Part 5 out of 6
Ashurst, red and rigid, looked across the table at a red and rigid
Stella. Sabina giggled; Freda cried:
"Buck up--it spoils everything!"
A queer, ashamed eagerness shot through Ashurst: then he said
"Shut up, you little demons!"
Again Sabina giggled.
"Well, then, she can kiss her hand, and you can put it against your
nose. It is on one side!"
To his amazement the girl did kiss her hand and stretch it out.
Solemnly he took that cool, slim hand and laid it to his cheek. The
two little girls broke into clapping, and Freda said:
"Now, then, we shall have to save your life at any time; that's
settled. Can I have another cup, Stella, not so beastly weak?"
Tea was resumed, and Ashurst, folding up the paper, put it in his
pocket. The talk turned on the advantages of measles, tangerine
oranges, honey in a spoon, no lessons, and so forth. Ashurst
listened, silent, exchanging friendly looks with Stella, whose face
was again of its normal sun-touched pink and white. It was soothing
to be so taken to the heart of this jolly family, fascinating to
watch their faces. And after tea, while the two little girls pressed
seaweed, he talked to Stella in the window seat and looked at her
water-colour sketches. The whole thing was like a pleasurable dream;
time and incident hung up, importance and reality suspended.
Tomorrow he would go back to Megan, with nothing of all this left
save the paper with the blood of these children, in his pocket.
Children! Stella was not quite that--as old as Megan! Her talk--
quick, rather hard and shy, yet friendly--seemed to flourish on his
silences, and about her there was something cool and virginal--a
maiden in a bower. At dinner, to which Halliday, who had swallowed
too much sea-water, did not come, Sabina said:
"I'm going to call you Frank."
"Frank, Frank, Franky."
Ashurst grinned and bowed.
"Every time Stella calls you Mr. Ashurst, she's got to pay a forfeit.
Ashurst looked at Stella, who grew slowly red. Sabina giggled; Freda
Ashurst reached out to right and left, and grasped some fair hair in
"Look here," he said, "you two! Leave Stella alone, or I'll tie you
"Ouch! You are a beast!"
Sabina murmured cautiously:
"You call her Stella, you see!"
"Why shouldn't I? It's a jolly name!"
"All right; we give you leave to!"
Ashurst released the hair. Stella! What would she call him--after
this? But she called him nothing; till at bedtime he said,
"Good-night, Mr.----Good-night, Frank! It was jolly of you, you
Her quick, straight handshake tightened suddenly, and as suddenly
Ashurst stood motionless in the empty sitting-room. Only last night,
under the apple tree and the living blossom, he had held Megan to
him, kissing her eyes and lips. And he gasped, swept by that rush of
remembrance. To-night it should have begun-his life with her who
only wanted to be with him! And now, twenty-four hours and more must
pass, because-of not looking at his watch! Why had he made friends
with this family of innocents just when he was saying good-bye to
innocence, and all the rest of it? 'But I mean to marry her,' he
thought; 'I told her so!'
He took a candle, lighted it, and went to his bedroom, which was next
to Halliday's. His friend's voice called, as he was passing:
"Is that you, old chap? I say, come in."
He was sitting up in bed, smoking a pipe and reading.
"Sit down a bit."
Ashurst sat down by the open window.
"I've been thinking about this afternoon, you know," said Halliday
rather suddenly. "They say you go through all your past. I didn't.
I suppose I wasn't far enough gone."
"What did you think of?"
Halliday was silent for a little, then said quietly
"Well, I did think of one thing--rather odd--of a girl at Cambridge
that I might have--you know; I was glad I hadn't got her on my mind.
Anyhow, old chap, I owe it to you that I'm here; I should have been
in the big dark by now. No more bed, or baccy; no more anything. I
say, what d'you suppose happens to us?"
"Go out like flames, I expect."
"We may flicker, and cling about a bit, perhaps."
"H'm! I think that's rather gloomy. I say, I hope my young sisters
have been decent to you?"
Halliday put his pipe down, crossed his hands behind his neck, and
turned his face towards the window.
"They're not bad kids!" he said.
Watching his friend, lying there, with that smile, and the candle-
light on his face, Ashurst shuddered. Quite true! He might have
been lying there with no smile, with all that sunny look gone out for
ever! He might not have been lying there at all, but "sanded" at the
bottom of the sea, waiting for resurrection on the ninth day, was it?
And that smile of Halliday's seemed to him suddenly something
wonderful, as if in it were all the difference between life and
death--the little flame--the all! He got up, and said softly:
"Well, you ought to sleep, I expect. Shall I blow out?"
Halliday caught his hand.
"I can't say it, you know; but it must be rotten to be dead. Good-
night, old boy!"
Stirred and moved, Ashurst squeezed the hand, and went downstairs.
The hall door was still open, and he passed out on to the lawn before
the Crescent. The stars were bright in a very dark blue sky, and by
their light some lilacs had that mysterious colour of flowers by
night which no one can describe. Ashurst pressed his face against a
spray; and before his closed eyes Megan started up, with the tiny
brown spaniel pup against her breast. "I thought of a girl that I
might have you know. I was glad I hadn't got her on my mind!" He
jerked his head away from the lilac, and began pacing up and down
over the grass, a grey phantom coming to substance for a moment in
the light from the lamp at either end. He was with her again under
the living, breathing white ness of the blossom, the stream
chattering by, the moon glinting steel-blue on the bathing-pool; back
in the rapture of his kisses on her upturned face of innocence and
humble passion, back in the suspense and beauty of that pagan night.
He stood still once more in the shadow of the lilacs. Here the sea,
not the stream, was Night's voice; the sea with its sigh and rustle;
no little bird, no owl, no night-Jar called or spun; but a piano
tinkled, and the white houses cut the sky with solid curve, and the
scent from the lilacs filled the air. A window of the hotel, high
up, was lighted; he saw a shadow move across the blind. And most
queer sensations stirred within him, a sort of churning, and twining,
and turning of a single emotion on itself, as though spring and love,
bewildered and confused, seeking the way, were baffled. This girl,
who had called him Frank, whose hand had given his that sudden little
clutch, this girl so cool and pure--what would she think of such
wild, unlawful loving? He sank down on the grass, sitting there
cross-legged, with his back to the house, motionless as some carved
Buddha. Was he really going to break through innocence, and steal?
Sniff the scent out of a wild flower, and--perhaps--throw it away?
"Of a girl at Cambridge that I might have--you know!" He put his
hands to the grass, one on each side, palms downwards, and pressed;
it was just warm still--the grass, barely moist, soft and firm and
friendly. 'What am I going to do?' he thought. Perhaps Megan was at
her window, looking out at the blossom, thinking of him! Poor little
Megan! 'Why not?' he thought. 'I love her! But do I really love
her? or do I only want her because she is so pretty, and loves me?
What am I going to do?' The piano tinkled on, the stars winked; and
Ashurst gazed out before him at the dark sea, as if spell-bound. He
got up at last, cramped and rather chilly. There was no longer light
in any window. And he went in to bed.
Out of a deep and dreamless sleep he was awakened by the sound of
thumping on the door. A shrill voice called:
"Hi! Breakfast's ready."
He jumped up. Where was he--? Ah!
He found them already eating marmalade, and sat down in the empty
place between Stella and Sabina, who, after watching him a little,
"I say, do buck up; we're going to start at half-past nine."
"We're going to Berry Head, old chap; you must come!"
Ashurst thought: 'Come! Impossible. I shall be getting things and
going back.' He looked at Stella. She said quickly:
Sabina chimed in:
"It'll be no fun without you."
Freda got up and stood behind his chair.
"You've got to come, or else I'll pull your hair!"
Ashurst thought: 'Well--one day more--to think it over! One day
more!' And he said:
"All right! You needn't tweak my mane!"
At the station he wrote a second telegram to the farm, and then tore
it up; he could not have explained why. From Brixham they drove in a
very little wagonette. There, squeezed between Sabina and Freda,
with his knees touching Stella's, they played "Up, Jenkins "; and the
gloom he was feeling gave way to frolic. In this one day more to
think it over, he did not want to think! They ran races, wrestled,
paddled--for to-day nobody wanted to bathe--they sang catches, played
games, and ate all they had brought. The little girls fell asleep
against him on the way back, and his knees still touched Stella's in
the narrow wagonette. It seemed incredible that thirty hours ago he
had never set eyes on any of those three flaxen heads. In the train
he talked to Stella of poetry, discovering her favourites, and
telling her his own with a pleasing sense of superiority; till
suddenly she said, rather low:
"Phil says you don't believe in a future life, Frank. I think that's
Disconcerted, Ashurst muttered:
"I don't either believe or not believe--I simply don't know."
She said quickly:
"I couldn't bear that. What would be the use of living?"
Watching the frown of those pretty oblique brows, Ashurst answered:
"I don't believe in believing things because a one wants to."
"But why should one wish to live again, if one isn't going to?"
And she looked full at him.
He did not want to hurt her, but an itch to dominate pushed him on to
"While one's alive one naturally wants to go on living for ever;
that's part of being alive. But it probably isn't anything more."
"Don't you believe in the Bible at all, then?"
Ashurst thought: 'Now I shall really hurt her!'
"I believe in the Sermon on the Mount, because it's beautiful and
good for all time."
"But don't you believe Christ was divine?"
He shook his head.
She turned her face quickly to the window, and there sprang into his
mind Megan's prayer, repeated by little Nick: "God bless us all, and
Mr. Ashes!" Who else would ever say a prayer for him, like her who
at this moment must be waiting--waiting to see him come down the
lane? And he thought suddenly: 'What a scoundrel I am!'
All that evening this thought kept coming back; but, as is not
unusual, each time with less poignancy, till it seemed almost a
matter of course to be a scoundrel. And--strange!--he did not know
whether he was a scoundrel if he meant to go back to Megan, or if he
did not mean to go back to her.
They played cards till the children were sent off to bed; then Stella
went to the piano. From over on the window seat, where it was nearly
dark, Ashurst watched her between the candles--that fair head on the
long, white neck bending to the movement of her hands. She played
fluently, without much expression; but what a Picture she made, the
faint golden radiance, a sort of angelic atmosphere hovering about
her! Who could have passionate thoughts or wild desires in the
presence of that swaying, white-clothed girl with the seraphic head?
She played a thing of Schumann's called "Warum?" Then Halliday
brought out a flute, and the spell was broken. After this they made
Ashurst sing, Stella playing him accompaniments from a book of
Schumann songs, till, in the middle of "Ich grolle nicht," two small
figures clad in blue dressing-gowns crept in and tried to conceal
themselves beneath the piano. The evening broke up in confusion, and
what Sabina called "a splendid rag."
That night Ashurst hardly slept at all. He was thinking, tossing and
turning. The intense domestic intimacy of these last two days, the
strength of this Halliday atmosphere, seemed to ring him round, and
make the farm and Megan--even Megan--seem unreal. Had he really made
love to her--really promised to take her away to live with him? He
must have been bewitched by the spring, the night, the apple blossom!
