Part 7 out of 9
something the matter with him. I think--"
Upstairs, in his narrow iron bed, Roddy lay on his back, his lips parted,
his eyes--white slits under half-open lids--turned up to the ceiling. His
arms were squared stiffly above his chest as they had pushed back the
bedclothes. The hands had been clenched and unclenched; the fingers still
curled in towards the palms. His face had a look of innocence and
Catty's thick, wet voice soaked through his mother's crying. "Miss
Mary--he went in his first sleep. His hair's as smooth as smooth."
She was alone with Dan in the funeral carriage.
Her heart heaved and dragged with the grinding of the brakes on the hill;
the brake of the hearse going in front; the brake of their carriage; the
brake of the one that followed with Dr. Charles in it.
When they left off she could hear Dan crying. He had begun as soon as he
got into the carriage.
She tried to think of Dr. Charles, sitting all by himself in the back
carriage, calm and comfortable among the wreaths. But she couldn't. She
couldn't think of anything but Dan and the black hearse in front of them.
She could see it when the road turned to the right; when she shut her
eyes she could see the yellow coffin inside it, heaped with white
flowers; and Roddy lying deep down in the coffin. The sides were made
high to cover his arms, squared over his chest as if he had been beating
something off. She could see Roddy's arms beating off his thoughts, and
under the fine hair Roddy's face, innocent and candid.
Dr. Charles said it wasn't that. He had just raised them in surprise. A
sort of surprise. He hadn't suffered.
Dan's dark head was bowed forward, just above the level of her knees. His
deep, hot eyes were inflamed with grief; they kept on blinking, gushing
out tears over red lids. He cried like a child, with loud sobs and
hiccoughs that shook him. _Her_ eyes were dry; burning dry; the lids
choked with something that felt like hot sand, and hurt.
(If only the carriage didn't smell of brandy. That was the driver. He
must have sat in it while he waited.)
Dan left off crying and sat up suddenly.
"What's that hat doing there?"
He had taken off his tall hat as he was getting into the carriage and
laid it on the empty seat. He pointed at the hat.
"That isn't my hat," he said.
"Yes, Dank. You put it there yourself."
"I didn't. My hat hasn't got a beastly black band on it."
He rose violently, knocking his head against the carriage roof.
"Here--I must get out of this."
He tugged at the window-strap, hanging on to it and swaying as he tugged.
She dragged him back into his seat.
"Sit down and keep quiet."
She put her hand on his wrist and held it. Down the road the bell of
Renton Church began tolling. He turned and looked at her unsteadily, his
dark eyes showing bloodshot as they swerved.
"Mary--is Roddy really dead?"
A warm steam of brandy came and went with his breathing.
"Yes. That's why you must keep quiet."
Mr. Rollitt was standing at the open gate of the churchyard. He was
saying something that she didn't hear. Then he swung round solemnly. She
saw the flash of his scarlet hood. Then the coffin.
She began to walk behind it, between two rows of villagers, between Dorsy
Heron and Mr. Sutcliffe. She went, holding Dan tight, pulling him closer
when he lurched, and carrying his tall hat in her hand.
Close before her face the head of Roddy's coffin swayed and swung as the
"Roddy ought never to have gone to Canada."
Her mother had turned again, shaking the big bed. They would sleep
together for three nights; then Aunt Bella would come, as she came when
"But your Uncle Victor would have his own way."
"He didn't know."
She thought: "But _I_ knew. I knew and I let him go. Why did I?"
It seemed to her that it was because, deep down inside her, she had
wanted him to go. Deep down inside her she had been afraid of the
unhappiness that would come through Roddy.
"And I don't think," her mother said presently, "it _could_ have been
very good for him, building that wall."
"You didn't know."
She thought: "I'd have known. If I'd been here it wouldn't have happened.
I wouldn't have let him. I'd no business to go away and leave him. I
might have known."
"Lord, if Thou hadst been here our brother had not died."
The yellow coffin swayed before her eyes, heaped with the white flowers.
Yellow and white. Roddy's dog. His yellow dog with a white breast and
white paws. And a rope round his neck. Roddy thought he had hanged him.
At seven she got up and dressed and dusted the drawing-room. She dusted
everything very carefully, especially the piano. She would never want to
play on it again.
The side door stood open. She went out. In the bed by the flagged path
she saw the sunk print of Roddy's foot and the dead daffodil stalk lying
in it. Mamma had been angry.
She had forgotten that. She had forgotten everything that happened in the
minutes before Catty had come down the passage.
She filled in the footprint and stroked the earth smooth above it, lest
Mamma should see it and remember.
Potnia, Potnia Nux--
_Lady, our Lady,
You who give sleep to men, to men labouring and suffering--
Out of the darkness, come,
Come with your wings, come down
On the house of Agamemnon._
Time stretched out behind and before you, time to read, to make music, to
make poems in, to translate Euripides, while Mamma looked after her
flowers in the garden; Mamma, sowing and planting and weeding with a
fixed, vehement passion. You could hear Catty and little Alice, Maggie's
niece, singing against each other in the kitchen as Alice helped Catty
with her work. You needn't have been afraid. You would never have
anything more to do in the house. Roddy wasn't there.
Agamemnon--that was where you broke off two years ago. He didn't keep you
waiting long to finish. You needn't have been afraid.
Uncle Victor's letter came on the day when the gentians flowered. One
minute Mamma had been happy, the next she was crying. When you saw her
with the letter you knew. Uncle Victor was sending Dan home. Dan was no
good at the office; he had been drinking since Roddy died. Three months.
Mamma was saying something as she cried. "I suppose he'll be here, then,
all his life, doing nothing."
Mamma had given Papa's smoking-room to Dan. She kept on going in and out
of it to see if he was there.
"When you've posted the letters you might go and see what Dan's doing."
Everybody in the village knew about Dan. The postmistress looked up from
stamping the letters to say, "Your brother was here a minute ago." Mr.
Horn, the grocer, called to you from the bench at the fork of the roads,
"Ef yo're lookin' for yore broother, he's joost gawn oop daale."
If Mr. Horn had looked the other way when he saw you coming you would
have known that Dan was in the Buck Hotel.
The white sickle of the road; a light at the top of the sickle; the
A man was crossing from the moor-track to the road. He carried a stack of
heather on his shoulder: Jem's brother, Ned. He stopped and stared. He
was thicker and slower than Jem; darker haired; fuller and redder in the
face; he looked at you with the same little, kind, screwed-up eyes.
"Ef yo're lookin' for yore broother, 'e's in t' oose long o' us. Wull yo
coom in? T' missus med gev yo a coop o' tea."
She went in. There was dusk in the kitchen, with a grey light in the
square of the window and a red light in the oblong of the grate. A small
boy with a toasting-fork knelt by the hearth. You disentangled a smell of
stewed tea and browning toast from thick, deep smells of peat smoke and
the sweat drying on Ned's shirt. When Farmer Alderson got up you saw the
round table, the coarse blue-grey teacups and the brown glazed teapot on
a brown glazed cloth.
Dan sat by the table. Dumpling, Ned's three-year-old daughter, sat on
Dan's knee; you could see her scarlet cheeks and yellow hair above the
grey frieze of his coat-sleeve. His mournful black-and-white face stooped
to her in earnest, respectful attention. He was taking a piece of
butterscotch out of the silver paper. Dumpling opened her wet, red mouth.
Rachel, Ned's wife, watched them, her lips twisted in a fond, wise smile,
as she pressed the big loaf to her breast and cut thick slices of
bread-and-jam. She had made a place for you beside her.
"She sengs ersen to slape wid a li'l' song she maakes," Rachel said.
"Tha'll seng that li'l' song for Mester Dan, wuntha?"
Dumpling hid her face and sang. You had to stoop to hear the cheeping
that came out of Dan's shoulder.
"Aw, dinny, dinny dy-Doomplin',
Dinny, dinny dy-Doomplin',
"Ef tha'll seng for Mester Dan," Farmer Alderson said, "tha'llt seng for
tha faather, wuntha, Doomplin'?"
"For Graffer then?"
