Part 4 out of 9
"I'm not an atheist."
"Well, whatever silly thing you are. You mustn't talk about it to the
girls. It isn't fair," Rose said.
"All right. I won't."
"On your honour?"
"On my honour."
A three-cornered note on her dressing-table at bed-time:
Sept. 20th, 1878. Maison Dieu Lodge.
"My dear Mary: Our talk was not satisfactory. Unless you can assure me by
to-morrow morning that you believe in the Blessed Trinity and all the
other truths of our most holy religion, I fear that, _much as we love
you_, we dare not keep you with us, for your school-fellows' sake.
"Think it over, my dear child, and let me know. Pray to God _to-night_ to
change your heart and mind and give you His Holy Spirit.
The Trinity. A three-cornered note.
"My dear Miss Lambert: I am very sorry; but it really isn't any good, and
if it was it couldn't be done in the time. You wouldn't like it if I told
you lies, would you? That's why I can't join in the prayers and say the
Creed and bow; in Church or anywhere. Rose made me promise not to talk
about it, and I won't.
"If you must send me away to-morrow morning, you must. But I'm glad you
love me. I was afraid you didn't.
"With love, your very affectionate
"P.S.--I've folded my clothes all ready for packing."
To-morrow the clothes were put back again in their drawers. She wasn't
going. Miss Lambert said something about Rose and Lucy and "kindness to
Rose Godwin told her that home-sickness wore off. It didn't. It came
beating up and up, like madness, out of nothing. The French verbs, grey,
slender as little verses on the page, the French verbs swam together and
sank under the clear-floating images of home-sickness. Mamma's face,
Roddy's, Dan's face. Tall trees, the Essex fields, flat as water, falling
away behind them. Little feathery trees, flying low on the sky-line.
Outside the hallucination the soiled light shut you in.
The soiled light; odours from the warm roots of girl's hair; and Sunday.
Sunday; stale odours of churches. You wrote out the sermon you had not
listened to and had not heard. Somebody told you the text, and you amused
yourself by seeing how near you could get to what you would have heard if
you had listened. After tea, hymns; then church again. Your heart
laboured with the strain of kneeling, arms lifted up to the high pew
ledge. You breathed pew dust. Your brain swayed like a bladder, brittle,
swollen with hot gas-fumes. After supper, prayers again. Sunday was over.
On Monday, the tenth day, she ran away to Dover Harbour. She had thought
she could get to London with two weeks' pocket-money and what was left of
Uncle Victor's tip after she had paid for the eau-de-cologne; but the
ticket man said it would only take her as far as Canterbury. She had
frightened Miss Lambert and made her tremble: all for nothing, except the
sight of the Harbour. It was dreadful to see her tremble. Even the
Harbour wasn't worth it.
A miracle would have to happen.
Two weeks passed and three weeks. And on the first evening of the fourth
week the miracle happened. Rose Godwin came to her and whispered: "You're
wanted in the dining-room."
Her mother's letter lay open on the table. A tear had made a glazed
snail's track down Miss Lambert's cheek; and Mary thought that one of
them was dead--Roddy--Dan--Papa.
"My dear, my dear--don't cry. You're going home."
"Why? Why am I going?"
She could see the dull, kind eyes trying to look clever.
"Because your mother has sent for you. She wants you back again."
"Mamma? What does she want me for?"
Miss Lambert's eyes turned aside slantways. She swallowed something in
her throat, making a funny noise: qualk-qualk.
"It isn't _you_? You aren't sending me away?"
"No; we're not sending you. But we think it's best for you to go. We
can't bear to see your dear, unhappy little face going about the
"Does it mean that Mamma isn't happy without me?"
"Well--she _would_ miss her only daughter, wouldn't she?"
The miracle. The shining, lovely miracle.
"Mary Olivier is going! Mary Olivier is going!"
Actually the girls were sorry. Too sorry. The compassion in Rose Godwin's
face stirred a doubt. Doubt of the miracle.
She carried her books to the white curtained room where Miss Haynes knelt
by her trunk, packing her clothes with little gentle, tender hands.
"Miss Haynes" (suddenly), "I'm not expelled, am I?"
"Expelled? My dear child, who's talking about expulsion?"
As if she said, When miracles are worked for you, accept them.
She lay awake, thinking what she should say to her mother when she got
home. She would have to tell her that just at first she very nearly _was_
expelled. Then her mother would believe in her unbelief and not think she
And she would have to explain about her unbelief. And about Pantheism.
She wondered how she would set about it. It wouldn't do to start suddenly
by saying you didn't believe in Jesus or the God of the Old Testament or
Hell. That would hurt her horribly. The only decent thing would be to let
her see how beautiful Spinoza's God was and leave it to her to make the
You would have to make it quite clear to yourself first. It was like
this. There were the five elm trees, and there was the happy white light
on the fields. God was the trees. He was the happy light and he was your
happiness. There was Catty singing in the kitchen. God was Catty.
Oh--and there was Papa and Papa's temper. God would have to be Papa too.
Spinoza couldn't have meant it that way.
He meant that though God was all Papa, Papa was not all God. He was only
a bit of him. He meant that if God was the only reality, Papa wouldn't be
But if Papa wasn't quite real then Mamma and Mark were not quite real
If Spinoza had meant that--
But perhaps he hadn't. Perhaps he meant that parts of Papa, the parts you
saw most of--his beard, for instance, and his temper--were not quite
real, but that some other part of him, the part you couldn't see, might
be real in the same way that God was. That would be Papa himself, and it
would be God too. And if God could be Papa, he would have no difficulty
at all in being Mamma and Mark.
Surely Mamma would see that, if you had to have a God, Spinoza's was by
far the nicest God, besides being the easiest to believe in. Surely it
would please her to think like that about Papa, to know that his temper
was not quite real, and that your sin, when you sinned, was not quite
real, so that not even your sin could separate you from God. All your
life Mamma had dinned into you the agony of separation from God, and the
necessity of the Atonement. She would feel much more comfortable if she
knew that there never had been any separation, and that there needn't be
Of course she might not like the idea of sin being somehow inside God.
She might say it looked bad. But if it wasn't inside God, it would have
to be outside him, supporting itself and causing itself, and then where
were you? You would have to say that God was not the cause of all things,
and that would be much worse.
Surely if you put it to her like that--? But somehow she couldn't hear
herself saying all that to her mother. Supposing Mamma wouldn't listen?
And she couldn't hear herself talking about her happiness, the sudden,
secret happiness that more than anything was like God. When she thought
of it she was hot and cold by turns and she had no words for it. She
remembered the first time it had come to her, and how she had found her
mother in the drawing-room and had knelt down at her knees and kissed her
hands with the idea of drawing her into her happiness. And she remembered
her mother's face. It made her ashamed, even now, as if she had been
silly. She thought: I shall never be able to talk about it to Mamma.
Yet--perhaps--now that the miracle had happened--
In the morning Miss Lambert took her up to London. She had a sort of idea
that the kind lady talked to her a great deal, about God and the
Christian religion. But she couldn't listen; she couldn't talk; she
couldn't think now.
For three hours, in the train, in the waiting-room at Victoria, while
Miss Lambert talked to Papa outside, in the cab, alone with Papa--Miss
Lambert must have said something nice about her, for he looked pleased,
as if he wouldn't mind if you did stroke his hand--in Mr. Parish's
wagonette, she sat happy and still, contemplating the shining, lovely
She saw Catty open the front door and run away. Her mother was coming
slowly down the narrow hall.
She ran up the flagged path.
"Mamma!" She flung herself to the embrace.
Her mother swerved from her, staggering back and putting out her hands
between them. Aware of Mr. Parish shouldering the trunk, she turned into
the open dining-room. Mary followed her and shut the door.
Her mother sat down, helplessly. Mary saw that she was crying; she had
been crying a long time. Her soaked eyelashes were parted by her tears
and gathered into points.
"Mamma--what is it?"
"What is it? You've disgraced yourself. Everlastingly. You've disgraced
your father, and you've disgraced me. That's what it is."
"I haven't done anything of the sort, Mamma."
"You don't think it's a disgrace, then, to be expelled? For infidelity."
"But I'm not expelled."
"You are expelled. And you know it."
"No. They said I wasn't. They didn't want me to go. They told me you
wanted me back again."
