwards into the silent woodland. An
old woodman, grey and bent and walking painfully, in great leather
gloves and gaiters, carrying a chopper, passed slowly along the ride
and touched his hat. Jack insisted on giving him some of the luncheon,
and made up a package for him which the old man put away in a pocket,
making some remarks about the weather, and adding with a senile pride
that he was over seventy, and had worked in the woodland for sixty
years and more. He was an almost mediaeval figure, Howard thought--a
woodman five centuries ago would have looked and spoken much the same;
he knew nothing of the world, or the thoughts and hopes of it; he was
almost as much of the soil as the very woods themselves, in his dim
mechanical life; was man made for that after all? How did that square
with Miss Merry's eager optimism? What was the meaning of so
unconscious a figure, so obviously without an ethical programme, and
yet so curiously devised by God, patiently nurtured and preserved?

In the infinite peace, while the flies hummed on the shining bracken,
and the breeze nestled in the firs like a falling sea, Howard had a
spasm of incredulous misery. Could any heart be so heavy, so unquiet as
his own?--life suddenly struck so aimless, with but one overmastering
desire, which he could not fulfil. He was shocked at his feebleness. A
year ago he could have devised no sweeter or more delicious day than
this, with such a party, in the high sunlit wood. . . .

The imitations began again.

"I don't believe there's anyone you could not imitate!" said Mr. Sandys
rapturously.

"Oh, it's only a knack," said Guthrie, "but some people are easier than
others."

Howard bestirred himself to express some interest.

"Why, he can imitate YOU to the life," said Jack.

"Oh, come, nonsense!" said Guthrie, reddening; "that is really low,
Jack."

"I confess to a great curiosity about it," said Mr. Sandys.

"Oh, don't mind me," said Howard; "it would amuse me above
everything--like catching a glance at oneself in an unexpected mirror!"

Guthrie, after a little more pressing, yielded. He said a few
sentences, supposed to be Howard teaching, in a rather soft voice, with
what seemed to Howard a horribly affected and priggish emphasis. But
the matter displeased him still more. It was facetious, almost jocose;
and there was a jerky attempt at academic humour in it, which seemed to
him particularly nauseous, as of a well-informed and quite superior
person condescending to the mildest of witticisms, to put himself on a
level with juvenile minds. Howard had thought himself both unaffected
and elastic in his communications with undergraduates, and this was the
effect he produced upon them! However, he mastered his irritation; the
others laughed a little tentatively; it was felt for a moment that the
affair had just passed the limits of conventional civility. Howard
contrived to utter a species of laugh, and said, "Well, that's quite a
revelation to me. It never occurred to me that there could be anything
to imitate in my utterance; but then it is always impossible to believe
that anyone can find anything to discuss in one behind one's
back--though I suppose no one can escape. I must get a stock of new
witticisms, I think; the typical ones seem a little threadbare."

"Oh no, indeed," said Miss Merry, gallantly; "I was just thinking how
much I should like to be taught like that!"

The little incident seemed rather to damp the spirits of the party.
Guthrie himself seemed deeply annoyed at having consented: and it was a
relief to all when Mr. Sandys suddenly pulled out his watch and said,
"Well, all pleasant things come to an end--though to be sure there is
generally another pleasant thing waiting round the corner. I have to
get back, but I am not going to spoil the party. I shall enjoy a bit of
a walk."

"Well," said Howard, "I think I will set you on your way. I want a talk
about one or two things; but I will come back to chaperon Miss Merry--I
suppose I shall find you somewhere about?"

"Yes," said Miss Merry, "I am going to try a sketch--but I must not
have anyone looking over my shoulder. I am no good at sketching--but I
like to be made to look close at a pretty thing. I am going to try the
chalk-pit and thicket near the tower--chalk-pits suit my style, because
one can leave so much of the paper white!"

"Very well," said Howard, "I will be back here in an hour."

Howard and Mr. Sandys started off through the wood. Mr. Sandys was full
of communications. He began to talk about Guthrie. "Such a good friend
for Jack!" he said; "I hope he bears a good character in the college?
Jack seems to be very much taken up with him, and says there is no
nonsense about him--almost the highest commendation he has in his power
to bestow--indeed I have heard him use the same phrase about yourself!
Young Guthrie seems such a natural and unaffected fellow--indeed, if I
may say so, Howard, it seemed to me a high compliment to yourself, and
to speak volumes for your easy relation with young men, that he should
have ventured to take you off to your face just now, and that you
should have been so sincerely amused. It isn't as if he were a cheeky
sort of boy--if I may be allowed such an expression. He treats me with
the pleasantest deference and respect--and when I think of his father's
wealth and political influence, that seems to me a charming trait!
There is nothing uppish about him."

"No, indeed," said Howard; "he is a thoroughly nice fellow!"

"I am delighted to hear you say so," said Mr. Sandys, "and your
kindness emboldens me to say something which is quite confidential; but
then we are practically relations, are we not? Perhaps it is only a
father's partiality; but have you noticed, may I say, anything in his
manner to my dear Maud? It may be only a passing fancy, of course. 'In
the spring,' you remember, 'a young man's fancy lightly turns to
thoughts of love'--a beautiful line that, though of course it is not
strictly applicable to the end of July. I need hardly say that such a
connection would gladden my heart. I am all for marriage, Howard, for
early marriage, the simplest and best of human experiences; of course
it has more sides than one to it. I should not like it to be supposed
that a country parson like myself had in the smallest degree inveigled
a young man of the highest prospects into a match--there is nothing of
the matchmaker about me; but Maud is in a degree well-connected; and,
as you know, she will be what the country people here call
'well-left'--a terse phrase, but expressive! I do not see that she
would be in any way unworthy of the position--and I feel that her life
here is a little secluded--I should like her to have a little richer
material, so to speak, to work in. Well, well, we mustn't be too
diplomatic about these things. 'Man proposes'--no humorous suggestion
intended--'and God disposes'--but if it should so turn out, without any
scheming or management--things which I cordially detest--if it should
open out naturally, why, I should be lacking in candour if I pretended
it would not please me. I believe in early engagements, and romance,
and all that--I fear I am terribly sentimental--and it is just the
thing to keep a young man straight. Sir Henry Guthrie might be disposed
to view it in that light--what do you think?"

This ingenuous statement had a very distressing effect on Howard. It is
one thing to dally with a thought, however seriously, in one's own
mind, and something quite different to have it presented in black and
white through the frank conjecture of another. He put a severe
constraint upon himself and said, "Do you know, Frank, the same thought
had occurred to me--I had believed that I saw something of the kind;
and I can honestly say that I think Guthrie a very sound fellow indeed
in every way--quite apart from his worldly prospects. He is straight,
sensible, good-humoured, capable, and, I think, a really unselfish
fellow. If I had a daughter of my own I could not imagine a better
husband."

"You delight me inexpressibly," said Mr. Sandys. "So you had noticed
it? Well, well, I trust your perception far more than my own; and of
course I am biassed--you might almost incline to say dazzled--by the
prospect: heir to a baronetcy (I could wish it had been of an earlier
creation), rich, and, as you say, entirely reliable and straight. Of
course I don't in any way wish to force matters on. I could not bear to
be thought to have unduly encouraged such an alliance--and Maud may
marry any nice fellow she has a fancy to marry; but I think that she is
rather drawn to young Guthrie--what do you think? He amuses her, and
she is at her best with him--don't you think so?"

"Yes," said Howard, "I had thought so. I think she likes him very much."

"Well, we will leave it at that," said Mr. Sandys in high gusto. "You
don't mind my confiding in you thus, Howard? Somehow, if I may say it,
I find it very easy to speak confidentially to you. You are so
perceptive, so sympathetic! We all feel that it is the secret of your
great influence."

They talked of other matters after this as they walked along the crest
of the downs; and where the white road began to descend into the
valley, with the roofs of Windlow glimmering in the trees a little to
the north, Howard left the Vicar and retraced his steps.

He was acutely miserable; the thing had come upon him with a shock, and
brought the truth home to him in a desperate way. But he experienced at
the same time a certain sensation, for a moment, of grim relief. His
fancy, his hope--how absurd and idiotic they had been!--were shattered.
How could he ever have dreamed that the girl should come to care for
him in that way--an elderly Don of settled habits, who had even
mistaken a pompous condescension to the young men of his College for a
natural and sympathetic relation--that was what he was. The melancholy
truth stared him in the face. He was sharply disillusioned. He had
lingered on, clinging pathetically to youth, and with a serene
complacency he had overlooked the flight of time. He was a dull,
middle-aged man, fond of sentimental relations and trivial confidences,
who had done nothing, effected nothing; had even egregiously failed in
the one thing he had set himself to do, the retaining his hold on
youth. Well, he must face it! He must be content to settle down as a
small squire; he must disentangle himself from his Cambridge work
gradually--it sickened him to think of it--and he must try to lead a
quiet life, and perhaps put together a stupid book or two. That was to
be his programme. He must just try to be grateful for a clear line of
action. If he had had nothing but Cambridge to depend upon, it would
have been still worse. Now he must settle down to county business if he
could, and clear his mind of all foolish regrets. Love and marriage--he
was ten years too late! He had dawdled on, taking the line of least
resistance, and he was now revealed to himself in a true and unsparing
light. He paced swiftly on, and presently entered the wood. His feet
fell soft on the grassy road among the coverts.

Suddenly, as he turned a corner, he saw a little open glade to the
right. A short way up the glade stood two figures--Guthrie and
Maud--engaged in conversation. They were standing facing each other.
She seemed to be expostulating with him in a laughing way; he stood
bareheaded, holding his hat in his hand, eagerly defending himself. The
pose of the two seemed to show an easy sort of comradeship. Maud was
holding a stick in both hands behind her, and half resting upon it.
They seemed entirely absorbed in what they were saying. Howard could
not bear to intrude upon the scene. He fell back among the trees,
retraced his steps, and then sat down on a grassy bank, a little off
the path, and waited. It was the last confirmation of his fears. It was
not quite a lover-like scene, but they evidently understood each other,
and were wholly at their ease together, while Guthrie's admiring and
passionate look did not escape him. He rested his head in his hands,
and bore the truth as he might have borne a physical pain. The summer
woods, the green thickets, the sunlight on the turf, the white clouds,
the rich plain just visible through the falling tree-trunks, all seemed
to him like a vision seen by a spirit in torment, something horribly
unreal and torturing. The two streams of beauty and misery appeared to
run side by side, so distinct, so unblending; but the horrible fact was
that though sorrow was able not only to assert its own fiery power,
like the sting of some malignant insect, it could also obliterate and
efface joy; it could even press joy into its service, to accentuate its
torment; while the joy and beauty of life seemed wholly unable to
soothe or help him, but were brushed aside, just as a stern soldier,
armed and mailed, could brush aside the onslaught of some delicate and
frenzied boy. Was pain the stronger power, was it the ultimate power?
In that dark moment, Howard felt that it was. Joy seemed to him like a
little pool of crystalline water, charming enough if tended and
sheltered, but a thing that could be soiled and scattered in a moment
by the onrush of some foul and violent beast.

He came at last to the rendezvous. Miss Merry sat at her post
transferring to a little block of paper a smeared and streaky picture
of the chalk-pit, which seemed equally unintelligible at whatever angle
it might be held. Jack was couched at a little distance in the heather,
smoking a pipe. Howard went and sat down moodily beside him. "An odd
thing, a picnic," said Jack musingly; "I am not sure it is not an
invention of the devil. Is anything the matter, Howard? You look as if
things had gone wrong. You don't mind that nonsense of Guthrie's, do
you? I was an ass to get him to do it; I hate doing a stupid thing, and
he is simply wild with me. It's no good saying it is not like, because
it is in a way, but of course it's only a rag. It isn't absurd when you
do it, only when someone else does."

"Oh no, I don't mind about that," said Howard; "do make that plain to
Guthrie. I am out of sorts, I think; one gets bothered, you know--what
is called the blues."

"Oh, I know," said Jack sympathetically; "I don't suffer from them
myself as a rule, but I have got a touch of them to-day. I can't
understand what everyone is up to. Fred Guthrie has got the jumps. It
looks to me," he went on sagely, "as if he was what is commonly called
in love: but when the other person is one's sister, it seems strange.
Maud isn't a bad girl, as they go, but she isn't an angel, and still
less a saint; but Fred has no eyes for anyone else; I can't screw a
sensible word out of him. These young people!" said Jack with a sour
grimace; "you and I know better. One ought to leave the women alone;
there's something queer about them; you never know where you are with
them."

Howard regarded him in silence for a moment: it did not seem worth
while to argue; nothing seemed worth while. "Where are they?" he said
drearily.

"Oh, goodness knows!" said Jack; "when I last saw them he was beating
down the ferns with a stick for Maud to go through. He's absolutely
demented, and she is at one of her games. I think I shall sheer off,
and go to visit some sick people, like the governor; that's about all I
feel up to."

At this moment, however, the truants appeared, walking silently out of
a glade. Howard had an obscure feeling that something serious had
happened--he did not know what. Guthrie looked dejected, and Maud was
evidently preoccupied. "Oh, damn the whole show!" said Jack, getting
up. "Let's get out of this!"

"We lost our way," said Maud, rather hurriedly, "and couldn't find our
way back."

Maud went up to Miss Merry, asked to see her sketch, and indulged in
some very intemperate praise. Guthrie came up to Howard, and stammered
through an apology for his rudeness.

"Oh, don't say anything more," said Howard. "Of course I didn't mind!
It really doesn't matter at all."

The day was beginning to decline; and in an awkward silence, only
broken by inconsequent remarks, the party descended the hill, regained
the carriages, and drove off in mournful silence. As the Vicarage party
drove away, Jack glanced at Howard, raised his eyes in mock despair,
and gave a solemn shake of his head.

Howard followed with Miss Merry, and talked wildly about the future of
English poetry, till they drove in under the archway of the Manor and
his penance was at an end.



XIX

DESPONDENCY


Howard spent some very unhappy days after that, mostly alone. They were
very active at the Vicarage making expeditions, fishing, playing
lawn-tennis, and once or twice pressed him to join them. But he excused
himself on the ground that he must work at his book; he could not bear
to carry his despondency and his dolorous air into so blithe a company;
and he was, moreover, consumed by a jealousy which humiliated him. If
Guthrie was destined to win Maud's love he should have a fair field;
and yet Howard's imagination played him many fevered tricks in those
days, and the thought of what might be happening used to sting him into
desperation. His own mood alternated between misery and languor. He
used to sit staring at his book, unable to write a word, and became
gradually aware that he had never been unhappy in his life before.
That, then, was what unhappiness meant, not a mood of refined and
romantic melancholy, but a raging fire of depression that seemed to
burn his life away, both physically and mentally, with intervals of
drowsy listlessness.

He would have liked to talk to his aunt, but could not bring himself to
do so. She, on the other hand, seemed to notice nothing, and it was a
great relief to him that she never commented upon his melancholy and
obvious fatigue, but went on in her accustomed serene way, which evoked
his courtesy and sense of decorum, and made him behave decently in
spite of himself. Miss Merry seemed much more inclined to sympathise,
and Howard used to intercept her gaze bent upon him in deep concern.

One afternoon, returning from a lonely walk, he met Maud going out of
the Manor gate. She looked happy, he thought. He stopped and made a few
commonplace remarks. She looked at him rather strangely, he felt, and
seemed to be searching his face for some sign of the old goodwill; but
he hardened his heart, though he would have given worlds to tell her
what was in his mind; but he felt that any reconstruction of friendship
must be left till a later date, when he might again be able to
conciliate her sisterly regard. She seemed to him to have passed
through an awakening of some kind, and to have bloomed both in mind and
body, with her feet on the threshold of vital experience, and the
thought that it was Guthrie who could evoke this upspringing of life
within her was very bitter to him.

He trod the valley of humiliation hour by hour, in these lonely days,
and found it a very dreary place. It was wretched to him to feel that
he had suddenly discovered his limitations. Not only could he not have
his will, could not taste the fruit of love which had seemed to hang
almost within his reach, but the old contented life seemed to have
faded and collapsed about him.

That night his aunt asked him about his book, and he said he was not
getting on well with it. She asked why, and he said that he had been
feeling that it was altogether too intellectual a conception; that he
had approached it from the side of REASON, as if people argued
themselves into faith, and had treated religion as a thesis which could
be successfully defended; whereas the vital part of it all, he now
thought, was an instinct, perhaps refined by inherited thought, but in
its practical manifestations a kind of choice, determined by a natural
liking for what was attractive, and a dislike of what was morally ugly.

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves, "that is true, I am sure. But it can be
analysed for all that, though I agree with you that no amount of
analysis will make one act rightly. But I believe," she went on, "that
clearness of view helps one, though not perhaps at the time. It is a
great thing to see what motives are merely conventional and convenient,
and to find out what one really regards as principles. To look a
conventional motive in the face deprives it of its power; and one can
gradually disencumber oneself of all sorts of complicated impulses,
which have their roots in no emotion. It is only the motives which are
rooted in emotion that are vital."

