Versione ebook di Readme.it powered by Softwarehouse.it
Along this particular stretch of line no express had ever passed.
All the trains--the few that there were--stopped at all the
stations. Denis knew the names of those stations by heart.
BoleTrittonSpavin DelawarrKnipswich for TimpanyWest
BowlbyandfinallyCamlet-on-the-Water. Camlet was where he
always got outleaving the train to creep indolently onward
goodness only knew whitherinto the green heart of England.
They were snorting out of West Bowlby now. It was the next
stationthank Heaven. Denis took his chattels off the rack and
piled them neatly in the corner opposite his own. A futile
proceeding. But one must have something to do. When he had
finishedhe sank back into his seat and closed his eyes. It was
Ohthis journey! It was two hours cut clean out of his life;
two hours in which he might have done so muchso much--written
the perfect poemfor exampleor read the one illuminating book.
Instead of which--his gorge rose at the smell of the dusty
cushions against which he was leaning.
Two hours. One hundred and twenty minutes. Anything might be
done in that time. Anything. Nothing. Ohhe had had hundreds
of hoursand what had he done with them? Wasted themspilt the
precious minutes as though his reservoir were inexhaustible.
Denis groaned in the spiritcondemned himself utterly with all
his works. What right had he to sit in the sunshineto occupy
corner seats in third-class carriagesto be alive? Nonenone
Misery and a nameless nostalgic distress possessed him. He was
twenty-threeand oh! so agonizingly conscious of the fact.
The train came bumpingly to a halt. Here was Camlet at last.
Denis jumped upcrammed his hat over his eyesderanged his pile
of baggageleaned out of the window and shouted for a porter
seized a bag in either handand had to put them down again in
order to open the door. When at last he had safely bundled
himself and his baggage on to the platformhe ran up the train
towards the van.
A bicycle, a bicycle!he said breathlessly to the guard. He
felt himself a man of action. The guard paid no attentionbut
continued methodically to hand outone by onethe packages
labelled to Camlet. "A bicycle!" Denis repeated. "A green
machinecross-framedname of Stone. S-T-O-N-E."
All in good time, sir,said the guard soothingly. He was a
largestately man with a naval beard. One pictured him at home
drinking teasurrounded by a numerous family. It was in that
tone that he must have spoken to his children when they were
tiresome. "All in good timesir." Denis's man of action
He left his luggage to be called for laterand pushed off on his
bicycle. He always took his bicycle when he went into the
country. It was part of the theory of exercise. One day one
would get up at six o'clock and pedal away to Kenilworthor
Stratford-on-Avon--anywhere. And within a radius of twenty miles
there were always Norman churches and Tudor mansions to be seen
in the course of an afternoon's excursion. Somehow they never
did get seenbut all the same it was nice to feel that the
bicycle was thereand that one fine morning one really might get
up at six.
Once at the top of the long hill which led up from Camlet
stationhe felt his spirits mounting. The worldhe foundwas
good. The far-away blue hillsthe harvests whitening on the
slopes of the ridge along which his road led himthe treeless
sky-lines that changed as he moved--yesthey were all good. He
was overcome by the beauty of those deeply embayed combes
scooped in the flanks of the ridge beneath him. Curvescurves:
he repeated the word slowlytrying as he did so to find some
term in which to give expression to his appreciation. Curves-no
that was inadequate. He made a gesture with his handas
though to scoop the achieved expression out of the airand
almost fell off his bicycle. What was the word to describe the
curves of those little valleys? They were as fine as the lines
of a human bodythey were informed with the subtlety of art...
Galbe. That was a good word; but it was French. Le galbe evase
de ses hanches: had one ever read a French novel in which that
phrase didn't occur? Some day he would compile a dictionary for
the use of novelists. Galbegonflegoulu: parfumpeau
But he really must find that word. Curves curves...Those little
valleys had the lines of a cup moulded round a woman's breast;
they seemed the dinted imprints of some huge divine body that had
rested on these hills. Cumbrous locutionsthese; but through
them he seemed to be getting nearer to what he wanted. Dinted
dimpledwimpled--his mind wandered down echoing corridors of
assonance and alliteration ever further and further from the
point. He was enamoured with the beauty of words.
Becoming once more aware of the outer worldhe found himself on
the crest of a descent. The road plunged downsteep and
straightinto a considerable valley. Thereon the opposite
slopea little higher up the valleystood Cromehis
destination. He put on his brakes; this view of Crome was
pleasant to linger over. The facade with its three projecting
towers rose precipitously from among the dark trees of the
garden. The house basked in full sunlight; the old brick rosily
glowed. How ripe and rich it washow superbly mellow! And at
the same timehow austere! The hill was becoming steeper and
steeper; he was gaining speed in spite of his brakes. He loosed
his grip of the leversand in a moment was rushing headlong
down. Five minutes later he was passing through the gate of the
great courtyard. The front door stood hospitably open. He left
his bicycle leaning against the wall and walked in. He would
take them by surprise.
He took nobody by surprise; there was nobody to take. All was
quiet; Denis wandered from room to empty roomlooking with
pleasure at the familiar pictures and furnitureat all the
little untidy signs of life that lay scattered here and there.
He was rather glad that they were all out; it was amusing to
wander through the house as though one were exploring a dead
deserted Pompeii. What sort of life would the excavator
reconstruct from these remains; how would he people these empty
chambers? There was the long gallerywith its rows of
respectable and (thoughof courseone couldn't publicly admit
it) rather boring Italian primitivesits Chinese sculpturesits
unobtrusivedateless furniture. There was the panelled drawingroom
where the huge chintz-covered arm-chairs stoodoases of
comfort among the austere flesh-mortifying antiques. There was
the morning-roomwith its pale lemon wallsits painted Venetian
chairs and rococo tablesits mirrorsits modern pictures.
There was the librarycoolspaciousand darkbook-lined from
floor to ceilingrich in portentous folios. There was the
dining-roomsolidlyportwinily Englishwith its great mahogany
tableits eighteenth-century chairs and sideboardits
eighteenth-century pictures--family portraitsmeticulous animal
paintings. What could one reconstruct from such data? There was
much of Henry Wimbush in the long gallery and the library
something of Anneperhapsin the morning-room. That was all.
Among the accumulations of ten generations the living had left
but few traces.
Lying on the table in the morning-room he saw his own book of
poems. What tact! He picked it up and opened it. It was what
the reviewers call "a slim volume." He read at hazard:
...But silence and the topless dark
Vault in the lights of Luna Park;
And Blackpool from the nightly gloom
Hollows a bright tumultuous tomb.
He put it down againshook his headand sighed. "What genius I
had then!" he reflectedechoing the aged Swift. It was nearly
six months since the book had been published; he was glad to
think he would never write anything of the same sort again. Who
could have been reading ithe wondered? Anneperhaps; he liked
to think so. Perhapstooshe had at last recognised herself in
the Hamadryad of the poplar sapling; the slim Hamadryad whose
movements were like the swaying of a young tree in the wind.
The Woman who was a Treewas what he had called the poem. He
had given her the book when it came outhoping that the poem
would tell her what he hadn't dared to say. She had never
referred to it.
He shut his eyes and saw a vision of her in a red velvet cloak
swaying into the little restaurant where they sometimes dined
together in London--three quarters of an hour lateand he at his
tablehaggard with anxietyirritationhunger. Ohshe was
It occurred to him that perhaps his hostess might be in her
boudoir. It was a possibility; he would go and see. Mrs.
Wimbush's boudoir was in the central tower on the garden front.
A little staircase cork-screwed up to it from the hall. Denis
mountedtapped at the door. "Come in." Ahshe was there; he
had rather hoped she wouldn't be. He opened the door.
Priscilla Wimbush was lying on the sofa. A blotting-pad rested
on her knees and she was thoughtfully sucking the end of a silver
Hullo,she saidlooking up. "I'd forgotten you were coming."
Well, here I am, I'm afraid,said Denis deprecatingly. "I'm
Mrs. Wimbush laughed. Her voiceher laughterwere deep and
masculine. Everything about her was manly. She had a large
squaremiddle-aged facewith a massive projecting nose and
little greenish eyesthe whole surmounted by a lofty and
elaborate coiffure of a curiously improbable shade of orange.
Looking at herDenis always thought of Wilkie Bard as the
That's why I'm going to
Sing in op'ra, sing in op'ra,
Sing in op-pop-pop-pop-pop-popera.
Today she was wearing a purple silk dress with a high collar and
a row of pearls. The costumeso richly dowagerishso
suggestive of the Royal Familymade her look more than ever like
something on the Halls.
What have you been doing all this time?she asked.
Well,said Denisand he hesitatedalmost voluptuously. He
had a tremendously amusing account of London and its doings all
ripe and ready in his mind. It would be a pleasure to give it
utterance. "To begin with he said...
But he was too late. Mrs. Wimbush's question had been what the
grammarians call rhetorical; it asked for no answer. It was a
little conversational flourish, a gambit in the polite game.
You find me busy at my horoscopes she said, without even being
aware that she had interrupted him.
A little pained, Denis decided to reserve his story for more
receptive ears. He contented himself, by way of revenge, with
saying Oh?" rather icily.
Did I tell you how I won four hundred on the Grand National this
Yes,he repliedstill frigid and mono-syllabic. She must have
told him at least six times.
Wonderful, isn't it? Everything is in the Stars. In the Old
Days, before I had the Stars to help me, I used to lose
thousands. Now--she paused an instant--"welllook at that four
hundred on the Grand National. That's the Stars."
Denis would have liked to hear more about the Old Days. But he
was too discreet andstill moretoo shy to ask. There had been
something of a bust up; that was all he knew. Old Priscilla--not
so old thenof courseand sprightlier--had lost a great deal of
moneydropped it in handfuls and hatfuls on every race-course in
the country. She had gambled too. The number of thousands
varied in the different legendsbut all put it high. Henry
Wimbush was forced to sell some of his Primitives--a Taddeo da
Poggibonsian Amico di Taddeoand four or five nameless
Sienese--to the Americans. There was a crisis. For the first
time in his life Henry asserted himselfand with good effectit
Priscilla's gay and gadding existence had come to an abrupt end.
Nowadays she spent almost all her time at Cromecultivating a
rather ill-defined malady. For consolation she dallied with New
Thought and the Occult. Her passion for racing still possessed
herand Henrywho was a kind-hearted fellow at bottomallowed
her forty pounds a month betting money. Most of Priscilla's days
were spent in casting the horoscopes of horsesand she invested
her money scientificallyas the stars dictated. She betted on
football tooand had a large notebook in which she registered
the horoscopes of all the players in all the teams of the League.
The process of balancing the horoscopes of two elevens one
against the other was a very delicate and difficult one. A match
between the Spurs and the Villa entailed a conflict in the
heavens so vast and so complicated that it was not to be wondered
at if she sometimes made a mistake about the outcome.
Such a pity you don't believe in these things, Denis, such a
pity,said Mrs. Wimbush in her deepdistinct voice.
I can't say I feel it so.
Ah, that's because you don't know what it's like to have faith.
You've no idea how amusing and exciting life becomes when you do
believe. All that happens means something; nothing you do is
ever insignificant. It makes life so jolly, you know. Here am I
at Crome. Dull as ditchwater, you'd think; but no, I don't find
it so. I don't regret the Old Days a bit. I have the Stars...
She picked up the sheet of paper that was lying on the blottingpad.
Inman's horoscope,she explained. "(I thought I'd like
to have a little fling on the billiards championship this
autumn.) I have the Infinite to keep in tune with she waved
her hand. And then there's the next world and all the spirits
and one's Auraand Mrs. Eddy and saying you're not illand the
Christian Mysteries and Mrs. Besant. It's all splendid. One's
never dull for a moment. I can't think how I used to get on
before--in the Old Days. Pleasure--running aboutthat's all it
was; just running about. Lunchteadinnertheatresupper
every day. It was funof coursewhile it lasted. But there
wasn't much left of it afterwards. There's rather a good thing
about that in Barbecue-Smith's new book. Where is it?"
She sat up and reached for a book that was lying on the little
table by the head of the sofa.
Do you know him, by the way?she asked.
Denis knew of him vaguely. Barbecue-Smith was a name in the
Sunday papers. He wrote about the Conduct of Life. He might
even be the author of "What a Young Girl Ought to Know".
No, not personally,he said.
I've invited him for next week-end.She turned over the pages
of the book. "Here's the passage I was thinking of. I marked
it. I always mark the things I like."
Holding the book almost at arm's lengthfor she was somewhat
long-sightedand making suitable gestures with her free hand
she began to readslowlydramatically.
'What are thousand pound fur coats, what are quarter million
incomes?'She looked up from the page with a histrionic
movement of the head; her orange coiffure nodded portentously.
Denis looked at itfascinated. Was it the Real Thing and henna
he wonderedor was it one of those Complete Transformations one
sees in the advertisements?
'What are Thrones and Sceptres?'
The orange Transformation--yesit must be a Transformation-bobbed
'What are the gaieties of the Rich, the splendours of the
Powerful, what is the pride of the Great, what are the gaudy
pleasures of High Society?'
The voicewhich had risen in tonequestioninglyfrom sentence
to sentencedropped suddenly and boomed reply.
'They are nothing. Vanity, fluff, dandelion seed in the wind,
thin vapours of fever. The things that matter happen in the
heart. Seen things are sweet, but those unseen are a thousand
times more significant. It is the unseen that counts in Life.'
Mrs. Wimbush lowered the book. "Beautifulisn't it?" she said.
Denis preferred not to hazard an opinionbut uttered a noncommittal
Ah, it's a fine book this, a beautiful book,said Priscillaas
she let the pages flick backone by onefrom under her thumb.
And here's the passage about the Lotus Pool. He compares the
Soul to a Lotus Pool, you know.She held up the book again and
read. "'A Friend of mine has a Lotus Pool in his garden. It
lies in a little dell embowered with wild roses and eglantine
among which the nightingale pours forth its amorous descant all
the summer long. Within the pool the Lotuses blossomand the
birds of the air come to drink and bathe themselves in its
crystal waters...' Ahand that reminds me Priscilla
exclaimed, shutting the book with a clap and uttering her big
profound laugh--that reminds me of the things that have been
going on in our bathing-pool since you were here last. We gave
the village people leave to come and bathe here in the evenings.
You've no idea of the things that happened."
She leaned forwardspeaking in a confidential whisper; every now
and then she uttered a deep gurgle of laughter. "...mixed
bathing...saw them out of my window...sent for a pair of fieldglasses
to make sure...no doubt of it..." The laughter broke out
again. Denis laughed too. Barbecue-Smith was tossed on the
It's time we went to see if tea's ready said Priscilla. She
hoisted herself up from the sofa and went swishing off across the
room, striding beneath the trailing silk. Denis followed her,
faintly humming to himself:
That's why I'm going to
Sing in op'rasing in op'ra
Sing in op-pop-pop-pop-popera."
And then the little twiddly bit of accompaniment at the end:
The terrace in front of the house was a long narrow strip of
turfbounded along its outer edge by a graceful stone
balustrade. Two little summer-houses of brick stood at either
end. Below the house the ground sloped very steeply awayand
the terrace was a remarkably high one; from the balusters to the
sloping lawn beneath was a drop of thirty feet. Seen from below
the high unbroken terrace wallbuilt like the house itself of
brickhad the almost menacing aspect of a fortification--a
castle bastionfrom whose parapet one looked out across airy
depths to distances level with the eye. Belowin the
foregroundhedged in by solid masses of sculptured yew trees
lay the stone-brimmed swimming-pool. Beyond it stretched the
parkwith its massive elmsits green expanses of grassandat
the bottom of the valleythe gleam of the narrow river. On the
farther side of the stream the land rose again in a long slope
chequered with cultivation. Looking up the valleyto the right
one saw a line of bluefar-off hills.
The tea-table had been planted in the shade of one of the little
summer-housesand the rest of the party was already assembled
about it when Denis and Priscilla made their appearance. Henry
Wimbush had begun to pour out the tea. He was one of those
agelessunchanging men on the farther side of fiftywho might
be thirtywho might be anything. Denis had known him almost as
long as he could remember. In all those years his palerather
handsome face had never grown any older; it was like the pale
grey bowler hat which he always worewinter and summer--
unageingcalmserenely without expression.
Next himbut separated from him and from the rest of the world
by the almost impenetrable barriers of her deafnesssat Jenny
Mullion. She was perhaps thirtyhad a tilted nose and a pink-
and-white complexionand wore her brown hair plaited and coiled
in two lateral buns over her ears. In the secret tower of her
deafness she sat apartlooking down at the world through sharply
piercing eyes. What did she think of men and women and things?
That was something that Denis had never been able to discover.
In her enigmatic remoteness Jenny was a little disquieting. Even
now some interior joke seemed to be amusing herfor she was
smiling to herselfand her brown eyes were like very bright
On his other side the seriousmoonlike innocence of Mary
Bracegirdle's face shone pink and childish. She was nearly
twenty-threebut one wouldn't have guessed it. Her short hair
clipped like a page'shung in a bell of elastic gold about her
cheeks. She had large blue china eyeswhose expression was one
of ingenuous and often puzzled earnestness.
Next to Mary a small gaunt man was sittingrigid and erect in
his chair. In appearance Mr. Scogan was like one of those
extinct bird-lizards of the Tertiary. His nose was beakedhis
dark eye had the shining quickness of a robin's. But there was
nothing soft or gracious or feathery about him. The skin of his
wrinkled brown face had a dry and scaly look; his hands were the
hands of a crocodile. His movements were marked by the lizard's
disconcertingly abrupt clockwork speed; his speech was thin
flutyand dry. Henry Wimbush's school-fellow and exact
contemporaryMr. Scogan looked far older andat the same time
far more youthfully alive than did that gentle aristocrat with
the face like a grey bowler.
Mr. Scogan might look like an extinct saurianbut Gombauld was
altogether and essentially human. In the old-fashioned natural
histories of the 'thirties he might have figured in a steel
engraving as a type of Homo Sapiens--an honour which at that time
commonly fell to Lord Byron. Indeedwith more hair and less
collarGombauld would have been completely Byronic--more than
Byronicevenfor Gombauld was of Provencal descenta blackhaired
young corsair of thirtywith flashing teeth and luminous
large dark eyes. Denis looked at him enviously. He was jealous
of his talent: if only he wrote verse as well as Gombauld
painted pictures! Still moreat the momenthe envied Gombauld
his lookshis vitalityhis easy confidence of manner. Was it
surprising that Anne should like him? Like him?--it might even
be something worseDenis reflected bitterlyas he walked at
Priscilla's side down the long grass terrace.
Between Gombauld and Mr. Scogan a very much lowered deck-chair
presented its back to the new arrivals as they advanced towards
the tea-table. Gombauld was leaning over it; his face moved
vivaciously; he smiledhe laughedhe made quick gestures with
his hands. From the depths of the chair came up a sound of soft
lazy laughter. Denis started as he heard it. That laughter--how
well he knew it! What emotions it evoked in him! He quickened
In her low deck-chair Anne was nearer to lying than to sitting.
Her longslender body reposed in an attitude of listless and
indolent grace. Within its setting of light brown hair her face
had a pretty regularity that was almost doll-like. And indeed
there were moments when she seemed nothing more than a doll; when
the oval facewith its long-lashedpale blue eyesexpressed
nothing; when it was no more than a lazy mask of wax. She was
Henry Wimbush's own niece; that bowler-like countenance was one
of the Wimbush heirlooms; it ran in the familyappearing in its
female members as a blank doll-face. But across this dollish
masklike a gay melody dancing over an unchanging fundamental
basspassed Anne's other inheritance--quick laughterlight
ironic amusementand the changing expressions of many moods.
She was smiling now as Denis looked down at her: her cat's
smilehe called itfor no very good reason. The mouth was
compressedand on either side of it two tiny wrinkles had formed
themselves in her cheeks. An infinity of slightly malicious
amusement lurked in those little foldsin the puckers about the
half-closed eyesin the eyes themselvesbright and laughing
between the narrowed lids.
The preliminary greetings spokenDenis found an empty chair
between Gombauld and Jenny and sat down.
How are you, Jenny?he shouted to her.
Jenny nodded and smiled in mysterious silenceas though the
subject of her health were a secret that could not be publicly
How's London been since I went away?Anne inquired from the
depth of her chair.
The moment had come; the tremendously amusing narrative was
waiting for utterance. "Well said Denis, smiling happily, to
Has Priscilla told you of our great antiquarian find?Henry
Wimbush leaned forward; the most promising of buds was nipped.
To begin with,said Denis desperatelythere was the
Last week,Mr. Wimbush went on softly and implacablywe dug
up fifty yards of oaken drain-pipes; just tree trunks with a hole
bored through the middle. Very interesting indeed. Whether they
were laid down by the monks in the fifteenth century, or
Denis listened gloomily. "Extraordinary!" he saidwhen Mr.
Wimbush had finished; "quite extraordinary!" He helped himself
to another slice of cake. He didn't even want to tell his tale
about London now; he was damped.
For some time past Mary's grave blue eyes had been fixed upon
him. "What have you been writing lately?" she asked. It would
be nice to have a little literary conversation.
Oh, verse and prose,said Denis--"just verse and prose."
Prose?Mr. Scogan pounced alarmingly on the word. "You've been
Not a novel?
My poor Denis!exclaimed Mr. Scogan. "What about?"
Denis felt rather uncomfortable. "Ohabout the usual things
Of course,Mr. Scogan groaned. "I'll describe the plot for
you. Little Percythe herowas never good at gamesbut he was
always clever. He passes through the usual public school and the
usual university and comes to Londonwhere he lives among the
artists. He is bowed down with melancholy thought; he carries
the whole weight of the universe upon his shoulders. He writes a
novel of dazzling brilliance; he dabbles delicately in Amour and
disappearsat the end of the bookinto the luminous Future."
Denis blushed scarlet. Mr. Scogan had described the plan of his
novel with an accuracy that was appalling. He made an effort to
laugh. "You're entirely wrong he said. My novel is not in
the least like that." It was a heroic lie. Luckilyhe
reflectedonly two chapters were written. He would tear them up
that very evening when he unpacked.
Mr. Scogan paid no attention to his denialbut went on: "Why
will you young men continue to write about things that are so
entirely uninteresting as the mentality of adolescents and
artists? Professional anthropologists might find it interesting
to turn sometimes from the beliefs of the Blackfellow to the
philosophical preoccupations of the undergraduate. But you can't
expect an ordinary adult manlike myselfto be much moved by
the story of his spiritual troubles. And after alleven in
Englandeven in Germany and Russiathere are more adults than
adolescents. As for the artisthe is preoccupied with problems
that are so utterly unlike those of the ordinary adult man-problems
of pure aesthetics which don't so much as present
themselves to people like myself--that a description of his
mental processes is as boring to the ordinary reader as a piece
of pure mathematics. A serious book about artists regarded as
artists is unreadable; and a book about artists regarded as
lovershusbandsdipsomaniacsheroesand the like is really
not worth writing again. Jean-Christophe is the stock artist of
literaturejust as Professor Radium of "Comic Cuts" is its stock
man of science."
'I'm sorry to hear I'm as uninteresting as all that said
Not at allmy dear Gombauld Mr. Scogan hastened to explain.
As a lover or a dipsomaniacI've no doubt of your being a most
fascinating specimen. But as a combiner of formsyou must
honestly admit ityou're a bore."
I entirely disagree with you,exclaimed Mary. She was somehow
always out of breath when she talked. And her speech was
punctuated by little gasps. "I've known a great many artists
and I've always found their mentality very interesting.
Especially in Paris. Tschuplitskifor example--I saw a great
deal of Tschuplitski in Paris this spring..."
Ah, but then you're an exception, Mary, you're an exception,
said Mr. Scogan. "You are a femme superieure."
A flush of pleasure turned Mary's face into a harvest moon.
Denis woke up next morning to find the sun shiningthe sky
serene. He decided to wear white flannel trousers--white flannel
trousers and a black jacketwith a silk shirt and his new peachcoloured
tie. And what shoes? White was the obvious choicebut
there was something rather pleasing about the notion of black
patent leather. He lay in bed for several minutes considering
Before he went down--patent leather was his final choice--he
looked at himself critically in the glass. His hair might have
been more goldenhe reflected. As it wasits yellowness had
the hint of a greenish tinge in it. But his forehead was good.
His forehead made up in height what his chin lacked in
prominence. His nose might have been longerbut it would pass.
His eyes might have been blue and not green. But his coat was
very well cut anddiscreetly paddedmade him seem robuster than
he actually was. His legsin their white casingwere long and
elegant. Satisfiedhe descended the stairs. Most of the party
had already finished their breakfast. He found himself alone
I hope you slept well,he said.
Yes, isn't it lovely?Jenny repliedgiving two rapid little
nods. "But we had such awful thunderstorms last week."
Parallel straight linesDenis reflectedmeet only at infinity.
He might talk for ever of care-charmer sleep and she of
meteorology till the end of time. Did one ever establish contact
with anyone? We are all parallel straight lines. Jenny was only
a little more parallel than most.
They are very alarming, these thunderstorms,he saidhelping
himself to porridge. "Don't you think so? Or are you above
No. I always go to bed in a storm. One is so much safer lying
Because,said Jennymaking a descriptive gesturebecause
lightning goes downwards and not flat ways. When you're lying
down you're out of the current.
That's very ingenious.
There was a silence. Denis finished his porridge and helped
himself to bacon. For lack of anything better to sayand
because Mr. Scogan's absurd phrase was for some reason running in
his headhe turned to Jenny and asked:
Do you consider yourself a femme superieure?He had to repeat
the question several times before Jenny got the hang of it.
No,she saidrather indignantlywhen at last she heard what
Denis was saying. "Certainly not. Has anyone been suggesting
that I am?"
No,said Denis. "Mr. Scogan told Mary she was one."
Did he?Jenny lowered her voice. "Shall I tell you what I
think of that man? I think he's slightly sinister."
Having made this pronouncementshe entered the ivory tower of
her deafness and closed the door. Denis could not induce her to
say anything morecould not induce her even to listen. She just
smiled at himsmiled and occasionally nodded.
Denis went out on to the terrace to smoke his after-breakfast
pipe and to read his morning paper. An hour laterwhen Anne
came downshe found him still reading. By this time he had got
to the Court Circular and the Forthcoming Weddings. He got up to
meet her as she approacheda Hamadryad in white muslinacross
Why, Denis,she exclaimedyou look perfectly sweet in your
Denis was dreadfully taken aback. There was no possible retort.
You speak as though I were a child in a new frock,he said
with a show of irritation.
But that's how I feel about you, Denis dear.
Then you oughtn't to.
But I can't help it. I'm so much older than you.
I like that,he said. "Four years older."
And if you do look perfectly sweet in your white trousers, why
shouldn't I say so? And why did you put them on, if you didn't
think you were going to look sweet in them?
Let's go into the garden,said Denis. He was put out; the
conversation had taken such a preposterous and unexpected turn.
He had planned a very different openingin which he was to lead
off withYou look adorable this morning,or something of the
kindand she was to answerDo I?and then there was to be a
pregnant silence. And now she had got in first with the
trousers. It was provoking; his pride was hurt.
That part of the garden that sloped down from the foot of the
terrace to the pool had a beauty which did not depend on colour
so much as on forms. It was as beautiful by moonlight as in the
sun. The silver of waterthe dark shapes of yew and ilex trees
remainedat all hours and seasonsthe dominant features of the
scene. It was a landscape in black and white. For colour there
was the flower-garden; it lay to one side of the poolseparated
from it by a huge Babylonian wall of yews. You passed through a
tunnel in the hedgeyou opened a wicket in a walland you found
yourselfstartlingly and suddenlyin the world of colour. The
July borders blazed and flared under the sun. Within its high
brick walls the garden was like a great tank of warmth and
perfume and colour.
Denis held open the little iron gate for his companion. "It's
like passing from a cloister into an Oriental palace he said,
and took a deep breath of the warm, flower-scented air. 'In
fragrant volleys they let fly...' How does it go?
'Well shot, ye firemen! Oh how sweet
And round your equal fires do meet;
Whose shrill report no ear can tell,
But echoes to the eye and smell...'
You have a bad habit of quoting,said Anne. "As I never know
the context or authorI find it humiliating."
Denis apologized. "It's the fault of one's education. Things
somehow seem more real and vivid when one can apply somebody
else's ready-made phrase about them. And then there are lots of
lovely names and words--MonophysiteIamblichusPomponazzi; you
bring them out triumphantlyand feel you've clinched the
argument with the mere magical sound of them. That's what comes
of the higher education."
You may regret your education,said Anne; "I'm ashamed of my
lack of it. Look at those sunflowers! Aren't they magnificent?"
Dark faces and golden crowns--they're kings of Ethiopia. And I
like the way the tits cling to the flowers and pick out the
seeds, while the other loutish birds, grubbing dirtily for their
food, look up in envy from the ground. Do they look up in envy?
That's the literary touch, I'm afraid. Education again. It
always comes back to that.He was silent.
Anne had sat down on a bench that stood in the shade of an old
apple tree. "I'm listening she said.
He did not sit down, but walked backwards and forwards in front
of the bench, gesticulating a little as he talked. Books he
said--books. One reads so manyand one sees so few people and
so little of the world. Great thick books about the universe and
the mind and ethics. You've no idea how many there are. I must
have read twenty or thirty tons of them in the last five years.
Twenty tons of ratiocination. Weighted with thatone's pushed
out into the world."
He went on walking up and down. His voice rosefellwas silent
a momentand then talked on. He moved his handssometimes he
waved his arms. Anne looked and listened quietlyas though she
were at a lecture. He was a nice boyand to-day he looked
One entered the worldDenis pursuedhaving ready-made ideas
about everything. One had a philosophy and tried to make life
fit into it. One should have lived first and then made one's
philosophy to fit life...Lifefactsthings were horribly
complicated; ideaseven the most difficult of themdeceptively
simple. In the world of ideas everything was clear; in life all
was obscureembroiled. Was it surprising that one was
miserablehorribly unhappy? Denis came to a halt in front of
the benchand as he asked this last question he stretched out
his arms and stood for an instant in an attitude of crucifixion
then let them fall again to his sides.
My poor Denis!Anne was touched. He was really too pathetic
as he stood there in front of her in his white flannel trousers.
But does one suffer about these things? It seems very
You're like Scogan,cried Denis bitterly. "You regard me as a
specimen for an anthropologist. WellI suppose I am."
No, no,she protestedand drew in her skirt with a gesture
that indicated that he was to sit down beside her. He sat down.
Why can't you just take things for granted and as they come?
she asked. "It's so much simpler."
Of course it is,said Denis. "But it's a lesson to be learnt
gradually. There are the twenty tons of ratiocination to be got
rid of first."
I've always taken things as they come,said Anne. "It seems so
obvious. One enjoys the pleasant thingsavoids the nasty ones.
There's nothing more to be said."
Nothing--for you. But, then, you were born a pagan; I am trying
laboriously to make myself one. I can take nothing for granted,
I can enjoy nothing as it comes along. Beauty, pleasure, art,
women--I have to invent an excuse, a justification for everything
that's delightful. Otherwise I can't enjoy it with an easy
conscience. I make up a little story about beauty and pretend
that it has something to do with truth and goodness. I have to
say that art is the process by which one reconstructs the divine
reality out of chaos. Pleasure is one of the mystical roads to
union with the infinite--the ecstasies of drinking, dancing,
love-making. As for women, I am perpetually assuring myself that
they're the broad highway to divinity. And to think that I'm
only just beginning to see through the silliness of the whole
thing! It's incredible to me that anyone should have escaped
It's still more incredible to me,said Annethat anyone
should have been a victim to them. I should like to see myself
believing that men are the highway to divinity.The amused
malice of her smile planted two little folds on either side of
her mouthand through their half-closed lids her eyes shone with
laughter. "What you needDenisis a nice plump young wifea
fixed incomeand a little congenial but regular work."
What I need is you.That was what he ought to have retorted
that was what he wanted passionately to say. He could not say
it. His desire fought against his shyness. "What I need is
you." Mentally he shouted the wordsbut not a sound issued from
his lips. He looked at her despairingly. Couldn't she see what
was going on inside him? Couldn't she understand? "What I need
is you." He would say ithe would--he would.
I think I shall go and bathe,said Anne. "It's so hot." The
opportunity had passed.
Mr. Wimbush had taken them to see the sights of the Home Farm
and now they were standingall six of them--Henry WimbushMr.
ScoganDenisGombauldAnneand Mary--by the low wall of the
piggerylooking into one of the styes.
This is a good sow,said Henry Wimbush. "She had a litter of
Fourteen?Mary echoed incredulously. She turned astonished
blue eyes towards Mr. Wimbushthen let them fall onto the
seething mass of elan vital that fermented in the sty.
An immense sow reposed on her side in the middle of the pen. Her
roundblack bellyfringed with a double line of dugspresented
itself to the assault of an army of smallbrownish-black swine.
With a frantic greed they tugged at their mother's flank. The
old sow stirred sometimes uneasily or uttered a little grunt of
pain. One small pigthe runtthe weakling of the litterhad
been unable to secure a place at the banquet. Squealing shrilly
he ran backwards and forwardstrying to push in among his
stronger brothers or even to climb over their tight little black
backs towards the maternal reservoir.
There ARE fourteen,said Mary. "You're quite right. I
counted. It's extraordinary."
The sow next door,Mr. Wimbush went onhas done very badly.
She only had five in her litter. I shall give her another
chance. If she does no better next time, I shall fat her up and
kill her. There's the boar,he pointed towards a farther sty.
Fine old beast, isn't he? But he's getting past his prime.
He'll have to go too.
How cruel!Anne exclaimed.
But how practical, how eminently realistic!said Mr. Scogan.
In this farm we have a model of sound paternal government. Make
them breed, make them work, and when they're past working or
breeding or begetting, slaughter them.
Farming seems to be mostly indecency and cruelty,said Anne.
With the ferrule of his walking-stick Denis began to scratch the
boar's long bristly back. The animal moved a little so as to
bring himself within easier range of the instrument that evoked
in him such delicious sensations; then he stood stock still
softly grunting his contentment. The mud of years flaked off his
sides in a grey powdery scurf.
What a pleasure it is,said Denisto do somebody a kindness.
I believe I enjoy scratching this pig quite as much as he enjoys
being scratched. If only one could always be kind with so little
expense or trouble...
