Part 4 out of 6
bosom of Monk's Acre Abbey.
"I have also received a letter," said Monsieur Boiset; "it seems that
you and I always receive disagreeable letters together. The last were
from the witch-woman Riennes, and these are from your father. He has
an unpleasant way of writing, this father of yours, although he is a
good man, for here he suggests that I am trying to trap you for a son-
in-law, wherein I see the fat finger of that witch Riennes, who has so
great a passion for the anonymous epistle. Well, if he had said that I
wished to trap you for a son, he would have shot nearer to the bulls'-
eye, but for a son-in-law, as you know, it is not so. Still, you must
go; indeed, it is time that you went, now that you talk French so
well, and have, I hope, learnt other things also, you to whom the big
world opens. But see, your father talks of your entering the Church.
Tell me, is this so? If so, of course, I shall be happy."
"No," said Godfrey, shaking his head.
"Then," replied the Pasteur, "I may say that I am equally happy. It is
not everyone that has a call for this vocation, and there are more
ways of doing good in the world than from the floor of a pulpit.
Myself, I have wondered sometimes--but let that be; it is the lot of
certain of us, who think in our vanity that we could have done great
things, to be obliged to do the small things, because God has so
decreed. To one He gives the ten talents, to the other only one
talent, or even but a franc. Whatever it be, of it we must make the
best, and so long as we do not bury it, we have done well. I can only
say that I have tried to use my franc, or my fifty centimes, to such
advantage as I could, and hope that in some other place and time I may
be entrusted with a larger sum. Oh! my boy, we are all of us drawn by
the horses of Circumstance, but, as I believe, those horses have a
driver who knows whither he is guiding us."
A few days later Godfrey went. His last midday meal at the Maison
Blanche, before he departed to catch the night train for Paris, was
rather a melancholy function. Madame, who had grown fond of him in her
somewhat frivolous way, openly dropped tears into her soup. Juliette
looked sad and /distraite/, though inwardly supported by the knowledge
that her distant cousin, the notary Jules, was arriving on the morrow
to spend his vacation at the Maison Blanche, so that Godfrey's room
would not be without an occupant. Indeed, in her pretty little head
she was already planning certain alterations in the arrangement of the
furniture, to make it more comfortable to the very different tastes of
the new comer.
Still, she was truly sorry to lose her friend the /Hibou/, although
she had not been able to fulfil her mother's wish, and make him fall
in love with her, or even to fall in love with him herself. As she
explained to Madame Boiset, it was of no use to try, since between
their natures there were fixed not only a great gulf, but several
whole ranges of the Alps, and whereas the /Hibou/ sat gazing at the
stars from their topmost peak, she was picking flowers in the plain
and singing as she picked them.
The Pasteur did not make matters better by the extremely forced gaiety
of his demeanour. He told stories and cracked bad jokes in the
intervals of congratulating Godfrey at his release from so dull a
place as Kleindorf. Godfrey said little or nothing, but reflected to
himself that the Pasteur did not know Monk's Acre.
At last the moment came, and he departed with a heavy heart, for he
had learned to love these simple, kindly folk, especially the Pasteur.
How glad he was when it was over and he had lost sight of the
handkerchiefs that were being waved at him from the gate as the hired
vehicle rolled away. Not that it was quite over, for the Pasteur
accompanied him to the station, in order, as he said, to take his last
instructions about the Villa Ogilvy, although, in truth, Godfrey had
none to give.
"Please do what you think best," was all that he could say. Also, when
several miles further on, they came to a turn in the road, there,
panting on a rock, stood Juliette, who had reached the place, running
at full speed, by a short cut through the woods. They had no time to
stop, because the Pasteur thought that they were late for the train,
which, as a matter of fact, did not leave for half-an-hour after they
reached the station. So they could only make mutual signals of
recognition and farewell. Juliette, who looked as though she were
crying, kissed her hand to him, calling out:
"Adieu, adieu! /cher ami/," while he sought refuge in the Englishman's
usual expedient of taking off his hat.
"It is nothing, nothing," said the Pasteur, who had also noted
Juliette's tear-swollen eyes, "to-morrow she will have Jules to
console her, a most worthy young man, though me he bores."
Here, it may be added, that Jules consoled her so well, that within a
year they were married, and most happily.
Yet Godfrey was destined never to see that graceful figure and gay
little face again, since long before he revisited Lucerne Juliette
died on the birth of her third child. And soon, who thought of
Juliette except perhaps Godfrey, for her husband married again very
shortly, as a worthy and domestic person of the sort would do. Her
children were too young to remember her, and her mother, not long
afterwards, was carried off by a sudden illness, pneumonia, to join
her in the Shades. Except the Pasteur himself none was left.
Well, such is the way of this sad world of change and death. But
Godfrey never forgot the picture of her standing breathless on the
rock and kissing her slim hand to him. It was one of those incidents
which, when they happen to a man in his youth, remain indelibly
impressed upon his mind.
At the station there were more farewells, for here was the notary, who
had managed Miss Ogilvy's Swiss affairs and now, under the direction
of Monsieur Boiset, attended to those of Godfrey. Also such of the
servants were present as had been kept on at the Villa, while among
those walking about the platform he saw Brother Josiah Smith and
Professor Petersen, who had come evidently to see the last of him, and
make report to a certain quarter.
The Pasteur talked continually, in his high, thin voice, to cover up
his agitation, but what it was all about Godfrey could never remember.
All he recollected of the parting was being taken into those long
arms, embraced upon the forehead, and most fervently blessed.
Then the train steamed off, and he felt glad that all was over.
About forty-eight hours later Godfrey arrived duly at the little Essex
station three miles from Monk's Acre. There was nobody to meet him,
which was not strange, as the hour of his coming was unknown. Still,
unreasonable as it might be, the contrast between the warmth and
affection that had distinguished his departure, and the cold vacuum
that greeted his arrival, chilled him. He said a few words to the
grumpy old porter who was the sole occupant of the platform, but that
worthy, although he knew him well enough, did not seem to realise that
he had ever been away. During the year in which so many things had
happened to Godfrey nothing at all had happened to the porter, and
therefore he did not appreciate the lapse of time.
Leaving his baggage to be brought by the carrier's cart, Godfrey took
the alpenstock that, in a moment of enthusiasm, the guide had given
him as a souvenir of his great adventure, and started for home. It was
a very famous alpenstock, which this guide and his father before him
had used all their lives, one that had been planted in the topmost
snows of every peak in Switzerland. Indeed the names of the most
unclimbable of these, together with the dates of their conquest by its
owners, sometimes followed by crosses to show that on such or such an
expedition life had been lost, were burnt into the tough wood with a
hot iron. As the first of these dates was as far back as 1831, Godfrey
valued this staff highly, and did not like to leave it to the chances
of the carrier's cart.
His road through the fields ran past Hawk's Hall, of which he observed
with a thrill of dismay, that the blinds were drawn as though in it
someone lay dead. There was no reason why he should have been
dismayed, since he had heard that Isobel had gone away to somewhere in
"Ameriky," as Mrs. Parsons had expressed it in a brief and illspelt
letter, and that Sir John was living in town. Yet the sight depressed
him still further with its suggestion of death, or of separation,
which is almost as bad, for, be it remembered, he was at an age when
such impressions come home.
After leaving the Hall with its blinded and shuttered windows, his
quickest road to the Abbey House ran through the churchyard. Here the
first thing that confronted him was a gigantic monument, of which the
new marble glittered in the afternoon sun. It was a confused affair,
and all he made out of it, without close examination, was a life-sized
angel with an early-Victorian countenance, leaning against the broken
stump of an oak tree and scattering from a basket, of the kind that is
used to collect nuts or windfall apples, on to a sarcophagus beneath a
profusion of marble roses, some of which seemed to have been arrested
and frozen in mid-air. He glanced at the inscription in gold letters.
It was "To the beloved memory of Lady Jane Blake, wife of Sir John
Blake, Bart., J.P., and daughter of the Right Hon. The Earl of
Lynfield, whose bereaved husband erected this monument--'Her husband
. . . praiseth her.'"
Godfrey looked, and remembering the gentle little woman whose
crumbling flesh lay beneath, shivered at the awful and crushing
erection above. In life, as he knew, she had been unhappy, but what
had she done to deserve such a memorial in death? Still, she was dead,
of that there was no doubt, and oh! the sadness of it all.
He went on to the Abbey, resisting a queer temptation to enter the
church and look at the tomb of the Plantagenet lady and her unknown
knight, who slept there so quietly from year to year, through spring,
summer, autumn and winter, for ever and for ever. The front door was
locked, so he rang the bell. It was answered by a new servant, rather
a forbidding, middle-aged woman with a limp, who informed him that Mr.
Knight was out, and notwithstanding his explanations, declined to
admit him into the house. Doubtless she thought that a young man,
wearing a foreign-looking hat and carrying such a strange long stick,
must be a thief, or worse. The end of it was that she slammed the door
in his face and shot the old-fashioned bolts.
Then Godfrey bethought him of the other door, that which led into the
ancient refectory, which was now used as a schoolroom. This was open,
so he went in and, being tired after his long journey, sat himself
down in the chair at the end of the old oak table, that same chair in
which Isobel had kissed him when he was a little boy. He looked about
him vaguely; the place, of course, was much the same as it had been
for the last five hundred years, but, as he could see from the names
on the copybooks that lay about, the pupils who inhabited it had
changed. Of the whole six not one was the same.
Then, perhaps for the first time, he began to understand how variable
is the world, a mere passing show in which nothing remains the same,
except the houses and the trees. Even these depart, for a cottage with
which he had been familiar from his earliest infancy, as he could see
through the open door, was pulled down to make room for
"improvements," and the great old elm, where the rooks used to build,
had been torn up in a gale. Only its ugly stump and projecting roots
So he sat musing there, very depressed at heart, till at length Mrs.
Parsons came and discovered him in a half-doze. She, too, was somewhat
changed, for of a sudden age had begun to take a hold of her. Her hair
was white now, and her plump, round face had withered like a spring
apple. Still, she greeted him with the old affection, for which he
felt grateful, seeing that it was the first touch of kindness he had
known since he set foot on English ground.