Then, after a pause, she said, "Of course I have seen of late that you
have been dissatisfied with something. I have not liked to ask you
about it; but if it would help you to talk about it, I hope you will.
It is wonderful how talking about things makes one's mind clear. It
isn't anything that others say or advise that helps one, yet one gains
in clearness. But you must do as you like about this, Howard. I don't
want to press you in any way."

"Thank you very much," said Howard. "I know that you would hear me with
patience, and might perhaps advise me if anyone could; but it isn't
that. I have got myself into a strange difficulty; and what I need is
not clearness, but simply courage to face what I know and perceive. My
great lack hitherto is that I have gone through things without feeling
them, like a swallow dipping in a lake; now I have got to sink and
drown. No," he added, smiling, "not to drown, I hope, but to find a new
life in the ruins of the old. I have been on the wrong tack; I have
always had what I liked, and done what I liked; and now when I am
confronted with things which I do not like at all, I have just got to
endure them, and be glad that I have still got the power of suffering
left."

Mrs. Graves looked at him very tenderly. "Yes," she said, "suffering
has a great power, and one doesn't want those whom one loves not to
suffer. It is the condition of loving; but it must be real suffering,
not morbid, self-invented torture. It's a great mistake to suffer more
than one need; one wastes life fast so. I would not intervene to save
you from real suffering, even if I could; but I don't want you to
suffer in an unreal way. I think you are diffident, too easily
discouraged, too courteous, if that is possible--because diffidence,
and discouragement, and even courtesy, are not always unselfish things.
If one renounces anything one has set one's heart upon one must do so
for its own sake, and not only because the disapproval and
disappointment of others makes life uncomfortable. I think that your
life has tended to make you value an atmosphere of diffused
tranquillity too much. If one is sensitive to the censure or the
displeasure of others, it may not be unselfish to give up things rather
than provoke it--it may only be another form of selfishness. Some of
the most unworldly people I know have not overcome the world at all;
they have merely made terms with it, and have found that abnegation is
only more comfortable than conquest. I do not know that you are doing
this, or have done it, but I think it likely. And in any case I think
you trust reason too much, and instinct too little. If one desires a
thing very much, it is often a proof that one needs it. One may not
indeed be able to get it, but to resign it is sometimes to fail in
courage. I can see that you are in some way discontented with your
life. Don't try to mend it by a polite withdrawal. I am going to pay
you a compliment. You have a wonderful charm, of which you are
unconscious. It has made life very easy for you--but it has
responsibilities too. You must not create a situation, and then abandon
it. You must not disappoint people. I know, of course, only too well,
that charm in itself largely depends on a tranquil mind; and it is
difficult to exercise it when one is sad and unhappy; but let me say
that unhappiness does not deprive YOU of this power. Does it seem
impossible to you to believe that I have loved you far better, and in a
way which I could not have thought possible, in these last weeks, when
I have seen you were unhappy? You do not abandon yourself to
depression; you make an effort; you recognise other people's rights to
be happy, not to be clouded by your own unhappiness; and you have done
more to attach us all to you in these days than before, when you were
perhaps more conscious of being liked. Liking is not loving, Howard.
There is no pain about liking; there is infinite pain about loving;
that is because it is life, and not mere existence."

"Ah," said Howard, "I am indeed grateful to you for speaking to me
thus--you have lifted my spirit a little out of the mire. But I can't
be rescued so easily. I shall have a burden to bear for some time
yet--I see no end to it at present: and it is indeed my own foolish
trifling with life that has brought it on me. But, dearest aunt, you
can't help me just now. Let me be silent a little longer. I shall soon,
I think, be able to speak, and then I will tell you all; and meanwhile
it will be a comfort to me to think that you feel for me and about me
as you do. I don't want to indulge in self-pity--I have not done that.
There is nothing unjust in what has happened to me, nothing
intolerable, no specific ill-will. I have just stumbled upon one of the
big troubles of life, suddenly and unexpectedly, and I am not prepared
for it by any practice or discipline. But I shall get through, don't be
afraid--and presently I will tell you everything." He took his aunt's
hand in his own, and kissed her on the cheek.

"God bless you, dear boy!" she said; "I won't press you to speak; and
you will know that I have you in mind now and always, with infinite
hope and love."



XX

HIGHMINDEDNESS


Howard on thinking over this conversation was somewhat bewildered as to
what exactly was in his aunt's mind. He did not think that she
understood his feeling for Maud, and he was sure that she did not
realise what Maud's feelings about Freddy Guthrie were. He came to the
conclusion eventually that Maud had told her about the beginnings of
their friendship; that his aunt supposed that he had tried to win
Maud's confidence, as he would have made friends with one of his young
men; and that she imagined that he had found that Maud's feeling for
him had developed in rather too confidential a line, as for a
father-confessor. He thought that Mrs. Graves had seen that Maud had
been disposed to adopt him as a kind of ethical director, and had
thought that he had been bored at finding a girl's friendship so much
more exacting than the friendship of a young man; and that she had been
exhorting him to be more brotherly and simple in his relations with
Maud, and to help her to the best of his ability. He imagined that Maud
had told Mrs. Graves that he had been advising her, and that she had
perhaps since told her of his chilly reception of her later
confidences. That was the situation he had created; and he felt with
what utter clumsiness he had handled it. His aunt, no doubt, thought
that he had been disturbed at finding how much more emotional a girl's
dependence upon an older man was than he had expected. But he felt that
when he could tell her the whole story, she would see that he could not
have acted otherwise. He had been so thrown off his balance by finding
how deeply he cared for Maud, that he had been simply unable to respond
to her advances. He ought to have had more control of himself. Mrs.
Graves had not suspected that he could have grown to care for a girl,
almost young enough to be his daughter, in so passionate a way. He
wished he could have explained the whole to her, but he was too deeply
wounded in mind to confess to his aunt how impulsive he had been. He
had now no doubt that there was an understanding between Maud and
Guthrie. Everyone else seemed to think so; and when once the affair was
happily launched, he would enjoy a mournful triumph, he thought, by
explaining to Mrs. Graves how considerately he had behaved, and how
painful a dilemma Maud would have been placed in if he had declared his
passion. Maud would have blamed herself; she might easily, with her
anxious sense of responsibility, have persuaded herself into accepting
him as a lover; and then a life-long penance might have begun for her.
He had, at what a cost, saved Maud from the chance of such a mistake.
It was a sad tangle; but when Maud was happily married, he would
perhaps be able to explain to her why he had behaved as he had done;
and she would be grateful to him then. His restless and fevered
imagination traced emotional and dramatic scenes, in which his delicacy
would at last be revealed. He felt ashamed of himself for this
abandonment to sentiment, but he seemed to have lost control over the
emotional part of his mind, which continued to luxuriate in the
consciousness of his own self-effacement. He had indeed, he felt,
fallen low. But he continued to trace in his mind how each of the
actors in the little drama--Mr. Sandys, Jack, Guthrie himself, Maud,
Mrs. Graves--would each have reason to thank him for having held
himself aloof, and for sacrificing his own desires. There was comfort
in that thought; and for the first time in these miserable weeks he
felt a little glow of self-approval at the consciousness of his own
prudence and justice. The best thing, he now reflected, would be to
remove himself from the scene altogether for a time, and to return in
radiant benevolence, when the affair had settled itself: but Maud--and
then there came over him the thought of the girl, her sweetness, her
eager delight, her adorable frankness, her innocence, her desire to be
in affectionate relations with all who came within reach of her; and
the sense of his own foresight and benevolence was instantly and
entirely overwhelmed at the thought of what he had missed, and of what
he might have aspired to, if it had not been for just the wretched
obstacle of age and circumstance. A few years younger--if he had been
that, he could have followed the leading of his heart, and--he dared
think no more of what might have been possible.

But what brought matters to a head was a scene that he saw on the
following day. He was in the library in the morning; he tried to work,
but he could not command his attention. At last he rose and went to the
little oriel, which commanded a view of the village green. Just as he
did so, he caught sight of two figures--Maud and Guthrie--walking
together on the road which led from the Vicarage. They were talking in
the plainest intimacy. Guthrie seemed to be arguing some point with
laughing insistence, and Maud to be listening in amused delight.
Presently they came to a stop, and he could see Maud hold up a finger.
Guthrie at once desisted. At this moment a kitten scampered across the
green to them sideways, its tail up. Guthrie caught it up, and as he
held it in his arms. Howard saw Maud bend over it and caress it. The
scene brought an instant conviction to his mind; but presently Maud
said a word to her companion, and then came across the green to the
Manor, passing in at the gate just underneath him. Howard stood back
that he might not be observed. He saw Maud come in under the gateway,
half smiling to herself as at something that had happened. As she did
so, she waved her hand to Guthrie, who stood holding the kitten in his
arms and looking after her. When she disappeared, he put the kitten
down, and then walked back towards the Vicarage.



XXI

THE AWAKENING


Howard spent the rest of the morning in very bitter cogitation; after
luncheon, during which he could hardly force himself to speak, he
excused himself on the plea of wanting exercise.

It was in a real agony of mind and spirit that he left the house. He
was certain now; and he was not only haunted by his loss, but he was
horrified at his entire lack of self-control and restraint. His
thoughts came in, like great waves striking on a rocky reef, and
rending themselves in sheets of scattered foam. He seemed to himself to
have been slowly inveigled into his fate by a worse than malicious
power; something had planned his doom. He remembered his old
tranquillities; his little touch of boredom; and then how easy the
descent had been! He had been drawn by a slender thread of circumstance
into paying his visit to Windlow; his friendship with Jack had just
toppled over the balance; he had gone; then there had come his talk
with his aunt, which had wrought him up into a mood of vague
excitement. Just at that moment Maud had come in his way; then
friendship had followed; and then he had been seized with this
devouring passion which had devastated his heart. He had known all the
time that he was too late; and even so he had gone to work the wrong
way: it was his infernal diplomacy, his trick of playing with other
lives, of yielding to emotional intimacies--that fatal desire to have a
definite relation, to mean something to everyone in his circle. Then
this wretched, attractive, pleasant youth, with his superficial charm,
had intervened. If he had been wise he would never have suggested that
visit to Cambridge. Maud had hitherto been just like Miranda on the
island; she had never been brought into close contact with a young
cavalier; and the subtle instinct of youth had done the rest, the
instinct for the equal mate, so far stronger and more subtle than any
reasonable or intellectual friendship. And then he, devoured as he had
been by his love, had been unable to use his faculties; he could do
nothing but glare and wink, while his treasure was stolen from him; he
had made mistakes at every turn. What would he not give now to be
restored to his old, balanced, easy life, with its little friendships
and duties. How fantastic and unreal his aunt's theories seemed to him,
reveries contrived just to gild the gaps of a broken life, a
dramatisation of emptiness and self-importance. At every moment the
face and figure of Maud came before him in a hundred sweet, spontaneous
movements--the look of her eyes, the slow thrill of her voice. He
needed her with all his soul--every fibre of his being cried out for
her. And then the thought of being thus pitifully overcome, humiliated
and degraded him. If she had not been beautiful, he would perhaps never
have thought of her except with a mild and courteous interest. This was
the draught of life which he had put so curiously to his lips, sweet
and heady to taste, but with what infinite bitterness and disgust in
the cup. It had robbed him of everything--of his work, of his temperate
ecstasies in sight and sound, of his intellectual enthusiasm. His life
was all broken to pieces about him; he had lost at once all interest
and all sense of dignity. He was simply a man betrayed by a passion,
which had fevered him just because his life had been so orderly and
pure. He was not strong enough even to cut himself adrift from it all.
He must just welter on, a figure visibly touched by depression and
ill-fortune, and hammering out the old grammar-grind. Had any writer,
any poet, ever agonised thus? The people who discoursed glibly about
love, and wove their sorrows into elegies, what sort of prurient curs
were they? It was all too bad to think of, to speak of--a mere
staggering among the mudflats of life.

In this raging self-contempt and misery, he drew near to the still pool
in the valley; he would sit there and bleed awhile, like the old
warrior, but with no hope of revisiting the fight: he would just
abandon himself to listless despair for an hour or two, while the
pleasant drama of life went on behind him. Why had he not at least
spoken to Maud, while he had time, and secured her loyalty? It was his
idiotic deliberation, his love of dallying gently with his emotions,
getting the best he could out of them.

Suddenly he saw that there was some one on the stone seat by the
spring, and in a moment he saw that it was Maud--and that she had
observed him. She looked troubled and melancholy. Had she stolen away
here, had she even appointed a place of meeting with the wretched boy?
was she vexed at his intrusion? Well, it would have to be faced now. He
would go on, he would say a few words, he would at least not betray
himself. After all, she had done no wrong, poor child--she had only
found her mate; and she at least should not be troubled.

She rose up at his approach; and Howard, affecting a feeble heartiness,
said, "Well, so you have stolen away like me! This is a sweet place,
isn't it; like an old fairy-tale, and haunted by a Neckan? I won't
disturb you--I am going on to the hill--I want a breath of air."

Maud looked at him rather pitifully, and said nothing for a moment.
Then she said, "Won't you stay a little and talk to me?--I don't seem
to have seen you--there has been so much going on. I want to tell you
about my book, you know--I am going on with that--I shall soon have
some more chapters to show you."

She sate down at one end of the bench, and Howard seated himself
wearily at the other. Maud glanced at him for a moment, but he said
nothing. The sight of her was a sort of torture to him. He longed with
an insupportable longing to fling himself down beside her and claim
her, despairingly and helplessly. He simply could not frame a sentence.

"You look tired," said Maud. "I don't know what it is, but it seems as
if everything had gone wrong since we came to Cambridge. Do tell me
what it all is--you can trust me. I have been afraid I have vexed you
somehow, and I had hoped we were going to be friends." She leaned her
head on her hand, and looked at him. She looked so troubled and so
frail, that Howard's heart smote him--he must make an effort; he must
not cloud the child's mind; he must just take what she could give him,
and not hamper her in any way. The one thing left him was a miserable
courtesy, on which he must somehow depend. He forced a sort of smile,
and began to talk--his own voice audible to him, strained and ugly,
like the voice of some querulous ghost.

"Ah," he said, "as one gets older, one can't always command one's
moods. Vexed? Of course, I am not vexed--what put that into your head?
It's this--I can tell you so much! It seems to me that I have been
drawn aside out of my old, easy, serene life, into a new sort of life
here--and I am not equal to it. I had got so used, I suppose, to
picking up other lives, that I thought I could do the same here--and I
seem to have taken on more than I could manage. I forgot, I think, that
I was getting older, that I had left youth behind. I made the mistake
of thinking I could play a new role--and I cannot. I am tired--yes, I
am deadly tired; and I feel now as if I wanted to get out of it all,
and just leave things to work themselves out. I have meddled, and I am
being punished for meddling. I have been playing with fire, and I have
been burnt. I had thought of a new sort of life. Don't you remember,"
he added with a smile, "the monkey in Buckland's book, who got into the
kettle on the hob, and whenever he tried to leave it, found it so cold
outside, that he dared not venture out--and he was nearly boiled alive!"

"No, I DON'T understand," said Maud, with so sudden an air of sorrow
and unhappiness that Howard could hardly refrain from taking her into
his arms like a tired child and comforting her. "I don't understand at
all. You came here, and you fitted in at once, seemed to understand
everyone and everything, and gave us all a lift. It is miserable--that
you should have brought so much happiness to us, and then have tired of
it all. I don't understand it in the least. Something must have
happened to distress you--it can't all go to pieces like this!"

"Oh," said Howard, "I interfered. It is my accursed trick of playing
with people, wanting to be liked, wanting to make a difference. How can
I explain? . . . Well, I must tell you. You must forgive me somehow! I
tried--don't look at me while I say it--I have tried to interfere with
YOU. I tried to make a friend of you; and then when you came to
Cambridge, I saw I had claimed too much; that your place was not with
such as myself--the old, stupid, battered generation, fit for nothing
but worrying along. I saw you were young, and needed youth about you.
God forgive me for my selfish plans. I wanted to keep your friendship
for myself, and when I saw you were attracted elsewhere, I was
jealous--horribly, vilely jealous. But I have the grace to despise
myself for it, and I won't hamper you in any way. You must just give me
what you can, and I will be thankful."

As he spoke he saw a curious light pass into the girl's face--a light
of understanding and resolution. He thought that she would tell him
that he was right; and he was unutterably thankful to think that he had
had the courage to speak--he could bear anything now.

Suddenly she made a swift gesture, bending down to him. She caught his
hand in her own, and pressed her lips to it. "Don't you SEE?" she said.
"Attracted by someone . . . by whom? . . . by that wretched little boy?
. . . why he amuses me, of course, . . . and you would stand aside for
that! You have spoken and I must speak. Why you are everything,
everything, all the world to me. It was last Sunday in church . . . do
you remember . . . when they said, 'Whom have I in heaven but thee, and
there is none upon earth' . . . I looked up and caught your eye, and
wondered if you DID understand. But it is enough--I won't hamper you
either. If you want to go back to the old life and live it, I won't say
a word. I will be just your most faithful friend--you will allow that?"