This May madness could but destroy them both! The notion that he was
going to make her his mistress--that simple child not yet eighteen--
now filled him with a sort of horror, even while it still stung and
whipped his blood. He muttered to himself: "It's awful, what I've
done--awful!" And the sound of Schumann's music throbbed and mingled
with his fevered thoughts, and he saw again Stella's cool, white,
fair-haired figure and bending neck, the queer, angelic radiance
about her. 'I must have been--I must be-mad!' he thought. 'What
came into me? Poor little Megan!' "God bless us all, and Mr.
Ashes!" "I want to be with you--only to be with you!" And burying
his face in his pillow, he smothered down a fit of sobbing. Not to
go back was awful! To go back--more awful still!
Emotion, when you are young, and give real vent to it, loses its
power of torture. And he fell asleep, thinking: 'What was it--a few
kisses--all forgotten in a month!'
Next morning he got his cheque cashed, but avoided the shop of the
dove-grey dress like the plague; and, instead, bought himself some
necessaries. He spent the whole day in a queer mood, cherishing a
kind of sullenness against himself. Instead of the hankering of the
last two days, he felt nothing but a blank--all passionate longing
gone, as if quenched in that outburst of tears. After tea Stella put
a book down beside him, and said shyly:
"Have you read that, Frank?"
It was Farrar's "Life of Christ." Ashurst smiled. Her anxiety about
his beliefs seemed to him comic, but touching. Infectious too,
perhaps, for he began to have an itch to justify himself, if not to
convert her. And in the evening, when the children and Halliday were
mending their shrimping nets, he said:
"At the back of orthodox religion, so far as I can see, there's
always the idea of reward--what you can get for being good; a kind of
begging for favours. I think it all starts in fear."
She was sitting on the sofa making reefer knots with a bit of string.
She looked up quickly:
"I think it's much deeper than that."
Ashurst felt again that wish to dominate.
"You think so," he said; "but wanting the 'quid pro quo' is about the
deepest thing in all of us! It's jolly hard to get to the bottom of
She wrinkled her brows in a puzzled frown.
"I don't think I understand."
He went on obstinately:
"Well, think, and see if the most religious people aren't those who
feel that this life doesn't give them all they want. I believe in
being good because to be good is good in itself."
"Then you do believe in being good?"
How pretty she looked now--it was easy to be good with her! And he
nodded and said:
"I say, show me how to make that knot!"
With her fingers touching his, in manoeuvring the bit of string, he
felt soothed and happy. And when he went to bed he wilfully kept his
thoughts on her, wrapping himself in her fair, cool sisterly
radiance, as in some garment of protection.
Next day he found they had arranged to go by train to Totnes, and
picnic at Berry Pomeroy Castle. Still in that resolute oblivion of
the past, he took his place with them in the landau beside Halliday,
back to the horses. And, then, along the sea front, nearly at the
turning to the railway station, his heart almost leaped into his
mouth. Megan--Megan herself!--was walking on the far pathway, in her
old skirt and jacket and her tam-o'-shanter, looking up into the
faces of the passers-by. Instinctively he threw his hand up for
cover, then made a feint of clearing dust out of his eyes; but
between his fingers he could see her still, moving, not with her free
country step, but wavering, lost-looking, pitiful-like some little
dog which has missed its master and does not know whether to run on,
to run back--where to run. How had she come like this?--what excuse
had she found to get away?--what did she hope for? But with every
turn of the wheels bearing him away from her, his heart revolted and
cried to him to stop them, to get out, and go to her! When the
landau turned the corner to the station he could stand it no more,
and opening the carriage door, muttered: "I've forgotten something!
Go on--don't wait for me! I'll join you at the castle by the next
train!" He jumped, stumbled, spun round, recovered his balance, and
walked forward, while the carriage with the astonished Hallidays
>From the corner he could only just see Megan, a long way ahead now.
He ran a few steps, checked himself, and dropped into a walk. With
each step nearer to her, further from the Hallidays, he walked more
and more slowly. How did it alter anything--this sight of her? How
make the going to her, and that which must come of it, less ugly?
For there was no hiding it--since he had met the Hallidays he had
become gradually sure that he would not marry Megan. It would only
be a wild love-time, a troubled, remorseful, difficult time--and
then--well, then he would get tired, just because she gave him
everything, was so simple, and so trustful, so dewy. And dew--wears
off! The little spot of faded colour, her tam-o'-shanter cap,
wavered on far in front of him; she was looking up into every face,
and at the house windows. Had any man ever such a cruel moment to go
through? Whatever he did, he felt he would be a beast. And he
uttered a groan which made a nursemaid turn and stare. He saw Megan
stop and lean against the sea-wall, looking at the sea; and he too
stopped. Quite likely she had never seen the sea before, and even in
her distress could not resist that sight. 'Yes-she's seen nothing,'
he thought; 'everything's before her. And just for a few weeks'
passion, I shall be cutting her life to ribbons. I'd better go and
hang myself rather than do it!' And suddenly he seemed to see
Stella's calm eyes looking into his, the wave of fluffy hair on her
forehead stirred by the wind. Ah! it would be madness, would mean
giving up all that he respected, and his own self-respect. He turned
and walked quickly back towards the station. But memory of that
poor, bewildered little figure, those anxious eyes searching the
passers-by, smote him too hard again, and once more he turned towards
The cap was no longer visible; that little spot of colour had
vanished in the stream of the noon promenaders. And impelled by the
passion of longing, the dearth which comes on one when life seems to
be whirling something out of reach, he hurried forward. She was
nowhere to be seen; for half an hour he looked for her; then on the
beach flung himself face downward in the sand. To find her again he
knew he had only to go to the station and wait till she returned from
her fruitless quest, to take her train home; or to take train himself
and go back to the farm, so that she found him there when she
returned. But he lay inert in the sand, among the indifferent groups
of children with their spades and buckets. Pity at her little figure
wandering, seeking, was well-nigh merged in the spring-running of his
blood; for it was all wild feeling now--the chivalrous part, what
there had been of it, was gone. He wanted her again, wanted her
kisses, her soft, little body, her abandonment, all her quick, warm,
pagan emotion; wanted the wonderful feeling of that night under the
moonlit apple boughs; wanted it all with a horrible intensity, as the
faun wants the nymph. The quick chatter of the little bright trout-
stream, the dazzle of the buttercups, the rocks of the old "wild
men"; the calling of the cuckoos and yaffles, the hooting of the
owls; and the red moon peeping out of the velvet dark at the living
whiteness of the blossom; and her face just out of reach at the
window, lost in its love-look; and her heart against his, her lips
answering his, under the apple tree--all this besieged him. Yet he
lay inert. What was it which struggled against pity and this
feverish longing, and kept him there paralysed in the warm sand?
Three flaxen heads--a fair face with friendly blue--grey eyes, a slim
hand pressing his, a quick voice speaking his name--"So you do
believe in being good?" Yes, and a sort of atmosphere as of some old
walled-in English garden, with pinks, and cornflowers, and roses, and
scents of lavender and lilaccool and fair, untouched, almost holy--
all that he had been brought up to feel was clean and good. And
suddenly he thought: 'She might come along the front again and see
me!' and he got up and made his way to the rock at the far end of the
beach. There, with the spray biting into his face, he could think
more coolly. To go back to the farm and love Megan out in the woods,
among the rocks, with everything around wild and fitting--that, he
knew, was impossible, utterly. To transplant her to a great town, to
keep, in some little flat or rooms, one who belonged so wholly to
Nature--the poet in him shrank from it. His passion would be a mere
sensuous revel, soon gone; in London, her very simplicity, her lack
of all intellectual quality, would make her his secret plaything--
nothing else. The longer he sat on the rock, with his feet dangling
over a greenish pool from which the sea was ebbing, the more clearly
he saw this; but it was as if her arms and all of her were slipping
slowly, slowly down from him, into the pool, to be carried away out
to sea; and her face looking up, her lost face with beseeching eyes,
and dark, wet hair-possessed, haunted, tortured him! He got up at
last, scaled the low rock-cliff, and made his way down into a
sheltered cove. Perhaps in the sea he could get back his control--
lose this fever! And stripping off his clothes, he swam out. He
wanted to tire himself so that nothing mattered and swam recklessly,
fast and far; then suddenly, for no reason, felt afraid. Suppose he
could not reach shore again--suppose the current set him out--or he
got cramp, like Halliday! He turned to swim in. The red cliffs
looked a long way off. If he were drowned they would find his
clothes. The Hallidays would know; but Megan perhaps never--they
took no newspaper at the farm. And Phil Halliday's words came back
to him again: "A girl at Cambridge I might have Glad I haven't got
her on my mind!" And in that moment of unreasoning fear he vowed he
would not have her on his mind. Then his fear left him; he swam in
easily enough, dried himself in the sun, and put on his clothes. His
heart felt sore, but no longer ached; his body cool and refreshed.
When one is as young as Ashurst, pity is not a violent emotion. And,
back in the Hallidays' sitting-room, eating a ravenous tea, he felt
much like a man recovered from fever. Everything seemed new and
clear; the tea, the buttered toast and jam tasted absurdly good;
tobacco had never smelt so nice. And walking up and down the empty
room, he stopped here and there to touch or look. He took up
Stella's work-basket, fingered the cotton reels and a gaily-coloured
plait of sewing silks, smelt at the little bag filled with woodroffe
she kept among them. He sat down at the piano, playing tunes with
one finger, thinking: 'To-night she'll play; I shall watch her while
she's playing; it does me good to watch her.' He took up the book,
which still lay where she had placed it beside him, and tried to
read. But Megan's little, sad figure began to come back at once, and
he got up and leaned in the window, listening to the thrushes in the
Crescent gardens, gazing at the sea, dreamy and blue below the trees.
A servant came in and cleared the tea away, and he still stood,
inhaling the evening air, trying not to think. Then he saw the
Hallidays coming through the gate of the Crescent, Stella a little in
front of Phil and the children, with their baskets, and instinctively
he drew back. His heart, too sore and discomfited, shrank from this
encounter, yet wanted its friendly solace--bore a grudge against this
influence, yet craved its cool innocence, and the pleasure of
watching Stella's face. From against the wall behind the piano he
saw her come in and stand looking a little blank as though
disappointed; then she saw him and smiled, a swift, brilliant smile
which warmed yet irritated Ashurst.
"You never came after us, Frank."
"No; I found I couldn't."
"Look! We picked such lovely late violets!" She held out a bunch.
Ashurst put his nose to them, and there stirred within him vague
longings, chilled instantly by a vision of Megan's anxious face
lifted to the faces of the passers-by.
He said shortly: "How jolly!" and turned away. He went up to his
room, and, avoiding the children, who were coming up the stairs,
threw himself on his bed, and lay there with his arms crossed over
his face. Now that he felt the die really cast, and Megan given up,
he hated himself, and almost hated the Hallidays and their atmosphere
of healthy, happy English homes.