A gate slammed; there was a sound of heavy footsteps.
Morning, Rowley!said Henry Wimbush.
Morning, sir,old Rowley answered. He was the most venerable
of the labourers on the farm--a tallsolid manstill unbent
with grey side-whiskers and a steepdignified profile. Grave
weighty in his mannersplendidly respectableRowley had the air
of a great English statesman of the mid-nineteenth century. He
halted on the outskirts of the groupand for a moment they all
looked at the pigs in a silence that was only broken by the sound
of grunting or the squelch of a sharp hoof in the mire. Rowley
turned at lastslowly and ponderously and noblyas he did
everythingand addressed himself to Henry Wimbush.
Look at them, sir,he saidwith a motion of his hand towards
the wallowing swine. "Rightly is they called pigs."
Rightly indeed,Mr. Wimbush agreed.
I am abashed by that man,said Mr. Scoganas old Rowley
plodded off slowly and with dignity. "What wisdomwhat
judgmentwhat a sense of values! 'Rightly are they called
swine.' Yes. And I wish I couldwith as much justicesay
'Rightly are we called men.'"
They walked on towards the cowsheds and the stables of the carthorses.
Five white geesetaking the air this fine morningeven
as they were doingmet them in the way. They hesitated
cackled; thenconverting their lifted necks into rigid
horizontal snakesthey rushed off in disorderhissing horribly
as they went. Red calves paddled in the dung and mud of a
spacious yard. In another enclosure stood the bullmassive as a
locomotive. He was a very calm bulland his face wore an
expression of melancholy stupidity. He gazed with reddish-brown
eyes at his visitorschewed thoughtfully at the tangible
memories of an earlier mealswallowed and regurgitatedchewed
again. His tail lashed savagely from side to side; it seemed to
have nothing to do with his impassive bulk. Between his short
horns was a triangle of red curlsshort and dense.
Splendid animal,said Henry Wimbush. "Pedigree stock. But
he's getting a little oldlike the boar."
Fat him up and slaughter him,Mr. Scogan pronouncedwith a
delicate old-maidish precision of utterance.
Couldn't you give the animals a little holiday from producing
children?asked Anne. "I'm so sorry for the poor things."
Mr. Wimbush shook his head. "Personally he said, I rather
like seeing fourteen pigs grow where only one grew before. The
spectacle of so much crude life is refreshing."
I'm glad to hear you say so,Gombauld broke in warmly. "Lots
of life: that's what we want. I like pullulation; everything
ought to increase and multiply as hard as it can."
Gombauld grew lyrical. Everybody ought to have children--Anne
ought to have themMary ought to have them--dozens and dozens.
He emphasised his point by thumping with his walking-stick on the
bull's leather flanks. Mr. Scogan ought to pass on his
intelligence to little Scogansand Denis to little Denises. The
bull turned his head to see what was happeningregarded the
drumming stick for several secondsthen turned back again
satisfiedit seemedthat nothing was happening. Sterility was
odiousunnaturala sin against life. Lifelifeand still
more life. The ribs of the placid bull resounded.
Standing with his back against the farmyard pumpa little apart
Denis examined the group. Gombauldpassionate and vivacious
was its centre. The others stood roundlistening--Henry
Wimbushcalm and polite beneath his grey bowler; Marywith
parted lips and eyes that shone with the indignation of a
convinced birth-controller. Anne looked on through half-shut
eyessmiling; and beside her stood Mr. Scoganbolt upright in
an attitude of metallic rigidity that contrasted strangely with
that fluid grace of hers which even in stillness suggested a soft
Gombauld ceased talkingand Maryflushed and outragedopened
her mouth to refute him. But she was too slow. Before she could
utter a word Mr. Scogan's fluty voice had pronounced the opening
phrases of a discourse. There was no hope of getting so much as
a word in edgeways; Mary had perforce to resign herself.
Even your eloquence, my dear Gombauld,he was saying--"even
your eloquence must prove inadequate to reconvert the world to a
belief in the delights of mere multiplication. With the
gramophonethe cinemaand the automatic pistolthe goddess of
Applied Science has presented the world with another giftmore
precious even than these--the means of dissociating love from
propagation. Erosfor those who wish itis now an entirely
free god; his deplorable associations with Lucina may be broken
at will. In the course of the next few centurieswho knows? the
world may see a more complete severance. I look forward to it
optimistically. Where the great Erasmus Darwin and Miss Anna
SewardSwan of Lichfieldexperimented--andfor all their
scientific ardourfailed--our descendants will experiment and
succeed. An impersonal generation will take the place of
Nature's hideous system. In vast state incubatorsrows upon
rows of gravid bottles will supply the world with the population
it requires. The family system will disappear; societysapped
at its very basewill have to find new foundations; and Eros
beautifully and irresponsibly freewill flit like a gay
butterfly from flower to flower through a sunlit world."
It sounds lovely,said Anne.
The distant future always does.
Mary's china blue eyesmore serious and more astonished than
everwere fixed on Mr. Scogan. "Bottles?" she said. "Do you
really think so? Bottles..."
Mr. Barbecue-Smith arrived in time for tea on Saturday afternoon.
He was a short and corpulent manwith a very large head and no
neck. In his earlier middle age he had been distressed by this
absence of neckbut was comforted by reading in Balzac's "Louis
Lambert" that all the world's great men have been marked by the
same peculiarityand for a simple and obvious reason: Greatness
is nothing more nor less than the harmonious functioning of the
faculties of the head and heart; the shorter the neckthe more
closely these two organs approach one another; argal...It was
Mr. Barbecue-Smith belonged to the old school of journalists. He
sported a leonine head with a greyish-black mane of oddly
unappetising hair brushed back from a broad but low forehead.
And somehow he always seemed slightlyever so slightlysoiled.
In younger days he had gaily called himself a Bohemian. He did
so no longer. He was a teacher nowa kind of prophet. Some of
his books of comfort and spiritual teaching were in their hundred
and twentieth thousand.
Priscilla received him with every mark of esteem. He had never
been to Crome before; she showed him round the house. Mr.
Barbecue-Smith was full of admiration.
So quaint, so old-world,he kept repeating. He had a rich
rather unctuous voice.
Priscilla praised his latest book. "SplendidI thought it was
she said in her large, jolly way.
I'm happy to think you found it a comfort said Mr. Barbecue-
Ohtremendously! And the bit about the Lotus Pool--I thought
that so beautiful."
I knew you would like that. It came to me, you know, from
without.He waved his hand to indicate the astral world.
They went out into the garden for tea. Mr. Barbecue-Smith was
Mr. Stone is a writer too,said Priscillaas she introduced
Indeed!Mr. Barbecue-Smith smiled benignlyandlooking up at
Denis with an expression of Olympian condescensionAnd what
sort of things do you write?
Denis was furiousandto make matters worsehe felt himself
blushing hotly. Had Priscilla no sense of proportion? She was
putting them in the same category--Barbecue-Smith and himself.
They were both writersthey both used pen and ink. To Mr.
Barbecue-Smith's question he answeredOh, nothing much,
nothing,and looked away.
Mr. Stone is one of our younger poets.It was Anne's voice.
He scowled at herand she smiled back exasperatingly.
Excellent, excellent,said Mr. Barbecue-Smithand he squeezed
Denis's arm encouragingly. "The Bard's is a noble calling."
As soon as tea was over Mr. Barbecue-Smith excused himself; he
had to do some writing before dinner. Priscilla quite
understood. The prophet retired to his chamber.
Mr. Barbecue-Smith came down to the drawing-room at ten to eight.
He was in a good humourandas he descended the stairshe
smiled to himself and rubbed his large white hands together. In
the drawing-room someone was playing softly and ramblingly on the
piano. He wondered who it could be. One of the young ladies
perhaps. But noit was only Deniswho got up hurriedly and
with some embarrassment as he came into the room.
Do go on, do go on,said Mr. Barbecue-Smith. "I am very fond
Then I couldn't possibly go on,Denis replied. "I only make
There was a silence. Mr. Barbecue-Smith stood with his back to
the hearthwarming himself at the memory of last winter's fires.
He could not control his interior satisfactionbut still went on
smiling to himself. At last he turned to Denis.
You write,he askeddon't you?
Well, yes--a little, you know.
How many words do you find you can write in an hour?
I don't think I've ever counted.
Oh, you ought to, you ought to. It's most important.
Denis exercised his memory. "When I'm in good form he said, I
fancy I do a twelve-hundred-word review in about four hours. But
sometimes it takes me much longer."
Mr. Barbecue-Smith nodded. "Yesthree hundred words an hour at
your best." He walked out into the middle of the roomturned
round on his heelsand confronted Denis again. "Guess how many
words I wrote this evening between five and half-past seven."
I can't imagine.
No, but you must guess. Between five and half-past seven-that's
two and a half hours.
Twelve hundred words,Denis hazarded.
No, no, no.Mr. Barbecue-Smith's expanded face shone with
gaiety. "Try again."
I give it up,said Denis. He found he couldn't summon up much
interest in Mr. Barbecue-Smith's writing.
Well, I'll tell you. Three thousand eight hundred.
Denis opened his eyes. "You must get a lot done in a day he
Mr. Barbecue-Smith suddenly became extremely confidential. He
pulled up a stool to the side of Denis's arm-chair, sat down in
it, and began to talk softly and rapidly.
Listen to me he said, laying his hand on Denis's sleeve. You
want to make your living by writing; you're youngyou're
inexperienced. Let me give you a little sound advice."
What was the fellow going to do? Denis wondered: give him an
introduction to the editor of "John o' London's Weekly"or tell
him where he could sell a light middle for seven guineas? Mr.
Barbecue-Smith patted his arm several times and went on.
The secret of writing,he saidbreathing it into the young
man's ear--"the secret of writing is Inspiration."
Denis looked at him in astonishment.
Inspiration...Mr. Barbecue-Smith repeated.
You mean the native wood-note business?
Mr. Barbecue-Smith nodded.
Oh, then I entirely agree with you,said Denis. "But what if
one hasn't got Inspiration?"
That was precisely the question I was waiting for,said Mr.
Barbecue-Smith. "You ask me what one should do if one hasn't got
Inspiration. I answer: you have Inspiration; everyone has
Inspiration. It's simply a question of getting it to function."
The clock struck eight. There was no sign of any of the other
guests; everybody was always late at Crome. Mr. Barbecue-Smith
That's my secret,he said. "I give it you freely." (Denis
made a suitably grateful murmur and grimace.) "I'll help you to
find your Inspirationbecause I don't like to see a nicesteady
young man like you exhausting his vitality and wasting the best
years of his life in a grinding intellectual labour that could be
completely obviated by Inspiration. I did it myselfso I know
what it's like. Up till the time I was thirty-eight I was a
writer like you--a writer without Inspiration. All I wrote I
squeezed out of myself by sheer hard work. Whyin those days I
was never able to do more than six-fifty words an hourand
what's moreI often didn't sell what I wrote." He sighed. "We
artists he said parenthetically, we intellectuals aren't much
appreciated here in England." Denis wondered if there was any
methodconsistentof coursewith politenessby which he could
dissociate himself from Mr. Barbecue-Smith's "we." There was
none; and besidesit was too late nowfor Mr. Barbecue-Smith
was once more pursuing the tenor of his discourse.
At thirty-eight I was a poor, struggling, tired, overworked,
unknown journalist. Now, at fifty...He paused modestly and
made a little gesturemoving his fat hands outwardsaway from
one anotherand expanding his fingers as though in
demonstration. He was exhibiting himself. Denis thought of that
advertisement of Nestle's milk--the two cats on the wallunder
the moonone black and thinthe other whitesleekand fat.
Before Inspiration and after.
Inspiration has made the difference,said Mr. Barbecue-Smith
solemnly. "It came quite suddenly--like a gentle dew from
heaven." He lifted his hand and let it fall back on to his knee
to indicate the descent of the dew. "It was one evening. I was
writing my first little book about the Conduct of Life--'Humble
Heroisms'. You may have read it; it has been a comfort--at least
I hope and think so--a comfort to many thousands. I was in the
middle of the second chapterand I was stuck. Fatigue
overwork--I had only written a hundred words in the last hour
and I could get no further. I sat biting the end of my pen and
looking at the electric lightwhich hung above my tablea
little above and in front of me." He indicated the position of
the lamp with elaborate care. "Have you ever looked at a bright
light intently for a long time?" he askedturning to Denis.
Denis didn't think he had. "You can hypnotise yourself that
way Mr. Barbecue-Smith went on.
The gong sounded in a terrific crescendo from the hall. Still no
sign of the others. Denis was horribly hungry.
That's what happened to me said Mr. Barbecue-Smith. I was
hypnotised. I lost consciousness like that." He snapped his
fingers. "When I came toI found that it was past midnightand
I had written four thousand words. Four thousand he repeated,
opening his mouth very wide on the ou" of thousand.
Inspiration had come to me.
What a very extraordinary thing,said Denis.
I was afraid of it at first. It didn't seem to me natural. I
didn't feel, somehow, that it was quite right, quite fair, I
might almost say, to produce a literary composition
unconsciously. Besides, I was afraid I might have written
And had you written nonsense?Denis asked.
Certainly not,Mr. Barbecue-Smith repliedwith a trace of
annoyance. "Certainly not. It was admirable. Just a few
spelling mistakes and slipssuch as there generally are in
automatic writing. But the stylethe thought--all the
essentials were admirable. After thatInspiration came to me
regularly. I wrote the whole of 'Humble Heroisms' like that. It
was a great successand so has everything been that I have
written since." He leaned forward and jabbed at Denis with his
finger. "That's my secret he said, and that's how you could
write tooif you tried--without effortfluentlywell."
But how?asked Denistrying not to show how deeply he had been
insulted by that final "well."
By cultivating your Inspiration, by getting into touch with your
Subconscious. Have you ever read my little book, 'Pipe-Lines to
Denis had to confess that that waspreciselyone of the few
perhaps the only oneof Mr. Barbecue-Smith's works he had not
Never mind, never mind,said Mr. Barbecue-Smith. "It's just a
little book about the connection of the Subconscious with the
Infinite. Get into touch with the Subconscious and you are in
touch with the Universe. Inspirationin fact. You follow me?"
Perfectly, perfectly,said Denis. "But don't you find that the
Universe sometimes sends you very irrelevant messages?"
I don't allow it to,Mr. Barbecue-Smith replied. "I canalise
it. I bring it down through pipes to work the turbines of my
Like Niagara,Denis suggested. Some of Mr. Barbecue-Smith's
remarks sounded strangely like quotations--quotations from his
own worksno doubt.
Precisely. Like Niagara. And this is how I do it.He leaned
forwardand with a raised forefinger marked his points as he
made thembeating timeas it wereto his discourse. "Before I
go off into my tranceI concentrate on the subject I wish to be
inspired about. Let us say I am writing about the humble
heroisms; for ten minutes before I go into the trance I think of
nothing but orphans supporting their little brothers and sisters
of dull work well and patiently doneand I focus my mind on such
great philosophical truths as the purification and uplifting of
the soul by sufferingand the alchemical transformation of
leaden evil into golden good." (Denis again hung up his little
festoon of quotation marks.) "Then I pop off. Two or three
hours later I wake up againand find that inspiration has done
its work. Thousands of wordscomfortinguplifting wordslie
before me. I type them out neatly on my machine and they are
ready for the printer."
It all sounds wonderfully simple,said Denis.
It is. All the great and splendid and divine things of life are
wonderfully simple.(Quotation marks again.) "When I have to
do my aphorisms Mr. Barbecue-Smith continued, I prelude my
trance by turning over the pages of any Dictionary of Quotations
or Shakespeare Calendar that comes to hand. That sets the key
so to speak; that ensures that the Universe shall come flowing
innot in a continuous rushbut in aphorismic drops. You see
Denis nodded. Mr. Barbecue-Smith put his hand in his pocket and
pulled out a notebook. "I did a few in the train to-day he
said, turning over the pages. Just dropped off into a trance in
the corner of my carriage. I find the train very conducive to
good work. Here they are." He cleared his throat and read:
The Mountain Road may be steep, but the air is pure up there,
and it is from the Summit that one gets the view.
The Things that Really Matter happen in the Heart.
It was curiousDenis reflectedthe way the Infinite sometimes
Seeing is Believing. Yes, but Believing is also Seeing. If I
believe in God, I see God, even in the things that seem to be
Mr. Barbecue-Smith looked up from his notebook. "That last one
he said, is particularly subtle and beautifuldon't you think?
Without Inspiration I could never have hit on that." He re-read
the apophthegm with a slower and more solemn utterance.
Straight from the Infinite,he commented reflectivelythen
addressed himself to the next aphorism.
The flame of a candle gives Light, but it also Burns.
Puzzled wrinkles appeared on Mr. Barbecue-Smith's forehead. "I
don't exactly know what that means he said. It's very gnomic.
One could apply itof course to the Higher Education-illuminating
but provoking the Lower Classes to discontent and
revolution. YesI suppose that's what it is. But it's gnomic
it's gnomic." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. The gong sounded
againclamorouslyit seemed imploringly: dinner was growing
cold. It roused Mr. Barbecue-Smith from meditation. He turned
You understand me now when I advise you to cultivate your
Inspiration. Let your Subconscious work for you; turn on the
Niagara of the Infinite.
There was the sound of feet on the stairs. Mr. Barbecue-Smith
got uplaid his hand for an instant on Denis's shoulderand
No more now. Another time. And remember, I rely absolutely on
your discretion in this matter. There are intimate, sacred
things that one doesn't wish to be generally known.
Of course,said Denis. "I quite understand."
At Crome all the beds were ancient hereditary pieces of
furniture. Huge bedslike four-masted shipswith furled sails
of shining coloured stuff. Beds carved and inlaidbeds painted
and gilded. Beds of walnut and oakof rare exotic woods. Beds
of every date and fashion from the time of Sir Ferdinandowho
built the houseto the time of his namesake in the late
eighteenth centurythe last of the familybut all of them
The finest of all was now Anne's bed. Sir Juliusson to Sir
Ferdinandohad had it made in Venice against his wife's first
lying-in. Early seicento Venice had expended all its extravagant
art in the making of it. The body of the bed was like a great
square sarcophagus. Clustering roses were carved in high relief
on its wooden panelsand luscious putti wallowed among the
roses. On the black ground-work of the panels the carved reliefs
were gilded and burnished. The golden roses twined in spirals up
the four pillar-like postsand cherubsseated at the top of
each columnsupported a wooden canopy fretted with the same
Anne was reading in bed. Two candles stood on the little table
beside herin their rich light her faceher bare arm and
shoulder took on warm hues and a sort of peach-like quality of
surface. Here and there in the canopy above her carved golden
petals shone brightly among profound shadowsand the soft light
falling on the sculptured panel of the bedbroke restlessly
among the intricate roseslingered in a broad caress on the
blown cheeksthe dimpled belliesthe tightabsurd little
posteriors of the sprawling putti.
There was a discreet tap at the door. She looked up. "Come in
come in." A faceround and childishwithin its sleek bell of
golden hairpeered round the opening door. More childishlooking
stilla suit of mauve pyjamas made its entrance.
It was Mary. "I thought I'd just look in for a moment to say
good-night she said, and sat down on the edge of the bed.
Anne closed her book. That was very sweet of you."
What are you reading?She looked at the book. "Rather secondrate
isn't it?" The tone in which Mary pronounced the word
second-rateimplied an almost infinite denigration. She was
accustomed in London to associate only with first-rate people who
liked first-rate thingsand she knew that there were veryvery
few first-rate things in the worldand that those were mostly
Well, I'm afraid I like it,said Anne. There was nothing more
to be said. The silence that followed was a rather uncomfortable
one. Mary fiddled uneasily with the bottom button of her pyjama
jacket. Leaning back on her mound of heaped-up pillowsAnne
waited and wondered what was coming.
I'm so awfully afraid of repressions,said Mary at last
bursting suddenly and surprisingly into speech. She pronounced
the words on the tail-end of an expiring breathand had to gasp
for new air almost before the phrase was finished.
What's there to be depressed about?
I said repressions, not depressions.
Oh, repressions; I see,said Anne. "But repressions of what?"
Mary had to explain. "The natural instincts of sex..." she began
didactically. But Anne cut her short.
Yes, yes. Perfectly. I understand. Repressions! old maids and
all the rest. But what about them?
That's just it,said Mary. "I'm afraid of them. It's always
dangerous to repress one's instincts. I'm beginning to detect in
myself symptoms like the ones you read of in the books. I
constantly dream that I'm falling down wells; and sometimes I
even dream that I'm climbing up ladders. It's most disquieting.
The symptoms are only too clear."
One may become a nymphomaniac of one's not careful. You've no
idea how serious these repressions are if you don't get rid of
them in time.
It sounds too awful,said Anne. "But I don't see that I can do
anything to help you."
I thought I'd just like to talk it over with you.
Why, of course; I'm only too happy, Mary darling.
Mary coughed and drew a deep breath. "I presume she began
sententiously, I presume we may take for granted that an
intelligent young woman of twenty-three who has lived in
civilised society in the twentieth century has no prejudices."
Well, I confess I still have a few.
But not about repressions.
No, not many about repressions; that's true.
Or, rather, about getting rid of repressions.
So much for our fundamental postulate,said Mary. Solemnity
was expressed in every feature of her round young faceradiated
from her large blue eyes. "We come next to the desirability of
possessing experience. I hope we are agreed that knowledge is
desirable and that ignorance is undesirable."
Obedient as one of those complaisant disciples from whom Socrates
could get whatever answer he choseAnne gave her assent to this
And we are equally agreed, I hope, that marriage is what it is.
Good!said Mary. "And repressions being what they are..."
There would therefore seem to be only one conclusion.
But I knew that,Anne exclaimedbefore you began.
Yes, but now it's been proved,said Mary. "One must do things
logically. The question is now..."
But where does the question come in? You've reached your only
possible conclusion--logically, which is more than I could have
done. All that remains is to impart the information to someone
you like--someone you like really rather a lot, someone you're in
love with, if I may express myself so baldly.
But that's just where the question comes in,Mary exclaimed.
I'm not in love with anybody.
Then, if I were you, I should wait till you are.
But I can't go on dreaming night after night that I'm falling
down a well. It's too dangerous.
Well, if it really is TOO dangerous, then of course you must do
something about it; you must find somebody else.
But who?A thoughtful frown puckered Mary's brow. "It must be
somebody intelligentsomebody with intellectual interests that I
can share. And it must be somebody with a proper respect for
womensomebody who's prepared to talk seriously about his work
and his ideas and about my work and my ideas. It isn'tas you
seeat all easy to find the right person."
Wellsaid Annethere are three unattached and intelligent men
in the house at the present time. There's Mr. Scogan, to begin
with; but perhaps he's rather too much of a genuine antique. And
there are Gombauld and Denis. Shall we say that the choice is
limited to the last two?
Mary nodded. "I think we had better she said, and then
hesitated, with a certain air of embarrassment.
What is it?"
I was wondering,said Marywith a gaspwhether they really
were unattached. I thought that perhaps you might...you
It was very nice of you to think of me, Mary darling,said
Annesmiling the tight cat's smile. "But as far as I'm
concernedthey are both entirely unattached."
I'm very glad of that,said Marylooking relieved. "We are
now confronted with the question: Which of the two?"
I can give no advice. It's a matter for your taste.
It's not a matter of my taste,Mary pronouncedbut of their
merits. We must weigh them and consider them carefully and
You must do the weighing yourself,said Anne; there was still
the trace of a smile at the corners of her mouth and round the
half-closed eyes. "I won't run the risk of advising you
Gombauld has more talent,Mary beganbut he is less civilised
than Denis.Mary's pronunciation of "civilised" gave the word a
special and additional significance. She uttered it
meticulouslyin the very front of her mouthhissing delicately
on the opening sibilant. So few people were civilisedand they
like the first-rate works of artwere mostly French.
Civilisation is most important, don't you think?
Anne held up her hand. "I won't advise she said. You must
make the decision."
Gombauld's family,Mary went on reflectivelycomes from
Marseilles. Rather a dangerous heredity, when one thinks of the
Latin attitude towards women. But then, I sometimes wonder
whether Denis is altogether serious-minded, whether he isn't
rather a dilettante. It's very difficult. What do you think?
I'm not listening,said Anne. "I refuse to take any
Mary sighed. "Well she said, I think I had better go to bed
and think about it."
Carefully and dispassionately,said Anne.
At the door Mary turned round. "Good-night she said, and
wondered as she said the words why Anne was smiling in that
curious way. It was probably nothing, she reflected. Anne often
smiled for no apparent reason; it was probably just a habit. I
hope I shan't dream of falling down wells again to-night she
Ladders are worse said Anne.
Mary nodded. Yesladders are much graver."
Breakfast on Sunday morning was an hour later than on week-days
and Priscillawho usually made no public appearance before
luncheonhonoured it by her presence. Dressed in black silk
with a ruby cross as well as her customary string of pearls round
her neckshe presided. An enormous Sunday paper concealed all
but the extreme pinnacle of her coiffure from the outer world.
I see Surrey has won,she saidwith her mouth fullby four
wickets. The sun is in Leo: that would account for it!
Splendid game, cricket,remarked Mr. Barbecue-Smith heartily to
no one in particular; "so thoroughly English."
Jennywho was sitting next to himwoke up suddenly with a
start. "What?" she said. "What?"
So English,repeated Mr. Barbecue-Smith.
Jenny looked at himsurprised. "English? Of course I am."
He was beginning to explainwhen Mrs. Wimbush vailed her Sunday
paperand appeareda squaremauve-powdered face in the midst
of orange splendours. "I see there's a new series of articles on
the next world just beginning she said to Mr. Barbecue-Smith.
This one's called 'Summer Land and Gehenna.'"
Summer Land,echoed Mr. Barbecue-Smithclosing his eyes.
Summer Land. A beautiful name. Beautiful--beautiful.
Mary had taken the seat next to Denis's. After a night of
careful consideration she had decided on Denis. He might have
less talent than Gombauldhe might be a little lacking in
seriousnessbut somehow he was safer.
Are you writing much poetry here in the country?she asked
with a bright gravity.
None,said Denis curtly. "I haven't brought my typewriter."
But do you mean to say you can't write without a typewriter?
Denis shook his head. He hated talking at breakfastand
besideshe wanted to hear what Mr. Scogan was saying at the
other end of the table.
...My scheme for dealing with the Church,Mr. Scogan was
sayingis beautifully simple. At the present time the Anglican
clergy wear their collars the wrong way round. I would compel
them to wear, not only their collars, but all their clothes,
turned back to frantic--coat, waistcoat, trousers, boots--so that
every clergyman should present to the world a smooth facade,
unbroken by stud, button, or lace. The enforcement of such a
livery would act as a wholesome deterrent to those intending to
enter the Church. At the same time it would enormously enhance,
what Archbishop Laud so rightly insisted on, the 'beauty of
holiness' in the few incorrigibles who could not be deterred.
In hell, it seems,said Priscillareading in her Sunday paper
the children amuse themselves by flaying lambs alive.
Ah, but, dear lady, that's only a symbol,exclaimed Mr.
Barbecue-Smitha material symbol of a h-piritual truth. Lambs
Then there are military uniforms,Mr. Scogan went on. "When
scarlet and pipe-clay were abandoned for khakithere were some
who trembled for the future of war. But thenfinding how
elegant the new tunic washow closely it clipped the waisthow
voluptuouslywith the lateral bustles of the pocketsit
exaggerated the hips; when they realized the brilliant
potentialities of breeches and top-bootsthey were reassured.
Abolish these military elegancesstandardise a uniform of sackcloth
and mackintoshyou will very soon find that..."
Is anyone coming to church with me this morning?asked Henry
Wimbush. No one responded. He baited his bare invitation. "I
read the lessonsyou know. And there's Mr. Bodiham. His
sermons are sometimes worth hearing."
Thank you, thank you,said Mr. Barbecue-Smith. "I for one
prefer to worship in the infinite church of Nature. How does our
Shakespeare put it? 'Sermons in booksstones in the running
brooks.'" He waved his arm in a fine gesture towards the window
and even as he did so he became vaguelybut none the less
insistentlynone the less uncomfortably aware that something had
gone wrong with the quotation. Something--what could it be?
Sermons? Stones? Books?
Mr. Bodiham was sitting in his study at the Rectory. The
nineteenth-century Gothic windowsnarrow and pointedadmitted
the light grudgingly; in spite of the brilliant July weatherthe
room was sombre. Brown varnished bookshelves lined the walls
filled with row upon row of those thickheavy theological works
which the second-hand booksellers generally sell by weight. The
mantelpiecethe over-mantela towering structure of spindly
pillars and little shelveswere brown and varnished. The
writing-desk was brown and varnished. So were the chairsso was
the door. A dark red-brown carpet with patterns covered the
floor. Everything was brown in the roomand there was a curious
In the midst of this brown gloom Mr. Bodiham sat at his desk. He
was the man in the Iron Mask. A grey metallic face with iron
cheek-bones and a narrow iron brow; iron foldshard and
unchangingran perpendicularly down his cheeks; his nose was the
iron beak of some thindelicate bird of rapine. He had brown
eyesset in sockets rimmed with iron; round them the skin was
darkas though it had been charred. Dense wiry hair covered his
skull; it had been blackit was turning grey. His ears were
very small and fine. His jawshis chinhis upper lip were
darkiron-darkwhere he had shaved. His voicewhen he spoke
and especially when he raised it in preachingwas harshlike
the grating of iron hinges when a seldom-used door is opened.
It was nearly half-past twelve. He had just come back from
churchhoarse and weary with preaching. He preached with fury
with passionan iron man beating with a flail upon the souls of
his congregation. But the souls of the faithful at Crome were
made of india-rubbersolid rubber; the flail rebounded. They
were used to Mr. Bodiham at Crome. The flail thumped on indiarubber
and as often as not the rubber slept.
That morning he had preachedas he had often preached beforeon
the nature of God. He had tried to make them understand about
Godwhat a fearful thing it was to fall into His hands. God-
they thought of something soft and merciful. They blinded
themselves to facts; still morethey blinded themselves to the
Bible. The passengers on the "Titanic" sang "Nearer my God to
Thee" as the ship was going down. Did they realise what they
were asking to be brought nearer to? A white fire of
righteousnessan angry fire...
When Savonarola preachedmen sobbed and groaned aloud. Nothing
broke the polite silence with which Crome listened to Mr.
Bodiham--only an occasional cough and sometimes the sound of
heavy breathing. In the front pew sat Henry Wimbushcalmwellbred
beautifully dressed. There were times when Mr. Bodiham
wanted to jump down from the pulpit and shake him into life-times
when he would have liked to beat and kill his whole
He sat at his desk dejectedly. Outside the Gothic windows the
earth was warm and marvellously calm. Everything was as it had
always been. And yetand yet...It was nearly four years now
since he had preached that sermon on Matthew xxiv. 7: "For
nation shall rise up against nationand kingdom against kingdom:
and there shall be faminesand pestilencesand earthquakesin
divers places." It was nearly four years. He had had the sermon
printed; it was so terriblyso vitally important that all the
world should know what he had to say. A copy of the little
pamphlet lay on his desk--eight small grey pagesprinted by a
fount of type that had grown bluntlike an old dog's teethby
the endless champing and champing of the press. He opened it and
began to read it yet once again.
'For nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against
kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and
earthquakes, in divers places.'
Nineteen centuries have elapsed since Our Lord gave utterance to
those wordsand not a single one of them has been without wars
plaguesfaminesand earthquakes. Mighty empires have crashed
in ruin to the grounddiseases have unpeopled half the globe
there have been vast natural cataclysms in which thousands have
been overwhelmed by flood and fire and whirlwind. Time and
againin the course of these nineteen centuriessuch things
have happenedbut they have not brought Christ back to earth.
They were 'signs of the times' inasmuch as they were signs of
God's wrath against the chronic wickedness of mankindbut they
were not signs of the times in connection with the Second Coming.
If earnest Christians have regarded the present war as a true
sign of the Lord's approaching return, it is not merely because
it happens to be a great war involving the lives of millions of
people, not merely because famine is tightening its grip on every
country in Europe, not merely because disease of every kind, from
syphilis to spotted fever, is rife among the warring nations; no,
it is not for these reasons that we regard this war as a true
Sign of the Times, but because in its origin and its progress it
is marked by certain characteristics which seem to connect it
almost beyond a doubt with the predictions in Christian Prophecy
relating to the Second Coming of the Lord.
Let me enumerate the features of the present war which most
clearly suggest that it is a Sign foretelling the near approach
of the Second Advent. Our Lord said that 'this Gospel of the
Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all
nations; and then shall the end come.' Although it would be
presumptuous for us to say what degree of evangelisation will be
regarded by God as sufficientwe may at least confidently hope
that a century of unflagging missionary work has brought the
fulfilment of this condition at any rate near. Truethe larger
number of the world's inhabitants have remained deaf to the
preaching of the true religion; but that does not vitiate the
fact that the Gospel HAS been preached 'for a witness' to all
unbelievers from the Papist to the Zulu. The responsibility for
the continued prevalence of unbelief liesnot with the
preachersbut with those preached to.
Again, it has been generally recognised that 'the drying up of
the waters of the great river Euphrates,' mentioned in the
sixteenth chapter of Revelation, refers to the decay and
extinction of Turkish power, and is a sign of the near
approaching end of the world as we know it. The capture of
Jerusalem and the successes in Mesopotamia are great strides
forward in the destruction of the Ottoman Empire; though it must
be admitted that the Gallipoli episode proved that the Turk still
possesses a 'notable horn' of strength. Historically speaking,
this drying up of Ottoman power has been going on for the past
century; the last two years have witnessed a great acceleration
of the process, and there can be no doubt that complete
desiccation is within sight.
Closely following on the words concerning the drying up of
Euphrates comes the prophecy of Armageddonthat world war with
which the Second Coming is to be so closely associated. Once
begunthe world war can end only with the return of Christand
His coming will be sudden and unexpectedlike that of a thief in
Let us examine the facts. In history, exactly as in St. John's
Gospel, the world war is immediately preceded by the drying up of
Euphrates, or the decay of Turkish power. This fact alone would
be enough to connect the present conflict with the Armageddon of
Revelation and therefore to point to the near approach of the
Second Advent. But further evidence of an even more solid and
convincing nature can be adduced.
