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Title: Round the Corner - Being the Life and Death of Francis Christopher Folyat, - Bachelor of Divinity, and Father of a Large Family
Author: Cannan, Gilbert
Language: English
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University, Princeton University, the Internet Archive,
and Google.



ROUND THE CORNER



_On veut essayer de peindre à la postérité, non les actions d'un seul
homme, mais l'esprit des hommes dans le siècle le plus éclairé qui fut
jamais._--SIÈCLE DE LOUIS XIV.


_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_
PETER HOMUNCULUS
LITTLE BROTHER



ROUND THE CORNER

BEING THE LIFE AND DEATH OF FRANCIS CHRISTOPHER FOLYAT, BACHELOR OF
DIVINITY AND FATHER OF A LARGE FAMILY

BY GILBERT CANNAN


NEW YORK
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
MCMXIII



_TO MY MOTHER_

_We were happy, you and I,
 In the days so long gone by,
 When you gave me of the store
 Of rich legendary lore,
 Part saga, and part truth,
 Of the days of your own youth.
 Ah! The world was golden then!
 How we scorned the world of men
 In the days so long gone by!
 We were happy, you and I._


_First published_ 1913



CONTENTS

                                             PAGE

A LITTLE PREFACE                              vii

I. FRANCIS OBLIGES                              1

II. THE CURATE MARRIES                          9

III. ST. WITHANS                               19

IV. FERN SQUARE                                29

V. HOSTILITIES                                 40

VI. FREDERIC'S FRIENDS                         50

VII. YOUNG WOMEN                               58

VIII. SERGE                                    71

IX. INTERIOR                                   83

X. SUNDAY SUPPER                               95

XI. ART AND DRAMA                             107

XII. ANNETTE                                  119

XIII. IMBROGLIO                               131

XIV. WHITE BEARD AND GREY                     143

XV. WALKING HOME                              156

XVI. MRS. FOLYAT DISSECTED                    170

XVII. FREDERIC SNARED                         177

XVIII. EXCURSION                              186

XIX. GERTRUDE                                 200

XX. EDUCATION                                 210

XXI. MRS. ENTWISTLE'S HEART                   218

XXII. LOVE                                    227

XXIII. BENNETT TELLS HIS MOTHER               241

XXIV. ANNETTE TELLS HER FATHER                247

XXV. LAWRIEAN PHILOSOPHY                      260

XXVI. MINNA'S CHOICE                          266

XXVII. GERTRUDE MAKES THE BEST OF IT          274

XXVIII. MOTHER AND DAUGHTER                   280

XXIX. DISCUSSION                              288

XXX. FREDERIC IN THE TOILS                    295

XXXI. NEWS FROM MINNA                         309

XXXII. THE CUTTING OF A KNOT                  323

XXXIII. THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER          334

XXXIV. NUNC DIMITTIS                          341



A LITTLE PREFACE

Care I for the limbs, the thews, the stature, bulk and big assemblance
of a man? Give me the spirit.
     HENRY IV, Part II.

_Being of such a strange temper and vision that when I aim my pen at a
man I am as likely as not to hit his grandfather, I have in this
instance endeavoured to forestall the treachery of my faculties and to
go straight for the grandfather, though my interest is centred in the
man. In a sense I have written his life as it was long before he was
born, when he was nothing more than a growing presentiment. I have
found it instructive and entertaining to observe and follow the
evolution of the material, moral, and intellectual atmosphere which
was to bear on him first of all through his mother's mind, and then
through his own senses as soon as his life was separated from hers._

_I launch my hero upon the world and leave it to anybody who likes to
kill him, and I pray that those who are in process of morally
slaughtering their own innocents may take my imaginary child instead,
for there is no remedy for the murder of a living soul, but, should it
ever happen that my bantling demanded the right to continue his
existence and in his turn to become a father, I have only to revive
him, give him another name, and let him do his worst._

_My conscience has been greatly exercised for some time now over the
many errors and literary sins I have committed in the past--sins not
against the rules (there are none) but against the persons whom I have
forced to live in a mutilated, limited sort of life in the printed
page, and those other excellent persons whom I have invited to
collaborate in the fun of watching them. Upon these two sets of
persons I have too often forced my beliefs without making it clear to
them what my beliefs are. And here again I shall often seem to offend,
because, honestly, I can neither codify my beliefs nor force them into
any existing code. I can, however, give a hint at them by saying that,
in my view, we can only accept life with dignity and without injury to
our self-respect in perfect freedom--by which I shall be taken to mean
Licence. Freedom is a much-abused word, and when you use it to seven
men and women out of ten they at once think of a world full of satyrs.
When I use the word Freedom, I think of a world full of what Walt
Whitman, who had no sense of humour when he took pen in hand, called
"superb persons," that is, men and women who are not imprisoned in
their own thoughts. Only a man's own mind can make him a slave, and
every healthy human being from first to last of conscious life
struggles for the freedom of his own mind. We set about it often in
strange ways and make dreadful muddles, but the fight itself renders
life enjoyable, even if the aim be never attained. Freedom, of course,
like everything else, is subject to the limitations of this existence.
A man's thoughts, like his life, are bounded by birth and death. When
he tries to cast them beyond death they fall cold and lifeless, as
will be seen in much imaginative poetry, many spiritualistic theories,
and all presentations of Heaven. For reasons quite explicable when we
consider the dying belief in a sort of straight-line human progress,
men have never been interested in events antecedent to birth. I look
forward to the day when they will be as little interested in events
after death. A man's father and his son (mother and daughter included)
are all the past and future vouchsafed to him, and if he will take the
trouble to understand them he will find satisfaction and to spare for
what is at present called his thirst for immortality._

_I find immortality an admirable word upon which to end my preface,
but, in face of the grey tints of this composition, I must protest my
optimism, believing human life to be like a river, that, if it be
fouled, will run itself clear in time. Only, you must trace the poison
to its source and stop it._



I

FRANCIS OBLIGES

_One is One and all alone
And ever more shall be so._
     OLD SONG.

THERE was once a time, and not so long ago either, when gentle people
were so gentle that the males could not (with the countenance of their
families) enter upon any profession other than the Army, the Navy, or
the Church.

Francis Christopher Folyat was a male member of a gentle family that
had done no work for two generations and, unfortunately, had not been
clever enough to keep its revenues from dwindling. He was the eldest
son and he had two brothers, so that there was one Folyat for each of
the three professions, if enough patronage could be collected from
their various titled and more or less influential connections. Francis
had a snub nose, William had an aquiline nose which his mother adored,
and Peter had a nose which betrayed a very remote Jewish infection of
the blood of the race.

Parenthetically let it be observed that the name Folyat should be
written with two little _f_s--ffolyat, for so the name was spelt by
the only really distinguished Folyat, Henry, who had been mixed up in
the Gunpowder Plot, so that his name is printed to this day in more
than one History of England, and to this day, in spite of its
deep-rooted conservatism, the family is proud of that insurgent son.
He marks its descent for all to see, and, as it is all so long ago, it
is easy to forget that he failed to do that for which certain
politicians have become infamous, namely, to blow up the House of
Lords and, with it, his cousins, the Baron Folyat and the Viscount
Bampfield of his day. He escaped from England, and the French
Feuillats, of whom the present representative keeps a newspaper kiosk
on the Rue de Rivoli, just outside the Métro station by the Louvre,
are his direct descendants. English interest in that branch of the
family ceases with the conspirator Henry.

The grandfather of Francis Folyat had a seat in the country and a
mansion in London, also a coach and a barouche, an advowson or two,
and a vast number of servants; also a large collection of portraits,
including a Van Dyck, a Holbein, and a Sir Peter Lely. The father of
Francis Folyat left the seat in the country in a dilapidated
condition, and only so much else as he could not possibly avoid
leaving. However, Baron Folyat and Viscount Bampfield behaved very
handsomely and agreed to assist the widow with their patronage. Baron
Folyat's magnanimity stopped short at his promise, but Viscount
Bampfield was as good as his word, and when the time came for Francis
to enter upon a career he procured him a commission in His Majesty's
Army. Francis was highly delighted at this, and saw himself stepping
into the Duke of Wellington's shoes when that illustrious man should
be gathered to that fold where the most illustrious are even as the
meanest of God's creatures. He spent a glorious day in the top of his
favourite oak-tree in the park planning heroic wars for England and
telling the birds that at last they had something to sing about. He
had never thought of it before, but, as it had been decided that he
was to be a soldier, he flared to the project, saw himself in a red
coat charging like Marmion, or dancing at a ball like that described
so melodramatically by the wicked poet, Lord Byron, when Belgium's
capital had "gathered there her beauty and her chivalry"; more, since
it might be his duty to die for England, he fetched up an England
worth dying for, a heroic, majestic king, a cause, and a God cursing
England's enemies. He thoroughly enjoyed himself and prepared a
martial oration in good Ciceronic periods for his mother's benefit,
when, as he knew she would, she gave him her blessing and delivered
herself of a homily over her soldier-son.

"I will be," he said, "a true Folyat, worthy of the name I bear."

As he entered the house he met his brother William, whom he had always
disliked more than any one in the world--he had often prayed to God to
make him like William better--and he thought there was a curious look
in his eyes. He put it down to envy and liked William less than ever.
William sidled up to him and said:

"Mother wishes to see you."

A wish from their mother was a command, always obeyed, as he obeyed it
now. She was a very handsome woman. She had been the celebrated Miss
Cresitter and she never forgot it. She had been a toast, and queened
it accordingly. Her portrait had been painted by an extremely
fashionable and very indifferent painter and it hung in her room, the
best in the house. She wore a beautiful lace fichu and black lace
mittens, and the lines of her face were hard. Her hair was done in
ringlets on either side of her face and drawn up into a knot at the
back of her head. In front it was parted in the middle and plentifully
oiled. The furniture in the room was handsome and ponderous, and there
was nowhere an indication of any sort of recognition of the loveliness
of the view from the window.

Francis stood, as he had been trained to do in his mother's presence,
and waited for her to speak. She was in no hurry and kept him
standing, and when she spoke he was startled, as he never failed to
be, by the rich tones of her voice. It was a magnificent voice, and
she knew it and used it caressingly, lingering on her favourite notes,
which she threw cunningly upon the open vowels. Francis was a fine
word for her purposes. She might have put a world of affection into
her intonation of it, but that seems never to have occurred to her. It
never occurred to Francis either.

"Francis," she said, "I have been thinking."

This called for no reply and Francis made none.

"I do not think," she went on, "that you are altogether suitable for
the army. You are too gentle. You cannot say 'No.' You are--how shall
I say it?--too emotional, too much given to dreams. The life of a
soldier is stern and calls for resolution. The Folyats are, and always
have been, weak. There have been exceptions it is true, but I have
never seen any indication that you are one of them."

Francis was cut to the quick, but he had never in his life doubted the
truth of anything his mother said, and, when she pointed out the
temptations of a soldier's life, he began to see himself as a feeble
will-less wastrel utterly unfitted to wear the king's uniform. Better
never to wear it than to disgrace it! It was quite as easy for him to
see himself in this light as to dream heroically of warlike deeds and
successful prowess. His mother played upon his foible and stripped him
mercilessly of red coat, sword, epaulets, cocked hat, and glorious
future. He capitulated and agreed that he was incapable of saying
"No," and was therefore unfitted to take up the commission so kindly
obtained for him by his cousin Bampfield.

Having been robbed of his dream, he did not very much care what the
future held for him. His mother explained to him that she had very
little money and could leave him less, and that if he would go into
the Church his Cousin Bampfield could provide him with a living as
soon as he had been ordained. She could not send him to Oxford or
Cambridge, since the estate of a gentleman in those universities was
costly, but she had made inquiries and found that the University of
Dublin, the Irish being notoriously poor, could equip a divinity
student with Latin, Greek, Hebrew, theology, and a degree for a modest
annual sum.

Francis embraced this plan miserably enough, and began to study the
Greek Testament with the vicar. The subject of the commission was
never reopened, and his mother was more amiable to him than she had
ever been.

A few months later it was announced that William was to stay with
Cousin Bampfield, and Francis learned that the commission had been
transferred to his detested young brother. He lost his temper, waylaid
William, dragged him behind the stables, and thumped his aquiline nose
until it swelled and assumed a red and purple hue, and William howled
and vowed that if ever he could do his brother a mischief he would. No
hint of the combat ever reached their mother, in spite of her distress
at the damage to her William's beautiful nose, and the brothers went
their ways--William abroad, to stay with his aunt by marriage, the
Comtessa di Sangiorgi, and Francis to Dublin, where he lodged with a
slatternly Irishwoman, who corrupted his habits and encouraged him in
his natural indolence of mind and excessive good-nature.

Of his university life nothing very definite is known. He was in every
way unremarkable. He was too simple and direct to achieve notoriety by
conflict with his fellow-undergraduates. He recognised that he was in
Dublin to procure a degree, and set himself to achieve that purpose
with the minimum of trouble. He acquired a taste for the Latin poets,
especially Juvenal, Horace, and Lucretius, and he was never weary of
reading the fragmentary novel of Petronius Arbiter. He had many
acquaintances and few friends, and he devoted much time to the growth
and cultivation of a long golden beard, which, together with his snub
nose, earned him the nickname of Socrates, or Old Soc. In Ireland he
was happier than he ever was again in all his long life, though, with
his large capacity for enjoyment, it cannot be said that he was ever
genuinely unhappy. In Ireland he found an atmosphere altogether
congenial to his temperament, which found its food in Rabelais,
Montaigne (Voltaire he would not read as he was going to be a
clergyman), and so led him to the conviction that English literature
was diverted from its true channel after the death of Henry Fielding.
(He once took a chaplaincy in Lisbon because he wished to see and to
honour the novelist's grave.) He made friends enough to be asked to
spend his vacations away from home, and was glad to have excuses to
give to his mother--excuses which he conveyed to her in letters
beginning "Dear Madam" and subscribed "Your obedient son."

Nothing occurred to disturb his equable determination to enter the
Church, and after he had taken the degree of Bachelor of Divinity he
swallowed the Thirty-nine Articles without blinking and proceeded to
ordination at the hands of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, shortly after
the marriage of Queen Victoria with her cousin Prince Albert, not yet
either great or good, and almost within a week of his brother
William's departure with his regiment for India.

For a few months he acted as chaplain in his cousin Lord Folyat's
household, and was amused to find his position as spiritual adviser
and curate of souls gave him a status slightly above that of the
butler and, so far as cordiality went, distinctly below that of the
huntsman who fed and trained the hounds. He comforted himself with the
reflection that his condition was at any rate better than that of
Parson Adams, though his deserts were less, and took steps to obtain
work independently of his family. This greatly upset madam, his
mother, who warned him that he might be jeopardising his chances of
the next family living. Within himself he argued that, being by
profession a shepherd of souls, he must not waste time in places where
there was not one to be found. He did not, however, lay this argument
before his mother, but accepted a curacy at one hundred and ten pounds
in South Devon, on a pleasant estuary, in a little town that had been
a seaport in old days, trading busily with France and the Netherlands,
and once familiar ground to Francis Drake and many another Elizabethan
adventurer. Here there might or might not be souls for his charge, but
there was the sea, and romance, and a heronry, and woods that were a
perfect paradise for birds. He went down to the place and wrote his
mother a very fine literary description of its natural beauties, which
he sent to her by the new penny post and promised that he would stay
with her for six days before he entered upon his new life.

He arrived to find her in her great four-poster bed, shrivelled and
very little, and looking very old in the shadow of its massive
hangings. Her appearance shocked him. He had never seen anybody die,
and he had a strange feeling that he was being very unfairly treated,
and he realised painfully that in honouring his father's memory and
his mother he had enjoyed only a very unsatisfactory relationship. His
brother William was in India; Peter was on the high seas, and no word
was to be expected from him for three years or more. He was alone, and
he felt ashamed of his incapacity to grapple with the situation. His
mother, perhaps as a tactful tribute to the profession into which she
had forced him, asked him to read the Bible, and automatically he
turned to the Book of Ecclesiastes and read her the passage in the
last chapter which contains some of the soundest and most neglected
advice ever given to mankind. He made no attempt to reconcile it with
Christian teaching and his work, but found himself delighting in the
spiritual health of the words. His mother said:

"Francis, you must read better than that."

This rather irritated him, though he knew it was selfish and
inappropriate at such a time. He replied:

"Mother, I could have wished to come to see you in a red coat. It has
been ordered that I should wear a black. I do not think I shall ever
be a bishop, but I will do my best to remain a gentleman and to be
worthy of the name I bear."

His mother turned the subject and talked to him of material matters,
and made him promise to preserve intact the family portraits--twelve
in all. Certain articles of furniture and plate he was to keep in
trust for his brothers when they should return to England. William,
she said, was certain to be a general, and Peter could hardly fail,
with so much influence, to become an admiral.

"And I," thought Francis, "am a stranger to ambition."

Suddenly tears came to his eyes and he had a feeling of immense pity,
and it was so queer to him that he should have an overflowing emotion
in his mother's presence that he was relieved when this colloquy was
broken off by the entry of Dr. Fish, the physician from the town five
miles away, who still wore a wig and knee-breeches and looked like a
sparrow after a dust-bath.

Francis left him with his patient and went into the fruit-garden to
enjoy a pipe of tobacco, a luxury which had mastered him in Dublin. He
learned there to smoke a clay pipe and bird's-eye tobacco and never
changed them for sixty years.

Dr. Fish was rather a long time closeted in the dark room with the
great bed, and when he came down Francis met him with an anxious face.

"Die?" said Dr. Fish. "Not a bit of it. She'll live to be a hundred."

But to Francis she was already dead, and in his life thereafter she
was a ghost whom he regarded with a friendly eye. Never again did he
allow her to meddle in his affairs.



II

THE CURATE MARRIES

_She's extremely pretty and loves thee entirely. I have heard her
breathe such raptures about thee._--THE OLD BACHELOR.

POTSHAM then was very much what it is now. It is doubtful if fifty
houses were built in it in as many years. It had then a repairing dock
which provided work for the poor. It has now a jam factory. Then its
postmistress, with the aid of a kettle, opened all letters that looked
interesting. Only the other day a new resident discovered that his
private affairs were common property, and the postmistress was
deposed. Then, as now, the church, standing high above the river, was
the centre of the somnolent life of the place, and Francis Folyat
lived upon an eminence. He liked it.

The little society of the place warmed to the curate when it was found
that he was welcomed in the houses of one or two of the county
families. When it was discovered that Viscount Bampfield was his first
cousin once removed, and that Baron Folyat was half a degree nearer in
kinship, he became a romantic figure. When a small girl read in her
history book that Henry Folyat was associated with Guy Fawkes, she ran
with her thumb between the leaves and showed the passage to her
governess, who showed it to her mother, who gave a dinner-party to
announce the discovery. Thenceforth the curate was bathed in a golden
light.

He became the object of the most flattering attentions. Every woman in
the town showed herself a mother to him, and Miss Martha Brett won
from him the confession that his full name was Francis ffolyat
Christopher ffolyat-Folyat. She hugged this information to her bosom,
and gloated over the thought that it was hers and hers alone. She
devoured romances, though, being not yet seventeen, she was supposed
to confine her attentions to "The Fairchild Family" and Miss Maria
Edgeworth. In all innocence Francis lent her the poems of a young man
named Shelley who was still regarded as a blasphemous and immoral
writer. She could not read them, but did not tell him so, though she
distressed him by inviting him to read Mrs. Inchbald aloud to her in
the gazebo at the end of the garden, above the wall that was washed by
the river when the tide was up and slimed with mud when it was out.

The curate's mind was at that time divided into two compartments, one
for literature and the other for religion. He saw no necessity for
reconciling the two things and made no attempt to do so. He regarded
religion as his work, and literature as an escape from it. Life was
extremely pleasant: lazy day succeeded lazy day. The obedient flock
was rounded into the church on Sunday and quite often on weekdays, for
there was no other place in which two or three could gather together.
The only tiny clouds in a fair blue sky were drink and dissent, and in
the lower classes an occasional outburst of immorality. Dissent was
ignored; drink was attacked by prayer; and immorality was defeated by
a hurried marriage where possible, and when that was out of the
question it was scarified by threats--sure promises even--of eternal
punishment. It was all a matter of routine, and so extremely pleasant
that Francis soon ceased to regret that he had stifled ambition with a
black coat. His vicar was a man who had taken a small active part in
the Tractarian movement, without in the least understanding its
spiritual significance. He had been attracted by the notion that the
Church existed in spite of Henry VIII, and not because of him, and
when his leaders told him to adopt the ideas of the Real Presence in
the Sacrament and the sacrificial priesthood of the clergy, he did so
without making any attempt to bring them into agreement with the facts
of his life or the practice of his profession. He instituted ritual in
his services, thus making them more entertaining to his flock, and, as
he had never looked for any rejuvenation of the spiritual life of his
parish, he was not disappointed by the result. He thought he was a
good man: everybody said he was a good man, and perhaps he was.

Francis swallowed both his ideas and his goodness without difficulty,
examined the ritual of the services with interest and some enthusiasm,
corrected it in one or two points, and as he took nearly all the work
of the parish off the vicar's shoulders, there could not possibly be
any friction between them. The vicar congratulated himself on having
found a jewel of curates, and his wife began to dream dreams of vast
preferment obtained through the Folyat influence--a rural deanery, a
stall, a bishopric, and--why not?--Canterbury or York.

Francis, on the other hand, gave no thought to the future and drifted
drowsily, most keenly enjoying himself in the summer days when he
could take a boat, a book, an old long-shoreman and fishing tackle,
and go down to the sand-banks at the mouth of the estuary and bathe
and fish and lie in the sun with his clay pipe between his teeth, and
his golden beard glistening and his blue eyes shining as he thought
that the world was very good and the sea almost the best of good
things in it. It was not his way to compare his lot with others, and
it had never occurred to him, except in his official capacity, to
criticise life. In that capacity he criticised not so much life as a
traditional concept of it.

He was rudely awakened from this drowsy golden age by an event which
kept Potsham talking for a generation and a half.

One night when he had been dining at Crabtrees, the house of Miss
Martha Brett's aunt, where there had been music and cribbage and a
walk down the garden to look at the moonlight on the sea, he returned
to his rooms to find them occupied by a man with a white face and
quivering lips and legs that would not be still. He was a poor man and
a sort of seafaring man, and he looked up and in a rustling voice he
said:

"Parson, what sort of man would that man be. . . ?"

Then he stopped and rattled in his throat, and Francis felt a curious
nausea as he looked at the man and saw how frightened he was.

"What sort of man?" asked Francis, feeling that the question was
almost as meaningless as the man's words.

"She's got a cut in her throat and a lot of blood. . . . I say."

"I say," echoed Francis.

"We'd better go," said the man.

"Yes," said Francis. "Does anybody know?"

"No," replied the man, "I been looking at her three hours."

With that he seemed to gain control of himself, and his legs did not
shake any more and his lips set in a thin straight line. He stood up
and went to the door and Francis followed him. Very cunningly the man
looked at him and said: "You do know how a man could do it?"

"No," said Francis, "unless----"

However, the man seemed to be satisfied and led the way, and they
walked down the little crooked street called the Strand and came to a
little tumble-down house by the dock, and there they found the woman
even as the man had told. To Francis the adventure seemed to be
complete and fantastic, and he felt that he was outside it, that the
world had stopped and that it was very cold. Then he felt that it was
horrible and intolerable, simply because nothing could happen unless
he made it happen, and action had never been asked of him before.

There was a tallow candle in a bottle, but it gave very little light.
The moon shone through the window, and its light was very pitiless and
grim.

The man folded his arms and said with a sort of insistence: "You do
know how a man could do it!"

The cold dead harshness of his voice brought Francis out of his
fantasy, and at last he found the word that had been buzzing in his
brain ever since he saw the man sitting in his chair: Murder.

"No," he said, and he was astonished at the hardness of his own voice.

He turned heavily, but the man was quicker than he. He saw him dart
through the door, run a little way up the street, go into a house, and
in an instant there sprang up a crowd of people whispering, murmuring,
buzzing, huddling, and crushing round the door of the little dark
house. They were a little awed when they saw the curate, but the crowd
hummed as new people came running up and the tale was told again.
Suddenly Francis felt a hand on his arm, and there was the man
clinging to him while the beadle and the policeman were tugging at him
to take him away. The man would not let go, but he was very strong,
and for some way Francis had to move with him through the crowd. Then
at last he wrenched free and watched the three figures cleave into the
crowd, part it, and then be swallowed up.

He found himself standing at a place where, between two houses, he
could see the water swelling with the tide and a black boat rocking,
and over all the light of the moon.

The machinery of the law passed over the murderer and he was hanged,
but Francis never told a soul how he had been drawn into the eddy of
the crime. His experience produced in him a feeling of profound
depression, from which he recovered slowly and painfully to find that
human beings had emerged from the landscape as they had never done
before. They demanded, a different sort of attention from that which
he had always given them, and at first he disliked them heartily. He
saw them in their habits, sadly, as they were--eating, drinking,
sleeping, gossiping, with very little to vary the monotony save
foolish love affairs and mean jealousies and petty quarrels. Nothing
that they did, not even their sins, seemed to be worth while. What
bothered him most was that he found himself sympathising with the
criminal and curiously desirous of defending him against the society
which had answered ferocity with ferocity.

That did not last long. He was soon brought up against his ignorance
of the world outside and his entire lack of comparative standards,
and, as young men will, he thought that at all costs he must
escape--that is, move from the circumference of a dizzily spinning
world to the centre of it.

First of all he came to the conclusion that he had religious doubts
and consulted his vicar, who bowled him over with professional
arguments. Against them he could only set his vivid sensation on that
strange night and his keen recollection of the tallow candle in the
bottle and the moon shining through the window; and of these he dared
not speak. He agreed perfectly that he had set his hand to the noblest
service in the world and had no right to look back. But looking
forward availed him nothing; the present was bewildering and the past
had suddenly become empty. The bung had been removed from the tight
barrel of his existence and all the good liquor had leaked away.

However, he did his work neither better nor worse than he had done it
before. He christened children and churched women and married couples
and read solemn and beautiful words over the dead, and for the first
time began to ponder the meaning of these ceremonies. The Church, he
said, sanctified birth and death and what lay between them, and he
tried to persuade himself that it raised them from brutality,
spiritualised them, and made them holy; but then he could not help
feeling that there was some discrepancy. The facts remained the same,
therefore if they were sacred at all they must be sacred in
themselves. All that could be done by mind and Holy Writ, the product
of inspired minds, was nobly to interpret the facts, to see to it that
men lived nobly--lived nobly and nobly died. He had seen several
persons die, had given them the comfort of religion, and now, when he
remembered, he was struck principally by the dignity with which death
was accepted. It seemed to him that men had religion in themselves,
that it was not, could not be grafted on them from without.

"Life," he said to himself, "is a religious thing, or it is something
less than life."

He felt that he was moving from the circumference to the centre, and
then he realised that he was reaching only the centre of his own
thoughts, not the heart of the world. He had advanced in theory but in
practice was just as far out of his bearings as ever. He had fed
himself chiefly with the writings of ironists and he was hungry for
belief--in the nobility of life and death and the unity of all things.
The lives of birds he knew and the lives of beasts, but of the lives
of men he knew nothing at all. Never had he been to a great city, but
he conceived that there also the lives of men must be very much what
they were in the somnolent little town on the Devon estuary--they were
born, they suffered, and they died. That was all. Surely that was all.

He would not have that. The ironists left it at that. He became
positive that the manner of it mattered--to Nature, perhaps, not at
all, but to men, and to God through men, vitally. To that end the Holy
Bible had been written and the Church founded, and to that end Keble
and Pusey had sought to rouse the Church from its indolence and
indifference. His vicar was right: he could not turn back, but he must
know wherein his work as a priest consisted. If it served any purpose
at all, it must be for the sanctification of life by endowing it with
a noble interpretation.

Francis had no large conception of the universe. At this young period
of his life his notions were still mediæval. He believed the earth to
be stationary, Hell to be under his feet, and the Heavenly region to
be beyond the blue vault of the sky, and that human life led
infallibly to one or the other. A noble life, therefore, was that
which led to Heaven, and to this idea, and to the cosmogony it
implied, he shaped his ethics and his ideals, never suspecting that he
was sacrificing the greater to the less.

When men sit down and think out schemes of life they nearly always
make the mistake of leaving women out of them. This is easily
understood in the case of young men for whom women hardly exist except
as an emotion, a fire that may at any moment flame into their
existence and lay it waste like the little foxes in the Bible. Our
curate made that mistake. Naturally he had been in love--never out of
it; but always he had worshipped from afar, and had thought the
objects of his adoration as insensible to it as the stars in the sky
to his wonder and delight. He was in love now, but could attach his
emotion to no particular young woman. There were at least four, and he
never credited them with any design when he met them out walking, or
they came to him on parish business or demanded his escort or
displayed their gardens to him. He enjoyed his emotions while he was
ashamed of them. They were not "noble."

When next he sat--at her suggestion--with Miss Martha Brett in the
gazebo, he found himself thinking that she was very charming and
pretty with her brown ringlets on either side of her face and her
plump little shoulders peeping out of her gown, a modification of the
style made popular by the young Queen. She was so demure, so quiet,
and her manner of listening to him gave him such a sense of authority.
He felt it could never leave him, that he would never again have those
appalling moments in church when a gulf opened wide in front of him
and he felt that any one of his listeners had more right than he to be
talking and calling this black and that white.

She sat by a little table and he sat on the other side of it with a
book in his hands, and she let her hand fall on the table so that it
lay flat, very white and soft and pink at the finger-tips, and in her
wrist was the most delicious little bone. He could see nothing else.
He gazed and gazed at it, then with a wrench turned to his book, but
his eyes were swimming so that the words swallowed each other up.

Roses nodded in at the window, and the smell of the salt water came up
and mingled with the garden scents.

"It is most moving," said Miss Martha.

"Most," stuttered the Curate, and he looked up and saw warmth and
mischief in her eyes, and almost imperceptibly she edged her hand a
little nearer to him.

Her aunt came in on that, and Francis heaved an immense sigh of relief
and went spluttering on with his reading as though he had been caught
out in some shameful act.

When he left the house later in the evening he admitted to himself
that he was in love, and that Miss Martha was the most beautiful, the
most peerless, the most chaste, the most innocent of women, and he
called his emotion "gross desire" and tried to strangle it, and
suffered horribly. The more he wrestled with it, the more powerful it
grew.

He was in love, and love swamped all his thoughts. He took long
solitary walks, and he hated all the couples whom he married and
envied them. They had passed through torment--Oh! who was the fool who
said that love was sweet? The old fleeting devotions had been
delicious--if shameful; but this, this was fire in the veins, scalding
thoughts, an obsession, a fixed idea.

More to be rid of it than with any hope of success, he called upon
Miss Martha's aunt, and, coming straight to the point, blurted out
that he hoped she could regard him favourably as a suitor and would
grant him permission to ask for her niece's hand in marriage--exactly
as Miss Martha's aunt had planned that he should when he first came to
Potsham and she had satisfied herself as to his antecedents. He
explained that he was not rich but had every hope of being given a
family living as soon as one should fall vacant. To his amazement he
was informed that Miss Martha was something of an heiress, and would
own, when she came of age, thirteen houses in Potsham, subject to
leases, and one mortgage, a farm on Dartmoor, and fifty acres in
Cornwall. Her niece, the aunt added, had often expressed her great
admiration for Mr. Folyat, and, with her eyes gleaming exultation and
beatitude, she confessed that she could desire no better thing than to
see such coincidence between her own wishes and her niece's
affections.

Francis took his leave praying devoutly that he might not meet his
Martha, but no sooner had he set foot outside the parlour door than
there she stood before him, and he could say nothing and she could say
nothing, until suddenly he caught her up in his arms and hugged her
and kissed her, set her down on her feet gasping, begged her pardon,
and blundered out of the house blushing furiously.

Cousin Bampfield warmly congratulated his kinsman on his betrothal,
and, two adjacent livings in Cornwall presently falling vacant, gave
him both of them.

There was a splendid wedding and the young couple spent their
honeymoon in London, for neither had ever before visited the capital.
They saw the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's
Cathedral, but Martha was impressed by nothing so much as her
husband's grandfather's town house in Curzon Street. She thought it
grand, and was never tired of hearing her husband tell of his gentle
family, the Folyats.



III

ST. WITHANS

_Not knowing how to find the open air,
But toiling desperately to find it out._
     HENRY VI, Part III.

IF Potsham was somnolent, St. Withans, our parson's Cornish living,
might well have been the home of the Sleeping Beauty. For a time it
was a place of enchantment while the charm and novelty of wedded love
were upon Francis and his Martha. They were blissfully happy: the
county welcomed them, they had a charming house and garden, a
carriage, money in plenty, children, and when they were bored with the
country they could escape to the gaiety of Plymouth. After they had
been married for five years they exchanged duties for a year with the
English chaplain at Hâvre-de-Grace in Normandy, and their fourth
child, a daughter, was born there. After that it became a habit with
them to go over to the Continent every year for a couple of months.

Their sixth child died in infancy, their seventh only lived to be
three years old, but the eighth, ninth, and tenth were as healthy and
comely as the first five.

It was a year or so after the birth of the tenth, in 1867, that they
began to discover that while their family had grown their income had
remained stationary. It was at that moment that for the first time
they began to think of what they had done and counted up the number of
their offspring, and realised that they had brought nine good lives
into the world and had to face the responsibility and, somehow or
other, establish them.

These were the names of the young Folyats: Serge, Gertrude, Frederic,
Mary, Leedham, Minna, Annette, and James.

Serge had early passed out of his parents' control, though not without
expense, for he had been sent into the Navy, from which, at the age of
fifteen, he deserted in Labrador and was only saved from court-martial
by being bought out of the service, to which end the farm on Dartmoor
and a house in Potsham were sold. He was not allowed to come home and,
since he refused to stay in America, a situation was found for him in
a bank in Kimberley, in South Africa, and his correspondence dwindled
and then ceased altogether.

Frederic was at a Lycée in France, and the question of his career was
being indefinitely postponed.

The girls were the problem. Gertrude and Mary had suddenly become
women and there was no man to ask them in marriage. An occasional
Folyat was sent to the Vicarage to be coached for some examination,
but they either only flirted or they fell desperately in love with
Minna, the beauty of the family, who was only fourteen.

After Serge's escapade the carriage had to be given up, and since Mrs.
Folyat could not pay calls or visit at a distance, the county soon
forgot her and fewer and fewer distinguished ladies drove up to the
Vicarage. On the other hand, Mrs. Folyat's aspirations had offended
the ladies on whom the county did not call, and when the carriage was
disposed of and replaced by a little wicker donkey-cart they did not
conceal their rejoicing, and their tattle did not fail to reach Mrs.
Folyat's ears. She was confirmed in her conviction of the vulgarity of
trade, and she brooded over the situation without saying anything to
Francis. He said nothing to her and they skirted the problem. His
anxiety was entirely to make expenditure and income meet, and he
rather welcomed than deplored the defection of the county. It meant a
garden party the less and two of the servants could be dismissed.

The crisis seemed to be tided over and the financial problem adjusted
when they were faced with the fact that Frederic was nineteen, of an
age to leave the Lycée, and that a profession must be found for him.
Mrs. Folyat decided on the Army, but Francis at once squashed that
and, all unconsciously, reproduced his mother's arguments. Frederic
was a Folyat and weak. Regimental life would be too dangerous for him.
The Church? Frederic, who was not a little Frenchified and rather
dreadfully freeminded, scornfully rejected the suggestion. . . The
Bar? Mrs. Folyat was sure Frederic would look well in a wig and gown,
and besides, judges and the law officers of the Crown were always
knighted. Frederic saw that this plan would take him to London, and he
jumped at it greedily.

Francis went to Plymouth and saw his solicitor, who pointed out that
it was a matter of great expense and meant supporting the boy until he
was over thirty. Francis felt that the problem was insoluble, gave it
up for the time being, and consoled himself with buying a parrot from
a drunken sailor and a dog in a fancier's shop by the docks because it
was impossible to tell which was its head and which was its tail. He
called the dog "Muff" and the parrot "Sailor."

Frederic sulked when he learned that he was not to go to the Bar and
went down to the village inn and came home very drunk. When he was
reproved, he asked what else there was to do in such a dead-alive
hole, and his father found it very difficult to reply. It was
painfully forced upon his attention that Frederic also had a mind, and
that it worked in a way entirely different from his own. This was
distressing, because for many years Francis had done all the thinking
necessary for his family, and that no great amount. He had an
intolerable sense of being cooped up with an enemy, and what
bewildered him most of all was to think that the enemy should be his
own son. He could not explain it to his wife, or to himself, for that
matter, but there it was, and he was thankful when Frederic chose to
absent himself from meals.

At last, after much cogitation, he approached his wife with the
suggestion that they should make Frederic a solicitor.

"An attorney!" said Martha, and Francis knew that she was thinking of
the common, dusty little man in Plymouth.

Parents who have aspired to make their sons physicians and been forced
to stop short at dentistry will understand what torture it was to
Martha Folyat, and, in a less degree, to her husband, to descend from
the higher to the lower branch of the legal profession--no wig, no
gown, no access to the Bench, no prospective knighthood. It was a pill
and they swallowed it, putting as brave a face on it as possible, and
they were somewhat comforted when they found, upon inquiry, that a
family of undoubted gentility in the county had sent their son into a
solicitor's office in Lincoln's Inn Fields in London.

Martha's ambition leaped within her, and she suggested that Frederic
also should be sent to London where he was more likely, if not to
meet, at least to handle the affairs of, the aristocracy. Who knows?
Even the Royal Family had legal business, and there was a great case
coming on to decide the succession of the collateral Folyats, somewhat
complicated by a bigamous old clergyman who for his third wife had
taken a negress in Africa. The case would be ripe just about the time
Frederic was qualified, and Willie Folyat, a possible heir, was one of
Minna's most devoted admirers.

Martha only spoke about a hundredth of her musings, but Francis,
mindful of Frederic's recent behaviour and his plentiful lack of
character, decided for Plymouth, as being more accessible in case of
disaster. (He was surprised to find himself taking account of the
difference in expense of the two journeys, having always hitherto had
a lordly disregard of money.)

It was settled; the dusty little man in Plymouth accepted Frederic as
an articled clerk, and, when he had received his premium, went into
the affairs of the family, and presented the horrible truth that such
inroads had been made upon capital that the income was reduced by
one-third from its original dimensions.

Francis was so relieved at having disposed of Frederic that at first
he made light of it and said nothing to his wife. He supposed his
difficulties would solve themselves, and this to all appearances they
did.

Willie Folyat, the possible heir afore-mentioned, an undergraduate at
Oxford, a very worthy and high-souled son of a pious and very poor
father, spent two long vacations at the St. Withans Vicarage. Gertrude
fell in love with him first, as by prescriptive right, and then, as
she seemed to make no progress, Mary considered herself free to lose
her heart. To their amazement and dismay, Willie sought an interview
with their father and proposed for the hand of the chit, Minna, not
yet out of short frocks. He was besottedly in love and prepared for
all sacrifices; however, he was refused on the score of Minna's youth,
but given to understand that in two years or three he might return
with every hope of success. Meanwhile there could be no objection to
his writing to Minna if he were discreet.

He vowed eternal constancy with all youth's fervent and curious belief
in its possibility, and, by way of proving the breach of his heart,
accepted an appointment in a school in Bombay. Then by every mail he
addressed the most excellently turned love-letters to Minna, who
skimmed through them--being already engaged upon another conquest--and
handed them over to her mother, who wept over them, read them to
father, and saw herself as the beloved mother-in-law of the Earl of
Leedham--the title to which Willie had the remotest possible claim.

All this was very exciting and disturbing, and it set the thoughts of
Gertrude and Mary in that direction from which there is no turning
back. Gertrude, then Mary, made a long stay in Plymouth, and they
returned with new costumes, new accents, new thoughts, and all their
talk was of the superiority of town-life over the country. They spent
a great deal of money, and the problem of income and expenditure
occupied their father's mind to the exclusion of everything else. In
Plymouth Gertrude and Mary had met the most delightful young man, a
friend of Frederic's, named Herbert Fry. On their entreaty he was
invited to stay for a holiday. He came and saw and was conquered--by
Minna. He was caught kissing her in the shrubbery, his stay came to an
end, and the name given him by the nurse--"a reg'lar Apollyon, my
dear"--was found to be appropriate. Minna was furious, and in a gust
of spite wrote a most offensive letter to Willie Folyat in Bombay. She
told her mother what she had done and robbed her of her most cherished
dream. She was found to be conducting a clandestine correspondence
with "Apollyon," and Martha let loose the thought which for some time
had been lurking at the back of her head, namely, that they must make
a change and, if possible, seek life in some city. She skirmished
about with it, never suspecting that much the same thought might be in
her husband's mind also, and she led him to it by easy stages. Really
the girls were getting beyond her; they had said things to her which
she would never have dared to say to her aunt when _she_ was a girl;
and the country certainly was dull for young people, and they had the
children to think of, and, of course, parents must make some
sacrifices.

Francis looked at her with anxious eyes and muttered something about
his duty to his parishioners. He was popular with them, and he liked
the peace of the country and the simplicity (also the low cunning) of
country people. He liked the figure he cut, with his knee-breeches and
black shoes with silver buckles, and silk stockings and tall hat. He
had grown used to himself in a back-water and shrank from the prospect
of city life. Even Plymouth he found bewildering on his rare visits.
On the other hand, there was the perpetual leakage in his
finances--Frederic in no way to earn his living for at least four
years, and his daughters, like the horse-leech's, crying "Give! give!"
and no man apparently desirous of marrying them; and beyond them the
long tail of his family, all of whom might grow up and develop minds
which thought along lines different from his own. He was not in the
least resentful about it, that was not in his nature; but he hated his
own helplessness, the impossibility of doing anything to relieve the
growing strain. He loathed quarrelling, and his daughters were always
quarrelling with each other and their mother, and that, in a house
which should have been a model to the country-side, made him
profoundly ashamed. He had begun once more to think in an
extra-professional way, to see things in a humorous light which by all
tradition were sacred. A curious desire to tease had taken possession
of him, and he fought it with all his might. Further, if he was to
continue the war with circumstances in this place he must admit his
wife to his inmost thoughts. He tried, but his new failure was the
most bitter of all to bear; but yet he would not admit that she was
stupid. Still he clung to old memories, and he told himself that he
loved her. He did love her--he loved everything and everybody; but he
was not and had not been for many years in love with her. She had
never understood love, and she had bullied him. When he argued with
her she wept; when he agreed with her she wept also, and protested
that he was an angel and far, far too good for her.

He came as directly to the point as she would let him, and one night,
after a protracted curtain lecture, he proposed that he should consult
his bishop and negotiate an exchange of livings with some clergyman
desirous of a country life. His only stipulation was that the new
parish should be among the poor, and this, unhappily, broke in upon
Martha's dreams of a brilliant social life among rich and more or less
"gentle" parishioners. She had mapped out marriages for all her
daughters and careers for all her sons, and was drowsing off into a
golden slumber when the word "poor" punched into her pillow.

"My dear Frank!" she said.

"I must work," said Francis.

"But, my dear Frank, the poor!"

"It is easier for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a
camel to pass through . . ."

"I am not talking about that."

"If I go to a town, I must go to the poor," said Francis, his old
ideals stirring in him.

"But think of the girls."

"I am thinking of the girls. I shall make them work among the poor. It
will do them good. It will keep their minds healthy and clear of
amorous thoughts."

"How can you be so coarse?"

This came with almost a scream, and Francis smothered what he was
going to add and turned over and pretended to be asleep. His wife went
on talking indignantly to herself. About five o'clock she woke him up
and told him that she had been dreaming of water, which she thought
meant riches, and also in her dream she had seen her son Leedham
crossing the sea, and Mary had made a great match of it with a tall
man who looked like a lord, but Minna had appeared very unhappy.

"I do believe," Martha went on, "that in her heart of hearts Minna
really loves Willie Folyat."

"Nonsense," replied Francis, "she is much too young to love anything
but herself."

Martha was enraged at this, and harped on the string of her husband's
crazy notion of living among the poor. On that point he was immovable,
and Martha's light skirmishing was fruitless. Francis turned and
looked at her, told her that she wanted a clean night-cap, and went
off to sleep.

They had many unhappy days, and it was some weeks before they found an
incumbent willing to exchange his living for the two in distant
Cornwall. This was the rector of St. Paul's Church, Bide Street, in
the darker half of our town on the north bank of the poisoned river,
about which we have no pride at all.

Neither Francis nor any member of his family had ever been north of
Bristol, and the north of England was to them a place where
millionaires grew and factories ground out wealth and a set of ideas
associated with the name of Richard Cobden, a Liberal of whom no
Churchman could entirely approve. There was a bishop in our town, and
he was a person of some celebrity. Also there were two churches which
had a certain fame or notoriety for their extreme ritual. Welsh
Nonconformists teemed in the town, and the Roman Catholics had a
cathedral thirty years old.

Francis visited the place and stayed there two days, during which it
rained except for half an hour just before he left. He refused to be
depressed by the slums in which his church was situated--a black,
stunted Gothic building with a ridiculous little steeple, and a sordid
school next door to it--and told himself that it was just what he
wanted. There was a fried-fish shop directly opposite the church, a
dirty greengrocer's shop next to that, and next again three
public-houses. Another row of little shops followed on the other side
of a bye-street, and for the rest, there were nothing but squat
terraces of blackened red-brick cottages, two stories high, with blue
slate roofs. In the street were an incredible number of children in
curious nondescript garments, and some of them in rags. Many of the
women wore clogs and all of them were sallow. The men were pale and
ill-nourished and they walked slouchingly. The street was muddy and
littered with refuse, and the air was thick and full of smells.

Francis stayed with the rector and met the caretaker of the school and
church, the rector's and the people's wardens, and a few earnest men
who examined him with hard, curious eyes. They asked after his family
and how many children he had, and one of them whistled when he said he
had eight. Francis wanted to like them, but he felt a stranger amongst
them and could not be at his ease. They asked how he liked the church,
and he told them very well, and the rector's warden, Mr. Parsons,
said: "Ah! you should see it at 'Arvest Festival."

Their speech sounded uncouth and harsh after the soft drawl of his
Cornish peasants, and it was this that Francis felt as the strongest
barrier between them.

The living was worth three hundred and fifty pounds a year, and there
were pew-rents, which would bring the stipend up to within a hundred
pounds of the joint income of his two livings. Francis ignored that,
and calculated that as he would have only one curate, the exchange
would be equal, and no doubt his daughters would soon marry, and his
sons would quickly earn their living in this money-making town. He was
told that there were excellent schools for "them as could afford 'em,"
and that settled the matter. Everything was as far as possible
arranged and he returned to St. Withans, tussling with himself during
the long journey and telling himself that he was not sorry to renounce
his old life, and that at last he was going to enter upon work, real
work.

He had arranged to take on the former rector's old house in Fern
Square (there was not so much as a blade of grass growing in it), and
when Martha asked him about the town he concentrated on a description
of the house in one of the largest and most imposing terraces in the
district.

It was arranged that Frederic should finish his articles in Plymouth;
and then, on a brilliant spring day, all the furniture, heirlooms,
family portraits, and the valuable china inherited at intervals by
Mrs. Folyat as her few aged relations one by one departed this life,
having gone before, the Folyats set out at seven o'clock in the
morning, and at half-past ten the same night reached our town where,
at last, their history becomes interesting.



IV

FERN SQUARE

_Sir,--I pray you take heed how you put a beast, tired with the heat
of the sun and with long travel, among others, which, as I hear say,
have divers maladies and diseases._--A PETTY THEFT.

HENCEFORTH we see Francis Folyat in trousers, and his broad-brimmed
silk hat, like a bishop's without cords, has been exchanged for the
soft round black felt which takes so many inches from a man's stature.
Black trousers, elastic-sided boots, a black silk waistcoat on which
hung an amethyst cross, a clerical frock-coat, and a round white-linen
collar were the daily attire of the new Rector of St. Paul's, Bide
Street. On great occasions the black-silk waistcoat was renounced in
favour of one of violet silk. All day on Sundays he wore his cassock
with a black silk sash round his full stomach, and when he walked to
church he wore a biretta, to the solemn awe of the street urchins, who
confounded him with the Greek _papa_, a strange figure that haunted
the children of the northern district of our town and was reputed to
be a wizard.

Francis was in fine middle age. His head was beginning to be bald and
his golden beard was rapidly turning white. There were red veins on
his round cheeks, but his eyes were those of a boy, bright and blue
and merry, and when he laughed they used to close up into little slits
and all his bulk would shake until tears were squeezed out of them. He
had a great capacity for laughter, but always it seemed that he could
not shake it out. It possessed him and set him quivering like a jelly,
and there was nothing to be heard but a hoarse chuckle deep down in
his chest.

There had been times of great difficulty in the beginning. Martha had
come to our town with glowing dreams, and when she saw Fern Square and
the house she was to live in they came tumbling down on her romantic
head, and she wept many tears and declared that she could not bear the
house or the people or the town, and she demanded to be taken away--to
Potsham, to Plymouth, anywhere out of the smoke and the rain and the
filth and the noise and away from the common, common people. She vowed
that she would never attend service in the hideous, squalid little
church, and could never have anything to do with the nasty, dirty
school. It was impossible. She could not let her children mix with the
children of these barbarians. They must find another living or give up
the Church altogether. Francis could retire, and devote himself to
theological literature.

Francis bore it all with excellent good-humour, and pointed out that
he could not even write his own sermons (he had amassed a collection
of one hundred and fifty, which he delivered in rotation). By sheer
amiability he won his wife over to a more sweet and reasonable temper,
and helped her to set her house in order.

When he came to tackle his work he found that his predecessor had been
a lazy and unpopular man and that his congregation was never more than
a hundred and twenty persons, while the Sunday-school was very
meagrely attended. He began by having the church and school cleaned
and decorated, and it was quickly noised abroad that the new rector
had private means. Further, it soon became clear that a new church was
to be added to the little ring of churches which upheld the High
Church cause in our town. After much cogitation Francis decided to
abolish the pew-rents and to open his church free to all and sundry.
He bought new surplices and cassocks for his choir, and new vestments
for the clergy and the acolytes whom he intended to appoint. Very soon
he found adherents and was given presents of new altar-cloths and
sacramental vessels. Altogether his prospects were admirably fair.

Fern Square was a wedge-shaped piece of ground enclosed on one side by
six old red-brick houses four stories high, built in an imitation of
the Georgian style, with three rooms on each floor except the top,
which had four and an attic. The dining-room and the study were on the
ground floor, the drawing-room on the first. They were fine rooms, and
the Folyats' old furniture made a brave show in it. The house was lit
by gas, and the drawing-room window looked across the square upon the
deliberate ugliness of a Wesleyan chapel. The parrot had his cage in
the dining-room among the family portraits, and the dog lived where he
liked. He grew very fat and lost what little intelligence he had ever
had, so that it ceased to matter even to himself which was his head
and which was his tail.

The Clibran-Bells from next door but one were the first to call. Mr.
Clibran-Bell was the borough treasurer, a man with a huge red beak of
a nose, a little white moustache, and a tremendous manner. He had an
unfailing source of pride in his wife, who was really beautiful and
had frequently been likened to the Marquise in _Caste_, a play which
his daughters were always performing in the cause of charity. Mrs.
Folyat flourished the Folyats and the Bampfields at Mrs. Clibran-Bell,
who countered with the Staffordshire Bentleys, her cousins. The
Clibran-Bells all talked mincingly, as though they had eaten olives
and could find no polite method of getting rid of the stones. Young
George Clibran-Bell was in the head office of the Thomson-Beaton Bank,
but, let it be added, the Clibran-Bells knew the manager. There were
four girls and young George, and they soon became on terms of great
intimacy with Gertrude and Mary Folyat, and they fell into the habit
of running in and out of each others' houses.

The bishop's wife called.

Very soon St. Paul's by its ritual attracted a number of
extra-parishioners who had previously had to go two or three miles to
the other end of our town for their religious satisfaction on a Sunday
morning. Francis was encouraged and worked very hard, found some
excellent people among his poor, and really tried to make his church a
centre for them and a source of help in their all-too-frequent times
of trouble. Mrs. Folyat, by dint of custom, overcame her dislike of
the common people with their coarse accent and rather uncouth manners,
and went so far in her compromise with native custom as to renounce
dinner in the evening and take to a heavy mid-day meal, a solid tea,
and a betwixt-and-between sort of supper about nine in the evening. On
Sunday she kept open house. Acquaintances and personages were fed at
half-past one, and the familiars of the house at nine, after evening
service.

At first she kept three servants, but when one of them gave notice she
did not replace her and was content with two. Even that was found to
be over-expensive, and she came down to one and a charwoman, and then,
on Sunday evenings, Gertrude and Mary were forced to cook the supper
and to wash up the dinner afterwards. They were very disagreeable
about it until they found that most of the young women they knew,
including the Clibran-Bells, did far more housework and did it as a
matter of course. Then it became part of the routine of their
existence and they raised no further objection, but Sunday supper
became a cold feast, and they never cooked anything but potatoes and
perhaps a Welsh rarebit for their father, whom they called "Pa."

Soon everybody, including the parrot, called Francis "Pa," and he
sunned himself in his new popularity and had no further misgivings as
to the wisdom of the step he had taken. Certainly he seemed to have
disposed of the strained relations that had existed in his family in
the country. The girls were busy and occupied all day long and every
day. The boys seemed to have many friends, desirable and otherwise.
Martha had taken to knitting and crochet-work, and she had Mrs.
Clibran-Bell and Mrs. Starkey, the solicitor's wife, and Mrs. Tuke,
the widow of the man who built the Albert Bridge and was killed on the
day it opened, all ready and pleased to listen to her tattle of her
husband's ancestry and her own property and her hopes for her
children. She had taken to lace caps and had settled down to a style
in dress and a general appearance which should last to the Judgment
Day. She read _The Family Herald_ every week, and every month
purchased the threepenny novel published by the same firm. She had and
was allowed a feeling of superiority, and enjoyed herself immensely.
When Francis came to her with misgivings as to their capacity to live
within their income she refused to listen to him, observed that they
knew all the best people in the place--and what more could they want?
Every Sunday they had a splendid congregation, and if the worse came
to the worst they could restore the pew-rents. Francis had a vague,
uneasy feeling that the worse had come to the worst, but nothing would
induce him to do that. He let the subject drop.

Leedham had been sent to the grammar school, and James attended a
dame's school round the corner in the Bury Road. Annette at first
accompanied him, but her godmother had stepped in and sent her to a
school in Edinburgh. Minna, who all her life had done exactly what she
wanted, refused to be educated any more, put up her hair and let down
her frocks, and claimed equal rights with her two elder sisters. She
enjoyed their privileges and avoided their duties.

After the family had been a year in Fern Square Frederic returned a
full-blown solicitor, and after a few weeks' idleness was taken into
the office of Mr. Starkey at a nominal salary. He had grown a little
moustache, which made the weakness of his chin even more pronounced,
and, for some reason best known to himself, he wore a monocle. In
Plymouth he had discovered a light tenor voice, and he became very
useful to the Clibran-Bells in their amateur theatricals. He joined
forces with young George, and together they indulged in all those
follies with which young men fortify their uneasy sense of manhood. He
had pale straw-coloured hair and a very pale complexion. He had a
ready wit and a quick tongue, and soon won a reputation for
cleverness. His brother Leedham hated him but always shrank away from
Frederic's irony. Leedham had a great respect and admiration for his
father, while Frederic regarded him with a contempt which originated,
perhaps, in the episode of his intoxication at St. Withans. Mrs.
Folyat doted on Frederic, and he never had the slightest difficulty in
obtaining money from her. He used to play the buffoon to her, set her
laughing until the tears ran, and then, with a sudden turn of
sentiment, he would make her cry until she laughed. When he could do
neither of these things he would shock her with an audacious jest.
Always he would contrive to keep her entertained.

Francis, then, had no anxiety about his family. There was always
plenty of fun and merriment in his house, and a constant stream of
young people enjoying themselves as though the world had only just
come into being and was to go on for ever and ever. If the atmosphere
was not altogether pious, they were none the worse for that. They
attended church regularly, worked in the Sunday-school, and in many
other directions for the parish, and their happiness won the
confidence of the poor, who made surprising efforts to please the
rector and his family. Best of all, from Francis's point of view,
numbers of young men were attracted to the house and from there were
drawn off into various activities. Enthusiasm for the High Church
cause ran high.

Our town is composed of a number of smaller towns and boroughs, all
now under one city council, but at that time many of the boroughs and
urban districts maintained their separate entities and had their own
councils and their own newspapers. The district in which St. Paul's
was situate was still a separate borough, and it had a newspaper
called _The Pendle Times and Lower Brighton Gazette_, which published
local news and copious police reports. The editor of this sheet was a
fanatical Low Churchman whose whole religious force had gone into
worship of a certain Calvinistic divine, the Reverend Humphrey Clay, a
rigid temperance reformer, Puritan and moralist, who, perceiving the
growing laxness of the new industrial population, flung himself with
fierce zeal into the task of castigating their immorality and whipping
them up into a state of religious fervour. He had pictured their
lives--ugly and stunted as they were in fact--as a gay rout of sin,
and he strove to counteract this peculiar fiction of his own mind by a
religion of appalling dulness. He had a commanding spirit and found
many disciples. He substituted the intoxication of conversion for that
of alcohol, and drew hundreds to the corrugated-iron church he had
built on a piece of waste land opposite a public-house and a theatre.
His sermons were printed week by week in _The Pendle News_--half a
page of fierce exhortation, while the other half was filled with
racing results and advertisements of rat-pits and coursing. When he
died twenty thousand men and women followed him to the grim cemetery
overlooking the canal, and the streets were lined for two miles. In
his obituary, Flynn, the editor, called him "the Sainted Humphrey
Clay," and the name stuck. A movement was set on foot to replace his
iron church with a stone building to be called the "Humphrey Clay
Memorial Church"--none of your old Romish saints was to give his name
to it--and a house-to-house canvas was instituted. The factory hands
gave their pence, the better class their shillings and pounds, and
after many years of unceasing work the fund was completed. The
building was erected and consecrated by the bishop just six months
after Francis Folyat came to St. Paul's.

Flynn, the editor, scented the presence of the enemy, and began the
attack by the publication of the "Literary Remains of Humphrey Clay,"
containing stern denunciations of Popish mummery and mediæval
witchcraft. The wildest stories flew, and very soon Francis was
credited with worshipping the Virgin Mary and maintaining a secret
shrine in his vestry. Flynn wrote two denunciatory articles, blindly
prejudiced and pitifully ignorant. Francis read them and wrote to the
editor to invite him to attend service in St. Paul's and see for
himself.

Flynn waited for some weeks until Easter Sunday, when he fully
expected to see a statue of the Virgin carried round the church. There
was, in fact, a procession, and there was incense which stank in the
editor's nostrils. His first impression as he entered had been one of
disgust, for the whole place was filled with flowers, in the windows,
on the pulpit, on the altar, twined about the lectern--daffodils and
tulips and hyacinths and violets and lilies. He sat in his pew at the
back of the church and saw men and women enter, cross themselves, and
curtsey and bow to the East in the central aisle, and his gorge rose
at it all. When the organ began to boom and send music whirring up to
the roof and flooding the nave and the chancel, and a young man in a
purple cassock and a lace surplice appeared bearing the Cross, and
behind him two censer-bearers, and behind them again the choir, the
curate, the special preacher, and Francis Folyat, in robe, cope and
stole, carrying his biretta, he was fain to scream out upon the
blasphemy of it all--blasphemy upon the memory of Humphrey Clay. He
watched the procession wind round the church, singing the gladdest of
Easter hymns, and move up into the chancel, where the choir, still
singing in their harsh, untrained voices, filed into their places, and
the three priests stood solemnly upon the altar steps and waited for
the last notes of the organ to die away. Two acolytes appeared in
purple cassocks and little lace surplices and stood below the priests,
and the solemn service began.

Flynn rushed away and walked for miles until he was dog-weary. He took
his class in Sunday-school in the afternoon in a sort of dream, and in
the evening with wide-staring eyes he sat unheedingly through the
sombre evening service in the Humphrey Clay Memorial. He saw the whole
town, the whole world, imperilled. He saw in Francis an emissary of
the great whore of Babylon that sitteth upon many waters, a man bent
upon seducing souls from salvation, the very devil quoting Scripture
to his ends.

Flynn's sensations were those of a pious young man who for the first
time in his life enters a music-hall, with this difference, that for
Flynn the abhorred thing had no charm nor peril for himself, only for
others--those others whom his hero's life had been given to save.

On the Easter Monday his wife discovered that their charwoman had
decamped with a sheet and two blankets, and he laid that sin at the
door of the new source of corruption he had discovered, called for
strong tea, wrapped a wet towel round his aching head, and wrote the
first of his famous series of articles. The following is an abstract
under the heading:

    "_Non Angli sed Romani:
      The Enemy within our Gates._

There is a church in this town, for so long devoted under the
leadership of our great and sainted Humphrey Clay, a church where
Sunday after Sunday, and on week-days also, blasphemy is committed,
blasphemy and a painted mummery. I have been to this church. With my
own eyes I have seen the finger-marks of the painted, scented hand of
Rome. In this church I saw three priests--_priests_, not
_ministers_--clothed like actors in a theatre. They wore purple and
fine linen and they carried funny little hats in their hands. They had
decked up two young laymen in purple and silk and fine embroidery, and
their feet trod upon rich carpets, with gleaming brass stair-rods. The
very air was thick and oppressive with the smell of flowers, and to
this was added the fulsome stench of incense, carried by conceited,
mincing little boys. No pen, least of all mine, could describe the
impiousness of the processions, the bowings, the scrapings, the
befouling and vulgarisation of things sacred that happen in this
church, this so-called church, which is in reality a booth, a theatre.
Why, the very costumes are indecent. The choir-boys do not wear
surplices, but little laced shirts or shifts which do not even cover
their spinal bulbs. Their behaviour, their demeanour, is an affront to
all truly religious-minded persons. Had I not remembered that I was in
the House of God I should have spat in the face of the arch-mummer as
he passed me and bade him begone to Babylon whence he came. Who is
this man? Why should he be suffered to defile the religion which he is
supposed to practise? Why should this play-actor be permitted to strut
and mow and paw the air in the Holy of Holies? Three times at least I
saw him change his costume--in public! And each time he was assisted
with a mock solemnity by the valet whom he is pleased to call an
acolyte. They say this man is a gentleman, the kinsman of a noble
family, a rich man, one who has kept his carriage. Let him not play
the priest. Humphrey Clay, of blessed memory, was the son of a
carpenter, a working carpenter in this town, but before his Maker he
was a gentleman indeed. It is but twelve months since our bishop
consecrated the memorial which is the crowning edifice that pinnacles
the glorious career of Humphrey Clay. Can that same bishop within his
diocese tolerate the splendid memorial to the one and the impious
practices of the other man? I say he cannot. Such churches as this
have not hitherto been tolerated in our part of the town. Citizens,
shall we endure it now?

_N.B._--Further articles on the subject will appear until something is
done. If those in authority will not move, we shall take the matter
into our own hands."

Francis read this effusion and was hurt by it. Since he had thumped
his brother William on the nose he had quarrelled with no man and
deliberately hurt none. Behind the wild writing he could feel the
torment, and he was sorry. He felt that he was to a certain extent to
blame because he had invited the man to his church in a challenging
spirit, and so had perhaps increased prejudice in him. He tried to
write to Flynn but could find nothing to say. As he sifted his
thoughts he could only discover that he wished his church to be free.
All sorts and conditions of men were free to come and free to stay
away. He had once found one of his sidesmen turning a ragged old
beggar-woman out, and had reproved him and led the old woman to a pew.
She spat on the floor and sat fingering an old clay-pipe, but, to
Francis's way of thinking, these things might not be unacceptable to
the God he honoured, however distasteful they might be to human
creatures. The church, then, was free, and Francis desired only to
make it pleasing and attractive to those who came to it, to have it a
place of beauty amid so much ugliness. The Saturday before Easter had
been one of the happiest he ever remembered--a day of hard work in the
church, surrounded with young people all gay and blithe and busy with
the flowers and draperies and vestments. One such day, he felt, could
do much to redeem the waste and folly of years.

However, it was all odious and disgusting to Flynn, and Francis sighed
as he reached out for his tin of bird's-eye and filled his pipe. The
parrot scrambled out of its cage, shuffled along the floor and climbed
up the back of his chair, perched on his shoulders, and stood combing
its beak through his beard.



V

HOSTILITIES

_Thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me; thou hast
delivered me from the violent man._
     PSALM xviii. 48.

