Part 5 out of 8
with their flowers, the Cathedral Green shone like glass, and every door-
knob and brass knocker in the Precincts glittered under the sun.
The town was humming with the approaching Jubilee. It seemed itself to
take an active part in the preparations, the old houses smiling to one
another at the plans that they overheard, and the birds, of whom there
were a vast number, flying from wall to wall, from garden to garden, from
chimney to chimney, with the exciting news that they had gathered.
Every shop in the High Street seemed to whisper to Falk as he passed:
"Surely you are not going to leave us. We can offer you such charming
things. We've never been so gay in our lives before as we are going to be
Even the human beings in the place seemed to be nicer to him than they had
ever been before. They had never, perhaps, been very nice to him,
regarding him with a quite definite disapproval even when he was a little
boy, because he would go his own way and showed them that he didn't care
what they thought of him.
Now, suddenly, they were making up to him. Mrs. Combermere, surrounded
with dogs, stopped him in the High Street and, in a deep bass voice, asked
him why it was so long since he had been to see her, and then slapped him
on the shoulder with her heavy gloved hand. That silly woman, Julia
Preston, met him in Bennett's book shop and asked him to help her to
choose a book of poems for a friend.
"Something that shall be both True and Beautiful, Mr. Brandon," she said.
"There's so little real Beauty in our lives, don't you think?" Little
Betty Callender caught him up in Orange Street and chattered to him about
her painting, and that pompous Bentinck-Major insisted on his going into
the Conservative Club with him, where he met old McKenzie and older
Forrester, and had to listen to their golfing achievements.
It may have been simply that every one in the town was beside and above
himself over the Jubilee excitements--but it made it very hard for Falk.
Nothing to the hardness of everything at home. Here at the last moment,
when it was too late to change or alter anything, every room, every old
piece of furniture seemed to appeal to him with some especial claim. For
ten years he had had the same bedroom, an old low-ceilinged room with
queer bulges in the wall, a crooked fireplace and a slanting floor. For
years now he had had a wall-paper with an ever-recurrent scene of a church
tower, a snowy hill, and a large crimson robin. The robins were faded, and
the snowy hill a dingy yellow. There were School groups and Oxford groups
on the walls, and the book-case near the door had his old school prizes
and Henty and a set of the Waverley Novels with dark red covers and paper
Hardest of all to leave was the view from the window overlooking the
Cathedral Green and the Cathedral. That window had been connected with
every incident of his childhood. He had leant out of it when he had felt
sick from eating too much, he had gone to it when his eyes were brimming
with hot rebellious tears after some scene with his father, he had known
ecstatic joys gazing from it on the first day of his return from school,
he had thrown things out of it on the heads of unsuspecting strangers, he
had gone to it in strange moods of poetry and romance, and watched the
moon like a plate of dull and beaten gold sail above the Cathedral towers,
he had sat behind it listening to the organ like a muffled giant
whispering to be liberated from grey, confining walls, he had looked out
of it on a still golden evening when the stars were silver buttons in the
sky after a meeting with Annie; he went to it and gazed, heart-sick,
across the Green now when he was about to bid fare-well to it for ever.
Heart-sick but resolved, it seemed strange to him that after months of
irresolution his mind should now be so firmly composed. He seemed even,
prophetically, to foretell the future. What had reassured him he did not
know, but for himself he knew that he was taking the right step. For
himself and for Annie--outside that, it was as though a dark cloud was
coming up enveloping all that he was leaving behind. He could not tell how
he knew, but he felt as though he were fleeing from the city of
Polchester, and were being driven forward on his flight by powers far
stronger than he could control.
He fancied, as he looked out of his window, that the Cathedral also was
aware and, aloof, immortal, waited the inevitable hour.
Coming straight upon his final arrangements with Annie, his reconciliation
with his father was ironic. So deeply here were his real affections
stirred that he could not consider deliberately his approaching treachery;
nevertheless he did not for a moment contemplate withdrawal from it. It
was as though two personalities were now in active movement within him,
the one old, belonging to the town, to his father, to his own youth, the
other new, belonging to Annie, to the future, to ambition, to the
challenge of life itself. With every hour the first was moving away from
him, reluctantly, stirring the other self by his withdrawal but inevitably
moving, never, never to return.
He came, late in the afternoon, into the study and found his father,
balanced on the top of a small ladder, putting straight "Christ's Entry
into Jerusalem," a rather faded copy of Benjamin Haydon's picture that had
irritated Falk since his earliest youth by a kind of false theatricality
that inhabited it.
Falk paused at the door, caught up by a sudden admiration of his father.
He had his coat off, and as he bent forward to adjust the cord the vigour
and symmetry of his body was magnificently emphasized. The thick strong
legs pressed against the black cloth of his trousers, the fine rounded
thighs, the broad back almost bursting the shiny stuff of the waistcoat,
the fine neck and the round curly head, these denied age and decay. He was
growing perhaps a little stout, the neck was a little too thick for the
collar, but the balance and energy and strength of the figure belonged to
a man as young as Falk himself....
At the sound of the door closing he turned, and at once the lined
forehead, the mouth a little slack, gave the man his age, but Falk was to
remember that first picture for the rest of his life with a strange
poignancy and deeply affectionate pathos.
They had not met alone since their quarrel; their British horror of any
scene forbade the slightest allusion to it. Brandon climbed down from his
ladder and came, smiling, across to his son.
At his happy times, when he was at ease with himself and the world, he had
the confident gaiety of a child; he was at ease now. He put his hand
through Falk's arm and drew him across to the table by the window.
"I've had a headache," he said, rather as a child might complain to his
elder, "for two days, and now it's suddenly gone. I never used to have
headaches. But I've been irritated lately by some of the tomfoolery that's
been going on. Don't tell your mother; I haven't said a word to her; but
what do you take when you have a headache?"
"I don't think I ever have them," said Falk.
"I'm not going to stuff myself up with all their medicines and things.
I've never taken medicine in my life if I was strong enough to prevent
them giving it to me, and I'm not going to start it now."
"Father," Falk said very earnestly, "don't let yourself get so easily
irritated. You usedn't to be. Everybody finds things go badly sometimes.
It's bad for you to allow yourself to be worried. Everything's all right
and going to be all right." (The hypocrite that he felt himself as he said
"You know that every one thinks the world of you here. Don't take things
Brandon nodded his head.
"You're quite right, Falk. It's very sensible of you to mention it, my
boy. I usedn't to lose my temper as I do. I must keep control of myself
better. But when a lot of chattering idiots start gabbling about things
that they understand as much about as----"
"Yes, I know," said Falk, putting his hand upon his father's arm. "But let
them talk. They'll soon find their level."
"Yes, and then there's your mother," went on Brandon. "I'm bothered about
her. Have you noticed anything odd about her this last week or two?"
That his father should begin to worry about his mother was certainly
astonishing enough! Certainly the first time in all these years that
Brandon had spoken of her.
"Mother? No; in what way?"
"She's not herself. She's not happy. She's worrying about something."
"_You're_ worrying, father," Falk said, "that's what's the matter.
_She's_ just the same. You've been allowing yourself to worry about
everything. Mother's all right." And didn't he know, in his own secret
heart, that she wasn't?
Brandon shook his head. "You may he right. All the same----"
Falk said slowly: "Father, what would you say if I went up to London?"
This was a close approach to the subject of their quarrel of the other
"When? What for?"
"Oh, at once--to get something to do."
"No, not now. After the summer we might talk of it."
He spoke with utter decision, as he had always done to Falk, as though he
were five years old and could naturally know nothing about life.
"But, father--don't you think it's bad for me, hanging round here doing
Brandon got up, went across to the little ladder, hesitated a moment, then
"I've had this picture twenty years," he said, "and it's never hung
"No, but, father," said Falk, coming across to him, "I'm a man now, not a
boy. I can't hang about any longer--I can't really."
"We'll talk about it in the autumn," said Brandon, humming "Onward,
Christian Soldiers," as he always did, a little out of tune.
"I've got to earn my own living, haven't I?" said Falk.
"There!" said Brandon, stepping back a little, so that he nearly
overbalanced. "_That's_ better. But it won't stay like that for five
minutes. It never does."
He climbed down again, his face rosy with his exertions. "You leave it to
me, Falk," he said, nodding his head. "I've got plans for you."
A sudden sense of the contrast between Ronder and his father smote Falk.
His father! What an infant! How helpless against that other! Moved by the
strangest mixture of tenderness, regret, pity, he did what he had never in
all his life before dreamed of doing, what he would have died of shame for
doing, had any one else been there--put his hands on his father's
shoulders and kissed him lightly on his cheek.
He laughed as he did so, to carry off his embarrassment.
"I don't hold myself bound, you know, father," he said. "I shall go off
just when I want to."
But Brandon was too deeply confused by his son's action to hear the words.
He felt a strange, most idiotic impulse to hug his son; to place himself
well out of danger, he moved back to the window, humming "Onward,
He looked out upon the Green. "There are two of those choir-boys on the
grass again," he said. "If Ryle doesn't keep them in better order, I'll
let him know what I think of him. He's always promising and never does
The last talk of their lives alone together was ended.
* * * * *
He had made all his plans. He had decided that on the day of escape he
would walk over to Salis Coombe station, a matter of some two miles; there
he would be joined by Annie, whose aunt lived near there, and to whom she
could go on a visit the evening before. They would catch the slow four
o'clock train to Drymouth and then meet the express that reached London at
midnight. He would go to an Oxford friend who lived in St. John's Wood,
and he and Annie would be married as soon as possible. Beyond everything
else he wanted this marriage to take place quickly; once that was done he
was Annie's protector, so long as she should need him. She should be free
as she pleased, but she would have some one to whom she might go, some one
who could legally provide for her and would see that she came to no harm.
The thing that he feared most was lest any ill should come to her through
the fact of his caring for her; he felt that he could let her go for ever
the very day after his marriage, so that he knew that she would never come
to harm. A certain defiant courage in her, mingled with her ignorance and
simplicity, made his protection of her the first thing in his life. As to
living, his Oxford friend was concerned with various literary projects,
having a little money of his own, and much self-confidence and ambition.
