Part 5 out of 6
that frothed in the gloom--his aunt's, his father's, and, worst
of all, the triumphant face of his brother. Once he struck at it,
and awoke, having hurt his hand on the wall. Then he prayed
hysterically for pardon and rest.
Yet again did he awake, and from a more mysterious dream. He
heard his mother crying. She was crying quite distinctly in the
darkened room. He whispered, "Never mind, my darling, never
mind," and a voice echoed, "Never mind--come away--let them die
out--let them die out." He lit a candle, and the room was
empty. Then, hurrying to the window, he saw above mean houses the
frosty glories of Orion.
Henceforward he deteriorates. Let those who censure him suggest
what he should do. He has lost the work that he loved, his
friends, and his child. He remained conscientious and decent, but
the spiritual part of him proceeded towards ruin.
The coming months, though full of degradation and anxiety, were
to bring him nothing so terrible as that night. It was the crisis
of this agony. He was an outcast and a failure. But he was not
again forced to contemplate these facts so clearly. Varden left
in the morning, carrying the fatal letter with him. The whole
house was relieved. The good angel was with the boys again, or
else (as Herbert preferred to think) they had learnt a lesson,
and were more humane in consequence. At all events, the
disastrous term concluded quietly.
In the Christmas holidays the two masters made an abortive
attempt to visit Italy, and at Easter there was talk of a cruise
in the Aegean. Herbert actually went, and enjoyed Athens and
Delphi. The Elliots paid a few visits together in England. They
returned to Sawston about ten days before school opened, to find
that Widdrington was again stopping with the Jacksons.
Intercourse was painful, for the two families were scarcely on
speaking terms; nor did the triumphant scaffoldings of the new
boarding-house make things easier. (The party of progress had
carried the day.) Widdrington was by nature touchy, but on this
occasion he refused to take offence, and often dropped in to see
them. His manner was friendly but critical. They agreed he was a
nuisance. Then Agnes left, very abruptly, to see Mrs. Failing,
and while she was away Rickie had a little stealthy intercourse.
Her absence, convenient as it was, puzzled him. Mrs. Silt, half
goose, half stormy-petrel, had recently paid a flying visit to
Cadover, and thence had flown, without an invitation, to Sawston.
Generally she was not a welcome guest. On this occasion Agnes had
welcomed her, and--so Rickie thought--had made her promise not to
tell him something that she knew. The ladies had talked
mysteriously. "Mr. Silt would be one with you there," said Mrs.
Silt. Could there be any connection between the two visits?
Agnes's letters told him nothing: they never did. She was too
clumsy or too cautious to express herself on paper. A drive to
Stonehenge; an anthem in the Cathedral; Aunt Emily's love. And
when he met her at Waterloo he learnt nothing (if there was
anything to learn) from her face.
"How did you enjoy yourself?"
"Were you and she alone?"
"Sometimes. Sometimes other people."
"Will Uncle Tony's Essays be published?"
Here she was more communicative. The book was at last in proof.
Aunt Emily had written a charming introduction; but she was so
idle, she never finished things off.
They got into an omnibus for the Army and Navy Stores: she wanted
to do some shopping before going down to Sawston.
"Did you read any of the Essays?"
"Every one. Delightful. Couldn't put them down. Now and then he
spoilt them by statistics--but you should read his descriptions
of Nature. He agrees with you: says the hills and trees are
alive! Aunt Emily called you his spiritual heir, which I thought
nice of her. We both so lamented that you have stopped writing."
She quoted fragments of the Essays as they went up in the Stores'
"What else did you talk about?"
"I've told you all my news. Now for yours. Let's have tea first."
They sat down in the corridor amid ladies in every stage of
fatigue--haggard ladies, scarlet ladies, ladies with parcels that
twisted from every finger like joints of meat. Gentlemen were
scarcer, but all were of the sub-fashionable type, to which
Rickie himself now belonged.
"I haven't done anything," he said feebly. "Ate, read, been rude
to tradespeople, talked to Widdrington. Herbert arrived this
morning. He has brought a most beautiful photograph of the
"What did you talk about?"
She might have heard every word. It was only the feeling of
pleasure that he wished to conceal. Even when we love people, we
desire to keep some corner secret from them, however small: it is
a human right: it is personality. She began to cross-question
him, but they were interrupted. A young lady at an adjacent table
suddenly rose and cried, "Yes, it is you. I thought so from your
walk." It was Maud Ansell.
"Oh, do come and join us!" he cried. "Let me introduce my wife."
Maud bowed quite stiffly, but Agnes, taking it for ill-breeding,
was not offended.
"Then I will come!" she continued in shrill, pleasant tones,
adroitly poising her tea things on either hand, and transferring
them to the Elliots' table. "Why haven't you ever come to us,
"I think you didn't ask me!"
"You weren't to be asked." She sprawled forward with a wagging
finger. But her eyes had the honesty of her brother's. "Don't you
remember the day you left us? Father said, 'Now, Mr. Elliot--' Or
did he call you 'Elliot'? How one does forget. Anyhow, father
said you weren't to wait for an invitation, and you said,
'No, I won't.' Ours is a fair-sized house,"--she turned somewhat
haughtily to Agnes,--"and the second spare room, on account of a
harp that hangs on the wall, is always reserved for Stewart's
"How is Mr. Ansell, your brother?"
Maud's face fell. "Hadn't you heard?" she said in awe-struck
"He hasn't got his fellowship. It's the second time he's failed.
That means he will never get one. He will never be a don, nor
live in Cambridge and that, as we had hoped."
"Oh, poor, poor fellow!" said Mrs. Elliot with a remorse that was
sincere, though her congratulations would not have been. "I am so
But Maud turned to Rickie. "Mr. Elliot, you might know. Tell me.
What is wrong with Stewart's philosophy? What ought he to put in,
or to alter, so as to succeed?"
Agnes, who knew better than this, smiled.
"I don't know," said Rickie sadly. They were none of them so
clever, after all.
"Hegel," she continued vindictively. "They say he's read too much
Hegel. But they never tell him what to read instead. Their own
stuffy books, I suppose. Look here--no, that's the 'Windsor.'"
After a little groping she produced a copy of "Mind," and handed
it round as if it was a geological specimen. "Inside that there's
a paragraph written about something Stewart's written about
before, and there it says he's read too much Hegel, and it seems
now that that's been the trouble all along." Her voice trembled.
"I call it most unfair, and the fellowship's gone to a man who
has counted the petals on an anemone."
Rickie had no inclination to smile.
"I wish Stewart had tried Oxford instead."
"I don't wish it!"
"You say that," she continued hotly, "and then you never come to
see him, though you knew you were not to wait for an invitation."
"If it comes to that, Miss Ansell," retorted Rickie, in the
laughing tones that one adopts on such occasions, "Stewart won't
come to me, though he has had an invitation."
"Yes," chimed in Agnes, "we ask Mr. Ansell again and again, and
he will have none of us."
Maud looked at her with a flashing eye. "My brother is a very
peculiar person, and we ladies can't understand him. But I know
one thing, and that's that he has a reason all round for what he
does. Look here, I must be getting on. Waiter! Wai-ai-aiter!
Bill, please. Separately, of course. Call the Army and Navy
cheap! I know better!"
"How does the drapery department compare?" said Agnes sweetly.
The girl gave a sharp choking sound, gathered up her parcels, and
left them. Rickie was too much disgusted with his wife to speak.
"Appalling person!" she gasped. "It was naughty of me, but I
couldn't help it. What a dreadful fate for a clever man! To fail
in life completely, and then to be thrown back on a family like
"Maud is a snob and a Philistine. But, in her case, something
She glanced at him, but proceeded in her suavest tones, "Do let
us make one great united attempt to get Mr. Ansell to Sawston."
"What a changeable friend you are! When we were engaged you were
always talking about him."
"Would you finish your tea, and then we will buy the linoleum for
But she returned to the subject again, not only on that day but
throughout the term. Could nothing be done for poor Mr. Ansell?
It seemed that she could not rest until all that he had once held
dear was humiliated. In this she strayed outside her nature: she
was unpractica1. And those who stray outside their nature invite
disaster. Rickie, goaded by her, wrote to his friend again. The
letter was in all ways unlike his old self. Ansell did not answer
it. But he did write to Mr. Jackson, with whom he was not
"Dear Mr. Jackson,--
I understand from Widdrington that you have a large house. I
would like to tell you how convenient it would be for me to come
and stop in it. June suits me best.--
To which Mr. Jackson replied that not only in June but during the
whole year his house was at the disposal of Mr. Ansell and of any
one who resembled him.
But Agnes continued her life, cheerfully beating time. She, too,
knew that her marriage was a failure, and in her spare moments
regretted it. She wished that her husband was handsomer, more
successful, more dictatorial. But she would think, "No, no; one
mustn't grumble. It can't be helped." Ansell was wrong in sup-
posing she might ever leave Rickie. Spiritual apathy prevented
her. Nor would she ever be tempted by a jollier man. Here
criticism would willingly alter its tone. For Agnes also has her
tragedy. She belonged to the type--not necessarily an elevated
one--that loves once and once only. Her love for Gerald had not
been a noble passion: no imagination transfigured it. But such as
it was, it sprang to embrace him, and he carried it away with him
when he died. Les amours gui suivrent sont moins involuntaires:
by an effort of the will she had warmed herself for Rickie.
She is not conscious of her tragedy, and therefore only the gods
need weep at it. But it is fair to remember that hitherto she
moves as one from whom the inner life has been withdrawn.
"I am afraid," said Agnes, unfolding a letter that she had
received in the morning, "that things go far from satisfactorily
The three were alone at supper. It was the June of Rickie's
second year at Sawston.