"Dear me, Master Godfrey!" she said, "hadn't I heard that you were
coming, I could never have been sure that it was you. Why, you've
grown into a regular young gentleman in those foreign parts, and
handsome, too, though I sez it. Who could have guessed that you are
your father's son? Why, you'd make two of him. But there, they say
that your mother was a good-looking lady and large built, though, as I
never set eyes on her, I can't say for sure. Well, you must be tired
after all this travelling in steamships and trains, so come into the
dining-room and have some tea, for I have got the key to the
He went, and, passing through the hall, left his alpenstock in the
umbrella-stand. In due course the tea was produced, though for it he
seemed to have little appetite. While he made pretence to eat the
thick bread and butter, Mrs. Parsons told him the news, such as it
was. Sir John was living in town and "flinging the money about, so it
was said, not but what he had got lots to fling and plenty to catch
it," she added meaningly. His poor, dear lady was dead, and "happy for
her on the whole." Miss Isobel had "gone foreign," having, it was
told, quarrelled with her father, and nothing had been heard of her
since she went. She, too, had grown into a fine young lady.
That was all he gathered before Mrs. Parsons was obliged to depart to
see to her business--except that she was exceedingly glad to see him.
Godfrey went up to his bedroom, which he found unprepared, for
somebody else seemed to be sleeping there. While he was surveying it
and wondering who this occupant might be, he heard his father in the
hall asking the parlour-maid which of the young gentlemen had left
that "ridiculous stick" in the stand. She replied that she did not
know, whereupon the hard voice of his parent told her to take it away.
Afterwards Godfrey found it thrown into the wood-house to be chopped
up for firewood, though luckily before this happened.
By this time a kind of anger had seized him. It was true that he had
not said by what train he was coming, for the reason that until he
reached London he could not tell, but he had written that he was to
arrive that afternoon, and surely some note might have been taken of
He went downstairs and confronted his father, who alone amid so much
change seemed to be exactly the same. Mr. Knight shook him by the hand
without any particular cordiality, and at once attacked him for not
having intimated the hour of his arrival, saying that it was too late
to advise the carrier to call at the station for his baggage and that
a trap would have to be sent, which cost money.
"Very well, Father, I will pay for it myself," answered Godfrey.
"Oh, yes, I forgot!" exclaimed Mr. Knight, with a sneer, "you have
come into money somehow, have you not, and doubtless consider yourself
"Yes, and I am glad of it, Father, as now I hope I shall not be any
more expense to you."
"As you have begun to talk business, Godfrey," replied his father in
an acid manner, "we may as well go into things and get it over. You
have, I presume, made up your mind to go into the Church in accordance
with my wish?"
"No, Father; I do not intend to become a clergyman."
"Indeed. You seem to me to have fallen under very bad influences in
Switzerland. However, it does not much matter, as I intend that you
"I am sorry, but I cannot, Father."
Then, within such limits as his piety permitted, which were
sufficiently wide, Mr. Knight lost his temper very badly indeed. He
attacked his son, suggesting that he had been leading an evil life in
Lucerne, as he had learned "from outside sources," and declared that
either he should obey him or be cast off. Godfrey, whose temper by
this time was also rising, intimated that he preferred the latter
"What, then, do you intend to do, young man?" asked Mr. Knight.
"I do not know yet, Father." Then an inspiration came to him, and he
added, "I shall go to London to-morrow to consult my trustees under
Miss Ogilvy's will."
"Really," said Mr. Knight in a rage. "You are after that ill-gotten
money, are you? Well, as we seem to agree so badly, why not go to-
night instead of to-morrow; there is a late train? Perhaps it would be
pleasanter for both of us, and then I need not send for your luggage.
Also it would save my shifting the new boy from your room."
"Do you really mean that, Father?"
"I am not in the habit of saying what I do not mean. Only please
understand that if you reject my plans for your career, which have
been formed after much thought, and, I may add, prayer, I wash my
hands of you who are now too old to be argued with in any other way."
Godfrey looked at his father and considered the iron mouth cut
straight like a slit across the face, the hard, insignificant
countenance and the small, cold, grey eyes. He realised the intensity
of the petty anger based, for the most part, on jealousy because he
was now independent and could not be ordered about and bullied like
the rest of the little boys, and knew that behind it there was not
affection, but dislike. Summing up all this in his quick mind, he
became aware that father or not, he regarded this man with great
aversion. Their natures, their outlook, all about them were
antagonistic, and, in fact, had been so from the beginning. The less
that they saw of each other the better it would be for both. Although
still so young, he had ripened early, and was now almost a man who
knew that these things were so without possibility of doubt.
"Very well, Father," he said, "I will go. It is better than stopping
here to quarrel."
"I thought you would, now that your friend, Isobel, who did you so
much harm with her bad influence, has departed to Mexico, where, I
have no doubt, she has forgotten all about you. You won't be able to
run after her money as you did after Miss Ogilvy's," replied Mr.
Knight with another sneer.
"You insult me," said Godfrey. "It is a lie that I ran after Miss
Ogilvy's money, and I will never forgive you for saying such a thing
of me in connection with Isobel," and turning he left the room.
So did his father, for Godfrey heard him go to his study and lock the
door, doubtless as a sign and a token.
Then Godfrey sought out Mrs. Parsons and told her everything. The old
woman was much disturbed, and wept.
"I have been thinking of late, Master Godfrey," she said, "that your
father's heart is made of that kind of stone which Hell is paved with,
only with the good intentions left out--it's that hard. Here you are
come back as fine a young man as a body can wish to see, of whom his
begetter might well be proud, though, for the matter of that, there is
precious little of him in you--and he shuts the door in your face just
because you won't be a parson and have come into fortune--that's what
rankles. I say that your mother, if she was a fool when she married
him, was a wise woman when she died. Parson or not, he will never go
where she is. Well, it's sad, but you'll be well out of this cold
house, where there's so much praying but not a spark of love."
"I think so," said Godfrey with a sigh.
"I think so, too, for myself, I mean. But, look here, my boy, I only
stopped on looking after this dratted pack of young gentlemen because
you were coming home again. But, as you ain't, I'm out of it; yes,
when the door shuts on you I give my month's notice, which perhaps
will mean that I leave to-morrow, for he won't be able to abide the
sight of me after that."
"But how will you live, Nurse, till I can help you?"
"Lord bless you, dear, that's all right. I've been a careful woman all
my life, and have hard on £500 put away in the Savings Bank, to say
nothing of a bit of Stock. Also, my old brother, who was a builder,
died last year and left me with a nice little house down in Hampstead,
which he built to live in himself, but never did, poor man, bit by bit
when he was short of business, very comfortable and in a good
neighbourhood, with first-rate furniture and real silver plate, to say
nothing of some more Stock, yes, for £1,000 or more. I let it
furnished by the month, but the tenant is going away, so I shall just
move into it myself, and perhaps take in a lodger or two to keep me
from being idle."
"That's capital!" said Godfrey, delighted.
"Yes, and I tell you what would be capitaller. Mayhap you will have to
live in London for a bit, and, if so, you are just the kind of lodger
I should like, and I don't think we should quarrel about terms. I'll
write you down the address of that house, the Grove as it is called,
though why, I don't know, seeing there isn't a tree within half a
mile, which I don't mind, as there are too many about here, making so
much damp. And you'll write and let me know what you are going to do,
"Of course I will."
"And now, look here. Likely you will want a little money till you
square up things with your trustee people that the master hates so
"Well, I had forgotten it, but, as a matter of fact, I have only ten
shillings left, and that isn't much when one is going to London,"
"I thought so; you never were one to think much of such things, and so
it's probable that you'll get plenty of them, for it's what we care
about we are starved in, just to make it hot for us poor humans. Take
your father, for instance; he loves power, he does; he'd like to be a
bishop of the old Roman sort what could torture people who didn't
agree with them. And what is he? The parson of a potty parish of a
couple of hundred people, counting the babies and the softies, and
half of them Dissenters or Salvation Army. Moreover, they can't be
bullied, because if they were they'd just walk into the next chapel
door. Of course, there's the young gentlemen, and he takes it out of
them, but, Lord bless us! that's like kicking a wool sack, of which
any man of spirit soon gets tired. So, you see, he is sick-hearted,
and will be more so now that you have stood up to him; and, in this
way or that, it's the same with everyone, none of us gets what we
want, while of what we don't want there's always plenty."
While the old lady held forth thus in her little room which, although
she did not know it, had once been the penitential cell of the Abbey,
wherein for hundreds of years many unhappy ones had reflected in a
very similar vein, she was engaged in trying key after key upon a
stout oak chest. It was part of the ancient furniture of the place,
that indeed in former days had served as the receptacle for hair
shirts, scourges and other physical inducements to repentance and
Now it had a different purpose and held Mrs. Parsons' best dresses,
also, in a bandbox, an ornament preserved from her wedding-cake, for
once in the far past she was married to a sailor, a very great black-
guard, who came to his end by tumbling from a gangway when he was
drunk. Among these articles was a tin tea-canister which, when opened,
proved to be full of money; gold, silver and even humble copper, to
say nothing of several banknotes.
"Now, there you are, my dear, take what you like," she said, "and pay
it back if you wish, but if you don't, it might have been worse
spent." And she pushed the receptacle, labelled "Imperial Pekoe,"
towards him across the table, adding, "Drat those moths! There's
another on my best silk."
Godfrey burst out laughing and enjoyed that laugh, for it was his
first happy moment since his return to England.
"Give me what you like," he said.
So she extracted from the tea-tin a five-pound note, four sovereigns
and a pound's worth of silver and copper.
"There," she said, "that will do to begin with, for too much money in
the pocket is a temptation in a wicked place like London, where
there's always someone waiting to share it. If it's wanted there's
more where that came from, and you've only to write and say so. And
now you have got the address and you've got the cash, and if you want
to catch that last train it's time you were off. If I took the same
to-morrow night, why, it wouldn't surprise me, especially as I want to
hear all you've been a-doing in those foreign parts, tumbling over
precipices and the rest. So good-bye, my dear, and God bless you.
Lord! it seems only the other day that I was giving you your bottle."
Then they kissed each other and, having retrieved his alpenstock from
the stick-house, Godfrey trudged back to the station, where he picked
up his luggage and departed for London. Arriving at Liverpool Street
rather late, he went to the Great Eastern Hotel, and after a good
meal, which he needed, slept like a top. His reception in England had
been bitter, but the young soon shake off their troubles, from which,
indeed, the loving kindness of his dear old nurse already had
extracted the sting.
On the following morning, while breakfasting at a little table by one
of the pillars of the big dining-room, he began to wonder what he
should do next. In his pocket he had a notebook, in which, at the
suggestion of the Pasteur, he had set down the address of the lawyers
who had written to him about his legacy. It was in a place called the
Poultry, which, on inquiry from the hall-porter, he discovered was
quite close by the Mansion House.
