Cressage by A.
When Walter Garnet, in his rooms at Stafford College, Oxford,
learned from the shouting of an uproarious friend in the quad
that he had got his First in Greats, he threw down the book he
had been reading, and leaned out of the window, to be greeted by
a torrent of congratulation to which he replied, "Thanks very
"I never saw such an old slug!" said his breathless friend.
"Aren't you going to do anything?"
"Come up and see!" said Garnet.
Tommy Hobday clattered up the narrow wooden stairs. The room,
a pleasant little panelled place, was half dismantled. On the
table was a pile of books and a smaller pile of notebooks and
"Hullo," said Tommy, "I didn't know you were going to clear
out so quick."
"Yes, I am off to-morrow. I shall just come back to take my
"I don't believe you are a bit pleased!"
"Yes, I am--very much. At least I should have been furious if
I hadn't got my First."
"Well, you are the coolest fish! I should have been all over
the place by now, if I had been you. But what are we going to
"Well, I'll give you a dinner somewhere to-night if you will
order it and get the men."
"Won't I just! Do you run to champagne?" asked Tommy.
"Yes, anything you like."
"Anyone in particular?"
"Oh, Bim and Menzies and any of the old lot, not more than
eight beside ourselves."
The irrepressible Tommy looked at him. "What's the matter with
you, Walter? You seem to have begun practising to be a Don
already. Whence this dejected mien?" and Hobday burst into
a few bars of an opera-bouffe.
"Why, 'at such a time as this,' as the Dean said in his sermon
on Sunday, 'the mind naturally reverts to its spiritual horizon.
What brave designs, what meagre fulfilment!'" and Walter rolled
his eyes, and extended a sidelong forefinger at Tommy.
"Come, that's a little better. Now I'll go and rout the guys
out. Any preference as to place?"
"Anywhere, anything, anybody--think of it as your
party. Come to tea and tell me what you have arranged."
"All right. Walter, you are magnificent, and I shan't spare
you--you may be sure of that." And the rapturous Tommy departed
Left to himself, Walter Garnet surveyed the scene. He was a
tall, slim, active-looking young man, carelessly but effectively
dressed. He was not noticeably handsome, but his little round
head, perhaps a trifle too small for his body, with its soft
brown curly hair, his clear complexion, his large grey-blue eyes,
gave him at first sight a rather girlish air. He took up with his
long firmly-knit hand a cigarette and lit it, blowing out a cloud
of smoke. But now that he was alone a slight look of trouble
gathered on his smooth forehead. He was vexed with himself for
not having seemed livelier. "Damn it all!" he muttered irritably
under his breath.
The fact was that he had been working very hard in his own
way, though why he should work hard or want a First he
hardly knew. It seemed to be something that lay deeper than his
reason that drove him. And now he was feeling the reaction; a
real touch of melancholy was upon him. He had been sleeping
little of late, waking early and finding life unaccountably
futile. He had tried to exorcise the devil by perpetual
lawn-tennis and elaborate supper-parties; but life was without
relish, and it bewildered him to find it more meaningless every
day. He had meant to stay up till the finish, and have a
delicious time; but a day or two before he had made up his mind
to cut it all and go home. There at least no one would take any
notice of his moods.
Walter's father was a small Squire in Shropshire, a pompous,
good-natured man who lived very quietly; his mother was a simple,
charitable, affectionate woman. He was deeply attached to them
both, but he never attempted to share his ideas, of which he had
a superabundance, with them. His father indulged him in every
way; his mother looked anxiously after his health, and believed
him to share her very preferential type of religion.
He had been at Winchester, where he had done well both in work
and games. He had the sort of popularity which comes freely to
pleasant, competent, modest and good-natured boys, but he had
made no very intimate friends. He had gained a scholarship at
Oxford, where he had worked hard and played games vigorously. But
here again he had few intimates, and his ideas, which had crowded
very insistently upon him of late, had been mostly shared with
his tutor, a young man, Harry Norton, not many years older than
himself, who had a keen intellect, abundant humour and a great
sympathy with the dreams of immaturity. Norton was in fact
Garnet's only intimate friend.
While he was musing, there came a knock at the door. A young
man entered. "Come to see about the books, sir," he said. Walter
indicated the table. He had been a considerable buyer of books;
but now he had put together on the table all his school and
College work-books, and a number of other volumes which he had
bought out of curiosity, and thought he would not be likely to
read again. The young man looked quickly through the heap, and
made an offer of a few pounds, which was heedlessly accepted.
Walter asked him if at the same time he would take away and
destroy the notebooks and papers which represented all his hours
of work at school and College. The young man agreed, and said
they should be removed in the course of the afternoon.
The furniture was all to go. Walter had determined to take
home only a bureau and a chair, a few books and pictures. Perhaps
in a happier mood he would have kept more; but now it was a
relief to him to get rid of everything.
As to Walter's ideas, he had come, like many men of his
generation, very much under the influence of Pater. He did not
find much nutriment in Pater's æsthetics, his tortured
ecstasies, his resolute confections and concoctions of rapture;
but he had been deeply smitten with the idea of bodily and mental
temperance as interpreted in Marius the Epicurean, the
control of bodily appetites, the clearness of spirit, the high
disdain for anything vulgar or gross or materialistic. For
commonplace comfort, acceptance of dull conventions, ordinary
ambitions, matter-of-fact arrangements for easy living Walter had
conceived a great disfavour. The instincts of the herd and the
crowd seemed to him utterly tedious and even brutal. He felt that
he must live a more intent life of his own in secrecy and without
ostentation, and withdraw from the obvious and banal ideas of the
people round him. Of course it was all self-centred,
individualistic, fastidious, even ungenerous; but there was a
purity and a radiance about his visions which seemed to him very
real and sacred. The thought of making known these dreams to
those about him appeared like a profanation; it was not that he
desired to disentangle himself from the world altogether. But he
wanted a wider range; he thought he might somewhere find men,
even groups of men, to whom such thoughts as rose in his mind
would be neither unusual nor extravagant. His idea was rather
that he seemed to have discovered the shallowness and the
grossness of view which lurked behind the good-humoured eagerness
and jollity of his companions. He shuddered to think of the kind
of men that they would unconsciously and contentedly become.
The only person he had ever ventured to hint these insistent
cravings to had been Norton, but even he had rather laughed at
him, and had seemed to suspect him of solemnity.
Presently he strolled out a little indecisively, passed
through the quad and out again into a small, more ancient quad,
went up a flight of stairs and knocked at a Gothic door. A voice
within called a reply. Opening the door he entered a
low-ceilinged room with deep window embrasures, almost lined with
books. There was a table stacked with papers, containing a kind
of bay or creek where the owner appeared to write. The room was
shabbily but not uncomfortably furnished, though the confusion
In a deep chair was lounging a tall, pale, ungainly, rather
sickly-looking man, with hay-like hair showing already signs of
baldness. He was smoking a pipe and reading a small volume. On
seeing his visitor, Norton gave him a smile which irradiated his
plain face, one of those large, cordial, personal smiles which
win instant confidence by its transparent ingenuousness.
"Ah, Walter," he said, "so you have brought it off!"
"Yes!" said Walter.
"I never saw such a fellow as you for hoodwinking examiners,"
said Norton; "it's a kind of genius. But of course it isn't an
education. You are a very ill-educated man, though you can put
every scrap you possess in the shop-window."
"I quite agree it isn't an education," said Walter, "but the
imparting of it provides a large number of people like yourself
with very comfortable berths!"
"Don't be peevish, dear boy," said Norton. "I had expected a
box of alabaster to be broken over my feet after all I have done
"You!" said Walter, smiling. "Why, you have done your level
best to prevent my getting a First. You have always tried to make
me read things, when all they deserved was to be got up."
Norton shook his head mournfully. "Greats is really a very
good education," he said, "if you want to learn to think."
"But to learn to think about one set of things doesn't enable
you to think about other sets of things," said Walter. "It's the
old fallacy. 'Euclid strengthens the logical faculties'--it
doesn't. It only strengthens the logical faculties in dealing
"You can't teach everyone everything," said Norton.
"No, but you can offer a larger choice of subjects. The real
fact is that you belong to a Trades Union ring. You and your
friends have nobbled education, and will only supply one kind,
because it is too much trouble for you to acquaint yourselves
with other subjects."
"That's a very shallow travesty of my position," said Norton;
"besides, I can't think what other subjects you mean."
"Literature, art, music, religion--all the really vital
forces. You can't bear anything that is alive, that is the truth!
You are not interested in anything till it is dead and stiff and
cold and rotten."
"My dear Walter!"
"Oh, yes--I apologize; I won't gas any more. There's something
wrong with me. I can't take any interest in ordinary things just
now, and when I do get interested I become offensive."
"You are overworked," said Norton. "I have seen it coming on
for some time. You must knock off for a bit. What are you going
to do? Is it any use my offering to come somewhere with you? I am
at a loose end for a bit."
"That would be splendid. I am going home--they expect me
to-morrow. I'm the only one, you know. Could I persuade you to
come there with me? I have been wanting to ask you for a long
time, but I was afraid you might be bored--my people are really
"I'll come like a shot, old man," said Norton. "I can be free
this day week."
"I'm going off to-morrow," said Walter, "but will you come to
us a week hence? The station is Pendridge. It's rather a pretty
part of Shropshire."
"Excellent," said Norton. "It's just what I would like. We
will defer these agreeable arguments till then--also the choice
of a profession."
"Then I'll say good-bye now," said Walter, "and really I
didn't mean what I said a minute ago; it was very rude and quite
untrue. You have done everything for me; and the only thing I
really mind about going down is that I shall cease to see you. Do
you believe that?"
"I believe anything you tell me, dear boy," said Norton, "and
I shall miss you too awfully. You can't guess how much--but don't
let us become sentimental."
A week later Walter was waiting at Pendridge Station with a
dog-cart. His depression had diminished in the course of the
quiet days spent at home; but he was still in the undecided
indifferent mood which follows when a melancholy disturbance has
blown itself out, and when the smallest choice and the lightest
decision seem arduous to make and disastrous when made. He was
regretting now that he had ever asked Norton. What would Norton
do with himself at Cressage? How would he endure his father's
harangues and his mother's inconsequent comments? However, the
thing was done, and presently he was driving across the uplands,
with Norton very ill-attired and dilapidated-looking lounging
It was an incomparably beautiful afternoon, and the sunlight
had the liquid golden look which comes only after days of rain.
He and Norton were talking as friendly Anglo-Saxons are wont to
talk, with the heavy irony which would be lambent if it could.
But Norton became more and more absorbed in the scene, and when
they passed the head of a valley through which was visible a
great stretch of rich, well-watered plain just touched with
opalescent haze and beautifully dotted and lined with the darker
green of scattered woodlands, he broke out into an exclamation of
pleasure. "A great slice of the world, seen at a distance, the
ugliness all washed out of it--no noise, no stink--no wonder the
Creator thinks it a success!"
"You think He doesn't come down to our level?"
"Don't be profane!" said Norton rather sharply. "That's the
hall-mark of the peevish intellectual who can't do anything or
feel anything, and can only spit and swear."
"Yes, it was stupid of me!" said Walter humbly.
"Smartness--how sick one gets of that!"
Norton smiled and nodded. "How much more tempting the kingdoms
of the world and the glory of them are from a pinnacle of the
Temple, than when you have come down and face the roaring
"I didn't know you were ambitious," said Walter in
"No, I try to think it a proud abstention from the world. What
trouble one takes to humbug oneself about oneself! The Committee
which one calls one's mind is a very low affair."
Walter did not answer. He did not feel he could keep at this
They passed a wild common, with a shallow, reed-fringed pool,
many small thickets, and some old forest trees shouldering out of
the brake. "That's very jolly," said Norton. A minute or two
later the road began to descend the hill into a narrow little
valley, mostly clothed with woods, which came up rather steeply
from the plain below, folding in among the hills.
"This is where we begin," said Walter, as they diverged from
the highroad and turned into a stony lane; and five minutes later
they drew up at the little gate-house of Cressage Garnet Manor.
Walter had wondered how the quaint Tudor gate-house would strike
Norton--perhaps as pretentious and fantastic. It was a small
building of mellow Tudor brick with an arched entrance, the heavy
oak doors being thrown back; over the doorway was a big mullioned
window, flanked by small octagonal turrets on either side, capped
with stone, and above, the tiled roof of the gate-house and its
two chimney-stacks of twisted brickwork, one at each end.
"What!" said Norton in an amazed tone. "This your house? Why
was I never told? It's the most enchanting thing I ever set eyes
upon! Have you any idea how beautiful it is? What is the date of
"I haven't the remotest idea," said Walter.
An old man came out and took down Norton's very scanty
luggage, and then held the horse while they descended. They went
in under a pretty stone-groined roof. A flagged pathway led on to
the Manor, with old lime-trees on either hand, rising out of the
grass. On each side of the little enclosure was a brick wall with
a coping of stone, and the roofs of barns and outbuildings rose
on the left beyond them. The Manor had three gables in front. The
windows were mullioned, the roof was tiled, and a dozen moulded
brick chimneys held up their heads with an inquiring air. Doves
sat crooning on the roof, in the bright golden air now enriched
by the half-tinted evening.
"Good God," said Norton, who was devouring every detail with a
sort of ecstasy. "The thing is simply too wonderful to be
Walter consigned his burden to an elderly blinking butler.
They were in a long low hall, paved with black and white squares
of stone, the walls panelled, and with two or three bits of oak
furniture. He led the way to a door on the right, and saying,
"Here we are, Mother!" led Norton into a panelled room, not very
large, but with an air of extreme comfort in its deep
chintz-covered arm-chairs. On the walls hung two or three large
and obscure landscape paintings. An elderly smiling lady rose to
her feet. With her large eyes, her small smiling puckered mouth,
her grey hair worn in smooth bandeaux, and attired as she was in
a dark silk gown, with a gold chain sustaining a pair of glasses,
she looked to Norton almost impossibly antique--the apotheosis of
"Well, it's very nice of you, Mr. Norton," she said in a
smooth rich voice, "to consent to be brought down to this
out-of-the-way place--and you have been so good to Walter--he
simply adores you!"
"That's very embarrassing," said Norton, smiling; "but I am
rather vexed with him for not telling me what an extraordinarily
beautiful place I was coming to."
"It is thought to be very quaint and pretty, I believe," said
Mrs. Garnet with many complacent nods and smiles. "But I have
lived here so long that I hardly see it, you know. Mr. Garnet
will like explaining it all to you. I haven't any head for dates,
and it seems to be all dates, when he talks about it. The Wars of
the Roses, I understand. But there's something older still. Show
Mr. Norton my own view, Walter dear!"
Walter led Norton a little awkwardly to a deep panelled
embrasure. The house stood on a rapidly falling slope, and from
the window Norton saw a steep flight of stone steps descending to
a gate, with high gateposts and stone balls on the top, and just
beyond and below, in a tiny graveyard full of old leaning
headstones, a little Norman chapel, strangely bulging and
buttressed, crowned by a small timbered spire; beyond it the
woods closed in on the falling slope, and above them rose the
steep green pastureland of the further upland.
"I can see you like it, Mr. Norton," said the placid voice of
Mrs. Garnet beside him; "so restful, is it not? You clever men at
Oxford think that we poor folk who live in a corner like this
have no troubles. You wouldn't believe what worries there are!
Servants--even our good old servants, you know--have tempers, and
must be smoothed down; and tenants' wives are very independent
nowadays; but after a worrying talk, I often go and stand and
look out there, and think how little it all matters; and
then--you wouldn't think I could be so foolish--I pick out a nice
place for my grave, in a sunny corner of the churchyard--that's
rather morbid! And then in half an hour I am as anxious to live
as anyone, and begin wondering if there is any fish for dinner."
She smiled and nodded at Norton, and Walter felt a little
ashamed. "But what am I thinking of?" she continued. "Go and tell
dear papa, Walter; he will never forgive me if he isn't here to
welcome our guest. He likes to have the first word. He is as
proud as anything to have a great scholar here. He has a great
respect for the University."
"Well, that is very comforting," said Norton. "I wish more
people felt the same!"
"Oh, I'm sure they do," said Mrs. Garnet. "Do you know, you
will think me very foolish, but I was just a wee bit afraid of
meeting you myself. I thought, 'What shall I find to say to a
learned man like Mr. Norton?' But now I feel quite reassured. The
moment I saw you, I said to myself that you wouldn't despise us.
You must be very kind, I think. I hope you like our dear
"Yes, indeed," said Norton, "Who could help it? I am very fond
of him, and very proud of him. I don't think I ever had a pupil I
was more attached to!"
"Now that is most kind," said Mrs. Garnet, her eyes filling
with tears. "Of course a mother is partial; but when I see Walter
with other boys, I think there is something, what shall I say,
more distinguished about him than most of them. You find him
But Norton's reply was cut short by the entry of a tall,
handsome, fresh-faced, bearded man, very precisely dressed in an
admirably fitting grey suit, his tie confined by a cameo ring.
"Mr. Norton," he said, "a thousand apologies! I told them to warn
me of the approach of your vehicle, that I might have the honour
of receiving you at the gate. Your visit is deeply valued here. I
am an unlearned man myself, but I respect learning. I know no
distinctions of rank or class, but I respect learning, especially
when it is combined with virtue and moreover accompanied by a
most gratifying interest in the studies of our beloved
The Squire shook Norton's hand warmly, and Norton suspected
him of having committed his little speech to memory.
Refreshment was proffered and refused, and as it was now near
dinner-time, the Squire recommended "an adjournment to our
respective rooms." He added, "You will find your things bestowed
by our old butler; but you will no doubt have books and papers to
arrange--we have a little study for your sole use, my dear sir,
the privacy of which will be jealously respected. You must confer
with Walter about our rustic time-table, and you must not scruple
to suggest any alteration that will suit your hours of study. We
shall only claim you in the afternoons and at our simple meals.
You need have no anxiety on this head."
After two or three days at the Manor, Norton began to wonder
how long he could support the conversation of Mr. Garnet. The
Squire spoke as a rule, whenever he was in the room, in one
continuous harangue, and at meals, if he desisted in order to
swallow a little food, Mrs. Garnet took up the tale. It seemed to
Norton that Mr. Garnet was a very vain and pompous old man, whose
only form of idealism was to repose lusciously in the glory and
antiquity of the Garnet family. He was full of stories of his old
prowess in the hunting-field, and as a game shot, and of the
respect and deference which he enjoyed in the county. The food
and appointments of the house were costly even to extravagance,
and Mr. Garnet had evidently lavished large sums of money on the
buildings. On the other hand, the farms and cottages on the
estate seemed in the last stage of dilapidation. Yet, in a
conversation which Norton had with him, he spoke as though
Walter's prospects were of the most glowing kind. "I want my dear
boy," he said, "to have every advantage. My own life has
been mainly devoted to securing for him a far ampler provision
than it was my fortune to inherit. You see how simply we live! My
wife and I deny ourselves travel, we deny ourselves the London
season, we entertain little. It is no sacrifice to myself--I am
content with my books, my communing with nature, my good tenants'
concerns, my county duties. I am a philosopher, Mr. Norton,
though not in the more technical significance that you would
attach to the word--but for my dear wife, whose only
preoccupation is the pleasure of those around her, it is a
sacrifice, though cheerfully made. I desire then that my dearest
boy should have every advantage--that he should see the
world, that he should be equipped to mingle on equal terms with
the best and highest society. We ask for your co-operation in
Norton was bored to desperation by harangues of this nature,
which made him feel as though Mr. Garnet were translating aloud
from an eighteenth-century German book on education. These
considerations were all, as the Squire said, preparatory to
Norton's advice being requested; but this actual point was never
reached. Mrs. Garnet was better. Norton could not acquit her of a
distinct degree of fatuity, and her talk was a series of
leisurely divergences from the main theme, or, in her husband's
presence, a mere chorus of Hosannas. The Squire was fond of
relating instances of his adroit manipulation of troublesome or
important people, and Mrs. Garnet's function evidently was to
supply the ample credit which the Squire could not avowedly
"The Duke said to me," Mr. Garnet would say, "'And how would
Mr. Garnet advise us to proceed? There is no one on the
bench'--you will forgive my quoting the Duke's words, but they
are essential to the comprehension of my story--'no one on the
bench, who can so perfectly interpret and even anticipate the
instinctive processes of our humbler neighbours, and we should
all repose entire confidence in his judgment.' 'Well, Duke,' I
said, 'though I can hardly claim to deserve your commendation, it
seems to me to be a case where leniency would do more to
conciliate than severity to deter.' 'An admirable maxim,' said
the Duke, 'and no less admirably phrased! Gentlemen, we may
dismiss the case.'"
"Well, dear," joined in Mrs. Garnet, "Mr. Norton will forgive
me if I call that beautiful. Not that I trust the Duke's judgment
very far in these cases. He is very hasty--the Duke is decidedly
hasty, and in his own circle, they tell me, quite shockingly
profane. But with Mr. Garnet at his elbow, I have heard people
say, the Duke cannot go very far wrong!"
"The Duke is an unassuming man," said Mr. Garnet, with a
little bow and smirk to his wife. "You may observe, Mr. Norton,
that I address him as 'Duke.' Some of our magistrates prefer to
say 'Your Grace.' But there was a Garnet at Cressage when the
Duke's ancestor--no doubt a very worthy man--was a wool-stapler
at Shrewsbury, and I feel myself entitled to address him on a
footing of perfect equality. He has no reason to be ashamed of
being a Duke--I do not blame him--but these titles are mushroom
growths. I may say that I regard it as a greater distinction to
give my name to a place than to take a title from a
The worst of Mr. Garnet's stories was that everyone, whether
Duke or gamekeeper, always seemed to speak in the same measured
and antithetical clauses, which deprived the narrative of any
dramatic force. Norton noticed too that it did not seem to be
expected that Walter should ever contribute to the talk. He was
still regarded by his father and mother in the light of an
unfledged boy. But one thing Norton could not fail to notice,
namely that the three were united by a bond of very real and deep
affection. Neither his father nor mother ever addressed each
other or Walter in any but the language of affection and
compliment. Walter was himself always on the watch to do any
small service for his father and mother, and these little offices
of tenderness were always eagerly and gratefully acknowledged. In
fact, Norton was torn between his admiration of the extraordinary
harmony which existed between the three, and his consciousness of
the absurd complacency of the Squire backed by the copious
adulation of Mrs. Garnet. The servants, too, were obviously
devoted to the old couple, and even the tenants seemed to hold
them in high honour, though the Squire always managed to evade
any request that involved the smallest expenditure. It was
certainly a very odd mixture!
Fortunately the Squire always excused himself after breakfast
on the plea of business, though his correspondence seemed to
consist mainly of advertisements; and Norton took long rambles
with Walter, who carried a gun, and occasionally shot a rabbit or
"I'm afraid you find my father's talk a little lengthy!" said
Walter one day to him.
"He has got into the habit, no doubt, of thinking aloud," said
Norton. "Though I prefer it very much to a grumpy taciturnity
which seems to be the other alternative; but what I really do
admire and envy," he went on, "is the extraordinary courtesy and
affection of your father and mother. My own home is a country
vicarage, where I am afraid we consider it a virtue not to speak
unless one has anything to say, and then to say it in the
frankest manner possible; but that's very uncivilized, you
"I don't believe," said Walter, "that I have ever heard my
father or mother say a sharp word to anyone in my life; they
certainly never have done so to each other--nor to me. I was
rather a tiresome little boy, but my severest punishment was to
be told by my mother that she must tell my father--'which will
make him miserable for a day or a week or a fortnight,' she used
to add, according to the heinousness of the offence. She used to
take me to the study and say to my father, 'Henry, I am going to
make you very unhappy,' and when she had told her story, she used
to slip away, and my father used to put his arm round me and say,
'Now you are going to tell papa all about it; I can see you are
sorry already!' It all sounds very sentimental, but it worked
well. It wasn't as if I was pampered. He used to take me out
riding in all weathers, and send me to the meets, and make me go
out with the keeper, 'to get mamma a dinner, and a few birds to
send to her friends.' It sounds very silly to you, perhaps; but
the result is that I would do anything in the world for either of
them, and could ask them anything or tell them anything; and I
believe that the wish not to have anything hateful to tell them
has really kept me clear of no end of mischief."
"Well, if you care to know," said Norton, "I think it quite
irrational and perfectly indefensible, and yet entirely
beautiful. The wisdom of the ages is all against it, and yet I
expect it is the solution which is staring us in the face all the
"I am not sure about that," said Walter. "I think there is
something missing; but perhaps, considering everything, it is
ungrateful for me to say so."
"Not ungrateful," said Norton, "but if you had known the other
kind of bringing up, as I have, you would see that what you have
missed is a very small thing compared with what you have
On the first Sunday Walter was very visibly relieved when he
found that Norton was quite willing to go to church. "One should
bow the head at all altars," Norton had said, quoting Flaubert;
and Norton himself was delighted to find that the Manor party
occupied a strange painted and canopied Jacobean pew, looking
down on the church, which stood in a sort of choir transept, and
behind which was the vestry. The sharp colours of the pompous pew
had mellowed agreeably with time, and Norton was still more
pleased to find, when he took up the old red leather prayer-book
in his place, with CRESSAGE GARNET MANOR in gold letters on the
side, that on the praying-desk, facing each worshipper, was
depicted an enormous open eye, with the motto Tu Dne vides
me. He was struck during the service with the whimsical
thought how exactly the pew represented the Squire's mind, in its
garishness and pomposity, and in all the elaborate devices to
secure privacy and seclusion, when neither was needed.
The congregation that clattered in was very small. The Vicar
was a middle-aged man, self-possessed and a little stern of
aspect, who read the lessons as if they had a meaning, and whose
sermon contained two or three passages of pleasing acidity.
In the little chapel beside the altar were several effigies,
an armoured knight on a tomb, drowsy courtier-like figures on
ledges, with heads propped on delicate hands. A great Jacobean
tomb rich in gilded emblems. A Chantry bas-relief, with a slender
and beautiful girlish figure, a marble tablet or two. Walter led
him to a rude brass of a knight on the wall, and pointed to the
epitaph. Norton read:
Jesus Christ, most of might,
Have a mercy of John le Garnet, knight,
And of his wyffe Elizabeth,
Wch out of this world is past by death,
Wch founded this chapel here.
Helpe them with yr harty praer;
That they may come to that place
Where ever is joy and solace.1
1 In a chapel at Luton, founded by John le
"That is in 1470," said Walter, "--it goes straight to the
point, at all events. Why should one be proud of descent from
these very ordinary people? None of them ever did anything of
importance; and yet it doesn't feel like an unwholesome
"It is certainly a rich and romantic background," said Norton,
He was still more pleased when he found Mr. Goring at lunch,
together with his wife, who appeared to be a voluble and
good-natured woman. At luncheon Mr. Goring behaved, Norton
thought, with just the right shade of deference to the Squire and
Mrs. Garnet, but he was careful to include both Walter and Norton
himself in the talk, and spoke his mind very plainly and freely
when a parish matter was discussed.
After luncheon, Mr. Goring asked Norton if they might have a
little chat about Oxford, and going out into the garden, they sat
down in a little recess in one of the curtain-walls, on an old
oak settee. After a few words about Oxford, Mr. Goring said, "You
are Walter's tutor, I believe, Mr. Norton; he seems to have done
well? I have known Walter all his life and take a very great
interest in him. What do you think of him?"
"It's rather hard to say; he is in a transitional state."
"What do you mean exactly?"
"Well, he has a great deal of ability. He has got a First,
without so far as I can see taking the smallest interest in his
subjects. He is very fastidious, and though he is a popular man,
he has really no intimate friends. Yet he seems to me to know his
own mind, and, under an appearance of indifference, to be going
his own way much more than most men. He is rather a mystery to
me,--and yet he is more confidential than most young men. I feel
that he doesn't tell me all that is in his mind, but only a small
and suitable selection."
"Yes," said the Vicar, musing, "that is so--he is a reserved
youth, but I suspect him of caring very much for certain things,
or at all events being prepared to care very much. His bringing
up has of course been against him."
"Surely not!" said Norton; "his relations with his father and
mother seem to me to be very fine."
"Up to a certain point, yes," said the Vicar. "But that kind
of affection is a cramping thing. His parents--it is no good
beating about the bush, if we are to talk seriously--are not wise
people. They are entirely ignorant of the world and very
uncultivated, and they have an immense idea of their consequence.
They have brought him up like a plant in a greenhouse, to a great
extent for their own amusement. They have no idea what is going
on in his mind, and if he told them they would not understand it.
The marvel is that things have turned out so well. To speak
plainly, the atmosphere of this house stifles me; it is unreal
from top to bottom. The Squire, to be candid, regards every
living soul he meets as a mirror to regard his own perfections
in. He is a miserly landlord, and I can't get him to help in
anything in the parish. Yet the people revere him, and think no
end of him. Mrs. Garnet is full of kindness, but her one idea is
to keep the Squire 'in all his ways,' like the angels in the
Psalm. I have a notion that Walter is not in the least taken in
by all this, but he is too loyal to give a hint of it. The
question is, what is to be done? I want to get Walter out of it
at any cost."
"I don't think it has done him much harm," said Norton. "And
knowing what I know of young men's homes, I can't say that I
think it nothing to have developed and kept alive this
extraordinary family affection. It seems to me a very rare thing
and a very beautiful thing."
"Yes, I don't want to decry it," said Mr. Goring, "but to
acquiesce is only accepting a situation and making the best of
it. It doesn't make things any better. The household is a little
close corporation, a mutual benefit society. You know the
proverb, 'to love is easy--what is difficult is to respect'? I
admit that it is in a way a happy home, but so is many a stagnant
"I don't suppose it is necessary for Walter to have a
profession, so far as money goes?" said Norton.
"There again I don't know. The Squire is an extravagant man;
he has spent thousands on the house."
"I had thought of advising them to send Walter abroad."
"That would be excellent; but will they let him go?"
"I'll have a try anyhow," said Norton.
"Yes, do," said the Vicar, adding, "I hope you will forgive me
for intervening thus. But we have no children of our own, and
Walter is very dear to me. Perhaps I am a little jealous of the
beautiful united circle?"
This conversation greatly quickened Norton's interest in
Walter. He felt himself to blame for his inertia. He had
been idly amusing himself by watching the situation, when he
ought to have been finding more out about Walter, and trying to
clear away obstacles from his path. But though he had a great
sense of duty to the intellects of his pupils, he shrank from
interfering with their minds and hearts; it seemed to him to be
Jesuitical and secret, and to partake of the nature of sin. He
was quite ready to advise, but he had no desire to influence.
But he was diplomatic enough in his approaches. He told Walter
that the Squire had been consulting him about the future, and
that before answering, he wanted to know what Walter's own wishes
and aims were.
He was astonished to find how definite Walter's views were all
the time. Walter said, in a very deprecating way, and with an
evident desire not to lapse into any priggishness, that he was on
the whole not interested in moral problems nor in the
intellectual life--philosophy, metaphysics, political and social
problems had no attraction for him; and what he was really
allured by was the element of beauty in life. He went on to say
with much diffidence that when people talked about religion and
duty in the formal sense, and the intellectual evolution of the
world, the whole thing seemed to him unutterably arid--but that
beauty seemed to him to be the one divine thing beckoning to men
and inviting them with an irresistible surprise and charm to a
pure and free region where gross, sensual and material things
counted for nothing: that life couldn't be a matter of rules and
precepts, of prudence and security, but of impulses in an
ascending scale; and that he had in himself a creative sense,
calling him to make something beautiful--whether for his own
satisfaction, or for the pleasure of others, he did not know--and
that he must do this through writing in some form; he had no
technical comprehension of art and music, but a great feeling for
the value of words.
All this Norton elicited, shamefacedly and spasmodically, by
seemingly ingenuous questions, and liberal sympathy. He saw to
his amazement and self-condemnation that behind the neat and
conventional indifference, there was something burning and
glowing in the back of Walter's mind--a sacred fire. But then
Walter's mood suddenly ebbed and
"like a fountain's sickening pulse, retired."
He said he was afraid he had been talking great rot. "My dear
Walter," said Norton, "you must take a leaf out of Mr. George
Moore's book, and learn to be ashamed of nothing except of being
ashamed. You mustn't be always on the defensive."
The talk ended clumsily and confusedly. But from that moment,
Norton was aware that he was in a new relation to Walter. A wall
had been broken down between their spirits, and the passionate
self-abandonment that he had witnessed was to him one of the
surprising experiences of his life, a splendid secret not to be
shared with anyone, and of which he must not even ever remind
They had been walking together that day out upon the uplands
to the North, over a long stretch of wild forest-land, the
remnant of some old chase, with heather-tufts and thorn-thickets,
and here and there a gnarled and ancient tree. Far down below,
the huge plain glimmered and shone, and great rays had now and
then streamed down from the sun, hidden behind gold-rimmed
clouds. It was a beautiful thing to regain the shelter of the
wood, to pace along the green rides, with the sharp wholesome
breath of the woodland wafted by them; to come suddenly upon the
dusky chapel, among its huddled graves, with the tall gables of
the manor looking tranquilly over, and to see the little
gate-house, which seemed to peer anxiously down the sweet-scented
avenue of limes, as if to mark any that went out, or returned, or
But to come from all this to the clatter of the teacups, to
listen to the Squire proclaiming his own generosity and
prescience, with Mrs. Garnet's obsequious applause and vapid
interventions, and to see Walter moving about smiling, with
anxious care for their most trivial needs, was almost more than
Norton could bear. It seemed to him like some harem with a noble
captive slave attending on the whim of a tyrant, fuming among his
concubines, and roused in his mind a sharp disgust at the solemn
inanity that seemed to have so cruel and relentless a power over
The Squire announced one morning in the course of breakfast
that visitors were expected to luncheon.
"Mr. Worsley," he said, "is a worthy man and, what I conceive
is rare in the legal profession, a sympathetic man. Every now and
then I have some little design--sometimes perhaps a little too
idealistic, as my designs are apt to be--involving an unusual
expense. I submit such to Mr. Worsley. Either he works out some
practical execution, or he tells me with courteous frankness that
it is impracticable--I am guided largely by his advice. He is to
be accompanied by his daughter, now, since the recent death of
his wife, the mistress of his house--a fact which it behoves me
to be among the first to recognize. Our little luncheon-party
then--for Mr. and Mrs. Goring are also joining us--is not a mere
social ceremony; it partakes of the nature of a recognition of
Mr. Worsley's efficiency. I gather from his letter that he values
the privilege highly. He has partaken of luncheon here before,
but as a mere adjunct to a business interview. My reason for
telling you all this is that I mean to call upon the younger
members of our circle--if I may include Mr. Norton in that
designation--to do their best by chivalrous attentions to save
the girl, who is, I imagine, quite unused to any but professional
company, from the embarrassment she may naturally feel and be
excused for feeling. For the entertainment of the elder members
of the company, mamma and I gladly hold ourselves responsible."
And the Squire looked round at the table with the air of a man
pronouncing a benediction.
"We mustn't let papa tire himself too much," said good Mrs.
Garnet. "My husband, Mr. Norton, is not one of those who at his
own table or at anyone else's can be content to be a mere
listener and consumer. I always say that he puts to shame the
gruff and silent people whom in old days we used to meet more
than we do now. He has a very sensitive conscience about such
things, and he is never satisfied unless he is contributing
largely to the mirth and animation of a party."
"That is a fact," said Norton, almost alarmed at his own
effrontery, "which I have already had the pleasure of discovering
When the two young men went out, Walter said to Norton, "You
played up well this morning, Harry, with your little compliments.
Isn't it odd, though, that when my father is talking--it is
rather an old-fashioned style, I expect--everyone who joins in
uses the same sort of sentences. Your remark was not in the least
in your style, and quite in his."
"Isn't that always so?" said Norton. "I always notice in
printed letters how much their style is affected by the
correspondents to whom they are addressed. Ruskin's letters to
Carlyle might have been written by Carlyle himself--it is a sort
of unconscious sympathy. But who are these people? I like to know
about people before I meet them."
"I believe Worsley is a man who has raised himself," said
Walter. "He was once clerk to a firm of solicitors--now he is
senior partner. I don't altogether like him, though he is very
civil. I have met the daughter once or twice--rather
nice-looking, but a little intense. Mrs. Goring is a dear old
thing, rather a pal of my mother's. And it won't be a very
real affair. My father rather alarms people. He always
seems to be the only person in the room. Why is that, do you
"Because he is a very real person, I expect," said
When Norton came into the parlour, the Gorings had arrived.
Goring was engaged in discussing some philanthropic matter with
Mrs. Garnet. Mrs. Goring was listening to the Squire, and he
heard her say, "No, it's no use, Squire, your pretending not to
know. You know more about the parish down to the smallest
details, than any of us, and how you do it, I never can make
"I keep my eyes and ears open," said the Squire in great good
"Yes, but so do we all," said Mrs. Goring, "but we see and
hear nothing. My dear William sees and hears nothing. I have to
be always nudging him. It's a signal between us for him to say
something. 'But I have nothing to say,' he says. 'Never mind
that,' I say, 'say anything--admire something in the room; if it
is wrong, I can set it right.' Look at William now--he has
already forgotten where he is--he is no courtier."
"My dear Mrs. Goring," said the Squire, "we are old friends,
and there is no need for ceremony here."
"Yes, but, excuse me, there is," said Mrs. Goring. "Of
course you have a way of putting people at their ease, but you
are a very formidable person for all that."
The Squire beckoned to Norton. "Let me present to you Mr.
Norton, Walter's Oxford tutor. Walter owes everything to Mr.
Norton in the way of academical distinction."
"He owes much more to his inherited abilities," said Norton,
"You are all determined to put me out of countenance to-day,"
said the Squire. "I can never persuade Mr. Norton what an
ignoramus I am."
"If it were not you, Squire," said Mrs. Goring, "I should say
you were fishing for a compliment."
At this moment Mr. Worsley made his appearance. He was a lean,
large-featured man with very conspicuous white teeth and a
carefully disposed smile. His daughter, thought Norton, was a
remarkably pretty girl, fresh-coloured, boyish-looking, with
large clear eyes. An exchange of courtesies took place. Mrs.
Garnet, to Norton's pleasure, drew the girl to her and gave a
motherly kiss. Mr. Worsley bowed to each member of the party with
much elasticity, and uttered polite impartial greetings in a dry
expressionless voice. "Most kind of you to ask us--very good of
you to include my Helen--a red-letter day for us both--Mr.
Goring, you are looking very well--it does you credit, Mrs.
Goring--Ah, Mr. Walter, I have to congratulate you, a really
most distinguished performance--Mr. Norton, of Stafford
College?--this is indeed a pleasure--we have done a little
business with your good Bursar, sir, about the farm at Aston
Bulleign. Really a most interesting reunion this, Mrs.
The Squire listened smiling, as a drowsy deity might accept a
psalm. A procession was mustered; the Squire was adamant about
going in arm-in-arm to a party of ceremony. He led in Mrs.
Goring, Miss Worsley fell to Norton. Mr. Worsley, with a little
disclaimer from him in Mr. Goring's favour, led off Mrs. Garnet,
and Mr. Goring, not ill-pleased, tucked his arm into
At luncheon, Norton found himself between Mr. and Mrs. Goring,
while Walter was between Helen and Mr. Worsley.
The Squire, after a few elaborate compliments to Helen,
resigned himself to the more congenial atmosphere of Mrs. Goring,
and then assumed the general direction of the talk. To Norton's
delight, the Duke and the Magistrates' meeting soon made their
appearance. "You can bear me out in this, Worsley," the Squire
said at intervals.
"Indeed I can," said Mr. Worsley; "and I must beg leave to
assure the present company that there were other expressions that
fell from the Duke, when Mr. Garnet left us, which His Grace
could hardly have entered into in Mr. Garnet's presence, but
which I must be allowed the privilege of recounting."
"Come, Worsley," said the Squire, "this is too much like
But Mrs. Goring was so insistent, and declared that her
pleasure would be so ruined if she did not hear, that the Squire
As a matter of literal fact, the door had no sooner closed
behind Mr. Garnet on the occasion referred to, when the Duke said
in a very lusty voice, "Good God, what a fellow! He seems to
think we have nothing better to do than to listen to him. Let us
get on with the business." This, however, was Mr. Worsley's
"The Duke began by observing--you know his hearty way," said
Mr. Worsley, "'What a good fellow!' He went on to say that they
could hardly be better employed than in listening to Mr. Garnet,
but that as he was obliged to go, they must endeavour to get
through the business without the advantage of his advice--and the
Duke," added Mr. Worsley, "is not a man who minces matters."
Mrs. Goring clapped her hands. "And our Squire is surprised
that we are proud of him!" she said.
"There's only one omission in your story, Worsley," said Mr.
"Pray what is that?" said Worsley a little fidgety.
"Well, I wasn't there, of course; but anyone who knows the
Duke must be aware that he could hardly have got through so long
a sentence, without the addition of what shall I say?--an
Everyone smiled. "Well, I call that rather a shame!" said Mrs.
"Mr. Goring is right!" said Mr. Worsley. "I omitted it, with
perhaps undue discretion. His Grace did emphasize--I might say
'underlined' one word, in his soldierly fashion. But I should add
that it only redounded to Mr. Garnet's credit."
"I do not myself," said the Squire, looking round with a
smile, "indulge in such 'underlining'--I thank Mr. Worsley for
that word--but such expressions are largely a matter of
temperament and usage."
"They have no moral significance of course?" said Mr. Goring
"You are right," said the Squire. "With the Duke they are
merely a matter of military emphasis. We may remember that our
Iron Duke was not wholly guiltless in this respect. But out of
regard for our younger companions, we will not pursue the
subject. There are many things in this life of ours which we may
regret, but are powerless to remove--and Mr. Norton will bear me
out when I say that human nature has a certain irrepressible
"Yes," said Norton, "even a conscientious Don cannot wholly
"The Bishop told me the other day," said Mrs. Goring, "that he
had good reason to believe that profanity in conversation was
more or less decisively on the wane."
"That is certainly my experience," said Mr. Worsley; "it is
far less common now to hear these hasty and, to my mind, very
undesirable expressions on the lips of clients. But let us hear
what Mr. Walter says about the younger generation."
"Such words," said Walter, "have not quite gone out; but one
of our men was dining the other day with the Master, and an old
Colonel told a story, when the ladies had gone out, which Vickers
said was rather highly-seasoned. The Master only said, 'You must
tell that story again to the ladies, when we go to the
"Perhaps the good Master did not know what the meaning of the
words was," said Mr. Worsley.
"Perhaps," said Walter.
At this point Helen became suddenly rather red, and drank a
glass of water hurriedly. Mrs. Goring came gallantly to the
rescue. "There is one thing I meant to ask you, Squire. What is
there in the rumour I have heard that a peerage may shortly be
offered to the representative of one of our oldest County
"I have heard nothing of it," said the Squire, "though I can
well understand His Majesty thinking it desirable to gild the
crudity of some of these recent creations by a touch of tradition
and antiquity. The House of Lords is lamentably lacking in tone.
I understand indeed that it has become almost habitual for the
Lord Chancellor to be the offspring of a hairdresser, and I can
hardly believe that our hairdressers--though it is a most
respectable and, I might say, necessary avocation--can claim so
high a proportion of representation."
"But you would admit that it is an encouragement to the lower
orders," said Mr. Worsley.
"It is an encouragement, no doubt," said the Squire; "but I am
constitutionally unable to take the popular point of view; and in
my old-fashioned way I consider that the lower orders have
received far more encouragement than they have deserved."
"Papa dear," said Mrs. Garnet ingratiatingly, "you must not
allow our guests to be too serious on a day like this. This is
Helen's party, and I am going to carry her and Mrs. Goring off
for a chat over our coffee. We shall leave you to your wine and
to your--what was the word, Walter--your well-seasoned
"A very tactful reminder, my dear," said the Squire. "Miss
Helen will forgive me for seeming to forget that our future is
behind us, while her past is still in front of her."
"Admirably said, sir," said Mr. Worsley. "I must remember
that. Her future is before her and our past is behind us. Very
true; and if I may say so, very epigrammatic."
As they rose, Norton saw Walter say something in a low tone to
Helen. She shook her head, and went sedately out with the
When the party broke up, the Squire asked Mr. Worsley to step
into his study for a few minutes. The ceremoniousness of the
party consisted in the fact that the business which followed was
an adjunct of the party, instead of the other way. Then Mrs.
Garnet was needed at the conclave; and presently Mr. Norton was
summoned as a witness to some document. Walter thereupon asked
Helen if she would care to look round the place. Helen joyfully
assented, and they went out together.
"I am afraid you were very much amused by our proceedings
to-day," said Walter.
"Amused? What makes you say that? I was much too terrified to
"Too terrified to laugh," said Walter; "I admit it was all
"It wasn't anyone in particular," said Helen, "but it was the
mixture--the idea that you and I were to be sheltered from any
suspicion of the wickedness of the world. How you could have
dared to say what you did simply beats me. It was really that
which finished me off."
"Grown-up people," said Walter, "--you and I, remember, are
not grown up--never have any idea that they have quitted the
stage, and that the play is really ours. Kings and Queens are
always in the background in plays. What amused me was that all
sorts of arrangements were made beforehand to prevent your
"But I did feel awkward," said Helen, "until I suddenly saw
that you were all right, and your friend--what is his name?"
"Harry Norton--yes, he is all right--he is rather on the
border-line. He is my tutor, you know!"
"Your tutor! I wonder you don't say he is your father's
"He looks older than he is."
"That is enough to make anyone unhappy," said Helen; "he looks
unhappy--perhaps he looks unhappier than he is."
"I don't think he is at all unhappy--why should he be
"Is he a friend of yours?"
"Yes, he is the greatest friend I have got."
"And you have never thought of asking him whether he is
unhappy! That is so like men. The first thing a girl tells you,
when two girls make friends, is why she is unhappy."
"Are all girls unhappy?"
"What an awful idea! Why are they?"
"We are so down-trodden, you know. We are expected to be
always smiling and unselfish."
"I thought you were so by nature," said Walter. "My mother is,
at all events, and so is my father."
"I am afraid of your father," said Helen. "His smile makes me
tremble--now I think your mother a perfect dear."
They were standing on the terrace overlooking the Church.
Helen looked round and drew a long breath. "Well, I call this
place simply lovely," she said, "and anyhow I have seen it and
been to lunch here--it will make my friends wild with
"Another cause of unhappiness?"
"Oh, no, jealousy doesn't make you unhappy, it excites you.
But Cressage Garnet is such a mystery to everyone. People who
pass the gate-house wonder what on earth is going on here."
"I don't understand," said Walter. "We live a very quiet life,
like scores of people."
"Oh, but it is the way you live it which is the
mystery," said Helen; "but I ought not to talk like this. My
father would go out of his wits if he heard me."
"No, do tell me," said Walter; "You mustn't excite my
curiosity like this. What is the mystery? I must know!"
"I don't mind telling you," said Helen, "but you
mustn't give me away. It's just the fact that there isn't
anything to tell. Everybody knows about everybody else in
Bridgenorth. But here you live, nobody sees you, nobody hears
about you. Your father with the manners of . . ." She stopped and
looked at Walter.
"Go on," said Walter. "The manners of what?"
"Someone said 'of a deposed prince'--and your mother who
agrees with everyone and puts everyone at their ease--and yet
both so seldom seen!"
"This is very exciting," said Walter; "and what about me?"
"No, I really can't," said Helen. "I seem to have taken leave
of all my manners."
"The least you can do to make up is to tell me," said Walter.
"People see me, at all events."
"Yes, but then you are so grave and quiet and learned," said
Helen with a faint blush. "You are rather princely too."
"Condescending and painfully kind?" said Walter.
"No--but people say you are the only person who doesn't seem
to care whether anyone knows who you are or not."
"What could be more royal?" said Walter.
"But I don't say so," said Helen. "I knew the moment I
saw you that you were all right."
At this moment the butler appeared on the terrace. "Mrs.
Garnet would wish you to step in, Mr. Walter," he said.
"I must go too," said Helen; "and it's awful to think of what
I have said. I shall be in agonies about it when I wake up
"What nonsense!" said Walter. "You must just go on thinking I
am all right."
"Oh, I can do that!"
While this was taking place, Mr. and Mrs. Goring were making
their way slowly home.
"My goodness!" said Mrs. Goring; "that sort of thing does take
it out of me!"
"I don't think you ought to allow yourself to talk as you do
to the Squire," said Mr. Goring; "it seems to me on the verge of
being hypocritical. He ought not to be encouraged."
"So that is all the thanks I get," said Mrs. Goring, smiling
at her husband. "Really, William, you are rather aggravating. If
it were not for me, you would not be on speaking terms with the
Squire. I only say what he expects me to say; and I look up and
see you glowering in a corner, as if we were an unruly Sunday
Mr. Goring smiled grimly. "I know you save me from disgrace,
dear," he said; "but I don't want you to do it at the price of
your own self-respect."
"My self-respect!" said Mrs. Goring. "Why, I only try to be
what St. Paul expressly commands all Christians to be--all things
to all men. If you would read your Bible a little more
thoroughly, instead of preaching on a few texts which you happen
to like, you would be twice as good a Christian. I am asked there
to swell the chorus of praise. Very well! I swell the chorus. I
might just as well refuse to say, 'and with thy spirit,' if I
didn't like the clergyman who was reading the service. Would that
be on the verge of being hypocritical?"
