Part 3 out of 6
"I said so."
"It arrived at four-six on the time-table," said Mr. Wonham. "I
want to know when it got to the station?"
"I tell you again it was punctual. I tell you I looked at my
watch. I can do no more."
Agnes was amazed. Was Rickie mad? A minute ago and they were
boring each other over dogs. What had happened?
"Now, now! Quarrelling already?" asked Mrs. Failing.
The footman, bringing a lamp, lit up two angry faces.
"He says we ran over a child."
"So you did. You ran over a child in the village at four-seven by
my watch. Your train was late. You couldn't have got to the
station till four-ten."
"I don't believe it. We had passed the village by four-seven.
Agnes, hadn't we passed the village? It must have been an express
that ran over the child."
"Now is it likely"--he appealed to the practical world --"is it
likely that the company would run a stopping train and then an
express three minutes after it?"
"A child--" said Rickie. "I can't believe that the train killed a
child." He thought of their journey. They were alone in the
carriage. As the train slackened speed he had caught her
for a moment in his arms. The rain beat on the windows, but they
were in heaven.
"You've got to believe it," said the other, and proceeded to "rub
it in." His healthy, irritable face drew close to Rickie's. "Two
children were kicking and screaming on the Roman crossing. Your
train, being late, came down on them. One of them was pulled off
the line, but the other was caught. How will you get out of
"And how will you get out of it?" cried Mrs. Failing, turning the
tables on him. "Where's the child now? What has happened to its
soul? You must know, Agnes, that this young gentleman is a
"Oh, drop all that," said Mr. Wonham, suddenly collapsing.
"Drop it? Where? On my nice carpet?"
"I hate philosophy," remarked Agnes, trying to turn the subject,
for she saw that it made Rickie unhappy.
"So do I. But I daren't say so before Stephen. He despises us
"No, I don't," said the victim, swaying to and fro on the
window-sill, whither he had retreated.
"Yes, he does. He won't even trouble to answer us. Stephen!
Podge! Answer me. What has happened to the child's soul?"
He flung open the window and leant from them into the dusk. They
heard him mutter something about a bridge.
"What did I tell you? He won't answer my question."
The delightful moment was approaching when the boy would lose his
temper: she knew it by a certain tremor in his heels.
"There wants a bridge," he exploded. "A bridge instead of all
this rotten talk and the level-crossing. It wouldn't break you to
build a two-arch bridge. Then the child's soul, as you call it--
well, nothing would have happened to the child at all."
A gust of night air entered, accompanied by rain. The flowers in
the vases rustled, and the flame of the lamp shot up and smoked
the glass. Slightly irritated, she ordered him to close the
Cadover was not a large house. But it is the largest house with
which this story has dealings, and must always be thought of with
respect. It was built about the year 1800, and favoured the
architecture of ancient Rome--chiefly by means of five lank
pilasters, which stretched from the top of it to the bottom.
Between the pilasters was the glass front door, to the right of
them the drawing room windows, to the left of them the windows of
the dining-room, above them a triangular area, which the
better-class servants knew as a "pendiment," and which had in its
middle a small round hole, according to the usage of Palladio.
The classical note was also sustained by eight grey steps which
led from the building down into the drive, and by an attempt at a
formal garden on the adjoining lawn. The lawn ended in a Ha-ha
("Ha! ha! who shall regard it?"), and thence the bare land sloped
down into the village. The main garden (walled) was to the left
as one faced the house, while to the right was that laurel
avenue, leading up to Mrs. Failing's arbour.
It was a comfortable but not very attractive place, and, to a
certain type of mind, its situation was not attractive either.
>From the distance it showed as a grey box, huddled against
evergreens. There was no mystery about it. You saw it for miles.
Its hill had none of the beetling romance of Devonshire, none of
the subtle contours that prelude a cottage in Kent, but
profferred its burden crudely, on a huge bare palm. "There's
Cadover," visitors would say. "How small it still looks. We shall
be late for lunch." And the view from the windows, though
extensive, would not have been accepted by the Royal Academy. A
valley, containing a stream, a road, a railway; over the valley
fields of barley and wurzel, divided by no pretty hedges, and
passing into a great and formless down--this was the outlook,
desolate at all times, and almost terrifying beneath a cloudy
sky. The down was called "Cadbury Range" ("Cocoa Squares" if you
were young and funny), because high upon it--one cannot say "on
the top," there being scarcely any tops in Wiltshire--because
high upon it there stood a double circle of entrenchments. A bank
of grass enclosed a ring of turnips, which enclosed a second bank
of grass, which enclosed more turnips, and in the middle of the
pattern grew one small tree. British? Roman? Saxon? Danish? The
competent reader will decide. The Thompson family knew it to be
far older than the Franco-German war. It was the property of
Government. It was full of gold and dead soldiers who had fought
with the soldiers on Castle Rings and been beaten. The road to
Londinium, having forded the stream and crossed the valley road
and the railway, passed up by these entrenchments. The road to
London lay half a mile to the right of them.
To complete this survey one must mention the church and the farm,
both of which lay over the stream in Cadford. Between them they
ruled the village, one claiming the souls of the labourers, the
other their bodies. If a man desired other religion or other
employment he must leave. The church lay up by the railway, the
farm was down by the water meadows. The vicar, a gentle
charitable man scarcely realized his power, and never tried
to abuse it. Mr. Wilbraham, the agent, was of another mould. He
knew his place, and kept others to theirs: all society seemed
spread before him like a map. The line between the county and the
local, the line between the labourer and the artisan--he knew
them all, and strengthened them with no uncertain touch.
Everything with him was graduated--carefully graduated civility
towards his superior, towards his inferiors carefully graduated
incivility. So--for he was a thoughtful person--so alone,
declared he, could things be kept together.
Perhaps the Comic Muse, to whom so much is now attributed, had
caused his estate to be left to Mr. Failing. Mr. Failing was the
author of some brilliant books on socialism,--that was why his
wife married him--and for twenty-five years he reigned up at
Cadover and tried to put his theories into practice. He believed
that things could be kept together by accenting the similarities,
not the differences of men. "We are all much more alike than we
confess," was one of his favourite speeches. As a speech it
sounded very well, and his wife had applauded; but when it
resulted in hard work, evenings in the reading-rooms,
mixed-parties, and long unobtrusive talks with dull people, she
got bored. In her piquant way she declared that she was not going
to love her husband, and succeeded. He took it quietly, but his
brilliancy decreased. His health grew worse, and he knew that
when he died there was no one to carry on his work. He felt,
besides, that he had done very little. Toil as he would, he had
not a practical mind, and could never dispense with Mr.
Wilbraham. For all his tact, he would often stretch out the hand
of brotherhood too soon, or withhold it when it would have been
accepted. Most people misunderstood him, or only understood him
when he was dead. In after years his reign became a golden age;
but he counted a few disciples in his life-time, a few young
labourers and tenant farmers, who swore tempestuously that he was
not really a fool. This, he told himself, was as much as he
Cadover was inherited by his widow. She tried to sell it; she
tried to let it; but she asked too much, and as it was neither a
pretty place nor fertile, it was left on her hands. With many a
groan she settled down to banishment. Wiltshire people, she
declared, were the stupidest in England. She told them so to
their faces, which made them no brighter. And their county was
worthy of them: no distinction in it--no style--simply land.
But her wrath passed, or remained only as a graceful fretfulness.
She made the house comfortable, and abandoned the farm to Mr.
Wilbraham. With a good deal of care she selected a small circle
of acquaintances, and had them to stop in the summer months. In
the winter she would go to town and frequent the salons of the
literary. As her lameness increased she moved about less, and at
the time of her nephew's visit seldom left the place that had
been forced upon her as a home. Just now she was busy. A
prominent politician had quoted her husband. The young generation
asked, "Who is this Mr. Failing?" and the publishers wrote, "Now
is the time." She was collecting some essays and penning an
Rickie admired his aunt, but did not care for her. She reminded
him too much of his father. She had the same affliction, the same
heartlessness, the same habit of taking life with a laugh--as if
life is a pill! He also felt that she had neglected him. He would
not have asked much: as for "prospects," they never entered his
head, but she was his only near relative, and a little kindness
and hospitality during the lonely years would have made
incalculable difference. Now that he was happier and could bring
her Agnes, she had asked him to stop at once. The sun as it rose
next morning spoke to him of a new life. He too had a purpose and
a value in the world at last. Leaning out of the window, he gazed
at the earth washed clean and heard through the pure air the
distant noises of the farm.
But that day nothing was to remain divine but the weather. His
aunt, for reasons of her own, decreed that he should go for a
ride with the Wonham boy. They were to look at Old Sarum, proceed
thence to Salisbury, lunch there, see the sights, call on a
certain canon for tea, and return to Cadover in the evening. The
arrangement suited no one. He did not want to ride, but to be
with Agnes; nor did Agnes want to be parted from him, nor Stephen
to go with him. But the clearer the wishes of her guests became,
the more determined was Mrs. Failing to disregard them. She
smoothed away every difficulty, she converted every objection
into a reason, and she ordered the horses for half-past nine.
"It is a bore," he grumbled as he sat in their little private
sitting-room, breaking his finger-nails upon the coachman's
gaiters. "I can't ride. I shall fall off. We should have been so
happy here. It's just like Aunt Emily. Can't you imagine her
saying afterwards, 'Lovers are absurd. I made a point of keeping
them apart,' and then everybody laughing."
With a pretty foretaste of the future, Agnes knelt before him and
did the gaiters up. "Who is this Mr. Wonham, by the bye?"
