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The Longest Journey by E. M. Forster

Part 2 out of 6

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Rickie did not assent. The length of the engagement seemed to him
unspeakably cruel. Here were two people who loved each other, and
they could not marry for years because they had no beastly money.
Not all Herbert's pious skill could make this out a blessing. It
was bad enough being "so rich" at the Silts; here he was more
ashamed of it than ever. In a few weeks he would come of age and
his money be his own. What a pity things were so crookedly
arranged. He did not want money, or at all events he did not want
so much.

"Suppose," he meditated, for he became much worried over this,--
"suppose I had a hundred pounds a year less than I shall have.
Well, I should still have enough. I don't want anything but food,
lodging, clothes, and now and then a railway fare. I haven't any
tastes. I don't collect anything or play games. Books are nice to
have, but after all there is Mudie's, or if it comes to that, the
Free Library. Oh, my profession! I forgot I shall have a
profession. Well, that will leave me with more to spare than
ever." And he supposed away till he lost touch with the world and
with what it permits, and committed an unpardonable sin.

It happened towards the end of his visit--another airless day of
that mild January. Mr. Dawes was playing against a scratch team
of cads, and had to go down to the ground in the morning to
settle something. Rickie proposed to come too.

Hitherto he had been no nuisance. "You will be frightfully
bored," said Agnes, observing the cloud on her lover's face. "And
Gerald walks like a maniac."

"I had a little thought of the Museum this morning," said Mr.
Pembroke. "It is very strong in flint arrow-heads."

"Ah, that's your line, Rickie. I do envy you and Herbert the way
you enjoy the past."

"I almost think I'll go with Dawes, if he'll have me. I can walk
quite fast just to the ground and back. Arrowheads are wonderful,
but I don't really enjoy them yet, though I hope I shall in

Mr. Pembroke was offended, but Rickie held firm.

In a quarter of an hour he was back at the house alone, nearly

"Oh, did the wretch go too fast?" called Miss Pembroke from her
bedroom window.

"I went too fast for him." He spoke quite sharply, and before he
had time to say he was sorry and didn't mean exactly that, the
window had shut.

"They've quarrelled," she thought. "Whatever about?"

She soon heard. Gerald returned in a cold stormy temper. Rickie
had offered him money.

"My dear fellow don't be so cross. The child's mad."

"If it was, I'd forgive that. But I can't stand unhealthiness."

"Now, Gerald, that's where I hate you. You don't know what it is
to pity the weak."

"Woman's job. So you wish I'd taken a hundred pounds a year from
him. Did you ever hear such blasted cheek? Marry us--he, you, and
me--a hundred pounds down and as much annual--he, of course, to
pry into all we did, and we to kowtow and eat dirt-pie to him. If
that's Mr. Rickety Elliot's idea of a soldier and an Englishman,
it isn't mine, and I wish I'd had a horse-whip."

She was roaring with laughter. "You're babies, a pair of you, and
you're the worst. Why couldn't you let the little silly down
gently? There he was puffing and sniffing under my window, and I
thought he'd insulted you. Why didn't you accept?"

"Accept?" he thundered.

"It would have taken the nonsense out of him for ever. Why, he
was only talking out of a book."

"More fool he."

"Well, don't be angry with a fool. He means no harm. He muddles
all day with poetry and old dead people, and then tries to bring
it into life. It's too funny for words."

Gerald repeated that he could not stand unhealthiness.

"I don't call that exactly unhealthy."

"I do. And why he could give the money's worse."

"What do you mean?"

He became shy. "I hadn't meant to tell you. It's not quite for a
lady." For, like most men who are rather animal, he was
intellectually a prude. "He says he can't ever marry, owing to
his foot. It wouldn't be fair to posterity. His grandfather was
crocked, his father too, and he's as bad. He thinks that it's
hereditary, and may get worse next generation. He's discussed it
all over with other Undergrads. A bright lot they must be. He
daren't risk having any children. Hence the hundred quid."

She stopped laughing. "Oh, little beast, if he said all that!"

He was encouraged to proceed. Hitherto he had not talked about
their school days. Now he told her everything,--the
"barley-sugar," as he called it, the pins in chapel, and how one
afternoon he had tied him head-downward on to a tree trunk and
then ran away--of course only for a moment.

For this she scolded him well. But she had a thrill of joy when
she thought of the weak boy in the clutches of the strong one.


Gerald died that afternoon. He was broken up in the football
match. Rickie and Mr. Pembroke were on the ground when the
accident took place. It was no good torturing him by a drive to
the hospital, and he was merely carried to the little pavilion
and laid upon the floor. A doctor came, and so did a clergyman,
but it seemed better to leave him for the last few minutes with
Agnes, who had ridden down on her bicycle.

It was a strange lamentable interview. The girl was so accustomed
to health, that for a time she could not understand. It must be a
joke that he chose to lie there in the dust, with a rug over him
and his knees bent up towards his chin. His arms were as she knew
them, and their admirable muscles showed clear and clean beneath
the jersey. The face, too, though a little flushed, was
uninjured: it must be some curious joke.

"Gerald, what have you been doing?"

He replied, "I can't see you. It's too dark."

"Oh, I'll soon alter that," she said in her old brisk way. She
opened the pavilion door. The people who were standing by it
moved aside. She saw a deserted meadow, steaming and grey, and
beyond it slateroofed cottages, row beside row, climbing a
shapeless hill. Towards London the sky was yellow. "There. That's
better." She sat down by him again, and drew his hand into her
own. "Now we are all right, aren't we?"

"Where are you?"

This time she could not reply.

"What is it? Where am I going?"

"Wasn't the rector here?" said she after a silence.

"He explained heaven, and thinks that I--but--I couldn't tell a
parson; but I don't seem to have any use for any of the things

"We are Christians," said Agnes shyly. "Dear love, we don't talk
about these things, but we believe them. I think that you will
get well and be as strong again as ever; but, in any case, there
is a spiritual life, and we know that some day you and I--"

"I shan't do as a spirit," he interrupted, sighing pitifully. "I
want you as I am, and it cannot be managed. The rector had to say
so. I want--I don't want to talk. I can't see you. Shut that

She obeyed, and crept into his arms. Only this time her grasp was
the stronger. Her heart beat louder and louder as the sound of
his grew more faint. He was crying like a little frightened
child, and her lips were wet with his tears. "Bear it bravely,"
she told him.

"I can't," he whispered. "It isn't to be done. I can't see you,"
and passed from her trembling with open eyes.

She rode home on her bicycle, leaving the others to follow. Some
ladies who did not know what had happened bowed and smiled as she
passed, and she returned their salute.

"Oh, miss, is it true?" cried the cook, her face streaming with

Agnes nodded. Presumably it was true. Letters had just arrived:
one was for Gerald from his mother. Life, which had given them no
warning, seemed to make no comment now. The incident was outside
nature, and would surely pass away like a dream. She felt
slightly irritable, and the grief of the servants annoyed her.

They sobbed. "Ah, look at his marks! Ah, little he thought--
little he thought!" In the brown holland strip by the front door
a heavy football boot had left its impress. They had not liked
Gerald, but he was a man, they were women, he had died. Their
mistress ordered them to leave her.

For many minutes she sat at the foot of the stairs, rubbing her
eyes. An obscure spiritual crisis was going on.

Should she weep like the servants? Or should she bear up and
trust in the consoler Time? Was the death of a man so terrible
after all? As she invited herself to apathy there were steps on
the gravel, and Rickie Elliot burst in. He was splashed with mud,
his breath was gone, and his hair fell wildly over his meagre
face. She thought, "These are the people who are left alive!"
>From the bottom of her soul she hated him.

"I came to see what you're doing," he cried.


He knelt beside her, and she said, "Would you please go away?"

"Yes, dear Agnes, of course; but I must see first that you mind."
Her breath caught. Her eves moved to the treads, going outwards,
so firmly, so irretrievably.

He panted, "It's the worst thing that can ever happen to you in
all your life, and you've got to mind it you've got to mind it.
They'll come saying, 'Bear up trust to time.' No, no; they're
wrong. Mind it."

Through all her misery she knew that this boy was greater than
they supposed. He rose to his feet, and with intense conviction
cried: "But I know--I understand. It's your death as well as his.
He's gone, Agnes, and his arms will never hold you again. In
God's name, mind such a thing, and don't sit fencing with your
soul. Don't stop being great; that's the one crime he'll never
forgive you."

She faltered, "Who--who forgives?"


At the sound of his name she slid forward, and all her dishonesty
left her. She acknowledged that life's meaning had vanished.
Bending down, she kissed the footprint. "How can he forgive me?"
she sobbed. "Where has he gone to? You could never dream such an
awful thing. He couldn't see me though I opened the door--wide--
plenty of light; and then he could not remember the things that
should comfort him. He wasn't a--he wasn't ever a great reader,
and he couldn't remember the things. The rector tried, and he
couldn't--I came, and I couldn't--" She could not speak for
tears. Rickie did not check her. He let her accuse herself, and
fate, and Herbert, who had postponed their marriage. She might
have been a wife six months; but Herbert had spoken of
self-control and of all life before them. He let her kiss the
footprints till their marks gave way to the marks of her lips.
She moaned. "He is gone--where is he?" and then he replied quite
quietly, "He is in heaven."