"Is it likely I should want you when you hadn't been gone three weeks?"
She could hear herself gasp, see herself standing there, open-mouthed,
Nothing could shake her mother in her belief that she had been expelled.
"Of course, if it makes you happier to believe it," she said at last,
"do. Will you let me see Miss Lambert's letter?"
"No," her mother said. "I will not."
Suddenly she felt hard and strong, grown-up in her sad wisdom. Her mother
didn't love her. She never had loved her. Nothing she could ever do would
make her love her. Miracles didn't happen.
She thought: "I wonder why she won't let me see Miss Lambert's letter?"
She went upstairs to her room. She leaned on the sill of the open window,
looking out, drinking in the sweet air of the autumn fields. The five
elms raised golden heads to a blue sky.
Her childhood had died with a little gasp.
Catty came in to unpack her box. Catty, with wet cheeks, kissed a dead
In the train from Bristol to Paddington for the last time: July,
She would never see any of them again: Ada and Geraldine; Mabel and
Florrie and little Lena and Kate; Miss Wray with her pale face and angry
eyes; never hear her sudden, cold, delicious praise. Never see the bare,
oblong schoolroom with the brown desks, seven rows across for the lower
school, one long form along the wall for Class One where she and Ada and
Geraldine sat apart. Never look through the bay windows over the lea to
the Channel, at sunset, Lundy Island flattened out, floating, gold on
gold in the offing. Never see magenta valerian growing in hot white grey
Never hear Louie Prichard straining the little music room with Chopin's
_Fontana_ Polonaise. Never breathe in its floor-dust with the _Adagio_ of
the "Pathetic Sonata."
She was glad she had seen it through to the end when the clergymen's and
squires' daughters went and the daughters of Bristol drapers and
publicans and lodging-house keepers came.
("What do you think! Bessie Parson's brother marked all her
underclothing. In the shop!")
But they taught you quite a lot of things: Zoology, Physiology, Paley's
Evidences, British Law, Political Economy. It had been a wonderful school
when Mrs. Propart's nieces went to it. And they kept all that up when the
smash came and the butter gave out, and you ate cheap bread that tasted
of alum, and potatoes that were fibrous skeletons in a green pulp.
Oh--she had seen it through. A whole year and a half of it.
Why? Because you promised Mamma you'd stick to the Clevehead School
whatever it was like? Because they taught you German and let you learn
Greek by yourself with the old arithmetic master? (Ada Clark said it was
a mean trick to get more marks.) Because of the Beethoven and Schumann
and Chopin, and Lundy Island, and the valerian? Because nothing mattered,
not even going hungry?
She was glad she hadn't told about that, nor why she asked for the "room
to herself" that turned out to be a servants' garret on a deserted floor.
You could wake at five o'clock in the light mornings and read Plato, or
snatch twenty minutes from undressing before Miss Payne came for your
candle. The tall sycamore swayed in the moonlight, tapping on the window
pane; its shadow moved softly in the room like a ghost.
She would like to see the valerian again, though. Mamma said it didn't
grow in Yorkshire.
Funny to be going back to Ilford after Roddy and Papa and Mamma had left
it. Funny to be staying at Five Elms with Uncle Victor. Nice Uncle
Victor, buying the house from Papa and making Dan live with them. That
was to keep him from drinking. Uncle Victor was hurt because Papa and
Mamma would go to Morfe when he wanted you all to live with him. But you
couldn't imagine Emilius and Victor living together or Mamma and Aunt
Bristol to Paddington. This time next week it would be King's Cross to
Reyburn for Morfe.
She wondered what it would be like. Aunt Bella said it was a
dead-and-alive place. Morfe--Morfe. It did sound rather as if people died
in it. Aunt Bella was angry with Mrs. Waugh and Miss Frewin for making
Mamma go there. But Aunt Bella had never liked Mrs. Waugh and Miss
Frewin. That was because they had been Mamma's friends at school and not
She wondered what they would be like, and whether they would disapprove
of her. They would if they believed she had been expelled from Dover and
had broken Mamma's heart. All Mamma's friends thought that.
She didn't mind going to Morfe so much. The awful thing was leaving
Ilford. Ilford was part of Mark, part of her, part of her and Mark
together. There were things they had done that never in all their lives
they could do again. Waldteufel Waltzes played on the old Cramer piano,
standing in its place by the door, waltzes that would never sound the
same in any other place in any other room. And there was the sumach tree.
It would die if you transplanted it.
The little thin, sallow old man, coming towards her on the platform at
Paddington, turned out to be Uncle Victor. She had not seen him since
Christmas, for at Easter he had been away somewhere on business.
He came slowly, showing a smile of jerked muscles, under cold fixed eyes.
He was not really glad to see her. That was because he disapproved of
her. They all believed she had been expelled from the Dover school, and
they didn't seem able to forget it. Going down from Liverpool Street to
Ilford he sat bowed and dejected in his corner, not looking at her unless
he could help it.
"How's Aunt Charlotte?" She thought he would be pleased to think that she
had remembered Aunt Charlotte; but he winced as if she had hit him.
"She is--not so well." And then: "How have you been getting on?"
"Oh, all right. I've got the Literature prize again, and the French prize
and the German prize; and I might have got the Good Conduct prize too."
"And why didn't you get it?"
"Because I gave it up. Somebody else had to have a prize, and Miss Wray
said she knew it was the one I could best bear to part with."
Uncle Victor frowned as if he were displeased.
"You don't seem to consider that I gave it up," she said. But he had
turned his eyes away. He wasn't listening any more, as he used to listen.
The train was passing the City of London Cemetery. She thought: "I must
go and see Jenny's grave before I leave. I wish I hadn't teased her so to
love me." She thought: "If I die I shall be put in the grass plot beside
Grandpapa and Grandmamma Olivier. Papa will bring me in a coffin all the
way from Morfe in the train." Little birch bushes were beginning to grow
among the graves. She wondered how she could ever have been afraid of
those graves and of their dead.
Uncle Victor was looking at the graves too; queerly, with a sombre,
passionate interest. When the train had passed them he sighed and shut
his eyes, as if he wanted to keep on seeing them--to keep on.
As Mr. Parish's wagonette drove up Ley Street he pointed to a field where
a street of little houses had begun.
"Some day they'll run a street over Five Elms. But I shan't know anything
about it," he said.
"No. It won't be for ages."
He smiled queerly.
They drew up at the gate. "You must be prepared for more changes," he
Aunt Lavvy was at the gate. She was sweet as if she loved you, and sad as
if she still remembered your disgrace.
"No. Not that door," she said.
The dining-room and drawing-room had changed places, and both were filled
with the large mahogany furniture that had belonged to Grandpapa.
"Why, you've turned it back to front."
Strips of Mamma's garden shone between the dull maroon red curtains.
Inside the happy light was dead.
There seemed to her something sinister about this change. Only the two
spare rooms still looked to the front. They had put her in one of them
instead of her old room on the top floor; Dan had the other instead of
his. It was very queer.
Aunt Lavvy sat in Mamma's place at the head of the tea-table. A tall,
iron-grey woman in an iron-grey gown stood at her elbow holding a little
tray. She looked curiously at Mary, as if her appearance there surprised
and interested her. Aunt Lavvy put a cup of tea on the tray.
"Where's Aunt Charlotte?"
"Aunt Charlotte is upstairs. She isn't very well."
The maid was saying, "Miss Charlotte asked for a large piece of plum
cake, ma'am," and Aunt Lavvy added a large piece of plum cake to the
plate of thin bread and butter.
Mary thought: "There can't be much the matter with her if she can eat all
"Can I see her?" she said.
She heard the woman whisper, "Better not." She was glad when she left the
"Has old Louisa gone, then?"
"No," Aunt Lavvy said. She added presently, "That is Aunt Charlotte's
Aunt Charlotte looked out through the bars of the old nursery window. She
nodded to Mary and called to her to come up.
Aunt Lavvy said it did her good to see people.
There was a door at the head of the stairs, in a matchboard partition
that walled the well of the staircase. You rang a bell. The corridor was
very dark. Another partition with a door in it shut off the servants'
rooms and the back staircase. They had put the big yellow linen cupboard
before the tall window, the one she used to hang out of.