So a while later, for the porter told him that it was no use to go to
see lawyers too early, he sallied forth, and after much search
discovered the queer spot called the Poultry, also the offices of
Messrs. Ranson, Richards and Son. Here he gave his name to a clerk,
who thrust a very oily head out of a kind of mahogany box, and was
told that Mr. Ranson was engaged, but that, if he cared to wait,
perhaps he would see him later on. He said he would wait, and was
shown into a stuffy little room, furnished with ancient deed-boxes and
a very large, old leather-covered sofa that took up half the place.
Here he sat for a while, staring at a square of dirty glass which gave
what light was available, and reflecting upon things in general.
While he was thus engaged he heard a kind of tumult outside, in which
he recognised the treble of the oily-headed clerk coming in a bad
second to a deep, bass voice. Then the door opened and a big, burly
man, with a red face and a jovial, rolling eye, appeared with
startling suddenness and ejaculated:
"Damn Ranson, damn Richards, or damn them both, with the Son thrown
in! I ask you, young man"--here he addressed Godfrey seated on the
corner of the sofa--"what is the use of a firm of lawyers whom you can
never see? You pay the brutes, but three times out of four they are
not visible, or, as I suspect, pretend not to be, in order to enhance
their own importance. And I sent them a telegram, too, having a train
to catch. What do you think?"
"I don't know, Sir," Godfrey answered. "I never came to a lawyer's
office before, and I hope I shan't again if this is the kind of room
they put one into."
"Room!" ejaculated the irate gentleman, "call it a dog kennel, call it
a cesspool, for, by heaven, it smells like one, but in the interests
of truth, young man, don't call it a room."
"Now that you mention it, there is a queer odour. Perhaps a dead rat
under the floor," suggested Godfrey.
"Twenty dead rats, probably, since I imagine that this hole has not
been cleaned since the time of George II. We are martyrs in this
world, Sir. I come here to attend to the affairs of some
whippersnapper whom I never saw and never want to see, just because
Helen Ogilvy, who was my first cousin, chooses to make me a trustee of
her confounded will, in which she leaves money to the confounded
whippersnapper, God knows why. This whippersnapper has a father, a
parson, who can write the most offensive letters imaginable. I
received one of them this morning, accusing the whippersnapper of all
sorts of vague things, and me and my fellow trustee, who is at present
enjoying himself travelling, of abetting him. I repeat, damn Ranson,
Richards and Son; damn the parson, damn Helen--no, I won't say that,
for she is dead--and especially damn the whippersnapper. Don't you
agree with me?"
"Not quite, Sir," said Godfrey. "I don't mind about Ranson, Richards
and Son, or anybody else, but I don't quite see why you should damn
me, who, I am sure, never wished to give you any trouble."
"You! And who the Hades may you be?"
"I am Godfrey Knight, and I suppose that you are my trustee, or one of
"Godfrey Knight, the young man whose father gives us so much trouble,
all at our own expense, I may remark. Well, after hearing so much of
you on paper, I'm deuced glad to meet you in the flesh. Come into the
light, if you can call it light, and let me have a look at you."
Godfrey stepped beneath the dirty pane and was contemplated through an
eyeglass by this breezy old gentleman, who exclaimed presently:
"You're all right, I think; a fine figure of a young man, not bad
looking, either, but you want drilling. Why the devil don't you go
into the army?"
"I don't know," answered Godfrey, "never thought of it. Are you in the
"No, not now, though I was. Commanded my regiment for five years, and
then kicked out with the courtesy title of Major-General. Cubitte is
my name, spelt with two 't's' and an 'e,' please, and don't you forget
that, since that 'e' has been a point of honour with our family for a
hundred years, the Lord knows why. Well, there we are. Do you smoke?"
"Only a pipe," said Godfrey.
"That's right; I hate those accursed cigarettes, still they are better
than nothing. Now sit down and tell me all about yourself."
Godfrey obeyed, and somehow feeling at ease with this choleric old
General, in the course of the next twenty minutes explained many
things to him, including the cause of his appearance in that office.
"So you don't want to be a parson," said the General, "and with your
father's example before your eyes, I am sure I don't wonder. However,
you are independent of him more or less, and had better cut out a line
for yourself. We will back you. What do you say to the army?"
"I think I should rather like that," answered Godfrey. "Only, only, I
want to get out of England as soon as possible."
"And quite right, too--accursed hole, full of fog and politicians. But
that's not difficult with India waiting for you. I'm an Indian cavalry
officer myself, and could put you up to the ropes and give you a hand
afterwards, perhaps, if you show yourself of the right stuff, as I
think you will. But, of course, you will have to go to Sandhurst, pass
an entrance examination, and so forth. Can you manage that?"
"Yes, Sir, I think so, with a little preparation. I know a good deal
of one sort or another, including French."
"All right, three months' cramming at Scoones' or Wren's, will do the
trick. And now I suppose you want some money?"
Godfrey explained that he did, having only £10 which he had borrowed
from his old nurse.
Just then the oily-headed clerk announced that Mr. Ranson was at
liberty. So they both went in to see him, and the rest may be
imagined. The trustees undertook to pay his expenses, even if they had
to stretch a point to do so, and gave him £20 to go on with, also a
letter of introduction to Scoones, whom he was instructed to see and
arrange to join their classes. Then General Cubitte hustled off,
telling him to come to dine at an address in Kensington two nights
later and "report himself."
So within less than an hour Godfrey's future career was settled. He
came out of the office feeling rather dazed but happier than when he
went in, and inquired his way to Garrick Street, where he was informed
that Mr. Scoones had his establishment. He found the place and, by
good luck, found Mr. Scoones also, a kindly, keen, white-haired man,
who read the letter, made a few inquiries and put him through a brief
"Your information is varied and peculiar," he said, "and not of the
sort that generally appeals to Her Majesty's examiners. Still, I see
that you have intelligence and, of course, the French is an asset;
also the literature to some extent, and the Latin, though these would
have counted more had you been going up for the Indian Civil. I think
we can get you through in three months if you will work; it all
depends on that. You will find a lot of young men here of whom quite
seventy per cent. do nothing, except see life. Very nice fellows in
their way, but if you want to get into Sandhurst, keep clear of them.
Now, my term opens next Monday. I will write to General Cubitte and
tell him what I think of you, also that the fees are payable in
advance. Good-bye, glad you happened to catch me, which you would not
have done half an hour later, as I am going out of town. At ten
o'clock next Monday, please."
After this, not knowing what to do, Godfrey returned to the Great
Eastern Hotel and wrote a letter to his father, in which, baldly
enough, he explained what had happened.
Having posted it in the box in the hall, he bethought him that he must
find some place to live in, as the hotel was too expensive for a
permanence, and was making inquiries of the porter as to how he should
set about the matter when a telegram was handed to him. It ran: "All
up as I expected. Meet me Liverpool Street 4.30.--Nurse."
So Godfrey postponed his search for lodgings, and at the appointed
hour kept the assignation on the platform. The train arrived, and out
of it, looking much more like her old self than she had on the
previous day, emerged Mrs. Parsons with the most extraordinary
collection of bundles, he counted nine of them, to say nothing of a
jackdaw in a cage. She embraced him with enthusiasm, dropping the
heaviest of the parcels, which seemed to contain bricks, upon his toe,
and in a flood of language told him of the peculiar awfulness of the
row between his father and herself which had ensued upon his
"Yes," she ended, "he flung my money at my head and I flung it back at
his, though afterwards I picked it up again, for it is no use wasting
good gold and silver. And so here I am, beginning life again, like
you, and feeling thirty years younger for it. Now, tell me what you
are going to do?"
Then they went and had tea in the refreshment room, leaving the
jackdaw and the other impediments in charge of a porter, and he told
"That's first-rate," she said. "I always hated the idea of seeing you
with a black coat on your back. The Queen's uniform looks much better,
and I want you to be a man. Now you help me into a cab and by dinner
time to-morrow I'll be ready for you at my house at Hampstead, if I
have to work all night to do it. Terms--drat the terms. Well, if you
must have them, Master Godfrey, ten shillings a week will be more than
you will cost me, and I ought to give you five back for your company.
Now I'll make a start, for there will be a lot to do before the place
is fit for a young gentleman. I've never seen it but twice, you know."
So she departed, packed into a four-wheeled cab, with the jackdaw on
her lap, and Godfrey went to Madame Tussaud's, where he studied the
guillotine and the Chamber of Horrors.
On the following morning, having further improved his mind at the
Tower, he took a cab also, and in due course arrived at Hampstead with
his belongings. The place took some finding, for it was on the top of
a hill in an old-fashioned, out of the way part of the suburb, but
when found proved to be delightful. It was a little square house,
built of stone, on which the old builder had lavished all his skill
and care, so that in it everything was perfect, with a garden both in
front and behind. The floors were laid in oak, the little hall was
oak-panelled, there were hot and cold water in every room, and so
forth. Moreover, an odd man was waiting to carry in his things, and in
one of the front sitting-rooms, which was excellently furnished, sat
Mrs. Parsons knitting as though she had been there for years.
"Here you are," she said, "just as I was beginning to get tired of
having nothing to do. Lord! what a fuss we make about things before we
face 'em. After all they ain't nothing but bubbles. Blow them and they
burst. Look here, Master Godfrey," and she waved her hand about the
sitting-room. "Pretty neat, ain't it? Well, I thought it would be all
of a hugger-mugger. But what did I find? That those tenants had been
jewels and left everything like a new pin, to say nothing of
improvements, such as an Eagle range. Moreover, the caretaker is a
policeman's wife and a very nice woman always ready to help for a
trifle, and that man that brought in your boxes is a relative of hers
who does gardening jobs and such-like. Now, come and see your rooms,"
and she led him with pride into a capital back apartment with a large
window, in fact an old Tudor one which the builder had produced
somewhere, together with the panelling on the walls.
"That's your study," she said, "bookshelves and all complete. Now,
follow me," and she took him upstairs to a really charming bedroom.
"But," said Godfrey, surveying these splendours, "this must be the
best room in the house. Where do you sleep?"
"Oh! at the back there, my dear. You see, I am accustomed to a small
chamber and shouldn't be happy in this big one. Besides, you are going
to pay me rent and must be accommodated. And now come down to your
A very good dinner it was, cooked by the policeman's wife, which Mrs.