"I can't argue with you, dear," said Mr. Goring admiringly.
"You are far too quick for me. I only know what I like and what I
"That's not a very good outfit for a professing
"Spare me, dear," said Mr. Goring. "If you can talk as you did
to-day without violence to your conscience, I have not another
word to say. No doubt you keep the Squire in a good humour."
"You leave it to me," said Mrs. Goring, patting her husband's
arm. "Now I have something else to say. I liked that Worsley girl
to-day; she seemed to me to have some spirit. Did you see how
much we all amused her?"
"She seemed to me a well-set-up girl," said Mr. Goring, "but
rather painfully shy."
"William, you are simply the worst judge of character I ever
saw--it is all part of your guileless nature. That girl is no
more shy than the Squire. I must see more of her. It is a pity
she has such a dreadful father."
"Dreadful? Worsley a dreadful father?" said Mr. Goring. "He
seems to me a very honest man, if a little too obsequious."
"I daresay he is a good man of business," said Mrs. Goring,
"but I don't trust him an inch. I should never trust a man with a
chin like that. That sort of chin means no conscience."
"What has his chin to do with his conscience?"
"More than you think, William! But it is worse than that.
Plenty of people get on quite well without a conscience; but
Worsley is a snob, and he would like his daughter to be one."
"I can't follow these excursions of fancy."
"No, and I don't want you to. Let me go on. I liked that
Norton man very much. That's my idea of a good fellow."
"I thought him rather too anxious to please."
"You are in a very censorious mood to-day; what about Mrs.
Garnet and Walter?"
"Mrs. Garnet is a very good woman who does her best under
great difficulties. I have often told you this. She is much too
good for the Squire."
"She isn't a wise woman, William; but she is a very kindly
one--and now let us finish it off. What about Walter?"
"I had a talk to Mr. Norton about him the other day. I am very
fond of Walter, as you know. But I am a little anxious about
"You seem to be anxious about everyone to-day; it is really
rather dismal. What is wrong with Walter?"
"He seems to me restless. I should have thought his success
would have steadied him; but I gathered from Mr. Norton that he
was a little cynical about it."
"William, your goodness is really quite impenetrable. I know
what is the matter with Walter. He has been developing his mind
at the expense of everything else. He has no friends to speak of,
and now his heart is going to take a great jump forward. The
wonder is that mewed up in that stuffy old house, tied up like a
house-dog, always dancing attendance on that terrible old man, he
hasn't broken out before."
"He's a very good son," said Mr. Goring.
"Yes, far too good to be wholesome," said Mrs. Goring. "But
the end of all this--and you probably won't see the
connection--is that I am going to ask that girl to lunch, and I
am going to ask Walter to meet her. I think she is just the sort
of girl to take him a little out of himself."
"I think that is rather a dangerous pastime, my dear," said
Mr. Goring; "she is not at all the sort of girl whom the Squire
would approve of as a daughter-in-law."
"How literal you are, William," said Mrs. Goring, prodding him
gently in the side. "Who said anything about marriage? I should
just like them to fall a little in love with each other, that is
all; it will do them all the good in the world. No, it's no use
your saying that marriage is a sacrament, because I am quite
aware of it; but it is a good thing for young people to be
violently interested in other young people, even if nothing comes
of it. Why before you met me, I daresay there were . . ."
"Agnes dear, please say no more on this head," said Mr. Goring
rather gravely. "In these worldly matters I am entirely in your
hands. I know that you would not connive at anything which would
be painful to Mrs. Garnet, or which would be prejudicial to the
young persons concerned. Have anyone you like to luncheon. I
quite agree that our dear Walter would be the better for a little
more youthful society."
"You dear old coward!" said Mrs. Goring. "Leave it all to me,
there's a darling! Your faithful wife won't disgrace you, even
though she doesn't believe that the relations between a patron
and an incumbent quite amount to a sacrament."
Mr. Goring shook his head regretfully with an indulgent
One morning as they walked together in the silent tangled
woods beneath the Manor, with the soft wind murmuring like a
falling sea among the treetops, Norton turned suddenly to Walter
and said, "Do you realize that I have been here for more than
three weeks? I had no intention of inflicting myself on you for
"I hope it means you have enjoyed yourself," said Walter. "I
am ashamed to think how little we have done to amuse you, but I
can't tell you what a difference it has made to me; and you have
fallen so naturally into our routine that I have quite forgotten
to ask; have you been bored?"
"Bored?" said Norton. "My dear Walter, what a notion! I
can't remember a time I have enjoyed so much for years. A
perfectly lovely house, delightful scenery, the best of fare, a
kind host and hostess, nothing expected of me, and my pleasantest
friend to walk with! No, what bores one is to be resolutely
entertained, to be carried hither and thither, to be held at
arm's length and regarded as a tiresome responsibility--that is
what bores one."
"Well," said Walter, smiling and with a little sigh, "if
you have liked it, I can only say it has been the time of
my life. The only thing that weighs on me is that one reason for
your coming was that you should dictate my future to my
people--and we haven't got any nearer to that."
"I have several times begun to talk about it to your father,"
said Norton, "but we have always gone off at a tangent. The
question is, what do you want to do?"
"I don't know," said Walter; "but the fact is that I got into
rather a bad mood at Oxford. I didn't believe in what I was
doing--in fact I really worked mostly to please you. And then--I
don't think this is mere priggishness--it seemed to me that the
old life of school was going on just the same--work, games,
ragging, chattering--and that it wasn't leading anywhere. I felt
that I should either like to amuse myself in my own way, not try
to be amused in other people's ways, or else to be doing real
things, which I had to do whether I liked them or not, and which
"Yes I know that feeling," said Norton. "I have had it myself.
One feels like Mr. Winkle, always taking off one's coat and
saying one is going to begin."
"Yes, but there's a lot more than that," said Walter. "I must
try to say this, however priggish you may think it. There are so
many interesting things which are constantly in my mind, mostly
to do with beauty--beautiful things, fine ideas, splendid ways of
doing things, emotions that make one more free and cleaner
instead of more cramped and grubbier. I don't mean the
sort of things that are an excuse for sentiment, and drugged
reveries and general beastliness, but the sort of things that
were in the background, let me say, of Plato's mind or
Shakespeare's mind. Why can't one talk about such things to
anyone, not even to you? And if one talks about them to other
men, why is it at once taken for granted that one is the nastiest
sort of æsthete, though I hate what is meant by an
æsthete even more than I hate what is meant by a
Philistine? Yet one feels it affected, almost shameful to talk
about these things. I don't mean to say that the
undergraduates--the men I lived among--aren't good fellows; they
are very good things of their kind, and it is a good kind. They
are lively, energetic, amusing, very faithful friends, very
efficient--they are everything except exciting. They are all cast
in the same mould, and have the same views and instincts, down to
their vices, even. They tolerate the manly vices, they despise
the sentimental vices. I get stifled by knowing exactly what they
will say and do; and they never seem to be tired of the same old
game or to want anything different. Does that seem to you very
stuffy and discontented?"
"Not in the least," said Norton. "I agree with you. I think
the type is a good one, but of course one may have too much of
the best. But how is one to get anything different? One ought to
try perhaps; but Pater tried, and made a considerable hash of it.
The question is, where and how do you expect to find anything
else? I don't think you would find it in any of the so-called
Bohemian artistic sets. You would find a great deal more mutual
admiration, very little more liberty. You see you demand
controlled morals and uncontrolled emotions--that's a difficult
combination to discover."
"I want to go and look for it myself. I want to see how other
nations deal with the same sort of thing."
"I don't think you would find it, my boy. They haven't reached
the point in America; and Europe--the civilized part of it--is
rather tired and sophisticated. You might find something of the
sort in Russia, even in Japan. But in Japan they wouldn't let you
into the secret. If any nation were producing big original
first-rate art in any form, it would be different; indeed on the
whole, for all our Philistinism and cramped conventions, I think
we are doing as well in England as in any nation--but in England
it isn't done by sets, but by individuals. The truth is, Walter,
that a good many more people than you think have ideas of this
kind, only like you they are ashamed to talk about them."
"Well, what am I to do then?"
"I think you had better go off abroad and see if you can get
hold of something. I don't know, to speak very frankly, whether
you have quite the right kind of gumption. On the whole, I rather
wish you had to earn your living at once."
"You don't think anything of my solitary raptures?"
"I should think more of them if there was anything in
particular that you wanted to do, paint, write, make music. You
seem to me to be rather on the loose, mentally and
"Yes, I think that is quite fair--it's like little Tommy
head-in-air, in Struwelpeter1. I'm not sure it isn't
your fault for making me work so hard."
"Then I shall say that if you had this magnificent programme,
you were rather an ass to be so docile."
"Well, will you deal with my father?"
1 Die Geschichte vom Hans Guck-in-die-Luft
in Struwelpeter (1844)--Heinrich Hoffman (1809-1894)
Norton had a long conversation with the Squire on the
following day. He said nothing about Walter's visions. He merely
said that he had been overworking and that he needed an entire
change. He then expatiated on the advantage of having a
cosmopolitan view of things.
The Squire had fortunately, in his younger days, spent six
months in Paris. He came round sharply into the wind, and said
that he had himself been immensely the gainer by the sojourn. "I
don't know," he went on, "if you have ever come much in the way
of what we may call County society, Mr. Norton? My neighbours,
the men I meet on public occasions, are excellent fellows, no
doubt; but they have no idea of grappling with a social
situation. They are apt on public occasions to stand in rows with
their hands crossed in front of them. It is pitiable. I myself
have cultivated the habit, I am told with some success, of
speaking instantly and courteously to anyone high or low, whether
stranger or acquaintance, that I find myself in contact with. I
am told, and I have reason to believe, that this is of real
service in bringing about, in radiating, if I may borrow a word
which I have heard used in connection with the particular
phenomenon, a certain social animation, a human sympathy, without
which it is difficult for the wheels of our complex social
machine to work smoothly." The Squire paused for encouragement,
and Norton said:
"I can only judge from my own experience, Squire, and from
what I have seen at this house; but I must say that I think you
possess in a marked degree the rare gift of reassuring your
"You are very good," cried the Squire, "to reassure me thus!
Even a humble landowner like myself becomes aware that his
position does to a certain degree isolate him. He is surrounded
by what I will call, without any moral or intellectual
implication, his inferiors. It is of the highest importance that
Walter should develop this confidence. Observant and attentive as
he is, I venture to say that I have noticed in his unconsidered
remarks a certain brusquerie, a lack of suavity, which Parisian
society would do much to correct."
"Then I hope," said Norton very craftily, "that I have rightly
interpreted and confirmed the decision that you had already
practically formed; and if I may say so, I am grateful to you for
making it so easy to give a perfectly unbiassed opinion."
"You are quite right," said the Squire. "My own impression was
that a period of continental travel was the very thing for
Walter, much as we shall miss him; and I am greatly gratified
that one who knows our dear boy's character so well as yourself
should have come without any hint from myself to the same
conclusion. You have no anxiety, I hope, that he, inexperienced
as he is, may deviate in any way from the strict morality his
mother and I have always inculcated, by example more than by
"None whatever," said Norton. "There are few of my pupils
about whom I could speak so confidently."
"There is one other thing," said the Squire. "What sum of
money, do you think, will be necessary to give him the full
advantages of a Continental tour?"
"If I were in your place," said Norton, "I should give him
£800, and ask him not to be extravagant. I think he should
feel entirely at ease about money on an occasion like this."
"I entirely approve," said the Squire; "there need be no
difficulty about money. I wish him to mix in any society without
any sense of being at a disadvantage. You are sure this will
"Yes," said Norton; "it is a generous allowance, and it should
give him a year of travel without any need for petty
"That is precisely what I desire, Mr. Norton," said the
Walter returned to Norton from an interview with his father in
a state of bewilderment and delight. "You are a magician," he
said. "I am to have a year, and £800 to do it on. I shall
be able to travel like a prince."
"I hope you won't chuck it about," said Norton; "that would be
idiotic. I shouldn't go to smart hotels--you don't get your
money's worth. But you will be able to do a little entertaining,
if you want, and perhaps to go to some places to which the
ordinary tourist finds it difficult to penetrate."
"My mother is rather wretched at the idea of my being away for
so long," said Walter. "But my father will make that all right. I
shall be off as soon as I can. You must give me some hints."
"I should go to France first," said Norton, "and spend a month
in a family learning to chatter in French. With that and English
you can get pretty nearly anywhere."
"How did you manage it?" said Walter.
"A little harmless diplomacy," said Norton. "I assumed that it
was your father's own idea."
Norton had departed before Mrs. Goring's luncheon could take
place, but though she had heard of his departure she asked Walter
to come to luncheon and to bring his friend. This was favourably
regarded by the Squire as a praiseworthy attempt to help to
entertain his guest, as well as a respectful recognition of the
honour of which the Gorings had been the recipient. In addition
Mrs. Goring asked Mr. Selden, the pleasant but not highly
intellectual Vicar of an adjoining parish, with his wife.
"As soon as luncheon is over, William, you must take Mr.
Selden to see the garden and the Church," she said. "They always
stay rather too long, the Seldens, poor things; but they must be
as dull as ditchwater at Pogbourne. You must be responsible for
"But I have nothing in common with Selden, dear. He is
entirely absorbed in agriculture and Church promotion, and I know
nothing about either."
"You must consult him about something in the church; ask his
advice about moving the organ."
"But I have no intention of moving the organ. Indeed, there is
nowhere else that it can go."
"So much the better! It will give Mr. Selden something to
think about. Meanwhile I shall have a good gossip with Mrs.
Selden. I am going to give the two children a clear field."
"I don't quite like your planning this all out. Oughtn't these
things to come spontaneously?"
"I know you think that marriages are made in heaven, but the
foundations have to be laid on earth. Walter isn't one of those
boys that can flirt and chatter at a lawn-tennis party. He would
think it indecent."
"I'm afraid I think so too, dear."
"Walter is a tête-à-tête talker,
William, like you, and requires time. Where would you and I have
been if I hadn't taken you out that walk to Mountfield?"
"But I didn't flirt."
"No, you talked about the Revision of the Prayer Book, I
remember. But I knew what you were up to!"
The Vicar held up his hands in horror, and drifted out of the
On the day of the feast, Mrs. Goring felt like Napoleon on the
eve of a campaign. The Vicar was depressed at the house being
turned topsy-turvy, as he said, though no particular change was
visible; but still more at the thought of having to give his
undivided attention to Mr. Selden. In fact, he spent some time in
the morning in turning over the pages of a Church History, in the
hope that he might light on some suitable topics of
Fortunately for Mrs. Goring's plans, Walter was the first to
arrive. "I'm afraid we have got a very dull party for you,
Walter!" she said. "Mr. and Mrs. Selden are coming, and I have
asked that nice girl whom I met at your house, Miss Worsley. The
Vicar thought she was very shy, and as she has now got to run her
father's house, I thought I would give her a little practice. You
must promise to be kind to her."
Walter, who had been anticipating the party with considerable
gloom, felt the air filled with a sudden brightness. He had found
Helen Worsley singularly attractive, and he had been puzzling his
head vaguely without any practical result, devising schemes to
"I think she is quite capable of looking after herself," he
said. "I found her very easy to talk to the other day."
"Ah, that is the effect shyness has upon some people. It makes
them desperate. When I was a girl I used to chatter like a parrot
to strangers with a sense of inner misery; and then I used to be
found fault with for being so forward."
The Seldens made their appearance, and with a mysterious nod
and smile to Walter, Mrs. Goring took them in tow. Mr. Goring
came in, in obvious heaviness of spirit, and the talk became
highly parochial. Mrs. Selden was bursting with information about
the illness of one of their chief parishioners, a farmer. "He has
to have a water-bed after all," she said triumphantly. "I told
Mrs. Janeway that it would come to that, but people are so
superstitious about not recognizing that an illness is to be a
long one. There's nothing like preparing for the worst."
"No, no," said Mrs. Goring, "let us be cheerful while we can.
I always dislike the line of the hymn 'Live each day as if thy
last'; think of the dismal condition to which we should be
reduced if we all did that! Why, it wouldn't even be proper to
have a little luncheon-party! We should all be on our knees in
our bedrooms, and what should we feel like then? Mr. Selden would
not be able to tell us about the crops and even William would be
vexed at missing his game of picquet."
"I am sure the writer of the hymn in question didn't mean
anything like that, Mrs. Goring," said Mr. Selden, a solid man
with a complexion like a ripe plum. "I have always held it to
refer to the punctual performance of daily duties. What do you
"I believe that a resigned cheerfulness is indicated," said
Mr. Goring, with an air of profound gloom. "It is a warning
against the thoughtless jollity which makes havoc of our serious
"Well, we must resign ourselves to a little cheerfulness for
the next hour or two," said Mrs. Goring, "and it will be all the
nobler if we do it against the grain."
At this moment Helen came lightly into the room, treading like
a nymph of Botticelli. She caught Walter's eye, and one of those
little viewless messages of welcoming delight seemed to flash
between them. Mrs. Goring embraced her and presented her to the
Seldens. Mrs. Selden was happy to meet her--she represented a new
channel of attractive gossip. Mr. Selden, who was of an amorous
type, made a little bow and turned a darker shade of roseate
"You find us all very serious, Helen," said Mrs. Goring,
"thinking of the vanity of human hopes."
"Does that mean that I am late?" said Helen. "I have a very
good excuse; but as no one would believe it, I won't mention
"You would find us all very credulous," said Mr. Selden.
"Never mind," said Mrs. Goring. "I know exactly the sort of
excuse Helen means. Not an excuse, but a chain of unfortunate
facts; like the long story which the Archdeacon would tell
William on the doorstep at Bidborough when the Bishop was waiting
in his carriage to take the Archdeacon to the station."
"The Archdeacon is far too confidential," said Mr. Goring.
"Did you hear that the Archdeacon was thought of for the
Deanery of Carlisle?" said Mr. Selden. "I know for a fact that
his name was before the Premier; I should not consider him at all
a suitable man. I agree with Goring. The Archdeacon is not
discreet. He is very far from discreet."
Luncheon was now announced; and Walter found to his vexation
that he was between Mrs. Goring and Mrs. Selden, while Helen was
between Mr. Goring and Mr. Selden. Mrs. Goring however, moved by
her William's piteous aspect, kept the talk general. She asked
Mr. Selden what changes and appointments would be made upon the
Bench in case of the Archbishop's death. Mr. Selden propounded no
less than three alternative schemes, and when he seemed inclined
to prolong the discussion, Mrs. Goring said that she couldn't
bear to hear more--she was growing envious, as it did not appear
that however the cards were shuffled, either her dear William or
Mr. Selden himself had any chance of being appointed to a
Bishopric; and she switched the conversation on to Mrs. Selden,
by asking her to tell them what the Duchess had really said to
Lady Jane Fisher when she opened the Bidborough Bazaar. Mrs.
Selden had heard so many versions of the story, that Mrs. Goring
said they could only decide on which was the most likely, and
that they were obliged, considering what the Duchess was, to
select the most disagreeable.
By this time Mr. Goring was in a state of deep moral
disapproval, and Mrs. Goring asked Helen whether it was true that
her father, after her success at Cressage Garnet, had decided
that it was necessary that she should be presented at Court--to
which Helen replied that it was the other way. That her father
had been thinking of getting her presented at Court, but that now
he no longer thought it necessary. Mr. Selden did not feel sure
that it would be respectful to laugh at this, but said with a
Gargantuan archness, "Why not both, Miss Helen?"
However, to Walter's huge relief, luncheon, which to his
sensitive imagination seemed to have lasted for several hours,
suddenly ended with a kind of snap. The Vicar carried off Selden
to look at something in the Church. Mrs. Goring and Mrs. Selden
settled down over some coffee to a rich gossip. "Don't mind us,"
said Mrs. Goring to Walter, waving a valedictory hand. "We are
going to discuss the peccadilloes of our respective flocks and
the ineffective methods of our respective husbands. Take Helen
out and show her something--young people have an extraordinary
fondness for the open air; you might go up to the top of Aldon
hill through the woods." Helen rose up blithely, and they hurried
"Well, what did you think of that party?" said Walter.
"You and I seem to be always 'like guilty creatures sitting at a
"I'm lost in admiration of Mrs. Goring," said Helen. "We were
all just her marionettes; she pulled the strings and we
"Well, we can pull our own strings now."
"I'm not so sure!"
"What do you mean by that?" said Walter.
"Don't be suspicious," said Helen. "I only mean that it was
benevolence and not stupidity on Mrs. Goring's part. She thought
we might have had enough of her play and would like one of our
"All your remarks are like nuts with a double kernel," said
"What do you mean by that?"
"Oh, not very much; but don't you know when people talk who
interest you, you want to interrupt them every moment. One thing
I wanted to say was this: does it seem possible to you that you
and I will ever talk like those people--using so many words to
say what you don't want to say, and what nobody else wants to
"Yes, I suppose we shall be like that," said Helen, musing.
"But do you really think that it matters much what people say?
Take my father--he always talks in the same sort of way, but I
always know perfectly well whether he is pleased or
"Is he often displeased?" said Walter. "I should have thought
he was a very successful and contented man."
"Yes, he seems so, said Helen, and he is always good to me;
but I think he is an ambitious man and hates always having to be
polite and to agree with what his employers say. He would like to
play first fiddle, instead of being always patronized."
"Now for the second question," said Walter. "You said, 'don't
be suspicious'; do you think I am suspicious?"
Helen turned and surveyed him with a look of amusement. "I
think that perhaps you are inclined to think people mean more
than they say, but then you live with clever people. The people
among whom I live say whatever words come into their heads, and
mean something quite different."
"That must be rather confusing."
"Not if you watch people more than you listen to them. Now
while you were sitting at lunch, I saw what you were thinking
half the time."
They had left the lane they had been following, and had turned
into a grassy path which wound up through the wood, a narrow path
which brought them into closer proximity. Walter was strangely
and suddenly affected by the nearness of this delicately made
creature so close beside him, so fresh and fragrant, who stepped
so lightly, smiled so responsively, and talked as if she had
known him all her life. The girls he had met hitherto had seemed
to him self-conscious and affected, incalculable creatures who
seemed to be always expecting something. Helen seemed to expect
The trees closed in more and more about them. Walter holding
back an insistent branch for Helen to pass, found her close to
him, her breath almost on his cheek, her white teeth, her parted
lips. He had an insane impulse to clasp her in his arms, but she
passed by in smiling silence. He felt that he must say something
to her, must feel sure of her. The next minute she was holding
back a bough for him.
"On the whole I don't like a wood," said Helen in a
matter-of-fact voice, "except to look at. It seems to me rather
impertinent, and as if it didn't like being interrupted."
"We are nearly out," said Walter; "you can see the light
through the trees."
A minute later they stepped out on to the turf of a bit of
down, that ran up to an old grassy earthwork.
"This is lovely," said Helen; and then with a sudden cry of
delight, "Oh, Mr. Garnet, do look here--you can see right down
into the Vicarage garden--that's the top of the Church tower--and
look, those two little things like beetles on the lawn are the
two Vicars. I can see at this distance that Mr. Goring has
nothing to talk about."
Walter laughed. "And look there--you can see the chimneys of
our house--that's the gate-house. How superior it makes one feel
to see human beings crawling about in their shut-in valleys and
"And then there's the wide, wide world," said Helen, pointing
to the plain. "But I'm not sure how much I like that; it is all
rather too big for me. I think I prefer the two beetles. Look at
Mr. Selden--he's telling off the points of what he is saying on
his finger-tips. I'm sure he has got hold of a new arrangement
about the Bishops. But just look at all these hills. I had no
idea that there were all these little green mountains. What fun
we might have, scrambling up them all."
They climbed up to the earthwork, and sat side by side
surveying the scene.
"When do you go back to Oxford?" said Helen suddenly.
"Oxford?" said Walter. "Oh, I'm not going back there any
"Not going back?" said Helen. "Why, I thought you were to be
Master of your College or something."
"No, I am going abroad--almost immediately."
"It must be horrid to be suddenly torn away from all your
"No, I have very few friends. Norton is really almost the only
one I ever want to see again."
Helen was silent for a moment, considering Walter
seriously--his eyes fell before hers.
"You surely don't mean that?" she said at last.
"Yes, I do; does it surprise you?"
"Why, yes," said Helen. "I thought that the reason perhaps why
you made so few friends down here was because you had so many
much nicer ones at Oxford."
"There's only one person here I want to make friends with,"
said Walter rather clumsily. "No, I'm not going to say anything
silly; I really want a friend very much. I seem to have so much I
want to say and so many questions I want to ask; but the moment I
get to that point with any of my Oxford friends, they seem to
But Helen was silent and wore a somewhat troubled air.
"Please don't look at me like that," said Walter. "I haven't
said anything absurd, have I?"
"Absurd? No, of course not," said Helen; "but you have taken
me so much by surprise. You see, I have been brought up to regard
the Manor as the last word in--what shall I say?--exclusiveness.
And then we hear of you at Oxford carrying all before you; and
then I meet you and find you quite nice, and then this fairy
prince suddenly says that he hasn't any friends, and wants me to
step in. It's too much like Cophetua and the
beggar-maid1. I have always thought very meanly of the
beggar-maid. What business had she to take up at once with that
pursy old King? She couldn't have had time to think whether she
cared about him."
1 King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid (1884)
Burne-Jones, Sir Edward Coley, 1st Baronet.
"Yes," said Walter; "but it isn't in the least like Cophetua
and the beggar-maid. It's too bad to make us all out to be ogres,
and then to say you couldn't have anything to do with an ogre. It
is just the other way round. You have ever so many more reasons
for enjoying life than I have, and I only want you to give me
something of which I am in very great need--and which you can
"But it is much more serious and difficult for me than for
you," said Helen. "I hardly know you--you hardly know me. We
aren't by way of meeting often; how can we meet, as things are? I
can't make a serious sort of compact like this offhand."
"No," said Walter. "I see that. I shouldn't have sprung it on
you if I hadn't been going away. But you seemed to me the moment
I met you to be just the one sort of friend I wanted--who would
understand things and be amused by them, not want everything
explained, or wish to be made a fuss of."
"I'm not so sure about that," said Helen.
"Oh, you know what I mean," said Walter. "But what you don't
know--and it is very awkward for me to tell you--is the way in
which my people consider all the girls I see; and the relief is
to find someone who hasn't got all these stuffy ideas. . . . I'm
putting all this very badly, I know, but I'm too much in earnest
about it all; I can't bear to miss this great chance."
"I certainly never thought I should have to feel sorry for
you," said Helen, "and I'll go in blindfold--but mind, it
is blindfold; and we are both free to back out if it
She put her hand lightly into his and gave it a little soft
Then she went on lightly: "Good Heavens, what have I done? I
feel as if I must at once begin a serious course of reading. What
is your line at Oxford?"
"Oh, philosophy and so on."
"Would it be of any use to read up a book in our School-room
called Philosophy in Sport? It's a dreadful sort of story.
The unhappy boy opens the door and is told he has been employing
a lever and has it all explained to him with diagrams."
"Oh, don't make fun of me," said Walter in a melancholy
"I won't," said Helen, "though I thought that humour was one
of my three charms, or was it only two? You will very soon be
repenting of our bargain, you will see."
"You wouldn't laugh if you knew what a different person will
go down the hill from the person who came up it!"
"That is like Jack and Jill. Is the water spilt already? But
mercy, look at the time--it's four o'clock. When does the
"When it becomes a tea-party," said Walter. They raced down
the hill. "May I write to you from abroad?" he said.
"But we must do something."
"We must love one another," said Helen. "Well, you might write
once--but I must think about that. The post-office is the
centre of village gossip. You have made me feel very
"I may call you Helen?"
"I don't suppose I can prevent you."
"And you will call me Walter?"
"Not yet--I must get used to all these glories. Oh dear, I am
afraid I have been very rash!"
"How curious it sounds!"
They found Mrs. Goring at tea. "What on earth has been
happening, Walter?" she said.
"Only three words and a view," said Walter.
"The right words, I hope?" said Mrs. Goring.
"Mr. Garnet has been explaining the view to me," said Helen;
"he pointed out the Manor chimney."
"That was very unselfish," said Mrs. Goring. "But now that you
are here, I must just ask if you are staying for dinner? I have
sent your car away once, Helen. But here it is coming up the
Helen was packed in, and Mrs. Goring was tactful enough to let
the two say their good-bye unobserved. "I hope you have had a
better afternoon than I have," she said to Walter. "That good
woman has stuck me as full of gossip as a pin-cushion of pins.
William is lying down, reading Thomas à Kempis. I
suggested Punch in vain. Don't disturb him. I heard Thomas
à Kempis fall on the floor half an hour ago."
THE MANOR HOUSE,
MY DEAR HELEN,--
Ever since I parted from you, I have been wondering at my own
courage, and wondering too if you think that what I said to you
was very pushing and impertinent. But the fact that I did
speak, and that you didn't snub me or even say no, far outweighs
any of those slow blushes which invade and take possession of my
face--you know the kind--or perhaps you don't know them--which
seem to start from a very long way off, and yet can't be stopped
or delayed. But why should I blush, you may think? What have I
done to be ashamed of, except stretch out a hand like a drowning
man to someone smiling on the bank.
But still I feel that I have got to justify myself for doing
as I did, and to prove that I have not taken an unfair advantage.
Of course it would have been more comfortable to have made
friends in a deliberate and conventional way. But then the
chances were against our meeting, and I am a bad hand at making
opportunities. As it is I am only too thankful that we met just
those two times, and that I saw at once that you were the one
person in the world who could help me, if you chose to.
I can't write a long autobiography, but the main points are
these. I have been brought up, with the best intentions, in
cotton wool, by two beloved people to whom I am much devoted, and
whom it seems almost ungrateful to criticize. But they have been
so preoccupied with keeping all the evil and second-rate and
hurtful things away from me, that they excluded, without knowing
it, all or most of the best things too. Much as they would have
liked an omelette, they dared not break the eggs. And then I was
sent to school on my guard against all sorts of impossible
contingencies, and charged not to make friends too easily, and
not to take up with any boy whom I thought my parents might not
wish me to know.
Of course a more vigorous and healthy-minded boy wouldn't have
troubled his head about it, but I had this dreadful ideal of
superiority always before my mind--not to give myself away, not
to make myself cheap, to make a secret of everything. My father
has many little maxims--not to talk about money, not to talk
about health, never to say where you are going or where you have
been, never to show emotion--all good practical rules in a
general way, when directed against the possibility of becoming a
chattering egotist, but crushing and cramping rules if you don't
know when to break them.
Things were easier for me at Oxford, when I became less
cautious and suspicious; but I had lost or not acquired the knack
of easy friendship, though I made a good number of casual
friends, and one great friend--Norton.
And then I worked too hard--why, I don't know. Probably
because it was a way of passing the time, and a good deal to
Then last term I had a strong fit of general disgust. I hated
my work, I hated the endless silly talk about games and the
stupid rather ill-natured College gossip. I felt I had made a
great mess of it all by being so fastidious and contemptuous and
narrow-minded--and there seemed to me to be a big and free sort
of world outside, of kind and sensible people, who were not
ashamed as I was to care for each other in a generous sort of
way, and to take an even greater interest in other people's
concerns than in their own.
And then, you know, we met. And I seemed to see in you someone
full of freshness and good nature, not going by stuffy
principles, but taking things and people as they came. And it
came over me like a flash that you might help me--I wasn't
thinking of you as someone that might only amuse and interest
myself, but as someone who might really open a door into the
world of live people and happy ideas and outspoken
All this was what I wanted to say to you, and you know how
badly I said it. But you seemed willing to help, though of course
I don't want any compact, nor do I claim your whole attention,
nor do I want to bind you to anything you don't like.
Norton is to go out with me, and in a day or two I am going to
bury myself in a French family in a little Cathedral town and
learn to chatter in French. Then I shall go on to Italy--but I'm
not a great sight-seer. I like romantic and beautiful places; but
I am really going to look out for people.
Tell me exactly what you wish about my writing, and don't feel
bound to write yourself unless you are inclined.
Your grateful friend,
MY DEAR WALTER (though I feel it rather presuming to write
thus to a distinguished young man whom I have met three times in
my life, and one of those times you don't even remember),--
I was very glad to get your letter, and understand better than
I did. But I am rather alarmed, because you are crediting me with
all sorts of things I don't possess, and you will soon knock your
head against the bottom of my very shallow little mind, if you
have not done so already.
Is there really anything I can give you, Walter, which you
don't already possess? You don't know in what a poky world I
live, and you would be shocked at some of the girls and young men
who are really very good friends of mine. But I haven't any wish
to rise in the world. What I see of it seems to me quite
delightful and exciting enough. But of course I shall be glad to
be of use in any way, and I felt very sad at what you told me
about your school and College. The whole thing is at present a
complete surprise to me! I thought you had everything in the
world you could possibly want, and were floating on the surface
quite above all cares and anxieties. But I suppose after all that
a house like the Manor, and plenty of money, and the kind of
magnificent manners that you and your family have, only keep
certain tiresome things away--they don't give you the sort of
things that on the whole you can't do without--quarrels and
makings-up and worries and people who have to be smoothed down. I
am always having to behave nicely to people whom I think absurd
and even hateful. But I think even that is rather useful, because
I have got to do it whether I like it or not, and I suppose you
seldom have to. But, oh dear me, I feel that my reflections on
life in general are very thin indeed, and I had better hold my
I had a fine fencing-match with dear Mrs. Goring the next day.
She was dying to know what we had talked about, and I was quite
as determined that she should not know. It came to this--that you
were so fearfully clever that you wanted some rather stupid and
commonplace friends like herself and me. Mrs. Goring is a person
I really admire. She has a tiresome and particular husband, and
she not only makes the best of him, but he is frantically devoted
to her. And out of three farmers' wives and the village
schoolmaster and her own housemaid she makes a sort of play like
Hamlet, and acts it with all her might. She really does get some
fun out of things. And then she isn't ashamed of making mistakes,
and she hasn't any sorrows as most of the elderly ladies I know
have. I think only very good people can afford to have sorrows,
and then they keep them to themselves.
What a lot of nonsense I have written, to be sure, though it
has been for me a severe intellectual effort, but I can't expect
you to recognize that.
About writing, I must consider; I think we must stoop to some
deception. If I get a series of foreign letters in your refined
Oxford handwriting, we shall soon get into trouble. You don't
know how minutely everything is observed and discussed here. I
hate making a secret of anything, but one can't help it
Your rather timid friend,
It was at Florence in the following March, when Walter had
been six months abroad, that he received a telegram summoning him
home because of his father's serious illness; and a second
telegram, an hour later, told him that the Squire was dead.
Somehow it seemed to him the very last possibility he had ever
imagined. The Squire was so much the central figure of his home,
everyone had so deferred to his wishes, life had been so
regulated, down to the very smallest details, in accordance with
his preferences, that the possibility of a sudden termination of
this unquestioned supremacy had never even crossed Walter's mind.
As far as he himself had been concerned, though the Squire had
been an indulgent and indeed devoted father, Walter had never
felt near him in any sense of the word. He had never
confided anything to him, nor had his father ever talked to him
other than in full dress, arrayed in the panoply of elaborate
courtesy and distinguished consideration with which he repelled
all the intrusions of humanity. Walter had no idea what his
father thought on any matter, except that he was an ardent lover
of the established order, and had a pervading sense of his own
importance. Indeed, such was his instinctive deference, that he
hardly thought of his father as having been compelled, possibly
against his will, to die. He rather accepted his death as he
would have accepted any decisive step that his father might take,
as the deliberate outcome of an inscrutable and unquestionable
But where the catastrophe touched him with a deep sense of
mystery, and even cruelty, was in the thought of how it would
affect his mother. Walter had a passionate instinctive love of
his mother. He knew that, next to his father, he was the one
human being to whom she was absolutely devoted; and her whole
life had been so faithfully spent in executing and if possible
anticipating his father's wishes, and in admiring the Squire's
magnificent disdain for all persons and opinions other than his
own, that Walter realized how desperate her suffering must
He had spent a very happy six months abroad, with a great
sense of novelty and freedom. He had made some friends; but he
had not found, as he had hoped to do, that the world was thickly
peopled by men and women of large and generous ideals. He had
heard constantly from his mother, hardly at all from his father,
whose dislike of letter-writing was intensified by the fact that
he had so little to communicate; and he had kept up a
correspondence of growing ease and naturalness with Helen, with
very little admixture of personal sentiment, for which indeed
Helen had frankly admitted that she was disinclined. But though
he did not confess it even to himself, his attachment to Helen
had grown and deepened every month. She seemed to stand for the
reasonableness, the good nature, the frank kindliness of the
world, and he had become more and more aware that though she
seemed to treat most things from a light and humorous standpoint,
her generosity was of a kind that only needed an occasion to
evoke it, and that there was probably hardly any limit to the
unselfish sacrifices that she was prepared to make for anyone for
whom she truly cared. Indeed, the one bright spot about his
return,--though he thrust it from him almost with a sense of
anger, whenever it flashed across him--was the thought that he
would see Helen face to face, and listen to the clear tones of
her eager voice.
To the difference in his own position he hardly gave a
thought. He imagined his mother as continuing to reign at the
Manor, and only dimly perceived that he would himself have a
wider choice of action. He had thought of his future as being
more or less at his father's disposal; now he would be able to
follow his own desires; but at the moment, the thought of any
life at all apart from his father's majestic presence and
approval, seemed like dust and ashes to him.
He arrived at Cressage in the morning, just in time for the
funeral, and his mother's cry of happiness as she folded him in
her arms almost broke him down. But there was little time for
talk. He just learned from her that at an early hour of the
morning his father had cried out faintly, that she had found him
in great pain, but conscious. "He thanked me," the poor woman
said, "just in his old way, and it seemed to me that there was
something particular that he wished to say to me." But the pain
had returned, and he had breathed his last before the doctor
There were two or three relations in the house whom Walter
could just remember to have seen; but the obscurity of their
appearance and the formality of their behaviour gave him a
painful impression. His mother struggled with pathetic
desperation to have everything done with the solemnity and
decorum of which the Squire would have approved. At the luncheon
which took place, at which one or two neighbouring landowners and
their wives were present, she sat dry-eyed and pinched at the
head of the table, tasting nothing, but patiently endeavouring to
say something pleasant to the mute and dreary guests. It seemed
to Walter the most inexcusable ceremony he had ever seen. The
only bright spot was Mrs. Goring, to whom Mrs. Garnet turned like
a child for assistance, and who never left his mother's side. At
the funeral which followed, in the little Church, they were
joined by Mr. Worsley, who looked to Walter singularly grave and
preoccupied. The only sincere grief manifested was that shown by
the tenants and villagers, a few of whom spoke to Walter in
accents of profound affliction, the conventional phrase,
pronounced each time with a genuine personal conviction, being
that they would not soon look upon his father's like again.
The whole pageant seemed to Walter, who had never seen a
funeral at close quarters before, to be wholly appalling and
horrifying, as if designed to bring home to mortals the surest
possible evidence of their mortality and extinction. Walter could
not conceive of his father as being adapted to any sort of
existence but that which he had just quitted--as an owner of land
by ancient tenure, and as an aristocrat of unquestioned
superiority; but to think of his father as a disembodied
spiritual presence seemed as unimaginable as the idea of seeing
him without his clothes.
Mrs. Garnet insisted on shaking hands with everyone who had
been present. The groups melted away. Mrs. Goring came back with
them to the house; the relatives excused themselves, and fled in
Only one somewhat sinister event occurred. When Mr. Worsley
had shaken hands with Mrs. Garnet, he drew Walter aside, and
said, "Mr. Walter, the sooner a distressing thing can be dealt
with, the better. There will be a good deal of troublesome
business for you to do, and some anxious decisions to make. I
would of course gladly come to the Manor, but I have all your
father's papers in my safe, and I think it would be better for
you to come down to me as early as you can to-morrow, and I will
hold myself at your disposal for the entire day. You and I are
the executors of your father's will."
Walter felt a vague alarm at the words in which Mr. Worsley
made his communication, and this was increased by the discomfort
and anxiety of the lawyer's manner. He said that he would come
down early to the office, and Mrs. Goring eagerly promised to
keep Mrs. Garnet company. The evening was the most tragic that
Walter had ever spent. His mother's self-control quite gave way.
She told Walter that his father's health had been failing all
through the winter, but that he insisted that no word of it
should be sent to Walter. Of late he had been much preoccupied
with business, and Mr. Worsley had been often with him. She went
on to say that his father had constantly talked of Walter's
marriage, and had even mentioned certain county families with
whom he would not disdain to be allied. "He was very anxious,"
she said, "that when you came home, you should pay some county
visits. He said he was afraid we had perhaps kept you too much to
ourselves. But he often said what a good son you had been; and
oh, Walter dearest," said poor Mrs. Garnet, clasping him close to
her, "I do so want you to follow your dearest father's wishes in
every respect, and to take exactly the high line in the county he
always took." The poor lady went on to accuse herself of having
often failed in her duty in this respect. "Your father never said
an unkind word to me; but I know that he sometimes thought me too
familiar with people, and not distant enough in dealing with
them. My own natural feeling is that of wishing everyone to be
happy and comfortable; but I see now that people in our position
have to set an example as well. It is so easy to forget that we
are so much looked up to." Walter did his best, in an agony of
pity and affection, to assure his mother that she had been all
that his father desired, and had given her life up to securing
his happiness. "Oh, the trouble didn't matter, darling," said the
poor widow, "that was my place, and I really enjoyed it; but I
know I wasn't his idea quite of a great lady, and I sometimes
think it was that which kept him back from going so much into
society, for there was no one who was so much respected and
sought after as he was."
Those hours seemed to forge a new link in the chain which
bound the two together. Walter was really amazed at the depth of
innocence, humility, and devotion that could exist so freshly in
an elder woman's mind. It seemed to him strangely beautiful. He
had himself viewed his father respectfully and uncritically, but
he became aware now how much all along he had preferred his
mother's simple and kindly handling of life to his father's
spotless dignity; for Walter had become aware at school and
college that, though ancient descent and an old landed estate
were regarded as agreeable adjuncts to life, and even respected,
yet that the younger generation reserved its deepest admiration
for people who enjoyed all advantages and distinctions, whether
gained or inherited, with a modest indifference, and resented any
ostentatious flourish of them in the eyes of the less
That night Walter spent in his father's dressing-room, and had
his first knowledge of desperate grief, in the helpless sobbing
and even wailing from his mother's room, which at dead hours of
night roused him, tired as he was. Half a dozen times he went to
kneel beside her bed, to kiss and comfort her. And when at last
the grey dawn came in, and the old butler, haggard with grief and
astonishment, appeared to call him, the sight of all his father's
precise arrangements and toilet devices gave him his first bitter
taste of the hideous interruption of death.
He rode down early to Mr. Worsley's, leaving his mother in
Mrs. Goring's care. He had a few words with that brave and good
woman, who asked whether she might not come and stay in the house
for the next few days. "Your dear mother is utterly adrift," she
said. "How could it be otherwise?--and I think she wants a woman
with her--though that you should be at hand is her greatest
comfort. My William, with the best will in the world, is no good
on these occasions. He will be able to help her later on, but he
has no power of comforting people. I think if I died, he might
very likely die too; but while he lived, he would snap anyone's
head off who tried to comfort him--he would think it
She gave him a kiss. "Poor dear boy," she said, "it is awful
for you, I know; but now we must think of nothing but your dear
mother. It isn't only that your father is dead--it is that her
whole occupation is gone."
Walter rode down to Mr. Worsley's office, which was a large
room, lighted only from the back, built on to the handsome old
red-brick house, a miniature mansion, which Mr. Worsley occupied
in one of the quieter streets of Thurston. The room looked out on
the garden. In spite of his anxious preoccupation, Walter's
recurring wonder was whether he would see Helen, or if he would
dare to ask to see her.
He went in at the front door, which admitted to a little hall
with pillars, paved with black and white marble. As he entered
the hall, Helen came forward quickly from a room at the side. "My
father is waiting for you in the office," she said, holding out
her hand. "Will you come in here for a moment?" She led the way
into a high panelled room with one window--a rather precise and
austere-looking place. "This is my own room," said Helen; and
then she took his hand in both her own and said, "Oh, Walter, I
am so sorry for you." Walter bent and kissed her hand.
"I must get a few words with you sometime to-day," he said;
"the only happy thing about coming home was the thought that I
should see you."
"Oh, I'll contrive something," said Helen; "the worst of this
place is that there are so many people about. I wish you didn't
look so tired," she added, putting her hand on his arm. Then she
led the way across the hall, and down a flagged passage to her
As soon as the door had closed behind her, Mr. Worsley, who
had risen to shake hands with Walter, and showed signs, in his
pallor and fatigue of demeanour, of great agitation, said with a
hurried abruptness, "Mr. Walter, I have to break to you the fact
that instead of dying a rich man, as you perhaps were led to
suppose would be the case, your father died a poor man; I will
state the facts first and give the explanations afterwards.
Forgive me if I use no circumlocution. Your mother is assured of
£500 a year by a separate trust. Beyond that what is left
of the estate can hardly bring in more than £300 a year, if
that. The house is yours, of course, and the furniture; but that
is practically all."
The announcement fell upon Walter's ears as a very great and
painful shock, though at first he hardly estimated what the
practical effect would be. He had been brought up to be not
exactly careless of money, but money had always been available
for every reasonable need. Moreover, his father had always spoken
as if he were not only a wealthy man, but possessed of far larger
resources than he needed, which were accumulating in his hands,
for Walter's future enrichment.
But at the same time Walter suddenly and unexpectedly found
his courage rising to meet the news. It seemed to him clear that
his mother would at all events be able to live in some degree of
comfort; but even so, he had no idea what the cost of living as
they had always lived would be.
"I am afraid," he said slowly, "that I do not understand how
this can be. My father always spoke of himself as a wealthy man,
and I have always had whatever I wanted in the way of money. Is
this a recent loss? Did my father know the condition of
"You have every right to ask," said Mr. Worsley. "But you know
what your father was--he was masterful, and in matters of
business impatient. When he came of age he had a clear income of
some £3,000 a year. He never, except quite lately, spent
less--often a good deal more. I have myself had the care of his
affairs for over twenty years; when I became fully acquainted
with the position of things, I pointed out to him very plainly
what was happening. But he would never so much as look into the
figures. He would say very courteously that he required so much
money, and he would leave it to me to take the necessary steps to
raise it. All the farms are mortgaged, and, as you may know, all
the outlying portions of the estate have been sold. I can only
say that I did my best in every case to secure favourable terms
for him, and I had better add at once that my own firm holds the
mortgages on the Cressage estate; but if you propose to look into
the accounts, you will see that all along we gave your father
terms which he could not have obtained in the open market."
"But why did my father always speak as if everything were so
prosperous?" said Walter.
"Again, I can only say that you know what your father was. He
was a proud man, and it was humiliating to him to think that he
was in any way pressed for money. He knew that the estate had
been a good one, and in these later years he lived more
economically. His invariable phrase was 'Ah, I see that it is all
coming out right,' and no words of mine could convince him of the
"But," said Walter, "ought not someone to have been
informed of this? It seems very unfair on my mother, and even on
myself, that we should have been almost encouraged to spend money
which really was not there."
"Yes," said Mr. Worsley, becoming grave and pale. "I
sympathize with that feeling, and see that you may think you have
reason to blame me. But your father again was peremptory on this
point. He would brook no sort of interference; and when I once
ventured to press that very point, he said that he would regret
to put his business affairs into other hands, but he would be
compelled to do so if criticisms were offered which he did not
specifically ask for."
Mr. Worsley then produced a clear and simple statement of the
accounts, and showed Walter how the debts had gradually
increased. Much had been incurred through the elaborate
restoration of the house. It was a pitiful record. But one fact
emerged very clearly, that Mr. Worsley had managed everything
very strictly and economically, not only with scrupulous care,
but with very little profit to his firm. Walter said something to
this effect. Mr. Worsley grasped his hand in silence and said, "I
must thank you from my heart, Mr. Walter, for saying this. The
honour of your family has been very dear to me, and I will
venture to say that, granted the painful secrecy enjoined on me,
and granted also your father's temperament, which made him a
difficult man to withstand or to influence, the very best has
been done. I believe that I may say that if the business had not
all been in our hands, your father would several years ago have
been engulfed in hopeless ruin. That at least he has been spared.
But I have felt myself in a distressing position between my duty
to your father as a client, and my earnest wish to protect the
interests of your mother and yourself."
They then discussed what had better be done. Mr. Worsley was
prepared with suggestions. He said that Mrs. Garnet must be
persuaded if possible to move to a smaller house. "To live at
Cressage with a reduced establishment would be nothing but a
series of humiliating economies." He was prepared with an offer
from his firm to purchase the whole estate, which would give
Walter a sum of about £6,000 clear. "You cannot," he said,
"by any economy, hope to clear off the mortgages, and moreover,
the farms are in very bad repair. I may say honestly that I am
sure that this is an offer which could not possibly be obtained
in the open market; but you may wish, of course, to have an
independent opinion on this point." He recommended that most of
the furniture should be sold, and he went on to say that his firm
would offer a further sum of £4,000 for the Manor House.
"But this you may prefer to retain, and you might be able to find
a tenant for it, though it is so inaccessible that there may be a
difficulty in letting it." He pointed out that Mrs. Garnet would
receive £500 a year from the Marriage Settlement Trust,
which was intact; and that there would be in addition an income
of about £300 a year. On this it would be possible for Mrs.