Some of the old things had been left in the nursery schoolroom, so that
it looked much the same. Britton, the maid, sat in Jenny's low chair by
the fireguard. Aunt Charlotte sat in an armchair by the window.
Her face was thin and small; the pencil lines had deepened; the long
black curls hung from a puff of grey hair rolled back above her ears. Her
eyes pointed at you--pointed. They had more than ever their look of
wisdom and excitement. She was twisting and untwisting a string of white
tulle round a sprig of privet flower.
"Don't you believe a word of it," she said. "Your father hasn't gone.
He's here in this house. He's in when Victor's out.
"He says he's sold the house to Victor. That's a lie. He doesn't want it
known that he's hidden me here to prevent my getting married."
"I'm sure he hasn't," Mary said. Across the room Britton looked at her
and shook her head.
"It's all part of a plan," Aunt Charlotte said. "To put me away, my dear.
Dr. Draper's in it with Victor and Emilius.
"They may say what they like. It isn't the piano-tuner. It isn't the man
who does the clocks. They know who it is. It isn't that Marriott man.
I've found out something about _him_ they don't know. He's got a false
stomach. It goes by clockwork.
"As if I'd look at a clock-tuner or a piano-winder. I wouldn't, would I,
She meditated, smiling softly. "They make them so beautifully now, you
can't tell the difference.
"He's been to see me nine times in one week. Nine times. But your Uncle
Victor got him away before he could speak. But he came again and again.
He wouldn't take 'No' for an answer. Britton, how many times did Mr.
Britton said, "I'm sure I couldn't say, Miss Charlotte." She made a sign
to Mary to go.
Aunt Lavvy was waiting for her at the foot of the stairs. She took her
into her bedroom, Mamma's old room, and asked her what Aunt Charlotte had
said. Mary told her.
"Poor Mary--I oughtn't to have let you see her."
Aunt Lavvy's chin trembled. "I'm afraid," she said, "the removal's upset
her. I said it would. But Emilius would have it. He could always make
Victor do what he wanted."
"It might have been something you don't know about."
Grown-up and strong, she wanted to comfort Aunt Lavvy and protect her.
"No," Aunt Lavvy said. "It's the house. I knew it would be. She's been
trying to get away. She never did that before."
(The doors and the partitions, the nursery and its bars, the big cupboard
across the window, to keep her from getting away.)
"Aunt Lavvy, did Mr. Jourdain really call?"
Aunt Lavvy hesitated. "Yes. He called."
"Did he see Aunt Charlotte?"
"She was in the room when he came in, but your uncle took him out at
"She didn't talk to him? Did he hear her talking?"
"No, my dear, I'm sure he didn't."
"Are you sure he didn't see her?"
Aunt Lavvy smiled. "He didn't look. I don't think he saw any of us very
"How many times did he come?"
"Three or four times, I believe."
"Did he ask to see me?"
"No. He asked to see your Uncle Victor."
"I didn't know he knew Uncle Victor."
"Well," Aunt Lavvy said, "he knows him now."
"Did he leave any message for me?"
"You don't like him, Aunt Lavvy."
"No, Mary, I do not. And I don't know anybody who does."
"I like him," Mary said.
Aunt Lavvy looked as if she hadn't heard. "I oughtn't to have let you see
Mary woke up suddenly. It was her third night in the spare room at Five
She had dreamed that she saw Aunt Charlotte standing at the foot of the
basement stairs, by the cat's cupboard where the kittens were born,
taking her clothes off and hiding them. She had seen that before. When
she was six years old. She didn't know whether she had been dreaming
about something that had really happened, or about a dream. Only, this
time, she saw Aunt Charlotte open her mouth and scream. The scream woke
She remembered her mother and Aunt Bertha in the drawing-room, talking,
their faces together. That wasn't a dream.
There was a sound of feet overhead. Uncle Victor's room. A sound of a
door opening and shutting. And then a scream, muffled by the shut door.
Her heart checked; turned sickeningly. She hadn't dreamed that.
Uncle Victor shouted down the stair to Dan. She could hear Dan's feet in
the next room and his door opening.
The screaming began again: "I-ihh! I-ihh! I-ihh!" Up and up, tearing your
brain. Then: "Aah-a-o-oh!" Tearing your heart out. "Aa-h-a-o-oh!" and
"Ahh-ahh!" Short and sharp.
She threw off the bed-clothes, and went out to the foot of the stairs.
The cries had stopped. There was a sound of feet staggering and
shuffling. Somebody being carried.
Dan came back down the stair. His trousers were drawn up over his
night-shirt, the braces hanging. He was sucking the back of his hand and
spitting the blood out on to his sleeve.
"Dan--was that Aunt Charlotte?"
"Was it pain?"
"No." He was out of breath. She could see his night-shirt shake with the
beating of his heart.
"Have you hurt your hand?"
"Can I do anything?"
"No. Go back to bed. She's all right now."
She went back. Presently she heard him leave his room and go upstairs
again. The bolt of the front door squeaked; then the hinge of the gate.
Somebody going out. She fell asleep.
The sound of hoofs and wheels woke her. The room was light. She got up
and went to the open window. Dr. Draper's black brougham stood at the
The sun blazed, tree-high, on the flat mangold field across the road. The
green leaves had the cold glitter of wet, pointed metal. To the
north-east a dead smear of dawn. The brougham didn't look like itself,
standing still in that unearthly light. As if it were taking part in a
funeral, the funeral of some dreadful death. She put on her dressing-gown
and waited, looking out. She _had_ to look. Downstairs the hall clock
struck a half-hour.
The front door opened. Britton came out first. Then Aunt Charlotte,
between Uncle Victor and Dr. Draper. They were holding her up by her
arm-pits, half leading, half pushing her before them. Her feet made a
brushing noise on the flagstones.
They lifted her into the brougham and placed themselves one on each side
of her. Then Britton got in, and they drove off.
A string of white tulle lay on the garden path.
END OF BOOK THREE
The scent of hay came through the open window of her room. Clearer and
finer than the hay smell of the Essex fields.
She shut her eyes to live purely in that one sweet sense; and opened them
to look at the hill, the great hill heaved up against the east.
You had to lean far out of the window to see it all. It came on from the
hidden north, its top straight as a wall against the sky. Then the long
shoulder, falling and falling. Then the thick trees. A further hill cut
the trees off from the sky.
Roddy was saying something. Sprawling out from the corner of the
window-seat, he stared with sulky, unseeing eyes into the little room.
"Roddy, what did you say that hill was?"
"Greffington Edge. You aren't listening."
His voice made a jagged tear in the soft, quiet evening.
"And the one beyond it?"
"Sarrack. Why can't you listen?"
Greffington Edge. Sarrack. Sarrack.
Green fields coming on from the north, going up and up, netted in with
the strong net of the low grey walls that held them together, that kept
them safe. Above them thin grass, a green bloom on the grey face of the
hill. Above the thin grass a rampart of grey cliffs.
Roddy wouldn't look at the hill.
"I tell you," he said, "you'll loathe the place when you've lived a week
The thick, rich trees were trying to climb the Edge, but they couldn't
get higher than the netted fields.
The lean, ragged firs had succeeded. No. Not quite. They stood out
against the sky, adventurous mountaineers, roped together, leaning
forward with the effort.
"It's Mamma's fault," Roddy was saying. "Papa would have gone anywhere,
but she _would_ come to this damned Morfe."
"Don't. Don't--" Her mind beat him off, defending her happiness. He would
kill it if she let him. Coming up from Reyburn on the front seat of the
Morfe bus, he had sulked. He smiled disagreeable smiles while the driver
pointed with his whip and told her the names of the places. Renton Moor.
Renton Church. Morfe, the grey village, stuck up on its green platform
under the high, purple mound of Karva Hill.
Garthdale in front of it, Rathdale at its side, meeting in the fields
below its bridge.
Morfe was beautiful. She loved it with love at first sight, faithless to
Straight, naked houses. Grey walls of houses, enclosing the wide oblong
Green. Dark grey stone roofs, close-clipped lest the wind should lift
them. On the Green two grey stone pillar fountains; a few wooden benches;
telegraph poles. Under her window a white road curling up to the
platform. Straight, naked houses, zigzagging up beside it. Down below,
where the white road came from, the long grey raking bridge, guarded by a
Roddy's jabbing voice went on and on:
"I used to think Mamma was holy and unselfish. I don't think so any more.