THE dead play a not altogether disproportionate part in the affairs of
the living. There are so many more of them. The thought would be
desperate but for the reflection that in all probability the most
numerous of all are the unborn. The Creator may at any moment get
tired of the eternal monotonous repetition of birth and death, but no
man or woman will ever believe that. We get joy out of it, and His is
the sum of all our joy--the dead, the living, and the unborn.

Humphrey Clay, for all the grimness of his words and works, must have
been a joyous man, for his spirit was very powerful and roused many
men to action. True, their actions were all ugly, but that came from
their stupidity and the squalor of their surroundings. There is no
country on the north of our town for thirty miles--only smoked bricks
and mortar and tall chimneys and colliery stacks. On the south you
must go seven miles before you will find a truly green field, and most
of us are quite old before we can make such a pilgrimage, and then
clear air and trees and streams and sky and the song of birds are
things as separate from our lives as our dreams. They are almost a
show to us. Our great holiday is Whitsun-week, and then each church
takes its children in wagonettes and char-à-bancs out into the nearest
semblance of green country, where they wander and play and laugh and
squabble and are fed until they can hardly stand. It is called a
"treat," and it gives them a new zest for the streets and their
adventurous, strangely independent life.

The Roman Catholic churches organise processions which meet in the
centre of the town and wind through the streets, the little girls in
white and the little boys in the best they can muster.

In his fourth article Flynn exhorted Francis to be an honest man and
take his flock to join them. In the meanwhile there had been appeals
to the bishop, who refused to move in the matter, being convinced,
from what he had seen, that there was nothing uncanonical in the
conduct of the services at St. Paul's. He liked Francis, and if he
could not altogether approve of the means, the result was eminently
satisfactory. As a result of Flynn's campaign there was hardly ever a
seat to be had in St. Paul's on Sundays, and some of the most noted
preachers in our town and the surrounding district were glad to appear
in the pulpit.

Flynn's paper was doing very well out of it. All sorts of people
rushed into the fray and filled his columns for nothing, and when his
supporters took to interrupting the services at St. Paul's with
vehement protests the other papers took the matter up, and Francis
found a sort of greatness thrust upon him. He refused to see
reporters, and told one persistent Scotsman that it was Flynn's
affair, not his, and that he had no intention of moving against Flynn.
He received many letters denouncing him as Anti-Christ, and many more
proclaiming him the one Spiritual Hope of the North of England. More
than one of his correspondents enclosed poems.

Martha was all in a flutter, and was quite sure that Francis was on
the point of being made a bishop. He was invited to preach to the
judges when they came on assize, and she had no doubt that that would
be the first step. Francis had no such illusions. He was not ambitious
for promotion. He took out Sermon No. 112 and delivered it with the
full consciousness that it was profoundly dull. Flynn came to hear it,
took shorthand notes, and printed an abstract without comment.

This official recognition provoked exasperation, and on the following
Sunday as Francis was walking in cassock and biretta to his church he
was accosted by a gloomy-faced individual with a sandy complexion, who
called him a "spawn of Rome," and when Francis smiled at the
grotesqueness of the expression he stooped down and picked up a
handful of dung and flung it in his face. Francis went on his way amid
the hoots of little boys and the jeering of women.

A few days later the windows of his house were broken and the voice of
Flynn in _The Pendle News_ rose to a triumphant scream. Two policemen
were mounted on guard in Fern Square, and the attentions of the
malcontents were transferred to the school in Bide Street. The
railings were torn down and the furniture of the doors wrenched away.
Roughs and hooligans joined in, and one Sunday all the doors of the
church were found to be screwed up, and the congregation stood in the
street, while from the church steps Francis read the service and
delivered the first extempore sermon of his life. He was trembling
with emotion and his voice cracked, and hardly a soul could hear him,
and he broke down altogether when the people sang

    _Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
     Let me hide myself in thee. . . ._

A few days later the authorities made the mistake of arresting Flynn
on a charge of inciting to violence. The prosecution failed, but Flynn
had the satisfaction and the bitterness of martyrdom, and he returned
to the assault with new frenzy.

Meanwhile at home there had been a new development. Leedham, the third
son, the one stolid member of the family, had upset his mother by
announcing his intention of leaving school and our town and going out
to the Brazils. He had made the acquaintance of a family who had
connections out there, and he had been fired by their descriptions of
Rio de Janeiro. His real reason was a heartfelt desire to get away
from Frederic, but of that he said nothing. He observed, with much
justice, that he was not doing any good at school and would probably
learn no more if he stayed there another two years. (The school was
conducted on the principle of forcing the bright boys and leaving the
dull ones to pick up what they could.) Further, he argued that if he
had to earn his own living, the sooner he began the better. Through
his friends, he said, he could obtain a post in a bank in Rio, and he
would rather be in a bank there than in our town.

Francis was inclined to approve, but Martha wept. Like so many
mothers, she had no notion of her real relation with her children, and
lived in a fantasy in which she was the perfect mother who adored and
was adored by them. More than once to Mrs. Clibran-Bell she had said:

"There is nothing that my children do that they do not tell me."

And Mrs. Clibran-Bell, being of much the same type, believed her, and
together they glowed with rapture over this miracle of domesticity.

Leedham had very little imagination or capacity of invention, and,
like his father, had rather a disconcerting way of accepting the facts
of his existence for better, for worse. He knew that he was unhappy at
home, felt that he was going to be a great deal more unhappy, and saw
nothing but the necessity of getting away.

"Darling Leedham," said his mother, "how can you think of entering
upon vulgar commerce!"

"What else am I to do?"

"But think of your name! A Folyat in a bank!--a clerk! And with your
Christian name too!"

(The Earldom of Leedham was the title which Minna missed sharing when
she jilted Willie Folyat.)

"George Clibran-Bell is in a bank," said Leedham.

"But, darling, how can you leave your mother? How can you think of
it?"

"People have to leave their mothers sooner or later."

"But you love your mother?"

"Of course," said Leedham sturdily, "but I want to go."

"You cannot go without your father's consent."

"No."

"Very well, then."

And that seemed to end the interview.

Leedham saw his father first and came straight to the point.

"I want to go to the Brazils."

"I know. Your mother is very much upset by it."

"That's not the point."

Francis agreed.

"The point is, what am I going to be if I stay?"

"You might be a clergyman or--or----"

"I don't want to be a clergyman."

"A doctor, then?"

"Can you afford it?"

"No," said Francis, and the admission brought his opposition tumbling
down. They discussed ways and means, and Francis delighted in his
boy's practical good sense and independence, though he had a feeling
of pity and shame that he had not come to know him better before.

"Thank you, sir," said Leedham. "And please, will you ask mother not
to cry over me?"

"You can't expect her not to feel it."

"No, I suppose not. But I want her to be glad too."

"Well," said Francis, "I'm glad and I'm proud of you. I wish----"

The thought of Frederic came to him and he said no more.

Mrs. Folyat cried in public at every possible opportunity, and she
came in for a great deal of sympathy. Frederic, who had always used
Leedham as a butt, and thoroughly disliked the idea of losing him, did
his best to make him feel a callous brute. But Leedham was excited and
exalted at the prospect of adventure, though he had no one on his side
but his father and the boy James, who gazed at him with large envious
eyes and promoted him to heroic rank.

During his last few weeks Leedham spent many hours in the study with
his father, and they had long friendly talks all about nothing, in
which they skirmished round the new affection that had sprung up
between them.

On his last Sunday night there was a farewell supper. Mabel and Jessie
Clibran-Bell were there and Gertrude and Mary and Minna. Frederic was
out, and the boy James had been in bed all day with a cold caught in
crawling along the roof in his night-gown from his attic-window to the
attic of the boy next door. He had been thrashed for doing it--but
when the boy next door had laid in a feast of sardines and raspberry
jam the temptation was too great, and he scrambled over in the pouring
rain, sat for two hours in his wet night-gown and then slept in it.

With Frederic away Leedham could talk, and he bragged of how he would
return in ten years and buy a carriage for his mother and re-build his
father's church and set James up in life and bring jewels for Minna.
(He was fond of Minna.)

"But suppose you marry?" said Mary.

"Not I," said Leedham.

"I expect," remarked Francis, with a chuckle, "he'll marry a
Portuguese."

"Frank! How can you!" protested Martha. "The Portuguese are
Catholics!"

"Perhaps she'll be rich," threw in Minna.

"And beautiful, with dark languishing eyes," added Mabel Clibran-Bell.
And in a few minutes they had created the future Mrs. Leedham and,
rather maliciously, endowed her with a furious temper.

Leedham took all the chaff in good part and made himself especially
amiable to his mother.

Mary went upstairs with some supper for James and the talk turned on
Flynn, and everybody wondered what he would do next.

"I hate that Flynn," said Martha.

"Oh, come!" replied Francis, "he's filled the church. I couldn't have
done it without him."

"But it is horrid," said Mabel Clibran-Bell.

"Certainly; but Flynn is getting what he wants and I am getting what I
want. Both his people and my people are more enthusiastic than they
would be otherwise."

"Father says," put in Jessie Clibran-Bell, "that he is getting
libellous."

"Let him," returned Francis.

"Wouldn't you proceed against him?"

"Not I. I don't think the clergy should squabble even in the Law
Courts."

"But," said Martha, "it would be a case for Frederic."

Mary returned saying that James was not in his room and nowhere in the
house. She had called through the window to the boy next door, but
there was such a terrific wind her voice was blown away. There were
two chimney-pots blown down in the square.

Mrs. Folyat went white and her lips trembled. They all looked from one
to the other. Leedham left the room and they heard the front-door
bang, and the wind moaned in the chimney.

Francis rose to his feet and moved towards the door. Mary ran upstairs
again, and Gertrude put the parrot's cloth over his cage because he
was beginning to scream. Came a ring at the door, and presently
Leedham appeared with his hair blown into his eyes and his face very
pale and his teeth chattering. He turned to his father and said:

"Come!"

Mrs. Folyat fainted.

Francis turned sick at heart and went out into the passage. The front
door was open and the gas was flickering in the wind, so that it was
very dark. There were two men holding a little white bundle between
them.

The boy James had been blown from the roof and they had found him on
the pavement below. He was quite cold, and it was impossible to tell
how long he had been there.

The house was full of whisperings and the guests withdrew, stealing
away like ghosts. Leedham stayed to look after his mother. They
carried the boy upstairs and laid his poor broken body on the bed in
Mary's room, and Francis fumbled out and along the street to beg the
doctor to come at once. There was nothing to be done. Thinking was no
use. Tears seemed foolish. It was only mechanically that Francis
turned to his God and said, "Thy Will be done."

The boy was buried in the grim cemetery over by the canal. The
parishioners clubbed together and erected a little marble cross above
his grave. They wanted to express their sympathy, and the very poor
sent pathetic little wreaths of ivy and hideous wax monstrosities and
horrible crosses of iron filagree. The beauty and charm of the boy
were discovered after he was dead, and for a little while the house in
Fern Square was a sort of temple in his honour. His belongings were
gathered together and partitioned, and Leedham took with him to Rio de
Janeiro his little brother's christening mug and spoon.

Mrs. Folyat was prostrate with grief, and the shock to her nerves made
her for a long time a valetudinarian. She was just recovering when
there came the crowning act of brutality.

Flynn was silenced for a space, but it was strangely whispered among
his followers that in St. Paul's mass was being said and candles lit
for the dead.

Francis had encouraged the more devout among his parishioners to use
the church for private meditation and prayer. He himself, in his
grief, spent many hours there, and this found interpretation in the
report that he was instituting the confessional. Flynn did not stop to
examine the accuracy or probability of the rumour but hurled
thunderbolts. A gang of roughs set on Frederic one day, and he came
home with his clothes torn and mucked and his face bloody. Urged by
his wife, and much against his own inclination, Francis wrote to Flynn
and begged him to confine his attentions to himself. He said:

"I am a priest, but I am proud, and if there is to be suffering as the
consequence of my actions I would rather bear it on my own shoulders."

Henceforth Francis was known as the Proud Priest.

One of the most fanatical of Flynn's followers discovered that the boy
James was buried not twenty yards away from the angel-guarded tomb of
Humphrey Clay, and this, when bruited, fell like a spark upon the dry
minds of the most ignorant members of the faction. On a dark evening
in November they went up to the cemetery, overturned the little marble
cross, effaced the name James Matthew Folyat, and scattered the
wreaths and flowers.

Mrs. Folyat took to her bed. The ringleaders were discovered and
arrested, and Francis appeared in court, very pale, obviously near
breaking-point, and in a very low voice said that he did not wish to
prosecute. There was a wave of sympathy for the unfortunate rector of
St. Paul's. Flynn's paper was boycotted of advertisements and he fell
into low water. He had ruined himself in the struggle and he had
almost drained Francis of courage and faith in human-kind. He clung
obstinately to his work, but was dogged by a sense of the futility of
it all and, in his worst moments, saw it only as a mechanical
sanctification of birth, marriage, and death. Humanity seemed so
primitive--just a base struggle for existence and satisfaction in
existence, and silly devastating squabbles about forms. He realised
dreadfully what a gulf lay between himself and his wife, and he strove
desperately to bridge it, only to discover that she was unconscious of
any disparity and had a diabolical skill in coating any uncomfortable
fact with a romantic fiction so that it became as a pearl upon her
shell. He blamed himself for it, and was kind to her and fought
against the exasperation which her prattle aroused in him. Having no
friend to whom he could turn--all the men he knew deferred to his
cloth and treated him as a creature apart--he tried to find sympathy
and interest in his daughters and Frederic, his remaining son. They
were absorbed in their youth and their dreams and folly, and seemed to
be afraid of him. He watched them, but soon found that he was spying
upon them. The one thing he had to love was the memory of the boy
James, who became ever more radiant to him, and he used to watch the
goings out and comings in of the boy next door and think him a
splendid fellow, and regret all that he had missed when his own boy
was alive.

For many, many days life seemed to stand still. There was dull
routine, Sunday succeeded Sunday. Gradually gaiety crept once more
into the house in Fern Square, but it seemed to Francis so remote--as
remote as the woman upstairs, who complained and complained and yet
could babble of fashion and the weather and money and the young men
who came courting her daughters.



VI

FREDERIC'S FRIENDS

_By my troth, Cony, if there were a thousand boys, thou would'st spoil
them all with taking their parts._
     THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE.

AT the age of twenty-four Frederic was earning twenty-five shillings a
week as a managing clerk in Mr. Starkey's office in Hanging Row. He
was fairly punctual in the morning, having hired Minna to rout him out
of bed at eight o'clock, and he would lounge through the morning until
one o'clock when he would disappear for two hours for lunch and coffee
and dominoes in a smoky cellar called the Mecca Café. In the afternoon
he would work furiously from three to five so as to have something to
show for his day, and in the evening he would come to life. A sort of
swagger would come into his bearing and a pinkish tinge would come
into his pale cheeks and a new light into his blue-green eyes. He had
discovered that in winter his light tenor voice could be made to earn
about thirty shillings a week, and together with a spotty-faced youth
in his office who sang comic songs (with patter) he went up and down
our town and district giving "I'll Sing Thee Songs of Araby" and "To
Anthea" and "There is a Lady Passing By," and winning much applause
which invariably went to his head and made him very drunk. He sang
under an assumed name, and no one at home knew what he was doing
except Minna, whom he bribed with cigarettes to hold her peace. (She
used to lock herself in the bath-room and smoke them out of the
window.) When occasionally his mother complained that he was never at
home in the evening he used to say that he was rehearsing. At
intervals he used to take part in private theatricals with the
spotty-faced youth or other of his friends. The pieces generally given
were the farces of Madison Morton, or _The Blind Beggars_, or some
amateur musical play. There was a Gentlemen's Musical Society which
had a little hall in Oswald Street in the centre of our town. Frederic
and the spotty-faced youth were members, though the Society had fallen
on evil days and its entertainments had become rather broad. For the
most part they were smoking-concerts, not unlike the Caves of Harmony
that used to be in London, but the air was purified occasionally by a
Ladies' Night, when the lions roared as gently as any sucking dove,
and gave innocuous theatrical entertainments to which the members
brought their daughters. Frederic became a shining light in the
performances, and the members' daughters fell in love with him and
wrote him ridiculous letters of admiration, which he gulped down
without blinking.

It was at the Gentlemen's Concert Hall that he first met James Lawrie,
the dramatic critic of our weekly newspaper who wrote under the name
of "Snug," and had some public reputation as a writer of elegant
poetry, and an immense fame among journalists and actors and
theatrical musicians and painters as a composer of bawdy verses. This
man was a Scotsman, a hard drinker, and he was said to know every
verse that Robert Burns ever wrote by heart, and also to have many
poems that had never been printed. He used to write notices of the
little performances in the Gentlemen's Concert Hall, and, as he could
be very scathing, the actors used to fawn upon him and flatter him.
The spotty-faced youth introduced him to Frederic one night, and the
old man--he was not above fifty-five, but he had always been Old
Lawrie--shook him warmly by the hand and said:

"I'm proud to meet your father's son, sir."

That rather staggered Frederic, to whom it had never occurred that his
father might be admirable. Old Lawrie saw that he was a little taken
aback and he scowled and went on:

"Come, come! Not ashamed of your father, are you, heh? My sons are,
but then my sons are respectable. That's what's the matter with them,
they're respectable and safe. Safe's a good word for a gag. You can
bring your lips together on it hard."

"I was at school in France," replied Frederic with a flush of timidity
under his paint. He had just come from the dress-rehearsal on the
stage, the play being _Still Waters Run Deep_.

"If you like France," said Old Lawrie, "you won't like this cursed
hole. You'll die in it. I've never been to France myself, but I've
read their books. They pull everything to bits with their brains.
Nothing left. They're a better lot than we are. Got no morals, but who
has? We pretend to have 'em. They don't. Know your Burns? It's in
print, so I see no reason why I shouldn't speak it:

    _O Lord! yestreen, Thou ken, wi' Meg--
     Thy pardon I sincerely beg,
     O may it ne'er be a livin' plague
          To my dishonour,
     An' I'll ne'er lift a lawless leg
          Again upon her.
     Maybe Thou lets the fleshly thorn
     Beset thy servant e'en and morn,
     Lest he owre high and proud should turn
          'Cause he's sae gifted:
     If sae, Thy hand maun e'en be borne,
          Until Thou lift it.
     But, Lord, remember me and mine
     Wi' mercies temp'ral and divine
     That I for fear and grace may shine
          Excell'd by nane,
     An' a' the glory shall be Thine,
          Amen, Amen._

Old Lawrie was a fine man as he declaimed the verses. His eyes flashed
and his voice came big from his chest, and when he had done he turned
to Frederic and said:

"That's Burns, and out of Shakespeare there isna a healthier spirit in
the world. Burns and Shakespeare--both of 'em poor men and straight
from the earth, and 'll give ye all the cultured dandies in the world
for a farthing gift. So you're playing at play-acting, young man?
That's what nine-tenths the world is for ever doing in its daily life.
They ca' me a disgusting old man, but they should hear what I ca' them
when my tongue's loosed and my mind's eyes seeing visions. I live in
Hell, but I've a Heaven in my brain. . . . Your father's a good man to
go his own way with the dirty Lutherans and the filthy Puritans
yelping at his heels. You'll not be going in for the professional
play-acting?"

"No," said Frederic. "I sing."

Old Lawrie clapped his old silk hat on his head, took his blackthorn
stick in his hand and gave a shout of laughter. He patted Frederic on
the shoulder, pursed his lips and hummed through them strangely and
vaguely as though he were turning over a morsel of music on his
tongue, and then he broke into verse and said:

    _O youth it is a pretty thing,
       A wild rose in the bud.
     But it must die with the passing Spring
       All trampled in the mud.
     We've heavy feet in our town,
       Rough shod with iron bands.
     Virginity goes toppling down
       Befouled with loutish hands.
     O Spring is smoked in our town,
       And life's a dirty scrum,
     The angels weep to see God's frown
       And we make Hell to hum._

He turned away after this impromptu and joined a bibulous-looking
individual with white hair and an enormous face, Joshua Yeo, his
editor, and the nearest approach to a friend that he had.

Frederic turned to the spotty-faced youth and found him grinning
vacantly.

"Quite balmy," said the spotty-faced youth.

"I think he's splendid," returned Frederic, amazed at his own
enthusiasm.

"Wants a new coat," said the spotty-faced youth. "He's worn that ever
since I've known him, and it's green with age. He gets fighting
roaring blind once a month, and his sons lock him up. I know one of
them--Bennett Lawrie--a bee-yooti-ful young man, High-Church and all
that. May have been to your governor's show. The old man's a
Presbyterian as much as he's anything. He used to be in a bank, same
bank that Randolph Caldecott used to be in. But he quarrelled,
quarrels with every one."

"Do you think he made that up--about youth and our town?"

"Comes easy to him. When he's drunk he talks blank verse. He was run
in once, and he harangued the beak like Mark Antony at Cæsar's
funeral."

They were called back to the stage, and Frederic found that he was not
nearly so pleased with himself in his part as he had been. He began to
think the play foolish and shoddy.

After the rehearsal he had an appointment with the spotty-faced youth
to meet two girls on Kersley Moors, a high, dark, treeless common just
outside the northern suburbs. From Kersley the road ran into the town
past the bishop's palace, and here nightly young men and maidens
foregathered and stalked each other and exchanged mysterious
greetings, sometimes stopping and talking, sometimes passing and
disappearing down the dark lanes that enclosed the bishop's huge
garden. The spotty-faced youth, who had been impressed by Frederic's
braggadocio of the things that were much better done in France, had
introduced him to this exchange and mart of foolish emotions and
transitory affections. They went there in search of pleasure and
adventure, and they generally found them, though more puny and debased
than they were prepared to admit. They went there now only half
believing that the girls with whom they had made their assignation
would turn up, for they had seemed so superior to the usual quarry.
They did not know their names or where they lived. It was enough for
them that both the girls were pretty and responsive to such wit as
they could produce.

The spotty-faced youth's father was a doctor, and he had three
brothers, and on the way he regaled Frederic with tales of their
escapades and the narrow squeaks they had had, and the great score it
was to have a father who was a man of the world and understood these
things. He became so foul-mouthed that Frederic stopped him.

"If you don't shut up I shall go home."

"Right ho!" said the spotty-faced youth. "Only I did think you had a
better sense of fun. You didn't seem to mind Old Lawrie talking about
Burns and Meg."

"That's different. That's poetry."

"Is it?"

"Yes. Like 'Lucrece' and 'Venus and Adonis.'"

"Well. They're pretty hot."

"Oh! Shut up."

Frederic did not rightly understand why he was so indignant with his
companion. He was conscious of a difference between the two
things--frank acceptance and fumbling--but he could not put his finger
on it, nor could he discover why for the first time in years of folly
he should feel a sense of shame. It grew on him as they walked up the
Kersley Road and, by the second lamp-post past the bishop's gate, saw
the two young women arm-in-arm pacing slowly in front of them.

"Bags I the tall one?" said the spotty-faced youth.

Before Frederic could reply they had come up with the girls and his
companion had greeted them with a tag from the pantomime of the last
winter.

"We thought you wouldn't come," said the tall girl.

"No fear," said the spotty-faced youth. "Trust me when I've spotted a
winner."

Frederic set the pace and they walked briskly up the road to Kersley
Church. He hardly said a word, but his companion kept up a running
fire of facetious chatter. At the church the tall girl and Haslam
(that was the spotty-faced youth's name) walked on and disappeared
into the darkness of the moors after arranging to meet again at ten.
Frederic was left under the lamp-post with the other girl. She was
very little and slight, and she was rather poorly dressed. She looked
shyly up at Frederic, and he said:

"You're very pretty."

"I like you better than the other one."

"You see," said Frederic, "I was at school in France."

"Oh! France. Are they very wicked in France?"

"It depends what you mean by wicked. No more than they are here."

"I suppose you won't tell me your name."

"I don't mind," said Frederic, with a sudden flow of honesty. He had
so often been Snooks and Jones and Walker. "It's Folyat. Fred Folyat."

"Mine's Lipsett, Annie Lipsett. It's a silly name."

It seemed such a silly name to Frederic that he could find nothing to
say, and there came a dead silence between them. She was offended at
last and moved away and he had almost lost sight of her in the
darkness of the moor when he ran and caught her up. They passed
through the posts that filled the entrance to the moor, and Frederic
put his arm round her hard little waist. She stopped. He stopped and
kissed her and they walked on.

There were lovers (and worse) everywhere, and as they crept slowly
forward they heard sighs and silly giggles and voices murmuring. It
was very dark and the clouds hung low and the wind was a little cold.
They found a place to sit where through trees they could see the
lights of the houses. Frederic sat a little away from her and with his
cane prodded into the ground.

"I wonder where the others are," said Annie Lipsett.

"Does it matter?"

"No."

They were silent for a little, then Frederic remembered old Lawrie,
and he pursed up his lips as the old man had done and crooned a little
to himself. Then, suddenly, he asked:

"Are you happy?"

He did not wait for her to reply but went on:

"I'm wondering why we mess about with it. What's the good of it, all?
Who are you? I don't know. Who am I? You don't know. We live in a
beastly dirty town and we wander about like lost souls. And because we
be lost souls we take anything that comes along--you me, I you. Is it
good enough? It's all wrong. But what's right? . . . It's fun, I
suppose. Fun! . . . But what else is there?"

He took the girl's hand.

"I tell you what. I'm damned sorry for you."

"Of course," said Annie Lipsett. "Of course, you're a gentleman."

And Frederic laughed. He told himself that he was an idiot, and that
all _that_ was not his affair. He had brought this girl here, just as
all the other young men in the place had brought all the other young
women, to forget, to escape for a little while, to lose all thought of
the beastliness of life down below in the town. It _was_ beastly.
Everything was so dirty, and everybody was so poor and so tired. . . .
He took the girl in his arms and held her very close and whispered
silly talk to her, and soon she was sighing and lying and nestling to
him.

They were ten minutes late in their return to the lamp-post by the
church, and Haslam and the tall girl were very ill at ease and silent.
Annie Lipsett clung to Frederic's arm and they walked down to the
bishop's palace. There they parted. Frederic kissed her and she clung
to him. The tall girl led her away and they vanished into the night.

As they turned their faces homewards Haslam said:

"Gawd! I have had a rummy time. I couldn't touch her without her
starting on the crying game. Sha'n't see her again."

"No. I suppose not," said Frederic.

Haslam looked at him.

"Well. You're a caution, you are!"

"I'm a bit of a swine, the same as you," retorted Frederic.



VII

YOUNG WOMEN

_Our own precedent passions do instruct us
 What levity is in youth._
     TIMON OF ATHENS.

YOUNG people must for ever be trying to fall in love, and in this
ancient sport young women are every bit as active as young men. For
the matter of that, the greater part of humanity remain adolescent in
this affair, that is, hemmed in by a thick-set hedge of prejudice and
unsatisfied emotion and convention and childish theory, so that they
are for ever in a state of uneasy curiosity about love, always ready
to put salt on its tail, but unable to come within reach of it. For
that reason they are always confusing love with being in love, an
active state of living which can be permanent with an emotional
condition which must be transitory.

Mrs. Folyat had the most beautiful illusions about her household. She
was not entirely deceived by them when she came face to face with
herself, but in her relations with her husband, her friends and her
daughters she always exhibited the most profound faith in them. Though
her daughters were grown women she never troubled to discover the
state of their minds, but assumed their innocence and purity, and she
never referred back to her own state of mind at the same age and the
same maiden condition. In short, she burked the difficulty and the
responsibility, though she was secretly alarmed at their slowness in
finding husbands. She had no notion of their finding any career
outside marriage, and took no steps to prepare them even for that.

There was a constant stream of young men passing through the house,
and they all seemed to do their best to fall in love with Gertrude and
Mary, but they either fell victims to Minna, who played with them and
squeezed their young hearts dry between her finger and thumb, or they
disappeared and were caught in the toils elsewhere. There were so many
young women and so few eligible young men. They flirted, they danced,
they paid visits to the theatres, and Gertrude sang and Mary played
her violin, but nothing happened. It was very annoying. The
Clibran-Bell girls did not marry either, but there was no comfort in
that. They had such large noses; and they were not Folyats. They had
not the charm of high gentility. . . . Neither Gertrude nor Mary was
pretty, but they could be amusing and they seemed to attract
attention. Minna was decidedly pretty, with a wide delightful grin and
a mocking humour. The most serious and solemn young men were devoted
to her. They were always proposing to her, but she always refused them
or became engaged to them for about a week. Her betrothals hardly ever
seemed to survive the visit to their families. She invariably seemed
to see them in caricature, and had amassed quite a large collection of
mental pictures of North-country families who received her at high tea
and welcomed her with shy effusiveness.

Mrs. Folyat was fonder of Minna than of her other daughters. She was
easier to get on with and much less expensive. Mary and Gertrude had
acquired the habit of visiting relations in the South much richer than
themselves, and every year they demanded an exorbitant outlay on
clothes, and they came back rather scornful of life in Fern Square and
rather rebellious at having to resume their household duties or work
in the church and Sunday-school. Also, for a time, they would assume a
lofty tone with the young men of their acquaintance, and they used to
prick at Frederic and tell him he was becoming provincial. Minna used
to lash them with her tongue, dealing out the wickedest malice with
the most urbane good-humour, and deliberately annex any young men whom
they brought to the house. She called Gertrude "Mother Bub" and Mary
"Mottle-tooth." From their superiority in years they affected to
ignore her, but they lost no opportunity of annoying her and upsetting
her plans for her own comfort and enjoyment.

The money-cloud had grown darker over Francis. It seemed impossible to
make his expenditure acknowledge even a bowing acquaintance with his
income. He had credit with the tradespeople but it was abused. Fifty
pounds had become a large sum of money to him, because the payment of
it meant dislocation of his finances. Frederic was always sending in
small bills that were too large for his slender earnings. The
girls--Mary and Gertrude were still called "the girls"--were always
wanting money. Annette in Edinburgh hardly ever wrote without wanting
money, and Mrs. Folyat seemed to have no notion of the decreasing
elasticity of his resources. It was perfectly clear to him that a
change must be made, and quickly. He went into his accounts, found
that he owed three hundred and fifty pounds--nearly a year's
stipend--and wrote the figures down on a scrap of paper and laid it
before his wife.

"We owe that," he said. "It's a lot of money."

Mrs. Folyat turned the piece of paper round and round in her fingers,
and Francis stood above her pulling at his beard.

"It's a big sum," he said.

Mrs. Folyat pulled out her handkerchief and began to whimper, as she
always did when Francis was masterful.

"I'm sure," she said, "I'm sure it's not my fault. I'm sure I wish
we'd never come to this hateful pace. I don't know why we did."

Francis felt a gust of exasperation.

"We came here," he said, "to marry the girls. They're not married."

Mrs. Folyat saw reproach in what was only a statement of fact, and she
protested with some vehemence. The failure of her daughters hurt her.
She felt it as keenly as Sarah, the wife of Abraham, felt her
barrenness, for she saw life altogether in terms of marriage, romantic
marriage. Her own life had fallen into the lines laid down by the
fiction with which she refreshed herself--as a girl she had dreamed of
a romantic lover--he had come--a parson, a creature of noble
birth--and she had married him. She had borne him a truly biblical
number of children and looked for them to follow a similar destiny.
She had regarded it as a thing that happened automatically, for she
was in mind a child, and life was to her a toy presented to her by a
beneficent Creator, already wound up and prepared to go indefinitely.
When apparently it ran down she could do nothing but weep and make
things as uncomfortable as possible for those nearest her. She hated
facts, and Francis, her husband, had the most odious habit of plumping
them down in front of her.

Always before when they had been presented with any financial
difficulty they had sold a house at Potsham, for the reduction of
their private income by twenty or thirty pounds had seemed no great
matter. But they had already sold five houses, and the loss of one
hundred and fifty pounds a year had, as Francis now pointed out,
played a considerable part in bringing them to their present quandary.
He was loth to sacrifice another house and more income, and nervously
proposed that they should raise the required sum by selling some of
their valuable china and perhaps a piece or two of Martha's jewellery.
She hardly ever wore her jewellery, but she loved to hoard it, and
whenever she was particularly pleased with her women friends she used
to reward them by displaying the contents of her treasure-drawers,
jewels, old lace, silks and brocades and fans, acquired and
inherited--things valuable and trumpery all lying higgledy-piggledy.

Her husband's suggestion acted like salt rubbed into the wounds
occasioned by his statement of fact. She asked why she should always
be the sufferer for the delinquencies of her family, and almost
persuaded herself that she was their scapegoat. She went back over the
years and raked over the ashes of old resentments and grievances, even
going so far as to disinter the sacrifice of her carriage at St.
Withans.

"The fact remains," said Francis, "that we owe a large sum of money. I
am a clergyman, and my house should be free of the sordid troubles
that beset the laity. It is not free of them and I am ashamed."

"Very well, then," said Martha, "Let us sell everything, spend
everything--the girls will do that easily enough--and then go into the
workhouse."

"Please be reasonable," rejoined Francis. "We must pay our debts and
reduce our expenditure. If necessary, the girls must go out and earn
what they can."

"The girls!"

"There is no shame in honest work, whatever it may be."

"But they will _never_ marry if they work."

"Half the women I marry are working women."

"I won't discuss it. You have never been the same since we came to
this hateful place."

"I was thinking chiefly of Mary. She could teach music. And Annette
has had a better education than the others. She could . . ."

"What?"

"She could obtain a situation as a governess."

"A governess! Annette! A governess!"

In Mrs. Folyat's eyes to send your daughter out as a governess was a
confession of poverty. There could be no glossing it over. Of course
the clergy were miserably paid, but Francis had always risen superior
to that reproach in public opinion by the general belief in the
amplitude of his private means. It could be little short of disaster
then to confess to inadequacy. And a governess! Poor Annette! though
to be sure when she was a child her godmother had looked at her sadly
and observed that she must assuredly be prepared for a convent. She
was so plain--a remark which Minna had never ceased to brandish over
poor Annette's head whenever their wills clashed. . . .

Francis at length cut short his wife's protestations with a sigh and
said:

"My dear, I'm sorry. That's the position. We have to swallow it. We
can't give the girls the opportunities they ought to have. We must let
them fight their own way. At present anything is better than the sort
of life they are leading. We'll sell another house, but that shall be
the last. We'll make a fresh start. Be patient with me, my dear."

"And am _I_ to tell Mary?"

"No. I'll do that, and I'll find a family for Annette."

Francis went away feeling that there was a great deal to be said for
the celibacy of the clergy. Other men, of course, did not see so much
of their families, and perhaps, for that reason, could understand them
better, be better friends with them, and not so acutely conscious of
their irritating peculiarities. The relation between a father and
daughter should be a very beautiful thing, and indeed there were
moments when the house in Fern Square was a place of happiness and
affectionate unity. Only--only, there was the future. Martha growing
more and more helpless, and the household duties and responsibilities
devolving more and more upon Gertrude and Mary, and they losing their
bloom.

Francis had a vague feeling of injustice which was harshly in
disaccord with his professional teaching of acceptance--"Whatever is,
is right" and "It's all for the best." At any rate there was still
abundant laughter in his house, and that was better than the grim
smile which was all these Northerners would for the most part allow
themselves. The days of violent opposition were gone, but the Puritans
still looked askance at the Proud Priest--for the nickname clung--and
his family. The grocer with an off-licence round the corner spread
tales of the large quantities of beer that were consumed in the
parson's house.

Mary took the suggestion very well, and soon she had five pupils,
little boys and girls, whom she taught to fumble on the piano and to
extract horrible noises from the violin. She went to their houses and
enjoyed making new friends. Annette was brought home from Edinburgh at
the end of the term and was found a situation with an ironmaster's
family named Fender. She had one pupil, a little hunchbacked girl who
alternately adored her and bullied her. Annette was very happy. At
home she had been so mercilessly teased by Minna that she was glad to
get away. The Fenders lived in Burnley, ten miles away, and in summer
they moved to a lovely house they had in Westmoreland, high-perched on
a hill looking down on Grasmere and Rydal. She read enormous
quantities of novels, and devoured the pounds and pounds of sweets and
chocolates that were lavished on her pupil. Once a week she wrote
dutiful letters to her parents and surreptitiously she began to write
a novel in the manner of Mr. James Payn. She wrote three chapters, and
then found the labour of writing too exhausting and continued the
story mentally in her many idle moments.

At home in Fern Square the conduct of Gertrude had been causing some
astonishment and alarm. For five consecutive Sundays she failed to put
in an appearance at morning service, and once she neglected her
Sunday-school class. When questioned about it--she was a woman in
years, but Mrs. Folyat was not the mother to relax her authority until
it was wrested from her--she replied that she was making a tour of the
High Churches in our town--with a friend. The answer was found
satisfactory, but Minna looked into the facts and found that her elder
sister had spent every one of those five Sundays in St. Saviour's,
where there was a young acolyte who had a beautiful profile and
soulful eyes. He wore the most exquisite garments, and his expression
was as near monkish as anything you can find in the Church of England.
His face was lean and pale, and his whole bearing was mournful in the
extreme.

For two Sundays after the inquisition Gertrude went to service in St.
Paul's. On the third she disappeared again, and Minna pleaded
headache, watched the others go off with their prayer-books and Sunday
clothes, and then hurried to St. Saviour's, a little church built on a
slag-heap above the Jewish quarter. She crept in just before eleven
and found Gertrude sitting far up near the steps of the nave gazing in
rapt and religious devotion at the young acolyte as with almost
theatrical solemnity he performed his rites. If he was conscious of
her he gave no sign. With an almost yearning intensity he crept
noiselessly about ministering to the priest. Gertrude's great moment
came after the sermon when, the churchwardens and sidesmen moving
lugubriously from pew to pew, the acolyte came down to the altar steps
and stood with a large brass plate in his hands waiting for the
offertory. He stood there proudly with his pale face upturned, his
whole soul seeming to be borne aloft on the hymn sung by the
congregation. On this occasion it was:

    _O God our help in ages past,
       Our hope for years to come;
     Our shelter from the stormy blast,
       And our eternal home._

Minna had come in a mischievous spirit, but even she was impressed.
There was a soulfulness in the young man, the look of one hopelessly
atoning for all the sins of the world, and, above all, there was
artistry in his movements. Everything that he did seemed to be
immensely important and pregnant with meaning. When he stooped and the
churchwardens and sidesmen laid their little bags in the great brass
plate, he did it with the air of one accepting a worthless gift for
the grace of the giving. To him at least it did seem to be true that
it is more blessed to give than to receive. His humility was so great,
so moving, that Minna wished she had put sixpence into the bag instead
of a penny.

She could not see Gertrude's face, but she was familiar enough with
her back to be able to gauge her feelings. Gertrude had rather a poor
figure, with high shoulders and a very short waist. Now her shoulders
were higher than ever, and she was leaning forward and her elbows were
trembling ever so slightly. Minna smiled and thought maliciously of
all she knew about Gertrude, and that was not a little.

Before the service was over she left the church, and was lying in the
study with a wet handkerchief over her head and a volume of Tennyson
on her knees when the rest of the family came home from St. Paul's and
Gertrude from St. Saviour's.

"Where did you go to, my dear?" asked Mrs. Folyat.

"Oh! To St. Benedict's," replied Gertrude. "They have the most lovely
altar-cloth I ever saw. But the curate intones very badly."

"As badly as pa?" asked Minna.

"That's impossible," said Francis with a long chuckle.

There was some chatter, circulation of gossip got at the church door,
and then with some anxiety Mrs. Folyat looked across the long table at
her husband and said:

"Are you going to tell them, Frank?"

Francis had his mouth full and could only say "Hum! Ha!"

"What is it?" Frederic turned a little pale and wondered what was
coming. His misdeeds, taken collectively, were very trivial, but he
knew from experience that any one of them taken singly, robbed of its
context and placed under the scrutiny of other eyes, would assume
gigantic proportions.

"Have all the Folkestone Folyats died and left us all their money? Or
has uncle William come back from India with a gigantic fortune?" Minna
was rushing wildly ahead on all the strangest possibilities when
Francis finished his mouthful and cleared his throat.

"No," he said. "I have heard from your brother Serge."

"Serge!" said Mary.

"Serge!" said Gertrude, snatched from her tender dreams.

"Is he rich?" asked Minna.

"I don't know. He talks of coming home."

"Where is he?" This came from Frederic.

"He wrote from Durban in South Africa."

"Oh! Then of course he's a millionaire. Hurrah! He'll buy Frederic a
partnership, and me a husband--catch me marrying a poor man--and Mary
a genuine Strad, and Gertie a--an acolyte."

Gertrude flushed hotly and looked daggers across the table.

"He merely writes that he is coming home, as though he had only been
away a week."

"Some of you children can hardly remember him," said Martha.

Minna said she could just recollect his putting her into a bassinette
and letting her go flying down a hill into a pond.

Francis went on:

"He sent your mother some water-colour drawings."

"Any good?" asked Frederic.

"I think they're quite good. But I don't know anything about these
things."

"I'll take them to old Lawrie. He'll know," said Frederic.

"Lawrie?" murmured Gertrude.

"Yes. D'you know him?"

"No. No."

Minna winked at Frederic. He had often talked to her about old Lawrie,
and she had discovered that the name of the young acolyte at St.
Saviour's was Bennett Lawrie, old James' third son.

"I say," said Frederic, "does Serge know we're here?"

"No. The letter was forwarded from St. Withans."

"Don't you think you ought to let him know what he's in for?"

"I can't do that. He gave no address."

"It won't matter to him if he's rich," said Minna, and they all fell
to and rummaged their memories for recollections of Serge as a boy.
Minna invented lavishly and suddenly she shouted:

"Did he say whether he'd got a wife?"

"I bet it's a blackamoor like old Nicholas Folyat," said Frederic.

"Even if she is black," said Mrs. Folyat solemnly, "if he is married
to her she will be my daughter-in-law and I shall receive her."

The conversation took on a broad complexion which is more permissible
in the family circle than in the printed page.

That evening Frederic took Serge's drawings with him and sought out
old Lawrie in the Arts Club, where always on a Sunday evening there
was a gathering of old warriors and choice spirits--Joshua Yeo, Elihu
Beecroft, the painter, Peter Maitland, who wrote pantomimes, and
Warlock Clynes, the photographer, and B. J. Strutt, the manager of the
old theatre, where, as a young man, Henry Irving had been a member of
the stock company. They were smoking and drinking and yarning. They
had vast stores of anecdotes of the great Bohemians in London.
Beecroft had twice had pictures in the Academy, and B. J. Strutt had
begun life as a call-boy at the Haymarket Theatre. Old James Lawrie
had been to London three times and had shaken hands with J. L. Toole
and Helen Faucit, and Clement Scott had sent him a copy of his
Ballads, of which he had produced many gross parodies.

The club was simply three rooms in a dark block of offices--a bar, an
eating room, and a smoke-room. Frederic was shown in by the grubby boy
whom he found at the door reading a penny "blood," and he stood
foolishly in the middle of the room realising dreadfully that old
Lawrie did not remember who he was.

"Mr. Lawrie. . ." he said.

"Eh?"

"I--I--My name's Folyat. I--I acted. You asked me to--to look you up
here some day."

"Eh? Oh, yes. Come and sit down. What'll you have? I can't pay for
your drink, but some one will."

Frederic sat down, and the little group of old men were embarrassed by
his presence.

"So. . . so you act, do you? Here's B. J. Strutt. Get him to give you
a job in his next pantomime."

"I'm--I'm not a pro," said Frederic. "I'm a solicitor." And, as he
said it, he felt that it was a small thing to be among these free men
who practised the arts. Frederic was a chameleon who took his colour
from his surroundings. He had a queer capacity for enthusiasm, which
came and went and was altogether beyond his control. He drank a little
whiskey and he felt that he was in the company of very wonderful
beings. They talked of things and men that were glorious dreams to
him, and they spoke of them with such ease and familiarity, like
giants playing marbles with the mountains. His own little celebrity,
which had been very dear to him, dwindled into nothing, and it was to
protect himself that he produced Serge's drawings and began to talk of
his brother.

Beecroft took the drawings and looked them through. He had a huge red
beard and a glistening bald head and round spectacles that made him
look like a benevolent spider. He clapped his hands to his bald pink
head and with immense fervour said:

"By God!"

"Are they good?" rasped Lawrie.

"No. Damn bad."

Frederic felt very small.

"I don't know," said B. J. Strutt. "I like that one all yellow in the
foreground and blue in the distance. And I like that one with the
niggers filing through the orange-trees with the pinky-white house
beyond."

"So do I," cried Beecroft. "I like 'em all. The man can't draw, but he
can feel colour and big distances and lots and lots of air."

Frederic began to feel better. The old men gathered round the drawings
and gave grunts of satisfaction. (They had been very bored all the
evening and were glad of something to interest them).

"Where is he?" said Beecroft. "This brother of yours."

"In Africa. He's coming home."

"He's a genius. Do you know that? A genius."

"Be careful, Beecroft," put in Lawrie. "There have been about twenty
men of genius--real genius--in forty, or is it sixty?--thousand
years."

"A genius," reiterated Beecroft. "We'll give a show. You can ram him
down their throats week by week, Yeo."

"It's no good running a genius in this place," growled Lawrie.--He was
always discovering poets and seeing them go to ruin.--"They don't want
genius. They're so used to imitations."

"At any rate," protested Beecroft, "they haven't had anything like
this for years, and I don't think we ought to let 'em off."

"My brother's coming home now. I'll tell him what you said. It's
rather funny. I haven't seen him since we were boys, and then he was
much older than I."

"We'll have a show," repeated Beecroft. "He's a local man?"

"We weren't born here. But my father's been rector of St. Paul's, Bide
Street, for some years now."

"That's good enough. The stinking rotters here like to think they've
had a hand in anything produced in the place--if people talk about it
enough. Have some more whiskey?"

Frederic was beyond saying "no." The drink went to his head, inflated
him, and he offered to sing. Strutt played his accompaniments, and
they kept him at it for an hour until he was hoarse, and they shouted
the choruses in cracked, beery voices.

It was very late when Frederic left the club, after shaking hands all
round and promising tearfully to bring his brother, the genius, as
soon as he arrived. He forgot the drawings altogether, and old Lawrie,
being the soberest of the party, gathered them together and took them
home with him.



VIII

SERGE

_It's a queer place, and indeed I don't know the place that isn't._
     THE ARAN ISLANDS.

SERGE FOLYAT landed at Plymouth on a wet autumn day and walked to St.
Withans rejoicing and declaring in his heart that England was the most
beautiful country in the world. He saw no reason to alter his opinion
as he walked north until he came to the outcrop of industrialism in
the plain of Cheshire.

It took him ten days to walk from St. Withans to our town, and six of
them were wet. He loved the soft English rain and the rich green of
the countryside and the glorious gold and red of the sodden autumn
leaves, and when, for the first time, he saw the black and grey of
South Lancashire skies and the dark chimneys rising out of the dense
mass of buildings he could be glad of them too. All the same he
wondered what strange whimsey could have taken his father out of the
soft Southern air into such menacing harshness. However, it did not
greatly exercise his mind. He had never troubled to find reasons for
his own follies and accepted those of others with as good a grace.

He was a man a little above middle height, tanned and brown, with
bright blue eyes like his father's, and a close clipped golden-brown
beard, turning grey at the corners of the jawbones. He loved talking,
and engaged all whom he met or caught up on the road, and nearly
always left them more cheerful than when he encountered them. When he
was alone he talked or sang to himself in a very loud voice. He was
not looking for adventure and met with none. His clothes he carried in
a sack on his back, and he had a great stick in his hand, a pocketful
of tobacco, and a calabash pipe. Other possessions he had none. He
walked very fast and sometimes covered forty miles in a day.

In the evening of the tenth day he entered the town by the Derby Road
and followed his nose and the tramlines until he came to St. Thomas'
Church. There he asked for Fern Square and received no response. He
stopped a dismal-looking man and asked him. The stranger gaped at him
and said:

"A'm a stranger 'ere, my sen."

His next enquiry provoked a long answer in a language so uncouth that
he could make nothing of it. He followed the tram-lines again and
wandered vaguely until he came to a cross-road from which he could see
the Collegiate Church standing velvety-black against a sooty sky, with
a railway bridge and the dome of a station beyond. He saw a tram
labelled Pendle and followed it. The road led him under the railway
bridge, past a sequestered market and a sort of fair with booths and
swing-boats and a cocoa-nut shy and a merry-go-round. He stopped and
watched the dirty mournful-looking people taking their pleasure, and
the sight rather depressed him. A little farther on he had to pass
through the places in which these people lived, and under the
factories where they worked. He liked the hum and business of it all,
and he liked the slatternly grubby little shops.

There is a place where the road skirts a height, and from the road a
public park stretches down to the oily-black river winding through
flats. Beyond the river gleam the reservoirs of the mills, steaming
under the humid air. Beyond them again are hills covered with houses,
and away to right and left a forest of tall chimneys. Over all hangs a
pall of mist and smoke, a railing edges the road, and here Serge stood
and gazed at the queer degraded beauty of it all. There was hardly a
blade of grass in the park, none at all on the flats by the river.
Trees and plants were stunted. Down in the park, on the benches,
sauntering down the paths, hiding behind the bushes, he could see
lovers, and that comforted him.

He moved on singing to himself and swinging his stick, and presently
he came to a wide place over against a washing-machine factory. The
road here was finely broad, but it was flanked on either side by mean
little houses and forlorn little shops. It made the slow ascent of a
long hill, and although there was plenty of traffic--trams, cabs,
drays, lorries--it looked empty and desolate. There was not a tree in
sight.

Serge stopped a man with a sandy moustache and a complexion like a
suet-pudding and asked his direction to Fern Square.

"I'll take you there," said the man. "What number?"

"Five," answered Serge.

"Mr. Folyat's." Serge nodded.

"He's a good man is Mr. Folyat, and that kind to the poor, and they
don't need to go to his church neither. Him and the Roman priest,
Father Soledano, they does a lot of good, and there's a deal of good
needs doing, there is. He gave me a job when I come out o' prison."

"Oh! You've been in prison?"

"A month ago, I come out."

"What for?"

"'Spicious character. The p'leece put a jemmy in my carpenter's bag
and found it there. Mr. Folyat 'e spoke for my repu-character, but you
can't say nothing agin the p'leece. There it was, and I 'ad to do my
six months. Here we are. You look like a sea-faring man."

"Good-night," said Serge.

"Good-night." And the man shambled off.

Serge stood gazing at the door and then he turned and looked over the
square at the Wesleyan Chapel. A factory hooter buzzed. From the
inside of the house came the wailing of a violin.

Serge knocked at the door Minna opened it and stood peering out at
him.

"Hullo!" said Serge. "Which are you? Mary?"

"My father isn't in," replied Minna.

"All the better. You don't remember me, and I've been thinking of you
as a baby. I'm Serge."

"Serge!"

He stepped in. Minna rushed away, and he heard her calling all over
the house:

"Serge has come! Serge has come!"

There was a pattering of feet on the stairs, a banging of doors, and
presently Gertrude, Mary, Mrs. Folyat and Minna came down upon him. He
caught his mother up in a great hug and squeezed the breath out of
her, and she stood talking and crying while he kissed Gertrude and
Mary on the cheek and Minna full on the lips.

Mrs. Folyat led the way to the dining-room, and he sat at the table
and they round him, and they devoured him with their eyes. He looked
from one to the other. He thought that Gertrude looked sly, Mary
plain, but he liked the mischief in Minna's eyes, and she had a wide
friendly grin and a dimple in her cheek. His mother was so much older
than he had imagined her and he wanted to tease her out of it. She was
wearing a white woollen shawl, and she had shoved her spectacles up on
to her forehead when Minna broke in upon her reading. The room was
dark and rather oppressive and none of the windows were open.

Minna lit the gas and pulled down the blinds.

"Well!" said Mrs. Folyat, "you _have_ taken us by surprise."

"I meant to," replied Serge. "I went to St. Withans first. I didn't
know you'd gone. I walked on here."

"Walked!" This came from Mary.

"Yes. It's a nice cheerful hole you've come to live in."

"Horrible!" said Minna.

"Dreadful!" capped Mrs. Folyat. "But your father would come. He said
his place was among the poor."

Gertrude and Mary exchanged glances, but said nothing. Serge noticed
it and tried another topic.

"How's all the children? How many are there?"

"Oh! My dear." Mrs. Folyat felt for her handkerchief.

Minna answered for her.

"Annette's away. She's a governess with some rich vulgar people. James
is dead. He fell from the roof. Frederic is out. He always is. We're
in. We always are. And that's the lot."

"What about Leedham?"

"I forgot Leedham. He's in Rio, in a bank. Are you rich, Serge?"

Serge felt in his trousers pocket and produced four sovereigns, three
shillings and ten coppers. He laid them out neatly on the red baize
table-cloth.

"That's all," he said.

Minna laughed and counted out the money. Gertrude and Mary and his
mother looked at Serge in dismay.

"I don't know," said Serge. "If this place isn't full of money,
there's no excuse for it."

"It's a queer place," said Minna, "and not so much money in it as all
that. What you've got would be wealth to most of father's people."

"Your father," put in Mrs. Folyat, "said his place was among the poor.
I'm sure he got what he wanted."

Serge felt that she was fishing for his opinion. He gave it.

"I met a man," he said, "who brought me to the door. He said my father
was very good to the poor. He was a wretched devil who had just been
let out of prison."

"Sam Dimsdale. That's his name." Minna heaped Serge's money up into
little piles.

"How's Frederic?" asked Serge.

"Frederic's a solicitor," replied Mrs. Folyat with a little show of
pride.

Conversation flagged until Mrs. Folyat asked Gertrude and Mary to get
the supper, and then Serge insisted on helping and asked if he might
cook an omelette. Mrs. Folyat bade him stay with her.

He sat opposite her and she fixed her spectacles and looked long at
him. Then she said:

"You're like your father, but there's a look in you too of my mother.
What are you going to do?"

"Do? I don't know. I've spent all my life trying things and leaving
them before they left me."

"It was a terrible blow to us, your leaving the Navy like that."

"Was it? It's so long ago now, but I was rather surprised at it
myself. I was sick of the water and pretending to defend England's
shores when nobody seemed to want to attack them."

"But you were only a boy."

"I sometimes think I shall never be anything else. I can't stand the
things men do. They waste such a lot of time over them."

"But you must work."

"I suppose so. But I shall have to ask you to feed me for a little."

"Oh! your father won't say no to you. He never says no to any one."

"There's consistency in that."

"Your father is not the man he was. We have had terrible times, my
dear. Too dreadful. The people in this town."

"Why don't the girls get married?" asked Serge.

"My dear," answered his mother, "there are so few men whom one would
like to see them marry."

Mary and Gertrude returned, and just then Francis came in. Serge went
up to him and kissed him, and Francis said "God bless my soul." When
he realised who it was he shook his son warmly by the hand and went on
saying: "I'm glad to see you, glad to see you, glad to see you." And
he chuckled inside him and made Serge sit down, and stood looking at
him, taking him in, and went on:

"Something like a prodigal son, eh, Martha? Only the queer thing is
that I feel it is I who ought to say 'I am no more worthy to be called
thy father!'"

Martha protested, and they sat down to supper.

Francis sat absolutely silent at the head of the table and Martha
prattled and told Serge all the family news, all the deaths, and all
the contents of all the wills, especially those by which neither she
nor Francis had benefited, and how Willie Folyat had won his case and
become Earl of Leedham, and how Minna had been practically engaged to
him once and might have been a countess but for her folly.

"I couldn't have borne Willie for a husband. He was so mushy," said
Minna.

"You might have left him and got a handsome settlement," suggested
Serge.

"Oh, no! The title carries very little money."

"Left him! Serge!" Mrs. Folyat apostrophised him.

Minna winked at Serge and said:

"You're not married, I suppose?"

"No."

They ate cold ham and pickles and Gruyère cheese and captains'
biscuits. Francis drank toast and water and Serge disposed of two
bottles of beer. He looked round at the family portraits and drank
their healths.

"I wonder," he said, "how they like seeing us here?"

"I often sit with them," replied Francis, breaking his silence, "and I
fancy they are snobs and like being in a place where they can feel
themselves immeasurably superior."

"Some of them," remarked Mrs. Folyat, "are worth at least a hundred
pounds."

"I found myself rather liking this place as I walked here," said
Serge. "But I found myself wondering what happens to all the
suppressed vitality of the people in it. How many people are there?
There must be half a million. What do they all do? Their work can't be
very satisfying. Do they produce children at an appalling rate? Or is
there any artistic outlet? There can't be, or it wouldn't be so ugly.
I suppose there's a lot of crime and a lot of mess. I must have a look
at it. Do they have frightful diseases, and isn't it rather a mockery
spreading the Gospel of Christ in such a place?"

"Serge!" Mrs. Folyat was unable to follow what he said, but she was
hurt at the mention of one whom she had always regarded as her Saviour
at the supper-table.

"Have I shocked you, mother? I'm sorry," said Serge. "You're all so
different from what I have been thinking you for years and years and I
find it difficult to say anything. You're not exactly full of news
about yourselves, and my thoughts ran away with me. That's bad."

"You haven't become an infidel I hope." Mrs. Folyat was rather
querulous. "You went to church in Africa?"

"I was lay reader to the Bishop of Bloemfontein for six months."

"Ah!"

That reassured Mrs. Folyat, and she turned to her food again. She
enjoyed eating, and took very small mouthfuls and nibbled at them in a
most genteel fashion. Francis on the other hand ate hurriedly in large
gulps and had always finished his plateful before everybody else.
Serge suddenly found their methods of eating intensely interesting. He
too loved eating--he had revelled in English cooking after his years
in Africa--and it was pleasant to find that he had something in common
with his father and mother, though, instinctively, he knew that he
must not talk about it.

Francis rose from the table and took up pipe and tobacco. Serge
produced his calabash and filled it.

"You don't smoke cigarettes?" asked Francis.

"No."

"Frederic does. Beastly habit."

Mary and Minna cleared away the things from the table and Gertrude
disappeared upstairs. Francis sat by the fireplace and said nothing.
Mrs. Folyat remained in her chair at the end of the table and said
nothing either. Serge blew rings and clouds of smoke into the air and
stretched his legs. Outside it had begun to rain, and the water
gurgled in the gutters.

"How long have you been here?" asked Serge.

For a long time it seemed that he was to receive no answer, but then
Mrs. Folyat in a ventriloquial voice, without the smallest expression
in her face and without turning her head said to her husband:

"How many years have we been here, Frank?"

"A good many. Nine, ten--more."

"It seems more than that."

Again there was a silence, and Serge glared at the gas-jet until black
spots swam in front of his eyes. A gust of indignation swept through
him, and he brought his fist down on the table with a bang.

"Look here!" he almost shouted, "this isn't good enough! Aren't you
glad to see me? I've come home to you after nearly twenty years, and
here you are as silent and gloom-stricken as though I'd risen and
confronted you from the grave. . . . Do you remember how I blubbered
when I left you at the rectory gate at St. Withans? A boy's grief is a
little thing, but it's kept you warm in my thoughts all these years.
. . ."

He stopped. He saw that his mother was mopping at her eyes and her
hand was fumbling at the tablecloth, and she seemed very old and
pitiful to him then, and he knew that he must not hurt her. His father
seemed not to have heard him and went on sucking at his pipe, which he
smoked with great skill so that the blue smoke only came from the bowl
and his mouth at long intervals. He looked all beard and spectacles,
impersonal and unexpressive, sitting there by the fireplace, and yet
there was humour in his very bulk. Serge felt that he had made an
error in tactics, a blunder in manners. These people, his father and
mother, were not to be taken by assault. They had ramparts and
bulwarks against all comers, perhaps against each other, and their
inmost lives were not to be laid bare for the first clamorous
belligerent. He realised that his mother's tears were defensive
weapons--a shower of Greek fire and boiling pitch. They were very
effective, and they drove Serge back blistered and wounded, but also
they roused the devil of obstinacy in him and made him resolved to
stay in the queer dark house so full of shadows and to fight with all
his might against its oppressive atmosphere, and to win his way
through to the hearts of the old woman, his mother, and the bulky,
silent, bearded man, his father.

He leaned forward and took his mother's hand and fondled it. He
squeezed it like a lover, and gave a funny little laugh deep down in
his chest.

"I'm sorry," he said.

She gave his hand a convulsive, sudden little pressure, and he began
to talk about himself and his adventures. How he had wandered in
America and worked his way across to Cape Town and gone up-country
hunting elephants; and how he had fought in the Zulu War and taught
Dutch girls English on a Boer farm, done anything and
everything--prospected for gold, diamonds; cheated and been cheated;
thrashed and been thrashed; and as he told the smoke came faster from
his father's bowl and pipe, and at last he told how he had taken to
painting pictures for a living, because he was starving in Kimberley,
and how he made enough money to pay his passage home, and came because
he wanted to see green England again and the people with whom he had
been happy as a boy.

"Did you get the pictures I sent you?"

"Oh, yes," said Francis. "I thought some of them very good."

"I'm glad of that. I don't know much about it, but they said out there
the colour was fine. One or two were sent to London and a picture
swell there wrote to me about them."

Mrs. Folyat said she thought she would like to finish her book before
she went to bed, gathered her shawl about her shoulders, told them not
to be late, gave Serge her cheek to kiss, and wandered from the room.
Serge opened the door and closed it after her.

Francis laid down his pipe. He grunted once or twice and then leaned
forward in his chair and said:

"I don't think I realised before that my children are grown men and
women. It makes a difference. One loses the right to interfere, if one
ever had any. What are you going to do?"

"If possible I shall become a painter. If it's impossible--there are
plenty of other things to do."

"And where will you live?"

"Here. I've got four pounds and a few shillings and the clothes I
stand up in and my drawings."

"I'm not a rich man."

"You haven't paid out a penny for me since I was fifteen."

"That's true."

"Give me a couple of years' board and lodging and a hundred a year and
I'll pay you back every penny as soon as I can."

"I can't give you a hundred a year."

"How much has Frederic had?"

"Frederic? A good deal. . . . More than I could afford. Your mother's
very fond of Frederic."

"Shall I tell you what will happen if you don't take my offer? I shall
stay, and go on staying until you suddenly realise that I have been
here for years."

"How do you know that?" asked Francis, a little uneasily.

"The house is like that. I'm rather like that myself--sometimes. I
suppose it's in the blood. We get into false positions--we're
intelligent enough to know that they're false, but we're not strong
enough to break away. Isn't it so? It's called good-nature. Doesn't
everybody call you a good-natured man? They do me. A damned good sort
they call me--men I hate too--but it only means that I'm easy and
don't make situations painful by demanding a clear issue."

"Isn't that what you're doing now?"

"Only because we're both good-natured men and there won't be any issue
at all if I don't. I've come home. I'm interested. Things are going to
happen in the house, and I want to be in at the fun. I may be useful."

"What sort of things?"

"I don't know. Who does? What matters is that they should happen.
. . ."

Francis began to chuckle, and Serge threw back his head and laughed,
though there was nothing particular to laugh at, and yet it was very
strange to him to be sitting opposite a man and trying to get at him
and salute his soul, and that man his father. Their conversation
seemed to him like two cogged wheels in a machine missing their clutch
and whizzing round separately. They went on talking, but finally
admitted the futility of it, exchanged tobacco and sat in silence,
enjoying it and each other. Francis found company in his eldest son,
and it was very pleasant just to sit and look at him, he was so strong
and clean and healthy.

Frederic come in very late and found them sitting there and the room
full of smoke. Serge rose and took his thin nervous hand in his great
paw and said:

"Hello! Frederic. I'm Serge."

"How are you?" returned Frederic. "Going to stay long?"

"About two years."

"The devil you are. I've just been talking to some men about you. I
showed them your drawings. One man says you're a genius. What does it
feel like?"

"Being a genius? I don't know. But I imagine it's like being an
ordinary person--only more so. You look rather washed out."

"Oh! I've been working hard. I'm tired."

"You're very late," said Francis.

"Yes. I didn't think you'd be sitting up. All the women in bed? Where
are you to sleep?"

"I don't know."

"Where is he to sleep, pa?"

"I don't know. I can't wake your mother up, and the girls will be
asleep."

Serge laughed.

"I don't see anything to laugh at," muttered Frederic. "I don't want
you in my bed."

"I'll sleep on the sofa," said Serge. "I was laughing because it was
so like the Folyats."

Francis took a book in his hand and rolled out of the room. Serge
removed his collar and covered his feet with his coat and lay down on
the sofa. Frederic stood tugging at his little golden-red moustache
and looked down at him.

"Good-night," he muttered, and went away.

"God!" said Serge. "What a weak chin he has."



IX

INTERIOR

_Polyerges, on the contrary, already illustrates the lowering tendency
of slavery._
     ANTS, BEES AND WASPS.