Why should they have chanced here, to drive away first love--to show
him that he was going to be no better than a common seducer? What
right had Stella, with her fair, shy beauty, to make him know for
certain that he would never marry Megan; and, tarnishing it all,
bring him such bitterness of regretful longing and such pity? Megan
would be back by now, worn out by her miserable seeking--poor little
thing!--expecting, perhaps, to find him there when she reached home.
Ashurst bit at his sleeve, to stifle a groan of remorseful longing.
He went to dinner glum and silent, and his mood threw a dinge even
over the children. It was a melancholy, rather ill tempered evening,
for they were all tired; several times he caught Stella looking at
him with a hurt, puzzled expression, and this pleased his evil mood.
He slept miserably; got up quite early, and wandered out. He went
down to the beach. Alone there with the serene, the blue, the sunlit
sea, his heart relaxed a little. Conceited fool--to think that Megan
would take it so hard! In a week or two she would almost have
forgotten! And he well, he would have the reward of virtue! A good
young man! If Stella knew, she would give him her blessing for
resisting that devil she believed in; and he uttered a hard laugh.
But slowly the peace and beauty of sea and sky, the flight of the
lonely seagulls, made him feel ashamed. He bathed, and turned
In the Crescent gardens Stella herself was sitting on a camp stool,
sketching. He stole up close behind. How fair and pretty she was,
bent diligently, holding up her brush, measuring, wrinkling her
He said gently:
"Sorry I was such a beast last night, Stella."
She turned round, startled, flushed very pink, and said in her quick
"It's all right. I knew there was something. Between friends it
doesn't matter, does it?"
"Between friends--and we are, aren't we?"
She looked up at him, nodded vehemently, and her upper teeth gleamed
again in that swift, brilliant smile.
Three days later he went back to London, travelling with the
Hallidays. He had not written to the farm. What was there he could
On the last day of April in the following year he and Stella were
Such were Ashurst's memories, sitting against the wall among the
gorse, on his silver-wedding day. At this very spot, where he had
laid out the lunch, Megan must have stood outlined against the sky
when he had first caught sight of her. Of all queer coincidences!
And there moved in him a longing to go down and see again the farm
and the orchard, and the meadow of the gipsy bogle. It would not
take long; Stella would be an hour yet, perhaps.
How well he remembered it all--the little crowning group of pine
trees, the steep-up grass hill behind! He paused at the farm gate.
The low stone house, the yew-tree porch, the flowering currants--not
changed a bit; even the old green chair was out there on the grass
under the window, where he had reached up to her that night to take
the key. Then he turned down the lane, and stood leaning on the
orchard gate-grey skeleton of a gate, as then. A black pig even was
wandering in there among the trees. Was it true that twenty-six
years had passed, or had he dreamed and awakened to find Megan
waiting for him by the big apple tree? Unconsciously he put up his
hand to his grizzled beard and brought himself back to reality.
Opening the gate, he made his way down through the docks and nettles
till he came to the edge, and the old apple tree itself. Unchanged!
A little more of the greygreen lichen, a dead branch or two, and for
the rest it might have been only last night that he had embraced that
mossy trunk after Megan's flight and inhaled its woody savour, while
above his head the moonlit blossom had seemed to breathe and live.
In that early spring a few buds were showing already; the blackbirds
shouting their songs, a cuckoo calling, the sunlight bright and warm.
Incredibly the same-the chattering trout-stream, the narrow pool he
had lain in every morning, splashing the water over his flanks and
chest; and out there in the wild meadow the beech clump and the stone
where the gipsy bogie was supposed to sit. And an ache for lost
youth, a hankering, a sense of wasted love and sweetness, gripped
Ashurst by the throat. Surely, on this earth of such wild beauty,
one was meant to hold rapture to one's heart, as this earth and sky
held it! And yet, one could not!
He went to the edge of the stream, and looking down at the little
pool, thought: 'Youth and spring! What has become of them all, I
And then, in sudden fear of having this memory jarred by human
encounter, he went back to the lane, and pensively retraced his steps
to the crossroads.
Beside the car an old, grey-bearded labourer was leaning on a stick,
talking to the chauffeur. He broke off at once, as though guilty of
disrespect, and touching his hat, prepared to limp on down the lane.
Ashurst pointed to the narrow green mound. "Can you tell me what
The old fellow stopped; on his face had come a look as though he were
thinking: 'You've come to the right shop, mister!'
"'Tes a grave," he said.
"But why out here?"
The old man smiled. "That's a tale, as yu may say. An' not the
first time as I've a-told et--there's plenty folks asks 'bout that
bit o' turf. 'Maid's Grave' us calls et, 'ereabouts."
Ashurst held out his pouch. "Have a fill?"
The old man touched his hat again, and slowly filled an old clay
pipe. His eyes, looking upward out of a mass of wrinkles and hair,
were still quite bright.
"If yu don' mind, zurr, I'll zet down my leg's 'urtin' a bit today."
And he sat down on the mound of turf.
"There's always a flower on this grave. An' 'tain't so very
lonesome, neither; brave lot o' folks goes by now, in they new motor
cars an' things--not as 'twas in th' old days. She've a got company
up 'ere. 'Twas a poor soul killed 'erself."
"I see!" said Ashurst. "Cross-roads burial. I didn't know that
custom was kept up."
"Ah! but 'twas a main long time ago. Us 'ad a parson as was very
God-fearin' then. Let me see, I've a 'ad my pension six year come
Michaelmas, an' I were just on fifty when t'appened. There's none
livin' knows more about et than what I du. She belonged close 'ere;
same farm as where I used to work along o' Mrs. Narracombe 'tes Nick
Narracombe's now; I dus a bit for 'im still, odd times."
Ashurst, who was leaning against the gate, lighting his pipe, left
his curved hands before his face for long after the flame of the
match had gone out.
"Yes?" he said, and to himself his voice sounded hoarse and queer.
"She was one in an 'underd, poor maid! I putts a flower 'ere every
time I passes. Pretty maid an' gude maid she was, though they
wouldn't burry 'er up to th' church, nor where she wanted to be
burried neither." The old labourer paused, and put his hairy,
twisted hand flat down on the turf beside the bluebells.
"Yes?" said Ashurst.
"In a manner of speakin'," the old man went on, "I think as 'twas a
love-story--though there's no one never knu for zartin. Yu can't
tell what's in a maid's 'ead but that's wot I think about it." He
drew his hand along the turf. "I was fond o' that maid--don' know as
there was anyone as wasn' fond of 'er. But she was to lovin'-
'earted--that's where 'twas, I think." He looked up. And Ashurst,
whose lips were trembling in the cover of his beard, murmured again:
"'Twas in the spring, 'bout now as 't might be, or a little later--
blossom time--an' we 'ad one o' they young college gentlemen stayin'
at the farm-nice feller tu, with 'is 'ead in the air. I liked 'e
very well, an' I never see nothin' between 'em, but to my thinkin' 'e
turned the maid's fancy." The old man took the pipe out of his
mouth, spat, and went on:
"Yu see, 'e went away sudden one day, an' never come back. They got
'is knapsack and bits o' things down there still. That's what stuck
in my mind--'is never sendin' for 'em. 'Is name was Ashes, or
somethen' like that."
"Yes?" said Ashurst once more.
The old man licked his lips.
"'Er never said nothin', but from that day 'er went kind of dazed
lukin'; didn'seem rightly therr at all. I never knu a'uman creature
so changed in me life--never. There was another young feller at the
farm--Joe Biddaford 'is name wer', that was praaperly sweet on 'er,
tu; I guess 'e used to plague 'er wi 'is attentions. She got to luke
quite wild. I'd zee her sometimes of an avenin' when I was bringin'
up the calves; ther' she'd stand in th' orchard, under the big apple
tree, lukin' straight before 'er. 'Well,' I used t'think, 'I dunno
what 'tes that's the matter wi' yu, but yu'm lukin' pittiful, that yu
The old man refit his pipe, and sucked at it reflectively.
"Yes?" said Ashurst.
"I remembers one day I said to 'er: 'What's the matter, Megan?'--'er
name was Megan David, she come from Wales same as 'er aunt, ol'
Missis Narracombe. 'Yu'm frettin' about somethin'. I says. 'No,
Jim,' she says, 'I'm not frettin'.' 'Yes, yu be!' I says. 'No,' she
says, and to tears cam' rollin' out. 'Yu'm cryin'--what's that,
then?' I says. She putts 'er 'and over 'er 'eart: 'It 'urts me,' she
says; 'but 'twill sune be better,' she says. 'But if anything shude
'appen to me, Jim, I wants to be burried under this 'ere apple tree.'
I laughed. 'What's goin' to 'appen to yu?' I says; 'don't 'ee be
fulish.' 'No,' she says, 'I won't be fulish.' Well, I know what
maids are, an' I never thought no more about et, till two days arter
that, 'bout six in the avenin' I was comin' up wi' the calves, when I
see somethin' dark lyin' in the strame, close to that big apple tree.
I says to meself: 'Is that a pig-funny place for a pig to get to!'
an' I goes up to et, an' I see what 'twas."
The old man stopped; his eyes, turned upward, had a bright, suffering
"'Twas the maid, in a little narrer pool ther' that's made by the
stoppin' of a rock--where I see the young gentleman bathin' once or
twice. 'Er was lyin' on 'er face in the watter. There was a plant
o' goldie-cups growin' out o' the stone just above 'er'ead. An' when
I come to luke at 'er face, 'twas luvly, butiful, so calm's a baby's
--wonderful butiful et was. When the doctor saw 'er, 'e said: 'Er
culdn' never a-done it in that little bit o' watter ef' er 'adn't a-
been in an extarsy.' Ah! an' judgin' from 'er face, that was just
'ow she was. Et made me cry praaper-butiful et was! 'Twas June
then, but she'd afound a little bit of apple-blossom left over
somewheres, and stuck et in 'er 'air. That's why I thinks 'er must
abeen in an extarsy, to go to et gay, like that. Why! there wasn't
more than a fute and 'arf o' watter. But I tell 'ee one thing--that
meadder's 'arnted; I knu et, an' she knu et; an' no one'll persuade
me as 'tesn't. I told 'em what she said to me 'bout bein' burried
under th' apple tree. But I think that turned 'em--made et luke to
much 's ef she'd 'ad it in 'er mind deliberate; an' so they burried
'er up 'ere. Parson we 'ad then was very particular, 'e was."
Again the old man drew his hand over the turf.
"'Tes wonderful, et seems," he added slowly, "what maids 'll du for
love. She 'ad a lovin-'eart; I guess 'twas broken. But us never knu
He looked up as if for approval of his story, but Ashurst had walked
past him as if he were not there.