The heaven seemed to open over Howard, and the solid earth reeled round
him where he sate. It was so, then! He sate for a moment like a man
stunned, and then opened his eyes on bliss unutterable. She was close
to him, her breath on his cheek, her eyes full of tears. He took her
into his arms, and put his lips to hers. "My dearest darling child," he
said, "are you sure? . . . I can't believe it. . . . Oh my sweetest, it
can't be true. Why, I have loved you with all my soul since that first
moment I saw you--indeed it was before; and I have thought of nothing
else day and night. . . . What does it all mean . . . the well of life?"

They sate holding each other close. The whole soul of the girl rose to
clasp and to greet his, in that blest fusion of life which seems to
have nothing hidden or held back. She made him tell her over and over
again the sweet story of his love.

"What COULD I do?" she said. "Why, when I was at Cambridge that week, I
didn't dare to claim your time and thought. Why CAN'T one make oneself
understood? Why, my one hope, all that time, was just for the minutes I
got with you; and yet I thought it wasn't fair not to try to seem
amused; then I saw you were vexed at something--vexed that I should
want to talk to you--what a WRETCHED business!"

"Never mind all that now, child," said Howard, "it's a perfect
nightmare. Why can't one be simple? Why, indeed? and even now, I simply
can't believe it--oh, the wretched hours when I thought you were
drifting away from me; do men and women indeed miss their chances so?
If I had but known! Yet, I must tell you this--when I first came to
this spring here, I thought it held a beautiful secret for
me--something which had been in my life from everlasting. It was so,
and this was what it held for me."

The afternoon sped swiftly away, and the shadow of the western downs
fell across the pool. An immense and overpowering joy filled Howard's
heart, and the silent world took part in his ecstasy.

"You remember that first day?" said Maud. "I had felt that day as if
some one was coming to me from a long way off drawing nearer. . . . I
saw you drive up in the carriage, and I wondered if we should be
friends."

"Yes," said Howard, "it was you on the lawn--that was when I saw you
first!"

"And now we must go back and face the music," said Howard. "What do you
think? How shall we make it all known? I shall tell Aunt Anne to-night.
I shall be glad to do that, because there has fallen a veil between us.
Don't forget, dear child, how unutterably wretched and intolerable I
have been. She tried to help me out, but I was running with my head
down on the wrong track. Oh, what a miserable fool I was! That comes of
being so high-minded and superior. If you only knew how solemn I have
been! Why couldn't I just speak?"

"You might have spoken any time," said Maud. "Why, I would have walked
barefoot to Dorchester and back to please you! It does seem horrible to
think of our being apart all that time, out of such beautiful
consideration--and you were my own, my very own all the time, every
moment."

"I will come and tell your father to-morrow," said Howard presently.
"How will Master Jack take it? Will he call you Miss?"

"He may call me what he likes," said Maud. "I shan't get off easily."

"Well, we have an evening and a night and a morning for our secret,"
said Howard. "I wish it could be longer. I should like to go on for
ever like this, no one knowing but you and me."

"Do just as you like, my lord and master," said Maud.

"I won't have you talk like that," said Howard; "you don't know what
you give me. Was ever anyone in the world so happy before?"

"There's one person who is as happy," said Maud; "you can't guess what
I feel. Does it sound absurd to say that if you told me to stand still
while you cut me into little bits, I should enjoy it?"

"I won't forget that," said Howard; "anything to please you--you need
not mind mentioning any little wishes you may have of that kind."

They laughed like children, and when they came to the village, they
became very ceremonious. At the Vicarage gate they shook hands, and
Howard raised his hat. "You will have to make up for this dignified
parting some time," said Howard. "Sleep well, my darling child! If you
ever wake, you will know that I am thinking of you; not far apart!
Good-night, my sweet one, my only darling."

Maud put one hand on his shoulder, but did not speak--and then slipped
in light-footed through the gate. Howard walked back to the Manor,
through the charmed dusk and the fragrance of hidden flowers, full of
an almost intolerable happiness, that was akin to pain. The evening
star hung in liquid, trembling light above the dark down, the sky
fading to a delicious green, the breeze rustled in the heavy-leaved
sycamores, and the lights were lit in the cottage windows. Did every
home, every hearth, he wondered, mean THAT? Was THAT present in dim and
dumb lives, the spirit of love, the inner force of the world? Yes, it
was so! That was the secret hidden in the Heart of God.



XXII

LOVE AND CERTAINTY


The weeks that followed were a time for Howard of very singular
happiness--happiness of a quality of which he had not thought himself
capable, and in the very existence of which he was often hardly able to
believe. He had never known what intimate affection was before; and it
was strange to him, when he had always been able to advance so swiftly
in his relations with others to a point of frankness and even
brotherliness, to discover that there was a whole world of emotion
beyond that. He was really deeply reserved and reticent; but he
admitted even comparative strangers so easily and courteously to his
house of life, that few suspected the existence of a secret chamber of
thought, with an entrance contrived behind the pictured arras, which
was the real fortress of his inner existence, and where he sate
oftenest to contemplate the world. That chamber of thought was a place
of few beliefs and fewer certainties; if he adopted, as he was
accustomed to do, conventional language and conventional ideas, it was
only to feel himself in touch with his fellows; for Howard's mind was
really a place of suspense and doubt; his scepticism went down to the
very roots of life; his imagination was rich and varied, but he did not
trust his hopes or even his fears; all that he was certain of was just
the actual passage of his thought and his emotion; he formed no views
about the future, and he abandoned the past as one might abandon the
debris of the mine.

It was delicious to him to be catechised, questioned, explored by Maud,
to have his reserve broken through and his reticence disregarded; but
what oftenest brought the great fact of his love home to him with an
overpowering certainty of joy was the girl's eager caresses and
endearing gestures. Howard had always curiously shrunk from physical
contact with his fellows; he had an almost childishly observant eye,
and his senses were abnormally alert; little bodily defects and
uglinesses had been a horror to him; and the way in which Maud would
seek his embrace, clasp his hand, lay her cheek to his, as if nestling
home, gave him an enraptured sense of delight that transcended all
experience. He was at first in these talks very tender of what he
imagined her to believe; but he found that this did not in the least
satisfy her, and he gradually opened his mind more and more to her
fearless view.

"Are you certain of nothing?" she asked him one day, half mirthfully.

"Yes, of one thing," he said, "of YOU! You are the only real and
perfect thing and thought in the world to me--I have always been alone
hitherto," he added, "and you have come near to me out of the deep--a
shining spirit!"

Howard never tired of questioning her in these days as to how her love
for him had arisen.

"That is the mystery of mysteries!" he said to her once; "what was it
in me or about me to make you care?"

Maud laughed. "Why, you might as well ask a man at a shop," she said,
"which particular coin it was that induced him to part with his
wares--it's just the price! Why, I cared for you, I think, before I
ever saw you, before I ever heard of you; one thinks--I suppose
everyone thinks--that there must be one person in the world who is
waiting for one--and it seems to me now as if I had always known it was
you; and then Jack talked about you, and then you came; and that was
enough, though I didn't dare to think you could care for me; and then
how miserable I was when you began by seeming to take an interest in
me, and then it all drifted away, and I could do nothing to hold it.
Howard, why DID you do that?"

"Oh, don't ask me, darling," he said. "I thought--I thought--I don't
know what I did think; but I somehow felt it would be like putting a
bird that had sate to sing to me into a cage, if I tried to capture
you; and yet I felt it was my only chance. I felt so old. Why you must
remember that I was a grown-up man and at work, when you were in long
clothes. And think of the mercy of this--if I had come here, as I ought
to have done, and had known you as a little girl, you would have become
a sort of niece to me, and all this could never have happened--it would
all have been different."

"Well, we won't think of THAT," said Maud decisively. "I was rather a
horrid little girl, and I am glad you didn't see me in that stage!"

One day he found her a little sad, and she confessed to having had a
melancholy dream. "It was a big place, like a square in a town, full of
people," she said. "You came down some steps, looking unhappy, and went
about as if you were looking for me; and I could not attract your
attention, or get near you; once you passed quite close to me and our
eyes met, and I saw you did not recognise me, but passed on."

Howard laughed. "Why, child," he said, "I can't see anyone else but you
when we are in the same room together--my faculty of observation has
deserted me. I see every movement you make, I feel every thought you
think; you have bewitched me! Your face comes between me and my work;
you will quite ruin my career. How can I go back to my tiresome boys
and my old friends?"

"Ah, I don't want to do THAT!" said Maud. "I won't be a hindrance; you
must just hang me up like a bird in a cage--that's what I am--to sing
to you when you are at leisure."



XXIII

THE WEDDING


The way in which the people at Windlow took the news was very
characteristic. Howard frankly did not care how they regarded it. Mr.
Sandys was frankly and hugely delighted. He apologised to Howard for
having mentioned the subject of Guthrie to him.

"The way you took it, Howard," he said, "was a perfect model of
delicacy and highmindedness! Why, if I had dreamed that you cared for
my little girl, I would have said, and truly said, that the dearest
wish of my heart had been fulfilled. But one is blind, a parent is
blind; and I had somehow imagined you as too sedate, as altogether too
much advanced in thought and experience, for such a thing. I would
rather have bitten out my tongue than spoken as I did to you. It is
exactly what my dear girl needs, some one who is older and wiser than
herself--she needs some one to look up to, to revere; she is thoughtful
and anxious beyond her years, and she is made to repose confidence in a
mind more mature. I do not deny, of course, that your position at
Windlow makes the arrangement a still more comfortable one; but I have
always said that my children must marry whom they would; and I should
have welcomed you, my dear Howard, as a son-in-law, under any
circumstances."

Jack, on the contrary, was rather more cautious in his congratulations.
"I am all for things being fixed up as people like," he said, "and I am
sure it's a good match for Maud, and all that. But I can't put the two
ends together. I never supposed that you would fall in love, any more
than that my father would marry again; and when it comes to your
falling in love with Maud--well, if you knew that girl as I do, you
would think twice! I can't conceive what you will ever have to talk
about, unless you make her do essays. It is really rather embarrassing
to have a Don for a brother-in-law. I feel as if I should have to say
'we' when I talked to the other Dons, and I shall be regarded with
suspicion by the rest of the men. But of course you have my blessing,
if you will do it; though if you like to cry off, even now, I will try
to keep the peace. I feel rather an ass to have said that about Fred
Guthrie; but of course he is hard hit, and I can't think how I shall
ever be able to look him in the face. What bothers me is that I never
saw how things were going. Well, may it be long before I find myself in
the same position! But you are welcome to Missy, if you think you can
make anything of her."

Mrs. Graves did little more than express her delight. "It was what I
somehow hoped from the first for both of you," she said.

"Well," said Howard, "the only thing that puzzles me is that when you
saw--yes, I am sure you saw--what was happening, you didn't make a
sign."

"No," said Mrs. Graves, "that is just what one can't do! I didn't doubt
that it would come right, I guessed what Maud felt; but you had to find
the way to her yourself. I was sure of Maud, you see; but I was not
quite sure of you. It does not do to try experiments, dear Howard, with
forces as strong as love; I knew that if I told you how things stood,
you would have felt bound out of courtesy and kindness to speak, and
that would have been no good. If it is illegal to help a man to commit
suicide, it is worse, it is wicked to push a man into marriage; but I
am a very happy woman now--so happy that I am almost afraid."

Howard talked over his plans with Mrs. Graves; there seemed no sort of
reason to defer his wedding. He told her, too, that he had a further
plan. There was a system at Beaufort by which, after a certain number
of years' service, a Fellow could take a year off duty, without
affecting his seniority or his position. "I am going to do this," he
said. "I do not think it is unwise. I am too old, I think, both to make
Maud's acquaintance as I wish, and to keep my work going at the same
time. It would be impossible. So I will settle down here, if you will
let me, and try to understand the place and the people; and then if it
seems well, I will go back to Cambridge in October year, and go on with
my work. I hope you will approve of that?"

"I do entirely approve," said Mrs. Graves. "I will make over to you at
once what you will in any case ultimately inherit--and I believe your
young lady is not penniless either? Well, money has its uses sometimes."

Howard did this. Mr. Redmayne wrote him a letter in which affection and
cynicism were curiously mingled.

"There will be two to please now instead of one," he wrote. "I do not,
of course, approve of Dons marrying. The tender passion is, I believe,
inimical to solid work; this I judge from observation rather than from
experience. But you will get over all that when you are settled; and
then if you decide to return--and we can ill spare you--I hope you will
return to work in a reasonable frame of mind. Pray give my respects to
the young lady, and say that if she would like a testimonial to your
honesty and sobriety, I shall be happy to send her one."

All these experiences, shared by Maud, were absurdly delightful to
Howard. She was rather alarmed by Redmayne's letter.

"I feel as if I were doing rather an awful thing," she said, "in taking
you away like this. I feel like Hotspur's wife and Enid rolled into
one. I shouldn't DARE to go with you at once to Cambridge--I should
feel like a Pomeranian dog on a lead."

And so it came to pass that on a certain Monday in the month of
September a very quiet little wedding took place at Windlow. The bells
were rung, and a hideous object of brushwood and bunting, that looked
like the work of a bower-bird, was erected in the road, and called a
triumphal arch. Mr. Redmayne insisted on coming, and escorted Monica
from Cambridge, "without in any way compromising my honour and virtue,"
he said: "it must be plainly understood that I have no INTENTIONS." He
made a charming speech at the subsequent luncheon, in which he said
that, though he personally regretted the turn that affairs had taken,
he could not honestly say that, if matrimony were to be regarded as
advisable, his friends could have done better.

The strange thing to Howard was the contrast between his own acute and
intolerable nervousness, and the entire and radiant self-possession of
Maud. He had a bad hour on the morning of the wedding-day itself. He
had a sort of hideous fear that he had done selfishly and perversely,
and that it was impossible that Maud could really continue to love him;
that he had sacrificed her youth to his fancy, and his vivid
imagination saw himself being wheeled in a bath-chair along the Parade
of a health-resort, with Maud in melancholy attendance.

But when he saw his child enter the church, and look up to catch his
eye, his fears melted like a vapour on glass; and his love seemed to
him to pour down in a sudden cataract, too strong for a human heart to
hold, to meet the exquisite trustfulness and sweetness of his bride,
who looked as though the gates of heaven were ajar. After that he saw
and heard nothing but Maud. They went off together in the afternoon to
a little house in Dorsetshire by a lonely sea-cove, which Mr. Sandys
had spent many glorious and important hours in securing and arranging.
It was only an hour's journey. If Howard had needed reassuring he had
his desire; for as they drove away from Windlow among the thin cries of
the village children, Howard put his arm round Maud, and said "Well,
child?" upon which she took his other hand in both of her own, and
dropping her head on his shoulder, said, "Utterly and entirely and
absolutely proud and happy and content!" And then they sate in silence.



XXIV

DISCOVERIES


It was a time of wonderful discoveries for Howard, that month spent in
the little house under the cliff and beside the cove. It was a tiny
hamlet with half a dozen fishermen's cottages and two or three larger
houses, holiday-dwellings for rich people; but there was no one living
there, except a family of children with a governess. The house they
were in belonged to an artist, and had a big studio in which they
mostly sate. An elderly woman and her niece were the servants, and the
life was the simplest that could be imagined. Howard felt as if he
would have liked it prolonged for ever. They brought a few books with
them, but did little else except ramble through the long afternoons in
the silent bays. It was warm, bright September weather, still and hazy;
and the sight of the dim golden-brown promontories, with pale-green
grass at the top, stretching out one beyond another into the distance,
became for Howard a symbol of all that was most wonderful and perfect
in life.

He could not cease to marvel at the fact that this beautiful young
creature, full of tenderness and anxious care for others, and with love
the one pre-occupation of her life, should yield herself thus to him
with such an entire and happy abandonment. Maud seemed for the time to
have no will of her own, no thought except to please him; he could not
get her to express a single preference, and her guileless diplomacy to
discover what he preferred amused and delighted him. At the same time
the exploration of Maud's mind and thought was an entire surprise to
him--there was so much she did not know, so many things in the world,
which he took for granted, of which she had never heard; and yet in
many ways he discovered that she knew and perceived far more than he
did. Her judgment of people was penetrating and incisive, and was
formed quite instinctively, without any apparent reason; she had, too,
a charming gift of humour, and her affection for her own circle did not
in the least prevent her from perceiving their absurdities. She was not
all loyalty and devotion, nor did she pretend to be interested in
things for which she did not care. There were many conventions, which
Howard for the first time discovered that he himself unconsciously
held, which Maud did not think in the least important. Howard began to
see that he himself had really been a somewhat conventional person,
with a respect for success and position and dignity and influence. He
saw that his own chief motive had been never to do anything
disagreeable or unreasonable or original or decisive; he began to see
that his unconscious aim had been to fit himself without self-assertion
into his circle, and to make himself unobtrusively necessary to people.
Maud had no touch of this in her nature at all; her only ambition
seemed to be to be loved, which was accompanied by what seemed to
Howard a marvellous incapacity for being shocked by anything; she was
wholly innocent and ingenuous, but yet he found to his surprise that
she knew something of the dark corners of life, and the moral problems
of village life were a matter of course to her. He had naturally
supposed that a girl would have been fenced round by illusions; but it
was not so. She had seen and observed and drawn her conclusions. She
thought very little of what one commonly called sins, and her
indignation seemed aroused by nothing but cruelty and treachery. It
became clear to Howard that Mr. Sandys and Mrs. Graves had been very
wise in the matter, and that Maud had not been brought up in any silly
ignorance of human frailty. Her religion was equally a surprise to him.
He had thought that a girl brought up as Maud had been would be sure to
hold a tissue of accepted beliefs which he must be careful not to
disturb. But here again she seemed to have little but a few fine
principles, set in a simple Christian framework. They were talking
about this one day, and Maud laughed at something he said.