"I don't know. Some connection of Mr. Failing's, I think."
"Does he live here?"
"He used to be at school or something. He seems to have grown
into a tiresome person."
"I suppose that Mrs. Failing has adopted him."
"I suppose so. I believe that she has been quite kind. I do hope
she'll be kind to you this morning. I hate leaving you with her."
"Why, you say she likes me."
"Yes, but that wouldn't prevent--you see she doesn't mind what
she says or what she repeats if it amuses her. If she thought it
really funny, for instance, to break off our engagement, she'd
"Dear boy, what a frightful remark! But it would be funnier for
us to see her trying. Whatever could she do?"
He kissed the hands that were still busy with the fastenings.
"Nothing. I can't see one thing. We simply lie open to each
other, you and I. There isn't one new corner in either of us that
she could reveal. It's only that I always have in this house the
most awful feeling of insecurity."
"If any one says or does a foolish thing it's always here. All
the family breezes have started here. It's a kind of focus for
aimed and aimless scandal. You know, when my father and mother
had their special quarrel, my aunt was mixed up in it,--I never
knew how or how much--but you may be sure she didn't calm things
down, unless she found things more entertaining calm."
"Rickie! Rickie!" cried the lady from the garden, "Your
"We really oughtn't to talk of her like this here," whispered
Agnes. "It's a horrible habit."
"The habit of the country, Agnes. Ugh, this gossip!" Suddenly he
flung his arms over her. "Dear--dear--let's beware of I don't
know what--of nothing at all perhaps."
"Oh, buck up!" yelled the irritable Stephen. "Which am I to
shorten--left stirrup or right?"
"Left!" shouted Agnes.
"How many holes?"
They hurried down. On the way she said: "I'm glad of the warning.
Now I'm prepared. Your aunt will get nothing out of me."
Her betrothed tried to mount with the wrong foot according to his
invariable custom. She also had to pick up his whip. At last they
started, the boy showing off pretty consistently, and she was
left alone with her hostess.
"Dido is quiet as a lamb," said Mrs. Failing, "and Stephen is a
good fielder. What a blessing it is to have cleared out the men.
What shall you and I do this heavenly morning?"
"I'm game for anything."
"Have you quite unpacked?"
"Any letters to write?" No.
"Then let's go to my arbour. No, we won't. It gets the morning
sun, and it'll be too hot today." Already she regretted clearing
out the men. On such a morning she would have liked to drive, but
her third animal had gone lame. She feared, too, that Miss
Pembroke was going to bore her. However, they did go to the
arbour. In languid tones she pointed out the various objects of
"There's the Cad, which goes into the something, which goes into
the Avon. Cadbury Rings opposite, Cadchurch to the extreme left:
you can't see it. You were there last night. It is famous for the
drunken parson and the railway-station. Then Cad Dauntsey. Then
Cadford, that side of the stream, connected with Cadover, this.
Observe the fertility of the Wiltshire mind."
"A terrible lot of Cads," said Agnes brightly.
Mrs. Failing divided her guests into those who made this joke and
those who did not. The latter class was very small.
"The vicar of Cadford--not the nice drunkard--declares the name
is really 'Chadford,' and he worried on till I put up a window to
St. Chad in our church. His Cambridge wife pronounces it
'Hyadford.' I could smack them both. How do you like Podge? Ah!
you jump; I meant you to. How do you like Podge Wonham?"
"Very nice," said Agnes, laughing.
"Nice! He is a hero."
There was a long interval of silence. Each lady looked, without
much interest, at the view. Mrs. Failing's attitude towards
Nature was severely aesthetic--an attitude more sterile than the
severely practical. She applied the test of beauty to shadow and
odour and sound; they never filled her with reverence or
excitement; she never knew them as a resistless trinity that may
intoxicate the worshipper with joy. If she liked a ploughed
field, it was only as a spot of colour--not also as a hint of the
endless strength of the earth. And today she could approve of one
cloud, but object to its fellow. As for Miss Pembroke, she was
not approving or objecting at all. "A hero?" she queried, when
the interval had passed. Her voice was indifferent, as if she had
been thinking of other things.
"A hero? Yes. Didn't you notice how heroic he was?"
"I don't think I did."
"Not at dinner? Ah, Agnes, always look out for heroism at dinner.
It is their great time. They live up to the stiffness of their
shirt fronts. Do you mean to say that you never noticed how he
set down Rickie?"
"Oh, that about poetry!" said Agnes, laughing. "Rickie would not
mind it for a moment. But why do you single out that as heroic?"
"To snub people! to set them down! to be rude to them! to make
them feel small! Surely that's the lifework of a hero?"
"I shouldn't have said that. And as a matter of fact Mr. Wonham
was wrong over the poetry. I made Rickie look it up afterwards."
"But of course. A hero always is wrong."
"To me," she persisted, rather gently, "a hero has always been a
strong wonderful being, who champions--"
"Ah, wait till you are the dragon! I have been a dragon most of
my life, I think. A dragon that wants nothing but a peaceful
cave. Then in comes the strong, wonderful, delightful being, and
gains a princess by piercing my hide. No, seriously, my dear
Agnes, the chief characteristics of a hero are infinite disregard
for the feelings of others, plus general inability to understand
"But surely Mr. Wonham--"
"Yes; aren't we being unkind to the poor boy. Ought we to go on
Agnes waited, remembering the warnings of Rickie, and thinking
that anything she said might perhaps be repeated.
"Though even if he was here he wouldn't understand what we are
Mrs. Failing gave the least flicker of an eye towards her
companion. "Did you take him for clever?"
"I don't think I took him for anything." She smiled. "I have been
thinking of other things, and another boy."
"But do think for a moment of Stephen. I will describe how he
spent yesterday. He rose at eight. From eight to eleven he sang.
The song was called, 'Father's boots will soon fit Willie.' He
stopped once to say to the footman, 'She'll never finish her
book. She idles: 'She' being I. At eleven he went out, and stood
in the rain till four, but had the luck to see a child run over
at the level-crossing. By half-past four he had knocked the
bottom out of Christianity."
Agnes looked bewildered.
"Aren't you impressed? I was. I told him that he was on no
account to unsettle the vicar. Open that cupboard, one of those
sixpenny books tells Podge that he's made of hard little black
things, another that he's made of brown things, larger and
squashy. There seems a discrepancy, but anything is better for a
thoughtful youth than to be made in the Garden of Eden. Let us
eliminate the poetic, at whatever cost to the probable." When for
a moment she spoke more gravely. "Here he is at twenty, with
nothing to hold on by. I don't know what's to be done. I suppose
it's my fault. But I've never had any bother over the Church of
England; have you?"
"Of course I go with my Church," said Miss Pembroke, who hated
this style of conversation. "I don't know, I'm sure. I think you
should consult a man."
"Would Rickie help me?"
"Rickie would do anything he can." And Mrs. Failing noted the
half official way in which she vouched for her lover. "But of
course Rickie is a little--complicated. I doubt whether Mr.
Wonham would understand him. He wants--doesn't he?--some one
who's a little more assertive and more accustomed to boys. Some
one more like my brother."
"Agnes!" she seized her by the arm. "Do you suppose that Mr.
Pembroke would undertake my Podge?"
She shook her head. "His time is so filled up. He gets a
boarding-house next term. Besides--after all I don't know what
Herbert would do."
"Morality. He would teach him morality. The Thirty-Nine Articles
may come of themselves, but if you have no morals you come to
grief. Morality is all I demand from Mr. Herbert Pembroke. He
shall be excused the use of the globes. You know, of course, that
Stephen's expelled from a public school? He stole."
The school was not a public one, and the expulsion, or rather
request for removal, had taken place when Stephen was fourteen. A
violent spasm of dishonesty--such as often heralds the approach
of manhood--had overcome him. He stole everything, especially
what was difficult to steal, and hid the plunder beneath a loose
plank in the passage. He was betrayed by the inclusion of a ham.
This was the crisis of his career. His benefactress was just then
rather bored with him. He had stopped being a pretty boy, and she
rather doubted whether she would see him through. But she was so
raged with the letters of the schoolmaster, and so delighted with
those of the criminal, that she had him back and gave him a
"No," said Agnes, "I didn't know. I should be happy to speak to
Herbert, but, as I said, his time will be very full. But I know
he has friends who make a speciality of weakly or--or unusual
"My dear, I've tried it. Stephen kicked the weakly boys and
robbed apples with the unusual ones. He was expelled again."
Agnes began to find Mrs. Failing rather tiresome. Wherever you
trod on her, she seemed to slip away from beneath your feet.
Agnes liked to know where she was and where other people were as
well. She said: "My brother thinks a great deal of home life. I
daresay he'd think that Mr. Wonham is best where he is--with you.
You have been so kind to him. You"--she paused--"have been to him
both father and mother."
"I'm too hot," was Mrs. Failing's reply. It seemed that Miss
Pembroke had at last touched a topic on which she was reticent.
She rang the electric bell,--it was only to tell the footman to
take the reprints to Mr. Wonham's room,--and then murmuring
something about work, proceeded herself to the house.
"Mrs. Failing--" said Agnes, who had not expected such a speedy
end to their chat.
"Call me Aunt Emily. My dear?"
"Aunt Emily, what did you think of that story Rickie sent you?"
"It is bad," said Mrs. Failing. "But. But. But." Then she
escaped, having told the truth, and yet leaving a pleasurable
impression behind her.
The excursion to Salisbury was but a poor business--in fact,
Rickie never got there. They were not out of the drive before Mr.