FREDERIC had omitted to make any mention of the fact that he had lost
his brother's drawings, and had brushed the thought of them aside. He
had a comfortable memory and a convenient conscience which never
worried about his lapses and misdemeanours until they were known or in
danger of being known to other people. Then he lived in dread of the
application of official morality and indulged in a perfect orgy of
self-torment, grinding himself between the upper and nether millstones
of his own laxity and the rigid codes with which his upbringing had
imbued him. He had had a qualm or two about Serge's drawings, but it
was not until his brother appeared on the scene that he began to think
their loss might be serious--that is, fraught with unpleasant
consequences to himself. He was essentially amiable. Disagreement hurt
him, and he would go to any lengths to avoid an unprofitable quarrel.
On the other hand if a squabble seemed to lead to immediate gain he
would rush at it head down.

In the morning he was out and away while Serge was still in the
bathroom splashing and roaring at the top of his voice. He spent the
morning in his office writing letters to Beecroft and Strutt telling
them that his brother had come home with a stock of drawings better
even than those he had shown them, and letters from London men about
them. He had no clear purpose in doing this, but was filled with a
vague notion that if the first drawings were irreparably lost he was
making some amends.

In the lunch interval he went round to the Arts Club and asked the
grubby boy if the drawings had been found. The grubby boy made an
effort of memory and said that he seemed to recollect Mr. Lawrie going
off with something under his arm that night. Yes; it was a big, square
thing, because he had put Mr. Lawrie into a cab and it fell on to the
floor, and he picked it up and laid it on Mr. Lawrie's knees.

Frederic gave the boy a penny, got Mr. Lawrie's address, and, as soon
as he could get away in the evening went down to his house. It was one
of a terrace of four stucco houses with Gothic windows. It stood at
the corner, and a little bye-street led down one side of it to a slum.
It had a little raised lawn, two laurel trees and a privet hedge in
front of it, and a wide asphalt path led up to the front door, which
lay far back in a huge gloomy porch. The windows looked out on to
another row of stucco houses with a shop at the corner which for the
time being was a laundry. Opposite the laundry was a public-house. Two
streets met a few yards along the road, and in the cleft of them was a
large red-brick house with its garden gate gleaming with brass plates.
Here lived Dr. Haslam, the father of the spotty-faced youth.

Frederic gave a long tug at the bell and stood looking stupidly at the
door, the lower panels of which were scratched and dented with heavy
kicks. A large tabby cat came and rubbed herself against his legs.

Presently the latch was drawn and the door was opened about six
inches, and in the aperture there appeared a long bony face,
incredibly lined and wrinkled, and in it two burning-sorrowful eyes.
The mouth of this face opened, and out of it came a toneless mournful
voice saying:

"What is it?"

"Is Mr. Lawrie in?" asked Frederic.

"He is. But he's busy. Are ye from the office? We'll be ready in ten
minutes."

"I want to see Mr. Lawrie most particularly on a private matter."

"Ye cannot see him."

"I must."

"What name?"

"Folyat. Mr. Frederic Folyat."

"I'll see."

The door was closed to and Frederic, left with the cat, stood trying
to quiet the omen at his heart. A very pale young man came through the
gate and walked up the asphalt path and came into the porch. He looked
at Frederic shyly and stood as far away from him as possible. There
was an awkward moment until he said:

"Have you rung?"

"Yes."

"She's a bit slow. She's got rheumatism in her feet. I know you, but
you don't know me. I've seen you at your father's church. My name's
Bennett Lawrie. I'm in business. It's beastly."

"Do you often go to our church?"

"I go to all the High Churches, when I can get away. I wanted to be a
clergyman, but I suppose I never shall be now."

"You'd better come and see us. We have supper on Sundays for anybody
who likes to come."

"I'd just love to know your father."

"I want to see _your_ father."

"Oh! _My_ father!"

The boy shied away on that, and again the door was opened six inches.
Bennett pushed it open and disappeared into the dark house leaving
Frederic confronted with the gaunt personage who owned the haggard
face.

"Will ye come with me now?" she said.

Frederic followed her down a long gloomy passage and into a large
dining-room, where at the table, surrounded with papers, sat James
Lawrie, cursing, smoking, and writing full tilt. He had a huge cup of
strong coffee by his side. His brows were drawn tight over his eyes,
and Frederic was most struck by his huge jutting nose. He seemed all
nose--a nose and a flying pen. He took no notice of Frederic, but
growled:

"The figures--give me the figures!"

The old servant took up a newspaper and read out a series of figures
which, as far as Frederic could make out, related to the price of
cotton. Lawrie took them down as she read, added a few words after
them, gathered and folded his sheets, thrust them into a dirty inky
envelope and held them out to the old woman.

"I'll be late if I don't take a cab," she said.

Lawrie fumbled in his waistcoat pocket and produced a florin. She took
it and shuffled away. Lawrie gulped down the remainder of his coffee,
took up a battered green book and said:

"Now we'll have some poetry."

And he read half a canto of Spenser's "Faërie Queene" in a big
rumbling voice, mouthing the archaic words.

Frederic could make little sense of it and sat taking in the room, the
heavy mahogany sideboard, the horsehair chairs by the fireplace, the
Biblical prints on the walls, the books on either side of the window,
and through the window the dismal walled garden with its starved
hawthorn trees and the cats playing about on the wall. The windows
were closed and the air in the room was thick and smelled of tobacco
and food and clothes. It was a dingy dusty room, made more than ever
forbidding by a reproduction of Munkaczy's _Christ before Pilate_,
which hung over the mantelpiece between the _Crucifixion_ of Rubens
and a photograph of a little Scotch church and a manse with gloomy
hills in the background.

When the reading was finished Frederic said:

"I'm sorry I interrupted you."

"Not at all. I'd finished my work. I'm alone. I'm always alone in this
house. Have you ever thought how lonely a man can be in his own house?
. . . You've not? You don't think? May be you're wise, though, maybe
again, you're only young. Well, I tell you, a man can be very lonely
in his own house, but not many are as lonely as I am. Looking at it
purely philosophically it's something of an achievement--in a negative
sort of way. I mean, not many men can have all that nature has
provided for a man and get nothing at all out of it. Nearly all men
manage to get some pickings for their vanity, but I don't even get
that. I get nothing. . . . So do hundreds of thousands of people. They
can't. But the difference between them and me is that they can pretend
and I can't. Nature's very wasteful. She produces far more men and
women than she wants. Just a few are sound and really alive. The rest
are shadows. I'm a shadow. I don't know what you are. A sort of
betwixt and between I should say, just looking at you. The real men
make loveliness, and the intelligent shadows have a sort of echo of it
and have a sort of reflected life through it. The rest wither away and
are dead years and years before they die. What I can't stand though is
their damned cruelty. I can't expect you to make much of that. I talk
like that for hours to old Tibby. She's the most real person in this
house, and the rest of us are sticking to her like leeches. She's had
no life of her own, hasn't Tibby, and sometimes she will stand and
look at me and say, 'You're a wonderful talker, man,' and I'll say,
'I'm nothing else, woman.' Queer people, we are. But we're all queer
in this place to go on living in the darkness and mist of it as we do.
I've met your father. He's a comfortable man. It must be very pleasant
to have a comfortable man in the house."

Frederic did his best to follow him in his harangue, and, though he
could make very little of it all, he was interested and wanted him to
go on. He had never been in a house like it before. Never had he had
such a sensation of empty darkness, and he wanted very much to know
what was in the rest of the house besides the boy who had spoken to
him on the doorstep and Tibby and the cat. And what did they all do
when old Lawrie got drunk?

The boy Bennett came into the room, walked across to the book-shelves
by the window, took down a book and went out again without taking the
smallest notice of his father.

The old man watched him with a sort of hunger, and he took a piece of
paper and tore it up into a thousand pieces and let them flutter down
on to the floor at his feet.

Frederic plunged into his own affairs and said:

"Do you remember some drawings I showed you? My brother's come back. I
think he wants them. The boy at the club . . ."

"I have them."

"You remember Mr. Beecroft said he was a genius."

"Beecroft's a sot and a fool. But they're good. Things seen and felt.
I've given over asking for more than that."

He went to a cupboard and produced the portfolio. Frederic saw it with
immense relief, and ceased to take any interest in old Lawrie, or
Tibby, or Bennett, or the cat. He was secure against any
unpleasantness, and the old man's talk seemed to him now only
maundering folly. Before he had been more than half convinced that the
world was a miserable place of shadows and shams.

Except for awful moments Frederic had always found life very pleasant
and amusing. He had done very much as he pleased and fancied that he
had been remarkably successful in dodging consequences. He did not
imagine that things could ever be different, and thinking about it
always seemed to him to be a ridiculous waste of time.

He took the portfolio and began to tell old Lawrie the little he knew
about Serge, and soon worked round to Beecroft's declaration that an
exhibition ought to be organised, and the old man, more to humour him
and to get rid of him than for any enthusiasm that he had, asked him
to bring his brother to the club some Sunday evening. Frederic
promised and took his leave.

In the dark passage he met Bennett waiting for him. Bennett was very
nervous and took him into a little dark cell of a room at the foot of
the stairs and took him by the arm and whispered:

"Did you really mean me to come? Of course I can't ask you to come
here. I can't, you know. But I would like to come to your house. You
sing, don't you, and act? I can sing and act, and I can draw and write
verses. Your brother's a painter, isn't he? I should love to come."

Frederic felt irritated. The boy was so horribly in earnest. There was
nothing particularly delightful in the house in Fern Square, but if
the queer little idiot liked to come of course there was no reason why
he shouldn't. He was religious, and therefore, presumably, respectable
enough.

"All right," said Frederic gruffly. "Next Sunday."

"Oh! Thanks. Thanks."

The boy took his hand and pressed it violently. He had a cold, hard
bony hand, and Frederic had a feeling of repulsion. It seemed
unnatural to him for a boy to be so emotional.

He reached home to find Serge entertaining a large party, including
all the family, the Clibran-Bell girls, and his cousin, Streeten
Folyat, who had suddenly appeared on his way to Westmoreland, where he
had bought a sheep-farm. Streeten belonged to a wealthy branch of the
family and had already tried nine different professions. He was a man
of means, and Mrs. Folyat was making herself very charming to him, and
had him sitting between herself and Mary. Serge was at the piano
playing and singing absurd little buffoonish songs and teasing Jessie
Clibran-Bell, whom for the first time Frederic began to think rather
pretty. Minna was reading, and Gertrude was browsing in a corner,
nursing the dog.

Minna put down her book as he entered and said:

"Doesn't Frederic look important to-night? You shall have all the
centre of the room to yourself."

"I got your drawings, Serge," Frederic spoke in rather a loud voice.
He wanted to attract Jessie Clibran-Bell's attention. "I lent them to
old Lawrie, the dramatic critic. He showed them to some friends of
his, and they say you must have an exhibition. We'll make your
fortune, yet. They say Africa's very much in the air just now."

"Are you a painter, Mr. Folyat?" asked Jessie Clibran-Bell.

"One of Frederic's friends says I'm a genius," replied Serge.

"Oh! then you won't stay here. All the geniuses go to London. We had a
cousin who wrote books and she went to America and made a lot of
money."

"I didn't say I was a genius. I only said one of Frederic's friends
said I was a genius. It does not follow that it is true."

"You shall judge for yourself, Jessie," said Frederic.

"How can she judge?" asked Serge. "She doesn't know anything about
it."

Jessie went pink and her neck stiffened, and she turned to Frederic.
He produced the drawings from the portfolio and placed them round the
room, and an impromptu exhibition was held. Serge told them which they
ought to admire, and they admired them. On the whole they were puzzled
rather than interested. They were soon exhausted as a subject of
discussion, and Frederic, having drawn Jessie away from Serge, began
to tell her of his experience at old Lawrie's house. Presently his
voice drowned all the rest and all in the room were listening.

"I asked young Bennett Lawrie to supper next Sunday," he said.

"He's very beautiful, isn't he, Gertie?" observed Minna pointedly.

"You know him then?" asked Frederic.

"He's an acolyte at St. Saviour's. We've been to St. Saviour's once or
twice, haven't we Gertie?"

"Have we?" Gertrude's face was a brilliant Turkey red.

Mrs. Folyat wagged her head.

"I don't think your father will like your filling the house with young
men."

"Rubbish, mother," said Serge. "Every house ought to be filled with
young men and young women. Houses are quite intolerable unless people
are making love in them."

"My dear!"

"They've got to make love somewhere."

Frederic caught Jessie's eye, and with a little swagger he said:

"Yes. But we don't talk about it."

"Good gracious me," said Serge with a laugh, "men and women hardly
talk about anything else. If they don't talk they think the more, and
that's bad for them."

"I think you are disgusting," said Gertrude, tartly, and left the
room.

"Is he a nice young man, this Bennett Lawrie?" asked Mrs. Folyat.

"He's the queerest fish I ever met. His father's quite dotty."

"I'd like to know him," interrupted Serge.

"The boy's as nervous as a cat and as soft as a woman. He nearly cried
with gratitude when I asked him to come. They live opposite the
Haslams--Basil Haslam's a painter, or going to be one."

"Oh! Minna knows him," said Mary with sudden malice.

There was a gap in the conversation. Frederic asked Jessie if she
would accompany him, and so manoeuvred Serge away from the piano. He
sang a very sentimental love-ditty and gazed with soft eyes at the
back of Jessie's neck the while.

When she left he insisted on seeing her home with her sister. It took
him twenty-five minutes, and when he returned he found Serge
buffooning for his mother and making her laugh till she cried.

"Oh! dear. Oh! dear," she cried. "I haven't laughed so much for years.
You'd never think Serge was a grown man, would you, Frederic?"

"Never," replied Frederic with asperity.

"My good brother," said Serge solemnly, "you gave a remarkable
description just now of the house of the Lawries--an unhappy,
middle-class house. You said it felt like a prison with that raw-boned
old Scotswoman for goaler. I've been a free man all my life and I feel
about this house exactly what you felt about that. There's fear in it
and unfriendliness. I don't understand why, but I will understand
before I've done."

The two brothers were standing close together, and Serge had
unwittingly raised his voice. Mrs. Folyat came and laid her hand on
his arm and said:

"Please, please don't quarrel."

"We're not quarrelling, mother," replied Serge, "Frederic is annoyed
with me. He doesn't know why, nor do I. It's those Lawries have upset
him. It's all right, mother. You go to bed. I'm a disturbing influence
at present. You'll get used to me and I shall become a habit like
everything else."

"It isn't fair," said Frederic.

"What isn't fair?"

"It isn't fair to talk to mother like that. She doesn't understand
you."

"Of course she doesn't. It isn't any good talking. Go to bed mother."

Frederic led his mother to the door and went out with her. Streeten
declared that he must go and Mary saw him to the door.

Turning, Serge found Minna watching him with a broad grin on her face.
She was as tall as he, big and fine, and he thought:

"Well, she at least is a handsome woman. Pity she doesn't dress
better."

Minna said:

"I'm glad you made Frederic feel small. He's a beast."

"Is he? What kind of a beast?"

"The worst kind. A jealous beast."

"I think I rather like you, Minna."

"Thank you. And the rest of us?"

"I'm prepared to like you all."

"You're quite right about this house, Serge. It is a prison. It's been
getting worse and worse ever since James died. It was awful, of
course."

"Why don't you marry?"

"How can I? I've no money; can't make any--and I've no intention of
marrying a poor man. It isn't so easy to fall in love either--unless
you're like Bub."

"Who?"

"Gertrude. She's in love with that young Bennett Lawrie. She goes to
his church and looks at him as though he were a beautifully-cooked
chop. He is rather like that. I shall call him the mutton-chop when he
comes."

"Don't any of the young women get married in these parts. What about
the Clibran-Bells?"

"Oh! Jessie is in love with Frederic, always has been ever since he
turned up."

"How long's that?"

"A good many years. It was awful when we first came. We arrived at
five o'clock in the morning. It was pouring with rain, and we drove in
two cabs through the horrible dirty streets. We were all very tired,
and Gertrude and Mary had been squabbling in the train. We didn't know
anything about towns, and Ma had made us very excited by talking about
the rich people we were going to know--and marry. She always used to
be talking about marriage. She doesn't do it so much now."

"Why on earth did they come? St. Withans was jolly enough."

"I don't know. I think they lost some money, and Ma got sick of the
country and Mother Bub got tired of falling in love with the curates,
and they worried pa until he did it."

"Does he always do what mother wants him to?"

"Oh! yes. She's a nagger."

Serge went up to Minna and put his arm round her waist and kissed her.
She took his face in her hands and kissed his lips. Then she sighed:

"What a pity you're my brother."

"I fancy a good many women say that to their brothers--when they don't
know any other men."

"Have you known a lot of women?"

"A good many."

"I thought so. We seem to exist for you as individuals. To the
Frederic sort of man women only seem to exist as a surrounding
presence. . . . If I did something dreadful you'd stand by me,
wouldn't you?"

"I hope so. But don't do anything dreadful just for the fun of it. It
isn't worth it."

Minna gave a little purr of contentment and rubbed her cheek against
his and said:

"You're so warm and friendly. I'm glad you came. But I can understand
people hating you like poison."

"They do, my dear, they do."

He kissed her again and she ran happily away and upstairs.



X

SUNDAY SUPPER

_He for God only._--MILTON.

PURITAN hostility to the proceedings in St. Paul's survived the demise
of Flynn and his newspaper and spluttered into activity upon occasion,
as when Francis instituted the Litany as a separate Sunday afternoon
service or allowed his school-room to be used for musical
entertainments organised by the local nigger minstrels--(the annual
visit of Moore and Burgess gave birth to numerous amateur troupes)--or
when in the jumble sales which were held at intervals he countenanced
and even patronised raffles. One pretext was as good as another, but
the fundamental grievance was his friendship with Father Soledano, a
priest attached to the Roman Catholic Cathedral. The offence was
greater in that he had no friend, hardly a kindly acquaintance among
the Anglican clergy. They fought shy of him because he had incurred
the disapproval of the dean, though their wives occasionally called on
Mrs. Folyat because she was still visited by the bishop's wife.

Father Soledano was an Irishman of Spanish extraction, a little ugly
man, with a lame leg, stiff bristling hair receding from a knobby,
wrinkled forehead, little eyes glowing under bushy brows, a long upper
lip and a sensitive mouth, and a chin that looked as though he had to
shave it every half hour.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral was about a mile away from St. Paul's,
and Father Soledano lived in the priest's house in an asphalt court
that lay under its shadow. The surrounding district was inhabited
mostly by poor Irish--ignorant, drunken, superstitious, and Jews,
whose morality was a reproach to the rest of the dwellers in the
slums; and there were French people, and Bavarians, Lithuanians, not a
few Poles, and refugees from Russia. All these were swept into the
various trades and manufactories--sweated tailoring, sweated
shirt-making, sweated jam-making, sweated engineering. And Father
Soledano found his work of digging for their souls infinitely amusing.
Several of his Catholics lived over in the parish of St. Paul's, and
he had sought Francis out on hearing a tale of his kindness to an old
woman who, by practising midwifery, supported her daughter-in-law and
four children. This old woman was a Catholic, and every penny she
could spare was spent in buying images of saints. She had the Virgin,
and St. Peter, and St. Anthony of Padua, and a little Saint Catherine
of Siena. One day two of the men who had assaulted Frederic and
overturned the gravestone of the boy James, made a round of all the
Catholic houses they could discover and destroyed all the images. When
Francis heard of it he went from house to house and was given a list
of all that had been destroyed, and a week later he went round with
his chief sidesman carrying a clothes-basket full of saints, and made
good every loss. When the aforesaid old woman found herself with a new
Virgin, a new Saint Peter, and a new Saint Anthony of Padua and a more
beautiful new Saint Catherine of Siena than she had ever thought of in
her wildest dreams, she knelt down and began to pray for the soul of
the English Father. And Francis knelt down and prayed with her, and
all the children gathered round and stared at their grandmother and
the portly bearded man kneeling there by the kitchen table, and their
mother began to cry, and the old woman began to cry, until Francis
lifted her up and kissed her on the cheek. Then he sent the children
out to buy bread and jam and cake and they had a lovely tea together.

Francis did not tell the tale to anybody, but it was soon out all over
the parish, and there was much indignation. A few of the parishioners
left the church and Mrs. Folyat was shocked and affronted. What
offended her most was that Francis had carried the images publicly and
openly through the streets. Being an inveterate gossip herself, she
could not endure being the subject of it, except it were flattering to
her vanity.

Father Soledano wrote to Francis and thanked him, and Francis invited
him to come and see him. The invitation was accepted, and the two men
found that they had many things in common outside their profession,
and they had many a long talk about old Dublin days. Soledano was
amused by the Anglican's easy-going optimism, and Francis was shocked,
interested, and stimulated by the priest's almost cynical pessimism.
They never discussed religion. To a certain extent they secretly
allied forces in their work of dealing with the moral and economic
difficulties of their poor, a certain substratum of whom were
ultimately Catholic and Anglican according as they could win the
attention and sympathy of the district visitors or the Little Sisters,
though they hardly ever attended service either in the Cathedral or in
St. Paul's.

Every now and then Soledano would come to supper at Fern Square on
Sundays, and it so happened that he was there when Bennett Lawrie
appeared for the first time dressed sprucely for the occasion with a
new suit and a very high collar and a blue birds-eye tie. The whole
family was present, having been to church in full force--Serge read
the Lessons--and they had sat down to their meal, having forgotten all
about young Lawrie, when there came a resounding peal at the bell. The
servant was out and Gertrude opened the door to him. His face was
utterly tragic, and he could hardly find his voice to ask if Mrs.
Folyat were in. Gertrude admitted him, showed him into the
dining-room, where several people were talking all at once, and
disappeared into the kitchen to fetch him plate, knife, and fork. It
was some moments before Frederic recognised him--two gas-jets in glass
globes do not give very much light--and Bennett suffered agonies of
shyness and began to wish he had never come. He saw Francis open his
mouth and insert a large piece of cold beef and his beard wag as he
chewed it slowly, and he rather resented it. He had romanticised
Francis, and had always pictured him in his vestments very saintly and
impressive. The other man, Soledano, sitting between Mrs. Folyat and
Minna, looked much more like a saint. . . . Minna gazed at Bennett
with mischievous approval, and he thought her very beautiful and cast
down his eyes. Frederic said "Hullo" and told his mother who Bennett
was, and Mrs. Folyat bade Serge and Mary make room for the young man
between them. Gertrude returned with plate, knife and fork. Bennett
sat down at the place made for him, and conversation was resumed and
flowed on over him. It was chiefly concerned with food, and Mrs.
Folyat was very anxious to know what Father Soledano had to eat at the
priests' house. He told her they ate very little meat and a great deal
of macaroni. Mary tried to talk to Bennett but could get nothing out
of him but "Yes" and "No." He liked music but knew nothing about it,
and had never been to a concert.

Serge tackled him. The directness of his questions embarrassed
Bennett, and the kindliness of his interest moved him so that a lump
rose in his throat and he could hardly get out his replies. He had, he
said, been born in the town and had hardly ever been away from it;
once to Scotland, where his father came from, and once to Westmoreland
and once to Derbyshire. His family were so poor, you see, though they
had once been quite rich and lived in a big house with a garden. He
could just remember the garden. He was nineteen and had been in
business since he was sixteen, first of all in a little office where
there was only one clerk, and then, by the influence of his uncles, in
a great firm of shippers where, if you did not earn very much, you
were at any rate safe. His mother was Low Church and his father was a
Presbyterian but never went to any place of worship. He had two
brothers and two sisters, but they were all older than himself and
didn't care about the things he cared for, though one of his brothers
sang in the choir at the Church of the Ascension, where they only wore
surplices and no cassocks. . . . Timidly he asked Serge if it was true
that he was an artist, and Serge laughed and said he was a sort of
middle-aged embryo.

"That must be splendid," said Bennett, wistfully. "I draw, but not
real things, only dreams and horrible grotesques. We started a family
paper once but the others wouldn't do anything, and I had to write it
all myself and draw all the pictures, and they laughed at everything I
did, and I drew a picture of my mother being carried off by the devil
and they burnt it. I write verses about the people in the office, but
they don't like them unless they're--you know--rather nasty. We can't
smoke in our office and everybody takes snuff. I think I'd like to
have been a clergyman."

He suddenly became conscious that Gertrude's eyes were upon him and
that she was devouring every word he said. He had recognised her as
the young woman who came so often to St. Saviour's, and he had thought
about her a great deal. He had tortured himself with the notion that
she might have come to see him, had even dreamed lofty romances in
which she figured as a mysterious lady of high degree who swept him
off in a great carriage with two tremendous horses, and then had been
ashamed. It comforted him a little to know that she was the daughter
of the Rev. Francis Folyat, and that her attendance at St. Saviour's
could therefore only have been prompted by the highest spiritual
motives. . . . All the same she was looking at him exactly as she did
when he came down to the steps of the nave and stood with the great
brass offertory-plate. He was wretchedly nervous, but he imagined the
Folyats to be a happy united family, and he basked in the warmth which
seemed to pervade their house. He listened to their bantering
conversation and was very much afraid of them all except Serge.
Frederic seemed to drink a vast quantity of beer, and he remembered
stories that he had heard of him in the office. Like everybody else
who was interested in church matters, he was familiar with the flying
gossip concerning the Folyats, and the ill-natured remarks that were
current about the unmarried daughters. He thought Minna more and more
beautiful, and Mary devoted, and Gertrude--he could not disentangle
Gertrude from all the absurd things he had thought of her before he
knew who she was.

Mrs. Folyat began, as she always did in the presence of a newcomer, to
talk of the ancestors on the wall, and to tell the lurid stories of
the Red Lady, who had known more than was ever written of the Monmouth
rebellion, and the Grey Lady who had such a violent temper, that,
losing it one day out driving with her husband in a high chariot, she
boxed his ears so that he lost his balance and fell out and broke his
neck. She rambled on by way of Baron Folyat to Willie, now safely
established as Earl of Leedham, and she declared, being thoroughly
warmed to her subject, that failing heirs male, and in the event of
the extirpation of two other branches of the family--and less likely
things had happened--Serge would become heir, or his sons, if he ever
had any.

Bennett was much impressed, as it was meant that he should be, and
began to talk of his own ancestry. There were Lawries in Elgin as far
back as Robert the Bruce, and for hundreds of years there had been
Lawries who were lairds or in the ministry. Mrs. Folyat asked him who
his mother was, and Bennett replied:

"She was a Miss Smith. She married my father when she was seventeen.
People don't seem able to marry so young nowadays."

"It is difficult, isn't it, Gertrude?" asked Minna.

The meal came to an end, and Francis asked Frederic to accompany him
to the study to discuss a theatrical entertainment that was in process
of organisation in aid of the restoration of the organ. Mary and Minna
cleared away and Gertrude helped her mother upstairs, carrying her
spectacles, book and knitting-bag. Serge, Bennett, and Father Soledano
were left in the dining-room. Serge and Bennett smoked and Father
Soledano began to talk. Bennett was unused to drinking beer. Serge had
plied him with it rather too generously in the frequent lapses in
their conversation, and the fumes of it had gone to his head so that
it felt very hot and large, while inside it his brain worked with
unwonted swiftness and a hectic clarity. His cheeks were flushed and
they burned, but on the whole he found his new sensations very
pleasant, and there was a sort of splendour in being treated by these
grown men, an artist and a priest, as one of themselves. To Bennett
all artists were great artists--he was not his father's son for
nothing--and the priesthood was the noblest and most exalted calling
possible for man. He lived from Sunday to Sunday. On Monday morning he
died and was buried in his office. On Saturday evening came a glorious
resurrection, and he rose to exalted heights each Sunday morning when
he took the sacrament. He was an emotional creature and had no other
outlet.

He sat looking from Serge to Father Soledano and from Father Soledano
to Serge as they talked, but took little account of what they said.
They were exchanging impressions of the town and speaking of it in a
curious critical way that Bennett found difficulty in following. He
knew nothing of the machinery of the world. He was poor, and he had
accepted it as axiomatic that poor people had to do work that was
distasteful to them. He had no notion of what that work resulted in,
or who profited by it. You went on working until you had enough to
marry, and then you married and went on working until you died. His
brothers were both bank-clerks, and he gathered that their work was
even duller than his own, which consisted in addressing envelopes and
taking messages down into the warehouse where there were rough men who
were even poorer than himself. They packed and unpacked bales of
cotton-goods which were placed on lorries and carried off to trains,
which took them away to the sea and across the sea to Bombay and
Calcutta and Shanghai and Yokohama. There were many other processes
going on in the office and warehouses, but that seemed to be the
general principle--cotton came from America, was bought on the
Exchange, spun and woven in the mills near Oldham, brought to the
warehouse and dispatched--fully insured--through the complicated
machinery of the office. There were five partners in the firm and they
were all very rich. One of the employees, the head-clerk, had six
hundred a year, but he himself, Bennett, received every week only
thirty shillings. Many young men of his age were earning only half
that sum, and he was quite ready to admit, without thought or
examination, that he was worth no more to his employers. He did not
understand the machinery in which he played a part, did not want to
understand it, and did not find it sufficiently interesting. Being
poor, he had to work, and the nature of the work was not his affair.
It absorbed the greater part of his life, but it was outside his work
that he was as really alive as he could be.

This visit to Fern Square was perhaps the greatest adventure of his
life. He had heard Father Soledano's voice droning on for some time,
and now he heard words that interested him.

"The middle classes are beginning to invest their savings in
industrial securities. That is going to make things worse than ever
for the poor, since it means organised exploitation, dividends to be
paid as well as the profits of private enterprise. It seems to me that
men are inventing machinery for making money and letting them get out
of hand. A machine that no man can control or use for the purposes of
good is the most perilous engine of destruction."

"A machine," thought Bennett, and at once there came to his mind the
streets surrounding his office where all day long there was the thud
of machinery and thousands of men and women being swallowed up in the
morning by great black ugly buildings, and spewed out again in the
evening, all, he supposed, as weary and listless as he felt himself on
every evening except Saturday.

"Isn't that," said Serge, "isn't that what has happened with the
Church? . . . You don't mind my discussing it in that way? . . .
Hasn't it become a machine which takes everything from men and gives
them nothing? I fancy my father's Church doesn't meddle much, or, at
any rate, effectually, with politics, but yours is always struggling
after the temporal power which it has lost."

"That is because we believe that the Church and State should be one."

"I agree. And so they would be if the Church were really a Church, and
the State were really a State. I have never been to your church, but I
know that my father's is only an imitation, a fairly good imitation
and quite attractive, but it has nothing at all to do with religion as
I understand it."

"It depends what you mean by religion."

"I take it to mean the profoundest instinct in a human being, that
instinct of life which embraces and should direct all the rest."

"I agree, but it is impossible."

"Why is it impossible?"

Bennett did not hear Father Soledano's reply. The dialogue had been to
him like the murmuring of mysterious voices in a dream, bearing no
relation to his own actual experience. His own religion was so
axiomatic that the possibility of criticism, outside crude
condemnation, to which he was hardened and accustomed, had never
occurred to him, and yet, now that it had happened, it was as
something remote, impious, but menacing and disturbing. That Father
Soledano should lend himself to such talk perturbed him not at all,
for he had been brought up to believe that anything was possible for
the Roman Catholic priesthood. He was conscious of resentment, and
told himself that it was because these things were being said in Mr.
Folyat's house. He was hurt, and childishly he wished to hand on the
pain to some one. He waited until Father Soledano's voice had died
down, and then he said, taking no account of his words:

"It isn't for us to inquire into these things. If we believe at all in
the authority and the Divine origin of the Church we are bound by its
tradition and its--its dogma."

"I beg your pardon," replied Serge. "I forgot that you were there. I
don't believe in the authority or the Divine origin of the Church, and
I refuse to be bound by its tradition, which has always been, to say
the least of it, unhappy in its results, or its dogma, which seems to
me unsound and more or less contradictory of the spirit of the New
Testament."

"But--but . . ." Bennett pounced on Serge with an air of triumph,
brandishing his point before proving it. "But what about morals?"

"That," said Serge, "is exactly where you and I part company. You
Christians have only evolved a morality which you apply to the affairs
of others and not to your own. You have no standard of goodness--only
the wickedness of other people, a Pharisaic standard which would have
been repulsive to the Man whom you choose to regard as your Founder.
My father's sermons, for instance--and they are like every parson's
sermons--begin by drawing such a frightful picture of human wickedness
that when it is over his hearers feel that they are angels of goodness
in comparison. It's an old dodge, and I daresay Father Soledano makes
use of it too."

"I do," said Father Soledano. "I do."

Bennett gaped at him. He felt that he would burst into tears if this
went on any longer, and indeed his eyes were wet and his throat was so
dry that he could not speak.

"You like your religion?" asked Serge.

"It is my whole life." Bennett was surprised at the ferocity with
which he said this. He was staggered by Serge's answer:

"I am sorry for you. You will be badly hurt when life gobbles you up
and gives you other engrossing interests, which you will be
ill-equipped to tackle."

"Come, come," said Father Soledano. "It is not fair. It is not fair to
come down from the general to the particular like that."

"I protest," answered Serge. "My whole indignation arises from the
unkindness and dishonesty of stuffing young people, and ignorant
people, with generalisations."

"What else can you give them? They are not conscious of
individuality."

"I don't believe that, and even if it were so you ought to leave them
free to become conscious--if they can."

"The risk is too great."

"What risk?"

Bennett's mind had been moving swiftly and partly by memory, partly by
intuition he came to this:

"People can't do as they like."

Serge stood up suddenly and paced round the room.

"Young idiot!" he said. "They can, and they do. Isn't it your
experience, Father, that they do? The trouble is that with all these
foolish generalisations buzzing in their heads they are always doing
the wrong things, and doing them in the wrong way, shuffling, and
sneaking so as to hide away from the bogies you give them." He turned
to Bennett and asked: "Has what you do and think on Sunday the
slightest bearing on what you do and think on week-days?"

"It keeps me from temptation," said Bennett so earnestly that there
was not the smallest hint of priggishness in him.

Serge took him by the arm and lifted him clean out of his chair and
set him down with a jolt on to his feet.

"Keeps you from temptation, does it! How?--By running away from it."

Bennett was very angry. He raised his voice:

"If you had to live in my house you wouldn't talk like that. My
father's a drunken beast and my mother doesn't even try to understand
us. You'd believe in God if you lived in our house. . ." He came to an
end suddenly. Serge patted him kindly on the shoulder.

"That's all right. That's all right. Let's go upstairs and see what a
happy home is like, or perhaps you would prefer to go and talk to my
father and Father Soledano in the study."

"I'll go with you," said Bennett.

They went upstairs, and Father Soledano joined Francis in the study.
In the drawing-room they found Frederic holding forth about the
performance in the school-room. The piece chosen was _The Rose and the
Ring_, in a musical version.

Gertrude asked Bennett if he could sing. He replied that he could, and
Frederic graciously allowed him the use of one of his songs, "On, on,
my bark, dash through the foam." Bennett had a light baritone voice
with a curious harsh quality in the middle notes, but he loved singing
and really let himself go. When he had finished Mrs. Folyat looked up
from her _Family Herald_ and said:

"Very nice, very nice indeed. Even Frederic does not sing it so well."

Frederic asked Bennett to take a part in _The Rose and the Ring_, and
he accepted. Gertrude took him aside to show him his part, and Mary
produced her violin and played Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words for
half an hour, after which she produced a table and cards and sat
playing Bézique with her mother. (Mrs. Folyat declared that she could
not sleep without her game. No one else was allowed to play cards on
Sunday.)

Serge sat teasing Minna, and time flew.

There came a ring at the bell, and after a little interval a gaunt
figure in black stalked into the room, stood by the door, and said:

"Bennett, your mother says you're to come home."

Bennett rose to his feet at once, muttered good-bye, turned the colour
of a red peony and slunk out after the old Scotch servant.



XI

ART AND DRAMA

_Each had an upper stream of thought
 That made all seem as it was not._
     PETER BELL THE THIRD.

LAWRIE, Beecroft and Co. had not a monopoly in culture. Our City
Fathers provided us with an art gallery, to which, with praiseworthy
regularity they added two Academy pictures every year; the Town-hall
had been decorated by a Pre-Raphaelite, and there was a whole network
of Free Libraries, all equipped with thousands of books in a uniform
binding, and with the smell proper to Free Libraries. In the cold
weather they were always very full, in the hot weather they were
always very empty; but in the hot weather the accumulated smells of
the winter were distilled and concentrated. For music we had two or
three series of concerts during the winter months. They were chiefly
patronised by Germans and Jews, and the English bragged about them. We
had a College of Music, and a School of Art in connection with the
municipal technical school. This institution was presided over by a
Socialistic disciple of William Morris, who spent a great part of his
free time in designing banners for Friendly Societies--Buffaloes, Free
Foresters, Hearts of Oak--and cartoons for Labour journals. It was
situated in a square which was typical of the town. In the centre of
it stood a huge ugly Anglican church, and three sides of it were
filled with a Presbyterian chapel, a Wesleyan chapel, a Baptist
chapel, a Secular hall, a Maternity Hospital and a Dental Hospital.
Down a by-street was the headquarters of the Salvation Army, and down
another a larger Roman Catholic church. Quite near was the office in
which Bennett Lawrie worked, and all round were slums, public-houses,
brothels, a wedge of infamy between the working centre and the
outskirts. All round the Anglican church in the centre of the square
ran a wide pavement on which were wooden benches. Here at night came
hundreds of men, women and boys who had no resting-place. They spent
half the night there until they were moved on by the police, when they
went to a similar pavement with benches outside the Infirmary, meeting
half-way their comrades in misery who had been moved on from that
place--a sort of general post. In the day-time the square was always
busy, for two main roads met in it, and tram-lines from four
directions converged. Near at hand were many cheap shops, and the
wives of the clerks came thither to make their daily purchases.

It was to this School of Art that Serge Folyat came as the result of
his exhibition, which was an almost unredeemed failure. Beecroft
banged the drum and old Lawrie blew the trumpet, but the local school
of artists were contemptuous, and declared that the new genius could
not draw. Serge quite agreed. He sold ten of his pictures, and went to
see the disciple of William Morris and arranged to attend eight
classes a week, four in the afternoon and four in the evening.

He found the school very amusing, though at first his position was a
little difficult, for most of the students were very young and
inclined to look askance at a man with a beard turning grey and his
hair growing thin on the top of his head. The classes were very cheap,
and he was able to pay for the first term himself and postponed
discussion as to future ways and means, reckoning that in three
months' time his family would have digested and assimilated him, and
added him to the already large number of habits which made their
common existence tolerable. He worked very hard both at home and at
the school, wrestling with the horrible difficulties of the human
body. He had an intuitive feeling that he would never be able to draw
hands, and he became very ingenious in concealing them.

The classes at the school were mixed. There were a few serious
students of both sexes, a great many who attended from the vanity of
talent, and some to whom studying art was an occupation. A little
hunchback with a malicious intense face had been there for thirteen
years, and an old spinster of fifty-five had spent fifteen years
without ever passing an examination or taking a single certificate.
She was extremely hopeful, and one of the most cheerful persons in the
school. On the whole it was not cheerful. It lacked spirit and
enthusiasm. Many of the young men no doubt had a secret conviction
that they had a great destiny, but they were rather ashamed of it, and
only in rare moments of excitement did they dare to let it appear.
Theodore Benskin, the Morrisian principal of the school, had been
enthusiastic at twenty-five, but he had stopped there. However, he was
a good teacher of a mechanical sort. His business was to turn out
draughtsmen rather than artists, and he succeeded. Serge desired to
become a draughtsman, and he followed Benskin's directions, though all
the while he had a feeling of the grotesque in what he was doing, and
was inclined to think that a bushman's drawings on the wall of a cave
were of more value than all the finished studies turned out under
Benskinian rules. However, he was nettled by the failure of his
exhibition, and saw that it was quite useless to take keen pleasure in
his work unless by the work he could communicate that pleasure to
others. He had no concise theory of art beyond a conviction that
unless it could create pleasure there was no excuse for it. As for
making money by it, there were a thousand easier ways of doing that,
ways that left more leisure and did not induce such profound
depression. It was all very well, he thought, to gird, as did almost
everybody he met, at the sordidness and grimness of the town in which
they lived, but the most miserable of all the people in it were the
supposed artists, the men who frequented the Arts Club. They were all
men of talent, but none of them ever seemed to have used their gifts
to any purpose. They were perpetually cursing the lack of appreciation
of their fellow-citizens, but they had never made any really serious
attempt to win them or to open up any new way for their minds. When it
came to the point their standards were those of the rich men, upon
whose caprice they lived. Like everybody else in the town they put up
with money as the sole channel of communication between one man and
another. Serge used sometimes to try to talk to the waifs and strays
on the benches outside the church in the square, but he found them
nearly all brutalised and fuddled. They seemed to have no thought
beyond the next meal, no programme beyond the next drink. They cadged.

Among the students at the school was a young man whom Serge had marked
out from the very first moment. He was short, and had a large head,
dark hair, bright eyes, and he was always merry. He had a joke for
everyone, and he was always in love with one or other of the
girl-students. Benskin was proud of him, for he won all possible
prizes and was always solidly working. His name was Basil Haslam,
brother of that spotty-faced youth who was Frederic's boon companion.
They made acquaintance quickly but did not become friends until they
both entered for a competition for a prize, the subject being a
sea-piece. Haslam won it, and protested with Benskin that Folyat's was
the best, because Folyat knew about the sea and he didn't.

He was delighted when Serge told him that he had been a sailor.

"Ah! That's it," he said. "That's it. I've never been anything. I can
just draw but I don't understand about men and how they live."

"That's not very difficult," replied Serge. "They are much the same
everywhere. They are all born in the same way, and death has not many
variations. What lies in between is largely a matter of eating,
drinking, and sleeping."

"And loving."

"Just a few get as far as that. Not many."

"But all of them seem to think about getting married."

"That has surprisingly little to do with love. How much love do you
get in your own house?"

"Not much. But then they think I'm queer. My father's a doctor. He
wanted me to be a doctor, but I've got a hundred-and-fifty of my own,
so I can do what I like. I shall go to London as soon as I'm through
here. It's no good being a painter here. They all think it's a joke, a
sort of excuse for doing nothing."

"I know. They think pictures are produced automatically--like
everything else."

"Old Benskin's automatic enough."

"Exactly. He can work just as he can go to sleep, almost without
knowing that he's doing it. It's a matter of habit. He's almost
forgotten how he used to despise that sort of thing."

"Do you think he ever did?"

"Of course, or his work wouldn't be as good as it is."

"I can't understand people ceasing to be keen."

"I can. You only need to wobble a very little to come down on the
wrong side. Then you're done for--in Hell. And after a bit you find
that you quite like it, except in awful moments when you realise that
after all it is Hell and that you might so easily have been in
Heaven."

"I know what you mean. You mean that the whole thing rests with
yourself. But it's rotten luck when you're weak and can't help doing
the wrong thing though you see the right thing the whole time."

"But we're all like that. We only go to Hell when we do the wrong
thing and pretend that it's the right."

"How did you find that out?"

"By a careful study of Hell and its inhabitants."

"Then you don't mean the Hell one's people talk about?"

"No. I mean here and now, the world as it is. I'm not interested in
any other."

"Neither am I. Hurray!"

This conversation was the first of many. Haslam used to wait for Serge
and walk with him as far as their roads lay together. He was an
ambitious young man with his eyes set on the road to London, not so
much because he was eager for fame and material rewards as because he
was hotly impatient of art which stopped short at Benskin and
Beecroft.

"But," Serge would say, "Benskin and Beecroft will both die."

"I know, but there'll be a new Beecroft and a new Benskin by that
time."

"That's true. We shall never be rid of them."

"I expect London is crammed full of Benskins and Beecrofts."

"Maybe, but there are more of the other sort there too."

"If I don't reach London by the time I'm twenty-seven I shall throw up
the sponge."

"Why twenty-seven?" asked Serge, smiling.

"Oh! if a man hasn't done something by the time he's twenty-seven he
never will."

"I'm a good deal more than that. . ."

"But you've done everything. You've made yourself. You're not really
any older than I am, and everybody here is so horribly old."

"Yes, they all come to a bad and perfectly respectable end."

Haslam swung his fist in the air and shouted indignantly:

"Respectable! Respectable! Give me a list of any ten men living in
respectable suburban villas and I warrant you there'll be more
dishonesty and cowardly misdoing in their lives than in ten of the
so-called criminal classes. I don't understand it. I do rotten things
myself--who doesn't?--but I can't shut my eyes to them when they're
done. Take my brother. He's a beastly idiot or an idiotic beast,
always getting into scrapes and shuffling out of them. By the time
he's thirty he'll still be doing the same things, but he'll have
learned how to prevent them coming to the surface. He'll marry, settle
down, enjoy a comfortable income, be a pillar of the Church and a
smug, hard Pharisee like all the rest, with all his tracks carefully
covered up and his conscience having a splendid time going over them."

"I don't think it matters to any man," said Serge, "what his brother
is and is not."

"I know what you mean. It isn't worth while letting out at brutes like
my brother, but it's a great comfort to be able to do it
occasionally."

"Good Lord! My dear, we can't do anything. We must all stew in our own
juice. I'd have a lively time of it if I began to worry about my
brother Frederic's morals. I have quite enough to do to look after my
own."

"That's all very well. I don't mind my brother's morals so much, but
what I can't swallow is that he will loathe art. . ."

"Art will survive that. Art is the concern of free men. Men who have
made themselves prisoners cannot understand it, and men always hate
what they cannot understand, until they realise that the few great
principles of the world were founded without any consideration for
their vanity. Then they can laugh. The artists, I imagine, are free
men, and they write, paint, make music, because more direct action is
almost impossible for them in a world made captive by lies, shams, and
hypocrisies. When all men and all women are free there will be no art,
for there will be no need for it. Life itself will be enough. It will
be so splendid."

"I don't believe that." Haslam became suddenly despondent. "If there
isn't to be anything but life, what's the good of anything?"

"The answer to that is--everything. The few men who attain freedom
must tell the joy of it for the rest and for those who come after
them. Spiritual evolution is slow, like every other natural process.
Every true artist raises the imaginative level of humanity, but
imaginative art is a small thing compared with the imaginative life.
It is easier. Some men have to choose between the two. They nearly
always choose wrongly."

There was a long silence, Haslam strode along by Serge's side. At last
he said:

"You are queer. One moment you make me want to shout with joy, and the
next you drag me down to the depths and I want to cry. You seem to
believe in such big things, but you don't seem to believe in men at
all."

"In most men, not at all."

"And women?"

"Even less in women. They are always seeing things with men's eyes,
always appealing to them by their debased instincts. Clever women are
even worse. They try to escape the dilemma by appealing to men's
intellects. I hate intellect. Fine women are always driving fine men
into the arms of fools, or worse. The world is in a mess simply
because ninety-nine people out of a hundred make a mess of their love
affairs."

"But if there is such a thing as spiritual evolution it must all come
right in the end."

"That's no comfort to me. I shan't see it. This world will have been
snuffed out millions of years before then. It will have served its
purpose, and most of us will have missed our opportunity."

"I hope I shan't."

"I hope you won't."

They parted, and Serge made his way to St. Paul's School, where he had
promised to attend the final rehearsal of _The Rose and the Ring_.
There he found his father sitting half-way down the room which was lit
only with one gas-jet and was empty save for Jessie Clibran-Bell at
the piano under the rudely-constructed stage--barrels and planks--and
many rows of school desks, which were desks and forms combined, with
the desks turned down and the ink-wells removed. On the walls were
pictures of elephants, tigers and rhinoceroses, texts, the tonic
sol-fa, and two or three oleographs representing Biblical
scenes--Elisha and the Bears, Saul Listening to David's Harping, and
the Foolish Virgins. The walls themselves were distempered a bleak
grey, and were rather dirty. A harmonium stood against the wall
opposite the door, and above this was a glass case containing a
stuffed squirrel that had lost its fur and one glass eye. Serge asked
his father what it might be doing there. Francis disclaimed
responsibility for the conduct of the week-day school and surmised
that it was used for an object-lesson in natural history.

"Better than nothing," he said, but he did not seem to be at all
interested.

Serge plunged with a question:

"I've been thinking a good deal since I came here. Why don't you send
my mother away for a time?"

"She wouldn't go."

"Why not go with her?"

"Where to?"

"Anywhere. It doesn't matter."

"Are we very stick-in-the-mud?"

"It isn't that. But why not go away--or leave Fern Square? Minna tells
me that neither you nor my mother have been the same since James died.
. . . It must have been a shock to you."

"It was."

"You don't mind my mentioning it?"

"Not at all."

Serge waited and hoped for more to come, but nothing did. Francis was
in his most taciturn mood; he kept humming and buzzing to himself like
a great bee, and fingering the amethyst cross on his waistcoat. Serge
took another plunge.

"How much is this living worth?"

"Three hundred."

"How much was St. Withans worth?"

"Six-fifty."

Serge made no comment. Presently he asked:

"Did you know what you were coming to?"

"Perfectly."

"Did my mother?"

"I told her."

"Are you sorry?"

"What's the good?"

Francis dropped his amethyst cross and laid his foot on his right knee
and began thrusting his finger inside his elastic-sided boot. It was a
very old boot and much worn at the heel. Seeing that made Serge notice
for the first time that his father's clothes were shabby, out of shape
and dusty. He began to cast back in his memory, and with some
difficulty he was able to picture his father and mother as a young man
and woman--he in knee-breeches and silk stockings and silver buckles
to his shoes, and she in a full gown of flowered silk cut low on her
pretty shoulders--walking arm in arm in the gardens at St. Withans,
and then that was blotted out with recollections not so pleasing, his
father silent and his mother talking, talking, talking, then crying,
then talking again; then meals taken in a cold atmosphere of
restraint. He could remember jolly walks with his father, and scenes
of great tenderness with his mother, and the last day when he sobbed
his heart out and he was driven with his chest away and away until the
Vicarage and then the church-tower were lost from sight. He could
recognise himself in the small boy in all those memories, but in the
man and woman of those days he could not see the taciturn old man--for
he was old--sitting by his side, or the foolish old woman in Fern
Square with her blankly sorrowful face and her pathetic chatter of
"the gentry" and "common people." He found that he had much affection
for both, was rather surprised to find it, and was amused to discover
himself casting about for some melodramatic event which should account
for their listlessness and indifference to each other, their
daughters, everything and everybody. Francis was a good man; the
ex-convict of that first dismal day had said so. Mrs. Folyat was a
good woman; more than one woman in the parish had borne witness to
that.--Nothing had happened. They had dodged everything, like so many
others. For them (Serge thought) as for so many others, life had
always been round the corner--round the corner. The words lilted in
his mind like a refrain, and he said aloud:

"Round the corner."

"Eh?" said Francis, startled out of his reverie.

"I should think it over if I were you," replied Serge, "about going
away, I mean. To be quite frank with you, I find my mother a little
dull."

"Dull? I wouldn't say dull. Not dull. No. We're quiet people, that's
all, quiet people. She lived in a very quiet place when she was young.
I was curate then. Did I ever tell you about the murder that happened
there? I will some day."

A head was thrust through the curtain, hurried whispers were exchanged
with Jessie Clibran-Bell and she began to thump out some very
indifferent music that would have served admirably for a child's game
of musical-chairs.

"Was it a good murder?" asked Serge.

"It was a horrible murder."

The curtain was drawn. It showed some reluctance and had to be
assisted by the King. Gertrude was the Fairy Gruffanuff, and Bennett
Lawrie was Prince Bulbo, with a tenor song much too high for his light
baritone voice.

The entertainment was very indifferent in quality, but it seemed to
give great pleasure to the performers, especially to Bennett Lawrie,
the Bottom of the company. He acted with extraordinary intensity. He
seemed to have hypnotised himself into the belief that he was actually
a Prince, so that he was extremely comic and yet very pathetic. His
legs were very thin, large at the knees and more than a little bowed,
and in his pink tights they looked enormously long--a figure of fun,
and yet he was compelling and quixotically heroic. He was right out of
the picture, and nothing else in it seemed to exist for him. When he
was on the stage nothing else existed for his audience of two. He had
naturally the gift of making his personality surge over the footlights
into the auditorium, and he seemed to exult in the exercise of his
power without in the least caring what he did with it. Serge admired
him, but on the whole disliked his exhibition. He whispered to his
father:

"Sheer blatant egoism."

"Who?"

"That boy."

"He's very funny. Queer, he never says a word when he comes to the
house. He is preternaturally solemn and always looks as though he were
on the point of bursting into tears."

"I've seen many young men like that here. I fancy they don't get
enough to eat."

Bennett appeared on the stage again, and Francis began to shake with
laughter at his antics. A moment later and he was brushing a tear-drop
from his nose.

When the rehearsal was over Serge went out and bought a bottle of port
at the public-house next door but one to the church, a cake and some
biscuits, and took them in to the actors assembled in the
green-room--one of the two small class-rooms of the school. He found
Gertrude in tears and threatening to throw up her part, Frederic
shouting at her, Bennett Lawrie supporting her, and the whole company
looking very odd and unreal with the paint thick on their faces or
melting down into their collars. Francis was making himself amiable
and telling everybody in turn that he had never enjoyed any
performance so well.

Minna, wearing an absurd golden wig, said:

"I'm sure Serge didn't like it."

"I was interested," he replied.

And indeed he had found it absorbing to see how much these people,
when they were pretending to be some one else, revealed their
characters as they rarely did in ordinary life. He was immensely sorry
for them all without exactly knowing why. Without knowing why, he
excepted Minna. He had a curious faith in Minna. In Gertrude he
believed not at all. She was in love with Bennett Lawrie. That much
was clear, but she was in love idiotically. In the green-room he heard
her covering Bennett with gross flattery which he gulped down
fatuously.



XII

ANNETTE

_Hurrying wind o'er the heaven's hollow
 And the heavy rain to follow._
     CHIMES.

ANNETTE in Westmoreland had the small happenings in the household in
Fern Square week by week as far as her mother knew them. Every Friday
evening Mrs. Folyat used to write five letters: a short one to
Annette, a long one to Leedham because he was so far away, one to a
friend in Potsham with whom she had corresponded ever since her
marriage, and two to elegant relations. She had no power of
consecutive thought, and her letters rambled and ambled, a queer
mixture of narrative and comment, all things being equal in interest
(or the lack of it)--"Just fancy, the verger's son is married, and
only eighteen! Did I tell you that Betsy, the new cat, had four
kittens in the kitchen drawer? Your pa is very well, but the other day
I had to go to the dentist and he made a face over the bill, and I
said 'I am your wife. You have to keep me in repair.' He looked so
surprised and I was surprised at myself. Was it not a fool thing to
say? Frederic is working very hard, but Serge is making a dreadful
litter in his room with his brushes and paint. I do hate _untidiness_
and _shiftlessness_. You will be quite a stranger here when you come.
Mary is getting on very well with her music-lessons. She plays the
viola now, not the violin. It is easier to get into an orchestra if
you play the viola. I hope you are doing your duty, &c., &c. . . ."
The letter always wound up with a common form parental sermon, which
Annette always skipped. She did not get many letters, and her mother's
regular epistles were a boon to her. She was dreadfully afraid of the
servants at High Beck, and letters gave her a feeling of security
against them, for they witnessed to the fact that she had ties with
the world outside. Occasionally, when Mrs. Folyat mounted her
gentility hobby-horse, she would leave her letters lying open in her
room in the certain knowledge that they would be read and discussed
below stairs.

She had never seen Serge, for she was born after his departure from
St. Withans, but he had always been far more real to her than her
other brothers and sisters. He was a romantic figure to her, and when
he cropped up again in her mother's letters she imagined him to
herself as a being handsome beyond all other men and brave and strong.
She used to regale her pupil with tales of his adventures, borrowing
from Scott or Thackeray when her own invention gave out, and she made
him so entrancing that her pupil announced her intention of marrying
him when she grew up. She had first of all imagined him richer than
anybody had ever been, but after a letter from Minna--a poor
correspondent with excellent descriptive powers--telling of Serge's
homecoming she then imagined him poorer than anybody had ever been,
and she invented a lady with boundless wealth who should marry him,
restore the family fortunes, and take her (Annette) away from
teaching.

On the whole Annette had little cause to complain. Her employers were
stupid but not malicious. It never occurred to them that she might
need a change from the society of her pupil. Annette was so young in
years--younger still in mind--that they regarded her rather as a
companion than as an instructress, and lost all idea of authority, so
that Deedy, the child, was always playing her parents off against her
governess. Annette used to weep many tears over her ineffectuality,
but then, having a sense of humour, she would laugh at the idea of
herself, who had never successfully learned anything, being paid to
instruct another child in French, English grammar, orthography,
arithmetic and algebra. She grew fond of Deedy, and Deedy's parents
were affectionate with her, as, being kindly people, they would have
been with any strange child staying in their house. They led a very
quiet life in Westmoreland. Young people hardly ever came to stay with
them, and their house was conducted with the regularity of Mr.
Fender's office. Prayers were read by Mr. Fender at eight to the four
servants on one side of the room and Annette on the other. Breakfast
was at half-past. Lessons were from ten till one. Deedy had to be
taken for a walk in the afternoon, generally up the beck, for she had
a pool where dwelt a fairy and a hippogriff (inventions of Annette's)
and loved to send written messages to them over the little waterfall.
At six Deedy was taken to see her mother in the drawing-room, and
Annette had a free hour. At seven Deedy was put to bed, and the rest
of the day was Annette's unless she were desired to play to Mrs.
Fender in the evening.

It was a dull life, but it left much time for dreaming, and sometimes
Deedy was very amusing. She had an eager prying curiosity and was much
interested in God.

"What's an only begotten son?" she asked one day.

"It means the only one."

"Am I only begotten?"

"Yes."

She thought for a very long time. Then:

"Why didn't God get another one?"

"Oh, Deedy. Hush!"

"Why do you always say 'Hush' when I ask questions?"

Annette laughed.

"Because I don't know the answer."

"Does anybody know? Does your father know?"

"Yes."

"How does he know?"

"Because he's a clergyman."

"Doesn't my father know?"

"Perhaps he does."

"I wish I wasn't only begotten."

"I don't think it makes much difference."

"I wish I had a brother like Serge."

"I've never seen Serge, so, you see, it doesn't really make much
difference."

"You've never been only begotten, so you don't know, Miss Folyat."

Annette left it at that. She never knew what Deedy was thinking. She
hardly knew what she thought herself, and her notions of other people
were axiomatic, based on uncritical acceptance of her mother's
assumptions. She regarded herself as a very ordinary person--(at
school she had thought herself neither above nor below the general run
of girls, and had done the things they did, and talked of the things
they talked of, very largely because they did them and talked of
them). She felt a little resentfully that Deedy was an extraordinary
person, but put it down to her deformity and pitied her. Being very
active herself she could imagine no greater misfortune, except perhaps
being deaf, like Beethoven, than to be unable to run and jump and
swim. She loved swimming, and every morning would go up the beck to
Deedy's pool and plunge into the cold water or sit under the little
waterfall. And then she would lie in the soft grass and rub her body
over with crushed flowers, and laugh for the joy and freedom of it
all. And she would come back with her hair lank and wet--there was
very little of it, and that thin in texture--and wake Deedy and tell
her how the morning was full of song. . . . Often when they sat by the
pool in the evening the child would make her talk about the water and
how it felt when it kissed her body, and one day Deedy said:

"Swim now."

It was a very hot August day, and Annette had been narrating an
adventure of Serge, based on the works of Edward S. Ellis, how he had
swum two hundred yards Under water in an American river and surprised
and captured an Indian spy. The description of under-water had been
singularly vivid, and the beck was in mid-flood and very clamorous.
Annette slipped out of her clothes and dived into the pool and lay
there floating, her eyes closed and her hair floating out and her
white body shimmering mysteriously through the water. Deedy crawled to
the edge of the pool and looked down.

"Don't lie still. Swim!"

Annette kicked up a white spume of water and Deedy clapped her hands.

"Now work your arms!"

Annette swam swiftly to the waterfall and sat under it and played with
the water with her hands. Then she dived again into the pool and
brought up a round pebble which she gave to Deedy as a present from
the hippogriff. Deedy flung it back into the water.

"Why, Deedy, you're crying!"

"I hate you. You're ugly."

Annette became conscious that the child was staring at her body. She
blushed, hastily snatched up her clothes and ran away behind an
elder-bush. All her joy had vanished and her thoughts were filled with
the whisperings of the little girls at the school in Edinburgh. It was
part of the delight of her life here in Westmoreland that all such
griminess had been left behind. She was so hurt in the sudden loss of
her joy that she could not think nor make any effort to understand.
All her thought was to get away as quickly as possible, to get away
from Deedy. She dressed rapidly, wound up her hair, wet as it was, and
in absolute silence hurried home with Deedy.

In the house she found two letters waiting her, one from her mother,
one from Minna, both announcing the same thing, Gertrude's engagement
to Bennett Lawrie. Mrs. Folyat wrote:

"My dear, he is a very earnest and worthy young man and he simply
adores Gertrude. He is in business in a very large firm. He is a
gentleman. His grandfather was a Scotch minister, and his grandmother
was the daughter of a laird. Gertrude is very happy. They fell in love
over some theatricals they did in the school-room. Everybody said he
was much better than any professional. Frederic brought him to the
house. Frederic has such nice friends. Your father has built a
greenhouse out in the back garden. The engagement is not to be
announced for a year as it will be some time before they can afford to
marry. I hope you are attending to your duties and giving all
satisfaction to dear Mrs. Fender . . .

Minna wrote:

"Dear Annette. Fancy! Mother Bub is engaged, and Mottle-tooth is green
with envy. He is like a shorn lamb, and Mother Bub will eat him cutlet
by cutlet, with little paper frills round them. He's a clerk in an
office and his father's a drunkard, and when he stays too late an old
Scotch servant comes and fetches him away. He's about thirty-nine
years younger than Bub, but she couldn't face the thirties--or is it
the forties? Serge is very funny about it. Ma is very excited and
romantical. Pa hasn't said a word, and I'm not sure even that he
knows. I rather like the Lamb, myself, and he _is_ rather beautiful. I
suppose if Bub goes off and Mottle-tooth and me, there'll be room for
you at home. Someone will have to look after Ma . . ."

Minna's flippancy rather offended Annette. Hardly having been at home
for so many years she had many delightful fictions about the house in
Fern Square. She regarded its inmates as a united and happy family,
and herself as the only outcast. It was Home to her, and she enveloped
it with all the unreal emotions roused in vast audiences by Madame
Patti with her rendering of the famous song. She was touched by the
very thought of love and pictured Gertrude radiant and all the house
glowing with the happiness of this new event. The poverty of the young
man only made it all the more delightful. The first play she had ever
seen was _Caste_, and she often cried when she thought of it. It
seemed enviable to her to have Eccles for a father-in-law.

All this made her forget her unhappiness by the water, and she forgot
Deedy's prying stare and lived through the next few days in a dream of
young love.

On the third day she had a rude awakening. After dinner in the evening
she sat playing to Mrs. Fender. Mr. Fender came in and whispered to
Mrs. Fender for some time, perhaps half an hour. Then he went out.
Mrs. Fender sat silent for some moments, then she said.

"Miss Folyat!"

Annette stopped playing. Mrs. Fender was sitting bolt upright in her
chair by the hearth, with a book on her knees. It was a brown
book--"Enquire Within Upon Everything." There was a peculiar asperity
in her voice and her whole manner was big with disapprobation. She
looked very like the Red Queen as she opened her mouth square and said
again:

"Miss Folyat! Come here!"

Annette rose and went to her.

"Sit down!"

Annette sat down. Mrs. Fender screwed herself up to a cold anger and
went on:

"I am sorry for your father's sake and your mother's."

Annette's heart went down into the pit of her stomach and then up into
her throat.

"I must ask you," said Mrs. Fender, "to pack up your trunks this
evening and to be ready to catch the first train in the morning. I
repeat that I am sorry, but it is necessary."

Annette's brain reeled. She blurted out:

"What is it! What have I done!"

"Done? What have you done? You can ask that? Miss Folyat!"

"I'll go, of course. But tell me what it is that I've done. I haven't
stolen anything or--or . . ."

"I cannot tell you what it is. It pains me too deeply to think of it.
You--you have polluted the mind of my child who was entrusted to your
care."

Annette understood. Deedy had been asking questions. She had been
cross-examined, and the gentle art of making mountains out of
molehills had been called into play. This sudden presentation of a new
aspect of her escapade in swimming in the pool bewildered and crushed
her. She could make nothing of it, could hardly grasp what was in the
Red Queenish mind, and felt only the futility of saying anything.

"You will pack up your things to-night and be ready to catch the first
train in the morning."

"Certainly."

"Have you no words of regret?"

"No."

Annette had no words of any sort. She only wanted to get away, only to
get away and cry.

"I have written to your mother," said Mrs. Fender.

"Oh!" Annette gasped and she thought: "How mean! How mean! She will
make mother think just the same as she does."