"You need not be so cautious," she said, "though I like you to be
cautious--you are afraid of hurting me; but you won't do that! Cousin
Anne taught me long ago that it was no use believing anything unless
you understood more or less where it was leading you. It's no good
pretending to know. Cousin Anne once said to me that one had to choose
between science and superstition. I don't know anything about science,
but I'm not superstitious."

"Yes," said Howard, "I see--I won't be fussy any more; I will just
speak as I think. You are wiser than the aged, child! You will have to
help me out. I am a mass of crusted prejudices, I find; but you are
melting them all away. What beats me is how you found it all out."

Thus the hours they spent together became to Howard not only a source
of joy, but an extraordinary simplification of everything. Maud seemed
to have lived an absolutely uncalculating life, without any idea of
making any position for herself at all; and it sickened Howard to think
how so much of his own existence had been devoted to getting on the
right side of people, driving them on a light rein, keeping them deftly
in his own control. Maud laughed at this description of himself, and
said, "Yes, but of course that was your business. I should have been a
very tiresome kind of Don; we don't either of us want to punish people,
but I want to alter them. I can't bear stupid people, I think. I had
rather people were clever and unsatisfactory than dull and good. If
they are dull there's no reason for their being good. I like people to
have reasons!"

They talked--how often they did that!--about the complications that had
beset them.

"The one thing I can't make out," said Maud, "is how or why you ever
thought I cared for that little boy. He was such a nice boy; but he had
no reasons. Oh, dear, how wretched he made me!"

"Well," said Howard, "I must ask you this--what did really happen on
that awful afternoon at the Folly?"

Maud covered her face with her hands. "It was too dreadful!" she said.
"First of all, you were looking like Hamlet--you don't know how
romantic you looked! I did really believe that you cared for me then--I
couldn't help it--but there was some veil between us; and the number of
times I telegraphed from my brain to you that day, 'Can't you
understand?' was beyond counting. I suppose it was very unmaidenly, but
I was past that. Then there was that horrible imitation; such a
disgusting parody! and then I was prouder of you than ever, because you
really took it so well. I was too angry after that for anything, and
when you went off with father, and Monica sketched and Jack lay down
and smoked, Freddy Guthrie walked off with me, and I said to him, 'I
really cannot think how you dared to do that--I think it was simply
shameful!' Well, he got quite white, and he did not attempt to excuse
himself; and I believe I said that if he did not put it straight with
you, I would never speak to him again: and then I rather repented; and
then he began making love to me, and said the sort of things people say
in books. Howard, I believe that people really do talk like books when
they get excited--at all events it was like a bad novel! But I was very
stern--I can be very stern when I am angry--and said I would not hear
another word, and would go straight back if he said any more; and then
he said something about wanting to be friends, and wanting to have some
hope; and then I got suddenly sorry about it all--it seemed such a
waste of time--and shook hands with him, feeling as if I was acting in
an absurd play, and said that of course we were friends; and I think I
insisted again on his apologising to you, and he said that I seemed to
care more for your peace of mind than his; and I simply walked away and
he followed, and I shouldn't be surprised if he was crying; it was all
like a nightmare; but I did somehow contrive to make it up with him
later, and told him that I thought him a very nice boy indeed."

"I daresay that was a great comfort to him," said Howard.

"I meant it to be," said Maud, "but I did not feel I could go on acting
in a sort of melodrama."

"Now, I am very inquisitive," said Howard, "and you needn't answer me
if you don't like--but that day that I met you going away from Aunt
Anne--oh, what a pig I was! I was at the top of my highminded
game--what had happened then?"

"Of course I will tell you," said Maud, "if you want to know. Well, I
rather broke down, and said that things had gone wrong; that you had
begun by being so nice to me, and we seemed to have made friends; and
that then a cloud had come between us: and then Cousin Anne said it
would be all right, she KNEW; and she said some things about you I
won't repeat, to save your modesty; and then she said, 'Don't be
AFRAID, Maud! don't be ashamed of caring for people! Howard is used to
making friends with boys, and he is puzzled by you; he wants a friend
like you, but he is afraid of caring for people. You are not afraid of
him nor he of you, but he is afraid of his own fear.' She did not seem
to know how I cared, but she put it all right somehow; she prayed with
me, for courage and patience; and I felt I could afford to wait and see
what happened."

"And then?" said Howard.

"Why, you know the rest!" said Maud. "I saw as we sate by the wall, in
a flash, that you did indeed care for me, and I thought to myself,
'Here is the best thing in the world, and we can't be going to miss it
out of politeness;' and then it was all over in a moment!"

"Politeness!" said Howard, "yes, it was all politeness; that's my
greatest sin. Yes," he added, "I do thank God with all my heart for
your sweet courage that day!" He drew Maud's hand into his own, as they
sate together on the grass just above the shingle of the little bay,
where the sea broke on the sands with crisp wavelets, and ran like a
fine sheet of glass over the beach. "Look at this little hand," he
said, "and let me try to believe that it is given me of its own will
and desire!"

"Yes," said Maud, smiling, "and you may cut it off at the wrist if you
like--I won't even wince. I have no further use for it, I believe!"
Howard folded it to his heart, and felt the little pulse beat in the
slender wrist; and presently the sun went down, a ball of fire into the
opalescent sea-line.



XXV

THE NEW KNOWLEDGE


But the weeks which followed Howard's marriage were a great deal more
than a refreshing discovery of companionable and even unexpected
qualities. There was something which came to him, of which the words,
the gestures, the signs of love seemed like faint symbols; the essence
of it was obscure to him; it reminded him of how, as a child, a
laughing group of which he was one had joined hands to receive a
galvanic shock; the circle had dislinked again in a moment, with cries
of surprise and pleasure; but to Howard it had meant much more than
that; the current gave him a sense of awful force and potency, the
potency of death. What was this strange and fearful essence which could
pass instantaneously through a group--swifter even than thought--and
leave the nerves for a moment paralysed and tingling? Even so it was
with him now. What was happening to him he did not know--some vast and
cloudy presence, at which he could not even dare to look, seemed
winging its way overhead, the passage of which he could only dimly
discern, as a man might discern the flight of an eagle in a
breeze-ruffled mountain pool.

He had come in contact with a force of incalculable energy and joy,
which was different, not in degree but in kind, from all previous
emotional experiences. He understood for the first time the meaning of
words like "mystical" and "spiritual," words which he had hitherto
almost derided as unintelligent descriptions of subjective impressions.
He had thought them to be terms expressive of vague and even muddled
emotions of which scientific psychology would probably dispose. It was
a new element and a new force, of which he felt overwhelmingly certain,
though he could offer no proof, tangible or audible, of its existence.
He had before always demanded that anyone who attempted to uphold the
existence of any psychic force should at the same time offer an
experimental test of its actuality. But he was here faced with an
experience transcendental and subjective, of which he could give no
account that would not sound like some imaginative exaggeration. He was
not even sure that Maud felt it, or rather he suspected that the
experience of wedded love was to her the heightening and emphasizing of
something which she had always known.

The essence of it was that it was like the inrush of some moving tide
through an open sluice-gate. Till then it seemed to him that his
emotions had been tranquilly discharging themselves, like the water
which drips from the edge of a fountain basin; that now something
stronger and larger seemed to flow back upon him, something external
and prodigious, which at the same time seemed, not only to invade and
permeate his thought but to become one with himself; that was the
wonder; it did not seem to him like something added to his spirit, but
as though his soul were enlarged and revived by a force which was his
own all the time, an unclaimed, unperceived part of himself.

He said something of this to Maud, speaking of the happiness that she
had brought him. She said, "Ah, you can't expect me to realise that! I
feel as though you were giving everything and receiving nothing, as if
I were one more of the duties you had adopted. Of course, I hope that I
may be of some use, some time; but I feel at present as if you had been
striding on your way somewhere, and had turned aside to comfort and
help a little child by the roadside who had lost his way!"

"Oh," said Howard, "it's not that; it isn't only that you are the joy
and light of my life; it is as if something very far away and powerful
had come nearer to both of us, and had lifted us on its wings--what if
it were God?"

"Yes," said Maud musingly, "I think it is that!"



XXVI

LOVE IS ENOUGH


The days slipped past, one by one, with an incredible swiftness. For
the first time in his life Howard experienced the extraordinary
sensation of having nothing to do, no plans ahead, nothing but the
delight of the hour to taste. One day he said to Maud, "It seems almost
wicked to be so deliciously idle--some day I suppose we must make some
plans. But I do not seem ever to have lived before; and all that I ever
did and thought of seems as small and trivial as a little town seen
from the top of a tower--one can't conceive what the little creatures
are about in their tiny slits of streets and stuffy houses, crawling
about like beetles on some ridiculous business. The first thing I shall
do when I get back will be to burn my old book; such wretched, stodgy,
unenlightened stuff as it all is; like the fancies of a blind man about
the view of a landscape."

"Oh no, you mustn't do that," said Maud. "I have set my heart on your
writing a great book. You must do that--you must finish this one. I am
not going to keep you all to myself, like a man pushing about a
perambulator."

"Well, I will begin a new book," said Howard, "and steal an old title.
It shall be called Love is Enough."

On the last night before they left the cottage they talked long about
things past, present, and to come.

"Now," said Maud, "I am not going to be a gushing and sentimental young
bride any more. I am not sentimental, best-beloved! Do you believe
that? The time we have had here together has been the best and sweetest
time of my whole life, every minute worth all the years that went
before. But you must write that down, as Dr. Johnson said, in the first
page of your pocket-book, and never speak of it again. It's all too
good and too sacred to talk about--almost to think about. And I don't
believe in looking BACK, Howard--nor very much, I think, in looking
forward. I know that I wasted ever so much time and energy as a
girl--how long ago that seems!--in wishing I had done this and that;
but it's neither useful nor pleasant. Now we have got things to do.
There is plenty to do at Windlow for a little for you and me. We have
got to know everybody and understand everybody. And I think that when
the year is out, we must go back to Cambridge. I can't bear to think I
have stopped that. I am not going to hoard you, and cling round you.
You have got things to do for other people, young men in particular,
which no one else can do just like you. I am not a bit ambitious. I
don't want you to be M.P., LL.D., F.R.S., &c., &c., &c., but I do want
you to do things, and to help you to do things. I don't want to be a
sort of tea-table Egeria to the young men--I don't mean that--and I
don't wish to be an interesting and radiant object at dinner-tables;
but I am sure there is trouble I can save you, and I don't intend you
to have any worries except your own. I won't smudge my fingers over the
accounts, like that wretched Dora in David Copperfield. Understand
that, Howard; I won't be your girl-bride. I won't promise that I won't
wear spectacles and be dowdy--anything to be prosaic!"

"You may adorn yourself as you please," said Howard, "and of course,
dearest child, there are hundreds of things you can do for me. I am the
feeblest of managers; I live from hand to mouth; but I am not going to
submerge you either. If you won't be the girl-bride, you are not to be
the professional sunbeam either. You are to be just yourself, the one
real, sweet, and perfect thing in the world for me. Chaire
kecharitoenae--do you know what that means? It was the angel's opinion
long ago of a very simple mortal. We shall affect each other, sure
enough, as the days go on. Why what you have done for me already, I
dare hardly think--you have made a man out of a machine--but we won't
go about trying to revise each other; that will take care of itself. I
only want you as you are--the best thing in the world."

The last morning at Lydstone they were very silent; they took one long
walk together, visiting all the places where they had sate and
lingered. Then in the afternoon they drove away. The old maidservant
gave them, with almost tearful apologies, two little ill-tied posies of
flowers, and Maud kissed her, thanked her, made her promise to write.
As they drove away Maud waved her hand to the little cove--"Good-bye,
Paradise!" she said.

"No," said Howard, "don't say that; the swallow doesn't make the
summer; and I am carrying the summer away with me."



XXVII

THE NEW LIFE


The installation at Windlow seemed as natural and obvious as any other
of the wonderful steps of Howard's new life. The only thing which
bothered him was the incursions of callers, to which his marriage
seemed to have rendered the house liable. Howard loved monotony, and in
the little Windlow party he found everything that he desired. At first
it all rather amused him, because he felt as though he were acting in a
charming and absurd play, and he was delighted to see Maud act her
wedded part. Mrs. Graves frankly enjoyed seeing people of any sort or
kind. But Howard gradually began to find that the arrival of county and
clerical neighbours was a really tiresome thing. Local gossip was
unintelligible to him and did not interest him. Moreover, the necessity
of going out to luncheon, and even to dinner, bored him horribly. He
said once rather pettishly to Maud, after a week of constant
interruptions and little engagements, that he hoped that this sort of
thing would not continue.

"It seems to knock everything on the head," he went on; "these country
idylls are all very well in their way; but when it comes to
entertaining parties day by day, who 'sit simply chatting in a rustic
row,' it becomes intolerable. It doesn't MEAN anything; one can't get
to know these people; if there is anything to know, they seem to think
it polite to conceal it; it can't be a duty to waste all the time that
this takes up?"

Maud laughed and said, "Oh, you must forgive them; they haven't much to
do or talk about, and you are a great excitement; and you are really
very good to them!"

Howard made a grimace. "It's my wretched habit of civility!" he said.
"But really, Maud, you can't LIKE them?"

"Yes, I believe I do," said Maud. "But then I am more or less used to
the kind of thing. I like people, I think!"

"Yes, so do I, in a sort of way," said Howard; "but, really, with some
of these caravans it is more like having a flock of sheep in the place!"

"Well, I like SHEEP, then," said Maud; "I don't really see how we can
stop it."

"I suppose it's the seamy side of marriage!" said Howard.

Maud looked at him for a moment, and then, getting up from her chair
and coming across to him, she put her hands on his shoulders and looked
in his face.

"Are you VEXED?" she said in rather a tragic tone.

"No, of course, not vexed," said Howard, catching her round the waist.
"What an idea! I am only jealous of everything which seems to come in
between us, and I have seemed to see you lately through a mist of oddly
dressed females. It's a system, I suppose, a social system, to enable
people to waste their time. I feel as if I had got caught in a sort of
glue--wading in glue. One ought to live life, or the best part of it,
on one's own lines. I feel as if I was on show just now, and it's a
nuisance."

"Well," said Maud, "I am afraid I do rather like showing you off and
feeling grand; but it won't go on for ever. I'll try to contrive
something. I don't see why you need be drawn in. I'll talk to Cousin
Anne about it."

"But I am not going to mope alone," said Howard. "Where thou goest, I
will go. I can't bear to let you out of my sight, you little witch! But
I feel it is casting pearls before swine--your pearls, I mean."

"I don't see what to do," said Maud, looking rather troubled. "I ought
to have seen that you hated it."

"No, it's my own stupid fault," said Howard. "You are right, and I am
wrong. I see it is my business at present to go about like a dancing
bear, and I'll dance, I'll dance! It's priggish to think about wasting
one's sweetness. What I really feel is this. 'Here's an hour,' I say,
'when I might have had Maud all to myself, and she and I have been
talking about the weather to a pack of unoccupied females.'"

"Something comes of it," said Maud. "I don't know what it is, but it's
a kind of chain. I don't think it matters much what they talk about,
but there is a sort of kindness about it which I like--something which
lies behind ideas. These people don't say anything, but they think
something into one--it's alive, and it moves."

"Oh, yes," said Howard, "it's alive, no doubt. It would amuse me a good
deal to see these people at home, if I could just be hidden in the
curtains, and hear what they really talked about, and what they really
felt. It's when they have their armour on that they bore me. It is not
a pretty armour, and they don't wear it well; they don't fight in
it--they only wear it that you mayn't touch them. If they would give
themselves away and talk like Miss Bates, I could stand it."

"Well," said Maud, "I am going to say something rather bold. It comes,
I think, of living at Cambridge with clever people, and having real
things to talk about, that makes your difficulty. You care about
people's minds more than about themselves, perhaps? But I'm on their
level, and they seem to me to be telling something about themselves all
the time. Of course it must be GHASTLY for you, and we will try to
arrange things better."