Wonham began doing acrobatics. He showed Rickie how very quickly
he could turn round in his saddle and sit with his face to
Aeneas's tail. "I see," said Rickie coldly, and became almost
cross when they arrived in this condition at the gate behind the
house, for he had to open it, and was afraid of falling. As
usual, he anchored just beyond the fastenings, and then had to
turn Dido, who seemed as long as a battleship. To his relief a
man came forward, and murmuring, "Worst gate in the parish,"
pushed it wide and held it respectfully. "Thank you," cried
Rickie; "many thanks." But Stephen, who was riding into the world
back first, said majestically, "No, no; it doesn't count. You
needn't think it does. You make it worse by touching your hat.
Four hours and seven minutes! You'll see me again." The man
"Eh, but I'll hurt him," he chanted, as he swung into position.
"That was Flea. Eh, but he's forgotten my fists; eh, but I'll
"Why?" ventured Rickie. Last night, over cigarettes, he had been
bored to death by the story of Flea. The boy had a little
reminded him of Gerald--the Gerald of history, not the Gerald of
romance. He was more genial, but there was the same brutality,
the same peevish insistence on the pound of flesh.
"Hurt him till he learns."
"Learns, of course," retorted Stephen. Neither of them was very
civil. They did not dislike each other, but they each wanted to
be somewhere else--exactly the situation that Mrs. Failing had
"He behaved badly," said Rickie, "because he is poorer than we
are, and more ignorant. Less money has been spent on teaching him
"Well, I'll teach him for nothing."
"Perhaps his fists are stronger than yours!"
"They aren't. I looked."
After this conversation flagged. Rickie glanced back at Cadover,
and thought of the insipid day that lay before him. Generally he
was attracted by fresh people, and Stephen was almost fresh: they
had been to him symbols of the unknown, and all that they did was
interesting. But now he cared for the unknown no longer. He knew.
Mr. Wilbraham passed them in his dog-cart, and lifted his hat to
his employer's nephew. Stephen he ignored: he could not find him
on the map.
"Good morning," said Rickie. "What a lovely morning!"
"I say," called the other, "another child dead!" Mr. Wilbraham,
who had seemed inclined to chat, whipped up his horse and left
"There goes an out and outer," said Stephen; and then, as if
introducing an entirely new subject-- "Don't you think Flea
Thompson treated me disgracefully?"
"I suppose he did. But I'm scarcely the person to sympathize."
The allusion fell flat, and he had to explain it. "I should have
done the same myself,--promised to be away two hours, and stopped
"Stopped-oh--oh, I understand. You being in love, you mean?"
He smiled and nodded.
"Oh, I've no objection to Flea loving. He says he can't help it.
But as long as my fists are stronger, he's got to keep it in
"A man like that, when he's got a girl, thinks the rest can go to
the devil. He goes cutting his work and breaking his word.
Wilbraham ought to sack him. I promise you when I've a girl I'll
keep her in line, and if she turns nasty, I'll get another."
Rickie smiled and said no more. But he was sorry that any one
should start life with such a creed--all the more sorry because
the creed caricatured his own. He too believed that life should
be in a line--a line of enormous length, full of countless
interests and countless figures, all well beloved. But woman was
not to be "kept" to this line. Rather did she advance it
continually, like some triumphant general, making each unit still
more interesting, still more lovable, than it had been before. He
loved Agnes, not only for herself, but because she was lighting
up the human world. But he could scarcely explain this to an
inexperienced animal, nor did he make the attempt.
For a long time they proceeded in silence. The hill behind
Cadover was in harvest, and the horses moved regretfully between
the sheaves. Stephen had picked a grass leaf, and was blowing
catcalls upon it. He blew very well, and this morning all his
soul went into the wail. For he was ill. He was tortured with the
feeling that he could not get away and do--do something, instead
of being civil to this anaemic prig. Four hours in the rain was
better than this: he had not wanted to fidget in the rain. But
now the air was like wine, and the stubble was smelling of wet,
and over his head white clouds trundled more slowly and more
seldom through broadening tracts of blue. There never had been
such a morning, and he shut up his eyes and called to it. And
whenever he called, Rickie shut up his eyes and winced.
At last the blade broke. "We don't go quick, do we" he remarked,
and looked on the weedy track for another.
"I wish you wouldn't let me keep you. If you were alone you would
be galloping or something of that sort."
"I was told I must go your pace," he said mournfully. "And you
promised Miss Pembroke not to hurry,"
"Well, I'll disobey." But he could not rise above a gentle trot,
and even that nearly jerked him out of the saddle.
"Sit like this," said Stephen. "Can't you see like this?" Rickie
lurched forward, and broke his thumb nail on the horse's neck. It
bled a little, and had to be bound up.
"Thank you--awfully kind--no tighter, please--I'm simply spoiling
"I can't think how a man can help riding. You've only to leave it
to the horse so!--so!--just as you leave it to water in
Rickie left it to Dido, who stopped immediately.
"I said LEAVE it." His voice rose irritably. "I didn't say 'die.'
Of course she stops if you die. First you sit her as if you're
Sandow exercising, and then you sit like a corpse. Can't you tell
her you're alive? That's all she wants."
In trying to convey the information, Rickie dropped his whip.
Stephen picked it up and rammed it into the belt of his own
Norfolk jacket. He was scarcely a fashionable horseman. He was
not even graceful. But he rode as a living man, though Rickie was
too much bored to notice it. Not a muscle in him was idle, not a
muscle working hard. When he returned from the gallop his limbs
were still unsatisfied and his manners still irritable. He did
not know that he was ill: he knew nothing about himself at all.
"Like a howdah in the Zoo," he grumbled. "Mother Failing will buy
elephants." And he proceeded to criticize his benefactress.
Rickie, keenly alive to bad taste, tried to stop him, and gained
instead a criticism of religion. Stephen overthrew the Mosaic
cosmogony. He pointed out the discrepancies in the Gospels. He
levelled his wit against the most beautiful spire in the world,
now rising against the southern sky. Between whiles he went for a
gallop. After a time Rickie stopped listening, and simply went
his way. For Dido was a perfect mount, and as indifferent to the
motions of Aeneas as if she was strolling in the Elysian fields.
He had had a bad night, and the strong air made him sleepy. The
wind blew from the Plain. Cadover and its valley had disappeared,
and though they had not climbed much and could not see far, there
was a sense of infinite space. The fields were enormous, like
fields on the Continent, and the brilliant sun showed up their
colours well. The green of the turnips, the gold of the harvest,
and the brown of the newly turned clods, were each contrasted
with morsels of grey down. But the general effect was pale, or
rather silvery, for Wiltshire is not a county of heavy tints.
Beneath these colours lurked the unconquerable chalk, and
wherever the soil was poor it emerged. The grassy track, so gay
with scabious and bedstraw, was snow-white at the bottom of its
ruts. A dazzling amphitheatre gleamed in the flank of a distant
hill, cut for some Olympian audience. And here and there,
whatever the surface crop, the earth broke into little
embankments, little ditches, little mounds: there had been no
lack of drama to solace the gods.
In Cadover, the perilous house, Agnes had already parted from
Mrs. Failing. His thoughts returned to her. Was she, the soul of
truth, in safety? Was her purity vexed by the lies and
selfishness? Would she elude the caprice which had, he vaguely
knew, caused suffering before? Ah, the frailty of joy! Ah, the
myriads of longings that pass without fruition, and the turf
grows over them! Better men, women as noble--they had died up
here and their dust had been mingled, but only their dust. These
are morbid thoughts, but who dare contradict them? There is much
good luck in the world, but it is luck. We are none of us safe.
We are children, playing or quarreling on the line, and some of
us have Rickie's temperament, or his experiences, and admit it.
So be mused, that anxious little speck, and all the land seemed
to comment on his fears and on his love.
Their path lay upward, over a great bald skull, half grass, half
stubble. It seemed each moment there would be a splendid view.
The view never came, for none of the inclines were sharp enough,
and they moved over the skull for many minutes, scarcely shifting
a landmark or altering the blue fringe of the distance. The spire
of Salisbury did alter, but very slightly, rising and falling
like the mercury in a thermometer. At the most it would be half
hidden; at the least the tip would show behind the swelling
barrier of earth. They passed two elder-trees--a great event. The
bare patch, said Stephen, was owing to the gallows. Rickie
nodded. He had lost all sense of incident. In this great
solitude--more solitary than any Alpine range--he and Agnes were
floating alone and for ever, between the shapeless earth and the
shapeless clouds. An immense silence seemed to move towards them.
A lark stopped singing, and they were glad of it. They were
approaching the Throne of God. The silence touched them; the
earth and all danger dissolved, but ere they quite vanished
Rickie heard himself saying, "Is it exactly what we intended?"
"Yes," said a man's voice; "it's the old plan." They were in
another valley. Its sides were thick with trees. Down it ran
another stream and another road: it, too, sheltered a string of
villages. But all was richer, larger, and more beautiful--the
valley of the Avon below Amesbury.
"I've been asleep!" said Rickie, in awestruck tones.
"Never!" said the other facetiously. "Pleasant dreams?"
"Perhaps--I'm really tired of apologizing to you. How long have
you been holding me on?"
"All in the day's work." He gave him back the reins.
"Where's that round hill?"
"Gone where the good niggers go. I want a drink."
This is Nature's joke in Wiltshire--her one joke. You toil on
windy slopes, and feel very primeval. You are miles from your
fellows, and lo! a little valley full of elms and cottages.
Before Rickie had waked up to it, they had stopped by a thatched
public-house, and Stephen was yelling like a maniac for beer.