Garnet and Walter to live quietly and comfortably.
"But I should advise," he said, "that you should not make any
of the details known to Mrs. Garnet. She would be bewildered and
distressed: I should venture to suggest that you should talk over
the matter with Mrs. Goring, who is devotedly attached to your
mother, and is a woman of strong practical common sense."
Walter agreed, and further said that he would go over to
Oxford, and consult a friend of his there as to what he could
himself do to earn his living. "If I could get some work which
would make me independent, so that I could add the income that
falls to me to my mother's income, she might live in fair
comfort. I think," he added, "that my mother's tastes are very
simple, and I believe that she may be even happier in a small
house, if she is not pinched for money, than with the care of a
big one. What she will feel most is not the loss of dignity, but
the fact that she was not fully in my father's confidence."
"I think, Mr. Walter," said Mr. Worsley, "you might say to her
that one of his chief preoccupations had been to spare her any
anxieties. That is at least consonant with the facts of the case,
even though it may not cover the whole ground."
The morning was soon gone, and Mr. Worsley suggested that
Walter should stay to luncheon, and should then take the papers
away with him to see if there were any further details he would
like to inquire into, and that they should meet again, possibly
at the Manor, when Walter had had an opportunity of talking
matters over with his mother and Mrs. Goring. The temptation to
see Helen was too strong to be resisted, though he wanted to be
alone to think the matter out. But what surprised Walter in his
own feelings was that though he had learned this morning that he
was a poor man instead of a rich one, though his blind confidence
in his father's discretion and worldly wisdom had been entirely
reversed, and though he anticipated an interview of a most
distressing kind with his mother, yet his spirits seemed to have
actually risen. He had a difficult and definite part to play,
involving him in some humiliation, and he grappled to it with a
sense that was almost pleasurable. If he had considered it
beforehand, he would have expected such an interview to have been
an acutely painful one; but now that it had come, a sort of
militant impulse flushed his veins with an unusual poignancy. He
was face to face with realities at last.
Somehow or other the other members of the household--he knew
that Helen had at least one younger sister--whom Walter had
dreaded the idea of meeting, had been separately provided for.
Walter sat down to lunch in a little panelled dining-room looking
on the garden with Mr. Worsley and Helen, and he seemed to
himself to be the least preoccupied of the three. He spoke of his
mother, he talked a little of his travels. Mr. Worsley seemed
inattentive and wearied, though his courtesy was elaborate; and
Walter felt Helen's glance bent upon him with a questioning and
tender regard, though she said little. Mr. Worsley was called
away to see a client, and when he had apologetically vanished,
Walter said, "Helen, can't we go and walk in the garden? I
must have a few minutes' talk with you."
The trim garden at the back of the house was a high-walled
sunny place; a lawn and shrubberies in front, a small
kitchen-garden behind, beyond which was a stable. They walked to
and fro on the lawn.
"Helen, I must tell you at once what has happened. My
father--I don't know what I feel about him. I don't feel
as though our life could exist without him, and he was
wonderfully good to me. Yet I see, after what I have been
hearing, that I never knew him. Is it very heartless to feel
"Perhaps not," said Helen, looking at him with a veiled
"You thought perhaps." went on Walter, "that I should come
away from my talk with your father, knowing myself to be a rich
man, and with a little position of my own to take up? Well, it is
just the other way. Cressage will have to be sold. My mother must
live in a small house somewhere, and I must set about earning my
living. It has all vanished away like smoke. I am a poor man and
a nobody, and strange to say I don't feel aggrieved so far or
humiliated--I daresay that will come."
Helen was standing still, open-eyed and pale, regarding
"What?" she said. "I don't understand. What has become of it
"My father had it, and spent it, as he had a perfect right to
"Perhaps--if you and Mrs. Garnet had known it was so--but did
you know, did you suspect? I call it very hard upon you
"It was the way my father was made. He was a proud man, and
shut his eyes to it all. I doubt if even he knew himself. He
seemed to himself the one unshakable fact, part of the order of
nature, rich as a matter of course."
"But did my father know and not speak?"
"Helen, your father has evidently done the very best for us
all along. He was in a wretched position, knowing all and not
permitted to say a word."
"He has been very miserable about something lately," said
Helen. "I have never seen him so depressed and subdued."
"I don't wonder. It must have been awful having to tell me;
but he has behaved very well."
"How thankful I am to hear you say that," said Helen.
"But tell me--how is your mother?"
"She is what you would expect," said Walter, "--quite
overwhelmed with grief--and yet she tries to think of everyone
but herself, and even blames herself."
"Poor darling," said Helen, putting her hand to her eyes for a
moment. "Do you think I might see her?--I think she is the
kindest woman I know."
"I doubt if she will see anyone just now," said Walter,
"except Mrs. Goring and myself. But I will tell her what you say,
and she will be pleased anyhow."
"Not unless she wishes to see me, of course," said Helen. "And
you--what are you going to do?"
"I am going to Oxford to see if I can find any way of earning
"Oh, Walter," said Helen, stopping suddenly, "I am so
dreadfully sorry for you; it must all be such a shock, but I
think . . ."
"What do you think?"
"That you are behaving splendidly."
"You expected me to sit down and howl?"
"Of course not--but I didn't know--I thought you took all
those things for granted."
At this moment Mr. Worsley came out to them. Somehow the
little picture burnt itself into Walter's mind, the red-brick
house with its white casements, the lawn, the decorous figure
approaching; and close beside him Helen standing pale and
tearful, with her hands clasped.
"I have been telling Miss Helen the exact position of
affairs," said Walter to Mr. Worsley.
"Most kind, I am sure," said Mr. Worsley, "a much valued mark
of confidence. It will go no further."
"But I wish it to go further," said Walter. "I don't wish any
secret to be made of it. I would like everyone to know at once,
rather than that they should gossip and suspect and speculate. It
will save us all from many humiliations. Nothing can be gained by
keeping it dark."
"Well," said Mr. Worsley slowly, "if you prefer it so, I will
say that I think it is wiser. I trust I may be allowed to
hint, if this is quite agreeable to you, that you have no reason
to be dissatisfied with my handling of affairs? I do not wish to
seem selfish or importunate, but this would be a relief to me as
a professional man, sincerely devoted to the interests of my
"Of course," said Walter, "that is just what I shall say
He stopped, seeing that Helen's eyes were fixed upon her
father with a sort of disdain.
"Miss Helen was kind enough to say that she would like to see
my mother--and I think that in a day or two my mother might like
to see her--she is very dependent on friendly sympathy. May I
write and suggest it?"
"We shall be deeply honoured," said Mr. Worsley, in the old
deferential manner. "If any of us can be of any use in helping to
alleviate the grief of one whose kindness has won her so many
devoted friends, it will be a pleasure--a mournful
Walter's interview with his mother proved far more distressing
than he could have thought possible. He began by telling her that
his father had left far less money than was expected. "Then some
of it must have been concealed, or perhaps even taken from him,"
said Mrs. Garnet, "for he constantly told me that he hoped to
leave you a very rich man."
"It isn't a question of concealing or losing it, mother," said
Walter. "Papa often spent more than his income, and raised money
on mortgages." Mrs. Garnet did not understand what was meant, and
he spent some time in endeavouring to explain.
"Yes, that may be so," she said at length, "but he never
parted with the land--so at all events there is that left for
you." She was horrified at the idea of any part of it being sold.
"Your father was very much attached to the old estate, and meant
it all for you--and you see that must have been so; for if ever
he needed money, as you say, he held on to the estate." At last,
however, he made her understand. "What ever he did, dearest boy,"
she said, "it was all done for the best--for your sake and
mine--promise me you will always believe that."
When it came to his suggesting that she should move into a
smaller house, perhaps in Thurston, she offered no opposition. "I
shall be quite happy in a little house, dear--I used to get very
tired of all the housekeeping, and sometimes wished we had a
quiet little house in the town with a couple of maids. Of course
you will like to be by yourself here, and I shall often come up
and see you. You are the Squire now, and your father would have
wished you to have the house to yourself." Walter in vain
protested and explained that he could not live at the Manor
either. This was all a great grief and puzzle to Mrs. Garnet. But
he promised at last that he would not sell the house, but would
try to let it, just as it was. "Your father would not have minded
that--he sometimes spoke to me of letting it--and you can arrange
it so that when you are married, you can move in and settle
down." Walter thought it best to leave matters alone, hoping that
Mrs. Goring would be able to enlighten his mother. She ended by
saying, "I think Mr. Worsley must have been careless, and must
have given your father wrong advice. Your father depended very
much on him, and I used latterly to feel, when Mr. Worsley came
here, that there was something uncomfortable in the back of his
"What made you think that, mother?"
"Oh, it was something in the way that he spoke and looked; but
I won't blame him, if you don't, though I feel it might have been
explained to me."
"That is what I said to Mr. Worsley myself," said Walter, "but
it was my father's wish that he should say nothing to anyone; I
think," he added, "that Mr. Worsley has taken great care of the
property. It is he who has offered to buy it."
"Oh, Walter, then there must be something wrong! But we
can be certain of this, can't we, that your father meant it all
for the best, and intended you to have it all. You must not think
that I shall be unhappy moving into Thurston. Indeed, I have been
feeling that I couldn't live on here with your father gone."
He went on to tell her that he was going to Oxford, to consult
Norton as to what he had better do to earn his living. This was
another great shock to his mother. Walter could see that, for all
her kindness, she differentiated sharply between the people who
had to earn their income and the people who had only to spend it.
"I hope you won't be forced to do that, dearest," she said. "Your
father would not have liked that; he always felt that a
landlord's first duty was to his tenants." "But if we sell the
estate, mother, we shall have no tenants." He found that his
mother was firmly under the impression that his father had been
the best of landlords, and that the tenants would not be able to
bear the idea of being the tenants of anyone out of the family.
"These farmers and labourers here have been here all their lives,
most of them, and their forbears before them," she said. "They
are so proud of it, Walter; could you not keep on the estate, if
only in name? It seems almost like telling one's relations to be
the relations of someone else. They will all be miserable."
He found at last that it would really be a relief to her to
get away from the house. "I keep on thinking, as I sit in my
chair, that I hear your father's voice calling, or his step in
the passage--or I think he may want something, and I get up in
order to go and look in upon him--and then it all comes over me,
and I remember that I shall never be able to do anything for him
Walter told her that Helen had sent her love, and had asked to
see her. His mother's pinched and anxious face melted a little at
this, and Walter saw that what she was pining for was love and
comfort. "Did she say that?--Yes, I should like to see Helen--she
is a dear girl. Your father said that you would hardly have known
that she was only an attorney's daughter; he said she carried
herself so nicely, and was so respectful."
That evening, when they were going to bed, his mother said to
him: "You mustn't think too much of what I said to-day, dearest.
Your father always said I did not understand business, and I must
remember that you are master here now. You must not consult me;
just tell me what you have done. You are such a comfort to me,
and you are so much more like your father in the way that you
decide everything just as he did. But you won't let the old house
go, Walter? I can see it may be best for us to leave it for a
little, till Mr. Worsley has been able to go more into the
business--and I am sure it will all come right."
"No, mother darling," said Walter, kissing her, "the house
shall not go, whatever happens."
Walter had a letter from Norton expressing sympathy. "I am
sure that if I had been your father's son, I should have missed
him horribly. The life of Cressage seemed built up round him, and
he never forgot to be kind. It is dreadful to have to take
someone's place. . . . I wish you would come and see me (or I
would come and see you) and talk about your plans. I have
something to suggest." Walter wired at once that he would come.
Meanwhile it was agreed that Mrs. Goring should get some
particulars of houses, and talk them over with Mrs. Garnet. "She
wants something practical to occupy her mind," Mrs. Goring said.
"She is sadly bewildered between her belief that your father
could not have made a mistake, and her astonishment at what has
actually happened; and most of all, she has been wanted at
every hour of the day, and she now feels that she is not wanted
by anyone. Only you can persuade her of that."
Walter told Norton the precise position of affairs, and showed
him the papers. "I am very sorry for your mother," said Norton,
"not so sorry for you, because I can't think it would be a good
thing for you to have settled down at Cressage. Perhaps, however,
if my family had been in possession of an estate since the reign
of Henry III, I should dislike the idea of losing it; but I don't
altogether like the product of the small Country-house--it is
proud, without having important responsibilities or duties; and I
am sure you are right to sell the estate, though I would like, if
I may, to show this statement to our bursar, who is a very acute
man of business. But I agree with your mother--don't sell the
house--don't part with Sir Hugh le Garnet, Knight, and the family
pew. That is the kind of thing that can't be enjoyed unless it is
Norton went on to say that there had already been some talk
among the Fellows of the College about offering Walter a
Fellowship with some teaching work. "You must forgive me for
having started the idea; I think you would fit in here very well,
in spite of your tirade against the conventionality and the
sameness of everything. I was absolutely determined that you
shouldn't go and settle down in Shropshire at home. You couldn't
have done that; you would have grown mouldy and metaphysical. You
must do something active. I don't see you a schoolmaster. You
might, of course, get a Civil Service job; but I think that what
you want is direct contact with and responsibility for human
beings. What you need--may I say?--is to think better of human
nature. You are too lonely, and you are too critical. Now don't
say no without thinking. You would be acceptable here. You have
managed to get liked, without liking other people--I don't know
how you do it--noblesse oblige, perhaps, and there may be
something chivalrous in long descent. Or possibly it is the same
thing that makes you so good an examinée--an infinite
capacity for making a good impression."
"I hope you will tell anyone who cares to know that I am
ruined," said Walter. "I don't want to do anything under false
pretences--the sooner it is known the better."
"Yes," said Norton, "and what is more, I think it may just
turn the scale here. People in this world are very kind to people
who have had a fall. The king's horses and men all hurried to the
help of Humpty Dumpty, you know."
Walter dined in Hall with Norton that night. He found the Dons
very civil to him. They had heard of his father's death, and
Walter thought that a middle-aged Don who sat next him was
silently weighing in his mind whether he was to be condoled with
on the death of his father, or congratulated on having come into
possession of a landed estate. Apparently he eventually decided
that it was safer to do neither.
Walter stayed at Oxford two nights, and found the society of
Norton both reposeful and bracing. "I hope you don't find me a
dry stick," said Norton. "I do really feel very sorry for you
about being displaced, and I think you take it very calmly. I
should have been much more put out. But I always believe in
facing facts at once, and not sentimentalizing over them. It is
useless to indulge one's memory at such time. 'Remember Lot's
wife'--that's the penalty of looking back, to become stiff and
bitter. One can trust one's memory eventually not to play one
false. It gets rid of its own poison, just as a stream drops its
own refuse. I think you seem actually better for this sudden
douche of disaster--and I am not leaving out of sight what you
have had to suffer--your own sorrow, and still more your
mother's--it makes my heart ache to think of her."
"Yes," said Walter. "I don't want you to have a wrong idea
about my own sorrow, such as it is; one can't help feeling that
for anyone who was so consistently kind and affectionate to one
as my father was to me. But I realize that I never knew him--he
seems removed from me by an infinite gap of feeling and
experience--a gap he never bridged, nor encouraged me to bridge.
And the horrible confusion of his affairs; so much money wasted,
such reckless borrowing! I can't understand it, and it has been a
hopeless surprise to me."
"I'm not wholly surprised," said Norton. "Your father was a
great mystery to me; indeed, to speak frankly, he seemed like a
man who was always fortifying himself, who knew there was
something behind him in the path at which he dared not look. He
appeared to be in perpetual need of reassurance."
The next morning a letter forwarded from Cressage arrived for
DEAR MR. WALTER,--
I have been thinking over our interview, and should like to
begin by thanking you for the generous kindness with which you
recognized my own painful position--so easy to be
misunderstood--and in the way that you absolved me from blame. I
must once more repeat that my conscience is absolutely clear as
to the way in which I handled your father's affairs. I had a
great regard for him, and the confidence he reposed in me touched
me deeply. I can honestly say that, granted that he must have had
the money which he spent, he obtained most favourable terms from
my firm. Moreover I can with equal honesty say that I am offering
you very good terms now. What I feel uneasy about is whether a
man of more resource and force of character in my place might
have averted or minimized the catastrophe, might have brought
home to your father more clearly the inevitable consequences of
what he was doing, and pointed out what I can only call the
heinous selfishness of his own course of action. I constantly
tried to do this and failed. The truth is that your father's
personal presence and manner had such an effect upon me, and
produced in me so overpowering an awe, that I could not ever put
clearly into words the intensity of my feelings. I regret this
very much, and can hardly be surprised if you blame me. Yet so it
was, and I doubt if I could have acted differently; while, if I
had simply given up doing business for him, I consider that the
position of things would be even worse than it is. I have never
met a man so determined to have his own way, and so capable of
disregarding all counter-considerations.
I have now one or two further suggestions to submit to you.
If, as I hope, Mrs. Garnet thinks of going into another house,
and if, as I foresee, you decide not to sell the Manor, I will
venture to offer to become your tenant. I have long wished to
move into the country, and to have the benefit of higher air. I
will offer a rent of £200 a year for the house, to be
increased in proportion to the value of any furniture you may
leave there. If you accept this, I would venture to say that I
think your mother would find my house, which I should vacate, a
convenient one. I would retain the wing containing my office, and
would let her have the rest at a rent of £75 a year. She
would find it easy to run with two or three servants, and though
it is not a large house, it has a certain dignity about it.
One further thing I would add. If in your consideration of
various possible professions, it enters into your head to think
of becoming a solicitor, I would gladly take you into my business
without premium, and with a prospect of speedy partnership. The
business, I may add, has increased very much of late, and my
income is a large one, about £5,000 a year to my own share,
and about £1,000 a year to my only partner, who as you may
know does very little, and is soon about to resign. This is not a
merely quixotic offer. You are a man of first-rate abilities, and
I do not conceal from you that your name would be of great
assistance to me in my business. You may not have thought of such
work, but, if I may say so, I have long entertained for you an
affectionate regard, and it would be a great personal pleasure to
me to claim association with yourself. Of course this needs no
immediate reply. You will, I hope, name a day we may meet.
Believe me, with kind regards,
Very sincerely yours,
Walter showed this letter to Norton, who read it carefully.
When he finished, he gave it back to Walter, and sat musing.
"It is certainly a generous offer," he said, "and very frankly
expressed. What will you do?"
"Oh, it decides me," said Walter, "to accept your
offer, if it amounts to one. If there is a chance of work here, I
will take it."
"You are throwing away a very good thing," said Norton. "Don't
be in such a hurry."
"I must," said Walter. "I don't know why, but I feel as
if I was being wound round with little cords by some sort of
spider. I am beginning to feel paralysed. The letter is a good
one, I know--very frank and very plain-spoken. But why does he
want to get hold of me like this? It can't be pure
kindness. Either he must be ashamed of himself, or he must have
some very definite designs of his own."
"I don't think you are right; I believe him to be a perfectly
honest though rather timid man," said Norton. "But I suppose you
will let him have the house--that's all square."
"Of course," said Walter; "it's just what we want. But I'll
wait a day or two. When could you tell me anything definite?"
For the next two or three weeks Walter had a time of confused
and trivial duties. One of the difficulties was with his mother.
Mrs. Garnet had a heart that could hold any number of loves and
affections, and Walter was strangely moved to see how easily she
was beguiled from her own sorrows by a letter, a message, or a
visit that seemed to imply a personal regard. As to her changed
fortunes, she did not consider them at all; but her mind was not
of a capacious order, and she resembled a person playing at
cup-and-ball with a single idea, an idea which she tossed into
the air, and generally failed to intercept; the dilemma being
simply how she was to make her belief in the devotion, perfect
wisdom, and practical ability of the Squire fit in with the
extreme havoc he had wrought in the family fortunes. She was
incapable of attributing any error to anyone whom she knew, and
Mr. Worsley was soon forgiven; and she took refuge at last in a
belief in the extraordinary unworldliness of the Squire, and a
conviction that he had been in some way deceived by certain
unknown persons--"those London people--of course dear Henry and
good Mr. Worsley were no match for them."
Walter had a further interview with Mr. Worsley, in which he
accepted Mr. Worsley's offer to become tenant of the Manor, and
for his mother the tenancy of Mr. Worsley's house in Thurston.
The suggestion that he should join Mr. Worsley's business he
gratefully refused, on the ground that he hoped to get work in
Oxford, and that he doubted his capacity for the business of a
solicitor. Mr. Worsley seemed unduly disappointed by this, and
Walter was conscious of what seemed to him an almost painful
anxiety on Mr. Worsley's part to conciliate him and make things
For things were by no means easy. Walter had lived so long at
his ease about money that he was again and again unpleasantly
checked by recollecting that this or that natural and simple
arrangement was an extravagance that must be resisted. Mrs.
Goring cut the knot for the time being by asking his mother to
stay at the Vicarage, a kindness much deplored by her William,
who confessed that it would prove a great hindrance to him in the
discharge of his spiritual duties. But he was promised the
undisturbed occupancy of his study, and assured by his wife that
she would be entirely responsible for Mrs. Garnet's
entertainment; and a trial it undoubtedly was, for Mrs. Garnet
showed no signs of being able to provide herself with any
occupation, and was at leisure from morning to night to pursue
the same train of bewildered speculation. All which Mrs. Goring
bore with endless kindness and sympathy. Indeed the one admirable
thing about Mrs. Garnet was that she never indulged in self-pity
or personal resentment, or gave her own deprivation a moment's
thought. Her one aim was to preserve the spotless integrity of
the Squire's character, and to prove that his "misfortunes," as
she now called them, were rather to his credit than
It was a day or two before Mrs. Garnet quitted the Manor that
Helen came to see her. She was to spend the afternoon and have
tea; Walter took her in to his mother, and watched with amazement
the instantaneous establishment of a strong personal relation
between the elderly lady and a girl whom she hardly knew, through
the freemasonry of love. He left them alone together. Mrs. Garnet
spent most of her time in her own sitting-room, with the blinds
half drawn down, and her occupation in her solitary hours was to
sort the Squire's letters. Walter was almost awed by the fire of
compassion that seemed to burn in Helen's eyes, and his mother's
dependence on a fellow-creature's love.
They had tea together; and when the car arrived for Helen,
Walter proposed that they should walk down together to Thurston,
five miles away. He had only had a few words with her hitherto,
and his longing to speak to her had become almost overpowering.
But when they started he found himself almost tongue-tied. Helen
said a few words about Mrs. Garnet.
"It is simply amazing to me that your mother has not a single
thought about herself. Of course," she went on, "she isn't the
sort of person who loses much consciously by a disaster like
this. I suppose she has never cared about money or
position--simply about people; and one of the surprising things
she said to me was that she had never suspected how many good
friends she had, or how much people cared for her."
"It is wonderful," said Walter; "it is the one thing needful,
and one feels ashamed of having to take so much more complicated
a view. What am I to think about my father, Helen? I don't know
what to think. Endlessly kind and patient on the one hand to my
mother and myself and everyone else about him--I can't remember
ever having heard him utter an angry word--and yet he was an able
man, and he must have known what he was preparing for us. Just
think of it--the last of these mortgages was made that he might
have money to send me abroad, travelling like a prince. If he had
been a muddled and sanguine man it would have been different, but
he always did things deliberately."
"It is a difficulty," said Helen, "and indeed I understand how
difficult. My father feels the same, I am sure. He has been very
much out of spirits lately. He feels he ought to have managed
differently. And, Walter, I am unhappy too about our going to the
Manor. My father has bought your estate, he tells me, and is to
live in your house. It would seem to anyone who did not know,
that he had used his position to oust you. I can't bear to think
of it; my father is the very last man to take an unfair
advantage. I don't understand him. He has always been the kindest
of fathers to me, and I have been his companion ever since my
mother died; but he never tells me anything or takes me into his
confidence. Can't older and younger people hold any
communication, even when they love each other?"
"Helen, you mustn't think like that," said Walter. "I have
been into it all, and I think your father has acted all through
like a real friend. He has been most generous. I am sure he could
never have been able to persuade my father, though I am sure he
tried. My father simply hypnotized people. Of course he used to
talk--what shall I say?--rather crudely about himself and his
position, and no doubt people who only knew him a little, thought
him pompous and perhaps even absurd. Yet in his presence, one
couldn't contradict him or oppose him. It was like a flowing
"I can't say how good it is to hear you say that about
father," said Helen; "and I must say again how splendid it is
that you, like Mrs. Garnet, don't seem to regard what you have
personally lost. I suppose that comes from bringing-up. My father
used to say that, whatever else the Squire was, he had the
old-fashioned chivalry about him. Is it that? Tell me, is it that
you don't say what you feel, or that you don't really care?"
"I hardly know what it is," said Walter. "I do care, very
much. I hate losing so many things which make life easy. I like
walking about and feeling important, and I don't like earning my
living; but about this particular matter I don't deserve any
credit. I would take it, if I did. But the whole thing is so bad
in many ways that it has got to be seen through, and that is all
I can think about at present."
They stopped at a turn, where the road came out of the wood,
and ran in a curve round a bare knoll covered with fern and
juniper, before it entered the wood again. To left and right the
bare wolds rose high above the woods. At the end of the valley
there was a glimpse of the wide river-plain, but where they stood
they could see little but tree-tops and solitary pastures.
"This is our boundary, Helen--I ought to say your
She winced, and looked at him appealingly. "Oh, Walter, it is
frightful," she said.
"I wasn't going to call attention to my fortitude," said
Walter. "I was only thinking of a little Greek poem where a field
speaks and says, 'I used to be called the field of So-and-so, and
now I am the field of So-and-so.' I am nobody's field really--I
belong to fortune."
"But think how long there have been Garnets at Cressage!"
"You want to make me personal, when I was trying to be
"Oh, Walter, what a wretch I am! But what am I to say? I hate
our having it as much as I hate your not having it."
"But I," said Walter, "if I can't keep it, as I should like to
do, would rather it belonged to your father, and so in a sense to
you, than to anyone else; and, Helen, the thought that you will
be at the Manor and caring for it as I did, takes away half the
misery of it."
"I'm not as fine as that," said Helen. "If I lost anything I
should hate that any of my friends should have it."
"What nonsense!" said Walter; "but there are some good points
about it all. I am sure my mother will be happier among people
and in a smaller house, and I am going to Oxford--at least I
think I am. You know your father offered me a place in his
"Yes, I wish that had appealed to you."
"Oh, I had much better go away. I should take to brooding over
my fallen glories here."
"I shall do that for you, Walter."
"Helen, I won't have you say that! Your father has done his
very best to break our fall. What could we have done without him?
I don't say that my mother and I have exactly brought it on
ourselves, but if your father could have saved us he would. You
must behave like Roosevelt, who said when they told him he was
President, 'We are going to have a bully time!'"
"How could he have been such a brute! But after all, he wasn't
turning anyone out. I can't think how my father can do it."
"You think he had better leave us to be despoiled by
auctioneers and agents for the sake of his own delicate
"I see that," said Helen ruefully. "It seems awful either
"One other good thing it has done," said Walter, "at least
from my point of view--it has brought about the very sort of
friendship I wanted between you and me."
"Yes," said Helen, smiling at him, "our letters were very
nice; but somehow it seemed to me a little artificial! And now I
should have thought that you would have hated us all."
"Shall I tell you exactly what I felt?" said Walter. "On that
dreadful journey home, when I did not know what had happened, I
felt as if my life had all been knocked to bits, and I wondered
if our friendship had gone to pieces too. But now I find that you
and my mother are the only two people in the world for whose
feelings I care, and it seems to have pulled a veil away. I
should like to say a great deal more, but I won't now. Do you
remember how you joked about the beggar-maid? You didn't think
how soon I should literally be the beggar-man!"
"Walter, when you say such things you torture me! We must
leave all this alone."
"If that means that I am not to see you, I decline," said
Walter. "Does your father know that you and I have been
"I don't know--I expect he does--I never know what he
"I think you had better tell him," said he.
"You don't like telling him?"
"No, but I should like still less not doing what you want; and
now here we are close on the town. How will you get back? Will
you have the car?"
"No, thanks; it will do me good to walk. Bless you, dear
They parted, and Walter waited till she reached a corner, when
she waved her hand to him, and he resumed his solitary way.
Walter spent the days after his mother had left the Manor to
go to the Gorings' in various sordid tasks; he checked
inventories, he went through papers. There was a great mass of
old letters and documents going back to the eighteenth century;
and it gave Walter what he had never had before, a sense of the
continuity and tradition of the old family life. There was, for
instance, in the dining-room a picture of a very grim and stout
old Squire with Regency whiskers, his great-grandfather, which he
had always disliked. But to his surprise he found some of the old
man's love-letters, written in a tone of passionate devotion to
the thin-lipped, faded woman with bedizened hair, who peeped out,
in the portrait that hung next his, from between two cylindrical
curls which hung on each side of her face--what was it, that
strange transfiguring fiery glow, that burned so fiercely behind
the young man's clumsy phrases? It seemed unfamiliar to Walter.
The love-stories in books which he had read--he had accepted them
as part of the stock-in-trade of books; but it had always seemed
to him to be an affected hectic frame of mind, wholly unreal and
fanciful. Walter's idea of affection was what he felt for his
mother--something pitying and protective, which did not absorb
his whole nature, and outside of which lay his critical,
sceptical, mistrustful mind. His idea of a friendship was his
relation with Norton, the essence of which was that one could
open one's mind freely, and say what one thought rather than what
one felt. With Helen it was different again; that was another
frank relation, he thought--it was not an intellectual
partnership, but he could speak to her of his tastes and
preferences, his impressions of other people, and feel himself in
touch with a finer and more delicate sort of mind. She had a
singular clearness of judgment and freshness of view. She could
be amused by other people without despising them; but in that
last talk he had had with her, he had felt himself in contact
with something of the nature of flame--a warmth, a glow, an
indignant kindling which had alarmed him vaguely. He felt that he
would not care to have it turned upon him in anger or reproach.
In his mother, though he condoned it, he had a sort of pity for
the loyalty which could not bear to suspect even a trace of
selfishness in his father; for little by little, the entire
disregard by his father of anything except the whim of the
moment, the resolute avoidance of any foresight, had begun to
trouble him deeply. How did it fit in with all his father's
sweetness of temper, his courteous consideration?
And then, too, Helen charmed him by her beautiful presence.
She could not make a hurried or ungraceful movement or gesture.
She seemed to have her slim frame all under control, from her
clear eyes to her delicate fingertips. She gave him a sense of
fullness of life, a current untroubled by any inertness or greedy
impulse or headstrong desire. She fulfilled by a swift instinct
the ideal of unsullied clearness and natural activity that he had
set himself awkwardly to attain--how long ago it seemed!
One morning Mr. Goring called. His worn and melancholy face,
the sternness of his forehead, his shy yet piercing eyes gave
Walter a sudden sense of uneasiness.
"My dear Walter," he said hesitatingly, "I hope I do not
disturb you. I wanted to have a few quiet words with you about
this sad business. I blame myself for neither writing to condole
with you, nor saying a word of sympathy. I do such things dully
and belatedly, not I hope with any lack of feeling, but because
my mind naturally reverts to further issues."
"But it was I," said Walter, "who ought to have thanked you
and Mrs. Goring for your extraordinary kindness to my mother. She
would have been wholly lost without Mrs. Goring--and the way you
have let yourselves be invaded! I can't say how truly kind I
"You abash me," said the Vicar, "because though we have done
what I hope was neighbourly under these circumstances, it must be
put down to my dear wife's devotion to Mrs. Garnet rather than to
my own courtesy. I must confess to you with much shame that I
rebelled against the constraint that it would imply; you hardly
know how selfishly I am wedded to seclusion and independence! You
must absolve me from any credit in the matter. But I need not
speak of that. We are honoured by your mother's presence. It is
of yourself that I fain would speak."
"Please do," said Walter; "it is very good of you to bear me
"I will not beat about the bush," said the Vicar. "As your
parish priest, I think I have a claim to be heard. Let me say
first that your mother's loyalty to your father's memory, and I
would add the courageous way in which you have faced the shock of
your sad vicissitude, inspire me with respect. But my own task is
rather to inquire into the spiritual significance of the affair.
The inner spirit with which you regard it, whether you are
conscious of the Hand of God in all this, whether you apprehend
the purpose of His chastening, whether you have determined to
make the most of this opportunity of suffering--this is what I
would be assured of! You will, I know, acquit, me of any mean or
"Of course," said Walter. "It is good of you to ask me this,
but I hardly know what to say. At present I am rather bewildered
by the contrast between my father's words and what seems to have
been his course of action."
"Yes," said Mr. Goring, "I have asked myself the same
question, and but for the fact that a Christian and a priest is
bound to abstain from harsh judgments, I should say that your
father's conduct was highly reprehensible; but that is another
matter, and does not prevent your viewing the affliction as a
definite channel of grace."
"I certainly can't pretend to say that," said Walter, a little
nettled by Mr. Goring's insistence. "My mother has been brought
up in the use of wealth; I myself have never had to trouble about
money or position; and I find my mother, suddenly impoverished,
while I myself have lost my imagined fortune, my standing, and
the old family inheritance has all been swept away. I simply try
not to think of it. Such things do happen in the world, but for
me to pretend that I consider it a dispensation of mercy and love
would be the worst sort of hypocrisy. I submit, because I
"But have you reflected, my dear Walter," said Mr. Goring,
"how all these vain shows and false securities can eat into the
soul? This trial is meant, I make no doubt at all, to be an act
of love to save you from complacency and indifference, to bring
out what is best in you, to make you depend upon yourself, to win
your own worthy place in the world, rather than to inherit the
effortless dignity of your forefathers. Your temptation has been
towards idle dreaming and self-pleasing--though I admit you have
led, so far as I know, an upright life, and have shown yourself a
kind and loving son."
"I see your point," said Walter, "but it all seems to me a
fortuitous affair. There are plenty of landowners that retain
their estates. There are even clergymen who live in considerable
comfort, without these ugly reverses. I don't see why it should
fall upon me, and still less upon my mother, who is one of the
most guileless and generous people I know."
"You wound me," said Mr. Goring. "I have often thought that my
own comfort has been a grievous obstacle to my spiritual work.
But let us not diverge. It has come to you, I have no doubt,
because you have the seeds of nobleness in your soul. You can
rise to great heights, if these seeds are not choked by worldly
prosperity. Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth. If I am myself
unchastened, it is because I am not worthy of His love."
Something stirred in the depths of Walter's soul at this
strange exhortation. Mr. Goring continued: "You must not let the
unworthiness of the messenger cloud the message, dear Walter. It
has cost me much to speak thus, but I entreat you to be humble in
God's sight, and to let Him work out His blessed will in you. I
will not say more, I will only ask your pardon for speaking words
which my own slothfulness and luxury might well tarnish."
He rose and shook hands. "Don't feel like this about
yourself," Walter said. "I do know what you and Mrs. Goring do
for the place; and I will not forget what you say. There
is something within, though I cannot look at it so; I must
just go forwards with what courage I can. I admit that if I could
feel sure that there was any personal intention behind my
misfortunes, it would make a great difference. But I honestly do
not. It seems to me just bad luck, though I am perfectly clear
that I have got to make the best of it."
"Alas!" said Mr. Goring. "I recognize in you the knightly
virtues, but hardly the Christian patience. But it will come--it
will come; you will be guided into all truth!" And the worthy man
beat a hasty retreat.
That day Walter lunched at the Vicarage. The Vicar was
constrained and lost in thought. But when he withdrew, and Mrs.
Garnet went to her room to rest, Mrs. Goring led Walter out to
the garden and made him sit with her in the summer-house.
"Walter," she said, "I am afraid you had a bad time with my
dear man this morning. He has been churning up his courage for
days to speak to you. Probably he vexed you--that unfortunate
jargon, you know, which always gets even my bristles up. But he's
a much better man than he wants you to think. It is pitiful to me
to see what a sacred duty it is to him to decry himself. But he
has been through agonies about this. What did he say?"
Walter told her. She listened, poking with her stick at the
interstices of the tiles. "Yes, I see," she said, "and of course
it is all very grimly put; these good people always run their
theories too hard. They demand a consistency from life, perhaps
from God, which one can't get. It isn't a mechanical affair, like
the tide and the sunset. There is a personal force behind the
world--at least I think so--which ebbs and flows just as we do.
Don't think me unkind, Walter; I love you, my dear, as if you
were my own boy, perhaps more, because I have never had a child
of my own--you don't mind an old woman saying that?--and there is
something in what my dear, stiff-minded William says. You
have got a fine mind, and a fine courage. My dear, how
proud of you I should be, if I were your mother, to see you take
up this horrible burden so quietly. It is a cruel thing to have
all your outside defences swept away, and swept away by the very
person who was always deluding you into a false sense of
prosperity. I can't forgive your father, dear. I don't think him
a deliberately bad man, but he had the awful strength of selfish
weakness. You have been coddled and wrapped up and cossetted in a
dreadful way, and there must be a lot of good stuff behind, for
you to have come out of it a reasonable person at all. And I do
honestly think it gives you a big chance. What you needed was to
be thrown into the sea and made to swim. You haven't gone to the
bad, you are perfectly sound and straight, but you are still
entangled in some of these cobwebs; you must step out, make
friends, give yourself away, blunder, tumble: I don't care what
happens so long as you can find yourself. The danger was that you
would be helplessly shut up in yourself, as you were, you know,
dear Walter. You didn't trust anybody, you looked down on simple
people, you followed your own fancies. I don't mean, dear, that
you were superior or stand-offish. But the difference is that you
have come out of a little stuffy room into the wind and rain. It
has been a very little affair--it is going to be a very big
affair. Follow instinct a little, and not reason. But, oh dear,"
said Mrs. Goring suddenly, with a suspicious glistening about her
honest eyes, "how I have been talking! Women are natural
preachers! I once said to William that I was always terrified in
his sermons that he would come to a stop, and he said that it was
far better than if I thought he would never leave off."
Walter got up from his chair, put his arms round Mrs. Goring
and kissed her. "Thank you a thousand times," he said. "I did
think there was something in what the Vicar said, though it
rather stifled me. But I see what you mean, and you are
perfectly right, every single word."
The shuffling of the two houses had been accomplished, and the
move was over. The great difficulty had been to get Mrs. Garnet
to decide upon anything. She chose the furniture she was to take
away, not because it was necessary or because it was beautiful or
even valuable, but because she had associations with it. But it
was done, though for several weeks her talk was full of articles
which she had forgotten. So much indeed did this weigh upon her
mind, that Walter at last approached Mr. Worsley on the subject,
who showed himself extraordinarily considerate. If a list could
be provided, she could of course have anything from the Manor she
desired. The sad thing however was that, though the new and
smaller house suited her better, it became clear that what she
was really pining for were the very duties which she had found so
irksome at the Manor. Walter spoke about this to Mrs. Goring.
"Ah, my dear Walter," she said, "it isn't that--it is
that she wants someone, like your father, to work for. Your
mother's great hold on life has been that she had an exacting
person whom she loved to arrange things for. It can't be
artificially provided. She must find a new life for herself."
As to the loss of dignity, Mrs. Garnet never gave it a
thought; and Walter was relieved to find, as soon as the final
accounts were made up, that there was an income which was ample
for her wants, and would leave a little margin for himself.
Moreover, now that she was more accessible, many people called to
see her. From the social point of view, she had acquired a
certain prestige by her misfortunes. Her kindness and simplicity
had a romantic flavour, and Walter saw that a new life would soon
shape itself. He himself had plenty of occupation. Norton wrote
to him that although he could pledge no one, he regarded it as
certain that Walter would be in a month or two offered a teaching
post at his College, and possibly a Fellowship. He recommended
Walter to begin working up the subjects he might have to teach,
and sent him a list of books. Walter's days took on a certain
routine. He worked hard, morning and evening; he listened very
good-humouredly to a great deal of idle talk. But he had no
intimate friend in the town, and felt his work to be a sort of
anodyne, which drugged something poisonous and feverish below. He
could not conceal from himself the fact that beneath the
apparently tranquil surface, there burned a sullen resentment
against life, against his father, against the way he had been
allowed to grow up, against the trifling humiliations he had to
submit to; for though he had set little store upon the mild
consequence he had enjoyed before, as a young man belonging to
the county rather than to the locality, and with a prospect of
wealth before him, he found that the subtle deference with which
he had been treated had disappeared. He had parted with his
estate; he was just a young man of good ability who lived with
his widowed mother, and had his own way to make like everyone
else. If he had been capable of pose, if he could have assumed a
tragic melancholy of mien, he would undoubtedly have excited
romantic sympathies. But this had no attraction for him; he made
himself civil and attentive to his mother's callers, and greeted
his acquaintances with bonhomie. He was supposed, he found, to be
rather heartless, and absorbed in intellectual pursuits. Mrs.
Goring's words had put some heart into him, but the stimulus died
down when he found that he had to live a comfortable and ordinary
life. There was nothing to evoke endurance, nothing to battle
against, except kindly bourgeois surroundings.
In this frame of mind, his desire for Helen's company grew
till it sometimes reached an almost insupportable thirst. But it
was not easy to arrange opportunities of meeting. Helen was very
busy with the new arrangements. He could not bring himself to go
to the Manor as a casual caller. Some deeply-rooted pride in him
rebelled against the idea of being seen walking about Thurston
with her, after all that had happened. Moreover, Walter had
become aware that there was a certain feeling in the town against
Mr. Worsley. It was partly the envy caused by the visible
evidence of his success, and partly too a vague feeling that he
must in some way or other have taken advantage of the Squire. Mr.
Worsley himself came as regularly as ever to his business, and
often looked in for a few minutes to see Mrs. Garnet or Walter,
and to inquire if they had any requisition. His amiability was
extreme. He had carried out repairs and decorations at the Manor
on a liberal scale, and had refused to decrease the rent. Mrs.
Garnet depended on him greatly, and expressed to all her visitors
her extreme appreciation of his friendly offices, which did
something to mitigate the unfavourable rumours.
Walter at last wrote to Helen, and said that he could not
endure the separation. He suggested that he should come up the
road towards the Manor early some afternoon, and that she should
meet him at a point where a lane diverged to the east, leading to
some hamlets and a great common, which had once been part of the
old forest of Cressage, a hunting chase, once a part of the
Garnet property. In the middle of this stood the ruins of a
derelict church, which had been a favourite walk of Walter's in
old days. Helen gladly consented. They met as arranged, and from
some way off he could see her under an old oak, which stood where
the roads divided, pacing rather restlessly to and fro. She came
down to meet him, and a great wave of gladness surged up in his
mind at the sight of her. He had been living, he felt, among
shadows, people whom he hardly knew, and who possessed no
interest for him; while though he was always aware of his
mother's love, the curious ramblings of her mind, sometimes
deeply in earnest about something that seemed to him incredibly
trivial, sometimes poignantly pathetic in their
naïveté, had made him realize that his mother as a
reasoning being was in some ways almost a stranger to him. Mr.
Worsley was a continual mystery; but Helen at least was real. Her
mind darted swiftly with an unexpected impetus in directions
which he could not always clearly interpret; but he always felt
an intense desire to follow her and track her thought. Then too
there was something in her fresh outlook which dispersed the
vague mists of speculation in which he was apt to wander, when
the world lost its significance and seemed a mere conflict of
blind and petty forces.
"It is good to see you, Helen," he said. "I get very
much lost without you."
"You can't be as much puzzled as I am, Walter. I feel I am
living in a dream, and when I wake up in my room up there and
look out upon the woods at sunrise, I wonder if it is really
Walter told her of the daily events in his life, how his
mother was beginning to make friends, and to forget her grief a
little; of his prospects at Oxford. She listened with alert
"And you yourself?" she said.
"Oh, I hardly know--I lose myself in my work; and if you saw
me chattering over the tea-table, you would think I had lived in
Thurston all my life."
"Have you made any friends?"
"No, not really; there is a young doctor I rather like, but he
is frightfully busy."
"Dr. Bowlby, I suppose--he is rather an interesting man. What
do you make of him?"
"He has ideas, but he gives me the impression of being bored
by his practice--he wants to research."
"He did wonders with father; he was the only doctor I ever saw
who seemed to realize that his patient had any work he must do,
and that he must fit his treatment to that."
"Helen, did you tell your father we wrote to each other?"
"What did he say?"
"Not very much. He looked at me in the quiet way he has, which
always rather frightens me, but he seemed pleased rather than
vexed; I am not sure he didn't know already."
"How did he know?"
"You can't keep any secrets in a country town," said Helen,
laughing. "Besides, he always does know."
"What did he say?"
"Oh, he said I was grown up, and it was entirely my own
affair. He said he liked you very much, and thought you wanted
"Oh, well, yes; he said the sort of thing a father feels bound
to say to his daughter. I don't know why older people always say
such obvious things. You would think that with their experience
they would be able to tell one something one didn't know."
"I suppose you mean that he said something about it's not . .
. not going further."
"That sort of thing," said Helen, smiling.
"Well, it's a relief to know that we can do just as we
"Not in a country town, Walter; and you mustn't forget that
many of the people who seem like marionettes to you, are very
real people indeed to me. I am very fond of some of them. Do you
know Miss Pinker?"
"That frozen spinster who comes and talks about the hangings
at St. Chad's?"
"Would you suppose that she threw a book at Dr. Graves? He had
been attending her--she is very serious about her symptoms, and
when he left her, and had gone out, he half-opened the door, and
said something jocose. She threw the book she was reading at his
head. It was the Imitation, I believe."
"What nymphs!" said Walter. "I must observe Miss Pinker more
It was a fresh day, but with a touch of spring in the air,
that languor, half enervating, half intoxicating, that makes men
and women look beautiful, and wonder what it is that they desire.
The woods were misty with uncrumpling leaves, and the hedgerow
was tapestried with climbing tendrils. A few early flowers showed
their heads here and there. The ever-blowing wind rolled great
clouds, white, but laden with grey glooms, over the low-lying
horizon. They stopped to look at the plain spread below them.
"I'm not used to these hill-views and far-off spaces yet,
Walter," she said. "My eyes seem focused on the opposite side of
"What do you think of the Manor?"
"I was afraid you were going to ask me that," and Helen's face
clouded over a little. "Of course it is the loveliest old place,
but I feel an interloper. The house is full of vexed
"What do you mean, Helen?"
"I suppose they are all inside my own mind," said Helen, "but
I have a constant sense that I am not wanted; nothing in the
house holds out its hands to me--it just endures me. My little
sister loves it, and my father is--what is he?--he is proud to be
there. I wish he wasn't proud. We seem to have gone
scrambling and scuffling in."
"Good heavens," said Walter, "it is a perfect Godsend to me
that your father should have taken it."
"Don't you resent our being there?"
"Why, Helen, the fact that you are there is the greatest
possible comfort. I resign it to you with all best wishes."
"And then," went on Helen, "I am torn to pieces by the feeling
of how awful it must have been for you to leave it. I don't
honestly think your mother minds much--but you!"
"Helen, let me say once for all that it is not so. After all
that has happened, I couldn't live there. You don't know the sort
of person I am--that I am incredibly, revoltingly tough inside--I
am sensitive in a way to lights and sounds and scenes, but those
one can get anywhere and everywhere. I'm not in the least like a
creeper embracing a ruin--I am much more like one of those big
buzzing flies, that can buzz anywhere as long as there is
sunlight and honey. You mustn't go on pitying me. It isn't that I
don't love your feeling so, but I simply don't need it. Won't you
"I don't know. I think you care more than you know--the
deepest sort of caring."
They had drawn near, as they talked, to the ruins. A broken
tower of stone, much overgrown with ivy, and a few arches were
all that remained. Round about, the brambles grew thickly over
mounds of stones, and further off there was a fragment of wall.
The ground floor of the tower was intact, and had a vaulted roof;
the door was barred by an old gate. Inside were some heaps of hay
and dried bracken. "A shepherd's shelter, I think," said Walter;
"I remember it always looked neat, as if someone had had an
"Does that produce neatness?" said Helen.
"Not always, but there is no such thing as neatness without
Outside the tower, towards the nave, was a bit of a stone
bench. Walter strewed some bracken on it. "Let us sit here a
little and see if we are interlopers." he said. He lit a
cigarette, but Helen would not smoke. "I only smoke when I have
lost my self-respect," she said.
"Helen, I think you look tired."
"One ought never to do that; but I fight little battles with
myself day and night, and I haven't any of my old friends to beat
and scratch up here. If you say you are tough inside, you ought
to know what a dreadful fighter I am--I was always being punished
in the schoolroom for that. I didn't want to pinch and prod
people like some of my friends, but I liked a real set-to."
"You don't look much like that now."
"Oh, I have a veneer of civilization; but a real fighter is
never quite civilized."
"I don't believe I have any combative instinct," said
"No, indeed," said Helen. "You belong to the new age--I'm an
importation from the time of your ancestors."
They returned slowly and with intervals of silence, one of
which Helen broke by saying, "There--it is two minutes exactly by
my wrist-watch since either of us spoke. Don't you think that is
a good sign? Is it true, Walter, that among men, the surest proof
of being the greatest possible friends is that two men can sit a
whole evening together without exchanging a single word?"
"It isn't exactly true," said Walter, "but I can see what it
means. After all, I suppose it is the way in which husbands and
wives often live?"
"I have known of very devoted couples where the husband never
speaks when they are alone together; and one at least where the
wife only opens her lips to say 'Amen.'"