Parsons insisted on serving, as she would not sit at the table with
him. In short, Godfrey found himself in clover, a circumstance that
filled him with some sadness. Why, he wondered, should he always be
made so miserable at home and so happy when he was away? Then he
remembered that famous line about the man who throughout life ever
found his warmest welcome at an inn, and perceived that it hid much
philosophy. Frequently enough homes are not what fond fancy paints
them, while in the bosom of strangers there is much kindliness.
THE INTERVENING YEARS
Now we may omit a great deal from Godfrey's youthful career. Within a
few days he received a letter from his father forwarded to him from
the hotel, that was even more unpleasant than the majority of the
paternal epistles to which he was accustomed. Mr. Knight, probably
from honest conviction and a misreading of the facts of life, was one
of those persons who are called Pacifists. Although he never carried
out the doctrine in his own small affairs, he believed that nations
were enjoined by divine decree to turn the other cheek and indeed
every portion of their corporate frame to the smiter, and that by so
doing, in some mysterious way, they would attain to profound peace and
felicity. Consequently he hated armies, especially as these involved
taxation, and loathed the trade of soldiering, which he considered one
of licensed murder.
The decision of his son to adopt this career was therefore a bitter
blow to him, concerning which he expressed his feelings in the
plainest language, ending his epistle by intimating his strong
conviction that Godfrey, having taken the sword, was destined to
perish by the sword. Also he pointed out to him that he had turned his
back upon God Who would certainly remember the affront, being, he
remarked, "a jealous God," and lastly that the less they saw of each
other in future--here he was referring to himself, not to the Divinity
as the context would seem to imply--the better it would be for both of
Further there was a postscript about the disgraceful conduct of the
woman, Mrs. Parsons, who, after receiving the shelter of his house for
many years, had made a scene and departed, leaving him in the lurch.
His injunction was that under no circumstances should he, Godfrey,
have anything more to do with this violent and treacherous female who
had made him a pretext of quarrel, and, having learned that he had
money, doubtless wished to get something out of him.
Godfrey did not answer this letter, nor did his father write to him
again for quite a long while.
For the rest, on the appointed Monday he presented himself at Garrick
Street, and began his course of tuition under the general direction of
the wise Mr. Scoones, "cramming" as it was called. This, indeed,
exactly describes the process, for all knowledge was rejected except
that which was likely to obtain marks in the course of an examination
by hide-bound persons appointed to ascertain who were the individuals
best fitted to be appointed to various branches of the Public Service.
Anything less calculated to secure the selection of suitable men than
such a system cannot well be imagined. However, it was that which
certain nebulous authorities had decreed should prevail, and there was
an end of it, although in effect it involved, and still involves, the
frequent sacrifice of those qualities and characteristics which are
essential to a public servant, to others that are quite the reverse.
For instance, to a parrot-like memory and the power of acquiring a
superficial acquaintance with much miscellaneous information and
remembering the same for, say, six months.
Although he hated the business and thought with longing of his
studies, stellar and other, in the Kleindorf observatory, Godfrey was
quite clever enough to collect what was needed. In fact, some three
months later he passed his examination with ease about half-way up the
list, and duly entered Sandhurst.
He found the establishment at Garrick Street just such a place as its
owner had described. In it were many charming but idle young men,
often with a certain amount of means, who were going up for the
Diplomatic Service, the Foreign Office, the Indian Civil, or various
branches of the army. Of these a large proportion enjoyed life but did
little else, and in due course failed in their competitive encounters
with the examiners.
Others were too stupid to succeed, or perhaps their natural talents
had another bent, while the remainder, by no means the most brilliant,
but with a faculty for passing examinations and without any disturbing
originality, worked hard and sailed into their desired haven with
considerable facility, being of the stuff of which most successful men
are made. For the rest, there was the opportunity, and if they did not
avail themselves of it Scoones' was not to blame. It was, and perhaps
still remains, a most admirable institution of its sort, one, indeed,
of which the present chronicler has very grateful recollections.
Among the pupils studying there was a young man named Arthur Thorburn,
an orphan, with considerable expectations, who lived with an aunt in a
fine old house at Queen Anne's Gate. He was a brilliant young man,
witty and original, but rash and without perseverance, whom his
guardians wished to enter the Diplomatic Service, a career in which,
without doubt, had he ever attained to it, he would have achieved a
considerable failure. In appearance he was of medium height, round-
faced, light-haired, blue-eyed, with a constant and most charming
smile, in every way a complete contrast to Godfrey. Perhaps this was
the reason of the curious attachment that the two formed for each
other, unless, indeed, such strong and strange affinities have their
roots in past individual history, which is veiled from mortal eyes. At
any rate, it happened that on Godfrey's first day at Scoones' he sat
next to Arthur Thorburn in two classes which he attended. Godfrey
listened intently and made notes; Arthur caricatured the lecturer, an
art for which he had a native gift, and passed the results round the
class. Godfrey saw the caricature and sniggered, then when the
lectures were over gravely reproved the author, saying that he should
not do such things.
"Why not?" asked Arthur, opening his blue eyes. "Heaven intended that
stuffy old parrot" (he had drawn this learned man as a dilapidated
fowl of that species) "to be caricatured. Observe that his nose is
already half a beak. Or perhaps it is a beak developing into a nose;
it depends whether he is on the downward or upward path of evolution."
"Because you made me laugh," replied Godfrey, "whereby I lost at least
eighteenpennyworth of information."
"A laugh is worth eighteenpence," suggested Arthur.
"That depends upon how many eighteenpences one possesses. You may have
lots, some people are short of them."
"Quite true. I never looked at it in that way before. I am obliged to
you for putting it so plainly," said Arthur with his charming smile.
Such was the beginning of the acquaintance of these two, and in some
cases might have been its end. But with them it was not so. Arthur
conceived a sincere admiration for Godfrey who could speak like this
to a stranger, and at Scoones' and as much as possible outside,
haunted him like a shadow. Soon it was a regular thing for Godfrey to
go to dine at the old Georgian house in Queen Anne's Gate upon Sunday
evenings, where he became popular with the rather magnificent early-
Victorian aunt who thought that he exercised a good influence upon her
nephew. Sometimes, too, Arthur would accompany Godfrey to Hampstead
and sit smoking and making furtive caricatures of him and Mrs.
Parsons, while he worked and she beamed admiration. The occupation
sounds dull, but somehow Arthur did not find it so; he said that it
rested his overwrought brain.
"Look here, old fellow," said Godfrey at length, "have you any
intention of passing that examination of yours?"
"In the interests of the Diplomatic Service and of the country I think
not," replied Arthur reflectively. "I feel that it is a case where
true altruism becomes a duty."
"Then what do you mean to do with yourself?"
"Don't know. Live on my money, I suppose, and on that of my respected
aunt after her lamented decease which, although I see no signs of it,
she tells me she considers imminent."
"I don't wonder, Arthur, with you hanging about the house. You ought
to be ashamed of yourself. A man is made to work his way through the
world, not to idle."
"Like a beetle boring through wood, not like a butterfly flitting over
flowers; that's what you mean, isn't it? Well, butterflies are nicer
than beetles, and some of us like flowers better than dead wood. But,
I say, old chap, do you mean it?"
"I do, and so does your aunt."
"Let us waive my aunt. Like the poor she is always with us, and I,
alas! am well acquainted with her views, which are those of a past
epoch. But I am not obstinate; tell me what to do and I'll do it--
anything except enter the Diplomatic Service, to lie abroad for the
benefit of my country, in the words of the ancient saying."
"There is no fear of that, for you would never pass the examination,"
said the practical Godfrey. "You see, you are too clever," he added by
way of explanation, "and too much occupied with a dozen things of
which examiners take no account, the merits of the various religious
systems, for instance."
"So are you," interrupted Arthur.
"I know I am; I love them. I'd like to talk to you about reincarnation
and astronomy, of which I know something, and even astrology and the
survival of the dead and lots of other things. But I have got to make
my way in the world, and I've no time. You think me a heavy bore and
an old fogey because I won't go to parties to which lots of those nice
fellows ask me. Do you suppose I shouldn't like the parties and all
the larks afterwards and the jolly actresses and the rest? Of course I
should, for I'm a man like others. But I tell you I haven't time. I've
flouted my father, and I'm on my honour, so to speak, to justify
myself and get on. So I mean to pass that tomfool examination and to
cram down a lot of stuff in order to do so, which is of no more use to
me than though I had swallowed so much brown paper. Fool-stuff, pulped
by fools to be the food of fools--that's what it is. And now I'm going
to shove some spoonfuls of it down my throat, so light your pipe, and
please be quiet."
"One moment more of your precious time," interrupted Arthur. "What is
the exact career that you propose to adorn? Something foreign, I think
--Indian Civil Service?"
"No, as I have told you a dozen times, Indian Army."
"The army has points--possibly in the future it might give a man an
opportunity of departing from the world in a fashion that is
generally, if in error, considered to be decent. India, too, has still
more points, for there anyone with intelligence might study the
beginnings of civilisation, which, perhaps, are also its end. My
friend, I, too, will enter the Indian Army, that is if I can pass the
examination. Provide me at once with the necessary books and, Mrs.
Parsons, be good-hearted enough to bring some of your excellent
coffee, brewed double strong. Do not imagine, young man, who ought, by
the way, to have been born fifty years earlier and married my aunt,
that you are the only one who can face and conquer facts, even those
advanced by that most accursed of empty-headed bores, the man or the
maniac called Euclid."
So the pair of them studied together, and by dint of private tuition
in the evening, for at Scoones' where his talent for caricature was
too much for him, Arthur would do little or nothing, Godfrey dragged
his friend through the examination, the last but one in the list. Even
then a miracle intervened to save him. Arthur's Euclid was hopeless.
He hated the whole business of squares and angles and parallelograms
with such intensity that it made him mentally and morally sick. To
his, as to some other minds, it was utter nonsense devised by a semi-
lunatic for the bewilderment of mankind, and adopted by other lunatics
as an appropriate form of torture of the young.
At length, in despair, Godfrey, knowing that Arthur had an excellent
memory, only the night before the examination, made him learn a couple
of propositions selected out of the books which were to be studied,
quite at hazard, with injunctions that no matter what other
propositions were set he should write out these two, pretending that
he had mistaken the question. This Arthur did with perfect accuracy,
and by the greatest of good luck one of the two propositions was
actually that which he was asked to set down, while the other was
allowed to pass as an error.