She begged him not to comfort her; she could not bear it.

"I did not come to comfort you. I came to see that you mind. He
is in heaven, Agnes. The greatest thing is over."

Her hatred was lulled. She murmured, "Dear Rickie!" and held up
her hand to him. Through her tears his meagre face showed as a
seraph's who spoke the truth and forbade her to juggle with her
soul. "Dear Rickie--but for the rest of my life what am I to do?"

"Anything--if you remember that the greatest thing is over."

"I don't know you," she said tremulously. "You have grown up in a
moment. You never talked to us, and yet you understand it all.
Tell me again--I can only trust you--where he is."

"He is in heaven."

"You are sure?"

It puzzled her that Rickie, who could scarcely tell you the time
without a saving clause, should be so certain about immortality.


He did not stop for the funeral. Mr. Pembroke thought that he had
a bad effect on Agnes, and prevented her from acquiescing in the
tragedy as rapidly as she might have done. As he expressed it,
"one must not court sorrow," and he hinted to the young man that
they desired to be alone.

Rickie went back to the Silts.

He was only there a few days. As soon as term opened he returned
to Cambridge, for which he longed passionately. The journey
thither was now familiar to him, and he took pleasure in each
landmark. The fair valley of Tewin Water, the cutting into
Hitchin where the train traverses the chalk, Baldock Church,
Royston with its promise of downs, were nothing in themselves,
but dear as stages in the pilgrimage towards the abode of peace.
On the platform he met friends. They had all had pleasant
vacations: it was a happy world. The atmosphere alters.

Cambridge, according to her custom, welcomed her sons with open
drains. Pettycury was up, so was Trinity Street, and
navvies peeped out of King's Parade. Here it was gas, there
electric light, but everywhere something, and always a smell. It
was also the day that the wheels fell off the station tram, and
Rickie, who was naturally inside, was among the passengers who
"sustained no injury but a shock, and had as hearty a laugh over
the mishap afterwards as any one."

Tilliard fled into a hansom, cursing himself for having tried to
do the thing cheaply. Hornblower also swept past yelling
derisively, with his luggage neatly piled above his head. "Let's
get out and walk," muttered Ansell. But Rickie was succouring a
distressed female--Mrs. Aberdeen.

"Oh, Mrs. Aberdeen, I never saw you: I am so glad to see you--I
am so very glad." Mrs. Aberdeen was cold. She did not like being
spoken to outside the college, and was also distrait about her
basket. Hitherto no genteel eye had even seen inside it, but in
the collision its little calico veil fell off, and there vas
revealed--nothing. The basket was empty, and never would hold
anything illegal. All the same she was distrait, and "We shall
meet later, sir, I dessy," was all the greeting Rickie got from

"Now what kind of a life has Mrs. Aberdeen?" he exclaimed, as he
and Ansell pursued the Station Road. "Here these bedders come and
make us comfortable. We owe an enormous amount to them, their
wages are absurd, and we know nothing about them. Off they go to
Barnwell, and then their lives are hidden. I just know that Mrs.
Aberdeen has a husband, but that's all. She never will talk about
him. Now I do so want to fill in her life. I see one-half of it.
What's the other half? She may have a real jolly house, in good
taste, with a little garden and books, and pictures. Or, again,
she mayn't. But in any case one ought to know. I know she'd
dislike it, but she oughtn't to dislike. After all, bedders are
to blame for the present lamentable state of things, just as much
as gentlefolk. She ought to want me to come. She ought to
introduce me to her husband."

They had reached the corner of Hills Road. Ansell spoke for the
first time. He said, "Ugh!"


"Yes. A spiritual cesspool."

Rickie laughed.

"I expected it from your letter."

"The one you never answered?"

"I answer none of your letters. You are quite hopeless by now.
You can go to the bad. But I refuse to accompany you. I refuse to
believe that every human being is a moving wonder of supreme
interest and tragedy and beauty--which was what the letter in
question amounted to. You'll find plenty who will believe it.
It's a very popular view among people who are too idle to think;
it saves them the trouble of detecting the beautiful from the
ugly, the interesting from the dull, the tragic from the
melodramatic. You had just come from Sawston, and were apparently
carried away by the fact that Miss Pembroke had the usual amount
of arms and legs."

Rickie was silent. He had told his friend how he felt, but not
what had happened. Ansell could discuss love and death admirably,
but somehow he would not understand lovers or a dying man, and in
the letter there had been scant allusion to these concrete facts.
Would Cambridge understand them either? He watched some dons who
were peeping into an excavation, and throwing up their hands with
humorous gestures of despair. These men would lecture next week
on Catiline's conspiracy, on Luther, on Evolution, on Catullus.
They dealt with so much and they had experienced so little. Was
it possible he would ever come to think Cambridge narrow? In his
short life Rickie had known two sudden deaths, and that is enough
to disarrange any placid outlook on the world. He knew once for
all that we are all of us bubbles on an extremely rough sea. Into
this sea humanity has built, as it were, some little
breakwaters--scientific knowledge, civilized restraint--so that
the bubbles do not break so frequentlv or so soon. But the sea
has not altered, and it was only a chance that he, Ansell,
Tilliard, and Mrs. Aberdeen had not all been killed in the tram.

They waited for the other tram by the Roman Catholic Church,
whose florid bulk was already receding into twilight. It is the
first big building that the incoming visitor sees. "Oh, here come
the colleges!" cries the Protestant parent, and then learns that
it was built by a Papist who made a fortune out of movable eyes
for dolls. "Built out of doll's eyes to contain idols"--that, at
all events, is the legend and the joke. It watches over the
apostate city, taller by many a yard than anything within, and
asserting, however wildly, that here is eternity, stability, and
bubbles unbreakable upon a windless sea.

A costly hymn tune announced five o'clock, and in the distance
the more lovable note of St. Mary's could be heard, speaking from
the heart of the town. Then the tram arrived--the slow stuffy
tram that plies every twenty minutes between the unknown and the
marketplace--and took them past the desecrated grounds of Downing,
past Addenbrookes Hospital, girt like a Venetian palace with a
mantling canal, past the Fitz William, towering upon immense
substructions like any Roman temple, right up to the gates of
one's own college, which looked like nothing else in the world.
The porters were glad to see them, but wished it had been a
hansom. "Our luggage," explained Rickie, "comes in the hotel
omnibus, if you would kindly pay a shilling for mine." Ansell
turned aside to some large lighted windows, the abode of a
hospitable don, and from other windows there floated familiar
voices and the familiar mistakes in a Beethoven sonata. The
college, though small, was civilized, and proud of its
civilization. It was not sufficient glory to be a Blue there, nor
an additional glory to get drunk. Many a maiden lady who had read
that Cambridge men were sad dogs, was surprised and perhaps a
little disappointed at the reasonable life which greeted her.
Miss Appleblossom in particular had had a tremendous shock. The
sight of young fellows making tea and drinking water had made her
wonder whether this was Cambridge College at all. "It is so," she
exclaimed afterwards. "It is just as I say; and what's more, I
wouldn't have it otherwise; Stewart says it's as easy as easy to
get into the swim, and not at all expensive." The direction of
the swim was determined a little by the genius of the place--for
places have a genius, though the less we talk about it the
better--and a good deal by the tutors and resident fellows, who
treated with rare dexterity the products that came up yearly from
the public schools. They taught the perky boy that he was not
everything, and the limp boy that he might be something. They
even welcomed those boys who were neither limp nor perky, but
odd--those boys who had never been at a public school at all, and
such do not find a welcome everywhere. And they did everything
with ease--one might almost say with nonchalance, so that the
boys noticed nothing, and received education, often for the first
time in their lives.

But Rickie turned to none of these friends, for just then he
loved his rooms better than any person. They were all he really
possessed in the world, the only place he could call his own.
Over the door was his name, and through the paint, like a grey
ghost, he could still read the name of his predecessor. With a
sigh of joy he entered the perishable home that was his for a
couple of years. There was a beautiful fire, and the kettle
boiled at once. He made tea on the hearth-rug and ate the
biscuits which Mrs. Aberdeen had brought for him up from
Anderson's. "Gentlemen," she said, "must learn to give and take."
He sighed again and again, like one who had escaped from danger.
With his head on the fender and all his limbs relaxed, he felt
almost as safe as he felt once when his mother killed a ghost in
the passage by carrying him through it in her arms. There was no
ghost now; he was frightened at reality; he was frightened at the
splendours and horrors of the world.

A letter from Miss Pembroke was on the table. He did not hurry to
open it, for she, and all that she did, was overwhelming. She
wrote like the Sibyl; her sorrowful face moved over the stars and
shattered their harmonies; last night he saw her with the eyes of
Blake, a virgin widow, tall, veiled, consecrated, with her hands
stretched out against an everlasting wind. Whv should she write?
Her letters were not for the likes of him, nor to be read in
rooms like his.

"We are not leaving Sawston," she wrote. "I saw how selfish it
was of me to risk spoiling Herbert's career. I shall get used to
any place. Now that he is gone, nothing of that sort can matter.
Every one has been most kind, but you have comforted me most,
though you did not mean to. I cannot think how you did it, or
understood so much. I still think of you as a little boy with a
lame leg,--I know you will let me say this,--and yet when it came
to the point you knew more than people who have been all their
lives with sorrow and death."