A little later Helen said, "Tell me more about Oxford. I
thought you said you were thankful to get away; why are you going
"Partly," said Walter, "because I must earn my living; and
partly because it seems the only obvious way of doing it."
"You wouldn't have a word to say to papa about his offer; he
was very much disappointed."
"He would have been much more disappointed if I had come."
"But what exactly are you going to do at Oxford?"
"I am going to be like the camel in the desert," said Walter,
"and produce for the weary travellers the water which I had
reserved for my own consumption."
"What a horrible idea!" said Helen. "I should have thought
there were so many things you could do."
"Well, there don't seem to be so many, after all," said
"I came down from Oxford feeling very superior," said Walter.
"It seemed very magnificent not having to earn one's living, and
pitying the poor devils who had to go straight into the mill. But
now I am like a pricked bladder--with some of the vulgarity at
all events let out of me."
"Oh, Walter, don't talk like that."
"I won't--it's disgusting! It's only another and a worse way
of being superior; but seriously I think I can manage to get on
quite decently with undergraduates, and the Dons are very civil.
But I haven't any programme. It seems awfully flat, to go away
with one's head in air, thinking Oxford a poky place, and casting
the dirt off one's feet, and a few months later to go back and
eat the dirt one cast away. Oh, I am beginning all over again.
How curious it is that one should hate smartness in other people,
and then when one gets into trouble, one begins to try to be
"I do understand so well, Walter. It's what I always want to
do myself when I feel snubbed--only I can't be smart if I
"Don't take any notice of it; it isn't myself really. I am not
like that inside. It's only a way one gets into!"
They were soon at the oak tree. "Let us have another walk
soon, Helen. I can't tell you what good it does me. Another time
I won't be so hateful."
"You are never hateful."
And so they parted, Walter watching her going lightly upwards,
till she was hidden in the wood. As she went, she pondered over
the strange savageries of the male mind. It was a little
frightening, but intensely interesting, to have to look so close
at the bitterness of a young and clever man fresh from a sudden
reverse of fortune. She smiled, thinking that after all men were
not so much unlike women, only they phrased things differently.
She rather liked that; but she would have liked Walter to be a
little more lofty, with a romantic sadness--"but I can listen to
him, at all events," she thought. . . .
She was late for tea, and her father was alone in the big
panelled drawing-room. He was standing, cup in hand, facing her
as she entered. He wore a triumphant look, but his tone when he
spoke was dry. "I like someone to be here to give me tea," he
"Yes, I'm sorry, papa," said Helen, "but I met Walter Garnet
and walked with him."'
"Ah, well!" said Mr. Worsley, and she could see that she was
more than forgiven.
Everything went smoothly at Oxford. In the middle of June,
Norton wrote to tell Walter that he had been elected a lecturer,
and that if he did well in that capacity, a fellowship would soon
be available. He was to begin work in October. Norton said that
he had better come up and choose some rooms, and added that if
there were the smallest difficulty about money for furnishing,
the College would advance what was necessary. As a matter of fact
it was Norton himself who found the money, and arranged the
matter with the Bursar. Walter went up to Oxford early in July,
chose and equipped with a certain austerity a set of rooms close
to Norton's, and experienced, contrary to his expectation, a
certain mild elation at the prospect of being a Don.
"It's a label, at all events," he said to Norton, as they sat
together in Norton's rooms one hot evening.
"That's what it is, is it?" said Norton. "That's the worst of
coming down from such heights; that what seemed to me, when I was
elected, the height of human dignity and felicity, is a small
label for the despoiled inheritor of an ancient name."
Walter flushed, and said, "Yes, it was simply beastly of me,
old man. I suppose I shall get out of it some time. It's very
curious that I don't think I thought much of 'the glories of my
birth and state' before, and now that I have lost them, I parade
them like an utter bounder."
"Don't overdo it, my boy," said Norton. "It's not that--it's
only a touch of melodrama, which afflicts the noblest minds."
"It reminds me of something I want to tell you; I have meant
to tell you for some time;" and Walter gave a brief narrative of
his friendship with Helen. Norton listened in silence.
When Walter had finished his story, Norton said, "That's all
very interesting, but do you want me to talk about it frankly, or
do you want to lie and gnaw your bone? Mind, I don't want to
comment unless you really wish it."
"Yes, I wish it very much--it bewilders me when I think of it
all; but it seems the biggest thing that has ever happened to me
yet, and I can't say why."
"Yes, indeed; it is rather a sudden excursion, isn't it? But
what is going to come of it?"
"The friendship of all others that I wanted," said Walter. "I
feel as if I had found a long-lost sister."
"Yes, but you can't lead about a sister, you know," said
Norton, "like the blessed apostle. My dear Walter, don't you see
you are playing with gunpowder?"
"You talk as if it was a kind of flirtation. I have not been
making love to Helen."
"There are many kinds of flirtation, my boy. I am not sure
that the most dangerous of all isn't the kind that says it isn't
flirting, and does not know it is flirting."
"But Helen isn't that sort of girl at all."
"So much the worse for you. I foresee an explosion."
"What sort of an explosion?"
"Why, you may fall head over heels in love with her--she is a
charming girl--or she with you."
"There's not the least chance of that; besides, I couldn't
afford to marry."
"So you are to be free and she is to be bound?"
"She isn't bound at all. You have got hold of the wrong end of
"But if a little lover came along, there wouldn't be much left
of your friendship."
"You think I ought to cry off?" asked Walter.
"Not a bit; go on and prosper; but you must be prepared for
"I don't see that."
"But I do. This Platonic affair isn't as Platonic as you
think. Are you prepared to say, 'My dear Helen, I am not in a
position to marry you, and we must not fall in love with each
"Yes, I think I could almost say that."
"Good Heavens, you have been such a cold-blooded fellow all
your life that you haven't the least idea what these things may
mean. Have you ever read the Song of Solomon?"
"Yes, I like the style."
"Mercy on us! have you seen nothing but the style? Do you know
Shelley's lines to an Indian air?"
"Is that a matter of style--elegant hyperbole, I suppose?"
"My dear Harry, what do you know about it?"
"What I can't tell you--what you will find out for
"You see you don't know Helen," said Walter. "Won't you come
down and stay with us for a little and see for yourself?"
"Yes, I'll come; I see it is no use talking to you; but I'm
not surprised. Your disaster has taken you that way. You are
exalté, and feel superior to all human
"Superior--superior?" said Walter, "when I feel like Humpty
Dumpty, with all the yolk gone out of me."
"Yes, but it's the best yolk, isn't it?"
Soon after Norton's arrival, Mr. Worsley looking in one
morning found that he was there, and said to Walter:
"I am afraid it's no use asking you to come up to the
Manor to luncheon, Mr. Walter. You must choose your own time for
that, and you have only to express a wish; it would be a great
honour to us to receive you, though I fear it cannot be other
than painful. But will you not let Mr. Norton come and lunch with
us? I will make a point of being at home any day. I venture to
suggest this, as being your father's executor and an old friend
of the family, it would be well that I should understand what
your Oxford prospects are--if you do not disdain my
Walter assured Mr. Worsley it would be the very thing he most
desired; and it was agreed that Mr. Worsley should take Norton up
the next day in his car. Walter entreated Norton at all costs to
get a walk with Helen, and in order to ensure this, sent Helen a
line. He himself, in Norton's absence, took a lonely walk in the
country. He was gradually exploring the country round Thurston,
as most of it was unfamiliar to him. That afternoon he followed a
winding lane, which passed between high hazel hedges, now through
a woodland, now out on to high sloping pastures. It was a fresh
and sunny day, and the country looked extraordinarily beautiful,
as the lane, which apparently had no design or sense of
direction, opened up little vistas, this way and that, of deep
stream-fed valleys and secluded farmsteads. He came at last to
the bottom of the hill, where a little old cottage, with a garden
full of budding flowers in front of it, nestled in a corner of
the wood. There seemed to be a footpath here, and he was about to
inquire, when two children, a small boy and girl, came to the
gate. They were fair-haired children and regarded him curiously,
without any shyness. He asked if there was a footpath to
Thurston, and the little boy, with true rustic caution, said in a
piping voice, "Where do you come from?" "From up there," said
Walter, smiling vaguely and indicating the direction from which
he had come. "From Redland Farm?" said the little girl in a
penetrating treble. "Perhaps I did," said Walter. The two
children conferred together. "No, 'tisn't," said the little boy.
"Oh, you know," said the girl, and then to Walter: "Yes, the path
up in the wood," pointing to a path behind the house. Walter
thanked them, and went his way. A minute later, he saw, to the
right of the path, a plank bridge across the stream, and crossed
it; as he did so, two shrill voices out of the copse beside him
said, "Not that way," and the children, who had followed him
unseen, emerged laughing. "Oh, not this way?" said Walter; "which
way then?" "Up the wood," said the girl. "What is it called--the
wood, I mean?" said Walter. Again the two children conferred
together. "It's Welhead Wood," said the boy. The girl looked at
him admiringly, and then said to Walter, "Oh, sir, isn't he a
funny little boy?" This seemed likely to promote hostilities, and
Walter presented each of them with a penny; the children gazed at
their coins in speechless joy, but as Walter struck into the
wood, the children piped after him, "Good-bye," "Thank you,"
holding up their pennies aloft.
It was a pleasant little omen, Walter thought, and his spirits
rose as he paced along a grassy path in the wood, which from the
glimpses he had of it seemed of great extent. A moment later he
found the origin of its name; out of an earthenware pipe, fixed
in a little scarp of sandstone, a stream of clear water ran
bubbling into a well edged with stones, and with a thick growth
of water-plants all round. The water was deliciously cool, and
Walter took a long draught; below him, through an open glade,
down which the well-water ran in a little channel, he could see
the opposite side of the valley with red miniature cliffs
standing out among the wood. One of those inconsequent raptures
which some accident of an unfamiliar scene and westering light
may arouse, rose swiftly up in his mind; the incredible beauty
and sweetness of the place filled with the fresh forest scent,
and the sound of bubbling waters, came upon him with a sudden
joy, as of a gift put into his hands by some unseen power, which
after all wished him well.
That evening after a dinner, when Walter could not
sufficiently admire Norton's smiling attentiveness and unflagging
interest in some very rambling recollections contributed by Mrs.
Garnet, the two sat together in Walter's little room--he had
chosen Helen's room for his study--and Norton gave an account of
his adventures. Mr. Worsley, when they were alone together, had
talked with a grave and affectionate concern of Walter's affairs.
"I assure you, Mr. Norton," he had said, "I did the best I could
in a very painful situation. I feel that I ought perhaps to have
given some hint beforehand; but the Squire had a way of imposing
his will on those about him which baffled me at the time. I did
my best to alarm the Squire, to check his extravagance, and I may
say I partially succeeded. But after his death, immediate
measures were necessary. I will confess that I had more or less
thought out a plan of action, and I have no doubt that we have
made the very best out of a bad job."
"What did you say?" said Walter.
"I assured him that both you and Mrs. Garnet were most
grateful to him, and had no sort of doubt that he had done his
best for you. He seemed much relieved. He then went on to ask me
about your position, and about the future, and he assured me
that, as you were now living, there would be plenty of money for
all reasonable needs. Then he beat about the bush a good deal.
Had you any plans, any thought of marriage, any scheme for
rehabilitating the family fortunes? I said frankly that I
believed you felt you had not enough to marry on, and meant to
put it out of your mind at present. He gave me the impression
that he would have liked to pursue this, but finally he asked
whether you felt the whole thing very much."
"I hope you were discreet."
"I said that it was difficult to judge--that it had been a
great shock, but that the necessity of taking practical action
had relieved and steadied you. He asked if you had many friends
at Oxford, and I said that you had many acquaintances, but not, I
thought, many intimate friends. He then said that he regarded you
with great affection, and that he wanted to do everything he
could to help things along. Would I feel quite free to tell him
if I thought he could be of use?"
"He seems to have cross-examined you pretty closely!"
"Yes, he did! But, Walter, I think the man is perfectly
straight and sincere. I don't know what his precise reasons are,
but I have no doubt that he wants to atone for mischief which he
thinks he might have prevented; and I have no sort of doubt, too,
that he feels the affection he professes. He is rather an
over-tactful man, and not very adroit, and the result is that he
gives an impression of insincerity, of having something
unconfessed or up his sleeve, which I don't think is the case.
You mustn't cold-shoulder him."
"He rather stifles me with that cautious and lengthy manner,"
said Walter. "I never feel really face to face with him."
"Well, then we got to the Manor," Norton went on, "and he has
really done very well by it. He has not over-trimmed it, or
over-smartened it. Everything is beautifully kept, and I should
hardly know it was not your house still--his own furniture is
imperceptible. At luncheon there was Helen, her younger sister
Clare, the governess, Miss Haden, and myself. The younger sister
seems rather irrepressible, and the governess was always
signalling to her. Worsley is very nice with his daughters. He
didn't give any orders; he appealed to Helen, asked what she had
arranged, smiled indulgently at Clare's nonsense, included Miss
Haden in the talk. It wasn't very easy, but it was a well-staged
affair. After luncheon, he said he must go back to the office
shortly, and I strolled to the gate-house with him smoking. He
has done it up beautifully. Upstairs he has made a beautiful
little sitting-room and bedroom. The old gate-keeper lives on the
ground floor, and gets up to the attics by one of the turrets. He
showed me the two rooms, and I was really rather moved by his
saying, 'My hope is that some day I shall have the honour of
seeing Mr. Walter occupying these rooms. It was with him in view
that I have prepared them. He could be undisturbed here--but of
course it cannot be yet--one mustn't force things, where old
affections are concerned.'"
"Almost thou persuadest me," said Walter; "but what about
"The enchanting Helen," said Norton. "I am coming to her. When
Worsley went away, he said to Helen that he left me in her
charge--I might like to look round--the car would be back in half
an hour, and I could go down in it at any time; perhaps I might
be persuaded to stay for tea?"
"What did Helen do?"
"Oh, she was delightful. Walter, that girl is a treasure! She
took me all round, and really talked charmingly, and with good
sense too, about you. She said frankly that she had got to know
you quite fairly well. She told me how unhappy it made her to
feel vaguely as if they had turned you out, and then she talked
about you, asked me no end of questions about you."
"What did you do?"
"You must tell me what you said."
"Walter, I will not! I told her about your past as I knew it,
and we talked quite plainly about your father and mother. But I
could not tell her much that she didn't know about you."
"Why on earth not?"
"Because she knew it all already; she has taken your measure,
old man! She has no inconvenient or absurd illusions, though
perhaps she is inclined to think you a little too heroic just
now. But she is rational; and when I say that about anyone, man
or woman, it means a great deal. She is a very generous,
sweet-tempered, kindly girl, Walter--that's the long and short of
it. She isn't a bit egotistical--at least not more than we all
ought to be--and she really has a kind of passion for trying to
put things straight and to make people happy. Moreover, she has
an excellent sense of humour, not ill-natured at all, but very
much aware of anything absurd or affected. Don't ever try on any
poses with her, my boy!"
"Did she think I had been doing so?"
"I won't go into details, I tell you. That girl cares a great
deal about you and your happiness. I don't think she is in love,
technically speaking. She's more like the Good Samaritan at
present, bringing along the oil, and wine, and I saw the twopence
for the host clasped quite firmly in that strong little hand. I
am not sure she didn't give it me, by the way," and Norton began
to feel in his pockets with a whimsical air.
"Don't play the fool," said Walter. "Tell me what I ought to
"Find out!" said Norton. "This isn't the sort of case where
anyone can advise. You must trust your own instincts. Don't be
too high-minded or too austere. I shall think you a perfect fool,
if you let that fine creature go. Yet I think you are almost
capable of it."
"What do you mean?" said Walter.
"I can't explain, old man. But when in doubt, say nothing. She
is as sharp as a needle, and sees the point before you have
spoken half a dozen words. Don't try to impress her; you can
trust her to understand."
"But can I trust myself?" said Walter.
"Ah, I can't go into that; but I can tell you that it is all
right, so far as things have gone at present."
"Then you're not afraid of an explosion?"
"Ah, that's just the one thing no one can foretell," said
Norton. "But I can't go on for ever. I have talked so much
to-day, and projected myself so diligently into so many
contingencies, that I hardly know who is talking. I really must
go to bed!"
A week later Walter was sitting one morning over his books in
his little room. He was to take a small class of men in a
classical subject in the following term, and was preparing a set
of informal lectures, with grave misgivings as to his fitness for
the work; and indeed he had become very much absorbed in it. The
door opened and Norton strolled in. "How are the lectures getting
on?" he said, and took up the notebook in which Walter was
writing. "I say, this won't do!" he said.
Walter looked at him despondently. "I was afraid they were
rather thin," he said.
"Thin!" said Norton, "it's just the other way--they are as
thick as treacle. You weren't thinking of reading this stuff
aloud to the boys?"
"Yes," said Walter. "I was afraid if I didn't have it all
down, that I should forget my points."
"But, look here," said Norton, "this is a kind of professional
disquisition--half the points you are making are far too abstruse
and minute. You would never get to the end of it, and they
wouldn't understand what you were driving at. They are only
public school boys, remember. They will come to you believing you
to be a prodigy of learning, and this would confirm them in their
darkest suspicion: what you have to do is to show that you are a
human being, and understand their difficulties and know how to
explain them. You must do all this viva voce, and make a
few jokes and keep things alive. This is as dead as mutton."
"But you don't know how terrified I shall be," said
"I do--I have been through it all myself; but the point is
that they shouldn't suspect it. You must just get the main
difficulties quite clear, and give them a bit of compressed
teaching every now and then on a particular word or a point of
grammar. You mustn't bore them. They must find it moderately
entertaining, and must believe that you have got hold of valuable
knowledge in an intelligible form which they can't get in books.
Then if you like to drop a few words at the end about literary
things or the Roman view of life, so much the better. I am
surprised at you, Walter. You so firmly declined to know anything
about your books except what would pay, that I thought you would
do this to perfection."
"It's hardly an education, is it?" said Walter.
"I won't have my words brought up against me," said Norton.
"But everyone must teach in his own way--my advice to you is just
to know your subject well, and be quite certain that you won't be
floored by any question they might ask. Then go ahead on your own
lines. But I didn't come in here to tread on your toes. What I
want to know is this. I have been here a week, and you have made
no attempt to see the fair Helen. You have left her to me. It's a
'I will bury myself in my books and the devil may pipe to his
"It's all rather awkward," said Walter. "I really can't go to
the Manor just yet; and if she comes here to tea, my mother takes
possession. I can't be always asking her to meet me for
"Faint heart," said Norton; "but I do understand, and
better than you think. It is this being put off by small
sensitive feelings--all the trifles which a full-blooded man
sweeps away like dust--which will make you lose the big things.
Helen likes you and your company, and you like hers; why not take
some advantage of that? I suppose you are afraid of what people
Walter sat looking rather confused. "Yes," he said, "I don't
know what she expects, or what Worsley expects, or what other
people will think of it all."
"What the devil does it matter? I tell you what it is. I like
that girl myself better than I have ever liked anyone of the
kind. If you have no use for her, I have; and I shall try to
"I hope you won't do that; in fact, I should be rather annoyed
if you did."
"Walter, you are really very trying. Here is this charming
maiden, quite willing to be friends with you; and you sit here
and do nothing. You don't even say, 'Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down
your hair,' like the man in Grimm. You expect her to sit smiling
up aloft, waiting until you are kind enough to extend your
sceptre. How do you know there aren't half a dozen youths on the
"Oh, they are a shoddy lot, the young bucks of Thurston. She
wouldn't look at them."
"Not quite up to our level, I suppose," said Norton. "Thank
God, I never belonged to the county circles--it's a very thin
"I'm quite aware of it, but what am I to do?"
"Why, go to the Manor, of course," said Norton, "like a
sensible human being. They aren't fine feelings that prevent you.
They are merely morbid and affected sensibilities. Of course it
isn't pleasant to find people living in one's old home, but why
not accept it at once? It wouldn't hurt you and it would
immensely relieve them."
"You are rather down on me this morning."
"Because you swallow the cow and stick at the tail. You have
behaved very decently and sensibly about all this, but you just
won't give it the finishing touch. You must insist on their
finding the cup a trifle bitter. I quite admit that Worsley is a
pushing fellow; he is in love with his own consequence. But he
has behaved well to you. Why mingle his drink with ashes?"
Walter sat back in his chair frowning and drumming on the
ground with his foot. "I'm damned if I will be dragooned into
this," he said.
"All right," said Norton. "I've done my best to make you see
light, and if you won't, you won't. It's your affair, after all,
and not mine."
"Yes, that's just what I think," said Walter.
Norton looked at him for a moment, and left the room.
Half an hour later, just before lunch, Walter went out into
the garden. Norton was sitting reading, and looked up.
"I climb down," said Walter. "I was infernally rude to you
just now; but you were perfectly right, and I am entirely in the
wrong. The fact is, I lost my temper."
"I don't wonder," said Norton, smiling. "I was fearfully
annoying, I expect. I quite understand your feeling very sore;
but it's no good feeling sore. It's no good having grievances.
There is no specific ill-will to you, not even in the inscrutable
mind of Providence. But you can't beat troubles by playing their
game and having feelings. The magnanimous person always
"Well, I've done what you advise. I have asked if they will
have us both to luncheon on Sunday."
"Excellent!" said Norton, "and look here, I'll play up too.
I'll take them all on--the heavy father, the governess, and the
little Missy. They shall not come nigh thee--some of my long
stories, my choicest reminiscences--I'll bring out my
puzzles--the monkey on the pulley, and 'Where does the day
begin?' You shall see. I'll have them all writing on bits of
paper before I have done, and you shall have a clear field."
Walter consulted his mother about the proposed expedition to
the Manor. He hardly knew what to expect. But after talking to
her a few minutes, he suddenly realized with surprise that her
only disappointment was that she was not going herself.
"But would you come too, mother? That would be splendid; then
I should feel really comfortable."
"Do you think I ought to go, darling? I am afraid I should
find it too much for me. I really don't think I could bear to
look into the library and not see dear papa sitting there!" and
Mrs. Garnet's appealing eyes filled with slow tears.
"Of course they would not expect you to do that, mother dear.
But just think what an honour they would feel it to be, and how
happy it would make them."
"Do you really think that? I should not like them to feel hurt
at my staying away; and Mr. Worsley is such a good man--dear papa
had such a high opinion of him; and dear Helen has been so kind
to me. If you think they would really like me to go."
"I don't think that you could possibly please them more than
"I should rather like to see what they have made of the
drawing-room," said Mrs. Garnet, musing, "and what they have put
in the alcove, in the place of my Italian cabinet; you remember
how well it fitted? I have sometimes wondered if we ought to have
taken it away; and then they have put in a new kitchen-range--I
should like to see that. They might be glad of my advice. The
chimney is a very awkward one. Dear papa used to think that the
big elm-tree took off the draught. Yes, I should certainly like
to go, if no one would think it odd. I don't feel sure that Petty
would like my going. Petty is such a faithful creature; I don't
know what I should do without her. I must certainly speak to
"Shall I fetch her, mother?"
"Yes, do, darling. I wouldn't like to distress Petty; she
often says she can't bear to think of Marker having her room.
Have you noticed how Petty always talks about the Manor as if it
had been hers? I suppose I ought to check her, but it is just her
Walter fetched Petty, who adored him.
"Mamma is thinking of going to the Manor," he said.
"Your mamma won't like that, Master Walter. It would be too
much for her."
"But I want her to go, Petty; and I want you to encourage
her--you have such an influence with her."
"Well, Master Walter, I'll say what I can. I have often
thought she would be the better for a look at our old house. She
would see for herself the mess they have made of it, by all
accounts, but that's better than imagining things."
"Quite right, Petty. She had better go and get it over. Don't
let her give way. You know how to manage her better than any of
"I know my place, Master Walter, but I shall be all for her
going--she wants a nice little change, and I'll say my word as
respectful as I know how."
Mr. Worsley's reply to their suggestion satisfied even Mrs.
Garnet. "He could not have written more kindly, if it had been
the Queen that was going. Mr. Norton, I hope you don't think it
is unfeeling of me to go? I feel it very much; indeed I should
hardly have liked to go if my faithful old maid hadn't begged me
to go. She said she had often thought of suggesting it. It quite
took me by surprise. She doesn't like the idea of the changes
they have made in the kitchen. But she said I had better get it
over, and that I mustn't give way. I am afraid dear Walter
doesn't quite like my going, though he was very good about it. He
thought it would be too much for me; but I felt it would please
Mr. Worsley, who is such a good man. I depend very much on his
advice, just as my dear husband did."
Mr. Worsley drove his car down himself, and evidently felt it
to be a very solemn occasion. Mrs. Garnet was in high spirits,
and asked among other things what they had found to put in the
alcove, where her Italian cabinet used to stand, and whether the
kitchen chimney still smoked. Mr. Worsley said almost tremulously
that they had made none but the most necessary alterations, and
had done their best to preserve the old atmosphere of the house,
which had a quality, he said, that was both endearing and
impressive--"a home-like dignity, in fact."
When they drew up at the gate-house, Helen, who had evidently
been waiting for them, came quickly out to meet them. Walter
could see that she, at all events, was somewhat dreading the
occasion. But Mrs. Garnet enfolded her in a warm embrace, and
embraced Clare, who was obviously terrified, and talked very
graciously, with many nods and smiles, to Miss Haden. And really
it was quite like a little royal progress, with Mr. Worsley,
bareheaded, apologizing at every point, conducting Mrs. Garnet
down the flagged pathway, with Helen and Walter behind, and
Norton making mild fun of Clare. Helen looked very much
"Walter," she said, in an undertone, "it is really splendid of
Mrs. Garnet to come, and you too. I can't say how kind I think
it. I know it must be dreadful, but I don't think I have ever
seen my father so pleased!"
"Oh, Helen, such a little thing!" said Walter; "but you will
let me get a talk with you, won't you?" Helen nodded; and the
cortège reached the house.
The afternoon was a great triumph for all concerned. Mrs.
Garnet forgot her affliction for the time being in the extreme
excitement of seeing the arrangements of the house. She was
frankly disappointed that the drawing-room was so much the same.
She "just peeped" into most of the rooms, which meant a long and
exhaustive survey with abundance of argument.
Mr. Worsley deferred to all her wishes, was convinced by all
her arguments, said "as your tenant" on every possible
opportunity, and made notes with a pencil on the back of an
envelope. Norton was as good as his word, and as Mrs. Goring had
been summoned after lunch to attend Mrs. Garnet, Helen was able
to escape with Walter for an hour. She had said something to him
again as to the sacrifice she felt sure he had made in
"But, Helen, it's just as bad for you; we have turned you out
of your house, and yet you are not supposed to have any feelings
"Ah, but it is different, though I did have some pretty
heartbroken hours when I went round and said good-bye to
everything. But women are only adjuncts; they are like Ruth, they
go where someone else goes. You had every reason to expect
to be undisturbed here."
"I don't feel it very much--not nearly as much as I expected.
I don't think I care very much about the past or the future. One
can't drag about an ever-increasing load of sacred
"One must be grateful, at least; but the curious thing is that
I now seem to myself to have been perfectly happy in Thurston.
Yet I was often very unhappy there."
"What about?" asked he.
"Oh, I don't know--I didn't mean to talk about that--people
mostly. I hate things going wrong; all the excuses that people
make for being cross with each other, when it is merely one's own
"I shouldn't have thought it was often your fault."
"That's the odd thing. People are as vain of their faults as
they are of their good points. They prefer their faults to be
thought serious. Don't you think that three-quarters of the
trouble in the world comes from people wanting to be thought
bigger than they are? They like to feel that they matter."
"I hadn't even thought about it, but I expect it is true."
"I don't think people amuse and interest you so much as they
do me. You expect to see something fine in them."
"I find a great many people very tiresome, Helen."
"Oh, you can get a great deal of fun by imagining exactly what
they are going to say and do about everything. Clare's
naughtiness, for instance--you would not believe how aggravating
she can be--and Miss Haden's appeals to her better nature. It is
as good as a play. Miss Haden has a great idea of her own
influence; but they are both really only trying to make
"Do you see through everybody like this?" said Walter,
"I wish I did. But Clare and Miss Haden are on simple lines--a
room upstairs and a room downstairs. But some people are like
corridors and winding passages and cork-screw stairs. My
father--I never know what is going on in his mind."
"I don't think I want to explore people's minds unless I am
likely to find something surprising and beautiful."
"I think people's characters can be beautiful without their
minds being beautiful. Do you mind if I say this, Walter? I think
your mother is like that. She talks about very small things very
often, and goes back again and again to the same thing; but I
think her affection and kindness and generosity are most
beautiful; she understands people better by loving them than most
people do by analysing them. Look at Mr. and Mrs. Goring. Mr.
Goring will find thirty reasons for disapproving of someone, and
add them all up; while Mrs. Goring will have no reason at all for
approving of them--but she is generally right, and he is always
"I think we take rather different views of beauty, Helen. It
is the one thing I believe myself to be always looking out for
and seldom finding."
"And I think that all lovable people are beautiful; and
without lovableness they cannot be beautiful."
"What is lovableness?" asked he.
"Oh, I'm no good at definition--something that makes you trust
them, cling to them, want to see them, feel safe with them!"
Walter was silent for a minute. Then he said, "I wish I could
see things as you do; I am sure you are right. But you
seem to be talking about something which is hidden from me. I
don't think I have got any of the qualities you speak of; you
must be patient with me."
"Walter, you mustn't talk like that, as if you were down in
the depths. You have got all these things, only you don't seem
able to let yourself go."
"I don't quite know what you mean," said Walter. "I can get on
with people in a way, but when it comes to making friends, I say
to myself, 'Do I, after all, want this person on my back, like
Sindbad the sailor?' I feel he will bore me, he will presume on
his acquaintance, he will want more than I can give. Is one bound
to give anyone as much of oneself as he cares to ask? Mayn't one
choose one's friends? Must one accept them ready-made?"
"I am afraid I haven't got any rules," said Helen. "One
doesn't always admire people, of course, but one may pity them,
or like a part of them, or be interested in trying to disentangle
"I am afraid I haven't got the missionary spirit."
"Now that's very unfair, to try to make me out as a kind of
professional handmaiden. I don't do this on principle; I do it
because it interests me."
"Then if it doesn't interest one, one need not do it," said
"I can't beat you at logic," said Helen, laughing. "I suppose
women are illogical. It's their way of doing things. I don't say
it is the only way."
"How idiotic of me to talk like this," said Walter, "when I
want you to like me, and really care very little how or why you
do it. Don't throw me overboard just yet. I really want to know.
I see that you know how to deal with people and that I don't; and
anyhow I am going to have to deal with people whether I like it
"You will do it all right, Walter," said Helen. "But I hope
you won't analyse your young men too much--it is better simply to
like them. I don't think mistakes of affection do much harm. It
is much better--at least I think so--to trust an untrustworthy
person, than to pile up a little case, like Mr. Goring, against a
"Well, I have been quite tiresome enough for to-day," said
Walter. "Tell me, how do you like the Manor? Is it lovable?"
"I don't know," said Helen, "it's lovely enough. I never saw
such a house, and I love the views and the woods. But I don't
quite feel at ease yet. I have a curious feeling as if there was
something or somebody about who doesn't like the change. It's a
curious feeling--probably only my imagination; but there have
been a good many Garnets here, perhaps not all very reasonable
people. I don't feel it is a dangerous or hurtful influence, but
more a kind of dull opposition. Perhaps they will feel we are to
be tolerated now that you have been here."
"I don't quite like all this," said Walter, looking uneasily
at Helen. "I have never felt anything like that anywhere. Surely
it is only a fancy?"
"Oh, I expect so," said Helen; "it isn't a thing to worry
about. It's my own evil conscience."
"Does anyone else feel this? I do so want you to be happy
"Father doesn't; he's as pleased as Punch. But I don't want
you to think any more of it, Walter. It isn't anything definite
at all. It isn't a horror. It is rather the sort of oppression
which one feels if someone is ill in the house. It is as if
someone wanted to be left alone--not disliking the particular
intruders, but all intruders."
"You must tell me if this feeling goes off, Helen."
"I will; it's a comfort to have mentioned it to you, and I
feel relieved already."
They went back to the house, and found the tour of inspection
almost ended. Mrs. Garnet had thoroughly approved of the kitchen
range, and was wondering why they had never replaced the old one.
She had been much struck by the duvets on the beds, and she had,
as she said to Mr. Worsley, "plenty to think about."
Helen turned off to see about tea, and Walter was left alone
in the long flagged corridor into which the rooms all opened. A
sudden spasm of uneasiness came over him. He felt as he had felt
more than once in his childhood when he had been noisy in the
corridor, and his father's study door had opened, and his father
had come out and looked at him in silence, and had gone back to
his study, as was his wont, without a word.
Norton had gone away, much to Mrs. Garnet's regret, and an
elderly cousin, a wizened and trenchant little lady, had come to
stay with them. Cousin Jane Harrison lived on a small income at
Tonbridge, and was only too glad to give her servant a holiday
without the misery of having to take one herself in solitude. She
acted as the recipient of most of Mrs. Garnet's confidences and
proved an excellent listener, while she on the other hand talked
to Mrs. Garnet with much emphasis of household economies, and the
lack of cash, which she met by what she called dodges. "Jane is
really a very shrewd woman," Mrs. Garnet would say; and she
admired Jane's contrivances all the more because she herself felt
incapable of exercising them.
Walter got into the way of going up to the Manor in the
afternoon for tea, and saw Helen very constantly, and she warned
him carefully of their occasional visitors and lawn-tennis
parties. But it was a considerable distance to the Manor, and the
road was a steep one, so that as Helen confided to Walter, she
saw a good deal less of some of the old Thurston circle than she
liked. Her father seemed rather pleased by this than
But there was an afternoon when Walter walked by chance into a
party of visitors, and became aware that his presence acted
rather as a wet-blanket. He however bestirred himself, talked
diligently, and extracted a certain satisfaction out of the fact
that Helen was so infinitely superior in all respects to her
second-rate associates. How could she tolerate them, he thought?
But the singular result of his cheerful and unembarrassed
behaviour was not put down to his credit in Thurston circles. It
was a little adventure to meet him--the dispossessed heir in the
halls of his ancestors. But Thurston sentiment required something
a little more romantic. If Walter had been silent and abstracted,
gazing moodily out of the window, he would have fulfilled all
reasonable expectations; as it was, he talked and laughed,
fetched his companion another cup of tea, and behaved in fact
most disappointingly like anyone else.
But Walter found his evenings more difficult than anything
else. If dinner had been a time of eager talk and argument, he
would have gladly retired to his books and papers. But Mrs.
Garnet was not an easy person to acquiesce in listening to. It
seemed to Walter indeed that she must have been at great pains to
repress, in the Manor days, an exuberant volubility. Then her
whole talk was framed to draw the Squire out, and get him safely
and complacently started. Now she seemed just to open a sluice in
her brain, and let her memories and comments bubble through. She
could not be interrupted, and it was not possible to disconnect
the mind and to think of other things. She claimed a sort of
agonized attention; and Walter, to do him credit, made no attempt
to silence or discourage her.
A small ailment, however, made him better acquainted with
young Dr. Bowlby, who was living as a bachelor in very
uncomfortable lodgings. Walter asked him in a mood of casual
friendliness if he would not come in some evening at ten o'clock
and smoke. He responded so eagerly and came so soon that Walter
at first rather repented of his overture.
Dr. Bowlby was the son of a clergyman, who had found it very
hard to provide his son with an adequate technical education. But
it had somehow been done, though Bowlby's account of his school
and college days, lived under a humiliating sense of poverty,
made Walter realize how fortunate he himself had been. He was a
big strongly built young man with rough brown hair, a somewhat
inexpressive face, but with friendly and appealing eyes. He was
carelessly dressed, and Walter wondered whether it would be
impertinent to tell him that if he cultivated a more decorous
appearance, he would probably meet with more success. His
patients were mostly of the poorer class, among whom he had the
reputation of great carefulness and attention. He seemed to have
no diversions and no amusements. Walter found him at first rather
gruff and awkward, but he gradually became aware that Bowlby was
an enthusiast, and had certain theories of his own about the art
of healing which seemed novel and interesting.
"The great mistake many of us make," Bowlby said one night,
"is to have a cut and dried system. We don't study the personal
factor enough. We ought somehow to get to know what our patients
are in ordinary life, and the worst of illness is that it tends
to reduce most people to a uniformly timid and egotistical
"But I suppose you have to follow certain accepted lines?"
"Yes, up to a point; there are a few obvious specifics. But
some people respond eagerly to drugs, and in other cases they
don't touch the imagination at all. To get a patient to bring his
own healing power into action is the secret."
"But is it a question of will? I thought it was only in books
that people willed themselves back to life."
"It isn't a question of will at all, to my mind," said Bowlby.
"Has it ever struck you that in all of us there is a current of
something flowing in the background, which seldom comes obviously
to the surface at all? The mind is like--well, it is like one of
those water-beetles you see in ponds with a double-sculling
apparatus. It moves about, it keeps dry, it has very little to do
with the fluid underneath."
"But surely the mind is an index of the character?"
"An index, yes--it shows sometimes which way the wind is
blowing. But I don't think the mind has much to do with
the body. One has patients who know perfectly well what is wrong
with them--some self-indulgence perhaps--and are quite reasonable
about it in talk, but they simply don't or can't give up the
thing. They even delude themselves. I had a man once to whom port
was simply poison. I told him to cut it off, and he said that it
was nothing to him. But what do you think he did? He had a couple
of glasses every evening to reward him for his own
"But isn't the whole unit all tied together by something?"
"Yes, you die, of course, if certain things are touched--but I
believe you die piecemeal. A man is about as much one being as a
village is. If the keeper of the village shop, with whom everyone
has running accounts, comes to grief, the whole place rather
comes to grief. But I think that a man is more like an ant-hill
or a coral-island, and that every bit of him has a separate
vitality. If you take the heart out of an animal it will go on
moving for hours, even days, when the animal itself is dead. I
believe it probably retains a certain consciousness. A human
being seems to me more like a collection of things that had
agreed to live together, a community, in fact, like the happy
families that live together in an old whelk."
"But there must be some one central impulse of life?"
"A predominant impulse perhaps--hardly more."
"But what about this current you spoke of--what is it?"
"Ah, well, what?" said Bowlby. "If we knew that, we should
know everything. It seems to me rather like a stream flowing
under a bridge. You look down at it, and you think and speak of
it as the same stream. It looks the same, it keeps to the same
limits more or less, it has the same sort of consistency, but it
is never the same stream for two minutes together."
"But what on earth is the human current, then?"
"I don't know--some people call it life, some people call it
God--but it isn't in us only; it is something passing
"But I feel my identity to be a perfectly definite thing--it
doesn't alter much--it is different from other people's
identities," said Walter.
"But are you sure that you are not judging by the mind, the
perceptions, the sensations--all the things which are definitely
"I may be. But I don't see where this all takes us."
"Nor do I. But one must be on the look-out for self-delusion.
One must trust instinct more than reason--I don't mean the
instincts of which one is afraid and ashamed, but the strong,
innocent, healthy instincts. And, after all, it doesn't much
matter whether you trust them or not, for that is the way you
will behave, whether you like it or no."
"But why not trust the reason?"
"Because it won't take you anywhere. That's the mistake you
intellectual fellows commit, if I may say so; and that is also
the reason why many of you are so discontented. Your reason
kicks, scratches, bites. The point is to have a general harmony.
Some people trust the animal, some the reason, some the
imagination, some what they call their religion. I am not sure
that the last don't get nearest to it."
"I am surprised; I thought you were a materialist," said
"Oh, no; I'm a desperate idealist. If I was not, I should find
medicine a hopeless trade; as it is, I think it the most
interesting thing in the world."
"If my soul is ever in trouble, I shall come to you."
Bowlby looked at him for a moment and then said, somewhat
gravely, "But you are in trouble, my dear Garnet. I saw it
the moment I set eyes on you. Mind, I am not going to attempt to
scare you. You are physically as sound as a bell, and you are a
very tough fellow who may live to be ninety. But I am not going
to ask any questions. You may take it that I am right."
"This is very strange," said Walter. "Of course, as you know,
I have had a good deal of what is called trouble lately; but I
have been constantly surprised to find how easy it is to put up
with, compared with what I had imagined."
"Yes, because you are used to self-repression. You have
tyrannized over yourself with your reason all your life. I don't
expect you have ever broken down."
"I have been fairly respectable," said Walter. "I suppose you
mean I have been rather a prig?"
"No, I shouldn't call you a prig. I doubt if you have cared
enough to be that. You have got plenty of laissez faire.
But look here, I am not going to sit in judgment. You are a very
good specimen of a human being, but I suspect you of being
"I am a very hard-used man," said Walter, laughing, "All my
friends seem to have a different fault to find with me."
"Probably you are waking up," said Bowlby, "and the thing,
whatever it is--we called it the current--in your friends, is
making signals to the current in you. But I mustn't deal in these
fancies. What would my patients do if they heard me talking like
this?--but it is the way I help to cure them."
A few days later, Walter, talking to Helen, asked her if she
knew anything of Dr. Bowlby.
"Only by sight. I rather like the look of him. He looks like a
dog awakened from a nap, and glad to find himself alive
"I have been a good deal interested by him," said Walter. "But
I think he is very lonely and very poor; his lodgings are
beastly. Can't you do something for him?"
"Of course; I will speak to father. We will have him to lunch
or tea, if he will come. Father is developing a sense of
responsibility about everyone in Thurston now, which he did not
possess when he lived among them. But I doubt if Dr. Bowlby will
consent to be patronized."
Presently she said to him, "I feel rather a beast about the
Thurstonians, Walter. I seem to be dropping out altogether."
"I am going to suggest something," said Walter. "I often think
my mother wants a companion at times. She is very fond of you.
Wouldn't you come and stay with us for a week before I go to
Oxford? You could play about with all your little friends. Of
course I don't pretend I am doing this for my mother's sake only,
though I think it would do her no end of good. But I should enjoy
it quite tremendously. At present all our talks seem snatched out
of the jaws of the lion."
Helen smiled and said, "Yes, I think father would let me go.
He is very much afraid of our seeming stuck-up; and Miss Haden
and Clare would be enchanted to be left in charge. Clare loves to
be hostess, and Miss Haden thinks she has a natural genius for
presiding at tea-tables."
"It would be simply perfect," said Walter.
Walter told his mother, perhaps not quite frankly, that Helen
would be glad to be a little nearer to her old friends for a few
days, adding, "And she loves being with you; why not ask her to
stay for a week?"
"Dear girl," said Mrs. Garnet, "but hadn't it better wait till
you go back to Oxford?"
"No, mother," said Walter, still rather diplomatically. "I
often feel that I am not much of a companion for you; but I must
prepare my work for next term, and I should be happier if you had
someone you really liked with you." Mrs. Garnet fell joyfully
into the snare; Mr. Worsley overwhelmed her with thanks for the
honour proffered; and it was a pleasant day for Walter, when
Helen, having arrived in the afternoon, slipped into the
drawing-room for tea, her eyes sparkling with amusement.
"Now you will have your turn, Helen," said Mrs. Garnet,
encouragingly. "I saw what you had made of our house; you will
see what we have done with yours. I won't say I think it
improved, but it is wonderful how home-like it seems. No," went
on Mrs. Garnet, in high delight, shaking her finger at Helen. "I
see what you are thinking--how selfish it was of me to take the
Italian cabinet away from the alcove at the Manor. I have tried
to persuade myself to let you have it, but I can't part with it,
though it was a perfect fit."
The evening passed very harmoniously. "Is there anything,"
said Helen once to Mrs. Garnet, "that you don't notice and
"It's very dear of you to say that," said Mrs. Garnet, "but
I'm afraid it is all I am fit for now. When I came here I meant
to become quite a reader. I hardly ever opened a book at the
Manor; but I used to like some parts of Tennyson--and then there
was Tupper, whom your father couldn't bear--but I always thought
he said several true things. But somehow I never find time even
now--so many people ask my advice."
When they dispersed for bed, Mrs. Garnet said to Helen, "You
must just go and peep into your old room, dear, if you can bear
its being so smoky. I know Walter wants to show it you. But you
must get a good long night. I never sleep well in a strange
house--but I must not forget that this isn't strange to you."
Helen went with Walter to the study. She uttered a cry of
surprise. "But, Walter, I took all my things away, and yet it
looks almost exactly the same."
Walter laughed. "I liked your room the moment I saw it, and I
have kept the same arrangement--that's all."
"Yes, I liked the arrangement, but my things were so
shabby--and now it looks exactly what I should have liked it to
They sat down, and Helen was persuaded to smoke a cigarette.
Walter looked at her, as she sat opposite him in her dark dress
free from ornament, one slender foot dangling over her knee. A
sudden sense of curious delight came over him, and yet it seemed
to him as if he had been thus a hundred times before. Helen's
eyes dwelt for a moment on the fire; she lifted them and smiled
across at him. "What amazing things happen!" she said; "if I had
been told a year ago, when I was scribbling in here or trying to
put things in order, that I should be sitting here smoking with
what I then considered the most formidable young man in the
neighbourhood, and calling him by his Christian name, and talking
to him as if I had known him all my life, I should have said--I
don't know what I should have said. Yet here I am and here are
"Yes," said Walter, "and you are going to talk to me for a
couple of good hours. I don't sleep very much, and I'm sure you
don't care whether you sleep or not."
"What will your mother say?"
"Oh, I will stride upstairs coughing loudly, and you will just
glide into your room like a bird of the dawn."
Early one morning Helen was awakened in the dusk by Miss
Haden, very much in déshabillé, who told her
that her father had been taken ill, and that she had better come
at once to see him. She got up in haste, with that curious sense
that a sudden shock, soaking backwards into memory, brings with
it--the feeling that a trouble is somehow familiar. In a few
minutes she was in her father's room. Mr. Worsley was lying
propped up by pillows, his eyes closed, his face very pale and
streaming with sweat, struggling for breath. There was a sense of
something very tragic to Helen in her decorous and self-possessed
father being thus brought into ugly contact with primal forces.
Mr. Worsley's whole life had been a constant effort to keep
primal forces at arm's length. Helen stood quietly beside him. A
moment later he opened his eyes for a moment, gave her a nod and
a little smile, and betook himself again to his secret
wrestlings. Miss Haden had sent the car for the doctor. They had
given him a little brandy, but there seemed nothing else that
could be done.
There were candles lighted beside the bed, but Mr. Worsley
with a little gesture indicated that they should be extinguished,
and a further gesture was interpreted by Helen to mean that he
wanted air. She went and pulled the curtain aside and opened the
window. The air came fitfully in from the garden, fresh and pure
and filled with a faint scent, so it seemed to her, of dreaming
woods. She went back and sat again beside the bed, and saw that
the sky was growing pale, with faint streaks of a rusty orange
betokening the coming of the day.
A great tenderness filled her mind, even though she realized
how little she knew of her father. He had never said a word to
her of any love, but his invariable kindness and reasonableness,
his avoidance of all fault-finding, his patient laborious
self-effacing life, gave her a feeling of beauty and order, even
though she could not imagine what his real motives were, or why
he devoted himself month after month, with hardly a holiday, to
detailed work of a dreary order. He was no philanthropist, and
yet she did not think him a mercenary man. She knew that he was
rich, but he had very little taste for luxury or even comfort. He
had some ideal, no doubt, which he was striving to fulfil,
something which he wanted to secure. Yet she wondered now if he
had ever loved anyone for themselves, and whether his liberality,
which was great and constant, was all built on the same unknown
hope. She vaguely asked herself whether if she knew what his aims
were she would respect or sympathize with them; but she had the
same feeling of tenderness for him as she would have had for a
sick child, whose pleasures, so untiringly pursued, had been
interrupted by pain and malaise.
The dawn slowly brightened up the sky, when Mr. Worsley turned
to her a little, and in a low hollow voice said, "I think I am a
little better." A moment later there were steps in the passage,
and Dr. Bowlby entered the room. His robust and smiling air, and
a certain sense of freshness and strength about him, brought
Helen a sense of confidence. He gave her a little bow, and passed
at once to Mr. Worsley's side. Then he turned to Helen,
interpreting some glance or gesture of Mr. Worsley's, and said,
"I think, Miss Worsley, you had better leave the room for a few
minutes. The attack is passing off, and I do not think you have
any reason to be alarmed."
Helen returned to her room and made a hasty toilet. When she
came down again, she found Dr. Bowlby giving Miss Haden some
directions. He turned to her, and said, "You need not be anxious,
Miss Worsley. Your father has had a heart-attack. It does not
wholly surprise me; but he is naturally a strong man. You must
just keep him quiet for a few days, but he will soon, I hope, be
about again. I have told Miss Haden what to do, and I will send
up a nurse for the next few days, as he ought to have someone
within call at night. But he much dislikes the idea of a nurse,
so we will make her as invisible as possible. I will come up
again this evening, but I don't think the attack will recur; and
in the course of the next few days we will have a little talk as
to the future. Your father is suffering from continuous work; we
must try if we can manage to make him a little less
conscientious. Unfortunately he has no hobbies, I think?"
"No," said Helen, smiling; "his idea of resting is to do his
ordinary work in an arm-chair."
Dr. Bowlby nodded. "I would not leave him too much to himself
to-day. He will probably doze for part of the day; but you had
better suggest reading the paper to him this evening, when he
will be more wakeful."