Up on the top of the hill, beyond where he had spread the lunch,
over, out of sight, he lay down on his face. So had his virtue been
rewarded, and "the Cyprian," goddess of love, taken her revenge! And
before his eyes, dim with tears, came Megan's face with the sprig of
apple blossom in her dark, wet hair. 'What did I do that was wrong?'
he thought. 'What did I do?' But he could not answer. Spring, with
its rush of passion, its flowers and song-the spring in his heart and
Megan's! Was it just Love seeking a victim! The Greek was right,
then--the words of the "Hippolytus" as true to-day!
"For mad is the heart of Love,
And gold the gleam of his wing;
And all to the spell thereof
Bend when he makes his spring.
All life that is wild and young
In mountain and wave and stream
All that of earth is sprung,
Or breathes in the red sunbeam;
Yea, and Mankind. O'er all a royal throne,
Cyprian, Cyprian, is thine alone!"
The Greek was right! Megan! Poor little Megan--coming over the
hill! Megan under the old apple tree waiting and looking! Megan
dead, with beauty printed on her!
A voice said:
"Oh, there you are! Look !"
Ashurst rose, took his wife's sketch, and stared at it in silence.
"Is the foreground right, Frank?"
"But there's something wanting, isn't there?"
Ashurst nodded. Wanting? The apple tree, the singing, and the gold!
And solemnly he put his lips to her forehead. It was his silver-
"Don't you see, brother, I was reading yesterday the Gospel
about Christ, the little Father; how He suffered, how He walked
on the earth. I suppose you have heard about it?"
"Indeed, I have," replied Stepanuitch; "but we are people in
darkness; we can't read."--TOLSTOI.
Mr. Henry Bosengate, of the London Stock Exchange, seated himself in
his car that morning during the great war with a sense of injury.
Major in a Volunteer Corps; member of all the local committees;
lending this very car to the neighbouring hospital, at times even
driving it himself for their benefit; subscribing to funds, so far as
his diminished income permitted--he was conscious of being an asset
to the country, and one whose time could not be wasted with impunity.
To be summoned to sit on a jury at the local assizes, and not even
the grand jury at that! It was in the nature of an outrage.
Strong and upright, with hazel eyes and dark eyebrows, pinkish-brown
cheeks, a forehead white, well-shaped, and getting high, with greyish
hair glossy and well-brushed, and a trim moustache, he might have
been taken for that colonel of Volunteers which indeed he was in a
fair way of becoming.
His wife had followed him out under the porch, and stood bracing her
supple body clothed in lilac linen. Red rambler roses formed a sort
of crown to her dark head; her ivory-coloured face had in it just a
suggestion of the Japanese.
Mr. Bosengate spoke through the whirr of the engine:
"I don't expect to be late, dear. This business is ridiculous.
There oughtn't to be any crime in these days."
His wife--her name was Kathleen--smiled. She looked very pretty and
cool, Mr. Bosengate thought. To him bound on this dull and stuffy
business everything he owned seemed pleasant--the geranium beds
beside the gravel drive, his long, red-brick house mellowing
decorously in its creepers and ivy, the little clock-tower over
stables now converted to a garage, the dovecote, masking at the other
end the conservatory which adjoined the billiard-room. Close to the
red-brick lodge his two children, Kate and Harry, ran out from under
the acacia trees, and waved to him, scrambling bare-legged on to the
low, red, ivy-covered wall which guarded his domain of eleven acres.
Mr. Bosengate waved back, thinking: 'Jolly couple--by Jove, they
are!' Above their heads, through the trees, he could see right away
to some Downs, faint in the July heat haze. And he thought: 'Pretty
a spot as one could have got, so close to Town!'
Despite the war he had enjoyed these last two years more than any of
the ten since he built "Charmleigh" and settled down to semi-rural
domesticity with his young wife. There had been a certain piquancy,
a savour added to existence, by the country's peril, and all the
public service and sacrifice it demanded. His chauffeur was gone,
and one gardener did the work of three. He enjoyed-positively
enjoyed, his committee work; even the serious decline of business and
increase of taxation had not much worried one continually conscious
of the national crisis and his own part therein. The country had
wanted waking up, wanted a lesson in effort and economy; and the
feeling that he had not spared himself in these strenuous times, had
given a zest to those quiet pleasures of bed and board which, at his
age, even the most patriotic could retain with a good conscience. He
had denied himself many things--new clothes, presents for Kathleen
and the children, travel, and that pine-apple house which he had been
on the point of building when the war broke out; new wine, too, and
cigars, and membership of the two Clubs which he had never used in
the old days. The hours had seemed fuller and longer, sleep better
earned--wonderful, the things one could do without when put to it!
He turned the car into the high road, driving dreamily for he was in
plenty of time. The war was going pretty well now; he was no fool
optimist, but now that conscription was in force, one might
reasonably hope for its end within a year. Then there would be a
boom, and one might let oneself go a little. Visions of theatres and
supper with his wife at the Savoy afterwards, and cosy night drives
back into the sweet-smelling country behind your own chauffeur once
more teased a fancy which even now did not soar beyond the confines
of domestic pleasures. He pictured his wife in new dresses by Jay--
she was fifteen years younger than himself, and "paid for dressing"
as they said. He had always delighted--as men older than their wives
will--in the admiration she excited from others not privileged to
enjoy her charms. Her rather queer and ironical beauty, her cool
irreproachable wifeliness, was a constant balm to him. They would
give dinner parties again, have their friends down from town, and he
would once more enjoy sitting at the foot of the dinner table while
Kathleen sat at the head, with the light soft on her ivory shoulders,
behind flowers she had arranged in that original way of hers, and
fruit which he had grown in his hot-houses; once more he would take
legitimate interest in the wine he offered to his guests--once more
stock that Chinese cabinet wherein he kept cigars. Yes--there was a
certain satisfaction in these days of privation, if only from the
anticipation they created.
The sprinkling of villas had become continuous on either side of the
high road; and women going out to shop, tradesmen's boys delivering
victuals, young men in khaki, began to abound. Now and then a
limping or bandaged form would pass--some bit of human wreckage; and
Mr. Bosengate would think mechanically: 'Another of those poor
devils! Wonder if we've had his case before us!'
Running his car into the best hotel garage of the little town, he
made his way leisurely over to the court. It stood back from the
market-place, and was already lapped by a sea of persons having, as
in the outer ring at race meetings, an air of business at which one
must not be caught out, together with a soaked or flushed appearance.
Mr. Bosengate could not resist putting his handkerchief to his nose.
He had carefully drenched it with lavender water, and to this fact
owed, perhaps, his immunity from the post of foreman on the jury--
for, say what you will about the English, they have a deep instinct
He found himself second in the front row of the jury box, and through
the odour of "Sanitas" gazed at the judge's face expressionless up
there, for all the world like a bewigged bust. His fellows in the
box had that appearance of falling between two classes characteristic
of jurymen. Mr. Bosengate was not impressed. On one side of him the
foreman sat, a prominent upholsterer, known in the town as "Gentleman
Fox." His dark and beautifully brushed and oiled hair and moustache,
his radiant linen, gold watch and chain, the white piping to his
waistcoat, and a habit of never saying "Sir" had long marked him out
from commoner men; he undertook to bury people too, to save them
trouble; and was altogether superior. On the other side Mr.
Bosengate had one of those men, who, except when they sit on juries,
are never seen without a little brown bag, and the appearance of
having been interrupted in a drink. Pale and shiny, with large loose
eyes shifting from side to side, he had an underdone voice and uneasy
flabby hands. Mr. Bosengate disliked sitting next to him. Beyond
this commercial traveller sat a dark pale young man with spectacles;
beyond him again, a short old man with grey moustache, mutton chops,
and innumerable wrinkles; and the front row was completed by a
chemist. The three immediately behind, Mr. Bosengate did not
thoroughly master; but the three at the end of the second row he
learned in their order of an oldish man in a grey suit, given to
winking; an inanimate person with the mouth of a moustachioed cod-
fish, over whose long bald crown three wisps of damp hair were
carefully arranged; and a dried, dapperish, clean-shorn man, whose
mouth seemed terrified lest it should be surprised without a smile.
Their first and second verdicts were recorded without the necessity
for withdrawal, and Mr. Bosengate was already sleepy when the third
case was called. The sight of khaki revived his drooping attention.
But what a weedy-looking specimen! This prisoner had a truly
nerveless pitiable dejected air. If he had ever had a military
bearing it had shrunk into him during his confinement. His ill-
shaped brown tunic, whose little brass buttons seemed trying to keep
smiling, struck Mr. Bosengate as ridiculously short, used though he
was to such things. 'Absurd,' he thought--'Lumbago! Just where they
ought to be covered!' Then the officer and gentleman stirred in him,
and he added to himself: 'Still, there must be some distinction
made!' The little soldier's visage had once perhaps been tanned, but
was now the colour of dark dough; his large brown eyes with white
showing below the iris, as so often in the eyes of very nervous
people--wandered from face to face, of judge, counsel, jury, and
public. There were hollows in his cheeks, his dark hair looked damp;
around his neck he wore a bandage. The commercial traveller on Mr.
Bosengate's left turned, and whispered: "Felo de se! My hat! what a
guy!" Mr. Bosengate pretended not to hear--he could not bear that
fellow!--and slowly wrote on a bit of paper: "Owen Lewis." Welsh!
Well, he looked it--not at all an English face. Attempted suicide--
not at all an English crime! Suicide implied surrender, a putting-up
of hands to Fate--to say nothing of the religious aspect of the
matter. And suicide in khaki seemed to Mr. Bosengate particularly
abhorrent; like turning tail in face of the enemy; almost meriting
the fate of a deserter. He looked at the prisoner, trying not to
give way to this prejudice. And the prisoner seemed to look at him,
though this, perhaps, was fancy.
The Counsel for the prosecution, a little, alert, grey, decided man,
above military age, began detailing the circumstances of the crime.
Mr. Bosengate, though not particularly sensitive to atmosphere, could
perceive a sort of current running through the Court. It was as if
jury and public were thinking rhythmically in obedience to the same
unexpressed prejudice of which he himself was conscious. Even the
Caesar-like pale face up there, presiding, seemed in its ironic
serenity responding to that current.
"Gentlemen of the jury, before I call my evidence, I direct your
attention to the bandage the accused is still wearing. He gave
himself this wound with his Army razor, adding, if I may say so,
insult to the injury he was inflicting on his country. He pleads not
guilty; and before the magistrates he said that absence from his wife
was preying on his mind"--the advocate's close lips widened--"Well,
gentlemen, if such an excuse is to weigh with us in these days, I'm
sure I don't know what's to happen to the Empire."
'No, by George!' thought Mr. Bosengate.
The evidence of the first witness, a room-mate who had caught the
prisoner's hand, and of the sergeant, who had at once been summoned,
was conclusive and he began to cherish a hope that they would get
through without withdrawing, and he would be home before five. But
then a hitch occurred. The regimental doctor failed to respond when
his name was called; and the judge having for the first time that day
showed himself capable of human emotion, intimated that he would
adjourn until the morrow.