Armageddon is brought about by the activities of three unclean
spiritsas it were toadswhich come out of the mouths of the
Dragonthe Beastand the False Prophet. If we can identify
these three powers of evil much light will clearly be thrown on
the whole question.
The Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet can all be
identified in history. Satan, who can only work through human
agency, has used these three powers in the long war against
Christ which has filled the last nineteen centuries with
religious strife. The Dragon, it has been sufficiently
established, is pagan Rome, and the spirit issuing from its mouth
is the spirit of Infidelity. The Beast, alternatively symbolised
as a Woman, is undoubtedly the Papal power, and Popery is the
spirit which it spews forth. There is only one power which
answers to the description of the False Prophet, the wolf in
sheep's clothing, the agent of the devil working in the guise of
the Lamb, and that power is the so-called 'Society of Jesus.'
The spirit that issues from the mouth of the False Prophet is the
spirit of False Morality.
We may assumethenthat the three evil spirits are Infidelity
Poperyand False Morality. Have these three influences been the
real cause of the present conflict? The answer is clear.
The spirit of Infidelity is the very spirit of German criticism.
The Higher Criticism, as it is mockingly called, denies the
possibility of miracles, prediction, and real inspiration, and
attempts to account for the Bible as a natural development.
Slowly but surely, during the last eighty years, the spirit of
Infidelity has been robbing the Germans of their Bible and their
faith, so that Germany is to-day a nation of unbelievers. Higher
Criticism has thus made the war possible; for it would be
absolutely impossible for any Christian nation to wage war as
Germany is waging it.
We come next to the spirit of Poperywhose influence in causing
the war was quite as great as that of Infidelitythough not
perhapsso immediately obvious. Since the Franco-Prussian War
the Papal power has steadily declined in Francewhile in Germany
it has steadily increased. To-day France is an anti-papal state
while Germany possesses a powerful Roman Catholic minority. Two
papally controlled statesGermany and Austriaare at war with
six anti-papal states--EnglandFranceItalyRussiaSerbia
and Portugal. Belgium isof coursea thoroughly papal state
and there can be little doubt that the presence on the Allies'
side of an element so essentially hostile has done much to hamper
the righteous cause and is responsible for our comparative illsuccess.
That the spirit of Popery is behind the war is thus
seen clearly enough in the grouping of the opposed powerswhile
the rebellion in the Roman Catholic parts of Ireland has merely
confirmed a conclusion already obvious to any unbiased mind.
The spirit of False Morality has played as great a part in this
war as the two other evil spirits. The Scrap of Paper incident
is the nearest and most obvious example of Germany's adherence to
this essentially unchristian or Jesuitical morality. The end is
German world-power, and in the attainment of this end, any means
are justifiable. It is the true principle of Jesuitry applied to
The identification is now complete. As was predicted in
Revelationthe three evil spirits have gone forth just as the
decay of the Ottoman power was nearing completionand have
joined together to make the world war. The warning'BeholdI
come as a thief' is therefore meant for the present period--for
you and me and all the world. This war will lead on inevitably
to the war of Armageddonand will only be brought to an end by
the Lord's personal return.
And when He returns, what will happen? Those who are in Christ,
St. John tells us, will be called to the Supper of the Lamb.
Those who are found fighting against Him will be called to the
Supper of the Great God--that grim banquet where they shall not
feast, but be feasted on. 'For,' as St. John says, 'I saw an
angel standing in the sun; and he cried in a loud voice, saying
to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather
yourselves together unto the supper of the Great God; that ye may
eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh
of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on
them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small
and great.' All the enemies of Christ will be slain with the
sword of him that sits upon the horse, 'and all the fowls will be
filled with their flesh.' That is the Supper of the Great God.
It may be soon or it mayas men reckon timebe long; but
sooner or laterinevitablythe Lord will come and deliver the
world from its present troubles. And woe unto them who are
callednot to the Supper of the Lambbut to the Supper of the
Great God. They will realise thenbut too latethat God is a
God of Wrath as well as a God of Forgiveness. The God who sent
bears to devour the mockers of Elishathe God who smote the
Egyptians for their stubborn wickednesswill assuredly smite
them toounless they make haste to repent. But perhaps it is
already too late. Who knows but that to-morrowin a moment
evenChrist may be upon us unawareslike a thief? In a little
whilewho knows? The angel standing in the sun may be summoning
the ravens and vultures from their crannies in the rocks to feed
upon the putrefying flesh of the millions of unrighteous whom
God's wrath has destroyed. Be readythen; the coming of the
Lord is at hand. May it be for all of you an object of hopenot
a moment to look forward to with terror and trembling."
Mr. Bodiham closed the little pamphlet and leaned back in his
chair. The argument was soundabsolutely compelling; and yet-it
was four years since he had preached that sermon; four years
and England was at peacethe sun shonethe people of Crome were
as wicked and indifferent as ever--more soindeedif that were
possible. If only he could understandif the heavens would but
make a sign! But his questionings remained unanswered. Seated
there in his brown varnished chair under the Ruskinian windowhe
could have screamed aloud. He gripped the arms of his chair-gripping
gripping for control. The knuckles of his hands
whitened; he bit his lip. In a few seconds he was able to relax
the tension; he began to rebuke himself for his rebellious
Four yearshe reflected; what were four yearsafter all? It
must inevitably take a long time for Armageddon to ripen to yeast
itself up. The episode of 1914 had been a preliminary skirmish.
And as for the war having come to an end--whythatof course
was illusory. It was still going onsmouldering away in
Silesiain Irelandin Anatolia; the discontent in Egypt and
India was preparing the wayperhapsfor a great extension of
the slaughter among the heathen peoples. The Chinese boycott of
Japanand the rivalries of that country and America in the
Pacificmight be breeding a great new war in the East. The
prospectMr. Bodiham tried to assure himselfwas hopeful; the
realthe genuine Armageddon might soon beginand thenlike a
thief in the night...Butin spite of all his comfortable
reasoninghe remained unhappydissatisfied. Four years ago he
had been so confident; God's intention seemed then so plain. And
now? Nowhe did well to be angry. And now he suffered too.
Sudden and silent as a phantom Mrs. Bodiham appearedgliding
noiselessly across the room. Above her black dress her face was
pale with an opaque whitenessher eyes were pale as water in a
glassand her strawy hair was almost colourless. She held a
large envelope in her hand.
This came for you by the post,she said softly.
The envelope was unsealed. Mechanically Mr. Bodiham tore it
open. It contained a pamphletlarger than his own and more
elegant in appearance. "The House of SheenyClerical
OutfittersBirmingham." He turned over the pages. The
catalogue was tastefully and ecclesiastically printed in antique
characters with illuminated Gothic initials. Red marginal lines
crossed at the corners after the manner of an Oxford picture
frameenclosed each page of typelittle red crosses took the
place of full stops. Mr. Bodiham turned the pages.
Soutane in best black merino. Ready to wear; in all sizes.
Clerical frock coats. From nine guineas. A dressy garment,
tailored by our own experienced ecclesiastical cutters.
Half-tone illustrations represented young curatessome dapper
some Rugbeian and muscularsome with ascetic faces and large
ecstatic eyesdressed in jacketsin frock-coatsin surplices
in clerical evening dressin black Norfolk suitings.
A large assortment of chasubles.
Sheeny's Special Skirt Cassocks. Tied by a string about the
waist...When worn under a surplice presents an appearance
indistinguishable from that of a complete cassock...Recommended
for summer wear and hot climates.
With a gesture of horror and disgust Mr. Bodiham threw the
catalogue into the waste-paper basket. Mrs. Bodiham looked at
him; her paleglaucous eyes reflected his action without
The village,she said in her quiet voicethe village grows
worse and worse every day.
What has happened now?asked Mr. Bodihamfeeling suddenly very
I'll tell you.She pulled up a brown varnished chair and sat
down. In the village of Cromeit seemedSodom and Gomorrah had
come to a second birth.
Denis did not dancebut when ragtime came squirting out of the
pianola in gushes of treacle and hot perfumein jets of Bengal
lightthen things began to dance inside him. Little black
nigger corpuscles jigged and drummed in his arteries. He became
a cage of movementa walking palais de danse. It was very
uncomfortablelike the preliminary symptoms of a disease. He
sat in one of the window-seatsglumly pretending to read.
At the pianolaHenry Wimbushsmoking a long cigar through a
tunnelled pillar of ambertrod out the shattering dance music
with serene patience. Locked togetherGombauld and Anne moved
with a harmoniousness that made them seem a single creaturetwoheaded
and four-legged. Mr. Scogansolemnly buffoonish
shuffled round the room with Mary. Jenny sat in the shadow
behind the pianoscribblingso it seemedin a big red
notebook. In arm-chairs by the fireplacePriscilla and Mr.
Barbecue-Smith discussed higher thingswithoutapparently
being disturbed by the noise on the Lower Plane.
Optimism,said Mr. Barbecue-Smith with a tone of finality
speaking through strains of the "WildWild Women"--"optimism is
the opening out of the soul towards the light; it is an expansion
towards and into Godit is a h-piritual self-unification with
How true!sighed Priscillanodding the baleful splendours of
Pessimism, on the other hand, is the contraction of the soul
towards darkness; it is a focusing of the self upon a point in
the Lower Plane; it is a h-piritual slavery to mere facts; to
gross physical phenomena.
They're making a wild man of me.The refrain sang itself over
in Denis's mind. Yesthey were; damn them! A wild manbut not
wild enough; that was the trouble. Wild inside; raging
writhing--yeswrithingwas the wordwrithing with desire.
But outwardly he was hopelessly tame; outwardly--baabaabaa.
There they wereAnne and Gombauldmoving together as though
they were a single supple creature. The beast with two backs.
And he sat in a cornerpretending to readpretending he didn't
want to dancepretending he rather despised dancing. Why? It
was the baa-baa business again.
Why was he born with a different face? Why WAS he? Gombauld had
a face of brass--one of those oldbrazen rams that thumped
against the walls of cities till they fell. He was born with a
different face--a woolly face.
The music stopped. The single harmonious creature broke in two.
Flusheda little breathlessAnne swayed across the room to the
pianolalaid her hand on Mr. Wimbush's shoulder.
A waltz this time, please, Uncle Henry,she said.
A waltz,he repeatedand turned to the cabinet where the rolls
were kept. He trod off the old roll and trod on the newa slave
at the milluncomplaining and beautifully well bred. "Rum; Tum;
Rum-ti-ti; Tum-ti-ti..." The melody wallowed oozily alonglike
a ship moving forward over a sleek and oily swell. The fourlegged
creaturemore gracefulmore harmonious in its movements
than everslid across the floor. Ohwhy was he born with a
What are you reading?
He looked upstartled. It was Mary. She had broken from the
uncomfortable embrace of Mr. Scoganwho had now seized on Jenny
for his victim.
What are you reading?
I don't know,said Denis truthfully. He looked at the title
page; the book was called "The Stock Breeder's Vade Mecum."
I think you are so sensible to sit and read quietly,said Mary
fixing him with her china eyes. "I don't know why one dances.
It's so boring."
Denis made no reply; she exacerbated him. From the arm-chair by
the fireplace he heard Priscilla's deep voice.
Tell me, Mr Barbecue-Smith--you know all about science, I
know--A deprecating noise came from Mr. Barbecue-Smith's
chair. "This Einstein theory. It seems to upset the whole
starry universe. It makes me so worried about my horoscopes.
Mary renewed her attack. "Which of the contemporary poets do you
like best?" she asked. Denis was filled with fury. Why couldn't
this pest of a girl leave him alone? He wanted to listen to the
horrible musicto watch them dancing--ohwith what graceas
though they had been made for one another!--to savour his misery
in peace. And she came and put him through this absurd
catechism! She was like "Mangold's Questions": "What are the
three diseases of wheat?"--"Which of the contemporary poets do
you like best?"
Blight, Mildew, and Smut,he repliedwith the laconism of one
who is absolutely certain of his own mind.
It was several hours before Denis managed to go to sleep that
night. Vague but agonising miseries possessed his mind. It was
not only Anne who made him miserable; he was wretched about
himselfthe futurelife in generalthe universe. "This
adolescence business he repeated to himself every now and then,
is horribly boring. But the fact that he knew his disease did
not help him to cure it.
After kicking all the clothes off the bedhe got up and sought
relief in composition. He wanted to imprison his nameless misery
in words. At the end of an hournine more or less complete
lines emerged from among the blots and scratchings.
I do not know what I desire
When summer nights are dark and still,
When the wind's many-voiced quire
Sleeps among the muffled branches.
I long and know not what I will:
And not a sound of life or laughter stanches
Time's black and silent flow.
I do not know what I desire,
I do not know.
He read it through aloud; then threw the scribbled sheet into the
waste-paper basket and got into bed again. In a very few minutes
he was asleep.
Mr. Barbecue-Smith was gone. The motor had whirled him away to
the station; a faint smell of burning oil commemorated his recent
departure. A considerable detachment had come into the courtyard
to speed him on his way; and now they were walking backround
the side of the housetowards the terrace and the garden. They
walked in silence; nobody had yet ventured to comment on the
Well?said Anne at lastturning with raised inquiring eyebrows
Well?It was time for someone to begin.
Denis declined the invitation; he passed it on to Mr Scogan.
Mr. Scogan did not respond; he only repeated the question
It was left for Henry Wimbush to make a pronouncement. "A very
agreeable adjunct to the week-end he said. His tone was
They had descended, without paying much attention where they were
going, the steep yew-walk that went down, under the flank of the
terrace, to the pool. The house towered above them, immensely
tall, with the whole height of the built-up terrace added to its
own seventy feet of brick facade. The perpendicular lines of the
three towers soared up, uninterrupted, enhancing the impression
of height until it became overwhelming. They paused at the edge
of the pool to look back.
The man who built this house knew his business said Denis.
He was an architect."
Was he?said Henry Wimbush reflectively. "I doubt it. The
builder of this house was Sir Ferdinando Lapithwho flourished
during the reign of Elizabeth. He inherited the estate from his
fatherto whom it had been granted at the time of the
dissolution of the monasteries; for Crome was originally a
cloister of monks and this swimming-pool their fish-pond. Sir
Ferdinando was not content merely to adapt the old monastic
buildings to his own purposes; but using them as a stone quarry
for his barns and byres and outhouseshe built for himself a
grand new house of brick--the house you see now."
He waved his hand in the direction of the house and was silent.
severeimposingalmost menacingCrome loomed down on them.
The great thing about Crome,said Mr. Scoganseizing the
opportunity to speakis the fact that it's so unmistakably and
aggressively a work of art. It makes no compromise with nature,
but affronts it and rebels against it. It has no likeness to
Shelley's tower, in the 'Epipsychidion,' which, if I remember
'Seems not now a work of human art
But as it were titanicin the heart
Of earth having assumed its form and grown
Out of the mountainfrom the living stone
Lifting itself in caverns light and high.'
Nonothere isn't any nonsense of that sort about Crome. That
the hovels of the peasantry should look as though they had grown
out of the earthto which their inmates are attachedis right
no doubtand suitable. But the house of an intelligent
civilisedand sophisticated man should never seem to have
sprouted from the clods. It should rather be an expression of
his grand unnatural remoteness from the cloddish life. Since the
days of William Morris that's a fact which we in England have
been unable to comprehend. Civilised and sophisticated men have
solemnly played at being peasants. Hence quaintnessarts and
craftscottage architectureand all the rest of it. In the
suburbs of our cities you may seereduplicated in endless rows
studiedly quaint imitations and adaptations of the village hovel.
Povertyignoranceand a limited range of materials produced the
hovelwhich possesses undoubtedlyin suitable surroundingsits
own 'as it were titanic' charm. We now employ our wealthour
technical knowledgeour rich variety of materials for the
purpose of building millions of imitation hovels in totally
unsuitable surroundings. Could imbecility go further?"
Henry Wimbush took up the thread of his interrupted discourse.
All that you say, my dear Scogan,he beganis certainly very
just, very true. But whether Sir Ferdinando shared your views
about architecture or if, indeed, he had any views about
architecture at all, I very much doubt. In building this house,
Sir Ferdinando was, as a matter of fact, preoccupied by only one
thought--the proper placing of his privies. Sanitation was the
one great interest of his life. In 1573 he even published, on
this subject, a little book--now extremely scarce--called,
'Certaine Priuy Counsels' by 'One of Her Maiestie's Most
Honourable Priuy Counsels, F.L. Knight', in which the whole
matter is treated with great learning and elegance. His guiding
principle in arranging the sanitation of a house was to secure
that the greatest possible distance should separate the privy
from the sewage arrangements. Hence it followed inevitably that
the privies were to be placed at the top of the house, being
connected by vertical shafts with pits or channels in the ground.
It must not be thought that Sir Ferdinando was moved only by
material and merely sanitary considerations; for the placing of
his privies in an exalted position he had also certain excellent
spiritual reasons. For, he argues in the third chapter of his
'Priuy Counsels', the necessities of nature are so base and
brutish that in obeying them we are apt to forget that we are the
noblest creatures of the universe. To counteract these degrading
effects he advised that the privy should be in every house the
room nearest to heaven, that it should be well provided with
windows commanding an extensive and noble prospect, and that the
walls of the chamber should be lined with bookshelves containing
all the ripest products of human wisdom, such as the Proverbs of
Solomon, Boethius's 'Consolations of Philosophy', the apophthegms
of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, the 'Enchiridion' of Erasmus,
and all other works, ancient or modern, which testify to the
nobility of the human soul. In Crome he was able to put his
theories into practice. At the top of each of the three
projecting towers he placed a privy. From these a shaft went
down the whole height of the house, that is to say, more than
seventy feet, through the cellars, and into a series of conduits
provided with flowing water tunnelled in the ground on a level
with the base of the raised terrace. These conduits emptied
themselves into the stream several hundred yards below the fishpond.
The total depth of the shafts from the top of the towers
to their subterranean conduits was a hundred and two feet. The
eighteenth century, with its passion for modernisation, swept
away these monuments of sanitary ingenuity. Were it not for
tradition and the explicit account of them left by Sir
Ferdinando, we should be unaware that these noble privies had
ever existed. We should even suppose that Sir Ferdinando built
his house after this strange and splendid model for merely
The contemplation of the glories of the past always evoked in
Henry Wimbush a certain enthusiasm. Under the grey bowler his
face worked and glowed as he spoke. The thought of these
vanished privies moved him profoundly. He ceased to speak; the
light gradually died out of his faceand it became once more the
replica of the gravepolite hat which shaded it. There was a
long silence; the same gently melancholy thoughts seemed to
possess the mind of each of them. Permanencetransience--Sir
Ferdinando and his privies were goneCrome still stood. How
brightly the sun shone and how inevitable was death! The ways of
God were strange; the ways of man were stranger still...
It does one's heart good,exclaimed Mr. Scogan at lastto
hear of these fantastic English aristocrats. To have a theory
about privies and to build an immense and splendid house in order
to put it into practise--it's magnificent, beautiful! I like to
think of them all: the eccentric milords rolling across Europe
in ponderous carriages, bound on extraordinary errands. One is
going to Venice to buy La Bianchi's larynx; he won't get it till
she's dead, of course, but no matter; he's prepared to wait; he
has a collection, pickled in glass bottles, of the throats of
famous opera singers. And the instruments of renowned virtuosi-he
goes in for them too; he will try to bribe Paganini to part
with his little Guarnerio, but he has small hope of success.
Paganini won't sell his fiddle; but perhaps he might sacrifice
one of his guitars. Others are bound on crusades--one to die
miserably among the savage Greeks, another, in his white top hat,
to lead Italians against their oppressors. Others have no
business at all; they are just giving their oddity a continental
airing. At home they cultivate themselves at leisure and with
greater elaboration. Beckford builds towers, Portland digs holes
in the ground, Cavendish, the millionaire, lives in a stable,
eats nothing but mutton, and amuses himself--oh, solely for his
private delectation--by anticipating the electrical discoveries
of half a century. Glorious eccentrics! Every age is enlivened
by their presence. Some day, my dear Denis,said Mr Scogan
turning a beady bright regard in his direction--"some day you
must become their biographer--'The Lives of Queer Men.' What a
subject! I should like to undertake it myself."
Mr. Scogan pausedlooked up once more at the towering house
then murmured the word "Eccentricity two or three times.
Eccentricity...It's the justification of all aristocracies. It
justifies leisured classes and inherited wealth and privilege and
endowments and all the other injustices of that sort. If you're
to do anything reasonable in this worldyou must have a class of
people who are securesafe from public opinionsafe from
povertyleisurednot compelled to waste their time in the
imbecile routines that go by the name of Honest Work. You must
have a class of which the members can think andwithin the
obvious limitsdo what they please. You must have a class in
which people who have eccentricities can indulge them and in
which eccentricity in general will be tolerated and understood.
That's the important thing about an aristocracy. Not only is it
eccentric itself--often grandiosely so; it also tolerates and
even encourages eccentricity in others. The eccentricities of
the artist and the new-fangled thinker don't inspire it with that
fearloathingand disgust which the burgesses instinctively
feel towards them. It is a sort of Red Indian Reservation
planted in the midst of a vast horde of Poor Whites--colonials at
that. Within its boundaries wild men disport themselves--often
it must be admitteda little grosslya little too flamboyantly;
and when kindred spirits are born outside the pale it offers them
some sort of refuge from the hatred which the Poor Whitesen
bons bourgeoislavish on anything that is wild or out of the
ordinary. After the social revolution there will be no
Reservations; the Redskins will be drowned in the great sea of
Poor Whites. What then? Will they suffer you to go on writing
villanellesmy good Denis? Will youunhappy Henrybe allowed
to live in this house of the splendid priviesto continue your
quiet delving in the mines of futile knowledge? Will Anne..."
And you,said Anneinterrupting himwill you be allowed to
go on talking?
You may rest assured,Mr. Scogan repliedthat I shall not. I
shall have some Honest Work to do.
BlightMildewand Smut..." Mary was puzzled and distressed.
Perhaps her ears had played her false. Perhaps what he had
really said wasSquire, Binyon, and Shanks,or "Childe
Blundenand Earp or even AbercrombieDrinkwaterand
Rabindranath Tagore." Perhaps. But then her ears never did play
her false. "BlightMildewand Smut." The impression was
distinct and ineffaceable. "BlightMildew..." she was forced to
the conclusionreluctantlythat Denis had indeed pronounced
those improbable words. He had deliberately repelled her
attempts to open a serious discussion. That was horrible. A man
who would not talk seriously to a woman just because she was a
woman--ohimpossible! Egeria or nothing. Perhaps Gombauld
would be more satisfactory. Truehis meridional heredity was a
little disquieting; but at least he was a serious workerand it
was with his work that she would associate herself. And Denis?
After allwhat WAS Denis? A dilettantean amateur...
Gombauld had annexed for his painting-room a little disused
granary that stood by itself in a green close beyond the farmyard.
It was a square brick building with a peaked roof and
little windows set high up in each of its walls. A ladder of
four rungs led up to the door; for the granary was perched above
the groundand out of reach of the ratson four massive
toadstools of grey stone. Withinthere lingered a faint smell
of dust and cobwebs; and the narrow shaft of sunlight that came
slanting in at every hour of the day through one of the little
windows was always alive with silvery motes. Here Gombauld
workedwith a kind of concentrated ferocityduring six or seven
hours of each day. He was pursuing something newsomething
terrificif only he could catch it.
During the last eight yearsnearly half of which had been spent
in the process of winning the warhe had worked his way
industriously through cubism. Now he had come out on the other
side. He had begun by painting a formalised nature; thenlittle
by littlehe had risen from nature into the world of pure form
till in the end he was painting nothing but his own thoughts
externalised in the abstract geometrical forms of the mind's
devising. He found the process arduous and exhilarating. And
thenquite suddenlyhe grew dissatisfied; he felt himself
cramped and confined within intolerably narrow limitations. He
was humiliated to find how few and crude and uninteresting were
the forms he could invent; the inventions of nature were without
numberinconceivably subtle and elaborate. He had done with
cubism. He was out on the other side. But the cubist discipline
preserved him from falling into excesses of nature worship. He
took from nature its richsubtleelaborate formsbut his aim
was always to work them into a whole that should have the
thrilling simplicity and formality of an idea; to combine
prodigious realism with prodigious simplification. Memories of
Caravaggio's portentous achievements haunted him. Forms of a
breathingliving reality emerged from darknessbuilt themselves
up into compositions as luminously simple and single as a
mathematical idea. He thought of the "Call of Matthew of
Peter Crucified of the Lute players of Magdalen."
the secretthat astonishing ruffianhe had the secret!
Gombauld was after itin hot pursuit. Yesit would be
something terrificif only he could catch it.
For a long time an idea had been stirring and spreading
yeastilyin his mind. He had made a portfolio full of studies
he had drawn a cartoon; and now the idea was taking shape on
canvas. A man fallen from a horse. The huge animala gaunt
white cart-horsefilled the upper half of the picture with its
great body. Its headlowered towards the groundwas in shadow;
the immense bony body was what arrested the eyethe body and the
legswhich came down on either side of the picture like the
pillars of an arch. On the groundbetween the legs of the
towering beastlay the foreshortened figure of a manthe head
in the extreme foregroundthe arms flung wide to right and left.
A whiterelentless light poured down from a point in the right
foreground. The beastthe fallen manwere sharply illuminated;
round thembeyond and behind themwas the night. They were
alone in the darknessa universe in themselves. The horse's
body filled the upper part of the picture; the legsthe great
hoofsfrozen to stillness in the midst of their trampling
limited it on either side. And beneath lay the manhis
foreshortened face at the focal point in the centrehis arms
outstretched towards the sides of the picture. Under the arch of
the horse's bellybetween his legsthe eye looked through into
an intense darkness; belowthe space was closed in by the figure
of the prostrate man. A central gulf of darkness surrounded by
The picture was more than half finished. Gombauld had been at
work all the morning on the figure of the manand now he was
taking a rest--the time to smoke a cigarette. Tilting back his
chair till it touched the wallhe looked thoughtfully at his
canvas. He was pleasedand at the same time he was desolated.
In itselfthe thing was good; he knew it. But that something he
was afterthat something that would be so terrific if only he
could catch it--had he caught it? Would he ever catch it?
Three little taps--rattattat! SurprisedGombauld turned his
eyes towards the door. Nobody ever disturbed him while he was at
work; it was one of the unwritten laws. "Come in!" he called.
The doorwhich was ajarswung openrevealingfrom the waist
upwardsthe form of Mary. She had only dared to mount half-way
up the ladder. If he didn't want herretreat would be easier
and more dignified than if she climbed to the top.
May I come in?she asked.
She skipped up the remaining two rungs and was over the threshold
in an instant. "A letter came for you by the second post she
said. I thought it might be importantso I brought it out to
you." Her eyesher childish face were luminously candid as she
handed him the letter. There had never been a flimsier pretext.
Gombauld looked at the envelope and put it in his pocket
unopened. "Luckily he said, it isn't at all important.
Thanks very much all the same."
There was a silence; Mary felt a little uncomfortable. "May I
have a look at what you've been painting?" she had the courage to
say at last.
Gombauld had only half smoked his cigarette; in any case he
wouldn't begin work again till he had finished. He would give
her the five minutes that separated him from the bitter end.
This is the best place to see it from,he said.
Mary looked at the picture for some time without saying anything.
Indeedshe didn't know what to say; she was taken abackshe was
at a loss. She had expected a cubist masterpieceand here was a
picture of a man and a horsenot only recognisable as suchbut
even aggressively in drawing. Trompe-l'oeil--there was no other
word to describe the delineation of that foreshortened figure
under the trampling feet of the horse. What was she to think
what was she to say? Her orientations were gone. One could
admire representationalism in the Old Masters. Obviously. But
in a modern...? At eighteen she might have done so. But now
after five years of schooling among the best judgesher
instinctive reaction to a contemporary piece of representation
was contempt--an outburst of laughing disparagement. What could
Gombauld be up to? She had felt so safe in admiring his work
before. But now--she didn't know what to think. It was very
There's rather a lot of chiaroscuro, isn't there?she ventured
at lastand inwardly congratulated herself on having found a
critical formula so gentle and at the same time so penetrating.
There is,Gombauld agreed.
Mary was pleased; he accepted her criticism; it was a serious
discussion. She put her head on one side and screwed up her
eyes. "I think it's awfully fine she said. But of course
it's a little too...too...trompe-l'oeil for my taste." She
looked at Gombauldwho made no responsebut continued to smoke
gazing meditatively all the time at his picture. Mary went on
gaspingly. "When I was in Paris this spring I saw a lot of
Tschuplitski. I admire his work so tremendously. Of course
it's frightfully abstract now--frightfully abstract and
frightfully intellectual. He just throws a few oblongs on to his
canvas--quite flatyou knowand painted in pure primary
colours. But his design is wonderful. He's getting more and
more abstract every day. He'd given up the third dimension when
I was there and was just thinking of giving up the second. Soon
he saysthere'll be just the blank canvas. That's the logical
conclusion. Complete abstraction. Painting's finished; he's
finishing it. When he's reached pure abstraction he's going to
take up architecture. He says it's more intellectual than
painting. Do you agree?" she askedwith a final gasp.
Gombauld dropped his cigarette end and trod on it.
Tschuplitski's finished painting,he said. "I've finished my
cigarette. But I'm going on painting." Andadvancing towards
herhe put his arm round her shoulders and turned her round
away from the picture.
Mary looked up at him; her hair swung backa soundless bell of
gold. Her eyes were serene; she smiled. So the moment had come.
His arm was round her. He moved slowlyalmost imperceptibly
and she moved with him. It was a peripatetic embracement. "Do
you agree with him?" she repeated. The moment might have come
but she would not cease to be intellectualserious.
I don't know. I shall have to think about it.Gombauld
loosened his embracehis hand dropped from her shoulder. "Be
careful going down the ladder he added solicitously.
Mary looked round, startled. They were in front of the open
door. She remained standing there for a moment in bewilderment.
The hand that had rested on her shoulder made itself felt lower
down her back; it administered three or four kindly little
smacks. Replying automatically to its stimulus, she moved
Be careful going down the ladder said Gombauld once more.
She was careful. The door closed behind her and she was alone in
the little green close. She walked slowly back through the
farmyard; she was pensive.
Henry Wimbush brought down with him to dinner a budget of printed
sheets loosely bound together in a cardboard portfolio.
To-day he said, exhibiting it with a certain solemnity, today
I have finished the printing of my 'History of Crome'. I
helped to set up the type of the last page this evening."
The famous History?cried Anne. The writing and the printing
of this Magnum Opus had been going on as long as she could
remember. All her childhood long Uncle Henry's History had been
a vague and fabulous thingoften heard of and never seen.
It has taken me nearly thirty years,said Mr. Wimbush.
Twenty-five years of writing and nearly four of printing. And
now it's finished--the whole chronicle, from Sir Ferdinando
Lapith's birth to the death of my father William Wimbush--more
than three centuries and a half: a history of Crome, written at
Crome, and printed at Crome by my own press.
Shall we be allowed to read it now it's finished?asked Denis.
Mr. Wimbush nodded. "Certainly he said. And I hope you will
not find it uninteresting he added modestly. Our muniment
room is particularly rich in ancient recordsand I have some
genuinely new light to throw on the introduction of the threepronged
And the people?asked Gombauld. "Sir Ferdinando and the rest
of them--were they amusing? Were there any crimes or tragedies
in the family?"
Let me see,Henry Wimbush rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I can
only think of two suicidesone violent deathfour or perhaps
five broken heartsand half a dozen little blots on the
scutcheon in the way of misalliancesseductionsnatural
childrenand the like. Noon the wholeit's a placid and
The Wimbushes and the Lapiths were always an unadventurous,
respectable crew,said Priscillawith a note of scorn in her
voice. "If I were to write my family history now! Whyit would
be one long continuous blot from beginning to end." She laughed
joviallyand helped herself to another glass of wine.
If I were to write mine,Mr. Scogan remarkedit wouldn't
exist. After the second generation we Scogans are lost in the
mists of antiquity.
After dinner,said Henry Wimbusha little piqued by his wife's
disparaging comment on the masters of CromeI'll read you an
episode from my History that will make you admit that even the
Lapiths, in their own respectable way, had their tragedies and
I'm glad to hear it,said Priscilla.
Glad to hear what?asked Jennyemerging suddenly from her
private interior world like a cuckoo from a clock. She received
an explanationsmilednoddedcuckooed at last "I see and
popped back, clapping shut the door behind her.
Dinner was eaten; the party had adjourned to the drawing-room.
Now said Henry Wimbush, pulling up a chair to the lamp. He
put on his round pince-nez, rimmed with tortoise-shell, and began
cautiously to turn over the pages of his loose and still
fragmentary book. He found his place at last. Shall I begin?"
he askedlooking up.
In the midst of an attentive silence Mr. Wimbush gave a little
preliminary cough and started to read.
The infant who was destined to become the fourth baronet of the
name of Lapith was born in the year 1740. He was a very small
baby, weighing not more than three pounds at birth, but from the
first he was sturdy and healthy. In honour of his maternal
grandfather, Sir Hercules Occam of Bishop's Occam, he was
christened Hercules. His mother, like many other mothers, kept a
notebook, in which his progress from month to month was recorded.
He walked at ten months, and before his second year was out he
had learnt to speak a number of words. At three years he weighed
but twenty-four pounds, and at six, though he could read and
write perfectly and showed a remarkable aptitude for music, he
was no larger and heavier than a well-grown child of two.
Meanwhile, his mother had borne two other children, a boy and a
girl, one of whom died of croup during infancy, while the other
was carried off by smallpox before it reached the age of five.
Hercules remained the only surviving child.
On his twelfth birthday Hercules was still only three feet and
two inches in height. His headwhich was very handsome and
nobly shapedwas too big for his bodybut otherwise he was
exquisitely proportionedandfor his sizeof great strength
and agility. His parentsin the hope of making him grow
consulted all the most eminent physicians of the time. Their
various prescriptions were followed to the letterbut in vain.