There was no occasion to yell. He was not very thirsty, and they
were quite ready to serve him. Nor need he have drunk in the
saddle, with the air of a warrior who carries important
dispatches and has not the time to dismount. A real soldier,
bound on a similar errand, rode up to the inn, and Stephen feared
that he would yell louder, and was hostile. But they made friends
and treated each other, and slanged the proprietor and ragged the
pretty girls; while Rickie, as each wave of vulgarity burst over
him, sunk his head lower and lower, and wished that the earth
would swallow him up. He was only used to Cambridge, and to a
very small corner of that. He and his friends there believed in
free speech. But they spoke freely about generalities. They were
scientific and philosophic. They would have shrunk from the
empirical freedom that results from a little beer.
That was what annoyed him as he rode down the new valley with two
chattering companions. He was more skilled than they were in the
principles of human existence, but he was not so indecently
familiar with the examples. A sordid village scandal--such as
Stephen described as a huge joke--sprang from certain defects in
human nature, with which he was theoretically acquainted. But the
example! He blushed at it like a maiden lady, in spite of its
having a parallel in a beautiful idyll of Theocritus. Was
experience going to be such a splendid thing after all? Were the
outside of houses so very beautiful?
"That's spicy!" the soldier was saying. "Got any more like that?"
"I'se got a pome," said Stephen, and drew a piece of paper from
his pocket. The valley had broadened. Old Sarum rose before them,
ugly and majestic.
"Write this yourself?" he asked, chuckling.
"Rather," said Stephen, lowering his head and kissing Aeneas
between the ears.
"But who's old Em'ly?" Rickie winced and frowned.
"Now you're asking.
"Old Em'ly she limps,
"I am so tired," said Rickie. Why should he stand it any longer?
He would go home to the woman he loved. "Do you mind if I give up
"But we've seen nothing!" cried Stephen.
"I shouldn't enjoy anything, I am so absurdly tired."
"Left turn, then--all in the day's work." He bit at his moustache
"Good gracious me, man!--of course I'm going back alone. I'm not
going to spoil your day. How could you think it of me?"
Stephen gave a loud sigh of relief. "If you do want to go home,
here's your whip. Don't fall off. Say to her you wanted it, or
there might be ructions."
"Certainly. Thank you for your kind care of me."
"'Old Em'ly she limps,
Soon he was out of earshot. Soon they were lost to view. Soon
they were out of his thoughts. He forgot the coarseness and the
drinking and the ingratitude. A few months ago he would not have
forgotten so quickly, and he might also have detected something
else. But a lover is dogmatic. To him the world shall be
beautiful and pure. When it is not, he ignores it.
"He's not tired," said Stephen to the soldier; "he wants his
girl." And they winked at each other, and cracked jokes over the
eternal comedy of love. They asked each other if they'd let a
girl spoil a morning's ride. They both exhibited a profound
cynicism. Stephen, who was quite without ballast, described the
household at Cadover: he should say that Rickie would find Miss
Pembroke kissing the footman.
"I say the footman's kissing old Em'ly."
"Jolly day," said Stephen. His voice was suddenly constrained. He
was not sure whether he liked the soldier after all, nor whether
he had been wise in showing him his compositions.
"'Old Em'ly she limps,
"All right, Thomas. That'll do."
"I wish you'd dry up, like a good fellow. This is the lady's
horse, you know, hang it, after all."
"Don't you see--when a fellow's on a horse, he can't let another
fellow--kind of--don't you know?"
The man did know. "There's sense in that." he said approvingly.
Peace was restored, and they would have reached Salisbury if they
had not had some more beer. It unloosed the soldier's fancies,
and again he spoke of old Em'ly, and recited the poem, with
"Jolly day," repeated Stephen, with a straightening of the
eyebrows and a quick glance at the other's body. He then warned
him against the variations. In consequence he was accused of
being a member of the Y.M.C.A. His blood boiled at this. He
refuted the charge, and became great friends with the soldier,
for the third time.
"Any objection to 'Saucy Mr. and Mrs. Tackleton'?"
The soldier sang "Saucy Mr. and Mrs. Tackkleton." It is really a
work for two voices, most of the sauciness disappearing when
taken as a solo. Nor is Mrs. Tackleton's name Em'lv.
"I call it a jolly rotten song," said Stephen crossly. "I won't
stand being got at."
"P'r'aps y'like therold song. Lishen.
"'Of all the gulls that arsshmart,
There's none line pretty--Em'ly;
For she's the darling of merart'"
"Now, that's wrong." He rode up close to the singer.
"It's as my mother taught me."
"I don't care."
"I'll not alter from mother's way."
Stephen was baffled. Then he said, "How does your mother make it
"Squat. You're an ass, and I'm not. Poems want rhymes. 'Alley'
comes next line."
He said "alley" was--welcome to come if it liked.
"It can't. You want Sally. Sally--alley. Em'ly-alley doesn't do."
"Emily-femily!" cried the soldier, with an inspiration that was
not his when sober. "My mother taught me femily.
"'For she's the darling of merart,
And she lives in my femily.'"
"Well, you'd best be careful, Thomas, and your mother too."
"Your mother's no better than she should be," said Thomas
"Do you think I haven't heard that before?" retorted the boy.
The other concluded he might now say anything. So he might--the
name of old Emily excepted. Stephen cared little about his
benefactress's honour, but a great deal about his own. He had
made Mrs. Failing into a test. For the moment he would die for
her, as a knight would die for a glove. He is not to be
distinguished from a hero.
Old Sarum was passed. They approached the most beautiful spire in
the world. "Lord! another of these large churches!" said the
soldier. Unfriendly to Gothic, he lifted both hands to his nose,
and declared that old Em'ly was buried there. He lay in the mud.
His horse trotted back towards Amesbury, Stephen had twisted him
out of the saddle.
"I've done him!" he yelled, though no one was there to hear. He
rose up in his stirrups and shouted with joy. He flung his arms
round Aeneas's neck. The elderly horse understood, capered, and
bolted. It was a centaur that dashed into Salisbury and scattered
the people. In the stable he would not dismount. "I've done him!"
he yelled to the ostlers--apathetic men. Stretching upwards, he
clung to a beam. Aeneas moved on and he was left hanging. Greatly
did he incommode them by his exercises. He pulled up, he circled,
he kicked the other customers. At last he fell to the earth,
deliciously fatigued. His body worried him no longer.
He went, like the baby he was, to buy a white linen hat. There
were soldiers about, and he thought it would disguise him. Then
he had a little lunch to steady the beer. This day had turned out
admirably. All the money that should have fed Rickie he could
spend on himself. Instead of toiling over the Cathedral and
seeing the stuffed penguins, he could stop the whole thing in the
cattle market. There he met and made some friends. He watched the
cheap-jacks, and saw how necessary it was to have a confident
manner. He spoke confidently himself about lambs, and people
listened. He spoke confidently about pigs, and they roared with
laughter. He must learn more about pigs. He witnessed a
performance--not too namby-pamby--of Punch and Judy. "Hullo,
Podge!" cried a naughty little girl. He tried to catch her, and
failed. She was one of the Cadford children. For Salisbury on
market day, though it is not picturesque, is certainly
representative, and you read the names of half the Wiltshire
villages upon the carriers' carts. He found, in Penny Farthing
Street, the cart from Wintersbridge. It would not start for
several hours, but the passengers always used it as a club, and
sat in it every now and then during the day. No less than three
ladies were these now, staring at the shafts. One of them was
Flea Thompson's girl. He asked her, quite politely, why her lover
had broken faith with him in the rain. She was silent. He warned
her of approaching vengeance. She was still silent, but another
woman hoped that a gentleman would not be hard on a poor person.
Something in this annoyed him; it wasn't a question of gentility
and poverty--it was a question of two men. He determined to go
back by Cadbury Rings where the shepherd would now be.
He did. But this part must be treated lightly. He rode up to the
culprit with the air of a Saint George, spoke a few stern words
from the saddle, tethered his steed to a hurdle, and took off his
coat. "Are you ready?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," said Flea, and flung him on his back.
"That's not fair," he protested.
The other did not reply, but flung him on his head.
"How on earth did you learn that?"
"By trying often," said Flea.
Stephen sat on the ground, picking mud out of his forehead. "I
meant it to be fists," he said gloomily.
"I know, sir."
"It's jolly smart though, and--and I beg your pardon all round."
It cost him a great deal to say this, but he was sure that it was
the right thing to say. He must acknowledge the better man.
Whereas most people, if they provoke a fight and are flung, say,
"You cannot rob me of my moral victory."
There was nothing further to be done. He mounted again, not
exactly depressed, but feeling that this delightful world is
extraordinarily unreliable. He had never expected to fling the
soldier, or to be flung by Flea. "One nips or is nipped," he
thought, "and never knows beforehand. I should not be surprised
if many people had more in them than I suppose, while others
were just the other way round. I haven't seen that sort of thing
in Ingersoll, but it's quite important." Then his thoughts turned
to a curious incident of long ago, when he had been "nipped"--as
a little boy. He was trespassing in those woods, when he met in a
narrow glade a flock of sheep. They had neither dog nor shepherd,
and advanced towards him silently. He was accustomed to sheep,
but had never happened to meet them in a wood before, and
disliked it. He retired, slowly at first, then fast; and the
flock, in a dense mass, pressed after him. His terror increased.