She rushed out of the room, upstairs, and flung herself on her bed and
cried. She went on crying until she fell asleep and did not wake again
until the early morning. It was raining, and she felt very miserable
and began to cry again. She wept all through breakfast, wept as Mrs.
Fender put money into her hand and gave her a frigid farewell. She
wept because she did not see Deedy, and she wept because she did not
want to see Deedy. She wept because she was leaving the beautiful hill
and the beloved beck. She wept in the carriage all along the five
miles to the station, and the rain came pouring down. The clouds were
low on the fells. They almost seemed to reach the water of the lakes.
All down the fells were little silver streams, and the water ran and
trickled all over the roads. The light was dull and grey. The colour
seemed to be washed out of everything. The lakes were black, and dour
figures walked the roads.

In the train she had a compartment to herself and she wept until she
could weep no more, and then miserably she looked out of the window at
the miserable country, drenched and drowned. Soon she came to the sea,
and that was so dismal that her sorrow overflowed and nothing but
absurd laughter was left, and she laughed, and suddenly her thoughts
woke again, and she said to herself that she was going home. Serge was
at home, and a lot of people, and they had jolly fun together, and
they were all happy because Gertrude was engaged, and because they
were all happy no one would be unkind to her.

Blacker and blacker grew the skies as the train rolled southward, and
the ascending smoke of thousands of chimneys met the downpouring rain.
The smoke meant home to Annette, and she was glad of it. It was rather
fun to be sent home suddenly like this. It was like the time when
there had been measles at school and she had been sent home in the
middle of term.

Soon between one town and another there was no country, no green save
that of a football field here and there. Everywhere chimney stacks and
the derricks of collieries, and great sidings full of trucks, and
miles and miles of wet slate roofs, with here and there a dark church
steeple or tower. At last she saw the tower of the Collegiate Church.
The rain had ceased. A watery smoky sunbeam stole through the clouds
to welcome her.

Her father was at the station to meet her. She threw her arms round
his neck and hugged him. He kissed her warmly and said:

"Dear, dear. What a young woman you have grown!"

It came on to rain again, and in the four-wheeled cab Francis peered
out of the window and said:

"It was like this when we came here from St. Withans."

"How is Ma?" asked Annette with sudden trepidation.

"It has been a great shock to her," said Francis, "and she has been
very unhappy about it. We have agreed to say nothing to the others and
to pretend that the little Fender girl is ill."

Annette was immensely relieved. She had been most alarmed at the
thought of what Minna would say. She wanted reassuring, and she asked
her father again:

"Are you angry with me?"

"I? No, no, my dear. Angry! What's the use? Perhaps you'll be happier
at home."

"I think I will. I didn't do anything really. I only bathed without
any clothes on."

"It is not a usual practice with governesses."

"I expect I ought never to have been a governess. I often used to feel
much younger than Deedy."

"There's something in that, something in that. None of you seem to be
properly grown up. I don't know what will happen to you all. . . . I
expect your mother will talk to you about your ingratitude and
wickedness. She and I don't agree about it."

They reached Fern Square. Mrs. Folyat had taken to her bed to nurse
her grief, and also by way of impressing Annette with the awfulness of
the thing she had done. Annette went up to her and endured an hour's
tearful homily on the sinfulness of the flesh. She sat by her mother's
bedside with her hands in her lap and her head bowed, and thought
comically of Mrs. Fender reading "Enquire Within" and discovering from
its pages how to treat wicked governesses.

On the way down the dark stairs she met a man with a beard whom she
did not know.

"Hullo!" he said. "Who are you?"

"Annette."

He kissed her.

"I'm Serge. They didn't tell me you were coming home. Anything wrong?"

"I've lost my place."

"Did you like it?"

"Not much."

"Then it doesn't matter."

"Mother's terribly upset about it."

"That doesn't matter. She's always upset. We are a queer lot, and she
hasn't the ghost of a notion how to handle us. She's baffled because
we're not like people out of a novelette, angels engaged in dodging
the wickedness of a horrid world."

Annette's own view of things was rather like that. She had always
believed it to be her duty to keep herself unspotted by things
temporal, though she had no idea how to set about it. Her mother had
said many unjust and unfair things to her. She was feeling rather
resentful and was pleased with the audacity of Serge's criticism. All
her upbringing had been based on the sanctity of parental authority
and the parental person, and she was fearful and fascinated by such
defiance of it.

"Come up to my room," said Serge, "and let's have a look at you, and
you can tell me about yourself--if you want to."

He took her arm and led her upstairs to the top of the house, where he
had a room under a north skylight which served him as bed-room,
sanctum, and studio. It was a litter of paper, boots, drawing-boards,
drawings, pipes, and cigar-boxes. He put on an old dressing-gown, lit
a pipe, and made Annette sit on the bed, and stood and looked at her.
She felt very happy and smiled at him.

"You've got the most interesting face of the lot," he said presently,
"though that isn't saying much. What's brought you home?"

She told him the whole story.

"I see. Poisoning the little beast's mind with the sight of your body.
I see. It's part of the game to pretend that you haven't got such a
thing. Sorry, but I find it quite impossible."

Annette's traditional modesty twinged, and she shifted a little
uneasily on the bed. Serge marked that and went on:

"Sorry. I won't talk about it if it makes you uneasy. You believe in
souls and bodies separate, the soul prisoned in the vile clay, and all
that. I don't. I believe that the two things are one and indivisible.
If you don't believe that, you are apt to take all the surface
happenings of life much too seriously, and you lose all sense of
proportion and humour and make the most ridiculous messes for yourself
and everybody connected with you. Superficially considered, I am a bad
egg, so are you. I'm getting on towards middle-age and can't make my
own living, much less prevent other people making theirs, which is
what success seems to mean in commercial life. As for you, you've been
thrown out of your situation without a character, and it will be
extremely difficult for you to find another. Looked at a little more
closely and searchingly we are seen to be two wonderful people--all
people are wonderful--with immense potentialities for happiness or
unhappiness. Does all this bore you?"

"No. Please."

"What I'm really trying to get at is that there are only two kinds of
people--the people to whom everything that happens is experience, and
the people who turn everything that happens to them into a form of
self-indulgence, even the most horrible, even the most painful things.
Our father is the first kind of person, our mother is the second. Our
father was really shattered by the death of our brother James. Our
mother has been feeding herself fat on it ever since. Any love that
they may have shared was buried in the grave with James. More briefly,
the two kinds of people are those who can love and those who cannot.
Gertrude is besotted about young Lawrie, but she is quite incapable of
loving him. Minna could love a certain kind of man, one who could
swamp her mockery with love. There aren't many of them."

Annette sat listening to him open-mouthed. He took paper and charcoal
and did a rough sketch of her, but did not show it her.

"I like that story," he said. "It's the most satisfactory reason I
ever heard for getting thrown out of a governess' job. You can't live
in a house like this, or a place like this, and live without trouble.
You have to fight for your life, or lose it. I'm going to work now.
Get out. Go and make Minna talk about Bennett Lawrie. She's amusing."

"Thank you," said Annette.



IMBROGLIO

_Quisque suos patimer manes._
     AENEID, vi.

ANNETTE was soon absorbed into the household. Mrs. Folyat never could
keep any information to herself, and Gertrude and Mary quickly made
Annette feel that she was in disgrace and saddled her with their
domestic duties. Mary devoted herself entirely to music, rehearsing
for concerts, and practising with amateur quartettes, and Gertrude
gave all her time to her betrothed. She met him every day at his
office and walked home with him, unless they were going to the
theatre. Then they would dine out, Bennett having gone without his
mid-day meal in order to have money enough. They had the whole of
Sunday together always. He would accompany her to early celebration at
St. Paul's, breakfast at Fern Square, go to St. Saviour's morning and
evening, and spend the afternoon in the Park, for she had given up her
Sunday-school class.

Their engagement was not yet announced, and he had not told his
family, nor had Gertrude met any of his relations. Bennett's face had
grown more and more melancholy, and Gertrude had not spoken to Minna
for weeks because, whenever she brought her lover to the house, Minna
persisted in singing:

     The pain that is all but a pleasure we'll change
       For the pleasure that's all but pain,
     And never, oh, never this heart will range
       From that old, old love again.

Annette thought Bennett very handsome, and she was greatly impressed
by his silence and tragic mien. She told herself that he must be
enormously in love with Gertrude since his emotions weighed upon him
so heavily, and she thought Minna odious for making fun of him. She
was very happy herself. She liked doing the housework and being useful
to the others, and though her mother and sister were rather tyrannical
with her, she had discovered a warm corner in her father's heart in
which to take refuge. Indeed her return had made a great difference to
Francis. He sought her company and talked intimately with her and
teased her, and showed her a side of himself that was hidden from the
others. He would take her for long walks, and to see the queer
characters among his poor, and often he would ask her to sit with him
in his study while he was working. Sometimes, instead of working he
would read aloud to her--Fielding, or Sterne, or the poets, and he
would make translations of Italian or French poems, or the odes of
Horace for her, and he would tell her that she was being much more use
to the world teaching him, who was old enough to learn, than wasting
time and her employer's money in pretending to instruct little girls.

Except with her father and occasionally with Serge Annette never went
out and knew nothing of what was happening in the town, and had even
no clear idea of its geography. She gave no thought to past or future,
and was quite content to go on living in the tranquil present. She
reverted to her childish belief that her father was the most wonderful
man in the world, with Serge a good second, and if she could have
spent her life in ministering to them both she would have been more
than satisfied. She was rather afraid and shy of other women, but the
helplessness of men appealed to her, and she loved repairing their
garments, always so sadly in need of it, and she would darn socks that
any other woman would have thrown away. Nobody praised her, and nobody
took much account of what she did save only the one little servant,
Ada, who adored her.

To Annette the most mysterious and awful person in the house was her
brother Frederic. She could make nothing of him. He looked very pale
and unwell, but became peevish under any comment on his appearance,
however sympathetic. He was for the most part very silent when he was
at home, though that was not often, but suddenly he would break into
the wildest spirits and chatter and talk nonsense and laugh a great
deal, and make fun of his mother and then be very affectionate with
her, and it would seem that of all her children Frederic had the most
affection from his mother. He would flatter her and talk about the
great riches he was going to make and the wonderful lady he was going
to marry, the daughter of a rich client, of whose estate he would be
appointed trustee--when he had his own office. That was always the
proviso--when he had his own office, and Annette was given to
understand that it would be very soon, and then if there was one man
more important than any other in the town, that man would be Frederic.
Mrs. Folyat would listen excitedly to all this and shake her ringlets,
and say to him:

"My dear, my dear, you must look after the girls."

"Of course," Frederic would respond, "rich husbands all round."

"But they must be gentlemen."

"Gentlemen! Of course."

And if Minna were there, she would say with honey and gall in her
voice:

"Is Bennett Lawrie a gentleman?"

Mrs. Folyat would say, frigidly:

"He is very poor, but he is extremely well connected."

Frederic would swagger a little, and say:

"After all, you know, it was I who brought him to the house."

Then Minna:

"We all know that all Frederic's friends are gentlemen--and ladies."

It took Annette a little time to pick up the threads of all the family
jokes and allusions, and to disentangle the personalities of the
various outlying characters who were used for purposes of fun or
bickering, or, occasionally, as a weapon to enforce silence. Not all
of these personages came to the house, and some of them seemed only to
have a shadowy existence in the family consciousness. There were two
or three mysterious and almost mythical young men associated with
Minna. Mary's personality seemed to be filled out with a vague widower
of mature years, who made mincing machines and was said to propose to
her once a fortnight, Gertrude was altogether submerged in Bennett
Lawrie, while, whenever Frederic became too obstreperous or offensive
it was enough to breathe the name "Annie" to reduce him to a laconic
moroseness. This Annie was the more real of all these extra-familiar
characters, and Annette was very curious about her. She kept cropping
up at the most out of the way moments, as every member of the family
found it necessary at one time or another to remind Frederic of her
existence. She was never given any surname, nor, apparently, was it
known where she lived or how, or what she was to Frederic, or Frederic
to her. Annette associated her absurdly with Sister Anne in
_Bluebeard_, and from that again jumped to the cloud which was no
bigger than a man's hand. For no reason at all she regarded Annie as a
figure of disaster and was vaguely sorry for her and pitied her. Her
pity became concrete one day when an accident brought her nearer to
Annie and gave her the whole story.

The lining of Frederic's office coat had worn to tatters. Going over
his wardrobe Annette discovered this and took the coat into Serge's
room, which she used when Serge was away at the Art School, and began
to mend it. When she had repaired the lining she turned out the
pockets, and among other papers--a theatre programme, two
pawn-tickets, and a race-card--came on a grubby blotted letter written
on cheap notepaper in a large wavering scrawl. Rather idly at first,
and with no qualms or scruples--(all families read all letters that
come into their hands)--she read it. There was neither address nor
date. It was very short.


"DEAR FRED.--You must answer my letter, you must, you must. What am I
to do? I can't prevent mother finding out soon, and she can't bear any
more, she has had so much to bear. I can't tell her it's you, but it's
the thinking I can't stand when you don't write to me. If you could
only get me away somewhere, like you said you would. I'm just the
same, but I can't write like I used to. It's the work in the house
that's so awful, with the lodgers being beastly. Dear Fred, do please
write to your
                ANNIE."


At first it conveyed nothing to Annette. She was conscious of
suffering behind the words and rather stupidly fumbled about in her
mind for what it was that Annie's mother must find out soon. Abruptly
she came to it and dropped the letter, and hot tears came to her eyes,
tears of shame. She had never come face to face with this thing
before, and it horrified her, but through the horror of it was the
knowledge that Annie was wanting Frederic to write to her, and she
thought that she must find Frederic at once and tell him. Then she
remembered that she ought not to have read the letter, and she thrust
it back into the pocket of the coat and hurried back with it into
Frederic's room. That done, she went downstairs, saying to herself:

"I wish I didn't know. I wish I didn't know."

With sudden self-criticism, half humorously, she added:

"But I do know, so it isn't any good wishing. I mustn't tell. I
mustn't tell."

Her heart was fluttering as she entered the drawing-room, feeling that
everybody must know the secret she had discovered. She was surprised
to find her mother in her usual chair nodding over her book and Minna
talking in the window-seat with a young gentleman, whom she introduced
as Mr. Basil Haslam.

"Mr. Haslam is a friend of Serge's," said Minna, "and Mr. Haslam's
brother is a great friend of Frederic's."

"Perhaps he knows," thought Annette.

But no. Basil Haslam bowed politely to Annette and took no further
notice of her, and went on with his conversation with Minna. Annette
went away and down to her father's study, and there she found Francis
and Bennett Lawrie in earnest conclave. Did they know? They gave no
sign. Francis was smoking, and tapping on the ground with his foot.
Bennett was leaning forward and talking emphatically and waving his
long hands rather wildly in the air.

"I can do it," he said. "I know I can. I shall never do any good in
business. I must lead men. I must move them, lift them up, show them
the way to higher things."

Annette stopped in the doorway, and said:

"Am I in the way?"

"Not at all," returned Francis. "Come in. Mr. Lawrie is being very
entertaining. We were discussing the possibility of his taking
Orders."

"That would be lovely," said Annette.

Bennett turned to her.

"You think I could do it, don't you?"

It was the first time he or any of the young men who came to the house
had spoken to her directly, and Annette felt curiously grateful to
him. She stammered:

"I . . . I'm sure you . . . you could."

"It's what I've wanted to do all my life, only I've always thought it
impossible. You'll laugh, I know, sir, but I used to preach sermons
when I was a boy, just to myself in my bed-room, and I made a little
altar when I was sixteen. I never dared talk about it at home. They
always laughed at me. I never dared tell them what I wanted to do.
They said I must go into an office when I was sixteen, and I went
there. . . . You know we, Gertrude and I, thought you would take me as
curate as soon as I was ordained, and then when I got a living we
could be married."

"I'm much obliged to you for letting me know your plans, but it means
time and money. We could send you to a theological college, when
you're . . . How old are you?"

"Nineteen," said Bennett, with a hot blush.

"Nineteen. When you're twenty-one. The money is the difficulty. I have
very little."

"My uncles are both rich men. I'm sure they would help if you would
speak for me, and tell them what you think."

"Oh! do!" said Annette.

Bennett darted a look of gratitude at her.

"What I think!" Francis smiled. "You haven't given me much time yet. I
like you. I like your enthusiasm. I've no doubt you would make a good
clergyman, but it is a very poorly paid profession . . ."

"That doesn't matter at all," cried Bennett. "It's the work that
matters." And he rushed off into a long tirade which Annette thought
very splendid, and Francis punctuated with thin blue puffs of smoke
from his pipe.

"On the whole," said Francis, reflectively. "On the whole I think it
would be better when I meet your father to say nothing about your
relationship with my daughter."

Bennett seemed to be on the point of protesting. Francis hurried on:

"I take it seriously, I assure you. My daughter considers herself
engaged to you. She is old enough to know her own mind. On the other
hand, I don't think I can give you any official recognition until
there is some more immediate prospect of your being able to provide a
livelihood for the two of you."

Bennett was embarrassed by all this, and his enthusiasm oozed away and
left him blank and expressionless. Fortunately--perhaps
deliberately--he had his profile towards Annette, and she found it
very beautiful. She had a queer feeling that her father was teasing
the young man, and she wanted to defend and help him. His ambition was
altogether laudable, and he was in love (so she believed); the two
things were interdependent and both must be promoted. Had it been in
her power she would have turned Bennett into a clergyman there and
then, and handed him over to Gertrude with her blessing.

Gertrude came in just then and shattered Annette's bountiful altruism
of desire by saying:

"You here!"

And Annette, who had been inflated by her dreams for Bennett and his
fervency, felt at once like Cinderella, and she crept away to the
kitchen, taking in her mind the picture of Gertrude embracing her
father and Bennett shaking her father's hand.

At once the whole scene became curiously remote, as remote as Minna
and Basil Haslam in the drawing-room, as remote as her mother nodding
foolishly to the buzz of their whispered conversation, as remote as
Deedy Fender and all her old life in Edinburgh and Westmoreland. Real
only to her then were the happy days of her childhood in Cornwall, and
joyous moments here and there--a wild scamper on Arthur's Seat; a long
swim in the Firth of Forth, an affectionate talk with a girl at
school, a word of praise from a mistress whom she had adored. Then,
like tripping over a stone, she came back to Annie. Annie who was in
sore trouble. Annie who wanted only a word from Frederic. . . . She
heard Serge's step in the hall, on the stairs, then his big voice
saluting Basil Haslam, and then the two of them go upstairs to the
studio-bedroom at the top of the house. She heard Gertrude and Bennett
come out of the study and go upstairs. They stopped on the landing,
and she heard them kiss.

Ada, the servant, was out, and she looked round the kitchen and
thought how cosy it was, how much nicer, really, than any other room
in the house, except, perhaps, the study. Upstairs Serge laughed. No
one else in the house laughed--not like Serge. He was always so happy.
No one else was happy like that. Not her father, nor her mother, nor
Gertrude, even though Bennett Lawrie loved her so. . . . Bennett
Lawrie was a vivid figure to Annette. He was so intense, but he never
laughed. She felt that she would like to make him laugh. She began to
invent foolish jokes and antics that perhaps might make him laugh, and
was so busied with them that without her hearing him Frederic came
into the kitchen and stood above her.

"Get me some supper," he said, "I'm devilish hungry."

"Oh! You!"

Annette lit the gas and stood staring at him with her hand above her
head, leaning on the gas-bracket. He looked very white and mean and
shrivelled, and the skin under his eyes was puffy.

"What are you staring at?" he said. "I'm hungry."

Annette put food in front of him, and he ate wolfishly.

"I'm devilish hungry," he said. "I've been walking miles. I'm tired
and hungry. I've walked miles."

"Did you go to see her?" It was out before she was aware.

Frederic dropped his knife into his plate with a clatter.

"What the devil do you mean? Who?"

"Annie."

Frederic gripped her wrist and jumped to his feet and thrust his face
close to hers.

"For God's sake!" he said under his breath. "For God's sake! What do
you mean? Don't you blab. Don't you blab!"

"You're hurting me."

"What do you mean?"

"I read her letter. It was in your coat. I was mending it. I didn't
mean to. Why don't you write to her."

"What letter? I don't know any letter."

"You do. She wants you to write to her."

"I have written."

"Go on with your supper, then."

"You won't tell any one. Promise you won't tell any one."

"No. All right. I won't tell any one."

"You're a queer one, Annette. You don't seem to mind."

"Mind!"

Annette was astonished to find that she had got beyond being
distressed or shocked. She was hardly at all interested in Frederic's
state of mind or condition. She felt that something must be done, and
she wanted to know exactly what. Annie, whoever or whatever she might
be, was unhappy and something must be done to help her. Annette turned
to Frederic and said:

"What are you going to do?"

He replied:

"What can I do? Don't look at me like that. I'm not so bad as all
that, I'm not."

"But it is wicked."

"I know it is, but you can't help it. I don't know. Everything seems
all wrong. You go along quite quietly for months and months, and then
suddenly everything's all wrong. It's queer to be talking to you like
this. You don't understand the least little bit, though you are such a
queer one. But I can talk to you just because you don't understand."

"I do understand," said Annette.

"How could you? You're only a little girl. Annie Lipsett--that's her
name. She's going to have a baby. I suppose I ought to marry her. Lots
of fellows do get married like that. I can't afford it. I don't love
her. That's what's so horrible. I don't love her, and I can't pretend
that I do, I can't make myself believe that I do. I was so beastly
miserable, that's what it was. Things go wrong, and they stay wrong,
and then you want something and clutch at it and miss it. Miss it all
the time. It wasn't just a beastly thing, I swear it wasn't. I was so
miserable, that's what it was. I'm miserable now, and the worst of it
all is that I'm enjoying it. That's the sort of brute I am."

Annette found that she was crying. Large tears welled out of her eyes
and trickled down her cheeks into her mouth. The thing was closing in
on her from all sides and suffocating her. Her imagination was
baffled. She had thought herself bold, and suddenly she was out of her
depth. She struck out blindly, and presently found a footing on the
hard rock of conventional morality. From a suffering human being,
craving sympathy, Annie Lipsett became a wicked woman to be condemned
and shunned, a base creature who had enticed and enchained Frederic.
Her footing on this rock was very insecure. Soon she was swept off it
and flung hurtling down an empty sense of the treachery of her own
emotions.

She heard Frederic saying again:

"Don't you tell any one!"

She muttered a reply. Frederic finished his supper and she removed his
plate and the empty dish into the scullery. Frederic followed her, She
trembled from head to foot, and longed only for him to leave her. He
stood plucking at the roller-towel on the door, and he said:

"If any one did to you what I've done to her I should have to
horsewhip him. Isn't it odd? I should think it simply absurd if
anybody wanted to horsewhip me."

Annette had a sudden gust of rage and through her clenched teeth she
threw at him:

"If you don't go away I'll smash a plate in your face."

Frederic laughed nervously.

"You are a queer one," he said. "But we're a queer family, and this is
a queer house, isn't it?"

Annette rushed by him, all her nerves tingling and throbbing, and flew
upstairs until she came to Serge's room. There she stood gasping, and
presently broke out laughing and crying together. Serge gave her water
and slapped her hands, and motioned to Basil Haslam to leave the room.
Basil went and Annette clung to Serge and began to sob. Her laughter
ceased, and when she had done crying Serge laid her on the bed and sat
holding her hand for a long time, during which he forbade her to
speak. Her head began to ache furiously, and every little sound in the
house became explosive and a torment to her. Serge seemed to realise
that too, and began to talk to her in a low, soothing voice. He
described the bay at Cape Town as the ship heaves and throbs her way
out of it with the little fringe of lights on the water's-edge under
the mountain, and he told of long days at sea, the whole voyage home
to England, the most beautiful country in the world. Something he gave
her of what it had been to him to see green fields again and English
skies and orchards and red poppies in the corn, and little,
comfortable, cool English rivers.

She hardly heard what he said. His voice lulled her, and his presence,
the pressure of his hand were infinitely soothing. Soon she fell
asleep, and while she slept he did not stir.

She woke happy and smiled at him, peering through the darkness for his
kind eyes. She told him then, and because he said nothing she asked
him if he did not think it wicked.

"Wicked!" he said. "There's good in it and bad too, just the same as
there is in everything and everybody. Their happiness has been theirs,
their folly has been theirs. Their unhappiness must be theirs too. You
and I can do nothing to alter it. We can only help Frederic if he
wants help. We can't help him if we make the blunder of applying an
abstract moral formula to what is to him a very concrete, actual,
human mess. Keep it to yourself, my dear. You will understand one
day."



XIV

WHITE BEARD AND GREY

_Maggior dolore e ben la Ricordanza
 O nell' amaro inferno amena stanza?_
     D. G. ROSSETTI

FRANCIS had many moments of doubt as to the wisdom of encouraging and
abetting Bennett Lawrie in his desire to enter the Church. To begin
with he had no money; he was engaged--Francis supposed it must be
called an engagement--to Gertrude, and even supposing it were possible
to take the young man as curate as soon as he was ordained, that meant
at most eighty pounds a year, and he was already earning more than
that. Without influence the prospect of his being granted a living
was, to say the least of it, remote. To be sure the rector of St.
James, Irlam, had begun life as an itinerant violinist, but then he
had a fruity tenor voice which made him very popular with women; also
he had married a lady with a snug fortune.

"One must," thought Francis, half apologising to himself. "One must
think of these things materially. If I had thought of it materially I
should never have. . ."

He broke off the thought and began to tell himself that he ought to
encourage the young in high-souled endeavour. Young Lawrie was
certainly remarkable, talented, very much in earnest, and, as far as
one could see, very much in love. To be sure Gertrude was a good ten
years older than he, but that was no bad thing for a young man of an
ardent temperament. Certainly from Gertrude's point of view it was
better for her to be the wife of a clergyman than the wife of a clerk.
But ought one to let these social considerations weigh in the matter?
It was very difficult (thought Francis), very difficult. She would be
poor in any case. She might have a large family. She was a little
woman, rather plain, just the type that produces enormous families.
And families--could there be anything more harassing than to have a
large family and to have no means of making provision for them?

On that Francis's reflections stopped. They went round and round. It
was his business to encourage the production of children (in wedlock),
and year in and year out he had faithfully fulfilled his duty, without
ever pausing to consider whether he had practised what he preached.
Now he saw that he had done so, and was shocked to find himself rather
dismayed at the result, and reluctant to face the possibility of his
daughter doing the same. For years he had hardly thought about his
work. Since the death of his son and the brutal outbreak that followed
it, hostilities had ceased (with the exception of an occasional
splutter at an Easter vestry meeting) and the work of his church, like
his domestic life, had run on automatically. Time had hardly existed
for him. His thoughts from disuse had grown sluggish, and it was very
very slowly borne in upon him that his children were beginning to
claim a separate existence, and that they had every right to do so.
When he realised it he was forced painfully to face the fact that he
was impotent to help them either with money, or, what is more
precious, real sympathy. It was only with an effort that he was able
to set aside the grotesqueness of Gertrude's fancy and to force
himself to see it with her eyes and to take it seriously. He looked
back over the years and caught a glimpse of the wasted opportunities,
and though he never indulged in the luxury of self-torment he cried in
his heart:

"God forbid that when they are as old as I they should be even as I
am."

He was not sufficiently skilled in self-analysis to lay his finger on
the weakness that had brought him to such a pass. He thought no ill of
his wife. He knew enough of human nature to admit that nothing outside
a man's own soul could dishonour him or bring him to harm.
Unconsciously he was disloyal to the tenets of his calling in
considering his own case. With all others he professed that God moved
in a mysterious way and that everything happened for the best
according to God's providence. He had long since abandoned all belief
in the possibility of a noble collective life here on earth, for he
had seen too much not to know that when two or three are gathered
together it is not to seek God, but to promote knavery and jealousy.
Moments of agony he had had when he had half seen his own scepticism,
but the simple devotion of some of his parishioners, craftsmen, and
factory hands, and his own great liking for many of his poor had kept
him from throwing up his work, and he would say:

"Though I do it ill, yet it might be done worse."

Besides, he could not afford to renounce the stipend. Every year he
had made small inroads upon his capital, fifty pounds here and a
hundred there to satisfy creditors or sudden demands of charity for
larger sums than he could afford to pay out of income.

Well, well--no doubt he was making a mountain out of a molehill, and
things were not nearly so bad as they seemed. The house had been much
jollier since Serge came back and Annette brought youth and joy into
it, and if none of the family seemed to be on the way to brilliant
lives, after all there were better things in the world than success,
and nothing mattered so much as affection and love. And yet, how small
a part love played in human life! How soon it died!

In the end Francis laughed at himself, and told himself that thinking
was no use. It neither made good better nor bad worse. Things were
what they were and nothing would alter them. Young Lawrie, with his
brain stuffed full of illusions, wished to enter into Holy Orders. So
be it. He had promised to do all he could to help him: after all it
was something to find a young man with thoughts higher than the
pleasure next to hand, and the first step seemed to be to see his
father.

So Francis Folyat wrote to James Lawrie in his awkward spidery
hand--(he could not bear writing letters)--and asked for an interview
in order to discuss with him the future of his son Bennett.

James Lawrie replied courteously, appointing a day, and on it Francis
walked across Dale Park and over the new Cromwell Bridge and up the
shabby-genteel street from the river to the stucco Gothic house.

Tibby opened the door to him and looked him up and down.

"You'll be Mr. Folyat," she said.

"That is my name."

"Our Bennett's been a new lad since he went to your house, Mr.
Folyat."

"I'm glad of that."

"It's not all to the good," said Tibby, grumpily, and she turned and
led him down the long passage to the dining-room.

She announced:

"The Reverend Mr. Folyat to see you."

James Lawrie was sitting at the table engrossed in a game of dominoes.
He looked up at Francis and nodded, and pointed with the stem of his
pipe to a chair on the other side of the table. Francis took it, and
Tibby left them. Old Lawrie rattled the dice and turned up a six and
three. He grunted:

"Can't do it. H'm. H'm. Can't borrow again. No more credit. Will you
join me, sir?"

"Gladly," said Francis, and they began to play. They played for an
hour in silence, and Francis won three times to his opponent's twice.

"You'll be a college man, sir?" asked old Lawrie.

"Dublin," said Francis, and helped himself to tobacco from the greasy
old pouch that lay on the table.

"I've a great reverence for college men, having missed it myself. I
had two or three friends in Edinburgh, but I was never there except in
their letters. I've never been anywhere except in books, and wherever
I go, and whatever I do, and whatever I be, I think there's always the
printed page between me and myself. . . . Do you understand that?"

"I don't think so."

"It's like this. There's such a thing as a habit of loneliness, and if
it really fastens on a man there's nothing can break through it, not
love, not misery, not great joy, nor a wife and bairns, nothing.
Living like that, a man gets a clear brain like a searchlight so that
he can see all his comings out and his goings in and the play of his
thoughts, honest and dishonest, and he prowls about and about his own
self like a caged beast. Do you know that?"

"Something like it."

"Nine-tenths of us are condemned to it. My father was a minister up in
Galloway. A real hell-fire man he was, but he died of a consumption,
hell-fire being nothing against the mists of the place he lived in.
Several men from our glen, my uncles among them, had gone to England
and made money. They said it was easy, so I came down the first. I had
a head stuffed full of poetry and the Bible and Scots
righteousness--you need to be a Scot to know what that means--and for
years I was desperately lonely. Two of my brothers followed me. They
did well, as they call it. They made money and saved and saved, and
made more money. They both married rich women. I got lonelier and
lonelier, and more and more caught up in the trick of watching myself.
I lived with my mother for years. I married to get away from her, and
it was an awful day for the woman that married me. I could not let her
in to me. . . . Can you make anything of that? You're a younger man
than I am. Can you make anything of that? I'm an old white-bearded
sinner, and if all my life was to be written they'd say it was an
awful tragedy. But it isn't that. It's a fool's comedy. There's no
tragedy save in a strong man who can put up a fight against his own
weakness. Men like me, and that's most of us, waste our lives in
fighting against our own strength. Oh! I tell you there's many a thing
a man thinks of in his loneliness, but it's all thought, thought,
thought; it never grows into action. One thing a man realises pretty
quickly, and that is that there is nothing wrong with the world except
the monstrous egoism of men and women. It is easy to realise but
almost impossible to fight against. All along the line we refuse to
accept the laws and principles that govern the universe because they
are so little flattering to our precious vanity. We make laws against
nature, organise ourselves into churches or states and nations against
her, invent trumpery codes of morality in the blind hope of cheating
her. From generation to generation it is one long wasteful and
pitifully vain struggle against nature. . . . Look at the result. Look
at the places we live in. Look at what we call society. Why we haven't
even devised any method of insuring that every man and every woman
shall have the bare necessaries of life; in thousands of years we
haven't learned to contrive that civilisation shall give the majority
of men greater comfort and happiness than they can find in barbarism.
We've tried this game of civilisation over and over again, but we have
never got beyond the most stupid materialism. You can almost count the
really civilised men--men who have been masters of life and lived it
at all points and enriched it for all those with whom they came in
contact--on two hands. The rest of us are caught up by the habit of
loneliness, and we are prisoners all our lives. I know. I don't give a
brass farthing for material success or failure. I know the bitterness
of spiritual failure. You want to talk to me about my son. I know
nothing of him. He knows nothing of me. That is my fault, not his.
Now, what have you to say?"

"This is all very interesting," replied Francis, rather at a loss
where to begin. "My eldest son would discuss the merits and demerits
of civilisation with you better than I, and certainly with more warmth
than I can bring to bear on the subject."

He had an uncomfortable feeling that he entirely agreed with old
Lawrie, and an equally uncomfortable sense that he would agree also
with the opposite side if it were presented, and suddenly candour made
him say so. Lawrie chuckled and rode off on his crotchet of loneliness
again:

"That is so. That is so. Because of the habit of loneliness there
cannot be unity among men. What men think is of no importance, because
it has so little relation to what they do or what they are. The
opinion of any body of men, even the most intelligent, is generally
only the lowest common multiple of their prejudices. Theories are
quite useless, so are opinions. When a man is in possession of the
truth he acts. When he is not he theorises, or cowers behind his
prejudicies, which amounts to the same thing. Look at the people in
this town. How many of them are capable of action, how many are there
whose days are not spent in superficial employments, first to get
bread, and second to escape boredom when their work is done. They
muddle through their work, they make a great deal of money for a few
people who have no idea what to do with it when they have got it, and,
since they are in an intolerable position, they have nothing to
support them, and the monstrous system they have drifted into
creating, but a hard, conceited pride. That makes them blinder than
ever. They can do nothing to make their city beautiful, nothing to
remedy the shiftless blundering of their fathers, nothing in the way
of art to make amends to the people whose lives they have cramped and
ruined in their factories and slums. Their only notion is to get more
and more money out of them."

"I never thought of it like that," rejoined Francis. "All the people I
meet seem to be very pleasant."

"They don't know they're doing it. They follow their own little rules
of expedience and call them the unchanging laws of God. Your Pharisee
always imagines he has made things all right by taking God's name in
vain, vain indeed, for they beget nothing but vanity. I'm just as bad
as they, for I've sold my three sons to them for a wage that begins at
ten shillings a week and, in the course of thirty years, will grow
into a salary of three hundred pounds a year."

"I have worked for thirty years and more for very little more than
that."

"Aye, but you believe that you are working in a holy cause, so that
the work itself is enough, and you're content while you can pay your
way. All work ought to be in a holy cause and done in a holy spirit.
. . . I used to think that when I was a young man. I used to feel it
too. I think so now, but I don't feel it any more. These things just
go on, and I sit and watch them and do nothing, and I understand why
everyone else does nothing either. It's the old men who profit by it
all and the young men are never wise enough to overturn it, and they
could so easily by refusing to step into the old men's shoes. But we
must all grow old."

"The youngest time in all my life," said Francis, "was during the
years after I first came here, when I had to fight to do things in my
own way in my own church."

"Exactly," said old Lawrie. "That's it. The fighting; the fighting to
do things in your own way, in your own life; if you can do it, if you
can keep it up, and hold out to the very end."

Francis pounced on that as an opportunity of coming to his mission,
and he set forth all that he had to say about Bennett.

Old Lawrie received it in blank astonishment.

"Well, well," he said. "Wants to be a parson, does he? Is it the
clothes he's after? He was always a great one for dressing up."

"I think it is more serious with him than that. I think it is very
serious."

Old Lawrie thought for a long time and tugged at his beard, while
Francis gazed at him and said to himself what a fine face the old
fellow had.

"Do you mind," said the old man at length, "do you mind if I read you
some poetry?" He took up a scrapbook and put spectacles on his
beak-like nose and read in a great voice:

    _Two shepherds on the windy fell
     Sat crackin' in the peep o' day.
     They heard the tolling o' the bell
     That marked a soul had passed away._

    _And white beard to old grey beard said,
     "Another soul has passed away."
     But old grey beard this answer made,
     "The night is flowering into day."_

    _"Nay, nay," said white beard, "that's not true,
     Tis day that's sinking into night."
     "Night into day!"--and high words flew.
     They cursed and swore with all their might._

    _They argued on that windy fell
     And came to blows. . . . The twilight sped.
     The distant tolling of the bell
     Told the great sun a man was dead._

That was the end of the poem.

Francis said:

"Did you write that yourself?"

"I did. I wrote that myself. . . . You wish me to say will I or will I
not let my son Bennett go for a parson. Have you a mind for irony?
There's irony in this. In the first place I have no money. In the
second I cannot say 'Yes' or 'No' to that or any other thing in this
house. You must see the boy's mother. I'll send you to her with a
note. . . . What are you staring at, man? Have you never seen a
prisoner before? When you live in a prison you comply with the
regulations. . . . Do you see that scar on my forehead? My eldest son
did that when he was a boy of twelve. He's a man now and speaks to me
once a month. He comes in here and stands by the door, and he says
'How are you, father?' And I say 'I'm very well,' and then he goes
away. He's a man now, and, let me tell you, he has a bath every
morning."

He had worked himself up to a great state of excitement, and Francis
sat gaping at him like a child at a theatre. Old Lawrie went to the
door and bawled:

"Tibby!"

The gaunt old Scotswoman came in, treading noiselessly, like a ghost,
and stood (thought Francis) like a gaoleress waiting orders from the
chieftain of a Border clan.

Old Lawrie sat at table and wrote a note on a very dirty piece of
paper, folded it up into a cocked hat, and with great care wrote on it
in a neat, impersonal copperplate hand, "Mrs. James Lawrie." He gave
it to Tibby and commanded her to take it and Mr. Folyat to Mrs. Lawrie
in the drawing-room. He shook Francis warmly by the hand, thanked him
for listening to him so patiently and bowed with extraordinary
dignity. Francis followed Tibby, feeling, as he said afterwards, like
a captive in a strange land. It was very dark in the passage, and,
like the night in Jorrocks, it smelled of cheese. At the drawing-room
door Tibby whispered to him:

"Will you wait? She may be asleep."

She pushed the door open stealthily and two cats darted out, and, on
seeing Francis, rushed away, one upstairs, the other to the end of the
passage, and they both sat rumbling like a kettle on the boil. Tibby
moved noiselessly into the room, then turned:

"She's no asleep. Ye may come in."

Francis followed her. Tibby planted herself in front of Mrs. Folyat,
gave her the note with this:

"From the master."

(If it had been from the Emperor of Russia she could not have put more
reverence into her voice.)

"From the master. This is the gentleman."

With that she materialised out of her ghostliness and stalked out of
the room, and Francis, on whom the humour of the whole household was
beginning to dawn, found himself inventing her report to the Master:

"The prisoner has been boiled in oil, but made no confession."

Mrs. James Lawrie was a large woman with a big face, surprisingly pink
and young looking. She had her hair oiled and parted in the middle and
surmounted with a tall lace cap adorned with pale-blue ribbons, and
skewered on with white china-headed hat-pins that clearly passed
through her head and came out on the other side. Her dress was very
tight, and seemed to be stretched to breaking-point in the effort to
hold in her flesh. From her attitude, certain details of her dress,
and a portrait on the wall, it was clear that she prided herself on
her resemblance to Queen Victoria, then alive and enjoying all the
lustre and celebrity of her Jubilee.

There was another cat on the sofa by the fireplace. In the window was
a wire stand full of palms and india-rubber plants and maiden-hair
ferns. The windows were closed. The pictures were religious, or views
of various seaside resorts and spas, and five pastel drawings of
children, and everywhere, on tables, on the piano, on brackets, on the
mantelpiece, was a profusion of knick-knacks, cheap china, china
ladies, china babies, china shepherdesses, china stags, china birds,
and, on a table near where Francis was standing, among various Eastern
trivialities, a large elephant's tooth.

Mrs. Lawrie read her husband's letter without giving any sign that she
was aware of her visitor. Then she said:

"Sit down."

She had a peculiar mouth that opened like a trap, the upper lip not
moving at all, and the lower dropping and springing back as though she
had not full control of it. It fascinated Francis so that he hardly
heard what she said:

"You are a High Churchman, Mr. Folyat?"

"Yes."

"I was born a Baptist, Mr. Folyat. On my marriage I became a Low
Churchwoman. My husband is a Presbyterian."

"Indeed."

"Yes."

Mrs. Lawrie's lip sprang back so violently that Francis began to think
grotesquely that she would never be able to open her mouth again. She
contrived it, however. She pressed her forefinger into the middle of
her cheek--(exactly like the portrait of Queen Victoria)--and went on:

"Let me tell you, Mr. Folyat, that we are not rich. We are not rich,
Mr. Folyat, but I have my pride. Mr. Lawrie's relations have begged me
on their knees to allow them to educate my children. I have refused.
My children are the children of a poor man, they must do what the
children of the poor have to do. They must earn their living, and they
must be made safe. I believe in safety. My two eldest sons are in the
biggest and safest bank in the town, and, if they behave themselves,
they will be there all their lives. My youngest is in a very good
position in Messrs. Keith's warehouse, and he, too, if he behaves
himself, will be there for the rest of his life. My youngest son is
very foolish and volatile. I don't believe he knows his own mind. I
doubt very much whether he has a mind to know. I think it best that he
should stay where he is. I am glad to know that he has found friends
in your house and circle, Mr. Folyat. I do not call, or I would call
on Mrs. Folyat."

"Mrs. Folyat would, I am sure, be . . ." Francis dropped the remark as
insincere. He added hastily, to cover it up:

"The boy seemed to think that his uncles would help."

"I do not allow Mr. Lawrie's brothers to interfere in my affairs in
any way."

"Then . . ."

"That is all, Mr. Folyat."

Francis found himself forced to admiration of this woman. There was a
sort of finality about her. He told himself that she was like a very
large garden roller, a roller so heavy that no one man could move it.
He had a trick of nicknaming people--(Minna had inherited it)--and he
ticked her off in his mind as the garden-roller. When he had done
that, he found that she was talking about the weather and Mr.
Gladstone. When she had told him how she wept at the death of Charles
Dickens, Francis thought it time to go. Mrs. Lawrie chatted amiably as
she took him to the door, and she stood watching him as he walked down
the asphalt path to the little rustic-gate. He turned down towards the
bridge and took a long breath, and blew it out again. How good the sky
was! How good the air upon one's face! . . . He remembered old
Lawrie's verses:

    _The distant tolling of the bell
     Told the great sun a man was dead. . . ._

What was dead? Old Lawrie? Hardly. The dead were surely not so mad as
that. The woman? "Dead as a doornail," said Francis, and he thought
with pity of Bennett Lawrie, young, ardent, groping for life, coming
back at night, tired from his dull work in his dull office, to that
house.

Almost unconsciously he found himself comparing it with his own house
and wondering what that might be like for the young people in it--for
Minna, for Annette for Frederic. Not so bad as that, surely not so bad
as that. And yet . . . He would not admit to himself that all was not
well in his own house.

"How strange," he thought. "How strange, to walk out of the street, an
ordinary street, into lives like that! One would never have imagined
it. . . . But the boy, Bennett; what's to become of the boy?"



XV

WALKING HOME

_He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth
a matter separateth very friends._
     PROVERBS XVII.

YOU may walk out of a house and yet carry it with you, just as you may
cross the Channel and yet always take England with you among your
baggage.

Francis carried James Lawrie's house with him on his back like a
snail's shell. He could not get the thought of Bennett out of his
head, and the thought of Bennett made him sensitive as he had never
been to the squalor through which he had to pass on the way home.
Everything in him was disturbed. His comfortable good-nature rather
than his religion had made him accept the world as good in essence,
and he had always done what he could to alleviate poverty and to
comfort distress when they had come knocking at his door, but moral
distress such as he had found in old Lawrie and divined in old
Lawrie's son he had never looked for and never seen. One thing only in
his life had so disturbed him, the episode, years and years ago, of
the murder in Potsham, but that he had not grasped so fully; it had
been so easy to conventionalise it, to watch the man be swallowed up
by the machinery of punishment and forget, to pass on to--what had he
passed on to? He was dismayed to find himself thinking of his wooing.
Even then he had not taken the trouble to understand what he was
doing; and the result? Would it have been different if he had taken
the trouble to understand? Old Lawrie seemed to take an immense amount
of trouble to understand, and look at the pass to which he had brought
himself.

He passed the end of a dismal trough of a street--there were hundreds
like it in his parish--and the sight of it led him to the thought of
poverty. Perhaps, he told himself, perhaps his disasters and old
Lawrie's were due only to the fact that they were poor men, too poor
for the responsibilities of wife and children they had taken upon
themselves. . . . But that must be nonsense. There would soon be an
end of everything if the great processes of the world were to be
screwed down to the money standard, if . . . But that was too
difficult. He must see old Lawrie again. Quite obviously he must think
things out, but he was incapable of doing so alone, and admitted it to
himself. He liked walking and resented this intrusion of thought upon
his pleasure. He had been a fool and supposed that he must pay for his
folly, and only hoped that the price asked would not be more than he
could pay. He had a feeling that he was only at the beginning of some
stupendous change, and on the whole he was excited by it, until he
began to think, and then it all lay so far beyond his grasp that he
was depressed. One thing relieved him--the knowledge that he had no
regret for the fleshpots and the fat glebes of the two Cornish livings
of his early manhood.

Then his thoughts took another turn. After all, what did it matter? He
did his work conscientiously, and nothing else was greatly his
concern. He was only interested in Bennett Lawrie in so far as he was
going to be Gertrude's husband. He had promised to see what could be
done towards making the young man a clergyman. He had fulfilled the
promise, but apparently nothing could be done. The garden roller had
passed over that aspiration and squeezed it out flat as a shadow. So
be it. Gertrude's husband would continue in commerce, take an active
though lay interest in Church matters, and probably be ten times more
prosperous, probably also a more satisfactory husband and father, than
if he were to take Orders. There was a great deal to be said for work
which took a man away all day and every day from his home, a good deal
from both sides. It needed a strong affection to withstand the strain
of full community of existence and interest.

Finding himself beginning to think critically of marriage, Francis
brought himself up with a start. There had been a time when he had
given a great deal of thought to it, his thought had necessarily
driven him to attempted discussion with his wife, but on the first
hint of what was at the back of his mind she had cried scandal and
shame upon him and so scared and wounded him that he had never
returned to the subject. He had hoped to break down the wall that had
grown up between them, but she put up two bricks for every one he
removed. Did she know what she was doing? Did she suffer from it?--He
did not know. He would never know. She amused him. He told himself
that she was more like Mrs. Nickleby than he had conceived it possible
for a woman in real life to be. At any rate she was not hard, armoured
against even a joke, like Mrs. Lawrie.

That brought him back to Bennett, and he had a gust of anger against
the young man--not a violent gust. Francis never could be violent in
anything. His anger turned on himself and twinged his conscience with
the realisation that he was giving more thought to Bennett and
Bennett's affairs than he had to any of his children. The point of it
all was the establishment of Bennett in a career superior to that
which had been forced upon him, but then which of his children had
been established in a career of any sort? Serge had gone his own way;
Leedham had taken things into his own hands; Frederic had a
profession, but he (Francis) had no notion how that profession was
answering or what prospect it held out. Unfortunately Francis had
never been able to take Frederic seriously, and the thought of him was
enough to set his mind working in caricature. He thrust aside all that
had been troubling him--with considerable relief--and the seed of
irony planted in him by his conversation with old Lawrie grew like a
magic beanstalk, and he saw himself in the absurd position of having
obliged a world hungry for population--(Was it not? Did not everybody
agree in saying so?)--with, for one man, a large supply of human
beings, produced quite legitimately after due notice given, only to
find that one after another the world rejected them, or at any rate
refused to provide the males with worthy work or the females with
husbands. He was walking along Miller Street as this new perception
came to him, between fifty little houses on one side and fifty little
houses on the other, and half-way down the street the door of a house
opened and Frederic came out and stopped him. He had no hat on and he
was a little nervous. He said:

"Have you had a letter?"

"Several. You don't write letters to me."

"No. It's from Mrs. Lipsett. She lives here. She said she'd written to
you about me. You'd better come and see her. She lives here."

"Friends of yours?"

"Not exactly friends. I've only known her a fortnight. It's about her
daughter."

"Oh!"

Francis turned and followed Frederic into the house, and down a narrow
little passage into the kitchen at the back. This was a little dark
room looking into a backyard. Both kitchen and yard were full of
washing, for it was Monday. The remnants of a meal were on the table,
walled in with piles of damp linen. From the cellar door just outside
the kitchen came clouds of steam.

Mrs. Lipsett was a little, faded woman, very thin, very untidy. She
was sitting in a hard Windsor chair gazing into the fire, as though
she were hypnotised by it. She did not look up as the father and son
entered. Frederic placed a chair for his father, introduced him to
Mrs. Lipsett, and without worrying as to whether she heard him or not
hurried away and shut the door. Mrs. Lipsett turned to Francis and
said:

"My husband left me with five children and went off with a theatre
woman. He takes young girls and trains them for the dancing. He's a
rich man now, but I don't have a penny from him. It's hard work making
a living with the lodgers, and you can't do it when there's illness."

"No, I suppose not. I'm very sorry," replied Francis uneasily. "If I
can do anything. . ."

"_Do_ anything!" Mrs. Lipsett was scornful. "As if you could. I've
worked my fingers to the bone. Two of the girls are in a shop. It
wouldn't have been so bad if it had been them, though it would have
been bad enough. But Annie's stayed at home helping me, and I don't
see what's to be done. I don't see what's to be done. He's owned up to
it. There's that much to be said for him. But that doesn't help much,
does it?"

"Who? . . . I don't know. . . . I'm in the dark . . ."

"You've not had my letter . . . !"

"Letter?"

"Yes. That tells you."

"Tells me what?"

"What you ought to know."

"About whom? About what?"

"Him."

"Your husband?"

"No. Him and her."

Francis had learned patience in dealing with his parishioners, who
were incapable of a direct statement. Mrs. Lipsett had no intention of
being mysterious. It only showed that she could not bring herself to
the point of open discussion of her affairs with a stranger. She had
flung a certain amount of anger into her letter, all the anger she was
capable of feeling, and she was not equal to the task of whipping it
up again now that she was in the presence of the man to whom she had
written in her first desire to injure Frederic. She made an effort and
went on:

"I can't have it in the house. I can't lose my lodgers. It would
frighten the lodgers."

"What would?"

Mrs. Lipsett looked desperate.

"Don't you know?"

"No, I don't," replied Francis, rather petulantly.

Mrs. Lipsett had risen to her feet. Now she sank back again into her
chair and began to cry. Francis preferred that to her incoherence.

"My good woman," he said. "You seem to be in some trouble. If I can
give you any consolation . . ."

"I am in trouble," moaned Mrs. Lipsett. "I'm always in trouble. I've
never been out of trouble since I was born. Some people are like that
you know."

These reflections cheered her up perceptibly, and she asked Francis if
he would mind if she began to cook the first floor's tea.

Francis began to feel exasperated.

"My good woman," he said, "will you kindly explain what my son has to
do with all this, and why he has brought me here?"

Mrs. Lipsett had moved to the table and taken up an armful of linen.

"Didn't he tell you?"

"No."

Mrs. Lipsett dropped her linen, ran to the door and screamed "Annie!"

A voice answered her.

"Come here!"

Mrs. Lipsett turned to Francis, folded her arms and with her lips
tight pressed she worried out her words:

"Not told you, hasn't he? Leaving me to make a nice fool of myself!
I've heard of you, Mr. Folyat! That innocent you are that you don't
know you're born yet. . . ."

Annie came in and cut short anything else she might have to say.

"Yes, mother?"

"Isn't Mr. Folyat with you?"

"No. I thought he was here with you."

"Sloped, has he? Sloped!--This is Mr. Folyat's father."

"Good evening," said Annie.

An awkward silence came on the three of them, and all three thought of
Frederic with varying degrees of wrath.

"My daughter . . ." began Mrs. Lipsett.

"Mother!"

"Tell him yourself then."

Annie blushed.

"I can't."

Mrs. Lipsett dropped into the vernacular.

"Eh! I am vexed!"

Francis took his hat and rose with some dignity.

"I am sorry," he said, "but as neither of you seem disposed to
enlighten me . . ."

Annie stood between him and the door. She blurted out:

"It's Fred, Mr. Folyat. It wasn't fair of him to leave you alone with
mother like that. We saw you going by and he said he'd go and tell
you. I suppose he didn't. He's like that. He means well."

"Means well!" This from Mrs. Lipsett.

"Please, mother!" Annie went on. "Fred ought to have told you, Mr.
Folyat. I'm as much to blame as he is. I suppose I'm very wicked, but
there's some things you can't help. We didn't think, I suppose. But
it's come to that, that we've got to think. I'm going to be a mother
in three months, and Fred wants to help as much as he can."

Francis sat down again.

"Frederic!"

"Yes. The beauty! Ain't you proud of him?"

Frederic! Francis was not so much shocked as amazed. He was only too
accustomed to irregularity, large and small, but he had always
regarded the victims of it as creatures of another clay. Automatically
by their offence they passed from one compartment of his mind to
another. Where possible they were given benefit of clergy, but only as
one finds a home for a stray dog. . . .

Mrs. Lipsett said:

"I say he ought to marry her."

Francis did not hear her. He was still trying to grasp the fact, but
once more he found himself confronted with the difficulty that he
could not take Frederic seriously. That Frederic should be, regularly
or irregularly, on the point of becoming a father struck him as comic
and grotesque, and yet (he said to himself) it was only to be expected
that in course of time the fate that had overtaken himself should
overtake his son also. But also a man was usually given time to get
accustomed to the idea. In the ordinary course a man introduced a
young woman to his father and mother--(with a pang he thought of Mrs.
Folyat's reception of this event!)--they were engaged, married, and as
bluntly as possible the Church service announced the probable
consequences. Everything went smoothly and one hoped for the best. But
Frederic, the buffoon, the play-actor, had dispensed with all this;
had, by a sort of conjuring trick, inveigled him into a strange house,
and left him with a very cool and collected young woman with a strong
accent and an angry mother whose speech was of the broadest, and
without a word of marriage, he was told--he was told--what was he
told? With a start Francis realised that he was not in the least
angry, as he ought to have been, as he had every right to be, and that
he was thinking of the thing without the least reference to morality.
He could not fit the formula he used for ordinary offenders to the
case of his son, and, being honest, though slow and sluggish of mind,
he admitted to himself that his one desire was to avoid having his
wife know. He looked from the young woman to her mother and saw what a
serious matter it was to them and gave up his unprofitable attempt to
see the thing in connection with Frederic--(who threw it all out of
perspective)--and, with a very real feeling for the two women, he
said:

"I'm sorry. What do you want me to do?"

"You're not angry?"

Francis fell back with some relief on formula:

"I am deeply pained and grieved. . ." But then the new little
conscience there was developing in him cried out on his insincerity
and he was silent.

Mrs. Lipsett repeated:

"I say he ought to marry her. I say . . ."

"He doesn't want to marry me," said Annie. "He says he knows he
couldn't make me happy."

"What's right is right," said Mrs. Lipsett. "Can he afford to marry
her, Mr. Folyat? Can you make him marry her?"

"Can I?" thought Francis; and his mind flew to the idea of this young
woman being presented to his wife as her first daughter-in-law. Then
he said to himself:

"It is not I who am to be considered, but these two women. Frederic is
least of all to be considered."

He did his best to think of Frederic as a husband, but it was quite
hopeless. Frederic was more than ever elusive. It was impossible to
conceive him in any responsible position. That made Francis see that
it was quite useless to stay any longer. He could only go on repeating
that he was sorry. He saw no method of coercing Frederic into marriage
(or anything else). The most he could do was to be parentally angry,
and he saw the futility of that. If necessary, in the cause of good
morals, he could turn Frederic out of doors, but that would
necessitate a scene and explanations, and from that he shrank. Only
one thing was now clear--that there was nothing to be gained by
further discussion with Mrs. Lipsett and her daughter. He rose to his
feet again and said:

"I am sorry, very sorry, extremely sorry. I will see my son. I will do
what I can. I promise you that everything that can be done will be
done."

"Promises," said Mrs. Lipsett, "are like pie-crusts--made to be
broken."

"Not mine," returned Francis, as he bowed himself out.

Annie took him to the door and said:

"I only want to get away, sir. I only want to get away."

Francis looked into her eager face. She was almost very pretty, and
her eagerness was very touching. He was moved and a lump came into his
throat, and tears filled his eyes, and he said:

"God bless you, my dear. You shall."

She bowed her head as he passed out, and as he heard the latch click
he said to himself:

"Surely she has suffered enough."

And he felt a purely masculine anger against Frederic, anger which
oozed and trickled away on the instant, for, as he turned up the
street, he saw his son waiting for him at the corner. As he walked up
the street he called Frederic poltroon, scoundrel, blackguard, lecher,
debauchee, wastrel, but none of these words could revive his anger. As
he came face to face with his son he found another word--play-actor,
and if he had sympathy for Annie, the betrayed, he had pity for
Frederic, her betrayer. She could suffer, had suffered. Frederic could
feel nothing at all.

"After all," thought Francis, "he is my son. I have had my share in
making him what he is."

He looked clean through Frederic and made no sign of recognition, but
passed on with his heavy rolling stride. Frederic fell in by his side
like a terrier trying to attract the attention of a Newfoundland.

"I wonder what they've said to him. I suppose he's devilish angry."

And he fell to counting up his income and his debts, and wondering
exactly how cheaply he could live in lodgings.

They walked for about half a mile in that fashion and it was Frederic
who broke the silence.

"I didn't mean to leave you like that. I meant to have it all out in
one grand scene. I didn't jib at it. I'm not a coward. Only suddenly
it seemed to me so absurdly melodramatic. I couldn't stand it so I
cleared out . . ."

"I don't think any explanation is necessary," replied Francis in a
curious toneless voice.

"By George! He _is_ angry!" thought Frederic.

"I only want to know one thing," said Francis. "Did you seduce the
young woman with a promise of marriage?"

Frederic stole a glance at his father. It was such an odd question
coming from him!

"There was never anything said of marriage from beginning to end.
There never is in these cases. It's so casual, you know. It seems to
me jolly unfair that it should have the same result as when you are in
dead earnest . . ."

"Silence."

"Sorry."

They walked on for a quarter of a mile.

"Does anybody know?"

"Only our two selves, Annie and her mother--oh! and Annette."

"Annette!"

Francis was really angry. The thing had touched his new affection, the
treasure of his life, and by that test he saw it in its ugliness and
sordidness. For the first time he was wholly human. His one thought
was to protect Annette.

"Are you going to marry this girl?" he asked.

"No."

"Are you going to provide for her?"

"I'll do my best."

"After this do you expect me to allow you to stay in my house?"

"I'll clear out if you like."

"I do like."

"Very well then. Only you lose the right to interfere in the matter,
or in my affairs in any way."

"I never have interfered in your affairs."

"No. . . . You'll let me come and see my mother?"

That brought Francis up short. (Frederic knew it would.) Frederic was
his mother's favourite. His absence from the house or presence in it
made an extraordinary difference to her mood. Lately she had grown
very jealous of Annette. . . . Francis fumbled for some means of
withdrawing the decree of banishment, and he said a little pompously:

"The young woman told me that she was only anxious to get away. I must
help her to do that."

"I can't let you do that."

"I must."

"I'm not going to have you interfering . . ."

"You will not marry her. I can conceive of no greater misfortune
befalling her than marriage with . . ."

"I quite agree," said Frederic.

"All the same I must see that she is not . . ."

"In short, you are going to connive at her immorality."

"I refuse to discuss the matter with you any further."

"I'm glad of that. I'll leave it in your hands and neither of us will
say a word about it to anybody."

"No," said Francis, profoundly ashamed.

Frederic began to hum, and they walked on until they came to the Park.

Frederic said:

"I had a sort of feeling you'd take it like that. You never let us
know much of what you're thinking and all that. I suppose you think
I'm an infernal scoundrel. I'm not that. You can't despise me half as
much as I despise myself, but what I most despise is the way I've let
you take the thing out of my hands. I'm very grateful."

"If there is one thing in the world I don't want," said Francis, "it
is gratitude from you."

"I knew I should say the wrong thing," replied Frederic, more to
himself than to his father. They were passing the little muddy pond
inhabited by a few grimy ducks and a black swan, and Frederic stopped
and amused himself by throwing bits of paper to the birds, who for
some moments were excited by the hope that they were bread. Francis
passed on, relieved to find himself once more alone. The nervous
irritation caused in him by Frederic's presence at his side had
exhausted him. Victory lay with Frederic, but he felt no resentment
about that. Hundreds of times in his life the words _Judgment is Mine,
saith the Lord_ had been on his lips--(one of his sermons had them for
text)--but now he seemed to see them in a new light and for the first
time to read a real meaning into them.

He was very tired. He felt as though he had been engaged in a long,
long fight with shadows, no tangible enemy, but only an evil presence.

As he passed the children's playground he saw some of his choir boys
playing tipcat. He turned in through the little gate and stood
watching them. They were entirely engrossed in their game, keenly
excited about it, and they did not notice him. Their cheeks were aglow
and their eyes were sparkling with their healthy activity, and he
began to be interested in their play. An exceptionally good shot from
one of the boys made him cry out "Bravo!" At once they became
self-conscious and uneasy. He tried to talk to them for a little but
they assumed an unnatural spryness, and he knew that he had spoiled
their game.

He went away unhappier than ever, hurried home to Fern Square and went
straight to his study. There he sat in silence and suffered under the
tyranny of his thoughts, which went round and round in a silly circle
and would not be controlled. With tragic whimsicality he began to run
the events of the day together, to merge the Lipsett and the Lawrie
households, and he began to think what Mrs. Lawrie would have made of
Frederic. She would not have relieved Frederic of the consequences of
his folly; she would have pushed him into the morass, forced him down
to the common Lipsett level or left him to drown with his paramour.
The use of the word paramour struck Francis as particularly absurd,
and he smiled. His dislike of Mrs. Lawrie swamped everything else.
Decidedly any course of action which could seem right to her must seem
wrong to him. The impression left on his mind by Mrs. Lawrie and her
dark room was one of grinding effort to make life as like death as
possible. To Francis life was--what? The joy of boys at play, health
physical and spiritual, the struggle to reach and maintain health;
colour and light and sweetness; all things that for want of any other
outlet he had expressed, or sought to express, in the services in his
Church. . . . The first consequence of it all had been that his wife
was a querulous old woman before her time. He had faced that long ago.
The second tangible consequence was this affair of Frederic's, and
this also he had faced, and the worst that was demanded of him was
that he should for the first time deliberately withhold a fact, a new
development in his life, from his wife. There was an extraordinary
ironic justice about it all. The sins of the fathers are visited upon
the children for the castigation of the fathers. . . . Francis found
himself on the verge of reflections so unclerical that he flung
himself back, and to save himself from further thought took down his
Bible. He was familiar with almost every word of it, but now to his
dismay he found himself finding in it practical wisdom bearing on the
brief life of man here below rather than prophesy and gorgeous
promises of the life to come which should be everlasting. It was
amazingly comforting to read the book in this (to him) new fashion and
to let himself be excited by its call to action. He wearied a little
of the savagery and dark pessimism of the Old-Testament, and turning
to the Gospels found in them one stirring principle of active love,
and hatred only for hypocrisy and fraud and slovenliness.

"Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God
as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."

He put down the Bible and took up "Tom Jones," and remembered an
Irishman, a student in Dublin, who had shocked him by maintaining that
Tom Jones had certainly entered into the Kingdom of God and was
rewarded with an angel, to wit Sophia Western. Curiously that seemed
to Francis to be something more than a profane joke.

"All the same," he said, "it is a long stride from Tom Jones to
Frederic."

With that he fell to thinking of the student in Dublin and the men of
old days, and wondered what might have become of them all and if they
had fared better or worse than himself.