Rickie burnt this letter, which he ought not to have done, for it
was one of the few tributes Miss Pembroke ever paid to
imagination. But he felt that it did not belong to him: words so
sincere should be for Gerald alone. The smoke rushed up the
chimney, and he indulged in a vision. He saw it reach the outer
air and beat against the low ceiling of clouds. The clouds were
too strong for it; but in them was one chink, revealing one star,
and through this the smoke escaped into the light of stars
innumerable. Then--but then the vision failed, and the voice of
science whispered that all smoke remains on earth in the form of
smuts, and is troublesome to Mrs. Aberdeen.

"I am jolly unpractical," he mused. "And what is the point of it
when real things are so wonderful? Who wants visions in a world
that has Agnes and Gerald?" He turned on the electric light and
pulled open the table-drawer. There, among spoons and corks and
string, he found a fragment of a little story that he had tried
to write last term. It was called "The Bay of the Fifteen
Islets," and the action took place on St. John's Eve off the
coast of Sicily. A party of tourists land on one of the islands.
Suddenly the boatmen become uneasy, and say that the island is
not generally there. It is an extra one, and they had better have
tea on one of the ordinaries. "Pooh, volcanic!" says the leading
tourist, and the ladies say how interesting. The island begins to
rock, and so do the minds of its visitors. They start and quarrel
and jabber. Fingers burst up through the sand-black fingers of
sea devils. The island tilts. The tourists go mad. But just
before the catastrophe one man, integer vitce scelerisque
purus, sees the truth. Here are no devils. Other muscles, other
minds, are pulling the island to its subterranean home. Through
the advancing wall of waters he sees no grisly faces, no ghastly
medieval limbs, but--But what nonsense! When real things are so
wonderful, what is the point of pretending?

And so Rickie deflected his enthusiasms. Hitherto they had played
on gods and heroes, on the infinite and the impossible, on virtue
and beauty and strength. Now, with a steadier radiance, they
transfigured a man who was dead and a woman who was still alive.


Love, say orderly people, can be fallen into by two methods: (1)
through the desires, (2) through the imagination. And if the
orderly people are English, they add that (1) is the inferior
method, and characteristic of the South. It is inferior. Yet
those who pursue it at all events know what they want; they are
not puzzling to themselves or ludicrous to others; they do not
take the wings of the morning and fly into the uttermost parts of
the sea before walking to the registry office; they cannot breed
a tragedy quite like Rickie's.

He is, of course, absurdly young--not twenty-one and he will be
engaged to be married at twenty-three. He has no knowledge of the
world; for example, he thinks that if you do not want money you
can give it to friends who do. He believes in humanity because he
knows a dozen decent people. He believes in women because he has
loved his mother. And his friends are as young and as ignorant as
himself. They are full of the wine of life. But they have not
tasted the cup--let us call it the teacup--of experience, which
has made men of Mr. Pembroke's type what they are. Oh, that
teacup! To be taken at prayers, at friendship, at love, till we
are quite sane, efficient, quite experienced, and quite useless
to God or man. We must drink it, or we shall die. But we need not
drink it always. Here is our problem and our salvation. There
comes a moment--God knows when--at which we can say, "I will
experience no longer. I will create. I will be an experience."
But to do this we must be both acute and heroic. For it is not
easy, after accepting six cups of tea, to throw the seventh in
the face of the hostess. And to Rickie this moment has not, as
yet, been offered.

Ansell, at the end of his third year, got a first in the Moral
Science Tripos. Being a scholar, he kept his rooms in college,
and at once began to work for a Fellowship. Rickie got a
creditable second in the Classical Tripos, Part I., and retired
to sallow lodgings in Mill bane, carrying with him the degree of
B.A. and a small exhibition, which was quite as much as he
deserved. For Part II. he read Greek Archaeology, and got a
second. All this means that Ansell was much cleverer than Rickie.
As for the cow, she was still going strong, though turning a
little academic as the years passed over her.

"We are bound to get narrow," sighed Rickie. He and his friend
were lying in a meadow during their last summer term. In his
incurable love for flowers he had plaited two garlands of
buttercups and cow-parsley, and Ansell's lean Jewish face was
framed in one of them. "Cambridge is wonderful, but--but it's so
tiny. You have no idea--at least, I think you have no idea--how
the great world looks down on it."

"I read the letters in the papers."

"It's a bad look-out."


"Cambridge has lost touch with the times."

"Was she ever intended to touch them?"

"She satisfies," said Rickie mysteriously, "neither the
professions, nor the public schools, nor the great thinking mass
of men and women. There is a general feeling that her day is
over, and naturally one feels pretty sick."

"Do you still write short stories?"

"Because your English has gone to the devil. You think and talk
in Journalese. Define a great thinking mass."

Rickie sat up and adjusted his floral crown.

"Estimate the worth of a general feeling."


"And thirdly, where is the great world?"

"Oh that--!"

"Yes. That," exclaimed Ansell, rising from his couch in violent
excitement. "Where is it? How do you set about finding it? How
long does it take to get there? What does it think? What does it
do? What does it want? Oblige me with specimens of its art and
literature." Silence. "Till you do, my opinions will be as
follows: There is no great world at all, only a little earth, for
ever isolated from the rest of the little solar system. The earth
is full of tiny societies, and Cambridge is one of them. All the
societies are narrow, but some are good and some are bad--just as
one house is beautiful inside and another ugly. Observe the
metaphor of the houses: I am coming back to it. The good
societies say, `I tell you to do this because I am Cambridge.'
The bad ones say, `I tell you to do that because I am the great
world, not because I am 'Peckham,' or `Billingsgate,' or `Park
Lane,' but `because I am the great world.' They lie. And fools
like you listen to them, and believe that they are a thing which
does not exist and never has existed, and confuse 'great,' which
has no meaning whatever, with 'good,' which means salvation. Look
at this great wreath: it'll be dead tomorrow. Look at that good
flower: it'll come up again next year. Now for the other
metaphor. To compare the world to Cambridge is like comparing the
outsides of houses with the inside of a house. No intellectual
effort is needed, no moral result is attained. You only have to
say, 'Oh, what a difference!' and then come indoors again and
exhibit your broadened mind."

"I never shall come indoors again," said Rickie. "That's the
whole point." And his voice began to quiver. "It's well enough
for those who'll get a Fellowship, but in a few weeks I shall go
down. In a few years it'll be as if I've never been up. It
matters very much to me what the world is like. I can't answer
your questions about it; and that's no loss to you, but so much
the worse for me. And then you've got a house--not a metaphorical
one, but a house with father and sisters. I haven't, and never
shall have. There'll never again be a home for me like Cambridge.
I shall only look at the outside of homes. According to your
metaphor, I shall live in the street, and it matters very much to
me what I find there."

"You'll live in another house right enough," said Ansell, rather
uneasily. "Only take care you pick out a decent one. I can't
think why you flop about so helplessly, like a bit of seaweed. In
four years you've taken as much root as any one."


"I should say you've been fortunate in your friends."

"Oh--that!" But he was not cynical--or cynical in a very tender
way. He was thinking of the irony of friendship--so strong it is,
and so fragile. We fly together, like straws in an eddy, to part
in the open stream. Nature has no use for us: she has cut her
stuff differently. Dutiful sons, loving husbands, responsible
fathers these are what she wants, and if we are friends it must
be in our spare time. Abram and Sarai were sorrowful, yet their
seed became as sand of the sea, and distracts the politics of
Europe at this moment. But a few verses of poetry is all that
survives of David and Jonathan.

"I wish we were labelled," said Rickie. He wished that all the
confidence and mutual knowledge that is born in such a place as
Cambridge could be organized. People went down into the world
saying, "We know and like each other; we shan't forget." But they
did forget, for man is so made that he cannot remember long
without a symbol; he wished there was a society, a kind of
friendship office, where the marriage of true minds could be

"Why labels?"

"To know each other again."

"I have taught you pessimism splendidly." He looked at his watch.

"What time?"

"Not twelve."

Rickie got up.

"Why go?" He stretched out his hand and caught hold of Rickie's

"I've got that Miss Pembroke to lunch--that girl whom you say
never's there."

"Then why go? All this week you have pretended Miss Pembroke
awaited you. Wednesday--Miss Pembroke to lunch. Thursday--Miss
Pembroke to tea. Now again--and you didn't even invite her."

"To Cambridge, no. But the Hall man they're stopping with has so
many engagements that she and her friend can often come to me,
I'm glad to say. I don't think I ever told you much, but over two
years ago the man she was going to marry was killed at football.
She nearly died of grief. This visit to Cambridge is almost the
first amusement she has felt up to taking. Oh, they go back
tomorrow! Give me breakfast tomorrow."

"All right."

"But I shall see you this evening. I shall be round at your paper
on Schopenhauer. Lemme go."

"Don't go," he said idly. "It's much better for you to talk to

"Lemme go, Stewart."

"It's amusing that you're so feeble. You--simply--can't--get--
I wish I wanted to bully you."

Rickie laughed, and suddenly over balanced into the grass.
Ansell, with unusual playfulness, held him prisoner. They lay
there for few minutes, talking and ragging aimlessly. Then Rickie
seized his opportunity and jerked away.