He and Falk had already, at Oxford, edited a little paper together, and
Falk had been promised some reader's work in connection with one of the
younger publishing houses. In after years he looked back in amazement that
he should have ventured on the great London attack with so slender a
supply of ammunition--but now, looking forward in Polchester, that
question of future livelihood seemed the very smallest of his problems.
Perhaps, deepest of all, something fiercely democratic in him longed for
the moment when he might make his public proclamation of his defiance of
He meant to set off, simply as he was; they could send his things after
him. If he indulged in any pictures of the future, he did, perhaps, see
himself returning to Polchester in a year's time or so, as the editor of
the most remarkable of London's new periodicals, received by his father
with enthusiasm, and even Annie admitted into the family with approval. Of
course, they could not return here to live...it would be only a
visit.... At that sudden vision of Annie and his father face to face, that
vision faded; no, this was the end of the old life. He must face that, set
his shoulders square to it, steel his heart to it....
That last luncheon was the strangest meal that he had ever known. So
strange because it was so usual--so ordinary! Roast chicken and apple
tart; his mother sitting at the end of the table, watching, as she had
watched through so many years, that everything went right, her little,
tight, expressionless face, the mouth set to give the right answers to the
right questions, her eyes veiled.... His mind flew back to that strange
talk in the dark room across the candle-lit table. She had been hysterical
that night, over-tired, had not known what she was saying. Well, she could
never leave his father now, now when he was gone. His flight settled that.
"What are you doing this afternoon, Falk?"
"I only wondered. I have to go to the Deanery about this Jubilee
committee. I thought you might walk up there with me. About four."
"I don't think I'll be back in time, mother; I'm going out Salis Coombe
way to see a fellow."
He saw Joan, looking so pretty, sitting opposite to him. How she had grown
lately! Putting her hair up made her seem almost a woman. But what a child
in the grown-up dress with the high puffed sleeves, her baby-face laughing
at him over the high stiff collar; a pretty dress, though, that dark blue
stuff with the white stripes.... Why had he never considered Joan? She had
never meant anything to him at all. Now, when he was going, it seemed to
him suddenly that he might have made a friend of her during all these
years. She was a good girl, kind, good-natured, jolly.
She, too, was talking about the Jubilee--about some committee that she was
on and some flags that they were making. How exciting to them all the
Jubilee was, and how unimportant to him!
Some book she was talking about. "...the new woman at the Library is so
nice. She let me have it at once. It's _The Massarenes_, mother,
darling, by Ouida. The girls say it's lovely."
"I've heard of it, dear. Mrs. Sampson was talking about it. She says it's
not a nice book at all. I don't think father would like you to read it."
"Oh, you don't mind, father, do you?"
The Archdeacon was in a good humour. He loved apple tart.
"_The Massarenes_, by Ouida."
"Trashy novels. Why don't you girls ever read anything but novels?" and so
The little china clock with the blue mandarin on the mantelpiece struck
half past two. He must be going. He threw a last look round the room as
though he were desperately committing everything to memory--the shabby,
comfortable chairs, the Landseer "Dignity and Impudence," the warm, blue
carpet, the round silver biscuit-tin on the sideboard.
"Well, I must be getting along."
"You'll be back to dinner, Falk dear, won't you? It's early to-night.
Quarter past seven. Father has a meeting."
He looked at them all. His father was sitting back in his chair, a
"Yes, I'll be back," he said, and went out.
It seemed to him incredible that departure should be so simple. When you
are taking the most momentous step of your life, surely there should be
dragons in the way! Here were no dragons. As he went down the High Street
people smiled at him and waved hands. The town sparkled under the
afternoon sun. It was market-day, and the old fruit-woman under the green
umbrella, the toy-man with the clockwork monkeys, the flower-stalls and
the vegetable-sellers, all these were here; in the centre of the square,
sheep and pigs were penned. Dogs were barking, stout farmers in corduroy
breeches walked about arguing and expectorating, and suddenly, above all
the clamour and bustle, the Cathedral chimes struck the hour.
He hastened then, striding up Orange Street, past the church and the
monument on the hill, through hedges thick with flowers, until he struck
off into the Drymouth Road. With every step that he took he stirred child
memories. He reached the signpost that pointed to Drymouth, to Clinton St.
Mary, to Polchester. This was the landmark that he used to reach with his
nurse on his walks. Further than this she, a stout, puffing woman, would
never go. He had known that a little way on there was Rocket Wood, a place
beloved by him ever since they had driven there for a picnic in the
jingle, and he had found it all spotted gold under the fir-trees, thick
with moss and yellow with primroses. How many fights with his nurse he had
had over that! he clinging to the signpost and screaming that he
_would_ go on to the Wood, she picking him up at last and carrying
him back down the road.
He went on into the wood now and found it again spotted with gold,
although it was too late for primroses. It was all soft and dark with
pillars of purple light that struck through the fretted blue, and the dark
shadows of the leaves. All hushed and no living thing--save the hesitating
patter of some bird among the fir-cones. He struck through the wood and
came out on to the Common. You could smell the sea finely here--a true
Glebeshire smell, fresh and salt, full of sea-pinks and the westerly
gales. On the top of the Common he paused and looked back. He knew that
from here you had your last view of the Cathedral.
Often in his school holidays he had walked out here to get that view. He
had it now in its full glory. When he was a boy it had seemed to him that
the Cathedral was like a giant lying down behind the hill and leaning his
face on the hill-side. So it looked now, its towers like ears, the great
East window shining, a stupendous eye, out over the bending wind-driven
country. The sun flashed upon it, and the towers rose grey and pearl-
coloured to heaven. Mightily it looked across the expanse of the moor,
staring away and beyond Falk's little body into some vast distance,
wrapped in its own great dream, secure in its mighty memories, intent upon
its secret purposes.
Indifferent to man, strong upon its rock, hiding in its heart the answer
to all the questions that tortured man's existence--and yet, perhaps,
aware of man's immortality, scornful of him for making so slight a use of
that--but admiring him, too, for the tenacity of his courage and the
undying resurgence of his hope.
Falk, a black dot against the sweep of sky and the curve of the dark soil,
vanished from the horizon.
Brandon Puts on His Armour
Brandon was not surprised when, on the morning after Falk's escape, his
son was not present at family prayers. That was not a ceremony that Falk
had ever appreciated. Joan was there, of course, and just as the
Archdeacon began the second prayer Mrs. Brandon slipped in and took her
After the servants had filed out and the three were alone, Mrs. Brandon,
with a curious little catch in her voice, said:
"Falk has been out all night; his bed has not been slept in."
Brandon's immediate impulse, before he had even caught the import of his
wife's words, was: "There's reason for emotion coming; see that you show
He sat down at the table, slowly unfolding the _Glebeshire Morning
News_ that always waited, neatly, beside his plate. His hand did not
tremble, although his heart was beating with a strange, muffled agitation.
"I suppose he went off somewhere," he said. "He never tells us, of course.
He's getting too selfish for anything."
He put down his newspaper and picked up his letters. For a moment he felt
as though he could not look at them in the presence of his wife. He
glanced quickly at the envelopes. There was nothing there from Falk. His
heart gave a little clap of relief.
"At any rate, he hasn't written," he said. "He can't be far away."
"There's another post at ten-thirty," she answered.
He was angry with her for that. How like her! Why could she not allow
things to be pleasant as long as possible?
She went on: "He's taken nothing with him. Not even a hand-bag. He hasn't
been back in the house since luncheon yesterday."
"Oh! he'll turn up!" Brandon went back to his paper. "Mustard, Joan,
please." Breakfast over, he went into his study and sat at the long
writing-table, pretending to be about his morning correspondence. He could
not settle to that; he had never been one to whom it was easy to control
his mind, and now his heart and soul were filled with foreboding.
It seemed to him that for weeks past he had been dreading some
catastrophe. What catastrophe? What could occur?
He almost spoke aloud. "Never before have I dreaded...."
Meanwhile he would not think of Falk. He would not. His mind flew round
and round that name like a moth round the candle-light. He heard half-past
ten strike, first in the dining-room, then slowly on his own mantelpiece.
A moment later, through his study door that was ajar, he heard the letters
fall with a soft stir into the box, then the sharp ring of the bell. He
sat at his table, his hands clenched.
"Why doesn't that girl bring the letters? Why doesn't that girl bring the
letters?" he was repeating to himself unconsciously again and again.
She knocked on the door, came in and put the letters on his table. There
were only three. He saw immediately that one was in Falk's handwriting. He
tore the envelope across, pulled out the letter, his fingers trembling now
so that he could scarcely hold it, his heart making a noise as of tramping
waves in his ears.
The letter was as follows:
NORTH ROAD STATION, DRYMOUTH,
_May_ 23, 1897.
MY DEAR FATHER--I am writing this in the waiting-room at North Road before
catching the London train. I suppose that I have done a cowardly thing in
writing like this when I am away from you, and I can't hope to make you
believe that it's because I can't bear to hurt you that I'm acting like a
coward. You'll say, justly enough, that it looks as though I wanted to
hurt you by what I'm doing. But, father, truly, I've looked at it from
every point of view, and I can't see that there's anything else for it but
this. The first part of this, my going up to London to earn my living, I
can't feel guilty about.
It seems to me, truly, the only thing to do. I have tried to speak to you
about it on several occasions, but you have always put me off, and, as far
as I can see, you don't feel that there's anything ignominious in my
hanging about a little town like Polchester, doing nothing at all for the
rest of my life. I think my being sent down from Oxford as I was gave you
the idea that I was useless and would never be any good. I'm going to
prove to you you're wrong, and I know I'm right to take it into my own
hands as I'm doing. Give me a little time and you'll see that I'm right.
The other thing is more difficult. I can't expect you to forgive me just
yet, but perhaps, later on, you'll see that it isn't too bad. Annie Hogg,
the daughter of Hogg down in Seatown, is with me, and next week I shall
I have so far done nothing that you need be ashamed of. I love her, but am
not her lover, and she will stay with relations away from me until I marry
her. I know this will seem horrible to you, father, but it is a matter for
my own conscience. I have tried to leave her and could not, but even if I
could I have made her, through my talk, determined to go to London and try
her luck there. She loathes her father and is unhappy at home. I cannot
let her go up to London without any protection, and the only way I can
protect her is by marrying her.