Mr. Bosengate received the announcement with equanimity. He would be
home even earlier! And gathering up the sheets of paper he had
scribbled on, he put them in his pocket and got up. The would-be
suicide was being taken out of the court--a shambling drab figure
with shoulders hunched. What good were men like that in these days!
What good! The prisoner looked up. Mr. Bosengate encountered in
full the gaze of those large brown eyes, with the white showing
underneath. What a suffering, wretched, pitiful face! A man had no
business to give you a look like that! The prisoner passed on down
the stairs, and vanished. Mr. Bosengate went out and across the
market place to the garage of the hotel where he had left his car.
The sun shone fiercely and he thought: 'I must do some watering in
the garden.' He brought the car out, and was about to start the
engine, when someone passing said: "Good evenin'. Seedy-lookin'
beggar that last prisoner, ain't he? We don't want men of that
stamp." It was his neighbour on the jury, the commercial traveller,
in a straw hat, with a little brown bag already in his hand and the
froth of an interrupted drink on his moustache. Answering curtly:
"Good evening!" and thinking: 'Nor of yours, my friend!' Mr.
Bosengate started the car with unnecessary clamour. But as if
brought back to life by the commercial traveller's remark, the
prisoner's figure seemed to speed along too, turning up at Mr.
Bosengate his pitifully unhappy eyes. Want of his wife!--queer
excuse that for trying to put it out of his power ever to see her
again! Why! Half a loaf, even a slice, was better than no bread.
Not many of that neurotic type in the Army--thank Heaven! The
lugubrious figure vanished, and Mr. Bosengate pictured instead the
form of his own wife bending over her "Gloire de Dijon roses" in the
rosery, where she generally worked a little before tea now that they
were short of gardeners. He saw her, as often he had seen her, raise
herself and stand, head to one side, a gloved hand on her slender
hip, gazing as it were ironically from under drooped lids at buds
which did not come out fast enough. And the word 'Caline,' for he
was something of a French scholar, shot through his mind: 'Kathleen-
Caline!' If he found her there when he got in, he would steal up on
the grass and--ah! but with great care not to crease her dress or
disturb her hair! 'If only she weren't quite so self-contained,' he
thought; 'It's like a cat you can't get near, not really near!'
The car, returning faster than it had come down that morning, had
already passed the outskirt villas, and was breasting the hill to
where, among fields and the old trees, Charmleigh lay apart from
commoner life. Turning into his drive, Mr. Bosengate thought with a
certain surprise: 'I wonder what she does think of! I wonder!' He
put his gloves and hat down in the outer hall and went into the
lavatory, to dip his face in cool water and wash it with sweet-
smelling soap--delicious revenge on the unclean atmosphere in which
he had been stewing so many hours. He came out again into the hall
dazed by soap and the mellowed light, and a voice from half-way up
the stairs said: "Daddy! Look!" His little daughter was standing up
there with one hand on the banisters. She scrambled on to them and
came sliding down, her frock up to her eyes, and her holland knickers
to her middle. Mr. Bosengate said mildly:
"Well, that's elegant!"
"Tea's in the summer-house. Mummy's waiting. Come on!"
With her hand in his, Mr. Bosengate went on, through the drawing-
room, long and cool, with sun-blinds down, through the billiard-room,
high and cool, through the conservatory, green and sweet-smelling,
out on to the terrace and the upper lawn. He had never felt such
sheer exhilarated joy in his home surroundings, so cool, glistening
and green under the July sun; and he said:
"Well, Kit, what have you all been doing?"
"I've fed my rabbits and Harry's; and we've been in the attic; Harry
got his leg through the skylight."
Mr. Bosengate drew in his breath with a hiss.
"It's all right, Daddy; we got it out again, it's only grazed the
skin. And we've been making swabs--I made seventeen, Mummy made
thirty-three, and then she went to the hospital. Did you put many
men in prison?"
Mr. Bosengate cleared his throat. The question seemed to him
"What's it like in prison, Daddy?"
Mr. Bosengate, who had no more knowledge than his little daughter,
replied in an absent voice:
"Not very nice."
They were passing under a young oak tree, where the path wound round
to the rosery and summer-house. Something shot down and clawed Mr.
Bosengate's neck. His little daughter began to hop and suffocate
"Oh, Daddy! Aren't you caught! I led you on purpose!"
Looking up, Mr. Bosengate saw his small son lying along a low branch
above him--like the leopard he was declaring himself to be (for fear
of error), and thought blithely: 'What an active little chap it is!'
"Let me drop on your shoulders, Daddy--like they do on the deer."
"Oh, yes! Do be a deer, Daddy!"
Mr. Bosengate did not see being a deer; his hair had just been
brushed. But he entered the rosery buoyantly between his offspring.
His wife was standing precisely as he had imagined her, in a pale
blue frock open at the neck, with a narrow black band round the
waist, and little accordion pleats below. She looked her coolest.
Her smile, when she turned her head, hardly seemed to take Mr.
Bosengate seriously enough. He placed his lips below one of her
half-drooped eyelids. She even smelled of roses. His children began
to dance round their mother, and Mr. Bosengate,--firmly held between
them, was also compelled to do this, until she said:
"When you've quite done, let's have tea!"
It was not the greeting he had imagined coming along in the car.
Earwigs were plentiful in the summer-house--used perhaps twice a
year, but indispensable to every country residence--and Mr. Bosengate
was not sorry for the excuse to get out again. Though all was so
pleasant, he felt oddly restless, rather suffocated; and lighting his
pipe, began to move about among the roses, blowing tobacco at the
greenfly; in war-time one was never quite idle! And suddenly he
"We're trying a wretched Tommy at the assizes."
His wife looked up from a rose.
"Why did he?"
"Can't stand the separation from his wife."
She looked at him, gave a low laugh, and said:
Mr. Bosengate was puzzled. Why did she laugh? He looked round, saw
that the children were gone, took his pipe from his mouth, and
"You look very pretty," he said. "Give me a kiss!"
His wife bent her body forward from the waist, and pushed her lips
out till they touched his moustache. Mr. Bosengate felt a sensation
as if he had arisen from breakfast, without having eaten marmalade.
He mastered it, and said:
"That jury are a rum lot."
His wife's eyelids flickered. "I wish women sat on juries."
"It would be an experience."
Not the first time she had used that curious expression! Yet her
life was far from dull, so far as he could see; with the new
interests created by the war, and the constant calls on her time made
by the perfection of their home life, she had a useful and busy
existence. Again the random thought passed through him: 'But she
never tells me anything!' And suddenly that lugubrious khaki-clad
figure started up among the rose bushes. "We've got a lot to be
thankful for!" he said abruptly. "I must go to work!" His wife,
raising one eyebrow, smiled. "And I to weep!" Mr. Bosengate
laughed--she had a pretty wit! And stroking his comely moustache
where it had been kissed, he moved out into the sunshine. All the
evening, throughout his labours, not inconsiderable, for this jury
business had put him behind time, he was afflicted by that restless
pleasure in his surroundings; would break off in mowing the lower
lawn to look at the house through the trees; would leave his study
and committee papers, to cross into the drawing-room and sniff its
dainty fragrance; paid a special good-night visit to the children
having supper in the schoolroom; pottered in and out from his
dressing room to admire his wife while she was changing for dinner;
dined with his mind perpetually on the next course; talked volubly of
the war; and in the billiard room afterwards, smoking the pipe which
had taken the place of his cigar, could not keep still, but roamed
about, now in conservatory, now in the drawing-room, where his wife
and the governess were still making swabs. It seemed to him that he
could not have enough of anything. About eleven o'clock he strolled
out beautiful night, only just dark enough--under the new arrangement
with Time--and went down to the little round fountain below the
terrace. His wife was playing the piano. Mr. Bosengate looked at
the water and the flat dark water lily leaves which floated there;
looked up at the house, where only narrow chinks of light showed,
because of the Lighting Order. The dreamy music drifted out; there
was a scent of heliotrope. He moved a few steps back, and sat in the
children's swing under an old lime tree. Jolly--blissful--in the
warm, bloomy dark! Of all hours of the day, this before going to bed
was perhaps the pleasantest. He saw the light go up in his wife's
bed room, unscreened for a full minute, and thought: 'Aha! If I did
my duty as a special, I should "strafe" her for that.' She came to
the window, her figure lighted, hands up to the back of her head, so
that her bare arms gleamed. Mr. Bosengate wafted her a kiss, knowing
he could not be seen. 'Lucky chap!' he mused; 'she's a great joy!'
Up went her arm, down came the blind the house was dark again. He
drew a long breath. 'Another ten minutes,' he thought, 'then I'll go
in and shut up. By Jove! The limes are beginning to smell already!'
And, the better to take in that acme of his well-being, he tilted the
swing, lifted his feet from the ground, and swung himself toward the
scented blossoms. He wanted to whelm his senses in their perfume,
and closed his eyes. But instead of the domestic vision he expected,
the face of the little Welsh soldier, hare-eyed, shadowy, pinched and
dark and pitiful, started up with such disturbing vividness that he
opened his eyes again at once. Curse! The fellow almost haunted
one! Where would he be now poor little devil!--lying in his cell,
thinking--thinking of his wife! Feeling suddenly morbid, Mr.
Bosengate arrested the swing and stood up. Absurd!--all his well-
being and mood of warm anticipation had deserted him! 'A d---d
world!' he thought. 'Such a lot of misery! Why should I have to sit
in judgment on that poor beggar, and condemn him?' He moved up on to
the terrace and walked briskly, to rid himself of this disturbance
before going in. 'That commercial traveller chap,' he thought, 'the
rest of those fellows--they see nothing!' And, abruptly turning up
the three stone steps, he entered the conservatory, locked it, passed
into the billiard room, and drank his barley water. One of the
pictures was hanging crooked; he went up to put it straight. Still
life. Grapes and apples, and--lobsters! They struck him as odd for
the first time. Why lobsters? The whole picture seemed dead and
oily. He turned off the light, and went upstairs, passed his wife's
door, into his own room, and undressed. Clothed in his pyjamas he
opened the door between the rooms. By the light coming from his own
he could see her dark head on the pillow. Was she asleep? No--not
asleep, certainly. The moment of fruition had come; the crowning of
his pride and pleasure in his home. But he continued to stand there.
He had suddenly no pride, no pleasure, no desire; nothing but a sort
of dull resentment against everything. He turned back; shut the
door, and slipping between the heavy curtains and his open window,
stood looking out at the night. 'Full of misery!' he thought. 'Full
of d---d misery!'
Filing into the jury box next morning, Mr. Bosengate collided
slightly with a short juryman, whose square figure and square head of
stiff yellow-red hair he had only vaguely noticed the day before.