XVI

MRS. FOLYAT DISSECTED

_If you had married a conscientious Bishop and made_ him _live in a
pig-stye--à la bonne heure!_
     JOHN RUSKIN

FROM being a governess with extremely small wages Annette became a
servant with no wages at all. A few months after her return to her
father's house, Ada, the cook-general, married (beneath her) and she
was replaced by a gnomish child of sixteen who wore short dresses and
had her hair done up at the back in a tight little bun. She talked an
entirely unintelligible language and delighted the Folyat family on
the day after her arrival by saying to Annette, who happened to be in
the kitchen:

"Eeh! Annie,"--never a "Miss" from a North-country girl--"Eeh! Annie,
will ye whack t' pots on t' table while I wash me 'ead?"

Annette obliged, and "whacking the pots on the table" became the
family euphemism for getting a meal ready.

Gertrude and Mary had gradually retired from active service--Mary with
better excuse than Gertrude--and the whole administration of the
household devolved on Annette. Nothing was said to her about it, no
arrangement was made; it just happened, and nobody noticed that it had
happened. From early morning when she prepared tea for her mother, to
late at night when she boiled her chocolate, Annette was cooking,
washing up, dusting, making the beds, &c., and her only excursions,
except to church or the schools, were to the shops to buy the
wherewithal to cook, wash-up, dust, &c. Nobody ever thanked her: for
many weeks nobody remarked that she was doing so much, and then Serge
found her dragging a heavy coal-scuttle up the stairs to his studio,
relieved her of it and questioned her. After that, when he was at
home, he did what he could to assist her in the heavy work.

As for Mrs. Folyat, she was a very lily, in that she toiled not
neither did she spin. When she thought of it, she resented the decline
and fall of her kitchen from cook-housemaid and parlourmaid to the
sixteen-year-old hobgoblin, but, resentment being rather an active
state of mind, she avoided it by giving no thought to the matter.

If Mrs. James Lawrie could be likened to a garden roller, Mrs. Folyat
could most nearly be said to resemble a mill-stone. She was of the
great and ignoble army of people who are neither good nor bad,
renounce their potentialities in either direction, and drag all those
to whom they cling--for cling they must if they are to remain above
ground--down to the lowest depths of impotence, than which there is no
worse state. She made herself comfortable with fiction and preferred
everything to truth. An amazing capacity she had for compelling others
to acquiesce in her self-deceptions by tickling their sentimentality
so that it rose in them like a flood of treacle and slopped over their
imagination and critical faculty. Had it ever occurred to her to
exercise this power in print she might have become an enormously
successful novelist. She was to all appearances much loved, and all
her acquaintances and many of those whom she called her friends always
spoke of her as "dear Mrs. Folyat." She was never unhappy, but, on the
other hand, she was never happy. In all material matters she was a
furious optimist. She liked eating and sleeping and gossiping and
going to the theatre and reading. If she could indulge in all these
seemingly harmless pleasures to the extent of her appetite it seemed
to her that all was well with the world.

When she married Francis, ambition was stirred in her and satisfied.
Through the long years at St. Withans she bore him children with great
regularity and also with the indifference of an automaton. She
regarded herself as a perfect wife because she was faithful, and as a
perfect mother for no other reason than that she was a mother. When
her children offended her she chastised them, when they pleased her
she kissed and fondled them. On the whole she brought them up on the
principle of Rabelais' Abbé: _Fais ce que vouldras._ On that principle
also she conducted her own life, but, unhappily, she never wanted
anything much.

She believed herself to be a Christian. She was so familiar with the
Bible that it had absolutely no meaning for her. Her memory was
astonishing, so that she did not need to read the book. Her childhood
had been spent in an atmosphere of great piety, and she had absorbed
the whole Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, through the pores of
her skin rather than through her brains. What most nearly penetrated
her consciousness was, curiously enough, the prophecies of the end of
the world: _There shall be wars and rumours of wars_, and every now
and then she indulged herself in the luxury of terror, reading signs
in everything. She was extremely superstitious and would never walk
under a ladder, nor sit thirteen at a table, and when a mirror was
broken in the house or salt was spilt or knives were crossed, she
would see in the next disaster, great or small, the infallible
consequence. She was delighted when she met a hunchback in the street,
for that portended luck; alarmed on an encounter with a cross-eyed
woman, for that boded no good. Her mind was like a dusty empty room,
the door of which was sealed with cobwebs, showing that she had not
for many years passed out nor had any entered in. She was romantic and
picturesque, loving the romance of fiction, and entirely oblivious of
the romance of fact. Only twice in her life did she deliver herself of
utterances the least philosophical, and as, being what she was, her
sincerity must remain suspect, neither can be taken as giving a clue
to the inward workings of her mind. These are they:

(1) Long after Gertrude was married and had lived through her little
tragi-comedy she said:

"All men are beasts. I married the best of them, and he's a beast."

(2) When one of her grandchildren--(this being a digression we may
skirmish up and down the alleys of time)--beset by philosophic doubt,
wanted to know what was going to happen to the world she made this
pronunciamento:

"The world will go on getting worse and worse until the end of
everything comes, just as the Bible tells you. There shall be wars and
rumours of wars, . . . &c."

At the back of her mind during all her adult life was the belief in
the proximity of the end of the world, and in her inevitable
translation to divine regions, where, with her husband, she would live
an untroubled and unsexed life of uninterrupted habit. She took her
husband with her, partly because he was a clergyman and had a
prescriptive right to a heavenly mansion, but chiefly because, after
so many years, she was unable to conceive of an existence without him.
It was all very hazy, but it was towards this future that she turned
when she said her prayers morning and evening. This she did as
mechanically as she dressed and undressed, between which two
operations she devoted herself to her public duties as rector's
wife--Bible classes, mothers' meetings, and mission work--and to the
cultivation of the nearest approach to a passion in her existence,
gentility. She spent many solitary hours in the drawing-room because
she could not sit with Francis in his study, as she disliked the smell
of tobacco and detested his allegiance to a clay pipe. She was hardly
ever known to stoop to enter the kitchen.

Withal her authority was never questioned, and she obtained from her
family, their friends and acquaintances, the homage and service she
expected.

She was a match-maker, and no combination of male and female was too
grotesque for her. She was delighted with Gertrude's engagement.
Bennett Lawrie's personality lent itself to sentimental heroics, and
she was more than a little in love with him herself--as a little girl
is in love with the first-comer. Minna's plurality in affairs of the
heart baffled and annoyed her, for in love she always looked for
constancy. She had marked down Streeten Folyat for Mary, though,
beyond sending a brace of grouse every August, he showed little sign
of desiring the more acquaintance of his cousins. . . . Annette and
Serge she left unmated, of Serge she was afraid, and of Annette she
took little account. But for Frederic she had planned many famous
weddings and had laid countless traps for him. He never saw her
scheming, but, going his own way, he ever evaded her until, having
failed in her higher flights, she came to look nearer home. The
Clibran-Bells had inherited money, and there was only one life between
them and a large fortune, so that all the girls would possess some
three hundred a year, while George would eventually be a man of large
means, for the money came through Mrs. Clibran-Bell and avoided Mr.
Clibran-Bell altogether. This sudden and unexpected outcrop of wealth
occasioned great excitement in Fern Square, and the Clibran-Bells
added another servant to their two. They also made a gift of two new
altar-cloths and a chalice to the church. One of the altar-cloths was
worked by Jessie Clibran-Bell with embroidery and appliqué. She was an
accomplished needlewoman, had many little talents, and she was
intelligent and pious. She was the eldest of the family and the most
nearly beautiful. Her nose was straight and like her mother's, whereas
her sisters had unfortunately gone to their father for their noses and
got them of an unwomanly hugeness. Mrs. Folyat selected Jessie for
Frederic, and soon perceived, what had escaped her before, that she
was in love with him.

Jessie was two years older than Frederic. She was just a little
austere in temperament, singularly pure and innocent in mind. The wave
of religious fervour which follows on confirmation had endured with
her, and she had secretly aspired to become a nun until the advent of
Frederic. Then, having escaped the wasteful expenditure of affection
upon folly that fills the adolescence of most young women, she
suffered a tremendous upheaval. Living with a prying, curious family,
she thrust her emotion away and tried to cover it, and affected a
frivolity which was entirely foreign to her. Alternately she avoided
and sought Frederic's company, as first one and then the other
procedure seemed to her the less conspicuous. Her labours were all in
vain, for Minna knew her condition almost as soon as she did herself,
and made no secret of it. As time went on Jessie grew accustomed to
the presence of love in her life, realised that it would be impossible
for her to take any other husband than Frederic, and resigned herself
with truly Christian fortitude and patience to wait until that
happened which she desired should happen. She had never enjoyed any
confidence with her mother, whom she had been brought up to regard as
the most beautiful lady in the world, the "very pinnacle of human
virtue." (The phrase was her father's, often on his lips, and Minna
always referred to Mrs. Clibran-Bell as "The Pinnacle.")

It may be ennobling and purifying to idealise your womenkind, but if
your womenkind accept the position they are rather apt to believe,
with disastrous results, that it is more blessed to receive than to
give. Certain it is that if Robert Clibran-Bell had an ideal, he never
had a wife, and that his children never had a mother.

Jessie Clibran-Bell in her simplicity believed that the Folyats had
all that she had lacked. She was devoted to Francis, and when Mrs.
Folyat played her sentimentalist's game with her she was entirely
deceived, saw in Mrs. Folyat a perfect hen of a mother and crept under
her wing. All this took some time, and it was not until the change in
the Clibran-Bell fortunes that Mrs. Folyat made room for Jessie. She
made her snug and warm, and, in sheer gratitude, without making any
actual confession, Jessie laid bare her feelings. Mrs. Folyat kissed
her and gave her to understand that though Frederic was her favourite
child and a paragon among men, yet he was unworthy of such profound,
such patient, such unselfish devotion. The more she abused Frederic
the more warmly did Jessie's fondness flow. They both enjoyed
themselves thoroughly, and often met in conclave in the Folyat
drawing-room. So absorbed did Mrs. Folyat become in the pursuit of
this new intrigue that she lost interest in Gertrude's affair and
devoted herself to the snaring of Frederic.



XVII

FREDERIC SNARED

_There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow._
     HAMLET

THE snaring of men is the tamest sport in the world. It is so
ridiculously easy. Let but the female cast a favourable eye upon the
male and he is hers--for as long as she is clever enough to keep him.
Whether a prize so easily won is worth the keeping is a matter for
every woman to decide for herself. Generally the matter is settled by
the advent of children, or by economic complications, or by fear of
public opinion. Desire waits upon vanity and vanity is the destroyer
of love. Unhappily passion is so exceedingly rare that there would be
neither marriage nor giving in marriage if men and women did not
hoodwink themselves and each other. Quite clearly the world would be
the better without the hoodwinking and the marriages resulting from
it, but, these being in the majority, and the ignoble art of
hoodwinking being passed on from generation to generation, and
commended by eminent divines and popular writers, and since women
insist on getting married in all circumstances and at whatever cost of
degradation and disappointment, there is nothing to be done but to
grin and bear it and applaud every active protest that is made against
it.

These were the sentiments roused in Serge Folyat when it was announced
that Frederic had entered upon an indefinite engagement to marry
Jessie Clibran-Bell.

Quite other and not at all philosophical were the sentiments of
Frederic's father when the announcement was made to him exactly a week
after his visit to Miller Street, to the house of Mrs. Lipsett. He was
shocked and outraged, but as the announcement was made to him by his
wife--in their bedroom--and she seemed to take an extraordinary
pleasure in it, he was silent. Mrs. Folyat declared herself entirely
taken by surprise. She had made Frederic take her and Jessie to the
pantomime, and on the way home Jessie had stolen her hand into hers
and said:

"I am so happy."

And Frederic had added:

"Yes. Isn't she?"

And then she knew! And Frederic was so proud and happy too. And so
brave and manly! He could not think of marrying Jessie until he was
making three hundred a year. And didn't Francis think it was time they
set Frederic up in a practice by himself?

Francis groaned inwardly.

It would be delightful (continued Mrs. Folyat) to have Frederic
settled. Of course he would only have a small establishment to begin
with, but when he had made his position, he would be able to live in
the best suburbs on the south of the town and his sons would go to
public schools. Jessie was such a dear girl, as Francis would find
when he knew her better, and she was so devotedly attached to
Frederic, and Frederic was so very much in love, so chivalrous and
attentive. Nothing better could be wished for. Francis must really
consider the possibility of providing Frederic with an office of his
own.

"I'll think it over," said Francis. "If you don't mind, I would like
to sleep."

Mrs. Folyat continued her monologue for a quarter of an hour and
lulled herself to sleep with the sound of her own voice.

Francis lay on his back staring into the darkness. His first impulse
was to go up to Frederic's room and have it out with him there and
then, but he could hardly do that without waking the woman sleeping at
his side. Also he had made it a rule never to act in any difficulty
without sleeping on it, or, at any rate, if sleep visited him not,
without a night's cogitation. The trouble was that this new
complication seemed to him so hideous that he hated to think of it. In
the cause of morality, also for the sake of Jessie Clibran-Bell, he
ought to denounce Frederic and fling him out neck and crop. But common
sense bade him pause. What would be the result? A great deal of
wretchedness and misery in two houses, and in all probability
Frederic's utter ruin.

Already he was an accessory after the fact of Frederic's first
dishonour. Could he become an aider and abettor of the second? Or,
rather, having swallowed the first could he reasonably strain at the
second? . . . He condemned himself for his weakness in palliating such
an offence for the sake of peace. Then, rebounding from
self-condemnation--(no man can keep it up for very long)--he told
himself that it was not for the sake of peace but to save that poor
girl from a drudging life with a man out of her own class. Then, in
justice, he was forced to admit that the truth lay between the two.

His final conclusion, just as dawn began to outline the window, was
that the world must be much less or more simple than he had thought.
The effort of deciding which the world was entirely exhausted him, and
sleep came at last.

In the morning he had a letter from his brother William, the first for
fifteen years, announcing his return from India and settlement at
Sydenham, near the Crystal Palace, where he would be glad to see
Francis, his wife, or any of his children. How many were there? He,
William, had two.

Francis handed it over to his wife just as Frederic came down.

"Aren't you going to congratulate Frederic, my dear?" asked Mrs.
Folyat.

Frederic looked across at his father with malicious defiance in his
eyes. Francis opened another letter and ignored the question. Mrs.
Folyat returned to the charge.

"My dear, Frederic is to be congratulated."

"I am as delighted," replied Francis, "as Frederic is himself."

Frederic viciously sliced off the top of an egg. Mrs. Folyat seemed to
be satisfied. She read William's letter.

"That will be very nice," she said. "Gertrude could stay with them on
her way back from the Folkestone Folyats."

Frederic went to the door and bawled peevishly to Annette to bring his
coffee.

"Annette," observed Francis, "is not a servant."

"I know," returned Frederic, "but I can't be late."

Annette appeared with Frederic's coffee. He gave her no thanks, and
she returned to cook breakfast for Serge, Minna, and Gertrude. (Mary
was away on a visit.)

"I think," said Francis, "I think Annette might be the first to stay
with William."

"Annette!" Mrs. Folyat swept her out of consideration. "Annette! She
has no clothes."

Frederic gulped down his coffee and hurried away.

"It will be time," said Mrs. Folyat, "it will be time to think of
Annette when Gertrude and Mary and Minna are married."

"And suppose they never marry?"

"Of course they will marry."

Serge came down in Frederic's dressing-gown, and shortly afterwards
Minna and Gertrude followed him.

"Any news?" asked Minna.

"My dear . . ."

Mrs. Folyat wriggled with excitement.

"My dear. What do you think? Frederic took me and Jessie to the
pantomime last night; I thought it vulgar and most unsuitable for
children. And what do you think? Frederic and Jessie are engaged."

"How clever of you, ma," said Minna.

"I! I was entirely taken by surprise."

Minna grinned:

"So was Wellington when he found he had won the battle of Waterloo."

Francis gathered up his letters and the daily paper, a Conservative
organ, together with the _Church Times_, and turned to Serge.

"If you can give me a moment or two," he said, "I should like your
opinion on a matter of some importance."

"Delighted," answered Serge.

Five minutes later Serge knocked at the study door, went in, and found
his father at his desk writing a letter. Francis laid down his pen and
turned.

"I want your opinion as a man of the world. I find myself in a
situation with which I am not competent to deal, and yet I must deal
with it."

"My experience is," said Serge, "that most problems solve themselves."

"This is a moral problem."

"Moral problems crumble away under the pressure of time more easily
than any others."

Francis was not encouraged. However, he went on:

"Frederic . . ."

"Ah! I thought it must be about Frederic."

"Frederic has proposed to and been accepted by Jessie Clibran-Bell."

"A very estimable young woman, though she has no sense of humour."

"Frederic is also entangled . . ."

"With the daughter of a lodging-house keeper."

"You knew that?"

"Yes. I knew that."

"You can imagine then what pain and sorrow this must have caused me."

"Yes. It is always distressing to find fiction overturned by facts."

"You do not condemn Frederic?"

"It is surely one of the first principles of religion to condemn
nobody."

"True. True. But one must not encourage immorality."

"Nothing encourages immorality so much as condemnation and
prohibition."

"Is that how men of the world think of it?"

"I don't know. It is how I think of it."

Francis combed his fingers through his beard.

"Then . . . Then, what am I to do?"

"It seems to me that the difficulty has already solved itself. Miss
Clibran-Bell is in love with Frederic. She will probably make him a
good wife. Frederic could not possibly marry the other girl. It would
destroy all her chances of marrying a man whom she could love, honour
and respect . . ."

"But he has destroyed her chances."

"Not at all. She will be a soberer, a better and a more sympathetic
woman after this experience, if she is helped through it and treated
with decent human feeling . . . Frederic is finished as far as she is
concerned."

"I told Frederic he must leave my house. I went back on it."

"That was just as well. It would have made my mother very unhappy and
caused a bitter scandal in your parish. These things are nobody's
affair until they are everybody's affair. The only sane course to
pursue is to see that they do not become everybody's affair!"

"What do you suggest?"

"Do what you can for the girl and leave Frederic alone. No man can
trifle with his emotions with impunity. That is natural law, Divine
law if you like, infinitely more searching than your law of crime and
punishment. The trouble with you people is that you think moral laws
are a human invention. They're not. They are an inherent principle of
the universe, and we are as subject to them as we are to the weather.
This thing is Frederic's affair and his only. You and I know perfectly
well that he won't look after the girl if he is left to himself,
therefore you and I must interfere, for purely humane reasons, as you
do with your parishioners, and as I do with any human trouble that I
happen to come across. You can give the girl a few pounds to take her
down into the country. She'll be much better there, and you can allow
her, say, ten shillings a week until she gets work or marries."

"I was just writing to her," said Francis. "I wasn't sure whether it's
right."

"Perhaps it isn't," replied Serge. "But at least it is practical."

"I am glad to have talked it over with you. Should I say anything to
Frederic?"

"No. If you want to hurt him--though I don't see why you should--you
will do so far more by simply ignoring him and taking the affair out
of his hands."

"Thank you. I'll write to the young woman."

"If you like I'll find a place in the country for her."

"That will be good of you. Thank you."

This conversation with Serge relieved Francis enormously. He was like
a man who, after long hesitation at a cross-road had followed one way
for a mile or two, and then needed reassuring. He had already written
half his letter to Annie Lipsett. He thoroughly enjoyed completing it.

Serge left him at it and found his mother waiting for him by the
dining-room door. She said she wanted to speak to him, drew him into
the room, and began to cross-examine him as to what his business might
have been with Francis. He told her it was nothing of any importance,
and then with a great deal of hesitation she came to her business.

"Don't you think Jessie is just the very wife for Frederic, Serge?"

"The usual remark that she is far too good for him seems to be
peculiarly appropriate."

"Serge, does Frederic ever talk to you about himself?"

"Only in his more light-hearted moments."

There was a moment's hesitation on Mrs. Folyat's part. Then:

"Serge, there is an odious woman pursuing Frederic. She is threatening
him. Has he told you?"

"No. But I know."

"Oh! Serge, please, please, can't you save him from her clutches? I
have been so wretched about it. Don't let him marry her!"

"That," said Serge with gusto, "that he shall not do if I can help
it."

"Oh! Serge, thank you. . . . Don't let Frederic know I told you, and
don't say anything to your father. It would upset him so dreadfully."

"No. I won't say anything to either."

"Oh! Serge. I shall be grateful to you as long as I live. Why does
Heaven allow such creatures . . . . ?"

"I must get to my work," said Serge. He kissed his mother and patted
her shoulder, and stayed with her until she had dried her eyes and
looked up at him with a watery smile.

Later in the morning, hearing Annette in the next room, he called to
her, and when she came he asked her:

"Does mother read father's letters?"

"She reads any letters she can find. I don't think she can help it,"
said Annette, blushing for her own lapse.

"Wicked old woman," chuckled Serge. "Would you like a day in the
country, one Saturday, Annette?"

"I should love it more than anything."

"You shall have it. You're the only person in this house who deserves
well of the world, and to taste the sweetness of things. Possibly
you're the only person who can."

"I would like," said Annette, "I would like to go to a river."

"So you shall, the very best river we can find."

"You're very good to me, Serge."

Annette was too busy to stay talking. Serge turned to his work and she
strode away.

* * *

As Francis had promised, so it was done. Serge found rooms for Annie
Lipsett in a not too dull village. Her mother's lodgers were told that
she was run down and going away for a change, and would be away for
three months. They received the intelligence with about as much
interest as though they had been told that the ceilings needed
whitewashing--as they did--and Annie went away. The only condition
that had been made was that she should not write to Frederic. Her
mother shed a great many tears, but promised to come and see her once
a week and to be near her when her time came.

Frederic was received with open arms by his prospective father, mother
and sisters-in-law. The Clibran-Bells and the Folyats joined in
rejoicing over him, and he found himself doomed to slavery. He
affected the attitude of the devoted swain, and every minute of his
day, outside his working hours, was given to Jessie, her mother, her
sisters, her father, her brother, her cat. He went nowhere alone with
her. He went nowhere without her. . . . They were to be married as
soon as he was earning three hundred a year. He looked ahead and saw
no prospect of it. He became very envious of people who were happy.



XVIII

EXCURSION

_Enter these enchanted woods,
     You who dare!_
          THE WOODS OF WESTERMAIN

MRS. FOLYAT had her way--as when did she not?--and it was Gertrude,
equipped cap-à-pie with new clothes, who went to stay with her uncle
William at Sydenham, near the Crystal Palace. Therefore she was not of
the party which grew out of Serge's promise to take Annette into the
country on a Saturday. Annette had been unable to keep this entrancing
project to herself. Minna had half suggested, half demanded, that she
should be of the party. To square the number Serge had asked Basil
Haslam, and Minna out of coquetry had invited Herbert Fry, Frederic's
quondam Plymouth comrade, who had turned up on legal business, which,
moving slowly, had kept him many weeks, so that, to while away the
tedious hours, he had resumed relations with her. He was still
"Apollyon," had an air of great prosperity, flattered Mrs. Folyat up
to the eyes, so that he was altogether in her good graces, and she
entertained hopes of his carrying Minna back with him to London. (He
had told Frederic, but not Mrs. Folyat nor Minna that he was married.)
To pair with either Haslam or Fry, as the case might be, Mary was
included, and, in compassion for his forlornness in the absence of his
"old, old love," Bennett Lawrie.

Serge paid. Annette made up a great basket of provisions which Bennett
Lawrie and Basil Haslam carried between them.

Less than an hour's journey took them to a great river where they
hired two boats--a double-sculler and a dinghy. Basil Haslam tried to
manoeuvre Minna into the dinghy, but could not detach her from her
"Apollyon," and was forced to relinquish the little boat to Serge and
Annette, who jumped into it while the rest were arguing, pushed off,
and rowed away up stream, leaving them to follow in the bigger boat.

"Our party," said Serge, as he sent the little boat skimming over the
water, while Annette dipped her fingers over the side and let the
water gurgle up her arm.

"But I'm glad the others came," answered Annette. "That boy Lawrie
looks so pale."

Serge made her take the rudder lines and taught her how to steer.

"How red your hands are getting," he said.

"It's the housework."

"What a shame!"

"Oh! I like it."

"Better than governessing?"

"Oh! much, much better. It's home, you see. And, of course, there's
you. I often sit in your room when you're not there, and sometimes I
look at the things. It must be wonderful to be able to--to draw."

"Now, why?"

"I don't quite know, only when you come to beautiful places like this
it makes you want to--want to . . ."

"Well?"

"I don't quite know. . . . It's like growing . . ."

"That's quite good. I'd like to know what you think of me, Annette?"

"You're very puzzling. Sometimes I think you don't take anything
seriously, but then I think it is because you are so different."

"How different?"

"Not like Frederic."

Out of the bank near them scuttled a vole, and along and into a hole
under the roots of a willow. Annette watched him eagerly, and then
returned to Serge, and said:

"Don't let's talk about Frederic. I am so happy."

Serge began to sing. He had very fine deep notes, but his voice failed
him in the upper register, and whenever it cracked he laughed, and
when he laughed Annette had to join in. He could never remember any
song through to the end, and he invented the most absurd words. Then
over a long stretch, as he rowed, he sang a melancholy canoe-song in a
minor key that he had heard on the Zambesi. He sang it over and over
again.

"I like that," said Annette. "Do you know, often when I'm in the
kitchen I think I'm in a boat sailing away and away. It's like
dreaming, only it goes on and on . . ."

"That's love."

"Is it? . . . That's nonsense. I'm not in love."

"Not _in_ love, my dear. But it's love all the same! Your little soul
growing and expanding, trying to find an outlet, a channel that will
lead it to warmth and the sun . . ."

"You make me feel unhappy when you talk like that."

"You're wiser than I am, Annette. You accept things where I think
about them."

"We mustn't lose the others."

"We shan't lose them. They'll have to come on until they find us. If I
thought that Fry was rowing I'd take him ten miles, but I'm pretty
sure he isn't."

"You don't like him."

"No. Do you?"

"No. But he's very pleasant."

"You can admire what you don't like?"

"I like to admire people. When I'm working it's pleasant to remember
the things they do and say, and the way they say them."

"So you're a pleased and uncritical audience of the doings in Fern
Square?"

Annette dodged the question. She gave a long sigh, and said:

"I am enjoying myself; but I like best being alone with you. It's such
a glorious day."

And then she began to tell him some of the stories she composed about
him for Deedy Fender's benefit. When she had done she added:

"Of course, I never imagined anything like you."

"Are you disappointed?"

"Oh! no."

They came to a great wood growing down to the water's edge. Serge ran
the boat into the bank and moored her. He filled his pipe and began to
smoke, then lay back with his head on the little seat in the bows.
Annette sat with her hands in her lap, and they basked in the hot sun
and felt that it was very good. The birds were very merry in the
trees. In the trees the wind whispered songs gathered from the sea
only twenty miles away. Over all blazed the sun. Flies danced above
the water. All was harmony and peace.

Round the bend of the river came the other boat. Bennett Lawrie and
Basil Haslam were rowing. Mary was steering, and on each side of her
were Minna and Herbert Fry.

Fry called out:

"You've led us a nice dance. It is an hour past lunch time."

Serge grinned and shouted pleasantly:

"All the better for eating, my dear."

The big boat bumped into the dinghy and moored alongside. The
luncheon-basket was hauled out, and on the grass under the trees a
cloth was spread. They sat round it, and for some time were silent
until their hunger began to be appeased.

"At half-past three," said Serge, "I am going to bathe. Will you join
me, Basil?"

Haslam assented.

"What about you, Lawrie?"

"I would like to, only I can't swim."

"You can bob up and down in the shallows."

"I don't think I will," said Bennett miserably.

"Some one," commented Minna, "must stay and look after us. You can't
leave three sisters alone."

"Fry will protect you from each other," said Serge.

"Delighted," rejoined Herbert Fry, with a gallant glance at Minna.

Mary said:

"This pie is perfectly delicious, Annette. You certainly make pastry
better than any of us."

"Mary's first remark to-day," said Minna, maliciously.

Mary, who had been most amiably disposed, relapsed into silence, then,
feeling that she was damping the general cheerfulness, she made
another effort and turned to Herbert Fry, and asked him:

"I suppose you find our town very dull after London."

Herbert Fry replied:

"Of course, you know, London is the only place to live in."

"It obviously isn't that," said Serge, "since there are millions of
people who don't live in it, don't want to live in it, have never been
there, and also many millions who have never heard of it."

Minna was startled.

"Hullo, Serge! You going to defend our horrid, dirty town?"

"It doesn't need me to do that. It is quite satisfied with itself.
There is really something admirable about its hard, conceited pride.
We don't really belong to it, being parasitic. If we did, we should be
like the rest, blinding ourselves with a tragic vanity."

"Whether I'm a parasite or not," rejoined Minna, "I'm going to get out
of it as soon as I can."

"So am I," said Haslam. "I'm going to London at the end of the year.
I've only been there once, but it is a fine place, and no mistake."

"I've been there twice," said Minna. "Mary's been three times. Annette
never. Have you been, Bennett?"

Bennett was rather taken aback at being drawn into the conversation.
He was rather shy of Minna.

"No," he said. "I've never been to London. My father has been. I don't
suppose I shall ever go. It's such a long way. It must be a wonderful
place. I've read a lot about it."

"I don't think they have nearly such good music as we have here . . ."
Mary had waited very patiently to produce the remark which had been in
her mind when she first spoke. She did so with such a flourish that
she brought the conversation to an end. Serge wound it up with:

"We didn't come into the country to talk of towns."

"No," said Minna. "We came to have lunch, and a very good lunch it has
been."

She rose to her feet with a whimsical right-and-left glance at Haslam
and Fry, as though she were hazarding which to take with her. Both
sprang up together as she moved away, but Haslam was the quicker and
reached her side first. They disappeared into the woods, and Fry
returned sulkily to the rest of the party. Annette began to gather the
plates, knives and forks to take them down to the water.

"Shall I help you?" said Serge.

"No, thank you. I think Bennett might, as he's the youngest."

Annette had been feeling very sorry for Bennett. He seemed so
solitary, so much out of his element, so unable to cope with grown men
like Serge and Basil and the lordly Londoner, Fry. He accepted her
invitation with obvious relief, took her burden, and carried it down
to the water's edge, under a willow trailing its leaves in the water.

Herbert Fry offered his escort to Mary, and she acquiesced, bridling.

Serge was left alone. He lay on his back and gazed up at the
sky--blue, serene, cheering, and comforting. His body relaxed, and he
gave himself up to the sweetness of the day's mood, not without a
final drowsy reflection:

"If such a moment of contentment as this is the highest good, and,
since it can be procured at the cost of a little physical labour
rewarded by a solid meal, what's the good of all the rest? The answer
to that is that one cannot live alone. What a day for love-making!" He
laughed. "Everything leads back to that."

He thought of Herbert Fry fobbed off with Mary, and he chuckled. Then
he thought of Bennett Lawrie and Annette together by the water. He
raised himself up. He could not see them, but he could hear their
voices.

"What a day!" he said again, and added "for love-making."

* * *

Down by the river Annette and Bennett were at first very shy of each
other. In silence she handed him the plates, and he dipped them in the
water and handed them back to her and she dried them; then the forks,
and when they came to the knives, Bennett thought:

"Why can't I say something?"

And Annette thought:

"Why can't I say something?"

She looked out along the shining river, slow-moving under its green
banks; never a house, never a boat in sight, and Bennett was bending
down entirely engrossed in his occupation. It was his air of complete
absorption in everything he did and said (though he never did and
never said anything remarkable) that interested her and made her want
to know more of him.

At last, when they had finished, very timidly she asked him:

"Are you going to be a clergyman?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Oh! I'm sorry!" She remembered very vividly his earnestness in her
father's study.

"It costs too much money, you know. And my mother doesn't believe in
me. It wouldn't be any good if she did, because there isn't any
money."

Annette could only say again:

"I'm sorry."

Instead of moving away, she sat down on the bank, and Bennett knelt
quite near her. Seeking to explain away her desire to stay, she said:

"It's so lovely here."

"It's not so beautiful as Scotland."

"Or Westmoreland."

"Have you been to Scotland?"

"I was at school in Edinburgh."

"My father comes from Scotland."

They exchanged the histories of their respective fathers. His was a
mournful tale of a gradual descent into poverty, and he ended:

"I suppose I shall be a clerk all my life, unless I run away and
become an actor."

"An actor?"

"Yes. I should go to London. I might starve in the beginning, but I'd
be a great man in the end. I'd play Shakespeare. Don't you love
Shakespeare?"

"I've never read any of his plays."

"I'd like to read you some. I know some of the speeches by heart."

And he delivered himself of the oration of Henry V before Harfleur.
When that was done he plunged into the address of Othello to the most
potent, grave, and reverend signiors, warmed to the words, lost
himself, and came to a triumphant close with: "This was the only
witchcraft that I used."

"Who was she?"

"Desdemona. And in the end he smothered her because a beast called
Iago told lies about her."

"You do recite well."

"I couldn't recite badly to you."

"But what will . . . ?"

She was going to ask what Gertrude would do while he starved in
London, but she could not force Gertrude's name to her lips and she
broke off the question, and covered her awkwardness by throwing a twig
into the water and watching it float down the stream. Bennett seemed
to know what she was going to say, for he became suddenly embarrassed
and his excited confidence oozed from him. He threw her back on
herself by asking:

"What are you going to do?"

"I--I don't know. Just go on."

"I couldn't do that. Anything's better than just going on."

"But it's different for you. You're a man."

"Yes," said Bennett, pleased by the reflection that, after all, he was
a man. "Yes, I suppose it is more difficult for a woman. But I shan't
run away. I shall just go on and on being a clerk all the rest of my
life."

He was appealing to her for pity; in vain. Annette said, cheerfully:

"There must be thousands of men who are clerks, and they can't all be
so wretched."

"Some people don't mind, and the rest get used to it. I'm not like
that. I want to do things. It isn't enough just to earn your living. A
navvy can do that. A horse does that, or a pony down in a mine."

"What else can you do?"

"You can fight against darkness, and ugliness, and cruelty, and
everything that makes life horrible and ugly and terrifying for
children."

"Oh! for children!"

"Yes. You don't know what my childhood has been like . . ." And he
drew a rapid picture of the loneliness of an imaginative child in a
dark unhappy house where no love was. "Even now I'm often afraid of
the dark stairs up to the attic where I sleep."

"Please, please," said Annette, "don't talk of it any more. It has all
been so dark, and it is so lovely here."

"It's odd, but I've never talked like that to . . ."

He, like Annette, could not force Gertrude's name to his lips.

She began to gather the knives and forks. Then she stopped and looked
at him. Their eyes met for a second, then his turned away.

"Well?" he said.

Annette was a little troubled as she gave him her answer:

"I do so want you to be happy."

She left him on that and returned to Serge. He was asleep, lying on
one side with his hand over his face. Noiselessly she began to re-pack
the basket. When she had done that she stole away into the woods, and
caught up by their happy mystery, their joy in the warm air, and the
sun she ran down the first path she came to until she reached a little
place full of bracken. She flung herself down on the carpet of dead
leaves and looked along under the bracken stalks--the tiny forest
under the great--and watched the gleeful play of light and green
shadow. It was good to be alive and sweet to be alone.

By the river sat Bennett in an attitude of utter dejection. He tried
to tell himself, as so often he had told himself, that he loved
Gertrude with a love that should defy death itself, but the idea woke
no echo in his heart. It melted not as was its habit. (It had melted
for so many, besides Gertrude, with the sick sweet longing of a boy.)
The image of Gertrude was cold. It glowed not with its old brilliance
of colour. He felt curiously hollow; nothing in either head or heart
until he came to Annette's last words. She wanted him to be happy. He
would be. He would be. The words set him stirring in a new way,
discovered for him a new direction, and stiffened him up for the
journey with a sternness that he had never known before. He was half
afraid of himself and yet proud. He felt curiously detached,
independent, and strong to face all that had weighed on him so
crushingly. . . . He noticed then that Annette had left him, and he
went in search of her. He found Serge just waking up, and felt a
sudden alarm.

"Annette?" he said.

"I thought she was with you."

"So she was. But she left me only a few minutes ago."

"Better find her then. She can't be gone far. I'm going to bathe. No
sign of the others?"

"I haven't seen them."

"All right. I'm going to bathe."

In a few seconds Serge had stripped and ran swiftly across the grass,
took a great leap head-foremost over a bramble-bush and splashed into
the water. Bennett stood envying him. Serge looked so strong, and he
moved so beautifully and easily.

He thought Annette must have gone to look for Minna, and walked slowly
into the woods. He had only gone a few yards when he half turned back.
He wanted to be alone. He half wanted to go and bathe with Serge, but
vanity forbade that, for he was ashamed that he could not swim. He
took Serge's prowess as a reproach to himself. That stung him into
moving, and he wandered down the path between the bracken until he
came to a rowan-tree in all the glory of its red berries. He stopped
and plucked a handful, thinking he would give them to Annette. He
passed on until he came to a little clearing full of wild flowers and
heather. These seemed to him more beautiful than the berries. He flung
them away and filled his hands with heather and wild flowers.

Looking up he could see the river shining through the trees and rich
green woods and blue hills beyond. He moved towards the river.

Presently he heard voices behind a hazel-tree and, peeping, he saw
Haslam and Minna sitting hand in hand, he murmuring, she smiling. Then
suddenly Haslam caught Minna to him and they kissed.

Bennett stole away, his heart fluttering. What he had seen sent a
great emotion rushing through him, but soon it withered and became
disgust. He felt a strange futile anger against the couple, an anger
so absurd that it mocked him. He had idealised the whole of the Folyat
family, and to see Minna like that degraded her. He did not see her in
any ridiculous aspect. His conception of love was too boyishly lofty
for that, and yet beneath his anger and his feeling of outrage was the
sense of the ridiculous, which must accompany any intrusion into the
private affairs of another.

Bennett had plenty of imagination, but he had not trained it to run in
harness with his observation. His imagination had, so far, only
coloured and inflamed the theories he had imbibed during his education
concerning human nature, and, as these theories nowhere met the facts,
he was perpetually being shocked by his observations. Having, as yet,
no experience, his theories remained unassailed. He believed that he
loved Gertrude Folyat with a pure and ennobling love, as a man should
love a woman; as, in fact, a man may love the Venus de Milo, a
creature of stone. A woman, according to Bennett's docile acceptance
of trite theory, must be a goddess of beauty, purity, and chastity,
with never a worldly desire or thought. The woman of his love, in
fine, must be the Virgin Mother.

That Gertrude was ten years his senior made it all the easier for him
to raise her to this exalted position in his idea. Having achieved
this with her, without any reference to her wishes or desires, he had
manufactured a halo for each of her sisters as her attendant saints.
He had never kissed Gertrude except as a devout person kisses Saint
Peter's toe. He had dreamed of kisses, and had, with unholy joy,
conceived a horror of himself as a terrible and immoral young man, so
that his vanity also was implicated in this catastrophe of Minna's
downfall. What, at bottom, troubled him most of all was the obvious
truth that Minna kissed Basil Haslam because she liked it.

Bennett had such a tussle with his reflections and emotions--he was
not far from calling them "the devil"--that he broke into a sweat, and
to seek air and coolness for his eyes he made straight for the bank of
the river. He had advanced only a few yards when he heard a voice
singing:

    _Bury me deeply when I am dead,
     With, a stone at my feet and a cross at my head;
     And bury me deep that I ne'er may return
     To the scene of my true love--the brown Scottish burn._

And he heard a splashing of water and, hiding behind the huge trunk of
a beech, he looked and saw Annette swinging on the branch of a
chestnut tree, her feet dangling to the water and kicking and
splashing. She was naked. Her hair was wet and hung limp down to her
shoulders. She was as happy as a bird.

Bennett stood rooted. His heart, his whole being melted, and turned
away reflections, troubled emotions, all power of thought. He gazed
and gazed, and knew that she was beautiful, swinging there under the
great leaves of the chestnut. Curiously he thought that she was not so
very unlike a boy. He was fascinated. Up and down she swung her
branch, scrambled to her feet and dived. . . . The spell was broken.
Bennett covered his face with his hands as he realised what he had
done. From the extreme of heat he turned very cold and shivered. He
found that he had let his heather and wild flowers fall, picked them
up, and rushed away, blindly. He lost himself and wandered for a long
time before he found again the grassy plot where they had lunched. At
the same moment Minna and Basil Haslam returned. Fry, Mary, and Serge
were sitting, and Annette was busy boiling the kettle for tea.
Entirely oblivious of every one else Bennett went straight up to
Annette and held out the wild flowers and heather.

"I brought you these," he said, without looking at her.

"The poor flowers are dead," replied Annette, "but the heather is
lovely. Thank you."

"Thank you," echoed Bennett.

Annette's hair was still down her back and wet. She caught him gazing
at it.

"I had such a lovely swim," she said.

"The woods," said Bennett, "are very beautiful."

Annette was really grateful to him for giving her the flowers. No one
had ever done as much for her before. She said:

"If you like you can row me home in the little boat."

Bennett was filled with alarm and he gazed miserably at her. He longed
to accept, but he was terrified. He was roused from his dilemma by
Basil Haslam, who, overhearing Annette's remark, called out:

"The dinghy's mine and Minna's."

This he said for the benefit of Herbert Fry, who turned and looked,
dog-like, upward at Minna.

A large chuckle escaped Serge.

* * *

In the evening, as they turned westward under a glorious sunset,
Bennett elected to sit in the bows of the bigger boat. Fry and Serge
rowed, and Annette and Minna sat in the stern. Bennett dreamed
vaguely. His blood ran warmly through his veins, his brain glowed, and
the wind and the water sang to him. He was satisfied as he had never
been. When he thought of Minna and Haslam it was with a drowsy,
delicious envy. To be together, gently gliding down the river with the
evening shadows chasing each other under the trees. To be together--in
a little boat--he and Annette . . . Annette . . . Annette . . .

In her lap Annette fingered the heather and wild flowers that Bennett
had given her and smiled softly to herself. Serge saw her smile, and
said:

"Happy?"

"Oh! yes."

To Bennett her voice sounded distant and very lovely, and it seemed to
him that she was speaking to him, for him.

Presently they passed the little boat nestling by the bank under a
plane-tree. Mary called out:

"You'll be late."

There came no reply.

They were late. It was half-past twelve before Minna reached home. The
household was asleep and Serge had stayed up for her. He said:

"Hardly wise to be so late."

"We missed the train."

"Two or three. Just as well you didn't miss the last."

Minna smiled.

"Why?"

"I don't think you ought to use Haslam as a decoy for Fry. He's too
good for it."

"I think you're a beast, Serge."

"Am I? We shall see."

"Fry's married. Frederic told me."

"I don't think that makes a ha'porth of difference--to you or to him."

"It isn't your affair."

"I agree."

"And, anyhow, you're quite wrong. Good-night."

"Good-night."



XIX

GERTRUDE

_Nous mettons l'infini dans l'amour. Ce n'est pas la faute des
femmes._
     ANATOLE FRANCE.

UPON a day Bennett Lawrie escaped early from his office, leaving his
day's work to be finished by a co-junior clerk on a promise to do as
much for him when he should require it. He was feeling very tired,
having had only a walk and two cigarettes for dinner, a practice so
common among junior clerks that they have a name for it--Flag Hash.
Twice during Gertrude's absence he had taken Annette and her mother to
the theatre--three dress-circle seats at five shillings--a heavy drain
upon his income, which was now one pound fifteen shillings a week,
paid monthly. His mother knew nothing of the advance of five shillings
a week that he had obtained on the third application with the plea
that he was engaged to be married. That helped a little, but, even so,
his position was serious, and at moments made him feel very sick at
heart. He had been making efforts to save money when Mrs. Folyat's
expression of regret that she had not been to the theatre plunged him
into the rash offer to pay for seats. He had no thought but that she
would pay for two of them at least. But no; Mrs. Folyat regarded it as
the feminine privilege to enjoy entertainment at the expense of the
masculine pocket.

Further cause had Bennett for anxiety in that his correspondence with
Gertrude had dwindled from the devoted daily letter to an effusion
with great difficulty squeezed out twice a week. That her letter had
come at longer and longer intervals comforted him not at all. He had
never asked testimony of devotion from his betrothed; it was enough
that she should so far stoop as to be engaged to him. . . . Also, as
he walked to the station through the dark railway arches, through Town
Hall Square with its statues of John Bright, the late Bishop, the
Prince Consort, and a local philanthropic sweater, past the Infirmary,
he was dogged by an unhappy realisation that it gave him no pleasure
to be going to meet Gertrude. She had written him a romantic little
note:


"Dear, I am coming back to you. I have no thought but for you. I shall
arrive by the 5.45. Yours, G. F."


Bennett rehearsed the meeting. He would greet her warmly and with
dignity. He would kiss her hand; not her cheek. He would then silently
convey that he was fully aware of his delinquences, but asked no
pardon for them. Scoundrel as he had shown himself, he would have her
"pass on and thank God she was rid of a knave." . . . However, he
reflected that upon former occasions his most eloquent silence had
conveyed nothing at all to Gertrude, and he began to rehearse the
scene from another standpoint. He would say; "You bade me come. I have
come. In spite of what has happened, in spite of my sins of thought
and deed, I will be loyal. I will keep my troth." That was better, but
not altogether appropriate from a station platform. He was still
rehearsing when the train came in. He stood by the engine thinking
that there he would be sure not to miss his quarry. There was a
considerable crowd to meet the train, for in those days a journey from
London was an important affair, and travellers were welcomed by their
nearest and dearest, glad that they had escaped the perils of the way,
hopeful that they had not succumbed to its fatigues, and mindful of
the presents that would be in bag or trunk. . . . Bennett Lawrie
thought not at all of presents. He was only bothered because he had
not yet discovered the right mode of address.

The image of Gertrude that he had always chivalrously borne upon his
mind, and what he was pleased to call his heart, bore very little
resemblance to her features and figure. It happened that in London she
had bought a new hat of a new fashion, so that in the throng he did
not recognise her. She saw his blank eyes upon her and petulantly
walked past him without giving a sign. She also had been rehearsing
their meeting, but she had solved all difficulties by relying upon the
dog-like devotion that he had always given her. He would, she had
thought, come forward with his sad eyes glowing, take her by the hand
and with that solemn dignity of his stoop, kiss, and, if he lingered
long enough over it, be kissed in return. He would take her baggage,
and carry it, as he always carried her parcels or her umbrella, as
though it were a Divine trust, and they would take a four-wheeled cab.
By that time one or other would have found the correct words or the
inevitable gesture of love, and all would be as it had been.

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but, where the heart is not
very deeply implicated, absence sometimes has the effect of driving
love out altogether. Lovers like to vow that they will never change,
but they vow the impossible, wherein lies half their pleasure. As
Gertrude Folyat had gone farther and farther away from her boy-lover,
she had seen him dwindling in stature, but with a microscopic clarity.
Having a very human dislike of seeing things as they were presented to
her she pumped up a sea of sentiment, dived into it and saw blurred
the newly-revealed figure. That sufficed until in the gaieties of
Folkestone--she never questioned the gaiety of what was presented to
her for pleasure--and the excitement and opulence of life at Sydenham,
near the Crystal Palace, she was able to forget him altogether. It had
been in a sudden dread that he might be injured and morose when she
next saw him that on the eve of her departure she had written to bid
him come to meet her. She thought that would please him. As soon as
she had done so she regretted it. It seemed to place him in the
stronger position which she had always striven to reserve for herself.
Her visits had shaken her resignation to marriage with him, for she
had been staying with snobs and was ashamed that he should be only a
clerk, but all the same she wished to cling to him to avoid solicitude
and the horrible possibility which had begun to shadow her of no
marriage at all. She told herself that she loved Bennett, and the
thought of love was quite enough for her. She never doubted that the
thing itself was hers. She was not very intelligent.

It gave her a curious pleasure to ignore Bennett's presence on the
station platform. She had never thought of being angry with him, but
when anger took possession of her she welcomed and fed it, for it
solved her problem. She would overwhelm him with her displeasure and
enslave him with a tender reconciliation.

She drove home alone in a four-wheeled cab to Fern Square and enjoyed
an extremely pleasant evening with her mother talking about the
William Folyats and the Folkestone Folyats, their friends and their
refined manner of living. The house in Fern Square struck her as dingy
and undistinguished, and she did not trouble to conceal her
impression. She had brought a present for each member of her family,
except Minna, and, being rather warmly received, complained that no
one had come to meet her.

"We thought Bennett darling would be there," said Minna.

"Was he not?" asked Mrs. Folyat.

Bennett arrived to answer the question. He too had found in anger the
solvent of his qualms. He was one of those people who suffer cold
tortures in sudden glimpses of their dead selves, and as he had paced
up and down the station long after the crowd to meet the London train
had dispersed he saw himself in his old relation with his betrothed,
callow, docile, sheep-like; in a word, unfledged. The day on the river
with Serge and Annette--(the rest counted for nothing in his memory of
it)--had wrought a greater change in him that he knew. The shrill
resentment at his old self that suddenly swept through and took
possession of him was his first intimation of it. It was rather more
than he could bear, and he shifted the burden of his animosity from
himself to Gertrude. If she had not come by the train, well and good.
She might perhaps have been kept in London, though a telegram could
have saved him from the discomfort of a long wait at the station. He
had risked incurring the displeasure of his senior at the office to
please her. If she had come and had not looked out for him, that was
not lightly to be borne. His anger was just. She should be made to
feel that he was not--so he phrased it--"dirt beneath her feet." He
resolved that he would not go to Fern Square until she wrote to him.

This resolve oozed away almost as soon as it was made. He had no money
to pay for an evening's entertainment, and, if he did not go to Fern
Square he must perforce go home and spend the evening with his mother
and sisters.

The hobgoblin opened the door to him.

"Has Miss Gertrude returned?" he asked.

"Oopstairs," said the hobgoblin, and she shuffled away to the kitchen,
leaving him to close the door.

He went upstairs to find the whole family assembled, with the
exception of Frederic, who was at the Clibran-Bells. They all seemed
so jolly that he felt that he had done wrong in coming and wished he
had adhered to his first resolve. He felt that he was intruding, and
by sheer force of the numbers present his old part of the humble,
devoted and grateful lover was pressed upon him. In no other rôle
could he find room in the company. Once again circumstances had played
into Gertrude's hands and she became, what to her family she had
always been, the romantic mistress of an unhappy lowly lover.

Before very long their own skill in the playing of these parts and the
general feeling of the family had driven them out of the room into the
peace and solitude of the study. There silence fell upon them and they
stole uneasy glances at each other. Gertrude sat in her father's great
chair, Bennett stood with his back against the mantelpiece under the
portrait of Gertrude's paternal grandmother.

"I went to meet you," said Bennett at length.

"I didn't see you."

"If you had looked for me you must have seen me. I am tall enough."

There was considerable irritation behind his words.

"Am I then," said Gertrude, "am I so very short that you could not see
me?"

"I waited," returned Bennett. "You didn't."

"I did. I waited quite five minutes."

"I waited half an hour."

Gertrude took her courage in both hands and said:

"If you had cared for me, you would have seen me."

"I waited," mumbled Bennett, obstinately.

They were silent again. Gertrude began to feel uneasy. They had
quarrelled before, but always when she had touched on his affection
for her his opposition had been broken. She could not take his
stubbornness seriously even now. A little maliciously she was
thinking:

"After all he is ten years younger than I am."

Unhappily for her, Bennett, with more malice, was thinking:

"After all, she is ten years older than I am."

For the first time he had become dimly aware that the advantage lay
with himself. He said:

"I left the office earlier than I had any right to do to meet you. You
could not have looked for me."

"Why will you go on arguing about it?"

"I've no wish to argue."

He only wished to avoid silence, to avoid facing what was irresistibly
being borne in upon him, that all his relations with this woman had
been a phantasm, a thing of the mists of yesterday. It was a hateful
shock to all his theories, to all his ideals of constancy and
single-minded devotion. He had worshipped this woman, set her--(at her
own suggestion, though he did not know it)--on a pedestal, and lo! a
day had come when she was no longer there. The pedestal remained, but
the goddess was spirited away. He was very unhappy.

Gertrude was exasperated. She could have slapped him with infinite
pleasure. She tapped with her foot on the ground.

"You are being too ridiculous," she said.

"Am I ever anything else?" returned Bennett, with a sudden plunge into
self-torment.

Pat came the reply:

"Never!"

Bennett felt savage, turned on her and cried:

"Now I know what you think of me."

Gertrude was sorely tempted to let him think so, but she had in mind
the difficulty of confessing to the women upstairs, her mother and
three sisters, her return to unplighted maidenhood. She could not face
that. She began to mop at her eyes, ate her words humbly, and declared
that he had made her utterly miserable. She had so looked forward to
seeing him again. It had made her so happy to be with him in the study
once more, like old times, and all he could do was to snarl and growl;
and if he was going to be like that before, what would he be like
after. . . . Bennett pacified her as best he could, abused himself,
said that he was not worthy to touch the hem of her garment, and, just
as she was prepared for the final redeeming sinking into tenderness,
amazed her--(himself too)--by announcing that he must go and help
Annette prepare the supper.

He left her gasping. She hated him in that moment. Never, never, would
she forgive him. All the same she followed him. He was almost as
aghast at his conduct as she, and it was a relief to him to see her
enter the kitchen before he had time to explain his entry to Annette.
He stood and smiled weakly--a little vacantly--and, with a forced
joviality, he said: "We--we've come to help you with the supper."
Gertrude took his arm and said, "Yes, she had come to show Annette how
to make a real Indian curry as Uncle William had it done, according to
a native recipe, at Sydenham." Annette explained that she was not
making a curry, and had not the ingredients for it, but she said how
glad she would be of their help, as she was rather late. Bennett and
Gertrude selected activities which were necessarily separate. Bennett
chose to help at the oven. Gertrude took the heaped-up tray into the
dining-room.

Bennett was filled with an extraordinary elation as he saw her go. He
had asserted himself more forcibly than he had intended, and, so far
as he could see, with a success beyond all anticipation. It went to
his head, he brandished a piece of bread on the end of a toasting-fork
and chanted to himself:

"I shall be twenty next March, twenty-one next year, twenty-two the
year after--twenty-nine in . . . But there. How old are you Annette?"

"Nineteen."

"Have you been confirmed?"

"Of course. Ages ago. At school."

"I wasn't confirmed until I was sixteen. It made a great change in my
life."

"You must be very glad to have Gertrude back again."

"I am." He let the toasting-fork drop against the grate. Annette
rushed at him:

"You mustn't burn it. It's for pa's toast-and-water. It must never be
burned."

The tricksy spirit which is ever lying in wait for the moment when a
man is swollen with vanity pounced on Bennett, and out of buffoonery
and high spirits he dodged Annette and held the toasting-fork out of
her reach. She clutched at it; he dodged again. In her eagerness she
tripped and lunged against him. His arm went round her shoulder and he
caught her arm. . . . They stood like that for a second and then he
found that he could not let her go. His hand gripped tight and hurt
her, but she too had passed from laughing excitement to another
strange and melting emotion. . . .

She could see the door; he could not. She saw Gertrude, and wrenched
away. He followed her, and in a curious strangled voice that he hardly
knew for his own he cried:

"Annette . . . I . . ."

But Annette had rushed out of the kitchen and he was alone with
Gertrude. He picked up the toasting-fork and held the bread before the
glowing coals.

"What are you doing?" asked Gertrude.

"Making toast for your father's toast-and-water."

"So I see. And what was Annette doing?"

"Annette was showing me how to make it."

Gertrude drew herself up heroically, and with what she took for
dramatic intensity she said:

"Bennett, do you love me?"

"No," said he, startled into truth.

Gertrude sat down with emphatic suddenness. His answer had crumpled
her up, but also it acted boomerang-fashion, flew back and knocked the
wind out of Bennett. (In a world of liars truth always acts like
that.) He was the first to recover and he approached Gertrude with
contrition.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I don't feel myself to-night. Queer things
going on inside me and outside. It isn't quite true what I said just
now. I do love you. I do, really. But love isn't what I thought it
was. I don't know what it is, but it isn't what I thought it was."

Miserably enough Gertrude murmured:

"Are you in love with Annette?"

Hotly and indignantly he answered:

"No, I am not."

"But you . . ."

"I was not making love to Annette. It was an accident."

Gertrude jumped at the occasion for magnanimity and said:

"I believe you."

"Thank you." His heart leaped within him, and privately to his own
innermost conscience he whispered delightedly:

"I am in love with Annette; in love, in love, in love with Annette."

This new idea, the admission of the new fact, so absorbed him that he
became oblivious of Gertrude. He had not even any regret for the
months of folly through which she had dragged him. He was ashamed, not
because he had turned from Gertrude, but because he had desired
Annette.

True love can never tolerate secrecy. The true lover must cry his
emotion from the house-tops, for a new glory has come to the world and
it is well that all men should know of it.

A prophet of those days has said: "The woman should not venture to
hope for or think for perfectness in him she would love, but _he_
should believe the maiden to be purity and perfection absolute and
unqualified."--The shadow of that prophet had been on Gertrude and
Bennett, unknown to them, and they had gone to the God of Love and
asked him to make up the prescription, with this result, that with one
little word of truth he had kicked down the slender props of their
castle in Spain and brought him to the reality of himself, her to
emptiness. She suffered most, for she had a highly developed instinct
of possession, lived altogether in her possessions, and was left like
a dismantled hulk when any of them were taken from her.

She wept copiously, and Bennett tried to comfort her. He kissed her,
and found a sort of pleasure in the salt savour of her tears. He
soothed her at last, and with more common sense than he had
anticipated she said only:

"You won't let anybody know just yet."

She drew the trumpery little engagement-ring he had given her--(she
had not worn it at Folkestone or Sydenham)--from her finger and laid
it on the table. He took it up, and after a moment's hesitation,
restored it to its place.

"I want you," he said, returning to the old romantic mood that had
served them so well in the past, "I want you always to be my friend."

"Always. Always." replied Gertrude with no less fervour, and she took
his hand and pressed it against her cheek and kissed it.

She was smiling and cheerful when Annette returned. Bennett took
another slice of bread and toasted it a beautiful brown, perfect for
the toast-and-water of Annette's father.



XX

EDUCATION

_As the great end of human society is to become wiser and better, this
ought, therefore, to be the principal view of every man, in every
station of life._
     THE BACHELOR'S CLUB

BENNETT LAWRIE'S education began at the age of six, when, with his
sister, Phoebe, he was every morning taken by Tibby to a little dame's
school where he learned the alphabet, the multiplication table,
writing, and the stories of the Bible. He was also allowed to draw and
taught to embroider little mats with rough silk and to make balls with
pieces of wool. In five years he made a great many balls, but he was
not allowed to play with them, for they were given to the poor.

When he was ten he passed from this establishment to Wellington House,
where there were no girls, but a great many rough boys who frightened
him. Among them were his two elder brothers, who afforded him no
protection but rather supplied the others with material for teasing.
Bennett could not understand that small boys should fight merely out
of bluster and cockiness. He only wanted to fight when rage mastered
him, and then he was out to kill. He only had one fight at that school
and that was enough, for he cut open his adversary's eye and tore the
lobe of his ear away from his scalp. Thereafter he suffered from
collective rather than individual bullying.

He learned arithmetic as far as fractions, algebra as far as surds,
the first, second and third books of Euclid, English composition and
literature, French grammar, composition and easy translations, Latin
grammar, composition and easy translations, Scripture (the books of
Samuel, Kings, and the Acts of the Apostles in rotation), geography,
history (Tudor and Stuarts alternatively), elocution and dancing.
Without being in the least interested in anything, he had no
difficulty in memorising for the purposes of each day the tasks that
were set before him. He was said to be intelligent, industrious and
eager in his work and generally satisfactory in his conduct. At the
end of each year he found himself with a prize, though he knew not how
or why, and his mother became quite amiable to him. There remained one
member of her husband's family with whom she had not (as yet)
quarrelled, namely Bennett's Aunt Louisa, an ex-governess who had
retired upon receipt of a legacy and taken up her residence in our
town in order to be near her brothers, James the failure, whom she
loved, and Keith the successful merchant, whom she both feared and
disliked. This gentle lady offered to pay Bennett's fees, twelve
guineas a year, at the Grammar School, and thither accordingly he
repaired with a brand new handbag and a quaking heart to find himself
one of five hundred boys, of all shapes and sizes and classes and
nationalities and religions--the town in little. In his first term he
was in the Lower Third Form, and sat between the son of a cab-driver
and the son of a millionaire mill-owner.

It does not matter very much what the young are taught, but it does
matter enormously who teaches them. The curriculum of the Grammar
School was the curriculum of Wellington House administered in larger
and more unpleasant doses. Games were not compulsory, and only one
hour per week was allowed for them. What the parents wanted and what
they got was a good, hard, thorough grounding and no nonsense. There
may have been an ideal in the place once upon a time--(it was founded
by a Bishop)--but that ideal had produced no offspring, and there were
no little ideals to grow up with Bennett's generation. Science had
been added to the available subjects to be crammed into the boys'
heads, for the voice of Huxley was loud in the land; but though
Bennett devoted two hours a week to physics and chemistry, he never
got beyond a vague notion that light and heat were not all they
seemed, and a jocular idea that chemistry meant making a bad smell.

He was moved up regularly once a year, but he learned no history
beyond George III, he devoted four terms to the study of the Acts of
the Apostles, he dropped Latin in favour of German; having learned by
heart the rivers and capitals of Germany, France, Italy and Spain, and
drawn maps of all of them, he left geography behind, and having
studied the Tudors and the Stuarts until he was sick of them, he was
suddenly, by promotion, switched away from England, and directed to
apply himself to the Thirty Years' and the Seven Years' Wars in
Germany. Having partially grasped what they were about he was promoted
into the middle of the French Revolution. Robespierre was not beheaded
when he left school, and he never connected the upheaval in France
with the rise of Napoleon.

His instruction in languages was entirely grammarian, and he had no
notion but that the works of Corneille, Racine, Goethe and Schiller
and Gustav Freytag might have been written expressly to be annotated
by the various Masters and Bachelors of Arts whose names appeared on
the title-pages of his text-books. He drew skeletons, profiles of
girls and caricatures in the margins, and beyond cramming enough of
the notes and the dictionary to satisfy his masters he took no further
interest in them. He was never asked to do so.

His career and mental development were exactly those of ninety-five
per cent. of the boys who passed through the institution, except that
he suffered more from fear. Fear was the directing force of the
machinery. The High Master was a bearded man with a huge voice, with
which he bullied his assistants. The senior members of the staff
bullied the junior members, and, without being given any standard of
right and wrong, the boys were punished, punished, punished:
detentions, impositions, enforced drills, thrashings. The school was
enormously successful, and everybody was immensely satisfied with it,
though there was never a boy grown man who could look back with
pleasure on the years spent in its toils. There were periodical
attempts made to pump up the spirit of loyalty--_esprit de corps_--but
they always flagged under the general listlessness. The boys
understood that they attended day after day to be educated, a process
which they regarded as extremely unpleasant, as indeed it was, and
only tolerable in that its end was always in sight. The clever boys
who were kept until they were nineteen and stuffed for Oxford and
Cambridge and the professions were pitied rather than admired. There
was nothing admirable in Oxford and Cambridge to those who knew
nothing of them, save the second and third-class men who were so poor
as to be glad of the miserable pittance granted them for the
instruction of generations of Bennett Lawries and the sons of
cab-drivers and millionaire mill-owners.

After his first term in the Fifth Form Mrs. Lawrie quarrelled with
Bennett's aunt Louisa. Her subsidy was withdrawn, and Bennett left
school with a mind untrained except in memory, and stored only with a
curious litter of knowledge absolutely unrelated to the facts of his
existence.

Education, like charity, should begin at home. Bennett had spent
eleven years in being educated, but he had been taught nothing at all
of the place in which he lived. He had not been told why it was, what
it was, nor for what purpose it existed and grew and expanded. He knew
nothing of its history except that it had once had a Latin name and
had been occupied by the Romans, and that Oliver Cromwell had passed
through or near it with his Roundheads. Everything that was told him
was presented to him in such a desiccated form that his gorge rose at
it and he could swallow it only with an effort. In a city of Puritans
it seemed meet and right that education, like religion and life,
should be made as unpleasant as possible.