Dumpling put her head on one side, butting under Dan's chin like a cat.
Dan's arm drew her closer. He was happy there, in the Aldersons' kitchen,
holding Dumpling on his knee. There was something in his happiness that
hurt you as Roddy's unhappiness had hurt. All your life you had never
really known Dan, the queer, scowling boy who didn't notice you, didn't
play with you as Roddy played or care for you as Mark had cared. And
suddenly you knew him; better even than Roddy, better than Mark.
The grey byre was warm with the bodies of the cows and their grassy,
milky breath. Dan, in his clean white shirt sleeves, crouched on Ned's
milking stool, his head pressed to the cow's curly red and white flank.
His fingers worked rhythmically down the teat and the milk squirted and
hissed and pinged against the pail. Sometimes the cow swung round her
white face and looked at Dan, sometimes she lashed him gently with her
tail. Ned leaned against the stall post and watched.
"Thot's t' road, thot's t' road. Yo're the foorst straanger she a' let
milk 'er. She's a narvous cow. 'Er teats is tander."
When the milking was done Dan put on his well-fitting coat and they went
home over Karva to the schoolhouse lane.
Dan loved the things that Roddy hated: the crying of the peewits, the
bleating of the sheep, the shouts of the village children when they saw
him and came running to his coat pockets for sweets. He liked to tramp
over the moors with the shepherds; he helped them with the dipping and
shearing and the lambing.
"Dan, you ought to be a farmer."
"I know," he said, "that's why they stuck me in an office."
"If the killer thinks that he kills, if the killed thinks that he is
killed, they do not understand; for this one does not kill, nor is that
Passion Week, two years after Roddy's death; Roddy's death the measure
you measured time by still.
Mamma looked up from her Bible; she looked over her glasses with eyes
tired of their everlasting reproach.
"What have you got there, Mary?"
"The Upanishads from the Sacred Book of the East."
"Tchtt! It was that Buddhism the other day."
"Any religion except your own. Or else it's philosophy. You're destroying
your soul, Mary. I shall write to your Uncle Victor and tell him to ask
Mr. Sutcliffe not to send you any more books from that library."
"I'm seven and twenty, Mamma ducky."
"The more shame for you then," her mother said.
The clock on the Congregational Chapel struck six. They put down their
books and looked at each other.
"Dan not back?" Mamma knew perfectly well he wasn't back.
"He went to Reyburn."
"T't!" Mamma's chin nodded in queer, vexed resignation. She folded her
hands on her knees and waited, listening.
Sounds of wheels and of hoofs scraping up the hill. The Morfe bus, back
from Reyburn. Catty's feet, running along the passage. The front door
opening, then shutting. Dan hadn't come with the bus.
"Perhaps," Mamma said, "Ned Anderson'll bring him."
"Perhaps.... ('There is one eternal thinker, thinking non-eternal
thoughts, who, though one, fulfils the desires of many....') Mamma--why
won't you let him go to Canada?"
"It was Canada that killed poor Roddy."
"It won't kill Dan. He's different."
"And what good would he be there? If your Uncle Victor can't keep him,
who will, I should like to know?"
"Jem Alderson would. He'd take him for nothing. He told Ned he would. To
make up for Roddy."
"Make up! He thinks that's the way to make up! I won't have Dan's death
at my door. I'd rather keep him for the rest of my life."
"How about Dan?"
"Dan's safe here."
"He's safe on the moor with Alderson looking after the sheep, and he's
safe in the cowshed milking the cows; but he isn't safe when Ned drives
into Reyburn market."
"Would it be safer in Canada?"
"Yes. He'd be thirty miles from the nearest pub. He'd be safer here if
you didn't give him money."
"The boy has to have money to buy clothes."
"I could buy them."
"I daresay! You can't treat a man of thirty as if he was a baby of
She thought. "No. You can only treat a woman.... 'There is one eternal
A knock on the door.
"There," her mother said, "that's Dan."
Mary went to the door. Ned Alderson stood outside; he stood slantways,
not looking at her.
"Ah tried to maake yore broother coom back long o' us, but 'e would na."
"Hadn't I better go and meet him?"
"Naw. Ah would na. Ah wouldn' woorry; there's shepherds on t' road wi' t'
sheep. Mebbe 'e'll toorn oop long o' they. Dawn' woorry ef tes laate
He went away.
They waited, listening while the clock struck the hours, seven; eight;
nine. At ten her mother and the servants went to bed. She sat up, and
"...My son, that subtle essence which you do not perceive there, of
that very essence this great Nyagrodha tree exists.... That which is the
subtile essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It
is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it."
Substance, the Thing-in-itself--You were It. Dan was It. You could think
away your body, Dan's body. One eternal thinker, thinking non-eternal
thoughts. Dreaming horrible dreams. Dan's drunkenness. Why?
Eleven. A soft scuffle. The scurry of sheep's feet on the Green. A dog
barking. The shepherds were back from Reyburn.
Feet shuffled on the flagstone. She went to the door. Dan leaned against
the doorpost, bent forward heavily; his chin dropped to his chest.
Something slimy gleamed on his shoulder and hip. Wet mud of the ditch he
had fallen in. She stiffened her muscles to his weight, to the pull and
push of his reeling body.
Roddy's room. With one lurch he reached Roddy's white bed in the corner.
She looked at the dressing-table. A strip of steel flashed under the
candlestick. The blue end of a matchbox stuck up out of the saucer. There
would be more matches in Dan's coat pocket. She took away the matches and
Her mother stood waiting in the doorway of her room, small and piteous in
her nightgown. Her eyes glanced off the razor, and blinked.
"Is Dan all right?"
"Yes. He came back with the sheep."
The Hegels had come: The _Logik_. Three volumes. The bristling Gothic
text an ambush of secret, exciting, formidable things. The titles flamed;
flags of strange battles; signals of strange ships; challenging, enticing
to the dangerous adventure.
After the first enchantment, the Buddhist Suttas and the Upanishads were
no good. Nor yet the Vedanta. You couldn't keep on saying, "This is
That," and "Thou art It," or that the Self is the dark blue bee and the
green parrot with red eyes and the thunder-cloud, the seasons and the
seas. It was too easy, too sleepy, like lying on a sofa and dropping
laudanum, slowly, into a rotten, aching tooth. Your teeth were sound and
strong, they had to have something hard to bite on. You wanted to think,
to keep on thinking. Your mind wasn't really like a tooth; it was like a
robust, energetic body, happy when it was doing difficult and dangerous
things, balancing itself on heights, lifting great weights of thought,
following the long march into thick, smoky battles.
"Being and Not-Being are the same": ironic and superb defiance. And then
commotion; as if the infinite stillness, the immovable Substance, had got
up and begun moving--Rhythm of eternity: the same for ever: for ever
different: for ever the same.
Thought _was_ the Thing-in-itself.
This man was saying, over and over and all the time what you had wanted
Kant to say, what he wouldn't say, what you couldn't squeeze out of him,
however you turned and twisted him.
You jumped to where the name "Spinoza" glittered like a jewel on the
large grey page.
Something wanting. You knew it, and you were afraid. You loved him. You
didn't want him to be found out and exposed, like Kant. He had given you
the first incomparable thrill.
Hegel. Spinoza. She thought of Spinoza's murky, mysterious face. It said,
"I live in you, still, as he will never live. You will never love that
old German man. He ran away from the cholera. He bolstered up the Trinity
with his Triple Dialectic, to keep his chair at Berlin. _I_ refused their
bribes. They excommunicated me. You remember? Cursed be Baruch Spinoza in
his going out and his coming in."
You had tried to turn and twist Spinoza, too; and always he had refused
to come within your meaning. His Substance, his God stood still, in
eternity. He, too; before the noisy, rich, exciting Hegel, he drew back
into its stillness; pure and cold, a little sinister, a little ironic.
And you felt a pang of misgiving, as if, after all, he might have been
right. So powerful had been his hold.
Dan looked up. "What are you reading, Mary?"
"Haeckel--that's the chap Vickers talks about."
Vickers--she remembered. Dan lived with Vickers when he left Papa.
"He's clever," Dan said, "but he's an awful ass."