One ordered a very plentiful meat diet; another exercise; a third
constructed a little rackmodelled on those employed by the Holy
Inquisitionon which young Hercules was stretchedwith
excruciating tormentsfor half an hour every morning and
evening. In the course of the next three years Hercules gained
perhaps two inches. After that his growth stopped completely
and he remained for the rest of his life a pigmy of three feet
and four inches. His fatherwho had built the most extravagant
hopes upon his sonplanning for him in his imagination a
military career equal to that of Marlboroughfound himself a
disappointed man. 'I have brought an abortion into the world'
he would sayand he took so violent a dislike to his son that
the boy dared scarcely come into his presence. His temperwhich
had been serenewas turned by disappointment to moroseness and
savagery. He avoided all company (beingas he saidashamed to
show himselfthe father of a lusus naturaeamong normal
healthy human beings)and took to solitary drinkingwhich
carried him very rapidly to his grave; for the year before
Hercules came of age his father was taken off by an apoplexy.
His motherwhose love for him had increased with the growth of
his father's unkindnessdid not long survivebut little more
than a year after her husband's death succumbedafter eating two
dozen of oystersto an attack of typhoid fever.
Hercules thus found himself at the age of twenty-one alone in
the world, and master of a considerable fortune, including the
estate and mansion of Crome. The beauty and intelligence of his
childhood had survived into his manly age, and, but for his
dwarfish stature, he would have taken his place among the
handsomest and most accomplished young men of his time. He was
well read in the Greek and Latin authors, as well as in all the
moderns of any merit who had written in English, French, or
Italian. He had a good ear for music, and was no indifferent
performer on the violin, which he used to play like a bass viol,
seated on a chair with the instrument between his legs. To the
music of the harpsichord and clavichord he was extremely partial,
but the smallness of his hands made it impossible for him ever to
perform upon these instruments. He had a small ivory flute made
for him, on which, whenever he was melancholy, he used to play a
simple country air or jig, affirming that this rustic music had
more power to clear and raise the spirits than the most
artificial productions of the masters. From an early age he
practised the composition of poetry, but, though conscious of his
great powers in this art, he would never publish any specimen of
his writing. 'My stature,' he would say, 'is reflected in my
verses; if the public were to read them it would not be because I
am a poet, but because I am a dwarf.' Several MS. books of Sir
Hercules's poems survive. A single specimen will suffice to
illustrate his qualities as a poet.
'In ancient dayswhile yet the world was young
Ere Abram fed his flocks or Homer sung;
When blacksmith Tubal tamed creative fire
And Jabal dwelt in tents and Jubal struck the lyre;
Flesh grown corrupt brought forth a monstrous birth
And obscene giants trod the shrinking earth
Till Godimpatient of their sinful brood
Gave rein to wrath and drown'd them in the Flood.
Teeming againrepeopled Tellus bore
The lubber Hero and the Man of War;
Huge towers of Brawntopp'd with an empty Skull
Witlessly boldheroically dull.
Long ages pass'd and Man grown more refin'd
Slighter in muscle but of vaster Mind
Smiled at his grandsire's broadswordbow and bill
And learn'd to wield the Pencil and the Quill.
The glowing canvas and the written page
Immortaliz'd his name from age to age
His name emblazon'd on Fame's temple wall;
For Art grew great as Humankind grew small.
Thus man's long progress step by step we trace;
The Giant diesthe hero takes his place;
The Giant vilethe dull heroic Block:
At one we shudder and at one we mock.
Man last appears. In him the Soul's pure flame
Burns brightlier in a not inord'nate frame.
Of old when Heroes fought and Giants swarmed
Men were huge mounds of matter scarce inform'd;
Wearied by leavening so vast a mass
The spirit slept and all the mind was crass.
The smaller carcase of these later days
Is soon inform'd; the Soul unwearied plays
And like a Pharos darts abroad her mental rays.
But can we think that Providence will stay
Man's footsteps here upon the upward way?
Mankind in understanding and in grace
Advanc'd so far beyond the Giants' race?
Hence impious thought! Still led by GOD'S own Hand
Mankind proceeds towards the Promised Land.
A time will come (propheticI descry
Remoter dawns along the gloomy sky)
When happy mortals of a Golden Age
Will backward turn the dark historic page
And in our vaunted race of Men behold
A form as grossa Mind as dead and cold
As we in Giants seein warriors of old.
A time will comewherein the soul shall be
From all superfluous matter wholly free;
When the light bodyagile as a fawn's
Shall sport with grace along the velvet lawns.
Nature's most delicate and final birth
Mankind perfected shall possess the earth.
But ahnot yet! For still the Giants' race
Hugethough diminish'dtramps the Earth's fair face;
Gross and repulsiveyet perversely proud
Men of their imperfections boast aloud.
Vain of their bulkof all they still retain
Of giant ugliness absurdly vain;
At all that's small they point their stupid scorn
Andmonstersthink themselves divinely born.
Sad is the Fate of thoseahsad indeed
The rare precursors of the nobler breed!
Who come man's golden glory to foretell
But pointing Heav'nwards live themselves in Hell.'
As soon as he came into the estate, Sir Hercules set about
remodelling his household. For though by no means ashamed of his
deformity--indeed, if we may judge from the poem quoted above, he
regarded himself as being in many ways superior to the ordinary
race of man--he found the presence of full-grown men and women
embarrassing. Realising, too, that he must abandon all ambitions
in the great world, he determined to retire absolutely from it
and to create, as it were, at Crome a private world of his own,
in which all should be proportionable to himself. Accordingly,
he discharged all the old servants of the house and replaced them
gradually, as he was able to find suitable successors, by others
of dwarfish stature. In the course of a few years he had
assembled about himself a numerous household, no member of which
was above four feet high and the smallest among them scarcely two
feet and six inches. His father's dogs, such as setters,
mastiffs, greyhounds, and a pack of beagles, he sold or gave away
as too large and too boisterous for his house, replacing them by
pugs and King Charles spaniels and whatever other breeds of dog
were the smallest. His father's stable was also sold. For his
own use, whether riding or driving, he had six black Shetland
ponies, with four very choice piebald animals of New Forest
Having thus settled his household entirely to his own
satisfactionit only remained for him to find some suitable
companion with whom to share his paradise. Sir Hercules had a
susceptible heartand had more than oncebetween the ages of
sixteen and twentyfelt what it was to love. But here his
deformity had been a source of the most bitter humiliationfor
having once dared to declare himself to a young lady of his
choicehe had been received with laughter. On his persisting
she had picked him up and shaken him like an importunate child
telling him to run away and plague her no more. The story soon
got about--indeedthe young lady herself used to tell it as a
particularly pleasant anecdote--and the taunts and mockery it
occasioned were a source of the most acute distress to Hercules.
From the poems written at this period we gather that he meditated
taking his own life. In course of timehoweverhe lived down
this humiliation; but never againthough he often fell in love
and that very passionatelydid he dare to make any advances to
those in whom he was interested. After coming to the estate and
finding that he was in a position to create his own world as he
desired ithe saw thatif he was to have a wife--which he very
much desiredbeing of an affectionate andindeedamorous
temper--he must choose her as he had chosen his servants--from
among the race of dwarfs. But to find a suitable wife washe
founda matter of some difficulty; for he would marry none who
was not distinguished by beauty and gentle birth. The dwarfish
daughter of Lord Bemboro he refused on the ground that besides
being a pigmy she was hunchbacked; while another young ladyan
orphan belonging to a very good family in Hampshirewas rejected
by him because her facelike that of so many dwarfswas wizened
and repulsive. Finallywhen he was almost despairing of
successhe heard from a reliable source that Count Titimaloa
Venetian noblemanpossessed a daughter of exquisite beauty and
great accomplishmentswho was by three feet in height. Setting
out at once for Venicehe went immediately on his arrival to pay
his respects to the countwhom he found living with his wife and
five children in a very mean apartment in one of the poorer
quarters of the town. Indeedthe count was so far reduced in
his circumstances that he was even then negotiating (so it was
rumoured) with a travelling company of clowns and acrobatswho
had had the misfortune to lose their performing dwarffor the
sale of his diminutive daughter Filomena. Sir Hercules arrived
in time to save her from this untoward fatefor he was so much
charmed by Filomena's grace and beautythat at the end of three
days' courtship he made her a formal offer of marriagewhich was
accepted by her no less joyfully than by her fatherwho
perceived in an English son-in-law a rich and unfailing source of
revenue. After an unostentatious marriageat which the English
ambassador acted as one of the witnessesSir Hercules and his
bride returned by sea to Englandwhere they settled downas it
provedto a life of uneventful happiness.
Crome and its household of dwarfs delighted Filomena, who felt
herself now for the first time to be a free woman living among
her equals in a friendly world. She had many tastes in common
with her husband, especially that of music. She had a beautiful
voice, of a power surprising in one so small, and could touch A
in alt without effort. Accompanied by her husband on his fine
Cremona fiddle, which he played, as we have noted before, as one
plays a bass viol, she would sing all the liveliest and tenderest
airs from the operas and cantatas of her native country. Seated
together at the harpsichord, they found that they could with
their four hands play all the music written for two hands of
ordinary size, a circumstance which gave Sir Hercules unfailing
When they were not making music or reading togetherwhich they
often didboth in English and Italianthey spent their time in
healthful outdoor exercisessometimes rowing in a little boat on
the lakebut more often riding or drivingoccupations in which
because they were entirely new to herFilomena especially
delighted. When she had become a perfectly proficient rider
Filomena and her husband used often to go hunting in the parkat
that time very much more extensive than it is now. They hunted
not foxes nor haresbut rabbitsusing a pack of about thirty
black and fawn-coloured pugsa kind of dog whichwhen not
overfedcan course a rabbit as well as any of the smaller
breeds. Four dwarf groomsdressed in scarlet liveries and
mounted on white Exmoor ponieshunted the packwhile their
master and mistressin green habitsfollowed either on the
black Shetlands or on the piebald New Forest ponies. A picture
of the whole hunt--dogshorsesgroomsand masters--was painted
by William Stubbswhose work Sir Hercules admired so much that
he invited himthough a man of ordinary statureto come and
stay at the mansion for the purpose of executing this picture.
Stubbs likewise painted a portrait of Sir Hercules and his lady
driving in their green enamelled calash drawn by four black
Shetlands. Sir Hercules wears a plum-coloured velvet coat and
white breeches; Filomena is dressed in flowered muslin and a very
large hat with pink feathers. The two figures in their gay
carriage stand out sharply against a dark background of trees;
but to the left of the picture the trees fall away and disappear
so that the four black ponies are seen against a pale and
strangely lurid sky that has the golden-brown colour of thunderclouds
lighted up by the sun.
In this way four years passed happily by. At the end of that
time Filomena found herself great with child. Sir Hercules was
overjoyed. 'If God is good,' he wrote in his day-book, 'the name
of Lapith will be preserved and our rarer and more delicate race
transmitted through the generations until in the fullness of time
the world shall recognise the superiority of those beings whom
now it uses to make mock of.' On his wife's being brought to bed
of a son he wrote a poem to the same effect. The child was
christened Ferdinando in memory of the builder of the house.
With the passage of the months a certain sense of disquiet began
to invade the minds of Sir Hercules and his lady. For the child
was growing with an extraordinary rapidity. At a year he weighed
as much as Hercules had weighed when he was three. 'Ferdinando
goes crescendo' wrote Filomena in her diary. 'It seems not
natural.' At eighteen months the baby was almost as tall as
their smallest jockeywho was a man of thirty-six. Could it be
that Ferdinando was destined to become a man of the normal
gigantic dimensions? It was a thought to which neither of his
parents dared yet give open utterancebut in the secrecy of
their respective diaries they brooded over it in terror and
On his third birthday Ferdinando was taller than his mother and
not more than a couple of inches short of his father's height.
'To-day for the first time' wrote Sir Hercules, 'we discussed the
situation. The hideous truth can be concealed no longer:
Ferdinando is not one of us. On this, his third birthday, a day
when we should have been rejoicing at the health, the strength,
and beauty of our child, we wept together over the ruin of our
happiness. God give us strength to bear this cross.'
At the age of eight Ferdinando was so large and so exuberantly
healthy that his parents decidedthough reluctantlyto send him
to school. He was packed off to Eton at the beginning of the
next half. A profound peace settled upon the house. Ferdinando
returned for the summer holidays larger and stronger than ever.
One day he knocked down the butler and broke his arm. 'He is
roughinconsiderateunamenable to persuasion' wrote his
father. 'The only thing that will teach him manners is corporal
chastisement.' Ferdinandowho at this age was already seventeen
inches taller than his fatherreceived no corporal chastisement.
One summer holidays about three years later Ferdinando returned
to Crome accompanied by a very large mastiff dog. He had bought
it from an old man at Windsor who had found the beast too
expensive to feed. It was a savage, unreliable animal; hardly
had it entered the house when it attacked one of Sir Hercules's
favourite pugs, seizing the creature in its jaws and shaking it
till it was nearly dead. Extremely put out by this occurrence,
Sir Hercules ordered that the beast should be chained up in the
stable-yard. Ferdinando sullenly answered that the dog was his,
and he would keep it where he pleased. His father, growing
angry, bade him take the animal out of the house at once, on pain
of his utmost displeasure. Ferdinando refused to move. His
mother at this moment coming into the room, the dog flew at her,
knocked her down, and in a twinkling had very severely mauled her
arm and shoulder; in another instant it must infallibly have had
her by the throat, had not Sir Hercules drawn his sword and
stabbed the animal to the heart. Turning on his son, he ordered
him to leave the room immediately, as being unfit to remain in
the same place with the mother whom he had nearly murdered. So
awe-inspiring was the spectacle of Sir Hercules standing with one
foot on the carcase of the gigantic dog, his sword drawn and
still bloody, so commanding were his voice, his gestures, and the
expression of his face that Ferdinando slunk out of the room in
terror and behaved himself for all the rest of the vacation in an
entirely exemplary fashion. His mother soon recovered from the
bites of the mastiff, but the effect on her mind of this
adventure was ineradicable; from that time forth she lived always
among imaginary terrors.
The two years which Ferdinando spent on the Continentmaking
the Grand Tourwere a period of happy repose for his parents.
But even now the thought of the future haunted them; nor were
they able to solace themselves with all the diversions of their
younger days. The Lady Filomena had lost her voice and Sir
Hercules was grown too rheumatical to play the violin. Heit is
truestill rode after his pugsbut his wife felt herself too
old andsince the episode of the mastifftoo nervous for such
sports. At mostto please her husbandshe would follow the
hunt at a distance in a little gig drawn by the safest and oldest
of the Shetlands.
The day fixed for Ferdinando's return came round. Filomena,
sick with vague dreads and presentiments, retired to her chamber
and her bed. Sir Hercules received his son alone. A giant in a
brown travelling-suit entered the room. 'Welcome home, my son,'
said Sir Hercules in a voice that trembled a little.
'I hope I see you wellsir.' Ferdinando bent down to shake
handsthen straightened himself up again. The top of his
father's head reached to the level of his hip.
Ferdinando had not come alone. Two friends of his own age
accompanied him, and each of the young men had brought a servant.
Not for thirty years had Crome been desecrated by the presence of
so many members of the common race of men. Sir Hercules was
appalled and indignant, but the laws of hospitality had to be
obeyed. He received the young gentlemen with grave politeness
and sent the servants to the kitchen, with orders that they
should be well cared for.
The old family dining-table was dragged out into the light and
dusted (Sir Hercules and his lady were accustomed to dine at a
small table twenty inches high). Simonthe aged butlerwho
could only just look over the edge of the big tablewas helped
at supper by the three servants brought by Ferdinando and his
Sir Hercules presided, and with his usual grace supported a
conversation on the pleasures of foreign travel, the beauties of
art and nature to be met with abroad, the opera at Venice, the
singing of the orphans in the churches of the same city, and on
other topics of a similar nature. The young men were not
particularly attentive to his discourses; they were occupied in
watching the efforts of the butler to change the plates and
replenish the glasses. They covered their laughter by violent
and repeated fits of coughing or choking. Sir Hercules affected
not to notice, but changed the subject of the conversation to
sport. Upon this one of the young men asked whether it was true,
as he had heard, that he used to hunt the rabbit with a pack of
pug dogs. Sir Hercules replied that it was, and proceeded to
describe the chase in some detail. The young men roared with
When supper was overSir Hercules climbed down from his chair
andgiving as his excuse that he must see how his lady didbade
them good-night. The sound of laughter followed him up the
stairs. Filomena was not asleep; she had been lying on her bed
listening to the sound of enormous laughter and the tread of
strangely heavy feet on the stairs and along the corridors. Sir
Hercules drew a chair to her bedside and sat there for a long
time in silenceholding his wife's hand and sometimes gently
squeezing it. At about ten o'clock they were startled by a
violent noise. There was a breaking of glassa stamping of
feetwith an outburst of shouts and laughter. The uproar
continuing for several minutesSir Hercules rose to his feet
andin spite of his wife's entreatiesprepared to go and see
what was happening. There was no light on the staircaseand Sir
Hercules groped his way down cautiouslylowering himself from
stair to stair and standing for a moment on each tread before
adventuring on a new step. The noise was louder here; the
shouting articulated itself into recognisable words and phrases.
A line of light was visible under the dining-room door. Sir
Hercules tiptoed across the hall towards it. Just as he
approached the door there was another terrific crash of breaking
glass and jangled metal. What could they be doing? Standing on
tiptoe he managed to look through the keyhole. In the middle of
the ravaged table old Simonthe butlerso primed with drink
that he could scarcely keep his balancewas dancing a jig. His
feet crunched and tinkled among the broken glassand his shoes
were wet with spilt wine. The three young men sat round
thumping the table with their hands or with the empty wine
bottlesshouting and laughing encouragement. The three servants
leaning against the wall laughed too. Ferdinando suddenly threw
a handful of walnuts at the dancer's headwhich so dazed and
surprised the little man that he staggered and fell down on his
backupsetting a decanter and several glasses. They raised him
upgave him some brandy to drinkthumped him on the back. The
old man smiled and hiccoughed. 'To-morrow' said Ferdinando
'we'll have a concerted ballet of the whole household.' 'With
father Hercules wearing his club and lion-skin' added one of his
companionsand all three roared with laughter.
Sir Hercules would look and listen no further. He crossed the
hall once more and began to climb the stairs, lifting his knees
painfully high at each degree. This was the end; there was no
place for him now in the world, no place for him and Ferdinando
His wife was still awake; to her questioning glance he answered
'They are making mock of old Simon. To-morrow it will be our
turn.' They were silent for a time.
At last Filomena said, 'I do not want to see to-morrow.'
'It is better not' said Sir Hercules. Going into his closet he
wrote in his day-book a full and particular account of all the
events of the evening. While he was still engaged in this task
he rang for a servant and ordered hot water and a bath to be made
ready for him at eleven o'clock. When he had finished writing he
went into his wife's roomand preparing a dose of opium twenty
times as strong as that which she was accustomed to take when she
could not sleephe brought it to hersaying'Here is your
Filomena took the glass and lay for a little time, but did not
drink immediately. The tears came into her eyes. 'Do you
remember the songs we used to sing, sitting out there sulla
terrazza in the summer-time?' She began singing softly in her
ghost of a cracked voice a few bars from Stradella's 'Amor amor,
non dormir piu.' 'And you playing on the violin, it seems such a
short time ago, and yet so long, long, long. Addio, amore, a
rivederti.' She drank off the draught and, lying back on the
pillow, closed her eyes. Sir Hercules kissed her hand and
tiptoed away, as though he were afraid of waking her. He
returned to his closet, and having recorded his wife's last words
to him, he poured into his bath the water that had been brought
up in accordance with his orders. The water being too hot for
him to get into the bath at once, he took down from the shelf his
copy of Suetonius. He wished to read how Seneca had died. He
opened the book at random. 'But dwarfs,' he read, 'he held in
abhorrence as being lusus naturae and of evil omen.' He winced
as though he had been struck. This same Augustus, he remembered,
had exhibited in the amphitheatre a young man called Lucius, of
good family, who was not quite two feet in height and weighed
seventeen pounds, but had a stentorian voice. He turned over the
pages. Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero: it was a tale of
growing horror. 'Seneca his preceptor, he forced to kill
himself.' And there was Petronius, who had called his friends
about him at the last, bidding them talk to him, not of the
consolations of philosophy, but of love and gallantry, while the
life was ebbing away through his opened veins. Dipping his pen
once more in the ink he wrote on the last page of his diary: 'He
died a Roman death.' Then, putting the toes of one foot into the
water and finding that it was not too hot, he threw off his
dressing-gown and, taking a razor in his hand, sat down in the
bath. With one deep cut he severed the artery in his left wrist,
then lay back and composed his mind to meditation. The blood
oozed out, floating through the water in dissolving wreaths and
spirals. In a little while the whole bath was tinged with pink.
The colour deepened; Sir Hercules felt himself mastered by an
invincible drowsiness; he was sinking from vague dream to dream.
Soon he was sound asleep. There was not much blood in his small
For their after-luncheon coffee the party generally adjourned to
the library. Its windows looked eastand at this hour of the
day it was the coolest place in the whole house. It was a large
roomfittedduring the eighteenth centurywith white painted
shelves of an elegant design. In the middle of one wall a door
ingeniously upholstered with rows of dummy booksgave access to
a deep cupboardwhereamong a pile of letter-files and old
newspapersthe mummy-case of an Egyptian ladybrought back by
the second Sir Ferdinando on his return from the Grand Tour
mouldered in the darkness. From ten yards away and at a first
glanceone might almost have mistaken this secret door for a
section of shelving filled with genuine books. Coffee-cup in
handMr. Scogan was standing in front of the dummy book-shelf.
Between the sips he discoursed.
The bottom shelf,he was sayingis taken up by an
Encyclopaedia in fourteen volumes. Useful, but a little dull, as
is also Caprimulge's 'Dictionary of the Finnish Language'. The
'Biographical Dictionary' looks more promising. 'Biography of
Men who were Born Great', 'Biography of Men who Achieved
Greatness', 'Biography of Men who had Greatness Thrust upon
Them', and 'Biography of Men who were Never Great at All'. Then
there are ten volumes of 'Thom's Works and Wanderings', while the
'Wild Goose Chase, a Novel', by an anonymous author, fills no
less than six. But what's this, what's this?Mr. Scogan stood
on tiptoe and peered up. "Seven volumes of the 'Tales of
Knockespotch'. The 'Tales of Knockespotch' he repeated. Ah
my dear Henry he said, turning round, these are your best
books. I would willingly give all the rest of your library for
The happy possessor of a multitude of first editionsMr. Wimbush
could afford to smile indulgently.
Is it possible,Mr. Scogan went onthat they possess nothing
more than a back and a title?He opened the cupboard door and
peeped insideas though he hoped to find the rest of the books
behind it. "Phooh!" he saidand shut the door again. "It
smells of dust and mildew. How symbolical! One comes to the
great masterpieces of the pastexpecting some miraculous
illuminationand one findson opening themonly darkness and
dust and a faint smell of decay. After allwhat is reading but
a vicelike drink or venery or any other form of excessive selfindulgence?
One reads to tickle and amuse one's mind; one reads
above allto prevent oneself thinking. Still--the 'Tales of
He pausedand thoughtfully drummed with his fingers on the backs
of the non-existentunattainable books.
But I disagree with you about reading,said Mary. "About
serious readingI mean."
Quite right, Mary, quite right,Mr. Scogan answered. "I had
forgotten there were any serious people in the room."
I like the idea of the Biographies,said Denis. "There's room
for us all within the scheme; it's comprehensive."
Yes, the Biographies are good, the Biographies are excellent,
Mr Scogan agreed. "I imagine them written in a very elegant
Regency style--Brighton Pavilion in words--perhaps by the great
Dr. Lempriere himself. You know his classical dictionary? Ah!"
Mr. Scogan raised his hand and let it limply fall again in a
gesture which implied that words failed him. "Read his biography
of Helen; read how Jupiterdisguised as a swanwas 'enabled to
avail himself of his situation' vis-a-vis to Leda. And to think
that he may havemust have written these biographies of the
Great! What a workHenry! Andowing to the idiotic
arrangement of your libraryit can't be read."
I prefer the 'Wild Goose Chase',said Anne. "A novel in six
volumes--it must be restful."
Restful,Mr. Scogan repeated. "You've hit on the right word.
A 'Wild Goose Chase' is soundbut a bit old-fashioned--pictures
of clerical life in the fiftiesyou know; specimens of the
landed gentry; peasants for pathos and comedy; and in the
backgroundalways the picturesque beauties of nature soberly
described. All very good and solidbutlike certain puddings
just a little dull. PersonallyI like much better the notion of
'Thom's Works and Wanderings'. The eccentric Mr. Thom of Thom's
Hill. Old Tom Thomas his intimates used to call him. He spent
ten years in Thibet organising the clarified butter industry on
modern European linesand was able to retire at thirty-six with
a handsome fortune. The rest of his life he devoted to travel
and ratiocination; here is the result." Mr. Scogan tapped the
dummy books. "And now we come to the 'Tales of Knockespotch'.
What a masterpiece and what a great man! Knockespotch knew how
to write fiction. AhDenisif you could only read Knockespotch
you wouldn't be writing a novel about the wearisome development
of a young man's characteryou wouldn't be describing in
endlessfastidious detailcultured life in Chelsea and
Bloomsbury and Hampstead. You would be trying to write a
readable book. But thenalas! owing to the peculiar arrangement
of our host's libraryyou never will read Knockespotch."
Nobody could regret the fact more than I do,said Denis.
It was Knockespotch,Mr. Scogan continuedthe great
Knockespotch, who delivered us from the dreary tyranny of the
realistic novel. My life, Knockespotch said, is not so long that
I can afford to spend precious hours writing or reading
descriptions of middle-class interiors. He said again, 'I am
tired of seeing the human mind bogged in a social plenum; I
prefer to paint it in a vacuum, freely and sportively
I say,said GombauldKnockespotch was a little obscure
sometimes, wasn't he?
He was,Mr. Scogan repliedand with intention. It made him
seem even profounder than he actually was. But it was only in
his aphorisms that he was so dark and oracular. In his Tales he
was always luminous. Oh, those Tales--those Tales! How shall I
describe them? Fabulous characters shoot across his pages like
gaily dressed performers on the trapeze. There are extraordinary
adventures and still more extraordinary speculations.
Intelligences and emotions, relieved of all the imbecile
preoccupations of civilised life, move in intricate and subtle
dances, crossing and recrossing, advancing, retreating,
impinging. An immense erudition and an immense fancy go hand in
hand. All the ideas of the present and of the past, on every
possible subject, bob up among the Tales, smile gravely or
grimace a caricature of themselves, then disappear to make place
for something new. The verbal surface of his writing is rich and
fantastically diversified. The wit is incessant. The...
But couldn't you give us a specimen,Denis broke in--"a
Alas!Mr. Scogan repliedKnockespotch's great book is like
the sword Excalibur. It remains struck fast in this door,
awaiting the coming of a writer with genius enough to draw it
forth. I am not even a writer, I am not so much as qualified to
attempt the task. The extraction of Knockespotch from his wooden
prison I leave, my dear Denis, to you.
Thank you,said Denis.
In the time of the amiable Brantome,Mr. Scogan was saying
every debutante at the French Court was invited to dine at the
King's table, where she was served with wine in a handsome silver
cup of Italian workmanship. It was no ordinary cup, this goblet
of the debutantes; for, inside, it had been most curiously and
ingeniously engraved with a series of very lively amorous scenes.
With each draught that the young lady swallowed these engravings
became increasingly visible, and the Court looked on with
interest, every time she put her nose in the cup, to see whether
she blushed at what the ebbing wine revealed. If the debutante
blushed, they laughed at her for her innocence; if she did not,
she was laughed at for being too knowing.
Do you propose,asked Annethat the custom should be revived
at Buckingham Palace?
I do not,said Mr. Scogan. "I merely quoted the anecdote as an
illustration of the customsso genially frankof the sixteenth
century. I might have quoted other anecdotes to show that the
customs of the seventeenth and eighteenthof the fifteenth and
fourteenth centuriesand indeed of every other centuryfrom the
time of Hammurabi onwardwere equally genial and equally frank.
The only century in which customs were not characterised by the
same cheerful openness was the nineteenthof blessed memory. It
was the astonishing exception. And yetwith what one must
suppose was a deliberate disregard of historyit looked upon its
horribly pregnant silences as normal and natural and right; the
frankness of the previous fifteen or twenty thousand years was
considered abnormal and perverse. It was a curious phenomenon."
I entirely agree.Mary panted with excitement in her effort to
bring out what she had to say. "Havelock Ellis says..."
Mr. Scoganlike a policeman arresting the flow of trafficheld
up his hand. "He does; I know. And that brings me to my next
point: the nature of the reaction."
The reaction, when it came--and we may say roughly that it set
in a little before the beginning of this century--the reaction
was to openness, but not to the same openness as had reigned in
the earlier ages. It was to a scientific openness, not to the
jovial frankness of the past, that we returned. The whole
question of Amour became a terribly serious one. Earnest young
men wrote in the public prints that from this time forth it would
be impossible ever again to make a joke of any sexual matter.
Professors wrote thick books in which sex was sterilised and
dissected. It has become customary for serious young women, like
Mary, to discuss, with philosophic calm, matters of which the
merest hint would have sufficed to throw the youth of the sixties
into a delirium of amorous excitement. It is all very estimable,
no doubt. But still--Mr. Scogan sighed.--"I for one should like
to seemingled with this scientific ardoura little more of the
jovial spirit of Rabelais and Chaucer."
I entirely disagree with you,said Mary. "Sex isn't a laughing
matter; it's serious."
Perhaps,answered Mr. Scoganperhaps I'm an obscene old man.
For I must confess that I cannot always regard it as wholly
But I tell you...began Mary furiously. Her face had flushed
with excitement. Her cheeks were the cheeks of a great ripe
Indeed,Mr. Scogan continuedit seems to me one of few
permanently and everlastingly amusing subjects that exist. Amour
is the one human activity of any importance in which laughter and
pleasure preponderate, if ever so slightly, over misery and
I entirely disagree,said Mary. There was a silence.
Anne looked at her watch. "Nearly a quarter to eight she said.
I wonder when Ivor will turn up." She got up from her deckchair
andleaning her elbows on the balustrade of the terrace
looked out over the valley and towards the farther hills. Under
the level evening light the architecture of the land revealed
itself. The deep shadowsthe bright contrasting lights gave the
hills a new solidity. Irregularities of the surfaceunsuspected
beforewere picked out with light and shade. The grassthe
cornthe foliage of trees were stippled with intricate shadows.
The surface of things had taken on a marvellous enrichment.
Look!said Anne suddenlyand pointed. On the opposite side of
the valleyat the crest of the ridgea cloud of dust flushed by
the sunlight to rosy gold was moving rapidly along the sky-line.
It's Ivor. One can tell by the speed.
The dust cloud descended into the valley and was lost. A horn
with the voice of a sea-lion made itself heardapproaching. A
minute later Ivor came leaping round the corner of the house.
His hair waved in the wind of his own speed; he laughed as he saw
Anne, darling,he criedand embraced herembraced Maryvery
nearly embraced Mr. Scogan. "Wellhere I am. I've come with
incredulous speed." Ivor's vocabulary was richbut a little
erratic. "I'm not late for dinneram I?" He hoisted himself up
on to the balustradeand sat therekicking his heels. With one
arm he embraced a large stone flower-potleaning his head
sideways against its hard and lichenous flanks in an attitude of
trustful affection. He had brownwavy hairand his eyes were
of a very brilliantpaleimprobable blue. His head was narrow
his face thin and rather longhis nose aquiline. In old age-though
it was difficult to imagine Ivor old--he might grow to
have an Iron Ducal grimness. But nowat twenty-sixit was not
the structure of his face that impressed one; it was its
expression. That was charming and vivaciousand his smile was
an irradiation. He was forever movingrestlessly and rapidly
but with an engaging gracefulness. His frail and slender body
seemed to be fed by a spring of inexhaustible energy.
No, you're not late.
You're in time to answer a question,said Mr. Scogan. "We were
arguing whether Amour were a serious matter or no. What do you
think? Is it serious?"
Serious?echoed Ivor. "Most certainly."
I told you so,cried Mary triumphantly.
But in what sense serious?Mr. Scogan asked.
I mean as an occupation. One can go on with it without ever
I see,said Mr. Scogan. "Perfectly."
One can occupy oneself with it,Ivor continuedalways and
everywhere. Women are always wonderfully the same. Shapes vary
a little, that's all. In Spain--with his free hand he described
a series of ample curves--"one can't pass them on the stairs. In
England"--he put the tip of his forefinger against the tip of his
thumb andlowering his handdrew out this circle into an
imaginary cylinder--"In England they're tubular. But their
sentiments are always the same. At leastI've always found it
I'm delighted to hear it,said Mr. Scogan.
The ladies had left the room and the port was circulating. Mr.
Scogan filled his glasspassed on the decanterandleaning
back in his chairlooked about him for a moment in silence. The
conversation rippled idly round himbut he disregarded it; he
was smiling at some private joke. Gombauld noticed his smile.
What's amusing you?he asked.
I was just looking at you all, sitting round this table,said
Are we as comic as all that?
Not at all,Mr. Scogan answered politely. "I was merely amused
by my own speculations."
And what were they?
The idlest, the most academic of speculations. I was looking at
you one by one and trying to imagine which of the first six
Caesars you would each resemble, if you were given the
opportunity of behaving like a Caesar. The Caesars are one of my
touchstones,Mr. Scogan explained. "They are characters
functioningso to speakin the void. They are human beings
developed to their logical conclusions. Hence their unequalled
value as a touchstonea standard. When I meet someone for the
first timeI ask myself this question: Given the Caesarean
environmentwhich of the Caesars would this person resemble--
JuliusAugustusTiberiusCaligulaClaudiusNero? I take
each trait of charactereach mental and emotional biaseach
little oddityand magnify them a thousand times. The resulting
image gives me his Caesarean formula."
And which of the Caesars do you resemble?asked Gombauld.
I am potentially all of them,Mr. Scogan repliedall--with
the possible exception of Claudius, who was much too stupid to be
a development of anything in my character. The seeds of Julius's
courage and compelling energy, of Augustus's prudence, of the
libidinousness and cruelty of Tiberius, of Caligula's folly, of
Nero's artistic genius and enormous vanity, are all within me.
Given the opportunities, I might have been something fabulous.