"Go, go!" yawned the other. But he was a little vexed, for he was
a young man with great capacity for pleasure, and it pleased him
that morning to be with his friend. The thought of two ladies
waiting lunch did not deter him; stupid women, why shouldn't they
wait? Why should they interfere with their betters? With his ear
on the ground he listened to Rickie's departing steps, and
thought, "He wastes a lot of time keeping engagements. Why will
he be pleasant to fools?" And then he thought, "Why has he turned
so unhappy? It isn't as it he's a philosopher, or tries to solve
the riddle of existence. And he's got money of his own: "Thus
thinking, he fell asleep.

Meanwhile Rickie hurried away from him, and slackened and
stopped, and hurried again. He was due at the Union in ten
minutes, but he could not bring himself there. He dared not meet
Miss Pembroke: he loved her.

The devil must have planned it. They had started so gloriously;
she had been a goddess both in joy and sorrow. She was a goddess
still. But he had dethroned the god whom once he had glorified
equally. Slowly, slowly, the image of Gerald had faded. That was
the first step. Rickie had thought, "No matter. He will be bright
again. Just now all the radiance chances to be in her." And on
her he had fixed his eyes. He thought of her awake. He
entertained her willingly in dreams. He found her in poetry and
music and in the sunset. She made him kind and strong. She made
him clever. Through her he kept Cambridge in its proper place,
and lived as a citizen of the great world. But one night he
dreamt that she lay in his arms. This displeased him. He
determined to think a little about Gerald instead. Then the
fabric collapsed.

It was hard on Rickie thus to meet the devil. He did not deserve
it, for he was comparatively civilized, and knew that there was
nothing shameful in love. But to love this woman! If only it had
been any one else! Love in return--that he could expect from no
one, being too ugly and too unattractive. But the love he offered
would not then have been vile. The insult to Miss Pembroke, who
was consecrated, and whom he had consecrated, who could still see
Gerald, and always would see him, shining on his everlasting
throne this was the crime from the devil, the crime that no
penance would ever purge. She knew nothing. She never would know.
But the crime was registered in heaven.

He had been tempted to confide in Ansell. But to what purpose? He
would say, "I love Miss Pembroke." and Stewart would reply, "You
ass." And then. "I'm never going to tell her." "You ass," again.
After all, it was not a practical question; Agnes would never
hear of his fall. If his friend had been, as he expressed it,
"labelled"; if he had been a father, or still better a brother,
one might tell him of the discreditable passion. But why irritate
him for no reason? Thinking "I am always angling for sympathy; I
must stop myself," he hurried onward to the Union.

He found his guests half way up the stairs, reading the
advertisements of coaches for the Long Vacation. He heard Mrs.
Lewin say, "I wonder what he'll end by doing." A little
overacting his part, he apologized nonchalantly for his lateness.

"It's always the same," cried Agnes. "Last time he forgot I was
coming altogether." She wore a flowered muslin--something
indescribably liquid and cool. It reminded him a little of those
swift piercing streams, neither blue nor green, that gush out of
the dolomites. Her face was clear and brown, like the face of a
mountaineer; her hair was so plentiful that it seemed banked up
above it; and her little toque, though it answered the note of
the dress, was almost ludicrous, poised on so much natural glory.
When she moved, the sunlight flashed on her ear-rings.

He led them up to the luncheon-room. By now he was conscious of
his limitations as a host, and never attempted to entertain
ladies in his lodgings. Moreover, the Union seemed less intimate.
It had a faint flavour of a London club; it marked the
undergraduate's nearest approach to the great world. Amid its
waiters and serviettes one felt impersonal, and able to conceal
the private emotions. Rickie felt that if Miss Pembroke knew one
thing about him, she knew everything. During this visit he took
her to no place that he greatly loved.

"Sit down, ladies. Fall to. I'm sorry. I was out towards Coton
with a dreadful friend."

Mrs. Lewin pushed up her veil. She was a typical May-term
chaperon, always pleasant, always hungry, and always tired. Year
after year she came up to Cambridge in a tight silk dress, and
year after year she nearly died of it. Her feet hurt, her limbs
were cramped in a canoe, black spots danced before her eyes from
eating too much mayonnaise. But still she came, if not as a
mother as an aunt, if not as an aunt as a friend. Still she
ascended the roof of King's, still she counted the balls of
Clare, still she was on the point of grasping the organization of
the May races. "And who is your friend?" she asked.

"His name is Ansell."

"Well, now, did I see him two years ago--as a bedmaker in
something they did at the Foot Lights? Oh, how I roared."

"You didn't see Mr. Ansell at the Foot Lights," said Agnes,

"How do you know?" asked Rickie.

"He'd scarcely be so frivolous."

"Do you remember seeing him?"

"For a moment."

What a memory she had! And how splendidly during that moment she
had behaved!

"Isn't he marvellously clever?"

"I believe so."

"Oh, give me clever people!" cried Mrs. Lewin. "They are kindness
itself at the Hall, but I assure you I am depressed at times. One
cannot talk bump-rowing for ever."

"I never hear about him, Rickie; but isn't he really your
greatest friend?"

"I don't go in for greatest friends."

"Do you mean you like us all equally?"

"All differently, those of you I like."

"Ah, you've caught it!" cried Mrs. Lewin. "Mr. Elliot gave it you
there well."

Agnes laughed, and, her elbows on the table, regarded them both
through her fingers--a habit of hers. Then she said, "Can't we
see the great Mr. Ansell?"

"Oh, let's. Or would he frighten me?"

"He would frighten you," said Rickie. "He's a trifle weird."

"My good Rickie, if you knew the deathly dullness of Sawston--
every one saying the proper thing at the proper time, I so
proper, Herbert so proper! Why, weirdness is the one thing I long
for! Do arrange something."

"I'm afraid there's no opportunity. Ansell goes some vast bicycle
ride this afternoon; this evening you're tied up at the Hall; and
tomorrow you go."

"But there's breakfast tomorrow," said Agnes. "Look here, Rickie,
bring Mr. Ansell to breakfast with us at Buoys."

Mrs. Lewin seconded the invitation.

"Bad luck again," said Rickie boldly; "I'm already fixed up for
breakfast. I'll tell him of your very kind intention."

"Let's have him alone," murmured Agnes.

"My dear girl, I should die through the floor! Oh, it'll be all
right about breakfast. I rather think we shall get asked this
evening by that shy man who has the pretty rooms in Trinity."

"Oh, very well. Where is it you breakfast, Rickie?"

He faltered. "To Ansell's, it is--" It seemed as if he was making
some great admission. So self-conscious was he, that he thought
the two women exchanged glances. Had Agnes already explored that
part of him that did not belong to her? Would another chance step
reveal the part that did? He asked them abruptly what they would
like to do after lunch.

"Anything," said Mrs. Lewin,--"anything in the world."

A walk? A boat? Ely? A drive? Some objection was raised to each.
"To tell the truth," she said at last, "I do feel a wee bit
tired, and what occurs to me is this. You and Agnes shall leave
me here and have no more bother. I shall be perfectly happy
snoozling in one of these delightful drawing-room chairs. Do
what you like, and then pick me up after it."

"Alas, it's against regulations," said Rickie. "The Union won't
trust lady visitors on its premises alone."

"But who's to know I'm alone? With a lot of men in the
drawing-room, how's each to know that I'm not with the others?"

"That would shock Rickie," said Agnes, laughing. "He's
frightfully high-principled."

"No, I'm not," said Rickie, thinking of his recent shiftiness
over breakfast.

"Then come for a walk with me. I want exercise. Some connection
of ours was once rector of Madingley. I shall walk out and see
the church."

Mrs. Lewin was accordingly left in the Union.

"This is jolly!" Agnes exclaimed as she strode along the somewhat
depressing road that leads out of Cambridge past the observatory.
"Do I go too fast?"

"No, thank you. I get stronger every year. If it wasn't for the
look of the thing, I should be quite happy."

"But you don't care for the look of the thing. It's only ignorant
people who do that, surely."

"Perhaps. I care. I like people who are well-made and beautiful.
They are of some use in the world. I understand why they are
there. I cannot understand why the ugly and crippled are there,
however healthy they may feel inside. Don't you know how Turner
spoils his pictures by introducing a man like a bolster in the
foreground? Well, in actual life every landscape is spoilt by men
of worse shapes still."

"You sound like a bolster with the stuffing out." They laughed.
She always blew his cobwebs away like this, with a puff of
humorous mountain air. Just now the associations he attached to
her were various--she reminded him of a heroine of Meredith's--
but a heroine at the end of the book. All had been written about
her. She had played her mighty part, and knew that it was over.
He and he alone was not content, and wrote for her daily a
trivial and impossible sequel.

Last time they had talked about Gerald. But that was some six
months ago, when things felt easier. Today Gerald was the
faintest blur. Fortunately the conversation turned to Mr.
Pembroke and to education. Did women lose a lot by not knowing
Greek? "A heap," said Rickie, roughly. But modern languages? Thus
they got to Germany, which he had visited last Easter with
Ansell; and thence to the German Emperor, and what a to-do he
made; and from him to our own king (still Prince of Wales), who
had lived while an undergraduate at Madingley Hall. Here it was.
And all the time he thought, "It is hard on her. She has no right
to be walking with me. She would be ill with disgust if she knew.
It is hard on her to be loved."