"You mean he's an awful ass, but he's clever."
One Friday evening an unusual smell of roast chicken came through the
kitchen door. Mary put on the slender, long-tailed white gown she wore
when she dined at the Sutcliffes'.
Dan's friend, Lindley Vickers, was sitting on the sofa, talking to Mamma.
When she came in he left off talking and looked at her with sudden happy
eyes. She remembered Maurice Jourdain's disappointed eyes, and Mark's.
Dan became suddenly very polite and attentive.
All through dinner Mr. Vickers kept on turning his eyes away from Mamma
and looking at her; every time she looked she caught him looking. His
dark hair sprang in two ridges from the parting. His short, high-bridged
nose seemed to be looking at you, too, with its wide nostrils, alert. His
face did all sorts of vivid, interesting things; you wondered every
minute whether this time it would be straight and serious or crooked and
gay, whether his eyes would stay as they were, black crystals, or move
and show grey rings, green speckled.
He was alive, running over with life; no, not running over, vibrating
with it, holding it in; he looked as if he expected something delightful
to happen, and waited, excited, ready.
He began talking, about Hegel. "'Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme
She heard herself saying something. Dan turned and looked at her with a
sombre, thoughtful stare. Mamma smiled, and nodded her chin as much as to
say "Did you ever hear such nonsense?" She knew that was the way to stop
Mr. Vickers's eyes were large and attentive. When you stopped his mouth
gave such a sidelong leap of surprise and amusement that you laughed.
Then he laughed.
Dan said, "What's the joke?" And Mr. Vickers replied that it wasn't a
In the drawing-room Mamma said, "I won't have any of those asides between
you and Mr. Vickers, do you hear?"
Mary thought that so funny that she laughed. She knew what Mamma was
thinking, but she was too happy to care. Her intelligence had found its
You played, and at the first sound of the piano he came in and stood by
you and listened.
You had only to play and you could make him come to you. He would get up
and leave Dan in the smoking-room; he would leave Mamma in the garden.
When you played the soft Schubert _Impromptu_ he would sit near you, very
quiet; when you played the _Appassionata_ he would get up and stand close
beside you. When you played the loud, joyful Chopin _Polonaise_ he would
walk up and down; up and down the room.
Saturday evening. Sunday evening. (He was going on Monday very early.)
"'Es ist bestimmt in Gottes Rath
Das man vom liebsten was man hat
Dan called out from his corner, "Translate. Let's know what it's all
He pounded out the accompaniment louder. "We won't, will we?" He jumped
up suddenly. "Play the _Appassionata_."
She played and he talked.
"I can't play if you talk."
"Yes, you can. I wish I hadn't got to go to-morrow."
"Have you" (false note) "got to go?"
"I suppose so."
"If Dan asked you, would you stop?"
He slept in Papa's room. When she heard his door shut she went to Dan.
"Dan, why don't you ask him to stay longer?"
"Because I don't want him to."
"I thought he was your friend."
"He is my friend. The only one I've got."
"That's why." He shut the door on her.
She got up early. Dan was alone in the dining-room.
He said, "What have you come down for?"
"To give you your breakfasts."
"Don't be a little fool. Go back to your room."
Mr. Vickers had come in. He stood by the doorway, looking at her and
smiling. "Why this harsh treatment?" he said. He had heard Dan.
Now and then he smiled again at Dan, who sat sulking over his breakfast.
Dan went with him to Durlingham. He was away all night.
Next day, at dinner-time, they appeared again together. Mr. Vickers had
brought Dan back. He was going to stay for another week. At the Buck
"Es ist bestimmt in Gottes Rath." He had no business to sing it, to sing
it like that, so that you couldn't get the thing out of your head. That
wouldn't have mattered if you could have got his voice out of your heart.
It hung there, clawing, hurting. She resented this pain.
"Das man vom liebsten was man hat," the dearest that we have, "muss
schei-ei-eden, muss schei-ei-eden."
Her fingers pressed and crept over the keys, in guilty, shamed silence;
it would be awful if he heard you playing it, if Dan heard you or Mamma.
You had only to play and you could make him come.
Supposing you played the Schubert _Impromptu_--She found herself playing
He didn't come. He wasn't coming. He was going into Reyburn with Dan. And
on Monday he would be gone. This time he would really go.
When you left off playing you could still hear him singing in your head.
"Das man vom liebsten was man hat." "Es ist bestimmt--" But if you felt
like that about it, then--
Her hands dropped from the keys.
It wasn't possible. He only came on Friday evening last week. This was
Saturday morning. Seven days. It couldn't happen in seven days. He would
be gone on Monday morning. Not ten days.
"I can't--I don't."
Something crossing the window pane made her start and turn. Nannie
Learoyd's face, looking in. Naughty Nannie. You could see her big pink
cheeks and her scarlet mouth and her eyes sliding and peering. Poor
pretty, naughty Nannie. Nannie smiled when she met you on the Green, as
if she trusted you not to tell how you saw her after dark slinking about
the Back Lane waiting for young Horn to come out to her.
The door opened. Nannie slid away. It was only Mamma.
"Mary," she said, "I wish you would remember that Mr. Vickers has come to
see Dan, and that he has only got two days more."
"It's all right. He's going into Reyburn with him."
"I'm sure," her mother said, "I wish he'd stay here."
She pottered about the room, taking things up and putting them down
again. Presently Catty came for her and she went out.
Mary began to play the Sonata _Appassionata_. She thought: "I don't care
if he doesn't come. I want to play it, and I shall."
He came. He stood close beside her and listened. Once he put his hand on
her arm. "Oh no," he said. "_Not_ like that."
She stood up and faced him. "Tell me the truth, shall I ever be any good?
Shall I ever play?"
"Do you really want the truth?"
"Of course I do."
Her mind fastened itself on her playing. It hid and sheltered itself
behind her playing.
"Let's look at your hands."
She gave him her hands. He lifted them; he felt the small bones sliding
under the skin, he bent back the padded tips, the joints of the fingers.
"There's no reason why you shouldn't have played magnificently," he said.
"Only I don't. I never have."
"No, you never have."
He came closer; she didn't know whether he drew her to him or whether he
came closer. A queer, delicious feeling, a new feeling, thrilled through
her body to her mouth, to her finger-tips. Her head swam slightly. She
kept her eyes open by an effort.
He gave her back her hands. She remembered. They had been talking about
"I knew," she said, "it was bad in places."
"I don't care whether it's bad or good. It's you. The only part of you
that can get out. You're very bad in places, but you do something to me
all the same."
"What do I do?"
"You know what you do."
"I don't. I don't really. Tell me."
"If you don't know, I can't tell you--dear--"
He said it so thickly that she was not sure at the time whether he had
really said it. She remembered afterwards.
"There's Dan," she whispered.
He swung himself off from her and made himself a rigid figure at the
window. Dan stood in the doorway. He was trying to took as if she wasn't
"I say, aren't you coming to Reyburn?"
"No, I'm not."
"I've got a headache."
Outside on the flagstones she saw Nannie pass again and look in.
An hour later she was sitting on the slope under the hill road of
Greffington Edge. He lay on his back beside her in the bracken. Lindley
Suddenly he pulled himself up into a sitting posture like her own. She
was then aware that Mr. Sutcliffe had gone up the road behind them; he
had lifted his hat and passed her without speaking.
"What does Sutcliffe talk to you about?"
"And what do you do?"
Below them, across the dale, they could see the square of Morfe on its
"How long have you lived in that place?"
"Ten years. No; eleven."
"Women," he said, "are wonderful. I can't think where you come from. I
knew your father, I know Dan and your mother, and Victor Olivier and your
"The Unitarian lady; and I knew Mark--and Rodney. They don't account for
"Does anybody account for anybody else?"
"Yes. You believe in heredity?"
"I don't know enough about it."
"You should read Haeckel--_The History of Evolution_, and Herbert Spencer
and Ribot's _Heredity_. It would interest you.... No, it wouldn't. It
wouldn't interest you a bit."
"It sounds as if it would rather."
"It wouldn't.... Look here, promise me you won't think about it, you'll
let it alone. Promise me."