But circumstances were against me. I was born and brought up in
a country rectory; I passed my youth doing a great deal of
utterly senseless hard work for a very little money. The result
is that now, in middle age, I am the poor thing that I am. But
perhaps it is as well. Perhaps, too, it's as well that Denis
hasn't been permitted to flower into a little Nero, and that Ivor
remains only potentially a Caligula. Yes, it's better so, no
doubt. But it would have been more amusing, as a spectacle, if
they had had the chance to develop, untrammelled, the full horror
of their potentialities. It would have been pleasant and
interesting to watch their tics and foibles and little vices
swelling and burgeoning and blossoming into enormous and
fantastic flowers of cruelty and pride and lewdness and avarice.
The Caesarean environment makes the Caesar, as the special food
and the queenly cell make the queen bee. We differ from the bees
in so far that, given the proper food, they can be sure of making
a queen every time. With us there is no such certainty; out of
every ten men placed in the Caesarean environment one will be
temperamentally good, or intelligent, or great. The rest will
blossom into Caesars; he will not. Seventy and eighty years ago
simple-minded people, reading of the exploits of the Bourbons in
South Italy, cried out in amazement: To think that such things
should be happening in the nineteenth century! And a few years
since we too were astonished to find that in our still more
astonishing twentieth century, unhappy blackamoors on the Congo
and the Amazon were being treated as English serfs were treated
in the time of Stephen. To-day we are no longer surprised at
these things. The Black and Tans harry Ireland, the Poles
maltreat the Silesians, the bold Fascisti slaughter their poorer
countrymen: we take it all for granted. Since the war we wonder
at nothing. We have created a Caesarean environment and a host
of little Caesars has sprung up. What could be more natural?
Mr. Scogan drank off what was left of his port and refilled the
At this very moment he went on, the most frightful horrors are
taking place in every corner of the world. People are being
crushedslasheddisembowelledmangled; their dead bodies rot
and their eyes decay with the rest. Screams of pain and fear go
pulsing through the air at the rate of eleven hundred feet per
second. After travelling for three seconds they are perfectly
inaudible. These are distressing facts; but do we enjoy life any
the less because of them? Most certainly we do not. We feel
sympathyno doubt; we represent to ourselves imaginatively the
sufferings of nations and individuals and we deplore them. But
after allwhat are sympathy and imagination? Precious little
unless the person for whom we feel sympathy happens to be closely
involved in our affections; and even then they don't go very far.
And a good thing too; for if one had an imagination vivid enough
and a sympathy sufficiently sensitive really to comprehend and to
feel the sufferings of other peopleone would never have a
moment's peace of mind. A really sympathetic race would not so
much as know the meaning of happiness. But luckilyas I've
already saidwe aren't a sympathetic race. At the beginning of
the war I used to think I really sufferedthrough imagination
and sympathywith those who physically suffered. But after a
month or two I had to admit thathonestlyI didn't. And yet I
think I have a more vivid imagination than most. One is always
alone in suffering; the fact is depressing when one happens to be
the suffererbut it makes pleasure possible for the rest of the
There was a pause. Henry Wimbush pushed back his chair.
I think perhaps we ought to go and join the ladies,he said.
So do I,said Ivorjumping up with alacrity. He turned to Mr.
Scogan. "Fortunately he said, we can share our pleasures. We
are not always condemned to be happy alone."
Ivor brought his hands down with a bang on to the final chord of
his rhapsody. There was just a hint in that triumphant harmony
that the seventh had been struck along with the octave by the
thumb of the left hand; but the general effect of splendid noise
emerged clearly enough. Small details matter little so long as
the general effect is good. Andbesidesthat hint of the
seventh was decidedly modern. He turned round in his seat and
tossed the hair back out of his eyes.
There,he said. "That's the best I can do for youI'm
Murmurs of applause and gratitude were heardand Maryher large
china eyes fixed on the performercried out aloudWonderful!
and gasped for new breath as though she were suffocating.
Nature and fortune had vied with one another in heaping on Ivor
Lombard all their choicest gifts. He had wealth and he was
perfectly independent. He was good lookingpossessed an
irresistible charm of mannerand was the hero of more amorous
successes than he could well remember. His accomplishments were
extraordinary for their number and variety. He had a beautiful
untrained tenor voice; he could improvisewith a startling
brilliancerapidly and loudlyon the piano. He was a good
amateur medium and telepathistand had a considerable first-hand
knowledge of the next world. He could write rhymed verses with
an extraordinary rapidity. For painting symbolical pictures he
had a dashing styleand if the drawing was sometimes a little
weakthe colour was always pyrotechnical. He excelled in
amateur theatricals andwhen occasion offeredhe could cook
with genius. He resembled Shakespeare in knowing little Latin
and less Greek. For a mind like hiseducation seemed
supererogatory. Training would only have destroyed his natural
Let's go out into the garden,Ivor suggested. "It's a
Thank you,said Mr. Scoganbut I for one prefer these still
more wonderful arm-chairs.His pipe had begun to bubble oozily
every time he pulled at it. He was perfectly happy.
Henry Wimbush was also happy. He looked for a moment over his
pince-nez in Ivor's direction and thenwithout saying anything
returned to the grimy little sixteenth-century account books
which were now his favourite reading. He knew more about Sir
Ferdinando's household expenses than about his own.
The outdoor partyenrolled under Ivor's bannerconsisted of
AnneMaryDenisandrather unexpectedlyJenny. Outside it
was warm and dark; there was no moon. They walked up and down
the terraceand Ivor sang a Neapolitan song: "Stretti
stretti"--closeclose--with something about the little Spanish
girl to follow. The atmosphere began to palpitate. Ivor put his
arm round Anne's waistdropped his head sideways onto her
shoulderand in that position walked onsinging as he walked.
It seemed the easiestthe most naturalthing in the world.
Denis wondered why he had never done it. He hated Ivor.
Let's go down to the pool,said Ivor. He disengaged his
embrace and turned round to shepherd his little flock. They made
their way along the side of the house to the entrance of the yew-
tree walk that led down to the lower garden. Between the blank
precipitous wall of the house and the tall yew trees the path was
a chasm of impenetrable gloom. Somewhere there were steps down
to the righta gap in the yew hedge. Deniswho headed the
partygroped his way cautiously; in this darknessone had an
irrational fear of yawning precipicesof horrible spiked
obstructions. Suddenly from behind him he heard a shrill
startledOh!and then a sharpdry concussion that might have
been the sound of a slap. After thatJenny's voice was heard
pronouncingI am going back to the house.Her tone was
decidedand even as she pronounced the words she was melting
away into the darkness. The incidentwhatever it had beenwas
closed. Denis resumed his forward groping. From somewhere
behind Ivor began to sing againsoftly:
Phillis plus avare que tendre
Ne gagnant rien a refuser,
Un jour exigea a Silvandre
Trente moutons pour un baiser.
The melody drooped and climbed again with a kind of easy languor;
the warm darkness seemed to pulse like blood about them.
Le lendemain, nouvelle affaire:
Pour le berger le troc fut bon...
Here are the steps,cried Denis. He guided his companions over
the dangerand in a moment they had the turf of the yew-tree
walk under their feet. It was lighter hereor at least it was
just perceptibly less dark; for the yew walk was wider than the
path that had led them under the lea of the house. Looking up
they could see between the high black hedges a strip of sky and a
Car il obtint de la bergere...
Went on Ivorand then interrupted himself to shoutI'm going
to run down,and he was offfull speeddown the invisible
slopesinging unevenly as he went:
Trente baisers pour un mouton.
The others followed. Denis shambled in the rearvainly
exhorting everyone to caution: the slope was steepone might
break one's neck. What was wrong with these peoplehe wondered?
They had become like young kittens after a dose of cat-nip. He
himself felt a certain kittenishness sporting within him; but it
waslike all his emotionsrather a theoretical feeling; it did
not overmasteringly seek to express itself in a practical
demonstration of kittenishness.
Be careful,he shouted once moreand hardly were the words out
of his mouth whenthump! there was the sound of a heavy fall in
front of himfollowed by the long "F-f-f-f-f" of a breath
indrawn with pain and afterwards by a very sincereOo-ooh!
Denis was almost pleased; he had told them sothe idiotsand
they wouldn't listen. He trotted down the slope towards the
Mary came down the hill like a runaway steam-engine. It was
tremendously excitingthis blind rush through the dark; she felt
she would never stop. But the ground grew level beneath her feet
her speed insensibly slackenedand suddenly she was caught by an
extended arm and brought to an abrupt halt.
Well,said Ivor as he tightened his embraceyou're caught
She made an effort to release herself. "It's not Anne. It's
Ivor burst into a peal of amused laughter. "So it is!" he
exclaimed. "I seem to be making nothing but floaters this
evening. I've already made one with Jenny." He laughed again
and there was something so jolly about his laughter that Mary
could not help laughing too. He did not remove his encircling
armand somehow it was all so amusing and natural that Mary made
no further attempt to escape from it. They walked along by the
side of the poolinterlaced. Mary was too short for him to be
ablewith any comfortto lay his head on her shoulder. He
rubbed his cheekcaressed and caressingagainst the thick
sleek mass of her hair. In a little while he began to sing
again; the night trembled amorously to the sound of his voice.
When he had finished he kissed her. Anne or Mary: Mary or Anne.
It didn't seem to make much difference which it was. There were
differences in detailof course; but the general effect was the
same; andafter allthe general effect was the important thing.
Denis made his way down the hill.
Any damage done?he called out.
Is that you, Denis? I've hurt my ankle so--and my knee, and my
hand. I'm all in pieces.
My poor Anne,he said. "But then he couldn't help adding,
it was silly to start running downhill in the dark."
Ass!she retorted in a tone of tearful irritation; "of course
He sat down beside on the grassand found himself breathing the
faintdelicious atmosphere of perfume that she carried always
Light a match,she commanded. "I want to look at my wounds."
He felt in his pockets for the match-box. The light spurted and
then grew steady. Magicallya little universe had been created
a world of colours and forms--Anne's facethe shimmering orange
of her dressher whitebare armsa patch of green turf--and
round about a darkness that had become solid and utterly blind.
Anne held out her hands; both were green and earthy with her
falland the left exhibited two or three red abrasions.
Not so bad,she said. But Denis was terribly distressedand
his emotion was intensified whenlooking up at her facehe saw
that the trace of tearsinvoluntary tears of painlingered on
her eyelashes. He pulled out his handkerchief and began to wipe
away the dirt from the wounded hand. The match went out; it was
not worth while to light another. Anne allowed herself to be
attended tomeekly and gratefully. "Thank you she said, when
he had finished cleaning and bandaging her hand; and there was
something in her tone that made him feel that she had lost her
superiority over him, that she was younger than he, had become,
suddenly, almost a child. He felt tremendously large and
protective. The feeling was so strong that instinctively he put
his arm about her. She drew closer, leaned against him, and so
they sat in silence. Then, from below, soft but wonderfully
clear through the still darkness, they heard the sound of Ivor's
singing. He was going on with his half-finished song:
Le lendemain Phillis plus tendre
Ne voulant deplaire au berger
Fut trop heureuse de lui rendre
Trente moutons pour un baiser."
There was a rather prolonged pause. It was as though time were
being allowed for the giving and receiving of a few of those
thirty kisses. Then the voice sang on:
Le lendemain Phillis peu sage
Aurait donne moutons et chien
Pour un baiser que le volage
A Lisette donnait pour rien.
The last note died away into an uninterrupted silence.
Are you better?Denis whispered. "Are you comfortable like
She nodded a Yes to both questions.
Trente moutons pour un baiser.The sheepthe woolly mutton-baa
baabaa...? Or the shepherd? Yesdecidedlyhe felt
himself to be the shepherd now. He was the masterthe
protector. A wave of courage swelled through himwarm as wine.
He turned his headand began to kiss her faceat first rather
randomlythenwith more precisionon the mouth.
Anne averted her head; he kissed the earthe smooth nape that
this movement presented him. "No she protested; noDenis."
It spoils our friendship, and that was so jolly.
She tried to explain. "Can't you see she said, it isn't...it
isn't our stunt at all." It was true. Somehow she had never
thought of Denis in the light of a man who might make love; she
had never so much as conceived the possibilities of an amorous
relationship with him. He was so absurdly youngso...so...she
couldn't find the adjectivebut she knew what she meant.
Why isn't it our stunt?asked Denis. "Andby the waythat's
a horrible and inappropriate expression."
Because it isn't.
But if I say it is?
It makes no difference. I say it isn't.
I shall make you say it is.
All right, Denis. But you must do it another time. I must go
in and get my ankle into hot water. It's beginning to swell.
Reasons of health could not be gainsaid. Denis got up
reluctantlyand helped his companion to her feet. She took a
cautious step. "Ooh!" She halted and leaned heavily on his arm.
I'll carry you,Denis offered. He had never tried to carry a
womanbut on the cinema it always looked an easy piece of
You couldn't,said Anne.
Of course I can.He felt larger and more protective than ever.
Put your arms round my neck,he ordered. She did so and
stoopinghe picked her up under the knees and lifted her from
the ground. Good heavenswhat a weight! He took five
staggering steps up the slopethen almost lost his equilibrium
and had to deposit his burden suddenlywith something of a bump.
Anne was shaking with laughter. "I said You couldn'tmy poor
I can,said Deniswithout conviction. "I'll try again."
It's perfectly sweet of you to offer, but I'd rather walk,
thanks.She laid her hand on his shoulder andthus supported
began to limp slowly up the hill.
My poor Denis!she repeatedand laughed again. Humiliatedhe
was silent. It seemed incredible thatonly two minutes agohe
should have been holding her in his embracekissing her.
Incredible. She was helpless thena child. Now she had
regained all her superiority; she was once more the far-off
beingdesired and unassailable. Why had he been such a fool as
to suggest that carrying stunt? He reached the house in a state
of the profoundest depression.
He helped Anne upstairsleft her in the hands of a maidand
came down again to the drawing-room. He was surprised to find
them all sitting just where he had left them. He had expected
thatsomehoweverything would be quite different--it seemed
such a prodigious time since he went away. All silent and all
damnedhe reflectedas he looked at them. Mr. Scogan's pipe
still wheezed; that was the only sound. Henry Wimbush was still
deep in his account books; he had just made the discovery that
Sir Ferdinando was in the habit of eating oysters the whole
summer throughregardless of the absence of the justifying R.
Gombauldin horn-rimmed spectacleswas reading. Jenny was
mysteriously scribbling in her red notebook. Andseated in her
favourite arm-chair at the corner of the hearthPriscilla was
looking through a pile of drawings. One by one she held them out
at arm's length andthrowing back her mountainous orange head
looked long and attentively through half-closed eyelids. She
wore a pale sea-green dress; on the slope of her mauve-powdered
decolletage diamonds twinkled. An immensely long cigaretteholder
projected at an angle from her face. Diamonds were
embedded in her high-piled coiffure; they glittered every time
she moved. It was a batch of Ivor's drawings--sketches of Spirit
Lifemade in the course of tranced tours through the other
world. On the back of each sheet descriptive titles were
written: "Portrait of an Angel15th March '20;" "Astral Beings
at Play3rd December '19;" "A Party of Souls on their Way to a
Higher Sphere21st May '21." Before examining the drawing on
the obverse of each sheetshe turned it over to read the title.
Try as she could--and she tried hard--Priscilla had never seen a
vision or succeeded in establishing any communication with the
Spirit World. She had to be content with the reported
experiences of others.
What have you done with the rest of your party?she asked
looking up as Denis entered the room.
He explained. Anne had gone to bedIvor and Mary were still in
the garden. He selected a book and a comfortable chairand
triedas far as the disturbed state of his mind would permit
himto compose himself for an evening's reading. The lamplight
was utterly serene; there was no movement save the stir of
Priscilla among her papers. All silent and all damnedDenis
repeated to himselfall silent and all damned...
It was nearly an hour later when Ivor and Mary made their
We waited to see the moon rise,said Ivor.
It was gibbous, you know,Mary explainedvery technical and
It was so beautiful down in the garden! The trees, the scent of
the flowers, the stars...Ivor waved his arms. "And when the
moon came upit was really too much. It made me burst into
tears." He sat down at the piano and opened the lid.
There were a great many meteorites,said Mary to anyone who
would listen. "The earth must just be coming into the summer
shower of them. In July and August..."
But Ivor had already begun to strike the keys. He played the
gardenthe starsthe scent of flowersthe rising moon. He
even put in a nightingale that was not there. Mary looked on and
listened with parted lips. The others pursued their occupations
without appearing to be seriously disturbed. On this very July
dayexactly three hundred and fifty years agoSir Ferdinando
had eaten seven dozen oysters. The discovery of this fact gave
Henry Wimbush a peculiar pleasure. He had a natural piety which
made him delight in the celebration of memorial feasts. The
three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the seven dozen
oysters...He wished he had known before dinner; he would have
On her way to bed Mary paid a call. The light was out in Anne's
roombut she was not yet asleep.
Why didn't you come down to the garden with us?Mary asked.
I fell down and twisted my ankle. Denis helped me home.
Mary was full of sympathy. Inwardlytooshe was relieved to
find Anne's non-appearance so simply accounted for. She had been
vaguely suspiciousdown there in the garden--suspicious of what
she hardly knew; but there had seemed to be something a little
louche in the way she had suddenly found herself alone with Ivor.
Not that she mindedof course; far from it. But she didn't like
the idea that perhaps she was the victim of a put-up job.
I do hope you'll be better to-morrow,she saidand she
commiserated with Anne on all she had missed--the gardenthe
starsthe scent of flowersthe meteorites through whose summer
shower the earth was now passingthe rising moon and its
gibbosity. And then they had had such interesting conversation.
What about? About almost everything. Natureartscience
poetrythe starsspiritualismthe relations of the sexes
musicreligion. Ivorshe thoughthad an interesting mind.
The two young ladies parted affectionately.
The nearest Roman Catholic church was upwards of twenty miles
away. Ivorwho was punctilious in his devotionscame down
early to breakfast and had his car at the doorready to start
by a quarter to ten. It was a smartexpensive-looking machine
enamelled a pure lemon yellow and upholstered in emerald green
leather. There were two seats--three if you squeezed tightly
enough--and their occupants were protected from winddustand
weather by a glazed sedan that rosean elegant eighteenthcentury
humpfrom the midst of the body of the car.
Mary had never been to a Roman Catholic servicethought it would
be an interesting experienceandwhen the car moved off through
the great gates of the courtyardshe was occupying the spare
seat in the sedan. The sea-lion horn roaredfaintlier
faintlierand they were gone.
In the parish church of Crome Mr. Bodiham preached on 1 Kings vi.
18: "And the cedar of the house within was carved with knops"--a
sermon of immediately local interest. For the past two years the
problem of the War Memorial had exercised the minds of all those
in Crome who had enough leisureor mental energyor party
spirit to think of such things. Henry Wimbush was all for a
library--a library of local literaturestocked with county
historiesold maps of the districtmonographs on the local
antiquitiesdialect dictionarieshandbooks of the local geology
and natural history. He liked to think of the villagers
inspired by such readingmaking up parties of a Sunday afternoon
to look for fossils and flint arrow-heads. The villagers
themselves favoured the idea of a memorial reservoir and water
supply. But the busiest and most articulate party followed Mr.
Bodiham in demanding something religious in character--a second
lich-gatefor examplea stained-glass windowa monument of
marbleorif possibleall three. So farhowevernothing had
been donepartly because the memorial committee had never been
able to agreepartly for the more cogent reason that too little
money had been subscribed to carry out any of the proposed
schemes. Every three or four months Mr. Bodiham preached a
sermon on the subject. His last had been delivered in March; it
was high time that his congregation had a fresh reminder.
And the cedar of the house within was carved with knops.
Mr. Bodiham touched lightly on Solomon's temple. From thence he
passed to temples and churches in general. What were the
characteristics of these buildings dedicated to God? Obviously
the fact of theirfrom a human point of viewcomplete
uselessness. They were unpractical buildings "carved with
knops." Solomon might have built a library--indeedwhat could
be more to the taste of the world's wisest man? He might have
dug a reservoir--what more useful in a parched city like
Jerusalem? He did neither; he built a house all carved with
knopsuseless and unpractical. Why? Because he was dedicating
the work to God. There had been much talk in Crome about the
proposed War Memorial. A War Memorial wasin its very naturea
work dedicated to God. It was a token of thankfulness that the
first stage in the culminating world-war had been crowned by the
triumph of righteousness; it was at the same time a visibly
embodied supplication that God might not long delay the Advent
which alone could bring the final peace. A librarya reservoir?
Mr. Bodiham scornfully and indignantly condemned the idea. These
were works dedicated to mannot to God. As a War Memorial they
were totally unsuitable. A lich-gate had been suggested. This
was an object which answered perfectly to the definition of a War
Memorial: a useless work dedicated to God and carved with knops.
One lich-gateit was truealready existed. But nothing would
be easier than to make a second entrance into the churchyard; and
a second entrance would need a second gate. Other suggestions
had been made. Stained-glass windowsa monument of marble.
Both these were admirableespecially the latter. It was high
time that the War Memorial was erected. It might soon be too
late. At any momentlike a thief in the nightGod might come.
Meanwhile a difficulty stood in the way. Funds were inadequate.
All should subscribe according to their means. Those who had
lost relations in the war might reasonably be expected to
subscribe a sum equal to that which they would have had to pay in
funeral expenses if the relative had died while at home. Further
delay was disastrous. The War Memorial must be built at once.
He appealed to the patriotism and the Christian sentiments of all
Henry Wimbush walked home thinking of the books he would present
to the War Memorial Libraryif ever it came into existence. He
took the path through the fields; it was pleasanter than the
road. At the first stile a group of village boysloutish young
fellows all dressed in the hideous ill-fitting black which makes
a funeral of every English Sunday and holidaywere assembled
drearily guffawing as they smoked their cigarettes. They made
way for Henry Wimbushtouching their caps as he passed. He
returned their salute; his bowler and face were one in their
In Sir Ferdinando's timehe reflectedin the time of his son
Sir Juliusthese young men would have had their Sunday
diversions even at Cromeremote and rustic Crome. There would
have been archeryskittlesdancing--social amusements in which
they would have partaken as members of a conscious community.
Now they had nothingnothing except Mr. Bodiham's forbidding
Boys' Club and the rare dances and concerts organised by himself.
Boredom or the urban pleasures of the county metropolis were the
alternatives that presented themselves to these poor youths.
Country pleasures were no more; they had been stamped out by the
In Manningham's Diary for 1600 there was a queer passagehe
remembereda very queer passage. Certain magistrates in
BerkshirePuritan magistrateshad had wind of a scandal. One
moonlit summer night they had ridden out with their posse and
thereamong the hillsthey had come upon a company of men and
womendancingstark nakedamong the sheepcotes. The
magistrates and their men had ridden their horses into the crowd.
How self-conscious the poor people must suddenly have felthow
helpless without their clothes against armed and booted horsemen!
The dancers were arrestedwhippedgaoledset in the stocks;
the moonlight dance is never danced again. What oldearthy
Panic rite came to extinction here? he wondered. Who knows?-perhaps
their ancestors had danced like this in the moonlight
ages before Adam and Eve were so much as thought of. He liked to
think so. And now it was no more. These weary young menif
they wanted to dancewould have to bicycle six miles to the
town. The country was desolatewithout life of its ownwithout
indigenous pleasures. The pious magistrates had snuffed out for
ever a little happy flame that had burned from the beginning of
And as on Tullia's tomb one lamp burned clear,
Unchanged for fifteen hundred year...
He repeated the lines to himselfand was desolated to think of
all the murdered past.
Henry Wimbush's long cigar burned aromatically. The "History of
Crome" lay on his knee; slowly he turned over the pages.
I can't decide what episode to read you to-night,he said
thoughtfully. "Sir Ferdinando's voyages are not without
interest. Thenof coursethere's his sonSir Julius. It was
he who suffered from the delusion that his perspiration
engendered flies; it drove him finally to suicide. Or there's
Sir Cyprian." He turned the pages more rapidly. "Or Sir Henry.
Or Sir George...NoI'm inclined to think I won't read about any
But you must read something,insisted Mr. Scogantaking his
pipe out of his mouth.
I think I shall read about my grandfather,said Henry Wimbush
and the events that led up to his marriage with the eldest
daughter of the last Sir Ferdinando.
Good,said Mr. Scogan. "We are listening."
Before I begin reading,said Henry Wimbushlooking up from the
book and taking off the pince-nez which he had just fitted to his
nose--"before their beginI must say a few preliminary words
about Sir Ferdinandothe last of the Lapiths. At the death of
the virtuous and unfortunate Sir HerculesFerdinando found
himself in possession of the family fortunenot a little
increased by his father's temperance and thrift; he applied
himself forthwith to the task of spending itwhich he did in an
ample and jovial fashion. By the time he was forty he had eaten
andabove alldrunk and loved away about half his capitaland
would infallibly have soon got rid of the rest in the same
mannerif he had not had the good fortune to become so madly
enamoured of the Rector's daughter as to make a proposal of
marriage. The young lady accepted himand in less than a year
had become the absolute mistress of Crome and her husband. An
extraordinary reformation made itself apparent in Sir
Ferdinando's character. He grew regular and economical in his
habits; he even became temperaterarely drinking more than a
bottle and a half of port at a sitting. The waning fortune of
the Lapiths began once more to waxand that in despite of the
hard times (for Sir Ferdinando married in 1809 in the height of
the Napoleonic Wars). A prosperous and dignified old age
cheered by the spectacle of his children's growth and happiness-for
Lady Lapith had already borne him three daughtersand there
seemed no good reason why she should not bear many more of them
and sons as well--a patriarchal decline into the family vault
seemed now to be Sir Ferdinando's enviable destiny. But
Providence willed otherwise. To Napoleoncause already of such
infinite mischiefwas duethough perhaps indirectlythe
untimely and violent death which put a period to this reformed
Sir Ferdinando, who was above all things a patriot, had adopted,
from the earliest days of the conflict with the French, his own
peculiar method of celebrating our victories. When the happy
news reached London, it was his custom to purchase immediately a
large store of liquor and, taking a place on whichever of the
outgoing coaches he happened to light on first, to drive through
the country proclaiming the good news to all he met on the road
and dispensing it, along with the liquor, at every stopping-place
to all who cared to listen or drink. Thus, after the Nile, he
had driven as far as Edinburgh; and later, when the coaches,
wreathed with laurel for triumph, with cypress for mourning, were
setting out with the news of Nelson's victory and death, he sat
through all a chilly October night on the box of the Norwich
Meteor" with a nautical keg of rum on his knees and two cases of
old brandy under the seat. This genial custom was one of the
many habits which he abandoned on his marriage. The victories in
the Peninsulathe retreat from MoscowLeipzigand the
abdication of the tyrant all went uncelebrated. It so happened
howeverthat in the summer of 1815 Sir Ferdinando was staying
for a few weeks in the capital. There had been a succession of
anxiousdoubtful days; then came the glorious news of Waterloo.
It was too much for Sir Ferdinando; his joyous youth awoke again
within him. He hurried to his wine merchant and bought a dozen
bottles of 1760 brandy. The Bath coach was on the point of
starting; he bribed his way on to the box andseated in glory
beside the driverproclaimed aloud the downfall of the Corsican
bandit and passed about the warm liquid joy. They clattered
through UxbridgeSloughMaidenhead. Sleeping Reading was
awakened by the great news. At Didcot one of the ostlers was so
much overcome by patriotic emotions and the 1760 brandy that he
found it impossible to do up the buckles of the harness. The
night began to grow chillyand Sir Ferdinando found that it was
not enough to take a nip at every stage: to keep up his vital
warmth he was compelled to drink between the stages as well.
They were approaching Swindon. The coach was travelling at a
dizzy speed--six miles in the last half-hour--whenwithout
having manifested the slightest premonitory symptom of
unsteadinessSir Ferdinando suddenly toppled sideways off his
seat and fellhead foremostinto the road. An unpleasant jolt
awakened the slumbering passengers. The coach was brought to a
standstill; the guard ran back with a light. He found Sir
Ferdinando still alivebut unconscious; blood was oozing from
his mouth. The back wheels of the coach had passed over his
bodybreaking most of his ribs and both arms. His skull was
fractured in two places. They picked him upbut he was dead
before they reached the next stage. So perished Sir Ferdinando
a victim to his own patriotism. Lady Lapith did not marry again
but determined to devote the rest of her life to the well-being
of her three children--Georgiananow five years oldand
Emmeline and Carolinetwins of two."
Henry Wimbush pausedand once more put on his pince-nez. "So
much by way of introduction he said. Now I can begin to read
about my grandfather."
One moment,said Mr. Scogantill I've refilled my pipe.
Mr. Wimbush waited. Seated apart in a corner of the roomIvor
was showing Mary his sketches of Spirit Life. They spoke
together in whispers.
Mr. Scogan had lighted his pipe again. "Fire away he said.
Henry Wimbush fired away.
It was in the spring of 1833 that my grandfatherGeorge
Wimbushfirst made the acquaintance of the 'three lovely
Lapiths' as they were always called. He was then a young man of
twenty-twowith curly yellow hair and a smooth pink face that
was the mirror of his youthful and ingenuous mind. He had been
educated at Harrow and Christ Churchhe enjoyed hunting and all
other field sportsandthough his circumstances were
comfortable to the verge of affluencehis pleasures were
temperate and innocent. His fatheran East Indian merchanthad
destined him for a political careerand had gone to considerable
expense in acquiring a pleasant little Cornish borough as a
twenty-first birthday gift for his son. He was justly indignant
whenon the very eve of George's majoritythe Reform Bill of
1832 swept the borough out of existence. The inauguration of
George's political career had to be postponed. At the time he
got to know the lovely Lapiths he was waiting; he was not at all
The lovely Lapiths did not fail to impress him. Georgiana, the
eldest, with her black ringlets, her flashing eyes, her noble
aquiline profile, her swan-like neck, and sloping shoulders, was
orientally dazzling; and the twins, with their delicately turnedup
noses, their blue eyes, and chestnut hair, were an identical
pair of ravishingly English charmers.
Their conversation at this first meeting provedhoweverto be
so forbidding thatbut for the invincible attraction exercised
by their beautyGeorge would never have had the courage to
follow up the acquaintance. The twinslooking up their noses at
him with an air of languid superiorityasked him what he thought
of the latest French poetry and whether he liked the "Indiana" of
George Sand. But what was almost worse was the question with
which Georgiana opened her conversation with him. 'In music'
she askedleaning forward and fixing him with her large dark
eyes'are you a classicist or a transcendentalist?' George did
not lose his presence of mind. He had enough appreciation of
music to know that he hated anything classicaland sowith a
promptitude which did him credithe replied'I am a
transcendentalist.' Georgiana smiled bewitchingly. 'I am glad'
she said; 'so am I. You went to hear Paganini last weekof
course. "The prayer of Moses"--ah!' She closed her eyes. 'Do
you know anything more transcendental than that?' 'No' said
George'I don't.' He hesitatedwas about to go on speaking
and then decided that after all it would be wiser not to say-what
was in fact true--that he had enjoyed above all Paganini's
Farmyard Imitations. The man had made his fiddle bray like an
asscluck like a hengruntsquealbarkneighquackbellow
and growl; that last itemin George's estimationhad almost
compensated for the tediousness of the rest of the concert. He
smiled with pleasure at the thought of it. Yesdecidedlyhe
was no classicist in music; he was a thoroughgoing
George followed up this first introduction by paying a call on
the young ladies and their mother, who occupied, during the
season, a small but elegant house in the neighbourhood of
Berkeley Square. Lady Lapith made a few discreet inquiries, and
having found that George's financial position, character, and
family were all passably good, she asked him to dine. She hoped
and expected that her daughters would all marry into the peerage;
but, being a prudent woman, she knew it was advisable to prepare
for all contingencies. George Wimbush, she thought, would make
an excellent second string for one of the twins.
At this first dinnerGeorge's partner was Emmeline. They
talked of Nature. Emmeline protested that to her high mountains
were a feeling and the hum of human cities torture. George
agreed that the country was very agreeablebut held that London
during the season also had its charms. He noticed with surprise
and a certain solicitous distress that Miss Emmeline's appetite
was poorthat it didn'tin factexist. Two spoonfuls of soup
a morsel of fishno birdno meatand three grapes--that was
her whole dinner. He looked from time to time at her two
sisters; Georgiana and Caroline seemed to be quite as abstemious.
They waved away whatever was offered them with an expression of
delicate disgustshutting their eyes and averting their faces
from the proffered dishas though the lemon solethe duckthe
loin of vealthe triflewere objects revolting to the sight and
smell. Georgewho thought the dinner capitalventured to
comment on the sisters' lack of appetite.
'Pray, don't talk to me of eating,' said Emmeline, drooping like
a sensitive plant. 'We find it so coarse, so unspiritual, my
sisters and I. One can't think of one's soul while one is
George agreed; one couldn't. 'But one must live' he said.
'Alas!' Emmeline sighed. 'One must. Death is very beautiful,
don't you think?' She broke a corner off a piece of toast and
began to nibble at it languidly. 'But since, as you say, one
must live...' She made a little gesture of resignation.
'Luckily a very little suffices to keep one alive.' She put down
her corner of toast half eaten.
George regarded her with some surprise. She was palebut she
looked extraordinarily healthyhe thought; so did her sisters.
Perhaps if you were really spiritual you needed less food. He
clearlywas not spiritual.
After this he saw them frequently. They all liked him, from
Lady Lapith downwards. True, he was not very romantic or
poetical; but he was such a pleasant, unpretentious, kind-hearted
young man, that one couldn't help liking him. For his part, he
thought them wonderful, wonderful, especially Georgiana. He
enveloped them all in a warm, protective affection. For they
needed protection; they were altogether too frail, too spiritual
for this world. They never ate, they were always pale, they
often complained of fever, they talked much and lovingly of
death, they frequently swooned. Georgiana was the most ethereal
of all; of the three she ate least, swooned most often, talked
most of death, and was the palest--with a pallor that was so
startling as to appear positively artificial. At any moment, it
seemed, she might loose her precarious hold on this material
world and become all spirit. To George the thought was a
continual agony. If she were to die...
She contrivedhoweverto live through the seasonand that in
spite of the numerous ballsroutsand other parties of pleasure
whichin company with the rest of the lovely trioshe never
failed to attend. In the middle of July the whole household
moved down to the country. George was invited to spend the month
of August at Crome.