"Indeed?" said Herbert, who took a friendly interest. "In what
"Do you remember us talking of Stephen--Stephen Wonham, who by an
"Yes. Who wrote last year to that miserable failure Varden. I
"It is about him."
"I did not like the tone of his letter."
Agnes had made her first move. She waited for her husband to
reply to it. But he, though full of a painful curiosity, would
not speak. She moved again.
"I don't think, Herbert, that Aunt Emily, much as I like her, is
the kind of person to bring a young man up. At all events the
results have been disastrous this time."
"What has happened?"
"A tangle of things." She lowered her voice. "Drink."
"Dear! Really! Was Mrs. Failing fond of him?"
"She used to be. She let him live at Cadover ever since he was a
little boy. Naturally that cannot continue."
Rickie never spoke.
"And now he has taken to be violent and rude," she went on.
"In short, a beggar on horseback. Who is he? Has he got
"She has always been both father and mother to him. Now it must
all come to an end. I blame her--and she blames herself--for not
being severe enough. He has grown up without fixed principles. He
has always followed his inclinations, and one knows the result of
Herbert assented. "To me Mrs. Failing's course is perfectly
plain. She has a certain responsibility. She must pay the youth's
passage to one of the colonies, start him handsomely in some
business, and then break off all communications."
"How funny! It is exactly what she is going to do."
"I shall then consider that she has behaved in a thoroughly
honourable manner." He held out his plate for gooseberries. "His
letter to Varden was neither helpful nor sympathetic, and, if
written at all, it ought to have been both. I am not in the least
surprised to learn that he has turned out badly. When you write
next, would you tell her how sorry I am?"
"Indeed I will. Two years ago, when she was already a little
anxious, she did so wish you could undertake him.
"I could not alter a grown man." But in his heart he thought he
could, and smiled at his sister amiably. "Terrible, isn't it?" he
remarked to Rickie. Rickie, who was trying not to mind anything,
assented. And an onlooker would have supposed them a
dispassionate trio, who were sorry both for Mrs. Failing and for
the beggar who would bestride her horses' backs no longer. A new
topic was introduced by the arrival of the evening post
Herbert took up all the letters, as he often did.
"Jackson?" he exclaimed. "What does the fellow want?" He read,
and his tone was mollified, "'Dear Mr. Pembroke,--Could you, Mrs.
Elliot, and Mr. Elliot come to supper with us on Saturday next? I
should not merely be pleased, I should be grateful. My wife is
writing formally to Mrs. Elliot'--(Here, Agnes, take your
letter),--but I venture to write as well, and to add my more
uncouth entreaties.'--An olive-branch. It is time! But
(ridiculous person!) does he think that we can leave the House
deserted and all go out pleasuring in term time?--Rickie, a
letter for you."
"Mine's the formal invitation," said Agnes. "How very odd! Mr.
Ansell will be there. Surely we asked him here! Did you know he
knew the Jacksons?"
"This makes refusal very difficult," said Herbert, who was
anxious to accept. "At all events, Rickie ought to go."
"I do not want to go," said Rickie, slowly opening his own
letter. "As Agnes says, Ansell has refused to come to us. I
cannot put myself out for him."
"Who's yours from?" she demanded.
"Mrs. Silt," replied Herbert, who had seen the handwriting.
"I trust she does not want to pay us a visit this term, with the
examinations impending and all the machinery at full pressure.
Though, Rickie, you will have to accept the Jacksons'
"I cannot possibly go. I have been too rude; with Widdrington we
always meet here. I'll stop with the boys--" His voice caught
suddenly. He had opened Mrs. Silt's letter.
"The Silts are not ill, I hope?"
"No. But, I say,"--he looked at his wife,--"I do think this is
going too far. Really, Agnes."
"What has happened?"
"It is going too far," he repeated. He was nerving himself for
another battle. "I cannot stand this sort of thing. There are
He laid the letter down. It was Herbert who picked it up, and
read: "Aunt Emily has just written to us. We are so glad that her
troubles are over, in spite of the expense. It never does to live
apart from one's own relatives so much as she has done up to now.
He goes next Saturday to Canada. What you told her about him just
turned the scale. She has asked us--"
"No, it's too much," he interrupted. "What I told her--told her
about him--no, I will have it out at last. Agnes!"
"Yes?" said his wife, raising her eyes from Mrs. Jackson's formal
"It's you--it's you. I never mentioned him to her. Why, I've
never seen her or written to her since. I accuse you."
Then Herbert overbore him, and he collapsed. He was asked what he
meant. Why was he so excited? Of what did he accuse his wife.
Each time he spoke more feebly, and before long the brother and
sister were laughing at him. He felt bewildered, like a boy who
knows that he is right but cannot put his case correctly. He
repeated, "I've never mentioned him to her. It's a libel. Never
in my life." And they cried, "My dear Rickie, what an absurd
fuss!" Then his brain cleared. His eye fell on the letter that
his wife had received from his aunt, and he reopened the battle.
"Agnes, give me that letter, if you please."
She put her hand on it, and looked at him doubtfully. She saw
that she had failed to bully him.
"My aunt's letter," he repeated, rising to his feet and bending
over the table towards her.
"Yes, why indeed?" echoed Herbert. He too had bullied Rickie, but
from a purer motive: he had tried to stamp out a dissension
between husband and wife. It was not the first time he had
"The letter. For this reason: it will show me what you have done.
I believe you have ruined Stephen. you have worked at it for two
years. You have put words into my mouth to 'turn the scale'
against him. He goes to Canada--and all the world thinks it is
owing to me. As I said before--I advise you to stop smiling--you
have gone a little too far."
They were all on their feet now, standing round the little table.
Agnes said nothing, but the fingers of her delicate hand
tightened upon the letter. When her husband snatched at it she
resisted, and with the effect of a harlequinade everything went
on the floor--lamb, mint sauce, gooseberries, lemonade, whisky.
At once they were swamped in domesticities. She rang the bell for
the servant, cries arose, dusters were brought, broken crockery
(a wedding present) picked up from the carpet; while he stood
wrathfully at the window, regarding the obscured sun's decline.
"I MUST see her letter," he repeated, when the agitation was
over. He was too angry to be diverted from his purpose. Only
slight emotions are thwarted by an interlude of farce.
"I've had enough of this quarrelling," she retorted. "You know
that the Silts are inaccurate. I think you might have given me
the benefit of the doubt. If you will know--have you forgotten
that ride you took with him.?"
"I--" he was again bewildered. "The ride where I dreamt--"
"The ride where you turned back because you could not listen to a
"I don't understand."
"The poem was Aunt Emily. He read it to you and a stray soldier.
Afterwards you told me. You said, 'Really it is shocking, his
ingratitude. She ought to know about it' She does know, and I
should be glad of an apology."
He had said something of the sort in a fit of irritation. Mrs.
Silt was right--he had helped to turn the scale.
"Whatever I said, you knew what I meant. You knew I'd sooner cut
my tongue out than have it used against him. Even then." He
sighed. Had he ruined his brother? A curious tenderness came over
him, and passed when he remembered his own dead child. "We have
ruined him, then. Have you any objection to 'we'? We have
"I decide against you," interposed Herbert. "I have now heard
both sides of this deplorable affair. You are talking most
criminal nonsense. 'Disinherit!' Sentimental twaddle. It's been
clear to me from the first that Mrs. Failing has been imposed
upon by the Wonham man, a person with no legal claim on her, and
any one who exposes him performs a public duty--"
"--And gets money."
"Money?" He was always uneasy at the word. "Who mentioned money?"
"Just understand me, Herbert, and of what it is that I accuse my
wife." Tears came into his eyes. "It is not that I like the
Wonham man, or think that he isn't a drunkard and worse. He's too
awful in every way. But he ought to have my aunt's money, because
he's lived all his life with her, and is her nephew as much as I
am. You see, my father went wrong." He stopped, amazed at
himself. How easy it had been to say! He was withering up: the
power to care about this stupid secret had died.
When Herbert understood, his first thought was for Dunwood House.
"Why have I never been told?" was his first remark.
"We settled to tell no one," said Agnes. "Rickie, in his anxiety
to prove me a liar, has broken his promise."
"I ought to have been told," said Herbert, his anger increasing.
"Had I known, I could have averted this deplorable scene."
"Let me conclude it," said Rickie, again collapsing and leaving
the dining-room. His impulse was to go straight to Cadover and
make a business-like statement of the position to Stephen. Then
the man would be armed, and perhaps fight the two women
successfully, But he resisted the impulse. Why should he help one
power of evil against another? Let them go intertwined to
destruction. To enrich his brother would be as bad as enriching
himself. If their aunt's money ever did come to him, he would
refuse to accept it. That was the easiest and most dignified
course. He troubled himself no longer with justice or pity, and
the next day he asked his wife's pardon for his behaviour.
In the dining-room the conversation continued. Agnes, without
much difficulty, gained her brother as an ally. She acknowledged
that she had been wrong in not telling him, and he then declared
that she had been right on every other point. She slurred a
little over the incident of her treachery, for Herbert was
sometimes clearsighted over details, though easily muddled in a
general survey. Mrs. Failing had had plenty of direct causes of
complaint, and she dwelt on these. She dealt, too, on the very
handsome way in which the young man, "though he knew nothing, had
never asked to know," was being treated by his aunt.
"'Handsome' is the word," said Herbert. "I hope not indulgently.
He does not deserve indulgence."
And she knew that he, like herself, could remember money, and
that it lent an acknowledged halo to her cause.
"It is not a savoury subject," he continued, with sudden
stiffness. "I understand why Rickie is so hysterical.
My impulse"--he laid his hand on her shoulder--"is to abandon it
at once. But if I am to be of any use to you, I must hear it all.
There are moments when we must look facts in the face."