So he bumped through somehow, and in the end the Indian Army gained a
most excellent officer. It is true that there were difficulties when
he explained to his aunt and his trustees that in some inexplicable
manner he had passed for Sandhurst instead of into the Diplomatic
Service. But when he demonstrated to them that this was his great and
final effort and that nothing on earth would induce him to face
another examination, even to be made a king, they thought it best to
accept the accomplished fact.
"After all, you have passed something," said his aunt, "which is more
than anyone ever expected you would do, and the army is respectable,
for, as I have told you, my grandfather was killed at Waterloo."
"Yes," replied Arthur, "you have told me, my dear Aunt, very often. He
broke his neck by jumping off his horse when riding towards or from
the battlefield, did he not? and now I propose to follow his honoured
example, on the battlefield, if possible, or if not, in
So the pair of them went to Sandhurst together, and together in due
course were gazetted to a certain regiment of Indian cavalry, the only
difference being that Godfrey passed out top and Arthur passed out
bottom, although, in fact, he was much the cleverer of the two. Of the
interval between these two examinations there is nothing that need be
reported, for their lives and the things that happened to them were as
those of hundreds of other young men. Only through all they remained
the fastest of friends, so much so that by the influence of General
Cubitte, as has been said, they managed to be gazetted to the same
During those two years Godfrey never saw his father, and communicated
with him but rarely. His winter vacations were spent at Mrs. Parsons'
house in Hampstead, working for the most part, since he was absolutely
determined to justify himself and get on in the profession which he
had chosen. In the summer he and Arthur went walking tours, and once,
with some other young men, visited the Continent to study various
battlefields, and improve their minds. At least Godfrey studied the
battlefields, while Arthur gave most of his attention to the younger
part of the female population of France and Italy. At Easter again
they went to Scotland, where Arthur had some property settled on him--
for he was a young man well supplied with this world's goods--and
fished for salmon and trout. Altogether, for Godfrey, it was a
profitable and happy two years. At Sandhurst and elsewhere everyone
thought well of him, while old General Cubitte became his devoted
friend and could not say enough in his praise.
"Damn it! Sir," he exclaimed once, "do you mean to tell me that you
never overdraw your allowance? It is not natural; almost wrong indeed.
I wonder what your secret vices are? Well, so long as you keep them
secret, you ought to be a big man one day and end up in a very
different position to George Cubitte--called a General--who never saw
a shot fired in his life. There'll be lots of them flying about before
you're old, my boy, and doubtless you'll get your share of gunpowder--
or nitro-glycerine--if you go on as you have begun. If I weren't
afraid of making you cocky, I'd tell you what they say about you down
at that Sandhurst shop, where I have an old pal or two.
Shortly after this came the final examination, through which, as has
been said, Godfrey sailed out top, an easy first indeed--a position to
which his thorough knowledge of French and general aptitude for
foreign languages, together with his powers of work and application,
really entitled him. All his friends were delighted, especially
Arthur, who looked on him as a kind of /lusus naturę/, and from his
humble position at the bottom of the tree, gazed admiringly at Godfrey
perched upon its topmost bough. The old Pasteur, too, with whom
Godfrey kept up an almost weekly correspondence, continuing his
astronomical studies by letter, was enraptured and covered him with
compliments, as did his instructors at the College.
All of this would have been enough to turn the heads of many young
men, but as it happened Godfrey was by nature modest, with enough
intelligence to appreciate the abysmal depths of his own ignorance by
the light of the little lamp of knowledge with which he had furnished
himself on his journey into their blackness. This intense modesty
always remained a leading characteristic of his, which endeared him to
many, although it was not one that helped him forward in life. It is
the bold, self-confident man, who knows how to make the most of his
small gifts, who travels fastest and farthest in this world of ours.
When, however, actually he received quite an affectionate and pleased
letter from his father, he did, for a while, feel a little proud. The
letter enclosed a cutting from the local paper recording his success,
and digging up for the benefit of its readers an account of his
adventure on the Alps. Also, it mentioned prominently that he was the
son of the Rev. Mr. Knight, the incumbent of Monk's Abbey, and had
received his education in that gentleman's establishment; so
prominently, indeed, that even the unsuspicious Godfrey could not help
wondering if his father had ever seen that paragraph before it
appeared in print. The letter ended with this passage:
"We have not met for a long while, owing to causes to which I will
not allude, and I suppose that shortly you will be going to India.
If you care to come here I should like to see you before you leave
England. This is natural, as after all you are my only child and I
am growing old. Once you have departed to that far country who
knows whether we shall ever meet again in this world?"
Godfrey, a generous-hearted and forgiving person, was much touched
when he read these words, and wrote at once to say that if it were
convenient, he would come down to Monk's Abbey at the beginning of the
following week and spend some of his leave there. So, in due course,
As it happened, at about the same time Destiny had arranged that
another character in this history was returning to that quiet Essex
village, namely Isobel Blake.
Isobel went to Mexico with her uncle and there had a most interesting
time. She studied Aztec history with her usual thoroughness; so well,
indeed, that she became a recognised authority on the subject. She
climbed Popocatepetl, the mysterious "Sleeping Woman" that overhands
the ancient town, and looked into its crater. Greatly daring, she even
visited Yucatan and saw some of the pre-Aztec remains. For this
adventure she paid with an attack of fever which never quite left her
system. Indeed, that fever had a peculiar effect upon her, which may
have been physical or something else. Isobel's fault, or rather
characteristic, as the reader may have gathered, was that she built
too much upon the material side of things. What she saw, what she
knew, what her body told her, what the recorded experience of the
world taught--these were real; all the rest, to her, was phantasy or
imagination. She kept her feet upon the solid ground of fact, and left
all else to dreamers; or, as she would have expressed it, to the
victims of superstition inherited or acquired.
Well, something happened to her at the crisis of that fever, which was
sharp, and took her on her return from Yucatan, at a horrible port
called Frontera, where there were palm trees and /zopilotes/--a kind
of vile American vulture--which sat silently on the verandah outside
her door in the dreadful little hotel built upon piles in the mud of
the great river, and mosquitoes by the ten million, and sleepy-eyed,
crushed-looking Indians, and horrible halfbreeds, and everything else
which suggests an earthly hell, except the glorious sunshine.
Of a sudden, when she was at her worst, all the materiality--if there
be such a word--which circumstances and innate tendency had woven
about her as a garment, seemed to melt away, and she became aware of
something vast in which she floated like an insect in the atmosphere--
some surrounding sea which she could neither measure nor travel.
She knew that she was not merely Isobel Blake, but a part of the
universe in its largest sense, and that the universe expressed itself
in miniature within her soul. She knew that ever since it had been,
she was, and that while it existed she would endure. This imagination
or inspiration, whichever it may have been, went no further than that,
and afterwards she set it down to delirium, or to the exaltation that
often accompanies fever. Still, it left a mark upon her, opening a new
door in her heart, so to speak.
For the rest, the life in Mexico City was gay, especially in the
position which she filled as the niece of the British Minister, who
was often called upon to act as hostess, as her aunt was delicate and
her cousin was younger than herself and not apt at the business. There
were Diaz and the foreign Diplomatic Ministers; also the leading
Mexicans to be entertained, for which purpose she learned Spanish.
Then there were English travellers, distinguished, some of them, and
German nobles, generally in the Diplomatic Service of their country,
whom by some peculiar feminine instinct of her own, she suspected of
being spies and generally persons of evil intentions. Also there was
the British colony, among whom were some very nice people that she
made her friends, the strange, adventurous pioneers of our Empire who
are to be bound in every part of the world, and in a sense its cream.
Lastly, there were the American tourists and business men, many of
whom she thought amusing. One of these, a millionaire who had to do
with a "beef trust," though what that might be she never quite
understood, proposed to her. He was a nice young fellow enough, of a
real old American family whose ancestors were supposed to have come
over in the /Mayflower/, and possessed of a remarkable vein of
original humour; also he was much in love. But Isobel would have none
of it, and said so in such plain, unmistakable language that the
millionaire straightway left Mexico City in his private railway car,
disconsolately to pursue his beef speculations in other lands.
On the day that he departed Isobel received a note from him which ran:
"I have lost you, and since I am too sore-hearted to stay in this
antique country and conclude the business that brought me here, I
reckon that I have also lost 250,000 dollars. That sum, however, I
would gladly have given for the honour and joy of your friendship,
and as much more added. So I think it well spent, especially as it
never figured in my accounts. Good-bye. God bless you and whoever
it may be with whom you are in love, for that there is someone I
am quite sure, also that he must be a good fellow."
From which it will be seen that this millionaire was a very nice young
man. So, at least, thought Isobel, though he did write about her being
in love with someone, which was the rankest nonsense. In love, indeed!
Why, she had never met a man for whom she could possibly entertain any
feelings of that sort, no, not even if he had been able to make a
queen of her, or to endow her with all the cash resources of all the
beef trusts in the world. Men in that aspect were repellent and
hateful to her; the possibility of such a union with any one of them
was poisonous, even unnatural to her, soul and body.
Once, it is true, there had been a certain boy--but he had passed out
of her life--oh! years ago, and, what is more, had affronted her by
refusing to answer a letter which she had written to him, just, as she
imagined--though of course this was only a guess--because of his
ridiculous and unwarrantable jealousy and the atrocious pride that was
his failing. Also she had read in the papers of a very brave act which
he had done on the Alps, one which filled her with a pride that was
not atrocious, but quite natural where an old playmate was concerned,
and had noticed that it was a young lady whom he had rescued. That, of
course, explained everything, and if her first supposition should be
incorrect, would quite account for her having received no answer to
It was true, however, that she had heard no more of this young lady,
though scraps of gossip concerning Godfrey did occasionally reach her.
For instance, she knew that he had quarrelled with his father because
he would not enter the Church and was going into the army, a career
which she much preferred, especially as she did not believe in the
Church and could not imagine what Godfrey would look like in a black
coat and a white tie.
By the way, she wondered what he did look like now. She had an old
faded photograph of him as a lanky youth, but after all this time he
could not in the least resemble that. Well, probably he had grown as
plain and uninteresting--as she was herself. It was wonderful that the
American young man could have seen anything in her, but then, no doubt
he went on in the same kind of way with half the girls he met.