"No, dearest, you won't, and you mustn't," said Howard. "That's the
best of marriage, that one does get a glimpse into different things.
You are perfectly and entirely right. It simply means that I can't talk
their language, and I will learn it. I am a prig; your husband is a
prig--but he will try to do better. It isn't a duty, and it isn't a
pleasure, and it isn't a question of minds at all. It is just living
life on ordinary terms. I won't have anything different at all. I'm
ashamed of myself for my moans. When I have anything in the way of work
to do, it may be different. But now I see what I have to do. I am
suffering from the stupidity of so-called clever people; and you
mustn't mind it. Only don't, for Heaven's sake, try to contrive, or to
spare me things. That is how the ugly paterfamilias is made. You
mustn't spoil me or manage me; if I ever suspect you of doing that,
I'll just go back to Cambridge alone. I hate even to have made you look
at me as you did just now--you must forgive me that and many other
things; and now you must promise just this, that if I am snappish you
won't give way; you must not become a slipper-warmer."

"Yes, yes, I promise," said Maud, laughing; "here's my hand on it! You
shall be diligently henpecked. But I am always rather puzzled about
these things; all these old ideas about mutual consolation and advice
and improvement and support ought to be THERE--they all mean
something--they mean a great deal! But the moment they are spoken
about, or even thought about, they seem so stuffy and disgusting. I
don't understand it! I feel that one ought to be able to talk plainly
about anything; and yet the more plainly you talk about such things as
these, the more hateful you are, and the meaner you feel!"



XXVIII

THE VICAR'S VIEW


Another small factor which caused Howard some discomfort was the
conversation of the Vicar. This, at the first sight of Windlow, had
been one of the salient features of the scene. It had been amusing to
see the current of a human mind running so frankly open to inspection;
and, moreover, the Vicar's constantly expressed deference for the
exalted quality of Howard's mind and intellectual outfit, though it had
not been seriously regarded, had at least an emollient effect. But it
is one thing to sit and look on at a play and to be entertained by the
comic relief of some voluble character, and quite another to encounter
that volubility at full pressure in private life. There was a certain
charm at first in the Vicar's inconsequence and volatility; but in
daily intercourse the good man's lack of proportion, his indiscriminate
interest in things in general, proved decidedly fatiguing. Given a
crisis, and the Vicar's view was interesting, because it was, as a
rule, exactly the view which the average man would be likely to take,
melodramatic, sentimental, commonplace, with this difference, that
whereas the average man is tongue-tied and has no faculty of
expression, the Vicar had an extraordinarily rich and emphatic
vocabulary; and it was thus an artistic presentment of the ordinary
standpoint. But in daily life the Vicar talked with impregnable
continuity about any subject in which he happened to be interested. He
listened to no comment; he demanded no criticism. If he conversed about
his parishioners or his fellow-parsons or his country neighbours, it
was not uninteresting; but when it was genealogy or folklore or
prehistoric remains, it was merely a tissue of scraps, clawed out of
books and imperfectly remembered. Howard found himself respecting the
Vicar more and more; he was so kindly, so unworldly, so full of
perfectly guileless satisfaction: he was conscious too of his own
irrepressibility. He said to Howard one day, as they were walking
together, "Do you know, Howard, I often think how many blessings you
have brought us--I assure you, quiet and modest as you are, you are
felt, your influence permeates to the very ends of the parish; I cannot
exactly say what it is, but there's a sense of something that has to be
dealt with, to be reckoned with, a mind of force and energy in the
background; your approval is valued, your disapproval is feared. There
is a consciousness, not perhaps expressed or even actually realised, of
condescension, of gratification at one from so different a sphere
coming among us, sharing our problems, offering us, however
unobtrusively, sympathy and fellow-feeling. It's very human, very
human," said the Vicar, "and that's a large word! But among all the
blessings which I say you have brought us, of course my dear girl's
happiness must come first in my regard; and there I hardly know how to
express what a marvellous difference you have made! And then I feel
that I, too, have come in for some crumbs from the feast, like the dogs
under the table mentioned so eloquently in Scripture--sustenance
unregarded and unvalued, no doubt, by yourself--cast out inevitably and
naturally as light from the sun! It is not only the actual dicta," said
the Vicar, "though these alone are deeply treasured; it's the method of
thought, the reserve, the refinement, which I find insensibly affecting
my own mental processes. Before I was a mere collector of details. Now
I find myself saying, 'What is the aim of all this? What is the
synthesis? Where does it come in? Where does it tend to?' I have not as
yet found any very definite answer to these self-questionings, but the
new spirit, the synthetic spirit, is there; and I find myself too
concentrating my expression; I have become conscious in your presence
of a certain diffuseness of talk--I used, I think, to indulge much in
synonyms and parallel clauses--a characteristic, I have seen it said,
of our immortal Shakespeare himself--but I have found myself lately
considering the aim, the effect, the form of my utterances, and have
practised--mainly in my sermons--a certain economy of language, which I
hope has been perceptible to other minds besides my own."

"I always think your sermons very good," said Howard, quite sincerely;
"they seem to me arrows deliberately aimed at a definite target--they
have the grace of congruity, as the articles say."

"You are very good," said the Vicar. "I am really overwhelmed; but I
must admit that your presence--the mere chance of your presence--has
made me exercise an unwonted caution, and indeed introduce now and then
an idea which is perhaps rather above the comprehension of my flock!"

"But may I go back for one moment?" said Howard. "You will forgive my
asking this--but what you said just now about Maud interested me very
much, and of course pleased me enormously. I would do anything I could
to make her happy in any way--I wish you would tell me how and in what
you think her more content. I want to learn all I can about her earlier
days--you must remember that all that is unknown to me. Won't you
exercise your powers of analysis for my benefit?"

"You are very kind," said the Vicar in high delight; "let me see, let
me see! Well, dear Maud as a girl had always a very high and anxious
sense of responsibility and duty. She conceived of herself--perhaps
owing to some chance expressions of my own--as bound as far as possible
to fill the place of her dear mother--a gap, of course, that it was
impossible to fill,--my own pursuits are, you will realise, mere
distractions, or, to be frank, were originally so designed, to combat
my sense of loss. But I am personally not a man who makes a morbid
demand for sympathy--I have little use for sympathy. I face my troubles
alone; I suffer alone," said the Vicar with an incredible relish. "And
then Jack is an independent boy, and has no taste for being dominated.
So that I fear that dear Maud's most touching efforts hardly fell on
very responsive soil. She felt, I think, the failure of her efforts;
and kind as Cousin Anne is, there is, I think, a certain vagueness of
outline about her mind. I would not call her a fatalist, but she has
little conception of the possibility of moulding character;--it's a
rich mind, but perhaps an indecisive mind? Maud needed a vocation--she
needed an aim. And then, too, you have perhaps observed--or possibly,"
said the Vicar gleefully, "she has effaced that characteristic out of
deference to your own great power of amiable toleration--but she had a
certain incisiveness of speech which had some power to wound? I will
give you a small instance. Gibbs, the schoolmaster, is a very worthy
man, but he has a certain flightiness of manner and disposition. Dear
Maud, talking about him one day at our luncheon-table, said that one
read in books how some people had to struggle with some underlying
beast in their constitution, the voracious man, let us say, with the
pig-like element, the cruel man with the tiger-like quality. 'Mr.
Gibbs,' she said, 'seems to me to be struggling not with a beast, but
with a bird.' She went on very amusingly to say that he reminded her of
a wagtail, tripping along with very short steps, and only saved by
adroitness from overbalancing. It was a clever description of poor
Gibbs--but I felt it somehow to be indiscreet. Well, you know, poor
Gibbs came to me a few days later--you realise how gossip spreads in
these places--and said that he was hurt in his mind to think that Miss
Maud should call him a water-wagtail. Servants' tattle, I suppose. I
was considerably annoyed at this, and Maud insisted on going to
apologise to Gibbs, which was a matter of some delicacy, because she
could not deny that she had applied the soubriquet--or is it
sobriquet?--to him. That is just a minute instance of the sort of thing
I mean."

"I confess," said Howard, "that I do recognise Maud's touch--she has a
strong sense of humour."

"A somewhat dangerous thing," said Mr. Sandys. "I have a very strong
sense of humour myself, or rather what might be called risibility. No
one enjoys a witty story or a laughable incident more than I do. But I
keep it in check. The indulgence of humour is a risky thing; not very
consistent with the pastoral office. But that is a small point; and
what I am leading up to is this, that dear Maud's restlessness, and
even morbidity, has entirely disappeared; and this, my dear Howard, I
attribute entirely to your kind influence and discretion, of which we
are all so conscious, and to the consciousness of which it is so
pleasant to be able to give leisurely expression."

But the Vicar was not always so fruitful a talker as this. The
difficulty with him was to shift the points. There were long walks in
Mr. Sandys' company which were really of an almost nightmare quality.
He had a way of getting into a genealogical mess, in which he used to
say that it cleared the air to be able to state the difficulties.

Howard used to grumble a little over this to Mrs. Graves. "Yes," she
said, "if Frank were not so really unselfish a man, he would be a bore
of purest ray serene; but his humanity breaks through. I made a compact
with him long ago, and told him plainly that there were certain
subjects he must not talk to me about. I suppose you couldn't do that?"

"No," said Howard, "I can't do that. It's my greatest weakness, I
believe, that I can't say a good-natured decisive thing, until I am
really brought to bay--and then I say much more than I need, and not at
all good-naturedly. I must get what fun out of Frank I can. There's a
good deal sprinkled about; and one comfort is that Maud understands."

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves, "she understands! I know no one who sees
weaknesses in so absolutely clear a light as Maud, and who can at the
same time so wholly neglect them in the light of love."

"That's good news for me," said Howard, "and it is absolutely true."



XXIX

THE CHILD


The day on which Howard learned that Maud would bear him a child was a
day of very strangely mixed emotions. He saw how the hope dawned on the
spirit of Maud like the rising of a star, and he could rejoice in that
with whole-hearted joy, in the mere sharing of a beautiful secret; but
it was strange to him to see how to Maud it seemed like the realisation
and fulfilling of all desire, the entering into a kingdom; it was not
only the satisfaction of all the deepest vital processes, but something
glorious, unthinkable, the crowning of destiny, the summit of life.
There was no reasoning about it; it was the purest and finest instinct.
But with Howard it was not thus. He could not look beyond Maud; and it
seemed to him like the dawning of a new influence, a new fealty, which
would almost come in between him and his wife, a division of her
affections. She seemed to him, in the few tremulous words they spoke,
to have her eyes fixed on something beyond him; it was not so much a
gift that she was bringing him as a claim of further devotion. He
realised with a shock of surprise that in the books he had read, in the
imagined crises of life, the thought of the child, the heir, the
offshoot, was supposed to come as the crown of father's and mother's
hopes alike, and that it was not so with him. Was he jealous of the new
claim? It was something like that. He found himself resolving and
determining that no hint of this should ever escape him; he even felt
deeply ashamed that such a thought should even have crossed his mind.
He ought rather to rejoice wholly and completely in Maud's happiness;
but he desired her alone, and so passionately that he could not bear to
have any part of the current of her soul diverted from him. As he
looked forward through the years, it was Maud and himself, in scene
after scene; other relations, other influences, other surroundings
might fade and decay--but children, however beautiful and delightful,
making the house glad with life and laughter, he was not sure that he
wanted them. Yet he had always thought that he possessed a strong
paternal instinct, an interest in young life, in opening problems. Had
that all, he wondered, been a mere interest, a thing to exercise his
energy and amiability upon, and had his enjoyment of it all depended
upon his real detachment, upon the fact that his responsibility was
only a temporary one? It was all very bewildering to him. Moreover, his
quiet and fertile imagination flashed suddenly through pictures of what
his beloved Maud might have to endure, such a frail child as she
was--illness, wretchedness, suffering. Would he be equal to all that?
Could he play the role of tranquil patience, of comforting sympathy? He
determined not to anticipate that, but it blew like a cold wind on his
spirit; he could not bear that the sunshine of life should be clouded.

He had a talk with his aunt on the subject; she had divined, in some
marvellous way, the fact that the news had disturbed him; and she said,
"Of course, dear Howard, I quite understand that this is not the same
thing to you as it is to Maud and me. It is one of the things which
divide, and must always divide, men from women. But there is something
beyond what you see: I know that it must seem to you as if something
almost disconcerting had passed over life--as if such a hope must
absorb the heart of a mother; but there is a thing you cannot know, and
that is the infinite dearness in which this involves you. You would
think perhaps that it could not be increased in Maud's case, but it is
increased a hundredfold--it is a splendour, a worship, as of divine
creative power. Don't be afraid! Don't look forward! You will see day
by day that this has brought Maud's love for you to a point of which
you could hardly dream. Words can't touch these things: you must just
believe me that it is so. You will think that a childless wife like
myself cannot know this. There is a strange joy even in childlessness,
but it is the joy that comes from the sharing of a sorrow; but the joy
which comes from sharing a joy is higher yet."

"Yes," said Howard, "I know it, and I believe it. I will tell you very
frankly that you have looked into my very heart; but you have not seen
quite into the depths: I see my own weakness and selfishness clearly.
With every part of my mind and reason I see the wonder and strength of
this; and I shall feel it presently. What has shocked me is just my
lack of the truer instinct; but then," he added, smiling, "that's just
the shadow of comfort and ease and the intellectual life: one goes so
far on one's way without stumbling across these big emotions; and when
one does actually meet them, one is frightened at their size and
strength. You must advise and help me. You know, I am sure, that my
love for Maud is the strongest, largest, purest thing, beyond all
comparison and belief, that has ever happened to me. I am never for a
single instant unaware of it. I sometimes think there is nothing else
left of me; and then this happens, and I see that I have not gone deep
enough yet."

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves, smiling, "life is like the sea, I think. When
one is a child, it is just a great plain of waters, with little ships
sailing on it: it is pleasant to play by, with breaking waves to wade
in, and little treasures thrown up on its rim; then, as one knows more,
one realises that it is another world, full of its own urgent life,
quite regardless of man, and over which man has no power, except by a
little trickery in places. Man is just a tiresome, far-off incident,
his ships like little moving shadows, his nets and lines like small
fretful devices. But the old wise monsters of the depths live their own
lives; never seen perhaps, or even suspected, by men. That's all very
silly and fanciful, of course! But old and invalided as I am, I seem to
be diving deeper and deeper into life, and finding it full of surprises
and mysteries and utterly unexpected things."

"Well," said Howard, "I am still a child on the shore, picking up
shells, fishing in the shallows. But I have learned something of late,
and it is wonderful beyond thought--so wonderful that I feel sometimes
as if I was dreaming, and should wake up to find myself in some other
century!"

It did indeed soon dawn upon Howard that there was a change in Maud,
that their relations had somehow altered and deepened. The little
barrier of age, for one thing, which he had sometimes felt, seemed
obliterated. There had been in Howard's mind a sense that he had known
a number of hard facts and ugly features about life, had been aware of
mean, combative, fierce, cruel elements which were hidden from Maud.
Now this all seemed to be purged away; if these things were there, they
were not worth knowing, except to be disregarded. They were base
material knowledge which one must not even recognise; they were not
real forces at all, only ugly, stubborn obstacles, through which life
must pass, like water flowing among rocks; they were not life, only the
channel of life, through which one passed to something more free and
generous. He began to perceive that such things mattered nothing at all
to Maud; that her life would have been just as fine in quality if she
had lived in the smallest cottage among the most sordid cares. He saw
that she possessed the wisdom which he had missed, because she lived in
and for emotion and affection, and that all material things existed
only to enshrine and subserve emotion.

Their life seemed to take on a new colour and intensity. They talked
less; up till now it had been a perpetual delight to Howard to elicit
Maud's thoughts and fancies about a thousand things, about books,
people, ideas. Her prejudices, ignorances, enthusiasms half charmed,
half amused him. But now they could sit or walk silent together in an
even more tranquil happiness; nearness was enough, and thought seemed
to pass between them without need of speech. Howard began to resume his
work; it was enough that Maud should sit by, reading, working, writing.
A glance would pass between them and suffice.

One day Howard laid down his pen, and looking up, having finished a
chapter, saw that Maud's eyes were fixed upon him with an anxious
intentness. She was sitting in a low chair near the fire, and an open
book lay disregarded on her knee. He went across to her and sat down on
a low chair beside her, taking her hand in his.

"What is it, dear child?" he said. "Am I very selfish and stupid to sit
here without a word like this?"

Maud put her lips to his hand, and laughed a contented laugh. "Oh no,
no," she said; "I like to see you hard at work--there seems no need to
say anything--it's just you and me!"

"Well," said Howard, "you must just tell me what you were thinking--you
had travelled a long way beyond that."

"Not out of your reach," said Maud; "I was just thinking how different
men and women were, and how I liked you to be different. I was
remembering how awfully mysterious you were at first--so full to the
brim of strange things which I could not fathom. I always seemed to be
dislodging something I had never thought of. I used to wonder how you
could find time, in the middle of it all, to care about me: you were
always giving me something. But now it has all grown so much simpler
and more wonderful too. It's like what you said about Cambridge long
ago, the dark secret doorways, the hidden gardens; I see now that all
those ideas and thoughts are only things you are carrying with you,
like luggage. They are not part of you at all. Don't you know how, when
one is quite a child, a person's house seems to be all a mysterious
part of himself? One thinks he has chosen and arranged it all, knows
where everything is and what it means--everything seems to be a sort of
deliberate expression of his tastes and ideas--and, then one gets
older, and finds out that people don't know what is in their houses at
all--there are rooms into which they never go; and then one finds that
they don't even see the things in their own rooms, have forgotten how
they came there, wouldn't know if they were taken away. My, I used to
feel as if the scents and smells of houses were all arranged and chosen
by their owners. It's like that with you; all the things you know and
remember, the words you speak, are not YOU at all; I see and feel you
now apart from all that."