She did not shrink from the subject as much as he thought, as
much as she herself could have wished. Two years before, it had
filled her with a physical loathing. But by now she had
accustomed herself to it.
"I am afraid, Bertie boy, there is nothing else to bear, I have
tried to find out again and again, but Aunt Emily will not tell
me. I suppose it is natural. She wants to shield the Elliot name.
She only told us in a fit of temper; then we all agreed to keep
it to ourselves; then Rickie again mismanaged her, and ever since
she has refused to let us know any details."
"A most unsatisfactory position."
"So I feel." She sat down again with a sigh. Mrs. Failing had
been a great trial to her orderly mind. "She is an odd woman. She
is always laughing. She actually finds it amusing that we know no
"They are an odd family."
"They are indeed."
Herbert, with unusual sweetness, bent down and kissed her.
She thanked him.
Their tenderness soon passed. They exchanged it with averted
eyes. It embarrassed them. There are moments for all of us when
we seem obliged to speak in a new unprofitable tongue. One might
fancy a seraph, vexed with our normal language, who touches the
pious to blasphemy, the blasphemous to piety. The seraph passes,
and we proceed unaltered--conscious, however, that we have not
been ourselves, and that we may fail in this function yet again.
So Agnes and Herbert, as they proceeded to discuss the Jackson's
supper-party, had an uneasy memory of spiritual deserts,
Poor Mr. Ansell was actually sitting in the garden of Dunwood
House. It was Sunday morning. The air was full of roasting beef.
The sound of a manly hymn, taken very fast, floated over the road
from the school chapel. He frowned, for he was reading a book,
the Essays of Anthony Eustace Failing.
He was here on account of this book--at least so he told himself.
It had just been published, and the Jacksons were sure that Mr.
Elliot would have a copy. For a book one may go anywhere. It
would not have been logical to enter Dunwood House for the
purpose of seeing Rickie, when Rickie had not come to supper
yesterday to see him. He was at Sawston to assure himself of his
friend's grave. With quiet eyes he had intended to view the sods,
with unfaltering fingers to inscribe the epitaph. Love remained.
But in high matters he was practical. He knew that it would be
useless to reveal it.
"Morning!" said a voice behind him.
He saw no reason to reply to this superfluous statement, and went
on with his reading.
"Morning!" said the voice again.
As for the Essays, the thought was somewhat old-fashioned, and he
picked many holes in it; nor was he anything but bored by the
prospect of the brotherhood of man. However, Mr. Failing stuck to
his guns, such as they were, and fired from them several good
remarks. Very notable was his distinction between coarseness and
vulgarity (coarseness, revealing something; vulgarity, concealing
something), and his avowed preference for coarseness. Vulgarity,
to him, had been the primal curse, the shoddy reticence that
prevents man opening his heart to man, the power that makes
against equality. From it sprang all the things that he hated--
class shibboleths, ladies, lidies, the game laws, the
Conservative party--all the things that accent the divergencies
rather than the similarities in human nature. Whereas coarseness--
But at this point Herbert Pembroke had scrawled with a blue
pencil: "Childish. One reads no further."
"Morning!" repeated the voice.
Ansell read further, for here was the book of a man who had
tried, however unsuccessfully, to practice what he preached. Mrs.
Failing, in her Introduction, described with delicate irony his
difficulties as a landlord; but she did not record the love in
which his name was held. Nor could her irony touch him when he
cried: "Attain the practical through the unpractical. There is no
other road." Ansell was inclined to think that the unpractical is
its own reward, but he respected those who attempted to journey
beyond it. We must all of us go over the mountains. There is
certainly no other road.
"Nice morning!" said the voice.
It was not a nice morning, so Ansell felt bound to speak. He
answered: "No. Why?" A clod of earth immediately struck him on
the back. He turned round indignantly, for he hated physical
rudeness. A square man of ruddy aspect was pacing the gravel
path, his hands deep in his pockets. He was very angry. Then he
saw that the clod of earth nourished a blue lobelia, and that a
wound of corresponding size appeared on the pie-shaped bed. He
was not so angry. "I expect they will mind it," he reflected.
Last night, at the Jacksons', Agnes had displayed a brisk pity
that made him wish to wring her neck. Maude had not exaggerated.
Mr. Pembroke had patronized through a sorrowful voice and large
round eyes. Till he met these people he had never been told that
his career was a failure. Apparently it was. They would never
have been civil to him if it had been a success, if they or
theirs had anything to fear from him.
In many ways Ansell was a conceited man; but he was never proud
of being right. He had foreseen Rickie's catastrophe from the
first, but derived from this no consolation. In many ways he was
pedantic; but his pedantry lay close to the vineyards of life--
far closer than that fetich Experience of the innumerable tea-
cups. He had a great many facts to learn, and before he died he
learnt a suitable quantity. But he never forgot that the holiness
of the heart's imagination can alone classify these facts--can
alone decide which is an exception, which an example. "How
unpractical it all is!" That was his comment on Dunwood House.
"How unbusiness-like! They live together without love. They
work without conviction. They seek money without requiring it.
They die, and nothing will have happened, either for themselves
or for others." It is a comment that the academic mind will often
make when first confronted with the world.
But he was becoming illogical. The clod of earth had disturbed
him. Brushing the dirt off his back, he returned to the book.
What a curious affair was the essay on "Gaps"! Solitude,
star-crowned, pacing the fields of England, has a dialogue with
Seclusion. He, poor little man, lives in the choicest scenery--
among rocks, forests, emerald lawns, azure lakes. To keep people
out he has built round his domain a high wall, on which is graven
his motto--"Procul este profani." But he cannot enjoy himself.
His only pleasure is in mocking the absent Profane. They are in
his mind night and day. Their blemishes and stupidities form the
subject of his great poem, "In the Heart of Nature." Then
Solitude tells him that so it always will be until he makes a gap
in the wall, and permits his seclusion to be the sport of
circumstance. He obeys. The Profane invade him; but for short
intervals they wander elsewhere, and during those intervals the
heart of Nature is revealed to him.
This dialogue had really been suggested to Mr. Failing by a talk
with his brother-in-law. It also touched Ansell. He looked at the
man who had thrown the clod, and was now pacing with obvious
youth and impudence upon the lawn. "Shall I improve my soul at
his expense?" he thought. "I suppose I had better." In friendly
tones he remarked, "Were you waiting for Mr. Pembroke?"
"No," said the young man. "Why?"
Ansell, after a moment's admiration, flung the Essays at him.
They hit him in the back. The next moment he lay on his own back
in the lobelia pie.
"But it hurts!" he gasped, in the tones of a puzzled
civilization. "What you do hurts!" For the young man was nicking
him over the shins with the rim of the book cover. "Little brute-
"Then say Pax!"
Something revolted in Ansell. Why should he say Pax? Freeing his
hand, he caught the little brute under the chin, and was again
knocked into the lobelias by a blow on the mouth.
"Say Pax!" he repeated, pressing the philosopher's skull into the
mould; and he added, with an anxiety that was somehow not
offensive, "I do advise you. You'd really better."
Ansell swallowed a little blood. He tried to move, and he could
not. He looked carefully into the young man's eyes and into the
palm of his right hand, which at present swung unclenched, and he
"Shake hands!" said the other, helping him up. There was nothing
Ansell loathed so much as the hearty Britisher; but he shook
hands, and they stared at each other awkwardly. With civil
murmurs they picked the little blue flowers off each other's
clothes. Ansell was trying to remember why they had quarrelled,
and the young man was wondering why he had not guarded his chin
properly. In the distance a hymn swung off--
"Fight the good. Fight with. All thy. Might."
They would be across from the chapel soon.
"Your book, sir?"
"Thank you, sir--yes."
"Why!" cried the young man--"why, it's 'What We Want'! At least
the binding's exactly the same."
"It's called 'Essays,'" said Ansell.
"Then that's it. Mrs. Failing, you see, she wouldn't ca11 it
that, because three W's, you see, in a row, she said, are vulgar,
and sound like Tolstoy, if you've heard of him."
Ansell confessed to an acquaintance, and then said, "Do you think
'What We Want' vulgar?" He was not at all interested, but he
desired to escape from the atmosphere of pugilistic courtesy,
more painful to him than blows themselves.
"It IS the same book," said the other--"same title, same
binding." He weighed it like a brick in his muddy hands.
"Open it to see if the inside corresponds," said Ansell,
swallowing a laugh and a little more blood with it.
With a liberal allowance of thumb-marks, he turned the pages over
and read, "'the rural silence that is not a poet's luxury but a
practical need for all men.' Yes, it is the same book." Smiling
pleasantly over the discovery, he handed it back to the owner.
"And is it true?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Is it true that rural silence is a practical need?"
"Don't ask me!"
"Have you ever tried it?"
"A field with no noise in it, I suppose you mean. I don't
Ansell smiled, but a slight fire in the man's eye checked him.
After all, this was a person who could knock one down. Moreover,
there was no reason why he should be teased. He had it in him to
retort "No. Why?" He was not stupid in essentials. He was
irritable--in Ansell's eyes a frequent sign of grace. Sitting
down on the upturned seat, he remarked, "I like the book in many
ways. I don't think 'What We Want' would have been a vulgar
title. But I don't intend to spoil myself on the chance of
mending the world, which is what the creed amounts to. Nor am I
keen on rural silences."
"Curse!" he said thoughtfully, sucking at an empty pipe.
"Rickie's is invariably--filthy."
"Who says I know Rickie?"
"Well, you know his aunt. It's a possible link. Be gentle with
Rickie. Don't knock him down if he doesn't think it's a nice
The other was silent.
"Do you know him well?"