Thus reflected Isobel, and a little while later paid a last visit to
the museum, which interested her more than any place in Mexico,
perhaps because its exhibits strengthened her theories as to
comparative religion, and shook off her feet the dust of what her
American admirer had called that "antique land." It was with a
positive pang that from the deck of the steamship outside Vera Cruz
she looked her last on the snows of the glorious peak of Orizaba, but
soon these faded away into the skyline and with them her life in
Returning to England /via/ the West Indies in the company of her uncle
who was coming home on leave before taking up an appointment as
Minister to one of the South American republics, she was greeted on
the platform at Waterloo by her father. Sir John Blake had by this
time forgotten their previous disagreements, or, at any rate,
determined to ignore them, and Isobel, who was now in her way a
finished woman of the world, though she did not forget, had come to a
like conclusion. So their meeting was cordial enough, and for a while,
not a very long while, they continued to live together in outward
amity, with a tacit understanding that they should follow their
respective paths, unmolested by each other.
On the afternoon of the first day after his arrival at the Abbey, some
spirit in his feet moved Godfrey to go into the church. As though by
instinct, he went to the chancel, and stood there contemplating the
brass of the nameless Plantagenet lady. How long it was since he had
looked upon her graven face and form draped in the stately habiliments
of a bygone age! Then, he remembered with a pang, Isobel was with him,
and they had seemed to be very near together. Now there was no Isobel,
and they were very far apart, both in the spirit and in the flesh. For
he had not heard of her return to England and imagined that she was
still in Mexico, whence no tidings of her came to him.
There he stood among the dead, reflecting that we do not need to pass
out of the body to know the meaning of death, since, as once Isobel
had said herself, some separations are as bad, or worse. The story of
the dead is, at any rate, completed; there is nothing more to be
learned about them, and of them we imagine, perhaps quite erroneously,
that we have no need to be jealous, since we cannot conceive that they
may form new interests in another sphere. But with the living it is
otherwise. Somewhere their life is continued; somewhere they are
getting themselves friends or lovers and carrying on the daily round
of being, and we have no share in them or in aught that they may do.
And probably they have forgotten us. And, if we still happen to be
attached to them, oh! it hurts.
Thus mused Godfrey, trying to picture to himself what Isobel looked
like when she had stood by his side on that long-past autumn eve, and
only succeeded in remembering exactly what she looked like when she
was kissing a rose with a certain knight in armour in a square garden,
since for some perverse reason it was this picture that remained so
painfully clear to his mind. Then he drifted off into speculations
upon the general mystery of things of a sort that were common with
him, and in these became oblivious of all else.
He did not even hear or see a tall young woman enter the church, clad
in summer white, no, not when she was within five pace and, becoming
suddenly aware of his presence, had stopped to study him with the
acutest interest. In a flash Isobel knew who he was. Of course he was
much changed, for Godfrey, who had matured early, as those of his
generation were apt to do, especially if they had led a varied life,
was now a handsome and well-built young man with a fine, thoughtful
face and a quite respectable moustache.
"How he has changed, oh! how he has changed," she thought to herself.
The raw boy had become a man, and as she knew at once by her woman's
instinct, a man with a great deal in him. Isobel was a sensible member
of her sex; one, too, who had seen something of the world by now, and
she did not expect or wish for a hero or a saint built upon the mid-
Victorian pattern, as portrayed in the books of the lady novelists of
that period. She wanted a man to be a man, by preference with the
faults pertaining to the male nature, since she had observed that
those who lacked these, possessed others, which to her robust
womanhood seemed far worse, such as meanness and avarice and
backbiting, and all the other qualities of the Pharisee.
Well, in Godfrey, whether she were right or wrong, with that swift
glance of hers, she seemed to recognise a man as she wished a man to
be. If that standard of hers meant that very possibly he had admired
other women, the lady whom he had pulled up a precipice, for instance,
she did not mind particularly, so long as he admired her, Isobel, most
of all. That was her one /sine qua non/, that he should admire her
most of all, or rather be fondest of her in his innermost self.
What was she thinking about? What was there to show that he cared one
brass farthing about her? Nothing at all. And yet, why was he here
where she had parted from him so long ago? Surely not to stare at the
grave of a dead woman with whom he could have had nothing to do, since
she left the world some five centuries before. And another question.
What had brought her here, she who hated churches and all the mummery
that they signified?
Would he never wake up? Would he never realise her presence? Oh! then
he could care nothing about her. Probably he was thinking of the girl
he had pulled up a cliff in the Alps. But why did he come to this
place to think of /her/?
Isobel stood quite still there and waited in the shadow of a Georgian
tomb, till presently Godfrey did seem to grow aware that he was no
longer alone. Something or somebody had impinged upon his
intelligence. He began to look about him, though always in the wrong
direction. Then, convinced that he was the victim of fancy, he spoke
aloud as he had a bad habit of doing when by himself.
"It's very curious," he said, "but I could have sworn that Isobel was
here, as near me as when we parted. I suppose that is what comes of
thinking so much about her. Or do people leave something of themselves
behind in places where they have experienced emotion? If so, churches
ought to be very full of ghosts. I dare say that they are, only then
no one could know it except those who had shared the emotion, and
therefore they remain intangible. Still, I could have sworn that
Isobel was here. Indeed, I seem to feel her now, and I hope that the
dream will go on."
Listening there in the shadow, she heard, and flushed in her flesh and
rejoiced in her innermost being. So he had /not/ forgotten her, which
is the true and real infidelity that never can be forgiven, at any
rate, by a woman. So she was still something in his life, although he
had not answered her letter years ago.
Then she grew angry with herself. What did it matter to her what he
was, or thought, or did? It was absurd that she could be dependent
morally upon anyone, who must rely in life or death upon herself alone
and on the strong soul within her. She was wroth with Godfrey for
exciting such disturbance in--what was it--her spirit or her body?
Nonsense, she had no spirit. That was a phantasy. Therefore it must be
in her body which was her own particular property that should remain
uninfluenced by any other body.
So it came about that the first words she spoke to him were somewhat
rough in their texture. She stepped forward out of the shadow of the
Georgian tomb and confronted him with a defiant air, her head thrown
back, looking, to tell the truth, rather stately.
"I hoped that by this time you had given up talking to yourself,
Godfrey, which, as I always told you, is a bad habit. I did not hear
much of what you were mumbling, but I understood you to say that you
thought I was here. Well, why shouldn't I be here?"
He stared at her blankly and answered:
"God knows, I don't! But since you ask the question, /why/ are you
here, Isobel? It is Isobel, isn't it, or am I still dreaming? Let me
touch you and I shall know."
She drew back a little way, quite three inches.
"Of course it is Isobel, don't your senses tell you that without
wanting to touch me? Why, I knew it was you from the end of the
church. But you ask me why I am here. I wish you would tell me. I was
passing, and something drew me into this place. I suppose it was you,
and if so, I say at once that I resent it; you have no right----"
"No, no, certainly not, but do let me touch you to make sure that you
"Very well," she said, and stretched out a hand towards him.
He caught it with his left which was nearest, and then with his right
hand reached forward and seized her other hand. With a masterful
movement he draw her towards him, and though she was a strong woman
she seemed to have no power to resist. She thought that he was going
to kiss her and did not care greatly if he did.
But he checked himself in time, and instead of pressing his lips upon
hers, only kissed her hands, first one and then the other, for quite a
long while: nor did she attempt to deny him, perhaps because a wild
impulse took possession of her to kiss his in answer. Yes, his hands,
or his lips, or even his coat or anything about him. Oh! it made her
very angry, but there it was, for something rushed up in her which she
had never felt before, something mad and wild and sweet.
She wrenched herself away at last and began to scold him again.
"What have you been doing all these years? Why did you never write to
"Because I was too proud, as you never wrote to me."
"Too proud! Pride will be your ruin; it goes before every sort of
fall. Besides, I did write to you. I can show you a copy of the
letter, if I haven't torn it up."
"I never got it; did you post it yourself?"
"Yes, that is I took it to the Abbey House and left it to be addressed
"Oh! then perhaps it is there still," and he looked at her.
"Nonsense, no one could have been so mean, not even----"
He shrugged his shoulders, a trick he had learned abroad, then said:
"Well, it doesn't matter now, does it, Isobel?"
"Yes, it matters a lot. Years of misunderstanding and doubt and loss,
when life is so short. I might have married or all sorts of things."
"What has my not receiving your letter got to do with that?" he asked,
"Nothing at all. Why do you ask such silly questions? I only meant
that if I had married I should not have been here, and we should never
have met again."
"Well, you are here and we have met in this church, where we parted."
"Yes, it's odd, isn't it? I wish it had been somewhere else. I don't
like this gloomy old place with its atmosphere of death. Come
They went, and when they were through the churchyard gates walked at
hazard towards the stream which ran through the grounds of Hawk's
Hall. Here they sat down upon a fallen willow, watching the swallows
skim over the surface of the placid waters, and for a while were
silent. They had so much to say to each other that it seemed as though
scarcely they knew where to commence.
"Tell me," she said at length, "were you in the square garden on the
night of that dance at which I came out? Oh! I see by your look that
you were. Then why did you not speak to me instead of standing behind
a bush, watching in that mean fashion?"
"I wasn't properly dressed for parties, and--and--you seemed to be--
very much engaged--with a rose and a knight in armour."
"Engaged! It was only part of a game. I wrote and told you all about
it in the letter you did not get. Did you never kiss a flower for a
joke and give it to someone, not knowing that you were being watched?"
Godfrey coloured and shifted uneasily on his log.
"Well, as a matter of fact," he said, "it is odd that you should have
guessed--for something of the sort did once happen quite by accident.
Also I /was/ watched."
"I!--you mean /we/. One doesn't kiss flowers by oneself and give them
to the air. It would be more ridiculous even than the other thing."
"I will tell you all about it if you like," he stammered confusedly.
She looked at him with her large, steady grey eyes, and answered in a
"No, thank you, I don't like. Nothing bores me so much as other
people's silly love affairs."
Baffled in defence, Godfrey resorted to attack.
"What has become of the knight in armour?" he asked.
"He is married and has twins. I saw the announcement of their birth in
the paper yesterday. And what has become of the lady with the flower?
For since there was a flower, there must have been a lady; I suppose
the same whom you pulled up the precipice."
"She is married also, to her cousin, but I don't know that she has any
children yet, and I never pulled her up any precipice. It was a man I
pulled, a very heavy one. My arm isn't quite right yet."
"Oh!" said Isobel. Then with another sudden change of voice she went
on. "Now tell me all about yourself, Godfrey. There must be such lots
to say, and I long to hear."
So he told her, and she told him of herself, and they talked and
talked till the shadows of advancing night began to close around them.
Suddenly Godfrey looked at his watch, of which he could only just see
"My goodness!" he said, "it is half-past seven."