It was a great load off Helen's mind. She went to find Clare,
and to her surprise found her in a state of great grief and
"Is papa going to die, Helen?"
"No, darling, of course not. He will be about in a few
Clare burst into a fit of sobbing. "Don't let me see him just
now," she said; "I could not bear it."
"Oh, if he asks for you, you must just look in; but he doesn't
look different, and there is nothing to be afraid of."
"You aren't pretending, are you, Helen? I heard Miss Haden say
to Sarah that we must be prepared for the worst."
"Well, the worst is that he will be in bed for a few
"Oh, Helen, how I hate things happening; it seems to
"We shall go on just as usual; the only difference is that
papa will be in bed instead of at the office."
"I'm awfully sorry for papa, of course," said Clare.
"I will tell him you said that. I don't expect he will want to
see anyone till to-morrow. And I am sure he would wish you to go
on just as usual."
Later in the day Mr. Worsley was much better after a sleep.
Helen suggested reading the paper to him. "Thank you, my dear, I
should like that," he said.
But in the middle of the reading he stopped her, and said he
would like to talk a little. Helen said that the doctor did not
wish him to talk much or tire himself.
"It will do me good to talk. I feel quite myself again."
Then he lay for so long silent that she thought he had dropped
"Helen," he suddenly said, "I was very ill this morning--very
ill indeed. I felt--I do not know how to describe it--as though I
were falling into a great gulf. I could not get my breath, and I
went on falling. I was not in pain. And now I feel almost myself
again, only very tired. But of course it might recur."
"Dr. Bowlby said you had been working too hard, papa."
"I know; I have felt it coming on; but I have no interest but
"Can't you leave a little more to Mr. Wilson?"
"Yes, no doubt. But what should I do without it? Of course I
shall be prudent. I do not want to die until I have brought
certain things about. In fact, I do not want to die at all; but
strange to say, I was not afraid this morning."
"When you had that strange sensation?"
"Yes. I was not afraid, though I do not think of myself as a
brave man. It seemed natural. I was almost sorry to come back to
life. I have not enjoyed my life very much. I sometimes think it
is a mistake not to enjoy it more. I would like you to enjoy
"I do, papa."
"Yes, my dear, I hope so. But I want to feel--how can I
express it?--that you have a definite place in the world, a
definite life before you. One must have a life of some kind. It
is amusing when one is young to have leisure and happiness; but
it is not enough. A man has his work, but a woman's work is a
makeshift thing. Women ought to marry. I have seldom known an
unmarried woman who was happy."
"Oh, papa--Miss Haden is a very contented woman, and Miss
Jardine and heaps more."
"I do not consider them happy--they are at best occupied. But
you, Helen, are fit for great happiness, for a high position, and
you would make your husband and children happy. I very much want
to see you married, my dear."
"One has got to fall in love, papa. I would do anything to
please you, but you would not wish me to marry anyone who asked
"No, of course not. But I should like you to marry Walter
Garnet. You like him, do you not?"
"Yes, papa, very much. He is the closest to me of all my
friends; but I don't think he has any idea of marrying me or
"He no doubt thinks he is too poor. But money does not matter,
Helen. You will have a very considerable fortune."
"But all that is a reason against his marrying me. Besides, I
do not know that I want to marry him. Other people may be
different, but I could not marry anyone unless I felt that I
could not bear to live without him."
"That is too transcendental, my dear. Marriage is a very
ordinary thing; it is not a great mystery. You seem to me to ask
too much. Some of the happiest marriages I know have been made
without--without that feeling of which you speak."
"I can't argue this, papa."
"I do not expect you to do so, my dear. Perhaps you dislike my
having spoken so plainly, but that would be a false delicacy
considering how near I have been to dying. At all events you know
what my dearest wishes are, and that all my greatest hopes are
concentrated upon you."
"And what about poor Clare, papa?"
"Clare will certainly please herself. I shall provide
generously for her, but she has not got the stability of
character which I recognize in you. Clare would not be fit for a
big position. But if you married Walter, you would be able to
take almost any position."
"But, papa," said Helen, "I do not want to say anything to vex
you, and I do not set up my opinion against your experience, but
I do not think I could arrange my life with a view to my position
in the world. It is something different that I want."
"You are young, my dear. But believe me, a stable position is
a very tranquillizing thing; it is a sustaining thought to have
it in the background whatever happens. What would poor Mrs.
Garnet be without her position?"
"I doubt if she thinks about it at all, papa."
"No, she is very unworldly; but other people do; and it is a
very real source of happiness to stand high in the estimation of
"We mustn't talk any more, papa--not till you are a little
stronger. Shall I read any more?"
"No, dear, I thank you. I believe I can sleep a little. Has
the nurse arrived?"
"I will go and see."
"You will remember what I have said, Helen? You will at least
give it a thought? I have great confidence in you, my dear."
"Of course, papa. You don't know how much I wish to please
"I am sure of it, my dear."
The talk was not wholly a surprise to Helen. She had long
divined that her father wished her to marry Walter. But what did
surprise her was that her father should have spoken so openly,
and that a man should come back from the gates of death with so
very conventional a message. She had an inkling now of what he
held most sacred. She did not despise it, she did not resist it,
she only wondered; and a great pity came over her at the thought
of her father's repressed, anxious, self-effacing life, so freely
devoted to others, yet with the central light burning so clear
and strong in so very commonplace a shrine. But behind it all lay
the comfort--just then a supreme one--of the fact that her father
had revealed in this dry and passionless utterance, that he loved
her, thought about her, schemed for her; and when Dr. Bowlby came
to report to her that he was very much better, and was regaining
his strength, he was surprised to find her in tears.
Two days later she had a talk with Dr. Bowlby. His manner was
extraordinarily kind and reassuring. He told her that her father
would be liable to a recurrence of such attacks, though he might
live for many years with due precaution. He pointed out that the
perpetual strain of work was telling on him. "Your father puts a
good deal of himself into his work--it is a personal
responsibility, not an impersonal concern"; that the shock of Mr.
Garnet's death and the ensuing revelations had evidently deeply
affected him; and that he must, if possible, limit his work, take
more holidays, and be freed from all anxiety.
"Your father," he said, "has come to an age when he wants a
personal interest in life. He has neglected this in a very
self-sacrificing way. But though his work has interested him, he
needs some new satisfaction--some pleasant subject, some interest
of his own to which his thoughts might constantly recur."
Helen felt a sudden trustful confidence in this rugged and
burly man, who was not content with mere empty reassurance, but
had some real understanding of the inner conditions of her
"But what am I to do?" she said. "My father has no private
tastes--he does not care for games or sport or books or art. Dr.
Bowlby, would it surprise you if I told you that my father showed
me more of his mind in a half-hour's talk the day he was ill than
I have ever had before. I almost felt as if I were talking to a
"No," said Dr. Bowlby, "I am not surprised. Your father is a
very self-contained man. He no doubt had--these attacks carry
with them an undue amount of mental alarm--a very strong
prevision of approaching death. I have known cases like it. But
did what he said give you no clue as to how you might help to
distract his mind from his profession?"
"I can't say that it did," said Helen. "But it is rather
difficult for me to explain. It was mostly about my own future
that he talked."
"I quite understand," said Dr. Bowlby with a friendly smile.
"Your father's work would naturally develop in his mind a strong
family feeling. These instincts are mysterious things, and I
think he has a certain feudal instinct; he has seemed to me more
at home, more natural, more expansive, in this place than he ever
did as a professional man at Thurston. Well, you must encourage
him in this. Let him get a pony and ride about among his woods
and farms. The contemplation of one's own acres has a very
sustaining influence, and promotes longevity. A squire who loves
his estate--the earth and all that comes out of it--is generally
a long-lived man. Human beings come and go, but the land goes
"Yes," said Helen, laughing. "I might do that; but my father
is not an easy man to dictate to. He knows his own mind."
"But you must try to have a few more visitors here," said Dr.
Bowlby. "That is a point in which you could influence him. You
need not go far afield--your own friends and relations. What is
wanted is something a little patriarchal."
"I see the sort of thing," said Helen.
"I don't want him to be bored," said Dr. Bowlby; "but it will
amuse you, or ought to, to get him to think that such ideas are
his own. It is a very pleasant pastime to put ideas into people's
minds, and to persuade them that they have originated them. It is
what I spend the greater part of my life in doing. It has a very
curative effect. You need not be Jesuitical. The power of
suggestion is incalculably strong. A doctor spends most of his
time in linking up two ends of a current--and not only doctors,
but all the people who are worth anything in the world. You have
probably done it hundreds of times without noticing it. On the
other hand, a great deal of my work consists in undoing the harm
done on the same lines by silly people. It is a maxim of mine
that silent and smiling people disseminate health, chatterers
"But what about smiling chatterers?" said Helen.
"Ah, that's the deadliest sort of all! But seriously, Miss
Helen, you and I must put our heads together about this. Your
father, though he has had no programme, has done a great deal of
good in his time--the best kind of good, such as is done by
honest people who work and mind their own business. You can do a
great deal to relieve the strain, and I will suggest whatever I
can. I only wish that most of my patients were as well worth
"That is a rash remark," said Helen, with a smile.
"Ah, I know to whom it is safe to tell the truth," said Dr.
Mr. Worsley recovered with great rapidity, but he did not
renew his confidence to Helen. There was, in fact, at first, in
his manner towards Helen, something like the consciousness of
sharing a guilty secret. But Helen knew what her father was
feeling. A shy and reticent man with unconfessed visions of his
own, he had for once, under the fear of death, laid bare his
desires to his daughter. She did not think that he exactly
regretted it, but it had left on his mind the impression as it
were of some almost indecent accident. There was, however, from
that day a shade of tenderness in his manner to Helen never shown
before, for which she was grateful. He talked to her about Clare,
whose flightiness made him uneasy; but this was the nearest he
ever came to intimacy. Helen's own half-pitying fondness for her
father increased. His vision, as it had revealed itself to her,
seemed so small and forlorn an image to crown the top of an
edifice so laborious and so reserved.
Meanwhile Mrs. Garnet, perhaps exhausted by sociability, had
been ordered by the doctor to have a fortnight of sea air and
quiet, and Mrs. Goring volunteered her company. Mr. Goring, after
long reflection as to whether he should accompany them, decided
that it would be too great an interruption to his spiritual
routine to risk it. This did not suit Walter's plans at all. He
had work to do, he had nowhere particular to go to, and to
transfer his books to a seaside lodging, with the prospect of his
mother's unlimited company, was not congenial to him. He
consulted Mrs. Goring, who said frankly that his going was out of
the question. That he would be sadly in their way, as they
intended to indulge themselves as to hours and meals in every
respect, and that she would undertake to explain this to Mrs.
Garnet, which she did with such cogency that his mother besought
him not to come with considerable emphasis, on the ground that
the doctor had ordered her a complete rest and that she must on
no account have more than a single companion.
Walter accordingly prepared to remain at home for a fortnight
of solitude; but Helen, when he next saw her, said that she had
something to propose. Would he not transfer himself to the Manor,
and occupy the gate house rooms? Her father was still unable to
return to work, and it would be not only a kindness to him to
give him some company, but she knew that there were still a few
matters of business which he would like to discuss with Walter.
"I needn't say how much I should like it," said Helen. "In fact
since my father has been ill, I am myself very much in want of a
little change of mind. I have begun to feel like a hospital
nurse, and am learning the secret of a bright meaningless smile,
which haunts me whenever I look in the glass. You will really be
quite undisturbed. Father only comes down for luncheon, and rests
in the afternoon, so that I can walk with you at any time."
Walter consented eagerly. He had an uneasy sense that he had
been behaving badly to Helen; and accordingly when he had seen
his mother and Mrs. Goring off at the station, in the midst of a
scene of unparalleled fuss about bags, boxes fond adieux and
forgotten commissions, he put his books together with a great
sense of relief, and was driven up to the Manor in the Worsley
car in time for luncheon.
Mr. Worsley was not feeling quite as well as usual, so Walter
went up to see him in his room. There seemed a certain
desolateness about the arrangements. The room itself was prim and
unadorned. On the table by the bed were bundles of business
papers, and a book, with a marker in it, of a solid kind. Mr.
Worsley pressed Walter's hand, and said that he regarded his
acceptance of the invitation both as an honour and a pleasure.
"Nothing that you could have done could have given me greater
satisfaction. I shall myself look forward to your conversation,
and I trust that you will find me, however unlearned, yet not
lacking in intellectual sympathy. You must regard it as in every
sense your own house, and I trust that you will express any wish
that we cannot unassisted interpret."
Mr. Worsley, having delivered his little speech, lay back upon
his pillows with an air almost of elation.
When they assembled for luncheon, Walter was surprised to
notice what a remarkably pretty girl Clare had become. He had
never paid much heed to her, and had regarded her as a rather
tiresomely outspoken child, whose principal function had been to
interrupt if possible his conferences with Helen. But Clare with
her light curling hair and blue eyes, full of life and vivacity,
behind a kind of provoking shyness, was a new and startling
phenomenon. Helen, Walter thought, was a little tired and quiet.
But another point that struck him--he was almost ashamed to
notice it--was how different an atmosphere it all seemed from the
old rather bourgeois entertainments at Mr. Worsley's house, when
you had been overpressed to eat and drink, entreated to express
preferences with a sense of being exposed to a sort of hospitable
battery, and causing disappointment by any refusal. Now there was
a respectable butler who murmured inquiringly at your ear; the
food was varied and plentiful, and served with much daintiness
and precision. There had always in old days been a certain sort
of condescension on the part of guests, and deprecation on the
part of hosts; but now the meal was, so to speak, a country-house
luncheon, and not a professional banquet. Miss Haden betrayed
once or twice a tendency to turn the talk into improving
channels, but it was Clare who to Walter's surprise seemed to be
the Ariel of the company, prettily plaintive at one moment, and
at the next making a frolic descant. She said of Mr. Goring that
his sermons frightened her; even if he preached about one of the
apostles, he had the air of having just heard something to the
apostle's disadvantage; "and as for the Litany," said Clare, "he
turns it out as if he was chopping turnips." Miss Haden
protested, and said that she liked to hear the prayers read
dispassionately without personal emphasis. "But that's just what
he does," said Clare; "he reads as if the prayers belonged to
him, and you were not to have more than he allowed you."
After lunch Helen said something about a walk, but Clare in an
injured tone said, "Oh, Helen, Mr. Garnet doesn't belong entirely
to you; I know you won't let me walk with you, but I want to go
and look at Mr. Garnet's rooms with him; after all, it was I who
arranged the flowers there this morning."
Walter said that of course he would do both. Clare should come
to the gate-house, and he would return in half an hour for Helen.
Clare led the way chattering delightfully. Was he going to shut
himself up all day doing his lessons? Would he not walk with her
one day and give Helen a holiday? Had he a great many boys to
teach at College? Was he very severe with them?--she did not
think he could be very severe.
When they arrived at the rooms, she insisted on showing him
everything in detail--the cupboards, the pictures, the pens in
the pen-tray, not forgetting the flowers. Might she look in
sometimes in the mornings? Was there anything that he wanted?
The rooms were certainly very nice. The panelling and old
plaster work had been restored, the carpets and curtains were
warm in colour, the furniture old and solid--much of it indeed
from his father's study. Clare was suddenly filled with horror,
at the thought that it was his house, and most of it had been his
furniture, and yet she had been showing him everything. When they
went back she said, "I want to tell you that I mean to enjoy your
being here more than all of them. They are so solemn about it,
you can't think. You'll take me in, won't you?"
Walter assured her that she should be taken in--"And you will
have some nice secrets with me, as you do with Helen?"
"Yes, if you will invent them." She put her arm in his when he
said this, and Walter reflected that this delightful child was
going to be an additional amusement. He had been a little afraid
of solemnity and seriousness, especially with Mr. Worsley. But
how pretty Clare was with all her little gestures and glances!
She saw Helen and himself off from the door with a touch of
jealousy; and when he turned for a moment he saw her standing
there looking after them, as she touched her breast with her
forefinger as though to say, "Me too!"
"You mustn't let Clare take possession," said Helen as they
went off. "She likes to have her share."
"What a pretty creature she has become," said Walter.
"Yes, indeed!" said Helen, "and she makes everyone adore her.
My father thinks she ought to be kept more in order; but who is
to do it? Miss Haden is the only one that wants to and she can't;
but I don't believe in suppressing people, and it is lucky,
because I could not if I tried."
They walked to the top of the hill and turned into the wild
woodland tract that covered the nearer upland. It was very still
that day, and Walter thought he had never seen anything more
lovely than the dreaming woods. They crossed a heathery space by
a sandy track, and struck in under the copses; the eye could not
penetrate far into the darkness of the undergrowth, and the wood
seemed to be guarding some secret of its own, holding its breath
till they had passed by. Sometimes a jay flew up, screaming
indignantly, or a pigeon hidden in the forest depth rippled out
its contented notes. Sometimes a rabbit scuffled and rustled in
the brake; and they came every now and then to open spaces, where
a stream soaked silently out among meadowsweet and flowering
rush. Little by little an extraordinary peace sank into Walter's
mind. They said little, but smiled at each other as they
"What a comfort it is," Walter said once, "just to walk like
this, taking in impressions as they come--not having to express
"Yes," said Helen, "it seems as if there simply couldn't be
any wrong or trouble in the world."
"And yet everything here is quietly fighting for a place,"
said Walter; "trying to get uppermost, keeping the sun away from
the rest, taking all they can get. No weak thing has a chance
here! If trees and flowers could talk, what a horrid babel of
complaints and threats and entreaties there would be: 'Give me a
little room--don't take more than your share of the rain--oh, do
"Don't spoil it all," said Helen, laughing, "by turning it
into a kind of Trades Union."
They sat down under a birch tree, on a cushion of moss; at the
end of the little glade there was a touch of intensest blue, the
blue haze of the distant plain.
"Is it only a fancy," said Walter, looking at Helen, who had
clasped her hands round her knees as she sat, "or are you a
little sad to-day? Is there anything wrong, dear? I seem to
myself to have got so absorbed in my new work that I am getting a
little hardened; but it is only a coating, and I am no different
"No, I'm not sad, Walter," she said; "I am very happy to think
of you here with me, and my father is better, and you like Clare.
I haven't a care in the world, or oughtn't to have; but I'm a
little tired with nursing--it isn't what one does, but what one
has to give; and then, too, I had a curious talk with my father
the day he was ill. Walter, what funny little plans people make
in the back of their mind, little games that they play by
themselves till they all become quite unreal! My father showed me
his mind, and it seemed to me to contain all the things I don't
care about and none of the things I do. Perhaps it is only the
difference between men and women. He seemed to have reasons for
all he desired--no wonder about anything, no open spaces--it was
like a little orderly garden. While with me the more that I know,
the less reason there seems for being happy--the happiness comes
from what we don't know."
"I like to hear you talk like that," said Walter; "but I think
I am made more like him. I do want to know very much, and all the
best things that have come to me have come from not being shut up
in my own stubborn ignorance. Knowing you, knowing Harry Norton,
have shown me beautiful things; but my tendency is to shrink back
from and think the worst of what I don't know. My father's mind,
for instance. I don't know what was in it, and I should be afraid
to find out. The thing behind the world, whatever it is, seems to
have hard knocks in store, plenty of stones for bread, plenty of
serpents for fish. I don't trust the unknown at all; it seems to
have no conscience and very little sympathy."
"Perhaps it isn't thinking very much of us, Walter? Perhaps it
gives us what we need, and means us to make the puzzle out. It
wouldn't be worth much if we were simply told it."
"I think it is finer to feel that," said Walter, "but I can't.
I must content myself with doing as well as I can the little I
have to do and can do."
"Yes, we must do that," said Helen; "but I always feel that
there is something very big indeed behind it all, if only we
could see it."
They were silent a long time after that, listening to the soft
murmur of the wind in the wood and drinking in the fresh scent of
"Helen," said Walter suddenly, "you always make me feel
happier. How do you do it?"
"I want you to be happy, Walter dear; I want it as much as I
He took her unresisting hand in his own and put it to his
lips. She thought for a minute he was going to say something, but
he said no more.
Two years later, Walter arrived at Thurston at the beginning
of July to spend a part at least of the Long Vacation there. He
found his mother looking well--younger, he almost thought, than
in the old days at the Manor. Mrs. Garnet, though she would not
have considered it proper to own it, was a far happier woman than
she had ever been. She was designed and formed for the life of a
small town. She had the prestige of her former position, and
this, added to the fact that she was the most accessible and
kindliest of women, had brought her what she always needed, a
great company of friends, principally women, who deferred to her,
adored her, petted her, asked her advice, and did everything, in
fact, but take it. The house seemed to Walter always full of
people "popping" in and out. Very little had changed at Thurston.
Mr. Worsley's business had grown, and it was now definitely
admitted that he belonged to the County rather than to the town,
or at all events to the fringe of the County. He had grown more
portly, and his manner was easier and more assured. Clare had
grown into a frisky and rather exuberant young woman, and Miss
Haden remained as confidante rather than instructor, to confer
solidity on Mr. Worsley's household.
Walter himself was little altered: his features had perhaps a
little lost the first bloom of youth, and his manner had become
gentler and a little more ironical. He brought Norton with him,
who seemed more lean, dusty, and loose-limbed than ever. Norton
was touched, perhaps, with a shade of dreariness; he had lost his
first enthusiasm for the company of intelligent youth, and he
sometimes confessed that there was a sameness in the course of
metaphysical symptoms through which a clever young man seemed
destined to pass. He was a little tired of answering unanswerable
questions and propounding tentative solutions. Norton had always
had literary ambitions, but conversation and the ever-open door
had made havoc of his leisure. Now, like Mr. Snodgrass, he felt,
and indeed announced, that he was going to begin1. But
the precise and inevitable subject never emerged, and he
continued to practise the rôle of a peripatetic
1 The Posthumous Papers Of The Pickwick Club
Walter had had a busy two years. He had found Oxford life far
more congenial than he had expected, and he had discovered that
it was possible to mix very freely with undergraduates without
forfeiting his dignity as an instructor. The fact that he was
neither oppressively serious nor inconveniently sentimental stood
him in good stead; while his acquaintance with sport, horses, and
country life gained him the respect of the kind of undergraduate
who tends to feel that the Don, whatever he is, is not a man of
the world. Walter realized that the young men thought him far
more a man of the world than he was, but he never attempted to
exercise any direct influence, or to intellectualize the
undergraduates, though the fact that he occasionally talked about
books and public affairs, as if he took it for granted that they
played some sort of part in the lives of all rational people, had
more effect than he suspected. He had corresponded a good deal
with Helen, and had been much in her company in his vacations,
when he was not travelling; for he had found that his earnings
and the money which was at his disposal when his mother's simple
establishment had been liberally financed, enabled him to gratify
a taste for European wanderings. He had grown more and more at
his ease with Helen. He told her everything, consulted her about
any troublesome matter, and was greatly attached to her in a
dispassionate way. It was freely rumoured that some sort of
engagement existed between them. But Walter was not a man who
craved for the domestic and matrimonial atmosphere; he made few
friends among the women at Oxford, and generally with those of
frank and open friendliness, and he was the more at ease with
them the more that their point-of-view resembled his own.
The only figure at Thurston whom Walter recognized as having
undoubtedly become more of a personality was Dr. Bowlby. He had
made friends with the Worsleys, and eventually Mr. Worsley, whose
health was not so good as it had been, had become his regular
patient, so that he was often at the Manor. Dr. Bowlby's practice
was rapidly increasing. He was as bluff and uncompromising as
ever in his manner; but his patients became aware that his
diagnosis had nothing that was formal about it, that he showed
great personal anxiety in serious cases, and frankly brightened
up if improvement was taking place. He gained great credit, too,
by frankly recognizing the professional claims of his patients.
"Dr. Bowlby said to me," said a leading tradesman, descanting on
the merits of his physician, "'Mr. Gregson, I know you are a busy
man, must do your office work at certain hours, and be on your
feet a good deal of the day. I'm not going to tell you to lie up,
as I should if you were an unoccupied man, because I know you
can't afford to do so, but we must try to work a treatment in.'"
This was regarded as a dictum of inspired good sense. At the same
time he would say to a patient, "You must go to bed and stay
there till I say the word"; and if in such a case his directions
were disobeyed, he did not hesitate to say that he could not
continue to attend his patient, and that another doctor must be
requisitioned. Walter was pleased to see that Dr. Bowlby was
undoubtedly becoming a power in the place; and pleased, too, to
find that the Doctor was able to live in a house of his own, and
to get a massive loud-voiced sister, of incredible awkwardness,
to keep house for him.
Walter contrived to see a good deal of him, to hold
transcendental arguments, and to discuss the innermost essence of
things. But Dr. Bowlby was beginning to modify by experience his
views of the humdrum current of life. "Depend upon it, that
force, whatever it is, which makes people all think alike on
conventional lines, is a very big thing. The feeling which makes
men and women act, without thinking why they act, as a matter of
course, is an immense power."
"But isn't it a mere inertia?" said Walter.
"My dear Garnet, it takes more forces to keep a thing still
than to set it moving; there must be an absolute equipoise.
Conventions are the equipoise of thought; they are the
accumulated experience and passion of the world."
On another occasion, when Walter had been arguing very
judiciously, Dr. Bowlby had burst out: "The fact is, you are too
religious! I don't mean that you are a man of creeds and dogmas
and ceremonies, but you have a fear of everything which is
passionate, which is the fear that lies behind all religions. You
are too well-balanced; and the danger is that, if any one of the
balancing forces fail, you will have a great tumble."
"Oh, it isn't that," said Walter, laughing. "It is only that I
am unadventurous. I like a settled routine."
A day or two after Walter and Norton arrived, Norton said he
was going to see the Worsleys.
"Perhaps I might come with you," said Walter.
"No, don't do that. I shall want to talk about you. Helen will
want to know how you are doing."
Walter laughed. "Oh, she knows all about me," he said, "--much
more than you do."
"She knows all that you know about yourself," said Norton,
"but that is not very much. . . . I have often wondered what you
do talk to her about," he went on. "You don't seem to me
to have any life of your own. I don't mean that you don't do your
work well; you are becoming the pivot of the College, in fact;
but what happens when you are alone--when you wake in the
"I practise a healthy objectivity," said Walter.
"Don't you ever do anything but look out of the window?" said
Norton. "You don't seem to have any dreams or visions."
"My dear Harry, you are very inconsistent. You were always
wanting me to come out of myself, and now that I have done so,
you want me to go back again! But I have found my level and there
I shall stay."
"And what is to become of the fair Helen? She is permanently
engaged as Egeria1, I suppose. Is she to have no life
of her own either?"
1 EGERIA, used to signify a female adviser or
companion. In Roman mythology a water nymph consulted by King
"Helen is quite capable of looking after herself," said
Walter. "She is endlessly good to me, but what I like about her
is her tranquil common sense. She has no flights of passion--she
is never excited or depressed."
"I'm not so sure," said Norton.
Norton and Helen were walking along the great grassy upland
which led to Halham Hill. He was telling her about Walter. "It is
wonderful," he said, "the way he has caught on at St. Faith's. He
does his teaching very well; but besides that, he knows most of
the men in the College. He is quiet, civil, almost respectful. He
doesn't make fun of them or try to captivate them. In fact, I
don't think he is particularly interested in them; but they run
after him, imitate his way of doing things, think a tremendous
lot of his opinion. He is supposed to know. He is always good
company, and has a great deal of quiet humour; but he never seems
to forget anything about them, or to call them by the wrong
names; and then he behaves in exactly the same way to them all,
whether he is talking to a blue, or a shy freshman. It is all
rather surprising to me, when I remember what he was like two
years ago, thinking everyone wearisomely conventional, and never
wanting to set foot in Oxford again."
"He was ill then," said Helen; "but I am delighted to hear all
this. I thought from his letters--he writes to me, you know--that
he was enjoying his life."
"But I don't think he is," said Norton. "He is content, but he
isn't what I call happy. He never seems to me to kick up his
heels. It is his effect on the men that I wonder at. Most people
like power, but Walter doesn't seem to care about it. He has a
great power--everyone recognizes it. I was talking to one of our
old Dons the other day, a testy old boy, the Dean. There seemed
likely to be a mild sort of row in the College about a man who
had been sent down. Old Cracroft said to me in his squeaky voice,
'It's no good nowadays trying to punish the young men. All idea
of discipline seems to have been given up. Parents let their
children do just as they please; but I wish you would say a word
to Garnet--see if he can do anything. He seems to wind these men
round his fingers. I really can't bring myself as Dean to implore
the aid of a junior Lecturer; it would put me in a ridiculous
position. But you might give Garnet a hint.'"
"What happened?" said Helen, looking at Norton with sparkling
"Oh, I spoke to Walter; he said he would see Bendyshe about
it--that's the Captain of the Boat. And there wasn't any
"What did he say?" said Helen.
"Well, I had the curiosity to ask him. He said, 'Oh, I told
them not to make fools of themselves.' So then I asked Bendyshe.
He couldn't remember at first. Then he said, 'Oh, yes, it was
something like this: "I hear that some of you chaps want to kick
up a row. It won't do any good. You won't get Hollins back; and
it's a pity, now that the College is such a decent place, to give
it a name for being rowdy. It always gets round to the schools,
that sort of thing; and the best schools will simply fight shy of
us. Of course you can spoil the whole show if you like."' 'What
did you think?' I said to Bendyshe. 'Oh, I thought it was all
right,' he said, 'I hadn't looked at it like that!'"
"What did you think about it all?" said Helen.
"Oh, I felt it was rather a stroke of genius. Walter didn't
make a row about it, or sentimentalize, or appeal to any high
motives, or entreat the men to be sensible as a personal
matter. Those are the mistakes we most of us make. He only threw
exactly the right amount of cold water, in his pleasant way."
"Does he know he has this influence?" said Helen.
"He may--who can tell?--but he doesn't seem to care. I'm not
sure that isn't half the charm."
"He never mentioned it to me," said Helen. "He tells me a
little about particular pupils, and a little about the Dons."
"Come," said Norton. "What about us? Does he make fun of
"No, not at all; he tells me some funny stories. He says that
the mistake the Dons make is to bring too heavy artillery into
"How like him!" said Norton. "I confess I get annoyed with him
sometimes for being so imperturbable. I told him two or three
days ago that he hadn't any life of his own, but always seemed to
be looking out of the window."
"What did he say to that?"
"Oh, he said I was very unfair--that two years ago I was
always telling him to get clear of himself, and now I was begging
him to come back."
"He is mysterious," said Helen. "Sometimes he is quite
delightful--his letters are always amusing; but he talks
sometimes as if I were the only friend he had in the world, and
the next day as if he were bored by having so many."
"I think the mischief is that he is content to settle down. If
he had succeeded to this place, he would have settled down here;
now that he can't do that, he has settled down at Oxford. He
hates trouble. I am not sure that it isn't your duty to push him
over the edge."
"Perhaps I should go over the edge myself if I were to try,"
"I'm going to say something very impertinent," said Norton,
"but I wish I knew exactly how much you cared about him?"
"That's rather a startling question," said Helen, regarding
him with a steady look.
"Perhaps I ought not to ask," said Norton, "and I shouldn't
ask, if I was not on the whole more interested in Walter than I
am in anyone else. He has got a great charm, quite irresistible.
But then, as you say, he is a mystery. I feel that he wants
setting free somehow. He seems to me like the prince in the
Arabian Nights, who by some enchantment was turned
into black marble from his waist downwards. Walter is turned into
white marble instead. I had thought that a real experience, like
being a Don, would restore him to life, but he is just as marble
as ever. He is a mystery, as you say, and I want to penetrate
"Well," said Helen, "as you have said that, I will say too
that I am more interested in him than I am in anyone. But it is
different for me, because though I had and have a good many
friends, they aren't mostly of a very interesting type. But
Walter walked into my life like a fairy prince--I didn't see the
marble--and beckoned me away, and told me that he wanted a
friend, and would I help him. Of course I was tremendously
flattered and excited--I had to try with all my might not to show
him how much--but now, as far as we are concerned, the situation
hasn't altered an atom. He is just as nice; he hasn't dropped me,
as I thought he might. But as to helping him, there seems nothing
"I am not sure it isn't your duty to drop him," said
"But if I did, and if he didn't care," said Helen, "it would
be awful. I'm not going to pretend he doesn't make the greatest
possible difference to me. I enjoy his letters, I enjoy talking
to him. He is the biggest part of my life. He seems to bring a
new atmosphere with him. Perhaps I ought to have more proper
pride; but I will tell you plainly that I am so much interested
in him that I am willing to have him on his own terms."
"But you can't go on for ever like this?"
"I don't believe much in forecasting the future. If one cared
for anybody, it would seem to me ridiculous to cut him or her out
of one's life, because one thought it would be so wretched if
they were to die. I believe in the present, and in going on from
hand to mouth, whatever that means."
"Yes, I agree. But suppose this imaginary person were getting
his fun too easily without paying for it, and were half asleep in
a leisurely sort of dream, might it not be right to wake him
"It might be judicious," said Helen, "but I can't do that sort
of thing. I can't withhold things for people's good. It's very
feeble, I know, but I believe in giving people as far as one can
what they want."
"To go about packing bags for idle people?"
"You know I don't mean that!"
"No, I apologize; but I look upon Walter as being in a kind of
drugged sleep. The more I jog him, the more he smiles."
"Well, when he wakes," said Helen, "I shall be quite ready to
bring him a cup of tea."
"You are almost as impenetrable as Walter," said Norton. "I
thought women had a stronger sense of duty than men. But I do
understand your feeling, though I may seem donnish and stupid. So
we must let Walter snore on?"
"Yes, I am afraid so," said Helen. "We must be content to be
like the wind of the Western sea."
Mr. Worsley had improved considerably in health under Dr.
Bowlby's régime. Visitors of a quiet kind came often to
the Manor, the entertainment of whom, it must be confessed, often
weighed very heavily on Helen's mind. Clare could not be depended
upon to do anything for them. Occasionally they interested her,
and it astonished Helen to see what endless trouble Clare would
then take to impress and mystify them and gain their admiration.
At times they amused her, and then she was even more dangerous,
because she drew them out, by not very adroit questions, and put
them, as she said, through their paces; neither did she conceal
her obvious satisfaction when they gave the expected answers, so
that Helen was often on tenterhooks for fear that offence had
been given or taken. The result was that Helen found the more
humdrum visitors mostly on her hands; and at times she had
perspectives of a long series of days, as much alike as telegraph
posts, when she would take out guests for a morning walk and an
afternoon drive, and work wearily through long meals, eaten with
conscientious deliberation. Mr. Worsley went less often to his
work, but brought away papers to the Manor, and he had taken,
too, to riding slowly about the estate, and acting to a great
extent as his own agent. The strange thing was that though he
talked to his tenants with an uneasy civility, and lavished money
freely on repairs and improvements, he was yet only tolerated by
them; while in old days a visit from Mr. Garnet, once a year,
ending by a promise from him to see into some point--a promise
which was never fulfilled--had been regarded by the tenants with
awe and reverence, as one might have welcomed an angel from
heaven. This habit of reverence they could not throw off, and it
had more than once deeply vexed Mr. Worsley to find that a
sympathetic call from himself to look at some new and expensive
improvement, had often ended in some such phrase as, "No, we
don't forget the old Squire--he was a grand gentleman; it seemed
to do you good to see the way he would draw himself up and say
nothing." Mr. Worsley had tried the effect of drawing himself up
and saying nothing, with the painful consciousness that he had
only given the impression of being disagreeable and purse-proud,
on which points he was continually sensitive; moreover, Helen,
who sometimes accompanied him, and sometimes on walks turned in
with Walter to speak to an old tenant, was struck by the
deference that was paid to Walter and his lightest word, compared
with the indifference with which Mr. Worsley and his most
elaborate statements were received.
At intervals, however, Mr. Worsley had recurrences of his
trouble, and though both he and Helen had grown more or less used
to these threatenings, it was clear that Mr. Worsley could not
now be considered a robust man, and Dr. Bowlby's visits were of
Helen had become very much attached to Dr. Bowlby; he appeared
to her in the light of a big elder brother, whose rather bluff
and direct manner concealed not only a very kindly and
sympathetic spirit, but also a shrewd perception of human
qualities and inconsistencies, which interested Helen extremely.
They did not only talk about Mr. Worsley; they discussed all
their acquaintances and neighbours, and Dr. Bowlby had got in the
way of saving up some of his more interesting experiences for
Helen's ear. He knew that she enjoyed them, and he also knew that
he could depend on her not to give him away. Often, too, she
talked about herself and her visitors, and even more often about
Clare, whose propensity for catching and holding the attention of
anyone with whom she came into contact caused Helen considerable
anxiety. There were two or three young men from Thurston, who had
been playfellows of Clare in childhood, and had now become more
or less avowed lovers, who took advantage of any excuse for
appearing at the Manor. Clare encouraged them, accepted their
flatteries, and, in answer to Helen's very occasional
remonstrances, only said lightly that she must do
something to pass the time.
One day Dr. Bowlby had come down from a visit to Mr. Worsley,
and was strolling, as he often did, about the garden with Helen.
She had been confessing her relief at the withdrawal of an
elderly Captain Worsley and his wife, distant cousins, who had
been spending a week at the Manor, and who had seemed to Helen
two of the most vacuously unoccupied people she had ever come
across. The Captain at home did small bits of carving from a book
of very Victorian patterns, which, when combined into chests or
small tables, were given away, with many conditions attached, to
neighbours or neighbouring institutions. The wife did nothing but
accounts and needlework. In the evening she played patience, and
her husband sat by her and advised her. These worthy people,
deprived of their home-pursuits, had weltered and languished
through the days of their visit with patiently dissembled
boredom. Helen had expressed a wonder as to whether the tedium of
their stay had not possibly been too high a price to pay for the
somewhat doubtful advantage that might accrue to Mr. Worsley's
health, and had gone on to say that the idea of two elderly
people whose entire existence was spent in helping each other to
pass the time was a positive excrescence on civilization.
"We mustn't think too much about that," said Dr. Bowlby.
"Nature cares very little about the way we employ ourselves or
indeed about the well-being of our friends and neighbours. Nature
is thinking about something very different most of the time."
"What is that?" said Helen.
"Oh, the future of the race," said Dr. Bowlby.
"But what is the good of it all," said Helen, "if it is to end
in discontented, tired, bored, unoccupied people?"
"It isn't for us to say," said Dr. Bowlby. "We have to face
facts. To interrogate Nature too closely about her intentions
ends in pessimism. It is as useless as it is to ask a child why
it enjoys some tiresome and persistent game."
"But you have some idea as to why it all happens
"Not very much," said Dr. Bowlby. "Nature has a very big
waste-paper basket, and no compunction in throwing away the
creatures that have done their work. Half my life is spent in
thwarting her--in trying to save people from the
"But what is their work, then?" said Helen, looking curiously
at Dr. Bowlby. "Surely the impulse that we have to try to help
other people comes from Nature too?"
"I rather doubt it," said Dr. Bowlby. "Look at the way that
Nature crams all her best work into the young, adorns them with
beauty, makes them interesting to themselves and each other,
surrounds them with an irresistible charm that captivates us, we
hardly know why. It seems all done to keep the race going. Nature
seldom regards quality, it is quantity she has in mind. The poet,
the artist, the philanthropist, the priest--even the humble
physician--are thrown ruthlessly aside whenever they are in the
way, or if they refuse to come into line."
"What a nightmare thought!" said Helen. "All our fancies,
hopes, imaginations, affections are nothing?"
"Oh no, they are something, but only like the pretty plumage
of the bird in mating-time. The nest once made, the little brood
hatched out, what becomes of all the fancies and imaginations you
speak of? How many people retain them in middle-age and age?"
"But all the ties we make and try to be faithful to," said
Helen, "are these only devices to increase the population of the
world? If I believed that, I would--"
"You would do much as you are doing," said Dr. Bowlby. "But
you must not press it too far. I believe that there is another
power at work; but that is not Nature, and is very often opposed
to Nature. It is greatly hampered, it is often at a grave
disadvantage; but it works on, and suffers very much, often in a
very noble way. But we must not expect to know very much about
this; it must be enough for us that the power is there, and
visits us occasionally."
"It does not give one much object for living," said Helen
almost bitterly. "Dr. Bowlby, let me ask you something. I am
finding my life rather difficult just now; it seems to me a
little pointless. Some of my girl-friends who have felt like me
have rushed off into the world, and found real work of their own.
And I myself am very full of these fancies and imaginations and
wild hopes at times; but it seems to be my duty to stay here, and
to listen to people, and do all sorts of trivial things to pass
the time, which neither I nor my companions particularly enjoy.
Can't one concentrate somehow? There seem to be a good many
people who don't want me particularly, and yet would find it
inconvenient to do without me. And sometimes, looking ahead, I
see a long vista of the same sort of thing before me. I often
envy you your hard-driven, unpleasant work, because at all events
it is something real."
"But, Miss Helen," said Dr. Bowlby, with unusual earnestness,
"you are doing exactly the same sort of thing that I am doing,
and, if I may say so, in a far more beautiful and delicate way.
There are many people who depend upon you; and I have constantly
admired, if I may say this, the way you throw yourself into it
all so naturally and eagerly, and with such apparent
"I don't recognize myself in your description," said Helen,
laughing, "but I am grateful to you for encouraging me, for
putting the picture in a frame. It is ridiculous of me to
complain. I must try to think of myself more as a ministering
angel, a lady with a lamp."
"That would at all events be better than being metaphysical,"
said Dr. Bowlby. "I ought not to have talked as I did just now
about Nature. I don't mean that what I said is untrue, but it is
a barren path. And I, too, get into the same way of feeling
dreary myself. I reflect that of my waking hours, about
nine-tenths are spent in transit or talking twaddle of various
kinds; but all that means something--it doesn't take long to see
things with our eyes and minds, but it takes an immense time to
work it into oneself. So we will neither of us despair."
Helen extended her hand to say good-bye. Dr. Bowlby held it
for a moment in his own. "My dear Miss Helen," he said, "don't
give way. I know as well as anyone can these sudden little dry
strips of futility in one's life which have just got to be
crossed. But don't forget that I am one of the many people whom
you help without knowing it. Considering my performance, you
won't think it a great compliment; but I do often and often try
to meet things and people as I know you meet them. There, that is
a little drop of wholesome and comforting medicine for you."
It astonished Helen to find how much this little talk helped
her. It was a great comfort to know that someone else, and
particularly one like Dr. Bowlby, whose good spirits and
resourcefulness seemed unfailing, should have the same disgust at
times for the wastefulness and futility of life. She was
strangely encouraged, too, by finding that her difficulty was
interesting to another. She was not egotistical, and did not
require admiration. But the people she knew best--her father,
Clare, Walter, Mrs. Garnet--seemed never to be aware that she
could have any whims or desires of her own. She gave them with
both hands the attention and sympathy they required of her; and
indeed she was half ashamed of the impatience with which she had
more than once of late regarded her own established function as
being a well of sympathy to which her friends brought their
little pitchers. Some life of her very own, some complete
absorption, some joyful happiness which would evoke all her
powers--this was what had hovered before her like a dream with
the wind in its wings.
Dr. Bowlby had just been paying one of his usual weekly visits
to Mr. Worsley, and had found him remarkably well. "Yes," Mr.
Worsley said, "I have been conscious of late of a decided
improvement in my health, and I should like to take this
opportunity, Dr. Bowlby, of thanking you very gratefully for the
patience and sympathy with which you have watched my case. I
attribute my improvement largely to your advice; and I will
venture to say that, conscientious as I have found such members
of the medical profession as I have had occasion to consult, I
have experienced from you a personal kindness and goodwill which
I hope may entitle me to regard you more as a friend than as a
medical adviser. May I add one further word? I am not wholly
satisfied about my daughter Helen's health. It is not that her
physical condition is amiss, but she seems at times languid and
dispirited. Might I ask you, without of course telling her of my
request, to observe her professionally and to reassure me on the
Dr. Bowlby bowed and smiled, and said, "Mr. Worsley, the best
reward that a doctor can have is that his patient should get
well--the next that he should express personal regard as you have
so generously done." He hesitated a moment, and then said, "Mr.
Worsley, may I take advantage of what you have said about Miss
Helen, as well as of your own improved health, to say something
which has for some time been on my mind?"
"Of course," said Mr. Worsley, "any advice or assistance that
I can give you are entirely at your service."
"I won't beat about the bush," said Dr. Bowlby. "My visits to
you have brought me in somewhat close touch with others of your
family, and I have seen much of Miss Helen in these last months.
I need not tell you that it would be impossible to know Miss
Helen without regarding her both with admiration and affection. I
do not in the least know what your wishes are, or what her
feelings may be, but I cannot put together conventional
phrases--the point is whether you would approve of my trying to
win her for my wife?"
Mr. Worsley looked at him in silence, and grew pale to the
lips, and dark about the eyes.
"I see," said Dr. Bowlby, "that what I have said causes you
some agitation. Perhaps you would rather consider it, and speak
to me at some later date?"
Mr. Worsley conquered his agitation by a great effort. "No,"
he said; "I would rather make an end of the matter now--indeed, I
would rather not have it revived. I cannot go into the
question--I can only say that I have other views, quite other
views, in my mind. I ought to have anticipated this. I blame
myself for not having done so--I have no wish to give you pain,
and what you have said will cause no change, I hope, in our
personal relations. But what you have asked is, I fear, out of
the question--decisively so!"
Dr. Bowlby looked at Mr. Worsley in silence, with his
accustomed friendly and frank expression.
"I quite recognize," he said, "that you have a certain right
in the matter, and I would like to say that I have never said a
word on the subject to Miss Helen, nor have I taken advantage in
any way of my many and confidential meetings with her. But I must
be allowed to ask you one or two questions, which I hope you will
not refuse to answer."
"I am not sure that I shall think it judicious to answer,"
said Mr. Worsley, with a slight return to his professional
manner. "I am glad of your assurance; but I assume that as you
have not spoken to my daughter--which I should have greatly
resented--you consider it necessary to obtain my approval first,
an approval which I regret to say I cannot give. The question
therefore, I conceive, falls to the ground."
"Not quite," said Dr. Bowlby. "A man of some experience like
myself does not fall in love lightly, nor act hastily. But I can
hardly be expected to see the best hope I have in the world swept
away, without asking whether there are any considerations which
would induce you to think differently. Let me ask first whether
there is anything in my character or conduct which would make you
think that I should not be a good husband?"
"I could not," said Mr. Worsley, whose manner, as his
self-assurance returned, became colder and more distant,
"entertain any general objections to your engaging in matrimony,
and still less could I base any objections on the score of
character. I believe you, if I may say so, to be a thoroughly
honest and trustworthy man, eminently sympathetic and
"It is good of you to admit as much as that," said Dr. Bowlby,
"because it makes my task easier. Are there any objections to my
lack of fortune or my social standing? I can imagine--though I
should not myself make much account of these objections--that you
may feel doubtful here. But I would say that my practice has so
much improved of late that I am fully justified in seeking a
wife; and otherwise, my father was a clergyman, and I am myself a
public school and university man."
"You press me hard," said Mr. Worsley, "but I do not base my
objection on these facts. I will be candid with you. I see, or
seem to see, a rapidly growing friendship between my daughter and
Walter Garnet. To say that one has social ambitions for a
daughter would lay one open to a charge of self-seeking; but I
will confess that, apart from the affection I have for Walter, I
should regard it as a great honour to be connected by marriage
with so ancient a family. I could not consent to any influence
being brought to bear on my daughter which would jeopardize the
possibility of an alliance which I should regard with the deepest
"I will be as candid with you as you have been with me," said
Dr. Bowlby. "I quite understand your feelings. But I know Walter
Garnet well. I fully thought, more than a year ago, that what you
indicate was a possibility. But I very much doubt if Walter has
any thought of marriage at all. He is not a man in whose life, to
speak freely, the sexual impulse plays a strong part. He is more
apt to diffuse his emotional nature in friendship than to
concentrate it in love. He is greatly interested in his work, and
I think further that he is a man with a very strong love of
independence. The cares and anxieties of matrimony would deter
him. On the other hand, I will try to speak dispassionately, and
I feel that Miss Helen is in considerable need of a sphere of her
own. She is endlessly kind and good, but such unselfish
ministrations do not and cannot really satisfy a woman's
instincts. But I will say no more, though I cannot promise to
dismiss the hope from my mind. It would be difficult to break off
all relations with her, and might cause her a painful surprise;
but if you wish me, as you well may, to discontinue my visits, I
shall of course fully understand."
"No," said Mr. Worsley, "I do not wish this, and I
trust you will continue to come here as before. I will not even
exact any conditions. I trust you implicitly. It would be most
painful and embarrassing if you were to break off relations with
us, and I am sure I can depend on you not in any way to
complicate your present friendly intercourse with my daughter. I
consider you to be a very desirable friend for her."
"Well," said Dr. Bowlby, "I will do my best; but these things
are largely a matter of instinct rather than of reason, and I
warn you that emotional disturbances have channels of their own
quite apart from talk and even looks. However, if I see any
reason to think that things are altering, I will tell you. You
may think I am taking the matter calmly enough, but a doctor has
to exercise a good deal of self-control, and I can promise that
you shall have no reason to complain of me. I would like to add
that I think you have behaved kindly and candidly, and I shall
endeavour to do the same."
He extended his hand, and Mr. Worsley grasped it cordially.