He was like Jimmy making you promise not to hang out of top-storey
"No good making promises."
"Well," he said, "there's nothing in it.... I wish I hadn't said that
about your playing. I only wanted to see whether you'd mind or not."
"I don't mind. What does it matter? When I'm making music I think there's
nothing but music in all the world; when I'm doing philosophy I think
there's nothing but philosophy in all the world; when I'm writing verses
I think there's nothing but writing in all the world; and when I'm
playing tennis I think there's nothing but tennis in all the world."
"I see. And when you suffer you think there's nothing but suffering in
all the world."
"And when--and when--"
His face was straight and serious and quiet. His eyes covered her; first
her face, then her breasts; she knew he could see her bodice quiver with
the beating of her heart. She felt afraid.
"Then," he said, "you'll not think; you'll know."
She thought: "He didn't say it. He won't. He can't. It isn't possible."
"Hadn't we better go?"
He sprang to his feet.
"Much better," he said.
She would not see him again that day. Dan was going to dine with him at
the Buck Hotel.
When Dan came back from Reyburn he said he wouldn't go. He had a
headache. If Vickers could have a headache, so could he. He sulked all
evening in the smoking-room by himself; but towards nine o'clock he
thought better of it and went round, he said, to look Vickers up.
Her mother yawned over her book; and the yawns made her impatient; she
wanted to be out of doors, walking, instead of sitting there listening to
At nine o'clock Mamma gave one supreme yawn and dragged herself to bed.
She went out through the orchard into the Back Lane. She could see Nannie
Learoyd sitting on the stone stairs of Horn's granary, waiting for young
Horn to come round the corner of his yard. Perhaps they would go up into
the granary and hide under the straw. She turned into the field track to
the schoolhouse and the highway. In the dark bottom the river lay like a
broad, white, glittering road.
She stopped by the schoolhouse, considering whether she would go up to
the moor by the high fields and come back down the lane, or go up the
lane and come back down the fields.
"Too dark to find the gaps if I come back by the fields." She had
forgotten the hidden moon.
There was a breaking twilight when she reached the lane. She came down at
a swinging stride. Her feet went on the grass borders without a sound.
At the last crook of the lane she came suddenly on a man and woman
standing in her path by the stone wall. It would be Nannie Learoyd and
young Horn. They were fixed in one block, their faces tilted backwards,
their bodies motionless. The woman's arms were round the man's neck, his
arms round her waist. There was something about the queer back-tilted
faces--queer and ugly.
As she came on she saw them break loose from each other and swing apart:
Nannie Learoyd and Lindley Vickers.
She lay awake all night. Her brain, incapable of thought, kept turning
round and round, showing her on an endless rolling screen the images of
Lindley and Nannie Learoyd, clinging together, loosening, swinging apart,
clinging together. When she came down on Sunday morning breakfast was
Sunday--Sunday. She remembered. Last night was Saturday night. Lindley
Vickers was coming to Sunday dinner and Sunday supper. She would have to
get away somewhere, to Dorsy or the Sutcliffes. She didn't want to see
him again. She wanted to forget that she ever had seen him.
Her mother and Dan had shut themselves up in the smoking-room; she found
them there, talking. As she came in they stopped abruptly and looked at
each other. Her mother began picking at the pleats in her gown with
nervous, agitated fingers. Dan got up and left the room.
"Well, Mary, you'll not see Mr. Vickers again. He's just told Dan he
Then he knew that she had seen him in the lane with Nannie.
"I don't want to see him," she said.
"It's a pity you didn't think of that before you put us in such a
She understood Lindley; but she wasn't even trying to understand her
mother. The vexed face and picking fingers meant nothing to her. She was
saying to herself, "I can't tell Mamma I saw him with Nannie in the lane.
I oughtn't to have seen him. He didn't know anybody was there. He didn't
want me to see him. I'd be a perfect beast to tell her."
Her mother went on: "I don't know what to do with you, Mary. One would
have thought my only daughter would have been a comfort to me, but I
declare you've given me more trouble than any of my children."
"More than Dan?"
"Dan hadn't a chance. He'd have been different if your poor father hadn't
driven him out of the house. He'd be different now if your Uncle Victor
had kept him.... It's hard for poor Dan if he can't bring his friends to
the house any more because of you."
"Because of me?"
"Because of your folly."
She understood. Her mother believed that she had frightened Lindley away.
She was thinking of Aunt Charlotte.
It would have been all right if she could have told her about Nannie;
then Mamma would have seen why Lindley couldn't come.
"I don't care," she thought. "She may think what she likes. I can't tell
Lindley Vickers had gone. Nothing was left of him but Mamma's silence and
Dan's, and Nannie's flush as she slunk by and her obscene smirk of
Then Nannie forgot him. As if nothing had happened she hung about Horn's
yard and the Back Lane, waiting for young Horn. She smiled her trusting
smile again. As long as you lived in Morfe you would remember.
Mary didn't blame her mother and Dan for their awful attitude. She
couldn't blink the fact that she had begun to care for a man who was no
better than young Horn, who had shown her that he didn't care for her by
going to Nannie. If he could go to Nannie he was no better than young
She thought of Lindley's communion with Nannie as a part of him,
essential, enduring. Beside it, her own communion with him was not quite
real. She remembered his singing; she remembered playing to him and
sitting beside him on the bracken as you remember things that have
happened to you a long time ago (if they had really happened). She
remembered phrases broken from their context (if they had ever had a
context): "Das man vom liebsten was man hat...." "If you don't know I
can't tell you--Dear." ... "And when--when--Then you won't think, you'll
She said to herself, "I must have been mad. It couldn't have happened. I
must have made it up."
But, if you made up things like that you _were_ mad. It was what Aunt
Charlotte had done. She had lived all her life in a dream of loving and
being loved, a dream that began with clergymen and ended with the
piano-tuner and the man who did the clocks. Mamma and Dan knew it. Uncle
Victor knew it and he had been afraid. Maurice Jourdain knew it and he
had been afraid. Perhaps Lindley Vickers knew it, too.
There must be something in heredity. She thought: "If there is I'd rather
face it. It's cowardly not to."
Lindley Vickers had told her what to read. Herbert Spencer she knew.
Haeckel and Ribot were in the London Library Catalogue at Greffington
Hall. And Maudsley: she had seen the name somewhere. It was perhaps lucky
that Mr. Sutcliffe had gone abroad early this year; for he had begun to
follow her through Balzac and Flaubert and Maupassant, since when he had
sometimes interfered with her selection.
The books came down in two days: Herbert Spencer's _First Principles_,
the _Principles of Biology_, the _Principles of Psychology_; Haeckel's
_History of Evolution_; Maudsley's _Body and Mind, Physiology and
Pathology of Mind, Responsibility in Mental Disease_; and Ribot's
_Heredity_. Your instinct told you to read them in that order,
controlling personal curiosity.
For the first time in her life she understood what Spinoza meant by "the
intellectual love of God." She saw how all things work together for good
to those who, in Spinoza's sense, love God. If it hadn't been for Aunt
Charlotte and Lindley Vickers she might have died without knowing
anything about the exquisite movements and connections of the live world.
She had spent most of her time in the passionate pursuit of things under
the form of eternity, regardless of their actual behaviour in time. She
had kept on for fifteen years trying to find out the reality--if there
was any reality--that hid behind appearances, piggishly obtuse to the
interest of appearances themselves. She had cared for nothing in them but
their beauty, and its exciting play on her emotions. When life brought
ugly things before her she faced them with a show of courage, but
inwardly she was sick with fear.
For the first time she saw the ugliest facts take on enchantment, a
secret and terrible enchantment. Dr. Mitchell's ape-faced idiot; Dr.
Browne's girl with the goose-face and goose-neck, billing her shoulders
like a bird.
There was something in Heredity. But the sheer interest of it made you
forget about Papa and Mamma and Aunt Charlotte; it kept you from thinking
about yourself. You could see why Ribot was so excited about his laws of
Heredity: "They it is that are real...." "To know a fact thoroughly is to
know the quality and quantity of the laws that compose it ... facts are
but appearances, laws the reality."