"Well, what about it? It doesn't matter when I dine, for I have come
down alone here for a few days, a week perhaps, to get the house ready
for my father and his friends."
"Yes, but my father dines at seven, and if there is one thing he hates
it is being kept waiting for dinner."
She looked as though she thought that it did not much matter whether
or no Mr. Knight waited for his dinner, then said:
"Well, you can come up to the Hall and dine with me."
"I think I had better not," he answered. "You see, we are getting on
so well together--I mean my father and I, and I don't want to begin a
row again. He would hate it."
"You mean, Godfrey, that he would hate your dining with me. Well, that
is true, for he always loathed me like poison, and I don't think he is
a man to change his mind. So perhaps you had better go. Do you think
we shall be allowed to see each other again?" she added with sarcasm.
"Of course. Let's meet here to-morrow at eleven. My father is going to
a Diocesan meeting and won't be back till the evening. So we might
spend the day together if you have nothing better to do."
"Let me see. No, I have no engagement. You see, I only came down half
an hour before we met in the church."
Then they rose from their willow log and stood looking at each other,
a very proper pair. Something welled up in him and burst from his
"How beautiful you have grown," he said.
She laughed a little, very softly, and said:
"Beautiful! /I/? Those Alpine snows affect the sight, don't they? I
felt like that on Popocatepetl. Or is it the twilight that I have to
thank? Oh! you silly old Godfrey, you must have been living among very
"You /are/ beautiful," he replied stubbornly, "the most beautiful
woman I ever saw. You always were, and you always will be."
Again she laughed, for who of her sex is there that does not like to
be called beautiful, especially when she knows that it is meant, and
that whatever her personal shortcomings, to the speaker she is
beautiful? But this time the only answer she attempted was:
"You said you were late, and you are getting later. Run home, there's
a good little boy."
"Why do you laugh at me?" he asked.
"Because I am laughing at myself," she answered, "and you should have
Then very nearly he kissed her, only he was in such a hurry, also the
willow log, a large one, was between them; possibly she had arranged
that this should be so. So he could only press her hand and depart,
muttering something indistinguishable. She watched him vanish, after
which she sat down again on the log and really did laugh. Still, it
was a queer kind of merriment, for by degrees it turned into little
sobs and tears.
"You little fool, what has happened to you?" she asked herself. "Are
you--are you--and if so, is he--? Oh! nonsense, and yet, something has
happened, for I never felt like this before. I thought it was all
rubbish, mere natural attraction, part of Nature's scheme and so on,
as they write in the clever books. But it's more than that--at least
it would be if I were---- Besides, I'm ages older than he is, although
I was born six months later. I'm a woman full-grown, and he is only a
boy. If he hadn't been a boy he would have taken his advantage when he
must have known that I was weak as water, just for the joy of seeing
him again. Now he has lost his chance, if he wanted one, for by
to-morrow I shall be strong again, and there shall be no more----"
Then she looked at the backs of her hands which she could not see
because of the gathering darkness, and as they were invisible, kissed
them instead, just as though they belonged to someone else. After this
she sat a while brooding and listening to the pulsing of her heart,
which was beating with unusual strength this night. As she did so in
that mysterious hour which sometimes comes to us in English summers, a
great change fell upon her. When she sat down upon that fallen tree
she was still a girl and virginal; when she rose from it she was a
developed, loving woman. It was as though a spirit had visited her and
whispered in her ear. She could almost hear the words. They were:
"Fulfil your fate. Love and be loved with body and with spirit, with
heart and soul and strength."
At length she rose, and as she did so said aloud:
"I do not know who or what I have to thank for life and all that makes
me, me. But I am glad to have been born, now, who have often wished
that I had never been born. Even if I knew that I must pass away
to-night, I should still be glad, since I have learned that there is
something in me which cannot die. It came when that man kissed my
hands, and it will endure for ever."
Godfrey was late for dinner, very late, and what was worse, his father
/had/ waited for him.
"I suppose you forgot that I dined at seven, not at eight," was his
cold greeting, for Mr. Knight, a large eater like many teetotallers,
was one of those people who make a fetish of punctuality at meals, and
always grow cross when they are hungry.
Godfrey, whose mind had not been steadied by the events of the
afternoon, became confused and replied that he was extremely sorry,
but the fact was he had met Isobel and, in talking to her, had not
noticed the time.
"Isobel!" exclaimed his father, whose voice was now icy. "What
"I never knew but one, Father."
"Oh! I suppose you mean Miss Blake. I had no idea she was here;
indeed, I thought she was still in Mexico. But doubtless you were
"No, Father, I met her accidentally. She has returned to England."
"That is obvious, Godfrey----"
"She has come down," he continued in a hurry, "to get the house ready
for Sir John, who arrives shortly."
"Oh! has she? What a strange coincidence! All the years of our
separation while you were way she was away, but within two days of
your return she returns."
"Yes, it does seem odd," agreed the flustered Godfrey, "but it's
lucky, isn't it, for, of course, I am glad to see her again."
Mr. Knight finished carving himself a helping of beef, and let the
knife fall with a clatter into the dish. Then he said in carefully
"You may think it lucky--or well arranged--but I must differ. I tell
you at once that I consider Miss Blake a most pernicious young woman,
and as your father I can only express the hope that you do not intend
to allow her to re-assert her evil influence over you."
Godfrey was about to answer with wrath, but changed his mind and
remained silent. So the topic dropped, but that it stood very straight
upon its feet in Mr. Knight's mind was clear from the compression of
his thin lips and the ill-humour of his remarks about the coldness and
overdone character of the beef and sundry other household matters. As
soon as the meal was concluded and he had washed it down with a last
glass of water and with a very wry face thanked Providence for all
that he had received, he retired into his study and was seen no more
Nor was he seen then by Godfrey, who had gone out to smoke his pipe
since his father could not bear the smell of tobacco in the house, and
wandered unconsciously towards the Hall. There he stood, gazing at a
light which he knew came from Isobel's window, and lost in this
unfruitful contemplation, once more forgot the time. When he arrived
home it was to find the house in darkness and a note in his father's
handwriting on the hall table requesting him to be careful to lock the
door, as everyone had gone to bed.
He went, too, but could not sleep, for, strangely enough, that
disturbance of body and spirit which had afflicted Isobel possessed
him also. It seemed wonderful to him that he should have found her
again, whom he thought to be so utterly lost, and grown so sweet and
dear. How could he have lived all this while without her, he wondered,
and, another thought, how could he bear to part with her once more?
Oh! she was his life, and--why should they part? She had not minded
when he kissed her hands, at which, of course, she might have been
angry; indeed, she left them to be kissed for quite a long while,
though not half long enough. Perhaps she did not wish that they should
part either, or perhaps she only desired that they should be just
friends as before. It seemed almost impossible that they could become
more than friends, even if she cared to do so, which he could scarcely
What was he? A young fellow, twenty, with only a little money and all
his way to make in the world. And what was she? A grand young lady,
rather younger than himself, it was true, but seeming years older, who
was a great heiress, they said, and expected to marry a lord, someone
born with a silver spoon in his mouth, whose fortune had been made for
him by other people. Moreover, his father hated her because their
religious views were different, and her father hated him, or used to,
for other reasons.
Yes, it was quite impossible--and yet Nature seemed to take no account
of that: Nature seemed to tell him that it was absolutely possible,
and indeed right, and what she, Nature, wished. Also this same
persistent Nature seemed to suggest to him that Isobel was her most
willing and obedient pupil, and that perhaps if he could look into her
heart he would find that she did care, and very much more than for the
wealth and the hypothetical lord.
Nature seemed to suggest, too, that Isobel's thoughts were with him at
that moment; that she was uncommonly near to him in soul if not in
body; that she was thinking about him as he was thinking about her,
and saying much the same things to herself as he was saying to
himself. Indeed, he even began a whispered conversation with her, of a
sort he would not have ventured upon had she been there, pausing
between the sentences for her answers, which, as he imagined them,
were very satisfactory indeed.
By degrees, however, question and answer grew less frequent and
further apart as he dozed off and finally sank into a deep sleep. So
deep was it, indeed, that he was awakened only by the clamour of the
breakfast bell, and when he arrived downstairs, to be confronted by
some cold bacon on an uncovered dish, his father had departed to the
Diocesan Conference. Well, this fact had its consolations, and bacon,
however cold, with contentment is better than bacon hot where
So he ate it and anything else he could find with appetite, and then
went upstairs to shave and do his hair nicely and to put on a new suit
of clothes, which he considered became him. Also, as he had still
three-quarters of an hour to spare, he began to write a little poem
about Isobel, which was a dismal failure, to tell the truth, since he
could think of no satisfactory rhyme to her name, except "O well!"
which, however he put it, sounded silly.
At last, rather too early, he threw the sheet of paper into the
fireplace and started, only to find that although it still lacked a
quarter of an hour to eleven, Isobel was already seated on that tree.
"What have you been doing to yourself?" she asked, "putting on those
smart London clothes? I like the old grey things you had on last night
ever so much better, and I wanted you to climb a tree to get me some
young jackdaws. And--good gracious! Godfrey, your head smells like a
whole hairdresser's shop. Please come to the other side, to leeward of
He murmured something about liking to look tidy, and then remarked
that she seemed rather finely dressed herself.
"It's only my Mexican hat," she answered, touching the big sombrero,
woven from the finest Panama grass, which she was wearing, "and the
necklace is made of little gold Aztec idols that were found in a
grave. They are very rare; a gentleman gave them to me, and afterwards
I was horrified to find that he had paid an awful lot for them, £200,
I believe. Do you understand about the Aztec gods? If not I will
explain them all to you. This big one in the middle is Huitzilcoatl,
the god of----"
"No, no," interrupted Godfrey, "I don't and I don't want to. I think
them very ugly, and I always understood that ladies did not accept
such expensive presents from gentlemen. Who was he?"
"An American millionaire who didn't wear armour," she answered
blandly. Then she changed the subject with the original remark that
the swallows were flying higher than they had done on the previous
evening, when they looked as though one could almost catch them with
Godfrey reflected to himself that other things which had seemed quite
close on the previous night were now like the swallows, far out of
reach. Only he took comfort in the remembrance that swallows, however
near, are evasive birds, not easy to seize unless you can find them
sleeping. Next she began to tell him all about the Mexican gods,
whether he wanted to listen or not, and he sat there in the glory of
his new clothes and brilliantined hair, and gazed at her till she
asked him to desist as she felt as though she were being mesmerised.