"Kind of." He was not inclined to talk. The wish to smoke was
very violent in him, and Ansell noticed how he gazed at the
wreaths that ascended from bowl and stem, and how, when the stem
was in his mouth, he bit it. He gave the idea of an animal with
just enough soul to contemplate its own bliss. United with
refinement, such a type was common in Greece. It is not common
today, and Ansell was surprised to find it in a friend of
Rickie's. Rickie, if he could even "kind of know" such a
creature, must be stirring in his grave.
"Do you know his wife too?"
"Oh yes. In a way I know Agnes. But thank you for this tobacco.
Last night I nearly died. I have no money."
"Take the whole pouch--do."
After a moment's hesitation he did. "Fight the good" had scarcely
ended, so quickly had their intimacy grown.
"I suppose you're a friend of Rickie's?"
Ansell was tempted to reply, "I don't know him at all." But it
seemed no moment for the severer truths, so he said, "I knew him
well at Cambridge, but I have seen very little of him since."
"Is it true that his baby was lame?"
"I believe so."
His teeth closed on his pipe. Chapel was over. The organist was
prancing through the voluntary, and the first ripple of boys had
already reached Dunwood House. In a few minutes the masters would
be here too, and Ansell, who was becoming interested, hurried the
"Have you come far?"
"From Wiltshire. Do you know Wiltshire?" And for the first time
there came into his face the shadow of a sentiment, the passing
tribute to some mystery. "It's a good country. I live in one of
the finest valleys out of Salisbury Plain. I mean, I lived."
"Have you been dismissed from Cadover, without a penny in your
He was alarmed at this. Such knowledge seemed simply diabolical.
Ansell explained that if his boots were chalky, if his clothes
had obviously been slept in, if he knew Mrs. Failing, if he knew
Wiltshire, and if he could buy no tobacco--then the deduction was
possible. "You do just attend," he murmured.
The house was filling with boys, and Ansell saw, to his regret,
the head of Agnes over the thuyia hedge that separated the small
front garden from the side lawn where he was sitting. After a few
minutes it was followed by the heads of Rickie and Mr. Pembroke.
All the heads were turned the other way. But they would find his
card in the hall, and if the man had left any message they would
find that too. "What are you?" he demanded. "Who are you--your
name--I don't care about that. But it interests me to class
people, and up to now I have failed with you."
"I--" He stopped. Ansell reflected that there are worse answers.
"I really don't know what I am. Used to think I was something
special, but strikes me now I feel much like other chaps. Used to
look down on the labourers. Used to take for granted I was a
gentleman, but really I don't know where I do belong."
"One belongs to the place one sleeps in and to the people one
"As often as not I sleep out of doors and eat by myself, so that
doesn't get you any further."
A silence, akin to poetry, invaded Ansell. Was it only a pose to
like this man, or was he really wonderful? He was not romantic,
for Romance is a figure with outstretched hands, yearning for the
unattainable. Certain figures of the Greeks, to whom we
continually return, suggested him a little. One expected nothing
of him--no purity of phrase nor swift edged thought. Yet the
conviction grew that he had been back somewhere--back to some
table of the gods, spread in a field where there is no noise, and
that he belonged for ever to the guests with whom he had eaten.
Meanwhile he was simple and frank, and what he could tell he
would tell to any one. He had not the suburban reticence. Ansell
asked him, "Why did Mrs. Failing turn you out of Cadover? I
should like to hear that too."
"Because she was tired of me. Because, again, I couldn't keep
quiet over the farm hands. I ask you, is it right?" He became
incoherent. Ansell caught, "And they grow old--they don't play
games--it ends they can't play." An illustration emerged. "Take a
kitten--if you fool about with her, she goes on playing well into
"But Mrs. Failing minded no mice being caught."
"Mice?" said the young man blankly. "What I was going to say is,
that some one was jealous of my being at Cadover. I'll mention no
names, but I fancy it was Mrs. Silt. I'm sorry for her if it was.
Anyhow, she set Mrs. Failing against me. It came on the top of
other things--and out I went."
"What did Mrs. Silt, whose name I don't mention, say?"
He looked guilty. "I don't know. Easy enough to find something to
say. The point is that she said something. You know, Mr.--I don't
know your name, mine's Wonham, but I'm more grateful than I can
put it over this tobacco. I mean, you ought to know there is
another side to this quarrel. It's wrong, but it's there."
Ansell told him not to be uneasy: he lad already guessed that
there might be another side. But he could not make out why Mr.
Wonham should have come straight from the aunt to the nephew.
They were now sitting on the upturned seat. "What We Want," a
good deal shattered, lay between them.
"On account of above-mentioned reasons, there was a row. I don't
know--you can guess the style of thing. She wanted to treat me to
the colonies, and had up the parson to talk soft-sawder and
make out that a boundless continent was the place for a lad like
me. I said, 'I can't run up to the Rings without getting tired,
nor gallop a horse out of this view without tiring it, so what is
the point of a boundless continent?' Then I saw that she was
frightened of me, and bluffed a bit more, and in the end I was
nipped. She caught me--just like her! when I had nothing on but
flannels, and was coming into the house, having licked the
Cadchurch team. She stood up in the doorway between those stone
pilasters and said, 'No! Never again!' and behind her was
Wilbraham, whom I tried to turn out, and the gardener, and poor
old Leighton, who hates being hurt. She said, 'There's a hundred
pounds for you at the London bank, and as much more in December.
Go!' I said, 'Keep your--money, and tell me whose son I am.' I
didn't care really. I only said it on the off-chance of hurting
her. Sure enough, she caught on to the doorhandle (being lame)
and said, 'I can't--I promised--I don't really want to,' and
Wilbraham did stare. Then--she's very queer--she burst out
laughing, and went for the packet after all, and we heard her
laugh through the window as she got it. She rolled it at me down
the steps, and she says, 'A leaf out of the eternal comedy for
you, Stephen,' or something of that sort. I opened it as I walked
down the drive, she laughing always and catching on to the handle
of the front door. Of course it wasn't comic at all. But down in
the village there were both cricket teams, already a little
tight, and the mad plumber shouting 'Rights of Man!' They knew I
was turned out. We did have a row, and kept it up too. They
daren't touch Wilbraham's windows, but there isn't much glass
left up at Cadover. When you start, it's worth going on, but in
the end I had to cut. They subscribed a bob here and a bob there,
and these are Flea Thompson's Sundays. I sent a line to Leighton
not to forward my own things: I don't fancy them. They aren't
really mine." He did not mention his great symbolic act,
performed, it is to be feared, when he was rather drunk and the
friendly policeman was looking the other way. He had cast all his
flannels into the little millpond, and then waded himself through
the dark cold water to the new clothes on the other side. Some
one had flung his pipe and his packet after him. The packet had
fallen short. For this reason it was wet when he handed it to
Ansell, and ink that had been dry for twenty-three years had
begun to run again.
"I wondered if you're right about the hundred pounds," said
Ansell gravely. "It is pleasant to be proud, but it is unpleasant
to die in the night through not having any tobacco."
"But I'm not proud. Look how I've taken your pouch! The hundred
pounds was--well, can't you see yourself, it was quite different?
It was, so to speak, inconvenient for me to take the hundred
pounds. Or look again how I took a shilling from a boy who earns
nine bob a-week! Proves pretty conclusively I'm not proud."
Ansell saw it was useless to argue. He perceived, beneath the
slatternly use of words, the man, buttoned up in them, just as
his body was buttoned up in a shoddy suit,--and he wondered more
than ever that such a man should know the Elliots. He looked at
the face, which was frank, proud, and beautiful, if truth is
beauty. Of mercy or tact such a face knew little. It might be
coarse, but it had in it nothing vulgar or wantonly cruel. "May I
read these papers?" he said.
"Of course. Oh yes; didn't I say? I'm Rickie's half-brother, come
here to tell him the news. He doesn't know. There it is, put
shortly for you. I was saying, though, that I bolted in the dark,
slept in the rifle-butts above Salisbury, the sheds where they
keep the cardboard men, you know, never locked up as they ought
to be. I turned the whole place upside down to teach them."
"Here is your packet again," said Ansell. "Thank you. How
interesting!" He rose from the seat and turned towards Dunwood
House. He looked at the bow-windows, the cheap picturesque
gables, the terracotta dragons clawing a dirty sky. He listened
to the clink of plates and to the voice of Mr. Pembroke taking
one of his innumerable roll-calls. He looked at the bed of
lobelias. How interesting! What else was there to say?
"One must be the son of some one," remarked Stephen. And that was
all he had to say. To him those names on the moistened paper were
mere antiquities. He was neither proud of them nor ashamed. A man
must have parents, or he cannot enter the delightful world. A
man, if he has a brother, may reasonably visit him, for they may
have interests in common. He continued his narrative, how in the
night he had heard the clocks, how at daybreak, instead of
entering the city, he had struck eastward to save money,--while
Ansell still looked at the house and found that all his
imagination and knowledge could lead him no farther than this:
"--And what do you think of that for a holy horror?"
"For a what?" said Ansell, his thoughts far away.
"This man I am telling you about, who gave me a lift towards
Andover, who said I was a blot on God's earth."
One o'clock struck. It was strange that neither of them had had
any summons from the house.
"He said I ought to be ashamed of myself. He said, 'I'll not be
the means of bringing shame to an honest gentleman and lady.' I
told him not to be a fool. I said I knew what I was about. Rickie
and Agnes are properly educated, which leads people to look at
things straight, and not go screaming about blots. A man like me,
with just a little reading at odd hours--I've got so far, and
Rickie has been through Cambridge."
"And Mrs. Elliot?"
"Oh, she won't mind, and I told the man so; but he kept on
saying, 'I'll not be the means of bringing shame to an honest
gentleman and lady,' until I got out of his rotten cart." His eye
watched the man a Nonconformist, driving away over God's earth.