"Dr. Bowlby," he said, "I have now one more reason to be grateful
to you. I cannot, as a father, be wholly surprised by your
feelings, and I may of course be wrong in the principles of
action which I have arrived at; but I appear to myself to see the
situation quite clearly, and I believe that I have my daughter's
ultimate happiness in view rather than my own. I need not say
that the whole matter will remain entirely confidential, so far
as I am concerned. I have every wish for your happiness, and
venture to hope that you will attain it on lines other than those
which you have done me the honour to indicate."
It was a week after the talk between Mr. Worsley and Dr.
Bowlby that the latter paid his usual visit to the Manor. The
conversation of the previous week had been an unfortunate one for
the doctor. He was a man who was naturally diffident of his power
to please his fellow-creatures, and perhaps he owed much of his
likeability to the fact that he never took for granted that he
would be liked, but made a constant effort to adapt himself in a
quiet way to his companions and to recollect their tastes and
interests. Mr. Worsley's words about desiring him to befriend
Helen had unsealed his tongue. He had long dreamed in secret, but
he was not a man who could push his own interests and claims. He
bitterly regretted that he had spoken, and Mr. Worsley's words
about the impossibility of his hopes had set up a dull ache in
his mind which for the time being had made life appear grim and
He had seen Mr. Worsley in the afternoon, but no allusion had
been made to their previous talk. When he was about to go, Mr.
Worsley had insisted that he should come in to tea. They found
there Helen, and by her side Walter. He was staying at the Manor,
Mrs. Garnet having gone to the seaside. The two had been for a
walk together. Clare was there in rather frivolous spirits, and
one of the dubious youths from Thurston, Henry Saxby by name, who
had lately joined his father in business as a land-agent. Saxby
had been at a local school and was a pretentious youth,
overdressed, and with an uneasy mixture of boldness and timidity.
It was not a well-assorted party. Mr. Worsley greeted Saxby with
a chilly civility, and engaged him in talk. Dr. Bowlby sat down
next to Helen, and the conversation became more or less general.
Clare, however, was in one of her provoking moods, and presently
said to Walter with an air of innocent curiosity, "Oh, Walter,
Mr. Saxby has been telling me that the reason why he didn't go to
Oxford was because it was such a waste of time." "Oh," said
Walter good-naturedly, "so he has found us out! But let us hope
he will be merciful, and keep his discovery to himself." Then,
turning to Mr. Worsley, he said, "We are much misunderstood, we
Dons! The other day an old acquaintance of mine spent three days
in Oxford. I did my best for him, had him to luncheon and dinner,
walked with him in the afternoons, and sat up half the night
doing the work which I had to defer during the day. What do you
think my reward was? When he went away he said to me, 'Well, I
must say you Dons have an uncommonly easy time of it. You never
seem to have anything to do!'"
Saxby was affronted by these remarks, and said, "Why, Mr.
Garnet, my father was at Oxford himself, and he ought to
know; he says he never went to a lecture, and hunted three days a
"Well," said Walter, "that's something, at all events! At what
other place of education would that be possible? And then think
of the invaluable Oxford manner; no one would ever suppose that
your father was a Cambridge man."
"Unlike myself," said Dr. Bowlby--who thought that Walter's
remark was a little sharp-edged. "I am afraid we didn't go in for
deportment at Cambridge."
"I believe it is true," said Mr. Worsley, "that both at Oxford
and Cambridge much more attention is paid to the curriculum than
was formerly the case?"
But Clare was not going to have the dust laid thus. "Did you
say the Oxford manner, Walter," she said, "or Oxford
"My dear Clare," said Walter, "Oxford manners? It is
the first time I have ever even heard them mentioned."
"Anyhow," said Saxby pertinaciously, "my father knows better
than to shell out to the tune of three hundred a year for three
years for that sort of thing."
"Yes," said Walter, "it is a good deal of money to throw
"It isn't the expense that my father minds," said Saxby; "it's
the waste of time."
"Yes, but whose time?" said Walter.
"I like Henry's father for that," said Clare. "He knows that
if Henry went to Oxford, he wouldn't be able to come up here; he
doesn't think that a waste of time."
"It is very difficult to know when we are wasting time," said
Dr. Bowlby, "in my profession at all events."
"You mean that you may be laying up treasure in heaven?" said
"I'm quite content as long as I am amused," said Henry Saxby.
"I don't think much about heaven."
"Oh, but you must think of the time when you are only amusing
other people, Henry," said Clare.
"What do you think about it all, Helen?" said Walter.
"Oh, I feel like Mrs. Pryor in Shirley,1
when she said, 'My dears, does it not strike you that your
conversation for the last half-hour has been rather
1 Shirley (1849)--Charlotte Brontë.
"Oh, Helen, how depressing!" said Clare. "I thought I was
really learning how to talk for once, but I give you all fair
warning. I am thinking very seriously what manner I am going to
adopt when I go out into society, and I have got my eye upon
"Oh, say it is mine," said Walter.
"No, you are a little too--well, learned, and Henry is too
much on his defence, though he is very hearty; and Dr. Bowlby
doesn't care enough, and Helen is too anxious. I think I shall
copy papa--that is the way to get attended to."
"That's very right and respectful," said Walter. "But, Clare,
you won't be popular if you make everyone sit up in turn, as you
have just done."
"Oh, people don't mind a little scratch or two," said Clare.
"What they hate is not being talked about at all. Besides, I
don't want to be popular. I just want to have my way."
The party broke up. Clare accompanied Henry Saxby to the gate,
and seemed to be admonishing him. Dr. Bowlby went off with Mr.
"You were very silent, Helen," said Walter. "Were we all very
self-conscious? Clare is extraordinarily lively, certainly!"
"Yes," said Helen, "but that sort of talk makes me feel rather
deadly, probably because I can't think of the right repartees
till I go to bed; but I'm not sure that I want to sparkle like
that. It seems to me to leave little stings in one's mind!"
"Oh, it's only a game," said Walter. "I think you take things
"Papa doesn't like it," said Helen. "He doesn't like Henry
Saxby, and he thinks Clare encourages him, and he thinks I ought
to interfere; and yet he is proud of her, in a way: it is all
"Oh, Saxby is a harmless sort of oaf," said Walter. "I think
Clare knows what she is about. I rather like her fancies. She
keeps one alive, at all events. But I must go back to my
He strolled back to the gate-house; Helen stood in the window
watching him. She saw him meet Clare on the path, who held out
her hands as if to bar the way. Helen saw Walter catch her hands
in his, and then draw her to him, and they went off together, and
disappeared up the gate-house stairs. They did not reappear, and
the maid came in to remove the tea. Helen talked to her for a
little, and then catching up a cap in the hall, went down past
the little Church, and took the road that led to the Vicarage.
She knew that Mrs. Goring had returned from the seaside, leaving
Mrs. Garnet in charge of Cousin Jane, and she had a sudden desire
to see her.
She found Mrs. Goring and the Vicar together in the study.
"William doesn't seem in the least grateful to me for returning,"
she said. "He says that he has quite settled down into a quiet
routine, and that he has been very comfortable."
"I did not quite say that," said the Vicar, "but it would have
been inconsistent with candour not to have admitted that I got on
better than I expected! But I admit that Mary's presence somehow
gladdens the house, though I can hardly say why."
"Don't let us look into these things too closely," said Mrs.
Goring, giving her William a little kiss, which made him wink.
"Helen, come along with me, and let him think over his
privileges. I won't pretend I didn't miss him, even at the
risk of increasing his spiritual pride."
When they were alone together, Mrs. Goring said, "Helen, dear,
you know how I love Mrs. Garnet. But her conversation lasts all
day and every day, and one can't get a word in edgeways! However,
it gave my unfortunate tongue a rest. But what have you been
doing with yourself, dear? You don't look happy. You weren't even
amused by William's candour."
"I don't know what is the matter," said Helen; "in fact, I
came to ask you to tell me. Things seem to be going wrong."
"You haven't been quarrelling with Walter?"
"No, indeed--he is just as nice as ever; I begin to wish
sometimes he was not always so nice. There aren't any ups or
"I know exactly," said Mrs. Goring. "He is staying with you,
"Yes, and I had better have it out at once; he is rather taken
up with Clare. She goes and sits in his room in the gate-house
and talks to him."
"Well, I don't wonder," said Mrs. Goring. "Clare is very
pretty and very lively. I expect she amuses him very much."
"Don't tell me I am jealous," said Helen, rather pathetically,
"that always seems to me the most odious thing in the world; and
it isn't as if Walter neglected me either. But I feel I don't
"Helen, he cares about you in quite a different sort of
"Yes, I know," said Helen, "and I think that is what disturbs
me. I'm going to speak out, whatever you may think of me. I feel
rather like Walter's old blazer, which he says is the only coat
of his that is comfortable, because he doesn't even know he has
got it on. I don't think he knows now when he is with me."
Mrs. Goring looked at her inquiringly. "It's just the same
with my old man," she said. "He is aware this evening that he has
got me on, like Walter's coat, because he has become used to
being alone. But to-morrow I shan't pinch him anywhere. And yet,
as I have said to you before, I think that if I died, he would
die. Caring for people becomes a part of one; one doesn't think
about it, but it is always there when it is wanted."
"Yes," said Helen, "but at first?--you wouldn't have been
contented if Mr. Goring had cared for you so much that he did not
think of you?"
"My dearest Helen," said Mrs. Goring, "don't tell me you have
fallen in love with Walter!"
"I don't know," said Helen, reddening uneasily. "I don't know
what I feel about him. I used to be very proud of being his
friend, and I was only anxious to come up to his standard; but
now I get angry with him."
"What about?" said Mrs. Goring.
"For being always exactly the same," said Helen. "He doesn't
want me and yet he can't do without me. And now I am going to say
something worse. Dr. Bowlby--I have seen a great deal of him in
papa's illness--I have a feeling that he wants me, in a
very different sort of way."
"Has he said so?"
"Not a word; we talk philosophy."
"That's very dangerous; when William was most in love with me
we talked about Anglo-Catholicism. He explained to me about the
Council of Trent."
"I like Dr. Bowlby very much," said Helen, "and I trust
"Don't you trust Walter?"
"Not like that. Walter's mind goes away from mine into places
where I can't follow him. Dr. Bowlby's comes to meet mine, and
holds a door open."
"What convenient things metaphors are, to be sure," said Mrs.
Goring. "Conversation would be so indelicate without them."
Helen laughed aloud. "Yes, there are some things it is
difficult to talk quite plainly about. But, dear Mary, I haven't
done. I think all this is having a bad effect on me; I used to be
friends with everyone, and hold hands all round. Now I don't seem
to care whether people like me or not. I feel like saying, 'No, I
am not going to pack your bag for you--I'm busy.' I want a life
of my own. I don't want to go about fetching cushions for people,
and filling vases with flowers to put in their rooms. I want to
be cared about fiercely and horribly, and I want to care like
that myself. I want to go through fire and water, and not mind.
That sounds very melodramatic and affected; but I can't tell you
the awful yearning that seizes on me, to be carried away off my
feet anywhere, to be crushed, ill-used, beaten--anything to be
really needed, like water gulped down by a thirsty man. But how
disgraceful all this is! I see you are disgusted at me."
Mrs. Goring's only answer was to enfold Helen in a close
embrace. "Dearest Helen," she said "you probably won't believe
your dull old Mary when she tells you that she knows every step
of the way. It is just the tide of life rising in you; but I
can't help you dear, directly. No one can. One must struggle on
alone--just as when one dies, one has to feel oneself ebbing away
from behind the eyes which see all that one loves best. It's the
cruel mystery of life--the need of love . . . the strongest,
fiercest, best thing in the world . . . the only thing! Yet one
can't capture it. Just go straight on, dear girl, and be thankful
that you have got to live and behave as if nothing were
happening; it is the people who don't feel that they must behave
decently who suffer most. Come and talk to me whenever you care
to. Even now, you will feel more happy that you have told me all.
These men! How little they see and understand what one goes
through! It's amazing that one can care for them at all; and yet
somehow one prefers their being stupid to their seeing through it
Helen kissed her. "Yes, you understand," she said. "How can I
thank you enough? I feel ever so much happier, and shall go back
quite cheerfully, and jump through my hoops. Good-bye, dearest
That evening, as they sat at dinner, Mr. Goring said, "What
did Helen want you for to-day?"
"She has encountered, almost for the first time," said Mrs.
Goring, "the stupidity of men, and came to me for comfort. Out of
my abundant stores of experience I ministered to her. She is the
There was a silence, and then Mr. Goring said, "I think you
are a little hard on me, Mary."
"My treasure!" said Mrs. Goring.
There was to be a new wing of the hospital opened in Thurston,
and it was decided that the Duke of Shropshire should be asked to
officiate. Mr. Worsley, as Secretary, was requested to approach
His Grace. A few days later the Committee met again to consider
arrangements. Mr. Worsley announced that the Duke was coming, and
Canon Peacock, who was in the chair, said with a touch of awed
solemnity that there had better be a Mayoral luncheon previously.
"I suppose," he went on, "that His Grace will probably motor over
from Staughton and return the same day."
"No," said Mr. Worsley meekly, "I have asked him to stay the
night with me, and he has accepted my invitation."
There was a momentary hush, and the members of the Committee
looked at each other. Canon Peacock, after a pause, said in a
somewhat tremulous voice, "We are, of course, much beholden to
Mr. Worsley for securing the Duke--I should say for offering the
Duke his hospitality--at the same time, this is hardly a private
matter, and the Committee might wish to express an opinion on the
"Excuse me," said Mr. Worsley, "it is entirely a private
matter. The Duke is not, so to speak, on duty during the whole of
his visit. He is to come to my house in the course of the
morning. I shall bring him here to the luncheon. The ceremony
will follow with a brief reception, and from what I know of the
Duke, the less protracted that the official part is, the better
he will be pleased."
There was another silence, and then the Canon, a little
sullenly, suggested the consideration of the exact details.
When the meeting broke up, Mr. Worsley, finding that no one
seemed inclined to discuss the matter with him, went off. The
Canon detained the Mayor, Mr. Peckham, a wholesale chemist, and
said, "I am afraid I must consider Mr. Worsley's intervention in
this matter a little ill-judged. There may be many things the
Duke might wish to see--the Church, the Sholto almshouse, the
sewage pumping-station; it seems precipitate, a little
"No, Canon," said Mr. Peckham, "I am glad that Worsley has
taken the bull by the horns. The Manor is the sort of place the
Duke ought to stay at, and though it may look a little forward,
His Grace's acceptance shows that he recognizes Worsley as
belonging to the County."
"I expect he confuses him with Mr. Garnet," said the
"That may be," said Mr. Peckham, "but Mr. Worsley is the best
man for the purpose."
"I am only afraid that His Grace will feel that his personal
preferences have not been sufficiently consulted," said the Canon
with resentful suavity.
The Duke arrived. Mr. Worsley was by this time somewhat
alarmed at his temerity, but clung to Walter as a sheet-anchor
and an interpreter in one. They met the Duke at the gate-house,
where he descended from his car; he was a short sturdy man with
red hair, carelessly dressed, and only remarkable for his extreme
absence of embarrassment of any kind. He seemed indeed entirely
unconscious of anyone's presence. Mr. Worsley made a low bow and
shook hands; then he presented Helen, whom the Duke regarded with
a good-natured smile. Walter came forward. "Hullo! I've met you
before," said the Duke in loud tones. "Doesn't this place belong
to you, by the way?" Walter explained the situation. "Yes, I
remember your father," said the Duke. "By Jove, on a day like
this, I envy him his gift of the gab--seemed no reason why he
should ever stop; but when I stand up, by God, there seems
every reason why I shouldn't begin." The Duke laughed, a loud
harsh laugh, showing all his teeth.
The Duke seemed quite unacquainted with the arrangements. "Oh,
luncheon first--well, that may get the steam up a bit; but to
have the show over first would give me a better appetite. Look
here, Worsley!"--Mr. Worsley's heart leapt within him at the use
of his plain surname; he felt as though he had been sealed of the
tribe of Judah by that one word.--"I hope there's to be no
loitering about and chattering afterwards, I can't abide
that--never know who half the women are. Yes, that's right--come
back here and have a look round--pretty old place--do any farming
on your own, Garnet?"
"All Mr. Worsley's farms are let," said Walter.
"Oh, I forgot; well, I daresay you are glad to be rid of the
land. I know I should be!"
They drove down together in state, and the Duke was very
attentive to Helen. He made her promise to come over to lunch at
Staughton. "Mind, I shan't forget--I only forget the people I
don't take to--that's a bargain then!"
They drew up in front of the Town Hall, with a large crowd
looking on. The Duke shook hands with the Mayor and Canon
Peacock, who were speechless with nervousness, and with anyone
else within reach. "Here, Garnet," said the Duke in an undertone,
"just stick to me like a limpet, and for God's sake tell me if I
seem like going wrong."
The luncheon was a lengthy affair, and the ceremony followed.
They did not get away till nearly four o'clock. As soon as they
were in the car, the Duke said, "I'm nearly dead, but they tell
me there are fellows who quite like that sort of thing. If it
hadn't been for that cigarette after lunch, I should simply have
pegged out." They got up to the Manor for tea, and then Walter,
instructed by Mr. Worsley, took the Duke round. He was full of
shrewd and amazing comment. "Who is Worsley, by the
way?--I can't remember. Nice girl that. Oh, you have kept the
house, have you? Yes, property is all very well, but it's an
awful tie--I feel tethered like a dog in a kennel. These
Socialists seem to think one ought to clear out; but damn it, I
don't get a week in a year when I can really do as I like."
The evening was a satisfactory one. The Duke's spirits rose
when he heard that no guests were invited. "Now that's real
hospitality!" he said. He talked pleasant nonsense to the girls
at dinner, pleasant sense to Mr. Worsley and Walter afterwards;
smoked a single cigar, and went off to bed early. "I'm more
knocked up than if I had been stalking for twelve hours," he
"A very jolly time," he said to Mr. Worsley as he went off in
the morning. "You must let me look in again, sir. Garnet, won't
you come over and shoot some day--and Miss Helen must come--won't
see you unless you bring Miss Helen!"
"Now that," said Mr. Worsley, in a reverential tone, as the
car rolled away, "that is a man whom I can respect--no pretences,
no chilliness, just a simple human being. Did you observe that he
spoke of the Duchess as 'my missus'? That, I confess, touched me
"Yes, he is a good fellow," said Walter. "I really think he
means what he says, and it must be a comfortable thing to feel
that whether you say the wrong thing or the right thing, people
are equally pleased."
"I wouldn't be a Duke for any money," said Helen. "Fancy
having to go on like that always."
"I don't expect you will be asked to be a Duke, in any case,
Helen," said Walter, "but you would make a remarkably fine
Duchess, you know!"
In the weeks which followed, Helen became aware of being
surrounded by a certain sense of mystery. She continued as a rule
to go out with Walter in the afternoons; but a sparkle which had
generally enlivened their talks was missing, and for this she
blamed herself. There were fewer silences between them, and
Walter seemed to manifest an anxiety that subjects should not
fail them. He told her in detail much about his Oxford life, but
he never recurred to the past, or took refuge in plans for the
future. There seemed too to be, on his part, less desire to ask
her opinion, less curiosity as to the current of her thoughts.
But it was all very intangible, and she could hardly have put it
into words. She attributed this partly to the familiarity of
their relations, but even more to her own restless and
dissatisfied condition. What however puzzled her was that there
was in Walter's manner an almost deprecatory touch, as though he
were anxious in some way to atone for some failure on his own
part to fulfil an obligation.
At times this sense was so strongly with her that she felt
almost impelled to say to him that she had prophesied, when they
first made friends, that the resources of her mind would be soon
exhausted, and that he had sounded the shallows in which he then
refused to believe; but she felt that this might needlessly
embitter the situation, which she really believed sprang from the
fact that it was her own zest and interest in the simple current
of life that had somehow failed.
At the same time she became aware that a subtle change had
passed over the relations between Walter and Clare. Clare was
less provoking to him, talked less at him, was less inclined to
challenge his opinion. Indeed, it was obvious that Clare was
finding the direct contact with life far more stimulating than
ever. Instead of aimless dawdling in search of amusement, Clare
went about with a look of purpose and intentness, and made her
plans with increased deliberation. She began to seek Mr.
Worsley's society, and was more disposed to consult and meet his
preferences and prejudices half-way. Meanwhile Helen felt that
Clare had less and less to say to herself, and that their lives
touched at very few points.
It was altogether an unhappy time for Helen. If it had not
been for Mrs. Goring, she would have found herself extremely
There came a day when Helen had to spend the afternoon in
returning a call at some distance. As a rule Miss Haden was her
companion, and Miss Haden did not indulge much in conversation in
a car, because it made her throat sore and impaired her
enunciation. Helen was conscious in herself of a growing tendency
to inactivity. A long walk tired her, and it was a luxury to
glide along the country roads watching the landscape stream past,
noting the look of the hamlets and farmsteads, the expressions
and physiognomies of houses and passers-by, the little vignettes
of the country-side, the farm-wagon with its long team, an old
labourer riding postilion-wise on the leading horse, his
mud-stained boots dangling down, and intimating his wishes to the
horses behind him by infinitesimal hints and whisks of the whip,
or the elderly farmer and his wife safely packed into the high
dog-cart, and swaying slightly in unison as the road deflected.
Helen did not know why she was so inert; but instead of being
preoccupied, as was formerly the case, with vague dramatic
imaginations, so that she hardly saw the scene through which she
was passing, her mind seemed now to be always endeavouring to
keep certain thoughts at arm's length, while her eyes and brain
took refuge in minute but uninterested observation.
On this occasion, Mr. Worsley suggested at luncheon that both
the girls should go to call on the Fanshawes, ten miles away. But
Clare vehemently protested, and did not desist, till her father
reiterated his desire in measured tones. She said that she could
not bear a long motor-ride, and that at the dull country-houses
at which they called, she was relegated to the background, while
her distinguished elder sister engrossed the conversation.
However she finally submitted, though pettishly; but Helen had
noticed, or had thought she noticed, a look pass between Walter
and Clare, after which the latter had abandoned her
When they started, Helen said to Clare, who was sitting with a
rather distant air beside her, "How little we see of each other
"You are always so full up!" retorted Clare.
"Yes," said Helen with a sigh, "that is true! I seem to be
slower than I used to be at getting through things; don't you
know how sometimes one can't make up one's mind?"
"I should have thought that you always knew your own mind--at
least you always have your own way."
"Don't let us waste time in arguing, Clare. It isn't that I
have my own way. It seems to me that no one has their own way in
our family--a certain order has grown up, to which we all submit.
I suppose that is what generally happens."
"You manage to get your afternoons free to walk with
"That's all part of the order," said Helen. "Do you mean that
he would like a change?"
"Well, perhaps he might. Walter is rather dependent on being
amused." She was silent a moment and then added, "I don't like
doing things round the corner, and you don't know that I see much
more of Walter than I used to."
"But when do you see him? You are not often with him."
"Yes, I am," said Clare defiantly. "I look in upon him in the
morning and evening when he is working. I interrupt his work. I
even walk out with him, when everyone else has gone to bed. I
suppose you think it's not playing the game. That's why I told
you. I am not ashamed of it, and I have disliked thinking that
you don't know. I am very fond of Walter."
"I don't object, Clare; why should I? I am very glad that he
should have two people to talk to instead of one."
But as she said it, she knew that it was false. Had she lost
Walter's confidence, she asked herself, or had she ceased to
"It has had one good effect at all events," went on Clare. "It
has made me feel what shoddy creatures all those Thurston boys
are, whom I used to think so splendid. Walter shows them all up.
Wasn't Harry awful the other day beside him? He made himself so
offensive about Oxford, and bragged about his father's money. And
Walter didn't mind a bit; he was quite polite, and brushed Harry
aside quite good-temperedly. He helped him out, like helping a
fly out of the honey and seeing it crawl away making a sticky
mark on the cloth."
"I'm afraid I simply hated that talk," said Helen; "it seemed
like a lot of dogs, everyone walking about slowly on tiptoe and
Clare nodded. "I rather enjoyed it," she said. "I suppose, by
the way, you will talk to Walter about all this, or even tell
"Why on earth should I do either?" said Helen.
"I should in your place," said Clare. "I should try to put a
spoke in somebody's wheel. Don't you want to keep Walter to
"Not like that," said Helen. "Of course I don't pretend that I
don't wish to keep him, but I don't regard him as my
"That seems to me very inhuman," said Clare. "I expected you
to be angry--but I haven't been treacherous. I felt that you had
had your innings, and I didn't see why I shouldn't have
Helen found herself wholly incapable of replying for a moment.
Then she said, "Clare dear, I don't know what to say. I want to
keep Walter for my friend, but I don't want to tie him down, I
don't want to tie anyone down; and the more I care for anyone,
the less I want to do that. Do you mind my talking to Walter
"It depends on what you say. Of course you can make it
unpleasant for me."
"I don't want there to be any secrecy about it," said Helen.
"Why shouldn't Walter talk to you? The only thing I don't like is
that you should see him round the corner, as if you thought you
ought to conceal it from me!"
Clare surveyed her for a moment with a curious air, and then
said half-apologetically, "You're a good sort, Helen! I really
believe that you don't want to pouch people. But if you don't
take care, it will end by your being an old maid; you are always
going shares in your friends. Walter is as faithful as you would
expect from a gentleman--for that is what he is, and it is more
than most of the men we know are. He isn't always wanting to show
his ticket. I think his coming here and staying with us is
perfectly supreme. When those horrible Dixons came the other day,
and congratulated papa on his beautiful old house, Walter didn't
correct them--and papa didn't either, which I thought
"It would have been rather awkward for papa to explain it all
before Walter, but I quite agree about Walter. Only look here,
Clare; you and I mustn't have a struggle about Walter--that would
"Of course not; but, Helen, you don't understand Walter one
bit! There's something like Henry VIII about him; he likes
variety, and he is very particular about quality. He has the good
taste to like both of us; he has a serious side, of course, and
he likes you best then; but he likes me to play with--he can be
very silly, dear boy."
"We won't quarrel about him, Clare."
"I'm not sure that I shan't," said Clare. "You seem to me to
be behaving like the Judgment of Solomon, and want to cut the
baby in half; but half a dead baby isn't any use--one wants the
whole live one."
"That was the result of Solomon's judgment."
"I daresay. But I'll play fair, Helen. I won't poach on your
preserves. You may have Walter serious, but I will provide the
The car paused at the Fanshawes' lodge, and a moment later,
the gate being opened, sped up through the park. The classical
façade of a square country mansion was visible through the
"Now I feel dreadfully shy," said Clare. "I do envy you that,
Helen. You never seem shy!"
"I shiver within. At this moment I feel that I can't walk
across the Hall."
Old Lady Fanshawe received them with demure condescension in a
long comfortable drawing-room full of chintz-covered arm-chairs.
Miss Fanshawe, a pale rather doleful maiden of thirty-five, made
gentle advances to Helen. The tedious ceremony was soon over, and
the girls were once more gliding away. "How I hate the whole
thing!" said Clare. "What a way to spend an afternoon! The
atmosphere of the country-house sickens me, everything so
comfortable and so dull. But, Helen, mustn't it be awful to be
like Miss Fanshawe? She has developed two quite distinct lines
from her nose to the ends of her mouth since I saw her last, and
she used to be quite pretty! I would rather be married to Mr.
Goring, than live like Miss F., fading away out of everything,
more hopeless every day, no one wanting you; and yet one is
expected to sit still, and wait till somebody comes along. I'm
not sure it wasn't a mistake to leave Thurston. We shall fall
between two stools."
They relapsed into silence. Helen would have given anything to
be able to talk. She knew only too well what Clare meant; but
thus handled, the remedy seemed worse than the disease. Yet
everything seemed to be crumbling down about her.
The two girls came back to be met at the door by the butler,
who said that Mr. Garnet had asked to be informed the moment Miss
Helen came back. "He has had a letter, Miss, which he opened, and
then said he wished to know as soon as you returned." Clare
listened impassively. "I will go to him at once," said Helen. "I
suppose he is in the gate-house?"
She hurried across the court and up the turret-stair, and
found Walter sitting in a chair, smoking, but with neither book
nor paper in his hands. He rose on her entrance. "This is
good of you, Helen," he said. "I want you to look at this letter
from Cousin Jane, and tell me what I ought to do."
Cousin Jane wrote to say that Mrs. Garnet, after having been
unwell for a few days with something like influenza, had had a
heart-attack, which the doctor said was the result of exhaustion,
and which had yielded to remedies, but that she was very weak.
She had refused decisively to allow Walter to be sent for, and
had repeated this several times. "The doctor," said Cousin Jane
dryly, "does not seem to consider her in any danger." She
finished reading it, and gave it back to him; their eyes met, and
Helen discerned in his look a deeper sort of trouble than she had
ever seen in him before.
"I don't think you need hurry off to-night," she said. "That
might only alarm her; but if I were you, I would go to-morrow,
for your own sake. There's nothing like seeing people to reassure
one. Shall I take this round to Mrs. Goring?"
"I will go and see her myself," said Walter. "Will you come
with me? I can't settle down to anything. I will certainly go
They went off at once. "I don't think you need be really
anxious, Walter," said Helen. "Miss Jane always takes the
gloomiest view of everything, and you would have been summoned if
there had been real anxiety."
"Yes, I know," said Walter; "but I can't bear the idea of my
mother being ill. She has never been ill in her life. She hadn't
time to be, or inclination either; and then, Helen, I don't think
I have done all for her that I could have done. It is very
strange that though I love her better than anything in the world,
her talk has the effect of making me very impatient; she talked
very little in old days."
"You mustn't let yourself feel like that," said Helen; "it is
really morbid. I have constantly been with her and you, and you
never show the smallest sign of impatience. Indeed, I have often
wondered at it. I think you have made her very happy."
"Thank you, Helen dear," said Walter. "Yes, I think it
is morbid. But somehow the idea of her being in any danger
makes one think how horribly short the time is which one can
spend with the people one loves best. When everything goes well,
one feels it to be endless, and one thinks that if one isn't as
kind as one might be, one can easily make it up. A thing like
this seems like drawing a line in an addition sum; the time for
adding it all up has come, and one can't alter the figures."
Helen put her hand through Walter's arm and said, "Yes, you
might think that, if she had ever blamed you, or even been
disappointed by you. But you have been everything to her."
"She never blames anyone," said Walter; "it is that which
makes her so dear. Of how many people can one say that--perfect
His voice broke; and there came into Helen's mind the thought
that this had been the one thing hitherto missing in him, the
knowledge that he could love anyone like that. She had wondered
sometimes whether his kindness and patience with Mrs. Garnet had
not been only the perfection of fastidious courtesy, but this
touch of passion was new and dear to her. . . .
They were soon at the Vicarage. Mrs. Goring was decisive and
reassuring. "No," she said, "You mustn't dream of hurrying
off. That would really alarm your mother; and if she had felt
ill, she would certainly have sent for you. Go to-morrow; and I
will come with you, if you will let me. It will do my dear
William good--he will feel he need not go; and besides he is very
bad with convalescents. Perhaps we shall be able to bring her
back; no one ought to be ill in seaside lodgings."
It was all arranged, and Helen returned with Walter, who
talked much of his mother, and with greater freedom about his
father, than he had ever done before--how exacting the Squire had
been, and yet with such an appearance of considerateness and
reasonableness that no resistance seemed possible.
Clare at once sought out Helen, and asked what had happened.
"How provoking!" said Clare, "just when we were so comfortable. I
am sure there is very little the matter with Mrs. Garnet--she is
never ill; but Walter will be depressed and anxious, and I am no
good with people who are in trouble; trouble seems such a waste
of time, such a hateful interruption."
"We can't escape it, Clare!"
"That makes it all the worse."
Walter explained matters to Mr. Worsley; and throughout the
evening, a casual visitor might have supposed that he and his
daughters were under some pressure of anxiety, and that Walter
was the untroubled one of the party. Clare was the most subdued
of the four, and went off early to bed. Walter lay long awake,
and passed with ever-growing self-contempt through the haunted
corridors of memory. How often his mother had tried to satisfy
the boyish claims which his father would not recognize! He could
recall the troubled and shrinking look with which she had
regarded him, when he had persisted in pressing some little
grievance upon her. She had never hinted that his selfish wishes
distressed her; she had only desired that her husband and son
should be happy, and looked for no thanks, only for some little
show of love.
Mrs. Goring proved an excellent fellow-traveller. She made no
professions of sympathy, she did not encourage Walter to talk;
she sat in a corner of the carriage, doing her accounts, and once
or twice asked Walter for his help. They arrived at the house in
the afternoon, a neat little stone-built villa, in a trim garden.
Cousin Jane gave them a grim welcome. They had taken the
precaution of wiring from a station en route, so that they
could not be remanded. "How am I to explain it all?" she said.
"Emily is quite comfortable, only very weak, and your arrival
will give her a shock. Well, it is no fault of mine!"
"What nonsense!" said Mrs. Goring. "Go and tell her that
Walter and I have arrived; we think she will be more comfortable
at home, and we hope to take her back when she is fit to
Jane went off, and a moment later they were summoned upstairs.
It was a pleasant airy room, with a bow-window looking out to the
sea. Mrs. Garnet lay, her face turned to the door, with an
expectant smile. Walter's first thought was how small she seemed
to be, and how old. Mrs. Goring marched into the room, and said,
"Dearest Emily, you must not be vexed with us; I know you didn't
wish us to come, but Walter was so anxious to be with you, and I
abetted him. We shall wait a day or two, and then take you back
home; it's so dull being in bed away from home."
Mrs. Garnet did not speak, and to Walter, coming closer, it
seemed that something had gone out of her face. She just turned
her head up for his kiss, but she did not clasp him in her arms,
as she was wont to do.
"Walter darling, it is good of you to come--and you too,
Mary," said a faint low voice, hardly recognizable. "There was
really no need; I am quite well again, only very tired."
Mrs. Goring carried off Jane on pretence of making
arrangements about rooms and food. Walter sat down beside his
"I didn't want to disturb you, dear, at your work," she said,
"and I know the Worsleys are so proud of having you. It was only
a little turn I had; I felt suddenly faint. I shall be quite well
again in a day or two."
She put her hand out; Walter clasped it in both his own and
kissed it. "Ought you to talk, mother darling?"
"A little--I am so pleased--you wanted to come, my darling, to
see your stupid old mother?"
The tears started to Walter's eyes. "Yes, mother," he said. "I
have missed you very much!"
She lay silent, her eyes closed, for some time, smiling to
"I had such a strange fancy, dear, just before I fell ill. I
was thinking about dear papa . . . and I wondered when I came to
meet him, whether he might be vexed with me for having been so
happy at Thurston--whether he would think I had not remembered
him. . . . Dear papa always liked to be first with me. I have
been happy--such good friends--but I always wished him back."
"Of course, darling," said Walter. "Of course, he would
have wished you to be happy. Don't you remember how if you were
away for the afternoon, he would come out of his study to say,
'Well, Mamma, have you had a pleasant day?' He always wanted us
both to be happy. That is how he would meet you."
She smiled again at that, and presently fell asleep. The sky
darkened outside, and Walter sat holding her hand, and seemed to
look into the very depths of love.
Presently Jane came back, and a nurse arrived. Mrs. Garnet
roused herself to say a word of thanks to the nurse. Mrs. Goring
came in, and said, "Now, Emily, I must take Walter off to have
some dinner--and you must just sleep. The more you sleep, the
sooner you will be well. Is she obedient, nurse? She is very fond
of her own way, you know."
Walter kissed her again, and said he would look in to say
Dinner was a solemn affair, for Jane told them in lamentable
detail the circumstances of Mrs. Garnet's attack. Walter could
not dismiss from his mind the look of the frail face on the
pillow and its childlike smile of happiness. A sudden weariness
fell upon him, and he went to bed early. He just looked in upon
his mother. "You mustn't do more than say good-night," said the
nurse. He bent and kissed his mother. She murmured a little pet
name of his childhood, which he had not heard from her for years,
and added, "I am so glad you came, darling."
At some dead hour of the night, Walter, in and through his
dreams, had a feeling of someone drawing near. A little knocking
came at the door. He cried out, "Come in," and Mrs. Goring,
wrapped in a cloak, came quickly in with a candle. "Will you come
down at once," she said. "She is failing fast--do not lose
time--I will light your candle." She put her hand on his shoulder
and looked into his face. Walter flung some clothes on, and a
moment later was in his mother's room. She was sitting up,
propped by pillows, and the nurse was at the far side of the bed,
holding something in her hands. Walter knelt down beside his
mother, and took her hand in his. She did not open her eyes or
speak, but sobbed once or twice, and drew her knees up in the
bed. Then she opened her eyes and saw him. He rose to his feet,
put his arm round her and kissed her; and as he did so, her head
fell back on the pillow, and her hand seemed to weigh down his
own. He did not need to be told that all was over, and presently
Mrs. Goring led him gently away.
The days that followed were to Walter like a strange and
sickening dream. He became aware that he had never suffered
before from real grief in his life, and had never guessed what a
dumb and poisonous malady it was. It was not that his mother had
actively participated in his life, but the loss of the one person
whose love for him was continuous and absolutely reliable--for he
was aware that he had been constantly in her mind, and that she
had been unable to discern any fault in him--was, he felt, like
losing the sun. The sun does not occupy a large share of one's
waking thoughts, but for it to disappear would be a strange
undoing of life.
The funeral was at Cressage, and a great crowd of people
assembled to say farewell to one who was very widely and deeply
loved. Walter went through it all with the same dull sense of
unreality, shook hands, smiled, spoke to a great number of
people; and later in the day was seized with a fatigue so intense
that it drowned all thought. Nothing at all seemed to have the
smallest interest for him. He got through the evening somehow,
slept like a log; and in the dawn, angry with a lurid brightness,
he felt the pangs of regret and loss sink into his spirit like
red-hot iron. He rose from his bed, went to stand beside his
mother's grave, the ugly day peering through the fast fading
wreaths of flowers, and felt death to be a hideous thing in its
cruel silence--a silence impossible to interrogate.
Mr. Worsley had a brief talk with him in the morning. The good
man was pale and dark-eyed, and Walter found himself wondering as
to what precise form his grief, which was evidently sincere,
took. He could hardly feel it had a personal tinge. He also
interviewed Cousin Jane, and found that she would gladly take up
her abode at Thurston for the present, until Walter should decide
what to do with the house. Cousin Jane had felt Mrs. Garnet's
death in her own way, but Walter became aware that his invitation
opened before Jane a long and delightful prospect of examining
the contents of cupboards and peeping into locked drawers.
Clare visibly avoided him. Helen was the only one of the
circle who approached him naturally, but Walter found himself
rather dreading her sympathy. He did not want to talk about his
mother, and still less about himself. He wanted to bear his own
sorrow alone, and to turn a decent front upon the world.
He did indeed pay one visit to the house in Thurston, to
interview the old servants, and to see if there were any papers.
But Mrs. Garnet had left no will, nor any memorandum of her
wishes. She was not one who turned to the future for consolation;
and standing in the desolate house, Walter felt a sense of sharp
rebellion against the barbarity of death, and the grim
unconditioned need for accepting life on its own terms. His
mother's life had been so innocent, and happy with an increasing
happiness--and not only that, but truly useful in its natural and
overflowing sympathy. He had in that dark hour a revelation of
the extraordinary value to the world of a life of mere
uncriticizing and disinterested love, without any intellectual
programme or any scheme of social improvement. And yet how rare
it was! Walter thought that of all those he knew, perhaps Helen
came nearest to it; though with it came a sense of shame at the
thought that life on such terms, without work, or art, or
intellectual companionship, or sharp individual predilections,
would be an impossible business for himself, however beautiful it
might seem to be in another.
Mr. Goring thought it necessary to pay Walter a call, saying
that he felt it his duty to offer spiritual consolation; but it
seemed to trouble Mr. Goring's mind that Mrs. Garnet had had so
slight a hold upon Christian dogma, and so indefinite an idea of
the privileges conferred by Churchmanship. Walter did not feel in
the least indignant at the fact that Mr. Goring seemed entirely
to overlook the significance of Mrs. Garnet's life and her power
of affection. In fact, he derived a certain bitter amusement in
probing the depths of Mr. Goring's theories. "You may naturally,"
said Mr. Goring, "feel disquieted at this sudden call to the
future life coming to one whose acquaintance with the very
title-deeds of the faith was so slender. I made more than one
attempt to explain these important facts--the only groundwork of
any reasonable faith--to your mother; but though she expressed
her gratitude, I could not be certain of her adherence. But in
the case of so naturally benevolent and kindly a character, we
may interpret with some liberality the doctrine of uncovenanted
"You think there may be ground for hope?" said Walter, with a
sense of amazement verging on derision.
"I should venture to believe so," said Mr. Goring gravely. "It
is hard, of course, to judge in the absence of any apparent
intellectual comprehension. But that is a matter which we
may--nay, we must--leave unsolved. And I would add that I have
made it the subject of much special intercession."
Mrs. Goring was more of a comfort. To begin with, she did not
talk in the tone which so many used, as if Walter had been
recovering from some dangerous illness; and she was the only
person who retained her sense of humour.
"I am afraid," she said, "that William has been troubling you
with some speculations as to your dear mother's doctrinal
position. Dear man, he has been much concerned about it. Of
course the fact that your mother was the only person I have ever
known who was fit to walk straight into heaven (whatever it may
be) doesn't seem to him to matter very much. Yet William is
deeply affectionate, and burst into tears when I told him about
your mother's death. But it is no good distressing oneself about
the way people are made, and I let William talk. He is fit for
heaven, too, in his own way, and his intellectual cobwebs are
very harmless. We shall all want dusting, when the time
Walter smiled. "I should like to talk to you some day a little
about my mother--but not yet."
"No, don't hurry it. It has been a frightful shock to you; I
can see that, Walter. But it is no good pretending that one knows
what one doesn't know. You see to me dear Emily is just as much
alive as ever; it isn't that I have any idea what disembodied
life means, but the extinction of any life like hers is utterly
"It isn't that," said Walter, "it is the destruction of
personality which hurts me. I don't even care to think of my
mother as alive, unless she is exactly the same mother that I
knew. I don't want her to be wiser or better; don't even want to
think of her as an Anglo-Catholic now."
Mrs. Goring smiled and shook her head. "Don't let us talk
about it, dear. But I wish all sorts of things about you. I don't
want you to get morbid. I wish you were not so lonely. If you
could only be married! Your mother once said that to me--she
said, 'Oh, dear, what a good Granny I should make!' Nothing that
could happen to you would have pleased her more than your
"One can't get married to please other people, however much
one loves them."
"No, but you can open your mind to the idea. I have sometimes
thought that you felt money to be the obstacle. Now that obstacle
"I suppose not," said Walter. "No, the obstacle is my own
self-centred and fastidious mind. I couldn't marry unless I felt
life to be unendurable without one particular companion."
"Oh, Walter--trust your impulses."
"And be sorry afterwards?"
"You wouldn't be sorry; it would be a great relief to you. You
would behave decently, whatever happened."
The thought of Helen was much in Walter's mind in these days.
But there were two things which held him back. He thought that if
she had been the same frank and buoyant creature that she was
when he first knew her, he could have put his fate in her hands.
But Helen was not the same. There was a sense of vague trouble
about her, a touch of anxiety and distress which was more felt
than seen. Then she was certainly not less beautiful--she was
more beautiful, he often thought--but beautiful in a different
way. He had seen her once or twice of late sitting silent with an
abstracted gaze. She was paler, larger-eyed, less brimful of
energy and life; and somehow her beauty in its new Madonna-like
phase, while it appealed to his sense of beauty, was more
spiritual and remote, arousing awe rather than desire.
In their talks, too, there was not quite the same spontaneous
outrush of happy and delighted thought--a more mysterious
sweetness, but less crispness of perception.
And behind all, what, he wondered, was her affection for him?
That he had never fathomed. Was it a perfect sisterliness of
regard? That she should have any eager longing for him he never
supposed. He felt that there was a side of him, the trenchant
ironical side, which rather displeased her. Walter was well aware
that he was not the best judge of his own humour. He had several
times given offence when he had meant to be only gently
satirical, and there had been times when he had fenced with
Clare, when he had felt that Helen was made uncomfortable.
Clare? . . . This pretty child, with her astonishing
naïveté, her charming inconsequence, her
caressing ways, had been becoming more and more of a delight to
him. He knew very little about her inner mind, but she had shown
a great eagerness for his company. She used to come and sit with
him while he worked, professing not to disturb him--sometimes
putting the room a little to rights, sometimes sitting quiet with
a trivial occupation of her own--and he could not keep his eyes
off her childish petulance, her graceful movements, her
rebellious hair. She was sweet, as a rose is sweet--and they had
walked sometimes in the dusk among the woodways, when she seemed
to him to be subtly fragrant through and through. He had never
pretended to regard her seriously: she was simply to him like an
Mrs. Goring had told him to follow his impulse. But what,
after all, did he need a wife for? Lovemaking might be a pleasant
interlude. But Walter had a great element of solitariness in him,
and he shrank from thus being invaded. He did not want a wife who
would seek to know too much about him and his thoughts: he did
not want sympathy. He was not deeply interested in women, and
their wilful inconsequence had no charm for him. He did not want
to woo or to pet . . . his mind went back to a talk with Norton,
who had told him laughingly that he was not fitted for monogamy,
but had a nature more akin to the patriarchal instincts of the
harem. It was all a very confusing affair, and he was not
irresistibly impelled in any direction. And then there came back
to him, each time as it were with a shocking novelty, the sense
of his loss; and all such plans of domestic happiness fell into
dust and ashes; his work was the only thing for which he
The last night before Walter went off to Oxford he spent in
the house in Thurston, now his own. But he took no decisive step,
said no decisive word. He was in no way adventurous; he liked
settled ways and customary relations. To preserve the status
quo was what he tended to do. He blamed himself for this, or
rather noted it in himself with a certain displeasure, but he was
reasonable enough to know that no one can cure an unadventurous
nature by rash action and subsequent disentanglement. Helen said
good-bye to him with a subdued sadness; his silence about his
mother's death was a mystery to her. Clare was mute and
unresponsive. Mr. Worsley, however, surprised Walter by the
warmth and friendliness of his farewell; and sad as the days
were, Walter felt that he had reached a secure familiarity with
the Worsley family which could never quite lapse away.
He asked Dr. Bowlby to come and see him after dinner, and the
talk became by slow degrees a very intimate one. Walter had, of
course, no idea of any attachment to Helen on the part of Dr.
Bowlby, but in order to elicit an opinion from the doctor on the
subject which was most in his thoughts, he told him the story of
a friend of his, who after an ardent courtship and a year or two
of hectic uxoriousness had fallen into a state of chronic
irritability with his wife, a pretty, unintellectual creature,
whose pathetic attempts to sympathize with her husband's pursuits
had exhausted his patience and consideration.
"Yes," said Dr. Bowlby, "it is not an uncommon case. Nature
uses passion for her own physical purposes, and does not appear
to pay the smallest heed to any congeniality either of mind or
spirit; she casts a sort of spell over the mind. I daresay that
in the early months of his marriage your friend was disposed to
praise his wife's abilities?"
"Yes," said Walter, smiling. "He used to say that, in spite of
having had no particular training, she had an extraordinary
natural insight into intellectual matters."
"It is a strange thing," said the doctor. "The tendency of
civilization to insist on monogamy seems directly opposed to
natural tendencies. You see that as society is now constituted, a
man's wife stands in two quite separate relations to him. She is
the mother of his children, and she is also his most intimate
friend and companion."
"But isn't it possible," said Walter, "to take into account
the future companionship? Aren't the happiest marriages those
which begin in friendship and end in love?"
"It is decidedly rational," said the doctor, "and no doubt
possible. But in my experience it is very rare. The real basis of
it all is a certain physical attraction, and that disregards all
other considerations. Intellectual marriages are often childless.
In fact nature has a sort of contempt for intellect."
"But people can be very good friends without being
intellectually equal," said Walter. "Indeed, I think that
intellectual people often prefer a less intellectual companion.
It gives a husband a chance of showing off uncontradicted, and it
gives a wife an agreeable sort of diplomacy."
"Yes," said Dr. Bowlby, "and I think the happiest marriages
are those which have a physical attraction and a certain
congruity of spirit. And when two decent and civilized people
have to live together, there is a good deal of instinctive
compromise. That is, I think, the moral value of marriage. The
unhappiest are those which are based upon any reason other than
the physical attraction."
"But doesn't that make it a very material affair?" said
"Yes," said Dr. Bowlby, "that is an inevitable conclusion. The
transcendental part of marriage is not marriage at all; it
belongs to the domain of friendship."
"But," said Walter, "if you were asked to give practical
advice--imagine a man who believes in a general way in marriage
and wants a home, but who does not experience any great physical
"Well," said Dr. Bowlby, "in a general way I should advise him
to remain a bachelor, unless he felt very sure of his friendship
with his destined wife. And that can lead to incredibly difficult
complications. I have known people marry on reasonable grounds,
and then one of them may fall under the physical attraction--that
can be a great tragedy."
"But I suppose it is much more important for a woman to be a
mother than for a man to be a father?"
