Infomotions, Inc.Watersprings / Benson, Arthur Christopher, 1862-1925



Author: Benson, Arthur Christopher, 1862-1925
Title: Watersprings
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): howard; maud; jack
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Title: Watersprings

Author: Arthur Christopher Benson

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Edited by Charles Aldarondo Aldarondo@yahoo.com
          Don Lainson dlainson@sympatico.ca


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Edited by Charles Aldarondo Aldarondo@yahoo.com
          Don Lainson dlainson@sympatico.ca




WATERSPRINGS



BY

ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON


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


1913






I

THE SCENE





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






II

RESTLESSNESS





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






III

WINDLOW





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






IV

THE POOL





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


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

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


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

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

"But she likes it?" said Howard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






V

ON THE DOWN





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

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






VI

THE HOME CIRCLE





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






VII

COUNTRY LIFE





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack was in a state of high excitement.

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

"We were making out a list of books!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, what about Maud?" said Jack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why this sudden obsequiousness?" said Howard.

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

"Whatever comes naturally," said Howard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






VIII

THE INHERITANCE





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

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


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

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

"ANNE GRAVES."


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


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

"HOWARD KENNEDY."


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






IX

THE VICAR





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






X

WITH MAUD ALONE





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What does my aunt say?" said Howard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XI

JACK





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XII

DIPLOMACY





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XIII

GIVING AWAY





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

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

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






XIV

BACK TO CAMBRIDGE





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XV

JACK'S ESCAPADE





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XVI

THE VISIT





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XVII

SELF-SUPPRESSION





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

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

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

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

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

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






XVIII

THE PICNIC





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The imitations began again.

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

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

Howard bestirred himself to express some interest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XIX

DESPONDENCY





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XX

HIGHMINDEDNESS





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

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






XXI

THE AWAKENING





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XXII

LOVE AND CERTAINTY





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XXIII

THE WEDDING





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XXIV

DISCOVERIES





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And then?" said Howard.

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

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

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






XXV

THE NEW KNOWLEDGE





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

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

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

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

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

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






XXVI

LOVE IS ENOUGH





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XXVII

THE NEW LIFE





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XXVIII

THE VICAR'S VIEW





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XXIX

THE CHILD





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XXX

CAMBRIDGE AGAIN





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XXXI

MAKING THE BEST OF IT





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

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

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

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






XXXII

HOWARD'S PROFESSION





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XXXIII

ANXIETY





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What has been happening?" he said.

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

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

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

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

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






XXXIV

THE DREAM-CHILD





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XXXV

THE POWER OF LOVE





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






XXXVI

THE TRUTH





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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


THE END



End of Project Gutenberg's Watersprings, by Arthur Christopher Benson


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