"I caught the train by running. I got to Waterloo at--"
Here the parlour-maid fluttered towards them, Would Mr. Wonham
come in? Mrs. Elliot would be glad to see him now.
"Mrs. Elliot?" cried Ansell. "Not Mr. Elliot?"
"It's all the same," said Stephen, and moved towards the house.
"You see, I only left my name. They don't know why I've come."
"Perhaps Mr. Elliot sees me meanwhile?"
The parlour-maid looked blank. Mr. Elliot had not said so. He had
been with Mrs. Elliot and Mr. Pembroke in the study. Now the
gentlemen had gone upstairs.
"All right, I can wait." After all, Rickie was treating him as he
had treated Rickie, as one in the grave, to whom it is futile to
make any loving motion. Gone upstairs--to brush his hair for
dinner! The irony of the situation appealed to him strongly. It
reminded him of the Greek Drama, where the actors know so little
and the spectators so much.
"But, by the bye," he called after Stephen, "I think I ought to
"What is it?"
"Don't--" Then he was silent. He had been tempted to explain
everything, to tell the fellow how things stood, that he must
avoid this if he wanted to attain that; that he must break the
news to Rickie gently; that he must have at least one battle
royal with Agnes. But it was contrary to his own spirit to coach
people: he held the human soul to be a very delicate thing, which
can receive eternal damage from a little patronage. Stephen must
go into the house simply as himself, for thus alone would he
"I ought to knock my pipe out? Was that it?" "By no means. Go in,
your pipe and you."
He hesitated, torn between propriety and desire. Then he followed
the parlour-maid into the house smoking. As he entered the
dinner-bell rang, and there was the sound of rushing feet, which
died away into shuffling and silence. Through the window of the
boys' dining-hall came the colourless voice of Rickie-
Ansell prepared himself to witness the second act of the drama;
forgetting that all this world, and not part of it, is a stage.
The parlour-maid took Mr. Wonham to the study. He had been in the
drawing-room before, but had got bored, and so had strolled out
into the garden. Now he was in better spirits, as a man ought to
be who has knocked down a man. As he passed through the hall he
sparred at the teak monkey, and hung his cap on the bust of
Hermes. And he greeted Mrs. Elliot with a pleasant clap of
laughter. "Oh, I've come with the most tremendous news!" he
She bowed, but did not shake hands, which rather surprised him.
But he never troubled over "details." He seldom watched people,
and never thought that they were watching him. Nor could he guess
how much it meant to her that he should enter her presence smok-
ing. Had she not said once at Cadover, "Oh, please smoke; I love
the smell of a pipe"?
"Would you sit down? Exactly there, please." She placed him at a
large table, opposite an inkpot and a pad of blotting-paper.
"Will you tell your 'tremendous news' to me? My brother and my
husband are giving the boys their dinner."
"Ah!" said Stephen, who had had neither time nor money for
breakfast in London.
"I told them not to wait for me."
So he came to the point at once. He trusted this handsome woman.
His strength and his youth called to hers, expecting no prudish
response. "It's very odd. It is that I'm Rickie's brother. I've
just found out. I've come to tell you all."
He felt in his pocket for the papers. "Half-brother I ought to
"I'm illegitimate. Legally speaking, that is, I've been turned
out of Cadover. I haven't a penny. I--"
"There is no occasion to inflict the details." Her face, which
had been an even brown, began to flush slowly in the centre of
the cheeks. The colour spread till all that he saw of her was
suffused, and she turned away. He thought he had shocked her, and
so did she. Neither knew that the body can be insincere and
express not the emotions we feel but those that we should like to
feel. In reality she was quite calm, and her dislike of him had
nothing emotional in it as yet.
"You see--" he began. He was determined to tell the fidgety
story, for the sooner it was over the sooner they would have
something to eat. Delicacy he lacked, and his sympathies were
limited. But such as they were, they rang true: he put no
decorous phantom between him and his desires.
"I do see. I have seen for two years." She sat down at the head
of the table, where there was another ink-pot. Into this she
dipped a pen. "I have seen everything, Mr. Wonham--who you are,
how you have behaved at Cadover, how you must have treated Mrs.
Failing yesterday; and now"--her voice became very grave--"I see
why you have come here, penniless. Before you speak, we know what
you will say."
His mouth fell open, and he laughed so merrily that it might have
given her a warning. But she was thinking how to follow up her
first success. "And I thought I was bringing tremendous news!" he
cried. "I only twisted it out of Mrs. Failing last night. And
Rickie knows too?"
"We have known for two years."
"But come, by the bye,--if you've known for two years, how is it
you didn't--" The laugh died out of his eyes. "You aren't
ashamed?" he asked, half rising from his chair. "You aren't like
the man towards Andover?"
"Please, please sit down," said Agnes, in the even tones she used
when speaking to the servants; "let us not discuss side issues. I
am a horribly direct person, Mr. Wonham. I go always straight to
the point." She opened a chequebook. "I am afraid I shall shock
you. For how much?"
He was not attending.
"There is the paper we suggest you shall sign." She pushed
towards him a pseudo-legal document, just composed by Herbert.
"In consideration of the sum of..., I agree to perpetual silence-
-to restrain from libellous...never to molest the said Frederick
Elliot by intruding--'"
His brain was not quick. He read the document over twice, and he
could still say, "But what's that cheque for?"
"It is my husband's. He signed for you as soon as we heard you
were here. We guessed you had come to be silenced. Here is his
signature. But he has left the filling in for me. For how much? I
will cross it, shall I? You will just have started a banking
account, if I understand Mrs. Failing rightly. It is not quite
accurate to say you are penniless: I heard from her just before
you returned from your cricket. She allows you two hundred a-
year, I think. But this additional sum--shall I date the cheque
Saturday or for tomorrow?"
At last he found words. Knocking his pipe out on the table, he
said slowly, "Here's a very bad mistake."
"It is quite possible," retorted Agnes. She was glad she had
taken the offensive, instead of waiting till he began his
blackmailing, as had been the advice of Rickie. Aunt Emily had
said that very spring, "One's only hope with Stephen is to start
bullying first." Here he was, quite bewildered, smearing the
pipe-ashes with his thumb. He asked to read the document again.
"A stamp and all!" he remarked.
They had anticipated that his claim would exceed two pounds.
"I see. All right. It takes a fool a minute. Never mind. I've
made a bad mistake."
"You refuse?" she exclaimed, for he was standing at the door.
"Then do your worst! We defy you!"
"That's all right, Mrs. Elliot," he said roughly. "I don't want a
scene with you, nor yet with your husband. We'll say no more
about it. It's all right. I mean no harm."
"But your signature then! You must sign--you--"
He pushed past her, and said as he reached for his cap, "There,
that's all right. It's my mistake. I'm sorry." He spoke like a
farmer who has failed to sell a sheep. His manner was utterly
prosaic, and up to the last she thought he had not understood
her. "But it's money we offer you," she informed him, and then
darted back to the study, believing for one terrible moment that
he had picked up the blank cheque. When she returned to the hall
he had gone. He was walking down the road rather quickly. At the
corner he cleared his throat, spat into the gutter, and
"There's an odd finish," she thought. She was puzzled, and
determined to recast the interview a little when she related it
to Rickie. She had not succeeded, for the paper was still
unsigned. But she had so cowed Stephen that he would probably
rest content with his two hundred a-year, and never come
troubling them again. Clever management, for one knew him to be
rapacious: she had heard tales of him lending to the poor and
exacting repayment to the uttermost farthing. He had also stolen
at school. Moderately triumphant, she hurried into the side-
garden: she had just remembered Ansell: she, not Rickie, had
received his card.
"Oh, Mr. Ansell!" she exclaimed, awaking him from some day-dream.
"Haven't either Rickie or Herbert been out to you? Now, do come
into dinner, to show you aren't offended. You will find all of us
assembled in the boys' dining-hall."
To her annoyance he accepted.
"That is, if the Jacksons are not expecting you."
The Jacksons did not matter. If he might brush his clothes and
bathe his lip, he would like to come.
"Oh, what has happened to you? And oh, my pretty lobelias!"
He replied, "A momentary contact with reality," and she, who did
not look for sense in his remarks, hurried away to the dining-
hall to announce him.
The dining-hall was not unlike the preparation room. There was
the same parquet floor, and dado of shiny pitchpine. On its walls
also were imperial portraits, and over the harmonium to which
they sang the evening hymns was spread the Union Jack. Sunday
dinner, the most pompous meal of the week, was in progress. Her
brother sat at the head of the high table, her husband at the
head of the second. To each he gave a reassuring nod and went to
her own seat, which was among the junior boys. The beef was being
carried out; she stopped it. "Mr. Ansell is coming," she called.
"Herbert there is more room by you; sit up straight, boys." The
boys sat up straight, and a respectful hush spread over the room.
"Here he is!" called Rickie cheerfully, taking his cue from his
wife. "Oh, this is splendid!" Ansell came in. "I'm so glad you
managed this. I couldn't leave these wretches last night!" The
boys tittered suitably. The atmosphere seemed normal. Even
Herbert, though longing to hear what had happened to the
blackmailer, gave adequate greeting to their guest: "Come in, Mr.
Ansell; come here. Take us as you find us!"
"I understood," said Stewart, "that I should find you all. Mrs.
Elliot told me I should. On that understanding I came."
It was at once evident that something had gone wrong.
Ansell looked round the room carefully. Then clearing his throat
and ruffling his hair, he began-
"I cannot see the man with whom I have talked, intimately, for an
hour, in your garden."
The worst of it was they were all so far from him and from each
other, each at the end of a tableful of inquisitive boys. The two
masters looked at Agnes for information, for her reassuring nod
had not told them much. She looked hopelessly back.