She is a fine woman, father, fine and honourable and brave. Try to think
of her apart from her father and her surroundings. She does not belong to
them, truly she does not. In all these months she has not tried to
persuade me to a mean and shabby thing. She is incapable of any meanness.
In all this business my chief trouble is the unhappiness that this will
bring you. You will think that this is easy to say when it has made no
difference to what I have done. But all the same it is true, and perhaps
later on, when you have got past a little of your anger with me, you will
give me a chance to prove it. I have the promise of some literary work
that should give me enough to live on. I have taken nothing with me;
perhaps mother will pack up my things and send them to me at 5 Parker
Street, St. John's Wood.
Father, give me a chance to show you that I will make this right.--Your
* * * * *
In the little morning-room to the right at the top of the stairs Joan and
her mother were waiting. Joan was pretending to sew, but her fingers
scarcely moved. Mrs. Brandon was sitting at her writing-table; her ears
were straining for every sound. The sun flooded the room with a fierce
rush of colour, and through the wide-open windows the noises of the town,
cries and children's voices, and the passing of feet on the cobbles came
up. As half-past ten struck the Cathedral bells began to ring for morning
"Oh, I can't bear those bells," Mrs. Brandon cried. "Shut the windows,
Joan went across and closed them. The bells were suddenly removed, but
seemed to be the more insistent in their urgency because they were shut
The door was suddenly flung open, and Brandon stood there.
"Oh, what is it?" Mrs. Brandon cried, starting to her feet.
He was a man convulsed with anger; she had seen him in these rages before,
when his blue eyes stared with an emptiness of vision and his whole body
seemed to be twisted as though he were trying to climb to some height
whence he might hurl himself down and destroy utterly that upon which he
The letter tumbled from his hand. He caught the handle of the door as
though he would tear it from its socket, but his voice, when at last it
came, was quiet, almost his ordinary voice.
"His name is never to be mentioned in this house again."
"What has he done?"
"That's enough. What I say. His name is never to be mentioned again."
The two women stared at him. He seemed to come down from a great height,
turned and went, very carefully closing the door behind him.
He had left the letter on the floor. Mrs. Brandon went and picked it up.
"Oh, mother, what has Falk done?" Joan asked.
The bells danced all over the room.
Brandon went downstairs, back into his study, closing his door, shutting
himself in. He stayed in the middle of the room, saying aloud:
"Never his name again.... Never his name again." The actual sound of the
words echoing back to him lifted him up as though out of very deep water.
Then he was aware, as one is in the first clear moment after a great
shock, of a number of things at the same time. He hated his son because
his son had disgraced him and his name for ever. He loved his son, never
before so deeply and so dearly as now. He was his only son, and there was
none other. His son had gone off with the daughter of the worst publican
in the place, and so had shamed him before them all. Falk (he arrived in
his mind suddenly at the name with a little shiver that hurt horribly)
would never be there any more, would never be about the house, would never
laugh and be angry and be funny any more. (Behind this thought was a long
train of pictures of Falk as a boy, as a baby, as a child, pictures that
he kept back with a great gesture of the will.) In the town they would all
be talking, they were talking already. They must be stopped from talking;
they must not know. He must lie; they must all lie. But how could they be
stopped from knowing when he had gone off with the publican's daughter?
They would all know.... They would laugh...They would laugh. He would
not be able to go down the street without their laughter.
Dimly on that came a larger question. What had happened lately so that his
whole life had changed? He had been feeling it now for weeks, long before
this terrible blow had fallen, as though he were surrounded by enemies and
mockers and men who wished him ill. Men who wished him ill! Wished HIM
ill! He who had never done any one harm in all his life, who had only
wanted the happiness of others and the good of the place in which he was,
and the Glory of God! God!...His thoughts leapt across a vast gulf. What
was God about, to allow this disaster to fall upon him? When he had served
God so faithfully and had had no thought but for His grandeur? He was in a
new world now, where the rivers, the mountains, the roads, the cities were
new. For years everything had gone well with him, and then, suddenly, at
the lifting of a finger, all had been ill....
Through the mist of his thoughts, gradually, like the sun in his strength,
his anger had been rising. Now it flamed forth. At the first it had been
personal anger because his son had betrayed and deceived him--but now, for
a time, Falk was almost forgotten.
He would show them. They would laugh at him, would they? They would point
at him, would they, as the man whose son had run away with an innkeeper's
daughter? Well, let them point. They would plot to take the power from his
hands, to reduce him to impotence, to make him of no account in the place
where he had ruled for years. He had no doubt, now that he saw farther
into it, that they had persuaded Falk to run away with that girl. It was
the sort of weapon that they would be likely to use, the sort of weapon
that that man, Ronder....
At the sudden ringing of that now hated name in his ears he was calm. Yes,
to fight that enemy he needed all his control. How that man would rejoice
at this that had happened! What a victory to him it would seem to be!
Well, it should not be a victory. He began to stride up and down his
study, his head up, his chest out. It was almost as though he were a great
warrior of old, having his armour put on before he went out to the fight--
the greaves, the breastplate, the helmet, the sword....
He would fight to the last drop of blood in his body and beat the pack of
them, and if they thought that this would cause him to hang his head or
hide or go secretly, they should soon see their mistake.
He suddenly stopped. The pain that sometimes came to his head attacked him
now. For a moment it was so sharp, of so acute an agony, that he almost
staggered and fell. He stood there, his body taut, his hands clenched. It
was like knives driving through his brain; his eyes were filled with blood
so that he could not see. It passed, but he was weak, his knees shook so
that he was compelled to sit down, holding his hands on his knees. Now it
was gone. He could see clearly again. What was it? Imagination, perhaps.
Only the hammering of his heart told him that anything was the matter. He
was a long while there. At last he got up, went into the hall, found his
hat and went out. He crossed the Green and passed through the Cathedral
He went out instinctively, without any deliberate thought, to the
Cathedral as to the place that would most readily soothe and comfort him.
Always when things went wrong he crossed over to the Cathedral and walked
about there. Matins were just concluded and people were coming out of the
great West door. He went in by the Saint Margaret door, crossed through
the Vestry where Rogers, who had been taking the service, was disrobing,
and climbed the little crooked stairs into the Lucifer Room. A glimpse of
Rogers' saturnine countenance (he knew well enough that Rogers hated him)
stirred some voice to whisper within: "He knows and he's glad."
The Lucifer Room was a favourite resort of his, favourite because there
was a long bare floor across which he could walk with no furniture to
interrupt him, and because, too, no one ever came there. It was a room in
the Bishop's Tower that had once, many hundreds of years ago, been used by
the monks as a small refectory. Many years had passed now since it had
seen any sort of occupation save that of bats, owls and mice. There was a
fireplace at the far end that had long been blocked up, but that still
showed curious carving, the heads of monkeys and rabbits, winged birds, a
twisting dragon with a long tail, and the figure of a saint holding up a
crucifix. Over the door was an old clock that had long ceased to tell the
hours; this had a strangely carved wood canopy. Two little windows with
faint stained glass gave an obscure light. The subjects of these windows
were confused, but the old colours, deep reds and blues, blended with a
rich glow that no modern glass could obtain. The ribs and bosses of the
vaulting of the room were in faded colours and dull gold. In one corner of
the room was an old, dusty, long-neglected harmonium. Against the wall
were hanging some wooden figures, large life-sized saints, two male and
two female, once outside the building, painted on the wood in faded
crimson and yellow and gold. Much of the colour had been worn away with
rain and wind, but two of the faces were still bright and stared with a
gentle fixed gaze out into the dim air. Two old banners, torn and thin,
flapped from one of the vaultings. The floor was worn, and creaked with
every step. As Brandon pushed back the heavy door and entered, some bird
in a distant corner flew with a frightened stir across to the window.
Occasionally some one urged that steps should be taken to renovate the
place and make some use of it, but nothing was ever done. Stories
connected with it had faded away; no one now could tell why it was called
the Lucifer Room--and no one cared.
Its dimness and shadowed coloured light suited Brandon to-day. He wanted
to be where no one could see him, where he could gather together the
resistance with which to meet the world. He paced up and down, his hands
behind his back; he fancied that the old saints looked at him with kindly
And now, for a moment, all his pride and anger were gone, and he could
think of nothing but his love for his son. He had an impulse that almost
moved him to hurry home, to take the next train up to London, to find
Falk, to take him in his arms and forgive him. He saw again and again that
last meeting that they had had, when Falk had kissed him. He knew now what
that had meant. After all, the boy was right. He had been in the wrong to
have kept him here, doing nothing. It was fine of the boy to take things
into his own hands, to show his independence and to fight for his own
individuality. It was what he himself would have done if--then the thought
of Annie Hogg cut across his tenderness and behind Annie her father, that
fat, smiling, red-faced scoundrel, the worst villain in the town. At the
sudden realisation that there was now a link between himself and that man,
and that that link had been forged by his own son, tenderness and
affection fled. He could only entertain one emotion at a time, and
immediately he was swept into such a fury that he stopped in his walk,
lifted his head, and cursed Falk. For that he would never forgive him, for
the public shame and disgrace that he had brought upon the Brandon name,
upon his mother and his sister, upon the Cathedral, upon all authority and
discipline and seemliness in the town.
He suffered then the deepest agony that perhaps in all his life he had
ever known. There was no one there to see. He sank down upon the wooden
coping that protruded from the old wall and hid his face in his hands as
though he were too deeply ashamed to encounter even the dim faces of the
old wooden figures.
There was a stir in the room; the little door opened and closed; the bird,
with a flutter of wings, flew back to its corner. Brandon looked up and
saw a faint shadow of a man. He rose and took some steps towards the door,
then he stopped because be saw that the man was Davray the painter.
He had never spoken to this man, but be had hated everything that he had
ever heard about him. In the first place, to be an artist was, in the
Archdeacon's mind, synonymous with being a loose liver and an atheist.