"Of course," said Dr. Bowlby. "A woman's nature and the main
source of her happiness are concentrated on maternity to a degree
of which you and I can form very little idea. Only abnormal men
are really concentrated on sex--and to my mind that is the most
acute problem of the modern world. As long as morality declares
for monogamy, a large number of women are condemned to sterility
and unhappiness. They are the real martyrs of society; and the
worst part of it is that this unhappiness, instead of leading
women to consider how it could be removed, tends to lead them
into a resentful kind of sex-antagonism. That is the revenge
which nature takes on morality. People talk with aversion or
compassion about the victims of man's viciousness; they tend to
deride the victim of men's morality."
"It seems rather a grim business," said Walter.
"It is," said Dr. Bowlby. "Nature is not sentimental and she
is not rational. She goes her own way. No one but a doctor, and
not all doctors, know what the ravages of thwarted normality
are--and many of the victims do not know it themselves. The
mediæval glorification of virginity is a very dreadful sort
"But what about men?" said Walter.
"Oh, they matter much less. It is much more easy for them to
transmute energy into different channels. They don't lose their
souls in the process. But of course I am only generalizing. There
are many cases which lie quite outside classification. That is
why doctoring is so interesting--the cases that don't conform to
This conversation made a very deep impression upon Walter; and
it struck him at the time that there was a certain sternness,
almost resentment, underlying Dr. Bowlby's words. He felt
inclined to re-echo the words of Carlyle about De Quincey, "Ecco!
This child has been in hell!"
Helen, the day after Walter had gone to Oxford, went out for a
solitary walk--one of the many walks that she connected with
Walter. She could almost imagine him walking rapidly and
gesticulating as he talked; he had very expressive hands, and
Helen fancied that she could almost tell his mood from the look
and motion of them. She was a little happier than she had been of
late, though she was ashamed of confessing even to herself the
reason. Walter had not opened his mind to her about his mother's
death--indeed, he seemed involved in a cloud of solitariness. But
he had sought her company, and had seemed content to be with her,
while Clare seemed to have rather fallen out of sight.
It was a still autumn day, the woods showing splashes and
patches of gold among the green. Little mists lay in the depths
of the woodlands and over the forest pools. The air was so calm
and fresh that Helen felt a new tide of wholesome vigour flow
into her spirit.
She came in at the gate; and as she stood for a moment,
regarding the house, which looked so dignified in its settled
peace, with the smoke going up from the chimneys, she heard the
great chestnut in the court stir and rustle, and the sharp soft
thud of the falling nuts in the grass. An irresistible wish came
over her to go up to Walter's room; she went lightly up the
turret-stair, opened the old door with its low lintel, and went
At the table sat Clare in Walter's chair, her head bowed over
her hands--she could just see the curve of her cheek under her
hair. She sat up quickly at the sound of the footsteps, and
turned to Helen a blurred and tearful face, with the fretful
curve of mouth that one sees in a petulant child. The two looked
at each other for a moment. Helen took a step forward with hand
outstretched. "What is the matter, dear?" she said.
"You know what is the matter," said Clare. "Why did you come
here?--to spy on me?"--and she put Helen's hand aside, and sat
drumming on the table with her fingers.
Helen was deeply moved, and knelt down beside Clare, putting
one arm round her. Clare resisted no longer. "Whatever happens,"
said Helen, "we mustn't go on like this."
"Oh, Helen," said Clare, the tears starting out afresh, "I
can't bear to think that Walter is gone--and all these last days
he wouldn't notice me or speak to me, and he said good-bye as if
he hardly knew me. I simply can't bear that he should treat me
so--and you were always about with him; I think it was horribly
selfish of you when you knew what I felt."
"What was I to do?" said Helen. "Walter talked very little to
me. I don't think he wanted anyone--he doesn't like sympathy; it
only reminds him of his trouble. He just wanted a companion. It
was an effort to him to talk at all--and he is more used to me,
perhaps; you see, he has known me longer."
"You think that was all?" said Clare. "I know it was partly my
fault. I kept out of his way. I can't bear people to be anxious
and miserable. But you think he cares for me a little, don't
"I am sure he does" said Helen.
"But, Helen," went on Clare, her eyes still brimming with
tears, "I am sure you don't care for him in the way I do. Yes, I
know you are very fond of him, but that isn't the same. I woke up
this morning, long before I was called, and thought how dull and
wretched it would be without him. He put his arm round me once as
I stood beside his chair, and said I lit up the place, and I
kissed him then, and many times after--though he never kissed me
first." And the tears broke out afresh.
"Well, darling," said Helen, realizing in a sudden flash what
a child Clare still was, "we shall soon have him back again--and
meantime we will think what we can do."
"There's only one thing to do," said Clare. "I think Walter
feels bound to you in some way or other, and you must set him
free somehow to do as he likes. Can't you explain to him what I
feel about him?"
"I am not bound to Walter or he to me in any way," said Helen,
"and if I were to say anything about setting him free, he would
think he had not been free. You see that, don't you? But I think
I can explain it a little to him."
"It seems so wicked to me," said Clare, "that men should go
about admiring and liking girls, and waiting to pick and choose.
Why shouldn't we have the pick too? It is so hateful that a man
may say what he likes to us, and that we can't say a word to
"I think we sometimes do," said Helen; "but, after all, a man
can't choose us against our will. And if we had the choice, they
would have to have the right to say 'No.'"
"They wouldn't often dare to," said Clare.
Helen shook her head. "But you must promise me, Clare, that
you won't come and shut yourself up here and make yourself
miserable--that is no use at all."
"Then why did you come here?" said Clare. "Did you come here
to dance a pas seul because you were so glad that Walter
"I really don't know quite why I did come here," said Helen.
"It just came into my head. But what do you think about this? I
know Dr. Bowlby wants papa to have a little change. We might
persuade him to go away for a little and take us two. Then we
shan't be able to make ourselves mournful about the empty
"I don't believe you mind Walter's having gone a bit," said
Clare. "I don't feel as if I wanted to go away anywhere just
Helen determined that she would contrive to get Dr. Bowlby to
order Mr. Worsley away. She was a good deal distressed by her
discovery of Clare's feeling. She could not bring herself to
think that it was very deeply rooted, though it was undoubtedly
intense. But it was one thing to possess Walter's confidence, and
another to seem, by anything she said, to compromise him, or to
push her sister into his arms. She did not somehow feel that
Clare was in the least suited to Walter or Walter to her, and
then she spent a miserable half-hour in trying to think whether
this was only a sort of jealousy trying to assume a high-minded
She felt that she could not decide what to do without talking
to Mrs. Goring. The next day she went over to the Vicarage, and
found Mrs. Goring deep in calculations as to how to get a new
carpet and curtains without Mr. Goring perceiving it, or in any
case without knowing that he had paid for it.
Helen asked what she was doing. "Oh, contriving," said Mrs.
Goring. "I must keep the house decent, or William censures me,
and I must not spend money, or he prays for me."
"Why not say you must have a carpet?"
"Because he would only suggest that the old one should be
turned. He is incredibly ignorant. He brought me an old coat the
other day, and asked me to observe that it had what he called a
little coat inside it, meaning the lining. Didn't I think it
could be taken out and made into a little summer jacket for
"I want to bother you again," said Helen. "What am I to
do?"--and she described how she found Clare in tears in Walter's
"She thought I was selfish in keeping Walter tied to
myself--she thought I might set him free."
"Clare won't break her heart," said Mrs. Goring. "But we must
treat her with the respect due to children. Tell me frankly,
would Walter marry her?"
"He might," said Helen, "if he thought he had encouraged her.
She is extraordinarily fascinating when she chooses to be."
"The young men come about her like bees," said Mrs. Goring,
"and one never can tell. Marriage might alter her; but what I
fear might happen is that she would expect constant attention,
and might make a great mess of Walter's life. He doesn't want a
wife--he wants a companion. The Hagar arrangement would suit him
"I doubt if Walter would have turned Hagar out," said
"Abraham had no choice," said Mrs. Goring. "But I think he
should have expressed some regret. I can never think that Abraham
behaved quite like a gentleman. But as Maurice said, the
temptation of the spiritual man in all ages is to behave like a
liar and a sneak. I wander from the point. The question, dear
Helen, is what you feel about it."
"I don't know, Mary. I am very unhappy just now. I seem to be
getting in everyone's way. I know my father expects me to marry
Walter. I don't think Walter wants to marry anyone: and I don't
know whether I am in love with him or not, while I am quite sure
that Clare is."
"These men!" said Mrs. Goring. "It is dreadful to think that
they should ever have to decide anything. That is the one thing
they cannot do; and if they do, they suffer from regret, even
from repentance. They are the creatures of impulse. Now if I
decide anything, I may have my regrets, but I never repent. And
then there is the idiotic regard that men have for verbal
accuracy. They never understand that the letter killeth. About
such things all good women are wholly unscrupulous."
"And then there is another thing," said Helen. "It's no good
not mentioning everything. My father expects me to marry Walter;
but if that were to break down, he would be consoled if Walter
married Clare. If Walter married someone else altogether, papa
would be wretched. I can't understand my father. His heart is set
on founding a family, I think; and he doesn't like having
dispossessed Walter. The whole frame of mind is so inconceivable
to me, that I can't even imagine it. I think men's code of honour
is so curious. There is no reason why, if papa feels as he does,
he should not offer the estate to Walter, or even leave it to
him. But Walter would not dream of accepting it. I can't
understand this sense of sacredness about property."
"Yes, that's another male mystery," said Mrs. Goring. "It is
simply there, and has to be accepted. But, Helen dear, this is a
great complication. I will tell you one thing frankly. If I
thought you really loved Walter, I myself should make him marry
you, whatever he felt. That would be easy; but I don't feel sure
enough about you. In fact, if you loved Walter, you would not be
able to talk about it all as you do. I am afraid I can't consider
your father--he must be disappointed if necessary--but I see that
you must consider him. And then about Clare. You must be very
careful what you say to Walter, or you will make him marry her;
and I doubt if Clare is the right girl for him; and you mustn't
do it out of a wild generosity. Men and women have the right to
give themselves away, if they choose to. But one must not give
other people away. You see, I think that if you married Walter,
you would probably both be happy; but, on the other hand, I think
you might be very unhappy, if there wasn't enough love, on one
side at least; and I am aware, too, that if I made Walter offer
himself to you, I couldn't also make you take him. Good Heavens,
was ever a love affair talked about so plainly? It is like the
kind of conversation I have with the grocer about bacon. What
would William or your father or Walter think of the delicacy of
women if they heard us talk? They would have expected to see us
both bathed in tears and blushes, and to hear us saying, 'Then
you think?' 'Oh, no not that!' 'Well then!'--they would think
even that sailing near the wind."
Helen laughed. "What a comfort it is to talk plainly!" she
said. "I will write a letter to Walter and show it you. I must do
something. Clare has no doubt been very forthcoming, but I can't
have her crying all alone in the gate-house over Walter's
"Does Walter know that you know?" said Mrs. Goring.
"More or less."
"Well, Clare will get over it. What about those dreadful young
men from Thurston?"
"Oh, Walter has quite put her off them."
"I could not see her yielding to the blandishments of Harry
Saxby without a struggle," said Mrs. Goring, "though I honestly
believe they would be happy together. Clare's husband should have
a touch of the fool about him."
They kissed and parted. "Whatever you do," said Mrs. Goring,
"don't be solemn about this. It is great fun planning it all, but
I expect there will be a bolt from the blue--there generally
DEAREST WALTER (Helen wrote),--
I can't tell you how much we all miss you. Papa is quite
preoccupied, Miss Haden has reasserted her moral supremacy. I
don't know what to do with myself except pay duty calls, and I
found Clare in tears at the thought of how selfish I had been in
keeping you so much to myself. I know, dear Walter, it has been a
bad time for you, and that you could not talk about what has
happened. I did not expect you to, though I myself miss dear Mrs.
Garnet so much that I find it hard not to speak of her. I would
like you to know how much she is missed in Thurston. She gave
people there what they had never had before, an absolutely
unselfish affection. She did not want to influence anyone or to
help them even, which always means a sense of superiority. She
only wanted people to be kind to each other and happy, and there
are several friends of hers who will try to continue to do this
for the sake of her memory and her love. This is all I will say
now. I hope you will have a good term, and that you are already
interested in your work.
Your loving HELEN.
In November, when the woods were all bare, and when on still
days the valley below the Manor was often brimmed with blue
silvery mists, the house began to seem to Helen like a forlorn
and guarded fortress. Her plans about getting Mr. Worsley to go
away had come to nothing. There were few callers, and fewer
visitors could be enticed from their own firesides. A mood of
constant depression settled down upon her, mixed with a dull
sense of shame that she could not make a better show of
Walter had answered her letter very lightly, saying that he
was touched by the grief that his departure had caused, and that
he too would like to devote at least a day a week to penitential
sorrow, but his work did not admit of it. He evidently did not
take the matter seriously.
Helen began to feel her own vitality ebbing away in the
absence of all active interests. Neither her father nor Clare
seemed to need her at all. Mr. Worsley had gone back to long
hours of work. Helen more than once remonstrated with him, but he
said that he now worked much more slowly and deliberately, and
always stopped the moment he felt tired. He was sure, he said,
that it suited him much better to have his mind occupied. He was
always kind and good-natured, but Helen had in old days been the
conversational mainstay of the party; and now she often had the
lamentable sense that she had little or nothing to say. She found
herself considering one threadbare subject after another, and
deciding that the effort of putting them into words was hardly
worth while. Walter wrote to her regularly, and she fancied that
he was also writing to Clare. Clare had formed a close secret
alliance with Miss Haden, spent much time in her company, and
made little or no attempt to talk to Helen at all. Helen tried to
occupy herself in reading, but she began to find that the morbid
element in novels and biographies, episodes where human beings
found themselves involved in a struggle against intangible evil,
were the only records or situations that had any sort of
attraction for her. If it had not been for Mrs. Goring, she
thought she would have lost her courage altogether; but even Mrs.
Goring was in no sense free; for, as she told Helen, her husband
had often very little to say to her, but manifested both
irritation and uneasiness if she was not at hand whenever he
"I think I shall really have to find some work for myself away
from home," Helen said once to Mrs. Goring.
"Are you very unhappy, dear?"
"Yes, but I don't quite know why. I used to be happy enough
about nothing; but now everything is always the same, and no one
at home seems to want my opinion on any point. My father is
occupied in work, and Clare is always with Miss Haden."
"Shall I speak a word to any of them?"
"No, dear Mary; if they began throwing bones to a dog out of
sheer pity, the dog wouldn't even have the heart to gnaw them. I
am the only person who can help myself. They would be willing
enough to listen to me, if I had anything to say; but they seem
to be living comfortably in burrows of their own."
"What about Walter?"
"Oh, he is very good; he writes regularly, but every week I
feel further away from him."
"I don't want you to go away from home, Helen. You may not
feel it, but you are the pillar of the house."
"I wish they needed me a little less, and wanted me a little
more! It is very self-conscious, but I feel I am wasting
everything--my time, my energy, my spirit. I feel there is a
great deal of life bubbling up in me, but it all runs away down a
waste-pipe of its own."
One evening after tea, Mr. Worsley had drifted off to his
work, and Clare with Miss Haden had betaken themselves to the
so-called schoolroom. Helen was sitting alone by the fire, trying
to lose herself in a book, when her father came in and asked if
he might speak to her. She followed him to his study listlessly,
wondering what small worry he wanted her to disentangle. He used
to confide to her sympathetic ear any little friction with
tenants or domestic problems, though they were seldom of an
interesting kind. But this time it was evidently something more
serious; and Helen wondered, as she had often done before, at the
nervousness and circumlocution with which her father approached a
discussion involving any show of emotion, with a daughter with
whom he had at all events more in common than he had with any
other human being.
The study was a dark panelled room. Mr. Worsley whose eyes
were somewhat weak, was distressed by diffused light; and all the
light in the room, except the dull glow of a smouldering fire,
was concentrated into the circle illuminated on the table by a
big lamp, which showed the neat and precise arrangements of the
owner, the shelf of law-books, the stationery-case, the heaps of
docketed papers, the elaborate silver inkstand--no hint of any
human affinity or underlying beauty.
Mr. Worsley sat at the table with some papers before him, and
Helen watched his hands, firm and expressive in outline and
control, as he untied his packet. She sat down in a big leather
arm-chair beside the fire, so that his face was not turned to
her, but appeared in profile, and to a great extent in
"I have been completing my will, Helen," he said. "You may
remember a conversation I had with you when I was taken ill. I
have not recurred to the subject, which is perhaps an agitating
one for both of us--or at least a delicate one to discuss."
He was silent a moment, and then went on: "Has the affair--you
understand me?--of which we spoke at that time, in any way
developed? You must forgive me if I appear to touch on subjects
which must be your own peculiar and intimate concern."
"No, papa," said Helen, feeling as she did so a little pang as
to the inevitable disappointment she must inflict on him. "I
can't say that it has. I am the best of friends with Walter, and
I believe he is really very much attached to all of us, but that
"Has he ever spoken to you about such things?"
"No; he doesn't speak about his hopes for the future, nor
indeed about anything which he feels very deeply. He speaks very
freely about things of which other people do not talk easily, and
that perhaps misleads others into thinking him confidential."
"I do not quite understand you."
"What I mean, papa, is that he talks about people freely,
about little vexations, small problems of all sorts--and then you
think he is telling you everything, but he is not. He has only
once said a few words to me about his mother."
"Does he speak about his Oxford friends and
"Yes, a good deal."
Mr. Worsley sat in silence for a little, and then, resuming,
he said: "I want you to understand my position in all this, dear
Helen; I do not think you will deny me your sympathy, and indeed
I feel no doubt that you will co-operate with me as far as you
can. . . . I owe a great deal to old Mr. Garnet. He was the first
of the County people who by giving me his confidence brought our
firm to the front--and then I had a great personal admiration for
him. I could not save him from ruining his estate, and it is to
me a very bitter thought that I should seem to profit by that. It
would be the happiest day of my life if, through an alliance with
my family, Walter could be restored to his ancestral estates;
both on that account and on my own account I should rejoice. You
know, no doubt, though it is not a thing of which I care to
speak, that our own family has only very recently emerged into
anything like consideration. My grandfather had a small emporium
(Mr. Worsley could not bring himself to call it a shop) in
Shrewsbury. My father entered our business--then a small one--as
a clerk. Of my own part I will not speak. But I will confess that
it is with the deepest pride and satisfaction that I find myself,
in so short a space of time, ranking among the leading landowners
of the district. This does not seem to me merely a convenient
thing; it is a result which embraces my deepest and strongest
"But, papa," said Helen, much moved by the awed solemnity of
his tone, "if you feel like this, could you not make over, or
leave by will, the estate to Walter? Clare and I should have, I
daresay, enough to live upon; and I personally should be
delighted that Walter should have it. I myself feel a certain
sense of shame--as if we had superseded him!"
"But should not that latter feeling induce you perhaps to
co-operate more effectively with me in the matter?--though I will
not press that. I will only say that your generous notion of
handing back the estate to Walter would mean an offer which with
no degree of propriety he could accept--that is part of the
chivalry, which in these old families it is easy to perceive, but
by no means easy instinctively to feel."
"It all seems rather a muddle, papa! We seem prevented from
doing all sorts of generous and reasonable things by these
"That, Helen, to me, makes the sanctity of it; intangible they
may be, but the barriers are indubitably there."
"Yes, they are there!"
"But, Helen, I venture to repeat this because I cannot be
unaware--indeed I have other first-hand evidence--that there may
be other suitors, whom in your position, with all your natural
and acquired advantages, you must inevitably attract. I will say
no more on that head . . . but it is a great distress to me to
feel so near to the accomplishment of my hopes and desires, and
yet so far removed from it. I have not been lacking, I hope, in
any consideration for yourself. Could you not co-operate more
effectively with me?"
"I could not pretend to be in love with Walter, when I am not;
and still less could I try to make him think himself in love with
me, if he is not. You would not wish me to do that?"
"I would not wish any stratagems or disingenuous advances to
be made--but can you not feel with me, Helen? Can you not regard
the fulfilment of my aspirations as weighing anything in the
scale of your duty?"
"Yes, papa, I do feel with you, I can't say how much. I
deeply wish you to have what you desire; but the one thing I
could not do, which seems the only thing that could be done, is
to pretend to love Walter, if I do not. I am very fond of Walter,
more attached to him than to anyone outside of my home--indeed, I
feel as if he belonged to my home--but that isn't the same thing
as becoming his wife--nor could I try to persuade him that he
ought to marry me by pretending that I am in love with him."
"You express it too bluntly, Helen. The difference between
friendship and love is not so great, after all."
"They seem to me very different."
"I will not argue it. Of course I do not want you to do
anything which you feel to be repugnant; but Walter seems to me
the sort of young man I could easily love, if I were in your
Mr. Worsley spoke rather coldly, nor did he raise his eyes
from the papers before him.
After a moment he went on. "Perhaps, too, you think that
possessions and position are unimportant things. Youth is very
Quixotic about such matters. But, dear Helen, there you should
trust my experience. You have always enjoyed something of a
position; you have not had to raise yourself by patient effort,
as I have done. To have the esteem and honour of one's neighbours
is not a little thing."
"But don't people win this by what they do and what they are,
more than by what they have? Dr. Bowlby, for instance--is not he
far more trusted and honoured than many more important
"I would rather not bring the personal element in, Helen. Dr.
Bowlby is a most reliable man, but he has no position worth the
name. However, I will not try to persuade you further. You know
my wishes, and it is for you to decide how far you can further
"Oh, papa," said Helen, "don't think like that! I know how
hard you have worked, and how perfectly kind and good you have
been to me; it makes me miserable even to seem to resist you. But
love is a thing which is beyond one's power to deal with--the
kind of love, I mean, that makes marriage possible. I would do
anything in the world I could to please you; but there is one
line that one can't cross, unless it is one's own will to do
"I will not press you, Helen," said Mr. Worsley. "You have
been the best of daughters to me."
He sat in a dejected attitude, leaning over his papers, with
so baffled a look that Helen's whole heart went out to him. He
sighed to himself, and began to put the papers together.
Helen had been wondering whether she ought to speak to him
about Clare, and this decided her.
"There is one thing I ought to say, papa," she said. "Would
you feel contented if Walter were to marry Clare?"
He raised his head and looked at her.
"Clare? Clare?" he said, "she is a mere child, and childish in
all her ways. Walter would have no thought of marrying her."
"She is very fond of him--and he of her," said Helen. "I think
he is quite as likely to wish to marry her as me."
"It is for you that I desire it," he said. "You would be a
great help to Walter in all ways. You would be worthy of him, but
Clare has no sense of responsibility."
"She might get it," said Helen, "but I do not feel sure either
that she would be a companion to him."
"If you could not marry Walter," said Mr. Worsley, "and if he
chose to marry Clare, I should not like it so well, but I should
prefer it to an outside match. What makes you think she cares for
"She has told me so."
"I can hardly anticipate that Walter would think of her as a
wife. But I would rather not speak further of this to-day; it is
an agitating subject."
"You are not feeling unwell?" said Helen, rising and going to
"Not particularly; but I am seldom well, my dear. My life is
at best an uncertain one. But I could die happily if the wish of
my heart were fulfilled."
Helen put her arm round him, bent down and kissed him. Then,
as he said no more, she quietly withdrew, with another weight
upon her heart.
The following morning, Miss Haden came hurriedly in about
eleven o'clock to tell Helen that Mr. Worsley had had another bad
attack, when she had been reading the paper to him. She had sent
for Dr. Bowlby. Helen hastened to her father, and found him
propped up with pillows struggling for breath. He seemed to her
worse than she had ever seen him before, his eyes closed, his
lips parted, and the sweat standing out on his brow. She did what
she could, and a little later Dr. Bowlby arrived. Helen could see
that he was alarmed by her father's state. He sent her away, and
half an hour later joined her in her room.
"It has been a very bad attack, Miss Helen," he said--"the
worst he has yet had--but it is passing off, and I do not think
there is any danger now. But it must be admitted that his
condition is a precarious one. Do you know if anything has
occurred to upset him?"
"Yes," said Helen, "he had a long talk with me yesterday
evening, and seemed much exhausted by it."
"An ordinary talk?" said Dr. Bowlby, "or was it a talk likely
to agitate him?"
"I am afraid it was."
"But, Miss Helen, you must somehow prevent that. That he
should be agitated is the worst thing for him."
"It is difficult to know what to do; I did not begin it; but
it seems equally impossible either not to listen, or to stop
"You would not care to tell me what he talked about?"
Helen looked at him. The doctor's plain, solid face was
irradiated by kindness and sympathy.
"Yes, Dr. Bowlby, I will tell you, though it is a difficult
thing to talk about to anyone. My father very much wishes me to
marry Walter Garnet."
"Do you mean that Walter is pressing it, and that you
refuse--forgive me if I ask too much--but if I am to advise, I
must know how things stand."
Helen smiled. "No, Walter has made no sign. He and I are the
best of friends, but that is all. My father does not realize that
two people can care very much about each other and yet have no
thought of marriage."
"Do you know why he so much desires it?"
"I think my father has a great devotion to the Garnet family.
The old Squire was the making of him. He has a painful feeling
that he has in a way dispossessed Walter, and this, he thinks,
would clear it off. He has set his heart upon it. What am I to
"You must follow your own heart in this matter, Miss Helen.
This is not a thing where you ought to be influenced by any wish
to please your father. It is no one's duty to marry against their
will--that is a sacrifice which no one can be asked to make."
"My father is very much to be pitied. He has worked very hard
all his life, and has had very little happiness. Now that he has
come within reach of his ambition, everything goes wrong. No one
will take the simple and obvious step he would wish them to
"I see how difficult it is; but you can't give up your life
and yourself simply because it is so pathetic that your father
cannot get his way. I say plainly that it is not a mere matter of
doing violence to a passing emotion--it is a sin, and worse than
a sin, to marry without love."
Helen looked at him. "Thank you, Dr. Bowlby," she said; "that
is the first solid ground I have had to stand on."
"At the same time I would say this," said Dr. Bowlby, "that it
need not be a passionate emotion to justify a marriage. I have
known of happy marriages made without passion, but you can trust
"What instinct?" said Helen. "The position is that Walter has
not made love to me, and I could not try to make him do so. But
if he were to come to me and say that he could not be happy
unless I married him, I think I would yield to that."
"I do not see that you can do anything at all," said
Dr. Bowlby. "You must await events. That is not a pleasant thing
to do; but it is a thing we have, most of us, to spend our lives
in doing. But now that you have given me your confidence, which I
treasure greatly, will you not be content to leave matters as
they are? You can speak to me at any time, and I would do
anything to help matters. You do not know how willingly I would
carry the burden myself, if I could."
He smiled at her with his big, anxious, sweet-tempered smile,
and seemed to envelope her with sympathy and understanding.
"Yes," said Helen, "I can leave it so; and I can hardly
tell you how grateful I am for giving me just the sort of support
They parted, with that long and steady glance of equal
friendship which knows no shamefacedness.
A few minutes later she was with her father, whose colour had
returned, and who was lying in a tranquil exhaustion. He glanced
up at her and said, "Helen dear, don't blame yourself about this.
It was not what you said last night that agitated me. You only
said what was natural and right. It was my foolishness in raising
a question which cannot be settled by argument or even by
Helen bent over him and kissed him on the cheek, shedding
Mr. Worsley did not make a rapid recovery, and Helen was much
taken up with looking after him. Clare never assumed any
responsibility in the matter. She told Helen with the utmost
frankness that to spend much time with people who were ill in bed
made her feel ill herself. She used to flutter into the room,
make a few remarks to her father, present him with a flower, and
whisk away again; yet Helen found that these little visits
cheered her father more than her own quieter ministrations. But
to Helen's surprise, she found that the unhappy cloud which had
rested over her own spirits was now gradually lifting, and she
attributed this largely to the definite duties of reading to her
father, and taking down his directions on points of business
which were submitted to him. She saw a good deal of Dr. Bowlby in
these days, and his quiet companionship was a great help to her.
His very presence seemed to evoke the best side both of Mr.
Worsley and Helen herself. Some peaceful influence seemed to flow
from the big rough-hewn man, his curt questions and brief replies
and his slow-coming smile. Helen once asked him to what extent
Mr. Worsley ought to be allowed to talk about his symptoms.
"Why," he said, "most doctors discourage it--they think that to
put thoughts into definite words rather stamps the fact upon the
ailing mind--but I don't quite take this view. People who are ill
accumulate a certain amount of ashes, so to speak, in twenty-four
hours. Their twinges of pain, their sense of weakness, their
anxiety about themselves are like a slow fire; and my idea is
that this should all be cleared out every day; it is when they
begin to discuss their symptoms artistically, as a psychological
problem, that they should be checked--but the cinders should be
Walter wrote cheerfully from Oxford. He had decided for the
present to keep on the house at Thurston. Cousin Jane had
suggested that she should pay a little sum towards the expenses
of the house, and remain on as an informal housekeeper. She said
with grim humour that she had consulted her friends, and that
though it was ostensibly improper that she should keep house for
a young unmarried relation, who was outside the prohibited
matrimonial degrees, yet if Walter would run the risk, she
thought she could preserve her reputation unblemished.
Walter was to return early in December; he was pressed to stay
at the Manor, but he preferred to spend a fortnight or so at
home, going through a quantity of family papers which his mother
had hoarded, but said that, if they approved, he would spend his
Christmas with them. It was arranged, however, that the two
girls, and Mr. Worsley, if he was well enough, should come down
to lunch with him on the day after his arrival.
The day arrived. Mr. Worsley did not feel well enough to go
down; and, much to Helen's surprise, Clare at the last moment
decided that she did not feel well enough either to come. Clare
had by this time more or less established herself in the
sitting-room in the gate-house, and when Miss Haden told Helen
that Clare had decided not to go, Helen went over to the
gate-house to interview her. She found Clare looking very
radiant, ensconced in a deep chair before the fire, idly
"I wish you would come down to luncheon at Walter's to-day,"
said Helen. "I think he will be disappointed--and what am I to
say is the matter with you?"
"Whatever you like," said Clare; "say I'm not up to it."
"I never saw you look better in your life," said Helen. "What
is the matter?"
"Oh, just a lot of little reasons," said Clare. "I don't like
Cousin Jane, to begin with; and then I shall be out of it. Walter
and you will be conversing, and I can't converse. Don't be
tiresome about it, Helen; you can walk up with Walter after
lunch, and I will explain the whole thing to him in two
"Very well," said Helen; "but I don't think papa will like
"He won't know anything about it," said Clare, "unless you
tell him. I shall have some cake here. I hate lunch; it makes
people look ugly."
"I have never noticed that in you!" said Helen,
"Well, I feel ugly after lunch, which is just as
So Helen went off alone, and got a very warm welcome from
Cousin Jane, who admired Helen because she was practical. A
moment later Walter came in, and presently asked about Clare.
"She's not very well," said Helen; "but I thought we might
walk up after lunch and you could see her."
"Not much amiss?" said Walter; and Helen could see that he was
somewhat vexed by Clare's absence.
They lunched together, and Cousin Jane related with vicious
emphasis as much of the gossip of the place as she had extracted.
"I must warn you," she said to Helen, "that just at present
Thurston opinion is unfavourable to your family. It is thought
that a professional man like your father should not indulge in
quite so leisurely an illness. Your absence from Thurston is
condoned, but your sister is thought to be forgetful of her
friends here. She declined to act in the Parkinson theatricals,
and Mrs. Parkinson says that ever since the Honourable Anne had
tea at the Manor, Clare has been very chilly."
"Who on earth is the Honourable Anne?" said Walter.
"Walter, I am surprised at you," said Cousin Jane; "you must
have met her--the daughter of the Lord Lieutenant!"
"Oh, Bunny Loraine!" said Walter. "Is she as queer as
"She came to tea in knickerbockers and leggings," said Helen.
"She asked for a boiled egg. She told Clare that she looked like
a lap-dog. Clare has done nothing but imitate her ever
As soon as luncheon was over, Helen looked round the house
"It seems years since we lived here," she said, "and now I
feel as if I had been impossibly happy here!"
"Aren't you happy now?"
"I shall feel some day that I was," said Helen, "but I have
been anxious about papa lately,--and Clare--I can't quite make
her out. She has very little to say to me."
"I hope she is not ill," said Walter, looking a little
"No, indeed; but she goes her own way more than ever. I can't
think how she spends her time; she sits a good deal in the
gate-house room now. She isn't bored; in fact, she generally
looks as if she had heard some good news which she chose to keep
They set off about three o'clock, but stopped several times to
speak to acquaintances. Helen found herself admiring Walter's
good humour, and the pleasant little things he found to say to
"I wish I were as ready as you," she said. "I find it harder
and harder to talk without saying anything. It seems a waste of
time. But Dr. Bowlby assures me that it doesn't matter what one
says, as long as one looks at people and thinks about them."
"How like Bowlby!" said Walter; "but there's a good deal in
it. It's the flowing tide, as he would call it! His idea is that
what one says is only a surface ripple."
"I don't quite agree," said Helen. "In a railway-carriage, a
person who looks surly and disagreeable, often becomes quite
pleasant if he says a few words. It dispels the atmosphere of
suspicion. And I don't think that if two people were shut up
together, and forbidden to speak, they would get to know much
about each other."
"It depends upon how much they wanted to know."
As they left the town behind and the road began to ascend the
long hill, Helen became conscious of a certain tension. She felt
as though Walter had something in his mind to say, which he found
difficult to express and perhaps would have preferred not to say
at all. They talked inconsequently, and there were awkward gaps
which both alike felt the need of trying to fill.
At last it came. "Helen," said Walter, "there is something I
want to say to you, but I don't want to press you for an answer.
We have been friends a long time now, and I have told you most
things that have been in my mind. You have been amazingly good,
and I can only say that you have been like a dear sister to me. I
have had a good many sharp troubles of one kind and another, and
you have taken the sting out of them all."
"No, dear Walter," said Helen. "You have done that for
yourself; and what have you given to me? A real,
new, and deep interest in life. I never thought, when we sat that
day on the downs, that my promise, which I was so afraid of
making, was going to mean so much to me."
"That day on the hill," said Walter, "I was desperate. It
seemed to me that I had lived all my life without anything real
happening to me at all; and I thought there was just one
beautiful chance of finding a real friend."
"What about Harry Norton?" said Helen.
"Oh, that is different: with a man-friend it is like going up
a staircase together; with you, it was like meeting someone
coming down. The secret of the world isn't revealed either to men
or to women by themselves--they live in two different worlds--but
they can make out something of it together."
"But it remains a secret."
"Yes, but it is like seeing a light in a window when you are
wandering in the night. And what I wanted to say was this, Helen.
We can't go on being friends like this for ever. Isn't it
possible that we might share our experiences, instead of dividing
"Walter dear, I don't know what to say. You are very dear to
me--most dear of all . . ." She broke off and her eyes filled
with tears. Walter put his arm through hers, and kissed her
lightly on the cheek. She looked at him mutely through her
"Helen dear, I won't ask for any answer yet--I don't want to
come suddenly upon you, and force you to speak; but you now know
what I want and hope for. Let it wait a little."
Helen had a strange sensation. She would have wished to throw
her arms round his neck and kiss him, or that he should have
flung his arms about her, however roughly. She was ashamed of
herself for thinking of it. But this gentle way of winning
somehow disappointed her, and yet she had never loved Walter so
much as she had done at that moment. Her mood bore her upwards,
shifted its course; a moment later she was uncertain of
"Then you will think of it, dearest," said Walter. He took her
hand in both of his own and kissed it, and they went on
Was this then the great moment of life, thought Helen? Did one
enter so easily into the enchanted land? It was more like taking
a ticket and stepping into a train.
They talked of Mr. Worsley. "It always seems to me so sad,"
said Helen, "that papa should have slaved all his life as he has
done, and gained so much success--and yet he does not seem ever
to have come near to anyone."
"Your mother?" said Walter.
"Perhaps," said Helen. "I hardly know enough about her. He was
very good to her; but she had been ill so long before she died,
that my feeling about her is that she always seemed to be
occupied in sad thoughts. She was very fond of me, but it was
only as if she had looked out of a window and smiled, and then
she went back to some weary business of her own within."
"And Clare?" said Walter.
"Father is always puzzled by Clare. He admires her, but Clare
is like a child. When she kisses you she is always thinking of
something else; you can see it in her eyes. She just submits to
being loved, by me at least. But she is greatly devoted to you,
Walter; and Clare can only do one thing at a time."
"She's a fascinating child," said Walter. "I never saw anyone
move about more beautifully."
"She is more beautiful than ever," said Helen.
"Well, we shall see!"
After tea was over, Walter slipped away with Clare, and Helen,
who had expected Walter to return, sat with a book beside the
fire. The experience of the afternoon brought a glow about her
heart, and her first sense of disappointment passed away. She
could truthfully say to herself that she loved Walter very much.
He was constantly in her thoughts, she delighted in his letters
and his talk, and she had a certain sense of pride in his
preference for her. As she had said at almost their first
meeting, there was something princely about him. He never
demanded recognition or deference, he showed a gentle
indifference to many of the things for which other men strive and
cry, his bearing and his thought moved intently on a higher
level; and it was like him, she thought, not to grasp at closer
ties, but to come by slow degrees into a finer sort of intimacy.
It was not her romantic idea of a courtship, and the thought of
marrying him seemed not to excite her--it was rather the next
natural step. She was pleased, too, in thinking of her father's
pleasure, while the idea that Walter should be returning to his
own ancestral position was a relief to her. She was very happy as
she moved through tranquil vistas of futurity.
But the time passed on, and Walter did not return. The
dressing-bell rang, and eventually she went up to dress. She
thought that perhaps he had not meant to urge his suit
further--or possibly he had gone on to see Mrs. Goring.
Clare came down to dinner in a silent mood; but there was a
triumphant little sparkle in her eye which Helen could not quite
interpret. "Did you have a good talk?" she said to Clare.
"Oh, yes; and, by the way, Walter asked me to say that he had
to rush off, as someone was coming to dinner."
Mr. Worsley was in a good mood--he was feeling decidedly
stronger. Clare said little, and Helen had a feeling that Clare
was regarding her with a certain curiosity. But a pleasant sense
of weariness came upon Helen, with the feeling of relief that at
any rate her next step was clear. She fell asleep very quietly,
and rising happy and refreshed, regarded from her window the
little gate-house at the end of the avenue with a contented
feeling that at all events the old home might soon be in Walter's
hands again; and then she thought of Walter himself. Whatever
might happen, life would not be difficult with him. He never
complained, he never had grievances, he was never irritable or
As soon as breakfast was over she walked to the Vicarage to
see Mrs. Goring.
"Helen," said Mrs. Goring, "you have some good news for me, I
"How did you guess that?"
"There is a brightness about you; you look compact. When
people are depressed they look as if their hands and feet did not
belong to them, but were tied loosely on with string."
Helen laughed. "Walter has spoken to me," she said. "It is all
going to be very rational--no raptures and ecstasies--but he
would be prepared to spend his life in my company, if I am
Mrs. Goring looked at her rather curiously.
"That's rather a tepid affair, Helen! It's all very well to
take it quietly, but marriage doesn't mean only walks and
Helen threw her arms round Mrs. Goring's neck. "I am not
nervous about it, dear Mary," she said. "Walter has never
required that I should adore him, but I am quite capable of doing
so. You needn't try to make me have misgivings."
Mrs. Goring shook her head. "When did all this happen?" she
"Yesterday, walking up from Thurston."
"Why didn't he come and tell me about it?"
"There was no time. He went off with Clare after tea, and had
to rush back to dinner."
"Yes, I promised Clare she should have a talk with him."
"It is getting more lukewarm every minute! He asked you to
marry him, and you didn't say no, and then he went off with
Clare, and you allowed him!"
"He only asked me to think it over."
"As if he were engaging a cook!"
"I told you it was very rational."
"Even William was more energetic than that! After we had
settled it all, he rushed off and brought me my waterproof and
"Walter said quite enough for me; I have felt very happy ever
since; I slept like a top."
"Worse and worse," said Mrs. Goring. "However, the thing's
done. When does he expect an answer? Next Lady Day?"
"I shall see him before that," said Helen. "To-day,
"Yes, and he will be much too refined to allude to it! Well, I
shan't order my wedding present yet."
"I know papa will be delighted," said Helen; "my only fear is
"Oh, Clare will buzz round you like a little gnat," said Mrs.
Goring; "but, Helen dear, do get it settled! Don't let him go on
When Helen returned to the Manor, the midday post had just
arrived, and she saw there a letter, not unexpected, from Walter.
She took it to her room and opened it.
My DEAREST HELEN,--
How can I say what I have to say to you, after our talk of
yesterday? What will you think of me, and how can I explain it?
But it must be said at once. I am going to marry Clare.
Does that seem to you very treacherous and brutal? I fear that it
will; but how can I do otherwise? I have agreed with Clare that
you must know all; you have a right to know. I was
perfectly sincere in what I said to you. It seemed to me then
like the natural and tranquil outcome of a long friendship.
But when I left you, I went with Clare to the gate-house; she
began to talk, but completely broke down; she said she could not
live without me, and that I had encouraged her to love me. I took
her in my arms, and quite suddenly and irresistibly the feeling
came upon me, like a blinding flash of lightning, that I loved
her, and loved her as those who intend to marry ought to love and
must love. I cannot describe it, for I have never felt anything
like it before, nor, blind as I have been, did I ever guess that
such a feeling existed in the world. It completely overcame me,
but I thought of you, and though I felt that I was wronging you
by thus turning to Clare, I should wrong you even more if I were
to persuade you into marrying me, when neither of us feels as I
now feel about Clare, and as she feels about me.
I told Clare what I had said to you; and she said that though
she knew that I was very fond of you, she was certain that you
did not feel as she felt. And I hope and indeed think that it is
so. You have been constantly in my mind ever since I knew you. I
have always desired to be with you, gone to meet you with happy
anticipations, enjoyed every moment of your company. But this
strange and transporting feeling has been absent--this passion, I
suppose it must be called.
Of course I know I am very much to blame. But should I not be
even more to blame if I dared to marry you, feeling as I do about
If you will see me, I will try to say more fully what I think,
though I shall feel ashamed to meet you; and as for future
arrangements and ways of life, I will settle whatever you wish.
Clare blames herself for not having been more to you than she has
been; but she tells me that some feeling of jealousy has stood in
Try to forgive me if you can. I am miserable at the idea of
losing your friendship; but do not blame me for saying what I did
to you, because, as I say, the fact that I love Clare as I find
that I do love her, is an entire surprise to me. I thought of her
as a charming child--a younger sister; and now it is all
Helen read the letter, read it once again, and a sudden
faintness seized her. She felt as if she had been swiftly and
treacherously stabbed to the heart; anger, disdain, horror,
humiliation, misery unutterable rushed in upon her, like a flock
of evil birds of prey. But her anger was more fierce with Clare
than with Walter; she thought of her sister as a scheming
temptress, the incarnation of selfish unscrupulousness. Again the
sense of faintness came upon her, and the room swam round her,
with a loud rushing inside in her ears.
What was she to do? She could not speak to her father. The
thought of Clare and of Miss Haden--whom she now suspected of
having abetted Clare in her scheme--were like poison to her.
She rang, and her old maid came to her, who had been her own
and Clare's nurse, and on seeing her, cried out in consternation,
"You are looking ill, Miss Helen. You don't look fit to be about.
What is the matter, dear?"
"Oh, Emmie, I'm not ill; but I have had a blow--a letter of
bad news. I can't tell you about it. But, Emmie dear, see if you
can send a message round to Mrs. Goring; say I must see her, if
she can spare the time."
"I'll run round myself, Miss Helen; but you must take
something first, dear--you're so pale and trembling."
Helen yielded, and presently Emmie trotted off in great alarm.
Within a quarter of an hour, Mrs. Goring came swiftly in, with an
exclamation of distress at the sight of Helen. She handed Mrs.
Goring Walter's letter. Mrs. Goring read it with knitted brows
and compressed lips. "We must have a little time to think over
this," she said.
"But what am I to do?" said Helen. "I don't feel as if I could
meet father or Clare with this in my mind."
"I don't wonder. Could you get as far as the Vicarage? I would
put you to bed--that is where you ought to be--and send round
here to say you were ill. That would give us a little time."
"You are a darling," said Helen. "Yes, I can get round to the
Vicarage; it will do me good. We must just tell Emmie."
Emmie was instructed to say nothing about Helen being ill, but
merely that she had gone round to the Vicarage. They went down
together and fortunately met no one. In five minutes they were at
the Vicarage, where Helen went gladly and obediently to bed.
Mrs. Goring sent a note to Dr. Bowlby, and another note to Mr.
Worsley to say that Helen had felt very faint, and that she had
persuaded her to go to bed. The last brought Mr. Worsley round in
much anxiety. "Yes, just look in to see her," said Mrs. Goring,
"but I think she only wants rest and quiet; it was a sudden turn,
and it was fortunate that she happened to be here. Inconvenience?
It's a delight to me to have dear Helen here, well or ill. I am
sure there's no need to be worried; she is only tired out--she
has had an anxious time of late."
Mr. Worsley was obedient. He went in and gave Helen a
kiss--told her to rest and get to sleep. "It will be my turn to
come and read to you, dear; I am afraid you have been doing too
Mrs. Goring would not let her talk till Dr. Bowlby had seen
Helen fell into a troubled sleep, and woke later in the day in
an access of misery insupportable.
Meanwhile, Clare, sent by Mr. Worsley, had called. Mrs. Goring
received her with stern disdain. "The matter? You know perfectly
well what is the matter."
"About Walter, I suppose," said Clare ingenuously.
"Yes, and about you. Clare, you have behaved very
"I don't see that. Why should I not tell Walter what I felt?
Of course, I knew there must be a row; but I should not have
thought she would have minded very much."
"Don't make me think worse of you than I do already. You seem
to be absolutely heartless. I quite pity Walter."
"Well, he is the best judge of that," said Clare.
The news was broken to William, who, cheered by the assurance
that Helen would be in bed for a day or two, was not much
Late in the afternoon Dr. Bowlby arrived. Mrs. Goring told him
in a vague way what had happened.
Dr. Bowlby did not seem in any way disconcerted.
"Are you never surprised at anything?" said Mrs. Goring.
"Yes, very often; but not now. There has been a good deal of
powder lying about lately at the Manor. I have been expecting
something of the sort to happen, and it's better to get it
"I think that Clare, and Walter in a less degree, have behaved
"I'm not sure," said Dr. Bowlby. "I am sure Walter did not
intend to do anything cruel--he is incapable of that--and Miss
Clare is incapable of caring whether what she does is cruel or
"You blame neither?" said Mrs. Goring with her eyes
"I don't know enough to say. I blame people as much as they
deserve. Blame is a very fortuitous thing. People often get no
blame at all, when they deserve it; but they are still oftener
blamed when they don't deserve it. There's a great deal of tinder
about Miss Clare. There generally is when people are
"But Helen has had a frightful shock."
"She is a healthy girl, Mrs. Goring. It is better for healthy
people to have it all at once than to learn it by slow and
"Ah, you are too much of a philosopher for me."
Dr. Bowlby went to see Helen. He drew a chair to the bedside.
"Yes, Mrs. Goring has told me all I need to know," he said in
reply to an inquiring look. Then he went on: "Miss Helen, I want
to speak very seriously. You will be quite within your rights to
think and say that you have been treated abominably, and you will
be able, if you choose, to make Walter entirely miserable--he
might even withdraw from this engagement. I don't think you will
make your sister miserable, unless you get Walter to withdraw.
But this would be quite unworthy of you, and you know it as well
as I do. You must behave as generously as you can. Of course it
is a shock and a humiliation, and no one could blame you if you
hit back; but it would be hitting back. You can turn
Walter adrift, and you can make your father and sister miserable.
But is it worth while? It would only be revenge, at best."
"Oh, I see that," said Helen, "but I can't feel it. Why should
Walter have chosen the very day that he spoke to me to change his
"At all events he told you at once. It must have required some
courage. He did not act with any secrecy, nor did he shelter
himself behind your sister. It may have been cruel, but it has
not been base. I do not say he has behaved well, though I do not
quite know where I blame him. But it gives you a chance to behave
well and generously. Miss Helen, I will say plainly to you that
for me you are the most generous and the finest spirit I know. I
do not ask you to behave thus for my sake--there is no reason why
you should--but I do ask you to show yourself now to be what you
"But what am I to do?" said Helen.
"Very little--meet them frankly and generously, as few but you
can. Let me say one thing about Walter. I have long known that he
had stored up in him a capacity for passion. He loves and honours
you above all others; and if you can keep him in your heart, he
will be a true friend to you as long as you live--and you will be
able to help him greatly, because he will need help. Miss Clare
may be his wife, but she cannot be his friend. But something in
her has touched the spring of this latent passion, and though he
might have delayed matters and dallied with the situation, I
doubt if he could have overcome it. You will not collapse under
this strain. You are too strong, too good. Rest here a day or two
and then return home, and meet things as they come."
"Ought I to see Walter?"
"Yes, as soon as you can. Don't make any plans or promises.
You will not break down."
Helen murmured her thanks.
"I would do anything in the world to save you from trouble,
Miss Helen. But no one can bear our burdens, and you will bear
this nobly." He took the hand she held out to him, kissed it,
nodded and smiled at her, and went away.
"How do you find her?" said Mrs. Goring.
"She has had a shock, but she will soon get over it. You will
see, she will behave splendidly."
"And is no one to be punished?"