She says she wants to do what Papa wants and what we want; but she always
ends by doing what she wants herself. It's all very well for her. As long
as she's got a garden to poke about in she doesn't care how awful it is
She hated Roddy when he said things like that about Mamma.
"I don't suppose the little lamb thought about it at all. Or if she did
she thought we'd like it."
She didn't want to listen to Roddy's grumbling. She wanted to look and
look, to sniff up the clear, sweet, exciting smell of the fields.
The roofs went criss-crossing up the road--straight--slant--straight.
They threw delicate violet-green shadows on to the sage-green field
below. That long violet-green pillar was the shadow of the ash-tree by
The light came from somewhere behind the village, from a sunset you
couldn't see. It made the smooth hill fields shine like thin velvet,
stretched out, clinging to the hills.
"Oh, Roddy, the light's different. Different from Ilford. Look--"
"I've been looking for five weeks," Roddy said. "You haven't, that's all.
_I_ was excited at first."
He got up. He stared out of the window, not seeing anything.
"I didn't mean what I said about Mamma. Morfe _makes_ you say things.
Soon it'll make you mean them. You wait."
She was glad when he had left her.
The cliffs of Greffington Edge were violet now.
At night, when she lay in bed in the strange room, the Essex fields began
to haunt her; the five trees, the little flying trees, low down, low
down; the straight, narrow paths through the corn, where she walked with
Mark, with Jimmy, with Mr. Jourdain; Mr. Jourdain, standing in the path
and saying: "Talk to me. I'm alive. I'm here. I'll listen."
Mark and Mamma planting the sumach tree by the front door; Papa saying it
wouldn't grow. It had grown up to the dining-room window-sill.
Aunt Bella and Uncle Edward; the Proparts and the Farmers and Mr. Batty,
all stiff and disapproving; not nearly so nice to you as they used to be
and making you believe it was your fault.
The old, beautiful drawing-room. The piano by the door.
Dan staggering down the room at Mark's party. Mark holding her there, in
Dawn, and Dr. Draper's carriage waiting in the road beside the mangold
fields. And Aunt Charlotte carried out, her feet brushing the flagstones.
She mustn't tell them. Mamma couldn't bear it. Roddy couldn't bear it.
Aunt Charlotte was Papa's sister. He must never know.
The sound of the brushing feet made her heart ache.
She was glad to wake in the small, strange room. It had taken a snip off
Mamma's and Papa's room on one side of the window, and a snip off the
spare room on the other. That made it a funny T shape. She slept in the
tail of the T, in a narrow bed pushed against the wall. When you sat up
you saw the fat trees trying to get up the hill between the washstand and
the chest of drawers.
This room would never be taken from her, because she was the only one who
was small enough to fit the bed.
She would be safe there with her hill.
The strange houses fascinated her. They had the simplicity and the
precision of houses in a very old engraving. On the west side of the
Green they made a long straight wall. Morfe High Row. An open space of
cobblestones stretched in front of it. The market-place.
Sharp morning light picked out the small black panes of the windows in
the white criss-cross of their frames, and the long narrow signs of the
King's Head and the Farmer's Arms, black on grey. The plaster joints of
the walls and the dark net of earth between the cobbles showed thick and
clear as in a very old engraving. The west side had the sky behind it and
the east side had the hill.
Grey-white cart roads slanted across the Green, cutting it into vivid
triangular grass-plots. You went in and out of Morfe through the open
corners of its Green. Her father's house stood at the south-west corner,
by itself. A projecting wing at that end of the High Row screened it from
The strange houses excited her.
Wonderful, unknown people lived in them. You would see them and know what
they were like: the people in the tall house with the rusty stones, in
the bright green ivy house with the white doors, in the small grey,
humble houses, in the big, important house set at the top of the Green,
with the three long rows of windows, the front garden and the iron gate.
People you didn't know. You would be strange and exciting to them as they
were strange and exciting to you. They might say interesting things.
There might be somebody who cared about Plato and Spinoza.
Things would happen that you didn't know. Anything might happen any
If you knew what was happening in the houses _now_--some of them had
hard, frightening faces. Dreadful things might have happened in them. Her
father's house had a good, simple face. You could trust it.
Five windows in the rough grey wall, one on each side of the white door,
three above. A garden at the side, an orchard at the back. In front a
cobbled square marked off by a line of thin stones set in edgeways.
A strange house, innocent of unhappy memories.
Catty stood at the door, looking for her. She called to her to come in to
Papa was moving restlessly about the house. His loose slippers shuffled
on the stone flags of the passages.
Catty stopped gathering up the breakfast cups to listen.
Catty was not what she used to be. Her plump cheeks were sunk and
flattened. Some day she would look like Jenny.
Papa stood in the doorway. He looked round the small dining-room as if he
were still puzzled by its strangeness. Papa was not what he used to be. A
streak of grey hair showed above each ear. Grey patches in his brown
beard. Scarlet smears in the veined sallow of his eyes. His bursting,
violent life had gone. He went stooping and shuffling. The house was too
small for Papa. He turned in it as a dog turns in his kennel, feeling for
a place to stretch himself.
He said, "Where's your mother? I want her."
Mary went to find her.
She knew the house: the flagged passage from the front door. The
dining-room on the right. The drawing-room on the left. In there the
chairs and tables drew together to complain of Morfe. View of the
blacksmith's house and yard from the front window. From the side window
Mamma's garden. Green grass-plot. Trees at the far end. Flowers in the
borders: red roses, cream roses, Canterbury bells, white and purple,
under the high walls. In a corner an elder bush frothing greenish white
Behind the dining-room Papa's tight den. Stairs where the passage turned
to the left behind the drawing-room. Glass door at the end, holding the
green of the garden, splashed with purple, white and red. The kitchen
here in a back wing like a rough barn run out into the orchard.
Upstairs Catty's and Cook's room in the wing; Papa's dressing-room above
the side passage; Roddy's room above Papa's den. Then the three rooms in
front. The one above the drawing-room was nearly filled with the yellow
birch-wood wardrobe and bed. The emerald green of the damask was fading
into the grey.
Her mother was there, sitting in the window-seat, reading the fourteenth
chapter of St. John.
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father's house are many mansions--"
Mamma was different, too, as if she had shrunk through living in the
cramped rooms. She raised her head. The head of a wounded bird, very
"Why are you sitting up here all alone?"
"Because sometimes I want to be alone."
"Shall I spoil the aloneness?"
"Not if you're a good girl and keep quiet."
Mary sat on the bed and waited till the chapter should be ended.
She thought: "She talks to me still as though I were a child. What would
she say if I told her about Aunt Charlotte? She wouldn't know what it was
really like. She wasn't there.
"I shall never tell her."
She was thrilled at the thought of her grown-up hardness, her grown-up
silence, keeping her mother safe.
Mamma looked up and smiled; the chapter was ended; they went downstairs.
Papa stood in the doorway of his den and called to Mamma in a queer low
She went into the dining-room and waited--ten minutes--twenty.
Her mother came to her there. She sat down in her armchair by the
window-seat where the old work-basket stood piled with socks ready for
darning. She took a sock and drew it over her hand, stretching it to find
the worn places. Mary took its fellow and began to darn it. The coarse
wool, scraping her finger-tips, sent through her a little light,
creeping, disagreeable shock.
She was afraid to look at her mother's face.
"Well, Mary--poor Aunt Charlotte might have been carried away in her
coffin, and we shouldn't have known if it had been left to you to tell
"I didn't because I thought it would frighten you."
Mamma was not frightened. They couldn't have told her what it was really
Papa's slippers shuffled in the passage. Mamma left off darning to listen
as Catty had listened.
On Greffington Edge.
Roddy was looking like Mark, with his eyes very steady and his mouth firm
and proud. His face was red as if he were angry. That was when he saw the
tall man coming towards them down the hill road.
Roddy walked slowly, trying not to meet him at the cattle-gate. The tall
man walked faster, and they met. Roddy opened the gate.
The tall man thanked him, said "Good day," looked at her as he passed
through, then stopped.
"My sister--Mr. Sutcliffe."