"I am afraid I have lost what novelists call my glamour," said Howard.
"You have found me out, the poor, shivering, timid thing that sits like
a wizard in the middle of his properties, only hoping that the stuffed
crocodile and the skeleton will frighten his visitors."

Maud laughed. "Well, I am not frightened any more," she said. "I doubt
if you could frighten me if you tried. I wonder how I should feel if I
saw you angry or chilly. Are you ever angry, I wonder?"

"I think some of my pupils would say that I could be very
disagreeable," said Howard. "I don't think that I was ever very fierce,
but I have realised that I was on occasions very unpleasant."

"Well, I'll wait and see," said Maud; "but what I was going to say was
that you seem to me different--hardly the person I married. I used to
wonder a little at first how I had had the impudence . . . and then I
used to think that perhaps some day you would wake up, and find you had
come to the bottom of the well, but you never seemed disappointed."

"Disappointed!" said Howard; "what terrible rubbish! Why Maud, don't
you KNOW what you have done for me? You have put the whole thing
straight. It's just that. I was full of vanities and thoughts and bits
of knowledge, and I really think I thought them important--they ARE
important too, like food and drink--one must have them--at least men
must--but they don't matter; at least it doesn't matter what they are.
Men have always to be making and doing things--business, money,
positions, duties; but the point is to know that they are unimportant,
and yet to go on doing them as if they mattered--one must do
that--seriously and not solemnly; but you have somehow put all that in
the right place; and I know now what matters and what does not. There,
do you call that nothing?"

"Perhaps we have found it out together," said Maud; "the only
difference is that you have the courage to tell me that you were wrong,
while I have never even dared to tell you what a hollow sham I am, and
what a mean and peevish child I was before you came on the scene."

"Well, we won't look into your dark past," said Howard. "I am quite
content with what they call the net result!" and then they sate
together in silence, and had no further need of words.



XXX

CAMBRIDGE AGAIN


Howard was summoned to Cambridge in June for a College meeting. He was
very glad to see Cambridge and the familiar faces; but he had not been
parted from Maud for a day since their marriage, and he was rather
amazed to find, not that he missed her, but how continuously he missed
her from moment to moment; the fact that he could not compare notes
with her about every incident seemed to rob the incidents of their
savour, and to produce a curious hampering of his thoughts. A change,
too, seemed to have passed over the College; his rooms were just as he
had left them, but everything seemed to have narrowed and contracted.
He saw a great many of the undergraduates, and indeed was delighted to
find how they came in to see him.

Guthrie was one of the first to arrive, and Howard was glad to meet him
alone. Howard was sorry to see that the cheerful youth had evidently
been feeling acutely what had happened; he had not lost his spirits,
but he had a rather worn aspect. He inquired about the Windlow party,
and they talked of indifferent things; but when Guthrie rose to go, he
said, speaking with great diffidence, "I wanted to say one thing to
you, and now I do not know how to express it; it is that I don't want
you to think I feel in any way aggrieved--that would be simply
absurd--but more than that, I want to say that I think you behaved
quite splendidly at Windlow--really splendidly! I hope you don't think
it is impertinent for me to say that, but I want you to know how
grateful I am to you--Jack told me what had happened--and I thought
that if I said nothing, you might feel uncomfortable. Please don't feel
anything of the kind--I only wish with all my heart that I could think
I could behave as you did if I had been in your place, and I want to be
friends."

"Yes indeed," said Howard, "I think it is awfully good of you to speak
about it. You won't expect me," he added, smiling, "to say that I wish
it had turned out otherwise; but I do hope you will be happy, with all
my heart; and you will know that you will have a real welcome at
Windlow if ever you care to come there."

The young man shook hands in silence with Howard, and went out with a
smile. "Oh, I shall be all right," he said.

Jack sate up late with Howard and treated him to a long grumble.

"I do hope to goodness you will come back to Cambridge," he said. "You
must simply make Maud come. You must use your influence, your beautiful
influence, of which we hear so much. Seriously, I do miss you here very
much, and so does everybody else. Your pupils are in an awful stew.
They say that you got them through the Trip without boring them, and
that Crofts bores them and won't get them through. This place rather
gets on my nerves now. The Dons don't confide in me, and I don't see
things from their angle, as my father says. I think you somehow managed
to keep them reasonable; they are narrow-minded men, I think."

"This is rather a shower of compliments," said Howard. "But I think I
very likely shall come back. I don't think Maud would mind."

"Mind!" said Jack, "why you wind that girl round your little finger.
She writes about you as if you were an archangel; and look here, I am
sorry I took a gloomy view. It's all right; you were the right person.
Freddy Guthrie would never have done for Maud--he's in a great way
about it still, but I tell him he may be thankful to have escaped. Maud
is a mountain-top kind of girl; she could never have got on without a
lot of aspirations, she couldn't have settled down to the country-house
kind of life. You are a sort of privilege, you know, and all that;
Freddy Guthrie would never have been a privilege."

"That's rather a horror!" said Howard; "you mustn't let these things
out; you make me nervous!"

Jack laughed. "If your brother-in-law mayn't say this to you, I don't
know who may. But seriously, really quite seriously, you are a bigger
person than I thought. I'll tell you why. I had a kind of feeling that
you ought not to let me speak to you as you do, that you ought to have
snapped my head off. And then you seemed too much upset by what I said.
I don't know if it was your tact; but you had your own way all the
time, with me and with everybody; you seemed to give way at every
point, and yet you carried out your programme. I thought you hadn't
much backbone--there, the cat's out; and now I find that we were all
dancing to your music. I like people to do that, and it amuses me to
find that I danced as obediently as anyone, when I really thought I
could make you do as I wished. I admire your way of going on: you make
everyone think that you value their opinion, and yet you know exactly
what you want and get it."

Howard laughed. "I really am not such a diplomatist as that, Jack! I am
not a humbug; but I will tell you frankly what happens. What people say
and think, and even how they look, does affect me very much at the
time; but I have a theory that most people get what they really want.
One has to be very careful what one wants in this world, not because
one is disappointed, but because Providence hands it one with a smile;
and then it often turns out to be an ironical gift--a punishment in
disguise."

"Maud shall hear that," said Jack; "a punishment in disguise--that will
do her good, and take her down a peg or two. So you have found it out
already?"

"My dear Jack," said Howard, "if you say anything of the kind, you will
repent it. I am not going to have Maud bothered just now with any
nonsense. Do you hear that? The frankness of your family is one of its
greatest charms--but you don't quite know how much the frankness of
babes and sucklings can hurt--and you are not to experiment on Maud."

Jack looked at Howard with a smile. "Here's the real man at last--the
tyrant's vein! Of course, I obey. I didn't really mean it; and I like
to hear you speak like that; it's rather fine."

Presently Jack said, "Now, about the Governor--rather a douche, I
expect? But I see you can take care of yourself; he's hugely
delighted--the intellectual temperature rises in every letter I get
from him. But I want to make sure of one thing. I'm not going to stay
on here much longer. I don't want a degree--it isn't the slightest use,
plain or coloured. I want to get to work. If you come up again next
term, I can stand it, not otherwise."

"Very well," said Howard, "that's a bargain. I must just talk things
over with Maud. If we come up to Cambridge in October, you will stay
till next June. If we don't, you shall be planted in the business. They
will take you in, I believe, at any time, but would prefer you to
finish your time here."

"Yes, that's it," said Jack, "but I want work: this is all right, in a
way, but it's mostly piffle. How all these Johnnies can dangle on, I
don't know; it's not my idea of life."

"Well, there's no hurry," said Howard, "but it shall be arranged as you
wish."



XXXI

MAKING THE BEST OF IT


Howard became aware that with his colleagues he had suddenly become
rather a person of importance. His "place" in the country was held in
some dim way to increase the grandeur of the College. He found himself
deferred to and congratulated. Mr. Redmayne was both caustic and
affectionate.

"You look very well, I must say," he said. "You have a touch of the
landed personage about you which becomes you. I should like you to come
back here for our sakes, but I shan't press it. And how is Madam? I
hope you have got rid of your first illusions? No? Well you must make
haste and be reasonable. I am not learned in the vagaries of feminine
temperament, but I imagine that the fair sex like to be dominated, and
you will do that. You have a light hand on the reins--I always said
that you rode the boys on the snaffle, but the curb is there! and in
matrimony--well, well, I am an old bachelor of course, and I have a
suspicion of all nooses. Never mind my nonsense, Kennedy--what I like
about you, if I may say so, is that you have authority without
pretensions. People will do as you wish, just to please you; now I have
always to be cracking the whip. These fellows here are very worthy men,
but they are not men of the world! They are honest and sober--indeed
one can hardly get one of them to join one in a glass of port--but they
are limited, very limited. Now if only you could have kept clear of
matrimony--no disrespect to Madam--what a comfortable time we might
have had here! Man appoints and God disappoints--I suppose it is all
for the best."

"Well," said Howard, "I think you will me see back here in October--my
wife is quite ready to come, and there isn't really much for me to do
at Windlow. I believe I am to be on the bench shortly; but if I live
there in the vacations, that will be enough; and I don't feel that I
have finished with Beaufort yet."

"Excellent!" said Mr. Redmayne. "I commend Madam's good sense and
discretion. Pray give her my regards, and say that we shall welcome her
at Cambridge. We will make the best of it--and I confess that in your
place--well, if all women were like Madam, I could view marriage with
comparative equanimity--though of course, I make the statement without
prejudice."



XXXII

HOWARD'S PROFESSION


When Howard came back from Cambridge he had a long talk with Maud over
the future; it seemed almost tacitly agreed that he should return to
his work there, at all events for a time.

"I feel very selfish and pompous about all this," said Howard; "MY
work, MY sphere--what nonsense it all is! Why should I come down to
Windlow, take possession, and having picked the sweetest flower in the
garden, stick it in my buttonhole and march away?"

Maud laughed and said, "Oh, no, it isn't that--it is quite a simple
matter. You have learnt a trade, a difficult trade; why should you give
it up? We don't happen to need the money, but that doesn't matter. My
business is to take off your shoulders, if I can, all the trouble
entailed on you by marrying me--it's simply a division of labour. You
can't just settle down in the country as a small squire, with nothing
much to do. People must do the work they can do, and I should be
miserable if I thought I had pulled you out of your place in the world."

"I don't know," said Howard; "there seems to me to be something rather
stuffy about it: why can't we just live? Women do; there is no fuss
made about their work, and their need to express themselves; yet they
do it even more than men, and they do it without priggishness. My work
at Cambridge is just what everyone else is doing, and if I don't do it,
there will be half a dozen men capable of doing it and glad to do it.
The great men of the world don't talk about the importance of their
work: they just do whatever comes to hand--it's only the second-rate
men who say that their talents haven't full scope. Do you remember poor
Chambers, who was at lunch the other day? He told me that he had
migrated from a town parish to a country parish, and that he missed the
organisation so much. 'There seems nothing to organise down in the
country!' he said. 'Now in my town parish there was the whole machine
to keep going--I enjoyed that, and I don't feel I am giving effect to
the best part of myself.' That seemed to me such a pompous line, and I
felt that I didn't want to be like that. One's work! how little it
matters! No one is indispensable--the disappearance of one man just
gives another his chance."

"Yes, of course, it is rather hard to draw the line," said Maud, "and I
think it is a pity to be solemn about it; but it seems to me so simple
in this case. You can do the work--they want you back--there is no
reason why you should not go back."

"Perhaps it is mere laziness," said Howard, "but I feel as if I wanted
a different sort of life now, a quieter life; and yet I know that there
is a snare about that. I rather mistrust the people who say they must
get time to think out things. It's like the old definition of
metaphysics--the science of muddling oneself systematically. I don't
think one can act by reason; one must act by instinct, and reason just
prevents one's making a fool of oneself."

"I believe the time for the other life will come quite naturally
later," said Maud. "At your age, you have got to do things. Of course
it's the same with women in a way, but marriage is their obvious
career, and the pity is that there don't seem enough husbands to go
round. I can sit in my corner and placidly survey the overstocked
market now!"

Howard got up and leaned against the chimneypiece, surveying his wife
with delight. "Ah, child," he said, "I was lucky to come in when I did.
I shiver at the thought that if I had arrived a little later there
would have been 'no talk of thee and me' as Omar says. You would have
been a devoted wife, and I should have been a hopeless bachelor!"

"It's unthinkable," said Maud, "it's horrible even to speculate about
such things--a mere question of proximity! Well, it can't be mended
now; and the result is that I not only drive you back to work, but you
have to carry me back as well, like Sindbad and the old man of the sea."

"Yes, it's just like that!" said Howard.

He made several attempts, with Mr. Sandys and with his aunt--even with
Miss Merry--to get encouragement for his plan; but he could obtain no
sympathy.

"I'm sick of the very word 'ideal,'" he said to Maud. "I feel like a
waiter handing about tumblers on a tray, pressing people to have
ideals--at least that is what I seem to be supposed to be doing. I
haven't any ideals myself--the only thing I demand and practise is
civility."

"Yes, I don't think you need bother about ideals," said Maud, "it's
wonderful the depressing power of words; there are such a lot of fine
and obvious things in the world, perfectly distinct, absolutely
necessary, and yet the moment they become professional, they deprive
one of all spirit and hope--Jane has that effect on me, I am afraid. I
am sure she is a fine creature, but her view always makes me feel
uncomfortable--now Cousin Anne takes all the things one needs for
granted, and isn't above making fun of them; and then they suddenly
appear wholesome and sensible. She is quite clear on the point; now if
SHE wanted you to stay, it would be different."

"Very well, so be it!" said Howard; "I feel I am caught in feminine
toils. I am like a child being taught to walk--every step applauded,
handed on from embrace to embrace. I yield! I will take my beautiful
mind back to Cambridge, I will go on moulding character, I will go on
suggesting high motives. But the responsibility is yours, and if you
turn me into a prig, it will not be my fault."

"Ah, I will take the responsibility for that," said Maud, "and, by the
way, hadn't we better begin to look out for a house? I can't live in
College, I believe, not even if I were to become a bedmaker?"

"Yes," said Howard, "a high-minded house of roughcast and tile, with
plenty of white paint inside, Chippendale chairs, Watts engravings. I
have come to that--it's inevitable, it just expresses the situation;
but I mustn't go on like this--it isn't funny, this academic
irony--it's dreadfully professional. I will be sensible, and write to
an agent for a list. It had better just be 'a house' with nothing
distinctive; because this will be our home, I hope, and that the
official residence. And now, Maud, I won't be tiresome any more; we
can't waste time in talking about these things. I haven't done with
making love to you yet, and I doubt if I ever shall!"



XXXIII

ANXIETY


The months moved slowly on, a time full of deepening strain and anxiety
to Howard. Maud herself seemed serene enough at first, full of hope;
she began to be more dependent on him; and Howard perceived two things
which gave him some solace; in the first place he found that, sharp as
the tension of anxiety in his mind often was, he did not realise it as
a burden of which he would be merely glad to be rid. He had an
instinctive dislike of all painful straining things--of
responsibilities, disagreeable duties, things that disturbed his
tranquillity; but this anxiety did not come to him in that light at
all; he longed that it should be over, but it was not a thing which he
desired to banish from his mind; it was all bound up with love and
happy anticipation; and next he learned the joy of doing things that
would otherwise be troublesome for the sake of love, and found them all
transmuted, not into seemly courtesies, but into sharp and urgent
pleasures. To be of use to Maud, to entertain her, to disguise his
anxieties, to compel himself to talk easily and lightly--all this
filled his soul with delight, especially when he found as the months
went on that Maud began to look to him as a matter of course; and
though Howard had been used to say that being read aloud to was the
only occupation in the world that was worse than reading aloud, he
found that there was no greater pleasure than in reading to Maud day by
day, in finding books that she cared for.

"If only I could spare you some of this," he said to her one day,
"that's the awful thing, not to be able to share the pain of anyone
whom one loves. I feel I could hold my hand in the fire with a smile,
if only I knew that it was saving you something!"

"Ah, dearest, I know," said Maud, "but you mustn't think of it like
that; it INTERESTS me in a curious way--I can't explain--I don't feel
helpless; I feel as if I were doing something worth the trouble!"

At last the time drew near; it was hot, silent, airless weather; the
sun lay fiercely in the little valley, day by day; one morning they
were sitting together and Maud suddenly said to him, "Dearest, one
thing I want to say; if I seem to be afraid, I am NOT afraid: will you
remember that? I want to walk every step of the way; I mean to do it, I
wish to do it; I am not afraid in my heart of hearts of anything--pain,
or even worse; and you must remember that, even if I do not seem to
remember!"

"Yes," said Howard, "I will remember that; and indeed I know it; you
even take away my own fears when you speak so; love takes hands beneath
it all."