Then this fellow was, as all the town knew, a drunkard, an idler, a
dissolute waster who had brought nothing upon Polchester but disgrace. Had
Brandon had his way he would, long ago, have had him publicly expelled and
forbidden ever to return. The thought that this man should be in the
Cathedral at all was shocking to him and, in his present mood, quite
intolerable. He saw, dim though the light was, that the man was drunk now.
Davray lurched forward a step, then said huskily:
"Well, so your fine son's run away with Hogg's pretty daughter."
The sense that he had had already that his son's action, had suddenly
bound him into company with all the powers of evil and destruction rose to
its full height at the sound of the man's voice; but with it rose, too,
his self-command. The very disgust with which Davray filled him
contributed to his own control and dignity.
"You should feel ashamed, sir," he said quietly, standing still where be
was, "to be in that condition in this building. Or are you too drunk to
know where you are?"
"That's all right, Archdeacon," Davray said, laughing. "Of course I'm
drunk. I generally am--and that's my affair. But I'm not so drunk as not
to know where I am and not to know who you are and what's happened to you.
I know all those things, I'm glad to say. Perhaps I am a little ahead of
yourself in that. Perhaps you don't know yet what your young hopeful has
Brandon was as still as one of the old wooden saints.
"Then if you are sober enough to know where you are, leave this place and
do not return to it until you are in a fit state."
"Fit! I like that." The sense that he was alone now for the first time in
his life with the man whom he had so long hated infuriated Davray. "Fit?
Let me tell you this, old cock, I'm twice as fit to be here as you're ever
likely to be. Though I have been drinking and letting myself go, I'm
fitter to be here than you are, you stuck-up, pompous fool."
Brandon did not stir.
"Go home!" he said; "go home! Recover your senses and ask God's
"God's forgiveness!" Davray moved a step forward as though he would
strike. Brandon made no movement. "That's like your damned cheek. Who
wants forgiveness as you do? Ask this Cathedral--ask it whether I have not
loved it, adored it, worshipped it as I've worshipped no woman. Ask it
whether I have not been faithful, drunkard and sot as I am. And ask it
what it thinks of you--of your patronage and pomposity and conceit. When
have you thought of the Cathedral and its beauty, and not always of
yourself and your grandeur?...Why, man, we're sick of you, all of us
from the top man in the place to the smallest boy. And the Cathedral is
sick of you and your damned conceit, and is going to get rid of you, too,
if you won't go of yourself. And this is the first step. Your son's gone
with a whore to London, and all the town's laughing at you."
Brandon did not flinch. The man was close to him; he could smell his
drunken breath--but behind his words, drunken though they might be, was a
hatred so intense, so deep, so real, that it was like a fierce physical
blow. Hatred of himself. He had never conceived in all his life that any
one hated him--and this man had hated him for years, a man to whom he had
never spoken before to-day.
Davray, as was often his manner, seemed suddenly to sober. He stood aside
and spoke more quietly, almost without passion.
"I've been waiting for this moment for years," he said; "you don't know
how I've watched you Sunday after Sunday strutting about this lovely
place, happy in your own conceit. Your very pride has been an insult to
the God you pretend to serve. I don't know whether there's a God or no--
there can't be, or things wouldn't happen as they do--but there _is_
this place, alive, wonderful, beautiful, triumphant, and you've dared to
put yourself above it....
"I could have shouted for joy last night when I heard what your young
hopeful had done. 'That's right,' I said; 'that'll bring him down a bit.
That'll teach him modesty.' I had an extra drink on the strength of it.
I've been hanging about all the morning to get a chance of speaking to
you. I followed you up here. You're one of us now, Archdeacon. You're down
on the ground at last, but not so low as you will be before the Cathedral
has finished with you."
"Go," said Brandon, "or, House of God though this is, I'll throw you out."
"I'll go. I've said my say for the moment. But we'll meet again, never
fear. You're one of us now--one of us. Good-night."
He passed through the door, and the dusky room was still again as though
no one had been there....
There is an old German tale, by De la Motte Fouque, I fancy, of a young
traveller who asks his way to a certain castle, his destination. He is
given his directions, and his guide tells him that the journey will be
easy enough until he reaches a small wood through which he must pass. This
wood will be dark and tangled and bewildering, but more sinister than
those obstacles will be the inhabitants of it who, evil, malign, foul and
bestial, devote their lives to the destruction of all travellers who
endeavour to reach the castle on the hill beyond. And the tale tells how
the young traveller, proud of his youth and strength, confident in the
security of his armour, nevertheless, when he crosses the dark border of
the wood, feels as though his whole world has changed, as though
everything in which he formerly trusted is of no value, as though the very
weapons that were his chief defence now made him most defenceless. He has
in the heart of that wood many perilous adventures, but worst of them all,
when he is almost at the end of his strength, is the sudden conviction
that he has himself changed, and is himself become one of the foul,
gibbering, half-visioned monsters by whom he is surrounded.
As Brandon left the Cathedral there was something of that strange sense
with him, a sense that had come to him first, perhaps, in its dimmest and
most distant form, on the day of the circus and the elephant, and that
now, in all its horrible vigour and confidence, was there close at his
elbow. He had always held himself immaculate; he had come down to his
fellow-men, loving them, indeed, but feeling that they were of some other
clay than his own, and that through no especial virtue of his, but simply
because God has so wished it. And now he had stood, and a drunken wastrel
had cursed him and told him that he was detested by all men and that they
waited for his downfall.
It was those last words of Davray's that rang in his ears: "You're one of
us now. You're one of us." Drunkard and wastrel though the man was, those
words could not be forgotten, would never be forgotten again.
With his head up, his shoulders back, he returned to his house.
The maid met him in the hall. "There's a man waiting for you in the study,
"Who is it?"
"Mr. Samuel Hogg, sir."
Brandon looked at the girl fixedly, but not unkindly.
"Why did you let him in, Gladys?"
"He wouldn't take no denial, sir. Mrs. Brandon was out and Miss Joan. He
said you were expecting him and 'e knew you'd soon be back."
"You should never let any one wait, Gladys, unless I have told you
"Remember that in future, will you?"
"Yes, sir. I'm sure I'm sorry, sir, but----"
Brandon went into his study.
Hogg was standing beside the window, a faded bowler in his hand. He turned
when he heard the opening of the door; he presented to the Archdeacon a
face of smiling and genial, if coarsened, amiability.
He was wearing rough country clothes, brown knickerbockers and gaiters,
and looked something like a stout and seedy gamekeeper fond of the bottle.
"I'm sure you'll forgive this liberty I've taken, Archdeacon," he said,
opening his mouth very wide as he smiled--"waiting for you like this; but
the matter's a bit urgent."
"Yes?" said Brandon, not moving from the door.
"I've come in a friendly spirit, although there are men who might have
come otherwise. You won't deny that, considering the circumstances of the
"I'll be grateful to you if you'll explain," said Brandon, "as quickly as
possibly your business."
"Why, of course," said Hogg, coming away from the window. "Why, of course,
Archdeacon. Now, whoever would have thought that we, you and me, would be
in the same box? And that's putting it a bit mild considering that it's my
daughter that your son has run away with."
Brandon said nothing, not, however, removing his eyes from Hogg's face.
Hogg was all amiable geniality. "I know it must be against the grain,
Archdeacon, having to deal with the likes of me. You've always counted
yourself a strike above us country-folk, haven't you, and quite natural
too. But, again, in the course of nature we've both of us had children and
that, as it turns out, is where we finds our common ground, so to speak--
you a boy and me a lovely girl. _Such_ a lovely girl, Archdeacon, as
it's natural enough your son should want to run away with."
Brandon went across to his writing-table and sat down.
"Mr. Hogg," he said, "it is true that I had a letter from my son this
morning telling me that he had gone up to London with your daughter and
was intending to marry her as soon as possible. You will not expect that I
should approve of that step. My first impulse was, naturally enough, to go
at once to London and to prevent his action at all costs. On thinking it
over, however, I felt that as he had run away with the girl the least that
he could now do was to marry her.
"I'm sure you will understand my feeling when I say that in taking this
step I consider that he has disgraced himself and his family. He has cut
himself off from his family irremediably. I think that really that is all
that I have to say."
Behind Hogg's strange little half-closed eyes some gleam of anger and
hatred passed. There was no sign of it in the geniality of his open smile.
"Why, certainly, Archdeacon, I can understand that you wouldn't care for
what he has done. But boys will be boys, won't they? We've both been boys
in our time, I daresay. You've looked at it from your point of view, and
that's natural enough. But human nature's human nature, and you must
forgive me if I look at it from mine. She's my only girl, and a good girl
she's been to me, keepin' herself _to_ herself and doing her work and
helping me wonderful. Well, your Young spark comes along, likes the look
of her and ruins her...."
The Archdeacon made some movement----
"Oh, you may say what you like, Archdeacon, and he may tell you what
_he_ likes, but you and I know what happens when two young things
with hot blood gets together and there's nobody by. They may _mean_
to be straight enough, but before they knows where they are, nature's took
hold of them, and there they are.... But even supposin' that 'asn't
happened, I don't know as I'm much better off. That girl was the very prop
of my business; she's gone, never to return, accordin' to her own account.
As to this marryin' business, that may seem to you, Archdeacon, to improve
things, but I'm not so sure that it does after all. You may be all very
'igh and mighty in your way, but I'm thinkin' of myself and the business.
What good does my girl marryin' your son do to me? That's what I want to
Brandon's hands were clenched upon the table. Nevertheless he still spoke
"I don't think, Mr. Hogg," he said, "that there's anything to be gained by
our discussing this just now. I have only this morning heard of it. You
may be assured that justice will be done, absolute justice, to your
daughter and yourself."
Hogg moved to the door.
"Why, certainly, Archdeacon. It is a bit early to discuss things. I
daresay we shall be havin' many a talk about it all before it's over. I'm
sure I only want to be friendly in the matter. As I said before, we're in
the same box, you and me, so to speak. That ought to make us tender
towards one another, oughtn't it? One losing his son and the other his
"Such a good girl as she was too. Certainly I'll be going, Archdeacon;
leave you to think it over a bit. I daresay you'll see my point of view in
"I think, Mr. Hogg, there's nothing to be gained by your coming here. You
shall hear from me."