There was Darwin's Origin of Species. According to Darwin, it didn't seem
likely that anything so useless as insanity could be inherited at all;
according to Maudsley and Ribot, it seemed even less likely that sanity
could survive. To be sure, after many generations, insanity was stamped
out; but not before it had run its course through imbecility to idiocy,
infecting more generations as it went.
Maudsley was solemn and exalted in his desire that there should be no
mistake about it. "There is a destiny made for a man by his ancestors,
and no one can elude, were he able to attempt it, the tyranny of his
You had been wrong all the time. You had thought of your family, Papa and
Mamma, perhaps Grandpapa and Grandmamma, as powerful, but independent and
separate entities, in themselves sacred and inviolable, working against
you from the outside: either with open or secret and inscrutable
hostility, hindering, thwarting, crushing you down. But always from the
outside. You had thought of yourself as a somewhat less powerful, but
still independent and separate entity, a sacred, inviolable self,
struggling against them for completer freedom and detachment. Crushed
down, but always getting up and going on again; fighting a more and more
successful battle for your own; beating them in the end. But it was not
so. There were no independent, separate entities, no sacred, inviolable
selves. They were one immense organism and you were part of it; you were
nothing that they had not been before you. It was no good struggling. You
were caught in the net; you couldn't get out.
And so were they. Mamma and Papa were no more independent and separate
than you were. Dan had gone like Papa, but Papa had gone like Grandpapa
and Grandmamma Olivier. Nobody ever said anything about Grandpapa
Olivier; so perhaps there had been something queer about him. Anyhow,
Papa couldn't help drinking any more than Mamma could help being sweet
and gentle; they hadn't had a choice or a chance.
How senseless you had been with your old angers and resentments. Now that
you understood, you could never feel anger or resentment any more. As
long as you lived you could never feel anything but love for them and
compassion. Mamma, Papa and Aunt Charlotte, Dan and Roddy, they were
caught in the net. They couldn't get out.
Dan and Roddy--But Mark had got out. Why not you?
They were not all alike. Papa and Uncle Victor were different; and Aunt
Charlotte and Aunt Lavvy. Papa had married and handed it on; he hadn't
cared. Uncle Victor hadn't married; he had cared too much; he had been
And Maurice Jourdain and Lindley Vickers had been afraid; everybody who
knew about Aunt Charlotte would be afraid, and if they didn't know you
would have to tell them, supposing--
You would be like Aunt Lavvy. You would live in Morfe with Mamma for years
and years as Aunt Lavvy had lived with Grandmamma. First you would be
like Dorsy Heron; then like Louisa Wright; then like Aunt Lavvy.
No; when you were forty-five you would go like Aunt Charlotte.
Anyhow, she had filled in the time between October and March when the
Sutcliffes came back.
If she could talk to somebody about it--But you couldn't talk to Mamma;
she would only pretend that she hadn't been thinking about Aunt Charlotte
at all. If Mark had been there--But Mark wasn't there, and Dan would only
call you a little fool. Aunt Lavvy? She would tell you to love God. Even
Aunt Charlotte could tell you that.
She could see Aunt Charlotte sitting up in the big white bed and saying
"Love God and you'll be happy," as she scribbled letters to Mr. Marriott
and hid them under the bedclothes.
Uncle Victor? Uncle Victor was afraid himself.
Dr. Charles--He looked at you as he used to look at Roddy. Perhaps he
knew about Aunt Charlotte and wondered whether you would go like her. Or,
if he didn't wonder, he would only give you the iron pills and arsenic he
gave to Dorsy.
Mrs. Sutcliffe? You couldn't tell a thing like that to Mrs. Sutcliffe.
She wouldn't know what you were talking about; or if she did know she
would gather herself up, spiritually, in her shawl, and trail away.
Mr. Sutcliffe--He would know. If you could tell him. You might take back
Maudsley and Ribot and ask him if he knew anything about heredity, and
what he thought of it.
She went to him one Wednesday afternoon. He was always at home on
Wednesday afternoons. She knew how it would be. Mrs. Sutcliffe would be
shut up in the dining-room with the sewing-party. You would go in. You
would knock at the library door. He would be there by himself, in the big
arm-chair, smoking and reading; the small armchair would be waiting for
you on the other side of the fireplace. He would be looking rather old
and tired, and when he saw you he would jump up and pull himself together
and be young again.
The library door closed softly. She was in the room before he saw her.
He was older and more tired than you could have believed. He stooped in
his chair; his long hands rested on his knees, slackly, as they had
dropped there. Grey streaks in the curly lock of hair that _would_ fall
forward and be a whisker.
His mouth had tightened and hardened. It held out; it refused to become
old and tired.
"It's Mary," she said.
He dragged himself to his feet, making his body very straight and stiff.
His eyes glistened; but they didn't smile. Only his eyelids and his mouth
smiled. His eyes were different, their blue was shrunk and flattened and
drawn back behind the lense.
When he moved, pushing forward the small arm-chair, she saw how lean and
stiff he was.
"I've been ill," he said.
"I'm all right now."
"No. You oughtn't to have come back from Agaye."
"I never do what I ought, Mary."
She remembered how beautiful and strong he used to be, when he danced and
when he played tennis, and when he walked up and down the hills. His
beauty and his strength had never moved her to anything but a happy,
tranquil admiration. She remembered how she had seen Maurice Jourdain
tired and old (at thirty-three), and how she had been afraid to look at
him. She wondered, "Was that my fault, or his? If I'd cared should I have
minded? If I cared for Mr. Sutcliffe I wouldn't mind his growing tired
and old. The tireder and older he was the more I'd care."
Somehow you couldn't imagine Lindley Vickers growing old and tired.
She gave him back the books: Ribot's _Heredity_ and Maudsley's
_Physiology and Pathology of Mind_. He held them in his long, thin hands,
reading the titles. His strange eyes looked at her over the tops of the
bindings. He smiled.
"When did you order these, Mary?"
"That's the sort of thing you do when I'm away, is it?"
"Yes--I'm afraid you won't care for them very much."
He still stood up, examining the books. He was dipping into Maudsley now
and reading him.
"You don't mean to say you've _read_ this horrible stuff?"
"Every word of it. I _had_ to."
"You had to?"
"I wanted to know about heredity."
"That's part of it. I wanted to see if there was anything in it.
Heredity, I mean. Do you think there is?"
She kept her eyes on him. He was still smiling.
"My dear child, you know as much as I do. Why are you worrying your poor
little head about madness?"
"Because I can't help thinking I may go mad."
"I should think the same if I read Maudsley. I shouldn't be quite sure
whether I was a general paralytic or an epileptic homicide."
"You see--I'm not afraid because I've been reading him; I've been reading
him because I was afraid. Not even afraid, exactly. As a matter of fact
while you're reading about it you're so interested that you forget about
yourself. It's only when you've finished that you wonder."
"What makes you wonder?"
He threw Maudsley aside and sat down in the big armchair.
"That's just what I don't think I can tell you."
"You used to tell me things, Mary. I remember a little girl with short
hair who asked me whether cutting off her hair would make me stop caring
"Not _you_ caring for _me_."
"Precisely. So, if you can't tell me who _can_ you tell?"
"Come, then.... Is it because of your father? Or Dan?"
She thought: "After all, I can tell him."
"No. Not exactly. But it's somebody. One of Papa's sisters--Aunt
Charlotte. You see. Mamma seems to think I'm rather like her."
"Does Aunt Charlotte read Kant and Hegel and Schopenhauer, to find out
whether the Thing-in-itself is mind or matter? Does she read Maudsley and
Ribot to find out what's the matter with her mind?"
"I don't think she ever read anything."
"What _did_ she do?"
"Well--she doesn't seem to have done much but fall in love with people."
"She'd have been a very abnormal lady if she'd never fallen in love at
"Yes; but then she used to think people were in love with her when they
"How old is Aunt Charlotte?"
"She must be ages over fifty now."
"Well, my dear, you're just twenty-eight, and I don't think you've been
in love yet."
"That's it. I have."