The only real education that Bennett ever got was in his daily walk to
and fro over the two miles that separated his home from the school. He
could cover the distance in three ways: either he could go through
slums and under factories and engineering shops along the low ground,
or he could take the high ground behind the Albert Station and soon
come to suburbs and the streets where the middle classes gathered, or
he could pass through the Jews' quarter down by the Assize Courts and
the gaol. Most often he chose the third way. The mysterious,
large-headed, thick-featured creatures with their oily, beady eyes
exercised a strange fascination over him. He liked their Kosher shops,
their bills written in weird characters, the women with their hard
stiff wigs, the men with their queer gnarled legs and their feet
loosely hinged at the ankles. He always looked at their feet, because
a boy at school had once pointed out to him how the Jews always wore
their boots down on the outside edge of the sole. He never knew why
the Jews were there in such large numbers, but they interested him.
They were romantic. All the cleverest boys at school were Jews. They
seemed to learn everything with an extraordinary facility. . . .
Almost his only friend at school was a Jew named Kraus, whose father
and mother were in Roumania, and at intervals they would send him over
a hamper containing queer fishes and black olives and rose-leaf jam,
and then Bennett would go home with Kraus and have an orgy. Once Kraus
gave him some unleavened bread, and Bennett kept it as a curiosity,
and frightened himself with pretending that the tragedy of the
Passover was come again, and that the angels would not mark his house
because he was not a Jew and had no right to the bread.

Kraus had an aunt who was a musician and a singer. She sang so sweetly
that Bennett was moved to tears and fell violently in love with her,
though he would not admit it to himself, for all thought of love
disgusted him. It was Kraus who revealed to Bennett the mystery of his
birth, and in the filthiest way possible explained to him the process
by which he had his being. It took Bennett some time to recover from
the despair into which the revelation threw him, but it never occurred
to him to doubt the truth of his friend's statements. The filthiness
was in the world and not in Kraus. They became more intimate, and
their talk was almost always dirty, though innocent. It was a
swaggering pose, their way of equalising matters with the bawdiness of
the world that lay before them.

Bennett had no corrective. No grown person ever held out a hand to
save him from his dark thoughts and uneasy desires when they came to
him, nor troubled to enquire into what pitfalls he might be tumbling.
Instructed by Kraus he went the way of all flesh and lost his peace of
mind and the bloom of his boyhood. All around him he saw darkness and
ugliness, but never any beauty. The one place in his daily walks that
his imagination fastened on was the gaol, and he dreamed of prisoners
and policemen and arrestments.

His friendship with Kraus lasted for three years, during which Bennett
fell in and out of love (with absurd chivalry and nobility) with his
sisters' friends. The rupture came when one day Kraus filled the whole
of their walk home with an account--largely invented--of an adventure
with a loose factory girl whom he had encountered in the street
seeking whom she might devour. A black abyss yawned at Bennett's feet,
his brain whirled, and he said:

"You'll go to Hell."

Kraus replied with an obscene jingle which they had often chanted
together, and offered to call for Bennett that night.

"I don't ever want to see you again," said Bennett, and he washed his
hands of Kraus. Thereafter for the short remaining period of his term
at school he avoided the Jewish quarter and took the high road through
the most respectable-seeming middle-class streets.

The hours of the school were five, three in the morning and two in the
afternoon, with three-quarters of an hour for lunch. This was not
provided eatably in the school-building, and as, for most of the boys,
the mid-day meal was the most serious of the day, they went, according
to their means, to the various restaurants in the locality. Bennett
was allowed sixpence a day, and used to repair to one of three or four
cheap eating-houses, all in cellars. Here he saw men and youths of the
type with which his future life would be spent--warehousemen and
clerks, all scraping as much off their food allowance as they could to
pay for beer and betting and billiards and tobacco. They were all dull
and timid and white-faced, foul-mouthed very many of them, and the
conditions under which their food was placed before them were so
uninviting that they hurried through their meals as quickly as
possible. On the whole Bennett envied them because they were not at
school and were independent and doing work for which they were
paid. . . Very often he felt too timid or too listless to eat, and he
saved the sixpence for his own purposes. When he did that he found it
very hard to keep awake during the two hours in the afternoon, and
very often he had his homework increased by a long imposition.

In the holidays he was required to read one of the romances of Sir
Walter Scott with a view to examination on them when the school
re-opened. This begot in him a loathing for Sir Walter from which he
never recovered. He was always being examined--every term, every
midterm; in some subjects, once a week. As information had been forced
into him piecemeal, so piecemeal it was pumped out of him. . . .
Perhaps this is a wise provision. Perhaps, having fed their little
boys' minds with bran for weeks on end, it is merciful of the
pedagogues at the end of term to administer an emetic. Every term the
examinations cleaned Bennett out, and by regular repetition of this
process he was no further on at the end of five years than he was at
the beginning. They even tried to rob him of his delight in
Shakespeare by making him learn the stupid hotch-potch of the notes of
some Cambridge pundit instead of helping him to discover the glory of
the verses and confirming him in his taste for it.

Nothing was ever done to help him to understand the processes of his
own existence, or to direct the forces stirring in him, or to pick his
way through the whirling maze of divers emotions in which every now
and then he lost himself. He was affectionate; no appeal was made to
his affections. He was romantic; no food was forthcoming for his
hunger. Spiritually and emotionally he was starved; mentally he was
grossly and unsuitably fed. His was the average condition of the
average boy in the most touching, perhaps the most beautiful period of
the average man's life.

He was told that he must be confirmed. Like the minister who prepared
him, he understood nothing of the significance of the ceremony, but
contact with one or two religiously minded young men released the
pent-up emotion in him and it rushed out in such a flood that he was
like to drown. He clutched at the first cause that came to hand,
turned to the first manly and inspiring personality that he
encountered, the rector of St. Saviour's, and he embraced the High
Church creed and all its tenets, prejudices, and shibboleths.

Only an accident had saved him from the worst consequences of his
education.



XXI

MRS. ENTWISTLE'S HEART

_God's rarest blessing is, after all, a good woman._
     RICHARD FEVEREL.

WITH the best intentions in the world Francis could not overcome the
inevitable dislike with which Frederic's mere presence inspired him.
He could not bring himself to speak more than three words to him or to
make any inquiry into his affairs. Frederic also suffered under the
constraint of the secret they shared, and relieved the situation by
absenting himself as much as possible from the house. His fiancée made
that easy by her extensive demands upon his time and he became more a
member of her family than of his own.

Francis kept his word with Annie Lipsett, and every week sent her ten
shillings, and, knowing that his wife opened his letters, got her to
write, when she had anything to say, to Serge. His conscience was very
uneasy about the whole affair, but he knew that if he did not do what
he was doing no one else would, and he could not bring himself to
righteous acceptance of the conclusions of his premises, that, after
all, the girl had brought it on herself, and, like hundreds of others,
must fight through the consequences alone and unaided.

"If I knew the hundreds of others," he said to himself, "I could not
possibly help them all. I could not afford it. . . . Can I afford to
help this young woman? . . . I cannot, but I must."

He submitted to this moral imperative, but he could not away with the
idea that he was encouraging immorality. That idea became fixed, an
obsession. It worried him so much that he decided to go and see the
young woman and make quite sure as to the state of her mind, to
demonstrate if necessary that though things were being made
comfortable and easy for her in this world she could not hope to
escape the punishment for her sin in the next.

Accordingly one Saturday he resolved to take the ten shillings himself
instead of sending them by post. Annie Lipsett was staying in a farm
labourer's cottage near a village some fifteen miles away to the
south. It was a keen autumn day when Francis walked along the lanes
between hedges aflame with hips and haws and red blackberry leaves,
and green with holly berries, and he asked himself why he did not
devote every Saturday afternoon to a walk in the country. The cold air
filled his lungs and the wind blew in his beard and brought the colour
to his round cheeks. The trees were burning with colour, the sun shone
scarcely warm through the soft mist that lay over the country-side.
. . . Decidedly, he must often take such walks and bring Annette. How
she would love the orchards, glowing with red apples and plums, and
yellow with pears, and the cows and the green fields and the little
rivers. Annette would love them all. They would make a habit of it,
every Saturday, and they would see all the seasons come and live and
pass.

As he approached the cottage where Annie Lipsett was staying he felt
less interested in the state of her mind and more concerned to see
herself and discover how she was keeping in health. Health, he
thought, was most important, perhaps more important than anything
else. "Grant us in health and wealth long to live." He recited the
words aloud, and his mind commented that wealth meant well-being, not
a fine house and raiment and a substantial account at the bankers.
That struck him with all the force of an original discovery, and he
began to think that his life was not perhaps such a complete failure
as he had grown used to thinking it. His arrival at the gate of the
cottage cut short his speculations, and he wrenched himself back to
the problem immediately before him, the bringing of this sinful soul
to repentance. Yes; he must make her see that her sins would only be
forgiven her on condition of full repentance. He felt fully convinced
of it in that moment, and did his best to make himself feel miserable
in spite of the invitation to happiness extended to him by the little
grass path leading up to the door of the white cottage, and the
Michaelmas daisies and autumn lilies and purple asters growing in the
borders and the heavily laden fruit trees in the tiny orchard.

He walked up the grass path and knocked at the low oaken door. In the
house he heard a bustling and a rustling, and presently the door was
opened to him by the woman of the house. She was enormously fat,
red-faced and comely. She said:

"Tha can coom in. Annie be oot in't fields gatherin' noots. Tha'll be
Mr. Folyat. Tha's a gradely mon. Coom in."

Francis followed her into the little low oak-beamed room, spick and
span and clean as a new pin. There was a picture of Queen Victoria on
the walls, five texts, and a grocer's almanac, horribly reproducing in
oleographic colour a pre-Raphaelite picture of Christ knocking at a
door. The woman, Mrs. Entwistle, brewed a pot of tea and chattered:

"She be that well, tha'd think she were going to make no more fuss
than a beast. Eeh! The way t' bloom 'ave coom to her cheeks and 't
light to 'er eyes ye'd say a woman was all t' better for carryin'.
. . ."

Francis began to take the same delight in the enormous woman that had
come to him from the sights of his walk. She was so sane and
comfortable.

"Eeh," she said, "It was a good thing to get 'er away from 'er mother.
I never could do wi' them stringy little women. A 'ard time? 'Course
she's 'ad a 'ard time. So's everybody, but you don't want the world to
go grizzlin about it."

Annie came in. She was very pretty, with a new soft pride in her eyes.
She was very big. She took Francis's hand and clung to it, and with
eyes and voice together she said:

"Thank you."

"Glad to see you, my dear," said he. "Glad to see you looking so
well."

She sat down. They had tea, and when they had done Francis intimated
that he wished to speak to Annie alone. Mrs. Entwistle took down a
yoke from the wall and went off to fetch water from the well. Francis
hugged his knee and read several times over a text which ran: "Beloved
now are we, the sons of God." It was so illuminated that it was
difficult to read: _we_ looked like _me_, and _sons_ like _guns_. Then
he asked if he might smoke.

"Surely," said Annie.

Francis lit his pipe and the tobacco tasted very good.

"You have been happy here," he said.

"Oh, yes. Very happy."

"I've brought you your ten shillings."

"Thank you."

He gave her the coin and she put it in a little purse. Francis found
himself at a standstill. He forced himself to speak. He was alarmed at
the quiescence of his conscience under the influence of Mrs. Entwistle
and the garden and the radiant thankfulness in Annie's face. Her
gratitude to him made it very difficult for him to perform what he
conceived to be his duty. A humorous gleam shot through his brain, and
he began to think himself a little absurd; but he pricked his
conscience and it stifled the gleam. He looked very serious as he
said:

"I suppose--I hope you realise that you have no right to be happy. You
are bringing a child into the world in sin . . ."

He could not go on. He saw that he had hurt the girl to the quick.

"I'm sorry," he said hurriedly. "It is very difficult. I only wanted
to be sure that you realised, that you knew, that--that . . ."

With bowed head and with her hands in her lap, Annie said in a low
voice:

"I do know all that, sir. I thought that myself, sir, when I first
come. Every night I cried because I was so wicked, and I thought I
should never be forgiven, and mother had said such awful things to me.
But Mr. Folyat came . . ."

"Frederic?"

"No, sir, Mr. Serge. He comes every Saturday. He paints all the
afternoon and then comes here in the evening. Sometimes he walks a
great many miles. He come and said I must never have any thought in my
head that wasn't happy, that I must never for a single instant let
myself be afraid, for the sake of the child. He said everything that
happened to me happened to the child too. And I've tried and I have
been happy, so I know it's true. He says: 'What's done is done, and
people aren't wicked all the time or good all the time.' I don't
understand everything he says, but I always feel better when he comes,
and I don't think of anything but it. I want it to love me . . ."

"Of course, of course," said Francis. "It is very important for you to
be well, but you must not imagine . . ."

"I couldn't take money from you, sir, if you thought me wicked. I have
been wicked, but I'm not wicked any longer. I couldn't do--what I did,
ever again. I couldn't be so silly . . ."

Francis thought to himself: "I must make her appreciate the peril
through which her soul has passed. . . . She seems to be leaving her
soul out of consideration altogether. I must make her see that she has
a soul and can only find true happiness in its salvation through
. . ." Once more he drew back from the contemplation of difficulties
which he felt were too intricate for him. He said:

"My dear, be sure I think no ill of you. I only desired, my only
thought was . . . is . . . has been to secure you as far as possible
from the temporal consequences of your--er--betrayal." He breathed
heavily. Then he fell back on his natural candour and added: "I came
meaning to say a great deal, but I find that I have nothing to say. I
find it quite impossible to take a professional view of your
situation. You must forgive me. I cannot help feeling that I have been
guilty of an impertinence."

Annie still hung her head and plucked at her fingers. She looked at
the clock and said:

"Mr. Serge ought to be here now, sir. He's generally here before this.
There aren't many gentlemen like Mr. Serge, are there, sir?"

"I hardly know," replied Francis. "I hardly know, but my experience of
the world has been very limited. . . . Do you tend the garden
yourself?"

"Yes, sir. I help Mrs. Entwistle. I've learned such a lot about the
garden since I've been here."

"I had a garden, once, in my old living." He described the garden at
St. Withans, and the exercise of visualising the lawns and borders and
the orchard under the church-tower and waking the faint echo of his
old joy in it won him back to greater confidence. He talked of flowers
and bees and birds until there came a knock at the door, when, with
joyful alacrity, Annie hurried to open it. Serge came in with
paint-box and sketch-book strapped together and slung over his
shoulder. He nodded to his father and sat down by the table. Annie
brewed him fresh tea and he said:

"Jolly place this?"

"Delightful," replied Francis.

"Don't you think she's looking well?"

"Very. I should hardly have known her again."

"She's in good hands. Mrs. Entwistle has taken her to her heart--me
too, and if you come often enough she'll find room for you. It's
delightfully warm and comfortable and roomy. I never knew such a
heart. You meet all sorts of delightful people in it, all the nicest
people in the Bible, and hundreds of children, and everybody loves
everybody else. Don't they Annie?"

Annie blushed:

"That's only Mr. Serge's nonsense, Mr. Folyat. He goes on talking like
that until Mrs. Entwistle shakes with laughter so that the chair
you're sitting in creaks. . . . Have you had a good day, Mr. Serge?"

"You shall tell me." Serge produced his sketches and Annie looked at
them.

"That's a lovely one," she said.

"May I see it?" asked Francis.

She handed him a sheet of paper on which was a drawing of a baby in an
apple-tree with the wind blowing in its hair and bringing new wonder
into its starry eyes.

"Mr. Serge does me one every week," said Annie simply. "I keep them
all."

Francis held it up close to his face and peered over the top of it at
Serge. Very solemnly he returned the drawing to Annie. . . . A moment
or two later he leaned forward and said:

"I can remember you when you were like that, Serge. It's a long time
ago, and so many things have happened since then. You were very big
and strong, and you used to laugh a great deal. . . . I remember your
being ill, and then, when you were a little older, I remember your
asking me all sorts of questions that I couldn't answer. And then,
quite suddenly, you weren't a baby any longer and then you became a
boy . . ."

"And then I went away. That is the whole history of any father and any
son. Queer, isn't it? . . . And then we never met again until we came
across each other in Mrs. Entwistle's heart."

Annie looked puzzled. There were several moments of silence, warm and
comforting and, to Francis, very sweet. Serge laughed.

"After this," he said, "we may expect to hear that Mrs. Entwistle has
been caught up into Heaven. As a matter of fact she lives there all
the time, because, though you wouldn't think it to look at her, she is
a sort of a fairy."

"I should like to be back before dark," said Francis.

"Three minutes," answered Serge, "and I'll go with you." He turned to
Annie. "I've found work for you as soon as you're ready. A friend of
mine has a farm six miles away. He lives with his sister and he wants
an assistant housekeeper."

Annie had never taken her eyes from him since he had come into the
room. Her eyes now filled with tears, and her hands made a touching
little gesture, almost imperceptible, of gratitude towards him. Serge
went on:

"He's not a rich man, but he'll pay you enough, so that you can feel
independent and always be putting by a little."

Annie found her voice but she remained inarticulate. Francis was
curiously relieved when Serge rose to go. He held out his hand to her.
She took it in both hers and said:

"I know. I must have made you very unhappy. You have been very good to
me."

"Not at all. Not at all," said Francis huskily. She turned to Serge:

"You'll come again? It won't be long now."

"Next Saturday."

"It might be before then."

"I'll come on Monday."

"Thank you."

Francis found his way out into the garden. Through the window he saw
Serge take the girl into his arms and kiss her. More than ever he felt
that he had been impertinent.

The sun was setting and the mist had almost cleared as Serge joined
him. In the west the sky was crimson, straked with indigo clouds.
Serge took his father's arm and said:

"We owe a good deal to that young woman, you and I."

"Yes," replied Francis doubtfully. "It seemed to me that she is more
than a little in love with you."

"I hope so."

"Isn't that a little dangerous?" Francis felt very bold in making this
excursion into psychology, but the pressure of Serge's hand on his arm
reassured him.

"My dear father," came the reply, "for thirty years you have been paid
for teaching people that the only safety of our little existence here
on earth lies in love. I can imagine nothing more awful and
disappointing than for a woman to go through the process of childbirth
without being in love. It is dreadful enough to live from moment to
moment without being in love, but to pass through a great natural
crisis without it would be devastating. If she weren't in love with me
I couldn't have touched her heart. I could only have appealed to her
intelligence, which would have been quite useless. It seemed to me
vitally important that she should be made happy, so that through
happiness she could understand and feel she was doing no injury to any
one, but was performing the ultimate service which a woman is
privileged to perform for only a few human beings, namely, the gift of
life. She has understood and felt that."

"But she is in love with you!"

"Why this terror of love? Love, like everything else, becomes a bad
thing if it is used selfishly. I ask nothing of her. She knows that.
She will love her child the more because of her love for me, and by
her greater love she will win the love of the child. . . ."

"But . . ." said Francis.

"What now?"

Francis made full and frank confession of how he had come with a
desire to make the young woman understand and feel her sinfulness.
Serge pressed his arm affectionately.

"My dear father," he said, "a flower may be impregnated by a very
disreputable bee, but it remains a beautiful flower for all that."

"A flower," said Francis, "has no soul."

"In the presence of love," replied Serge, "argument is quite futile.
The tragedy of the world, it seems to me, is this, that with such a
power of love and friendship and affection as is in us, there should
be so little of them."

"I at least have won a little of them to-day," said Francis, and
timidly with his arm he pressed Serge's hand.

"That's all right," said Serge.

The night came down as they walked and hung out her most brilliant
canopy of stars, and, as in a peaceful lake, their light was mirrored
in the soul of Francis Folyat.



XXII

LOVE

_Let us roll all our strength and all
 Our sweetness up into one ball
 And tear our pleasures with rough strife
 Through the iron gates of life._
      ANDREW MARVELL

WITH consummate skill Gertrude invented contrivances to conceal the
change that had come about in her affairs and feelings, but, as she
never deceived herself, she deceived no one else either. However,
everybody pretended to be deceived, and painlessly her engagement with
Bennett Lawrie was allowed to fade out of existence. He came less and
less to the house until the transformation in his status was complete,
and then he came more and more.

Gertrude grew restless, her unease infected her mother, who had begun
to tire of Fern Square and to think it and its neighbourhood squalid.
The Clibran-Bells had left Fern Square and gone to a more expensive
and more modern house in the select neighbourhood of Burdley Park.
Little hints were thrown out, but nothing definite was said to
Francis, until he expressed a desire to enlarge his greenhouse in the
back garden and return to his old pastime of gardening. He had tired
of reading. He could not bring himself to tackle new books, and the
old had lost the potency of their appeal. His parish work was
organised into a comfortable routine, so that he had plenty of
leisure, and he disliked being left alone with tobacco and his
thoughts. Gradually he had fallen into a nearer companionship with his
wife, reading and discussing her foolish books with her and every
evening playing three games of bezique and allowing her to win. He
wanted some new form of activity, and one day, the post bringing a
seedsman's catalogue, he found what he wanted. He would grow ferns and
bulbs and fuchsias and geraniums and cactuses and have a very pleasant
refuge from any malign stroke that fate might be keeping in store for
him.

Near the Clibran-Bells Gertrude found a house with a large
conservatory, and, all leaping to the prospect of a change, the
decision was come to, the remainder of the Fern Square lease disposed
of, and the household was moved. The new house was one room smaller
than the old. Serge took a studio at the top of a huge caravanserai of
offices near the Town Hall Square and arranged to live there. He had
painted a portrait of Mrs. Clibran-Bell which had brought him a
commission or two, and he regarded himself as sufficiently opulent to
pay the not very exorbitant rent.

The removal took place in March, and a very pleasant house-warming was
held. Gertrude sent out the invitations and expressly did not invite
Bennett Lawrie. He turned up all the same, more silent, melancholy and
romantical than ever. He sat in a corner and spoke to nobody, and
looked so entirely dejected that at last Minna took pity on him,
smiled her sweetest, and said:

"Why do you always play the skeleton at the feast? Are you really
thinking of death or only of what there is for supper?"

"I didn't know I looked like that," answered Bennett with an effort.
"I was feeling rather happy listening to you all."

"Looking on," said Minna, "is a dreadfully bad habit. Whenever I do
it, I always find myself wondering who is going to be married to whom,
or, at any rate, who is in love with whom, and how it is all going to
turn out. That is too horribly depressing. It is much better to be an
airy trifler. Why don't you try a little airy trifling?"

"You can't do it alone."

"That is _quite_ good. . . . Now then--one--two--three--hop."

"I really couldn't trifle with you, Minna."

This was true. The memory of the day by the river was much too vivid.
Bennett was nothing if not rigidly monogamous. Minna did not know
that. This new game, which had never occurred to her before, amused
her. She went on:

"But you're doing it quite nicely."

Bennett dropped back into the darkest gloom. He began to feel angry
with her and said savagely:

"Am I?"

"Indeed you are. And as you ain't going to be a little clergyman, it
doesn't matter."

"It does. It always matters."

"It only matters if--shall I say it?"

"You generally say what you feel inclined to say."

"It only matters if our little gentleman is in love."

Bennett scowled. Minna went on with her banter until Annette came into
the room with a tray bearing lemonade and claret. Bennett sprang up
and hurried to meet her. Minna laughed and nodded to Basil Haslam to
come and take Bennett's seat. When he had done so, she said:

"Have you ever noticed my little sister, Annette?"

"Not particularly. Why?"

"She is over there, by that young Lawrie."

"Young idiot."

"What do you think of her?"

"She is looking quite pretty. Has she done her hair differently?"

"No, nothing is different."

"Excitement, perhaps."

"Per--haps."

Basil turned to Minna. He was not interested in Annette.

"Minna, you look . . ."

"Ta, ta, ta . . . Are we to have it all over again?"

"Yes. Every time I see you. It's not long before I go away now. Will
you come with me? I can do better with you than without."

"You don't know. You have never lived with me. I should hate being
really poor in a house of my own."

"I'd make you rich with love."

"And feed me with it and clothe me, and feed and clothe an enormous
family?"

"We shouldn't have an enormous family at once. I'll make you rich
before there are . . ."

Minna tapped his hand with amused affection, got up and left him. She
went and stood near Bennett and Annette and she heard him say:

"Thank you for wearing them."

She saw then that Annette was wearing two little red roses in her
bosom.

"It was kind of you to send them," said Annette.

"I hardly dared," said Bennett. "I didn't know if I might. I never see
you now."

Annette looked up at him between fear and delight. His mournful eyes
met hers, and with a small envy Minna saw that they were entirely
oblivious of everybody in the room. Annette's lips pouted. A little
sigh escaped her. She turned and hurried away.

Basil Haslam came up, took Minna rather roughly by the arm and dragged
her away to sit on the stairs. In her heart she was pleased by his
masterfulness, but superficially she was irritated, and they sat
quarrelling.

The party engaged two rooms, one for cards and one for music. The room
in which Bennett stood began to fill as Mary produced her violin.
Annette returned from the kitchen with biscuits, sandwiches, cakes and
a trifle, and when she had disposed them on the table she turned to
Bennett and said:

"Come."

He followed her.

She led the way into the little back garden, where, in a plot of grimy
grass, grew a sycamore-tree. At the end of the garden was a decayed
old summer-house of rustic wood. Bennett's heart thumped as they
approached it. They entered and stood for a moment in the darkness,
glad of it. Tears came to his eyes. He could not see her. His hands
groped in the darkness and soon found hers, warm, trembling. Very
gently he drew her to him and kissed her forehead and her hair many
times. Closer and closer she pressed to him, her hand went up to his
shoulder. He felt enormous strength come to him; the faintest little
cry came from her and their lips met.

For each it was the first kiss of the beloved, a greater joy than
either had dreamed of, and therefore almost more pain than joy.
Holding her to him, Bennett murmured:

"Annette, love, I love you."

And she gave little crooning sounds and was the first to kiss again.

Presently they crept back to the house and stole into the rooms again,
Bennett looking more miserable and feeling more aloof than ever. Minna
saw that Annette's roses were crushed, so that one of them had lost
its petals. Annette's lips were red and her eyes shone with a new
light. Bennett sought Minna and stood in silence by her side. Minna
turned to him and said tartly:

"Annette is looking quite pretty to-night, isn't she?"

"Is she?" Bennett's voice quavered.

"I should advise you, as a friend, to make yourself very amiable to
Ma."

"I have always," said Bennett, "had a great respect for Mrs. Folyat."

"Bah!" answered Minna. "You take yourself much too seriously. You'll
never learn the wisdom of running away."

"I ran away from you."

"Of course you did; because I never take you seriously."

Bennett said with asperity:

"You never take anything seriously. Some day you'll have to."

"Pooh!" Minna tossed her head and laughed. "I shall always know when
to run away."

Feeling that the remark was idiotic and inappropriate Bennett closed
with:

"The world is very beautiful."

"Great heavens! We shall have you writing poetry next!"

Bennett went very red. He had already written much poetry, as Minna
well knew, for she had purloined and read many of his effusions to
Gertrude. She wondered if it would be going too far to quote, decided
that it would, and mentally adapted certain verses to meet the new
circumstances.

Bennett was called away to take a hand at whist--he was a fair
player--and to pass out of the room he had to go by Annette. He
avoided looking at her, but she followed him with her eyes, and,
turning, met Minna's gaze, curious and mischievous. Minna saw her
expression harden into pride and defiance, and it was Minna who looked
away.

The party was very late in breaking up, and as Bennett was putting on
his overcoat Annette came and helped him. He turned to her and they
smiled at each other. She said:

"Serge is going to make a picture of me. I begin to-morrow, at his
studio."

"I'll write to you--then, if I may."

Annette was called away by her mother, very peevish and anxious to go
to bed. She caught Bennett's hand, pressed it to her bosom and ran
away.

"Good night," he murmured, and when he was out in the street, walking
home, he whispered to himself:

"Good night, my love."

* * *

With the two crushed roses in her hand Annette slept like a child,
hardly stirring all night, smiling. She had prayed to God, as usual,
for her father and mother, and had particularly begged Him to bless
her love.

Bennett on the other hand had suffered from a violent reaction. He
hardly slept, or, when he did so, it was to dream feverishly, seeing
himself in ignominious positions with no clothes on, in church, for
instance, or at his office. His thoughts flopped like frogs in a pond;
his emotions whirled, rushed in a flood up to the memory of that
moment of ecstasy, but were driven back by other memories, the Jew,
Kraus, Annette by the river, Minna and Haslam. He wanted so terribly
to understand, but he could not. He longed for nothing but to be with
Annette, to give her all her desire, to rescue her, fly with her.
. . . He fell asleep. In a chariot with swift horses he drove along a
wild, dismal road. Clothed all in brightness he found Annette under a
gallow's tree. Three bodies hung on it and swung in the wind, but she
was singing a beautiful song. She mounted into the chariot, and away
they sped, so fast, so fast, that presently they soared, and then down
they came with the air rushing in their ears. Soon the road caught
them again. There were hedges on either side of it now. They grew and
grew, taller, taller, taller. It was very dark. Soon he saw that they
were in a church. The chariot vanished. Annette vanished. He was alone
in a dark empty church, and with a bitter cry he exclaimed . . . He
awoke, shivering. He had thrown the bed-clothes off and torn his
night-dress from his body. He was so unhappy that he began to cry.
Utterly exhausted he fell asleep.

He was late in the morning, dull and dead. The monotonous day's work
in the office soothed him. It was not until he left that he thought
again of Annette and remembered that he had not written to her as he
promised. He went round to Serge's studio and found him smoking and
surveying the rough beginnings of a charcoal drawing of Annette.

"Hullo! sir," said Serge. "Anything wrong? You look as though you'd
seen a whole car-load of ghosts."

"I didn't sleep well," answered Bennett. "Sometimes I don't."

"That's nonsense at your age. How old are you?"

"Nearly twenty."

They talked for a little, but Bennett hardly heard what Serge was
saying. He went away soon and made no response to Serge's invitation
to come again. When he reached home he locked himself into the
dining-room--his father was out--and wrote to Annette. He made no sort
of opening, but plunged directly:

"I do not know what to write. I love you. I hate myself. I cannot even
tell you how much or why. Something in me is entirely changed,
something of me is gone altogether Nothing exists but you. Everything
else is hard and cruel and dark. I dreamed of you last night. I
dreamed I had lost you. Have I? I went to look for you to-day. Oh!
Annette, I can't write any more."

He did not sign it. He hurried it into an envelope when there came a
knocking at the door. The letter was shuffled into his pocket and he
went to the door and called:

"Who is it?"

In a very soft voice came:

"Tibby."

He opened to her. She had his night-shirt in her hand. She closed the
door and said:

"You've torn your shift."

"Yes. I tore it in my sleep."

"Poor laddie," she said. "If I could do aught to help ye I would.
Ye're a poor solitary body. . . . It's this house and the misery
that's not of your making."

Bennett looked at her and the kindness in her eyes made him burst into
tears. She patted his shoulders, went away into the kitchen and came
back with a glass of milk and some biscuits. She saw that he ate and
drank, and Bennett said:

"Thank you. I feel better . . . Tibby, why don't people understand
what they are?"

"God knows," said she. "It's all a great mystery. There's a deal of
unkindness, and a little kindness in the world. It's not given to us
to understand."

"Tibby--" he paused. "Tibby, would you love me whatever I did?"

"Surely. You're one of my bairns."

Bennett kissed her. Then he went and posted his letter.

* * *

Annette came to meet him next day as he left his office. They had a
long walk and were altogether happy, laughing and discovering little
jokes that they could share--odd names on the shop-fronts, queer folk
in the streets, strange advertisements on the placards. He left her
near her home. He had so loved being alone with her that he had no
wish to see her with her family. Also he was afraid of Minna. She
spoiled everything.

Only one evening a week could Annette give to him, but they had
Saturday afternoon and Sundays. She knew very little of the town, and,
though he had little pride in it, it was a delight to him to show her
such beauties as it had--the Zoological Gardens, the Art Gallery, the
Reference Library, the School, the College, Humphrey Bodham's
Hospital, the parks, the elegant southern suburbs. They shared it all,
and sharing made everything beautiful. Always he found her more
wonderful. Her simple trust in him strengthened him, dissipated the
mists and dark shadows of his mind, made him, what he had never been,
a boy. He could laugh with her.

All the rest of his life seemed small and unimportant. Often at home
he sang aloud and talked to himself until his mother rebuked him. Then
he would atone by performing all sorts of little services for her. In
the office he felt that the silly day's work could be done in ten
minutes--nine o'clock, work till a quarter past, send the whole world
whizzing round, and then away to Annette. . . . But Annette's days
were long and laborious, and the presiding powers at the office
demanded his attendance from nine till five. He found his work easier
and quite interesting. He began dimly to perceive a purpose in its
processes. Talk with one or two of the elder men enlightened him. A
great deal of what they said seemed absurd to him. The world did not
exist for business. It existed for Annette. He had a trembling desire
to tell them so . . . One man told him that though immense fortunes
had been made in the cotton trade, they were a mere trifle compared
with the misery that had been created in the making of them. "But
that," said the man gloomily, "is the way of the world. It's happened
so often that nobody worries when it happens again. All business is
dirty business. A man must live, though I can never understand why."
. . . Such pessimism seemed utterly absurd to Bennett. He did not want
to understand why. He had only a general desire to be pleasant to
everybody, and became so willing and busy and obliging that his
superiors began to reverse their opinion of him. They had thought him
conceited, reserved, and, at bottom, stupid. One of the senior clerks
went out of his way to speak a few encouraging words to him. Such a
thing had never happened before, and Bennett rushed away to Annette to
tell her that the ball was at his feet, and he would quickly make his
fortune, and then he would call for her one day, and they would be
married by the bishop and for ever and ever they would live in a
delicious dream. They were always making plans, and living in them, in
a future that was so near the present as to be almost
indistinguishable from it. There was no past. They ignored obstacles
and impediments, lived in and for each other, and it seemed that it
had always been so.

They hardly ever kissed each other in those young days. When they did
so they set stirring in each other forces that instinctively they felt
to be dangerous. What they had was so very precious, just the few
hours every week of unclouded happiness. Always--wet or fine--they
were out of doors, wandering blindly, oblivious of all else save each
other. They would take meals in their pockets the more to be
independent.

As the result of one long walk in the rain Annette fell ill and was in
bed for a fortnight. She filled all Bennett's thoughts. He dared not
write to her, and only once was he bold enough to go and make
enquiries of Minna. The outside world began to close in upon him and
to insist that he should bring his image of his beloved into some more
proportionate relation with it. Much of the glamour left her, but she
was not the less precious to him. Rather more; but in a new way, a
simpler way, more easy to grasp. His intelligence began to play about
her, to appreciate her directness--(how marvellous that was compared
with everything else that he had had!)--her honesty, her confiding
loyalty, her skill in bending to his mood, and discarding everything
that might interfere with their happiness. . . . Days of gold and
summer sun, young, green days, all warm and busy with new life. . . .
Then, one evening as he sat by the window of his attic, looking across
the miles of roofs in the direction where she lay, she began to appear
to him in yet another way. He harked back to the night of their first
kiss, and he felt again the warmth of her body in its triumphant
surrender. He was half terrified by the new flood of warmth that ran
through him, and he put his hands over his eyes as if to shut out what
he was seeing. He became wholly afraid and ran downstairs to seek
company.

He turned to his religion and scourged himself with the most naïvely
terrible thoughts of hell and damnation. This only had the effect of a
bellows on hot iron: his imagination became white hot, and not
Annette, but Woman obsessed him. Against that he could only set
Annette and her love: the only pure threads of his life. He was sick
and lean for love of her when he saw her again.

She was white and large-eyed. Her mother was present. He could only
press her hand. How their two hands trembled as they touched!

Her first excursion was to Serge's studio, where the portrait had been
left unfinished. Bennett met her there, and, after the sitting, they
had a long silent walk, arm in arm.

"I thought of you all the time," said she.

"And I of you . . ." He was troubled. "Oh! Annette!"

He took her hand and, in the street as they were, kissed it over and
over again.

* * *

She went away to the sea and Serge with her. She liked being with
Serge, but even to him she could not declare herself. Under the warm
sun with the strong air blowing over salt from the sea she quickly
became well again, but all her longing was to get back. She was
uneasy. When she had last seen Bennett she had felt that some of the
glamour and delight had gone from him. He had changed. She must change
with him. He had gone on. Gone deeper. She must go with him. She had
never been trained to think. She never reasoned any difficulty out.
All her perception of her circumstances came to her in flashes. . . .
It was not long before she had caught Bennett up. She was not afraid,
but only glad to be with him once more. She was proud of the new
horizon that had opened to her. When health came back to her she was a
woman.

One evening as she sat with Serge on the sands gazing at the moon
peeping above the sea and silvering the waves she said:

"Serge, tell me, have you ever been in love?"

"Often."

"Happily?"

"Happily and unhappily. It doesn't matter much. The great thing is to
love."

"What is love?"

"A great thing, but not the be-all and end-all of existence as so many
people try to believe. The greatest things lie beyond it."

"Then you must go through it to get at them."

"Exactly. Most people stick in the middle, or remain shivering on the
wrong side."

"Like Frederic?"

"Like Frederic."

"I used to hate Frederic, but now I'm only sorry for him."

"What's come to you?"

She shivered.

"It's very cold. Can I go home to-morrow?"

"If you like. Do you want to?"

"I must."

* * *

She returned to the house in Burdley Park next morning, but it was
some days before she informed Bennett of her arrival. He came hot-foot
as soon as he had her letter, and there was an air of dogged
determination about him and the embarrassment of one who has a vital
topic to approach. He had made a compromise between his mental torment
and his religious scruples and come to the idea of marriage, and the
idea had taken complete possession of him so that he saw nothing else.
The vision of the future to which it led was sufficiently entrancing
to make him unwilling to look elsewhere. He did try to contemplate the
future without that step, but it stretched intolerably blank. He
needed action. The upheaval that had taken place in him had set him
growing mentally and spiritually; in his office, in his house, he was
hurt at every turn, bumping into corners where none had been before.
He saw in marriage perfect freedom. It was an illusion, but he was
wholly deceived by it. He saw it as a summit of achievement from which
he could defy all that he had suffered all his life. He said to
Annette:

"Annette, I love you. I want you to marry me. We shall be very poor,
but we shall have each other, and nothing else matters."

This he said to convince himself. Annette did not need convincing. She
believed.

"No," she said, "nothing else matters."

He had hardly expected such instant compliance. For a moment it shook
the firmness of his conviction and blurred his vision of the free
future. He told himself that their present existence was intolerable
and must not be suffered to continue.

Excitedly they made their plans. They believed that it was their
affair and theirs only. They saw the outside world as harsh and
menacing and devoid of understanding, were seared by it, and used
their fears to fortify their resolve.

"Another month," said Bennett, "and we shall be man and wife."

"I love you," said Annette. It was the first time the words had passed
her lips.

* * *

When Bennett had paid the expenses of the ceremony in an
out-of-the-way church and the price of the ring and their
wedding-dinner in a restaurant near his office he had exactly
thirty-shillings left until the end of the month. Annette returned to
her home until he should have found a lodging for her, and he engaged
himself to break the news to his mother at the first fitting moment;
fixed, in his own mind, at that when he should next receive his
monthly salary of seven pounds.

He anticipated a storm, but, being still borne up by the excitement
and the adventure of what they had done, they felt secure against all
wrath. Hardly could they understand that there should be wrath. How
could their love meet with anything but love?



XXIII

BENNETT TELLS HIS MOTHER

_Then would I speak, and not fear._
     JOB

AFTER a week's search Bennett found lodgings as far removed as
possible from his family in a little pink-brick street that was one of
a network woven by a speculative builder over a tract of marshy ground
that for years had been unclaimed and used by the neighbourhood for a
rubbish heap. In a tiny little house he hired two rooms on the first
floor for twelve shillings a week. His landlady was a large German
woman who, by threateningly demanding references, inveigled him into
paying two weeks' rent in advance. He had to borrow ten shillings to
do that. He was terrified of the German but proud of the two rooms,
the first place that he had ever been able to call his own. The
wall-paper and paint were hideous, but he told himself that that could
soon be altered--should be altered before Annette saw the rooms. By
neglecting all other engagements he found time in the evenings to hang
what he thought a pretty paper and to paint the woodwork apple-green,
paint and paper being bought with more borrowed money. This manual
activity soothed him greatly, and he felt very proud of himself,
whistled and sang all the time as he toiled. He was so busy that for a
fortnight he hardly saw Annette, and when he did snatch a moment with
her he was exceedingly mysterious, and would not tell her what he was
up to, except that it was for her, a beautiful surprise.

"Where is it?" asked she.

"You wouldn't know if I told you. I'll take you there."

"Next week? Is it to be next week?"

"As soon as it is ready. . . . You're not sorry?"

"Of course not."

* * *

As the end of the month drew near Bennett realised that it was not
going to be so easy as he had thought to break the surprising and
splendid news to his mother. He knew so little about her, and had
always had great difficulty in talking to her even about the most
impersonal matters. There had been differences between them before,
many trifling, and one serious, over his secession to the High Church
fold. All these differences now rose up and stood like a thick-set
hedge between him and her. . . . As long as he remembered her she had
been always sitting in the middle of the dark drawing-room waiting and
watching for the landmarks of the day--dinner at one, his brothers'
return from the bank, his own return from his office, tea, supper, the
hour for sleep--as time bore her evenly past them. For years now his
only long conversations with her had been at the end of the month when
he gave her his earnings and received his dole for spending. It made
him ashamed and unhappy to know that he disliked her, but he could not
explain it away, and he had never made any attempt to understand why
she was as she was--cold and hard and unresponding. If he took sides
at all in the antagonism of drawing-room and dining-room his leaning
was towards his father, but that was because the only intimacy in the
house lay between Tibby and old Lawrie. There was more warmth in the
dining-room than in the drawing-room, though, outwardly, it was his
father who was disgraced and deposed, his father whom Bennett had been
taught to contemn. . . . The only link that bound him to his mother
was money. He would use the monthly conversation about money as an
opening for his declaration of independence. He had not looked upon it
as that: had not contemplated a rupture and open breach between
himself and his mother, though he had heard muttered warnings in the
depths of his soul.

When he returned home with seven pounds in his pocket, he hesitated
for a long time outside the drawing-room door with every nerve in his
body throbbing. His suffering was too great and he decided that he
would tell his father first. After all, his father was the head of the
family. . . . He walked gropingly down the dark passage to the
dining-room only to find his father out and Tibby working for dear
life at a column of cotton-prices. He knew what that meant. There
would be no telling his father. His father was "plang" (the family
euphemism), and, as she had often done before, Tibby was finishing his
work.

She looked up at him and scowled. The work was never easy for her, she
had to supply the gaps of her ignorance with guesses and was always in
dread of guessing awry. Bennett sat down in the horsehair chair by the
fireplace, under the blue-eyed portrait of his grandfather, the Scots
minister, and rattled the money in his pocket. Tibby went on working.
Much of Bennett's terror vanished and he broke into the scratching of
her pen:

"Tibby."

"Eh?"

"You said once you'd love me whatever I did."

"Aye. What have you been doing?"

"I'm married."

"Losh!"

Tibby dropped her pen and turned sorrowful eyes of wonder upon him.
Bennett jingled the money in his pocket.

"I'm married," he said. "I'm very happy."

"Och! The foolishness of men! Married! Laddie, ye'll never have a son
as young as yourself."

"I'm married," said Bennett, "and I'm going to be very happy, and I
don't care what . . ."

"Have you told your mother?"

"No."

"Better tell her at once. You'll break your neck over it. I'll finish
this and then I'll think it out. . . . Married! Losh!"

She turned to her work again, and the pen scratched and spluttered.
Bennett reached the door when she called to him:

"Laddie."

He turned.

"If ye love the lassie, ye've no call to be afeard. There's always a
way. There's no way where no love is."

"I love her," said Bennett unconsciously dramatic and absurd. "I love
her as my life."

"God bless ye."

* * *

Fortified by her benison and also by having once told his immense
secret Bennett passed swiftly to the drawing-room. He found his mother
sitting in her chair in the middle of the room with a cat in her lap.
He stooped and kissed her.

"I've got some news for you!"

"Sit down. You don't come and talk to me as often as you might."

There was an unusual geniality in her voice that made it easy for him
to go on.

"I've had a rise."

"That's good. They must be pleased with you. How much?"

"Five shillings a week."

"That's very good. You shall have a shilling a week more for your
pocket-money. I'm glad you're doing so well. You can keep five
shillings for yourself this month."

"That isn't all my news."

"What else?"

"I want to keep it all."

"Nonsense. You can't do that."

"I must. You see. I haven't told you everything. You see . . . I shall
want my money now. I'm--what I wanted to tell you is that--that . . ."
He gave a little nervous giggle that exasperated his mother and set
her tapping with her foot on the floor. "I'm--you see--I'm married."

Her mouth dropped. Her hands waved weakly in the air. She got up and
went and stood for a long time--it seemed a very long time--by the
window. Without turning she said:

"Who is the woman?"

"Her name is Annette. Annette Folyat."

"I might have known it. . . Will you ask your father to come here?"

"Father's out." Bennett felt that his cause was lost. Only in the most
desperate cases was his father's presence over requested in the
drawing-room.

"Tibby then." She went to the door and with extraordinary power of the
lungs shouted for the old servant.

Tibby came shuffling. She was dressed to go out, in bonnet and shawl,
and had an envelope in her hand.

"I'm in haste," she said.

"Tibby, what's to be done? Bennett has married one of the daughters of
that High Church popery priest. What am I to do?"

"What can you do?"

"It can't go on. It's miserable folly. It's ruin. It's beggary. . . .
Where were you married? When?" She pounced on Bennett.

"A fortnight ago. At St. Barnabas; banns and everything. We signed the
register. I forbid you to interfere."

"Silence."

"I will not be silent. I have taken my own life into my own hands. I
am going to have my own money and my own house. I shall leave your
house to-night, and I shall not enter it again until you ask me and my
wife together."

"That's right, laddie," said Tibby quietly.

Mrs. Lawrie opened her mouth to rend Tibby, who added:

"I canna thole a man that winnot stand by his own doings."

Mrs. Lawrie turned to Bennett and said:

"May you never have a child to hurt you as you have hurt me this day."

The wild frenzy that had possessed Bennett oozed away, and weakly he
asked:

"Am I to go?"

"Go. . . . As you've made your bed, so you must lie on it."

A little unsteadily Bennett walked upstairs to his attic and began to
pack his belongings. He laid them all out on the bed, books, clothes,
small pieces of furniture, and they seemed to him very little. In
possession of his secret he had felt very large and important; now he
felt very small indeed.

Downstairs in the drawing-room his mother sat writing a letter to
Francis, denouncing him and all his works and his daughters, who were
a snare to youth and guilelessness. Tibby had tried to reason with
her, but she was beyond reason. She had been hurt and wished to hurt.
Carefully, laboriously, she had toiled to insure her children against
all risks and perils of the world. Brick by brick she had built a
prison for each of them which should last as long as life, and, at the
first touch, the walls that hemmed in and secured her youngest born
had come toppling down, and all around herself she saw the abomination
of desolation. She hated life, and her enemy had proved too strong for
her.



XXIV

ANNETTE TELLS HER FATHER

_You have stores of patience, only now and then fits of desperation_
     DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS

FRANCIS received Mrs. Lawrie's incoherent offensive letter, gulped
down its unpalatable statement of fact, burned it, and rushed to his
greenhouse to think it over and to master the anger that was rising in
him. . . . He blamed himself for not having seen what was in the air
and tried to remember incidents and conversations which should have
given him the hint. He recollected several, quite enough to set him
scourging himself for his blind neglect, until he began to ask himself
what he could have done supposing he had seen and realised. Quite
clearly he could not have forbidden Bennett the house. Interference
was always dangerous where the emotions were concerned.

Most painful of all was the thought that Annette should not have had
trust enough in him to seek his advice and comfort if she were in
trouble. She must have suffered, he told himself, to make such a
plunge into poverty and the responsibility of marriage. It must have
been a tremendous flood of feeling that had swept her into it. . . .
It was so pitiful: a mere child: children both of them.

In a second he found himself thinking the worst of it--a scrambled
marriage of necessity. He put that from him. Of course not. Annette
had been well and happy--except for her illness--extraordinarily
happy, and so gentle and sympathetic and thoughtful, so blithe and
busy. No wickedness there, no hypocritical covering up of dark gnawing
secrets. Only the most absurd, pitiful romantic folly, reckless
defiance of all the laws of prudence.

If his thoughts of Annette were gentle and indulgent, he found it hard
to extend his kindliness to Bennett. Young men would be young men, but
they should leave young women alone. (Francis, still regarded young
women as generically and fundamentally different from young men. To
him young women who took any active part in the affairs of love were
abnormal and unmaidenly. What exactly young men were to do with their
ardour or where to present it, he did not know, and he was unconscious
of any discrepancy in his thoughts.) The personal factor entered into
his contemplation of this side of the pother. He told himself that
Bennett had treated him very badly, had accepted his hospitality for
years, received his indulgence in his affairs with Gertrude, his--to
be sure, unsuccessful--assistance in the furtherance of his clerical
ambitions, and then, secretly, with cunning and deceitfulness, he had
played upon Annette's young and innocent affections. There was an easy
satisfaction in thus angrily vilifying Bennett, but it did not last
long, for it led to a conception of Annette which did not sort with
her nature as he knew it. She had always been curiously self-reliant
and, quite clearly, fully cognisant of the facts of her existence and
the purposes of her womanhood. Still he was reluctant to relinquish
Bennett from the talons of his wrath. He was going to take Annette
away, and could give no guarantee of his ability to provide for her
and make her secure against the devastating influences of the hard
struggle for daily bread. With his instinct for justice he asked
himself what else they had to offer Annette, and, further, what they
had given her from day to day ever since her return--drudgery,
unending toil, a monotonous, trivial, and unrewarded activity. That
brought him hotly near the heart of the mystery, but he turned his
back on it, only to find himself most vividly remembering his visit to
the house of the Lawries, and finding in that the explanation of
Bennett's share in the preposterous marriage. He had wondered then
what would become of Bennett. Now he was answered. . . . Presumably
Mrs. Lawrie had not been misinformed. Obviously not. Her vituperation
came from a fury of despair, a hopelessness in the face of a new turn
of fate, which he felt to be so degrading that he desired to avoid it.
Clearly there was nothing to be done. If it was salutary by a heavy
use of the tongue to lacerate Annette and bring her to a sense of the
seriousness of the thing she had done, he would--but he reflected that
his wife would do all that and more than was necessary in that kind.
For himself then there was nothing to be done and nothing to be said.
If they found it impossible--as was more than likely--to live on
Bennett's income, something must be done to help them. Both families
must contribute. . . For a moment he thought fantastically that the
solution might be to ignore their marriage altogether, and keep
Annette at home until Bennett could afford to keep her. He knew that
for folly. If passion had so far blinded their reason that they had
rushed into an insoluble compact, to thwart and repress it would be to
invite unimagined disaster.

"It is beyond me," he said. "Did these things happen when I was young?
The world seems to be changing. I am too old to change with it."

His last reflection was that, having swallowed Frederic's disaster, he
could not logically strain at Annette's. He was wounded. Time would
heal his wounds. Above all he must not be reduced to such an ignoble
frenzy of bewilderment as Mrs. Lawrie. Then he felt sorry for the
"garden-roller."

"It must be," he said, "very distressing to come on a hard stone in
the middle of a soft lawn."

That restored his humour. He took twelve little pots and began filling
them with earth and fibre for his bulbs.

Annette came into the greenhouse. Francis suppressed a desire to run
away. He did not look at her, but pretended to be absorbed in his
work. Annette asked if she might help him.

"I think," he said, "I think you had better close the door."

Annette closed the door and stood with her back against it. Francis
stole a glance at her. She was excited but there was no fear in her,
only a sort of shy obstinacy. She said:

"How you love your greenhouse! You have been so much happier since we
came here."

"I have. And you?"

"I'm not altogether happy, because I want to go away."

"My dear!"

"Yes. You can't be quite happy when you're going away from things and
people you've loved and grown used to, can you?"

"I suppose not."

"Father . . ." Francis trembled. His affections were touched. In his
thoughts he had not realised the poignancy of his loss. It was going
to be very painful; more painful almost than anything that had ever
happened to him. He could not bear her hesitation, and he hastened the
calamity.

"I know," he said.

"You know?"

"Yes. I have had a letter from--his mother. She is very angry."

"And you . . . Are you angry?"

"Oh! my dear, dear child . . ."

Then Annette was in his arms and they were crying together, and she
was saying:

"Dear, dear father . . . I didn't mean . . . I didn't know it was
going to be like this. I didn't think, I didn't think of anything but
him. I haven't thought of anything but him for a long time. . . ."

"But such a wedding . . . no cake, no presents, nobody to cry over you
. . ."

"Only you, father."

"I'm an old fool. I ought to be very angry with you. . . . But I'm
not. I ought to be predicting the most horrible and miserable future
for you. . . . But I can't. . . . It's much too serious. . . . I think
you ought to tell your mother. It will hurt her less if it comes from
you than if it comes from me. I'll tell the others. . . . There's
nothing to be said. I believe that you love each other. I will pray
for your happiness. . . ."

"He's ready for me," said Annette. . . . "I wanted to go to him
to-night, but I'll wait until to-morrow if you like."

Francis pondered that for a moment.

"No," he said. "No, I think it would be best if you told your mother
now and went away at once. It will save many tears. We shall have the
night to get used to the idea. . . . It's a new idea; rather a
difficult one to digest--our little Annette a married woman."

She told him then that Bennett was coming for her to the end of the
street.

"And your belongings?" asked Francis.

"I was going to carry them."

"Could you? I never thought they were so little. . . . Don't brides
usually have trousseaux?"

"I'm to have nothing that brides usually have. I don't want anything."

Francis filled the twelfth little pot, and very deliberately squeezed
the mould down with his thumbs.

"I think," he said, "I think that while you are talking to your mother
I will walk along and see my--my son-in-law."

"Yes. . . . Yes. Bennett will be glad to see you."

"Will he?" said Francis dubiously.

They left the greenhouse. He watched Annette run upstairs, took his
hat and stick and walked up the street. At the corner he saw a lean
figure, standing under a lamp-post. It was Bennett. He was seized by a
sudden fierce desire to hurt him and he gripped his stick more tightly
and sawed with it up and down. He was walking rather faster than he
knew and caught up with Bennett before the sudden mood had passed. His
stick swung in the air, and Bennett was roused from his dreams of
bliss by a sudden thwack across his loins. He was more startled than
hurt, for he had not heard any approach.

"Ooh!" he cried, then recognised his assailant. "Mr. Folyat!"

Francis breathed heavily and raised his stick again. To feel Bennett's
flesh yielding under his blow had given him an intense and peculiar
satisfaction, a pleasure so unwonted that his senses craved more of
it. His mind however had shot ahead of his mood and he dropped his
stick and said:

"I beg your pardon. . . . That was not what I intended. My intentions
are frequently belied by my performances. . . . Did I hurt you?"

"You did." Bennett rubbed his thigh ruefully, then stooped and
restored his stick to Francis. They stared at each other by the light
of the lamp-post and at length Francis said:

"Annette is telling her mother. She has just told me. I propose to
stay with you until she comes. We should--a--we should know each other
better."

"I told my mother yesterday, I left her house last night."

"It was foolish of you to quarrel."

Francis laid his hand on Bennett's arm and turned with him down the
street. They passed up and down on the side opposite the house,
Francis explaining as best he could how and why he had come to strike
his son-in-law. He was very frank, and pointed out those elements of
Bennett's conduct of which, as a gentleman, he could not approve, but
made it clear that they should not stand in the way of a friendly
acceptance of the inevitable.

* * *

Upstairs in the drawing-room Annette had found her mother alone with
Serge. Mrs. Folyat was knitting a never-ending woollen vest, and Serge
was unwinding a skein for her round the back of a chair. Annette told
her news. Serge went on winding the skein. Mrs. Folyat dropped her
knitting, took off her spectacles, put them on again, pushed them up
to her forehead and looked Annette up and down. Then very slowly, as
though she was groping for her words, she said:

"I am thinking only of your father. This will bring his white hairs in
sorrow to the grave."

"I have told father," said Annette

Mrs. Folyat was too far gone in sentimentality--forged sentiment--to
feel anything. She had chosen what she thought the most appropriate
and effective method of attack, only to find it parried. She clutched
blindly at the first seemingly fit words that came to her mind, those
which had already been used by Mrs. Lawrie:

"As you have made your bed, so you must lie on it."

Serge rose and said:

"That is no reason why you should try to make it more uncomfortable,
mother."

Mrs. Folyat hardly heard him. She had begun to think (the specially
ordained scourge of the sentimentalist) what people would say of her;
not what they would say of Annette: she was incapable of seeing the
affair from Annette's point of view. One of her darling fictions, that
of her perfect motherhood, was menaced. She was a she-lioness to
protect it: her fictions were to her what her children might have
been. With incisive and bitter sarcasm she assailed Annette for the
space of two minutes. She predicted that Bennett would take to drink,
that he would desert her, that there would be a scandal, and she (Mrs.
Folyat) would never be able to hold up her head again. When she could
find no more baneful prognostications to throw at her offending
daughter's head, she took refuge in tears and began to declare that
she wished that she were dead, since all the love she had lavished on
her children was to be returned with such ingratitude. They were all
ungrateful, all, all--except dear Frederic--and she wished she had
never had a daughter. . . . Annette bore it all meekly, though she was
very near breaking down. It had all seemed so simple to her: she
loved, she was obeying her love, and all this made it so complicated.
. . . Serge's blood boiled, but he said nothing. He saw that Annette
was in an impregnable position, not to be undermined.

Very quietly Annette said:

"I am going to-night, mother. I told father I would stay until
to-morrow, but he said I had better go to-night."

Mrs. Folyat covered her face with her handkerchief. Tears she knew
were unanswerable, but she did not anticipate that Annette would make
no attempt to carry the discussion farther. When she removed her
handkerchief Annette was gone and Serge was sitting quietly unwinding
her skein of wool.

"Serge! Serge!" she said.

"Yes, mother."

"Has she gone?"

"Yes, mother."

He turned and looked at her, and under his steady gaze she was
silenced. She brought her spectacles down on to her nose, took up her
knitting and went on with it. Every now and then she sniffed.

Serge wound the new skein of wool into a ball and placed it in the
basket by her side. He waited for a moment to see if she had anything
to say. She only sniffed. Every line in her figure expressed a perfect
wallowing in self-pity. He left her to it.

* * *

In the street Francis, still clinging to Bennett's arm, ended his
homily thus:

"Marriage, of course, is a blessed condition, and man was not meant to
live alone. You will get into difficulties; everybody does. You will
look for help; everybody does.--But don't let it become a habit."

He had a great deal more to say, but just as, for the fourteenth time,
they came opposite the house, the door opened and Serge and Annette
came out, he carrying her luggage, a small trunk. In her hands she had
two hats of straw, very high in the crown and very small in the brim.
Bennett left his father-in-law and rushed over to her.

"Excuse me," he said to Serge, and took Annette's trunk from him.
Annette laid her hand in his arm and they walked off up the street in
the direction of a cab-rank in the main Burdley Road.

Francis joined Serge and they followed close behind.

"And to think," said Francis, "that Annette should be the first to go,
and that she should go like this! . . . What do you, make of it,
Serge?"

"It would be funny," replied Serge, "if it were not so pathetic."

"Just . . . just what I have been feeling. Look at them! They look as
if they were going off to an evening's merry-making."

"They have forgotten us already."

That was true. The lovers walked fast, hailed a cab on the rank, and
had climbed in to it and were off by the time Serge and Francis came
up with them. Serge bawled to the driver, the cab stopped, and
Annette, conscience-stricken, jumped down and came quickly to her
father. Francis drew a ring from his finger, a gold ring set with an
emerald, and said:

"I couldn't let you go without my present."

"I'm not going far, father."

"No, my dear, but it is for ever."

Serge went to Bennett in the cab, shook hands with him, and said:

"You're doing a bigger thing than you know."

Bennett wrung Serge's hand, and could find no better expression of his
very real emotion than this:

"You're my brother now, you know."

Annette came up, kissed Serge, and was promised her finished portrait
for a wedding present.

"That's two!" she said.

"Good-bye, Annette!"

"Good-bye. Good-bye."

She mounted into the cab again, and its iron wheels went clattering
over the cobble-stones.

"I wonder," said Francis, turning homeward, "I wonder if he heard a
word of all that I said to him."

"Did you say much?" asked Serge.

"I struck him."

Serge laughed.

"It was most extraordinary. An uncontrollable impulse. It needed some
explanation, for I meant only to assure him that, in spite of his
burglarious entry into it, I accepted him as a member of my family. Do
you approve, Serge?"

"I believe in Annette. I would rather be Annette than Gertrude or Mary
or Minna."

"So would I. I wonder why?"

"You won't agree with me, but I detest all this repression of emotion
in the name of virtue. It is nothing but cowardice. You can't destroy
emotion by suppressing it. It only goes bad. . . . I'm only thankful
to see Annette out of your house and away fighting for her own hand."

"Theoretically I cannot applaud Annette, but, frankly, I must confess
that I am excited and curiously uplifted by her open defiance of
. . ."

"My dear father, you are a sentimentalist yearning over love's young
dream. Annette knew that--instinctively. She knew that you would
expect her to live on love's young dream indefinitely, until the bloom
was gone from her youth and the edge from her appetite. She knew that
she could not trust you. Still less my mother. She took the law into
her own hands, and I admire her for it."

Francis walked on for some moments in silence. At the gate he said:

"I have reason to respect your opinions, Serge, but I heartily dislike
them. . . . Will you come and help me in the greenhouse? I should be
obliged if you will stay with me to-night until your mother is in bed
and asleep. It will be so bad for her to talk."

* * *

Mary saw her mother to bed and then came to say good-night to her
father. She wore an expression of intense gloom as she pecked at his
cheek. She patted his shoulder as though to tell him to be a little
man and bear it.

Minna came.

"I shall be the next, pa."

"Not another elopement, my dear."

"No, pa. . . I want to send a piece of my wedding-cake to Annette.
Will you give me away, Serge?"

"With all my heart."

Minna kissed her father and pulled his beard as she used to do when
she was a little girl.

At the door of the greenhouse she turned:

"I shall have Gertrude and Mary for my bridesmaids. Won't they be
pleased? . . ."

"Go to bed," said Francis.

"We gave Ma some hot gin and water to make her sleep," said Minna, and
she winked at Serge. She went away light-heartedly, humming the Dead
March in Saul.

Gertrude did not appear.

* * *

At half-past twelve Serge went up to his mother's room, peeped in, saw
her sleeping, gently closed the door, and tip-toed away. He told his
father.

"Thank God, for that," said Francis. "I was afraid she . . ."

He took up the lamp and began slowly to move when there came a
peremptory ring at the front-door bell. The lamp in his hand rattled,
and he went to open the door. He saw a policeman standing on the
door-step. He was so startled and alarmed that he could find nothing
to say.

"Anything wrong, constable?" asked Serge.

"The Reverend Mr. Folyat?"

"My name," answered Francis. "Anything wrong?"

"We've got a gentleman at the station; gave us your name for bail, Mr.
Folyat."

"A gentleman?"

"Yessir. Drunk and obscene language."

"Have a drink, constable?" said Serge.

"Well, sir . . ."

They went into the study. The constable was refreshed, and told how an
old man in a rusty green coat and a battered silk hat had been brought
into the station and for many hours had refused to give his name or
any information about himself. He was not known to the police. The
arrest took place early in the afternoon. At eleven o'clock he had
asked for bail, referred the police to Mr. Folyat and given his name,
but no address. His name was James Lawrie.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Francis. "Mr. Lawrie! Dear me! Poor
gentleman. . . . Will you come with me, Serge?"

They went out as quietly as they could. With his hand on the knob of
the front door Serge heard his mother calling from the landing:

"Serge! Francis! Frank!"

He closed the door and ran after his father and the constable, who
were already some way up the street.

At the police-station they were kept for some time in the waiting-room
until, escorted by a brawny officer, old Lawrie appeared before them.
He was clearly only just roused from sleep. He looked extremely
disreputable, with his hat hanging over one eye and his bushy white
hair sticking out under the hat. His white beard was filthy with mud
and blood. He stood blinking at the light and peering at Francis.
After a moment or two he recognised him, removed his hat, and stood
with bowed head.

"This is Mr. Folyat," said the inspector.

"Aye."

"Mr. Folyat will go bail for you. You must give your address, age, and
occupation."

Old Lawrie mumbled so inarticulately that Francis was appealed to. He
gave the address, age, and occupation of Bennett's father.

After a formality or two they were shown out politely, and old Lawrie
was bidden to attend in court the next morning.

He said:

"Aye."

Out in the street he shook himself like a wet dog. Francis said
kindly:

"I am sorry indeed to meet you again in such unfortunate
circumstances, Mr. Lawrie."

"Blethers!" said the old man. "One prison is like unto another. Man.
I've made a philosophical discovery of the first magnitude. The dirty
soul of man was written on the walls of my cell. . . . When last we
met--as they say in the plays--you were kind enough to listen to some
verses of mine. What d'ye think of this?"

He took a deep breath, and blew out his chest.