Mr. Sutcliffe, handsome with his boney, high-jointed nose and narrow jaw,
thrust out, incongruously fierce, under his calm, clean upper lip, shaved
to show how beautiful it was. His black blue eyes were set as carefully
in their lids as a woman's. He wore his hair rather long. One lock had
got loose and hung before his ear like a high whisker.
He was asking Roddy when he was coming to play tennis, and whether his
sister played. They might turn up tomorrow.
The light played on his curling, handsome smile. He hoped she liked
"She only came yesterday," Roddy said.
"Well--come along to-morrow. About four o'clock. I'll tell my wife."
And Roddy said, "Thanks," as if it choked him.
Mr. Sutcliffe went on down the hill.
"We can't go," Roddy said.
"Let's. He looked so nice, and he sounded as if he really wanted us."
"He doesn't. He can't. You don't know what's happened."
"_Has_ anything happened?"
"Yes. I don't want to tell you, but you'll have to know. It happened at
"Who _are_ the Sutcliffes?"
"Greffington Hall. The people who own the whole ghastly place. We were
dining there. And Papa was funny."
"Funny? Funny what way?"
"Oh, I don't know.--Like Dan was at Mark's party.'
"Oh Roddy--" She was listening now.
"Not quite so awful; but that sort of thing. We had to come away."
"I didn't know he did."
"No more did I. Mamma always said it wasn't that. But it was this time.
And he chose that evening."
"Does Mamma mind frightfully?" she said.
"Yes. But she's angry with the Sutcliffes."
"Because they've _seen_ him."
"How many Sutcliffes are there?"
"Only him and Mrs. Sutcliffe. The son's in India.
"They'll never ask him again, and Mamma won't go without him. She says we
can go if we like, but you can see she'll think us skunks if we do."
"Well--then we can't."
She had wanted something to happen, and something had happened, something
that would bring unhappiness. Unhappiness. Her will rose up, hard and
stubborn, pushing it off.
"Will it matter so very much? Do the Sutcliffes matter?"
"They matter this much, that there won't be anything to do. They've got
all the shooting and fishing and the only decent tennis court in the
place. You little know what you're in for."
"I don't care, Roddy. I don't care a bit as long as I have you."
He had stopped on the steep of the road; her feet had been lagging to
keep pace with him. He breathed hard through white-edged lips. She had
seen him look like that before. The day they had walked to the Thames, to
look at the ships, over the windy Flats.
He looked at her. A look she hadn't seen before. A look of passionate
"I didn't think you cared about me. I thought it was Mark you cared
about. Like Mamma."
"Can't you care about more than one person?"
"What's the good of saying 'Oh Roddy' when you know it?"
They were sitting on a ledge of stone and turf. Roddy had ceased to
struggle with the hill.
"We're all the same," he said. "I'd give you and Dan up any day for Mark.
Dan would give up you and me. Mark would give up all of us for Mamma. And
Mamma would give up all of us for Mark."
Roddy had never said anything like that before.
"I'll stick to you, anyhow," she said.
"It's no use your sticking. I shan't be here. I shall have to clear out
and do something," he said.
On his face there was a look of fear.
She was excited because they were going to the ivy house for tea. It
looked so pretty and so happy with its green face shining in the sun.
Nothing could take from her her belief in happiness hiding behind certain
unknown doors. It hid behind the white doors of the ivy house. When you
went in something wonderful would happen.
The ivy house belonged to Mrs. Waugh and Miss Frewin.
The photographs in Mamma's old album showed how they looked when they and
Mamma were young. Modest pose of dropped arms, holding mushroom hats in
front of them as a protection, the narrow ribbons dangling innocently.
Ellen Frewin, small and upright, slender back curved in to the set of
shawl and crinoline, prim head fixed in the composure of gentle disdain,
small mouth saying always "Oh," Meta, the younger sister, very tall, head
bent in tranquil meditation, her mantle slanting out from the fall of the
They rose up in the small, green lighted drawing-room. Their heads bent
forward to kiss.
Ellen Waugh: the photographed face still keeping its lifted posture of
gentle disdain, the skin stretched like a pale tight glove, a slight
downward swelling of the prim oval, like the last bulge of a sucked
peppermint ball, the faded mouth still making its small "oh." She was the
widow of a clergyman.
Meta, a beautiful nose leaping out at you in a high curve; narrow,
delicate cheeks thinned away so that they seemed part of the nose; sweet
rodent mouth smiling up under its tip; blurred violet eyes arching
Princess gowns stiffened their shawl and crinoline gestures.
"So this is Mary. She's not like her mother, Caroline. Meta, can you see
Miss Frewin arched her eyes and smiled, without looking at you.
"I can't say I do."
Their heads made little nodding bows as they talked. Miss Frewin's bow
was sidelong and slow, Mrs. Waugh's straight and decisive.
"She's not like Rodney," Mrs. Waugh said. "And she's not like Emilius.
Who is she like?"
Mary answered. "I'm rather like Dan and a good bit like Mark. But I'm
most of all like myself."
Mrs. Waugh said "Oh." Her mouth went on saying it while she looked at
"She is not in the least like Mark," Mamma said.
They settled down, one on each side of Mamma, smiling at her with their
small, faded mouths as you smile at people you love and are happy with.
You could see that Mamma was happy, too, sitting between them, safe.
Mrs. Waugh said, "I see you've got Blenkiron in again?"
"Well, he's left his ladder in the yard. I suppose that means he'll mend
the kitchen chimney some time before winter."
"The Yorkshire workmen are very independent," Mrs. Waugh said.
"They scamp their work like the rest. You'd need a resident carpenter,
and a resident glazier, and a resident plumber--"
"Yes, Caroline, you would indeed."
Gentle voices saying things you had heard before in the drawing-room at
Miss Frewin had opened a black silk bag that hung on her arm, and taken
out a minute pair of scissors and a long strip of white stuff with a
stitched pattern on it. She nicked out the pattern into little holes
outlined by the stitches. Mary watched her, fascinated by the delicate
movements of the thin fingers and the slanted, drooping postures of the
"Do you _like_ doing it?"
She thought: "What a fool she must think me. As if she'd do it if she
didn't like it."
The arching eyes and twitching mouth smiled at your foolishness.
Mrs. Waugh's voice went on. It came smoothly, hardly moving her small,
round mouth. That was her natural voice. Then suddenly it rose, like a
voice that calls to you to get up in the morning.
"Well, Mary--so you've left school. Come home to be a help to your
A high, false cheerfulness, covering disapproval and reproach.
Their gentleness was cold to her and secretly inimical. They had asked
her because of Mamma. They didn't really want her.
Half-past six. It was all over. They were going home across the Green.
"Mary, I wish you could learn to talk without affectation. Telling Mrs.
Waugh you 'looked like yourself'! If you could only manage to forget
Your self? Your self? Why should you forget it? You had to remember. They
would kill it if you let them.
What had it done? What _was_ it that they should hate it so? It had been
happy and excited about _them_, wondering what they would be like. And
quiet, looking on and listening, in the strange, green-lighted,
green-dark room, crushed by the gentle, hostile voices.
Would it always have to stoop and cringe before people, hushing its own
voice, hiding its own gesture?
It crouched now, stung and beaten, hiding in her body that walked beside
her mother with proud feet, and small lifted head.
Her mother turned at her bedroom door and signed to her to come in.
She sat down in her low chair at the head of the curtained bed. Mary sat
in the window-seat.
"There's something I want to say to you."
Mamma was annoyed. She tap-tapped with her foot on the floor.
"Have you given up those absurd ideas of yours?"
"What absurd ideas?"
"You know what I mean. Calling yourself an unbeliever."
"I _can't_ say I believe things I don't believe."
"Have you tried?"
"Have you ever asked God to help your unbelief?"
"No. I could only do that if I didn't believe in my unbelief."
"You mean if you didn't glory in it. Then it's simply your self-will and
your pride. Self-will has been your besetting sin ever since you were a
little baby crying for something you couldn't have. You kicked before you
"Goodness knows I've done everything I could to break you of it."
"Yes, Mamma darling."
She remembered. The faded green and grey curtains and the yellow
birchwood furniture remembered. Mamma sat on the little chair at the foot
of the big yellow bed. You knelt in her lap and played with the gold
tassel while Mamma asked you to give up your will.
"I brought you up to care for God and for the truth."