"No. You've only thought you were. Once? Twice, perhaps? You may have
been very near it--for ten minutes. But a man might be in love with you
for ten years, and you wouldn't be a bit the wiser, if he held his tongue
about it.... No. People don't go off their heads because their aunts do,
or we should all of us be mad. There's hardly a family that hasn't got
somebody with a tile loose."
"Then you don't think there's anything in it?"
"I don't think there's anything in it in your case. Anything at all."
"I'm glad I told you."
She thought: "It isn't so bad. Whatever happens he'll be here."
The sewing-party had broken up. She could see them going before her on
the road, by the garden wall, by the row of nine ash-trees in the field,
round the curve and over Morfe Bridge.
Bobbing shoulders, craning necks, stiff, nodding heads in funny hats,
turning to each other.
When she got home she found Mrs. Waugh, and Miss Frewin in the
drawing-room with Mamma. They had brought her the news.
The Sutcliffes were going. They were trying to let Greffington Hall. The
agent, Mr. Oldshaw, had told Mr. Horn. Mr. Frank, the Major, would be
back from India in April. He was going to be married. He would live in
the London house and Mr. and Mrs. Sutcliffe would live abroad.
Mamma said, "If their son's coming back they've chosen a queer time to go
It couldn't be true.
You knew it when you dined with them, when you saw the tranquil Regency
faces looking at you from above the long row of Sheraton chairs, the
pretty Gainsborough lady smiling from her place above the sideboard.
As you sat drinking coffee out of the dark blue coffee cups with gold
linings you knew it couldn't be true. You were reassured by the pattern
of the chintzes--pink roses and green leaves on a pearl-grey ground--by
the crystal chains and pendants of the chandelier, by the round black
mirror sunk deep in the bowl of its gilt frame.
They couldn't go; for if they went, the quiet, gentle life of these
things would be gone. The room had no soul apart from the two utterly
beloved figures that sat there, each in its own chintz-covered chair.
"It isn't true," she said, "that you're going?"
She was sitting on the polar bear hearthrug at Mrs. Sutcliffe's feet.
The delicate, wrinkled hand came out from under the cashmere shawl to
stroke her arm. It kept on stroking, a long, loving, slow caress. It made
her queerly aware of her arm--white and slender under the big puff of the
sleeve--lying across Mrs. Sutcliffe's lap.
"He'll be happier in his garden at Agaye."
She heard herself assenting. "_He_'ll be happier." And breaking out. "But
I shall never be happy again."
"You mustn't say that, my dear."
The hand went on stroking.
"There's no place on earth," she said, "where I'm so happy as I am here."
Suddenly the hand stopped; it stiffened; it drew back under the cashmere
She turned her head towards Mr. Sutcliffe in his chair on the other side
of the hearthrug.
His face had a queer, strained look. His eyes were fixed, fixed on the
white, slender arm that lay across his wife's lap.
And Mrs. Sutcliffe's eyes were fixed on the queer, strained face.
Uncle Victor's letter was almost a relief.
She had not yet allowed herself to imagine what Morfe would be like
without the Sutcliffes. And, after all, they wouldn't have to live in it.
If Dan accepted Uncle Victor's offer, and if Mamma accepted his
Uncle Victor left no doubt as to his conditions. He wouldn't take Dan
back unless Mamma left Morfe and made a home for him in London. He wanted
them all to live together at Five Elms.
The discussion had lasted from a quarter-past nine till half-past ten.
Mamma still sat at the breakfast-table, crumpling and uncrumpling the
"I wish I knew what to do," she said.
"Better do what you want," Dan said. "Stay here if you want to. Go back
to Five Elms if you want to. But for God's sake don't say you're doing it
on my account."
He got up and went out of the room.
"Goodness knows I don't want to go back to Five Elms. But I won't stand
in Dan's way. If your Uncle Victor thinks I ought to make the sacrifice,
I shall make it."
"And Dan," Mary said, "will make the sacrifice of going back to Victor's
office. It would be simpler if he went to Canada."
"Your uncle can't help him to go to Canada. He won't hear of it.... I
suppose we shall have to go."
They were going. You could hear Mrs. Belk buzzing round the village with
the news. "The Oliviers are going."
One day Mrs. Belk came towards her, busily, across the Green.
She stopped to speak, while her little iron-grey eyes glanced off
sideways, as if they saw something important to be done.
The Sutcliffes were not going, after all.
When it was all settled and she thought that Dan had gone into Reyburn a
fortnight ago to give notice to the landlord's solicitors, one evening,
as she was coming home from the Aldersons' he told her that he hadn't
been to the solicitors at all.
He had arranged yesterday for his transport on a cattle ship sailing next
week for Montreal.
He said he had always meant to go out to Jem Alderson when he had learnt
enough from Ned.
"Then why," she said, "did you let Mamma tell poor Victor--"
"I wanted her to have the credit of the sacrifice," he said.
And then: "I don't like leaving you here--"
An awful thought came to her.
"Are you sure you aren't going because of me?"
"You? What on earth are you thinking of?"
"That time--when you wouldn't ask Lindley Vickers to stop on."
"Oh ... I didn't ask him because I knew he wanted to stop altogether. And
I don't approve of him."
She turned and stared at him. "Then it wasn't that you didn't approve of
"What put that in your head?"
"Mamma. She told me you couldn't ask anybody again because of me. She
said I'd frightened Lindley Vickers away. Like Aunt Charlotte."
Dan smiled, a sombre, reminiscent smile.
"You don't mean to say you still take Mamma seriously? _I_ never did."
"Or him either."
It hurt her like some abominable blasphemy.
Nothing would ever happen. She would stay on in Morfe, she and Mamma:
without Mark, without Dan, without the Sutcliffes....
They were going....
They were gone.
She lay out on the moor, under the August sun. Her hands were pressed
like a bandage over her eyes. When she lifted them she caught the faint
pink glow of their flesh. The light throbbed and nickered as she pressed
it out, and let it in.
The sheep couched, panting, in the shade of the stone covers. She lay so
still that the peewits had stopped their cry.
Something bothered her....
_And in the east one pure, prophetic star_--one pure prophetic
star--_Trembles between the darkness and the dawn_.
What you wrote last year. No reason why you shouldn't write modern plays
in blank verse if you wanted to. Only people didn't say those things. You
couldn't do it that way.
Let the thing go. Tear it to bits and burn them in the kitchen fire.
If you lay still, perfectly still, and stopped thinking the other thing
would come back.
_In dreams He has made you wise,
With the wisdom of silence and prayer,
God, who has blinded your eyes,
With the dusk of your hair_.
The Mother. The Mother. Mother and Son.
_You and he are near akin.
Would you slay your brother-in-sin?
What he does yourself shall do_--
That was the Son's hereditary destiny.
Lying on her back under Karva, she dreamed her "Dream-Play"; saying the
unfinished verses over and over again, so as to remember them when she
got home. She was unutterably happy.
She thought: "I don't care what happens so long as I can go on."
She jumped up to her feet. "I must go and see what Mamma's doing."
Her mother was sewing in the drawing-room and waiting for her to come to
tea. She looked up and smiled.
"What are you so pleased about?" she said.
Mamma was adorable, sitting there like a dove on its nest, dressed in a
dove's dress, grey on grey, turning dove's eyes to you in soft, crinkly
lids. She held her head on one side, smiling at some secret that she
kept. Mamma was happy, too.
"What are you looking such an angel for?"
Mamma lifted up her work, showing an envelope that lay on her lap, the
crested flap upwards, a blue gun-carriage on a white ground, and the
Catty had been into Reyburn to shop and had called for the letters. Mark
was coming home in April.
"There's a letter for you, Mary."
(Not from Mark.)
"If he gets that appointment he won't go back." She thought: "She'll
never be unhappy again. She'll never be afraid he'll get cholera."
For a minute their souls met and burned together in the joy they shared.
Then broke apart.
"Aren't you going to show me Mr. Sutcliffe's letter?"
"Why should I?"
"You don't mean to say there's anything in it I can't see?"
"You can see it if you like. There's nothing in it."