The house-party was distinguished; in the list of visitors
figured the names of two marriageable young men of title. George
had hoped that country air, repose, and natural surroundings
might have restored to the three sisters their appetites and the
roses of their cheeks. He was mistaken. For dinner, the first
evening, Georgiana ate only an olive, two or three salted
almonds, and half a peach. She was as pale as ever. During the
meal she spoke of love.
'True love' she said'being infinite and eternalcan only be
consummated in eternity. Indiana and Sir Rodolphe celebrated the
mystic wedding of their souls by jumping into Niagara. Love is
incompatible with life. The wish of two people who truly love
one another is not to live together but to die together.'
'Come, come, my dear,' said Lady Lapith, stout and practical.
'What would become of the next generation, pray, if all the world
acted on your principles?'
'Mamma!...' Georgiana protestedand dropped her eyes.
'In my young days,' Lady Lapith went on, 'I should have been
laughed out of countenance if I'd said a thing like that. But
then in my young days souls weren't as fashionable as they are
now and we didn't think death was at all poetical. It was just
'Mamma!...' Emmeline and Caroline implored in unison.
'In my young days--' Lady Lapith was launched into her subject;
nothing, it seemed, could stop her now. 'In my young days, if
you didn't eat, people told you you needed a dose of rhubarb.
There was a cry; Georgiana had swooned sideways on to Lord
Timpany's shoulder. It was a desperate expedient; but it was
successful. Lady Lapith was stopped.
The days passed in an uneventful round of pleasures. Of all the
gay party George alone was unhappy. Lord Timpany was paying his
court to Georgiana, and it was clear that he was not unfavourably
received. George looked on, and his soul was a hell of jealousy
and despair. The boisterous company of the young men became
intolerable to him; he shrank from them, seeking gloom and
solitude. One morning, having broken away from them on some
vague pretext, he returned to the house alone. The young men
were bathing in the pool below; their cries and laughter floated
up to him, making the quiet house seem lonelier and more silent.
The lovely sisters and their mamma still kept their chambers;
they did not customarily make their appearance till luncheon, so
that the male guests had the morning to themselves. George sat
down in the hall and abandoned himself to thought.
At any moment she might die; at any moment she might become Lady
Timpany. It was terribleterrible. If she diedthen he would
die too; he would go to seek her beyond the grave. If she became
Lady Timpany...ahthen! The solution of the problem would not
be so simple. If she became Lady Timpany: it was a horrible
thought. But then suppose she were in love with Timpany--though
it seemed incredible that anyone could be in love with Timpany-suppose
her life depended on Timpanysuppose she couldn't live
without him? He was fumbling his way along this clueless
labyrinth of suppositions when the clock struck twelve. On the
last strokelike an automaton released by the turning clockwork
a little maidholding a large covered traypopped out of the
door that led from the kitchen regions into the hall. From his
deep arm-chair George watched her (himselfit was evident
unobserved) with an idle curiosity. She pattered across the room
and came to a halt in front of what seemed a blank expense of
panelling. She reached out her hand andto George's extreme
astonishmenta little door swung openrevealing the foot of a
winding staircase. Turning sideways in order to get her tray
through the narrow openingthe little maid darted in with a
rapid crab-like motion. The door closed behind her with a click.
A minute later it opened again and the maidwithout her tray
hurried back across the hall and disappeared in the direction of
the kitchen. George tried to recompose his thoughtsbut an
invincible curiosity drew his mind towards the hidden doorthe
staircasethe little maid. It was in vain he told himself that
the matter was none of his businessthat to explore the secrets
of that surprising doorthat mysterious staircase withinwould
be a piece of unforgivable rudeness and indiscretion. It was in
vain; for five minutes he struggled heroically with his
curiositybut at the end of that time he found himself standing
in front of the innocent sheet of panelling through which the
little maid had disappeared. A glance sufficed to show him the
position of the secret door--secrethe perceivedonly to those
who looked with a careless eye. It was just an ordinary door let
in flush with the panelling. No latch nor handle betrayed its
positionbut an unobtrusive catch sunk in the wood invited the
thumb. George was astonished that he had not noticed it before;
now he had seen itit was so obviousalmost as obvious as the
cupboard door in the library with its lines of imitation shelves
and its dummy books. He pulled back the catch and peeped inside.
The staircaseof which the degrees were made not of stone but of
blocks of ancient oakwound up and out of sight. A slit-like
window admitted the daylight; he was at the foot of the central
towerand the little window looked out over the terrace; they
were still shouting and splashing in the pool below.
George closed the door and went back to his seat. But his
curiosity was not satisfied. Indeed, this partial satisfaction
had but whetted its appetite. Where did the staircase lead?
What was the errand of the little maid? It was no business of
his, he kept repeating--no business of his. He tried to read,
but his attention wandered. A quarter-past twelve sounded on the
harmonious clock. Suddenly determined, George rose, crossed the
room, opened the hidden door, and began to ascend the stairs. He
passed the first window, corkscrewed round, and came to another.
He paused for a moment to look out; his heart beat uncomfortably,
as though he were affronting some unknown danger. What he was
doing, he told himself, was extremely ungentlemanly, horribly
underbred. He tiptoed onward and upward. One turn more, then
half a turn, and a door confronted him. He halted before it,
listened; he could hear no sound. Putting his eye to the
keyhole, he saw nothing but a stretch of white sunlit wall.
Emboldened, he turned the handle and stepped across the
threshold. There he halted, petrified by what he saw, mutely
In the middle of a pleasantly sunny little room--'it is now
Priscilla's boudoir' Mr. Wimbush remarked parenthetically--stood
a small circular table of mahogany. Crystalporcelainand
silver--all the shining apparatus of an elegant meal--were
mirrored in its polished depths. The carcase of a cold chicken
a bowl of fruita great hamdeeply gashed to its heart of
tenderest white and pinkthe brown cannon ball of a cold plumpudding
a slender Hock bottleand a decanter of claret jostled
one another for a place on this festive board. And round the
table sat the three sistersthe three lovely Lapiths--eating!
At George's sudden entrance they had all looked towards the
door, and now they sat, petrified by the same astonishment which
kept George fixed and staring. Georgiana, who sat immediately
facing the door, gazed at him with dark, enormous eyes. Between
the thumb and forefinger of her right hand she was holding a
drumstick of the dismembered chicken; her little finger,
elegantly crooked, stood apart from the rest of her hand. Her
mouth was open, but the drumstick had never reached its
destination; it remained, suspended, frozen, in mid-air. The
other two sisters had turned round to look at the intruder.
Caroline still grasped her knife and fork; Emmeline's fingers
were round the stem of her claret glass. For what seemed a very
long time, George and the three sisters stared at one another in
silence. They were a group of statues. Then suddenly there was
movement. Georgiana dropped her chicken bone, Caroline's knife
and fork clattered on her plate. The movement propagated itself,
grew more decisive; Emmeline sprang to her feet, uttering a cry.
The wave of panic reached George; he turned and, mumbling
something unintelligible as he went, rushed out of the room and
down the winding stairs. He came to a standstill in the hall,
and there, all by himself in the quiet house, he began to laugh.
At luncheon it was noticed that the sisters ate a little more
than usual. Georgiana toyed with some French beans and a
spoonful of calves'-foot jelly. 'I feel a little stronger today'
she said to Lord Timpanywhen he congratulated her on this
increase of appetite; 'a little more material' she addedwith a
nervous laugh. Looking upshe caught George's eye; a blush
suffused her cheeks and she looked hastily away.
In the garden that afternoon they found themselves for a moment
You won't tell anyoneGeorge? Promise you won't tell anyone'
she implored. 'It would make us look so ridiculous. And
besideseating IS unspiritualisn't it? Say you won't tell
'I will,' said George brutally. 'I'll tell everyone, unless...'
'I don't care, said George. 'I'll give you twenty-four hours to
Lady Lapith was disappointedof course; she had hoped for
better things--for Timpany and a coronet. But Georgeafter all
wasn't so bad. They were married at the New Year.
My poor grandfather!Mr. Wimbush addedas he closed his book
and put away his pince-nez. "Whenever I read in the papers about
oppressed nationalitiesI think of him." He relighted his
cigar. "It was a maternal governmenthighly centralisedand
there were no representative institutions."
Henry Wimbush ceased speaking. In the silence that ensued Ivor's
whispered commentary on the spirit sketches once more became
audible. Priscillawho had been dozingsuddenly woke up.
What?she said in the startled tones of one newly returned to
Jenny caught the words. She looked upsmilednodded
reassuringly. "It's about a ham she said.
What's about a ham?"
What Henry has been reading.She closed the red notebook lying
on her knees and slipped a rubber band round it. "I'm going to
bed she announced, and got up.
So am I said Anne, yawning. But she lacked the energy to rise
from her arm-chair.
The night was hot and oppressive. Round the open windows the
curtains hung unmoving. Ivor, fanning himself with the portrait
of an Astral Being, looked out into the darkness and drew a
The air's like wool he declared.
It will get cooler after midnight said Henry Wimbush, and
cautiously added, perhaps."
I shan't sleep, I know.
Priscilla turned her head in his direction; the monumental
coiffure nodded exorbitantly at her slightest movement. "You
must make an effort she said. When I can't sleepI
concentrate my will: I say'I will sleepI am asleep!' And
pop! off I go. That's the power of thought."
But does it work on stuffy nights?Ivor inquired. "I simply
cannot sleep on a stuffy night."
Nor can I,said Maryexcept out of doors.
Out of doors! What a wonderful idea!In the end they decided
to sleep on the towers--Mary on the western towerIvor on the
eastern. There was a flat expanse of leads on each of the
towersand you could get a mattress through the trap doors that
opened on to them. Under the starsunder the gibbous moon
assuredly they would sleep. The mattresses were hauled up
sheets and blankets were spreadand an hour later the two
insomniastseach on his separate towerwere crying their goodnights
across the dividing gulf.
On Mary the sleep-compelling charm of the open air did not work
with its expected magic. Even through the mattress one could not
fail to be aware that the leads were extremely hard. Then there
were noises: the owls screeched tirelesslyand onceroused by
some unknown terrorall the geese of the farmyard burst into a
sudden frenzy of cackling. The stars and the gibbous moon
demanded to be looked atand when one meteorite had streaked
across the skyyou could not help waitingopen-eyed and alert
for the next. Time passed; the moon climbed higher and higher in
the sky. Mary felt less sleepy than she had when she first came
out. She sat up and looked over the parapet. Had Ivor been able
to sleep? she wondered. And as though in answer to her mental
questionfrom behind the chimney-stack at the farther end of the
roof a white form noiselessly emerged--a form thatin the
moonlightwas recognisably Ivor's. Spreading his arms to right
and leftlike a tight-rope dancerhe began to walk forward
along the roof-tree of the house. He swayed terrifyingly as he
advanced. Mary looked on speechlessly; perhaps he was walking in
his sleep! Suppose he were to wake up suddenlynow! If she
spoke or moved it might mean his death. She dared look no more
but sank back on her pillows. She listened intently. For what
seemed an immensely long time there was no sound. Then there was
a patter of feet on the tilesfollowed by a scrabbling noise and
a whispered "Damn!" And suddenly Ivor's head and shoulders
appeared above the parapet. One leg followedthen the other.
He was on the leads. Mary pretended to wake up with a start.
Oh!she said. "What are you doing here?"
I couldn't sleep,he explainedso I came along to see if you
couldn't. One gets bored by oneself on a tower. Don't you find
It was light before five. Longnarrow clouds barred the east
their edges bright with orange fire. The sky was pale and
watery. With the mournful scream of a soul in paina monstrous
peacockflying heavily up from belowalighted on the parapet of
the tower. Ivor and Mary started broad awake.
Catch him!cried Ivorjumping up. "We'll have a feather."
The frightened peacock ran up and down the parapet in an absurd
distresscurtseying and bobbing and clucking; his long tail
swung ponderously back and forth as he turned and turned again.
Then with a flap and swish he launched himself upon the air and
sailed magnificently earthwardwith a recovered dignity. But he
had left a trophy. Ivor had his feathera long-lashed eye of
purple and greenof blue and gold. He handed it to his
An angel's feather,he said.
Mary looked at it for a momentgravely and intently. Her purple
pyjamas clothed her with an ampleness that hid the lines of her
body; she looked like some largecomfortableunjointed toya
sort of Teddy-bear--but a Teddy bear with an angel's headpink
cheeksand hair like a bell of gold. An angel's facethe
feather of an angel's wing...Somehow the whole atmosphere of this
sunrise was rather angelic.
It's extraordinary to think of sexual selection,she said at
lastlooking up from her contemplation of the miraculous
Extraordinary!Ivor echoed. "I select youyou select me.
He put his arm round her shoulders and they stood looking
eastward. The first sunlight had begun to warm and colour the
pale light of the dawn. Mauve pyjamas and white pyjamas; they
were a young and charming couple. The rising sun touched their
faces. It was all extremely symbolic; but thenif you choose to
think sonothing in this world is not symbolical. Profound and
I must be getting back to my tower,said Ivor at last.
I'm afraid so. The varletry will soon be up and about.
Ivor...There was a prolonged and silent farewell.
And now,said IvorI repeat my tight-rope stunt.
Mary threw her arms round his neck. "You mustn'tIvor. It's
He had to yield at last to her entreaties. "All right he said,
I'll go down through the house and up at the other end."
He vanished through the trap door into the darkness that still
lurked within the shuttered house. A minute later he had
reappeared on the farther tower; he waved his handand then sank
downout of sightbehind the parapet. From belowin the
housecame the thin wasp-like buzzing of an alarum-clock. He
had gone back just in time.
Ivor was gone. Lounging behind the wind-screen in his yellow
sedan he was whirling across rural England. Social and amorous
engagements of the most urgent character called him from hall to
baronial hallfrom castle to castlefrom Elizabethan manor-
house to Georgian mansionover the whole expanse of the kingdom.
To-day in Somersetto-morrow in Warwickshireon Saturday in the
West ridingby Tuesday morning in Argyll--Ivor never rested.
The whole summer throughfrom the beginning of July till the end
of Septemberhe devoted himself to his engagements; he was a
martyr to them. In the autumn he went back to London for a
holiday. Crome had been a little incidentan evanescent bubble
on the stream of his life; it belonged already to the past. By
tea-time he would be at Gobleyand there would be Zenobia's
welcoming smile. And on Thursday morning--but that was a long
long way ahead. He would think of Thursday morning when Thursday
morning arrived. Meanwhile there was Gobleymeanwhile Zenobia.
In the visitor's book at Crome Ivor had leftaccording to his
invariable custom in these casesa poem. He had improvised it
magisterially in the ten minutes preceding his departure. Denis
and Mr. Scogan strolled back together from the gates of the
courtyardwhence they had bidden their last farewells; on the
writing-table in the hall they found the visitor's bookopen
and Ivor's composition scarcely dry. Mr. Scogan read it aloud:
The magic of those immemorial kings,
Who webbed enchantment on the bowls of night.
Sleeps in the soul of all created things;
In the blue sea, th' Acroceraunian height,
In the eyed butterfly's auricular wings
And orgied visions of the anchorite;
In all that singing flies and flying sings,
In rain, in pain, in delicate delight.
But much more magic, much more cogent spells
Weave here their wizardries about my soul.
Crome calls me like the voice of vesperal bells,
Haunts like a ghostly-peopled necropole.
Fate tears me hence. Hard fate! since far from Crome
My soul must weep, remembering its Home.
Very nice and tasteful and tactful,said Mr. Scoganwhen he
had finished. "I am only troubled by the butterfly's auricular
wings. You have a first-hand knowledge of the workings of a
poet's mindDenis; perhaps you can explain."
What could be simpler,said Denis. "It's a beautiful wordand
Ivor wanted to say that the wings were golden."
You make it luminously clear.
One suffers so much,Denis went onfrom the fact that
beautiful words don't always mean what they ought to mean.
Recently, for example, I had a whole poem ruined, just because
the word 'carminative' didn't mean what it ought to have meant.
Carminative--it's admirable, isn't it?
Admirable,Mr. Scogan agreed. "And what does it mean?"
It's a word I've treasured from my earliest infancy,said
Denistreasured and loved. They used to give me cinnamon when
I had a cold--quite useless, but not disagreeable. One poured it
drop by drop out of narrow bottles, a golden liquor, fierce and
fiery. On the label was a list of its virtues, and among other
things it was described as being in the highest degree
carminative. I adored the word. 'Isn't it carminative?' I used
to say to myself when I'd taken my dose. It seemed so
wonderfully to describe that sensation of internal warmth, that
glow, that--what shall I call it?--physical self-satisfaction
which followed the drinking of cinnamon. Later, when I
discovered alcohol, 'carminative' described for me that similar,
but nobler, more spiritual glow which wine evokes not only in the
body but in the soul as well. The carminative virtues of
burgundy, of rum, of old brandy, of Lacryma Christi, of Marsala,
of Aleatico, of stout, of gin, of champagne, of claret, of the
raw new wine of this year's Tuscan vintage--I compared them, I
classified them. Marsala is rosily, downily carminative; gin
pricks and refreshes while it warms. I had a whole table of
carmination values. And now--Denis spread out his handspalms
upwardsdespairingly--"now I know what carminative really
Well, what DOES it mean?asked Mr. Scogana little
Carminative,said Denislingering lovingly over the syllables
carminative. I imagined vaguely that it had something to do
with carmen-carminis, still more vaguely with caro-carnis, and
its derivations, like carnival and carnation. Carminative--there
was the idea of singing and the idea of flesh, rose-coloured and
warm, with a suggestion of the jollities of mi-Careme and the
masked holidays of Venice. Carminative--the warmth, the glow,
the interior ripeness were all in the word. Instead of which...
Do come to the point, my dear Denis,protested Mr. Scogan. "Do
come to the point."
Well, I wrote a poem the other day,said Denis; "I wrote a poem
about the effects of love."
Others have done the same before you,said Mr. Scogan. "There
is no need to be ashamed."
I was putting forward the notion,Denis went onthat the
effects of love were often similar to the effects of wine, that
Eros could intoxicate as well as Bacchus. Love, for example, is
essentially carminative. It gives one the sense of warmth, the
'And passion carminative as wine...'
was what I wrote. Not only was the line elegantly sonorous; it
was also, I flattered myself, very aptly compendiously
expressive. Everything was in the word carminative--a detailed,
exact foreground, an immense, indefinite hinterland of
'And passion carminative as wine...'
I was not ill-pleased. And then suddenly it occurred to me that
I had never actually looked up the word in a dictionary.
Carminative had grown up with me from the days of the cinnamon
bottle. It had always been taken for granted. Carminative: for
me the word was as rich in content as some tremendous, elaborate
work of art; it was a complete landscape with figures.
'And passion carminative as wine...'
It was the first time I had ever committed the word to writing,
and all at once I felt I would like lexicographical authority for
it. A small English-German dictionary was all I had at hand. I
turned up C, ca, car, carm. There it was: 'Carminative:
windtreibend.' Windtreibend!he repeated. Mr. Scogan laughed.
Denis shook his head. "Ah he said, for me it was no laughing
matter. For me it marked the end of a chapterthe death of
something young and precious. There were the years--years of
childhood and innocence--when I had believed that carminative
meant--wellcarminative. And nowbefore me lies the rest of my
life--a dayperhapsten yearshalf a centurywhen I shall
know that carminative means windtreibend.
'Plus ne suis ce que j'ai ete
Et ne le saurai jamais etre.'
It is a realisation that makes one rather melancholy."
Carminative,said Mr. Scogan thoughtfully.
Carminative,Denis repeatedand they were silent for a time.
Words,said Denis at lastwords--I wonder if you can realise
how much I love them. You are too much preoccupied with mere
things and ideas and people to understand the full beauty of
words. Your mind is not a literary mind. The spectacle of Mr.
Gladstone finding thirty-four rhymes to the name 'Margot' seems
to you rather pathetic than anything else. Mallarme's envelopes
with their versified addresses leave you cold, unless they leave
you pitiful; you can't see that
'Apte a ne point te cabrer, hue!
Poste et j'ajouterai, dia!
Si tu ne fuis onze-bis Rue
Balzac, chez cet Heredia,'
is a little miracle.
You're right,said Mr. Scogan. "I can't."
You don't feel it to be magical?
That's the test for the literary mind,said Denis; "the feeling
of magicthe sense that words have power. The technicalverbal
part of literature is simply a development of magic. Words are
man's first and most grandiose invention. With language he
created a whole new universe; what wonder if he loved words and
attributed power to them! With fittedharmonious words the
magicians summoned rabbits out of empty hats and spirits from the
elements. Their descendantsthe literary menstill go on with
the processmorticing their verbal formulas togetherand
before the power of the finished spelltrembling with delight
and awe. Rabbits out of empty hats? Notheir spells are more
subtly powerfulfor they evoke emotions out of empty minds.
Formulated by their art the most insipid statements become
enormously significant. For exampleI proffer the constatation
'Black ladders lack bladders.' A self-evident truthone on
which it would not have been worth while to insisthad I chosen
to formulate it in such words as 'Black fire-escapes have no
bladders' or'Les echelles noires manquent de vessie.' But
since I put it as I do'Black ladders lack bladders' it
becomesfor all its self-evidencesignificantunforgettable
moving. The creation by word-power of something out of nothing-what
is that but magic? AndI may addwhat is that but
literature? Half the world's greatest poetry is simply 'Les
echelles noires manquent de vessie' translated into magic
significance as'Black ladders lack bladders.' And you can't
appreciate words. I'm sorry for you."
A mental carminative,said Mr. Scogan reflectively. "That's
what you need."
Perched on its four stone mushroomsthe little granary stood two
or three feet above the grass of the green close. Beneath it
there was a perpetual shade and a damp growth of longluxuriant
grasses. Herein the shadowin the green dampnessa family of
white ducks had sought shelter from the afternoon sun. Some
stoodpreening themselvessome reposed with their long bellies
pressed to the groundas though the cool grass were water.
Little social noises burst fitfully forthand from time to time
some pointed tail would execute a brilliant Lisztian tremolo.
Suddenly their jovial repose was shattered. A prodigious thump
shook the wooden flooring above their heads; the whole granary
trembledlittle fragments of dirt and crumbled wood rained down
among them. With a loudcontinuous quacking the ducks rushed
out from beneath this nameless menaceand did not stay their
flight till they were safely in the farmyard.
Don't lose your temper,Anne was saying. "Listen! You've
frightened the ducks. Poor dears! no wonder." She was sitting
sideways in a lowwooden chair. Her right elbow rested on the
back of the chair and she supported her cheek on her hand. Her
longslender body drooped into curves of a lazy grace. She was
smilingand she looked at Gombauld through half-closed eyes.
Damn you!Gombauld repeatedand stamped his foot again. He
glared at her round the half-finished portrait on the easel.
Poor ducks!Anne repeated. The sound of their quacking was
faint in the distance; it was inaudible.
Can't you see you make me lose my time?he asked. "I can't
work with you dangling about distractingly like this."
You'd lose less time if you stopped talking and stamping your
feet and did a little painting for a change. After all, what am
I dangling about for, except to be painted?
Gombauld made a noise like a growl. "You're awful he said,
with conviction. Why do you ask me to come and stay here? Why
do you tell me you'd like me to paint your portrait?"
For the simple reasons that I like you--at least, when you're in
a good temper--and that I think you're a good painter.
For the simple reason--Gombauld mimicked her voice--"that you
want me to make love to you andwhen I doto have the amusement
of running away."
Anne threw back her head and laughed. "So you think it amuses me
to have to evade your advances! So like a man! If you only knew
how gross and awful and boring men are when they try to make love
and you don't want them to make love! If you could only see
yourselves through our eyes!"
Gombauld picked up his palette and brushes and attacked his
canvas with the ardour of irritation. "I suppose you'll be
saying next that you didn't start the gamethat it was I who
made the first advancesand that you were the innocent victim
who sat still and never did anything that could invite or allure
So like a man again!said Anne. "It's always the same old
story about the woman tempting the man. The woman lures
fascinatesinvites; and man--noble maninnocent man--falls a
victim. My poor Gombauld! Surely you're not going to sing that
old song again. It's so unintelligentand I always thought you
were a man of sense."
Be a little objective,Anne went on. "Can't you see that
you're simply externalising your own emotions? That's what you
men are always doing; it's so barbarously naive. You feel one of
your loose desires for some womanand because you desire her
strongly you immediately accuse her of luring you onof
deliberately provoking and inviting the desire. You have the
mentality of savages. You might just as well say that a plate of
strawberries and cream deliberately lures you on to feel greedy.
In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred women are as passive and
innocent as the strawberries and cream."
Well, all I can say is that this must be the hundredth case,
said Gombauldwithout looking up.
Anne shrugged her shoulders and gave vent to a sigh. "I'm at a
loss to know whether you're more silly or more rude."
After painting for a little time in silence Gombauld began to
speak again. "And then there's Denis he said, renewing the
conversation as though it had only just been broken off. You're
playing the same game with him. Why can't you leave that
wretched young man in peace?"
Anne flushed with a sudden and uncontrollable anger. "It's
perfectly untrue about Denis she said indignantly. I never
dreamt of playing what you beautifully call the same game with
him." Recovering her calmshe added in her ordinary cooing
voice and with her exacerbating smileYou've become very
protective towards poor Denis all of a sudden.
I have,Gombauld repliedwith a gravity that was somehow a
little too solemn. "I don't like to see a young man..."
...being whirled along the road to ruin,said Annecontinuing
his sentence for him. I admire your sentiments andbelieve me
I share them."
She was curiously irritated at what Gombauld had said about
Denis. It happened to be so completely untrue. Gombauld might
have some slight ground for his reproaches. But Denis--noshe
had never flirted with Denis. Poor boy! He was very sweet. She
became somewhat pensive.
Gombauld painted on with fury. The restlessness of an
unsatisfied desirewhichbeforehad distracted his mind
making work impossibleseemed now to have converted itself into
a kind of feverish energy. When it was finishedhe told
himselfthe portrait would be diabolic. He was painting her in
the pose she had naturally adopted at the first sitting. Seated
sidewaysher elbow on the back of the chairher head and
shoulders turned at an angle from the rest of her bodytowards
the frontshe had fallen into an attitude of indolent
abandonment. He had emphasised the lazy curves of her body; the
lines sagged as they crossed the canvasthe grace of the painted
figure seemed to be melting into a kind of soft decay. The hand
that lay along the knee was as limp as a glove. He was at work
on the face now; it had begun to emerge on the canvasdoll-like
in its regularity and listlessness. It was Anne's face--but her
face as it would beutterly unillumined by the inward lights of
thought and emotion. It was the lazyexpressionless mask which
was sometimes her face. The portrait was terribly like; and at
the same time it was the most malicious of lies. Yesit would
be diabolic when it was finishedGombauld decided; he wondered
what she would think of it.
For the sake of peace and quiet Denis had retired earlier on this
same afternoon to his bedroom. He wanted to workbut the hour
was a drowsy oneand lunchso recently eatenweighed heavily
on body and mind. The meridian demon was upon him; he was
possessed by that bored and hopeless post-prandial melancholy
which the coenobites of old knew and feared under the name of
accidie.He feltlike Ernest Dowsona little weary.He
was in the mood to write something rather exquisite and gentle
and quietist in tone; something a little droopy and at the same
time--how should he put it?--a little infinite. He thought of
Anneof love hopeless and unattainable. Perhaps that was the
ideal kind of lovethe hopeless kind--the quiettheoretical
kind of love. In this sad mood of repletion he could well
believe it. He began to write. One elegant quatrain had flowed
from beneath his pen:
A brooding love which is at most
The stealth of moonbeams when they slide,
Evoking colour's bloodless ghost,
O'er some scarce-breathing breast or side...
when his attention was attracted by a sound from outside. He
looked down from his window; there they wereAnne and Gombauld
talkinglaughing together. They crossed the courtyard in front
and passed out of sight through the gate in the right-hand wall.
That was the way to the green close and the granary; she was
going to sit for him again. His pleasantly depressing melancholy
was dissipated by a puff of violent emotion; angrily he threw his
quatrain into the waste-paper basket and ran downstairs. "The
stealth of moonbeams indeed!
In the hall he saw Mr. Scogan; the man seemed to be lying in
wait. Denis tried to escape, but in vain. Mr. Scogan's eye
glittered like the eye of the Ancient Mariner.
Not so fast he said, stretching out a small saurian hand with
pointed nails--not so fast. I was just going down to the flower
garden to take the sun. We'll go together."
Denis abandoned himself; Mr. Scogan put on his hat and they went
out arm in arm. On the shaven turf of the terrace Henry Wimbush
and Mary were playing a solemn game of bowls. They descended by
the yew-tree walk. It was herethought Denishere that Anne
had fallenhere that he had kissed herhere--and he blushed
with retrospective shame at the memory--here that he had tried to
carry her and failed. Life was awful!
Sanity!said Mr. Scogansuddenly breaking a long silence.
Sanity--that's what's wrong with me and that's what will be
wrong with you, my dear Denis, when you're old enough to be sane
or insane. In a sane world I should be a great man; as things
are, in this curious establishment, I am nothing at all; to all
intents and purposes I don't exist. I am just Vox et praeterea
Denis made no response; he was thinking of other things. "After
all he said to himself--after allGombauld is better looking
than Imore entertainingmore confident; andbesideshe's
already somebody and I'm still only potential..."
Everything that ever gets done in this world is done by madmen,
Mr. Scogan went on. Denis tried not to listenbut the tireless
insistence of Mr. Scogan's discourse gradually compelled his
attention. "Men such as I amsuch as you may possibly become
have never achieved anything. We're too sane; we're merely
reasonable. We lack the human touchthe compelling enthusiastic
mania. People are quite ready to listen to the philosophers for
a little amusementjust as they would listen to a fiddler or a
mountebank. But as to acting on the advice of the men of reason
--never. Wherever the choice has had to be made between the man
of reason and the madmanthe world has unhesitatingly followed
the madman. For the madman appeals to what is fundamentalto
passion and the instincts; the philosophers to what is
superficial and supererogatory--reason."
They entered the garden; at the head of one of the alleys stood a
green wooden benchembayed in the midst of a fragrant continent
of lavender bushes. It was herethough the place was shadeless
and one breathed hotdry perfume instead of air--it was here
that Mr. Scogan elected to sit. He thrived on untempered
Consider, for example, the case of Luther and Erasmus.He took
out his pipe and began to fill it as he talked. "There was
Erasmusa man of reason if ever there was one. People listened
to him at first--a new virtuoso performing on that elegant and
resourceful instrumentthe intellect; they even admired and
venerated him. But did he move them to behave as he wanted them
to behave--reasonablydecentlyor at least a little less
porkishly than usual? He did not. And then Luther appears
violentpassionatea madman insanely convinced about matters in
which there can be no conviction. He shoutedand men rushed to
follow him. Erasmus was no longer listened to; he was reviled
for his reasonableness. Luther was seriousLuther was reality-like
the Great War. Erasmus was only reason and decency; he
lacked the powerbeing a sageto move men to action. Europe
followed Luther and embarked on a century and a half of war and
bloody persecution. It's a melancholy story." Mr. Scogan
lighted a match. In the intense light the flame was all but
invisible. The smell of burning tobacco began to mingle with the
sweetly acrid smell of the lavender.
If you want to get men to act reasonably, you must set about
persuading them in a maniacal manner. The very sane precepts of
the founders of religions are only made infectious by means of
enthusiasms which to a sane man must appear deplorable. It is
humiliating to find how impotent unadulterated sanity is.
Sanity, for example, informs us that the only way in which we can
preserve civilisation is by behaving decently and intelligently.
Sanity appeals and argues; our rulers persevere in their
customary porkishness, while we acquiesce and obey. The only
hope is a maniacal crusade; I am ready, when it comes, to beat a
tambourine with the loudest, but at the same time I shall feel a
little ashamed of myself. However--Mr. Scogan shrugged his
shoulders andpipe in handmade a gesture of resignation--"It's
futile to complain that things are as they are. The fact remains
that sanity unassisted is useless. What we wantthenis a sane
and reasonable exploitation of the forces of insanity. We sane
men will have the power yet." Mr. Scogan's eyes shone with a
more than ordinary brightnessandtaking his pipe out of his
mouthhe gave vent to his louddryand somehow rather fiendish
But I don't want power,said Denis. He was sitting in limp
discomfort at one end of the benchshading his eyes from the
intolerable light. Mr. Scoganbolt upright at the other end
Everybody wants power,he said. "Power in some form or other.
The sort of power you hanker for is literary power. Some people
want power to persecute other human beings; you expend your lust
for power in persecuting wordstwisting themmoulding them
torturing them to obey you. But I divagate."
Do you?asked Denis faintly.
Yes,Mr. Scogan continuedunheedingthe time will come. We
men of intelligence will learn to harness the insanities to the
service of reason. We can't leave the world any longer to the
direction of chance. We can't allow dangerous maniacs like
Luther, mad about dogma, like Napoleon, mad about himself, to go
on casually appearing and turning everything upside down. In the
past it didn't so much matter; but our modern machine is too
delicate. A few more knocks like the Great War, another Luther
or two, and the whole concern will go to pieces. In future, the
men of reason must see that the madness of the world's maniacs is
canalised into proper channels, is made to do useful work, like a
mountain torrent driving a dynamo...
Making electricity to light a Swiss hotel,said Denis. "You
ought to complete the simile."
Mr. Scogan waved away the interruption. "There's only one thing
to be done he said. The men of intelligence must combine
must conspireand seize power from the imbeciles and maniacs who
now direct us. They must found the Rational State."
The heat that was slowly paralysing all Denis's mental and bodily
facultiesseemed to bring to Mr. Scogan additional vitality. He
talked with an ever-increasing energyhis hands moved in sharp
quickprecise gestureshis eyes shone. Harddryand
continuoushis voice went on sounding and sounding in Denis's
ears with the insistence of a mechanical noise.
In the Rational State,he heard Mr. Scogan sayinghuman
beings will be separated out into distinct species, not according
to the colour of their eyes or the shape of their skulls, but
according to the qualities of their mind and temperament.
Examining psychologists, trained to what would now seem an almost
superhuman clairvoyance, will test each child that is born and
assign it to its proper species. Duly labelled and docketed, the
child will be given the education suitable to members of its
species, and will be set, in adult life, to perform those
functions which human beings of his variety are capable of
How many species will there be?asked Denis.
A great many, no doubt,Mr. Scogan answered; "the
classification will be subtle and elaborate. But it is not in
the power of a prophet to go into detailsnor is it his
business. I will do more than indicate the three main species
into which the subjects of the Rational State will be divided."