"I cannot see this man," repeated Ansell, who remained by the
harmonium in the midst of astonished waitresses. "Is he to be
given no lunch?"
Herbert broke the silence by fresh greetings. Rickie knew that
the contest was lost, and that his friend had sided with the
enemy. It was the kind of thing he would do. One must face the
catastrophe quietly and with dignity. Perhaps Ansell would have
turned on his heel, and left behind him only vague suspicions, if
Mrs. Elliot had not tried to talk him down. "Man," she cried--
"what man? Oh, I know--terrible bore! Did he get hold of you?"--
thus committing their first blunder, and causing Ansell to say to
Rickie, "Have you seen your brother?"
"I have not."
"Have you been told he was here?"
Rickie's answer was inaudible.
"Have you been told you have a brother?"
"Let us continue this conversation later."
"Continue it? My dear man, how can we until you know what I'm
talking about? You must think me mad; but I tell you solemnly
that you have a brother of whom you've never heard, and that he
was in this house ten minutes ago." He paused impressively. "Your
wife has happened to see him first. Being neither serious nor
truthful, she is keeping you apart, telling him some lie and not
telling you a word."
There was a murmur of alarm. One of the prefects rose, and Ansell
set his back to the wall, quite ready for a battle. For two years
he had waited for his opportunity. He would hit out at Mrs.
Elliot like any ploughboy now that it had come. Rickie said:
"There is a slight misunderstanding. I, like my wife, have known
what there is to know for two years"--a dignified rebuff, but
their second blunder.
"Exactly," said Agnes. "Now I think Mr. Ansell had better go."
"Go?" exploded Ansell. "I've everything to say yet. I beg your
pardon, Mrs. Elliot, I am concerned with you no longer. This
man"--he turned to the avenue of faces--"this man who teaches you
has a brother. He has known of him two years and been ashamed. He
has--oh--oh--how it fits together! Rickie, it's you, not Mrs.
Silt, who must have sent tales of him to your aunt. It's you
who've turned him out of Cadover. It's you who've ordered him to
be ruined today.
Now Herbert arose. "Out of my sight, sir! But have it from me
first that Rickie and his aunt have both behaved most generously.
No, no, Agnes, I'll not be interrupted. Garbled versions must
not get about. If the Wonham man is not satisfied now, he must be
insatiable. He cannot levy blackmail on us for ever. Sir, I give
you two minutes; then you will be expelled by force."
"Two minutes!" sang Ansell. "I can say a great deal in that." He
put one foot on a chair and held his arms over the quivering
room. He seemed transfigured into a Hebrew prophet passionate for
satire and the truth. "Oh, keep quiet for two minutes," he cried,
"and I'll tell you something you'll be glad to hear. You're a
little afraid Stephen may come back. Don't be afraid. I bring
good news. You'll never see him nor any one like him again. I
must speak very plainly, for you are all three fools. I don't
want you to say afterwards, 'Poor Mr. Ansell tried to be clever.'
Generally I don't mind, but I should mind today. Please listen.
Stephen is a bully; he drinks; he knocks one down; but he would
sooner die than take money from people he did not love. Perhaps
he will die, for he has nothing but a few pence that the poor
gave him and some tobacco which, to my eternal glory, he accepted
from me. Please listen again. Why did he come here? Because he
thought you would love him, and was ready to love you. But I tell
you, don't be afraid. He would sooner die now than say you were
his brother. Please listen again--"
"Now, Stewart, don't go on like that," said Rickie bitterly.
"It's easy enough to preach when you are an outsider. You would
be more charitable if such a thing had happened to yourself. Easy
enough to be unconventional when you haven't suffered and know
nothing of the facts. You love anything out of the way,
anything queer, that doesn't often happen, and so you get excited
over this. It's useless, my dear man; you have hurt me, but you
will never upset me. As soon as you stop this ridiculous scene we
will finish our dinner. Spread this scandal; add to it. I'm too
old to mind such nonsense. I cannot help my father's disgrace, on
the one hand; nor, on the other, will I have anything to do with
his blackguard of a son."
So the secret was given to the world. Agnes might colour at his
speech; Herbert might calculate the effect of it on the entries
for Dunwood House; but he cared for none of these things. Thank
God! he was withered up at last.
"Please listen again," resumed Ansell. "Please correct two slight
mistakes: firstly, Stephen is one of the greatest people I have
ever met; secondly, he's not your father's son. He's the son of
It was Rickie, not Ansell, who was carried from the hall, and it
was Herbert who pronounced the blessing--
A profound stillness succeeded the storm, and the boys, slipping
away from their meal, told the news to the rest of the school, or
put it in the letters they were writing home.
The soul has her own currency. She mints her spiritual coinage
and stamps it with the image of some beloved face. With it she
pays her debts, with it she reckons, saying, "This man has worth,
this man is worthless." And in time she forgets its origin; it
seems to her to be a thing unalterable, divine. But the soul can
also have her bankruptcies.
Perhaps she will be the richer in the end. In her agony she
learns to reckon clearly. Fair as the coin may have been, it was
not accurate; and though she knew it not, there were treasures
that it could not buy. The face, however beloved, was mortal, and
as liable as the soul herself to err. We do but shift
responsibility by making a standard of the dead.
There is, indeed, another coinage that bears on it not man's
image but God's. It is incorruptible, and the soul may trust it
safely; it will serve her beyond the stars. But it cannot give us
friends, or the embrace of a lover, or the touch of children, for
with our fellow mortals it has no concern. It cannot even give
the joys we call trivial--fine weather, the pleasures of meat and
drink, bathing and the hot sand afterwards, running, dreamless
sleep. Have we learnt the true discipline of a bankruptcy if we
turn to such coinage as this? Will it really profit us so much if
we save our souls and lose the whole world?
PART 3 WILTSHIRE
Robert--there is no occasion to mention his surname: he was a
young farmer of some education who tried to coax the aged soil of
Wiltshire scientifically--came to Cadover on business and fell in
love with Mrs. Elliot. She was there on her bridal visit, and he,
an obscure nobody, was received by Mrs. Failing into the house
and treated as her social equal. He was good-looking in a bucolic
way, and people sometimes mistook him for a gentleman until they
saw his hands. He discovered this, and one of the slow, gentle
jokes he played on society was to talk upon some cultured subject
with his hands behind his back and then suddenly reveal them. "Do
you go in for boating?" the lady would ask; and then he explained
that those particular weals are made by the handles of the
plough. Upon which she became extremely interested, but found an
early opportunity of talking to some one else.
He played this joke on Mrs. Elliot the first evening, not knowing
that she observed him as he entered the room. He walked heavily,
lifting his feet as if the carpet was furrowed, and he had no
evening clothes. Every one tried to put him at his ease, but she
rather suspected that he was there already, and envied him. They
were introduced, and spoke of Byron, who was still fashionable.
Out came his hands--the only rough hands in the drawing-room, the
only hands that had ever worked. She was filled with some strange
approval, and liked him.
After dinner they met again, to speak not of Byron but of manure.
The other people were so clever and so amusing that it relieved
her to listen to a man who told her three times not to buy
artificial manure ready made, but, if she would use it, to make
it herself at the last moment. Because the ammonia evaporated.
Here were two packets of powder. Did they smell? No. Mix them
together and pour some coffee--An appalling smell at once burst
forth, and every one began to cough and cry. This was good for
the earth when she felt sour, for he knew when the earth was ill.
He knew, too, when she was hungry he spoke of her tantrums--the
strange unscientific element in her that will baffle the
scientist to the end of time. "Study away, Mrs. Elliot," he told
her; "read all the books you can get hold of; but when it comes
to the point, stroll out with a pipe in your mouth and do a bit
of guessing." As he talked, the earth became a living being--or
rather a being with a living skin,--and manure no longer dirty
stuff, but a symbol of regeneration and of the birth of life from
life. "So it goes on for ever!" she cried excitedly. He replied:
"Not for ever. In time the fire at the centre will cool, and
nothing can go on then."
He advanced into love with open eyes, slowly, heavily, just as he
had advanced across the drawing room carpet. But this time the
bride did not observe his tread. She was listening to her
husband, and trying not to be so stupid. When he was close to
her--so close that it was difficult not to take her in his arms--
he spoke to Mr. Failing, and was at once turned out of Cadover.
"I'm sorry," said Mr. Failing, as he walked down the drive with
his hand on his guest's shoulder. "I had no notion you were that
sort. Any one who behaves like that has to stop at the farm."
"Any one." He sighed heavily, not for any personal grievance, but
because he saw how unruly, how barbaric, is the soul of man.
After all, this man was more civilized than most.
"Are you angry with me, sir?" He called him "sir," not because he
was richer or cleverer or smarter, not because he had helped to
educate him and had lent him money, but for a reason more
profound--for the reason that there are gradations in heaven.
"I did think you--that a man like you wouldn't risk making people
unhappy. My sister-in-law--I don't say this to stop you loving
her; something else must do that--my sister-in-law, as far as I
know, doesn't care for you one little bit. If you had said
anything, if she had guessed that a chance person was in--this
fearful state, you would simply--have opened hell. A woman of her
sort would have lost all--"
"I knew that."
Mr. Failing removed his hand. He was displeased.
"But something here," said Robert incoherently. "This here." He
struck himself heavily on the heart. "This here, doing something
so unusual, makes it not matter what she loses--I--" After a
silence he asked, "Have I quite followed you, sir, in that
business of the brotherhood of man?"
"How do you mean?"
"I thought love was to bring it about."
"Love of another man's wife? Sensual love? You have understood
nothing--nothing." Then he was ashamed, and cried, "I understand
nothing myself." For he remembered that sensual and spiritual are
not easy words to use; that there are, perhaps, not two
Aphrodites, but one Aphrodite with a Janus face. "I only
understand that you must try to forget her."