That was why she hadn't wanted her to see it. For anything there was in
it you might never have known him. But Mrs. Sutcliffe had sent her love.
Mamma looked up sharply.
"Did you write to him, Mary?"
"Of course I did."
"You'll not write again. He's let you know pretty plainly he isn't going
to be bothered."
(It wasn't that. It couldn't be that.)
"Did they say anything more about your going there?"
"That ought to show you then.... But as long as you live you'll give
yourself away to people who don't want you."
"I'd rather you didn't talk about them."
"I should like to know what I _can_ talk about," said Mamma.
She folded up her work and laid it in the basket.
Her voice dropped from the sharp note of resentment.
"I wish you'd go and see if those asters have come."
The asters had come. She had carried out the long, shallow boxes into the
garden. She had left her mother kneeling beside them, looking with
adoration into the large, round, innocent faces, white and purple, mauve
and magenta and amethyst and pink. If the asters had not come the memory
of the awful things they had said to each other would have remained with
them till bed-time; but Mamma would be happy with the asters like a child
with its toys, planning where they were to go and planting them.
She went up to her room. After thirteen years she had still the same
childish pleasure in the thought that it was hers and couldn't be taken
from her, because nobody else wanted it.
The bookshelves stretched into three long rows on the white wall above
her bed to hold the books Mr. Sutcliffe had given her; a light blue row
for the Thomas Hardys; a dark blue for the George Merediths; royal blue
and gold for the Rudyard Kiplings. And in the narrow upright bookcase in
the arm of the T facing her writing-table, Mark's books: the Homers and
the Greek dramatists. Their backs had faded from puce colour to drab.
Mark's books.--When she looked at them she could still feel her old,
childish lust for possession, her childish sense of insecurity, of
defeat. And something else. The beginning of thinking things about Mamma.
She could see herself standing in Mark's bedroom at Five Elms and Mamma
with her hands on Mark's books. She could hear herself saying, "You're
"What did I think Mamma was afraid of?"
Mamma was happy out there with the asters.
There would be three hours before dinner.
She began setting down the fragments of the "Dream-Play" that had come to
her: then the outlines. She saw very clearly and precisely how it would
have to be. She was intensely happy.
* * * * *
She was still thinking of it as she went across the Green to the post
office, instead of wondering why the postmistress had sent for her, and
why Miss Horn waited for her by the house door at the side, or why she
looked at her like that, with a sort of yearning pity and fear. She
followed her into the parlour behind the post office.
Suddenly she was awake to the existence of this parlour and its yellow
cane-bottomed chairs and round table with the maroon cloth and the white
alabaster lamp that smelt. The orange envelope lay on the maroon cloth.
Miss Horn covered it with her hand.
"It's for Mr. Dan," she said. "I daren't send it to the house lest your
mother should get it."
She gave it up with a slow, unwilling gesture.
"It's bad news, Miss Mary."
"_Your Brother Died This Evening_."
Her heart stopped, staggered and went on again. _"Poona"_--Mark--
"_Your Brother Died This Evening_.--SYMONDS."
"This evening" was yesterday. Mark had died yesterday.
Her heart stopped again. She had a sudden feeling of suffocation and
Her mind left off following the sprawl of the thick grey-black letters on
the livid pink form.
It woke again to the extraordinary existence of Miss Horn's parlour. It
went back to Mark, slowly, by the way it had come, by the smell of the
lamp, by the orange envelope on the maroon cloth.
Mark. And something else.
Mamma--Mamma. She would have to know.
Miss Horn still faced her, supporting herself by her spread hands pressed
down on to the table. Her eyes had a look of gentle, helpless
interrogation, as if she said, "What are you going to do about it?"
She did all the necessary things; asked for a telegram form, filled it
in: "_Send Details_, MARY OLIVIER"; and addressed it to Symonds of "E"
Company. And all the time, while her hand moved over the paper, she was
thinking, "I shall have to tell Mamma."
The five windows of the house stared out at her across the Green. She
avoided them by cutting through Horn's yard and round by the Back Lane
into the orchard. She was afraid that her mother would see her before she
had thought how she would tell her that Mark was dead. She shut herself
into her room to think.
She couldn't think.
She dragged herself from the window seat to the chair by the
writing-table and from the chair to the bed.
She could still feel her heart staggering and stopping. Once she thought
it was going to stop altogether. She had a sudden pang of joy. "If it
would stop altogether--I should go to Mark. Nothing would matter. I
shouldn't have to tell Mamma that he's dead." But it always went on
She thought of Mark now without any feeling at all except that bodily
distress. Her mind was fixed in one centre of burning, lucid agony.
"I can't tell her. I can't. It'll kill her.... I don't see how she's to
live if Mark's dead.... I shall send for Aunt Bella. She can do it. Or I
might ask Mrs. Waugh. Or Mr. Rollitt."
She knew she wouldn't do any of these things. She would have to tell her.
She heard the clock strike the half hour. Half-past five. Not yet. "When
it strikes seven I shall go and tell Mamma."
She lay down on her bed and listened for the strokes of the clock. She
felt nothing but an immense fatigue, an appalling heaviness. Her back and
arms were loaded with weights that held her body down on to the bed.
"I shall never be able to get up and tell her."
Six. Half-past. At seven she got up and went downstairs. Through the open
side door she saw her mother working in the garden.
She would have to get her into the house.
But Mamma wouldn't come in. She was planting the last aster in the row.
She went on scooping out the hole for it, slowly and deliberately, with
her trowel, and patting the earth about it with wilful hands. There was a
little smudge of grey earth above the crinkles in her soft, sallow-white
"You wait," she said.
She smiled like a child pleased with itself for taking its own way.
She thought: "Three hours ago I was angry with her. I was angry with her.
And Mark was dead then. And when she read his letter. He was dead
Time was not good to you. Time was cruel. Time made you see.
Yet somehow they had gone through time. Nights of August and September
when you got up before daybreak to listen at her door. Days when you did
nothing. Mamma sat upright in her chair with her hands folded on her lap.
She kept her back to the window: you saw her face darkening in the dusk.
When the lamp came she raised her arm and the black shawl hung from it
and hid her face. Nights of insane fear when you _had_ to open her door
and look in to see whether she were alive or dead. Days when you were
afraid to speak, afraid to look at each other. Nights when you couldn't
sleep for wondering how Mark had died. They might have told you. They
might have told you in one word. They didn't, because they couldn't;
because the word was too awful. They would never say how Mark died. Mamma
thought he had died of cholera.
You started at sounds, at the hiss of the flame in the grate, the fall of
the ashes on the hearth, the tinkling of the front door bell.
You heard Catty slide back the bolt. People muttered on the doorstep. You
saw them go back past the window, quietly, their heads turned away. They
You began to go out. You walked slowly, weighted more than ever by your
immense, inexplicable fatigue. When you saw people coming you tried to go
quicker; when you spoke to them you panted and felt absurd. A coldness
came over you when you saw Mrs. Waugh and Miss Frewin with their heads on
one side and their shocked, grieved faces. You smiled at them as you
panted, but they wouldn't smile back. Their grief was too great. They
would never get over it.
You began to watch for the Indian mail.
One day the letter came. You read blunt, jerky sentences that told you
Mark had died suddenly, in the mess room, of heart failure. Captain
Symonds said he thought you would want to know exactly how it
happened.... "Well, we were 'cock-fighting,' if you know what that is,
after dinner. Peters is the heaviest man in our battery, and Major
Olivier was carrying him on his back. We oughtn't to have let him do it.
But we didn't know there was anything wrong with his heart. He didn't
know it himself. We thought he was fooling when he dropped on the
floor.... Everything was done that could be done.... He couldn't have
suffered.... He was happy up to the last minute of his life--shouting
She saw the long lighted room. She saw it with yellow walls and yellow
lights, with a long, white table and clear, empty wine-glasses. Men in
straw-coloured bamboo armchairs turning round to look. She couldn't see
their faces. She saw Mark's face. She heard Mark's voice, shouting with
laughter. She saw Mark lying dead on the floor. The men stood up
suddenly. Somebody without a face knelt down and bent over him.