They looked at the Hall, and went inside the pretty little
church. Some Arundel prints hung upon the pillars, and Agnes
expressed the opinion that pictures inside a place of worship
were a pity. Rickie did not agree with this. He said again that
nothing beautiful was ever to be regretted.

"You're cracked on beauty," she whispered--they were still inside
the church. "Do hurry up and write something."

"Something beautiful?"

"I believe you can. I'm going to lecture you seriously all the
way home. Take care that you don't waste your life."

They continued the conversation outside. "But I've got to hate my
own writing. I believe that most people come to that stage--not
so early though. What I write is too silly. It can't happen. For
instance, a stupid vulgar man is engaged to a lovely young lady.
He wants her to live in the towns, but she only cares for woods.
She shocks him this way and that, but gradually he tames her, and
makes her nearly as dull as he is. One day she has a last
explosion--over the snobby wedding presents--and flies out of the
drawing-room window, shouting, 'Freedom and truth!' Near the
house is a little dell full of fir-trees, and she runs into it.
He comes there the next moment. But she's gone."

"Awfully exciting. Where?"

"Oh Lord, she's a Dryad!" cried Rickie, in great disgust. "She's
turned into a tree."

"Rickie, it's very good indeed. The kind of thing has something in
it. Of course you get it all through Greek and Latin. How upset
the man must be when he sees the girl turn."

"He doesn't see her. He never guesses. Such a man could never see
a Dryad."

"So you describe how she turns just before he comes up?"

"No. Indeed I don't ever say that she does turn. I don't use the
word 'Dryad' once."

"I think you ought to put that part plainly. Otherwise, with such
an original story, people might miss the point. Have you had any
luck with it?"

"Magazines? I haven't tried. I know what the stuff's worth. You
see, a year or two ago I had a great idea of getting into touch
with Nature, just as the Greeks were in touch; and seeing England
so beautiful, I used to pretend that her trees and coppices and
summer fields of parsley were alive. It's funny enough now, but
it wasn't funny then, for I got in such a state that I believed,
actually believed, that Fauns lived in a certain double hedgerow
near the Cog Magogs, and one evening I walked a mile sooner
than go through it alone."

"Good gracious!" She laid her hand on his shoulder.

He moved to the other side of the road. "It's all right now. I've
changed those follies for others. But while I had them I began to
write, and even now I keep on writing, though I know better. I've
got quite a pile of little stories, all harping on this
ridiculous idea of getting into touch with Nature."

"I wish you weren't so modest. It's simply splendid as an idea.
Though--but tell me about the Dryad who was engaged to be
married. What was she like?"

"I can show you the dell in which the young person disappeared.
We pass it on the right in a moment."

"It does seem a pity that you don't make something of your
talents. It seems such a waste to write little stories and never
publish them. You must have enough for a book. Life is so full in
our days that short stories are the very thing; they get read by
people who'd never tackle a novel. For example, at our Dorcas we
tried to read out a long affair by Henry James--Herbert saw it
recommended in 'The Times.' There was no doubt it was very good,
but one simply couldn't remember from one week to another what
had happened. So now our aim is to get something that just lasts
the hour. I take you seriously, Rickie, and that is why I am so
offensive. You are too modest. People who think they can do
nothing so often do nothing. I want you to plunge."

It thrilled him like a trumpet-blast. She took him seriously.
Could he but thank her for her divine affability! But the words
would stick in his throat, or worse still would bring other words
along with them. His breath came quickly, for he seldom spoke of
his writing, and no one, not even Ansell, had advised him to

"But do you really think that I could take up literature?"

"Why not? You can try. Even if you fail, you can try. Of course
we think you tremendously clever; and I met one of your dons at
tea, and he said that your degree was not in the least a proof of
your abilities: he said that you knocked up and got flurried in
examinations. Oh!"--her cheek flushed,--"I wish I was a man. The
whole world lies before them. They can do anything. They aren't
cooped up with servants and tea parties and twaddle. But where's
this dell where the Dryad disappeared?"

"We've passed it." He had meant to pass it. It was too beautiful.
All he had read, all he had hoped for, all he had loved, seemed
to quiver in its enchanted air. It was perilous. He dared not
enter it with such a woman.

"How long ago?" She turned back. "I don't want to miss the dell.
Here it must be," she added after a few moments, and sprang up
the green bank that hid the entrance from the road. "Oh, what a
jolly place!"

"Go right in if you want to see it," said Rickie, and did not
offer to go with her. She stood for a moment looking at the view,
for a few steps will increase a view in Cambridgeshire. The wind
blew her dress against her. Then, like a cataract again, she
vanished pure and cool into the dell.

The young man thought of her feelings no longer. His heart
throbbed louder and louder, and seemed to shake him to pieces.

She was calling from the dell. For an answer he sat down where he
was, on the dust-bespattered margin. She could call as loud as
she liked. The devil had done much, but he should not take him to

"Rickie!"--and it came with the tones of an angel. He drove his
fingers into his ears, and invoked the name of Gerald. But there
was no sign, neither angry motion in the air nor hint of January
mist. June--fields of June, sky of June, songs of June. Grass of
June beneath him, grass of June over the tragedy he had deemed
immortal. A bird called out of the dell: "Rickie!"

A bird flew into the dell.

"Did you take me for the Dryad?" she asked. She was sitting down
with his head on her lap. He had laid it there for a moment
before he went out to die, and she had not let him take it away.

"I prayed you might not be a woman," he whispered.

"Darling, I am very much a woman. I do not vanish into groves and
trees. I thought you would never come."

"Did you expect--?"

"I hoped. I called hoping."

Inside the dell it was neither June nor January. The chalk walls
barred out the seasons, and the fir-trees did not seem to feel
their passage. Only from time to time the odours of summer
slipped in from the wood above, to comment on the waxing year.
She bent down to touch him with her lips.

He started, and cried passionately, "Never forget that your
greatest thing is over. I have forgotten: I am too weak. You
shall never forget. What I said to you then is greater than what
I say to you now. What he gave you then is greater than anything
you will get from me."

She was frightened. Again she had the sense of something
abnormal. Then she said, "What is all this nonsense?" and folded
him in her arms.


Ansell stood looking at his breakfast-table, which was laid for
four instead of two. His bedmaker, equally peevish, explained how
it had happened. Last night, at one in the morning, the porter
had been awoke with a note for the kitchens, and in that note Mr.
Elliot said that all these things were to be sent to Mr.

"The fools have sent the original order as well. Here's the
lemon-sole for two. I can't move for food."

"The note being ambigerous, the Kitchens judged best to send it
all." She spoke of the kitchens in a half-respectful,
half-pitying way, much as one speaks of Parliament.

"Who's to pay for it?" He peeped into the new dishes. Kidneys
entombed in an omelette, hot roast chicken in watery gravy, a
glazed but pallid pie.

"And who's to wash it up?" said the bedmaker to her help outside.

Ansell had disputed late last night concerning Schopenhauer, and
was a little cross and tired. He bounced over to Tilliard, who
kept opposite. Tilliard was eating gooseberry jam.

"Did Elliot ask you to breakfast with me?"

"No," said Tilliard mildly.

"Well, you'd better come, and bring every one you know."

So Tilliard came, bearing himself a little formally, for he was
not very intimate with his neighbour. Out of the window they
called to Widdrington. But he laid his hand on his stomach, thus
indicating it was too late.

"Who's to pay for it?" repeated Ansell, as a man appeared from
the Buttery carrying coffee on a bright tin tray.

"College coffee! How nice!" remarked Tilliard, who was cutting
the pie. "But before term ends you must come and try my new
machine. My sister gave it me. There is a bulb at the top, and as
the water boils--"

"He might have counter-ordered the lemon-sole. That's Rickie all
over. Violently economical, and then loses his head, and all the
things go bad."

"Give them to the bedder while they're hot." This was done. She
accepted them dispassionately, with the air of one who lives
without nourishment. Tilliard continued to describe his sister's
coffee machine.

"What's that?" They could hear panting and rustling on the

"It sounds like a lady," said Tilliard fearfully. He slipped the
piece of pie back. It fell into position like a brick.

"Is it here? Am I right? Is it here?" The door opened and in came
Mrs. Lewin. "Oh horrors! I've made a mistake."

"That's all right," said Ansell awkwardly.

"I wanted Mr. Elliot. Where are they?"

"We expect Mr. Elliot every-moment," said Tilliard.

"Don't tell me I'm right," cried Mrs. Lewin, "and that you're the
terrifying Mr. Ansell." And, with obvious relief, she wrung
Tilliard warmly by the hand.

"I'm Ansell," said Ansell, looking very uncouth and grim.

"How stupid of me not to know it," she gasped, and would have
gone on to I know not what, but the door opened again. It was

"Here's Miss Pembroke," he said. "I am going to marry her."

There was a profound silence.

"We oughtn't to have done things like this," said Agnes, turning
to Mrs. Lewin. "We have no right to take Mr. Ansell by surprise.
It is Rickie's fault. He was that obstinate. He would bring us.
He ought to be horsewhipped."

"He ought, indeed," said Tilliard pleasantly, and bolted. Not
till he gained his room did he realize that he had been less apt
than usual. As for Ansell, the first thing he said was, "Why
didn't you counter-order the lemon-sole?"