He turned and screamed at their long white faces; and still they
came on, all stuck together, like some horrible jell--. If once
he got into them! Bellowing and screeching, he rushed into the
undergrowth, tore himself all over, and reached home in
convulsions. Mr. Failing, his only grown-up friend, was
sympathetic, but quite stupid. "Pan ovium custos," he
sympathetic, as he pulled out the thorns. "Why not?" "Pan ovium
custos." Stephen learnt the meaning of the phrase at school, "A
pan of eggs for custard." He still remembered how the other boys
looked as he peeped at them between his legs, awaiting the
So he returned, full of pleasant disconnected thoughts. He had
had a rare good time. He liked every one--even that poor little
Elliot--and yet no one mattered. They were all out. On the
landing he saw the housemaid. He felt skittish and irresistible.
Should he slip his arm round her waist? Perhaps better not; she
might box his ears. And he wanted to smoke on the roof before
dinner. So he only said, "Please will you stop the boy blacking
my brown boots," and she with downcast eyes, answered, "Yes, sir;
I will indeed."
His room was in the pediment. Classical architecture, like all
things in this world that attempt serenity, is bound to have its
lapses into the undignified, and Cadover lapsed hopelessly when
it came to Stephen's room. It gave him one round window, to see
through which he must lie upon his stomach, one trapdoor opening
upon the leads, three iron girders, three beams, six buttresses,
no circling, unless you count the walls, no walls unless you
count the ceiling and in its embarrassment presented him with the
gurgly cistern that supplied the bath water. Here he lived,
absolutely happy, and unaware that Mrs. Failing had poked him up
here on purpose, to prevent him from growing too bumptious. Here
he worked and sang and practised on the ocharoon. Here, in the
crannies, he had constructed shelves and cupboards and useless
little drawers. He had only one picture--the Demeter of Cnidos--
and she hung straight from the roof like a joint of meat. Once
she was in the drawing-room; but Mrs. Failing had got tired of
her, and decreed her removal and this degradation. Now she faced
the sunrise; and when the moon rose its light also fell on her,
and trembled, like light upon the sea. For she was never still,
and if the draught increased she would twist on her string, and
would sway and tap upon the rafters until Stephen woke up and
said what he thought of her. "Want your nose?" he would murmur.
"Don't you wish you may get it" Then he drew the clothes over his
ears, while above him, in the wind and the darkness, the goddess
continued her motions.
Today, as he entered, he trod on the pile of sixpenny reprints.
Leighton had brought them up. He looked at the portraits in their
covers, and began to think that these people were not everything.
What a fate, to look like Colonel Ingersoll, or to marry Mrs.
Julia P. Chunk! The Demeter turned towards him as he bathed, and
in the cold water he sang--
"They aren't beautiful, they aren't modest;
I'd just as soon follow an old stone goddess,"
and sprang upward through the skylight on to the roof. Years ago,
when a nurse was washing him, he had slipped from her soapy hands
and got up here. She implored him to remember that he was a
little gentleman; but he forgot the fact--if it was a fact--and
not even the butler could get him down. Mr. Failing, who was
sitting alone in the garden too ill to read, heard a shout, "Am I
an acroterium?" He looked up and saw a naked child poised on the
summit of Cadover. "Yes," he replied; "but they are
unfashionable. Go in," and the vision had remained with him as
something peculiarly gracious. He felt that nonsense and beauty
have close connections,--closer connections than Art will allow,-
-and that both would remain when his own heaviness and his own
ugliness had perished. Mrs. Failing found in his remains a
sentence that puzzled her. "I see the respectable mansion. I see
the smug fortress of culture. The doors are shut. The windows are
shut. But on the roof the children go dancing for ever."
Stephen was a child no longer. He never stood on the pediment
now, except for a bet. He never, or scarcely ever, poured water
down the chimneys. When he caught the cat, he seldom dropped her
into the housekeeper's bedroom. But still, when the weather was
fair, he liked to come up after bathing, and get dry in the sun.
Today he brought with him a towel, a pipe of tobacco, and
Rickie's story. He must get it done some time, and he was tired
of the six-penny reprints. The sloping gable was warm, and he lay
back on it with closed eyes, gasping for pleasure. Starlings
criticized him, snots fell on his clean body, and over him a
little cloud was tinged with the colours of evening. "Good!
good!" he whispered. "Good, oh good!" and opened the manuscript
What a production! Who was this girl? Where did she go to? Why so
much talk about trees? "I take it he wrote it when feeling bad,"
he murmured, and let it fall into the gutter. It fell face
downwards, and on the back he saw a neat little resume in Miss
Pembroke's handwriting, intended for such as him. "Allegory. Man
= modern civilization (in bad sense). Girl = getting into touch
In touch with Nature! The girl was a tree! He lit his pipe and
gazed at the radiant earth. The foreground was hidden, but there
was the village with its elms, and the Roman Road, and Cadbury
Rings. There, too, were those woods, and little beech copses,
crowning a waste of down. Not to mention the air, or the sun, or
water. Good, oh good!
In touch with Nature! What cant would the books think of next?
His eyes closed. He was sleepy. Good, oh good! Sighing into his
pipe, he fell asleep.
Glad as Agnes was when her lover returned for lunch, she was at
the same time rather dismayed: she knew that Mrs. Failing would
not like her plans altered. And her dismay was justified. Their
hostess was a little stiff, and asked whether Stephen had been
"Indeed he hasn't. He spent the whole time looking after me."
"From which I conclude he was more obnoxious than usual."
Rickie praised him diligently. But his candid nature showed
everything through. His aunt soon saw that they had not got on.
She had expected this--almost planned it. Nevertheless she
resented it, and her resentment was to fall on him.
The storm gathered slowly, and many other things went to swell
it. Weakly people, if they are not careful, hate one another, and
when the weakness is hereditary the temptation increases. Elliots
had never got on among themselves. They talked of "The Family,"
but they always turned outwards to the health and beauty that lie
so promiscuously about the world. Rickie's father had turned, for
a time at all events, to his mother. Rickie himself was turning
to Agnes. And Mrs. Failing now was irritable, and unfair to the
nephew who was lame like her horrible brother and like herself.
She thought him invertebrate and conventional. She was envious of
his happiness. She did not trouble to understand his art. She
longed to shatter him, but knowing as she did that the human
thunderbolt often rebounds and strikes the wielder, she held her
Agnes watched the approaching clouds. Rickie had warned her; now
she began to warn him. As the visit wore away she urged him to be
pleasant to his aunt, and so convert it into a success.
He replied, "Why need it be a success?"--a reply in the manner of
She laughed. "Oh, that's so like you men--all theory! What about
your great theory of hating no one? As soon as it comes in
useful you drop it."
"I don't hate Aunt Emily. Honestly. But certainly I don't want to
be near her or think about her. Don't you think there are two
great things in life that we ought to aim at--truth and kindness?
Let's have both if we can, but let's be sure of having one or the
other. My aunt gives up both for the sake of being funny."
"And Stephen Wonham," pursued Agnes. "There's another person you
hate--or don't think about, if you prefer it put like that."
"The truth is, I'm changing. I'm beginning to see that the world
has many people in it who don't matter. I had time for them once.
Not now." There was only one gate to the kingdom of heaven now.
Agnes surprised him by saying, "But the Wonham boy is evidently a
part of your aunt's life. She laughs at him, but she is fond of
"What's that to do with it?"
"You ought to be pleasant to him on account of it."
"Why on earth?"
She flushed a little. "I'm old-fashioned. One ought to consider
one's hostess, and fall in with her life. After we leave it's
another thing. But while we take her hospitality I think it's our
Her good sense triumphed. Henceforth he tried to fall in with
Aunt Emily's life. Aunt Emily watched him trying. The storm
broke, as storms sometimes do, on Sunday.
Sunday church was a function at Cadover, though a strange one.
The pompous landau rolled up to the house at a quarter to eleven.
Then Mrs. Failing said, "Why am I being hurried?" and after an
interval descended the steps in her ordinary clothes. She
regarded the church as a sort of sitting-room, and refused even
to wear a bonnet there. The village was shocked, but at the same
time a little proud; it would point out the carriage to strangers
and gossip about the pale smiling lady who sat in it, always
alone, always late, her hair always draped in an expensive shawl.
This Sunday, though late as usual, she was not alone. Miss
Pembroke, en grande toilette, sat by her side. Rickie, looking
plain and devout, perched opposite. And Stephen actually came
too, murmuring that it would be the Benedicite, which he had
never minded. There was also the Litany, which drove him into the
air again, much to Mrs. Failing's delight. She enjoyed this sort
of thing. It amused her when her Protege left the pew, looking
bored, athletic, and dishevelled, and groping most obviously for
his pipe. She liked to keep a thoroughbred pagan to shock people.
"He's gone to worship Nature," she whispered. Rickie did not look
up. "Don't you think he's charming?" He made no reply.
"Charming," whispered Agnes over his head.
During the sermon she analysed her guests. Miss Pembroke--
undistinguished, unimaginative, tolerable. Rickie--intolerable.
"And how pedantic!" she mused. "He smells of the University
library. If he was stupid in the right way he would be a don."
She looked round the tiny church; at the whitewashed pillars, the
humble pavement, the window full of magenta saints. There was the
vicar's wife. And Mrs. Wilbraham's bonnet. Ugh! The rest of the
congregation were poor women, with flat, hopeless faces--she saw
them Sunday after Sunday, but did not know their names--
diversified with a few reluctant plough-boys, and the vile little
school children row upon row. "Ugh! what a hole," thought Mrs.
Failing, whose Christianity was the type best described as
"cathedral." "What a hole for a cultured woman! I don't think it
has blunted my sensations, though; I still see its squalor as
clearly as ever. And my nephew pretends he is worshipping. Pah!
the hypocrite." Above her the vicar spoke of the danger of
hurrying from one dissipation to another. She treasured his
words, and continued: "I cannot stand smugness. It is the one,
the unpardonable sin. Fresh air! The fresh air that has made
Stephen Wonham fresh and companionable and strong. Even if it
kills, I will let in the fresh air."