"Well, as to that, Archdeacon," Hogg turned from the half-opened door,
smiling, "that's as may be. One can get further sometimes in a little talk
than in a dozen letters. And I'm really not much of a letter-writer. But
we'll see 'ow things go on. Good-evenin'."
The talk had lasted but five minutes, and every piece of furniture in the
room, the chairs, the table, the carpet, the pictures, seemed to have upon
it some new stain of disfigurement. Even the windows were dimmed.
Brandon sat staring in front of him. The door opened again and his wife
"That was Samuel Hogg who has just left you?"
"Yes," he said.
He looked across the room at her and was instantly surprised by the
strangest feeling. He was not, in his daily life, conscious of "feelings"
of any sort--that was not his way. But the events of the past two days
seemed to bring him suddenly into a new contact with real life, as though,
having lived in a balloon all this time, he had been suddenly bumped out
of it with a jerk and found Mother Earth with a terrible bang. He would
have told you a week ago that there was nothing about his wife that he did
not know and nothing about his own feelings towards her--and yet, after
all, the most that he had known was to have no especial feelings towards
her of any kind.
But to-day had been beyond possible question the most horrible day he had
ever known, and it might be that the very horror of it was to force him to
look upon everything on earth with new eyes. It had at least the immediate
effect now of showing his wife to him as part of himself, as some one,
therefore, hurt as he was, smirched and soiled and abused as he, needing
care and kindness as he had never known her to need it before. It was a
new feeling for him, a new tenderness.
He greeted and welcomed it as a relief after the horror of Hogg's
presence. Poor Amy! She was in as bad a way as he now--they were at last
in the same box.
"Yes," he said, "that was Hogg."
Looking at her now in this new way, he was also able to see that she
herself was changed. She figured definitely as an actor now with an odd
white intensity in her face, with some mysterious purpose in her eyes,
with a resolve in the whole poise of her body that seemed to add to her
"Well," she said, "what train are you taking up to London?"
"What train?" he repeated after her.
"Yes, to see Falk."
"I am not going to see Falk."
"You're not going up to him?"
"Why should I go?"
"Why should you go? _You_ can ask me that?...To stop this terrible
"I don't intend to stop it."
There was a pause. She seemed to summon every nerve in her body to her
The twitching of her fingers against her dress was her only movement.
"Would you please tell me what you mean to do? After all, I am his
The tenderness that he had felt at first sight of her was increasing so
strangely that it was all he could do not to go over to her. But his
horror of any demonstration kept him where he was.
"Amy, dear," he said, "I've had a dreadful day--in every way a terrible
day. I haven't had time, as things have gone, to think things out. I want
to be fair. I want to do the right thing. I do indeed. I don't think
there's anything to be gained by going up to London. One thing only now
I'm clear about. He's got to marry the girl now he's gone off with her. To
do him justice he intends to do that. He says that he has done her no
harm, and we must take his word for that. Falk has been many things--
careless, reckless, selfish, but never in all his life dishonourable. If I
went up now we should quarrel, and perhaps something irreparable would
occur. Even though he was persuaded to return, the mischief is done. He
must be just to the girl. Every one in the town knows by now that she went
with him--her father has been busy proclaiming the news even though there
has been no one else."
Mrs. Brandon said nothing. She had made in herself the horrible discovery,
after reading Falk's letter, that her thoughts were not upon Falk at all,
but upon Morris. Falk had flouted her; not only had he not wanted her, but
he had gone off with a common girl of the town. She had suddenly no
tenderness for him, no anger against him, no thought of him except that
his action had removed the last link that held her.
She was gazing now at Morris with all her eyes. Her brain was fastened
upon him with an intensity sufficient almost to draw him, hypnotised,
there to her feet. Her husband, her home, Polchester, these things were
like dim shadows.
"So you will do nothing?" she said.
"I must wait," he said, "I know that when I act hastily I act badly...."
He paused, looked at her doubtfully, then with great hesitation went on:
"We are together in this, Amy. I've been--I've been--thinking of myself
and my work perhaps too much in the past. We've got to see this through
"Yes," she answered, "together." But she was thinking of Morris.
The Wind Flies Over the House
Later, that day, she went from the house. It was a strange evening. Two
different weathers seemed to have met over the Polchester streets. First
there was the deep serene beauty of the May day, pale blue faintly fading
into the palest yellow, the world lying like an enchanted spirit asleep
within a glass bell, reflecting the light from the shining surface that
enfolded it. In this light houses, grass, cobbles lay as though stained by
a painter's brush, bright colours like the dazzling pigment of a wooden
toy, glittering under the shining sky.
This was a normal enough evening for the Polchester May, but across it,
shivering it into fragments, broke a stormy and blustering wind, a wind
that belonged to stormy January days, cold and violent, with the hint of
rain in its murmuring voice. It tore through the town, sometimes carrying
hurried and, as it seemed, terrified clouds with it; for a while the May
light would be hidden, the air would be chill, a few drops like flashes of
glass would fall, gleaming against the bright colours--then suddenly the
sky would be again unchallenged blue, there would be no cloud on the
horizon, only the pavements would glitter as though reflecting a glassy
dome. Sometimes it would be more than one cloud that the wind would carry
on its track--a company of clouds; they would appear suddenly above the
horizon, like white-faced giants peering over the world's rim, then in a
huddled confusion they would gather together, then start their flight,
separating, joining, merging, dwindling and expanding, swallowing up the
blue, threatening to encompass the pale saffron of the lower sky, then
vanishing with incredible swiftness, leaving warmth and colour in their
Amy Brandon did not see the enchanted town. She heard, as she left the
house, the clocks striking half-past six. Some regular subconscious self,
working with its accustomed daily duty, murmured to her that to-night her
husband was dining at the Conservative Club and Joan was staying on to
supper at the Sampsons' after the opening tennis party of the season. No
one would need her--as so often in the past no one had needed her. But it
was her unconscious self that whispered this to her; in the wild stream
into whose current during these last strange months she had flung herself
she was carried along she knew not, she cared not, whither.
Enough for her that she was free now to encompass her desire, the only
dominating, devastating desire that she had ever known in all her dead,
well-ordered life. But it was not even with so active a consciousness as
this that she thought this out. She thought out nothing save that she must
see Morris, be with Morris, catch from Morris that sense of appeasement
from the torture of hunger unsatisfied that never now left her.
In the last weeks she had grown so regardless of the town's opinion that
she did not care how many people saw her pass Morris' door. She had,
perhaps, been always regardless, only in the dull security of her life
there had been no need to regard them. She despised them all; she had
always despised them, for the deference and admiration that they paid her
husband if for no other reason. Despised them too, it might be, because
they had not seen more in herself, had thought her the dull, lifeless
nonentity in whose soul no fires had ever burned.
She had never chattered nor gossiped with them, did not consider gossip a
factor in any one's, day; she had never had the least curiosity about any
one else, whether about life or character or motive.
There is no egoist in the world so complete as the disappointed woman
She hurried through the town as though she were on a business of the
utmost urgency; she saw nothing and she heard nothing. She did not even
see Miss Milton sitting at her half-opened window enjoying the evening
Morris himself opened the door. He was surprised when he saw her; when he
had closed the door and helped her off with her coat he said as they
walked into the drawing-room:
"Is there anything the matter?"
She saw at once that the room was cheerless and deserted.
"Is Miss Burnett here?" she asked.
"No. She went off to Rafiel for a week's holiday. I'm being looked after
by the cook."
"It's cold." She drew her shoulders and arms together, shivering.
"Yes. It _is_ cold. It's these showers. Shall I light the fire?"
He bent down, putting a match to the paper; then when the fire blazed he
pushed the sofa forwards.
"Now sit down and tell me what's the matter."
She could see that he was extremely nervous.
"Have you heard nothing?"
She laughed bitterly. "I thought all the town knew by this time."
"Falk has run away to London with the daughter of Samuel Hogg."
"Yes, the man of the 'Dog and Pilchard' down in Seatown."
"Run away with her?"
"Yesterday. He sent us a letter saying that he had gone up to London to
earn his own living, had taken this girl with him, and would marry her
Morris was horrified.
"Without a word of warning? Without speaking to you? Horrible! The
daughter of that man.... I know something about him...the worst man in the
Then followed a long silence. The effect on Morris was as it had been on
Mrs. Brandon--the actual deed was almost lost sight of in the sudden light
that it threw on his passion. From the very first the most appealing
element of her attraction to him had been her loneliness, the neglect from
which she suffered, the need she had of comfort.
He saw her as a woman who, for twenty years, had had no love, although in
her very nature she had hungered for it; and if she had not been treated
with actual cruelty, at least she had been so basely neglected that
cruelty was not far away. It was not true to say that during these months
he had grown to hate Brandon, but he had come, more and more, to despise
and condemn him. The effeminacy in his own nature had from the first both
shrunk from and been attracted by the masculinity in Brandon.
He could have loved that man, but as the situation had forbidden that, his
feeling now was very near to hate.
Then, as the weeks had gone by, Mrs. Brandon had made it clear enough to
him that Falk was all that she had left to her--not very much to her even
there, perhaps, but something to keep her starved heart from dying. And
now Falk was gone, gone in the most brutal, callous way. She had no one in
the world left to her but himself. The rush of tenderness and longing to
be good to her that now overwhelmed him was so strong and so sudden that
it was with the utmost difficulty that he had held himself from going to
the sofa beside her.
She looked so weak there, so helpless, so gentle.
"Amy," he said, "I will do anything in the world that is in my power."
She was trembling, partly with genuine emotion, partly with cold, partly
with the drama of the situation.
"No," she said, "I don't want to do a thing that's going to involve you.
You must be left out of this. It is something that I must carry through by
myself. It was wrong of me, I suppose, to come to you, but my first
thought was that I must have companionship. I was selfish----"
"No," he broke in, "you were not selfish. I am prouder that you came to me
than I can possibly say. That is what I'm here for. I'm your friend. You
know, after all these months, that I am. And what is a friend for?" Then,
as though he felt that he was advancing too dangerously close to emotion,
he went on more quietly:
"Tell me--if it isn't impertinent of me to ask--what is your husband doing
"No. I thought that he would go up to London and see Falk, but he doesn't
feel that that is necessary. He says that, as Falk has run away with the
girl, the most decent thing that he can do is to marry her. He seems very
little upset by it. He is a most curious man. After all these years, I
don't understand him at all."