This led him to his spiritualistic experiences of which he told her
all the story, and by the time it was finished, behold! it was the
"It is very interesting," she said as they entered the Hall, "and I
can't laugh at it all as I should have done once, I don't quite know
why. But I hope, Godfrey, that you will have no more to do with
"No, not while----" and he looked at her.
"While--there are such nice bodies in the world," he stammered,
She coloured also, tossed her head, and went to wash her hands.
The afternoon they spent in hunting for imaginary young jackdaws in a
totally nebulous tree. Isobel grew rather cross over its non-
discovery, swearing that she remembered it well years ago, and that
there were always young jackdaws there.
"Perhaps it has been cut down," suggested Godfrey. "I am told that
your father has been improving the place a great deal in that kind of
way, so as to make it up to date and scientific and profitable, and
all the rest of it. Also if it hasn't, there would have been no young
jackdaws, since they must have flown quite six weeks ago."
"Then why couldn't you say that at once, instead of making us waste
all this time?" asked Isobel with indignation.
"I don't know," replied Godfrey in a somewhat vacuous fashion. "It was
all the same to me if we were hunting for young jackdaws or the man in
the moon, as long as we were together."
"Godfrey, it is evident that you have been overworking and are growing
foolish. I make excuses for you, since anybody who passed first out of
Sandhurst must have overworked, but it does not alter the fact. Now I
must go home and see about that house, for as yet I have arranged
nothing at all, and the place is in an awful state. Remember that my
father is coming down presently with either six or eight terrible
people, I forget which. All I know about them is that they are
extremely rich and expect to be what is called 'done well.'"
"Must you?" remarked Godfrey, looking disappointed.
"Yes, I must. And so must you. /Your/ father is coming back by the
five o'clock train, and I advise you to be there to meet him. Perhaps
I shall see you to-morrow some time."
"I can't," exclaimed Godfrey in a kind of wail. "I am to be taken off
to a school in some town or other, I forget which, that my father has
been examining. I suppose it is the speech day, and he proposes to
introduce me as a kind of object lesson because I have passed first in
"Yes, as a shining example and--an advertisement. Well, perhaps we
shall meet later," and without giving him an opportunity of saying
more she vanished away.
Godfrey managed to be late again, and only reached home five minutes
after his father, who had bicycled instead of walking from the station
as he supposed that he would do.
"I forgot to give orders about your lunch," said Mr. Knight
tentatively. "I hope that you managed to get some."
"Oh, yes, Father; that is, I lunched out, at the Hall."
"Indeed! I did not know that Sir John had arrived."
"No, he hasn't; at least I have not seen him. I lunched with Isobel."
"Indeed!" remarked Mr. Knight again, and the subject dropped.
Next day, Godfrey, once more arrayed in his best clothes, attended the
prize-giving and duly was made to look foolish, only getting home just
in time for dinner, after which his father requested him to check
certain examination papers. Then came Sunday and church at which
Isobel did not appear; two churches in fact, and after these a tea
party to the churchwardens and their wives, to whom Godfrey was
expected to explain the wonders of the Alps. Before it was over, if he
could have managed it, these stolid farmers with their families would
have lain at the bottom of the deepest moraine that exists amid those
famous mountains. But there they were, swallowing tea and munching
cake while they gazed on him with ox-like eyes, and he plunged into
wild explanations as to the movements of glaciers.
"Something like one of them new-fangled machines what carry hay up on
to the top of stacks," said Churchwarden No. 1 at length.
"Did you ever sit on a glacier while it slided from the top to the
bottom of a mountain, Master Godfrey, and if so, however did you get
up again?" asked Churchwarden No. 2.
"Is a glacier so called after the tradesman what cuts glass, because
glass and ice are both clear-like?" inquired Churchwarden No. 1,
filled with sudden inspiration.
Then Godfrey, in despair, said that he thought it was and fled away,
only to be reproached afterwards by his father for having tried to
puzzle those excellent and pious men.
On Monday his luck was better, since Mr. Knight was called away
immediately after lunch to take a funeral in a distant parish of which
the incumbent was absent at the seaside. Godfrey, by a kind of
instinct, sped at once to the willow log by the stream, where, through
an outreaching of the long arm of coincidence, he found Isobel seated.
After casually remarking that the swallows were flying neither high
nor low that day, but as it were in mid-air, she added that she had
not seen him for a long while.
"No, you haven't--say for three years," he answered, and detailed his
"Ah!" said Isobel, "that's always the way; one is never left at
leisure to follow one's own fancies in this world. To-morrow, for
instance, my father and all his horrible friends--I don't know any of
them, except one, but from past experience I presume them to be
horrible--are coming down to lunch, and are going to stop for three
days' partridge shooting. Their female belongings are going to stop
also, or some of them are, which means that I shall have to look after
"It's all bad news to-day," remarked Godfrey, shaking his head. "I've
just had a telegram saying that I must report myself on Wednesday,
goodness knows why, for I expected to get a month's leave."
"Oh!" said Isobel, looking a little dismayed. "Then let us make the
best of to-day, for who knows what to-morrow may bring forth?"
Who indeed? Certainly not either of these young people.
They talked awhile seated by the river; then began to walk through
certain ancient grazing grounds where the monks used to run their
cattle. Their conversation, fluent enough at first, grew somewhat
constrained and artificial, since both of them were thinking of
matters different from those that they were trying to dress out in
words; intimate, pressing, burning matters that seemed to devour their
intelligences of everyday with a kind of eating fire. They grew almost
silent, talking only at random and listening to the beating of their
own hearts rather than to the words that fell from each other's lips.
The sky clouded over, and some heavy drops of rain began to fall.
"I suppose that we must go in," said Isobel, "we shall be soaked
presently," and she glanced at her light summer attire.
"Where?" exclaimed Godfrey. "The Abbey? No, my father will be back by
now; it must be the Hall."
"Very well, but I dare say /my/ father is there by now, for I
understand that he is coming down this afternoon to arrange about the
"Great heavens!" groaned Godfrey, "and I wanted to--tell you a story
which I thought perhaps might interest you, and I don't know when I
shall get another chance--now."
"Then why did you not tell your story before?" she inquired with some
"Oh! because I have only just thought of it," he replied rather
At this moment they were passing the church, and the rain began to
fall in earnest. By some mutual impulse they entered through the
chancel door which was always unlocked, and by some mutual folly, left
Advancing instinctively to the tombs of the unknown Plantagenet lady
and her knight which were so intimately connected with the little
events of their little lives, they listened for a while to the rush of
the rain upon the leaden roof, saying nothing, till the silence grew
irksome indeed. Each waited for the other to break it, but with a
woman's infinite patience Isobel waited the longer. There she stood,
staring at the brass of the Plantagenet lady, still as the bones of
that lady which lay beneath.
"My story," said Godfrey at last with a gasp, and stopped.
"Yes," said Isobel. "What is it?"
"Oh!" he exclaimed in an agony, "a very short one. I love you, that's
A little quiver ran through her, causing her dress to shake and the
gold Mexican gods on her necklace to tinkle against each other. Then
she grew still as a stone, and raising those large and steady eyes of
hers, looked him up and down, finally fixing them upon his own.
"Is that true?" she asked.
"True! It is as true as life and death, or as Heaven and Hell."
"I don't know anything about Heaven and Hell; they are hypothetical,
are they not? Life and death are enough for me," and she stopped.
"Then by life and death, for life and death, and for ever, I love you,
"Thank you," she said, and stopped once more.
"You don't help one much. Have you nothing to say?"
"What is there to say? You made a statement for which I thanked you.
You asked no question."
"It is a question," he exclaimed indignantly. "If I love you, of
course I want to know if you love me."
"Then why did you not say so? But," she added very deliberately,
"since you want to know, I do and always have and always shall, in
life or death--and for ever--if that means anything."
He stared at her, tried to utter something and failed. Then he fell
back upon another very primitive and ancient expedient. Flinging his
arms about her, he pressed her to his heart and kissed her again and
again and again; nor, in her moment of complete surrender, did she
scruple to kiss him back.
It was while they were thus engaged, offering a wonderful spectacle of
love triumphant and rejoicing in its triumph, that another person who
was passing the church bethought him of its shelter as a refuge from
the pouring rain. Seeing the open door, Mr. Knight, for it was he,
slipped into the great building in his quiet, rather cat-like fashion,
but on its threshold saw, and stopped. Notwithstanding the shadows, he
recognised them in a moment. More, the sight of this pair, the son
whom he disliked and the woman whom he hated, thus embraced, thus lost
in a sea of passion, moved him to white fury, so that he lifted his
clenched hands above his head and shook them, muttering:
"And in my church, /my/ church!"
Then unable to bear more of this spectacle, he slipped away again,
heedless of the pouring skies.
By nature, although in obedience to a rash promise once he had
married, Mr. Knight was a true woman-hater. That sex and everything to
do with it were repellent to him. Even the most harmless
manifestations of natural affection between male and female he
considered disgusting, indeed indecent, and if these were carried any
further he held it to be among the greatest of crimes. He was one of
those who, if he had the power, would have hounded any poor girl who,
in the country phrase, "had got into trouble," to the river brink and
over it, as a creature not fit to live; or if she escaped destruction,
would have, and indeed often had, pursued her with unceasing
malignity, thinking that thereby he did God service. His attitude
towards such a person was that of an Inquisitor towards a fallen nun.
Moreover, he could do this with a clear conscience, since he could
truly say that he was qualified to throw the first stone, being of
those who mistake personal aversion for personal virtue. Because his
cold-hearted nature rejected it, he loathed this kind of human failing
and felt good in the loathing. Nor did it ever occur to him to reflect
that others, such as secret malice, jealousy and all uncharitableness
on which his heart fed, might be much worse than the outrush of human
passion in obedience to the almighty decree of Nature that is
determined not to die.
These being his views, the feelings that the sight awoke in him of
this pair declaring their holy love in the accustomed, human fashion,
can scarcely be measured and are certainly beyond description. Had he
been another sort of man who had found some devil flogging a child to
death, the rage and indignation aroused in his breast could not have
been greater, even if it were his own child.
The one thing that Mr. Knight had feared for years was that Godfrey,
who, as he knew, was fonder of Isobel than of any other living
creature, should come to love her in a fuller fashion: Isobel, a girl
who had laughed at and flouted him and once told him to his face that
a study of his character and treatment of others had done more to turn
her from the Christian religion than anything else.
In a sense he was unselfish in this matter, or rather his hate