Thus reasoned Mrs. Failing, in the facile vein of Ibsenism. She
imagined herself to be a cold-eyed Scandinavian heroine. Really
she was an English old lady, who did not mind giving other people
a chill provided it was not infectious.
Agnes, on the way back, noted that her hostess was a little
snappish. But one is so hungry after morning service, and either
so hot or so cold, that he would be a saint indeed who becomes a
saint at once. Mrs. Failing, after asserting vindictively that it
was impossible to make a living out of literature, was
courteously left alone. Roast-beef and moselle might yet work
miracles, and Agnes still hoped for the introductions--the
introductions to certain editors and publishers--on which her
whole diplomacy was bent. Rickie would not push himself. It was
his besetting sin. Well for him that he would have a wife, and a
loving wife, who knew the value of enterprise.
Unfortunately lunch was a quarter of an hour late, and during
that quarter of an hour the aunt and the nephew quarrelled. She
had been inveighing against the morning service, and he quietly
and deliberately replied, "If organized religion is anything--and
it is something to me--it will not be wrecked by a harmonium and
a dull sermon."
Mrs. Failing frowned. "I envy you. It is a great thing to have no
sense of beauty."
"I think I have a sense of beauty, which leads me astray if I am
"But this is a great relief to me. I thought the present day
young man was an agnostic! Isn't agnosticism all the thing at
"Nothing is the 'thing' at Cambridge. If a few men are agnostic
there, it is for some grave reason, not because they are
irritated with the way the parson says his vowels."
Agnes intervened. "Well, I side with Aunt Emily. I believe in
"Don't, my dear, side with me. He will only say you have no sense
of religion either."
"Excuse me," said Rickie, perhaps he too was a little hungry,--"I
never suggested such a thing. I never would suggest such a thing.
Why cannot you understand my position? I almost feel it is that
"I try to understand your position night and day dear--what you
mean, what you like, why you came to Cadover, and why you stop
here when my presence is so obviously unpleasing to you."
"Luncheon is served," said Leighton, but he said it too late.
They discussed the beef and the moselle in silence. The air was
heavy and ominous. Even the Wonham boy was affected by it,
shivered at times, choked once, and hastened anew into the sun.
He could not understand clever people.
Agnes, in a brief anxious interview, advised the culprit to take
a solitary walk. She would stop near Aunt Emily, and pave the way
for an apology.
"Don't worry too much. It doesn't really matter."
"I suppose not, dear. But it seems a pity, considering we are so
near the end of our visit."
"Rudeness and Grossness matter, and I've shown both, and already
I'm sorry, and I hope she'll let me apologize. But from the
selfish point of view it doesn't matter a straw. She's no more to
us than the Wonham boy or the boot boy."
"Which way will you walk?"
"I think to that entrenchment. Look at it." They were sitting on
the steps. He stretched out his hand to Cadsbury Rings, and then
let it rest for a moment on her shoulder. "You're changing me,"
he said gently. "God bless you for it."
He enjoyed his walk. Cadford was a charming village and for a
time he hung over the bridge by the mill. So clear was the stream
that it seemed not water at all, but some invisible quintessence
in which the happy minnows and the weeds were vibrating. And he
paused again at the Roman crossing, and thought for a moment
of the unknown child. The line curved suddenly: certainly it was
dangerous. Then he lifted his eyes to the down. The entrenchment
showed like the rim of a saucer, and over its narrow line peeped
the summit of the central tree. It looked interesting. He hurried
forward, with the wind behind him.
The Rings were curious rather than impressive. Neither embankment
was over twelve feet high, and the grass on them had not the
exquisite green of Old Sarum, but was grey and wiry. But Nature
(if she arranges anything) had arranged that from them, at all
events, there should be a view. The whole system of the country
lay spread before Rickie, and he gained an idea of it that he
never got in his elaborate ride. He saw how all the water
converges at Salisbury; how Salisbury lies in a shallow basin,
just at the change of the soil. He saw to the north the Plain,
and the stream of the Cad flowing down from it, with a tributary
that broke out suddenly, as the chalk streams do: one village had
clustered round the source and clothed itself with trees. He saw
Old Sarum, and hints of the Avon valley, and the land above Stone
Henge. And behind him he saw the great wood beginning
unobtrusively, as if the down too needed shaving; and into it the
road to London slipped, covering the bushes with white dust.
Chalk made the dust white, chalk made the water clear, chalk made
the clean rolling outlines of the land, and favoured the grass
and the distant coronals of trees. Here is the heart of our
island: the Chilterns, the North Downs, the South Downs radiate
hence. The fibres of England unite in Wiltshire, and did we
condescend to worship her, here we should erect our national
People at that time were trying to think imperially, Rickie
wondered how they did it, for he could not imagine a place larger
than England. And other people talked of Italy, the spiritual
fatherland of us all. Perhaps Italy would prove marvellous. But
at present he conceived it as something exotic, to be admired and
reverenced, but not to be loved like these unostentatious fields.
He drew out a book, it was natural for him to read when he was
happy, and to read out loud,--and for a little time his voice
disturbed the silence of that glorious afternoon. The book was
Shelley, and it opened at a passage that he had cherished greatly
two years before, and marked as "very good."
"I never was attached to that great sect
Whose doctrine is that each one should select
Out of the world a mistress or a friend,
And all the rest, though fair and wise, commend
To cold oblivion,--though it is the code
Of modern morals, and the beaten road
Which those poor slaves with weary footsteps tread
Who travel to their home among the dead
By the broad highway of the world,--and so
With one sad friend, perhaps a jealous foe,
The dreariest and the longest journey go."
It was "very good"--fine poetry, and, in a sense, true. Yet he
was surprised that he had ever selected it so vehemently. This
afternoon it seemed a little inhuman. Half a mile off two lovers
were keeping company where all the villagers could see them. They
cared for no one else; they felt only the pressure of each other,
and so progressed, silent and oblivious, across the land. He felt
them to be nearer the truth than Shelley. Even if they suffered
or quarrelled, they would have been nearer the truth. He wondered
whether they were Henry Adams and Jessica Thompson, both of this
parish, whose banns had been asked for the second time in the
church this morning. Why could he not marry on fifteen shillings
a-week? And be looked at them with respect, and wished that he
was not a cumbersome gentleman.
Presently he saw something less pleasant--his aunt's pony
carriage. It had crossed the railway, and was advancing up the
Roman road along by the straw sacks. His impulse was to retreat,
but someone waved to him. It was Agnes. She waved continually, as
much as to say, "Wait for us." Mrs. Failing herself raised the
whip in a nonchalant way. Stephen Wonham was following on foot,
some way behind. He put the Shelley back into his pocket and
waited for them. When the carriage stopped by some hurdles he
went down from the embankment and helped them to dismount. He
felt rather nervous.
His aunt gave him one of her disquieting smiles, but said
pleasantly enough, "Aren't the Rings a little immense? Agnes and
I came here because we wanted an antidote to the morning
"Pang!" said the church bell suddenly; "pang! pang!" It sounded
petty and ludicrous. They all laughed. Rickie blushed, and Agnes,
with a glance that said "apologize," darted away to the
entrenchment, as though unable to restrain her curiosity.
"The pony won't move," said Mrs. Failing. "Leave him for Stephen
to tie up. Will you walk me to the tree in the middle? Booh! I'm
tired. Give me your arm--unless you're tired as well."
"No. I came out partly in the hope of helping you."
"How sweet of you." She contrasted his blatant unselfishness
with the hardness of Stephen. Stephen never came out to help you.
But if you got hold of him he was some good. He didn't wobble and
bend at the critical moment. Her fancy compared Rickie to the
cracked church bell sending forth its message of "Pang! pang!" to
the countryside, and Stephen to the young pagans who were said to
lie under this field guarding their pagan gold.
"This place is full of ghosties, "she remarked; "have you seen
"I've kept on the outer rim so far."
"Let's go to the tree in the centre."
"Here's the path." The bank of grass where he had sat was broken
by a gap, through which chariots had entered, and farm carts
entered now. The track, following the ancient track, led straight
through turnips to a similar gap in the second circle, and thence
continued, through more turnips, to the central tree.
"Pang!" said the bell, as they paused at the entrance.
"You needn't unharness," shouted Mrs. Failing, for Stephen was
approaching the carriage.
"Yes, I will," he retorted.
"You will, will you?" she murmured with a smile. "I wish your
brother wasn't quite so uppish. Let's get on. Doesn't that church
"It's so faint here," said Rickie. And it sounded fainter inside,
though the earthwork was neither thick nor tall; and the view,
though not hidden, was greatly diminished. He was reminded for a
minute of that chalk pit near Madingley, whose ramparts excluded
the familiar world. Agnes was here, as she had once been there.
She stood on the farther barrier, waiting to receive them when
they had traversed the heart of the camp.
"Admire my mangel-wurzels," said Mrs. Failing. "They are said
to grow so splendidly on account of the dead soldiers. Isn't it a
sweet thought? Need I say it is your brother's?"
"Wonham's?" he suggested. It was the second time that she had
made the little slip. She nodded, and he asked her what kind of
ghosties haunted this curious field.
"The D.," was her prompt reply. "He leans against the tree in the
middle, especially on Sunday afternoons and all the worshippers
rise through the turnips and dance round him."