"I composed it as I lay on the hard board in my cell. I wrote it on
the wall among the rest, for the benefit and better understanding of
my successors:

    _This place is but a room in Hell,
     Damned for the punishment of thieves
     Who steal their brothers' booty; for 'tis sure
     The small thief starves on what the big thief leaves._

What d'ye think of it?"

"Admirable!" said Serge.

Old Lawrie turned to him:

"And who may you be? You've a bonny voice."

"My son," said Francis, glad to say something, for it had just
occurred to him that this old lunatic was the father of his new
son-in-law. He was infinitely relieved when Serge said in a whisper:

"I'll take him home. It's on my way."

They parted company as they came into the Burdley Road. Francis
watched Serge and the shambling figure of the old man disappear into
the darkness, and then, ruefully enough, walked home. It would be
difficult, he thought, to persuade his wife to make light of old
Lawrie's foibles.

"I shall never be able," he said to himself, "to make her see that
Annette has married the son and not the father."

Indeed, when he told his wife of that night's adventure--and she kept
him at it until half-past four in the morning--it became very clear to
him that not Annette's secrecy nor her highhandedness nor her want of
faith in her parents was one-half so bitter to her as the fact that
Bennett was, with natural inadvertence, his father's son.



XXV

LAWRIEAN PHILOSOPHY

_I now mean to be serious--it is time._
     DON JUAN.

MEANWHILE Serge and old Lawrie became so interested in each other that
they walked far into the night. It was Serge who opened the
conversation:

"I gather that you will be charged with drunkenness and obscene
language."

"Aye. When I'm fou I'm mighty full o' poetry. The exact words were
'bloody symbol.' The man probably thought I was referring to his
vices. I told him he was a symbol of Society's hypocritical endeavour
to suppress the consequences of its own villainy. My drunkenness is
one of those consequences. It is the direct outcome of the habit of
loneliness. . . . Did I talk to you about that before? . . . No. It
would be your father. Have you ever been to prison?"

Serge regretted that he had never had that experience.

"It was a dirty cell they put me in, but it was shining with the
truth, the blackguardly truth of all humanity. Man, I found there what
I've been seeking these thirty years. . . . I wonder now if ye'll
understand me. I would like to know what ye make of life, or if ye
make anything of it at all."

"It seems to me simple enough," replied Serge. "A man is born. Two
things lie before him, love and death."

"That's it. That's it. Now mark what I'm going to tell you. On the
walls of my cell were drawings and writings--horrible drawings of
women, lewd verses, and hysterical outbursts in the name of Jesus
Christ. They were conventional, I admit, but that only makes it all
the worse. It means that men are imprisoned in their own minds,
debarred from woman on the one hand and from God on the other. You may
tell me that my cell has been occupied only by lowest types, but if
the Prince of Wales were to be incarcerated in it he would in time add
to the collection of bawdy rhymes, and if he were followed by the
Archbishop of Canterbury there would be one more such inscription as:
'Christ died to save me and the magistrate.' Some men are reduced to
filthiness, some to hysteria, some to both. For the superficial and
trivial purposes of existence such as the day's work, marriage, family
duties, the so-called pleasures of society, they contrive to cover up
their deplorable condition. Within themselves they are reduced to the
most devastating loneliness. In their day-to-day prison of Society
they do not write their thoughts on the walls (except for an
occasional jubilant outburst over the successful issue of an amorous
adventure), and it has remained for me to find in an actual
acknowledged prison the frank revelation of the state of the human
mind. . . . It has always been so. . . . Britons never shall be slaves
indeed! They never have been, never will be, anything else."

Serge quoted:

"L'inconvénient du règne de l'opinion, c'est qu'elle se mêle à ce dont
elle n'a que faire; par exemple, la vie privée. De là la tristesse de
l'Amérique et de l'Angleterre."

"Aye," said the old man. "And what would the man that wrote that say
if he could see our town and all the other towns, the rusty links in
the world-wide thing the men of our time are so pleased to call
industrialism? Men make everything in their own image. If you want to
know what men are look at their towns, look at their houses, look at
their books, their art. . . . At first, being human, ye'll be dazzled
and pleased by the conceit and egoism that have gone to the making of
them, but soon beneath the conceit and the egoism ye'll find nothing
but fear--fear of death, fear of love; appeals to Jesus Christ from
the one, abuse of women by way of escape from the other. Fools and
blind! There's no escape. There's no good life but in the honest
meeting of the one and the other. . . ."

"And women?" asked Serge.

"Their minds reflect only the minds of men. I think now that all the
trouble, all the distress, and all the muddle come from the arrogance
of men, who have always preferred the reflection of life in the
flattering mirror of their minds to life itself. They have dropped the
bone for the shadow, when they might have had both. They could have
admired the shadow and eaten the bone; but, in the folly of their
arrogance, they have thrown both away. . . . They must be almost as
great a trial to God as they are to themselves. God is very merciful,
since, though they will not love, yet He allows them to die. The
mistake is understandable. A man's eyes, all his senses, assure him
that he is the centre of the universe. Quite obviously his senses lie,
but it is often difficult to see the obvious. There cannot be more
than one centre of the universe, and, if a man will only reflect for a
moment, he will see that all his neighbours, his dog, the tree in his
garden--if he has a garden--every star in the sky, must be victims of
the same delusion. Unhappily, though man has lived on this world for
thousands of years, he has not yet made the small mental effort
necessary for the slight correction of his senses. It has taken him
thousands of years to discover that this earth on which he has his
dwelling is not the centre of the solar system. That was a shock to
his vanity, and his endeavour since then has been to prove his own
all-importance in the scheme of things. He has turned to and
pigeon-holed his knowledge and called it science. He has become
increasingly adventurous and busy, simply because of the restlessness
that has come over him on being confronted with his mistakes. He has
discovered the whole habitable globe and proceeded to defile it. In my
lifetime he has blundered into the discovery of steam-power,
electricity, and they talk of oil as a generator of more power. I have
seen many changes, but always it has come back to the same thing. The
principles of life are few and simple. Every discovery puts a girdle
round the earth, every invention that liberates man in body and mind
makes the command sound clearly and more loud: 'Thou shalt love and
thou shalt die. . . .' With every discovery however the egoism of
mankind waxes more and more fat and they stop their ears to the
command. They insist that they are the crowning achievement and
purpose of creation--the old delusion, you observe, of being the
centre of the universe. Those who are most strongly obsessed by this
delusion thrust those in whom the conviction is not so strong away
from their path or down under their feet. They thrust and fight their
way to the centres of human organisation, which they mistake for the
centre of the universe, the point at which their centre-hood can be
most openly declared for all men to see. They thrust and fight their
way to power, only to find themselves powerless, for, in spite of
themselves, in spite of the lies with which they are fed and feed
themselves, men do obey the laws of love and death. . . . But in such
a way, such a halting, mean, decrepit, stealthy way!"

Here the old fellow paused, and Serge said:

"You have come to my contention that good and bad, for men and women,
lie wholly in the use or the abuse of things."

But old Lawrie was so intent on his own thoughts that he seemed not to
hear Serge. They came to the bridge under the Collegiate Church and
leaned against the parapet. Oily black the river ran under the dark
walls of warehouses and mills. The lights of the windows and the
street lamps shone and flickered in the greasy depths of the tainted
water.

"Yon river," said old Lawrie, "is like the life of a man. I know not
where it rises, but it comes pure and sweet from the hill-side,
meandering and murmuring through meadows, growing wider and ever wider
in its irresistible and purposeful progress to the sea. In the towns
and cities of men it becomes poisoned and poisonous, but, tainted as
it is, it hastens onward to its goal. . . . I beg your pardon if I
have obscured my meaning with parable. What I see, and what much
bitter experience has taught me, is that there is evil enough lying in
wait for men without their adding to the sum of it by mental and moral
confusion. Say their place in the creation is the highest, say that in
them life finds its keenest expression, should not their glory be the
glory of service rather than the vain-glory of servitude? Why must
they always be demanding applause for the work they do so ill? Is
there any work that men have ever done--outside the arts--that could
not have been done better? . . . I say there is none. And I have found
the answer to all these questions only to-day, in my prison-cell. To a
man diseased with egoism--and how many men are not?--love and death
are hurtful things, for they are not flattering to his vanity. In the
reflection of life in which men strive to live (for in that reflection
their vanity can have free play, exactly as it can and always does
when a man scans his features in a glass) love and death are not seen.
All human codes of conduct and of morals, all dealings between man and
man, are cut to fit the reflection and not life itself. . . . What,
then, is human life?--what are the depths that sustain the yeasty
turbulence of man's knavery and folly and dirtiness and hysteria?
. . . A man is kin and comrade with all things living, from the great
sun to the motes dancing in the sun's rays. He is a part of that
radiance which rises from the centre of the universe and courses
through the veins of every stone and every tree and every living
thing. . . . Aye, such a power of life in a man, and such a comical
small thing as he makes of himself! . . . Such a comical, small thing
as I've made of myself! . . . Rapacity made this town what it is.
Think what it might have been, what all towns might have been, if love
had made them! . . . There'll come a time when Society will no longer
be a prison walled off with fear of love and fear of death. The poets
have not lived and sung for nothing. They'll cleanse the walls of the
filth and the cry of bitter anguish; and when man has done with
discovering the world and playing at conquerors and king o' the
castle, he will come to the most glorious day of all when he shall
know himself, what he is:

    _Great Nature spoke, with air benign:
       'Go on, ye human race!
     This lower world I you resign,
       Be fruitful and increase.
     The liquid fire of strong desire,
       I've poured in every bosom;
     Here, on this hand, does Mankind stand,
       And there is Beauty's blossom.'_

That's Robert Burns for ye! . . . Good night."

He walked away abruptly, and Serge only remembered then that he had
intended to inform the old man of the fate that had befallen his son.
More than ever he felt that Bennett and Annette were, in the main
principle of their action, right, though they might be wrong in the
details of their manner of doing it. The world would exact a heavy
penalty of them. The world would be wrong.

* * *

Old Lawrie awoke next morning to find his wife standing by his bedside
holding out a letter. It was from Mrs. Folyat and was extremely
offensive. Old Lawrie read it:

"There's no doubt," he said, "that he's a son of mine."

He handed the letter back to his wife, turned over on his side and
went to sleep again.



XXVI

MINNA'S CHOICE

_It is always difficult to get rid of a woman at the end of a
tragedy._
     CHARLES LAMB.

THERE was no competition for the mantle of Annette. In the Burdley
Park house the Folyats began to realise that they were increasingly
uncomfortable. Annette's powers of organisation had not been great,
but she had acquired considerable skill in preventing the consequences
of her mistakes and laches being generally felt. . . . When she left
there was a sort of domestic collapse. No meals were ever punctual,
nor were they tolerably cooked. Mrs. Folyat's temper suffered, and she
lashed her three remaining daughters with shrill sarcasm. . . . Mary
had a sudden influx of new pupils and absented herself all day long.
Gertrude arranged for a round of visits, and Minna became extremely
zealous in church work, while Mrs. Folyat simmered in her indignation
against the world in general, Annette in particular, and especially
against love, that laughing enemy of public opinion. Not Annette's
duplicity, not her secrecy, not her defiance of parental authority so
rankled in her mother's mind as the black-and-white fact before all
the vulgar, prying world that Bennett's father was not respectable.
The unlucky Bennett had inserted an advertisement of the marriage--he
read it many times himself: _Lawrie--Folyat. On the_ 28_th Sept.,
Edward Bennett, youngest son of James Lawrie, to Annette, youngest
daughter of the Rev. Francis Folyat;_ for it was the first time he had
seen words of his own in print. Lower down on the same page was a
short paragraph describing his father's appearance in the police
court, where, surely, the magistrate had seldom had such an
entertaining quarter of an hour. Old Lawrie pursued the argument begun
overnight with the policeman (Serge had the third movement of it) and
closed it with variations on an idea borrowed from Ruskin, that,
Society being responsible for every crime and misdemeanour committed
by its individual members, lots should be cast in each case as to
which citizen of a certain district should bear the brunt of it. This,
he said, would at any rate promote a feeling of responsibility towards
one's neighbour, and would in time lead each man to love his neighbour
as himself. When that came about there would be neither crime nor
misdemeanour.

"Till then," said the magistrate, "I must administer the law as it
stands. I am not a philosopher, but it seems to me that the condition
you aspire to does obtain. Men do love their neighbours as themselves:
that is, very little." (Laughter.)

James Lawrie, cotton-broker and journalist, was fined ten shillings
and costs.

The Lawrie family read the report and pretended that they had not done
so. The Folyat family read it, and Mrs. Folyat, by continually
explaining it away, forced it on the attention of many people who
would otherwise never have heard of it. . . . She never forgave
Annette. She declared that they, as a family, were utterly disgraced,
would never hold up their heads again, that no one would ever call,
that there was nothing to be done except for Francis to retire and
them all to go and live in some place where no one had ever heard of
them before. It was a splendid opportunity for her talent for
inventing evils and calling monsters from the vasty deep, and she
wasted no moment of it. With her own foolish tongue she set so many
scandals going that, for a time, the clerical ladies were chary of
calling. The scandals reached the bishop's palace and were inquired
into. The bishop's wife, a kindly lady, laid them by calling, and,
more, by sending, as she had not done for some years, an invitation to
her garden-party. This so elated Mrs. Folyat that she forgot her gloom
and tears and set Mary to work on her best black silk gown.

No member of the family, except Francis and Serge, visited Annette in
her lodgings in the house of the German woman.

For the benefit of his mother and his fiancée, Frederic vowed that,
when next he met Bennett Lawrie, he would horsewhip him.

"At least," said Mrs. Folyat for Serge's benefit, "I have one son who
is a man."

* * *

They might refuse to visit Annette, but they could not forget her. Now
that she was gone, they realised her more nearly than they had ever
done when the whole burden of their comfortable existence rested upon
her shoulders. Mrs. Folyat grew more and more querulous as the
household fell into worse and worse confusion. She demanded an extra
servant; Francis said they could not afford it. She dismissed the
hobgoblin, now a fully developed gnome, and, one after another,
engaged a series of incompetent, untidy, and immoral females. At last,
when one of them corrupted the washerwoman--the washing was done at
home in those days on a Monday and Tuesday--and drew her into a
wholesale conspiracy of theft, Mrs. Folyat, in despair, sent for Minna
and implored her to take the burden of housekeeping off her hands.
With a fair show of grace Minna set to, but it was not long before she
went to see Annette. Annette was delighted. The days without Bennett
were very long, and in their two rooms there was not enough work to
occupy her hands for the morning; also, very frequently, she had no
money at all and could not go out into the town. She thought, too,
that Mina's coming was a sign that her mother was on the point of
relenting. Annette never doubted that she loved her mother, and her
disapproval often weighed heavily on her spirit.

With a child's pride in a new toy she displayed her two rooms and
Bennett's handiwork on the walls and wood and the bulrushes he had
painted in oils on the bathroom window.

"What an awful street you live in," said Minna.

"Is it?" Annette had never considered it æsthetically. It was the
place she lived in, the scene of her honeymoon. She had filled it with
romance and held it holy.

"Ma says," remarked Minna, settling herself largely in Bennett's
wicker-chair so that she seemed to overflow it and fill the room,--"Ma
says that she is quite sure Bennett will take to drink."

"I don't believe Ma could have said anything so odious."

"Then you don't know Ma."

Minna took stock of the room, and she was divided between pity and
contempt for her sister--pity that she should live in such a poor
place, contempt that she should be satisfied and pleased with it, and
she thought with a shudder of the day when the scales should fall from
the lovers' eyes and they should see themselves as they were, in that
place, as it was. Minna had so often opened her heart to love only to
expel it on finding it ridiculous that she could not conceive of any
affection as permanently seated. She was like an inept gardener, who
might plant spring flowers in his borders and deem it natural and
inevitable that summer and autumn should be empty of all save weeds.
She had cultivated a taste for falling in love, and always lost
patience with it before she came to love.

She had come to ask Annette how she had contrived the more or less
smooth-running of household affairs in Fern Square and Burdley Park,
but found herself instead pondering marriage as here represented and
also as applied to herself. She asked Annette what she did all day
long. Annette told her: she sewed, mended, thought of Bennett, went
out to buy his supper.

"A little different from home?" suggested Minna.

"Of course," replied Annette, "I'd like more people. It's hard to make
it go all the day round when there's only one. But then, I read. I
usedn't to be able to do that."

"How did you manage at home? I can't."

"I don't think I managed at all. Bennett says I'm an awfully bad
manager. There were such a lot of things to do that they had to be
done."

"How did you make the servant work?"

"I didn't. I did it all myself. If she did anything I generally had to
do it all over again. She lit the fires in the morning and cleaned the
boots and all the nasty work. I think in their own homes they leave
all the rest undone."

Minna rose from her seat and demanded to be shown the bedroom. This
was very ugly. She made a wry face.

"Do you like it?--being married, I mean."

Annette smiled. Musingly she said:

"What a silly question!"

* * *

Minna returned to Burdley Park little enlightened but uneasy and
troubled. She went to the kitchen and worked, as she thought, very
hard, and scolded the servant and lashed herself into a state of anger
with things in general. By the evening she was entirely miserable. She
sat down in her bedroom and wrote to Basil Haslam:


"I am miserable. Things are getting worse and worse. You have often
scolded me for not taking things seriously enough. You little know me.
Do men ever know women? Do they ever take women seriously? Don't they
always fall back on the woman's instinct which they have invented as
an excuse for their own silence and reticence? . . .

"I have been to see Annette. Poor child! It has upset me. I should
like to see you--to-morrow, if possible. Can you come?
     "Yours, M."


She also wrote to Herbert Fry, on a sudden mischievous impulse which
she did not take the trouble to understand, she enjoyed it so
thoroughly:


"I am going to be married, and I hope to come to London. This place
isn't fit to live in, certainly not to be married in."


Her pen scrawled triumphantly as she added:


"Kind regards to Mrs. Fry.
     "Yours, M."


She sent the letter to Mr. Fry's office address in London Wall. She
did not know where he lived.

* * *

Basil Haslam came next day bursting with sympathy and high hope. Minna
received him, for the sake of effect, in the kitchen. Like Charlotte,
she was cutting bread and butter. She had sent the servant out on an
errand.

Basil came in very quietly, and made Minna think of a young
inexperienced doctor cultivating a bedside manner. However, she
repressed her desire to tease him and said:

"I have learned my lesson."

"What lesson?"

"Something about a stalled ox."

She scraped the butter very thin on the bread by way of heightening
her own sensation of a chastening poverty.

"We shall be very poor," she said.

"Oh, Minna! I will make you rich."

"I suppose there is a lot of money in London."

"Will you come to London with me?"

"Didn't I say so in my letter?"

Basil was always literal. He took out her letter and read it again.

"Stupid," said Minna. "I meant it if I didn't say it."

She laid down the knife and the loaf and submitted to her lover's
embraces.

Basil could not contain his delight:

"There's my one-fifty a year. I can make three hundred the first year,
five hundred the next, a thousand the next . . ."

"A thousand!"

"We'll live in a studio first of all. Then we'll live in a house and
give dinner to the dealers and editors. And then we'll live in a house
with a studio and the dealers and editors shall give dinner to us."

"That will be fun," said Minna.

Together they carried the tea-tray upstairs and broke the news of
their engagement to Mrs. Folyat. Frederic and Jessie Clibran-Bell were
there. They had been conspiring with Mrs. Folyat to bring about a
speedy wedding. With the assistance of Mr. Clibran-Bell Frederic had
been taking work on his own account and had made fifty pounds in a
year. Herbert Fry had assisted him by letting him act as his agent--on
condition that he had Frederic's agency work in London--and now there
was talk of his setting up in an office of his own, if his father
could guarantee him one year's expenses.

Mrs. Folyat set all this before Basil and Minna, and excitedly they
planned a double wedding in two months' time.

Mrs. Folyat saw in this project the chance of wiping out the stain of
Annette's offence.

* * *

Francis was approached that very night. He was for waiting. They could
sell no more of their Potsham houses, or there would be no provision
for their old age. (He had already begun to think dimly of retirement
to the softer south and a garden.) Mrs. Folyat, however, had set her
heart on the plan. She wheedled, cajoled, coaxed, scolded, suggested
scheme after scheme, until Francis agreed to sell his life-insurance
policy, but on condition that the proceeds were divided equally
between his children with the exception of Leedham, who was married to
a wealthy Portuguese widow, ten years his senior, in Rio . . . Mrs.
Folyat pounced on that, and next morning saw to it that he began to
take the necessary steps.

Twelve hundred pounds were raised by this means. Serge disapproved and
disclaimed his share, so that the rest had two hundred and forty
pounds each.

Frederic took an office near Serge's studio, engaged two clerks, and
was regarded as sufficiently established to enter into the state of
matrimony.

There was an entertaining wedding. Bennett and Annette were invited
and formally taken back into the fold. Basil and Minna Haslam went to
London to spend their honeymoon in the studio they had taken in
Chelsea. Frederic and Jessie Folyat took a house next door but one to
James Lawrie's. There were many tears shed over the brides, and after
Mrs. Folyat had delivered herself of a sort of funeral oration _à la_
Bossuet, Minna whispered to Serge:

"Ma always did love a theatrical performance."

"'Your son's your son till he gets him a wife,'" said Mrs. Folyat to
Frederic, and then to Minna she completed the tag, "'Your daughter's
your daughter the rest of your life.'"

It was a very exciting and a very happy day in the Folyat household.
Mrs. Folyat chattered all the evening. Mary and Gertrude said not a
word and went silently off to bed, so that Francis was compelled to
escort his wife to her room and perform the innumerable little
services she required.

"Doesn't the house feel empty?" she said.

Francis mumbled.

"I'm sure Annette is going to have a baby."

"M-m-m-m."

"I thought I was never going to be a grandmother."

"You always were impatient," said Francis in an unexpectedly loud
voice.

That was criticism, which she could not abide. Francis rued his
precipitancy. He was very unhappy about Frederic, but, he asked
himself, what could he do? What could he do? There was no doubt that
Jessie loved Frederic, but did not that, in itself, the more
dangerously expose her to his folly and weak selfishness?

He hardly heard his wife's words as she went maundering on. In the
darkness he prayed that all might be, as he tried to believe, for the
best.



XXVII

GERTRUDE MAKES THE BEST OF IT

_De quels ravissements nous privent nos intempérances._
     JOUBERT.

WHEN Annette's baby--a boy--was born, Gertrude was the first to go and
see it. She took with her a woollen bonnet and a horn spoon.

Having become capitalists with the enormous sum that had come to
Annette, they had left their lodgings for a little house in a row of
little houses each of seven rooms and a scullery. They had a little
maid, who opened the door to Gertrude. She was a tiny wizened creature
but very voluble. Gertrude was not a yard inside the house when she
had a full description of the baby, its layette, Annette's condition
and appearance, and the devotion of Bennett, who, she said, "never had
no eyes for nothink 'cept 'is ugly little wife."

Gertrude was shown upstairs, to find Annette sitting up chattering to
an enormously fat woman, who was introduced to her as Mrs. Entwistle.
They were talking about Serge, of whom the fat woman expressed the
most glowing admiration.

The baby, a very little one, ugly and blotched, was handed to
Gertrude, and she was properly ecstatic over it. Mrs. Entwistle said:

"Eeh! Ow I did 'ave to slap 'is little buttocks to make 'im cry!"

"Slap?" said Gertrude, rather horrified.

"Eeh! Miss, didn't ye know that? Well, I never. Sometimes you 'ave to
fair leather into 'em."

Gertrude held the baby in her arms and hugged him close to her breast.
She was feeling very mournful, and envy tugged at her heart. She said:

"It's a very little house you live in."

"Isn't it? But we love it. It's just big enough for the three of us."

"How--how is Bennett?"

"Oh! He's very well, and he gets more money now, though still very
little. I'm afraid we shall never have very much as long as he remains
in business, and if he left it I suppose we should have nothing. But
we don't think about it--much."

"You must be very happy."

Very mournfully Gertrude said this. She was disappointed. She had
fancied that when she held Annette's baby in her arms she would feel
all kinds of beautiful and exalted emotions. It was certainly pleasant
to feel its warmth, and to hold it, so helpless as it was, gave her a
genial sense of protection, but she was wanting, hoping for more than
that. And when Annette replied that she was very happy--she looked it
too--Gertrude realised painfully that she was brutally indifferent.

The starving cannot rejoice with the well-fed.

Gertrude felt her life trickling away through her fingers: worst of
all, though she was not conscious of it, her desire for life was
ebbing away from her. All the bitterness, all the hunger, all the hard
envy in her heart she translated into one word: "Old." She said to
herself: "I am getting old." . . . Having come to a concise and
rounded thought she was pricked by it into revolt, and she said
gently, at first, to Annette:

"I envy you. I remember you when you were a little girl. I have always
thought of you as little, so that I have hardly known you. . . . And I
must have always seemed to you beyond your reach. Now it is you who
are beyond mine. Isn't it funny?"

She gave the child to Annette, watched it blindly wriggling against
its mother's breast, and tears trickled down her nose on to the
counterpane. Annette was so engrossed in her boy that she did not
notice it, and Gertrude was at once ashamed of her tears, brushed them
away, and angrily, in her heart, accused Annette of selfishness. She
would have been so grateful only for a little pressure of the hand, a
little smile, something that would bid her come into the circle of
warmth, so radiant with the joy of the child. She was too timid, too
much taken up with pity for herself, to force her way in. She dared
not assume that she would be welcome, for she was too conscious of her
own awkwardness.

She let slip the opportunity as she had spoiled so many. The conflict
in her soul left her bruised and sore, and she almost hated
Annette--Annette who had lied and cheated to take her lover. She
turned from her thwarted emotion to sentimentality, raked over the
ashes of the past, and artificially reconstructed the ruses and
strategems that she supposed Annette had used to capture Bennett
during her absence. . . . With effusive cordiality she kissed Annette
and the baby and promised often to come and see it. A little
awkwardly--she was not always tactful--Annette explained that
Bennett's sister was to be the baby's Godmother. That gave Gertrude
the handle she was seeking, and she persuaded herself that she had
deliberately been slighted.

She went away almost without another word. On her way home she was
thrust by her fancied injuries into contemplating her future. As
people always do when they contemplate the future, she lost sight of
the infinite gradations which led from the point at which she stood to
the point on which her eyes were fixed, so that all her forward life
was presented to her mental vision as acid, cold, bitterly assailing
her without clemency. All her desire was to escape that future, and to
evade the phantoms conjured up by her own mind--a mind very similar to
her mother's and also infected by it--and to do so in a way that
should, if ever so slightly, prick Annette's conscience . . .

Ideas are too often the gaolers of our souls, which, seeking health
and freedom, groping out of prison, take counsel of the first-comer,
an idea whom we have fee'd with prejudice and cowardice to stand guard
over us. Gertrude, seeking freedom from her home, from her own folly,
from herself, accosted the first-comer, Marriage, who, with a false
smile, opened a door and clapped her into another cell. This, being
larger than the other, she took for a place wide open to the winds of
Heaven, and passed from querulous fear of the future to excitement in
the immediate view. To be sure, she only saw four walls, but there was
more light on them, more air and mystery between her and them. . . .
Above all, nowhere in her cell could she see the figure of her sister
Mary, whom she had begun to detest, nervously and irritably. . . .
Mrs. Folyat had grown more and more incapable. The work of the house
was divided between Gertrude and Mary. Between the two there was a
grim struggle as to which of the two should make herself the less
indispensable to her mother. It was very certain, as both knew in
their inmost hearts, that if one of them were to be left, that one
would remain for ever, with nothing to do save to turn the hour-glass
when the sands ran out. Mary, being the weaker of the two, was the
more good-natured, and it was for Mary that Mrs. Folyat most often
called when she dropped her knitting-needle, or mislaid her
spectacles, or lost her book by sitting on it, or wished to play
Patience at some inappropriate hour. Everybody said Mrs. Folyat was a
dear old lady. She liked the character, clung to it and abused it.
Either Gertrude or Mary must be gobbled up by her selfishness. Both
Gertrude and Mary believed that their mother was a dear old lady. They
dreamed not that they were in revolt against her, but fancied--as it
seemed more heroical to do--that they were at grips in a fearful
struggle with life. They were both very near hysteria, Gertrude, after
her visit to Annette, being the nearer.

* * *

There came to live near the town at this time Mrs. Bradby-Folyat, an
aunt of the Folkestone Folyats, an old lady of much wealth, whose
estate was continually being augmented by legacies bequeathed by
irascible Bradbys and Folyats who were sickened by the attentions of
their legacy-hunting poorer relations. Mrs. Bradby-Folyat left her
relations alone, and the harvest of her wisdom was great. . . . Being
a lady of strong character and almost masculine intelligence she had a
great fondness for the weak and almost idiotic Streeten Folyat, who
long ago had abandoned his sheep-farm in Westmoreland and wandered
from one profession to another, shedding in each a portion of his
patrimony. Between journalism and market-gardening he spent several
months with his aunt at Boynton and amused himself in the town in
Frederic's company. Occasionally he visited the house in Burdley Park.
. . . Then he bought a small fleet of fishing-smacks at Scarborough,
sold them after ten months at a heavy loss and returned to Boynton.
His income had dwindled to four hundred. He bought houses in our town
and was quickly embroiled in a law-suit--his idleness made him
quarrelsome--and placed the case in Frederic's hands. By sheer luck
Frederic won the case and delighted the old lady at Boynton, who
insisted on considering that he had saved Streeten from ruin. She
invited Frederic and his wife to stay with her, and entrusted him with
the management of her estate. Frederic was almost delirious at this
access of fortune, and calculated that if the old lady lived for
another ten years he would make at least six thousand pounds. He was
in debt--he could not amuse himself with Streeten for nothing--and he
borrowed money from a friendly moneylender whose rate of interest per
cent. _per mensem_ seemed reasonable and low.

When Frederic was not at Boynton Streeten was at Frederic's house, and
when Streeten was at Frederic's house there also was Gertrude.
Streeten was amazingly vain, a fop, and as eager to scan his features
in the glass as a little boy just on the verge of adolescence, who is
beginning to feel that the eyes of the world are upon him. Such men,
when no mirror is near, will turn to the nearest woman. If in her he
can see the faintest reflection of himself, pat he will fall in love
with it. . . . There were not many mirrors in Frederic's house.
Streeten turned to Jessie but saw only Frederic, to Gertrude then, and
he saw himself enlarged, heightened, dazzling. It was the most
bewildering reflection of himself that he had ever seen, and at once
he was prostrate before it.

Almost before he could realise what had happened he was picked up,
thrust into a frock-coat and silk hat, taken to church, married to
Gertrude, and packed off for a honeymoon to Ilfracombe. He was very
bored and savage. He wanted to be at Boynton or amusing himself with
Frederic.

It is one thing to steal glances at your own reflection when you think
no one is looking, quite another to be married to it, though the
mirror tell its tale never so constantly.

It were too cruel, it were indecent, to write of Gertrude's honeymoon.



XXVIII

MOTHER AND DAUGHTER

_Life . . . is like love. All reason is against it, and all healthy
instinct for it._
     EREWHON REVISITED.

ON hearing of the capture of Streeten, celebrated in the most jubilant
strain by Mrs. Folyat, with a magnificently unjust comparison of her
new son-in-law with Bennett Lawrie, Minna wrote this letter to Mary:


"Mother Bub loves cutting her lamb up into chops. Did she fix him with
an eye? You know how she can bore into the back of a man's neck. I'm
almost sorry I missed the fun. I suppose she'll be better off than any
of us. We're beastly poor, the studio's always in a mess and we can't
get it straight. London is amusing but awfully big and callous. It
makes you feel that it never cares whether you're there or not, and
the river is almost the most human thing in it. Nobody seems to want
Basil's work. I suppose there are thousands of Basils all wanting to
do the same thing, and I suppose each Basil has a _me_ wanting a great
deal to eat and more pleasure and fun than is good for her, and not
caring particularly how much of his soul he has to sell to give it
her. The Folyats have a certain charm, but we're all selfish--except,
of course, dear old Ma, who always would have it that we got our
wickedness from Pa. Mother Bub has the charm of a basilisk, or a
fly-paper. I hope she will come to London, as it will be nice to
borrow money from her.
     Dearest love, Mottle dear,
          M.

P.S.--Basil has just sold a drawing. Sausages and mashed for supper!
Also beer!

P.P.S.--Did Bennett go to the wedding? How grateful he must have been
to Streeten for stepping into his shoes.

P.P.P.S.--I wouldn't get married if I were you. And to think I might
have been a Countess! Willie Folyat lives in London--the Hearl of
Leedham, if you please. I hear he's turned out a horrid little prig. I
knew he would, I felt it in my bones. I have such clever bones.
          M. H."


Mary was magnanimous and kept the letter to herself. She was
essentially good-natured and bore no malice. She was amused by Minna's
spite and did not believe a word she said. To her Gertrude was happy;
she was married, therefore she loved her husband and her husband loved
her. It was impossible for Mary to take a detached view, to tell black
from white, good from bad. She was mentally short-sighted and her
pleasures lay entirely in sentiment. She loved music as she loved
nothing else in the world, but her pleasure in it was the pleasure of
rhythm. Harmony touched her not at all. She had a sort of nervous
sensitiveness which made her extremely shy and unresponsive. A kind of
island existence was hers, and the island on which she dwelt was in a
perpetual fog. Every sound that reached her from without--and little
else but sound did reach her--was blurred. Voices more easily moved
her than actions or the expressions of a person's face. She had always
loved her father because of his soft, gentle voice, and when Serge was
in the house she was animated and more quickly interested in what was
going on around her.

She accepted her defeat by Gertrude docilely enough, gave up the
majority of her pupils and much of her chamber-music and took up the
reins of the household. With only her father and mother to provide
for, it was fairly easy, and the expenses were so much reduced that
she was able to pay more wages and to procure a better class of maid.
Mrs. Folyat took a dislike to the maid, and all her service had to be
performed by Mary herself.

Serge had fallen into the habit of taking supper with his family--his
father and mother and Mary--nearly every Sunday evening, and he was
exasperated by the petty attentions which his mother was continually
demanding. He had tried many a time to find a way to the heart of this
curious, stupid, yet gentle and kindly sister of his, but he had
always found it impossible to set her thoughts moving. She seemed to
have almost lost the capacity of thinking, and she had so little sense
of humour that any blunt statement of fact hurt her as a direct
attack. She showed in many ways that she was fond of him, but it was
as a dog is fond, with a mute uncomprehending sympathy.

Serge fell back on action. Whenever his mother, in the metallic tones
of her querulous mood, asked Mary to fetch her book from the other end
of the house, or to unravel her knitting when she had dropped a
stitch, or to read to her because her eyes ached, Serge bustlingly and
rather ostentatiously forestalled his sister. There was never any sign
that he had produced any effect on mother or daughter.

This went on for months. Existence in the house in Burdley Park passed
smoothly and placidly, and Francis seemed to be happy, as he had never
been, busy with his parish and greenhouse. He was silent for days
together, except that every now and then he would hum tunelessly to
himself, booming like a bumble-bee. He had every small joy that he
asked of the world and was content. He liked the new generation of his
parishioners better than the old, they were not so dour, and
everything seemed to him to be going well and happily. He saw Frederic
very seldom, and Annette very frequently, and Minna and Gertrude were
regular correspondents. Serge had not for a very long time asked him
for money, and for the first time for many, many years his expenses
and income were on good terms with each other. Best of all, Mrs.
Folyat had begun to see herself and her husband as a sort of Darby and
Joan, and sweetened her conduct to fit the character. Everybody said
you might go far before you could find a more delightful old couple.
They achieved a sort of celebrity.

Mary too came in for her share of the general admiration, and her
devotion to her mother was by more than one tyrannous old woman
brandished over the head of a peevish and fading daughter. Mary recked
nothing of it, and it would have made no impression on her if she had.

One Sunday, when her mother had rather explosively demanded her
spectacles, and Serge without a word had gone down to the dining-room
for them, and without a word had given them to her, a new idea came to
Mary. She sat stupidly gazing at her mother and very slowly she began
to think what would become of her if her father and mother were to
die. There was a loud-ticking clock in the room, and it said with
remorseless insistency:

"I-shall-be-alone."

This was a very dreadful idea to her. She strangled it.

There is no getting rid of thoughts. If they are strangled their
corpses remain and rot in the mind, to its lasting detriment. This
idea remained in Mary's mind, cold and dead, and gradually poisoned
the sweetness of her nature.

A fixed idea is a dead idea.

* * *

Mary's temper suffered, and she vented her spleen on her pupils to
such a degree that there came a time when she had only one left--the
youngest daughter of the sausage-machine manufacturing widower, all of
whose daughters she had instructed in turn in a polite mastery of the
violin. Her bi-weekly visits to his house had become part of the
routine of his household, and she was part and parcel of its
furniture, being fitted into the heavy dinner-parties when there was a
gap. At other entertainments she was never omitted and was as much
part of their colour as the faded best chair-covers that were taken
out for the occasion or the Japanese lanterns which illuminated them.
She was useful, for she was always willing to play the piano for hours
on end when the young people wanted to dance. To the widower, who
never saw her on other occasions, she was always associated with
gaiety.

One day he proposed marriage to her, and she refused him.

"Be sure," he said, "that I shall always be your friend. And I shall
continue to hope."

He was really relieved at being rejected, and retired to cogitate the
extraordinary impulse which had driven him to do such a thing. He felt
very uncomfortable, for the fictions with which he had surrounded his
dead wife had been shaken.

Mary left his house in a flutter. The man had always been kind to her,
he was an admirable father, and she had always respected him as a
solid man, though he was a little too Northernly solid to be taken
altogether seriously. His house was very comfortable, though ugly and
too reekingly prosperous, but the habit of years had made it a corner
of the equilateral triangle of her life. Its atmosphere was altogether
different from that of her home and delivered her from monotony.

Her only feeling about his proposal of marriage was one of surprise.
She thought of it only materially and was not signally disturbed by it
until he sent her an extraordinary letter in which he sought to
explain away his behaviour. In the course of it he cut deeper in his
contemplation of the marriage--having been married--and had,
unwittingly, set his emotions stirring. Mary's emotions responded, but
her modesty plucked them back. She did not, she told herself, "love"
Mr. Hargreave, because, after all, he was only a common man who had
begun life as a boy in a smithy. It had been easy enough when she
thought of marriage as a mere translation from one house to another,
but, quite clearly, he was asking for a personal relation, and from
that she shrank, chiefly because it was a change from the custom of
years. When she desired a concrete objection she fished out from the
confusion in her mind the prejudiced idea that she would be a
stepmother; worse than that, a stepmother to children to whom she had
been a paid instructress, children moreover who had, upon occasion,
been so cruel to her that she had been unable to retort upon them or
to maintain discipline. . . . She read Mr. Hargreave's letter once
more and saw that she could not easily enter his house again, except
it were to leave her home.

She left the matter for a day or two, did not reply, and failed to
attend for Violet Hargreave's violin lesson. A day or two more and she
received another letter from Mr. Hargreave in which he completely
abased himself, and, in his desire to be kind and to palliate the
affront he conceived himself to have put upon her, waxed tender and
was almost lyrical in her praises.

She tried to write to him but could find nothing to say. Tears rolled
down and plopped on to the paper, and she grew hot and impatient with
herself. Clearly she must go to his house and reassure him. No sooner
had she resolved on that, than she felt that she could not explain
herself, that he would renew his proposal, and she would have to say
either "Yes" or "No." If "Yes," then a thousand and one objections
would rise in her mind. If "No," then it would become impossible for
her ever to enter his house again.

She dried her eyes and resolved that she would go there and then and
get it over. It was evening. She could ask for one of the Hargreave
girls, leave a piece of music; she was familiar enough at the house;
no one would suspect the undercurrent.

As she went downstairs her mother called to her. She could not find
"Johnny Ludlow" anywhere, and what had Mary done with it, and why was
she so careless?

"I am not careless," replied Mary. "You were reading it yourself. You
must have left it in your room."

"Johnny Ludlow" was found behind the cushions of Mrs. Folyat's chair.
Mary felt a gust of impatience as she gave the book to her mother. She
sat down suddenly, and with a desperate gulp she said very quickly:

"Mr. Hargreave has asked me to marry him!"

"You, my dear . . . Mr. Hargreave! He must be nearly sixty!"

The word "sixty" chilled Mary.

"Fifty-one," she murmured.

"An old man like that . . . Really he ought to be ashamed of himself.
He ought to be preparing himself for his eternal life instead of
thinking of a wife. . . . And with all those children too."

Mary's sense of justice was offended.

"A great many widowers marry again for the sake of their children,
don't they?"

"But Mr. Hargreave has two grown-up daughters."

Again there was a chilly catch at Mary's heart, and she had a lump in
her throat. She said:

"No one else has ever asked me to marry."

It needed melodrama to move Mrs. Folyat; tragedy or tragi-comedy left
her blank. She was in no mood for general consideration, for she was
thinking with cold practicability of the need of the moment. When she
thought of the house without Mary it was as a place of absolute
silence. There were many evenings when Francis said never a word; many
again when he sat alone in his study or working in his greenhouse, and
only came up just before it was time to go to bed. Mrs. Folyat had a
horror of silence. . . . Mary must not go, she thought, Mary must not
go. She came swiftly to the point and asked:

"Have you accepted him?"

Unreasonably, in the face of experience, Mary had been expecting
sympathy; she so craved it. For a flickering moment she desired almost
viciously to lie, but she was hurt into truth.

"No," she said.

Mrs. Folyat sighed with relief and triumph.

"Of course you couldn't," she said. "He is such a common man. . . .
Let us play Bézique."

Mary fetched the cards and they played until Francis came up at ten
o'clock. She let him take her hand and went downstairs to the kitchen
to brew her mother's chocolate. She had lost all interest in Mr.
Hargreave, and she felt nothing at all.

In her bedroom that night she found it quite easy to write to him. She
said that she trusted him to understand that she could not marry him,
and that it would be best in the circumstances if he found another
teacher for Violet. He had (she continued) always been very kind to
her. She was very grateful to him, and would think well of him, but
her duty lay towards her father and mother.

So, without any ill-feeling she slipped into the part designed for her
by her mother.

As she was writing to Mr. Hargreave, her mother said to Francis:

"My dear, what do you think? That horrid old Hargreave has actually
proposed to Mary. Of course she refused him."

"Poor Mary," said Francis.



XXIX

DISCUSSION

_Will kein Gott auf Erde sein?
 Sind wir selber Götter._
      W. MÜLLER.

THROUGH the years Father Soledano had remained a fairly frequent
visitor at the house of the Folyats. His was the only really constant
intimacy that Francis enjoyed, and it was based on the kinship of
their humour and their common taste for mental caricature. Both
strangers to our town and dwelling outside its activity, they loved to
foregather and burlesque its politics, its manners, and its worship of
money. Father Soledano went further than Francis and poked his fun at
English institutions, though then he became malicious and Francis
could not see eye to eye with him. Francis had no politics save a
dislike for Mr. Gladstone and a distrust of Benjamin Disraeli and Lord
Salisbury, and he knew too little of modern English literature to be
able to appreciate the priest's sarcasms at the expense of Carlyle,
Ruskin, George Eliot, or Robert Browning. He had never heard of George
Meredith, but he became almost angry when Soledano scoffed at Dickens
and Thackeray. . . .

Their discussions used to take place on Sunday evenings in the study,
and it often happened that Serge was present. One Sunday night when,
as often happened, Soledano, harked back to the Manchester murders, he
launched out upon a violent assault upon England, and quoted once more
words that were often upon his lips, words of the mother of Charles
Stewart Parnell:

"'The English are hated everywhere for their arrogance, greed, cant,
and hypocrisy. They want us all to think they are so goody-goody. They
are simply thieves.'"

"Oh! come, come," said Francis, "not so bad as that. After all we have
given the world a good deal and showed the way to other nations in
many things."

"You have shown the other nations how to steal."

"I don't think any nation, or any collective body of men who have
pooled their sense of right and wrong need much instruction in that,"
said Serge. "It is simply a question of stealing from a body of men
weaker than themselves. Men in the mass are abominable. There isn't
anything to choose between England and France, or Italy, or the new
German Empire or America. England has been more successful than the
rest and has therefore had more opportunity of doing harm. . . ."

"Good as well," put in Francis. "Good as well."

"Only incidentally and by accident," retorted Soledano. "What I
contend is that you cannot have collective villainy and individual
virtue, collective bad action and individual good action."

"You can't indict a nation," said Serge.

"I can and I do."

"Then you are not so clever as I thought. There is no such thing as
collective action, there is only the action of individuals. You herd
men together so that they may carry out the will of individuals, and,
as in the present condition of society, the most cunning and
cold-blooded and unscrupulous men survive to exercise their wills over
the herd. What is produced by the herd is almost always bad, because
their efforts are directed only towards base ideals. . . . In the long
run it may be a good thing to gather men together into huge masses for
the easier and more expeditious creation of wealth and the means of
subsistence. I don't know. I can't see into the future. But you and my
father know--who better?--how the poor are being ground down in this
town, and it must be the same in every other. What appals me is that
there is no sort of corrective to the base ideal of success and
accumulated wealth and what is called power except the blind revolt of
nature in man and woman--especially woman. There is absolutely
nothing. There are a certain number of artists in this town, men of my
own trade, but they all seem to be doing their work from the dealer's
point of view, to produce a saleable article, and not for the sheer
delight of exercising a talent, without which the result cannot give
delight. The theatres are even worse: they are fed from London with
stupid replicas of pieces designed to give the illusion of pleasure
rather than pleasure itself. The newspapers will soon be nothing but
advertising sheets. It will soon be impossible for any man to do his
work with any joy in it. It is bad enough when a man wastes himself in
feeding his own vanity, but when he is used only to feed the vanity of
another man then there is absolutely no hope for him. There might be
something said for an arrangement by which a man gave a certain number
of hours of his day to joyless work, so that during the rest he can
take joy in other things. But all these men who are doing work in
which there is no reward at all are paid so little that they are
shattered by financial anxiety. They marry wives whom they cannot
afford to keep and produce children whom it is impossible for them to
feed and educate. . . . England is in a bad way, Father. It seems to
me rather unfair to attack her when she is down."

"The greatest Empire the world has ever seen!" said Father Soledano
mockingly.

Francis looked thoughtful. He lit his pipe and said:

"I wish I understood what you are talking about, Serge."

"I want a corrective," answered Serge. "All this material organisation
may be a good thing in the long run, but spiritual health is every bit
as important as physical health--more. They're organising education
now, but towards no ideal save the base ideal of cunning unscrupulous
men--self-help, and all that. A man's life consists of only two
things, work and love. At present love is wiped out of consideration
altogether, and work is regarded as a damned unpleasant thing that has
to be stomached. At present a man must be either a slave or an
employer of slaves, that is, a slave who is promoted. If you promote a
slave to the condition of a free man he goes bad, because he has the
soul of a slave and cannot live except under tyranny. If he escapes
from the tyranny of a man he seeks that of his own vices. . . . If you
educate men as slaves they will be slaves, just as your Loyola said,
Father--every child who passed through the Jesuits' hands remained
theirs for ever. . . . You get revolt every now and then as in the
French Revolution and in 1848, but that is nothing but the desire of
the slaves of poverty for the slavery of wealth."

"Christopher Sly," said Soledano, "will always be Christopher Sly. If
you are stupid enough you can stand anything. Men are stupid. That is
the whole story. When you have said that you have said everything."

Serge brought his fist down on the table.

"I don't believe it. If, inspired by a base ideal, they can do all
that they have done, they can, when inspired by a noble ideal, the
simplest and most beautiful of all, the ideal of a life of love and
work, do better yet and gain material well-being in justice through
spiritual health."

"Bah!" said Soledano. "That is your English idealism. Men can only
understand a base ideal. They are impelled only by one
instinct--hunger. They are terrified of hunger and fight only to
protect themselves against it. All their other instincts, even the
instinct of reproduction, have to take their chance--a very poor one.
Also my friend, your idealism is just a joke to women. Life is too
serious, too immediately appalling for them, for they are just as
cruelly driven by their instinct of reproduction as they are by the
instinct of hunger."

"Very well, then," said Serge, "drop the idealism and call it
practical good sense. Concentrate on the instinct of hunger and the
instinct of reproduction and organise for the satisfaction of both."

"It is impossible. You are asking men to be intelligent. The English
will never be that."

Father Soledano said good-night to Francis and held out his hand to
Serge.

"I'm coming with you," said Serge.

"Still unconvinced?"

"Absolutely convinced that I am right."

They drove back in a cab to the priest's house in the asphalted
courtyard under the cathedral.

"Will you tell me," asked Serge, "how you reconcile what you have said
this evening with what you say in your Church?"

"I don't."

"Can you go on?"

"Like the rest of the world, I do what I am told. If I examined and
scrutinised everything that I was told to do I should do very little
of it. . . . On the whole we do good. We save a certain number of men
from sinking into brutality, and to a certain number of others we give
an outlet for their emotions, which amounts to the same thing."

"How much do you believe of what you tell them?"

"I have never examined my belief. Like your father, I do what I am
told to do. Suppose I renounced my faith and the priesthood. My place
would be taken by another. There are too many men, my friend, too many
women, and life moves both too slowly and too swiftly . . . What can
you do? You say that the good life consists wholly of work and love.
Then work, my friend, and love. There is nothing to prevent you. I
also work, and I also love. Very lovingly I despise men, because I
know them, as you, I think, do not."

"Quite candidly, it seems to me cowardly and rather despicable to
teach men to believe in another life beyond the grave."

"Life, as it is, must be made supportable."

"From within, not from without."

"You seem to be levelling an accusation at my Church, but you must be
just and observe that we do display, for the benefit of the men whose
souls are our care, a certain faith in the next life by renouncing the
pleasures of this."

"You stifle an instinct. That seems to me as great a sin as abusing it
by excess of the pleasure derived from its satisfaction."

"I find your point of view interesting, but too naïve and simple. The
idea of original sin may be fanciful, it may have its origin in
Oriental myth, but there is contamination from some source or other."

"Simply from a wrong interpretation of life. I say it is possible for
men to understand life."

"It is quite impossible. They can only live it."

"Then there is absolutely no meaning in all their activity, all their
inventions, all their discoveries . . ."

"I can see none. They are still the slaves of hunger. When you appease
the hunger of the body there remains the hunger of the spirit."

"Exactly, and I contend that in the hands of intelligent men the
machinery in their power could satisfy the bodily hunger of all men,
and set them free to find satisfaction for the hunger of the spirit.
. . . As I see it, it is towards that that the world is tending. There
will be a great deal of cruelty and oppression by the way, but there
will come a time when man's mastery of the world will be so great that
anything save the most elastic organisation will make life intolerable
for rich and poor alike. As you say, if you are stupid enough you can
endure anything. Men are more intelligent now than they were fifty
years ago. They will be ten times as intelligent fifty years hence.
. . ."

"Look at home, my friend. Look at home."

"I do. And it is just that absurdly pathetic tragi-comedy that makes
me scan the world to see what hope there is for future generations.
. . . You make the mistake of taking men as you find them. I take
myself and discover what I might be, to what I might grow if I could
get my fill of friendship, and affection, and love."

"Love is of God."

"God is in Man. I take myself, as I say. There is much in myself that
I despise, even as you despise men, but there is in myself an essence
which I know to be unconquerable and free. That you translate into
another world and call God and eternal life. You postpone freedom,
because to you the crust of slavery seems impenetrable. I want freedom
for that essence in myself here and now. It is the fiercest instinct
in me, stronger than hunger, stronger than reproduction, which are
only by the way. What I find in myself I believe to exist in all other
men."

"But then," said Father Soledano, "you have never done as you were
told."

Serge laughed and took his leave.



XXX

FREDERIC IN THE TOILS

_O, you shall have him give a number of those false faces ere he
depart._
     EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR.

SUPERSTITION will have it that marriage is a good thing, and, being
one of the most powerful agents in human affairs, forbids discussion
of its pseudo-axiom. Superstition uses marriage as a club with which
to lay men and women low. Sincerity insists on examining marriage, and
discovers that there is no such thing, as superstition interprets it.
Society does not marry people, neither does the Church. Society and
Church can only record what they are told. Men and women marry
themselves by as much free will as they possess, and their marriage
will be good or bad or both in the degree in which they are good or
bad or both. If their marriage is good it will endure. If it is bad it
will come to an end and it will none the less be at an end though
superstition insist that the parties to it continue miserably to dwell
under one roof and never seek outside it the love they have suffered
to escape. Superstition refuses to countenance divorce--a dissolution
of the bond as free as the making of it--and smiles blandly upon every
hideous captivity so long as it comes not to public knowledge. . .
Superstitious persons are perpetually setting their faces against
Nature's subtle and ingenious provisions for every emergency, but, it
is to be observed, that if you set your face against anything in
Nature, it will simply go round the other way and hit you in the back
of the neck, exactly at the moment when you are congratulating
yourself on having made a comfortable provision for the mature years
of your life and a ripe and venerable old age.

They were very superstitious persons who lived near Frederic and
Jessie Folyat, and they smiled benignantly upon their young marriage.
Every morning several old ladies and more than one old gentleman
peeped out of their dining-room windows to see Jessie walk down the
garden on Frederic's arm and kiss him at the little iron gate.

"Ah!" they said, "young love! Young love! There is nothing like it."

And this in the face of their own appalling experience and the fact
that Frederic and Jessie were neither of them very young: but
superstitious persons realise very little of all that happens to them
and they see even less of what is presented to their eyes. It was
enough for these people that Jessie and Frederic were newly married,
and they kept them in their minds as newly married long after they had
settled down and the exciting novelty had given way to day-to-day
habit.

Frederic never saw the heads at the windows as he hurried away to his
office, but Jessie saw them, and more for them than for any
satisfaction of her own she maintained the practice of kissing her
husband. In the evening she would go down to the little gate and kiss
him again as he arrived.

"Ah! Lucky man!" the audience would sigh in their withered,
sentimental old hearts.

When Frederic did not come Jessie would turn and visibly wilt under
the gaze of the superstitious persons, who muttered to themselves:

"Poor little bride! Poor little bride!"

At length there came a time when on four evenings in succession
Frederic did not come, and on the fourth evening Jessie could not
bring herself to turn and walk up the path alone. She went out into
the street, round the corner, and in at the kitchen door, and not
again for a long time did she go down to the little iron gate in the
evening.

* * *

Frederic was a liar of the common type, which indulges in absurd and
useless exaggerations. When he bought a neck-tie at a cheap hosier's
for half-a-crown he would say he got it at a more fashionable shop for
seven-and-six, though the name of the maker was sewn inside it. When
he borrowed money he would ask for three times as much as he wanted.
When he walked three miles he always stretched them out to ten. His
lying was for his own benefit first of all, and it was to help in
deceiving himself that he extended it to other people. His income was
always estimated at at least three times too high a figure, and his
expenditure, which also he blew out to convince himself of the truth
of his estimate, always exceeded it. Jessie had two hundred a year: he
persuaded himself that she had five hundred, and forced many quarrels
upon her because she came to him with bills for household expenses.
. . . Time and again did Jessie find him out in his lying, but, as he
always carried it into their intimate relation and multiplied the
nothing that he gave her to the _n_th power, she was appeased; but
imperceptibly she was contaminated, and in spite of her many anxious
moments as to their solvency, contracted the habit of lying to her
family as to her affairs and the state of Frederic's business. This
was, in fact, unhealthy. Outside the management of the Bradby-Folyat
estate there was very little work that could bring in any solid
profit, though in his office there was an air of bustling activity due
to the fairly constant stream of small county-court and police-court
cases, which came to him as a tribute to his prowess as a liar. Being
what is called a gentleman, he could lie from a coign of vantage, and
a number of small shopkeepers and shady customers came to Lawyer
Folyat, though, when there was any danger of a skilful
cross-examination, they soon learned to avoid him. Still, there was
enough business in the office to go to Frederic's head: he was one of
those men who are perpetually intoxicated, though they never touch
alcohol and may be, frequently are, ardent temperance reformers. Every
case that came into his office became four or five in his mind, and he
never doubted but that he was building up a large, solid, and
flourishing business. He had all the air of a successful man,
hoodwinked many innocent persons and very soon had two young men as
articled clerks, whose premiums went to swell his banking account. He
was what is called generous, gave for the pleasure of being thanked,
and lavished presents on his wife, his mother, his mother-in-law, his
sisters, and Jessie's sisters. He thought for a long time of paying
his father back some of the money that had been disbursed for him,
thought it over so long that at last he believed he had repaid it and
patted himself on the back as a dutiful son. . . . When he had moments
of doubt--and they were very awful when they came--he would go to his
mother and she would cluck over him like an old hen, and tell him he
was the most grateful, the most affectionate, the most generous, and
truly thoughtful of her children. He would gulp down her flattery and
win back to self-deception, without which it had become impossible for
him to face his wife, whom he was for ever pestering with absurd
questions like "Do you love me?" "How much do you love me?" "Would
anything ever make you cease to love me?" And when she replied as best
she could with exaggerated demonstrations he hardly listened to her.
. . . Truly in their relationship it was he who played the feminine
part.

When Jessie was with child he lied to himself about his son, saw
himself building up a great firm for his inheritance, and from the
very first moment being a hero to the little fellow. He began to feel
irresistible and so tormented his wife with his swaggering that she
protested by mentioning one or two awkward little facts. She brought
down on herself such a storm of anger that her nerves gave way and she
had a fit of hysteria. . . In a week she was brought to bed of a
miscarriage.

She was not very ill, but she suffered terribly, for Frederic hardly
spoke a word to her for ten days, and then he arranged for her to go
and stay at the sea alone, unless she chose to take one of her sisters
with her. She would not do that and she went alone. He promised to
spend Saturdays and Sundays with her, but at the end of each week he
declared that it was impossible for him to get away. . . . He was
hardly responsible for his actions. The most glorious fiction he had
ever created had come toppling down and he was not altogether to blame
for the breach which gaped so wide between himself and his wife that
he could not avoid seeing it. She, too, had missed her opportunity,
for she was so oppressed by the physical ugliness of the calamity that
she was frozen by it and could not give him the warmth that might have
saved him from still further floundering in the morass. . . . As it
was, he was savagely resentful against her and missed not the pettiest
occasion of hurting her. Under this treatment her love died almost
without a struggle, so painlessly indeed that she attributed all her
hurt and her agony to the discovery that came to her by the sea, that
Frederic had never loved her. She saw that clearly and was instantly
filled with dread lest she should betray herself and let him feel that
she knew. . . . Every letter she wrote to him was carefully framed to
convey a picture of herself as loyal, tender, devoted, proud,
and--with the most cunning falsity of all--admiring. These letters
soothed Frederic. He had found it difficult to admire his own
brutality, though, as he moved further away from it, it was distorted
by the prism of his vanity into something very like strength. That
accomplished, it became an easy task to cover over the unpleasant fact
of the disaster so that it became as a pearl upon his shell.

He was loftily forgiving when Jessie returned, and she was softly,
cushionly submissive. For the first time--love being dead--she let
loose upon him the full force of her sex. He was still sensitive
enough to feel repelled, even as he yielded.

Their house was filled with stealthy shadows. It grew darker and
darker. Each sought to illuminate it with lies, lies, and yet more
lies.

At first, as usual, his lies gave him the illusion of greater freedom,
and he heightened the illusion by treating Jessie with less and less
consideration. He gulped down the forced admiration she gave him and
was always trying to squeeze more of it out of her. When he was in a
mood of self-abasement she admired the loftiness which could stoop to
acknowledge its defects, and quickly he was riding off again with his
head full of himself as the kindest of husbands, the best of sons, the
most irresistibly successful of men. Such glaring divergence presented
itself to his mind as consistency.

Such a state of things imposed a heavy strain upon Jessie. She was not
always quick enough to follow him in his snipe-like flights. Sometimes
when he was accusing himself of neglect and thoughtlessness and lack
of consideration for her, it seemed to her that it would be easiest
and might afford both of them relief if she agreed with him. Then his
vanity writhed and furiously he would cry:

"You are always finding fault with me. . . My mother thinks me
perfect."

It is impossible to be wise where love is not, and Jessie could not
learn discretion. He was so extraordinarily convincing in his
self-reproach that she always forgot the lessons of caution she had
set herself in his absence.

Still he would force endearing phrases upon her and caresses and
demand to be told that she loved him. Her parrot-cries appeased him,
and, feeling confident that she loved him, in stealthy small ways he
began to betray her, indeed, where before he had only dared to be
false to her in thought. He absented himself from his house to seek
the company of flattering fools. He returned at longer and longer
intervals to stoke up the furnace of his wife's love. . . . He was
like a child who, having built a house of cards, removes first one
card and then another from the base and leaves only enough to keep the
edifice ominously swaying.

* * *

Do what he would, Frederic was slowly forced into retreat. It is
impossible for life to stand still. If it cannot move forward it will
plunge backward. Life is for ever seeking its channel, love. . . .
Frederic was borne backward, and it was not long before he came to the
thought of Annie Lipsett. Easily he persuaded himself that he had been
treated with injustice, and thwarted by interference from doing what
was right. Pitying himself, he began to pity her, and, in a tremendous
orgy of self-righteousness, told himself that he ought to make amends,
and at least, even if he could do nothing, let her know that he had
not forgotten her. It did not occur to him that she might have
forgotten him: impossible to conceive that she could wish to.

Though he was on a considerably more amiable footing with his father,
he could not broach the subject with him. As far as Francis was
concerned it was buried, and was not to be exhumed. Frederic turned to
Serge, and by hints and semi-questions drew his own conclusion that
Serge was still in touch with Annie. He left it at that and waited,
and took to frequenting Serge's company enough to form a fairly
accurate idea of his habitual movements. These still included frequent
excursions into the country, for Serge found a good market for
water-colour drawings of the semi-urbanised fells and dales of
Lancashire, and the little towns so tucked away into a narrow valley
that from one side of them you could see across the smoke to the hills
and the green country beyond.

One day, when he knew that Serge was out on an expedition, Frederic
visited his studio and ransacked it. He found two letters from Annie
Lipsett and from them became possessed of her history. Serge's friend,
the farmer, had married six months before and Annie had had to come to
town again to earn her living as best she could. Serge had procured
her a situation in a dressmaker's, and she was in lodgings in a suburb
not very far away from Annette's little house.

Frederic wrote a very cautious little letter on his office paper, and,
in a spasm of jealousy of Serge, enclosed a five-pound note. The money
was returned two days later without any reply. He sent it back again,
imploring her to take it if she had a single friendly thought of him
or any wish for his happiness. (He heaved an enormous sigh as he wrote
the word--happiness). The five-pound note was returned again. He
guessed, rightly, that Serge was responsible, and he swore that he
would not be ousted from his rightful position as benefactor to the
woman he had wronged. Was not his own happiness wrecked? Could he not,
by this means, restore it? . . . He was persuaded that he could.

He left his office early, and with a hectic sort of elation in the
adventure--it was so much more exciting than the idea of returning
home--set out to discover the house in which Annie Lipsett lived. He
waited at the corner of the street until he saw her coming. She was
with Serge. Furiously he turned and strode away.

The next evening he waited for her. She was alone. With Byronic gloom
he stood in front of her and said:

"Annie!"

She caught her breath and stepped back a pace.

"Please," she said. "No! I thought you would understand."

"I understand nothing," said Frederic; "nothing except that my life is
miserable, wrecked, a thing of captivity and torture."

"You mustn't come to see me. It isn't right. . . . Your . . ."

"It is right," said Frederic. "It has all been wrong, but this is
right."

(He knew his language was stilted, but he could not give himself time
to revise it.)

Annie said simply:

"Please, Mr. Frederic, it isn't any good. It was all over long ago.
Your way and my way aren't the same."

Frederic walked with her down the street, and found it hard to keep up
with her, she went so swiftly. He made one last effort and said:

"I want to see the child . . . Our own was . . ."

Annie had heard about that from Serge. She turned to him and held out
her hands:

"I'm so sorry. . . . You shall see him just this once, if you'll
promise me never to come again . . . and he is not to know who you
are. He has never heard of you."

The unconscious cruelty of her words did not penetrate Frederic's
mind. The situation appealed to him as a situation. He was becoming a
connoisseur, and the ironically bitter savour of this tickled his
palate. With offensive humility and gratitude he said:

"Thank you . . . Thank you."

* * *

The boy was in bed sleeping, with the clothes tumbled by his
restlessness and his arms flung across his face.

"He is such a good boy," said Annie; "he has always been good and
happy."

"He is like you," said Frederic. "I am glad I have seen him. I am glad
to have found you again."

"Will you go now?"