"Oh, that will look after itself. Get her to see Walter as
soon as possible. I am not sure that I am not more anxious about
To see that a course of action is the best, most high-minded
and wisest, is not necessarily the same thing as wanting to adopt
it. All the lesser human elements stung and goaded Helen. Her
position was so undignified. She was regarded by the two culprits
as so negligible, as useful but not necessary, and able to be
quietly shelved if something more attractive came in sight. She
had an overwhelming desire to assert herself, to scatter her
enemies; she had the subtle temptation of wondering whether it
was good for people to act shamelessly and heartlessly, and go
unpunished. She confessed her weakness penitently to Mrs. Goring,
who admitted that she had the right to retaliate. "But at a
moment like this," said Mrs. Goring, "I doubt if it is wise to
act from exalted motives; it is better to face the practical side
of the question. You can no doubt prevent Walter from marrying
Clare, if you say what you may well feel; but you can't accept
Walter on those terms, if indeed, after what he has done, on
"But what should I do?" said Helen.
"If I were in your place, I should see Walter, and say as
little as possible to either him or Clare. That they should
speculate as to what you may be feeling is the best way of making
them see what they have done; but this is a kind of diplomacy,
and one person's diplomacy doesn't suit another. If William and I
have a difference, I embarrass him most by simply holding my
"It wouldn't amuse me to be diplomatic," said Helen. "What I
really care about is to know if it is spontaneous, or if Walter
has been entrapped."
"I don't think Clare is crafty," said Mrs. Goring. "She is
simply incapable of seeing anyone's point of view but her
"I think I shall see Walter and trust to the impulse of the
moment," said Helen. "Quite apart from being very fond of Walter,
I have always admired him. He has always done unpleasant things
with a good grace; there never seemed anything petty about
"He is not petty in small things," said Mrs. Goring; "but one
can be petty in big things."
"The sooner I see him the better," said Helen; "but I don't
feel that I can sit arguing with him indoors. There really is
nothing amiss with me. Could he come the day after to-morrow, and
go a little walk with me, do you think?"
"I think you ought to have a little longer rest and
"Oh no," said Helen. "I don't want rest; I am perfectly well.
If I am left reflecting in bed, I shall take leave of my
"Yes, I think you are right!"
"Your letter surprised me very much. I don't think I fully
understand it all. I am here at the Vicarage. Could you come up
on Wednesday after lunch and go for a walk with me?
Mrs. Goring approved. "I am thankful you don't alter your
signature, dear," she said. "That is the meanest form of
The next day passed wearily enough. Helen begged Mrs. Goring
not to let Dr. Bowlby come. "I am inclined to confess to him,"
she said, "and I think that is rather weakening."
Walter arrived at the Vicarage the following day in a painful
state of agitation. Mrs. Goring received him with obvious
coldness. He asked about Helen. "I think you will find her much
as usual," Mrs. Goring said.
"I suppose you know all about it?"
"Quite as much as I want to; and you won't expect an old
friend to abstain from comment. I simply can't believe it of you,
Walter. I can't think of anything that would have distressed your
mother more; and I think it would have wounded your father in the
one point where he was vulnerable--his pride."
"I can't expect you to understand," said Walter, very pale.
"Does Helen feel as you do?"
"Helen has behaved better than I should have thought it
possible for anyone to behave. She is capable of any generosity,
but I am not, and it is just as well that you should know how it
strikes an ordinary middle-class woman."
While Walter stood regarding her in silence, Helen came
quickly into the room, pale and worn-looking, but apparently
composed. Walter thought he had never seen her look so beautiful.
She smiled at him in silence, and then said, "Shall we go? Let us
go up on to the downs again." They crossed the garden, and
entered the wood-path. Neither knew how to break the silence.
"What can you think of me, Helen?" said Walter at last.
"I don't know yet," said Helen. "You must tell me what there
is to tell."
"A fortnight ago," said Walter, "if you had asked me what I
felt about Clare, I should have said she was charming as a child
can be charming; but when I left you the other afternoon, meaning
to tell her what I had said to you, I found she had turned into a
woman. I began to tell her about ourselves, but she would not
hear me, and I must not tell you what she said, but I understood
that she loved me."
"Better than I did?" said Helen.
"In a different way; and then there came over me that feeling
of which I wrote to you. It was like a sudden wave bearing me
"I could have given you my best, Walter; I was always ready to
"I know," said Walter; "but should we have been happy? Helen,
I am in your hands. If you feel that I am bound to you, I will
fulfil my promise. But I cannot pretend that I do not love Clare;
and if you do not take me, I shall marry no one but Clare."
Helen turned and looked at him; but he cast his eyes down and
would not meet her gaze.
"You are quite free, dear Walter. You asked me for my
friendship, and you gave me your own friendship--the best gift I
ever had. I am not ungrateful . . . and I don't want you to be
"Helen, you won't turn away from me altogether? I love and
honour you with all my heart; but there is a kind of love, not
the best kind perhaps, which I somehow could not give you, and
which I did not think you could give me. I thought our friendship
would be enough to build our life upon; but it is not enough, God
His eyes filled with tears; and there came over Helen a sense
of pity such as she could not have believed it possible for her
to have felt for anyone.
"Walter," she said, "I understand. I think you must obey that
other love, and we will not cease to be friends. Don't let us
speak any more of it at all. If I were to speak, I might only say
what would hurt us both. So let us put it all away and never
return to it again."
"But, Helen dearest," said Walter, "I must say to you how
miserable it has made me to have to hurt you, the best . . ."
But Helen put her arm through his, and laid her other hand
lightly on his lips. "I will not hear a word, Walter," she said.
"Of course I know you would not have done anything to distress me
on purpose--the intention is what matters."
They walked on slowly in silence, and were presently clear of
the wood--the hill rose before them.
"Walter," said Helen, "we will not go to the hill--and indeed
I am tired, and must think of returning; to go there was a cruel
thought of mine--a little nasty touch of revenge. Some future day
we will go there again, when we have seen how we can keep our
They could see the roofs of the Manor from where they stood.
"There is one thing for which I am entirely thankful," Helen
said, "that you will soon be at home there again; but I must hold
my tongue--I won't talk about this, and I can't talk about
The bare woods were silent all about them, not yet touched by
the secret flush of the spring. Above the wood, the steep bare
hills rose into the clear and chilly sky. The rich smell of the
dying leaves came aromatically out of the wood; and Helen thought
that the wintry fields among and above the dark shadowy woodland
were more beautiful in their spare and delicate tints than when
flushed with summer colour. She was glad that the beauty of it
could come into her mind. But Walter paced beside her, heavily
and disconsolately, and she at last spoke.
"Walter, there is one thing that you must promise me, that you
will not feel like this about it."
"I can't do otherwise, dear Helen. The finer that you show
yourself to be, the worse I feel. If you had reproached me, if
you had said half the bitter things you might have said, I should
have felt it less."
"Hush, hush," said Helen. "You tempt me to speak, and I won't
It was a relief to both of them when they regained the garden.
Mrs. Goring was waiting for them at the door. She put an arm
round Helen, and held out a disengaged hand to Walter, hardly
looking at him.
"I won't detain you, Walter," she said.
"Oh, Mary, don't talk like that," said Helen. "Walter and I
have settled it all, and not another word must be spoken;" and
she stepped up to Walter, who stood mute and irresolute, flung
her arms round his neck, and kissed him. "Good night, dear, dear
Walter," she said. They entered the house together and Walter
strode silently away.
The return to the Manor was a sore trial to Helen. She felt as
if the one and only thing in the world that she could have
acquiesced in was to leave home and bury herself far in the
depths of the country, or in some foreign land where there should
be nothing to remind her of her sorrows. Moreover, she had
thought that the first step once taken, and her black thoughts
once put undermost, the victory was won. She did not know that
Satan, once repulsed, brings up his dark battalions in dense
order to the second or third assault. She returned; but there was
much in her room to remind her of Walter--his photograph, the
books he had given her, the packets of his letters. Apart from
the affront, the very basis of her life seemed undermined. And
then there was Clare, with an air of meek triumph, and Miss Haden
demurely rejoicing over the spoils of victory. The talk that must
come with Clare, it was that which mattered most. She knew well
the line that Clare would take: "Well, you had your chance, and
as you did not take it, why should not someone else have a chance
Of course, if all had come about naturally, Walter would have
been daily at the Manor, probably staying there; but as it was,
there was a general sense of diplomacy and secrecy; Clare often
went off by herself in the car, morning or evening, and Helen
knew only too well that she went to meet Walter.
She had arranged with Walter that she might tell Mr. Worsley,
and that nothing need be said to him of any breach of faith. She
determined that this should not be delayed, and on his second day
at home, she went to her father in his study after tea.
"Papa, I have something to tell you--I am charged to tell
you--you will have your wish partly, but not altogether: Clare is
going to marry Walter."
Mr. Worsley dropped his pen, and sat looking at her
inquiringly. "My dear Helen, there must be some mistake. Walter
has said nothing to me of this."
"He asked me to tell you, papa."
"He should have told me himself; and if it is so, why
does he not come here? It is all very strange; I was never so
astonished in my life."
"The reason why he does not come here," said poor Helen,
trying to remain tranquil and cheerful, "is perhaps because of
me. He has not been sure how I should like it; I think that is
"I thought you and he were better friends than ever; I hoped
that my wishes were coming true. Helen, dear, there is something
strange in all this. Walter is a serious man with intellectual
tastes, and Clare is a mere child. I cannot imagine what they
have in common."
"Perhaps that is the very reason--that he wants something more
young and sprightly."
"Helen, I have a feeling that you have been used badly in all
this. A young man has no right, it seems to me, to claim so much
friendship and attention from a girl unless he has more definite
intentions. Did it not surprise you very much?"
"I knew he was very fond of Clare. I understand it all
"Still, it seems strange that he has said nothing to me about
it. There is a regular course of proceeding in these matters--or
used to be. It seems hardly--what shall I say?--hardly
"I think these things are done differently nowadays,
"It seems so; but do not stand, dear." She was standing beside
him. "Please sit down; we must have a talk about this. It
involves a change in all my arrangements. Supposing this is
true--and I take your word for it--it must affect all my
dispositions; do you see that, Helen?"
"I don't quite understand what you mean."
"My idea had been that the estate should be settled upon
Walter and you. I had arranged it so; but now I should have to
settle it on Walter and Clare."
"Yes, of course; the point is that Walter should have it."
"If I were to leave it to them, they must have money to keep
it up," continued Mr. Worsley, "and the fortune which I had
destined for you would be much diminished."
"I should not mind that, papa."
"Yes, but I mind it. This is all very discomposing. You are
just the wife for Walter; but Clare has no sense of
responsibility. I cannot imagine her being of any use or help to
"People don't marry for those reasons."
"Excuse me," said Mr. Worsley, "but some of the best marriages
I know have been based on such reasons. I must consider
everything very carefully. I should not like it to appear that
you had been treated unjustly. That would arouse much comment. It
would be held that I had some reason for being displeased with
"But I should never think so, papa."
"It is a most difficult question altogether. You will forgive
me if I say that this is more a question for me than for you. But
in any case, I think that Walter should speak to me on the
"I will tell him, papa."
She was glad to be able to escape. Mr. Worsley was evidently
desirous of reconsidering the question of settlements. This,
Helen was relieved to think, would keep him from indulging in any
inconvenient conjectures. But the whole thing filled her with
weariness. Life seemed to be to her nothing but a journey between
high walls which hemmed her in, and with a dark sky overhead. She
told Walter what her father had said, and she determined as soon
as possible to talk the matter out with Clare. The situation must
be accepted as it was, not kept a half-secret.
That night, when they had all retired to bed, she tapped at
the door of Clare's room, a long panelled place, the best bedroom
in the house, which Clare had petitioned for when they moved to
the Manor, that it might serve her as a sitting-room as well. It
contained a great old bed with carved pilasters and a frieze of
ornament; and Clare had conveyed thither certain pieces of
furniture from other rooms which took her fancy, so that it had
an air of luxury which no other room equalled.
There were two candles burning on the dressing-table, and
Clare, wrapped in a startling kimono of Japanese silk, was
sitting in an arm-chair in front of a fire of logs on the
deep-arched hearth, doing nothing, and, as Helen realized on
entering the room, a vision of extraordinary beauty. Clare looked
up surprised and half irritably.
"We must have a talk about all this, Clare," Helen said,
standing beside the fire and looking down on her sister. "I seem
hardly ever to see you."
Clare gave her a little smile. "Yes, perhaps we had better get
it over," she said. "Do sit down, Helen; I hate being talked to
by someone standing up--I feel as if I were being lectured."
Helen sat down in a big carved chair of oak, which stood
beside the fire in the shadow.
"Now then," said Clare, "you can do your worst. I suppose you
are very angry with me?"
"No, I don't think I am that. Of course it was a great
"Ah, you were surprised?" said Clare. "But I don't mean to be
disagreeable about it, because I think you have something to
complain of, and you might before now have made things very
uncomfortable. Indeed, I can't think why you haven't. If it had
been the other way round, I should not have let you off so
easily. But I suppose you have been finding reasons. You always
enjoy doing that, you know. I am not sure you ought not to be
grateful to me for setting you to work."
"Don't try to make me angry, Clare. I want to try to get
"I don't want to make you angry at all, Helen. I can't
admire you about this, because it seems spiritless to take
such a thing sitting down; but I am really grateful to you for
not showing fight. But you know, Helen, it wouldn't have done at
all. I don't think you know what it is to be really fond of
anyone, as I am of Walter. I sit and think of him for hours
together; and when I am with him--well, I won't say what I feel
then. But I saw Walter and you feeling more and more bound to
make a match of it, I felt it would not do."
"Clare, you seem determined to provoke me. How do you know I
didn't 'show fight,' as you call it?"
"Fight with whom?" said Clare flippantly.
"With myself, of course. Is that a thing you don't understand?
Can't you see what I am losing, and all that this has meant to
me--a long friendship, growing gradually into something better
still? And then just when it has come to me, this happiness, it
is gone in a moment. And now, not content with having taken it
from me, you taunt me with being spiritless. Because I am
miserable, I don't therefore want Walter, I don't want even you,
to be unhappy; a word from me to Walter might not have brought
him back to me, but it would have made him turn from you for
ever. Because you can't conceive of not wanting to be revenged on
anyone who has done you a wrong, you think I have just effaced
myself and gone meekly away. I did not say a word of blame to
you, and so you turn on me and scratch me like a cat. It is as if
I had saved you from drowning, and you had then pushed me out of
the boat because you were afraid that it would not hold two
Clare became deadly pale, and winced and whimpered under the
onslaught. "You are not going to be so cruel as to spoil it all
"Of course not. You seem to think me the meanest and basest
"I don't think that, Helen--only I was so afraid that things
would go wrong--and I am afraid of you now, Helen, when you look
like that. Have you ever looked at Walter like that?"
"I am ashamed of having had to explain things to you," said
Helen, beginning to feel repentant. "But you must explain one
thing that you said. You said you saw it would never do? Why
Clare was rapidly recovering her serenity. "Why, because you
may be Walter's best friend, but you are too much like him. He
wants a change--all men do. He wants someone to kiss and tease
and pet. He might worship you like a kind of statue, but no one
would ever want to pull you about."
Helen's spirit sickened within her. This was to be Walter's
best and dearest possession, the light of his life. Was this
really the kind of thing that men wanted?
"You may be right, Clare. And we had better never speak of
this again. I don't mean to interfere with either Walter or you.
I would like you to think differently about it all, but I won't
try to persuade you."
"I'm sure I don't want to speak of it again," said Clare. "But
I see you have behaved very decently, and I am sorry if I was
unfair, though I think you might have explained it to me a little
"I'm sorry for that," said Helen, relenting. She got up and
knelt by Clare, and put an arm round her, wondering at the
extraordinary beauty and fragrance of her little sister. "We will
try and begin again, dear; we were good friends once."
"Never," said Clare, "that I can remember. I daresay I am a
horrid little wretch, but I used to feel you were always rather
down on me; and then everyone was polite and respectful to you,
and I was always stuck in the background. I had to assert myself
somehow; and then--I am going to say this straight out--I envied
you your friendship with Walter, who always seemed to me the most
splendid person in the world, and almost hated you for taking it
all so easily, and not being more proud of it. And then I found
that Walter would make friends with me, and I saw what he wanted,
and you didn't. I can't pretend to be sorry, but I'm sorry for
you in a way, because people can't get near you. They admire you,
they listen to you, but they don't want you; and if you
want a man for your own, he has got to want you for his own."
Helen did her best to smile. "My wise little sister!" she
said. "Where did you learn all this?"
"Why, it stares us in the face all the time," said Clare. "But
clever people like you miss seeing it. Walter very nearly did,
but I taught him."
Helen bent down and kissed her, and Clare returned her kiss
almost eagerly. "I shall try to be nicer, Helen. Don't think too
badly of me. You have seen all the worst of me; there is nothing
Walter came the next day and had a long conference with Mr.
Worsley. They came together in to tea. Clare appeared, very quiet
and demure. She had had a talk with her father in which, though
he did not disguise his pleasure, he said a few words which sank
into her mind. "I don't mean to make any inquiries," he said,
"and Helen has never said a word to me; but I do not feel sure
that you have not in some ways taken advantage of her; and if she
were to say so herself, I should feel very much vexed. I don't
feel sure that you are taking this seriously. You will have a
very good position in the County when you are married, and I hope
you will be worthy of it."
After tea, Helen went to her room. She was troubled by the
sight of Walter. He looked woefully strained and worn. But a few
minutes later he knocked at her door. "May I come in?" he said.
"Clare sent me. She thinks you have behaved very kindly to her,
and she said, 'Helen must have her share.'" Walter smiled
Helen made him sit down by the fire, and came and sat on a low
stool beside him. "You look very sad, Walter dear," she said. "I
wish I could prevent that! Yes, I had a curious talk with Clare.
I got very angry at something she said, but I am not sorry, for
she turned out her inmost mind before me in a way she has never
done before. She loves you very much, Walter, and you will be
able to build up whatever you want on that."
Walter looked at her. "Helen," he said, "I am utterly
miserable--not about Clare, because she makes me forget
everything. But the more I hear and see, the more basely I feel I
have behaved to you; and if I thought I should lose your
affection and trust, I should go mad. But how can you give me
either? It all seems like a strange enchantment. I feel as if I
had been bewitched, as if I were two people and not one.
Sometimes I feel that in losing you, I have lost everything; for
in spite of everything, I do care for you from the bottom of my
soul, and feel that you are nearer to me even than Clare herself.
And then again I wonder if we should have been happy, whether I
could ever have given you what every woman wants--a passion which
isn't a quiet, temperate, thoughtful thing at all, but something
violent, and in a way almost shocking. Of course I know that I
did it all hurriedly and horribly, but if I had waited?" He
looked up at her miserably, anxiously intertwining his hands.
"No, Walter," Helen said. "You haven't done wrong; I
don't feel that. What Clare said to me has given me a different
feeling about it all. I have no grievance. Something much bigger
and stronger than you or I has intervened. I shall pick up the
threads of my life again. But I don't want to lose you, Walter.
We are, I think, knit together in some strange way, but it isn't
the way of love and marriage. Can't we put that side of it away,
and continue to be to each other what we have been?"
For answer he leant forwards, took her hands in his, and
kissed them again and again. "Oh, Helen dearest," he said, but
could say no more.
They sat in silence, holding hands like two children.
"But this won't keep you back from loving another man, Helen,"
he said, "with the kind of love you could not give to me? It must
not spoil your life."
"We must leave that, Walter. No, it is not going to spoil my
life, it is going to make it richer; you are going to make both
Clare and me richer, in different ways. You and I, Walter, needed
to be torn apart. It is going to save and free us both. Nothing
will ever separate us from each other for ever."
There seemed little reason for any long delay in Walter's
wedding. Mr. Worsley alone seemed to think that decorum demanded
a lengthy engagement. But Mrs. Goring, requisitioned by Helen,
had a talk with him, in which Mr. Worsley expressed the opinion
that Clare took a hardly serious enough view of her
responsibilities to assume the august name of Mrs. Garnet, of
Cressage Garnet. But Mrs. Goring rapidly disposed of his
anxieties. She saw that the longer Clare remained engaged, the
flightier she would become; "and then," she added, "what with
Walter away at Oxford, you will have those insupportable young
men from Thurston hovering round her again, and who knows . .
"You need say no more," said Mr. Worsley hurriedly. "I defer
to a woman's judgment in these matters."
The decision was a great relief to Helen, and it was settled
that Clare should be married in March. A great fuss was made
about clothes, and there were visits to Oxford to be made to look
at houses; for Walter entirely declined Mr. Worsley's suggestion
that he should give up "professional" work and begin his reign at
the Manor, which was to be settled upon Clare. Mr. Worsley said
that he himself with Helen would retire to the Thurston house;
but Walter was not to be moved, and Clare, who never much cared
for the solemn dignity of the Manor, was very favourably disposed
During those months, Helen and Clare became close companions,
and Helen found Clare relying on her at every turn; and though
she could not say that she found Clare particularly conscious of
her coming responsibilities, she came to recognize in her a tough
determination to be useful to Walter, and a disposition to learn
something about household management which she had hitherto
considered beneath her notice.
But as the time drew near, Helen became troubled about the
future. She was sitting with Mrs. Goring one day at the Vicarage,
and said, "Mary, what am I to do when Clare is married? I don't
like to leave papa, but Walter and Clare will be spending nearly
half the year at the Manor, and it seems to me I shall be in a
very difficult position. I doubt if Clare, however good her
intentions may be, will care about my seeing much of Walter; and
I have a feeling that Walter will not acquiesce in being at the
Manor without someone to talk to him about his interests. I don't
think it will matter at Oxford, where he will find plenty of
"I had thought of that myself," said Mrs. Goring, "and I agree
that it is rather courting disaster."
"I think it might be better if Walter gave up his Oxford work
and allowed papa and myself to retire to Thurston. But then
again, I can't quite fancy Walter and Clare settling down all
alone at the Manor."
"Have you any plan of your own, Helen?"
"I thought I might get some work in town; but then I have no
useful accomplishments. I suppose, however, I might find some
"I don't think you can leave your father all alone. Can't you
leave it for the present? Walter and Clare will be going off for
their honeymoon; and they really will be very little at the Manor
"Yes, I must leave it. But, Mary, I am rather afraid of these
months. I seem to be living in a great bustle just now, but it is
all on the surface; and I have a feeling every now and then that
there is a serious strife going on within me, deep down out of
reach, and as if it might come to the surface when I am less
busy. I seem to be walking in a vain shadow. And then again,
Mary, there is something worse; Walter's misery, and the sight of
him, seems to be bringing me to the point of being dangerously
fond of him. It is the touch of weakness about him that makes the
change. When all was well, there seemed nothing I could give him;
and now there seems to be so much. I don't say that I feel like
that yet, but I don't trust myself; and if he came here in the
summer, and if it proved that Clare can't give him the sort of
companionship he needs,--well, I think there might be something
like a tragedy."
Mrs. Goring sat musing. "Yes," she said, "it is no good
putting one's hand into the fire, unless one means to burn it
The day drew near at last. Walter had written regularly to
Helen; but the zest and sparkle of his letters had vanished, and
she felt as though he had grown curiously remote. But the
greatest difficulty of all that she had to face, was that just
before the wedding, Clare was seized with a sort of terror, which
took the form of thinking that she would not know what to talk to
"But you never have had any difficulty before?"
"No; but then the fun was that nobody knew what was going
on--it was stolen fruit."
"Oh, you won't have the smallest trouble about that."
"I wish you could come with us, Helen, when we go away."
"The Miss Worsleys and their husband? That would hardly
"If Walter shows any signs of being bored, I shall destroy
myself. I ought to have spent all these weeks in solid
"Well, Clare, I have been a good deal with Walter, and
we never talked about solid things."
"What did you talk about?"
"Anything that turned up. You will find that Walter will do
all the talking."
"But I don't know what I shall do without you, Helen. Walter
won't understand--men never do--and there will be no one to turn
"I'll write to you, Clare; I will send you lists of possible
"Yes, Helen, do! But I wish I didn't feel so queer."
"It will be all right the moment you set eyes on Walter."
Walter arrived from Oxford the day before the wedding. He
dined at the Manor, and Helen was glad to find him looking well
and happy. They had only a few words of talk. The wedding was a
quiet one, in the little old church; and an hour or two later
Helen had said good-bye to the wedded pair, the guests departed;
and then, after persuading her father to rest, she went out for a
The aconites were beginning to show their sturdy heads in the
borders of the little court, and the snowdrops which Helen
disliked for their scentless and waxen stolidity, were pushing
up. The woodlands had a purple flush about them, and the
hedge-row banks were full of climbing fronds and sprays. A deep
dejection, which Helen tried to think was merely a reaction after
the bustle, came down on her. But the last sight of Clare, full
of radiant pride, together with a wondering, half-pitying look in
Walter's face, which she could not quite interpret, haunted
But she herself felt face to face with the blankness of life.
It seemed to her that she had missed a great chance of
happiness--and now? Was it as Clare had said--the words had
rankled in her mind--that she was too serious, too fastidious,
too heavy in hand? She hated that view of herself; and yet the
blandishments, which Clare had prided herself for using, seemed
to have something coarse and impure about them, needing to be
purified by an intense and fiery consent of the soul. Helen
longed with all her heart for something to cling to and embrace,
not the tepid service she could give her father, nor the tame
advice she could administer to second-rate people: the thought of
children clinging to her, depending on her, smiling at her,
falling to sleep in her embrace stung and tortured her. It was
life she wanted, and the labour and suffering which life must
bring with it, so dreary if faced alone, so stimulating if shared
with one who loved her. Was she to be kept away from all this by
having a thin, cold, fastidious standard of her own, intervening
like a screen of ice between her and the fire of life? The long
bleak years stretched ahead of her--and a little more concession,
a little touch of pose, might have won her what her careless and
warm-blooded sister had swept by a touch from her grasp.
It seemed an agony too great to be spoken of. She could not be
for ever pouring out her sick necessities before Mary Goring, who
for all her love could give her no comfort--Religion? Could she
take up her cross, could she be content to be pierced and
crucified upon the dreary duty she could offer? No, she felt that
this would be a mere delusion, a conscious hypocrisy; and when
she reached the Manor, and went in under the gate-house, it
seemed to her that she had sunk deep in the mire--that it had
closed over her head, and that her feet were still struggling in
vain to touch some secure standing ground.
Within a few days it seemed to Helen that she had descended
into hell. An agonizing melancholy seized upon her. She woke at
an early hour, her heart beating fast, and in these protracted
reveries, she began to dissect her whole life, and to trace her
disasters backwards from cause to cause. It appeared to her that
she had by her own fault forfeited the love of all those about
her, and that her whole life had been planned on selfish lines,
entirely for her own satisfaction. She took to rising early and
going out, but the evil spirit pursued her, whispering at her
ear. All day long the mood recurred. She became exhausted by the
least effort, incapable of decision, incapable of completing the
smallest task. She would sit for an hour over a simple note,
unable to find words. She would often fall asleep out of sheer
weariness for a few moments in her chair, and her waking on these
occasions seemed the signal for a fresh assault of torment.
She managed at first to keep up appearances, but this
gradually failed her. Then she grew thin and wasted and unable to
endure the smallest exertion. Her father did not seem to notice
her malaise, and this was of the nature of comfort, for of all
things she least desired any show of sympathy.
Mrs. Goring, however, was much alarmed. She spoke to Helen
about it, but could get very little out of her. "Yes, she was
very miserable and it was all her own fault."
"But it is not your fault, Helen! In all this wretched
business you are the only person who has behaved consistently
"It goes back much farther than that, Mary. My whole life has
been lived on the wrong lines."
"I wish you would see the doctor; I can't help thinking you
want a change."
"There is nothing the matter with my body, Mary--at least it
does not begin there."
Walter wrote to Mrs. Goring to ask if there was anything the
matter. He and Clare hardly heard from Helen, and her letters
told them nothing; the very handwriting, Walter said, was
Mrs. Goring at last consulted Dr. Bowlby. "Yes," he said, "I
know that Miss Helen is ill--it has been coming on for some
time--she has been subjected to too great a strain."
"What can be done? I never saw anyone so utterly changed."
"Very little, I fear. Medicines are of little or no use. If
there were anything which she would like to do, it might help
"But that is just it--she seems to have lost all her interest.
It seems to me as if she might almost go out of her mind."
"She won't do that; it isn't a mental malady at all, though
she probably thinks it is. You need not be anxious: it is only a
question of waiting. The best you can do for her is to give her
your company, and take as little notice as possible."
But time passed and Helen got no better. At last she consented
to see Dr. Bowlby.
Dr. Bowlby found her sitting in her room with papers before
her, trying to do some accounts. She gave him a pathetic smile.
"Mrs. Goring wanted me to see you," she said, "but it is of no
use. I don't think I am ill, and I have nothing to tell you."
"Shall I tell you your symptoms?" said Dr. Bowlby. He ran
through the physical sensations, and then said, "And you think
that your faults and sins have somehow brought you to this, and
that your selfishness and hardness is the cause."
"Mrs. Goring must have repeated my words to you."
"Not a word, Miss Helen! These are the things which everyone
who is similarly afflicted--and it is not very uncommon--says.
The more conscientious and affectionate they have been, the
blacker they think themselves. Can't you regard these unhappy
thoughts just as symptoms? I heard almost exactly the same story
from a patient yesterday."
"But there seems no way out. My fancies may be unreal, but I
cannot throw them off."
"They will disappear of themselves. It is simply a question of
waiting. We doctors know the malady quite well, but cannot get
directly at it. It is like listening at a closed door and hearing
someone groaning within."
"But how can a mere illness so affect one's mind?"
"Miss Helen, you know that you direct your actions and
thoughts with different parts of your brain. The part of your
brain that reflects, and feels emotion, and remembers, is tired
out. Nature is trying to rest it; and the best way you can help
the cure is by trying not to think of anything, either sad or
glad. We probably use our emotions too much nowadays. The more
purely mechanical things you can do the better. I pledge you my
word that you will get perfectly well."
"But meanwhile," said Helen, looking at him with a sort of
terror, "my only desire is to die and to fade away out of a life
which one can make such a mess of."
"You will soon take up your life again, and you will be more
interested than ever. Is there anything you would like to do--to
go away for a change?"
"No, that would be worse than anything. My real dread is the
return of Walter and Clare."
"Miss Helen, I think that it is a pity, for people in your
condition, to avoid quite unavoidable duties, though they should
spare themselves whatever they can avoid. When do they come
"In a fortnight from now."
"Very well; I will see you again in good time--whenever you
like--and if you feel you really cannot face it, I will have
something arranged. So you need not worry over that. Have I done
you any good?"
"A little," said Helen; "I don't feel quite such an outcast as
I did, or quite so much alone in my miseries."
"I can come to you at once and at any time if you want me. But
I do not think you will. You have great self-control. Some people
in this state sit and cry all day."
He said good-bye. Helen was thankful that he had made no
appeal to her emotions. His big tousled head, his kind eyes, the
look he bent upon her were all comforting. But an hour after he
was gone, she was as miserable as ever.
Mrs. Goring was constantly with her in these days; but there
were times when she was left to her own devices, and then she
walked by herself. She could not bear the woods; they seemed to
be full of presences regarding her with dull, disdainful eyes;
there were voices far off, faintly heard, not speaking to her but
to each other.
But if she made her way through the pastures above the house,
there was a place which had always had an attraction for her; at
some time or other, a dam of stones and earth had been built
across the stream that flowed down the valley, forming a pool of
some size. The dam was now all grass-grown and covered with
little thorn-bushes, and round the pool was a fringe of sedge and
bulrush, while a thorn-thicket had been planted all round the
upper part of the pool. No sedge grew on the dam, and from the
little pathway across, you could stand beside a dilapidated
sluice, where the stream flowed away downwards in a narrow
channel. Here the water was very deep and clear. In summer hours
it was delicious to look down into the pool, and on hot days she
had sat there with a book, and seen the birds come out of the
wood to drink and bathe. But now the place began to have a
different attraction. How easy it would be, she thought, to slip
down into the depth and let the waters cover her: she had read in
some book that it was easy to drown, if you did not struggle to
save yourself, but breathed the water in. A few seconds, and one
would be unconscious; a few more minutes, and one would be parted
for ever from a world where it was so easy to miss one's way, to
bring unhappiness upon oneself and all about one. No one would
grieve for her; she had alienated all her dearest by her selfish
coldness. Surely, if the worst came to the worst, she could have
the courage to do that, and to escape.
She was not exactly tempted to act so. But it always presented
itself to her as a way of possible escape. She never thought of
self-destruction as wicked. The Power behind the world, whatever
it was, who summoned men and creatures to die so constantly and
for such small reasons, little carelessnesses, tiny accidents,
did not, she thought, regard death very seriously. Perhaps indeed
it was a reward rather than a punishment. In all this she had no
sense of self-pity; she felt she might have made a fine thing out
of her life, if she had seized her chances; but she had just
drifted on. This, at least, would be decisive. And if God or
Nature, she hardly knew which, was too hard upon her, and made
her path too hard to tread, she surely had the right to go.
Meek submission was never a duty. Helen hated meekness.
When she had submitted, it had always been a vigorous fight
against an unruly will.
Here then she often went. In the wintry weather the dry sedge
stood rustling about the pool, and sometimes there were little
rafts of ice about their stems; but by the sluice the water slept
black and deep: this way she would go, if she had to go.
Walter and Clare were to arrive upon a Saturday, and it was
now the Monday before. Helen had awakened that morning to an
anguish intolerable; it was almost as if she could smell or taste
the pain of her mind. The hours crept past with a sickening
slowness, but she could do nothing at all. She took up one thing
after another, and laid them down. She felt for once that she
ought not to be alone, but found Mrs. Goring out, and no one knew
where she had gone. Mr. Goring came to speak to her. "I am sorry
to hear you are not well, Miss Helen," he said, "and indeed you
do not seem well. But these times of illness can be strangely
blest to one, if one searches the heart for its secrets, and
looks negligences and ignorances in the face."
"Oh, Mr. Goring," said Helen, "I have done that till there
seems nothing left but negligence."
"Ah," said Mr. Goring, "but it is at seasons like this that
one can pierce through to one's secret sins--the sins, that is,
that are hidden even from oneself. A sad mood may exaggerate, but
the soul is on the right track. We are shapen in wickedness, even
the best of us; and not till we have learnt our utter
worthlessness can we arise, and go forward."
Helen's heart sickened within her. "I can't believe that, Mr.
Goring. I don't think God wants to crush us into a miserable
helplessness; He wants us to live with as much joy and eagerness
as we can."
"That is not my experience," said Mr. Goring in hollow tones.
"We cannot lay hands on joy; we must purchase it by tears and
Helen could bear no more. She was filled with a sense of angry
revolt, and hastened away. All of a sudden her anger died down,
and she was filled with a shuddering horror of the ugliness and
blackness of the world. She looked up; she was close upon the
pool. The bleak air came shivering across the hill and the water
seemed to shudder at its touch; a greyness hung over the long
hill and the wood beneath. An intense desire for death, for a
cessation of all the weary explanation and excuses, of the
affections that could not claim what they desired, the unthanked
duty that had to be so reluctantly rendered--death as the final
simplification seemed to beckon her. She stood motionless and
pale, gazing at the water.
As she stood, a man turned the corner of the thorn-thicket,
walking slowly and unconcernedly, and came towards her. She saw
that it was Dr. Bowlby. He raised his hat, and came quietly on.
He approached her across the dam, and said, "You will be
surprised to see me here, Miss Helen? I went to the Manor to see
you, found you gone, chased you to the Vicarage, and then, just
by chance, old Paul Carter told me he had seen you take the
field-path--so I followed you. I am free this afternoon, and
thought we might perhaps have a stroll; it is easier to talk of
things in the open air, don't you think?"
Helen looked at him with fixed gaze, and then said, "Dr.
Bowlby, you don't know why I am here. I know I ought to
have told you, but it seemed like giving away my only comfort. I
come here often that I may think how easy it would be to take my
Dr. Bowlby smiled. "You would never do it, Miss Helen! I
haven't the least anxiety. There are some people who, when things
go wrong, fly running to death--others whom no extremity of pain,
either of mind or body, would persuade to it. You are one of the
latter--your vitality is too strong. If you threw yourself in
there, you would be out again in half a minute, and you would
find it difficult on reaching home to explain why you were so
wet. Please tell me if you suffer from any of these fancies. They
are sure to come, but they are not dangerous to you."
"I thought you would think me wicked."
"Miss Helen, whatever you told me, I should not think that. I
see nothing wicked, in any case, about frank suicide; it
sometimes shows great weakness, great disregard of causing
unhappiness--sometimes, I regret to say, great malignity. Then it
is wicked, perhaps. But that you should desire to be dead is
natural enough--it is not unusual."
"You won't think it necessary to have me watched and
Dr. Bowlby laughed. "No, certainly not. You are perfectly
safe. But I wouldn't go out alone if I were you--that is often a
little depressing, though when one is well and happy, it is the
most delicious thing in the world. Why don't you get some of your
old Thurston friends to walk with you, who will need no
entertaining? Yes, I know it all seems horrible," he added,
seeing Helen make a gesture of dissent and shake her head; "but
the fact remains, Miss Helen, that this is an illness which makes
you feel tragic, when your friends, who can't look into your
mind, are wondering what there is to be tragic about."
Helen walked beside him like a child beside a big elder
brother. Dr. Bowlby talked on lightly of ordinary things, and
said good-bye to her at the gate-house. "You will get quite well,
Miss Helen," he said, "and depend upon it, the more commonplace
you can feel the better. You won't be complimented when I tell
you that this is only what we call an intoxication; but
unfortunately instead of making you take a rosy view of dreary
things, it makes you take a dreary view of rosy things."
The day for the return of the newly-married pair duly arrived.
Helen dreaded their visit, dreaded taking up the old emotions.
But Walter and Clare had been precisely warned beforehand by Mrs.
Goring of the condition of things; and Helen found, to her
relief, that very little was expected of her. They were evidently
a much attached couple, but Clare had very little to say on the
subject, except that it was nonsense to be afraid of being
married, because in a fortnight you felt as if you had been
married for ever and ever; and Walter was fully as forbearing.
They went on to Oxford in about ten days, and soon after that,
Helen made the discovery that she was undoubtedly getting better.
She had bad days, when things seemed as impossible as ever; but
she found her interests and powers of attention reviving; till at
last a day came, quite suddenly, as Dr. Bowlby had said it would,
when she realized in a flash that she was well again; and there
followed a time of ecstatic delight when she felt that she had
never been so happy in her life before, and when the simplest
sight or sound, the smallest incident, seemed full of joyful
She told her happy news to Dr. Bowlby and Mrs. Goring, but
said at the same time to Dr. Bowlby that she thought she ought to
find some definite sort of work to fill her mind.
"I don't feel so sure," said Dr. Bowlby. "There is a great
difference between the work that flows out of a man and is really
himself, and the work that people do, often very well, merely
because one must do something. If there was work of a kind that
you wanted to do, I should say, 'by all means'; but when
it is a question of finding work, merely because you think
occupation is good for health, then I don't feel the necessity.
Why not be innocently and uselessly happy for a little? You have
had too much responsibility, and it came to you too early. Be
idle. Read what you like, go out when and where you like. The
only thing I wish you had is more companions."
"Oh, I'm only too willing to idle for a bit; and I am quite
content with Mary for a companion."
"You don't want to send round circulars and affect large
masses of people?" said Dr. Bowlby.
"Not at all," said Helen. "Meetings only seem to me to level
people down. At a meeting you feel bound not to understand
anything more than the dullest understand, or to feel anything
different from the average. At a meeting you only make the
humiliating discovery that you are a human being after all."
"Yes," said Dr. Bowlby, "let us keep to the individual. You
only find desolation in numbers."
"I have never yet said to you," said Helen suddenly, "how
grateful I am to you, Dr. Bowlby. That day at the pool--that was
my turning-point; I was feeling it to be the tragic crisis of my
life, and you made me feel it was only an unpleasant and slightly
absurd incident in the history of an invalid."
"I was more anxious about you than you knew," said Dr. Bowlby.
"Those are the trying moments in a doctor's life, when one has to
follow instinct blindfold, when one's reason is trying to
"I was so thankful that you didn't reason with me," said
Dr. Bowlby smiled. "Why not get your father to go with you to
Oxford for a few days soon, and see how the happy pair are
This was eventually carried out; they did not go and stay with
Walter. That was considered to be too great a strain on Clare's
inexperience. But they found the young couple comfortably settled
in a small house. It proved a time of extraordinary enjoyment for
Helen. Clare said frankly that she was too busy to go about much,
and was quite content to take the architecture of the place for
granted. Mr. Worsley was only too ready to do the same. But
Walter took Helen about in pursuit of the picturesque, and
introduced her to some of his colleagues and young men. He seemed
in a very happy mood, proud of Clare, and infinitely amused by
her devices to appear old and wise. Helen rambled about much by
herself, and found an exquisite delight in the contrast between
the dignity and solemnity of the ancient haggard buildings, and
the insouciant life that they sheltered. Norton, too, was
sometimes her companion.
One day she ventured to ask him what he thought of the
"I will be frank," said Norton, laughing. "When I heard of it,
it seemed to me the most perverse and idiotic thing in the world.
Now I believe it to have been the very thing that Walter needed.
His tendency was to live too much on his own rather fastidious
lines, and his will is so strong towards a certain ordered
monotony that he has too little change of current. Did we quite
realize the strength of his will? It isn't one of those
passionate, protesting, domineering wills--he always seemed so
accommodating and considerate, even timid on occasions--but left
to himself he quietly pursued his own course. Now he has to deal
with a perfectly new type. I don't know your sister well, but she
seems to me very clear-cut; and then how lovely she is!--that is
a greater power than most of us care to admit."
But Helen was herself, though she knew nothing of it, the
subject of many conferences. Clare contented herself with saying
that it was no wonder that Helen had been ill, when everyone
about her put all the unpleasant things there were to do upon
her, and took away from her all the agreeable things.
"That is rather severe, Clare," said Walter.
"I know what you are thinking," said Clare, "that now that I
have arranged everything comfortably for myself, I have leisure
to look round and pity other people. Well, it is the fact--and I
was the worst of the lot. I behaved to her like a perfect
"What do you think she needs?"
"Why, of course, she ought to marry! But she is too good for
most people. Couldn't anything be done with Harry Norton?"
"He admires her very much," said Walter, "but you won't be
able to shepherd him into the fold."
"He is too much pleased at thinking over all he has missed,"
"Clare, that is rather dangerous."
"I shouldn't say it to him, of course. But I will be careful,
darling--I will indeed. I have found out that it is when I mean
to be funny, that I hurt and vex everybody. There is something
vulgar about me. Did you know that great-grandpapa Worsley kept a
"It was a Stores Limited, dear child."
"Papa calls him a rugged merchant--that is only polite English
for a very bad-tempered old shop-keeper."
"What would you think about her marrying Dr. Bowlby?" asked
Walter. "I suspect him of a hopeless passion."
"It would do all right. If you can get on with me, anyone can
get on with anyone. But papa wouldn't like it. He is too
But Mr. Worsley brought the matter up himself. He was sitting
with Walter after dinner one evening, Clare and Helen having
"I am a little troubled about dear Helen," he said. "She is
well now, thank God; but she was very bad for a time. She was
worn to a shadow, and she was quite a changed creature. She wants
more to do, more company, more interests. I am not, I hope, an
exacting father, but I am a very uninteresting companion for a
"Helen is devoted to you," said Walter.
"Yes, she is one of the most unselfish people I have ever
known. She pardons everything. All the more reason for us to try
to give her some happiness of her own."
"She should marry, no doubt," said Walter.
"Yes, but we live so quietly; we call at many houses round
about, but we don't go visiting. I may tell you in strict
confidence, Walter, that Dr. Bowlby once hinted to me that he was
attached to Helen. I did not feel that a struggling professional
man, somewhat uncouth in manner, and with no particular
distinction, was at all a fitting partner--though he is my own
medical attendant, and has done wonders for me. As a man, I
entertain for him the highest possible respect."
"I think that is a good deal to be able to say of anyone."
"Excuse me," said Mr. Worsley. "I entertain a high respect for
Mitchell, our cowman. He is a most industrious and respectable
man. But I could hardly encourage him to pay his addresses to
"But surely," said Walter, "Bowlby is a man of reasonable
power and force of character, and he belongs to the same class as
ourselves--the upper-middle class."
"I could not," said Mr. Worsley, "with all due respect,
consider you as a member of the same social stratum as myself. It
would be the height of presumption on my part to say so."
"I am inclined to think," said Walter, "that the social
cleavage is now mainly an educational one."
"You surprise me," said Mr. Worsley; "do I understand you to
mean that you would not think such an alliance derogatory?"
"Derogatory?" said Walter. "If Helen and Bowlby cared for each
other, I should consider them both very fortunate. Helen is, I
should say, one of the finest characters I know; and Bowlby is a
man of an intelligence that amounts, in his own profession,
almost to genius, and one of the most sterling and admirable
characters that I know."
"You would consider Dr. Bowlby's status not inferior to your
"I think Bowlby is worth a dozen of people like myself," said
Walter. "There might be a few old-fashioned families who would
turn up their nose at a country doctor. But I should no more
consider such a marriage a mésalliance than you
have considered Clare's marriage to the beggared son of a small
country-gentleman a mésalliance."
"You have given me much to think of, Walter," said Mr.
Worsley; and he spent the remainder of the evening absorbed in
Helen and Mr. Worsley had returned to the Manor from Oxford,
and Helen was somewhat surprised at her father, who appeared in
the best of health, having asked Dr. Bowlby to see him on the
following morning. In what convolution of phrases he made his
meaning clear to the doctor, could never be precisely
ascertained, but Dr. Bowlby appeared at the luncheon-table in
very tranquil spirits. He repeated his visit, however, so often
in the course of the next month, that Helen inquired anxiously
whether her father was becoming hypochondriacal. "By no means,"
said Dr. Bowlby. "I never admired the clearness of his judgment
more; what troubles him is a small matter, about which he feels
In the days that followed Dr. Bowlby seemed more free than
usual from professional claims. Sometimes he walked with Helen;
sometimes he persuaded her, for the sake of her own health, to
motor with him while he paid a professional visit in the country.
Helen enjoyed these expeditions, the slow gliding along unknown
country lanes, and through strange quiet hamlets. Then she would
sit in the car, happily meditating, while he paid his call.
Sometimes he would tell her about the people he had been
visiting, and she became aware, by many incidental comments, of
his large and generous view of human beings. She was struck, too,
by the hopefulness which he seemed to radiate; a farmer or a
farmer's wife would come to the gate with him, and say good-bye
gratefully to him, cheered by his quiet confidence and good
sense. She said something to him about the interest of his work.
"Yes," he said, "one sees a curious side of human nature thus;
anxiety of this kind often breaks off a kind of crust which forms
on the human spirit, and lets one see its tenderness and its
simplicity and childlikeness--I don't say that the crust doesn't
come back--but one has seen the eggs in the nest all right. What
a shameless mixture of metaphors!"
"But what about the sick people themselves?"
"Oh, that is different; it makes them often selfish and
irritable. It is a great mistake, Miss Helen, to get in the way
of saying that illness comes from God. It is the work of the
devil, right enough. Ill health makes villains of most of
"It made a villain of me!" said Helen.
"No, no--it made you over-scrupulous. When good people are
well, they splash along pretty comfortably through their
peccadilloes and mistakes; but when they are ill, they are
horrified at the smallest spot of dirt. One ought to forget. I
always think it is a sign of grace when I am too sleepy to say my
One day he asked her to walk with him. "Let us go and see the
famous pool," he said.
"Oh, I don't think I could do that," said Helen.
"It represents the low-water mark of my life."
"It ought to be rather encouraging. Besides, the only time
when one must make oneself do a thing is the time when one
says, 'I really can't.'"
They went together across the fields. The meadow-grass was
full of flowers, and the summer wind blew idly out of the
"It seems like a scene out of the Pilgrim's Progress,"
said Dr. Bowlby, "going to pay a call on a hobgoblin."
The pool lay cool and dark among the sedge with its brown
empurpled flowers and green blades.
"There doesn't seem to be much amiss," he said. "Compare
yourself now, Miss Helen, with what you felt then."
Helen looked round, and her eyes filled with tears. "It is a
joyful resurrection," she said. "Everything has a meaning, a
beautiful secret now. But it will pass, I suppose. I must not
forget that I had my chance of life, and somehow missed it. Just
now that does not seem sad to me, for so much is left."
"Yes," said Dr. Bowlby, looking at her with a clear and intent
gaze--"all is left, this beauty of things, and even more behind
it. Do you not see your way, Helen? It is I who need you, who
have sought you so long. I can give you something of the life you
need, and you can give me ten thousand times more. I don't ask
you for companionship or sympathy, I ask you for yourself, the
greatest gift that can be given. I don't pretend to be worthy of
it. If I were, it would be no gift. Helen, I have loved you ever
since I first set eyes upon you--the earth you tread upon, the
air you breathe. Your presence gave me courage, and when you were
absent the thought of you gave me hope. I have little enough to
offer you, but I dare to ask you to sacrifice yourself."
Helen stood amazed, trembling, tearful; but looking up she met
his gaze; and something behind his great gentle eyes that
beckoned her broke every barrier down; he held out his arms to
her, and a moment later she was clasped in his embrace.