Morris went on hesitatingly. "I feel guilty myself. Weeks ago I overheard
gossip about your son and some girl. I wondered then whether I ought to
say something to you. But it's so difficult in these cases to know what
one ought to do. There's so much gossip in these little Cathedral towns. I
thought about it a good deal. Finally, I decided that it wasn't my place
"I heard nothing," she answered. "It's always the family that hears the
talk last. Perhaps my husband's right. Perhaps there is nothing to be
done. I see now that Falk never cared anything for any of us. I cheated
myself. I had to cheat myself, otherwise I don't know what I'd have done.
And now his doing this has made me suspicious of everything and of every
one. Yes, even of a friendship like ours--the greatest thing in my life--
now--the only thing in my life."
Her voice trembled and dropped. But still he would not let himself pass on
to that other ground. "Is there _nothing_ I can do?" he asked. "I
suppose it would do no good if I were to go up to London and see him? I
knew him a little--"
Vehemently she shook her head.
"You're not to be involved in this. At least I can do that much--keep you
out of it."
"How is he going to live, then?"
"He talks about writing. He's utterly confident, of course. He always has
been. Looking back now, I despise myself for ever imagining that _I_
was of any use to him. I see now that he never needed me--never at all."
Suddenly she looked across at him sharply.
"How is your sister-in-law?" His colour rose.
"She isn't well."
"It's hard to say. The doctor looked at her and said she needed quiet and
must go to the sea. It's her nerves."
"Yes, they got very queer. She's been sleeping badly."
"She and I?--yes."
"Oh, I don't know. She's getting a little too much for me, I think."
She looked him in the face.
"No, you know it isn't that. You quarrelled about me."
He said nothing.
"You quarrelled about me," she repeated. "She always disliked me from the
"Oh, yes, she did. Of course I saw that. She was jealous of me. She saw,
more quickly than any one else, how much--how much we were going to mean
to one another. Speak the truth. You know that is the best."
"She didn't understand," Morris answered slowly. "She's stupid in some
"So I've been the cause of your quarrelling, of your losing the only
friend you had in your life?"
"No, not of my losing it. I haven't lost her. Our relationship has
shifted, that's all."
"No. No. I know it is so. I've taken away the only person near you."
And suddenly turning from him to the back of the sofa, hiding her face in
her hands, she broke into passionate crying.
He stood for a moment, taut, controlled, as though he was fighting his
last little desperate battle. Then he was beaten. He knelt down on the
floor beside the sofa. He touched her hair, then her cheek. She made a
little movement towards him. He put his arms around her.
"Don't cry. Don't cry. I can't bear that. You mustn't say that you've
taken anything from me. It isn't true. You've given me everything...
everything. Why should we struggle any longer? Why shouldn't we take what
has been given to us? Your husband doesn't care. I haven't anybody. Has
God given me so much that I should miss this? And has He put it in our
hearts if He didn't mean us to take it? I love you. I've loved you since
first I set eyes on you. I can't keep away from you any longer. It's
keeping away from myself. We're one. We are one another--not alone,
either of us--any more...."
She turned towards him. He drew her closer and closer to him. With a
little sigh of happiness and comfort she yielded to him.
* * * * *
There was only one cloud in the dim green sky, a cloud orange and crimson,
shaped like a ship. As the sun was setting, a little wind stirred, the
faint aftermath of the storm of the day, and the cloud, now all crimson,
passed over the town and died in fading ribbons of gold and orange in the
white sky of the far horizon.
Only Miss Milton, perhaps, among all the citizens of the town, waiting
patiently behind her open window, watched its career.
Every one has known, at one time or another in life, that strange
unexpected calm that always falls like sudden snow on a storm-tossed
country, after some great crisis or upheaval. The blow has seemed so
catastrophic that the world must be changed with the force of its fall--
but the world is _not_ changed; hours pass and days go by, and no one
seems to be aware that anything has occurred...it is only when months
have gone, and perhaps years, that one looks back and sees that it was,
after all, on such and such a day that life was altered, values shifted,
the face of the world turned to a new angle.
This is platitudinous, but platitudes are not platitudes when we first
make our personal experience of them. There seemed nothing platitudinous
to Brandon in his present experiences. The day on which he had received
Falk's letter had seemed to fling him neck and crop into a new world--a
world dim and obscure and peopled with new and terrifying devils. The
morning after, he was clear again, and it was almost as though nothing at
all had occurred. He went about the town, and everybody behaved in a
normal manner. No sign of those strange menacing figures, the drunken
painter, the sinister, smiling Hogg; every one as usual.
Ryle complacent and obedient; Bentinck-Major officious but subservient;
Mrs. Combermere jolly; even, as he fancied, Foster a little more amiable
than usual. It was for this open, outside world that he had now for many
years been living; it was not difficult to tell himself that things here
were unchanged. Because he was no psychologist, he took people as he found
them; when they smiled they were pleased and when they frowned they were
Because there was a great deal of pressing business he pushed aside Falk's
problem. It was there, it was waiting for him, but perhaps time would
He concentrated himself with a new energy, a new self-confidence, upon
the Cathedral, the Jubilee, the public life of the town.
Nevertheless, that horrible day had had its effect upon him. Three days
after Falk's escape he was having breakfast alone with Joan.
"Mother has a headache," Joan said. "She's not coming down."
He nodded, scarcely looking up from his paper.
In a little while she said: "What are you doing to-day, daddy? I'm very
sorry to bother you, but I'm housekeeping to-day, and I have to arrange
"I'm lunching at Carpledon," he said, putting his paper down.
"With the Bishop? How nice! I wish I were. He's an old dear."
"He wants to consult me about some of the Jubilee services," Brandon said
in his public voice.
"Won't Canon Ryle mind that?"
"I don't care if he does. It's his own fault, for not managing things
"I think the Bishop must be very lonely out there. He hardly ever comes
into Polchester now. It's because of his rheumatism, I suppose. Why
doesn't he resign, daddy?"
"He's wanted to, a number of times. But he's very popular. People don't
want him to go."
"I don't wonder." Joan's eyes sparkled. "Even if one never saw him at all
it would be better than somebody else. He's _such_ an old darling."
"Well, I don't believe myself in men going on when they're past their
work. However, I hear he's going to insist on resigning at the end of this
"How old is he, daddy?"
There was always a tinge of patronage in the Archdeacon's voice when he
spoke of his Bishop. He knew that he was a saint, a man whose life had
been of so absolute a purity, a simplicity, an unfaltering faith and
courage, that there were no flaws to be found in him anywhere. It was
possibly this very simplicity that stirred Brandon's patronage. After all,
we were living in a workaday world, and the Bishop's confidence in every
man's word and trust in every man's honour had been at times a little
ludicrous. Nevertheless, did any one dare to attack the Bishop, he was
immediately his most ardent and ferocious defender.
It was only when the Bishop was praised that he felt that a word or two of
caution was necessary.
However, he was just now not thinking of the Bishop; he was thinking of
his daughter. As he looked across the table at her he wondered. What had
Falk's betrayal of the family meant to her? Had she been fond of him? She
had given no sign at all as to how it had affected her. She had her
friends and her life in the town, and her family pride like the rest of
them. How pretty she looked this morning! He was suddenly aware of the
love and devotion that she had given him for years and the small return
that he had made. Not that he had been a bad father--he hurriedly
reassured himself; no one could accuse him of that. But he had been busy,
preoccupied, had not noticed her as he might have done. She was a woman
now, with a new independence and self-assurance! And yet such a child at
the same time! He recalled the evening in the cab when she had held his
hand. How few demands she ever made upon him; how little she was ever in
He went back to his paper, but found that he could not fix his attention
upon it. When he had finished his breakfast he went across to her. She
looked up at him, smiling. He put his hand on her shoulder.
"Um--yes.... And what are you going to do to-day, dear?"
"I've heaps to do. There's the Jubilee work-party in the morning. Then
there are one or two things in the town to get for mother." She paused.
He hesitated, then said:
"Has any one--have your friends in the town--said anything about Falk?"
She looked up at him.
"No, daddy--not a word."
Then she added, as though to herself, with a little sigh, "Poor Falk!"
He took his hand from her shoulder.
"So you're sorry for him, are you?" he said angrily.
"Not sorry, exactly," she answered slowly. "But--you will forgive him,
"You can be sure," Brandon said, "that I shall do what is right."
She sprang up and faced him.
"Daddy, now that Falk is gone, it's more necessary than ever for you to
"Realise you?" he said, looking at her.
"Yes, that I'm a woman now and not a child any longer. You don't realise
it a bit. I said it to mother months ago, and told her that now I could do
all sorts of things for her. She _has_ let me do a few things, but
she hasn't changed to me, not been any different, or wanted me any more
than she did before. But you must. You _must_, daddy. I can help you
in lots of ways. I can----"
"What ways?" he asked her, smiling.
"I don't know. You must find them out. What I mean is that you've got to
count on me as an element in the family now. You can't disregard me any
"Have I disregarded you?"
"Of course you have," she answered, laughing.
"Well, we'll see," he said. He bent down and kissed her, then left the
He left to catch the train to Carpledon in a self-satisfied mind. He was
tired, certainly, and had felt ever since the shock of three days back a
certain "warning" sensation that hovered over him rather like hot air,
suggesting that sudden agonizing pain...but so long as the pain did not
come...He had thought, half derisively, of seeing old Puddifoot, even of
having himself overhauled--but Puddifoot was an ass. How could a man who
talked the nonsense Puddifoot did in the Conservative Club be anything of
a doctor? Besides, the man was old. There was a young man now, Newton. But
Brandon distrusted young men.