The man looked angry, and Mr. Bosengate thought: 'An ill-bred dog,
He sat down quickly, and, to avoid further recognition of his
fellows, gazed in front of him. His appearance on Saturdays was
always military, by reason of the route march of his Volunteer Corps
in the afternoon. Gentleman Fox, who belonged to the corps too, was
also looking square; but that commercial traveller on his other side
seemed more louche, and as if surprised in immorality, than ever;
only the proximity of Gentleman Fox on the other side kept Mr.
Bosengate from shrinking. Then he saw the prisoner being brought in,
shadowy and dark behind the brightness of his buttons, and he
experienced a sort of shock, this figure was so exactly that which
had several times started up in his mind. Somehow he had expected a
fresh sight of the fellow to dispel and disprove what had been
haunting him, had expected to find him just an outside phenomenon,
not, as it were, a part of his own life. And he gazed at the carven
immobility of the judge's face, trying to steady himself, as a
drunken man will, by looking at a light. The regimental doctor,
unabashed by the judge's comment on his absence the day before, gave
his evidence like a man who had better things to do, and the case for
the prosecution was forthwith rounded in by a little speech from
counsel. The matter--he said--was clear as daylight. Those who wore
His Majesty's uniform, charged with the responsibility and privilege
of defending their country, were no more entitled to desert their
regiments by taking their own lives than they were entitled to desert
in any other way. He asked for a conviction. Mr. Bosengate felt a
sympathetic shuffle passing through all feet; the judge was speaking:
"Prisoner, you can either go into the witness box and make your
statement on oath, in which case you may be cross-examined on it; or
you can make your statement there from the dock, in which case you
will not be cross-examined. Which do you elect to do?"
"From here, my lord."
Seeing him now full face, and, as it might be, come to life in the
effort to convey his feelings, Mr. Bosengate had suddenly a quite
different impression of the fellow. It was as if his khaki had
fallen off, and he had stepped out of his own shadow, a live and
quivering creature. His pinched clean-shaven face seemed to have an
irregular, wilder, hairier look, his large nervous brown eyes
darkened and glowed; he jerked his shoulders, his arms, his whole
body, like a man suddenly freed from cramp or a suit of armour.
He spoke, too, in a quick, crisp, rather high voice, pinching his
consonants a little, sharpening his vowels, like a true Welshman.
"My lord and misters the jury," he said: "I was a hairdresser when
the call came on me to join the army. I had a little home and a
wife. I never thought what it would be like to be away from them, I
surely never did; and I'm ashamed to be speaking it out like this--
how it can squeeze and squeeze a man, how it can prey on your mind,
when you're nervous like I am. 'Tis not everyone that cares for his
home--there's lots o' them never wants to see their wives again. But
for me 'tis like being shut up in a cage, it is!" Mr. Bosengate saw
daylight between the skinny fingers of the man's hand thrown out with
a jerk. "I cannot bear it shut up away from wife and home like what
you are in the army. So when I took my razor that morning I was
wild--an' I wouldn't be here now but for that man catching my hand.
There was no reason in it, I'm willing to confess. It was foolish;
but wait till you get feeling like what I was, and see how it draws
you. Misters the jury, don't send me back to prison; it is worse
still there. If you have wives you will know what it is like for
lots of us; only some is more nervous than others. I swear to you,
sirs, I could not help it---?" Again the little man flung out his
hand, his whole thin body shook and Mr. Bosengate felt the same
sensation as when he drove his car over a dog--"Misters the jury, I
hope you may never in your lives feel as I've been feeling."
The little man ceased, his eyes shrank back into their sockets, his
figure back into its mask of shadowy brown and gleaming buttons, and
Mr. Bosengate was conscious that the judge was making a series of
remarks; and, very soon, of being seated at a mahogany table in the
jury's withdrawing room, hearing the, voice of the man with hair like
an Irish terrier's saying: "Didn't he talk through his hat, that
little blighter!" Conscious, too, of the commercial traveller, still
on his left--always on his left!--mopping his brow, and muttering:
"Phew! It's hot in there to-day!" while an effluvium, as of an
inside accustomed to whisky came from him. Then the man with the
underlip and the three plastered wisps of hair said:
"Don't know why we withdrew, Mr. Foreman!"
Mr. Bosengate looked round to where, at the head of the table,
Gentleman Fox sat, in defensive gentility and the little white piping
to his waistcoat saying blandly:
"I shall be happy to take the sense of the jury."
There was a short silence, then the chemist murmured:
"I should say he must have what they call claustrophobia."
"Clauster fiddlesticks! The feller's a shirker, that's all. Missed
his wife--pretty excuse! Indecent, I call it!"
The speaker was the little wire-haired man; and emotion, deep and
angry, stirred in Mr. Bosengate. That ill-bred little cur! He
gripped the edge of the table with both hands.
"I think it's d-----d natural!" he muttered. But almost before the
words had left his lips he felt dismay. What had he said--he, nearly
a colonel of volunteers--endorsing such a want of patriotism! And
hearing the commercial traveller murmuring: "'Ear, 'ear!" he
The wire-headed man said roughly:
"There's too many of these blighted shirkers, and too much pampering
The turmoil in Mr. Bosengate increased; he remarked in an icy voice:
"I agree to no verdict that'll send the man back to prison."
At this a real tremor seemed to go round the table, as if they all
saw themselves sitting there through lunch time. Then the large
grey-haired man given to winking, said:
"Oh! Come, sir--after what the judge said! Come, sir! What do you
say, Mr. Foreman?"
Gentleman Fox--as who should say 'This is excellent value, but I
don't wish to press it on you!'--answered:
"We are only concerned with the facts. Did he or did he not try to
shorten his life?"
"Of course he did--said so himself," Mr. Bosengate heard the wire-
haired man snap out, and from the following murmur of assent he alone
abstained. Guilty! Well--yes! There was no way out of admitting
that, but his feelings revolted against handing "that poor little
beggar" over to the tender mercy of his country's law. His whole
soul rose in arms against agreeing with that ill-bred little cur, and
the rest of this job-lot. He had an impulse to get up and walk out,
saying: "Settle it your own way. Good morning."
"It seems, sir," Gentleman Fox was saying, "that we're all agreed to
guilty, except yourself. If you will allow me, I don't see how you
can go behind what the prisoner himself admitted."
Thus brought up to the very guns, Mr. Bosengate, red in the face,
thrust his hands deep into the side pockets of his tunic, and,
staring straight before him, said:
"Very well; on condition we recommend him to mercy."
"What do you say, gentlemen; shall we recommend him to mercy?"
"'Ear, 'ear!" burst from the commercial traveller, and from the
chemist came the murmur:
"No harm in that."
"Well, I think there is. They shoot deserters at the front, and we
let this fellow off. I'd hang the cur."
Mr. Bosengate stared at that little wire-haired brute. "Haven't you
any feeling for others?" he wanted to say. "Can't you see that this
poor devil suffers tortures?" But the sheer impossibility of doing
this before ten other men brought a slight sweat out on his face and
hands; and in agitation he smote the table a blow with his fist. The
effect was instantaneous. Everybody looked at the wire-haired man,
as if saying: "Yes, you've gone a bit too far there!" The "little
brute" stood it for a moment, then muttered surlily:
"Well, commend 'im to mercy if you like; I don't care."
"That's right; they never pay any attention to it," said the grey-
haired man, winking heartily. And Mr. Bosengate filed back with the
others into court.
But when from the jury box his eyes fell once more on the hare-eyed
figure in the dock, he had his worst moment yet. Why should this
poor wretch suffer so--for no fault, no fault; while he, and these
others, and that snapping counsel, and the Caesar-like judge up
there, went off to their women and their homes, blithe as bees, and
probably never thought of him again? And suddenly he was conscious
of the judge's voice:
"You will go back to your regiment, and endeavour to serve your
country with better spirit. You may thank the jury that you are not
sent to prison, and your good fortune that you were not at the front
when you tried to commit this cowardly act. You are lucky to be
A policeman pulled the little soldier by the arm; his drab figure
with eyes fixed and lustreless, passed down and away. From his very
soul Mr. Bosengate wanted to lean out and say: "Cheer up, cheer up!
It was nearly ten o'clock that evening before he reached home,
motoring back from the route march. His physical tiredness was
abated, for he had partaken of a snack and a whisky and soda at the
hotel; but mentally he was in a curious mood. His body felt
appeased, his spirit hungry. Tonight he had a yearning, not for his
wife's kisses, but for her understanding. He wanted to go to her and
say: "I've learnt a lot to-day-found out things I never thought of.
Life's a wonderful thing, Kate, a thing one can't live all to
oneself; a thing one shares with everybody, so that when another
suffers, one suffers too. It's come to me that what one has doesn't
matter a bit--it's what one does, and how one sympathises with other
people. It came to me in the most extraordinary vivid way, when I
was on that jury, watching that poor little rat of a soldier in his
trap; it's the first time I've ever felt--the--the spirit of Christ,
you know. It's a wonderful thing, Kate--wonderful! We haven't been
close--really close, you and I, so that we each understand what the
other is feeling. It's all in that, you know; understanding--
sympathy--it's priceless. When I saw that poor little devil taken
down and sent back to his regiment to begin his sorrows all over
again--wanting his wife, thinking and thinking of her just as you
know I would be thinking and wanting you, I felt what an awful
outside sort of life we lead, never telling each other what we really
think and feel, never being really close. I daresay that little chap
and his wife keep nothing from each other--live each other's lives.
That's what we ought to do. Let's get to feeling that what really
matters is--understanding and loving, and not only just saying it as
we all do, those fellows on the jury, and even that poor devil of a
judge--what an awful life judging one's fellow-creatures.
"When I left that poor little Tommy this morning, and ever since, I've
longed to get back here quietly to you and tell you about it, and
make a beginning. There's something wonderful in this, and I want
you to feel it as I do, because you mean such a lot to me."
This was what he wanted to say to his wife, not touching, or kissing
her, just looking into her eyes, watching them soften and glow as
they surely must, catching the infection of his new ardour. And he
felt unsteady, fearfully unsteady with the desire to say it all as it
should be said: swiftly, quietly, with the truth and fervour of his
The hall was not lit up, for daylight still lingered under the new
arrangement. He went towards the drawing-room, but from the very
door shied off to his study and stood irresolute under the picture of
a "Man catching a flea" (Dutch school), which had come down to him
from his father. The governess would be in there with his wife! He
must wait. Essential to go straight to Kathleen and pour it all out,
or he would never do it. He felt as nervous as an undergraduate
going up for his viva' voce. This thing was so big, so astoundingly
and unexpectedly important. He was suddenly afraid of his wife,
afraid of her coolness and her grace, and that something Japanese
about her--of all those attributes he had been accustomed to admire
most; afraid, as it were, of her attraction. He felt young to-night,
almost boyish; would she see that he was not really fifteen years
older than herself, and she not really a part of his collection, of
all the admirable appointments of his home; but a companion spirit to
one who wanted a companion badly. In this agitation of his soul he
could keep still no more than he could last night in the agitation of
his senses; and he wandered into the dining-room. A dainty supper
was set out there, sandwiches, and cake, whisky and the cigarettes-
even an early peach. Mr. Bosengate looked at this peach with sorrow
rather than disgust. The perfection of it was of a piece with all
that had gone before this new and sudden feeling. Its delicious
bloom seemed to heighten his perception of the hedge around him, that
hedge of the things he so enjoyed, carefully planted and tended these
many years. He passed it by uneaten, and went to the window. Out
there all was darkening, the fountain, the lime tree, the flower-
beds, and the fields below, with the Jersey cows who would come to
your call; darkening slowly, losing form, blurring into soft
blackness, vanishing, but there none the less--all there--the hedge
of his possessions. He heard the door of the drawing-room open, the
voices of his wife and the governess in the hall, going up to bed.