But on the following morning--Maud had a restless and suffering
night--Mrs. Graves came in upon Howard as he tried to read, to tell him
that there was great anxiety, Maud had had a sudden attack of pain; it
had passed off, but they were not reassured. "The doctor will be here
presently," she said. Howard rose dry-lipped and haggard. "She sends
you her dearest love," she said, "but she would rather be alone; she
doesn't wish you to see her thus; she is absolutely brave, and that is
the best thing; and I am not afraid myself," she added: "we must just
wait--everything is in her favour; but I know how you feel and how you
must feel; just clasp the anxiety close, look in its face; it's a
blessed thing, though you can't see it as I do--blessed, I mean, that
one CAN feel so."

But the fear thickened after this. A carriage drew up, and Howard saw
two doctors descend, carrying bags in their hands. His heart sickened
within him, yet he was helped by seeing their unembarrassed and
cheerful air, the nod that one of them, a big, fresh-faced man, gave to
the coachman, the look he cast round the beautiful old house. People
could think of such things, Howard saw, in a moment like that. He went
down and met them in the hall, and had that strange sense of unreality
in moments of crisis, when one hears one's own voice saying courteous
things, without any volition of one's own. The big doctor looked at him
kindly. "It is all quite simple and straightforward!" he said. "You
must not let yourself be anxious; these times pass by and one wonders
afterwards how one could have been so much afraid."

But the hours brought no relief; the doctors stayed long in the house;
something had occurred, Howard knew not what, did not dare to
conjecture. The silence, the beauty of the whole scene, was
insupportably horrible to him. He walked up and down in the afternoon,
gazing at Maud's windows--once a nurse came to the window and opened it
a little. He went back at last into the house; the doctors were there,
talking in low tones to Mrs. Graves. "I will be back first thing in the
morning," said one; the worst, then, had not happened. But as he
appeared a look of inquiry passed between them and Mrs. Graves. She
beckoned to him.

"She is very ill," she said; "it is over, and she has survived; but the
child is dead."

Howard stood blankly staring at the group. "I don't understand," he
said; "the child is dead--yes, but what about Maud?"

The doctor came up to him. "It was sudden," he said; "she had an
attack--we had anticipated it--the child was born dead; but there is
every reason to believe that she will recover; it has been a great
shock, but she is young and strong, and she is full of pluck--you need
not be anxious at present; there is no imminent danger." Then he added,
"Mr. Kennedy, get some rest yourself; she may need you, and you must
not be useless: I tell you, the first danger is over and will not
recur; you must just force yourself to eat--try to sleep."

"Sleep?" said Howard with a wan smile, "yes, if you could tell me how
to do that!"

The doctors departed; Howard went off with Mrs. Graves. She made him
sit down, she told him a few details; then she said, "Dearest boy, it's
no use wasting words or pity just now--you know what I feel; I would
tell you plainly if I feared the worst. I do NOT fear it, and now let
me exercise my art on you, for I am sure I can help you a little. One
must not play with these things, but this is in earnest."

She came and sate down beside him, and stroked his hair, his brow; she
said, "Just try, if you can, to cast everything out of your mind; relax
your limbs, be entirely passive; and don't listen to what I say--just
let your mind float free." Presently she began to speak in a low voice
to him; he hardly heeded what she said, for a strange drowsiness
settled down upon him like the in-flowing of some oblivious tide, and
he knew no more.

A couple of hours later he awoke from a deep sleep, with a sense of
sweet visions and experiences--he looked round. Mrs. Graves sate beside
him smiling, but the horror suddenly darted back into his mind with a
spasm of fear, as if he had been bitten by a poisonous serpent.

"What has been happening?" he said.

"Ah," said Mrs. Graves quietly, "you have been asleep. I have some
power in these things, which I don't use except in times of need--some
day I will tell you more; I found it out by accident, but I have used
it both for myself and others. It's just a natural force, of which many
people are suspicious, because it doesn't seem normal; but don't be
afraid, dear boy--all goes well; she is sleeping quietly, and she knows
what has happened."

"Thank you," said Howard; "yes, I am better; but I could almost wish I
had not slept--I feel the pain of it more. I don't feel just now as if
anything in the world could make up for this--as if anything could make
it seem just to endure such misery. What has one done to deserve it?"

"What indeed?" said Mrs. Graves, "because the time will come when you
will ask that in a different sense. Don't you see, dear boy, that even
this is life's fulness? One mustn't be afraid of suffering--what one
must be afraid of is NOT suffering; it's the measure of love--you would
not part with your love if that would free you from suffering?"

"No," said Howard slowly, "I would not--you are right. I can see that.
One brings the other; but I cannot see the need of it."

"That is only because one does not realise how much lies ahead," said
Mrs. Graves. "Be content that you know at least how much you
love--there's no knowledge like that!"



XXXIV

THE DREAM-CHILD


For some days Howard was in an intolerable agony of mind about Maud;
she lay in a sort of stupor of weakness and weariness, recognising no
one, hardly speaking, just alive, indifferent to everything. They could
not let him be with her, they would allow no one to speak to her. The
shock had been too great, and the frail life seemed flickering to its
close: once or twice he was just allowed to see her; she lay like a
tired child, her head on her hand, lost in incommunicable dreams.
Howard dared not leave the house, and the tension of his nerves became
so acute that the least thing--a servant entering the room, or anyone
coming out to speak with him as he paced up and down the garden--caused
him an insupportable horror; had they come to summon him to see the
end? The frightful thing was the silence, the blank silence of the one
he loved best. If she had moaned or wept or complained, he could have
borne it better; but she seemed entirely withdrawn from him. Even when
a little strength returned, they feared for her reason. She seemed
unaware of where she was, of what had happened, of all about her. The
night was the worst time of all. Howard, utterly wearied out, would go
to bed, and sink into sleep, sleep so profound that it seemed like
descending into some deep and oblivious tide; then a current of misery
would mingle with his dreams, a sense of unutterable depression; and
then he would suddenly wake in the grip of fear, formless and bodiless
fear. The smallest sound in the house, the creaking of a door, a
footfall, would set his heart beating with fierce hammer strokes. He
would light his candles, wander restlessly about, gaze out from his
window into the blackness of the garden, where the trees outlined
themselves against the dark sky, pierced with stars; or he would try to
read, but wholly in vain. No thought, no imagination seemed to have any
meaning for him, in the presence of that raging dread. Had he, he
wondered, come in sight of the ultimate truth of life? The pain he
suffered seemed to him the strongest thing in the world, stronger than
love, stronger than death. The thick tides of the night swept past him
thus, till the light began to outline the window crannies; and then
there was a new day to face, with failing brain and shattered strength.

The only comfort he received was in the presence of his aunt. She alone
seemed strong, almost serene, till he wondered if she was not hard. She
did not encourage him to speak of his fears: she talked quietly about
ordinary things, not demanding an answer; she saw the doctors, whom
Howard could not bear to see, and told him their report. The fear
changed its character as the days went on; Maud would live, they
thought; but to what extent she would regain her strength they could
not say, while her mental powers seemed in abeyance.

Mr. Sandys often looked in, but he seemed at first helpless in Howard's
presence. Howard used to bestir himself to talk to him, with a
sickening sense of unreality. Mr. Sandys took a very optimistic view of
Maud's case; he assured Howard that he had seen the same thing a dozen
times; she had great reserves of strength, he believed; it was but
nature insisting upon rest and quiet. His talk became a sort of relief
to Howard, because he refused to admit any possibility of ultimate
disaster. No tragedy could keep Mr. Sandys silent; and Howard began to
be aware that the Vicar must have thought out a series of topics to
talk to him about, and even prepared the line of conversation
beforehand. Jack had been sent for at the crisis, but when the imminent
danger lessened, Howard suggested that he should go back to Cambridge,
in which Jack gratefully acquiesced.

One day Mrs. Graves came suddenly in upon Howard, as he sate drearily
trying to write some letters, and said, "There is a great improvement
this morning. I went in to see her, and she has come back to herself;
she mentioned your name, and the doctor says you can see her for a few
minutes; she must not talk, but she is herself. You may just come and
sit by her for a few minutes; it will be best to come at once."

Howard got up, and was seized by a sudden giddiness. He grasped his
chair, and was aware that Mrs. Graves was looking at him anxiously.

"Can you manage it, dear boy?" she said. "You have had a great strain."

"Manage it?" said Howard, "why, it's new life. I shall be all right in
a moment. Does she know what has happened?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves, "she knows all--it is you she is anxious
about--she isn't thinking of herself at all."

Howard followed his aunt out of the room, feeling suddenly alert and
strong. They entered the room; as they did so, Maud turned and looked
at him--the faintest tinge of colour had returned to her face; she held
out her hands to him, and let them fall again. Howard stepped quickly
to the side of the bed, dropped on his knees, and took his wife in his
arms. She nestled close to him for a moment, and then looked at him
with a smile--then speaking in a very low voice, almost a whisper, she
said:

"Yes, I know--you will help me, dearest; yes, I have come back to
you--I have been wandering far away, with the child--you know--he
wanted me, I think; but I have left him somewhere, safe, and I am sent
back--I didn't think I could come back, but I had to choose; I have
chosen . . ." her voice died away, and she looked long and anxiously at
him. "You are not well," she said; "it is my fault."

"Ah, you must not talk, darling," said Howard; "we will talk later on;
just let me be sure that you won't leave me--that is enough, that's all
I want, just we two together again, and the dear child, ours for ever."

"The dear child," said Maud, "that is right--he is ours, beloved. I
will tell you about him."

"Not now," said Howard, "not now."

Maud gave him a nod, in her old way, just the ghost of a nod; and then
just put her face beside his own, and lay in silence, till he was
called away. Then she kissed his hand as he bent over her, and said,
"Don't be afraid, dearest--I am coming back--it is like a great
staircase, with light at the top. I went just to the edge--it's full of
sweet sound there, and now I am coming down again. Those are my
dreams," she added; "I am not out of my dreams yet."

Howard went out, waving his hand; he found Mrs. Graves beside him.

"Yes," she said, "I have no more fear."

Howard was suddenly seized with faintness, uncontrollable dizziness.
Mrs. Graves took him to the library, and made him sit down, but his
weakness continued in spite of himself.

"I really am ashamed of myself," he said, "for this dreadful
exhibition."

"Exhibition!" said Mrs. Graves, "it's the best thing that can happen. I
must tell you that I have been even more anxious about you than Maud,
because you either couldn't or wouldn't break down--those are the
people who are in danger at a time like this! Why the sight of you has
half killed me, dear boy! If you had ever said you were miserable, or
been rude or irritable, or forgotten yourself for a moment, I should
have been happier. It's very chivalrous and considerate, of course;
though you will say that you didn't think of that; but it's hardly
human--and now at last I see you are flesh and blood again."

"Well, I am not sure that it isn't what I thought about you," said
Howard.

"Ah," said Mrs. Graves, "I am an old woman; and I don't think death is
so terrible to me. Life is interesting enough, but I should often be
glad to get away; there is something beyond that is a good deal easier
and more beautiful. But I don't expect you to feel that."

"You think she will get well?" said Howard faintly.

"Yes, she will get well, and soon," said Mrs. Graves. "She has been
resting in her own natural way. The poor dearest baby--you don't know,
you can't know, what that means to Maud and even to me; you will have
to be very good to her for a long time yet; you won't understand her
sorrow--she won't expect you to; but you mustn't fail her; and you must
do as you are bid. This afternoon you must just go out for a walk, and
you must SLEEP, dear; that's what you want; you don't know what a
spectre you are; and you must just get well as quick as you can, for
Maud's sake and mine."

That afternoon there fell on Howard after his walk--though the world
was sweet to him and dear again, he was amazed to find how weak he
was--an unutterable drowsiness against which he could hardly fight. The
delicious weariness came on him like a summer air; he stumbled to bed
that night, and oh, the wonder of waking in a new world, the incredible
happiness that greeted him, happiness that merged again in a strange
and serene torpor of the senses, every sight and sound striking sharp
and beautiful on his eye and ear.

For some days he was only allowed to see Maud for little lengthening
periods; they said little, but just sate in silence with a few
whispered words. Maud recovered fast, and was each day a little
stronger.

One evening, as he sate with her, she said, "I want to tell you now
what has been happening to me, dearest. You must hear it all. You must
not grieve yourself about the little child, because you cannot have
known it as I did--but you must let me grieve a little . . . you will
see when I tell you. I won't go back too far. There was all the pain
first--I hope I did not behave very badly, but I was beside myself with
pain, and then I went off . . . you know . . . I don't remember
anything of that . . . and then I came back again, feeling that
something very strange had happened to me, and I was full of joy; and
then I saw that something was wrong, and it came over me what had
happened. The strange thing is that though I was so weak--I could
hardly think and I could not speak--yet I never felt more clear or
strong in mind--no, not in mind either, but in myself. It seems so
strange that I have never even SEEN our child, not with my eyes, though
that matters little. But then when I understood, I did indeed fail
utterly; you seemed to me so far away; I felt somehow that you were
thinking only about me, and I could simply think of nothing but the
child--my own child, gone from me in a moment. I simply prayed with all
my soul to die and have done with everything, and then there was a
strange whirl in the air like a great wind, and loud confused noises,
and I fell away out of life, and thought it was death. And then I awoke
again, but it was not here--it was in a strange wide place--a sort of
twilight, and there were hills and trees. I stood up, and suddenly felt
a hand in my own, and there was a little child beside me, looking up at
me. I can't tell you what happened next--it is rather dim to me, but I
sate, or walked, or wandered, carrying the child--and it TALKED to me;
yes, it talked in a little clear voice, though I can't remember
anything it said; but I felt somehow as if it was telling me what might
have been, and that I was getting to KNOW it somehow--does that seem
strange? It seems like months and years that I was with it; and I feel
now that I not only love it, but know it, all its thoughts, all its
desires, all its faults--it had FAULTS, dearest; think of that--faults
such as I have, and other faults as well. It was not quite content, but
it was not unhappy; but it wasn't a dream-child at all, not like a
little angel, but a perfectly real child. It laughed sometimes, and I
can hear its little laughter now; it found fault with me, it wanted to
go on--it cried sometimes, and nothing would please it; but it loved me
and wanted to be with me; and I told it about you, and it not only
listened, but asked me many times over to tell it more, about you,
about me, about this place--I think it had other things in its mind,
recollections, I thought, which it tried to tell me; so it went on.
Once or twice I found myself here in bed--but I thought I was dying,
and only wanted to lose myself and get back to the child--and then it
all came to an end. There was a great staircase up which we went
together; there was cloud at the top, but it seemed to me that there
was life and movement behind it; there was no shadow behind the cloud,
but light . . . and there was sound, musical sound. I went up with the
child's hand clasped close in my own, but at the top he disengaged
himself, and went in without a word to me or a sign, not as if he were
leaving me, but as if his real life, and mine too, were within--just as
a child would run into its home, if you came back with it from a walk,
and as if it knew you were following, and there was no need of
good-byes. I did not feel any sorrow at all then, either for the child
or myself--I simply turned round and came down . . . and then I was
back in my room again . . . and then it was you that I wanted."

"That's all very wonderful," said Howard, musing, "wonderful and
beautiful. . . . I wish I had seen that!"

"Yes, but you didn't need it," said Maud; "one sees what one needs, I
think. And I want to add something, dearest, which you must believe. I
don't want to revert to this, or to speak of it again--I don't mean to
dwell upon it; it is just enough for me. One mustn't press these things
too closely, nor want other people to share them or believe them. That
is the mistake one makes, that one thinks that other people ought to
find one's own feelings and fancies and experiences as real as one
finds them oneself. I don't even want to know what you think about
it--I don't want you to say you believe in it, or to think about it at
all. I couldn't help telling you about it, because it seems as real to
me as anything that ever happened in my life; but I don't want you to
have to pretend, or to accept it in order to please me. It is just my
own experience; I was ill, unconscious, delirious, anything you please;
but it is just a blessed fact for me, for all that, a gift from God. Do
you really trust me when I say this, dearest? I don't claim a word from
you about it, but it will make all the difference to me. I can go on
now. I don't want to die, I don't want to follow--I only want you to
feel, or to learn to feel, that the child is a real child, our very
own, as much a part of our family as Jack or Cousin Anne; and I don't
even want you to SAY that. I want all to be as before; the only
difference is that I now don't feel as if I was CHOOSING. It isn't a
case of leaving him or leaving you. I have you both--and I think you
wanted me most; and I haven't a wish or a desire in my heart but to be
with you."

"Yes, dearest," said Howard, "I understand. It is perfect to be trusted
so. I won't say anything now about it. I could not say anything. But
you have put something into my heart which will spring up and blossom.
Just now there isn't room for anything in my mind but the fact that you
are given back to me; that's all I can hold; but it won't be all. I am
glad you told me this, and utterly thankful that it is so. That you
should be here, given back to me, that must be enough now. I can't
count up my gains; but if you had come back, leaving your heart
elsewhere, how could I have borne that?"