In such a situation Mrs. Lewin was of priceless value. She led
the way to the table, observing, "I quite agree with Miss
Pembroke. I loathe surprises. Never shall I forget my horror when
the knife-boy painted the dove's cage with the dove inside. He
did it as a surprise. Poor Parsival nearly died. His feathers
were bright green!"

"Well, give me the lemon-soles," said Rickie. "I like them."

"The bedder's got them."

"Well, there you are! What's there to be annoyed about?"

"And while the cage was drying we put him among the bantams. They
had been the greatest allies. But I suppose they took him for a
parrot or a hawk, or something that bantams hate for while his
cage was drying they picked out his feathers, and PICKED and
PICKED out his feathers, till he was perfectly bald. 'Hugo,
look,' said I. 'This is the end of Parsival. Let me have no more
surprises.' He burst into tears."

Thus did Mrs. Lewin create an atmosphere. At first it seemed
unreal, but gradually they got used to it, and breathed scarcely
anything else throughout the meal. In such an atmosphere
everything seemed of small and equal value, and the engagement of
Rickie and Agnes like the feathers of Parsival, fluttered lightly
to the ground. Ansell was generally silent. He was no match for
these two quite clever women. Only once was there a hitch.

They had been talking gaily enough about the betrothal when
Ansell suddenly interrupted with, "When is the marriage?"

"Mr. Ansell," said Agnes, blushing, "I wish you hadn't asked
that. That part's dreadful. Not for years, as far as we can see."

But Rickie had not seen as far. He had not talked to her of this
at all. Last night they had spoken only of love. He exclaimed,
"Oh, Agnes-don't!" Mrs. Lewin laughed roguishly.

"Why this delay?" asked Ansell.

Agnes looked at Rickie, who replied, "I must get money, worse

"I thought you'd got money."

He hesitated, and then said, "I must get my foot on the ladder,

Ansell began with, "On which ladder?" but Mrs. Lewin, using the
privilege of her sex, exclaimed, "Not another word. If there's a
thing I abominate, it is plans. My head goes whirling at once."
What she really abominated was questions, and she saw that Ansell
was turning serious. To appease him, she put on her clever manner
and asked him about Germany. How had it impressed him? Were we so
totally unfitted to repel invasion? Was not German scholarship
overestimated? He replied discourteously, but he did reply; and
if she could have stopped him thinking, her triumph would have
been complete.

When they rose to go, Agnes held Ansell's hand for a moment in
her own.

"Good-bye," she said. "It was very unconventional of us to come
as we did, but I don't think any of us are conventional people."

He only replied, "Good-bye." The ladies started off. Rickie
lingered behind to whisper, "I would have it so. I would have you
begin square together. I can't talk yet--I've loved her for
years--can't think what she's done it for. I'm going to write
short stories. I shall start this afternoon. She declares there
may be something in me."

As soon as he had left, Tilliard burst in, white with agitation,
and crying, "Did you see my awful faux pas--about the horsewhip?
What shall I do? I must call on Elliot. Or had I better write?"

"Miss Pembroke will not mind," said Ansell gravely. "She is
unconventional." He knelt in an arm-chair and hid his face in the

"It was like a bomb," said Tilliard.

"It was meant to be."

"I do feel a fool. What must she think?"

"Never mind, Tilliard. You've not been as big a fool as myself.
At all events, you told her he must be horsewhipped."

Tilliard hummed a little tune. He hated anything nasty, and there
was nastiness in Ansell. "What did you tell her?" he asked.


"What do you think of it?"

"I think: Damn those women."

"Ah, yes. One hates one's friends to get engaged. It makes one
feel so old: I think that is one of the reasons. The brother just
above me has lately married, and my sister was quite sick about
it, though the thing was suitable in every way."

"Damn THESE women, then," said Ansell, bouncing round in the
chair. "Damn these particular women."

"They looked and spoke like ladies."

"Exactly. Their diplomacy was ladylike. Their lies were ladylike.
They've caught Elliot in a most ladylike way. I saw it all during
the one moment we were natural. Generally we were clattering
after the married one, whom--like a fool--I took for a fool. But
for one moment we were natural, and during that moment Miss
Pembroke told a lie, and made Rickie believe it was the truth."

"What did she say?"

"She said `we see' instead of 'I see.'"

Tilliard burst into laughter. This jaundiced young philosopher,
with his kinky view of life, was too much for him.

"She said 'we see,'" repeated Ansell, "instead of 'I see,' and
she made him believe that it was the truth. She caught him and
makes him believe that he caught her. She came to see me and
makes him think that it is his idea. That is what I mean when I
say that she is a lady."

"You are too subtle for me. My dull eyes could only see two happy

"I never said they weren't happy."

"Then, my dear Ansell, why are you so cut up? It's beastly when a
friend marries,--and I grant he's rather young,--but I should say
it's the best thing for him. A decent woman--and you have proved
not one thing against her--a decent woman will keep him up to the
mark and stop him getting slack. She'll make him responsible and
manly, for much as I like Rickie, I always find him a little
effeminate. And, really,"--his voice grew sharper, for he was
irritated by Ansell's conceit, "and, really, you talk as if you
were mixed up in the affair. They pay a civil visit to your
rooms, and you see nothing but dark plots and challenges to war."

"War!" cried Ansell, crashing his fists together. "It's war,

"Oh, what a lot of tommy-rot," said Tilliard. "Can't a man and
woman get engaged? My dear boy--excuse me talking like this--what
on earth is it to do with us?"

"We're his friends, and I hope we always shall be, but we shan't
keep his friendship by fighting. We're bound to fall into the
background. Wife first, friends some way after. You may resent
the order, but it is ordained by nature."

"The point is, not what's ordained by nature or any other fool,
but what's right."

"You are hopelessly unpractical," said Tilliard, turning away.
"And let me remind you that you've already given away your case
by acknowledging that they're happy."

"She is happy because she has conquered; he is happy because he
has at last hung all the world's beauty on to a single peg. He
was always trying to do it. He used to call the peg humanity.
Will either of these happinesses last? His can't. Hers only for a
time. I fight this woman not only because she fights me, but
because I foresee the most appalling catastrophe. She wants
Rickie, partly to replace another man whom she lost two years
ago, partly to make something out of him. He is to write. In time
she will get sick of this. He won't get famous. She will only see
how thin he is and how lame. She will long for a jollier husband,
and I don't blame her. And, having made him thoroughly miserable
and degraded, she will bolt--if she can do it like a lady."

Such were the opinions of Stewart Ansell.


Seven letters written in June:--


Dear Rickie,

I would rather write, and you can guess what kind of letter this
is when I say it is a fair copy: I have been making rough drafts
all the morning. When I talk I get angry, and also at times try
to be clever--two reasons why I fail to get attention paid to me.
This is a letter of the prudent sort. If it makes you break off
the engagement, its work is done. You are not a person who ought
to marry at all. You are unfitted in body: that we once
discussed. You are also unfitted in soul: you want and you need
to like many people, and a man of that sort ought not to marry.
"You never were attached to that great sect" who can like one
person only, and if you try to enter it you will find
destruction. I have read in books and I cannot afford to despise
books, they are all that I have to go by--that men and women
desire different things. Man wants to love mankind; woman wants
to love one man. When she has him her work is over. She is the
emissary of Nature, and Nature's bidding has been fulfilled. But
man does not care a damn for Nature--or at least only a very
little damn. He cares for a hundred things besides, and the more
civilized he is the more he will care for these other hundred
things, and demand not only--a wife and children, but also
friends, and work, and spiritual freedom.

I believe you to be extraordinarily civilized.--Yours ever,


Shelthorpe, 9 Sawston Park Road,

Dear Ansell,

But I'm in love--a detail you've forgotten. I can't listen to
English Essays. The wretched Agnes may be an "emissary of
Nature," but I only grinned when I read it. I may be
extraordinarily civilized, but I don't feel so; I'm in love, and
I've found a woman to love me, and I mean to have the hundred
other things as well. She wants me to have them--friends and
work, and spiritual freedom, and everything. You and your books
miss this, because your books are too sedate. Read poetry--not
only Shelley. Understand Beatrice, and Clara Middleton, and
Brunhilde in the first scene of Gotterdammerung. Understand
Goethe when he says "the eternal feminine leads us on," and don't
write another English Essay.--Yours ever affectionately,



Dear Rickie:

What am I to say? "Understand Xanthippe, and Mrs. Bennet, and
Elsa in the question scene of Lohengrin"? "Understand Euripides
when he says the eternal feminine leads us a pretty dance"? I
shall say nothing of the sort. The allusions in this English
Essay shall not be literary. My personal objections to Miss
Pembroke are as follows:--
(1) She is not serious.
(2) She is not truthful.

Shelthorpe, 9 Sawston Park Road

My Dear Stewart,

You couldn't know. I didn't know for a moment. But this letter of
yours is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me
yet--more wonderful (I don't exaggerate) than the moment when
Agnes promised to marry me. I always knew you liked me, but I
never knew how much until this letter. Up to now I think we have
been too much like the strong heroes in books who feel so much
and say so little, and feel all the more for saying so little.
Now that's over and we shall never be that kind of an ass again.
We've hit--by accident--upon something permanent. You've written
to me, "I hate the woman who will be your wife," and I write
back, "Hate her. Can't I love you both?" She will never come
between us, Stewart (She wouldn't wish to, but that's by the
way), because our friendship has now passed beyond intervention.
No third person could break it. We couldn't ourselves, I fancy.
We may quarrel and argue till one of us dies, but the thing is
registered. I only wish, dear man, you could be happier. For me,
it's as if a light was suddenly held behind the world.