"Oh, these were decent people," he replied, looking downwards--
"soldiers and shepherds. They have no ghosts. They worshipped
Mars or Pan-Erda perhaps; not the devil."
"Pang!" went the church, and was silent, for the afternoon
service had begun. They entered the second entrenchment, which
was in height, breadth, and composition, similar to the first,
and excluded still more of the view. His aunt continued friendly.
Agnes stood watching them.
"Soldiers may seem decent in the past," she continued, "but wait
till they turn into Tommies from Bulford Camp, who rob the
"I don't mind Bulford Camp," said Rickie, looking, though in
vain, for signs of its snowy tents. "The men there are the sons
of the men here, and have come back to the old country. War's
horrible, yet one loves all continuity. And no one could mind a
"Indeed! What about your brother--a shepherd if ever there was?
Look how he bores you! Don't be so sentimental."
"But--oh, you mean--"
"Your brother Stephen."
He glanced at her nervously. He had never known her so queer
before. Perhaps it was some literary allusion that he had not
caught; but her face did not at that moment suggest literature.
In the differential tones that one uses to an old and infirm
person he said "Stephen Wonham isn't my brother, Aunt Emily."
"My dear, you're that precise. One can't say 'half-brother' every
They approached the central tree.
"How you do puzzle me," he said, dropping her arm and beginning
to laugh. "How could I have a half-brother?"
She made no answer.
Then a horror leapt straight at him, and he beat it back and
said, "I will not be frightened." The tree in the centre
revolved, the tree disappeared, and he saw a room--the room where
his father had lived in town. "Gently," he told himself,
"gently." Still laughing, he said, "I, with a brother-younger
it's not possible." The horror leapt again, and he exclaimed,
"It's a foul lie!"
"My dear, my dear!"
"It's a foul lie! He wasn't--I won't stand--"
"My dear, before you say several noble things, remember that it's
worse for him than for you--worse for your brother, for your
half-brother, for your younger brother."
But he heard her no longer. He was gazing at the past, which he
had praised so recently, which gaped ever wider, like an
unhallowed grave. Turn where he would, it encircled him. It took
visible form: it was this double entrenchment of the Rings. His
mouth went cold, and he knew that he was going to faint among the
dead. He started running, missed the exit, stumbled on the inner
barrier, fell into darkness--
"Get his head down," said a voice. "Get the blood back into him.
That's all he wants. Leave him to me. Elliot!"--the blood was
returning--"Elliot, wake up!"
He woke up. The earth he had dreaded lay close to his eyes, and
seemed beautiful. He saw the structure of the clods. A tiny
beetle swung on the grass blade. On his own neck a human
hand pressed, guiding the blood back to his brain.
There broke from him a cry, not of horror but of acceptance. For
one short moment he understood. "Stephen--" he began, and then he
heard his own name called: "Rickie! Rickie!" Agnes hurried from
her post on the margin, and, as if understanding also, caught him
to her breast.
Stephen offered to help them further, but finding that he made
things worse, he stepped aside to let them pass and then
sauntered inwards. The whole field, with concentric circles, was
visible, and the broad leaves of the turnips rustled in the
gathering wind. Miss Pembroke and Elliot were moving towards the
Cadover entrance. Mrs. Failing stood watching in her turn on the
opposite bank. He was not an inquisitive boy; but as he leant
against the tree he wondered what it was all about, and whether
he would ever know.
On the way back--at that very level-crossing where he had paused
on his upward route--Rickie stopped suddenly and told the girl
why he had fainted. Hitherto she had asked him in vain. His tone
had gone from him, and he told her harshly and brutally, so that
she started away with a horrified cry. Then his manner altered,
and he exclaimed: "Will you mind? Are you going to mind?"
"Of course I mind," she whispered. She turned from him, and saw
up on the sky-line two figures that seemed to be of enormous
"They're watching us. They stand on the edge watching us. This
country's so open--you--you can't they watch us wherever we go.
Of course you mind."
They heard the rumble of the train, and she pulled herself
together. "Come, dearest, we shall be run over next. We're saying
things that have no sense." But on the way back he repeated:
"They can still see us. They can see every inch of this road.
They watch us for ever." And when they arrived at the steps
there, sure enough, were still the two figures gazing from the
outer circle of the Rings.
She made him go to his room at once: he was almost hysterical.
Leighton brought out some tea for her, and she sat drinking it on
the little terrace. Of course she minded.
Again she was menaced by the abnormal. All had seemed so fair and
so simple, so in accordance with her ideas; and then, like a
corpse, this horror rose up to the surface. She saw the two
figures descend and pause while one of them harnessed the pony;
she saw them drive downward, and knew that before long she must
face them and the world. She glanced at her engagement ring.
When the carriage drove up Mrs. Failing dismounted, but did not
speak. It was Stephen who inquired after Rickie. She, scarcely
knowing the sound of her own voice, replied that he was a little
"Go and put up the pony," said Mrs. Failing rather sharply.
"Agnes, give me some tea."
"It is rather strong," said Agnes as the carriage drove off and
left them alone. Then she noticed that Mrs. Failing herself was
agitated. Her lips were trembling, and she saw the boy depart
with manifest relief.
"Do you know," she said hurriedly, as if talking against time--
"Do you know what upset Rickie?"
"I do indeed know."
"Has he told any one else?"
"I believe not."
"Agnes--have I been a fool?"
"You have been very unkind," said the girl, and her eyes filled
For a moment Mrs. Failing was annoyed. "Unkind? I do not see that
at all. I believe in looking facts in the face. Rickie must know
his ghosts some time. Why not this afternoon?"
She rose with quiet dignity, but her tears came faster. "That is
not so. You told him to hurt him. I cannot think what you did it
for. I suppose because he was rude to you after church. It is a
mean, cowardly revenge.
"What--what if it's a lie?"
"Then, Mrs. Failing, it is sickening of you. There is no other
word. Sickening. I am sorry--a nobody like myself--to speak like
this. How COULD you, oh, how could you demean yourself? Why, not
even a poor person--Her indignation was fine and genuine. But her
tears fell no longer. Nothing menaced her if they were not really
"It is not a lie, my clear; sit down. I will swear so much
solemnly. It is not a lie, but--"
"--we can call it a lie if we choose."
"I am not so childish. You have said it, and we must all suffer.
You have had your fun: I conclude you did it for fun. You cannot
go back. He--" She pointed towards the stables, and could not
finish her sentence.
"I have not been a fool twice."
Agnes did not understand.
"My dense lady, can't you follow? I have not told Stephen one
single word, neither before nor now."
There was a long silence.
Indeed, Mrs. Failing was in an awkward position.
Rickie had irritated her, and, in her desire to shock him, she
had imperilled her own peace. She had felt so unconventional upon
the hillside, when she loosed the horror against him; but now it
was darting at her as well. Suppose the scandal came out.
Stephen, who was absolutely without delicacy, would tell it to
the people as soon as tell them the time. His paganism would be
too assertive; it might even be in bad taste. After all, she had
a prominent position in the neighbourhood; she was talked about,
respected, looked up to. After all, she was growing old. And
therefore, though she had no true regard for Rickie, nor for
Agnes, nor for Stephen, nor for Stephen's parents, in whose
tragedy she had assisted, yet she did feel that if the scandal
revived it would disturb the harmony of Cadover, and therefore
tried to retrace her steps. It is easy to say shocking things: it
is so different to be connected with anything shocking. Life and
death were not involved, but comfort and discomfort were.
The silence was broken by the sound of feet on the gravel. Agnes
said hastily, "Is that really true--that he knows nothing?"
"You, Rickie, and I are the only people alive that know. He
realizes what he is--with a precision that is sometimes alarming.
Who he is, he doesn't know and doesn't care. I suppose he would
know when I'm dead. There are papers."
"Aunt Emily, before he comes, may I say to you I'm sorry I was so
Mrs. Failing had not disliked her courage. "My dear, you may.
We're all off our hinges this Sunday. Sit down by me again."
Agnes obeyed, and they awaited the arrival of Stephen. They were
clever enough to understand each other. The thing must be hushed
up. The matron must repair the consequences of her petulance. The
girl must hide the stain in her future husband's family. Why not?
Who was injured? What does a grown-up man want with a grown
brother? Rickie upstairs, how grateful he would be to them for
"I'm tired of you. Go and bathe in the sea."
And the whole thing was settled. She liked no fuss, and so did
he. He sat down on the step to tighten his bootlaces. Then he
would be ready. Mrs. Failing laid two or three sovereigns on the
step above him. Agnes tried to make conversation, and said, with
averted eyes, that the sea was a long way off.
"The sea's downhill. That's all I know about it." He swept up the
money with a word of pleasure: he was kept like a baby in such
things. Then he started off, but slowly, for he meant to walk
till the morning.
"He will be gone days," said Mrs. Failing. "The comedy is
finished. Let us come in."
She went to her room. The storm that she had raised had shattered
her. Yet, because it was stilled for a moment, she resumed her
old emancipated manner, and spoke of it as a comedy.
As for Miss Pembroke, she pretended to be emancipated no longer.
People like "Stephen Wonham" were social thunderbolts, to be
shunned at all costs, or at almost all costs. Her joy was now
unfeigned, and she hurried upstairs to impart it to Rickie.
"I don't think we are rewarded if we do right, but we
are punished if we lie. It's the fashion to laugh at poetic
justice, but I do believe in half of it. Cast bitter bread upon
the waters, and after many days it really will come back to you."
These were the words of Mr. Failing. They were also the opinions
of Stewart Ansell, another unpractical person. Rickie was trying
to write to him when she entered with the good news.