If only they didn't look in here! If only! The voices ceased. He
was safe now--had but to follow in a few minutes, to make sure of
Kathleen alone. He turned round and stared down the length of the
dark dining-room, over the rosewood table, to where in the mirror
above the sideboard at the far end, his figure bathed, a stain, a
mere blurred shadow; he made his way down to it along the table edge,
and stood before himself as close as he could get. His throat and
the roof of his mouth felt dry with nervousness; he put out his
finger and touched his face in the glass. 'You're an ass!' he
thought. 'Pull yourself together, and get it over. She will see; of
course she will!' He swallowed, smoothed his moustache, and walked
out. Going up the stairs, his heart beat painfully; but he was in
for it now, and marched straight into her room.
Dressed only in a loose blue wrapper, she was brushing her dark hair
before the glass. Mr. Bosengate went up to her and stood there
silent, looking down. The words he had thought of were like a swarm
of bees buzzing in his head, yet not one would fly from between his
lips. His wife went on brushing her hair under the light which shone
on her polished elbows. She looked up at him from beneath one lifted
With a sort of vehemence the single word "No" passed out. A faint, a
quizzical smile flitted over her face; she shrugged her shoulders
ever so gently. That gesture--he had seen it before! And in
desperate desire to make her understand, he put his hand on her
"Kathleen, stop--listen to me!" His fingers tightened in his
agitation and eagerness to make his great discovery known. But
before he could get out a word he became conscious of that cool round
arm, conscious of her eyes half-closed, sliding round at him, of her
half-smiling lips, of her neck under the wrapper. And he stammered:
"I want--I must--Kathleen, I---"
She lifted her shoulders again in that little shrug. "Yes--I know;
A wave of heat and shame, and of God knows what came over Mr.
Bosengate; he fell on his knees and pressed his forehead to her arm;
and he was silent, more silent than the grave. Nothing--nothing came
from him but two long sighs. Suddenly he felt her hand stroke his
cheek--compassionately, it seemed to him. She made a little movement
towards him; her lips met his, and he remembered nothing but that....
In his own room Mr. Bosengate sat at his wide open window, smoking a
cigarette; there was no light. Moths went past, the moon was
creeping up. He sat very calm, puffing the smoke out in to the night
air. Curious thing-life! Curious world! Curious forces in it--
making one do the opposite of what one wished; always--always making
one do the opposite, it seemed! The furtive light from that creeping
moon was getting hold of things down there, stealing in among the
boughs of the trees. 'There's something ironical,' he thought,
'which walks about. Things don't come off as you think they will. I
meant, I tried but one doesn't change like that all of a sudden, it
seems. Fact is, life's too big a thing for one! All the same, I'm
not the man I was yesterday--not quite!' He closed his eyes, and in
one of those flashes of vision which come when the senses are at
rest, he saw himself as it were far down below--down on the floor of
a street narrow as a grave, high as a mountain, a deep dark slit of a
street walking down there, a black midget of a fellow, among other
black midgets--his wife, and the little soldier, the judge, and those
jury chaps--fantoches straight up on their tiny feet, wandering down
there in that dark, infinitely tall, and narrow street. 'Too much
for one!' he thought; 'Too high for one--no getting on top of it.
We've got to be kind, and help one another, and not expect too much,
and not think too much. That's--all!' And, squeezing out his
cigarette, he took six deep breaths of the night air, and got into
INDIAN SUMMER OF A FORSYTE
"And Summer's lease hath all
too short a date."
In the last day of May in the early 'nineties, about six o'clock of
the evening, old Jolyon Forsyte sat under the oak tree below the
terrace of his house at Robin Hill. He was waiting for the midges to
bite him, before abandoning the glory of the afternoon. His thin
brown hand, where blue veins stood out, held the end of a cigar in
its tapering, long-nailed fingers--a pointed polished nail had
survived with him from those earlier Victorian days when to touch
nothing, even with the tips of the fingers, had been so
distinguished. His domed forehead, great white moustache, lean
cheeks, and long lean jaw were covered from the westering sunshine by
an old brown Panama hat. His legs were crossed; in all his attitude
was serenity and a kind of elegance, as of an old man who every
morning put eau de Cologne upon his silk handkerchief. At his feet
lay a woolly brown-and-white dog trying to be a Pomeranian--the dog
Balthasar between whom and old Jolyon primal aver-sion had changed
into attachment with the years. Close to his chair was a swing, and
on the swing was seated one of Holly's dolls--called 'Duffer Alice'-
-with her body fallen over her legs and her doleful nose buried in a
black petticoat. She was never out of disgrace, so it did not matter
to her how she sat. Below the oak tree the lawn dipped down a bank,
stretched to the fernery, and, beyond that refinement, became fields,
dropping to the pond, the coppice, and the prospect 'Fine,
remarkable'--at which Swithin Forsyte, from under this very tree, had
stared five years ago when he drove down with Irene to look at the
house. Old Jolyon had heard of his brother's exploit--that drive
which had become quite celebrated on Forsyte 'Change.' Swithin! And
the fellow had gone and died, last November, at the age of only
seventy-nine, renewing the doubt whether Forsytes could live for
ever, which had first arisen when Aunt Ann passed away. Died! and
left only Jolyon and James, Roger and Nicholas and Timothy, Julia,
Hester, Susan! And old Jolyon thought: 'Eighty-five! I don't feel
it--except when I get that pain.'
His memory went searching. He had not felt his age since he had
bought his nephew Soames' ill-starred house and settled into it here
at Robin Hill over three years ago. It was as if he had been getting
younger every spring, living in the country with his son and his
grandchildren--June, and the little ones of the second marriage,
Jolly and Holly; living down here out of the racket of London and the
cackle of Forsyte 'Change,' free of his boards, in a delicious
atmosphere of no work and all play, with plenty of occupation in the
perfecting and mellowing of the house and its twenty acres, and in
ministering to the whims of Holly and Jolly. All the knots and
crankiness, which had gathered in his heart during that long and
tragic business of June, Soames, Irene his wife, and poor young
Bosinney, had been smoothed out. Even June had thrown off her
melancholy at last--witness this travel in Spain she was taking now
with her father and her stepmother. Curiously perfect peace was left
by their departure; blissful, yet blank, because his son was not
there. Jo was never anything but a comfort and a pleasure to him
nowadays--an amiable chap; but women, somehow--even the best--got a
little on one's nerves, unless of course one admired them.
Far-off a cuckoo called; a wood-pigeon was cooing from the first
elm-tree in the field, and how the daisies and buttercups had sprung
up after the last mowing! The wind had got into the sou'-west, too--a
delicious air, sappy! He pushed his hat back and let the sun fall on
his chin and cheek. Somehow, to-day, he wanted company wanted a
pretty face to look at. People treated the old as if they wanted
nothing. And with the un-Forsytean philosophy which ever intruded on
his soul, he thought: 'One's never had enough'
With a foot in the grave one'll want something, I shouldn't be
surprised!' Down here--away from the exigencies of affairs--his
grandchildren, and the flowers, trees, birds of his little domain, to
say nothing of sun and moon and stars above them, said, 'Open,
sesame,' to him day and night. And sesame had opened--how much,
perhaps, he did not know. He had always been responsive to what they
had begun to call 'Nature,' genuinely, almost religiously responsive,
though he had never lost his habit of calling a sunset a sunset and a
view a view, however deeply they might move him. But nowadays Nature
actually made him ache, he appreciated it so. Every one of these
calm, bright, lengthening days, with Holly's hand in his, and the dog
Balthasar in front looking studiously for what he never found, he
would stroll, watching the roses open, fruit budding on the walls,
sunlight brightening the oak leaves and saplings in the coppice,
watching the water-lily leaves unfold and glisten, and the silvery
young corn of the one wheat field; listening to the starlings and
skylarks, and the Alderney cows chewing the cud, flicking slow their
tufted tails; and every one of these fine days he ached a little from
sheer love of it all, feeling perhaps, deep down, that he had not
very much longer to enjoy it. The thought that some day perhaps not
ten years hence, perhaps not five--all this world would be taken away
from him, before he had exhausted his powers of loving it, seemed to
him in the nature of an injustice brooding over his horizon. If
anything came after this life, it wouldn't be what he wanted; not
Robin Hill, and flowers and birds and pretty faces--too few, even
now, of those about him! With the years his dislike of humbug had
increased; the orthodoxy he had worn in the 'sixties, as he had worn
side-whiskers out of sheer exuberance, had long dropped off, leaving
him reverent before three things alone--beauty, upright conduct, and
the sense of property; and the greatest of these now was beauty. He
had always had wide interests, and, indeed could still read The
Tines, but he was liable at any moment to put it down if he heard a
blackbird sing. Upright conduct, property--somehow, they were
tiring; the blackbirds and the sunsets never tired him, only gave him
an uneasy feeling that he could not get enough of them. Staring into
the stilly radiance of the early evening and at the little gold and
white flowers on the lawn, a thought came to him: This weather was
like the music of 'Orfeo,' which he had recently heard at Covent
Garden. A beautiful opera, not like Meyerbeer, nor even quite
Mozart, but, in its way, perhaps even more lovely; some-thing
classical and of the Golden Age about it, chaste and mellow, and the
Ravogli 'almost worthy of the old days'--highest praise he could
bestow. The yearning of Orpheus for the beauty he was losing, for
his love going down to Hades, as in life love and beauty did go--the
yearning which sang and throbbed through the golden music, stirred
also in the lingering beauty of the world that evening. And with the
tip of his cork-soled, elastic-sided boot he involuntarily stirred
the ribs of the dog Balthasar, caus-ing the animal to wake and attack
his fleas; for though he was supposed to have none, nothing could
persuade him of the fact. When he had finished, he rubbed the place
he had been scratching against his master's calf, and settled down
again with his chin over the instep of the disturbing boot. And into
old Jolyon's mind came a sudden recollection--a face he had seen at
that opera three weeks ago--Irene, the wife of his precious nephew
Soames, that man of property! Though he had not met her since the day
of the 'At Home' in his old house at Stanhope Gate, which celebrated
his granddaughter June's ill-starred engagement to young Bosinney, he
had remembered her at once, for he had always admired her--a very
pretty creature. After the death of young Bosinney, whose mistress
she had so reprehensibly become, he had heard that she had left
Soames at once. Goodness only knew what she had been doing since.