"I will not try."
"Promise me just this, then--not to do anything crooked."
"I'm straight. No boasting, but I couldn't do a crooked thing--
No, not if I tried."
And so appallingly straight was he in after years, that Mr.
Failing wished that he had phrased the promise differently.
Robert simply waited. He told himself that it was hopeless; but
something deeper than himself declared that there was hope. He
gave up drink, and kept himself in all ways clean, for he wanted
to be worthy of her when the time came. Women seemed fond of him,
and caused him to reflect with pleasure, "They do run after me.
There must be something in me. Good. I'd be done for if there
wasn't." For six years he turned up the earth of Wiltshire, and
read books for the sake of his mind, and talked to gentlemen for
the sake of their patois, and each year he rode to Cadover to
take off his hat to Mrs. Elliot, and, perhaps, to speak to her
about the crops. Mr. Failing was generally present, and it struck
neither man that those dull little visits were so many words out
of which a lonely woman might build sentences. Then Robert went
to London on business. He chanced to see Mr. Elliot with a
strange lady. The time had come.
He became diplomatic, and called at Mr. Elliot's rooms to find
things out. For if Mrs. Elliot was happier than he could ever
make her, he would withdraw, and love her in renunciation. But if
he could make her happier, he would love her in fulfilment. Mr.
Elliot admitted him as a friend of his brother-in-law's, and felt
very broad-minded as he did so. Robert, however, was a success.
The youngish men there found him interesting, and liked to shock
him with tales of naughty London and naughtier Paris. They spoke
of "experience" and "sensations" and "seeing life," and when a
smile ploughed over his face, concluded that his prudery was
vanquished. He saw that they were much less vicious than they
supposed: one boy had obviously read his sensations in a book.
But he could pardon vice. What he could not pardon was
triviality, and he hoped that no decent woman could pardon it
either. There grew up in him a cold, steady anger against these
silly people who thought it advanced to be shocking, and who
described, as something particularly choice and educational,
things that he had understood and fought against for years. He
inquired after Mrs. Elliot, and a boy tittered. It seemed that
she "did not know," that she lived in a remote suburb, taking
care of a skinny baby. "I shall call some time or other," said
Robert. "Do," said Mr. Elliot, smiling. And next time he saw his
wife he congratulated her on her rustic admirer.
She had suffered terribly. She had asked for bread, and had been
given not even a stone. People talk of hungering for the ideal,
but there is another hunger, quite as divine, for facts. She had
asked for facts and had been given "views," "emotional
standpoints," "attitudes towards life." To a woman who believed
that facts are beautiful, that the living world is beautiful
beyond the laws of beauty, that manure is neither gross nor
ludicrous, that a fire, not eternal, glows at the heart of the
earth, it was intolerable to be put off with what the Elliots
called "philosophy," and, if she refused, to be told that she had
no sense of humour. "Tarrying into the Elliot family." It had
sounded so splendid, for she was a penniless child with nothing
to offer, and the Elliots held their heads high. For what reason?
What had they ever done, except say sarcastic things, and limp,
and be refined? Mr. Failing suffered too, but she suffered more,
inasmuch as Frederick was more impossible than Emily. He did not
like her, he practically lived apart, he was not even faithful or
polite. These were grave faults, but they were human ones: she
could even imagine them in a man she loved. What she could never
love was a dilettante.
Robert brought her an armful of sweet-peas. He laid it on the
table, put his hands behind his back, and kept them there till
the end of the visit. She knew quite well why he had come, and
though she also knew that he would fail, she loved him too much
to snub him or to stare in virtuous indignation. "Why have you
come?" she asked gravely, "and why have you brought me so many
"My garden is full of them," he answered. "Sweetpeas need picking
down. And, generally speaking, flowers are plentiful in July."
She broke his present into bunches--so much for the drawing-room,
so much for the nursery, so much for the kitchen and her
husband's room: he would be down for the night. The most
beautiful she would keep for herself. Presently he said, "Your
husband is no good. I've watched him for a week. I'm thirty, and
not what you call hasty, as I used to be, or thinking that
nothing matters like the French. No. I'm a plain Britisher, yet--
I--I've begun wrong end, Mrs. Elliot; I should have said that
I've thought chiefly of you for six years, and that though I talk
here so respectfully, if I once unhooked my hands--"
There was a pause. Then she said with great sweetness, "Thank
you; I am glad you love me," and rang the bell.
"What have you done that for?" he cried.
"Because you must now leave the house, and never enter it again."
"I don't go alone," and he began to get furious.
Her voice was still sweet, but strength lay in it too, as she
said, "You either go now with my thanks and blessing, or else you
go with the police. I am Mrs. Elliot. We need not discuss Mr.
Elliot. I am Mrs. Elliot, and if you make one step towards me I
give you in charge."
But the maid answered the bell not of the drawing-room, but of
the front door. They were joined by Mr. Elliot, who held out his
hand with much urbanity. It was not taken. He looked quickly at
his wife, and said, "Am I de trop?" There was a long silence.
At last she said, "Frederick, turn this man out."
"My love, why?"
Robert said that he loved her.
"Then I am de trop," said Mr. Elliot, smoothing out his gloves.
He would give these sodden barbarians a lesson. "My hansom is
waiting at the door. Pray make use of it."
"Don't!" she cried, almost affectionately. "Dear Frederick, it
isn't a play. Just tell this man to go, or send for the police."
"On the contrary; it is French comedy of the best type. Don't you
agree, sir, that the police would be an inartistic error?" He was
perfectly calm and collected, whereas they were in a pitiable
"Turn him out at once!" she cried. "He has insulted your wife.
Save me, save me!" She clung to her husband and wept. "He was
going I had managed him--he would never have known--" Mr. Elliot
"If you don't feel inclined to start at once," he said with easy
civility, "Let us have a little tea. My dear sir, do forgive me
for not shooting you. Nous avons change tout cela. Please don't
look so nervous. Please do unclasp your hands--"
He was alone.
"That's all right," he exclaimed, and strolled to the door. The
hansom was disappearing round the corner. "That's all right," he
repeated in more quavering tones as he returned to the drawing-
room and saw that it was littered with sweet-peas. Their colour
got on his nerves--magenta, crimson; magenta, crimson. He tried
to pick them up, and they escaped. He trod them underfoot, and
they multiplied and danced in the triumph of summer like a
thousand butterflies. The train had left when he got to the
station. He followed on to London, and there he lost all traces.
At midnight he began to realize that his wife could never belong
to him again.
Mr. Failing had a letter from Stockholm. It was never known what
impulse sent them there. "I am sorry about it all, but it was the
only way." The letter censured the law of England, "which obliges
us to behave like this, or else we should never get married. I
shall come back to face things: she will not come back till she
is my wife. He must bring an action soon, or else we shall try
one against him. It seems all very unconventional, but it is not
really. it is only a difficult start. We are not like you or your
wife: we want to be just ordinary people, and make the farm pay,
and not be noticed all our lives."
And they were capable of living as they wanted. The class
difference, which so intrigued Mrs. Failing, meant very little to
them. It was there, but so were other things.
They both cared for work and living in the open, and for not
speaking unless they had got something to say. Their love of
beauty, like their love for each other, was not dependent on
detail: it grew not from the nerves but from the soul.
"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work
of the stars
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand,
and the egg of the wren,
And the tree toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlours
They had never read these lines, and would have thought them
nonsense if they had. They did not dissect--indeed they could
not. But she, at all events, divined that more than perfect
health and perfect weather, more than personal love, had gone to
the making of those seventeen days.
"Ordinary people!" cried Mrs. Failing on hearing the letter. At
that time she was young and daring. "Why, they're divine! They're
forces of Nature! They're as ordinary as volcanoes. We all knew
my brother was disgusting, and wanted him to be blown to pieces,
but we never thought it would happen. Do look at the thing
bravely, and say, as I do, that they are guiltless in the
sight of God."
"I think they are," replied her husband. "But they are not
guiltless in the sight of man."
"You conventional!" she exclaimed in disgust.
"What they have done means misery not only for themselves but for
others. For your brother, though you will not think of him. For
the little boy--did you think of him? And perhaps for another
child, who will have the whole world against him if it knows.
They have sinned against society, and you do not diminish the
misery by proving that society is bad or foolish. It is the
saddest truth I have yet perceived that the Beloved Republic"--
here she took up a book--"of which Swinburne speaks"--she put the
book down--"will not be brought about by love alone. It will
approach with no flourish of trumpets, and have no declaration of
independence. Self-sacrifice and--worse still--self-mutilation
are the things that sometimes help it most, and that is why we
should start for Stockholm this evening." He waited for her
indignation to subside, and then continued. "I don't know whether
it can be hushed up. I don't yet know whether it ought to be
hushed up. But we ought to provide the opportunity. There is no
scandal yet. If we go, it is just possible there never will be
any. We must talk over the whole thing and--"
"--And lie!" interrupted Mrs. Failing, who hated travel.
"--And see how to avoid the greatest unhappiness."
There was to be no scandal. By the time they arrived Robert had
been drowned. Mrs. Elliot described how they had gone swimming,
and how, "since he always lived inland," the great waves had
tired him. They had raced for the open sea.
"What are your plans?" he asked. "I bring you a message from
"I heard him call," she continued, "but I thought he was
laughing. When I turned, it was too late. He put his hands behind
his back and sank. For he would only have drowned me with him. I
should have done the same."
Mrs. Failing was thrilled, and kissed her. But Mr. Failing knew
that life does not continue heroic for long, and he gave her the
message from her husband: Would she come back to him?
To his intense astonishment--at first to his regret--she replied,
"I will think about it. If I loved him the very least bit I
should say no. If I had anything to do with my life I should say
no. But it is simply a question of beating time till I die.