It was as if she had never known before that Mark was dead and knew it
now. She cried for the first time since his death, not because he was
dead, but because he had died like that--playing.
He should have died fighting. Why couldn't he? There was the Boer War and
the Khyber Pass and Chitral and the Soudan. He had missed them all. He
had never had what he had wanted.
And Mamma who had cried so much had left off crying.
"The poor man couldn't have liked writing that letter, Mary. You needn't
be angry with him."
"I'm not angry with him. I'm angry because Mark died like that."
"Heigh-h--" The sound in her mother's throat was like a sigh and a sob
and a laugh jerking out contempt.
"You don't know what you're talking about. He's gone, Mary. If you were
his mother it wouldn't matter to you how he died so long as he didn't
suffer. So long as he didn't die of cholera."
"If he could have got what he wanted--"
"What's that you say?"
"If he could have got what he wanted."
"None of us ever get what we want in this world," said Mamma.
She thought: "It was her son--_her_ son she loved, not Mark's real,
secret self. He's got away from her at last--altogether."
Every day she went to the linen cupboard and gathered up all the old
towels and sheets that wanted mending, and she sewed.
Her mother had a book in her lap. She noticed that if she left off sewing
Mamma would take up the book and read, and when she began again she would
put it down.
Her thoughts went from Mamma to Mark, from Mark to Mamma. She used to
be pleased when she saw you sewing. "Nothing will ever please her now.
She'll never be happy again.... I ought to have died instead of Mark....
That's Anthony Trollope she's reading."
The long sheet kept slipping. It dragged on her arm. Her arms felt
swollen, and heavy like bars of lead. She let them drop to her knees....
She picked up the sheet again.
"Why are you sewing, Mary?"
"I must do _something_."
"Why don't you take a book and read?"
"I can't read."
"Well--why don't you go out for a walk?"
"You'd better go and lie down in your room."
She hated her room. Everything in it reminded her of the day after Mark
died. The rows of new books reminded her; and Mark's books in the narrow
bookcase. They were hers. She would never be asked to give them back
again. Yesterday she had taken out the Aeschylus and looked at it, and she
had forgotten that Mark was dead and had felt glad because it was hers.
To-day she had been afraid to see its shabby drab back lest it should
remind her of that, too.
Her mother sighed and put her book away. She sat with her hands before
Her face had its old look of reproach and disapproval, the drawn,
irritated look you saw when you came between her and Mark. As if your
grief for Mark came between her and her grief, as if, deep down inside
her, she hated your grief as she had hated your love for him, without
knowing that she hated it.
Suddenly she turned on you her blurred, wounded eyes.
"Mary, when you look at me like that I feel as if you knew everything I'm
"I don't. I shall never know."
Supposing all the time she knew what you were thinking? Supposing Mark
knew? Supposing the dead knew?
She was glad of the aching of her heart that dragged her thought down and
The January twilight crept between them. She put down her sewing. At the
stroke of the clock her mother stirred in her chair.
"What day of the month is it?" she said.
"Then--yesterday was your birthday.... Poor Mary. I forgot.... I sit
here, thinking. My own thoughts. They make me forget.... Come here."
She went to her, drawn by a passion stronger than her passion for Mark,
her hard, proud passion for Mark.
Her mother put up her face. She stooped down and kissed her passionately,
on her mouth, her wet cheeks, her dove's eyes, her dove's eyelids. She
crouched on the floor beside her, leaning her head against her lap.
Mamma's hand held it there.
"Are you twenty-nine or thirty?"
"You don't look it. You've always been such a little thing.... You
remember the silly question you used to ask me? 'Mamma--would you love
me better if I was two?'"
She remembered. Long ago. When she came teasing for kisses. The silly
"You remember _that_?"
"Yes. I remember."
Deep down inside her there was something you would never know.
Mamma was planting another row of asters in the garden in the place of
those that had died last September.
The outline of the map of South Africa had gone from the wall at the
bottom. Roddy's bit was indistinguishable from the rest.
And always you knew what would happen. Outside, on the Green, the
movements of the village repeated themselves like the play of a
clock-work toy. Always the same figures on the same painted stand, marked
with the same pattern of slanting roads and three-cornered grass-plots.
Half-way through prayers the Morfe bus would break loose from High Row
with a clatter, and the brakes would grind on the hill. An hour after
tea-time it would come back with a mournful tapping and scraping of
She had left off watching for the old red mail-cart to come round the
corner at the bottom. Sometimes, at long intervals, there would be a
letter for her from Aunt Lavvy or Dan or Mrs. Sutcliffe. She couldn't
tell when it would come, but she knew on what days the long trolleys
would stop by Mr. Horn's yard loaded with powdery sacks of flour, and on
what days the brewer's van would draw up to the King's Head and the
Farmers' Arms. When she looked out across the Green she caught the hard
stare of the Belks' house, the tall, lean, grey house blotched with iron
stains. It stood on the sheer edge where the platform dropped to the turn
of the road. Every morning at ten o'clock its little door would open and
Mr. Belk would come out and watch for his London paper. Every evening at
ten minutes past ten the shadow of Mr. Belk would move across the yellow
blind of the drawing-room window on the right; the light would go out,
and presently a blond blur would appear behind the blind of the bedroom
window on the left.
Every morning at twelve Mrs. Belk would hurry along, waddling and
shaking, to leave the paper with her aunt, old Mrs. Heron, in the dark
cottage that crouched at the top of the Green. Every afternoon at three
Dorsy would bring it back again.
When Mary came in from the village Mamma would look up and say "Well?" as
if she expected her to have something interesting to tell. She wished
that something would happen so that she might tell Mamma about it. She
tried to think of something, something to say that would interest Mamma.
"I met Mr. James on the Garthdale Road. Walking like anything."
"Did you?" Mamma was not interested in Mr. James.
She wondered, "Why can't I think of things like other people?" She had a
sense of defeat, of mournful incapacity.
One day Catty came bustling in with the tea-things, looking important.
She had brought news from the village.
Mrs. Heron had broken her thigh. She had slipped on the landing. Mrs.
Belk was with her and wouldn't go away.
Catty tried to look sorry, but you could see she was pleased because she
had something to tell you.
They talked about it all through tea-time. They were sorry for Mrs.
Heron. They wondered what poor Dorsy would do if anything should happen
to her. And through all their sorrow there ran a delicate, secret thrill
of satisfaction. Something had happened. Something that interested Mamma.
Two days later Dorsy came in with her tale; her nose was redder, her
hare's eyes were frightened.
"Mrs. Belk's there still," she said. "She wants to take Aunt to live with
her. She wants her to send me away. She says it wouldn't have happened if
I'd looked after her properly. And so it wouldn't, Mary, if I'd been
there. But I'd a bad headache, and I was lying down for a minute when she
fell.... She won't go. She's sitting there in Aunt's room all the time,
talking and tiring her. Trying to poison Aunt's mind against me. Working
on her to send me away."
Dorsy's voice dropped and her face reddened.
"She thinks I'm after Aunt's money. She's always been afraid of her
leaving it to me. I'm only her husband's nephew's daughter. Mrs. Belk's
her real niece....
"I'd go to-morrow, Mary, but Aunt wants me there. She doesn't like Mrs.
Belk; I think she's afraid of her. And she can't get away from her. She
just lies there with her poor leg in the splints; there's the four-pound
weight from the kitchen scales tied on to keep it on the stretch. If you
could see her eyes turning to me when I come....
"One thing--Mrs. Belk's afraid for her life of me. That's why she's
trying to poison Aunt's mind."
When they saw Mrs. Belk hurrying across the Green to Mrs. Heron's house
they knew what she was going for.
"Poor Dorsy!" they said.
They had something to talk to each other about now.
Winter and spring passed. The thorn-trees flowered on Greffington Edge:
dim white groves, magically still under the grey, glassy air.
May passed and June. The sleek waves of the hay-fields shone with the
brushing of the wind, ready for mowing.
The elder tree by the garden wall was a froth of greenish white on green.
At the turn of the schoolhouse lane the flowers began: wild geraniums and
rose campion, purple and blue and magenta, in a white spray of cow's