That sight of her face--a side view--in the row in front, had been
literally the only reminder these three years that she was still
alive. No one ever spoke of her. And yet Jo had told him some-thing
once--something which had upset him completely. The boy had got it
from George Forsyte, he believed, who had seen Bosinney in the fog
the day he was run over--something which explained the young fellow's
distress--an act of Soames towards his wife--a shocking act. Jo had
seen her, too, that afternoon, after the news was out, seen her for a
moment, and his description had always lingered in old Jolyon's mind-
-'wild and lost' he had called her. And next day June had gone there
bottled up her feelings and gone there, and the maid had cried and
told her how her mistress had slipped out in the night and vanished.
A tragic business altogether! One thing was certain--Soames had never
been able to lay hands on her again. And he was living at Brighton,
and journeying up and down--a fitting fate, the man of property! For
when he once took a dislike to anyone--as he had to his nephew--old
Jolyon never got over it. He remembered still the sense of relief
with which he had heard the news of Irene's disappearance. It had
been shocking to think of her a prisoner in that house to which she
must have wandered back, when Jo saw her, wandered back for a
moment--like a wounded animal to its hole after seeing that news,
'Tragic death of an Architect,' in the street. Her face had struck
him very much the other night--more beautiful than he had remem-
bered, but like a mask, with something going on beneath it. A young
woman still--twenty-eight perhaps. Ah, well! Very likely she had
another lover by now. But at this subversive thought--for married
women should never love: once, even, had been too much--his instep
rose, and with it the dog Balthasar's head. The sagacious animal
stood up and looked into old Jolyon's face. 'Walk?' he seemed to
say; and old Jolyon answered: "Come on, old chap!"
Slowly, as was their wont, they crossed among the constellations of
buttercups and daisies, and entered the fernery. This feature, where
very little grew as yet, had been judiciously dropped below the level
of the lawn so that it might come up again on the level of the other
lawn and give the impression of irregularity, so important in
horticulture. Its rocks and earth were beloved of the dog Balthasar,
who sometimes found a mole there. Old Jolyon made a point of passing
through it because, though it was not beautiful, he intended that it
should be, some day, and he would think: 'I must get Varr to come
down and look at it; he's better than Beech.' For plants, like houses
and human complaints, required the best expert consideration. It was
inhabited by snails, and if accompanied by his grandchildren, he
would point to one and tell them the story of the little boy who
said: 'Have plummers got leggers, Mother? 'No, sonny.' 'Then darned
if I haven't been and swallowed a snileybob.' And when they skipped
and clutched his hand, thinking of the snileybob going down the
little boy's 'red lane,' his, eyes would twinkle. Emerging from the
fernery, he opened the wicket gate, which just there led into the
first field, a large and park-like area, out of which, within brick
walls, the vegetable garden had been carved. Old Jolyon avoided
this, which did not suit his mood, and made down the hill towards the
pond. Balthasar, who knew a water-rat or two, gambolled in front, at
the gait which marks an oldish dog who takes the same walk every day.
Arrived at the edge, old Jolyon stood, noting another water-lily
opened since yesterday; he would show it to Holly to-morrow, when
'his little sweet' had got over the upset which had followed on her
eating a tomato at lunch--her little arrangements were very delicate.
Now that Jolly had gone to school--his first term--Holly was with him
nearly all day long, and he missed her badly. He felt that pain too,
which often bothered him now, a little dragging at his left side. He
looked back up the hill. Really, poor young Bosinney had made an
uncommonly good job of the house; he would have done very well for
himself if he had lived! And where was he now? Perhaps, still
haunting this, the site of his last work, of his tragic love affair.
Or was Philip Bosinney's spirit diffused in the general? Who could
say? That dog was getting his legs muddy! And he moved towards the
coppice. There had been the most delightful lot of bluebells, and--
he knew where some still lingered like little patches of sky fallen
irk between the trees, away out of the sun. He passed the cow-houses
and the hen-houses there installed, and pursued a path into the thick
of the saplings, making for one of the bluebell plots. Balthasar,
preceding him once more, uttered a low growl. Old Jolyon stirred him
with his foot, but the dog remained motionless, just where there was
no room to pass, and the hair rose slowly along the centre of his
woolly back. Whether from the growl and the look of the dog's
stivered hair, or from the sensation which a man feels in a wood, old
Jolyon also felt something move along his spine. And then the path
turned, and there was an old mossy log, and on it a woman sitting.
Her face was turned away, and he had just time to think: 'She's
trespassing--I must have a board put up!' before she turned. Powers
above! The face he had seen at the opera--the very woman he had just
been thinking of! In that confused moment he saw things blurred, as
if a spirit--queer effect--the slant of sunlight perhaps on her
violet-grey frock! And then she rose and stood smiling, her head a
little to one side. Old Jolyon thought: 'How pretty she is!' She did
not speak, neither did he; and he realized why with a certain
admiration. She was here no doubt because of some memory, and did
not mean to try and get out of it by vulgar explanation.
"Don't let that dog touch your frock," he said; "he's got wet feet.
Come here, you!"
But the dog Balthasar went on towards the visitor, who put her hand
down and stroked his head. Old Jolyon said quickly:
"I saw you at the opera the other night; you didn't notice me."
"Oh, yes! I did."
He felt a subtle flattery in that, as though she had added: 'Do you
think one could miss seeing you?'
"They're all in Spain," he remarked abruptly. "I'm alone; I drove up
for the opera. The Ravogli's good. Have you seen the cow-houses?"
In a situation so charged with mystery and something very like
emotion he moved instinctively towards that bit of property, and she
moved beside him. Her figure swayed faintly, like the best kind of
French figures; her dress, too, was a sort of French grey. He
noticed two or three silver threads in her amber-coloured hair,
strange hair with those dark eyes of hers, and that creamy-pale face.
A sudden sidelong look from the velvety brown eyes disturbed him. It
seemed to come from deep and far, from another world almost, or at
all events from some one not living very much in this. And he said
"Where are you living now?"
"I have a little flat in Chelsea."
He did not want to hear what she was doing, did not want to hear
anything; but the perverse word came out:
She nodded. It was a relief to know that. And it came into his mind
that, but for a twist of fate, she would have been mistress of this
coppice, showing these cow-houses to him, a visitor.
"All Alderneys," he muttered; "they give the best milk. This one's a
pretty creature. Woa, Myrtle!"
The fawn-coloured cow, with eyes as soft and brown as Irene's own,
was standing absolutely still, not having long been milked. She
looked round at them out of the corner of those lustrous, mild,
cynical eyes, and from her grey lips a little dribble of saliva
threaded its way towards the straw. The scent of hay and vanilla and
ammonia rose in the dim light of the cool cow-house; and old Jolyon
"You must come up and have some dinner with me. I'll send you home
in the carriage."
He perceived a struggle going on within her; natural, no doubt, with
her memories. But he wanted her company; a pretty face, a charming
figure, beauty! He had been alone all the afternoon. Perhaps his
eyes were wistful, for she answered: "Thank you, Uncle Jolyon. I
should like to."
He rubbed his hands, and said:
"Capital! Let's go up, then!" And, preceded by the dog Balthasar,
they ascended through the field. The sun was almost level in their
faces now, and he could see, not only those silver threads, but
little lines, just deep enough to stamp her beauty with a coin-like
fineness--the special look of life unshared with others. "I'll take
her in by the terrace, "he thought: "I won't make a common visitor of
"What do you do all day?" he said.
"Teach music; I have another interest, too."
"Work!" said old Jolyon, picking up the doll from off the swing, and
smoothing its black petticoat. "Nothing like it, is there? I don't
do any now. I'm getting on. What interest is that?"
"Trying to help women who've come to grief." Old Jolyon did not
quite understand. "To grief?" he repeated; then realised with a
shock that she meant exactly what he would have meant himself if he
had used that expression. Assisting the Magdalenes of London! What
a weird and terrifying interest! And, curiosity overcoming his
natural shrinking, he asked:
"Why? What do you do for them?"
"Not much. I've no money to spare. I can only give sympathy and
Involuntarily old Jolyon's hand sought his purse. He said hastily:
"How d'you get hold of them?"
"I go to a hospital."
"A hospital! Phew!"
"What hurts me most is that once they nearly all had some sort of
Old Jolyon straightened the doll. "Beauty!" he ejaculated: "Ha! Yes!
A sad business!" and he moved towards the house. Through a French
window, under sun-blinds not yet drawn up, he preceded her into the
room where he was wont to study 'The Times' and the sheets of an
agricultural magazine, with huge illustrations of mangold wurzels,
and the like, which provided Holly with material for her paint brush.
"Dinner's in half an hour. You'd like to wash your hands! I'll take
you to June's room."
He saw her looking round eagerly; what changes since she had last
visited this house with her husband, or her lover, or both perhaps--
he did not know, could not say! All that was dark, and he wished to
leave it so. But what changes! And in the hall he said:
"My boy Jo's a painter, you know. He's got a lot of taste. It isn't
mine, of course, but I've let him have his way."
She was standing very still, her eyes roaming through the hall and
music room, as it now was--all thrown into one, under the great
skylight. Old Jolyon had an odd impression of her. Was she trying
to conjure somebody from the shades of that space where the colouring
was all pearl-grey and silver? He would have had gold himself; more
lively and solid. But Jo had French tastes, and it had come out
shadowy like that, with an effect as of the fume of cigarettes the
chap was always smoking, broken here and there by a little blaze of
blue or crimson colour. It was not his dream! Mentally he had hung
this space with those gold-framed masterpieces of still and stiller
life which he had bought in days when quantity was precious. And now
where were they? Sold for a song! That something which made him,
alone among Forsytes, move with the times had warned him against the
struggle to retain them. But in his study he still had 'Dutch
Fishing Boats at Sunset.'
He began to mount the stairs with her, slowly, for he felt his side.
"These are the bathrooms," he said, "and other arrangements. I've
had them tiled. The nurseries are along there. And this is Jo's and
his wife's. They all communicate. But you remember, I expect."
Irene nodded. They passed on, up the gallery and entered a large
room with a small bed, and several windows.
"This is mine," he said. The walls were covered with the photographs
of children and watercolour sketches, and he added doubtfully:
"These are Jo's. The view's first-rate. You can see the Grand Stand
at Epsom in clear weather."
The sun was down now, behind the house, and over the 'prospect' a
luminous haze had settled, emanation of the long and prosperous day.
Few houses showed, but fields and trees faintly glistened, away to a
loom of downs.
"The country's changing," he said abruptly, "but there it'll be when
we're all gone. Look at those thrushes--the birds are sweet here in
the mornings. I'm glad to have washed my hands of London."