XXXV

THE POWER OF LOVE


It was a few days later that Howard found himself sitting alone one
evening after dinner, with his aunt.

"There is something that I want to talk to you about," he said. "No
doubt Maud has told you all about her strange experience? She has
described it to me, and I don't know what to say or think. She was
wonderfully fine about it. She said she would not mention it again, and
she did not desire me to talk about it--or even believe it! And I don't
know what to do. It isn't the sort of thing that I believe in, though I
think it beautiful, just because it was Maud who felt it. But I can't
say what I really believe about it, without seeming unsympathetic and
even rough; and yet I don't like there being anything which means so
much to her, which doesn't mean much to me."

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves, "I foresaw that difficulty, but I think Maud
did right to tell you."

"Of course, of course," said Howard, "but I mean much more than that.
Is there something really THERE, open to all, possible to all, from
which I am shut out by what the Bible calls my hardness of heart? Do
you really think yourself that a living spirit drew near and made
itself known to Maud thus? or is it a beautiful dream, a sort of
subjective attempt at finding comfort, an instinctive effort of the
mind towards saving itself from sorrow?"

"Ah," said Mrs. Graves, "who shall say? Of course I do not see any real
objection to the former, when I think of all the love and the emotion
that went to the calling of the little spirit from the deeps of life;
but then I am a woman, and an old woman. If I were a man of your age
who had lived an intellectual life, I should feel very much as you do."

"But if you believe it," said Howard, "can you give me reasons why you
believe it? I am not unreasonable at all. I hate the attitude of mind
of denying the truth of the experience of others, just because one has
not felt it oneself. Here, it seems to me, there are two explanations,
and my scepticism inclines to what is, I suppose, the materialistic
one. I am very suspicious of experiences which one is told to take on
trust, and which can't be intellectually expressed. It's the sort of
theory that the clergy fall back upon, what they call spiritual truth,
which seems to me merely unchecked, unverifiable experience. I don't,
to take a crude instance, believe in statues that wink; and yet the
tendency of the priest is to say that it is a matter of childlike
faith; yet to me credulity appears to be one of the worst of sins. It
is incredulity which has disposed of superstition."

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves. "I fully agree with you about that; and there
is a great deal of very objectionable nonsense which goes by the name
of mysticism, which is merely emotion divorced from commonsense."

"Yes," said Howard, "and if I may speak quite frankly, I do very much
respect your own judgment and your convictions. It seems to me that you
have a very sceptical turn of mind, which has acted as a solvent upon a
whole host of stupid and conventional beliefs. I don't think you take
things for granted, and it always seems to me that you have got rid of
a great many foolish traditions which ordinary people accept--and it's
a fine attitude."

"I'm not too old to be insensible to a compliment," said Mrs. Graves,
smiling. "What you are surprised at is to find that I have any beliefs
left, I suppose? And I expect you are inclined to think that I have
done the feminine thing ultimately, and compromised, so as to retain
just the comfortable part of the affair."

"No," said Howard, "I don't. I am much more inclined to think that
there is something which is hidden from me; and I want you to explain
it, if you can and will."

"Well, I will try," said Mrs. Graves. "Let me think." She sate silent
for a little, and then she said: "I think that as I get older, I
recognise more and more the division between the rational part of the
mind and the instinctive part of the mind. I find more and more that my
deepest convictions are not rational--at least not arrived at by
reason--only formulated by it. I think that reason ought to be able to
formulate convictions; but they are there, whether expressed or not.
Most women don't bring the reason to bear at all, and the result is
that they hold a mass of beliefs, some simply inherited, some mere
phrases which they don't understand, and some real convictions. A great
deal of the muddle comes from the feminine weariness of logic, and a
great deal, too, from the fact that they never learn how to use
words--words are the things that divide people! But I believe more and
more, by experience, in the SOUL. I do not believe that the soul begins
with birth or ends with death. Now I have no sort of doubt in my own
mind that the soul of your child was a living thing, a spirit which has
lived before, and will live again. Souls, I believe, come to the brink
of life, out of some unknown place, and by choice or impelled by some
need for experience, take shape. I don't know how or why this is--I
only believe that it is so. If your child had lived, you would have
become aware of its soul; you would have found it to have perfectly
distinct qualities and desires and views of its own, not learnt from
you, and which you could not affect or change. All those qualities are
in it from the time of birth--but it takes a soul some time to learn
the use of the body. But the connection between the soul and the father
and mother who give it a body is a real one; I don't profess to know
what it is, or why it is that some parents have congenial children and
some quite uncongenial ones--that is only one of the many mysteries
which beset us. Holding all this, it does not seem to me on the face of
it impossible that the soul of the child should have been brought into
contact with Maud's soul; though of course the whole affair is quite
capable of a scientific and material explanation. But I have seen too
many strange things in my life to make me accept the scientific
explanation as conclusive. I have known men and women who, after a
bereavement, have had an intense consciousness of the presence of the
beloved spirit with them and near them. I have experienced it myself;
and it seems to me as impossible to explain as a sense of beauty. If
one feels a particular thing to be beautiful, one can't give good
reasons for one's emotion to a person who does not think the same thing
beautiful; but it appears to me that the duty of explaining it away
lies on the one who does NOT feel it. One can't say that beauty is a
purely subjective thing, because when two people think a thing
beautiful, they understand each other perfectly. Do I make myself clear
at all, or is that merely a bit of feminine logic?"

"No, indeed," said Howard slowly, "I think it is a good case. The very
last thing I would do is to claim to be fully equipped for the
understanding of all mysteries. My difficulty is that while there are
two explanations of a thing--a transcendental one and a material one--I
hanker after the material one. But it isn't because I want to
disbelieve the transcendental one. It is because I want to believe it
so much, that I feel that I must exclude all possibility of its being
anything else."

"Yes," said Mrs. Graves, "and I think you are perfectly right; one must
follow one's conscience in this. I don't want you to swallow it whole
at all. I want you, and I am sure that Maud wants you, just to wait and
see. Don't begin by denying the possibility of its being a
transcendental thing. Just hold the facts in your mind, and as life
goes on, see if your experience confirms it, and until it does, do not
pretend that it does. I don't claim to be omniscient. Something quite
definite, of course, lies behind the mystery of life, and whatever it
is, is not affected by what you or I believe about it. I may be wholly
and entirely mistaken, and it may be that life is only a chemical
phenomenon; but I have kept my eyes open, and my heart open; and I am
as sure as I can be that there is something very much bigger behind it
than that. I myself believe that each being is an immortal spirit,
hampered by contact with mortal laws, and I believe that consciousness
and emotion are something superior even to chemistry. But to use
emotion to silence people would be entirely repugnant to me, and
equally to Maud. She isn't the sort of woman who would be content if
you only just said you believed her. She would hate that!"

"Well," said Howard, smiling, "you are two very wonderful women, and
that's the truth. I am not surprised at YOUR wisdom--it IS
wisdom--because you have lived very bravely and loved many people; but
it's amazing to me to find such courage and understanding in a girl. Of
course you have helped her--but I don't think you could have produced
such thoughts in her unless they had been there to start with."

"That's exactly what I have tried to say," said Mrs. Graves. "Where did
Maud's fine mixture of feeling and commonsense come from? Her mother
was a woman of some perception, but after all she married Frank, and
Frank with all his virtue isn't a very mature spirit!"

"Ah," said Howard, "my marriage has done everything for me! What a
blind, complacent, petty ass I was--and am too, though I at least
perceive it! I see myself as an elderly donkey, braying and capering
about in a paddock--and someone leans over the fence, and all is
changed. I ought not to think lightly of mysteries, when all this
astonishing conspiracy has taken place round me, to give me a home and
a wife and a whole range of new emotions--how Maud came to care for me
is still the deepest wonder of all--a loveless prig like me!"

"I won't be understood to subscribe to all that," said Mrs. Graves,
laughing, "though I see your point of view; but there's something
deeper even than that, dear Howard. You care for me, you care for Maud;
but it's the power of caring that matters more than the power of caring
for particular people. Does that seem a very hard saying? You see I do
not believe--what do you say to this--in memory lasting. You and I love
each other here and now; when I die, I do not feel sure that I shall
have any recollection of you or Maud or my own dear husband--how
horrible that would sound to many men and nearly all women--but I have
learned how to love, and you have learned how to love, and we shall
find other souls to draw near to as the ages go on; and so I look
forward to death calmly enough, because whatever I am I shall have
souls to love, and I shall find souls to love me."

"No," said Howard, "I can't believe that! I can't believe in any life
here or hereafter apart from Maud. It is strange that I should be the
sentimentalist now, and you the stern sceptic. The thought to me is
infinitely dreary--even atrocious."

"I am not surprised," said Mrs. Graves, "but that's the last sacrifice.
That is what losing oneself means; to believe in love itself, and not
in the particular souls we love; to believe in beauty, not in beautiful
things. I have learned that! I do not say it in any complacency or
superiority--you must believe me; but it is the last and hardest thing
that I have learned. I do not say that it does not hurt--one suffers
terribly in losing one's dear self, in parting from other selves that
are even more dear. But would one send away the souls one loves best
into a loveless paradise? Can one bear to think of them as hankering
for oneself, and lost in regret? No, not for a moment! They pass on to
new life and love; we cannot ourselves always do it in this life--the
flesh is weak and dear; and age passes over us, and takes away the
close embrace and the sweet desire. But it is the awakening of the soul
to love that matters; and it has been to me one of the sweetest
experiences of my life to see you and Maud awaken to love. But you will
not stay there--nothing is ultimate, not the dearest and largest
relations of life. One climbs from selfishness to liking, and from
liking to passion, and from passion to love itself."

"No," said Howard, "I cannot rise to that yet; I see, I dimly feel,
that you are far above me in this; but I cannot let Maud go. She is
mine, and I am hers."

Mrs. Graves smiled and said, "Well, we will leave it at that. Kiss me,
dearest boy; I don't love you less because I feel as I do--perhaps even
more, indeed."



XXXVI

THE TRUTH


It was a sunny day of winter with a sharp breeze blowing, just after
the birth of the New Year, that Howard and Maud left Windlow for
Cambridge. The weeks previous had been much clouded for Howard by
doubts and anxieties and a multiplicity of small business. Furnishing
even an official house for a life of graceful simplicity involved
intolerable lists, bills, letters, catalogues of things which it seemed
inconceivable that anyone should need. The very number and variety of
brushes required seemed to Howard an outrage on the love of cheap
beauty, so epigrammatically praised by Thucydides; he said with a groan
to Maud that it was indeed true that the Nineteenth Century would stand
out to all time as the period of the world's history in which more
useless things had been made than at any epoch before!

But this morning, for some blessed reason, all his vexations seemed to
slip off from him. They were to start in the afternoon; but at about
eleven Maud in cloak and furred stole stepped into the library and
demanded a little walk. Howard looked approvingly, admiringly,
adoringly at his wife. She had regained a look of health and lightness
more marked than he had ever before seen in her. Her illness had proved
a rest, in spite of all the trouble she had passed through. Some new
beauty, the beauty of experience, had passed into her face without
making havoc of the youthful contours and the girlish freshness, and
the beautiful line of her cheek outlined upon the dark fur, with the
wide-open eye above it, came upon Howard with an almost tormenting
sense of loveliness, like a chord of far-off music. He flung down his
pen, and took his wife in his arms for an instant. "Yes," he said in
answer to her look, "it's all right, darling--I can manage anything
with you near me, looking like that--that's all I want!"

They went out into the garden with its frost-crisped grass and leafless
shrubberies, with the high-standing down behind. "How it blows!" said
Howard:

    "''Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
         When Uricon the city stood:
      'Tis the old wind, in the old anger,
         But then it threshed another wood!'


How beautiful that is--'the old wind, in the old anger!'--but it isn't
true, for all that. If one thing changes, everything changes; and the
wind has got to march on, like you and me: there's nothing pathetic
about it. The weak thing is to want to stay as we are!"

"Oh yes," said Maud; "one wastes pity. I was inclined myself to be
pathetic about it all yesterday, when I went up home and looked into my
little old room. The furniture and books and pictures seemed to me to
reproach me with having deserted them; but, oh dear, what a fantastic,
foolish, anxious little wretch I was, with all my plans for uplifting
everyone! You don't know, dearest, you can't know, out of what a
stagnant little pool you fished me up!"

"And yet _I_ feel," said Howard, "as if it was you who had saved me
from a sort of death--what a charming picture! two people who can't
swim saving each other from drowning."

"Well, that's the way that things are done!" said Maud decisively.

They left the garden, and betook themselves to the pool; the waters
welled up, green and cold, from the depth, and hurried away down their
bare channel.

"This is the scene of my life," said Howard; "I WILL be sentimental
about this! This is where my ghost will walk, if anywhere; good
heavens, to think that it was not three years ago that I came here
first, and thought in a solemn way that it was going to have a strange
significance for me. 'Significance,' that is the mischief! But it is
all very well, now that every minute is full of happiness, to laugh at
the old fears--they were very real at the time,--'the old wind, in the
old anger'--one can't sit and dream, though it's pleasant, it's
pleasant."

"It was the only time in my life," said Maud, "when I was ever brave!
Why isn't one braver? It is agreeable at the time, and it is almost
overpaid!"

"It is like what a doctor told me once," said Howard, "that he had
never in his life seen a patient go to the operating table other than
calm and brave. Face to face with things one is all right; and yet one
never learns not to waste time in dreading them."

They went on in silence up the valley, Maud walking beside him with all
her old lightness. Howard thought he had never seen anything more
beautiful. They were out of the wind now, but could hear it hiss in the
grasses above them.

"What about Cambridge?" said Maud. "I think it will be rather fun. I
haven't wanted to go; but do you know, if someone came to me and said I
might just unpack everything, I should be dreadfully disappointed!"

"I believe I should be too," said Howard. "My only fear is that I shall
not be interested--I shall be always wanting to get back to you--and
yet how inexplicable that used to seem to me, that Dons who married
should really prefer to steal back home, instead of living the free and
joyous life of the sympathetic and bachelor; and even now it seems
difficult to suppose that other men can feel as I do about THEIR wives."

"Like the boy in Punch," said Maud, "who couldn't believe that the two
earwigs could care about each other."

A faint music of bells came to them on the wind. "Hark!" said Howard;
"the Sherborne chime! Do you remember when we first heard that? It gave
me a delightful sense of other people being busy when I was unoccupied.
To-day it seems as if it was warning me that I have got to be busy."

They turned at last and retraced their steps. Presently Howard said,
"There's just one more thing, child, I want to say. I haven't ever
spoken to you since about the vision--whatever it was--which you
described to me--the child and you. But I took you at your word!"

"Yes," said Maud, "I have always been glad that you did that!"

"But I have wanted to speak," said Howard, "simply because I did not
want you to think that it wasn't in my mind--that I had cast it all
lightly away. I haven't tried to force myself into any belief about
it--it's a mystery--but it has grown into my mind somehow, and become
real; and I do feel more and more that there is something very true and
great about it, linking us with a life beyond. It does seem to me life,
and not silence; love, and not emptiness. It has not come in between
us, as I feared it might--or rather it HAS come in between us, and
seems to be holding both our hands. I don't say that my reason tells me
this--but something has outrun my reason, and something stronger and
better than reason. It is near and dear: and, dearest, you will believe
me when I say that this isn't said to please you or to woo you--I
wouldn't do that! I am not in sight of the reality yet, as you have
been; but it IS a reality, and not a sweet dream."

Maud looked at him, her eyes brimming with sudden tears. "Ah, my
beloved," she said, "that is all and more than I had hoped. Let it just
stay there! I am not foolish about it, and indeed the further away that
it gets, the less I am sure what happened. I shall not want you to
speak of it: it isn't that it is too sacred--nothing is too sacred--but
it is just a fact I can't reckon with, like the fact of one's own birth
and death. All I just hoped was that you might not think it only a
girl's fancy; but indeed I should not have cared if you HAD thought
that. The TRUTH--that is what matters; and nothing that you or I or
anyone, in any passion of love or sorrow, can believe about the truth,
can alter it; the only thing is to try to see it all clearly, not to
give false reasons, not to let one's imagination go."

"Yes, yes," said Howard, "that's the secret of love and life and
everything; and yet it seems a hard thing to believe; because if it
were not for your illusions about me, for instance--if you could really
see me as I am--you couldn't feel as you do; one comes back to trusting
one's heart after all--that is the only power we have of reading the
writing on the wall. And yet that is not all; it IS possible to read
it, to spell it out; but it is the interpretation that one needs, and
for that one must trust love, and love only."

They went back to the house in a happy silence; but Maud slipped out
again, and went to the little churchyard. There behind the chancel, in
a corner of the buttress, was a little mound. Maud laid a single white
flower upon it. "No," she said softly, as if speaking in the ear of a
child, "no, my darling, I am not making any mistake. I don't think of
you as sleeping here, though I love the place where the little limbs
are laid. You are awake, alive, about your business, I don't doubt. I'd
have loved you, guarded you, helped you along; but you have made love
live for me, and that, and hope, are enough now for us both! I don't
claim you, sweet; I don't even ask you to remember and understand."



THE END





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