He was amused and pleased at the station. He strode up and down the
platform, his hands behind his broad back, his head up, his top-hat
shining, his gaiters fitting superbly his splendid calves. The station-
master touched his hat, smiled, and stayed for a word or two. Very
deferential. Good fellow, Curtis. Knew his business. The little, stout,
rosy-faced fellow who guarded the book-stall touched his hat. Brandon
stopped and looked at the papers. Advertisements already of special
Jubilee supplements--"Life of the Good Queen," "History of the Empire,
1837-1897." Piles of that trashy novel Joan had been talking about, _The
Massarenes_, by Ouida. Pah! Stuff and nonsense. How did people have
time for such things? "Yes, Mr. Waller. Fine day. Very fine May we're
having. Ought to be fine for the Jubilee. Hope so, I'm sure. Disappoint
many people if it's wet...."
He bought the _Church Times_ and crossed to the side-line. No one
here but a farmer, a country-woman and her little boy. The farmer's side-
face reminded him suddenly of some one. Who was it? That fat cheek, the
faint sandy hair beneath the shabby bowler. He was struck as though,
standing on a tight-rope in mid-air, he felt it quiver beneath him.
Hogg.... He turned abruptly and faced the empty line and the dusty
neglected boarding of a railway-shed. He must not think of that man, must
not allow him to seize his thoughts. Hogg--Davray. Had he dreamt that
horrible scene in the Cathedral? Could that have been? He lifted his hand
and, as it were, tore the scene into pieces and scattered it on the line.
He had command of his thoughts, shutting down one little tight shutter
after another upon the things he did not want to see. _That_ he did
not want to see, did not want to know.
The little train drew in, slowly, regretfully. Brandon got into the
solitary first-class carriage and buried himself in his paper. Soon,
thanks to his happy gift of attending only to one question at a time, the
subjects that that paper brought up for discussion completely absorbed
him. Anything more absurd than such an argument!--as though the validity
of Baptism did not absolutely depend...
He was happily lost; the little train steamed out. He saw nothing of the
beautiful country through which they passed--country, on this May
morning, so beautiful in its rich luxuriant security, the fields bending
and dipping to the tree-haunted streams, the hedges running in lines of
blue and dark purple like ribbons to the sky, that, blue-flecked, caught
in light and shadow a myriad pattern as a complement to its own sun-warmed
clouds. Rich and English so utterly that it was almost scornful in its
resentment of foreign interference. In spite of the clouds the air was now
in its mid-day splendour, and the cows, in clusters of brown, dark and
clay-red, sought the cool grey shadows of the hedges.
The peace of centuries lay upon this land, and the sun with loving hands
caressed its warm flanks as though here, at least, was some one of whom it
might be sure, some one known from old time.
The little station at Carpledon was merely a wooden shed. Woods running
down the hill threatened to overwhelm it; at its very edge beyond the
line, thick green fields slipped to the shining level waters of the Pol.
Brandon walked up the hill through the wood, past the hedge and on through
the Park to the Palace drive. The sight of that old, red, thick-set
building with its square comfortable windows, its bell-tower, its
dovecots, its graceful, stolid, happy lines, its high old doorway, its
tiled roof rosy-red with age, respectability and comfort, its square
solemn chimneys behind and between whose self-possession the broad
branches of the oaks, older and wiser than the house itself, uplifted
their clustered leaves with the protection of their conscious dignity--
this house thrilled all that was deepest and most superstitious in his
To this building he would bow, to this house surrender. Here was something
that would command all his reverence, a worthy adjunct to the Cathedral
that he loved; without undue pride he must acknowledge to himself that,
had fate so willed it, he would himself have occupied this place with a
worthy and fitting appropriateness. It seemed, indeed, as he pulled the
iron bell and heard its clang deep within the house, that he understood
what it needed so well that it must sigh with a dignified relief when it
saw him approach.
Appleford the butler, who opened the door, was an old friend of his--an
aged, white-locked man, but dignity itself.
"His lordship will be down in a moment," he said, showing him into the
library. Some one else was there, his back to the door. He turned round;
it was Ronder.
When Brandon saw him he had again that sense that came now to him so
frequently, that some plot was in process against him and gradually, step
by step, hedging him in. That is a dangerous sense for any human being to
acquire, but most especially for a man of Brandon's simplicity, almost
naivete of character.
Ronder! The very last man whom Brandon could bear to see in that place and
at that time! Brandon's visit to-day was not entirely unengineered. To be
honest, he had not spoken quite the truth to his daughter when he had said
that the Bishop had asked him out there for consultation. Himself had
written to the Bishop a very strong letter, emphasising the inadequacy
with which his Jubilee services were being prepared, saying something
about the suitability of Forsyth for the Pybus living, and hinting at
certain carelessnesses in the Chapter "due to new and regrettable
influences." It was in answer to this letter that Ponting, the Resident
Chaplain, had written saying that the Bishop would like to give Brandon
luncheon. It may be said, therefore, that Brandon wished to consult the
Bishop rather than the Bishop Brandon. The Archdeacon had pictured to
himself a cosy _tete-a-tete_ with the Bishop lasting for an hour or
two, and entirely uninterrupted. He flattered himself that he knew his
dear Bishop well enough by this time to deal with him exactly as he ought
to be dealt with. But, for that dealing, privacy was absolutely essential.
Any third person would have been, to the last extent, provoking. Ronder
was disastrous. He instantly persuaded himself, as he looked at that
rubicund and smiling figure, that Ronder had heard of his visit and
determined to be one of the party. He could only have heard of it through
Ponting.... The Archdeacon's fingers twisted within one another as he
considered how pleasant it would be to wring Ponting's long, white and
And, of course, behind all this immediate situation was his sense of the
pleasure and satisfaction that Ronder must be feeling about Falk's
scandal. Licking his thick red lips about it, he must be, watching with
his little fat eyes for the moment when, with his round fat fingers, he
might probe that wound.
Nevertheless the Archdeacon knew, by this time, Ronder's character and
abilities too well not to realise that he must dissemble. Dissembling was
the hardest thing of all that a man of the Archdeacon's character could be
called upon to perform, but dissemble he must.
His smile was of a grim kind.
"Ha! Ronder; didn't expect to see you here."
"No," said Ronder, coming forward and smiling with the utmost geniality.
"To tell you the truth, I didn't expect to find myself here. It was only
last evening that I got a note from the Bishop asking me to come out to
luncheon to-day. He said that you would be here."
Oh, so Ponting was not to blame. It was the Bishop himself. Poor old man!
Cowardice obviously, afraid of some of the home-truths that Brandon might
find it his duty to deliver. A coward in his old age....
"Very fine day," said Brandon.
"Beautiful," said Ronder. "Really, looks as though we are going to have
good weather for the Jubilee."
"Hope we do," said Brandon. "Very hard on thousands of people if it's
"Very," said Ronder. "I hope Mrs. Brandon is well."
"To-day she has a little headache," said Brandon. "But it's really
"Well," said Ronder. "I've been wondering whether there isn't some thunder
in the air. I've been feeling it oppressive myself."
"It does get oppressive," said Brandon, "this time of the year in
Glebeshire--especially South Glebeshire. I've often noticed it."
"What we want," said Ronder, "is a good thunderstorm to clear the air."
"Just what we're not likely to get," said Brandon. "It hangs on for days
and days without breaking."
"I wonder why that is," said Ronder; "there are no hills round about to
keep it. There's hardly a hill of any size in the whole of South
"Of course, Polchester's in a hollow," said Brandon. "Except for the
Cathedral, of course. I always envy Lady St. Leath her elevation."
"A fine site, the Castle," said Ronder. "They must get a continual breeze
"They do," said Brandon. "Whenever I'm up there there's a wind."
This most edifying conversation was interrupted by the entrance of the
Reverend Charles Ponting. Mr. Ponting was very long, very thin and very
black, his cadaverous cheeks resembling in their colour nothing so much as
good fountain-pen ink. He spoke always in a high, melancholy and chanting
voice. He was undoubtedly effeminate in his movements, and he had an air
of superior secrecy about the affairs of the Bishop that people sometimes
found very trying. But he was a good man and a zealous, and entirely
devoted to his lord and master.
"Ha! Archdeacon.... Ha! Canon. His lordship will be down in one moment. He
has asked me to make his apologies for not being here to receive you. He
is just finishing something of rather especial importance."
The Bishop, however, entered a moment later. He was a little, frail man,
walking with the aid of a stick. He had snow-white hair, rather thick and
long, pale cheeks and eyes of a bright china-blue. He had that quality,
given to only a few in this world of happy mediocrities, of filling, at
once, any room into which he entered with the strength and fragrance of
his spirit. So strong, fearless and beautiful was his soul that it shone
through the frail compass of his body with an unfaltering light. No one
had ever doubted the goodness and splendour of the man's character. Men
might call his body old and feeble and past the work that it was still
called upon to perform. They might speak of him as guileless, as too
innocent of this world's slippery ways, as trusting where no child of six
years of age would have trusted; these things might have been, and were,
said, but no man, woman, nor child, looking upon him, hesitated to realise
that here was some one who had walked and talked with God and in whom
there was no shadow of deceit nor evil thought. Old Glasgow Parmiter, the
lawyer, the wickedest old man Polchester had ever known, said once of him,
"If there's a hell, I suppose I'm going to it, and I'm sure I don't care.
There may be one and there may not. I know there's a heaven. Purcell lives
His voice, which was soft and strong, had at its heart a tiny stammer
which came out now and then with a hesitating, almost childish, charm. As
he stood there, leaning on his stick, smiling at them, there did seem a
great deal of the child about him, and Brandon, Ponting and Ronder
suddenly seemed old, wicked and soiled in the world's ways.
"Please forgive me," he said, "for not being down when you came. I move
slowly now.... Luncheon is ready, I know. Shall we go in?"
The four men crossed the stone-flagged hall into the diningroom where
Appleford stood, devoutly, as one about to perform a solemn rite. The
dining-room was high-ceilinged with a fireplace of old red brick fronted
with black oak beams. The walls were plain whitewash, and they carried
only one picture, a large copy of Duerer's "Knight and the Devil." The
high, broad windows looked out on to the sloping lawn whose green now
danced and sparkled under the sun. The trees that closed it in were purple
They sat, clustered together, at the end of a long oak refectory table.