"Dear, we're saved! He doesn't know, and he never is to know. I
can't tell you how glad I am. All the time we saw them standing
together up there, she wasn't telling him at all. She was keeping
him out of the way, in case you let it out. Oh, I like her! She
may be unwise, but she is nice, really. She said, 'I've been a
fool but I haven't been a fool twice.' You must forgive her,
Rickie. I've forgiven her, and she me; for at first I was so
angry with her. Oh, my darling boy, I am so glad!"
He was shivering all over, and could not reply. At last he said,
"Why hasn't she told him?"
"Because she has come to her senses."
"But she can't behave to people like that. She must tell him."
"Because he must be told such a real thing."
"Such a real thing?" the girl echoed, screwing up her forehead.
"But--but you don't mean you're glad about it?"
His head bowed over the letter. "My God--no! But it's a real
thing. She must tell him. I nearly told him myself--up there--
when he made me look at the ground, but you happened to prevent
How Providence had watched over them!
"She won't tell him. I know that much."
"Then, Agnes, darling"--he drew her to the table "we must talk
together a little. If she won't, then we ought to."
"WE tell him?" cried the girl, white with horror. "Tell him now,
when everything has been comfortably arranged?"
"You see, darling"--he took hold of her hand--"what one must do
is to think the thing out and settle what's right, I'm still all
trembling and stupid. I see it mixed up with other things. I want
you to help me. It seems to me that here and there in life we
meet with a person or incident that is symbolical. It's
nothing in itself, yet for the moment it stands for some eternal
principle. We accept it, at whatever costs, and we have accepted
life. But if we are frightened and reject it, the moment, so to
speak, passes; the symbol is never offered again. Is this
nonsense? Once before a symbol was offered to me--I shall not
tell you how; but I did accept it, and cherished it through much
anxiety and repulsion, and in the end I am rewarded. There will
be no reward this time. I think, from such a man--the son of such
a man. But I want to do what is right."
"Because doing right is its own reward," said Agnes anxiously.
"I do not think that. I have seen few examples of it. Doing right
is simply doing right."
"I think that all you say is wonderfully clever; but since you
ask me, it IS nonsense, dear Rickie, absolutely."
"Thank you," he said humbly, and began to stroke her hand. "But
all my disgust; my indignation with my father, my love for--" He
broke off; he could not bear to mention the name of his mother.
"I was trying to say, I oughtn't to follow these impulses too
much. There are others things. Truth. Our duty to acknowledge
each man accurately, however vile he is. And apart from ideals"
(here she had won the battle), "and leaving ideals aside, I
couldn't meet him and keep silent. It isn't in me. I should blurt
"But you won't meet him!" she cried. "It's all been arranged.
We've sent him to the sea. Isn't it splendid? He's gone. My own
boy won't be fantastic, will he?" Then she fought the fantasy on
its own ground. "And, bye the bye, what you call the 'symbolic
moment' is over. You had it up by the Rings. You tried to tell
him, I interrupted you. It's not your fault. You did all you
She thought this excellent logic, and was surprised that he
looked so gloomy. "So he's gone to the sea. For the present that
does settle it. Has Aunt Emily talked about him yet?"
"No. Ask her tomorrow if you wish to know. Ask her kindly. It
would be so dreadful if you did not part friends, and--"
It was Stephen calling up from the drive. He had come back. Agnes
threw out her hand in despair.
"Elliot!" the voice called.
They were facing each other, silent and motionless. Then Rickie
advanced to the window. The girl darted in front of him. He
thought he had never seen her so beautiful. She was stopping his
advance quite frankly, with widespread arms.
He moved forward--into what? He pretended to himself he would
rather see his brother before he answered; that it was easier to
acknowledge him thus. But at the back of his soul he knew that
the woman had conquered, and that he was moving forward to
acknowledge her. "If he calls me again--" he thought.
"Well, if he calls me once again, I will answer him, vile as he
He did not call again.
Stephen had really come back for some tobacco, but as he passed
under the windows he thought of the poor fellow who had been
"nipped" (nothing serious, said Mrs. Failing), and determined to
shout good-bye to him. And once or twice, as he followed the
river into the darkness, he wondered what it was like to be so
weak,--not to ride, not to swim, not to care for anything but
books and a girl.
They embraced passionately. The danger had brought them very near
to each other. They both needed a home to confront the menacing
tumultuous world. And what weary years of work, of waiting, lay
between them and that home! Still holding her fast, he said, "I
was writing to Ansell when you came in."
"Do you owe him a letter?"
"No." He paused. "I was writing to tell him about this. He would
help us. He always picks out the important point."
"Darling, I don't like to say anything, and I know that Mr.
Ansell would keep a secret, but haven't we picked out the
important point for ourselves?"
He released her and tore the letter up.
The sense of purity is a puzzling and at times a fearful thing.
It seems so noble, and it starts as one with morality. But it is
a dangerous guide, and can lead us away not only from what is
gracious, but also from what is good. Agnes, in this tangle, had
followed it blindly, partly because she was a woman, and it meant
more to her than it can ever mean to a man; partly because,
though dangerous, it is also obvious, and makes no demand upon
the intellect. She could not feel that Stephen had full human
rights. He was illicit, abnormal, worse than a man diseased. And
Rickie remembering whose son he was, gradually adopted her
opinion. He, too, came to be glad that his brother had passed
from him untried, that the symbolic moment had been rejected.
Stephen was the fruit of sin; therefore he was sinful, He, too,
became a sexual snob.
And now he must hear the unsavoury details. That evening they sat
in the walled garden. Agues, according to arrangement, left him
alone with his aunt. He asked her, and was not answered.
"You are shocked," she said in a hard, mocking voice, "It is very
nice of you to be shocked, and I do not wish to grieve you
further. We will not allude to it again. Let us all go on just as
we are. The comedy is finished."
He could not tolerate this. His nerves were shattered, and all
that was good in him revolted as well. To the horror of Agnes,
who was within earshot, he replied, "You used to puzzle me, Aunt
Emily, but I understand you at last. You have forgotten what
other people are like. Continual selfishness leads to that. I am
sure of it. I see now how you look at the world. 'Nice of me to
be shocked!' I want to go tomorrow, if I may."
"Certainly, dear. The morning trains are the best." And so the
disastrous visit ended.
As he walked back to the house he met a certain poor woman, whose
child Stephen had rescued at the level-crossing, and who had
decided, after some delay, that she must thank the kind gentleman
in person. "He has got some brute courage," thought Rickie, "and
it was decent of him not to boast about it." But he had labelled
the boy as "Bad," and it was convenient to revert to his good
qualities as seldom as possible. He preferred to brood over his
coarseness, his caddish ingratitude, his irreligion. Out of these
he constructed a repulsive figure, forgetting how slovenly his
own perceptions had been during the past week, how dogmatic and
intolerant his attitude to all that was not Love.
During the packing he was obliged to go up to the attic to find
the Dryad manuscript which had never been returned. Leighton came
too, and for about half an hour they hunted in the flickering
light of a candle. It was a strange, ghostly place, and Rickie
was quite startled when a picture swung towards him, and he saw
the Demeter of Cnidus, shimmering and grey. Leighton suggested
the roof. Mr. Stephen sometimes left things on the roof. So they
climbed out of the skylight--the night was perfectly still--and
continued the search among the gables. Enormous stars hung
overhead, and the roof was bounded by chasms, impenetrable and
black. "It doesn't matter," said Rickie, suddenly convinced of
the futility of all that he did. "Oh, let us look properly," said
Leighton, a kindly, pliable man, who had tried to shirk coming,
but who was genuinely sympathetic now that he had come. They were
rewarded: the manuscript lay in a gutter, charred and smudged.
The rest of the year was spent by Rickie partly in bed,--he had a
curious breakdown,--partly in the attempt to get his little
stories published. He had written eight or nine, and hoped they
would make up a book, and that the book might be called "Pan
Pipes." He was very energetic over this; he liked to work, for
some imperceptible bloom had passed from the world, and he no
longer found such acute pleasure in people. Mrs. Failing's old
publishers, to whom the book was submitted, replied that, greatly
as they found themselves interested, they did not see their way
to making an offer at present. They were very polite, and singled
out for special praise "Andante Pastorale," which Rickie had
thought too sentimental, but which Agnes had persuaded him to
include. The stories were sent to another publisher, who
considered them for six weeks, and then returned them. A fragment
of red cotton, Placed by Agnes between the leaves, had not
shifted its position.
"Can't you try something longer, Rickie?" she said;
"I believe we're on the wrong track. Try an out--and--out
"My notion just now," he replied, "is to leave the passions on
the fringe." She nodded, and tapped for the waiter: they had met
in a London restaurant. "I can't soar; I can only indicate.
That's where the musicians have the pull, for music has wings,
and when she says 'Tristan' and he says 'Isolde,' you are on the
heights at once. What do people mean when they call love music
"I know what they mean, though I can't exactly explain. Or
couldn't you make your stories more obvious? I don't see any harm
in that. Uncle Willie floundered hopelessly. He doesn't read
much, and he got muddled. I had to explain, and then he was
delighted. Of course, to write down to the public would be quite
another thing and horrible. You have certain ideas, and you must
express them. But couldn't you express them more clearly?"
"You see--" He got no further than "you see."
"The soul and the body. The soul's what matters," said Agnes, and
tapped for the waiter again. He looked at her admiringly, but
felt that she was not a perfect critic. Perhaps she was too
perfect to be a critic. Actual life might seem to her so real
that she could not detect the union of shadow and adamant that
men call poetry. He would even go further and acknowledge that
she was not as clever as himself--and he was stupid enough! She