He pausedcleared his throatand coughed once or twiceevoking
in Denis's mind the vision of a table with a glass and waterbottle
andlying across one cornera long white pointer for
the lantern pictures.
The three main species,Mr. Scogan went onwill be these:
the Directing Intelligences, the Men of Faith, and the Herd.
Among the Intelligences will be found all those capable of
thought, those who know how to attain a certain degree of
freedom--and, alas, how limited, even among the most intelligent,
that freedom is!--from the mental bondage of their time. A
select body of Intelligences, drawn from among those who have
turned their attention to the problems of practical life, will be
the governors of the Rational State. They will employ as their
instruments of power the second great species of humanity--the
men of Faith, the Madmen, as I have been calling them, who
believe in things unreasonably, with passion, and are ready to
die for their beliefs and their desires. These wild men, with
their fearful potentialities for good or for mischief, will no
longer be allowed to react casually to a casual environment.
There will be no more Caesar Borgias, no more Luthers and
Mohammeds, no more Joanna Southcotts, no more Comstocks. The
old-fashioned Man of Faith and Desire, that haphazard creature of
brute circumstance, who might drive men to tears and repentance,
or who might equally well set them on to cutting one another's
throats, will be replaced by a new sort of madman, still
externally the same, still bubbling with a seemingly spontaneous
enthusiasm, but, ah, how very different from the madman of the
past! For the new Man of Faith will be expending his passion,
his desire, and his enthusiasm in the propagation of some
reasonable idea. He will be, all unawares, the tool of some
Mr. Scogan chuckled maliciously; it was as though he were taking
a revengein the name of reasonon enthusiasts. "From their
earliest yearsas soonthat isas the examining psychologists
have assigned them their place in the classified schemethe Men
of Faith will have had their special education under the eye of
the Intelligences. Moulded by a long process of suggestionthey
will go out into the worldpreaching and practising with a
generous mania the coldly reasonable projects of the Directors
from above. When these projects are accomplishedor when the
ideas that were useful a decade ago have ceased to be usefulthe
Intelligences will inspire a new generation of madmen with a new
eternal truth. The principal function of the Men of Faith will
be to move and direct the Multitudethat third great species
consisting of those countless millions who lack intelligence and
are without valuable enthusiasm. When any particular effort is
required of the Herdwhen it is thought necessaryfor the sake
of solidaritythat humanity shall be kindled and united by some
single enthusiastic desire or ideathe Men of Faithprimed with
some simple and satisfying creedwill be sent out on a mission
of evangelisation. At ordinary timeswhen the high spiritual
temperature of a Crusade would be unhealthythe Men of Faith
will be quietly and earnestly busy with the great work of
education. In the upbringing of the Herdhumanity's almost
boundless suggestibility will be scientifically exploited.
Systematicallyfrom earliest infancyits members will be
assured that there is no happiness to be found except in work and
obedience; they will be made to believe that they are happythat
they are tremendously important beingsand that everything they
do is noble and significant. For the lower species the earth
will be restored to the centre of the universe and man to preeminence
on the earth. OhI envy the lot of the commonality in
the Rational State! Working their eight hours a dayobeying
their bettersconvinced of their own grandeur and significance
and immortalitythey will be marvellously happyhappier than
any race of men has ever been. They will go through life in a
rosy state of intoxicationfrom which they will never awake.
The Men of Faith will play the cup-bearers at this lifelong
bacchanalfilling and ever filling again with the warm liquor
that the Intelligencesin sad and sober privacy behind the
sceneswill brew for the intoxication of their subjects."
And what will be my place in the Rational State?Denis drowsily
inquired from under his shading hand.
Mr. Scogan looked at him for a moment in silence. "It's
difficult to see where you would fit in he said at last. You
couldn't do manual work; you're too independent and unsuggestible
to belong to the larger Herd; you have none of the
characteristics required in a Man of Faith. As for the Directing
Intelligencesthey will have to be marvellously clear and
merciless and penetrating." He paused and shook his head. "No
I can see no place for you; only the lethal chamber."
Deeply hurtDenis emitted the imitation of a loud Homeric laugh.
I'm getting sunstroke here,he saidand got up.
Mr. Scogan followed his exampleand they walked slowly away down
the narrow pathbrushing the blue lavender flowers in their
passage. Denis pulled a sprig of lavender and sniffed at it;
then some dark leaves of rosemary that smelt like incense in a
cavernous church. They passed a bed of opium poppiesdispetaled
now; the roundripe seedheads were brown and dry--like
Polynesian trophiesDenis thought; severed heads stuck on poles.
He liked the fancy enough to impart it to Mr. Scogan.
Like Polynesian trophies...Uttered aloudthe fancy seemed
less charming and significant than it did when it first occurred
There was a silenceand in a growing wave of sound the whir of
the reaping machines swelled up from the fields beyond the garden
and then receded into a remoter hum.
It is satisfactory to think,said Mr. Scoganas they strolled
slowly onwardthat a multitude of people are toiling in the
harvest fields in order that we may talk of Polynesia. Like
every other good thing in this world, leisure and culture have to
be paid for. Fortunately, however, it is not the leisured and
the cultured who have to pay. Let us be duly thankful for that,
my dear Denis--duly thankful,he repeatedand knocked the ashes
out of his pipe.
Denis was not listening. He had suddenly remembered Anne. She
was with Gombauld--alone with him in his studio. It was an
Shall we go and pay a call on Gombauld?he suggested
carelessly. It would be amusing to see what he's doing now."
He laughed inwardly to think how furious Gombauld would be when
he saw them arriving.
Gombauld was by no means so furious at their apparition as Denis
had hoped and expected he would be. Indeedhe was rather
pleased than annoyed when the two facesone brown and pointed
the other round and paleappeared in the frame of the open door.
The energy born of his restless irritation was dying within him
returning to its emotional elements. A moment more and he would
have been losing his temper again--and Anne would be keeping
hersinfuriatingly. Yeshe was positively glad to see them.
Come in, come in,he called out hospitably.
Followed by Mr. ScoganDenis climbed the little ladder and
stepped over the threshold. He looked suspiciously from Gombauld
to his sitterand could learn nothing from the expression of
their faces except that they both seemed pleased to see the
visitors. Were they really glador were they cunningly
simulating gladness? He wondered.
Mr. Scoganmeanwhilewas looking at the portrait.
Excellent,he said approvinglyexcellent. Almost too true to
character, if that is possible; yes, positively too true. But
I'm surprised to find you putting in all this psychology
business.He pointed to the faceand with his extended finger
followed the slack curves of the painted figure. "I thought you
were one of the fellows who went in exclusively for balanced
masses and impinging planes."
Gombauld laughed. "This is a little infidelity he said.
I'm sorry said Mr. Scogan. I for onewithout ever having
had the slightest appreciation of paintinghave always taken
particular pleasure in Cubismus. I like to see pictures from
which nature has been completely banishedpictures which are
exclusively the product of the human mind. They give me the same
pleasure as I derive from a good piece of reasoning or a
mathematical problem or an achievement of engineering. Nature
or anything that reminds me of naturedisturbs me; it is too
largetoo complicatedabove all too utterly pointless and
incomprehensible. I am at home with the works of man; if I
choose to set my mind to itI can understand anything that any
man has made or thought. That is why I always travel by Tube
never by bus if I can possibly help it. Fortravelling by bus
one can't avoid seeingeven in Londona few stray works of God
--the skyfor examplean occasional treethe flowers in the
window-boxes. But travel by Tube and you see nothing but the
works of man--iron riveted into geometrical formsstraight lines
of concretepatterned expanses of tiles. All is human and the
product of friendly and comprehensible minds. All philosophies
and all religions--what are they but spiritual Tubes bored
through the universe! Through these narrow tunnelswhere all is
recognisably humanone travels comfortable and secure
contriving to forget that all round and below and above them
stretches the blind mass of earthendless and unexplored. Yes
give me the Tube and Cubismus every time; give me ideasso snug
and neat and simple and well made. And preserve me from nature
preserve me from all that's inhumanly large and complicated and
obscure. I haven't the courageandabove allI haven't the
time to start wandering in that labyrinth."
While Mr. Scogan was discoursingDenis had crossed over to the
farther side of the little square chamberwhere Anne was
sittingstill in her gracefullazy poseon the low chair.
Well?he demandedlooking at her almost fiercely. What was he
asking of her? He hardly knew himself.
Anne looked up at himand for answer echoed his "Well?" in
anothera laughing key.
Denis had nothing moreat the momentto say. Two or three
canvases stood in the corner behind Anne's chairtheir faces
turned to the wall. He pulled them out and began to look at the
May I see too?Anne requested.
He stood them in a row against the wall. Anne had to turn round
in her chair to look at them. There was the big canvas of the
man fallen from the horsethere was a painting of flowersthere
was a small landscape. His hands on the back of the chairDenis
leaned over her. From behind the easel at the other side of the
room Mr. Scogan was talking away. For a long time they looked at
the picturessaying nothing; orratherAnne looked at the
pictureswhile Denisfor the most partlooked at Anne.
I like the man and the horse; don't you?she said at last
looking up with an inquiring smile.
Denis noddedand then in a queerstrangled voiceas though it
had cost him a great effort to utter the wordshe saidI love
It was a remark which Anne had heard a good many times before and
mostly heard with equanimity. But on this occasion--perhaps
because they had come so unexpectedlyperhaps for some other
reason--the words provoked in her a certain surprised commotion.
My poor Denis,she managed to saywith a laugh; but she was
blushing as she spoke.
It was noon. Denisdescending from his chamberwhere he had
been making an unsuccessful effort to write something about
nothing in particularfound the drawing-room deserted. He was
about to go out into the garden when his eye fell on a familiar
but mysterious object--the large red notebook in which he had so
often seen Jenny quietly and busily scribbling. She had left it
lying on the window-seat. The temptation was great. He picked
up the book and slipped off the elastic band that kept it
Private. Not to be opened,was written in capital letters on
the cover. He raised his eyebrows. It was the sort of thing one
wrote in one's Latin Grammar while one was still at one's
Black is the raven, black is the rook,
But blacker the theif who steals this book!
It was curiously childishhe thoughtand he smiled to himself.
He opened the book. What he saw made him wince as though he had
Denis was his own severest critic; soat leasthe had always
believed. He liked to think of himself as a merciless vivisector
probing into the palpitating entrails of his own soul; he was
Brown Dog to himself. His weaknesseshis absurdities--no one
knew them better than he did. Indeedin a vague way he imagined
that nobody beside himself was aware of them at all. It seemed
somehowinconceivable that he should appear to other people as
they appeared to him; inconceivable that they ever spoke of him
among themselves in that same freely critical andto be quite
honestmildly malicious tone in which he was accustomed to talk
of them. In his own eyes he had defectsbut to see them was a
privilege reserved to him alone. For the rest of the world he
was surely an image of flawless crystal. It was almost
On opening the red notebook that crystal image of himself crashed
to the groundand was irreparably shattered. He was not his own
severest critic after all. The discovery was a painful one.
The fruit of Jenny's unobtrusive scribbling lay before him. A
caricature of himselfreading (the book was upside-down). In
the background a dancing couplerecognisable as Gombauld and
Anne. Beneaththe legend: "Fable of the Wallflower and the
Sour Grapes." Fascinated and horrifiedDenis pored over the
drawing. It was masterful. A muteinglorious Rouveyre appeared
in every one of those cruelly clear lines. The expression of the
facean assumed aloofness and superiority tempered by a feeble
envy; the attitude of the body and limbsan attitude of studious
and scholarly dignitygiven away by the fidgety pose of the
turned-in feet--these things were terrible. Andmore terrible
stillwas the likenesswas the magisterial certainty with which
his physical peculiarities were all recorded and subtly
Denis looked deeper into the book. There were caricatures of
other people: of Priscilla and Mr. Barbecue-Smith; of Henry
Wimbushof Anne and Gombauld; of Mr. Scoganwhom Jenny had
represented in a light that was more than slightly sinisterthat
wasindeeddiabolic; of Mary and Ivor. He scarcely glanced at
them. A fearful desire to know the worst about himself possessed
him. He turned over the leaveslingering at nothing that was
not his own image. Seven full pages were devoted to him.
Private. Not to be opened.He had disobeyed the injunction;
he had only got what he deserved. Thoughtfully he closed the
bookand slid the rubber band once more into its place. Sadder
and wiserhe went out on to the terrace. And so thishe
reflectedthis was how Jenny employed the leisure hours in her
ivory tower apart. And he had thought her a simple-minded
uncritical creature! It was heit seemedwho was the fool. He
felt no resentment towards Jenny. Nothe distressing thing
wasn't Jenny herself; it was what she and the phenomenon of her
red book representedwhat they stood for and concretely
symbolised. They represented all the vast conscious world of men
outside himself; they symbolised something that in his studious
solitariness he was apt not to believe in. He could stand at
Piccadilly Circuscould watch the crowds shuffle pastand still
imagine himself the one fully consciousintelligentindividual
being among all those thousands. It seemedsomehowimpossible
that other people should be in their way as elaborate and
complete as he in his. Impossible; and yetperiodically he
would make some painful discovery about the external world and
the horrible reality of its consciousness and its intelligence.
The red notebook was one of these discoveriesa footprint in the
sand. It put beyond a doubt the fact that the outer world really
Sitting on the balustrade of the terracehe ruminated this
unpleasant truth for some time. Still chewing on ithe strolled
pensively down towards the swimming-pool. A peacock and his hen
trailed their shabby finery across the turf of the lower lawn.
Odious birds! Their necksthick and greedily fleshy at the
rootstapered up to the cruel inanity of their brainless heads
their flat eyes and piercing beaks. The fabulists were righthe
reflectedwhen they took beasts to illustrate their tractates of
human morality. Animals resemble men with all the truthfulness
of a caricature. (Ohthe red notebook!) He threw a piece of
stick at the slowly pacing birds. They rushed towards it
thinking it was something to eat.
He walked on. The profound shade of a giant ilex tree engulfed
him. Like a great wooden octopusit spread its long arms
Under the spreading ilex tree...
He tried to remember who the poem was bybut couldn't.
The smith, a brawny man is he,
With arms like rubber bands.
Just like his; he would have to try and do his Muller exercises
He emerged once more into the sunshine. The pool lay before him
reflecting in its bronze mirror the blue and various green of the
summer day. Looking at ithe thought of Anne's bare arms and
seal-sleek bathing-dressher moving knees and feet.
And little Luce with the white legs,
And bouncing Barbary...
Ohthese rags and tags of other people's making! Would he ever
be able to call his brain his own? Was thereindeedanything
in it that was truly his ownor was it simply an education?
He walked slowly round the water's edge. In an embayed recess
among the surrounding yew treesleaning her back against the
pedestal of a pleasantly comic version of the Medici Venus
executed by some nameless mason of the seicentohe saw Mary
Hullo!he saidfor he was passing so close to her that he had
to say something.
Mary looked up. "Hullo!" she answered in a melancholy
In this alcove hewed out of the dark treesthe atmosphere seemed
to Denis agreeably elegiac. He sat down beside her under the
shadow of the pudic goddess. There was a prolonged silence.
At breakfast that morning Mary had found on her plate a picture
postcard of Gobley Great Park. A stately Georgian pilewith a
facade sixteen windows wide; parterres in the foreground; huge
smooth lawns receding out of the picture to right and left. Ten
years more of the hard times and Gobleywith all its peerswill
be deserted and decaying. Fifty yearsand the countryside will
know the old landmarks no more. They will have vanished as the
monasteries vanished before them. At the momenthoweverMary's
mind was not moved by these considerations.
On the back of the postcardnext to the addresswas writtenin
Ivor's boldlarge handa single quatrain.
Hail, maid of moonlight! Bride of the sun, farewell!
Like bright plumes moulted in an angel's flight,
There sleep within my heart's most mystic cell
Memories of morning, memories of the night.
There followed a postscript of three lines: "Would you mind
asking one of the housemaids to forward the packet of safetyrazor
blades I left in the drawer of my washstand. Thanks.--
Seated under the Venus's immemorial gestureMary considered life
and love. The abolition of her repressionsso far from bringing
the expected peace of mindhad brought nothing but disquieta
new and hitherto unexperienced misery. IvorIvor...She couldn't
do without him now. It was evidenton the other handfrom the
poem on the back of the picture postcardthat Ivor could very
well do without her. He was at Gobley nowso was Zenobia. Mary
knew Zenobia. She thought of the last verse of the song he had
sung that night in the garden.
Le lendemain, Phillis peu sage
Aurait donne moutons et chien
Pour un baiser que le volage
A Lisette donnait pour rien.
Mary shed tears at the memory; she had never been so unhappy in
all her life before.
It was Denis who first broke the silence. "The individual he
began in a soft and sadly philosophical tone, is not a selfsupporting
universe. There are times when he comes into contact
with other individualswhen he is forced to take cognisance of
the existence of other universes besides himself."
He had contrived this highly abstract generalisation as a
preliminary to a personal confidence. It was the first gambit in
a conversation that was to lead up to Jenny's caricatures.
True,said Mary; andgeneralising for herselfshe added
When one individual comes into intimate contact with another,
she--or he, of course, as the case may be--must almost inevitably
receive or inflict suffering.
One is apt, Denis went on, to be so spellbound by the spectacle
of one's own personality that one forgets that the spectacle
presents itself to other people as well as to oneself."
Mary was not listening. "The difficulty she said, makes
itself acutely felt in matters of sex. If one individual seeks
intimate contact with another individual in the natural wayshe
is certain to receive or inflict suffering. If on the other
handshe avoids contactsshe risks the equally grave sufferings
that follow on unnatural repressions. As you seeit's a
When I think of my own case,said Denismaking a more decided
move in the desired directionI am amazed how ignorant I am of
other people's mentality in general, and above all and in
particular, of their opinions about myself. Our minds are sealed
books only occasionally opened to the outside world.He made a
gesture that was faintly suggestive of the drawing off of a
It's an awful problem,said Mary thoughtfully. "One has to
have had personal experience to realise quite how awful it is."
Exactly.Denis nodded. "One has to have had first-hand
experience." He leaned towards her and slightly lowered his
voice. "This very morningfor example..." he beganbut his
confidences were cut short. The deep voice of the gongtempered
by distance to a pleasant boomingfloated down from the house.
It was lunch-time. Mechanically Mary rose to her feetand
Denisa little hurt that she should exhibit such a desperate
anxiety for her food and so slight an interest in his spiritual
experiencesfollowed her. They made their way up to the house
I hope you all realise,said Henry Wimbush during dinnerthat
next Monday is Bank Holiday, and that you will all be expected to
help in the Fair.
Heavens!cried Anne. "The Fair--I had forgotten all about it.
What a nightmare! Couldn't you put a stop to itUncle Henry?"
Mr. Wimbush sighed and shook his head. "Alas he said, I fear
I cannot. I should have liked to put an end to it years ago; but
the claims of Charity are strong."
It's not charity we want,Anne murmured rebelliously; "it's
Besides,Mr. Wimbush went onthe Fair has become an
institution. Let me see, it must be twenty-two years since we
started it. It was a modest affair then. Now...he made a
sweeping movement with his hand and was silent.
It spoke highly for Mr. Wimbush's public spirit that he still
continued to tolerate the Fair. Beginning as a sort of glorified
church bazaarCrome's yearly Charity Fair had grown into a noisy
thing of merry-go-roundscocoanut shiesand miscellaneous side
shows--a real genuine fair on the grand scale. It was the local
St. Bartholomewand the people of all the neighbouring villages
with even a contingent from the county townflocked into the
park for their Bank Holiday amusement. The local hospital
profited handsomelyand it was this fact alone which prevented
Mr. Wimbushto whom the Fair was a cause of recurrent and neverdiminishing
agonyfrom putting a stop to the nuisance which
yearly desecrated his park and garden.
I've made all the arrangements already,Henry Wimbush went on.
Some of the larger marquees will be put up to-morrow. The
swings and the merry-go-round arrive on Sunday.
So there's no escape,said Anneturning to the rest of the
party. "You'll all have to do something. As a special favour
you're allowed to choose your slavery. My job is the tea tent
as usualAunt Priscilla..."
My dear,said Mrs. Wimbushinterrupting herI have more
important things to think about than the Fair. But you need have
no doubt that I shall do my best when Monday comes to encourage
That's splendid,said Anne. "Aunt Priscilla will encourage the
villagers. What will you doMary?"
I won't do anything where I have to stand by and watch other
Then you'll look after the children's sports.
All right,Mary agreed. "I'll look after the children's
And Mr. Scogan?
Mr. Scogan reflected. "May I be allowed to tell fortunes?" he
asked at last. "I think I should be good at telling fortunes."
But you can't tell fortunes in that costume!
Can't I?Mr. Scogan surveyed himself.
You'll have to be dressed up. Do you still persist?
I'm ready to suffer all indignities.
Good!said Anne; and turning to GombauldYou must be our
lightning artist,she said. "'Your portrait for a shilling in
It's a pity I'm not Ivor,said Gombauldwith a laugh. "I
could throw in a picture of their Auras for an extra sixpence."
Mary flushed. "Nothing is to be gained she said severely, by
speaking with levity of serious subjects. Andafter all
whatever your personal views may bepsychical research is a
perfectly serious subject."
And what about Denis?
Denis made a deprecating gesture. "I have no accomplishments
he said, I'll just be one of those men who wear a thing in their
buttonholes and go about telling people which is the way to tea
and not to walk on the grass."
No, no,said Anne. "That won't do. You must do something more
But what? All the good jobs are taken, and I can do nothing but
lisp in numbers.
Well, then, you must lisp,concluded Anne. "You must write a
poem for the occasion--an 'Ode on Bank Holiday.' We'll print it
on Uncle Henry's press and sell it at twopence a copy."
Sixpence,Denis protested. "It'll be worth sixpence."
Anne shook her head. "Twopence she repeated firmly. Nobody
will pay more than twopence."
And now there's Jenny,said Mr Wimbush. "Jenny he said,
raising his voice, what will you do?"
Denis thought of suggesting that she might draw caricatures at
sixpence an executionbut decided it would be wiser to go on
feigning ignorance of her talent. His mind reverted to the red
notebook. Could it really be true that he looked like that?
What will I do,Jenny echoedwhat will I do?She frowned
thoughtfully for a moment; then her face brightened and she
smiled. "When I was young she said, I learnt to play the
Jenny noddedandin proof of her assertionagitated her knife
and forklike a pair of drumsticksover her plate. "If there's
any opportunity of playing the drums..." she began.
But of course,said Annethere's any amount of opportunity.
We'll put you down definitely for the drums. That's the lot,
And a very good lot too,said Gombauld. "I look forward to my
Bank Holiday. It ought to be gay."
It ought indeed,Mr Scogan assented. "But you may rest assured
that it won't be. No holiday is ever anything but a
Come, come,protested Gombauld. "My holiday at Crome isn't
being a disappointment."
Isn't it?Anne turned an ingenuous mask towards him.
No, it isn't,he answered.
I'm delighted to hear it.
It's in the very nature of things,Mr. Scogan went on; "our
holidays can't help being disappointments. Reflect for a moment.
What is a holiday? The idealthe Platonic Holiday of Holidays
is surely a complete and absolute change. You agree with me in
my definition?" Mr. Scogan glanced from face to face round the
table; his sharp nose moved in a series of rapid jerks through
all the points of the compass. There was no sign of dissent; he
continued: "A complete and absolute change; very well. But
isn't a complete and absolute change precisely the thing we can
never have--neverin the very nature of things?" Mr. Scogan
once more looked rapidly about him. "Of course it is. As
ourselvesas specimens of Homo Sapiensas members of a society
how can we hope to have anything like an absolute change? We are
tied down by the frightful limitation of our human facultiesby
the notions which society imposes on us through our fatal
suggestibilityby our own personalities. For usa complete
holiday is out of the question. Some of us struggle manfully to
take onebut we never succeedif I may be allowed to express
myself metaphoricallywe never succeed in getting farther than
You're depressing,said Anne.
I mean to be,Mr. Scogan repliedandexpanding the fingers of
his right handhe went on: "Look at mefor example. What sort
of a holiday can I take? In endowing me with passions and
faculties Nature has been horribly niggardly. The full range of
human potentialities is in any case distressingly limited; my
range is a limitation within a limitation. Out of the ten
octaves that make up the human instrumentI can compass perhaps
two. Thuswhile I may have a certain amount of intelligenceI
have no aesthetic sense; while I possess the mathematical
facultyI am wholly without the religious emotions; while I am
naturally addicted to veneryI have little ambition and am not
at all avaricious. Education has further limited my scope.
Having been brought up in societyI am impregnated with its
laws; not only should I be afraid of taking a holiday from them
I should also feel it painful to try to do so. In a wordI have
a conscience as well as a fear of gaol. YesI know it by
experience. How often have I tried to take holidaysto get away
from myselfmy own boring naturemy insufferable mental
surroundings!" Mr. Scogan sighed. "But always without success
he added, always without success. In my youth I was always
striving--how hard!--to feel religiously and aesthetically.
Heresaid I to myselfare two tremendously important and
exciting emotions. Life would be richerwarmerbrighter
altogether more amusingif I could feel them. I try to feel
them. I read the works of the mystics. They seemed to me
nothing but the most deplorable claptrap--as indeed they always
must to anyone who does not feel the same emotion as the authors
felt when they were writing. For it is the emotion that matters.
The written work is simply an attempt to express emotionwhich
is in itself inexpressiblein terms of intellect and logic. The
mystic objectifies a rich feeling in the pit of the stomach into
a cosmology. For other mystics that cosmology is a symbol of the
rich feeling. For the unreligious it is a symbol of nothingand
so appears merely grotesque. A melancholy fact! But I
divagate." Mr. Scogan checked himself. "So much for the
religious emotion. As for the aesthetic--I was at even greater
pains to cultivate that. I have looked at all the right works of
art in every part of Europe. There was a time whenI venture to
believeI knew more about Taddeo da Poggibonsimore about the
cryptic Amico di Taddeoeven than Henry does. To-dayI am
happy to sayI have forgotten most of the knowledge I then so
laboriously acquired; but without vanity I can assert that it was
prodigious. I don't pretendof courseto know anything about
nigger sculpture or the later seventeenth century in Italy; but
about all the periods that were fashionable before 1900 I amor
wasomniscient. YesI repeat itomniscient. But did that
fact make me any more appreciative of art in general? It did
not. Confronted by a pictureof which I could tell you all the
known and presumed history--the date when it was paintedthe
character of the painterthe influences that had gone to make it
what it was--I felt none of that strange excitement and
exaltation which isas I am informed by those who do feel it
the true aesthetic emotion. I felt nothing but a certain
interest in the subject of the picture; or more oftenwhen the
subject was hackneyed and religiousI felt nothing but a great
weariness of spirit. NeverthelessI must have gone on looking
at pictures for ten years before I would honestly admit to myself
that they merely bored me. Since then I have given up all
attempts to take a holiday. I go on cultivating my old stale
daily self in the resigned spirit with which a bank clerk
performs from ten till six his daily task. A holidayindeed!
I'm sorry for youGombauldif you still look forward to having
Gombauld shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps he said, my
standards aren't as elevated as yours. But personally I found
the war quite as thorough a holiday from all the ordinary
decencies and sanitiesall the common emotions and
preoccupationsas I ever want to have."
Yes,Mr. Scogan thoughtfully agreed. "Yesthe war was
certainly something of a holiday. It was a step beyond Southend;
it was Weston-super-Mare; it was almost Ilfracombe."
A little canvas village of tents and booths had sprung upjust
beyond the boundaries of the gardenin the green expanse of the
park. A crowd thronged its streetsthe men dressed mostly in
black--holiday bestfuneral best--the women in pale muslins.
Here and there tricolour bunting hung inert. In the midst of the
canvas townscarlet and gold and crystalthe merry-go-round
glittered in the sun. The balloon-man walked among the crowd
and above his headlike a hugeinverted bunch of many-coloured
grapesthe balloons strained upwards. With a scythe-like motion
the boat-swings reaped the airand from the funnel of the engine
which worked the roundabout rose a thinscarcely wavering column
of black smoke.
Denis had climbed to the top of one of Sir Ferdinando's towers
and therestanding on the sun-baked leadshis elbows resting on
the parapethe surveyed the scene. The steam-organ sent up
prodigious music. The clashing of automatic cymbals beat out
with inexorable precision the rhythm of piercingly sounded
melodies. The harmonies were like a musical shattering of glass
and brass. Far down in the bass the Last Trump was hugely
blowingand with such persistencesuch resonancethat its
alternate tonic and dominant detached themselves from the rest of
the music and made a tune of their owna loudmonotonous seesaw.
Denis leaned over the gulf of swirling noise. If he threw
himself over the parapetthe noise would surely buoy him up
keep him suspendedbobbingas a fountain balances a ball on its
breaking crest. Another fancy came to himthis time in metrical
My soul is a thin white sheet of parchment stretched
Over a bubbling cauldron.
Badbad. But he liked the idea of something thin and distended
being blown up from underneath.
My soul is a thin tent of gut...
My soul is a pale, tenuous membrane...
That was pleasing: a thintenuous membrane. It had the right
anatomical quality. Tight blownquivering in the blast of noisy
life. It was time for him to descend from the serene empyrean of
words into the actual vortex. He went down slowly. "My soul is
a thintenuous membrane..."
On the terrace stood a knot of distinguished visitors. There was
old Lord Moleynlike a caricature of an English milord in a
French comic paper: a long manwith a long nose and long
drooping moustaches and long teeth of old ivoryand lower down
absurdlya short covert coatand below that longlong legs
cased in pearl-grey trousers--legs that bent unsteadily at the
knee and gave a kind of sideways wobble as he walked. Beside
himshort and thick-setstood Mr. Callamaythe venerable
conservative statesmanwith a face like a Roman bustand short
white hair. Young girls didn't much like going for motor drives
alone with Mr. Callamay; and of old Lord Moleyn one wondered why
he wasn't living in gilded exile on the island of Capri among the
other distinguished persons whofor one reason or anotherfind
it impossible to live in England. They were talking to Anne
laughingthe one profoundlythe other hootingly.
A black silk balloon towing a black-and-white striped parachute
proved to be old Mrs. Budge from the big house on the other side
of the valley. She stood low on the groundand the spikes of
her black-and-white sunshade menaced the eyes of Priscilla
Wimbushwho towered over her--a massive figure dressed in purple
and topped with a queenly toque on which the nodding black plumes
recalled the splendours of a first-class Parisian funeral.
Denis peeped at them discreetly from the window of the morningroom.
His eyes were suddenly become innocentchildlike
unprejudiced. They seemedthese peopleinconceivably
fantastic. And yet they really existedthey functioned by
themselvesthey were consciousthey had minds. Moreoverhe
was like them. Could one believe it? But the evidence of the
red notebook was conclusive.
It would have been polite to go and sayHow d'you do?But at
the moment Denis did not want to talkcould not have talked.
His soul was a tenuoustremulouspale membrane. He would keep
its sensibility intact and virgin as long as he could.
Cautiously he crept out by a side door and made his way down
towards the park. His soul fluttered as he approached the noise
and movement of the fair. He paused for a moment on the brink
then stepped in and was engulfed.
Hundreds of peopleeach with his own private face and all of
them realseparatealive: the thought was disquieting. He
paid twopence and saw the Tatooed Woman; twopence morethe
Largest Rat in the World. From the home of the Rat he emerged
just in time to see a hydrogen-filled balloon break loose for
home. A child howled up after it; but calmlya perfect sphere
of flushed opalit mountedmounted. Denis followed it with his
eyes until it became lost in the blinding sunlight. If he could
but send his soul to follow it!...
He sighedstuck his steward's rosette in his buttonholeand
started to push his wayaimlessly but officiallythrough the
Mr. Scogan had been accommodated in a little canvas hut. Dressed
in a black skirt and a red bodicewith a yellow-and-red bandana
handkerchief tied round his black wighe looked--sharp-nosed
brownand wrinkled--like the Bohemian Hag of Frith's Derby Day.
A placard pinned to the curtain of the doorway announced the
presence within the tent of "Sesostristhe Sorceress of
Ecbatana." Seated at a tableMr. Scogan received his clients in
mysterious silenceindicating with a movement of the finger that
they were to sit down opposite him and to extend their hands for
his inspection. He then examined the palm that was presented
himusing a magnifying glass and a pair of horn spectacles. He
had a terrifying way of shaking his headfrowning and clicking
with his tongue as he looked at the lines. Sometimes he would
whisperas though to himselfTerrible, terrible!or "God
preserve us!" sketching out the sign of the cross as he uttered
the words. The clients who came in laughing grew suddenly grave;
they began to take the witch seriously. She was a formidablelooking
woman; could it bewas it possiblethat there was
something in this sort of thing after all? After allthey
thoughtas the hag shook her head over their handsafter
all...And they waitedwith an uncomfortably beating heartfor
the oracle to speak. After a long and silent inspectionMr.
Scogan would suddenly look up and askin a hoarse whispersome
horrifying questionsuch asHave you ever been hit on the head
with a hammer by a young man with red hair?When the answer was
in the negativewhich it could hardly fail to beMr. Scogan
would nod several timessayingI was afraid so. Everything is
still to come, still to come, though it can't be very far off
now.Sometimesafter a long examinationhe would just
whisperWhere ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise,and
refuse to divulge any details of a future too appalling to be
envisaged without despair. Sesostris had a success of horror.
People stood in a queue outside the witch's booth waiting for the
privilege of hearing sentence pronounced upon them.
Denisin the course of his roundlooked with curiosity at this
crowd of suppliants before the shrine of the oracle. He had a
great desire to see how Mr. Scogan played his part. The canvas
booth was a ricketyill-made structure. Between its walls and
its sagging roof were long gaping chinks and crannies. Denis
went to the tea-tent and borrowed a wooden bench and a small
Union Jack. With these he hurried back to the booth of
Sesostris. Setting down the bench at the back of the boothhe
climbed upand with a great air of busy efficiency began to tie
the Union Jack to the top of one of the tent-poles. Through the
crannies in the canvas he could see almost the whole of the
interior of the tent. Mr. Scogan's bandana-covered head was just
below him; his terrifying whispers came clearly up. Denis looked
and listened while the witch prophesied financial lossesdeath
by apoplexydestruction by air-raids in the next war.