Shelthorpe, 9 Sawston Park Road,

Dear Mrs. Lewin,--

The time goes flying, but I am getting to learn my wonderful boy.
We speak a great deal about his work. He has just finished a
curious thing called "Nemi"--about a Roman ship that is actually
sunk in some lake. I cannot think how he describes the things,
when he has never seen them. If, as I hope, he goes to Italy next
year, he should turn out something really good. Meanwhile we are
hunting for a publisher. Herbert believes that a collection of
short stories is hard to get published. It is, after all, better
to write one long one.

But you must not think we only talk books. What we say on other
topics cannot so easily be repeated! Oh, Mrs Lewin, he is a dear,
and dearer than ever now that we have him at Sawston. Herbert, in
a quiet way, has been making inquiries about those Cambridge
friends of his. Nothing against them, but they seem to be
terribly eccentric. None of them are good at games, and they
spend all their spare time thinking and discussing. They discuss
what one knows and what one never will know and what one had much
better not know. Herbert says it is because they have not got
enough to do.--Ever your grateful and affectionate friend,

Agnes Pembroke

Shelthorpe, 9 Sawston Park Road

Dear Mr. Silt,--

Thank you for the congratulations, which I have handed over to
the delighted Rickie.

(The congratulations were really addressed to Agnes--a social
blunder which Mr. Pembroke deftly corrects.)

I am sorry that the rumor reached you that I was not pleased.
Anything pleases me that promises my sister's happiness, and I
have known your cousin nearly as long as you have. It will be a
very long engagement, for he must make his way first. The dear
boy is not nearly as wealthy as he supposed; having no tastes,
and hardly any expenses, he used to talk as if he were a
millionaire. He must at least double his income before he can
dream of more intimate ties. This has been a bitter pill, but I
am glad to say that they have accepted it bravely.

Hoping that you and Mrs. Silt will profit by your week at
Margate.-I remain, yours very sincerely,

Herbert Pembroke

Cadover, Wilts.

Dear {Miss Pembroke,

I hear that you are going to marry my nephew. I have no idea what
he is like, and wonder whether you would bring him that I may
find out. Isn't September rather a nice month? You might have to
go to Stone Henge, but with that exception would be left
unmolested. I do hope you will manage the visit. We met once at
Mrs. Lewin's, and I have a very clear recollection of you.--
Believe me, yours sincerely,

Emily Failing


The rain tilted a little from the south-west. For the most part
it fell from a grey cloud silently, but now and then the tilt
increased, and a kind of sigh passed over the country as the
drops lashed the walls, trees, shepherds, and other motionless
objects that stood in their slanting career. At times the cloud
would descend and visibly embrace the earth, to which it had only
sent messages; and the earth itself would bring forth clouds
--clouds of a whiter breed--which formed in shallow valleys and
followed the courses of the streams. It seemed the beginning of
life. Again God said, "Shall we divide the waters from the land
or not? Was not the firmament labour and glory sufficient?" At
all events it was the beginning of life pastoral, behind which
imagination cannot travel.

Yet complicated people were getting wet--not only the shepherds.
For instance, the piano-tuner was sopping. So was the vicar's
wife. So were the lieutenant and the peevish damsels in his
Battleston car. Gallantry, charity, and art pursued their various
missions, perspiring and muddy, while out on the slopes beyond
them stood the eternal man and the eternal dog, guarding eternal
sheep until the world is vegetarian.

Inside an arbour--which faced east, and thus avoided the bad
weather--there sat a complicated person who was dry. She looked
at the drenched world with a pleased expression, and would smile
when a cloud would lay down on the village, or when the rain
sighed louder than usual against her solid shelter. Ink,
paperclips, and foolscap paper were on the table before her, and
she could also reach an umbrella, a waterproof, a walking-stick,
and an electric bell. Her age was between elderly and old, and
her forehead was wrinkled with an expression of slight but
perpetual pain. But the lines round her mouth indicated that she
had laughed a great deal during her life, just as the clean tight
skin round her eyes perhaps indicated that she had not often
cried. She was dressed in brown silk. A brown silk shawl lay most
becomingly over her beautiful hair.

After long thought she wrote on the paper in front of her, "The
subject of this memoir first saw the light at Wolverhampton on
May the 14th, 1842." She laid down her pen and said "Ugh!" A
robin hopped in and she welcomed him. A sparrow followed and she
stamped her foot. She watched some thick white water which was
sliding like a snake down the gutter of the gravel path. It had
just appeared. It must have escaped from a hollow in the chalk up
behind. The earth could absorb no longer. The lady did not think
of all this, for she hated questions of whence and wherefore, and
the ways of the earth ("our dull stepmother") bored her
unspeakably. But the water, just the snake of water, was
amusing, and she flung her golosh at it to dam it up. Then she
wrote feverishly, "The subject of this memoir first saw the light
in the middle of the night. It was twenty to eleven. His pa was a
parson, but he was not his pa's son, and never went to heaven."
There was the sound of a train, and presently white smoke
appeared, rising laboriously through the heavy air. It distracted
her, and for about a quarter of an hour she sat perfectly still,
doing nothing. At last she pushed the spoilt paper aside, took
afresh piece, and was beginning to write, "On May the 14th,
1842," when there was a crunch on the gravel, and a furious voice
said, "I am sorry for Flea Thompson."

"I daresay I am sorry for him too," said the lady; her voice was
languid and pleasant. "Who is he?"

"Flea's a liar, and the next time we meet he'll be a football."
Off slipped a sodden ulster. He hung it up angrily upon a peg:
the arbour provided several.

"But who is he, and why has he that disastrous name?"

"Flea? Fleance. All the Thompsons are named out of Shakespeare.
He grazes the Rings."

"Ah, I see. A pet lamb."

"Lamb! Shepherd!"

"One of my Shepherds?"

"The last time I go with his sheep. But not the last tune he sees
me. I am sorry for him. He dodged me today,"

"Do you mean to say"--she became animated--"that you have been
out in the wet keeping the sheep of Flea Thompson?"

"I had to." He blew on his fingers and took off his cap. Water
trickled over his unshaven cheeks. His hair was so wet that it
seemed worked upon his scalp in bronze.

"Get away, bad dog!" screamed the lady, for he had given himself
a shake and spattered her dress with water. He was a powerful boy
of twenty, admirably muscular, but rather too broad for his
height. People called him "Podge" until they were dissuaded. Then
they called him "Stephen" or "Mr. Wonham." Then he said, "You can
call me Podge if you like."

"As for Flea--!" he began tempestuously. He sat down by her, and
with much heavy breathing told the story,--"Flea has a girl at
Wintersbridge, and I had to go with his sheep while he went to
see her. Two hours. We agreed. Half an hour to go, an hour to
kiss his girl, and half an hour back--and he had my bike. Four
hours! Four hours and seven minutes I was on the Rings, with a
fool of a dog, and sheep doing all they knew to get the turnips."

"My farm is a mystery to me," said the lady, stroking her

"Some day you must really take me to see it. It must be like a
Gilbert and Sullivan opera, with a chorus of agitated employers.
How is it that I have escaped? Why have I never been summoned to
milk the cows, or flay the pigs, or drive the young bullocks to
the pasture?"

He looked at her with astonishingly blue eyes--the only dry
things he had about him. He could not see into her: she would
have puzzled an older and clever man. He may have seen round her.

"A thing of beauty you are not. But I sometimes think you are a
joy for ever."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Oh, you understand right enough," she exclaimed irritably, and
then smiled, for he was conceited, and did not like being told
that he was not a thing of beauty. "Large and steady feet," she
continued, "have this disadvantage--you can knock down a man, but
you will never knock down a woman."

"I don't know what you mean. I'm not likely--"

"Oh, never mind--never, never mind. I was being funny. I repent.
Tell me about the sheep. Why did you go with them?"

"I did tell you. I had to."

"But why?"

"He had to see his girl."

"But why?"

His eyes shot past her again. It was so obvious that the man had
to see his girl. For two hours though--not for four hours seven

"Did you have any lunch?"

"I don't hold with regular meals."

"Did you have a book?"

"I don't hold with books in the open. None of the older men

"Did you commune with yourself, or don't you hold with that?"

"Oh Lord, don't ask me!"

"You distress me. You rob the Pastoral of its lingering romance.
Is there no poetry and no thought in England? Is there no one, in
all these downs, who warbles with eager thought the Doric lay?"

"Chaps sing to themselves at times, if you mean that."

"I dream of Arcady. I open my eyes. Wiltshire. Of Amaryllis: Flea
Thompson's girl. Of the pensive shepherd, twitching his mantle
blue: you in an ulster. Aren't you sorry for me?"

"May I put in a pipe?"

"By all means put a pipe in. In return, tell me of what you were
thinking for the four hours and the seven minutes."

He laughed shyly. "You do ask a man such questions."

"Did you simply waste the time?"