Frederic was startled. Her simplicity and gentleness had sobered him.
He had grown so used to swaggering from situation to situation that it
was alarming to find this, which should have been the most touching
and moving and the most honourable to himself, dissolved by the light
touch of sincerity. It was all the more disconcerting, inasmuch as he
had made no allowance for change in Annie. In their previous
acquaintance she had been as adroit and as eager as he in the game of
False Positions, which is the principal occupation of human beings all
the world over. He had taken her rejection of his proffered assistance
as another move in the game, and lo!--here she was simply ignoring the
past and out of a purely general sort of friendliness allowing him to
see her son, and when he had seen, requesting him to go! He was
humiliated, but still so astonished that, though all his desire was to
play upon her pity and so to drag her back to the old footing, he
could not find words keen enough for his purpose. He heaved great
sighs and fixed her with sorrowful and yearning eyes, but she gazed
only at the child, busied herself with his bed, put up her hand to the
gas jet and waited until Frederic was out of the room before she
turned it low.

He waited for her in the passage.

"Tell me," he said, "how you are off for money. You shall not want.
. . ."

"I make my living. I like my work."

"I couldn't bear to think of you suffering through me."

Annie looked at him with that disarming directness that was unfamiliar
to him:

"I have suffered," she said.

Frederic went away.

* * *

It was not long before he had persuaded himself that she had
deliberately plotted to humiliate him, by meeting his generosity--had
he not been generous?--with what he called "beastly pride."
Generosity, in his dual scheme of the world, should find its
complement in a grovelling gratitude. Generosity was the prerogative
of the male, gratitude the privilege of the female. That a woman
should show self-reliance and fling back a man's generosity, suspect
him most of all when he brought gifts, offended him as an indecency
. . . After all if the woman does not take her cue from the man where
is he? How can he continue to play his part? What becomes of the human
drama?

Frederic's reflections of course were more particular than this, but,
generalised, they would amount to the same thing. The world (_i.e._
Frederic) was so dishonest that honesty (_i.e._ an honest person,
Annie) seemed to be offending against all the rules of the game, and,
since the world is under the illusion that its whole existence depends
on the game, it devotes its energy to the suppression of honesty.
. . . Frederic told himself that he had a right to assist the woman,
who was defiantly happy in the face of her sin, while he, her partner
in that sin, was properly wretched and conscience-stricken and
honestly desirous of making amends. He would obey his conscience--that
must be right!--regain his self-respect and compel gratitude from
Annie.

"We shall see!" he said, having partially restored his belief in his
own rectitude and irresistibility.

He took to sending toys and little garments for the boy. They were
returned to his office.

He went to Annie's rooms to find that she had flown. The devil of
obstinacy was roused in him, and he bribed her landlady to procure her
new address. He called but was refused admittance. . . . Then one
morning he waited and followed her to her place of business and
thereafter waylaid her several times. She was quite amiable but
absolutely unyielding. One day as he was walking along by her side
breathlessly pouring into her ear a tale of self-pity,
self-accusation, self-abasement, entreaty for forgiveness, a word of
kindness, extravagant out-pourings of love for the boy and his brave,
splendid, true-hearted mother, all mixed together most adroitly with a
complacent masculine belief in the softness and gullibility of the
female heart, they met Serge. Annie called to him. Serge came at once.

"Take me home," she said.

Frederic caught hold of her arm and solemnly abjured her not to break
his heart, to believe in him, to believe that he only was her friend.
. . .

"Let her go, you swine," said Serge, and thrust Frederic away.

They were in a crowded thoroughfare. It had been raining and the
streets were very muddy. It was evening and clerks and shop assistants
were hurrying home. No one paid any attention to the little group. The
stream of people parted, passed round them, closed again, and moved
on. . . . The cold anger in Serge's tone infuriated Frederic. He saw
it all now. It was Serge who was thwarting him. Serge who at every
turn was thrusting humiliation upon him. He lost count of everything
in hatred of Serge. He had a stick in his hand. He raised it and
struck blindly. The stick was wrenched away, he received a terrific
blow on the point of his chin, his feet slipped from under him, and he
went down. . . . By the time he was up again Serge and Annie had
disappeared. No one paid him any heed, only, a few yards away,
grinning from ear to ear, he saw the boy from his office.

He hailed a cab and drove home. Jessie was alarmed at his condition,
but her alarm gave way to pride as he told her how he had seen a man
break a shop-window and run away with a handful of jewels--a huge,
burly man, and how he had given chase, caught up with him, and after a
tremendous struggle--the man knew a good deal about wrestling--held
him until the arrival of the police. . . . What with the soothing
influence of having his wounds tended, and the interest of his story,
Frederic found it not at all difficult to recover from the degradation
of the scene in the street and its outcome. He was so gentle and
caressing, so apparently without thought beyond the moment, that
Jessie began flutteringly to whisper to her heart that perhaps she had
been wrong, perhaps, after all, Frederic had really loved her from the
beginning. Both indulged in the luxury of forgiveness and fond
indulgence, and they were like a shyly self-conscious couple on
honeymoon.

* * *

Honeymoon folly is weakening, and next day Frederic had small power of
resistance against his own miserable thoughts. His office-boy smirked
when he saw him, and in the afternoon he grinned with a damnable
familiarity as he announced Mr. Serge Folyat. Serge came in on his
heels, caught the boy by the ear and thrust him out through the door.
Frederic sank back into his chair, did his best to draw on his
professional manner and sat with his fingertips pressed together and
his lips pursed up.

Serge said:

"I've come to beg your pardon. I lost my temper."

Frederic could find nothing to say. Serge went on:

"Let us, if we can, discuss the matter on a friendly footing. You made
a beast of yourself by pestering a woman. I made a beast of myself by
hitting you. Now we know where we are. . . . We're likely to meet at
home and other places where any obvious hostility would be
embarrassing. . . ."

"I don't wish to meet you at home or anywhere else."

"It will be difficult to avoid. I think we had better settle the case
out of court. Isn't that what you call it?"

Frederic tugged at his waistcoat and looked almost dignified as he
said:

"I have no wish to interfere in your affairs. I will thank you not to
meddle with mine."

"It happens, however," replied Serge, "that our affairs have
overlapped. I must ask you to withdraw."

"And if I refuse?"

"Then it will become necessary for me to knock you down whenever I
find you in my way. . . ."

"May I ask. . . ?"

"What I am getting out of it for myself? I was foolish enough to
believe that you would not look for an interested motive. . . . The
position is this. . . . You shirked a responsibility which I have had
the pleasure and the privilege of assuming. Your beastly jealousy
resents that, and you seem bent on taking up that old responsibility.
There are two reasons why you should not do that--first, because it is
too late; second, because your attempt to do so is an insult to your
wife . . ."

"Keep my wife out of it."

"If you will tell your wife and ask her permission to make a
settlement upon the boy . . ."

"You know I can't do that. I can't afford it."

"Then leave it alone."

"No."

"You'll take the consequences?"

"I'll take the consequences and be damned to you. . . . It's a fine
thing to do, isn't it?--to take a woman when she's gone under?"

"My dear brother," said Serge, "you are the most childish little
blackguard . . ."

"I'm man enough, any way, to stand up for my own rights . . ."

"When you learn that you have no rights you'll be a man . . . In a way
you are right. My brother is not my keeper. I should prefer not to let
the thing go any further, for your wife's sake. . . ."

"Keep my wife out of it!"

"Good-bye, then . . . You insist on being a fool?"

"I shall do as I think best."

The office-boy announced another client and Serge went away.

* * *

Frederic continued to waylay Annie Lipsett, but could never meet her
without Serge, who called for her at her house in the morning and at
her place of business in the evening. He wrote to her and implored her
to give him an opportunity of explaining himself. (He had begun to
believe, without reference to Jessie, whom he kept in a separate
compartment of his mind, that he loved Annie, had never ceased to love
her, and that a declaration of love would break down her resistance.)
She did not reply and he wrote at great length explaining his desire
to set her beyond anxiety, and hinting at the fires that were raging
in his bosom, fires which he stoked with unceasing care.

At last he had a letter from her. She wrote:


"DEAR MR. FREDERIC,--Please, please believe that I want nothing from
you, that I am happier as I am. I don't want my boy ever to know who
his father was. He is mine by all the love I have given him. I could
not share him with you, and to let you do anything for him would be
sharing, wouldn't it? I have thought no ill of you for a long time
now. I was to blame just as much as you. That is all over. You cannot
take me into your life, therefore I cannot take you into mine . . ."


Frederic was interrupted in the reading of it and slipped it into the
pocket of his coat.

His long absences had begun to stir jealousy in his wife. She was
spying on him. She found the letter, her jealousy burst into flame,
and thereafter was no peace in Frederic's house, nor any moment of
sweetness and ease.

Once more, with horrible hypocrisy, Jessie resumed her habit of
walking with her husband to the little iron gate in the morning, and
meeting him there in the evening, and the old ladies and gentlemen,
who had been a little anxious, peered through their windows and smiled
their blessings.

Mrs. Folyat always said that Frederic's house reminded her of Eden
before the Fall.



XXXI

NEWS FROM MINNA

_"Sir" cries Adams, "I assure you she is as innocent as
myself."_
     JOSEPH ANDREWS.

MRS. FOLYAT found the position of a grandmother entirely to her
liking--the maximum of opportunity for beatific clucking with no
responsibility. Annette had three children, Gertrude two, and Minna
two, and Mrs. Folyat had already a large collection of their sayings
for quotation in company, the most popular being an ode addressed by
Annette's second boy to Mr. Gladstone, who had visited our town
several times when its allegiance to the Liberal cause began to waver.

Minna brought her two children to stay in Burdley Park. They came for
a fortnight and stayed four months. They would have stayed longer but
that Francis began to be anxious and, after a good deal of cogitation,
shyly questioned Minna as to her husband's doings.

"Basil is having a bad year," said Minna. "We're horribly poor
sometimes. Rents in London are so dear."

"Even so," said Francis, "it seems hardly wise to leave him for so
long."

"We have rows." Minna seemed to be quite cheerful about it. "Poor
people always do have rows. They get so afraid, that they can't enjoy
anything else."

"I was beginning to think that something serious might have happened."

"Oh, no. I'm still Basil's 'darling wife' when he writes to me, and he
is my 'devoted husband.'"

"Marriage," said Francis, "is very difficult."

"Of course it is, to anybody who isn't an angel like you. . . . I'll
go back and try again."

Francis sucked at his pipe thoughtfully.

"I oughtn't to tell you this," he said, "but Annette ran away once."

"Did she?"

"Yes, after breakfast. She was back again in time to give Bennett his
tea."

* * *

Two days later Minna returned to London. The day after she had gone,
Basil appeared with a drawn, miserable face. He asked Francis if he
might speak to him, and Francis, quaking, led him into the study.
Basil said he had been abroad. Minna had run away from him with the
children.

"She came here," said Francis. "For all we know, she was writing to
you every day and hearing from you. She said she was hearing from you.
. . . Only just before she went she spoke about your letters. She went
back to London yesterday. You ought to be with her. . . . In my
opinion you ought to have fetched her back months ago."

Basil seemed to have a great deal to say, but he gulped it down and
reached out for the railway guide.

"Yes," he said. "I suppose we must try again."

"If you want money," said Francis, "I would rather you came to me than
were obliged to any one else."

"It isn't money. Thanks all the same."

Francis felt his heart sink, but he let it pass. It seemed all the
more imperative to him that Basil should hurry back to London. He
bustled him out of the house and saw him to the station.

* * *

Three weeks passed during which no word came from Minna or Basil.
Francis did not write to them, hoping that they were settling their
differences--whatever they might be.

One morning when he was up early he took in the letters and found one
from Minna addressed to Mary. He watched Mary read it at breakfast.
Without looking up she thrust it back into its envelope, her hand
trembling so that the paper rustled, and slipped it into her pocket.

"Who's your letter from," asked Mrs. Folyat. Francis held his breath.

"It's from Fawcett's, the music-publishers. They haven't got the piece
I wanted. Perhaps I didn't give the name right."

Francis breathed again.

Mary disappeared soon after breakfast. She went to Serge's studio. He
was out. She waited for him all day and had nothing to eat. She did
not even light the gas but sat thinking, thinking on no thought. Serge
found her in the dark.

"Why, Mary!" he said.

She held out Minna's letter, and he sat and read it.

"Have you told anybody at home?"

"No. It's too awful."

"It isn't awful at all. It's very silly of them to be angry with each
other."

"But divorce. . . . It's wicked."

"Nonsense. It may be necessary. It often is. . . . She'll want a good
deal of sympathy."

"She doesn't deserve any."

"How absurd you screwed-up people are! You don't give sympathy because
people deserve it, but because they need it."

Mary pondered that for a moment or two. Then she asked:

"What did you say I was?"

"Screwed-up."

Mary said nothing.

"We'd better burn this," said Serge. "We shall have to be discreet.
Letters nearly always convey wrong impressions."

"Shall I write to Minna?"

"If you want to. Don't give her your opinion. She won't want it."

"Who is to tell them at home?"

"I will, if you like."

"That's what I wanted you to do. . . . I felt that something was
happening all the time Minna was here."

"I'll go home with you now."

"I think the sooner the better. . . . Something awful might happen."

* * *

Serge found his father in the greenhouse and went straight to the
point. Francis was in his shirt-sleeves. He laid down his trowel and
very slowly put on his coat.

"I knew something was happening, but I never thought it could be as
bad as that."

He sat down heavily and blinked through his spectacles.

"I seem," he said, "I seem to have brought my children into the world
to very little happiness. I suppose Minna ought never to have married
a poor man. . . . It's very queer, Serge, very queer. One reads of
these things and the rights and wrongs of them appear to be very
simple. They happen in one's own family and the rights and wrongs
don't appear so simple. . . . If Minna were to come in now, I should
be glad to see her. I should at least know that she was safe. . . ."

"The truth is," said Serge, "that the rights and wrongs don't matter.
You either love people or you don't. If you love them, you help them.
If you don't, some one else does."

"I think," said Francis, "I had better go to London. I always liked
Basil. He always liked me. I might be able to make him see reason.
. . . Minna says she is innocent. He ought to take her back."

"My dear father, that isn't reason. That is nonsense. . . . You're
thinking of what people will say. Public opinion doesn't matter any
more than my opinion or your opinion. If they have fallen so far apart
as to wish to break the tie between them it will be quite impossible
for them to live together without degradation----"

"You go so fast. I can't follow you. I don't see . . ."

"It is always degrading for a man and a woman to live together when
they have no love for each other."

"Dear me!" murmured Francis. "Dear me!" His face wore an expression of
immense surprise. He went on muttering to himself in a puzzled way,
and finally, with a sort of triumph, as though he had found the
solution of his riddle:

"But if they are married?"

"My dear father, you must admit that love and marriage are two very
different things. Love is divine, marriage is human."

"But----"

"Marriage is not a divine ordinance. It is a respectable human
institution contrived for the comfortable existence of society."

"I am thinking of Minna's children."

"So am I."

"She will lose them."

"That is her affair. Anything is better for them than being brought up
in a house with a man and a woman who hate each other."

"I can't admit that."

"As a matter of principle, perhaps not; as a matter of practice, you
will, just as you took over Frederic's mess. . . ."

"How did that turn out?"

"Splendidly."

Very slowly Francis turned that over in his mind and went back in
memory to the day in Mrs. Entwistle's cottage. It did not bring him
any great elucidation, but it gave him a feeling of confidence in
Serge, and, clinging to him, he said:

"What are we to do?"

"If you'll agree to say nothing to my mother, to write nothing to
Basil, and not to bother your head about the rights and wrongs of it,
I'll go to London and see Minna. If there's a glimmer of hope I'll do
everything I can. If there isn't, I'll see Minna through. . . . I
don't think I shall come back. I can't stay in this place much longer.
It gobbles men up and doesn't even have the decency to digest them
properly. . . . It's a machine and has no conscience about the past,
no concern for the future. It darkens men's minds so that they live
hideously and their horrible sins are visited upon their children. No,
I shan't come back. I can't. . . ."

"There is a great deal of wickedness in this place. It is God's will,"
said Francis.

"Men's will. The will of men cheated and cozened by their own
rapacity. . . . But that is neither here nor there. Will you agree to
say nothing to my mother until you hear from me?"

"I'll promise you that," said Francis with a little compunction, for
he saw how dark would be the days of waiting with such a secret
tugging at his heart and his wife babbling of her children's
marriages. "How did you know? Did Mary tell you?"

"Yes, Mary told me. Mary has been rather a trump about it."

"I shall be able to talk to Mary," thought Francis, with a sigh of
relief.

* * *

Serge spent the night packing and dismantling his studio. He destroyed
a great many of his pictures, called up the porter and made him a
present of his furniture and the clothes that were left after he had
packed two bags.

In the morning he went to fetch Annie Lipsett. He found her just
leaving, but made her go back with him to see the boy. Him he hugged
and kissed, and then he gave Annie a cheque for fifty pounds for his
education.

"And for God's sake," he said, "don't make him a gentleman. Put him to
a trade. If he's any real good he'll get out of it. If he's only
middling good he'll stay there and marry and die respectable. If he's
bad--God help you; but he won't be that."

Annie said:

"You're going."

"Yes. I'm going."

She was very plucky and fought back her tears. Serge took her
shoulders in his hands and said:

"You and I have had a queer sort of love, an impersonal sort of
meeting in Heaven here on earth. I never understood before what it
must feel like to be a seraph--just a head and wings. We've been so
busy fighting our way up out of a slimy pit that we haven't had time
to think much about each other--only the boy."

Annie's tears flowed freely and she clung to his hand and said:

"You don't know what you've been to me, but I can tell you now. It was
so much to have you for my friend in that time when I had no one. I
loved you. . . ."

"I know, I know."

"But all that sort of love went away afterwards when I had the boy. It
has been a great thing for him too. . . ."

"I've learned a lot from him."

"That's so wonderful about you. You seem to be always learning. And
now you're going. I used to dread your going, but now it doesn't hurt
me at all. . . . You will always have me to think gladly of you."

"And I of you. . . . We've made the world richer by a friendship."

"I want to say thank you," she said, "but I can't, not enough."

"Of course you can't. . . . Come along."

* * *

In a few hours Serge was in the express for London. He had a portfolio
of pictures and drawings, two bags, and one hundred and twenty pounds
in notes. As the train passed out of the dingy murk and his eyes
lighted on the green, undefiled country, he drew in great breaths and
found it hard not to shout for joy in the new zest for adventure that
had come to him.

"That seraph notion," he thought, "I wonder where it comes from? That
curious hunger for the state of childhood, the pretence that it is
superior to adult life. . . . Surely it all comes from their
incompetence in managing their affairs as men and women. They seem to
lose their simplicity. I wonder why? . . . Old Lawrie must be right.
Mind, body, spirit. You can't poison the spirit. That's God, and He's
beyond contamination. Body and mind are the instruments of the spirit.
Poison the mind and the body suffers. . . . That's right. Yes: old
Lawrie's right. Fear of love and fear of death; the mind hemmed in and
losing its bright power of reflection, so that it shows only a
distorted image of life. . . . No wonder they hate life when it looks
like that. . . . It can't go on for ever. The spirit must break
through it all in time . . . in time."

The train rushed along, and he began to think that perhaps the problem
was being solved. When men had made it so easy to escape from their
cities of captivity, would not their minds also be freed? Would there
not be a gradual adjustment of mind to larger surroundings? Or were
the minds of men so clothed with centuries of tyranny that swifter
transportation also would be used as an instrument of slavery? . . .

"No," he thought, "there is a deeper faith in men than they know. They
endure heroically because they are sure that in the end their efforts
will lead to deliverance."

As an ironic comment upon his reflections the train ran into a real
"old particular" London fog and was held up for half an hour outside
the station. In that half-hour his thoughts ran swiftly. He had never
been to London before, and he was moved by a boyish excitement at the
prospect of entering it. That he found absurd. It would be hardly at
all different from the place he had just left. That had held little
for him: this could hold nothing at all. He had no ambition, and often
ludicrously had learned the scorn a man can come by who prefers
anything to his own advancement; often he had seen how profitable it
was for a man to sacrifice his talent to his vanity, and how
incredible to such a man that it could be possible to sacrifice vanity
to talent. From all he had heard of London, the greatest city in the
world, its subservience to ambitious men was as immense as its renown.
In our town, Benskin and his school of little fishes had dubbed Serge
"amateur" by way of killing him. He had liked the isolation that had
followed, but now he thought that isolation could be of little use to
a man, except he could spring from it to greater freedom and a purer
joy in his work. "Amateur." . . . Being interpreted, that means one
who loves his work, as its contrary, "professional," signifies one who
works for gain. . . . These cities were professional. They rejected
him, as they rejected all amateurs. . . . So be it. Serge felt no
bitterness. He was a free man. He asked nothing: he had been given
much, first of all the power to enjoy. . . . He chuckled to think that
the only usefulness the suspicious world of professional men would
allow him lay--apparently--in succouring females in distress.
Knight-errantry, once the loftiest of professions, was descended into
the hands of the contemned amateurs.

"At bottom," said Serge, "the difference between them and me is that I
take women seriously and they don't."

* * *

His stay in London was shorter even than he had thought it would be.
He visited Basil first, and found him working desperately, paintings,
charcoal drawings, black-and-white, Christmas cards, book
illustrations, designs for menus, chocolate boxes--all slipshod,
formal, but just neatly and obviously charming. Through his teeth he
asked Serge what the hell he had come for and went on working. Serge
turned over a pile of drawings on the table by the window.

"Benskin would dote on you now. . . . How you must hate art to be able
to do them so well!"

Basil grunted. "I hate everything."

"You always were extreme."

Basil laid down his pen.

"Did she send you?"

"No. She doesn't know I'm in London. I came to you first because I
thought your point of view might be helpful when I come to tackle her.
I've got nothing to go upon except her letter to Mary, which wasn't
particularly illuminating."

"It wouldn't be. It's just funny to her--just funny, do you hear? I've
implored her, on my knees I've begged her just to help me to
understand her, to give me some clue as to what it is that she really
wants, to keep us from going to smash, and she just sat and listened
to me with that slow grin of hers. . . . I frightened her, I think,
the last time, and the grin faded from her face, but she became as
hard as a stone. . . . She didn't care. She didn't care. And I think
she wanted to break me. . . . She hasn't done it. Do you hear? She
hasn't done it!"

"Did you weep?"

"I . . . I broke down."

"Ah! Not a good way of convincing her of your capacity to give her
what she wants."

Basil strode angrily about the studio, waving his arms and shouting.

"It's not a bit of good. It's done now. . . . It's all over. It's
finished."

"It won't be finished until you've done thinking about it. There
doesn't seem to be much prospect of that."

"I'm not going to discuss it with you."

"I don't want to. What are the facts? You've accused her of
infidelity. Who's the man?"

"Fry. . . . His wife's divorcing him. That's evidence enough, isn't
it?"

"I'm not concerned with the evidence. I only want to know whether it's
necessary that there should be a divorce."

"She's left me."

"I might persuade her to return."

"Could you?"

"I might. . . ."

"I'll forgive her. . . . If she will come to me as a contrite woman.
. . ."

"That's slush. If you are going to spend your lives in quarrelling as
to which is really the magnanimous party, I shan't stir a finger.
. . . Do you want her?"

"If she . . ."

"If you want her, there can be no conditions. . . ."

"But she . . ."

Serge saw that it was hopeless. Basil was clinging to his grievances,
nursing them, cherishing them. They had become more precious to him
than his own happiness, than his wife, than the well-being of his
children. . . . Still there was hope that on Minna's side there might
be magnanimity and generosity enough to uproot the thick-set hedge
with which Basil had surrounded himself.

* * *

Minna was in rooms in the Marylebone Road, near Madame Tussaud's. She
had a woman friend with her, a queer inanimate creature who looked as
though she had stepped out of the waxworks--a model of Nell Gwynne.
Minna seemed quite happy. She was lying on a sofa eating Turkish
delight and reading "Jane Eyre." She dropped her book as Serge entered
and her friend glided away.

"I _am_ glad to see you," she said. "It's so dull. Isn't it a beastly
business?"

"I've just been to see Basil."

"Is he still weeping?"

Serge ignored that question and asked her another.

"What's the trouble between you two?"

"Basil says I'm----"

"I know that, but that's only the outcome of the trouble."

Minna was interested. She sat up on the sofa with her hands between
her knees.

"How clever you are, Serge! No one else has ever thought of that.
Everybody else is quarrelling as to whether I did or did not."

"Did you?"

"No. That comes long after the mischief's done. The trouble between
Basil and me is simply this. Basil wants me to be a mother to him and
I can't. People are simply sickening about mothers. I'm a woman first
and a mother afterwards. Being a mother grows out of being a woman.
. . . Basil wants me to be a work of art in theory and a mother in
practice. I simply couldn't do it. . . . It's my own fault. I knew
Basil was like that before I married him. I had a sort of blind moment
when I thought I could change him. You can't change people. I can't
change myself. . . . I ought to have left him long ago, but Basil's
the sort of man you can't leave. He clings. He plays on your nerves
and makes you frightened. He looks at you with his big eyes and seems
so helpless that you're afraid to leave him, and you don't like
hurting him. He simply _makes_ you be a mother to him and then takes
advantage of it, and things go from bad to worse. . . . London seemed
to frighten him, took away all his courage and his ambition. London's
too big for him. He wants to be at the top of the tree all at once,
simply because he's afraid of the climb. . . . We should have done
better to stay at home."

"That wouldn't have made any difference."

"No, I suppose not. I am I and Basil is Basil and that's the whole
story, and it's just like a man of that sort to turn round and try to
kill you when you won't let him cling to you any longer."

Minna's voice became venomous.

"Grievances again!" thought Serge, and he saw then how impossible was
his position. He could not tell Minna of Basil's willingness to take
her back upon conditions. Either of them or both must surrender their
grievances if anything were to be done. That seemed to be extremely
improbable.

"You will not go back, then?"

"I'm quite willing to go back, if Basil----"

More conditions! Oh, the folly of insistence upon rights! . . . Serge
dropped the subject, accepted the inevitable and asked:

"Then it is to go on?"

"That rests with Basil."

"If he does not withdraw the petition I suppose you will not defend."

"I shall defend my honour if I have to spend my last penny on it. I'm
not going to have mud thrown at me and say 'Thank you' for it. I don't
trust Basil. He's a vindictive little beast. He's sure to say our
marriage was happy. . . . Besides, I must think of the children."

"I wish you would."

"I do. Their mother's honour is precious to them."

"Personally," said Serge, "I would sell my honour for twopence."

"Oh! you! . . . But then you don't care what anybody thinks of you."

"Not a straw."

"Then it isn't any good talking to you. You really are an immoral man.
. . . If Basil goes for me, I shall go for him. You'd hold up the
other cheek, I know, but then you're not human. I told my children
once to think before they struck, and Benny said, 'I do think, and
then I strike. . . .' I'm like that too. I'm not going to listen to
you. I'm not going back to Basil, I'm not going to lie down and let
him weep over my sins in public. He's a little beast and everybody
shall know that he's a little beast. . . ."

Minna had worked herself up into a state of anger. She was hot and red
in the face with it, and looked coarse and unpleasant.

Serge said to himself:

"No wonder knight-errantry is dead, since women have taken upon
themselves to be as stupidly selfish as men."

He made one last effort, and suggested that she should take the more
sensible course and leave it to Basil unopposed to set the cumbrous
machinery of the law in motion, if only for the sake of her father and
mother. To that Minna only replied with a brilliant but spiteful
caricature of Mrs. Folyat's state of mind as slowly she digested the
unpalatable truth that all marriages were not made in Heaven.

* * *

Serge wrote to Francis that night and told him that there was no hope,
since both Minna and Basil were resolute to part. All that could be
looked for was that they would injure each other as little as possible
in the process. So far as he could see, the pain of uprooting was
over. The pair were absolutely divorced. Unhappily, they seemed
determined to call down on each other the disapprobation of the world,
in their frenziedly childish desire to hurt each other. . . . Serge
begged Francis to make his mother take a reasonable, human view of it,
since Minna would need friendliness and assistance, and suggested that
he should come to an arrangement with Basil's family for the
maintenance of the children.

His letter ended thus:

"Good-bye, my dear father. I was your first disappointment, but in the
end you and I recognised each other. That is permanent. It will be
with me wherever I go, with you to the end of your life. You are of
those who believe that understanding is not given to us. Your belief
must be a bitter comfort to you. I believe that men are rapidly coming
to an end of their material activity so that soon they will be forced
to find understanding or perish. . . . Do you remember a night when
you and I watched the rest acting an absurd play, and I said
involuntarily, 'Round the corner'? Modern life is theatrical.
Everybody is playing a part, because they are without understanding.
Life for modern men and women is for ever round the corner because
they attempt to tackle their affairs with the minds of children,
children who believe everything they are told and examine nothing.
They play with everything. They can do nothing else. Unhappily, life
is a serious business which yields its reward of joy only to
simplicity, sincerity, and purity, or, if you like the old trinity
better--faith, hope, and charity. The old beliefs are true--nearly all
that you preach, I mean; but from repetition they have become stale
and meaningless. They need restatement. . . . I am going back to the
sea, not because I believe that the 'great wide spaces of the
earth'--what a lot of twaddle is talked about them!--have a monopoly
of truth, but because I must move and keep moving. It is in the air.
Perhaps I feel it before other men. The salvation of human life lies
in movement, circulation. . . . More simply and less philosophically I
am going because it amuses me to go. I like passing through the world
saluting the few men of courage and good heart whom one can find, and,
of such men, my dear father, I count you not the least."

Francis kept this letter and through his hours of torment often read
it. It let in air.



XXXII

THE CUTTING OF A KNOT

_Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the
earth._
     ISAIAH, xxiv. 17.

IT is one of the most disconcerting phenomena of existence that, when
passionate love has answered its purpose, it simply disappears,
leaving its instruments wedded by such truth as they have discovered
in each other or divorced by the lies they have forged for each
other's delight. Very rarely, however, is the issue so simple. The
bone-and-shadow business comes into play here also, and most people
marry with very little passionate love and a great deal of careful
imitation of it, so that most marriages are strangled in their birth
with a very tangled web of lies.

It was so with Frederic and Jessie Folyat in their marriage, and they
were never so nearly united as when jealousy came between them. Their
marriage feast did coldly furnish forth the funeral of love, and over
love's dead body they quarrelled. They had scenes, hysterical
skirmishes and almost as hysterical reconciliations. There was grim
sport in it all, a sort of fascination in the stealthy prying and
spying, each crouching and shrinking in readiness for the other's
spring, the snarling bravado with which each dared the other to come
on, a little further, a little further, inviting to a caress,
repelling with a scratching blow; and all smooth-seeming, veiled,
polite, with polished airs and graceful manners and feigned interest
and inquiry: a pooling of the common stock only to wrangle over the
division of it again. The gambling fever was in it. At any moment all
might be lost upon a throw, a little gain, a little loss, more gain,
more gain, a little more and the other might be beggared, the game
won. But neither dared let the game come to an end. When one was near
ruin, grey-faced, anxiously glaring for the turn of the card, the
other cheated and the game went on. It absorbed both. Neither could do
without it. It was a drug. Their craving for it was agony; its
satisfaction a seeming delight.

They were very skilful and cunning to let no trace of it appear on the
surface of their lives. Frederic abandoned all pursuit of Annie
Lipsett, he deserted the company of his flattering fools, for these
things trespassed upon the field of his fevered sport. It was very
rarely that they went of their own accord to seek purchasable
pleasures. Visits they paid, when politeness and discretion compelled,
and everybody found them charming. They could be good company and
their talents were useful. They became popular and were much in
request to organise entertainments, bazaars, jumble sales, and such
functions.

* * *

In his business Frederic became more cunning, quicker-witted, and his
reputation gained. His practice increased. His whole life was
concentrated on his home and his office. He grew lean and alert, but
he was always tired.

In the early days of his management of the Bradby-Folyat estate he had
borrowed large sums of money. These debts he was able considerably to
reduce, and very soon there were no arrears of interest outstanding.
As he began to feel himself on more solid ground his habit of
exaggeration lost much of its hold upon him, and men who had
previously avoided him began to seek his company. Many who had
dismissed him as a bore now came to see qualities in him, and, as he
gained the acquaintance of a better class of men, the quality of the
work that passed through his hands improved.

Over Minna's disaster he behaved well. He explained the legal aspect
of divorce to his father, and by telling him what he heard men saying
about it--men who had known Basil Haslam, men of the world--helped him
to understand that there was less malice than idle curiosity in
gossip, that scandal was the thing of a day, and that sympathy was to
a great extent on Minna's side and altogether with her parents. . . .
Francis was not greatly comforted. He felt that the attitude of mind
of Frederic's "men of the world" was rather dirty, but he appreciated
the kindness, which was greater than he had looked for. He was not at
all easy, remembering Serge's and his own attitude towards Frederic's
imbroglio, when Frederic rushed up to town, pounced on Herbert Fry,
and insisted on his marrying Minna. . . . As it happened, it was a
fatal step. Minna complied only because she thought the marriage would
infuriate Basil (the horrible ordeal through which she had passed had
deprived her of all control), and Fry because he loved her and because
his affairs were more complicated than any one knew save himself, and,
having to leave the country, he preferred to pass into exile with a
beloved companion. His life had come to ruin, and he thought that to
have Minna for his wife would be a step towards reconstruction and
would help to blot out the past. . . . Frederic came back glowing with
virtue and manly pride, feeling that he had made an honest woman of
his sister.

Frederic's interview with Herbert Fry had seemed to him a direct
triumph of right over wrong. It was the first time he had ever found
himself in the van of the big battalions, and it gave him a feeling of
confidence that was almost exhilarating. He returned to his wife, to
find that her suspicion of him was not abated, and convinced himself
that she was cruel and unjust. He gambled in marriage more recklessly
than ever, and if before she had been anxious, now she was filled with
dread as she saw that she was playing a losing game. Sooner or later
he would have cleared her out and the last tie between them would be
broken. Her dread paralysed her. Only mechanically could she keep the
cards fluttering and the pot a-boiling.

* * *

Frederic lost his drawn look. He was winning, and was sure that the
luck would never turn again. Feeling immeasurably superior to Fry, who
had committed the unpardonable folly of being found out, and morally
on a different plane from Minna and the world of illicit love which
had spewed her out to the scorn of all men (except men of the world,
who could wink at these things), he fell back upon the cushion of
middle-class prosperity, thrust aside happiness as a thing to be
desired, and concentrated all his energies on money. He began to
speculate--successfully at first, then unsuccessfully. In his early
days of practice it had hardly been worth while to keep his accounts
separate, and, as his business grew, he never troubled to reorganise
his books.

Mrs. Bradby-Folyat died. She had taken a dislike to Gertrude and left
Streeten Folyat only a thousand pounds. Frederic received twenty-five
pounds to buy a mourning ring. That did not fret him. There was the
estate to be wound up, and the pickings of the process would be rich.

The executors asked to see the accounts. Frederic made them up, but
they were found so slovenly and unsatisfactory that further inquiry
was instituted and an accountant was called in--a precise, mincing
little man who spoke with a strong north-country accent, sniffed, and
walked in and out of the office as though he were treading the aisle
of a chapel. He exasperated Frederic so that he went out of his way to
be rude to him. The accountant sniffed and smugly turned the other
cheek. He was a week in the office and went away without saying a
word.

Frederic received a letter from one of the executors requesting him to
hand over all papers and securities to another larger firm of
solicitors. Without comment a statement of account was enclosed,
showing a deficit in the Bradby-Folyat estate of six thousand pounds.
Every nerve in Frederic's body quivered and went hot and dry. He
locked the statement away and gave orders for the Bradby-Folyat
deed-box to be handed over to the representatives of the nominated
solicitors upon their giving a receipt for it. Mechanically, with a
fevered concentration upon the figures as an occupation to keep
himself from thinking, he went into his banking account. He had three
hundred pounds in cash. His shares, which would have to be sold at a
loss, would realise another thousand. Outstanding debts amounted to
not two hundred. . . . His wife's money was hers upon trust for her
children, or, failing her children, for her nephews and nieces. All
the Clibran-Bell money was trust money. His father had none, only
enough to make a small provision for his old age and his wife and
Mary.

The executor called. He was polite--a barrister by profession, with
the most suave and urbane brow-beating manner. He supposed that the
numerous mistakes could be rectified, and that where losses had
occurred through incompetent investment the deficiency would be made
good. Frederic said not a word. He twiddled a little piece of paper
between his fingers and his face was as white as the paper. The
executor drew his own conclusions and said:

"It is misappropriation and embezzlement. I have tried to persuade
Batson's not to take proceedings, but they insist that it must go
before the Law Society. . . . You will be lucky if you get no worse
than being struck off the rolls."

The words bit into Frederic's brain and went trickling down his spine.
The executor took his hat and left him sitting by his table still
twiddling the little piece of paper, with his face as grey as a
goose-feather. He sat very still for a long time staring at the piece
of paper in his hand. Presently he let it fall, but still he sat
staring. . . . He heard his clerks go. The cashier brought the key of
the safe. He said good-night. Frederic said good-night, and was
startled at the sound of his own voice. The silence had seemed to him
so inevitable, so final, surely eternal.

One thought sprang to life in his brain: "No one must know." That gave
him a purpose and brought him to the need of action. At home he forced
an amiable mood upon his wife. In the evening they called at Burdley
Park and took Mary to the theatre. They saw her home after a merry
evening, and, in the highest spirits, they called on the Clibran-Bells
and invited some of the family to come and play whist on the morrow.
Frederic smoked a cigar with his father-in-law and discussed the new
waterworks scheme and the police scandal which had lately set all the
town by the ears, a whole division having been discovered to be
drawing large profits from organised prostitution in a certain
district. Many droll stories were in circulation of constables caught
_in flagrante delicto_, and Frederic and his father-in-law laughed
heartily over them. At certain moments Frederic had a crazy desire to
pick his father-in-law up by the scruff of the neck and shake him:
there was something in his manner so ridiculous and undignified, and
his jocularity was so trivial and pointless. However, Frederic
continued to laugh, and old Clibran-Bell patted him on the shoulder
and told him he was a good fellow, a very good fellow.

In the office next day Frederic teased and pestered his clerks and
kept them all bustling, finding errands for them to go, requiring
books from the Law Library, discovering papers that were long overdue
and had to be fetched. Seized with a wild, hilarious impulse, he made
out a whole series of bogus writs and sent them to be stamped and
delivered. . . . When all the clerks had gone he sat down and wrote to
Batson's, saying that he had made further inquiries and had many
papers and much information to lay before them which had previously
been overlooked, and he added that such deficiency as might remain
after final examination would be paid in full. This letter he posted
himself. He returned to his office, wrote a cheque for each of his
clerks, repaid his articled clerks their premiums, laid an envelope
containing them on each desk, looked round to make sure he had
forgotten nothing, locked the outer door, walked down to the bridge by
the Collegiate church and threw the key into the river.

At night, after the whist-party had dispersed, he pretended that he
had papers to look into and sent Jessie to bed. He sat by the fire
staring into the glowing coals. It died down, but he made no effort to
keep it alight. He was exhausted. The assumed hilarity of the evening
had been too great a strain, and yet not strain enough. He was driving
himself to a collapse, but was fearful lest it should come too soon.

It was very cold. He shivered and crouched over the black grate. He
heard his wife's voice calling him:

"Aren't you coming up to-night?"

"Presently . . . presently."

When he judged that she would be asleep he crept upstairs, and in the
dark, to avoid waking her and also to avoid seeing her, he slipped
into the bed by her side. All night he lay awake, cold, throbbing,
straining and starting at all the small noises of the house.

At breakfast he chattered gaily over the newspapers. There was a
school board election toward, and a woman had offered herself as a
candidate for their division. He chaffed Jessie and said he supposed
she would soon be wanting to vote for Parliament. Jessie was to spend
the day in town shopping with her mother. He asked her to make sundry
small purchases for him, and they agreed that they would have a crab
for supper.

He was rather a long time packing the little handbag he always took
with him to town. She went to remind him that it was getting late and
found him with his hand in a drawer. He shut it hastily and asked her
to fetch his tobacco-pouch from upstairs. When she came down again he
was waiting for her at the front door. She walked to the little iron
gate with him and they kissed. As he reached the kerb he turned to
look at her and saw the old ladies and gentlemen at their windows, and
he felt with a twinge of shame that for years he had been a spectacle
without knowing it. . . . He thought Jessie looked rather ill, tired,
old, and bony. It was absurd for them to kiss in public. . . .
Everything seemed absurd, fantastical, and unreal. The world was
presented to his eyes in sharper outline than he had ever seen it
before. It was bathed in a cold grey light. It had nothing to do with
him. It was going on. He felt stationary. That his body was moving was
nothing. His thoughts were not moving. Everything was absurd. The new
sharply outlined world, with its curious interwoven activities (he saw
how they were dovetailed), was moving on. The world with which he had
been concerned--the world in which he had been miserable, elated,
crestfallen, amused, disgusted--the world in which he had known
affection and companionship and spite and jealousy--was moving
backward, sinking from under his feet while he himself stood on the
verge of a nonsensical dawn that had its light from a setting sun.
Away from him, backward and forward, everything moved faster and
faster, making him dizzy, intolerably dizzy, sick and cold with it.

He had intended to go to London, but at the station he saw a sign
indicating a train for Plymouth. The name started out of the blurred
past and relieved him, a little restored his balance, and he saw
clearly the scenes of his boyhood--the grimy little office where he
had been articled, the ships, the Hoe and the Sound. Then all that too
slipped away from him.

He took the train for Plymouth, and had a carriage all to himself as
far as Crewe. He sat stupidly staring out of the window. The train was
going so fast. Why did everything move so fast? . . . He was very
tired. At Crewe a man entered the carriage. He had not thought of
that. He must change. He must be alone. The train moved on before he
could bring himself to stir. . . . With the presence of the man at the
other end of the carriage his mood changed. Out of the cold mists that
were upon him a desire rose and took possession of him. He did not
know what desire it was but it took the form of an itch to speak to
the man. He stole glances at him but his lips would not obey him. The
man said:

"It's a fine day."

Frederic agreed that it was a fine day, and the desire in him fell
back into the void. The man was part of the absurd world that had
nothing to do with him, the world that went on, the trivial, silly
world. How trivial and silly everything was: the train was silly,
movement was silly; absurd and grotesque was the man's voice and his
idiotic comment on the day, and that was silly too. A day was but the
passage out of night into night. The whole world was nothing, moving
out of nothing into nothing. Some things were clear because they did
not matter; other things were blurred because they had mattered to
him, Frederic, who mattered no longer because he was standing still
and everything else was moving. . . . His eyes mechanically read the
legend--"To Stop the Train Pull Down the Cord Outside the Window.
Penalty for Improper Use, £5."

"I could stop it," he thought, "but it would only move on again.
Everything moves on again."

With that slight movement in his mind old habit reasserted itself and
he began to crave for self-pity, but the unfamiliar presence of the
man made that impossible. That habit of mind needed the co-operation
of other habits. It was isolated and fell away again. . . . There had
been so much clear-cut action in the last few hours, action for a
purpose, action that could not be recalled and therefore drove him on
to the fulfilment of the purpose.

"I must be alone," thumped Frederic's mind, and the train-wheels took
it up, "alone, alone, alone."

He became exasperated with the presence of the other man. What right
had he in the world where there was nothing but Frederic, nothing at
all, an empty world where a man must at last make sure, make very
sure, that he is nothing?

The man got out at Bristol. It seemed to Frederic that he had come and
gone like a shadow. So little time, the emptiness of the world moving
so swiftly, and through it Plymouth coming nearer and nearer to him.
Plymouth appeared to him as a sort of monster, a dogging shadow that
had run after him for a long time, terrifying him, to spring ahead and
come to meet him. And yet it was still behind. Everything was two
things, behind and in front; the contradiction made it nothing. . . .

He was frozen with terror. Back, back, this way; no, that; now the
other. . . . "It will have me! It will have me! Why? I am nothing. I
am nothing. It doesn't believe that I am nothing. . . . No, no. There
is nothing but myself, myself, myself. . . ."

He drew the revolver from his pocket.

"No, no. I will go back. I will go back."

He sat absolutely numbed for a long time. Suddenly he thought of his
wife, coldly, clearly. He saw himself in her. She was stronger than
he. He must show her that he was the stronger.

He thought of his father and passed into a golden stream of peace. He
would go to his father. . . "I will arise and go to my father and say
unto him, 'Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee and am
no more worthy to be called thy son.' . . ." His father would
understand as he had understood before. . . . But then he knew that
all that his mother had thought of him would be sponged away from her
mind, and he remembered with what bitterness she had spoken of Minna.

"Too difficult," he thought. "Too many people."

The train gathered speed down an incline. Faster and faster. His
terror lest the journey should come to an end clutched him back into
the present. He must make haste. He must be the quicker.

He had dropped the revolver into his pocket again. Now he fumbled for
it. It caught in the lining, and he tugged at it with feverish
impatience. . . . His heart leaped on the report, which seemed to come
from far away. . . . He felt nothing; less and less; out of the
swiftly moving world he was sinking downward, downward, gathering
speed, falling, falling into nothing.

* * *

In the small hours of the morning Mr. Clibran-Bell rang furiously at
the bell of the house in Burdley Park. After many minutes Francis came
down in his dressing-gown with a candle in his hand. Mr. Clibran-Bell
stepped into the hall.

"Frederic," he said, "has not been home all night. Jessie is at my
house. . . . My dear friend, my dear old friend . . ."

"Has . . . something happened?"

"He's . . . he's at Plymouth. Dead. They found him in the train, shot
in the side."

Francis stood very still, his mind slowly grasping this new appalling
fact. Tears trickled down his cheeks into his beard.

"I shall go to Plymouth by the first train," said Mr. Clibran-Bell, "I
must get at the truth for Jessie's sake."

"Yes. It is very good of you."

It was a long time after Mr. Clibran-Bell had gone before Francis went
upstairs again. The candle burnt itself out. His thoughts see-sawed up
and down.

"Frederic--dead. Frederic--dead."

When he had groped his way back to his own existence, burdened with
this new catastrophe, he said to himself:

"I can't go on. . . . I can't go on."

He saw Frederic lying huddled in the corner of a railway carriage,
strangers to whom he was nothing finding him. . . . Then he thought of
that other dead body that he had seen long, long ago, the woman lying
in the little dark house, under the guttering light of the tallow
candle and the clement light of the moon. Death violent, death
insistent, death that would not be shrouded away or softened or made
seeming blessed with words or tears. Tears! Death was too harsh. And
yet it mattered nothing how it came about. It was always the same:
bitter, the bitter end to bitterness. All life was salt with the
savour of death. Vain, vain the endeavour to sweeten it. Sweetness and
corruption, were they not yoke-fellows? . . . Words from the Bible
passed through Francis Folyat's mind: "I am the resurrection and the
Life," and again: "For behold, the days are coming in which they shall
say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the
paps which never gave suck," and again in his bitter grief he turned
to the Book of Job:

"My days are past, my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my
heart.

"They change the night into day: the light is short because of
darkness.

"If I wait, the grave is mine house; I have made my bed in the
darkness.

"I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art
my mother and my sister.

"And where is now my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it?

"They shall go down to the base of the pit where our rest together is
in the dust."



XXXIII

THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER

_The vision of Christ that thou dost see
 Is my vision's greatest enemy.
 Thine has a great hook nose like thine
 Mine has a snub nose like to mine._
      THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL.

TWELVE middle-class Englishmen and an official sat in inquest on the
body of Frederic. They gazed shyly and uninterestedly upon it and then
heard the evidence to the effect that he was most happily married and
was without financial worry of any kind. . . . The verdict, in view of
the fact that the revolver was in the deceased's overcoat pocket, was
one of death by misadventure.

Francis learned the truth from Mr. Clibran-Bell. Mrs. Folyat was not
told, neither was Jessie. Queer things were rumoured, however, and
Mrs. Folyat began to feel--not absolutely without foundation--that she
was looked upon askance. She went into deep mourning and raised
Frederic to sainthood, and surrounded herself with relics from among
his personal belongings. She brooded over the past and began to piece
together her scattered memories. Nothing took clear shape except, what
she had not seen at the time, the long coolness between her husband
and her son, and she began to charge and reproach Francis with it. By
vilifying Francis she had the illusion that she was exalting Frederic.
She kept insisting that Francis must be sorry now that her poor angel
was dead. Francis was remorseful. He was probing deeper and deeper
into the unillumined past, groping his way through tortuous
mole-galleries. The perpetual false deification of Frederic bothered
him, his wife's voice, lachrymose and thin, dinning in his ears, was
an exasperation. He was busy, frantically busy, forcing his way with
all the strength of his nature out of the slough of despond into which
he had fallen, and she seemed intent on thrusting him out of the
slough into a sea of treacly mud. At length, one day, when she had
raised Frederic a peg higher in her idolatrous beatification, suddenly
the truth was wrenched from him:

"Can you not see that he meant to kill himself?"

"Oh! Frank . . . !"

He could despitefully have bitten his tongue out for having said it,
but, having done so, he owed it to her to go on. It might prove her
salvation. It might bring her back to him so that together they might
perceive and win to the ways of brightness.

"He took the pistol with him in his pocket. He had no luggage with
him. He had locked the door of his office and paid up his clerks'
wages and the premiums of his pupils."

"Oh! Frank . . . Oh! Frank!"

And Francis hoped that she would turn to him and understand, but her
very anguish of sorrow she must turn to self-indulgence, and she moved
from the luxury of worship to the luxury of self-accusation:

"We drove him to it. All of us. We never understood him."

She told Jessie, who was prostrated by the knowledge, and Mr.
Clibran-Bell refused ever to enter the Folyats' house again.

Francis passed through the very blackest hours of all after that. He
prayed to his God but was not comforted; his mind would run only in
the harshest channels of the faith he had spent his life in teaching.
The God he found was a jealous God, a God of cruelty and vengeance and
punishment. In vain he told himself that this was the just visitation
of sins. He could not believe it. All his spirit craved for the belief
in mercy, the living eternity, the life everlasting. He was hemmed in
by the habit of years, and long familiarity with things sacred, all
the vocabulary of paradox that had flowed so easily from his lips week
in, week out, year after year. He wanted the truth of it, but it was
all words, words, words, a rain of fine dust falling upon his
intelligence, blinding his eyes. He needed that in his religion which
could square with and illuminate the facts of his existence, but ever
the darkness grew more impenetrable.

For three weeks he went on mechanically with his work, going blindly
through the ritual which he had fought so hard to establish, but
always when he came to the Benediction and commended the congregation
to the Peace of God, he knew, could not away with the knowledge, that
there was no peace in his own heart, and he rebuked himself and called
himself Hypocrite.

He could not take refuge in self-torment. His need was too great. He
told himself that he no longer believed, and prayed for help in his
unbelief. But there had always been faith in him. Nothing had ever
shaken it. His necessity lay in the fact that the symbols he had
always used were cheapened, worn, debased. His mind could not change.
It was definitely cast in the story of the Godhead in Man in the
person of Jesus of Nazareth, born of the Virgin birth, persecuted and
slain by the Jews to rise again in glory to the eternal salvation of
souls. . . . The teaching of this gospel should, if it had any
purpose, lead to noble life, a superb preparation for eternity. But
whither had it led himself? To the smallest of small lives, to the
ruin of two of his children, fallen into the very snares against which
they had been warned with all the threats of eternal punishment and
Hell fire at the command of an appointed minister of the Christian
religion. . . . He tried to look beyond his own family, to see what
effect the Gospel had had upon his parishioners and he could not
disguise from himself the pitifulness of their condition. To consider
the effect of the Christian religion upon the history of the world was
too large an undertaking for him.

Serge had said that he was of those who believe that understanding is
not vouchsafed to us. What did he mean? . . . Words haunted him:--"To
justify the works of Man to God," or was it "To justify the works of
God to Man"? Surely the last. The works of Man could not be justified.
He felt himself to be near the clue he was seeking, but the effort to
follow it was beyond him. For him the only tie between Man and God was
Jesus Christ.

He read the Gospels, and soon gave up trying to unravel the hard
sayings, but he read again and again every passage in which the words
Love and Mercy occurred. They soothed him, and, reading over and over
the gentleness of Jesus under persecution, he became softened and very
tender, and sought the company of children, his grandchildren.

He rested for a fortnight and then took up his work, for one Sunday
only. All the old business of threatening and hectoring and denouncing
and holding the wrath of God back with prayer, and piling up mountains
upon mountains of sin to teach the love and mercy of the Gospel
through and after punishment, everlasting and relentless, was empty,
all sound and fury.

His conclusion was, not that the Christian religion had become
theatrical, rhetorical, mechanical, inhuman and unjust, but that he
himself by his own life had become unworthy to administer it. Like
many Christians, faced with the difficult, almost (in these days)
impossible, task of distilling the essential truth from its
accumulation of tainted lumber, he took refuge, without seeing any
inconsistency, in the ascetic ideal, thinking that a life of absolute
chastity and poverty and abstraction from the things of this world
would give a man the right to hurl thunder and the lightnings of the
Jewish Bible at his fellow men. And yet in his heart, as, latent in
the hearts of all men, was the true faith in the ineffable love,

    _. . . che muove 'l Sole e l'altre stelle._

He could not disentangle this love, this spirit of man, from the
superstition of the ages, and could not therefore let it freely move
his own existence. He told himself that he had failed, that he ought
never to have entered the priesthood, that he was an old man and could
not change. No other course lay open to him than to retire.

He wrote to his Bishop to ask his leave, and, if it were granted, to
apply for a pension from the Diocesan fund.

Never again did he conduct Divine service in any church.

* * *

He felt infinitely happier when he had done this, and a new brightness
came to Mrs. Folyat and Mary when they knew they were to escape from
the town where they had come by so much suffering, and the numbing
monotony of a rather idle existence in drab surroundings. They set
their faces southwards, for they had decided to live in Potsham, where
Francis had held his first curacy. They were going to live in
Crabtrees, where Francis Folyat and Martha Brett had met and loved
each other so long ago, and all day long Francis would be busy in the
garden running down to the river, and all day long Martha would sit in
the gazebo and look out at the water, and see the tide coming in, and
the herons fishing, and the boats go sailing by, all as it had been
long ago, peaceful and beautiful. . . . Already, weeks before they
could go, the peace of it began to fill the house in Burdley Park, and
the dark past slipped away from them and Francis began to feel the
richness of old age, when best and worst have been done, and the
fruits of reflection can be gathered in.

Often as he sat working in the greenhouse, or in the study turning
over his books--he had gone back to the loves of his early days,
Fielding and Don Quixote--Francis would think of Serge, and the day
when together they had walked away from Mrs. Entwistle's cottage. That
memory preoccupied him more and more, and he felt a desire to see
Annie Lipsett again before he went away. She wrote to him at long
intervals to let him know that she had not forgotten. His feeling
about the episode had always been spiced with the joy of forbidden
things. It had been entirely separate from the rest of his life, and
yet, unknown to him, it had informed the whole of it, and, in his most
need, had given him the assurance of love and mercy which had upheld
him in the face of the doctrine and dogma of his Church, even though
he had seemed to himself to be upholding the Church by the sacrifice
of himself.

* * *

He found Annie Lipsett busy and thoughtful. She was going to be
married to an auctioneer who had been a lodger in her mother's house.
She had just had a letter from Serge in Ceylon and its friendliness
had removed her last anxieties.

"You see, sir," she said to Francis, "Mr. Serge found me when
everything was as complicated as that piece of lace, and he made it
all simple. And after that, being with him made one able to bear
everything, because one felt that, whatever it was, it would go away.
He used to say that being unhappy and dark in your mind was just the
same as being unwell in your body, and if it was taken in time there
was always a cure for it. So funny he used to be about it. He was
always talking to me about the boy, and he used to say that I must
teach him nothing, because children are always right by themselves
until they begin to imitate grown-up people, and bad things are easier
to imitate than good because they are grotesque, and grown-up people
have always to be learning good things from children over and over
again."

"I have never forgotten that day when I came to see you."

"Nor I, sir."

"We're going away, for ever. It is queer, but you are the only person
whom I really wanted to see before I left. We have never seemed to
belong to this place."

"I used to hate it too, but Mr. Serge made me laugh at it all. He said
it was just an accident, though I didn't know what he meant by that. I
often didn't really understand Mr. Serge, except about the boy, but
then I could see that everything he said was true."

"I hope you will be very, very happy."

Annie surprised Francis by putting her arms round his neck and kissing
him. He returned the kiss.

It was only some time after he had left her that it struck him that he
had never once thought of Frederic in connection with her. When he
called Frederic to his mind it was always as a graceful, impudent,
funny little boy. He had never known the man Frederic. Frederic had
never been a man.

* * *

Even in our town the green of spring was showing and the zestful wind
was blowing upon the blackened houses when Francis, his wife and Mary
left upon their long journey to the south. Gleeful and glad they were,
and the spring was in their hearts and the keen adventurousness of
escape. After long captivity they were shaking from their shoes the
dust of the hostile city, leaving in its toils the sole hostage of all
their family, Annette, doomed to the life of drudgery to which that
city condemns its women, for, except they be born in drudgery, the
sons of its women could never endure its service, nor would they be
fitted for it.



XXXIV

NUNC DIMITTIS SERVUM TUUM, DOMINE

_For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation._
     THE SONG OF SIMEON.

MANY wise men have laughed at the futility of thought and discarded an
opinion as a worthless thing.

In the garden at Crabtrees Francis grew roses and delphiniums and tall
hollyhocks and all homely flowers, and busily he tended his vegetables
and herbs. He kept bees and grew skilled in their ways. Every day in
summer Mrs. Folyat sat in the gazebo, and in the winter she had her
own little drawing-room where the gossips would come in and take tea
over a great fire.

Their living was very frugal, for their means were small. Only two
houses besides Crabtrees were left of Mrs. Folyat's inheritance.

Outwardly Potsham was hardly at all changed since the day when Francis
and his bride had set out on their honeymoon, but its glory was
departed. Its fragrance and faint perfume of the high manners of an
older day were gone. Little boys whom they remembered playing
barefooted in the street called the Strand, down by the little dock
and the mud flats, had made fortunes and dispossessed little by little
the old gentlefolk. Their sons had gone to the universities and their
daughters had visited London. No longer were the inhabitants of
Potsham gently little in a little place, but in a little place aped
the follies of great cities. People and place were no longer in
harmony. Men and women seemed continually to be adjusting themselves
to an outside standard. They were as sluggards who protest their
wakefulness. . . . But for Francis and Martha, Potsham was as it had
been in their youth, a place of sleep, of tranquil sleep attended by
pleasant dreams of roses and blue water and warm figs ripening in the
sunlight mellowed by the soft, moist air.

Their golden wedding came, their diamond-wedding, and between the two
was but the drowsy humming of bells in a lofty tower. The hair of both
was snow-white, and Francis had his brushed into two long ringlets
that fell down on to his shoulders on either side of his head. His
eyes were bright and young, often twinkling with merriment behind his
spectacles, and people used to come and tell him funny things to see
him enjoy the joke and chuckle down in his throat and shake all over
with his inward mirth.

Gertrude often came to stay with her two children, and upon a day she
arrived and never went away. Streeten had shed his capital bit by bit
in one profession after another until he had not enough left to
support his family. Then he disappeared without a word and no trace of
him could be found.

Every two years Annette used to come and bring with her one or more of
her children. Like her mother, she had eight. She could never stay
long because Bennett would write every day and implore her to come
back. . . . When any of her children had been ill she used to send
them down, and they stayed until Francis judged them well enough to
return, and that was never until their little pinched white faces were
filled out and baked as brown as a bun. The second boy, Stephen, once
spent five months at Crabtrees. He was a very queer, silent little
creature, and he used to sit and stare at his grandparents and his
aunts. Once, after dogging Francis for two days and scrutinising him
in the most embarrassing way, he said:

"Grandpa, what is it makes your eyes so bright and blue, like the
sky?"

Francis chuckled and replied:

"My dear, they're little mirrors and I polish them."

A great summer passed into a melancholy misty autumn, but on a rare
fine day, the sun warming the first sighing breath of winter, Stephen
Lawrie sat with a book in his lap under the Siberian crabtree on the
lawn. His grandfather was digging in the vegetable garden near by,
when, looking up, Stephen saw him pitch forward and fall flat on his
face. It was as though he had been blown down.

The boy sat staring, stunned by the heaviness of the fall. Then he was
seized by the terror of it and rushed screaming away.

It was a stroke, and Crabtrees became a house of the sick. Stephen was
packed off home.

* * *

Before the winter was out Francis seemed to be quite well again, and
he was out and about and busy preparing for the spring. February was
hardly gone when he was laid low again, this time never to rise. He
was partially paralysed and could not speak. For a long time his wits
were gone. . . . Slowly he crept back again into the existence of the
house. His spirit would not yield up his body to the earth.

Gertrude was his nurse, and very gentle with him. She was creeping
about his room, thinking him asleep, with her shadow swinging to and
fro as she moved. In a sudden, strangled voice, she heard him say:

"I can speak."

She turned to him, but he lay very still, and his face looked pinched
and whiter than it had done. She was alarmed and sat up with him all
night. In the early morning he asked to see his wife. Gertrude fetched
her, and she came huddled and bunched up in shawl and flannels and sat
by his bedside. He moved his hand a little and she reached out and
took it in hers. He said:

"It has been a long time, but it has been a good time. It has not all
been good for you. I would be glad if you--if you could forgive me
. . ."

"Oh! my dear, my dear. . . . The best . . ."

"I have always been afraid," he went on, and his voice gained in
strength. "I have always been afraid of saying too much, and I have
said too little. . . . It has been best when we were old. You have
much to forgive."

Mrs. Folyat could only weep. Francis asked to be given his Bible and
the amethyst cross he had worn on Sundays on his watchchain. They were
laid by his side and he took the cross in his hand. He said that
everything he left was to go to Mary, but she was to help the others
when they needed help. . . . Then he told his wife she must go away
and rest, for he desired to communicate for the last time and must
have a space in which to prepare himself. Gertrude aided Mrs. Folyat
out of the room.

It was All Fool's Day.

At nine o'clock Mary was having breakfast alone when Serge walked in.
She told him, and he went up at once to his father's room. He stood by
the bed for a long time before Francis opened his eyes and saw him.
His eyes smiled and he said:

"My son."

"Father."

"I am not of those who believe that understanding is not given to us,
for I came to understand. The beginning and the ending of all things
is in God, and we may not question, nor idly interpret the beginning
and the end. We pass from dust to dust, but the spirit endureth for
ever, and in all things in our passage the spirit moves us. Is it not
so?"

"It is so."

"And life is very good, to be rounded with a sleep."

"Life is very good."

"Surely I have not altogether failed my God, since I have known you."

"We have known each other. A man must die many times before his life
be done."

"So be it. . . . I shall sleep now."

Serge stooped and kissed his father's brow, and in a few minutes he
was dead.

THE END



PRINTED BY
BALLANTYNE & COMPANY LTD
TAVISTOCK STREET COVENT GARDEN
LONDON



Transcriber's Note

This transcription is based on scans digitized from a copy at the
Cornell University Library and posted by the Internet Archive at:

     https://archive.org/details/cu31924013593722

For reference, scans digitized by Google from a copy at Princeton
University were also consulted. This file is posted at:

     https://books.google.com/books?id=hL4sAAAAYAAJ

The following changes to the text are noted:

-- p. 58: at the same age and the same maiden condition In
short--Added a period after "condition".

-- p. 87: The old man watched hm with a sort of hunger--Changed "hm"
to "him".

-- p. 92: She goes to his church and looks at him as though she were a
beautifully-cooked chop. He is rather like that. I shall call him the
mutton-chop when he comes.--Changed the "she" after "though" to "he".

-- p. 114: Serged plunged with a question--Changed "Serged" to
"Serge".

-- p. 142: Keep it to youself, my dear.--Changed "youself" to
"yourself".

-- p. 160: She made an effort and went on.:--Deleted the period
between "on" and the colon.

-- p. 163: "I am deeply pained and grieved, . ."--Changed the comma to
a period.

-- p. 181: Five minutes later Serge knocked at the study door. went
in, and found his father at his desk writing a letter, Francis laid
down his pen and turned.--Changed the period after "door" to a comma
and changed the comma after "a letter" to a period.

-- p. 184: Serge found rooms for Annie Lispett in a not too dull
village.--Changed "Lispett" to "Lipsett".

-- p. 216: forced into him piecemeal, so peacemeal it was
pumped--changed "peacemeal" to "piecemeal".

-- p. 247: Inserted a period at the end of the epigraph.

-- p. 280: has a me wanting a greal deal to eat--Changed "greal" to
"great".

-- p. 319: "No. That comes long after the mischief's done." "The
trouble between Basil and me is simply this.--Deleted the quotation
marks between "done." and "The trouble".

Variant spellings such as "prejudicies," "delinquences," and
"strategems" were retained.





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