Is there going to be another war?asked the old lady to whom he
had predicted this end.
Very soon,said Mr. Scoganwith an air of quiet confidence.
The old lady was succeeded by a girl dressed in white muslin
garnished with pink ribbons. She was wearing a broad hatso
that Denis could not see her face; but from her figure and the
roundness of her bare arms he judged her young and pleasing. Mr.
Scogan looked at her handthen whisperedYou are still
The young lady giggled and exclaimedOh, lor'!
But you will not remain so for long,added Mr. Scogan
sepulchrally. The young lady giggled again. "Destinywhich
interests itself in small things no less than in greathas
announced the fact upon your hand." Mr. Scogan took up the
magnifying-glass and began once more to examine the white palm.
Very interesting,he saidas though to himself--"very
interesting. It's as clear as day." He was silent.
What's clear?asked the girl.
I don't think I ought to tell you.Mr. Scogan shook his head;
the pendulous brass ear-rings which he had screwed on to his ears
Please, please!,she implored.
The witch seemed to ignore her remark. "Afterwardsit's not at
all clear. The fates don't say whether you will settle down to
married life and have four children or whether you will try to go
on the cinema and have none. They are only specific about this
one rather crucial incident."
What is it? What is it? Oh, do tell me!
The white muslin figure leant eagerly forward.
Mr. Scogan sighed. "Very well he said, if you must knowyou
must know. But if anything untoward happens you must blame your
own curiosity. Listen. Listen." He lifted up a sharpclawnailed
forefinger. "This is what the fates have written. Next
Sunday afternoon at six o'clock you will be sitting on the second
stile on the footpath that leads from the church to the lower
road. At that moment a man will appear walking along the
footpath." Mr. Scogan looked at her hand again as though to
refresh his memory of the details of the scene. "A man he
repeated--a small man with a sharp nosenot exactly good
looking nor precisely youngbut fascinating." He lingered
hissingly over the word. "He will ask you'Can you tell me the
way to Paradise?' and you will answer'YesI'll show you' and
walk with him down towards the little hazel copse. I cannot read
what will happen after that." There was a silence.
Is it really true?asked white muslin.
The witch gave a shrug of the shoulders. "I merely tell you what
I read in your hand. Good afternoon. That will be sixpence.
YesI have change. Thank you. Good afternoon."
Denis stepped down from the bench; tied insecurely and crookedly
to the tentpolethe Union Jack hung limp on the windless air.
If only I could do things like that!he thoughtas he carried
the bench back to the tea-tent.
Anne was sitting behind a long table filling thick white cups
from an urn. A neat pile of printed sheets lay before her on the
table. Denis took one of them and looked at it affectionately.
It was his poem. They had printed five hundred copiesand very
nice the quarto broadsheets looked.
Have you sold many?he asked in a casual tone.
Anne put her head on one side deprecatingly. "Only three so far
I'm afraid. But I'm giving a free copy to everyone who spends
more than a shilling on his tea. So in any case it's having a
Denis made no replybut walked slowly away. He looked at the
broadsheet in his hand and read the lines to himself relishingly
as he walked along:
This day of roundabouts and swings,
Struck weights, shied cocoa-nuts, tossed rings,
Switchbacks, Aunt Sallies, and all such small
High jinks--you call it ferial?
A holiday? But paper noses
Sniffed the artificial roses
Of round Venetian cheeks through half
Each carnival year, and masks might laugh
At things the naked face for shame
Would blush at--laugh and think no blame.
A holiday? But Galba showed
Elephants on an airy road;
Jumbo trod the tightrope then,
And in the circus armed men
Stabbed home for sport and died to break
Those dull imperatives that make
A prison of every working day,
Where all must drudge and all obey.
Sing Holiday! You do not know
How to be free. The Russian snow
flowered with bright blood whose roses spread
Petals of fading, fading red
That died into the snow again,
Into the virgin snow; and men
From all ancient bonds were freed.
Old law, old custom, and old creed,
Old right and wrong there bled to death;
The frozen air received their breath,
A little smoke that died away;
And round about them where they lay
The snow bloomed roses. Blood was there
A red gay flower and only fair.
Sing Holiday! Beneath the Tree
Of Innocence and Liberty,
Paper Nose and Red Cockade
Dance within the magic shade
That makes them drunken, merry, and strong
To laugh and sing their ferial song:
But Echo answers
Faintly to the laughing dancers,
'Free'--and faintly laughs, and still,
Within the hollows of the hill,
Faintlier laughs and whispers, 'Free,'
'Free,' and laughter faints away...
Sing Holiday! Sing Holiday!
He folded the sheet carefully and put it in his pocket. The
thing had its merits. Ohdecidedlydecidedly! But how
unpleasant the crowd smelt! He lit a cigarette. The smell of
cows was preferable. He passed through the gate in the park wall
into the garden. The swimming-pool was a centre of noise and
Second Heat in the Young Ladies' Championship.It was the
polite voice of Henry Wimbush. A crowd of sleekseal-like
figures in black bathing-dresses surrounded him. His grey bowler
hatsmoothroundand motionless in the midst of a moving sea
was an island of aristocratic calm.
Holding his tortoise-shell-rimmed pince-nez an inch or two in
front of his eyeshe read out names from a list.
Miss Dolly Miles, Miss Rebecca Balister, Miss Doris Gabell...
Five young persons ranged themselves on the brink. From their
seats of honour at the other end of the poolold Lord Moleyn and
Mr. Callamay looked on with eager interest.
Henry Wimbush raised his hand. There was an expectant silence.
When I say 'Go,' go. Go!he said. There was an almost
Denis pushed his way through the spectators. Somebody plucked
him by the sleeve; he looked down. It was old Mrs. Budge.
Delighted to see you again, Mr. Stone,she said in her rich
husky voice. She panted a little as she spokelike a short-
winded lap-dog. It was Mrs. Budge whohaving read in the "Daily
Mirror" that the Government needed peach stones--what they needed
them for she never knew--had made the collection of peach stones
her peculiar "bit" of war work. She had thirty-six peach trees
in her walled gardenas well as four hot-houses in which trees
could be forcedso that she was able to eat peaches practically
the whole year round. In 1916 she ate 4200 peachesand sent the
stones to the Government. In 1917 the military authorities
called up three of her gardenersand what with this and the fact
that it was a bad year for wall fruitshe only managed to eat
2900 peaches during that crucial period of the national
destinies. In 1918 she did rather betterfor between January
1st and the date of the Armistice she ate 3300 peaches. Since
the Armistice she had relaxed her efforts; now she did not eat
more than two or three peaches a day. Her constitutionshe
complainedhad suffered; but it had suffered for a good cause.
Denis answered her greeting by a vague and polite noise.
So nice to see the young people enjoying themselves,Mrs. Budge
went on. "And the old people toofor that matter. Look at old
Lord Moleyn and dear Mr. Callamay. Isn't it delightful to see
the way they enjoy themselves?"
Denis looked. He wasn't sure whether it was so very delightful
after all. Why didn't they go and watch the sack races? The two
old gentlemen were engaged at the moment in congratulating the
winner of the race; it seemed an act of supererogatory
graciousness; forafter allshe had only won a heat.
Pretty little thing, isn't she?said Mrs. Budge huskilyand
panted two or three times.
Yes,Denis nodded agreement. Sixteenslenderbut nubilehe
said to himselfand laid up the phrase in his memory as a happy
one. Old Mr. Callamay had put on his spectacles to congratulate
the victorand Lord Moleynleaning forward over his walkingstick
showed his long ivory teethhungrily smiling.
Capital performance, capital,Mr. Callamay was saying in his
The victor wriggled with embarrassment. She stood with her hands
behind her backrubbing one foot nervously on the other. Her
wet bathing-dress shonea torso of black polished marble.
Very good indeed,said Lord Moleyn. His voice seemed to come
from just behind his teetha toothy voice. It was as though a
dog should suddenly begin to speak. He smiled againMr.
Callamay readjusted his spectacles.
When I say 'Go,' go. Go!
Splash! The third heat had started.
Do you know, I never could learn to swim,said Mrs. Budge.
But I used to be able to float.
Denis imagined her floating--up and downup and down on a great
green swell. A blown black bladder; nothat wasn't goodthat
wasn't good at all. A new winner was being congratulated. She
was atrociously stubby and fat. The last onelong and
harmoniouslycontinuously curved from knee to breasthad been
an Eve by Cranach; but thisthis one was a bad Rubens.
...go--go--go!Henry Wimbush's polite level voice once more
pronounced the formula. Another batch of young ladies dived in.
Grown a little weary of sustaining a conversation with Mrs.
BudgeDenis conveniently remembered that his duties as a steward
called him elsewhere. He pushed out through the lines of
spectators and made his way along the path left clear behind
them. He was thinking again that his soul was a paletenuous
membranewhen he was startled by hearing a thinsibilant voice
speaking apparently from just above his headpronounce the
single word "Disgusting!"
He looked up sharply. The path along which he was walking passed
under the lee of a wall of clipped yew. Behind the hedge the
ground sloped steeply up towards the foot of the terrace and the
house; for one standing on the higher ground it was easy to look
over the dark barrier. Looking upDenis saw two heads
overtopping the hedge immediately above him. He recognised the
iron mask of Mr. Bodiham and the palecolourless face of his
wife. They were looking over his headover the heads of the
spectatorsat the swimmers in the pond.
Disgusting!Mrs. Bodiham repeatedhissing softly.
The rector turned up his iron mask towards the solid cobalt of
the sky. "How long?" he saidas though to himself; "how long?"
He lowered his eyes againand they fell on Denis's upturned
curious face. There was an abrupt movementand Mr. and Mrs.
Bodiham popped out of sight behind the hedge.
Denis continued his promenade. He wandered past the merry-goround
through the thronged streets of the canvas village; the
membrane of his soul flapped tumultuously in the noise and
laughter. In a roped-off space beyondMary was directing the
children's sports. Little creatures seethed round about her
making a shrilltinny clamour; others clustered about the skirts
and trousers of their parents. Mary's face was shining in the
heat; with an immense output of energy she started a three-legged
race. Denis looked on in admiration.
You're wonderful,he saidcoming up behind her and touching
her on the arm. "I've never seen such energy."
She turned towards him a faceroundredand honest as the
setting sun; the golden bell of her hair swung silently as she
moved her head and quivered to rest.
Do you know, Denis,she saidin a lowserious voicegasping
a little as she spoke--"do you know that there's a woman here who
has had three children in thirty-one months?"
Really,said Denismaking rapid mental calculations.
It's appalling. I've been telling her about the Malthusian
League. One really ought...
But a sudden violent renewal of the metallic yelling announced
the fact that somebody had won the race. Mary became once more
the centre of a dangerous vortex. It was timeDenis thoughtto
move on; he might be asked to do something if he stayed too long.
He turned back towards the canvas village. The thought of tea
was making itself insistent in his mind. Teateatea. But the
tea-tent was horribly thronged. Annewith an unusual expression
of grimness on her flushed facewas furiously working the handle
of the urn; the brown liquid spurted incessantly into the
proffered cups. Portentousin the farther corner of the tent
Priscillain her royal toquewas encouraging the villagers. In
a momentary lull Denis could hear her deepjovial laughter and
her manly voice. Clearlyhe told himselfthis was no place for
one who wanted tea. He stood irresolute at the entrance to the
tent. A beautiful thought suddenly came to him; if he went back
to the housewent unobtrusivelywithout being observedif he
tiptoed into the dining-room and noiselessly opened the little
doors of the sideboard--ahthen! In the cool recess within he
would find bottles and a siphon; a bottle of crystal gin and a
quart of soda waterand then for the cups that inebriate as well
A minute later he was walking briskly up the shady yew-tree walk.
Within the house it was deliciously quiet and cool. Carrying his
well-filled tumbler with carehe went into the library. There
the glass on the corner of the table beside himhe settled into
a chair with a volume of Sainte-Beuve. There was nothinghe
foundlike a Causerie du Lundi for settling and soothing the
troubled spirits. That tenuous membrane of his had been too
rudely buffeted by the afternoon's emotions; it required a rest.
Towards sunset the fair itself became quiescent. It was the hour
for the dancing to begin. At one side of the village of tents a
space had been roped off. Acetylene lampshung round it on
postscast a piercing white light. In one corner sat the band
andobedient to its scraping and blowingtwo or three hundred
dancers trampled across the dry groundwearing away the grass
with their booted feet. Round this patch of all but daylight
alive with motion and noisethe night seemed preternaturally
dark. Bars of light reached out into itand every now and then
a lonely figure or a couple of loversinterlacedwould cross
the bright shaftflashing for a moment into visible existence
to disappear again as quickly and surprisingly as they had come.
Denis stood by the entrance of the enclosurewatching the
swayingshuffling crowd. The slow vortex brought the couples
round and round again before himas though he were passing them
in review. There was Priscillastill wearing her queenly toque
still encouraging the villagers--this time by dancing with one of
the tenant farmers. There was Lord Moleynwho had stayed on to
the disorganisedpassoverish meal that took the place of dinner
on this festal day; he one-stepped shamblinglyhis bent knees
more precariously wobbly than everwith a terrified village
beauty. Mr. Scogan trotted round with another. Mary was in the
embrace of a young farmer of heroic proportions; she was looking
up at himtalkingas Denis could seevery seriously. What
about? he wondered. The Malthusian Leagueperhaps. Seated in
the corner among the bandJenny was performing wonders of
virtuosity upon the drums. Her eyes shoneshe smiled to
herself. A whole subterranean life seemed to be expressing
itself in those loud rat-tatsthose long rolls and flourishes of
drumming. Looking at herDenis ruefully remembered the red
notebook; he wondered what sort of a figure he was cutting now.
But the sight of Anne and Gombauld swimming past--Anne with her
eyes almost shut and sleepingas it wereon the sustaining
wings of movement and music--dissipated these preoccupations.
Male and female created He them...There they wereAnne and
Gombauldand a hundred couples more--all stepping harmoniously
together to the old tune of Male and Female created He them. But
Denis sat apart; he alone lacked his complementary opposite.
They were all coupled but he; all but he...
Somebody touched him on the shoulder and he looked up. It was
I never showed you our oaken drainpipes,he said. "Some of the
ones we dug up are lying quite close to here. Would you like to
come and see them?"
Denis got upand they walked off together into the darkness.
The music grew fainter behind them. Some of the higher notes
faded out altogether. Jenny's drumming and the steady sawing of
the bass throbbed ontuneless and meaningless in their ears.
Henry Wimbush halted.
Here we are,he saidandtaking an electric torch out of his
pockethe cast a dim beam over two or three blackened sections
of tree trunkscooped out into the semblance of pipeswhich
were lying forlornly in a little depression in the ground.
Very interesting,said Deniswith a rather tepid enthusiasm.
They sat down on the grass. A faint white glarerising from
behind a belt of treesindicated the position of the dancingfloor.
The music was nothing but a muffled rhythmic pulse.
I shall be glad,said Henry Wimbushwhen this function comes
at last to an end.
I can believe it.
I do not know how it is,Mr. Wimbush continuedbut the
spectacle of numbers of my fellow-creatures in a state of
agitation moves in me a certain weariness, rather than any gaiety
or excitement. The fact is, they don't very much interest me.
They're aren't in my line. You follow me? I could never take
much interest, for example, in a collection of postage stamps.
Primitives or seventeenth-century books--yes. They are my line.
But stamps, no. I don't know anything about them; they're not my
line. They don't interest me, they give me no emotion. It's
rather the same with people, I'm afraid. I'm more at home with
these pipes.He jerked his head sideways towards the hollowed
logs. "The trouble with the people and events of the present is
that you never know anything about them. What do I know of
contemporary politics? Nothing. What do I know of the people I
see round about me? Nothing. What they think of me or of
anything else in the worldwhat they will do in five minutes'
timeare things I can't guess at. For all I knowyou may
suddenly jump up and try to murder me in a moment's time."
Come, come,said Denis.
True,Mr. Wimbush continuedthe little I know about your past
is certainly reassuring. But I know nothing of your present, and
neither you nor I know anything of your future. It's appalling;
in living people, one is dealing with unknown and unknowable
quantities. One can only hope to find out anything about them by
a long series of the most disagreeable and boring human contacts,
involving a terrible expense of time. It's the same with current
events; how can I find out anything about them except by devoting
years to the most exhausting first-hand study, involving once
more an endless number of the most unpleasant contacts? No, give
me the past. It doesn't change; it's all there in black and
white, and you can get to know about it comfortably and
decorously and, above all, privately--by reading. By reading I
know a great deal of Caesar Borgia, of St. Francis, of Dr.
Johnson; a few weeks have made me thoroughly acquainted with
these interesting characters, and I have been spared the tedious
and revolting process of getting to know them by personal
contact, which I should have to do if they were living now. How
gay and delightful life would be if one could get rid of all the
human contacts! Perhaps, in the future, when machines have
attained to a state of perfection--for I confess that I am, like
Godwin and Shelley, a believer in perfectibility, the
perfectibility of machinery--then, perhaps, it will be possible
for those who, like myself, desire it, to live in a dignified
seclusion, surrounded by the delicate attentions of silent and
graceful machines, and entirely secure from any human intrusion.
It is a beautiful thought.
Beautiful,Denis agreed. "But what about the desirable human
contactslike love and friendship?"
The black silhouette against the darkness shook its head. "The
pleasures even of these contacts are much exaggerated said the
polite level voice. It seems to me doubtful whether they are
equal to the pleasures of private reading and contemplation.
Human contacts have been so highly valued in the past only
because reading was not a common accomplishment and because books
were scarce and difficult to reproduce. The worldyou must
rememberis only just becoming literate. As reading becomes
more and more habitual and widespreadan ever-increasing number
of people will discover that books will give them all the
pleasures of social life and none of its intolerable tedium. At
present people in search of pleasure naturally tend to congregate
in large herds and to make a noise; in future their natural
tendency will be to seek solitude and quiet. The proper study of
mankind is books."
I sometimes think that it may be,said Denis; he was wondering
if Anne and Gombauld were still dancing together.
Instead of which,said Mr. Wimbushwith a sighI must go and
see if all is well on the dancing-floor.They got up and began
to walk slowly towards the white glare. "If all these people
were dead Henry Wimbush went on, this festivity would be
extremely agreeable. Nothing would be pleasanter than to read in
a well-written book of an open-air ball that took place a century
ago. How charming! one would say; how pretty and how amusing!
But when the ball takes place to-daywhen one finds oneself
involved in itthen one sees the thing in its true light. It
turns out to be merely this." He waved his hand in the direction
of the acetylene flares. "In my youth he went on after a
pause, I found myselfquite fortuitouslyinvolved in a series
of the most phantasmagorical amorous intrigues. A novelist could
have made his fortune out of themand even if I were to tell
youin my bald stylethe details of these adventuresyou would
be amazed at the romantic tale. But I assure youwhile they
were happening--these romantic adventures--they seemed to me no
more and no less exciting than any other incident of actual life.
To climb by night up a rope-ladder to a second-floor window in an
old house in Toledo seemed to mewhile I was actually performing
this rather dangerous featan action as obviousas much to be
taken for grantedas--how shall I put it?--as quotidian as
catching the 8.52 from Surbiton to go to business on a Monday
morning. Adventures and romance only take on their adventurous
and romantic qualities at second-hand. Live themand they are
just a slice of life like the rest. In literature they become as
charming as this dismal ball would be if we were celebrating its
tercentenary." They had come to the entrance of the enclosure
and stood thereblinking in the dazzling light. "Ahif only we
were!" Henry Wimbush added.
Anne and Gombauld were still dancing together.
It was after ten o'clock. The dancers had already dispersed and
the last lights were being put out. To-morrow the tents would be
struckthe dismantled merry-go-round would be packed into
waggons and carted away. An expanse of worn grassa shabby
brown patch in the wide green of the parkwould be all that
remained. Crome Fair was over.
By the edge of the pool two figures lingered.
No, no, no,Anne was saying in a breathless whisperleaning
backwardsturning her head from side to side in an effort to
escape Gombauld's kisses. "Noplease. No." Her raised voice
had become imperative.
Gombauld relaxed his embrace a little. "Why not?" he said. "I
With a sudden effort Anne freed herself. "You won't she
retorted. You've tried to take the most unfair advantage of
Unfair advantage?echoed Gombauld in genuine surprise.
Yes, unfair advantage. You attack me after I've been dancing
for two hours, while I'm still reeling drunk with the movement,
when I've lost my head, when I've got no mind left but only a
rhythmical body! It's as bad as making love to someone you've
drugged or intoxicated.
Gombauld laughed angrily. "Call me a White Slaver and have done
Luckily,said AnneI am now completely sobered, and if you
try and kiss me again I shall box your ears. Shall we take a few
turns round the pool?she added. "The night is delicious."
For answer Gombauld made an irritated noise. They paced off
slowlyside by side.
What I like about the painting of Degas...Anne began in her
most detached and conversational tone.
Oh, damn Degas!Gombauld was almost shouting.
From where he stoodleaning in an attitude of despair against
the parapet of the terraceDenis had seen themthe two pale
figures in a patch of moonlightfar down by the pool's edge. He
had seen the beginning of what promised to be an endless
passionate embracementand at the sight he had fled. It was too
much; he couldn't stand it. In another momenthe felthe would
have burst into irrepressible tears.
Dashing blindly into the househe almost ran into Mr. Scogan
who was walking up and down the hall smoking a final pipe.
Hullo!said Mr. Scogancatching him by the arm; dazed and
hardly conscious of what he was doing or where he wasDenis
stood there for a moment like a somnambulist. "What's the
matter?" Mr. Scogan went on. "you look disturbeddistressed
Denis shook his head without replying.
Worried about the cosmos, eh?Mr. Scogan patted him on the arm.
I know the feeling,he said. "It's a most distressing symptom.
'What's the point of it all? All is vanity. What's the good of
continuing to function if one's doomed to be snuffed out at last
along with everything else?' Yesyes. I know exactly how you
feel. It's most distressing if one allows oneself to be
distressed. But then why allow oneself to be distressed? After
allwe all know that there's no ultimate point. But what
difference does that make?"
At this point the somnambulist suddenly woke up. "What?" he
saidblinking and frowning at his interlocutor. "What?" Then
breaking away he dashed up the stairstwo steps at a time.
Mr. Scogan ran to the foot of the stairs and called up after him.
It makes no difference, none whatever. Life is gay all the
same, always, under whatever circumstances--under whatever
circumstances,he addedraising his voice to a shout. But
Denis was already far out of hearingand even if he had not
beenhis mind to-night was proof against all the consolations of
philosophy. Mr. Scogan replaced his pipe between his teeth and
resumed his meditative pacing. "Under any circumstances he
repeated to himself. It was ungrammatical to begin with; was it
true? And is life really its own reward? He wondered. When his
pipe had burned itself to its stinking conclusion he took a drink
of gin and went to bed. In ten minutes he was deeply, innocently
Denis had mechanically undressed and, clad in those flowered silk
pyjamas of which he was so justly proud, was lying face downwards
on his bed. Time passed. When at last he looked up, the candle
which he had left alight at his bedside had burned down almost to
the socket. He looked at his watch; it was nearly half-past one.
His head ached, his dry, sleepless eyes felt as though they had
been bruised from behind, and the blood was beating within his
ears a loud arterial drum. He got up, opened the door, tiptoed
noiselessly along the passage, and began to mount the stairs
towards the higher floors. Arrived at the servants' quarters
under the roof, he hesitated, then turning to the right he opened
a little door at the end of the corridor. Within was a pitchdark
cupboard-like boxroom, hot, stuffy, and smelling of dust and
old leather. He advanced cautiously into the blackness, groping
with his hands. It was from this den that the ladder went up to
the leads of the western tower. He found the ladder, and set his
feet on the rungs; noiselessly, he lifted the trap-door above his
head; the moonlit sky was over him, he breathed the fresh, cool
air of the night. In a moment he was standing on the leads,
gazing out over the dim, colourless landscape, looking
perpendicularly down at the terrace seventy feet below.
Why had he climbed up to this high, desolate place? Was it to
look at the moon? Was it to commit suicide? As yet he hardly
knew. Death--the tears came into his eyes when he thought of it.
His misery assumed a certain solemnity; he was lifted up on the
wings of a kind of exaltation. It was a mood in which he might
have done almost anything, however foolish. He advanced towards
the farther parapet; the drop was sheer there and uninterrupted.
A good leap, and perhaps one might clear the narrow terrace and
so crash down yet another thirty feet to the sun-baked ground
below. He paused at the corner of the tower, looking now down
into the shadowy gulf below, now up towards the rare stars and
the waning moon. He made a gesture with his hand, muttered
something, he could not afterwards remember what; but the fact
that he had said it aloud gave the utterance a peculiarly
terrible significance. Then he looked down once more into the
What ARE you doingDenis?" questioned a voice from somewhere
very close behind him.
Denis uttered a cry of frightened surpriseand very nearly went
over the parapet in good earnest. His heart was beating
terriblyand he was pale whenrecovering himselfhe turned
round in the direction from which the voice had come.
Are you ill?
In the profound shadow that slept under the eastern parapet of
the towerhe saw something he had not previously noticed--an
oblong shape. It was a mattressand someone was lying on it.
Since that first memorable night on the towerMary had slept out
every evening; it was a sort of manifestation of fidelity.
It gave me a fright,she went onto wake up and see you
waving your arms and gibbering there. What on earth were you
Denis laughed melodramatically. "Whatindeed!" he said. If she
hadn't woken up as she didhe would be lying in pieces at the
bottom of the tower; he was certain of thatnow.
You hadn't got designs on me, I hope?Mary inquiredjumping
too rapidly to conclusions.
I didn't know you were here,said Denislaughing more bitterly
and artificially than before.
What IS the matter, Denis?
He sat down on the edge of the mattressand for all reply went
on laughing in the same frightful and improbable tone.
An hour later he was reposing with his head on Mary's kneesand
shewith an affectionate solicitude that was wholly maternal
was running her fingers through his tangled hair. He had told
her everythingeverything: his hopeless lovehis jealousyhis
despairhis suicide--as it were providentially averted by her
interposition. He had solemnly promised never to think of selfdestruction
again. And now his soul was floating in a sad
serenity. It was embalmed in the sympathy that Mary so
generously poured. And it was not only in receiving sympathy
that Denis found serenity and even a kind of happiness; it was
also in giving it. For if he had told Mary everything about his
miseriesMaryreacting to these confidenceshad told him in
return everythingor very nearly everythingabout her own.
Poor Mary!He was very sorry for her. Stillshe might have
guessed that Ivor wasn't precisely a monument of constancy.
Well,she concludedone must put a good face on it.She
wanted to crybut she wouldn't allow herself to be weak. There
was a silence.
Do you think,asked Denis hesitatingly--"do you really think
that she...that Gombauld..."
I'm sure of it,Mary answered decisively. There was another
I don't know what to do about it,he said at lastutterly
You'd better go away,advised Mary. "It's the safest thing
and the most sensible."
But I've arranged to stay here three weeks more.
You must concoct an excuse.
I suppose you're right.
I know I am,said Marywho was recovering all her firm selfpossession.
You can't go on like this, can you?
No, I can't go on like this,he echoed.
Immensely practicalMary invented a plan of action.
Startlinglyin the darknessthe church clock struck three.
You must go to bed at once,she said. "I'd no idea it was so
Denis clambered down the laddercautiously descended the
creaking stairs. His room was dark; the candle had long ago
guttered to extinction. He got into bed and fell asleep almost
Denis had been calledbut in spite of the parted curtains he had
dropped off again into that drowsydozy state when sleep becomes
a sensual pleasure almost consciously savoured. In this
condition he might have remained for another hour if he had not
been disturbed by a violent rapping at the door.
Come in,he mumbledwithout opening his eyes. The latch
clickeda hand seized him by the shoulder and he was rudely
Get up, get up!
His eyelids blinked painfully apartand he saw Mary standing
over himbright-faced and earnest.
Get up!she repeated. "You must go and send the telegram.
Don't you remember?"
O Lord!He threw off the bed-clothes; his tormentor retired.
Denis dressed as quickly as he could and ran up the road to the
village post office. Satisfaction glowed within him as he
returned. He had sent a long telegramwhich would in a few
hours evoke an answer ordering him back to town at once--on
urgent business. It was an act performeda decisive step taken
--and he so rarely took decisive steps; he felt pleased with
himself. It was with a whetted appetite that he came in to
Good-morning,said Mr. Scogan. "I hope you're better."
You were rather worried about the cosmos last night.
Denis tried to laugh away the impeachment. "Was I?" he lightly
I wish,said Mr. Scoganthat I had nothing worse to prey on
my mind. I should be a happy man.
One is only happy in action,Denis enunciatedthinking of the
He looked out of the window. Great florid baroque clouds floated
high in the blue heaven. A wind stirred among the treesand
their shaken foliage twinkled and glittered like metal in the
sun. Everything seemed marvellously beautiful. At the thought
that he would soon be leaving all this beauty he felt a momentary
pang; but he comforted himself by recollecting how decisively he
Action,he repeated aloudand going over to the sideboard he
helped himself to an agreeable mixture of bacon and fish.
Breakfast overDenis repaired to the terraceandsitting
thereraised the enormous bulwark of the "Times" against the
possible assaults of Mr. Scoganwho showed an unappeased desire
to go on talking about the Universe. Secure behind the crackling
pageshe meditated. In the light of this brilliant morning the
emotions of last night seemed somehow rather remote. And what if
he had seen them embracing in the moonlight? Perhaps it didn't
mean much after all. And even if it didwhy shouldn't he stay?
He felt strong enough to staystrong enough to be aloof
disinteresteda mere friendly acquaintance. And even if he
weren't strong enough...
What time do you think the telegram will arrive?asked Mary
suddenlythrusting in upon him over the top of the paper.
Denis started guiltily. "I don't know at all he said.
I was only wondering said Mary, because there's a very good
train at 3.27and it would be nice if you could catch it
Awfully nice,he agreed weakly. He felt as though he were
making arrangements for his own funeral. Train leaves Waterloo
3.27. No flowers...Mary was gone. Nohe was blowed if he'd let
himself be hurried down to the Necropolis like this. He was
blowed. The sight of Mr. Scogan looking outwith a hungry
expressionfrom the drawing-room window made him precipitately
hoist the "Times" once more. For a long while he kept it
hoisted. Lowering it at last to take another cautious peep at
his surroundingshe found himselfwith what astonishment!
confronted by Anne's faintamusedmalicious smile. She was
standing before him--the woman who was a tree--the swaying
grace of her movement arrested in a pose that seemed itself a
How long have you been standing there?he askedwhen he had
done gaping at her.
Oh, about half an hour, I suppose,she said airily. "You were
so very deep in your paper--head over ears--I didn't like to
You look lovely this morning,Denis exclaimed. It was the
first time he had ever had the courage to utter a personal remark
of the kind.
Anne held up her hand as though to ward off a blow. "Don't
bludgeon meplease." She sat down on the bench beside him. He
was a nice boyshe thoughtquite charming; and Gombauld's
violent insistences were really becoming rather tiresome. "Why
don't you wear white trousers?" she asked. "I like you so much
in white trousers."
They're at the wash,Denis replied rather curtly. This whitetrouser
business was all in the wrong spirit. He was just
preparing a scheme to manoeuvre the conversation back to the
proper pathwhen Mr. Scogan suddenly darted out of the house
crossed the terrace with clockwork rapidityand came to a halt
in front of the bench on which they were seated.
To go on with our interesting conversation about the cosmos,he
beganI become more and more convinced that the various parts
of the concern are fundamentally discrete...But would you mind,
Denis, moving a shade to your right?He wedged himself between
them on the bench. "And if you would shift a few inches to the
leftmy dear Anne...Thank you. DiscreteI thinkwas what I
You were,said Anne. Denis was speechless.
They were taking their after luncheon coffee in the library when
the telegram arrived. Denis blushed guiltily as he took the
orange envelope from the salver and tore it open. "Return at
once. Urgent family business." It was too ridiculous. As if he
had any family business! Wouldn't it be best just to crumple the
thing up and put it in his pocket without saying anything about
it? He looked up; Mary's large blue china eyes were fixed upon
himseriouslypenetratingly. He blushed more deeply than ever
hesitated in a horrible uncertainty.
What's your telegram about?Mary asked significantly.
He lost his headI'm afraid,he mumbledI'm afraid this
means I shall have to go back to town at once.He frowned at
the telegram ferociously.
But that's absurd, impossible,cried Anne. She had been
standing by the window talking to Gombauld; but at Denis's words
she came swaying across the room towards him.
It's urgent,he repeated desperately.
But you've only been here such a short time,Anne protested.
I know,he saidutterly miserable. Ohif only she could
understand! Women were supposed to have intuition.
If he must go, he must,put in Mary firmly.
Yes, I must.He looked at the telegram again for inspiration.
You see, it's urgent family business,he explained.
Priscilla got up from her chair in some excitement. "I had a
distinct presentiment of this last night she said. A distinct
A mere coincidence, no doubt,said Marybrushing Mrs. Wimbush
out of the conversation. "There's a very good train at 3.27."
She looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. "You'll have nice
time to pack."
I'll order the motor at once.Henry Wimbush rang the bell.
The funeral was well under way. It was awfulawful.
I am wretched you should be going,said Anne.
Denis turned towards her; she really did look wretched. He
abandoned himself hopelesslyfatalistically to his destiny.
This was what came of actionof doing something decisive. If
only he'd just let things drift! If only...
I shall miss your conversation,said Mr. Scogan.
Mary looked at the clock again. "I think perhaps you ought to go
and pack she said.
Obediently Denis left the room. Never again, he said to himself,
never again would he do anything decisive. Camlet, West Bowlby,
Knipswich for Timpany, Spavin Delawarr; and then all the other
stations; and then, finally, London. The thought of the journey
appalled him. And what on earth was he going to do in London
when he got there? He climbed wearily up the stairs. It was
time for him to lay himself in his coffin.
The car was at the door--the hearse. The whole party had
assembled to see him go. Good-bye, good-bye. Mechanically he
tapped the barometer that hung in the porch; the needle stirred
perceptibly to the left. A sudden smile lighted up his
'It sinks and I am ready to depart'" he saidquoting Landor
with an exquisite aptness. He looked quickly round from face to
face. Nobody had noticed. He climbed into the hearse.