"You did. And I care so awfully for both of them that I won't believe
things about God that aren't true."
"And how do you know what's true and what isn't? You set up your little
judgment against all the wise and learned people who believe as you were
taught to believe. I wonder how you dare."
"It's the risk we're all taking. We may every single one of us be wrong.
Still, if some things are true other things can't be. Don't look so
"How can I be anything else? When I think of you living without God in
the world, and of what will happen to you when you die."
"It's your belief that makes you unhappy, not me."
"That's the cruellest thing you've said yet."
"You know I'd rather die than hurt you."
"Die, indeed! When you hurt me every minute of the day. If it had been
anything but unbelief. If I even saw you humble and sorry about it. But
you seem to be positively enjoying yourself."
"I can't help it if the things I think of make me happy. And you don't
know how nice it feels to be free."
"Precious freedom!--to do what you like and think what you like, without
"There's a part of me that doesn't care and there's a part that cares
The part that cared was not free. Not free. Prisoned in her mother's
bedroom with the yellow furniture that remembered. Her mother's face that
remembered. Always the same vexed, disapproving, remembering face. And
her own heart, sinking at each beat, dragging remembrance. A dead child,
remembering and returning.
"I can't think where you got it from," her mother was saying. "Unless
it's those books you're always reading. Or was it that man?"
"No. It wasn't. What made you think of him?"
"Never you mind."
Actually her mother was smiling and trying not to smile, as if she were
thinking of something funny and improper.
"There's one thing I must beg of you," she said, "that whatever you
choose to think, you'll hold your tongue about it."
"All my life? Like Aunt Lavvy?"
"There was a reason why then; and there's a reason why now. Your father
has been very unfortunate. We're here in a new place, and the less we
make ourselves conspicuous the better."
She thought: "Because Papa drinks Mamma and Roddy go proud and angry; but
I must stoop and hide. It isn't fair."
"You surely don't want," her mother said, "to make it harder for me than
Tears. She was beaten.
"I don't want to make it hard for you at all."
"Then promise me you won't talk about religion."
"I won't talk about it to Mrs. Waugh."
"Not to anybody."
"Not to anybody who wouldn't like it. Unless they make me. Will that do?"
"I suppose it'll have to."
Mamma held her face up, like a child, to be kissed.
The Sutcliffes' house hid in the thick trees at the foot of Greffington
Edge. You couldn't see it. You could pretend it wasn't there. You could
pretend that Mr. Sutcliffe and Mrs. Sutcliffe were not there. You could
pretend that nothing had happened.
There were other houses.
The long house at the top of the Green was gay with rows of pink and
white sun-blinds stuck out like attic roofs. The poplars in the garden
played their play of falling rain.
You waited in the porch, impatient for the opening of the door.
"Mamma--what _will_ it be like?"
Mamma smiled a naughty, pretty smile. She knew what it would be like.
There was a stuffed salmon in a long glass case in the hall. He swam,
over a brown plaster river bed, glued to a milk-blue plaster stream.
You waited in the drawing-room. Drab and dying amber and the dapple of
walnut wood. Chairs dressed in pallid chintz, holding out their skirts
with an air of anxiety. Stuffed love-birds on a branch under a tall glass
shade. On the chimney-piece sand-white pampas grass in clear blood-red
vases, and a white marble clock supporting a gilt Cupid astride over a
Above the Cupid, in an oval frame, the tinted crayon portrait of a young
girl. A pink and blond young girl with a soft nuzzling mouth and nose.
She was dressed in a spencer and a wide straw hat, and carried a basket
of flowers on her arm. She looked happy, smiling up at the ceiling.
Across the passage a door opening. Voices in the passage, a smell like
rotten apples, a tray that clattered.
Miss Kendal rustled in; tall elegant stiffness girded in black silk.
"How good of you to come, Mrs. Olivier. And to bring Miss Mary."
Her sharp-jointed body was like the high-backed chair it sat on. Yet you
saw that she had once been the young girl in the spencer; head carried
high with the remembered tilt of the girl's head; jaw pushed out at the
chin as if it hung lightly from the edge of the upper lip; the nuzzling
mouth composed to prudence and propriety. A lace cap with pink ribbons
perched on her smooth, ashy blond hair.
Miss Kendal talked to Mamma about weather and gardens; she asked after
the kitchen chimney as if she really cared for it. Every now and then she
looked at you and gave you a nod and a smile to show that she remembered
you were there.
When she smiled her eyes were happy like the eyes of the young girl.
The garden-gate clicked and fell to with a clang. A bell clamoured
suddenly through the quiet house.
Miss Kendal nodded. "The Doctor has come to tea. To see Miss Mary."
She put her arm in yours and led you into the dining-room, gaily, gaily,
as if she had known you for a long time, as if she were taking you with
her to some brilliant, happy feast.
The smell of rotten apples came towards you through the open door of the
dining-room. You saw the shining of pure white damask, the flashing of
silver, a flower-bed of blue willow pattern cups, an enormous pink and
white cake. You thought it was a party.
Three old men were there.
Old Dr. Kendal, six feet of leanness doubled up in an arm-chair. Old
Wellington face, shrunk, cheeks burning in a senile raddle. Glassy blue
eyes weeping from red rims.
Dr. Charles Kendal, his son; a hard, blond giant; high cheeks, raw
ruddied; high bleak nose jutting out with a steep fall to the long upper
lip; savage mouth under a straight blond fringe, a shark's keen tooth
pointing at the dropped jaw. Arched forehead drooping to the spread ears,
blond eyebrows drooping over slack lids.
And Mr. James.
Mr. James was the only short one. He stood apart, his eyes edging off
from his limp hand-shaking. Mr. James had a red face and high bleak nose
like his brother; he was clean-shaved except for short auburn whiskers
brushed forward in flat curls. His thin Wellington lips went out and in,
pressed together, trying hard not to laugh at you.
He held his arms bowed out stiffly, as if the arm-holes of his coat were
too tight for him.
The room was light at the far end, where the two windows were, and dark
at the door-end where the mahogany sideboard was. The bright, loaded
table stretched between.
Old Dr. Kendal sat behind it by the corner of the fireplace. Though it
was August the windows were shut and a fire burned in the grate. Two
tabby cats sat up by the fender, blinking and nodding with sleep.
"Here's Father," Miss Kendal said. "And here's Johnnie and Minnie."
He had dropped off into a doze. She woke him.
"You know Mrs. Olivier, Father. And this is Miss Olivier."
"Ay. Eh." From a red and yellow pocket-handkerchief he disentangled a
stringy claw-like hand and held it up with an effort.
"Ye've come to see the old man, have ye? Ay. Eh."
"He's the oldest in the Dale," Miss Kendal said. "Except Mr. Peacock of
"Don't you forget Mr. Peacock of Sarrack, or he'll be so set-up there'll
be no bearing him," Dr. Charles said.
"Miss Mary, will you sit by Father?"
"No, she won't. Miss Mary will sit over here by me."
Though Dr. Charles was not in his own house he gave orders. He took Mr.
James's place at the foot of the table. He made her sit at his left hand
and Mamma at his right; and he slanted Mamma's chair and fixed a basket
screen on its back so that she was shielded both from the fire and from
the presence of the old man.
Dr. Charles talked.
"Where did you get that thin face, Miss Mary? Not in Rathdale, I'll be
He looked at you with small grey eyes blinking under weak lids and bared
the shark's tooth, smiling. A kind, hungry shark.
"They must have starved you at your school. No? Then they made you study
too hard. Kate--what d'you think Bill Acroyd's done now? Turned this
year's heifers out along of last year's with the ringworm. And asks me
how I think they get it. This child doesn't eat enough to keep a mouse,
He would leave off talking now and then to eat, and in the silence
remarkable noises would come from the armchair. When that happened Miss
Kendal would look under the table and pretend that Minnie and Johnnie
were fighting. "Oh, those bad pussies," she would say.
When her face kept quiet it looked dead beside the ruddy faces of the
three old men; dead and very quietly, very softly decomposing into
bleached purple and sallow white. Then her gaiety would come popping up
again and jerk it back into life.
Mr. James sat at her corner, beside Mary. He didn't talk, but his
Wellington mouth moved perpetually in and out, and his small reddish eyes
twinkled, twinkled, with a shrewd, secret mirth. You thought every minute
he would burst out laughing, and you wondered what you were doing to
amuse him so.