Nothing that is coming matters. I may as well sit in his
drawing-room and dust his furniture, since he has suggested it."
And Mr. Elliot, though he made certain stipulations, was
positively glad to see her. People had begun to laugh at him, and
to say that his wife had run away. She had not. She had been with
his sister in Sweden. In a half miraculous way the matter was
hushed up. Even the Silts only scented "something strange." When
Stephen was born, it was abroad. When he came to England, it was
as the child of a friend of Mr. Failing's. Mrs. Elliot returned
unsuspected to her husband.
But though things can be hushed up, there is no such thing as
beating time; and as the years passed she realized her terrible
mistake. When her lover sank, eluding her last embrace, she
thought, as Agnes was to think after her, that her soul had sunk
with him, and that never again should she be capable of earthly
love. Nothing mattered. She might as well go and be useful to her
husband and to the little boy who looked exactly like him, and
who, she thought, was exactly like him in disposition. Then
Stephen was born, and altered her life. She could still love
people passionately; she still drew strength from the heroic
past. Yet, to keep to her bond, she must see this son only as a
stranger. She was protected be the conventions, and must pay them
their fee. And a curious thing happened. Her second child drew
her towards her first. She began to love Rickie also, and to be
more than useful to him. And as her love revived, so did her
capacity for suffering. Life, more important, grew more bitter.
She minded her husband more, not less; and when at last he died,
and she saw a glorious autumn, beautiful with the voices of boys
who should call her mother, the end came for her as well, before
she could remember the grave in the alien north and the dust that
would never return to the dear fields that had given it.
Stephen, the son of these people, had one instinct that troubled
him. At night--especially out of doors--it seemed rather strange
that he was alive. The dry grass pricked his cheek, the fields
were invisible and mute, and here was he, throwing stones at the
darkness or smoking a pipe. The stones vanished, the pipe would
burn out. But he would be here in the morning when the sun rose,
and he would bathe, and run in the mist. He was proud of his good
circulation, and in the morning it seemed quite natural. But at
night, why should there be this difference between him and the
acres of land that cooled all round him until the sun returned?
What lucky chance had heated him up, and sent him, warm and
lovable, into a passive world? He had other instincts, but these
gave him no trouble. He simply gratified each as it occurred,
provided he could do so without grave injury to his fellows. But
the instinct to wonder at the night was not to be thus appeased.
At first he had lived under the care of Mr. Failing the only
person to whom his mother spoke freely, the only person who had
treated her neither as a criminal nor as a pioneer. In their rare
but intimate conversations she had asked him to educate her son.
"I will teach him Latin," he answered. "The rest such a boy must
remember." Latin, at all events, was a failure: who could attend
to Virgil when the sound of the thresher arose, and you knew that
the stack was decreasing and that rats rushed more plentifully
each moment to their doom? But he was fond of Mr. Failing, and
cried when he died. Mrs. Elliot, a pleasant woman, died soon
There was something fatal in the order of these deaths. Mr.
Failing had made no provision for the boy in his will: his wife
had promised to see to this. Then came Mr. Elliot's death, and,
before the new home was created, the sudden death of Mrs. Elliot.
She also left Stephen no money: she had none to leave. Chance
threw him into the power of Mrs. Failing. "Let things go on as
they are," she thought. "I will take care of this pretty little
boy, and the ugly little boy can live with the Silts. After my
death--well, the papers will be found after my death, and they
can meet then. I like the idea of their mutual ignorance. It is
He was then twelve. With a few brief intervals of school, he
lived in Wiltshire until he was driven out. Life had two distinct
sides--the drawing-room and the other. In the drawing-room people
talked a good deal, laughing as they talked. Being clever, they
did not care for animals: one man had never seen a hedgehog. In
the other life people talked and laughed separately, or even did
neither. On the whole, in spite of the wet and gamekeepers, this
life was preferable. He knew where he was. He glanced at the boy,
or later at the man, and behaved accordingly. There was no law--
the policeman was negligible. Nothing bound him but his own word,
and he gave that sparingly.
It is impossible to be romantic when you have your heart's
desire, and such a boy disappointed Mrs. Failing greatly. His
parents had met for one brief embrace, had found one little
interval between the power of the rulers of this world and the
power of death. He was the child of poetry and of rebellion, and
poetry should run in his veins. But he lived too near the things
he loved to seem poetical. Parted from them, he might yet satisfy
her, and stretch out his hands with a pagan's yearning. As it
was, he only rode her horses, and trespassed, and bathed, and
worked, for no obvious reason, upon her fields. Affection she did
not believe in, and made no attempt to mould him; and he, for his
part, was very content to harden untouched into a man. His
parents had given him excellent gifts--health, sturdy limbs, and
a face not ugly,--gifts that his habits confirmed. They had also
given him a cloudless spirit--the spirit of the seventeen days in
which he was created. But they had not given him the spirit of
their sit years of waiting, and love for one person was never to
be the greatest thing he knew.
"Philosophy" had postponed the quarrel between them. Incurious
about his personal origin, he had a certain interest in our
eternal problems. The interest never became a passion: it sprang
out of his physical growth, and was soon merged in it again. Or,
as he put it himself, "I must get fixed up before starting." He
was soon fixed up as a materialist. Then he tore up the sixpenny
reprints, and never amused Mrs. Failing so much again.
About the time he fixed himself up, he took to drink. He knew of
no reason against it. The instinct was in him, and it hurt
nobody. Here, as elsewhere, his motions were decided, and he
passed at once from roaring jollity to silence. For those who
live on the fuddled borderland, who crawl home by the railings
and maunder repentance in the morning, he had a biting contempt.
A man must take his tumble and his headache. He was, in fact, as
little disgusting as is conceivable; and hitherto he had not
strained his constitution or his will. Nor did he get drunk as
often as Agnes suggested. Thc real quarrel gathered elsewhere.
Presentable people have run wild in their youth. But the hour
comes when they turn from their boorish company to higher things.
This hour never came for Stephen. Somewhat a bully by nature, he
kept where his powers would tell, and continued to quarrel and
play with the men he had known as boys. He prolonged their youth
unduly. "They won't settle down," said Mr. Wilbraham to his wife.
"They're wanting things. It's the germ of a Trades Union. I shall
get rid of a few of the worst." Then Stephen rushed up to Mrs.
Failing and worried her. "It wasn't fair. So-and-so was a good
sort. He did his work. Keen about it? No. Why should he be? Why
should he be keen about somebody else's land? But keen enough.
And very keen on football." She laughed, and said a word about
So-and-so to Mr. Wilbraham. Mr. Wilbraham blazed up. "How could
the farm go on without discipline? How could there be discipline
if Mr. Stephen interfered? Mr. Stephen liked power. He spoke to
the men like one of themselves, and pretended it was all
equality, but he took care to come out top. Natural, of course,
that, being a gentleman, he should. But not natural for a
gentleman to loiter all day with poor people and learn their
work, and put wrong notions into their heads, and carry their
newfangled grievances to Mrs. Failing. Which partly accounted for
the deficit on the past year." She rebuked Stephen. Then he lost
his temper, was rude to her, and insulted Mr. Wilbraham.
The worst days of Mr. Failing's rule seemed to be returning. And
Stephen had a practical experience, and also a taste for battle,
that her husband had never possessed. He drew up a list of
grievances, some absurd, others fundamental. No newspapers in the
reading-room, you could put a plate under the Thompsons' door, no
level cricket-pitch, no allotments and no time to work in them,
Mrs. Wilbraham's knife-boy underpaid. "Aren't you a little
unwise?" she asked coldly. "I am more bored than you think over
the farm." She was wanting to correct the proofs of the book and
rewrite the prefatory memoir. In her irritation she wrote to
Agnes. Agnes replied sympathetically, and Mrs. Failing, clever as
she was, fell into the power of the younger woman. They discussed
him at first as a wretch of a boy; then he got drunk and somehow
it seemed more criminal. All that she needed now was a personal
grievance, which Agnes casually supplied. Though vindictive, she
was determined to treat him well, and thought with satisfaction
of our distant colonies. But he burst into an odd passion: he
would sooner starve than leave England. "Why?" she asked. "Are
you in love?" He picked up a lump of the chalk-they were by the
arbour--and made no answer. The vicar murmured, "It is not like
going abroad--Greater Britain--blood is thicker than water--" A
lump of chalk broke her drawing-room window on the Saturday.
Thus Stephen left Wiltshire, half-blackguard, half-martyr. Do not
brand him as a socialist. He had no quarrel with society, nor any
particular belief in people because they are poor. He only held
the creed of "here am I and there are you," and therefore class
distinctions were trivial things to him, and life no decorous
scheme, but a personal combat or a personal truce. For the same
reason ancestry also was trivial, and a man not the dearer
because the same woman was mother to them both. Yet it seemed
worth while to go to Sawston with the news. Perhaps nothing would
come of it; perhaps friendly intercourse, and a home while he
When they wronged him he walked quietly away. He never thought of
allotting the blame, nor or appealing to Ansell, who still sat
brooding in the side-garden. He only knew that educated people
could be horrible, and that a clean liver must never enter
Dunwood House again. The air seemed stuffy. He spat in the
gutter. Was it yesterday he had lain in the rifle-butts over
Salisbury? Slightly aggrieved, he wondered why he was not back
there now. "I ought to have written first," he reflected. "Here
is my money gone. I cannot move. The Elliots have, as it were,
practically robbed me." That was the only grudge he retained
against them. Their suspicions and insults were to him as the
curses of a tramp whom he passed by the wayside. They were dirty
people, not his sort. He summed up the complicated tragedy as a
While Rickie was being carried upstairs, and while Ansell (had he