"I suppose so."

"I thought that Colonel Robert Ingersoll says you must be

At the sound of this name he whisked open a little cupboard, and
declaring, "I haven't a moment to spare," took out of it a pile
of "Clarion" and other reprints, adorned as to their covers with
bald or bearded apostles of humanity. Selecting a bald one, he
began at once to read, occasionally exclaiming, "That's got
them," "That's knocked Genesis," with similar ejaculations of an
aspiring mind. She glanced at the pile. Reran, minus the style.
Darwin, minus the modesty. A comic edition of the book of Job, by
"Excelsior," Pittsburgh, Pa. "The Beginning of Life," with
diagrams. "Angel or Ape?" by Mrs. Julia P. Chunk. She was amused,
and wondered idly what was passing within his narrow but not
uninteresting brain. Did he suppose that he was going to "find
out"? She had tried once herself, but had since subsided into a
sprightly orthodoxy. Why didn't he read poetry, instead of
wasting his time between books like these and country like that?

The cloud parted, and the increase of light made her look up.
Over the valley she saw a grave sullen down, and on its flanks a
little brown smudge--her sheep, together with her shepherd,
Fleance Thompson, returned to his duties at last. A trickle of
water came through the arbour roof. She shrieked in dismay.

"That's all right," said her companion, moving her chair, but
still keeping his place in his book.

She dried up the spot on the manuscript. Then she wrote: "Anthony
Eustace Failing, the subject of this memoir, was born at
Wolverhampton." But she wrote no more. She was fidgety. Another
drop fell from the roof. Likewise an earwig. She wished she had
not been so playful in flinging her golosh into the path. The boy
who was overthrowing religion breathed somewhat heavily as he did
so. Another earwig. She touched the electric bell.

"I'm going in," she observed. "It's far too wet." Again the cloud
parted and caused her to add, "Weren't you rather kind to Flea?"
But he was deep in the book. He read like a poor person, with
lips apart and a finger that followed the print. At times he
scratched his ear, or ran his tongue along a straggling blonde
moustache. His face had after all a certain beauty: at all events
the colouring was regal--a steady crimson from throat to
forehead: the sun and the winds had worked on him daily ever
since he was born. "The face of a strong man," thought the lady.
"Let him thank his stars he isn't a silent strong man, or I'd
turn him into the gutter." Suddenly it struck her that he was
like an Irish terrier. He worried infinity as if it was a bone.
Gnashing his teeth, he tried to carry the eternal subtleties by
violence. As a man he often bored her, for he was always saying
and doing the same things. But as a philosopher he really was a
joy for ever, an inexhaustible buffoon. Taking up her pen, she
began to caricature him. She drew a rabbit-warren where rabbits
were at play in four dimensions. Before she had introduced the
principal figure, she was interrupted by the footman. He had come
up from the house to answer the bell. On seeing her he uttered a
respectful cry.

"Madam! Are you here? I am very sorry. I looked for you
everywhere. Mr. Elliot and Miss Pembroke arrived nearly an hour

"Oh dear, oh dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Failing. "Take these papers.
Where's the umbrella? Mr. Stephen will hold it over me. You hurry
back and apologize. Are they happy?"

"Miss Pembroke inquired after you, madam."

"Have they had tea?"

"Yes, madam."


"Yes, sir."

"I believe you knew she was here all the time. You didn't want to
wet your pretty skin."

"You must not call me 'she' to the servants," said Mrs. Failing
as they walked away, she limping with a stick, he holding a great
umbrella over her. "I will not have it." Then more pleasantly,
"And don't tell him he lies. We all lie. I knew quite well they
were coming by the four-six train. I saw it pass."

"That reminds me. Another child run over at the Roman crossing.

"Oh my foot! Oh my foot, my foot!" said Mrs. Failing, and paused
to take breath.

"Bad?" he asked callously.

Leighton, with bowed head, passed them with the manuscript and
disappeared among the laurels. The twinge of pain, which had been
slight, passed away, and they proceeded, descending a green
airless corridor which opened into the gravel drive.

"Isn't it odd," said Mrs. Failing, "that the Greeks should be
enthusiastic about laurels--that Apollo should pursue any one who
could possibly turn into such a frightful plant? What do you make
of Rickie?"

"Oh, I don't know."

"Shall I lend you his story to read?"

He made no reply.

"Don't you think, Stephen, that a person in your precarious
position ought to be civil to my relatives?"

"Sorry, Mrs. Failing. I meant to be civil. I only hadn't--
anything to say."

She a laughed. "Are you a dear boy? I sometimes wonder; or are
you a brute?"

Again he had nothing to say. Then she laughed more mischievously,
and said--

"How can you be either, when you are a philosopher? Would you
mind telling me--I am so anxious to learn--what happens to people
when they die?"

"Don't ask ME." He knew by bitter experience that she was making
fun of him.

"Oh, but I do ask you. Those paper books of yours are so
up-to-date. For instance, what has happened to the child you say
was killed on the line?"

The rain increased. The drops pattered hard on the leaves, and
outside the corridor men and women were struggling, however
stupidly, with the facts of life. Inside it they wrangled. She
teased the boy, and laughed at his theories, and proved that no
man can be an agnostic who has a sense of humour. Suddenly she
stopped, not through any skill of his, but because she had
remembered some words of Bacon: "The true atheist is he whose
hands are cauterized by holy things." She thought of her distant
youth. The world was not so humorous then, but it had been more
important. For a moment she respected her companion, and
determined to vex him no more.

They left the shelter of the laurels, crossed the broad drive,
and were inside the house at last. She had got quite wet, for the
weather would not let her play the simple life with impunity. As
for him, he seemed a piece of the wet.

"Look here," she cried, as he hurried up to his attic, "don't

He was delighted with the permission.

"I have an idea that Miss Pembroke is of the type that pretends
to be unconventional and really isn't. I want to see how she
takes it. Don't shave."

In the drawing-room she could hear the guests conversing in the
subdued tones of those who have not been welcomed. Having changed
her dress and glanced at the poems of Milton, she went to them,
with uplifted hands of apology and horror.

"But I must have tea," she announced, when they had assured her
that they understood. "Otherwise I shall start by being cross.
Agnes, stop me. Give me tea."

Agnes, looking pleased, moved to the table and served her
hostess. Rickie followed with a pagoda of sandwiches and little

"I feel twenty-seven years younger. Rickie, you are so like your
father. I feel it is twenty-seven years ago, and that he is
bringing your mother to see me for the first time. It is
curious--almost terrible--to see history repeating itself."

The remark was not tactful.

"I remember that visit well," she continued thoughtfully, "I
suppose it was a wonderful visit, though we none of us knew it at
the time. We all fell in love with your mother. I wish she would
have fallen in love with us. She couldn't bear me, could she?"

"I never heard her say so, Aunt Emily."

"No; she wouldn't. I am sure your father said so, though. My dear
boy, don't look so shocked. Your father and I hated each other.
He said so, I said so, I say so; say so too. Then we shall start
fair.--Just a cocoanut cake.--Agnes, don't you agree that it's
always best to speak out?"

"Oh, rather, Mrs. Failing. But I'm shockingly straightforward."

"So am I," said the lady. "I like to get down to the bedrock.--
Hullo! Slippers? Slippers in the drawingroom?"

A young man had come in silently. Agnes observed with a feeling
of regret that he had not shaved. Rickie, after a moment's
hesitation, remembered who it was, and shook hands with him.
You've grown since I saw you last."

He showed his teeth amiably.

"How long was that?" asked Mrs. Failing.

"Three years, wasn't it? Came over from the Ansells--friends."

"How disgraceful, Rickie! Why don't you come and see me oftener?"

He could not retort that she never asked him.

"Agnes will make you come. Oh, let me introduce Mr. Wonham--Miss

"I am deputy hostess," said Agnes. "May I give you some tea?"

"Thank you, but I have had a little beer."

"It is one of the shepherds," said Mrs. Failing, in low tones.

Agnes smiled rather wildly. Mrs. Lewin had warned her that
Cadover was an extraordinary place, and that one must never be
astonished at anything. A shepherd in the drawing-room! No harm.
Still one ought to know whether it was a shepherd or not. At all
events he was in gentleman's clothing. She was anxious not to
start with a blunder, and therefore did not talk to the young
fellow, but tried to gather what he was from the demeanour of

"I am sure, Mrs. Failing, that you need not talk of 'making'
people come to Cadover. There will be no difficulty, I should

"Thank you, my dear. Do you know who once said those exact words
to me?"


"Rickie's mother."

"Did she really?"

"My sister-in-law was a dear. You will have heard Rickie's
praises, but now you must hear mine. I never knew a woman who was
so unselfish and yet had such capacities for life."

"Does one generally exclude the other?" asked Rickie.

"Unselfish people, as a rule, are deathly dull. They have no
colour. They think of other people because it is easier. They
give money because they are too stupid or too idle to spend
it properly on themselves. That was the beauty of your mother--
she gave away, but she also spent on herself, or tried to."

The light faded out of the drawing-room, in spite of it being
September and only half-past six. From her low chair Agnes could
see the trees by the drive, black against a blackening sky. That
drive was half a mile long, and she was praising its gravelled
surface when Rickie called in a voice of alarm, "I say, when did
our train arrive?"

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