Every now and then Miss Kendal would tell you something about him.
"What do you think Mr. James did to-day? He walked all the way to Garth
and back again. Over nine miles!"
And Mr. James would look gratified.
Tea was over with the sacrifice of the pink and white cake. Miss Kendal
took your arm again and led you, gaily, gaily back to the old man.
"Here's Miss Mary come to talk to you, Father."
She set a chair for you beside him. He turned his head slowly to you,
waking out of his doze.
"What did she say your name was, my dear?"
"Olivier. Mary Olivier."
"I don't call to mind anybody of that name in the Dale. But I suppose I
brought you into the world same as the rest of 'em."
Miss Kendal gave a little bound in her chair. "Does anybody know where
The claw hand stirred in the red and yellow pocket-handkerchief.
"Ye've come to see the old man, have ye? Ay. Eh."
When he talked he coughed. A dreadful sound, as if he dragged up out of
himself a long, rattling chain.
It hurt you to look at him. Pity hurt you.
Once he had been young, like Roddy. Then he had been middle-aged, with
hanging jaw and weak eyelids, like Dr. Charles. Now he was old, old; he
sat doubled up, coughing and weeping, in a chair. But you could see that
Miss Kendal was proud of him. She thought him wonderful because he kept
Supposing he was _your_ father and you had to sit with him, all your
life, in a room smelling of rotten apples, could you bear it? Could you
bear it for a fortnight? Wouldn't you wish--wouldn't you wish--supposing
Papa--all your life.
But if you couldn't bear it that would mean--
No. No. She put her hand on the arm of his chair, to protect him, to
protect him from her thoughts.
The claw fingers scrabbled, groping for her hand.
"Would ye like to be an old man's bed-fellow?"
"Pussy says it isn't her bed-time yet, Father."
When you went away Miss Kendal stood on the doorstep looking after you.
The last you saw of her was a soft grimace of innocent gaiety.
The Vicar of Renton. He wanted to see her.
Mamma had left her in the room with him, going out with an air of
Mr. Spencer Rollitt. Hard and handsome. Large face, square-cut,
clean-shaved, bare of any accent except its eyebrows, its mouth a thin
straight line hardly visible in its sunburn. Small blue eyes standing
still in the sunburn, hard and cold.
When Mr. Rollitt wanted to express heartiness he had to fall back on
gesture, on the sudden flash of white teeth; he drew in his breath,
sharply, between the straight, close lips, with a sound: "Fivv-vv!"
She watched him. Under his small handsome nose his mouth and chin
together made one steep, straight line. This lower face, flat and naked,
without lips, stretched like another forehead. At the top of the real
forehead, where his hat had saved his skin, a straight band, white, like
a scar. Yet Mr. Spencer Rollitt's hair curled and clustered out at the
back of his head in perfect innocence.
He was smiling his muscular smile, while his little hard cold eyes held
her in their tight stare.
"Don't you think you would like to take a class in my Sunday School?"
"I'm afraid I wouldn't like it at all."
"Nothing to be afraid of. I should give you the infants' school."
For a long time he sat there, explaining that there was nothing to be
afraid of, and that he would give her the infants' school. You felt him
filling the room, crushing you back and back, forcing his will on you.
There was too much of his will, too much of his face. Her will rose up
against his will and against his face, and its false, muscular smile.
"I'm sure my mother didn't say I'd like to teach in a Sunday School."
"She said she'd be very glad if I could persuade you."
"She'd say _that_. But she knows perfectly well I wouldn't really do it."
"It was not Mrs. Olivier's idea."
He got up. When he stood his eyes stared at nothing away over your head.
He wouldn't lower them to look at you.
"It was Mrs. Sutcliffe's."
"How funny of Mrs. Sutcliffe. She doesn't know me, either."
"My dear young lady, you were at school when your father and mother dined
at Greffington Hall."
He was looking down at her now, and she could feel herself blushing; hot,
red waves of shame, rushing up, tingling in the roots of her hair.
"Mrs. Sutcliffe," he said, "is very kind."
She saw it now. He had been at the Sutcliffes that evening. He had seen
Papa. He was trying to say, "Your father was drunk at Greffington Hall.
He will never be asked there again. He will not be particularly welcome
at the Vicarage. But you are very young. We do not wish you to suffer.
This is our kindness to you. Take it. You are not in a position to
"And what am I to say to Mrs. Sutcliffe?"
"Oh, anything you like that wouldn't sound too rude."
"Shall I say that you're a very independent young lady, and that she had
better not ask you to join her sewing-class? Would that sound too rude?"
"Not a bit. If you put it nicely. But you would, wouldn't you?"
He looked down at her again. His thick eyes had thawed slightly; they let
out a twinkle. But he was holding his lips so tight that they had
disappeared. A loud, surprising laugh forced them open.
He held out his hand with a gesture, drawing back his laugh in a
When he had gone she opened the piano and played, and played. Through the
window of the room Chopin's Fontana Polonaise went out after him, joyous,
triumphant and defiant, driving him before it. She exulted in her power
over the Polonaise. Nothing could touch you, nothing could hurt you while
you played. If only you could go on playing for ever--
Her mother came in from the garden.
"Mary," she said, "if you _will_ play, you must play gently."
"But Mamma--I can't. It goes like that."
"Then," said her mother, "don't play it. You can be heard all over the
"Bother the village. I don't care. I don't care if I'm heard all over
She went on playing.
But it was no use. She struck a wrong note. Her hands trembled and lost
their grip. They stiffened, dropped from the keys. She sat and stared
idiotically at the white page, at the black dots nodding on their stems,
at the black bars swaying.
She had forgotten how to play Chopin's Fontana Polonaise.
Stone walls. A wild country, caught in the net of the stone walls.
Stone walls following the planes of the land, running straight along the
valleys, switchbacking up and down the slopes. Humped-up, grey spines of
the green mounds.
Stone walls, piled loosely, with the brute skill of earth-men, building
centuries ago. They bulged, they toppled, yet they stood firm, holding
the wild country in their mesh, knitting the grey villages to the grey
farms, and the farms to the grey byres. Where you thought the net had
ended it flung out a grey rope over the purple back of Renton, the green
shoulder of Greffington.
Outside the village, the schoolhouse lane, a green trench sunk between
stone walls, went up and up, turning three times. At the top of the last
turn a gate.
When you had got through the gate you were free.
It led on to the wide, flat half-ring of moor that lay under Karva. The
moor and the high mound of the hill were free; they had slipped from the
net of the walls.
Broad sheep-drives cut through the moor. Inlets of green grass forked
into purple heather. Green streamed through purple, lapped against
purple, lay on purple in pools and splashes.
Burnt patches. Tongues of heather, twisted and pointed, picked clean by
fire, flickering grey over black earth. Towards evening the black and
grey ran together like ink and water, stilled into purple, the black
purple of grapes.
If you shut your eyes you could see the flat Essex country spread in a
thin film over Karva. Thinner and thinner. But you could remember what it
had been like. Low, tilled fields, thin trees; sharp, queer, uncertain
beauty. Sharp, queer, uncertain happiness, coming again and again, never
twice to the same place in the same way. It hurt you when you remembered
The beauty of the hills was not like that. It stayed. It waited for you,
keeping faith. Day after day, night after night, it was there.
Happiness was there. You were sure of it every time. Roddy's uneasy eyes,
Papa's feet, shuffling in the passage, Mamma's disapproving, remembering
face, the Kendals' house, smelling of rotten apples, the old man,
coughing and weeping in his chair, they couldn't kill it; they couldn't
take it away.
The mountain sheep waited for you. They stood back as you passed, staring
at you with their look of wonder and sadness.
Grouse shot up from your feet with a "Rek-ek-ek-kek!" in sudden,
Plovers rose, wheeling round and round you with sharper and sharper cries
of agitation. "_Pee_-vit--_pee_-vit--_pee_-vit! Pee-_vitt_!" They
swooped, suddenly close, close to your eyes; you heard the drumming
vibration of their wings.
Away in front a line of sheep went slowly up and up Karva. The hill made
their bleating mournful and musical.