The Bishop himself was a teetotaler, but there was good claret and, at the
end, excellent port. The only piece of colour on the table was a bowl of
dark-blue glass piled with fruit. The only ornament in the room was a
beautifully carved silver crucifix on the black oak mantelpiece. The sun
danced across the stained floor with every pattern and form of light.
Brandon could not remember a more unpleasant meal in that room; he could
not, indeed, remember ever having had an unpleasant meal there before. The
Bishop talked, as he always did, in a most pleasant and easy fashion. He
talked about the nectarines and plums that were soon to glorify his garden
walls, about the pears and apples in his orchard, about the jokes that old
Puddifoot made when he came over and examined his rheumatic limbs. He
gently chaffed Ponting about his punctuality, neatness and general dislike
of violent noises, and he bade Appleford to tell the housekeeper, Mrs.
Brenton, how especially good to-day was the fish souffle. All this was all
it had ever been; nothing could have been easier and more happy. But on
other days it had always been Brandon who had thrown back the ball for the
Bishop to catch. Whoever the other guest might be, it was always Brandon
who took the lead, and although he might be a little ponderous and slow in
movement, he supplied the Bishop's conversational needs quite adequately.
And to-day it was Ronder; from the first, without any ostentation or
presumption, with the utmost naturalness, he led the field. To understand
the full truth of this occasion it must be known that Mr. Ponting had, for
a considerable number of years past, cherished a deep but private
detestation of the Archdeacon. It was hard to say wherein that hatred had
had it inception--probably in some old, long-forgotten piece of cheerful
patronage on Brandon's part; Mr. Ponting was of those who consider and
dwell and dwell again, and he had, by this time, dwelt upon the Archdeacon
so long and so thoroughly that he knew and resented the colour of every
one of the Archdeacon's waistcoat buttons. He was, perhaps, quick to
perceive to-day that a mightier than the Archdeacon was here; or it may
have been that he was well aware of what had been happening in Polchester
during the last weeks, and was even informed of the incidents of the last
However that may be, he did from the first pay an almost exaggerated
deference to Ronder's opinion, drew him into the conversation at every
possible opportunity, with such, interjections as "How true! How very
true! Don't you think so, Canon Ronder?" or "What has been your experience
in such a case, Canon Ronder?" or "I think, my lord, that Canon Ronder
told me that he knows that place well," and disregarding entirely any
remarks that Brandon might happen to make.
No one could have responded more brilliantly to this opportunity than did
Ronder; indeed the Bishop, who was his host at the Palace to-day for the
first time, said after his departure, "That's a most able man, most able.
Lucky indeed for the diocese that it has secured him...a delightful
No one in the world could have been richer in anecdotes than Ronder,
anecdotes of precisely the kind for the Bishop's taste, not too worldly,
not too clerical, amusing without being broad, light and airy, but showing
often a fine scholarship and a wise and thoughtful experience of foreign
countries. The Bishop had not laughed so heartily for many a day. "Oh,
dear! Oh, dear!" he cried at the anecdote of the two American ladies in
Siena. "That's good, indeed...that's very good. Did you get that,
Pouting? Dear me, that's perfectly delightful!" A little tear of shining
pleasure trickled down his cheek. "Really, Canon, I've never heard
Brandon thought Ronder's manners outrageous. Poor Bishop! He was indeed
failing that he could laugh so heartily at such pitiful humour. He tried,
to show his sense of it all by grimly pursuing his food and refusing even
the ghost of a chuckle, but no one was perceiving him, as he very bitterly
saw. The Bishop, it may be, saw it too, for at last he turned to Brandon
"But come, Archdeacon. I was forgetting. You wrote to me s-something about
that Jubilee-music in the Cathedral. You find that Ryle is making rather a
m-mess of things, don't you?"
Brandon was deeply offended. Of what was the Bishop thinking that he could
so idly drag forward the substance of an entirely private letter, without
asking permission, into the public air? Moreover, the last thing that he
wanted was that Ronder should know that he had been working behind Ryle's
back. Not that he was in the least ashamed of what he had done, but here
was precisely the thing that Ronder would like to use and make something
of. In any case, it was the principle of the thing. Was Ronder henceforth
to be privy to everything that passed between himself and the Bishop?
He never found it easy to veil his feelings, and he looked now, as Ponting
delightedly perceived, like an overgrown, sulky schoolboy.
"No, no, my lord," he said, looking across at Ponting, as though he would
love to set his heel upon that pale but eager visage. "You have me wrong
there. I was making no complaint. The Precentor knows his own business
"You certainly said something in your letter," said the Bishop vaguely.
"There was s-something, Ponting, was there not?"
"Yes, my lord," said Ponting. "There was. But I expect the Archdeacon did
not mean it very seriously."
"Do you mean that you find the Precentor inefficient?" said the Bishop,
looking at the coffee with longing and then shaking his head. "Not to-day,
Appleford, alas--not to-day."
"Oh, no," said Brandon, colouring. "Of course not. Our tastes differ a
little as to the choice of music, that's all. I've no doubt that I am old-
"How do you find the Cathedral music, Canon?" he asked, turning to Ronder.
"Oh, I know very little about it," said Ronder, smiling. '"Nothing in
comparison with the Archdeacon. I'm sure he's right in liking the old
music that people have grown used to and are fond of. At the same time, I
must confess that I haven't thought Ryle too venturesome. But then I'm
very ignorant, having been here so short a time."
"That's right, then," said the Bishop comfortably. "There doesn't seem
At that moment Appleford, who had been absent from the room for a minute,
returned with a note which he gave to the Bishop.
"From Pybus, my lord," he said; "some one has ridden over with it."
At the word "Pybus" there was an electric silence in the room. The Bishop
tore open the letter and read it. He half started from his chair with a
little exclamation of distress and grief.
"Please excuse me," he said, turning to them. "I must leave you for a
moment and speak to the bearer of this note. Poor Morrison...at last...
The Archdeacon, in spite of himself, half rose and stared across at
Ronder. Pybus! The living at last was vacant.
A moment later he felt deeply ashamed. In that sunlit room the bright
green of the outside world quivering in pools of colour upon the pure
space of the white walls spoke of life and beauty and the immortality of
It was hard to think of death there in such a place, but one must think of
it and consider, too, Morrison, who had been so good a fellow and loved
the world, and all the things in it, and had thought of heaven also in the
spare moments that his energy left him.
A great sportsman he had been, with a famous breed of bull-terrier, and
anxious to revive the South Glebeshire Hunt; very fine, too, in that last
terrible year when the worst of all mortal diseases had leapt upon his
throat and shaken him with agony and the imminent prospect of death--
shaken him but never terrified him. Brandon summoned before him that
broad, jolly, laughing figure, summoned it, bowed to its fortitude and
optimism, then, as all men must, at such a moment, considered his own end;
then, having paid his due to Morrison, returned to the great business of
They were gathered together in the hall now. The Bishop had known Morrison
well and greatly liked him, and he could think of nothing but the man
himself. The question of the succession could not come near him that day,
and as he stood, a little white-haired figure, tottering on his stick in
the flagged hall, he seemed already to be far from the others, to be
caught already half-way along the road that Morrison was now travelling.
Both Brandon and Ronder felt that it was right for them to go, although on
a normal day they would have stayed walking in the garden and talking for
another three-quarters of an hour until it was time to catch the three-
thirty train from Carpledon. Mr. Ponting settled the situation.
"His lordship," he said, "hopes that you will let Bassett drive you into
Polchester. There is the little wagonette; Bassett must go, in any case,
to get some things. It is no trouble, no trouble at all."
They, of course, agreed, although for Brandon at any rate there would be
many things in the world pleasanter than sitting with Ronder in a small
wagonette for more than an hour. He also had no liking for Bassett, the
Bishop's coachman for the last twenty years, a native of South Glebeshire,
with all the obstinacy, pride and independence that that definition
There was, however, no other course, and, a quarter of an hour later, the
two clergymen found themselves opposite one another in a wagonette that
was indeed so small that it seemed inevitable that Ronder's knees must
meet Brandon's and Brandon's ankles glide against Ronder's.
The Archdeacon's temper was, by this time, at its worst. Everything had
been ruined by Ronder's presence. The original grievances were bad enough
--the way in which his letter had been flouted, the fashion in which his
conversation had been disregarded at luncheon, the sanctified pleasure
that Ponting's angular countenance had expressed at every check that he
had received; but all these things mattered nothing compared with the fact
that Ronder was present at the news of Morrison's death.
Had he been alone with the Bishop then, what an opportunity he would have
had! How exactly he would have known how to comfort the Bishop, how
tactful and right he would have been in the words that he used, and what
an opportunity finally for turning the Bishop's mind in the way it should
go, namely, towards Rex Forsyth!
As his knees, place them where he would, bumped against Ronder's, wrath
bubbled in his heart like boiling water in a kettle. The very immobility
of Bassett's broad back added to the irritation.
"It's remarkably small for a wagonette," said Ronder at last, when some
minutes had passed in silence. "Further north this would not, I should
think, be called a wagonette at all, but in Glebeshire there are special
names for everything. And then, of course, we are both big men."
This comparison was most unfortunate. Ronder's body was soft and plump,
most unmistakably fat. Brandon's was apparently in magnificent condition.
It is well known that a large man in good athletic condition has a deep,
overwhelming contempt for men who are fat and soft. Brandon made no reply.
Ronder was determined to be pleasant.
"Very difficult to keep thin in this part of the world, isn't it? Every
morning when I look at myself in the glass I find myself fatter than I was
the day before. Then I say to myself, 'I'll give up bread and potatoes and
drink hot water.' Hot water! Loathsome stuff. Moreover, have you noticed,
Archdeacon, that a man who diets himself is a perfect nuisance to all his
friends and neighbours? The moment he refuses potatoes his hostess says to
him, 'Why, Mr. Smith, not one of our potatoes! Out of our own garden!' And
then he explains to her that he is dieting, whereupon every one at the
table hurriedly recites long and dreary histories of how they have dieted
at one time or another with this or that success. The meal is ruined for
yourself and every one else. Now, isn't it so? What do you do for yourself
when you are putting on flesh?"