You slipped back into the house. In the lamp-lighted drawing-room the
others sat, bored and tired, waiting for prayer-time. They hadn't noticed
how long you had been gone.
"Roddy, I wish you'd go and see where your father is."
Roddy looked up from his sketch-book. He had filled it with pictures of
cavalry on plunging chargers, trains of artillery rushing into battle,
sailing ships in heavy seas.
Roddy's mind was possessed by images of danger and adventure.
He flourished off the last wave of battle-smoke, and shut the sketch-book
with a snap.
Mamma knew perfectly well where Papa was. Roddy knew. Catty and Maggie
the cook knew. Everybody in the village knew. Regularly, about six
o'clock in the evening, he shuffled out of the house and along the High
Row to the Buck Hotel, and towards dinner-time Roddy had to go and bring
him back. Everybody knew what he went for.
He would have to hold Papa tight by the arm and lead him over the
cobblestones. They would pass the long bench at the corner under the
Kendals' wall; and Mr. Oldshaw, the banker, and Mr. Horn, the grocer, and
Mr. Acroyd, the shoemaker, would be sitting there talking to Mr. Belk,
who was justice of the peace. And they would see Papa. The young men
squatting on the flagstones outside the "Farmer's Arms" and the "King's
Head" would see him. And Papa would stiffen and draw himself up, trying
to look dignified and sober.
When he was very bad Mamma would cry, quietly, all through dinner-time.
But she would never admit that he went to the Buck Hotel. He had just
gone off nobody knew where and Roddy had got to find him.
August, September and October passed.
"Didn't I tell you to wait? You know them all now. You see what they're
In Roddy's voice there was a sort of tired, bitter triumph.
She knew them all now: Mrs. Waugh and Miss Frewin, and the Kendals; Mr.
Spencer Rollitt, and Miss Louisa Wright who had had a disappointment; and
old Mrs. Heron. They were all old.
Oh, and there was Dorsy Heron, Mrs. Heron's niece. But Dorsy was old too,
twenty-seven. She was no good; she couldn't talk to Roddy; she could only
look at him with bright, shy eyes, like a hare.
Roddy and Mary were going up the Garthdale road. At the first turn they
saw Mrs. Waugh and her son coming towards them. (She had forgotten Norman
Rodney groaned. "_He's_ here again. I say, let's go back."
"We can't. They've seen us."
"Everybody sees us," Roddy said.
He began to walk with a queer, defiant, self-conscious jerk.
Mrs. Waugh came on, buoyantly, as if the hoop of a crinoline still held
"Well, Mary, going for another walk?"
She stopped, in a gracious mood to show off her son. When she looked at
Roddy her raised eyebrows said, "Still here, doing nothing?"
"Norman's going back to work on Monday," she said.
The son stood aside, uninterested, impatient, staring past them, beating
the road with his stick. He was thickset and square. He had the stooping
head and heavy eyes of a bull. Black hair and eyebrows grew bushily from
his dull-white Frewin skin.
He would be an engineer. Mr. Belk's brother had taken him into his works
at Durlingham. He wasn't seventeen, yet he knew how to make engines. He
had a strong, lumbering body. His heart would go on thump-thumping with
regular strokes, like a stupid piston, not like Roddy's heart, excited,
quivering, hurrying, suddenly checking. His eyes drew his mother away.
You were glad when they were gone.
"You can see what they think," Roddy said. "Everybody thinks it."
"Everybody thinks what?"
"That I'm a cad to be sticking here, doing nothing, living on Mamma's
"It doesn't matter. They've no business to think."
"No. But Mamma thinks it. She says I ought to get something to do. She
talks about Mark and Dan. She can't see--" He stopped, biting his lip.
"If I were like Mark--if I could do things. That beast Norman Waugh can
do things. He doesn't live on his mother's money. She sees that....
"She doesn't know what's the matter with me. She thinks it's only my
heart. And it isn't. It's me. I'm an idiot. I can't even do office work
like Dan.... She thinks I'll be all right if I go away far enough, where
she won't see me. Mind you, I _should_ be all right if I'd gone into the
Navy. She knows if I hadn't had that beastly rheumatic fever I'd have
been in the Navy or the Merchant Service now. It's all rot not passing
you. As if walking about on a ship's deck was worse for your heart than
digging in a garden. It certainly couldn't be worse than farming in
"Farming? In Canada?"
"That's her idea. It'll kill me to do what _I_ want. It won't kill me to
do what _she_ wants."
"Mark did what he wanted. He went away and left her. Brute as I am, I
wouldn't have done that. She doesn't know that's why I'm sticking here. I
_can't_ leave her. I'd rather die."
Roddy too. He had always seemed to go his own way without caring, living
his secret life, running, jumping, grinning at you. And he, too, was
compelled to adore Mark and yet to cling helplessly, hopelessly, to
Mamma. When he said things about her he was struggling against her,
trying to free himself. He flung himself off and came back, to cling
harder. And he was nineteen.
"After all," he said, "why shouldn't I stay? It's not as if I didn't dig
in the garden and look after Papa. If I went she'd have to get somebody."
"I thought you wanted to go?" she said.
"So I did. So I do, for some things. But when it comes to the point--"
"When it comes to the point?"
"I funk it."
"Because of Mamma?"
"Because of me. That idiocy. Supposing I _had_ to do something I couldn't
do?... That's why I shall have to go away somewhere where it won't
matter, where she won't know anything about it."
The frightened look was in his eyes again.
In her heart a choking, breathless voice talked of unhappiness, coming,
coming. Unhappiness that no beauty could assuage. Her will hardened to
shut it out.
When the road turned again they met Mr. James. He walked with queer,
jerky steps, his arms bowed out stiffly.
As he passed he edged away from you. His mouth moved as if he were trying
not to laugh.
They knew about Mr. James now. His mind hadn't grown since he was five
years old. He could do nothing but walk. Martha, the old servant, dressed
and undressed him.
"I shall have to go," Roddy said. "If I stay here I shall look like Mr.
James. I shall walk with my arms bowed out, Catty'll dress and undress
They hated the piano. They had pushed it away against the dark outside
wall. Its strings were stiff with cold, and when the rain came its wooden
hammers swelled so that two notes struck together in the bass.
The piano-tuner made them move it to the inner wall in the large, bright
place that belonged to the cabinet. Mamma was annoyed because Mary had
taken the piano-tuner's part.
Mamma loved the cabinet. She couldn't bear to see it standing in the
piano's dark corner where the green Chinese bowls hardly showed behind
the black glimmer of the panes. The light fell full on the ragged, faded
silk of the piano, and on the long scar across its lid. It was like a
poor, shabby relation.
It stood there in the quiet room, with its lid shut, patient, reproachful,
waiting for you to come and play on it.
When Mary thought of the piano her heart beat faster, her fingers
twitched, the full, sensitive tips tingled and ached to play. When she
couldn't play she lay awake at night thinking of the music.
She was trying to learn the Sonato _Appassionata_, going through it bar
by bar, slowly and softly, so that nobody outside the room should hear
it. That was better than not playing it at all. But sometimes you would
forget, and as soon as you struck the loud chords in the first movement
Papa would come in and stop you. And the Sonata would go on sounding
inside you, trying to make you play it, giving you no peace.
Towards six o'clock she listened for his feet in the flagged passage.
When the front door slammed behind him she rushed to the piano. There
might be a whole hour before Roddy fetched him from the Buck Hotel. If
you could only reach the last movement, the two thundering chords, and
The music beat on the thick stone walls of the room and was beaten back,
its fine, live throbbing blunted by overtones of discord. You longed to
open all the doors and windows of the house, to push back the stone walls
and let it out.
Terrible minutes to six when Mamma's face watched and listened, when she
knew what you were thinking. You kept on looking at the clock, you
wondered whether this time Papa would really go. You hoped--
Mamma's eyes hurt you. They said, "She doesn't care what becomes of him
so long as she can play."
Sometimes the wounded, mutilated _Allegro_ would cry inside you all day,
imploring you to finish it, to let it pour out its life in joy.
When it left off the white sound patterns of poems came instead. They
floated down through the dark as she lay on her back in her hard, narrow
bed. Out of doors, her feet, muffled in wet moor grass, went to a beat, a
She would never play well. At any minute her father's voice or her
mother's eyes would stiffen her fingers and stop them. She knew what she