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Title:      Harmer John (1926)
Author:     Hugh Walpole
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Harmer John (1926)
Author:     Hugh Walpole



An Unworldly Story




TO DAVID

OCTOBER 7TH, 1920




Life is a pure flame and we live by an invisible Sun within us . . .
'Tis all one to live in St. Innocents' Churchyard as in the
Sands of Aegypt; Ready to be anything, in the ecstasie of being
ever, and as content with six Foot as the moles of Adrianus.--Urn
Burial




CONTENTS


BOOK I:  HIS ARRIVAL


I.  How he came to our Town on a Stormy Night and found unexpectedly
     a Home

II.  The Reverend Tom at Home and Abroad

III.  From Gabrielle Midgeley's Diary--I

IV.  Portrait of the Hero

V.  Friendship: March Weather

VI.  The Sisters

VII.  The Birthday Party

VIII.  Four Men

IX.  Mary's Return

X.  Seatown Caves


BOOK II:  OF HOW HE STAYED WITH US


I.  In the Upper Air--Popularity

II.  The First Lecture

III.  From Gabrielle Midgeley's Diary--II

IV.  Life and Death of a Crisis

V.  Summer Night

VI.  The Quarrel

VII.  Gabrielle Midgeley's Diary--III

VIII.  Seatown Fantasy

IX.  The Last Lecture


BOOK III:  HOW HE LEFT US


I.  Alone

II.  The Watchers

III.  Penethen Interlude

IV.  October 7: On the Hill

V.  October 7: Life and Death

VI.  Miss Midgeley revisits



HARMER JOHN



BOOK I

HIS ARRIVAL



CHAPTER I

HOW HE CAME TO OUR TOWN ON A STORMY NIGHT AND FOUND UNEXPECTEDLY A
HOME


On a December night in the year 1906 a ferocious storm swept across
our town.

There was nothing unusual in this: in Southern Glebeshire the
winter is so often mild that the sea (impatient at the lassitude of
the air) seems suddenly to rise, and to wish to beat its way across
the narrow peninsula, to sweep the fields and hedges with its salt
water: it calls the heavens to its assistance, the skies open,
water pours out in torrents, the wind screams, shrieks, bellows--
suddenly it knows that all is vanity, shrugs its hoary shoulders,
creeps back muttering, lifts its hand to the sky in a gesture of
cynical farewell, and lies, heaving, hoping for a more victorious
day.

In the weeks around Christmas there is often such a storm, and,
when other parts of England are showing gratitude sentimentally for
the traditional snow, we recover from our torrents of rain to find
the air warm, our skies mildly blue, the tower of our Cathedral
stretching pearl-grey to heaven, and the Pol rumpled with sunshine
sliding to the sea.

But the storm while it lasts seems to shake our town to its very
roots; you can almost feel wild hands tearing at the stones beneath
your feet, rocking, rocking, rocking, hoping that at least one
house may tumble. . . .

On this especial evening, December 22, 1906, Mrs. Penethen, a well-
known and respected widow, was sitting in front  of her kitchen
fire, her skirt drawn up to her knees, her toes resting on a wool-
worked cushion, in her old old house in Canon's Yard.  The houses
in Canon's Yard are, as every one knows, the oldest in Polchester,
and Mrs. Penethen's was possibly the oldest in Canon's Yard, so you
can guess from that how old it was.

Mrs. Penethen had lived in that house for forty years: she had come
into that same kitchen with the brown splashes on the ceiling and
the two big warming-pans on the right of the oven when she was a
blushing bride of twenty; she had borne two children in the four-
poster upstairs, she had nursed her husband in the weeks of his
fever, had seen him laid in his coffin, had seen the coffin carried
down the crooked black oak staircase--and now there she sat with
her feet upon the fender reading Thelma, by Miss Marie Corelli, and
wondering whether she would hear the Cathedral clock strike ten
through the storm.

She was not alone in the kitchen.  There were also with her a cat,
a dog and a sharp-eyed girl.  The cat and the dog were asleep, one
on either side of the fire; the girl was sitting-staring straight
before her.  Her hands were clasped, not tightly, on her lap.

Mrs. Penethen was accustomed that her daughter Judy, who was now
twenty-one and should know better, should sit for hours, saying
nothing, doing nothing, only her eyes and her rising, falling
breasts moving.

Through the icy cold and black waters of Thelma's theatrical lumber
her mind moved searching for her children.  She was always carried
away by anything that she read--that was why she liked novels,
especially did they lead her into loves and countries that were
strange to her.  So she had, during the last two hours, been
wandering with Thelma; her daughter's eyes now dragged her back.
Fifteen years of married life and no child!  All thought of one
abandoned--and then Maude.  Four more years and then Judy.  One
more year and the sudden fever, and poor old John with his brown
eyes, his side-whiskers and the slight hunch on his left shoulder,
shoved down into the ground!

The book slipped on to her lap.  She stared into the crimson
crystal coals.  John! . . .  His hand was on her arm, his soft
voice like a lazy cat's begging her pardon for one of his so many
infidelities.  He always confessed to her.  At first she had been
unhappy; once she had run away for two nights, but he always told
her that he loved her far the best, that she would outlast all the
others.  And she did.  He was her lover to the very end, and kind
and tender. . . .  His brown eyes and the slight hunch on his
shoulder.

He had been so sorry always for his infidelities, but he had never
promised that there would not be another.  He knew that he could
not resist. . . .  Here, in Polchester, there had never been a
scandal because of him.  Women loved him and kept their mouths
shut.  Not as she had loved him.  Not as she had kept her mouth
shut.  Shut for forty years.  That was why they called her a bitter
old woman.  She put up her hand to her hair.  Perhaps she was
bitter.  Indifferent.  She did not believe in people.  Cats and
monkeys, she had read somewhere. . . .  Only in novels were they
fine and noble.

She picked up Thelma again, saying as she did so:

"Do you think the Cathedral's struck ten, Judy?"

"Maybe," said the girl.

"It's time Maude was home!"

The girl said nothing.

"Mr. Fletch is bringing her back."

The girl said nothing.

She read half a page, and the storm forced her to put the book down
again.  She looked up, listening, rather like a dog sniffing, with
her grey hair parted, her fine sharp nose, her cool chin, her long
shapely neck wrinkled a little now above the white collar of her
grey dress, her hands long and thin, one like a spread fan before
the fire.  The storm!  One of the worst for years.  Every window-
pane and door in the old house was whining and shivering.  The
gusts of wind came down the chimney, bringing with them flurries of
rain that spluttered upon the coals.  She heard a door banging
somewhere above in the house.  She got up, the book falling on the
floor.  She listened.  Dimly through all the noise she heard the
Cathedral chimes strike ten.  Strange how dim when the Cathedral
was almost next to their own house-wall!  She stood listening.  Was
there not another sound?  Some one knocking?  She turned back to
the room:

"Did you hear anything, Judy?"

The girl shook her head impatiently.  Mrs. Penethen took the lamp
from the table, went to the kitchen door and opened it.  She stood
in the little dark space between the two doors, listening, the lamp
raised.  The storm had suddenly died down, running now like an
animal whimpering about the room.

Now unmistakably there was a knock on the outer door--a pause, and
then two more.  With her free hand she pulled back a bolt, turned a
key and opened the door a little way.  A man was standing there.
She always afterwards remembered that he had seemed there in the
darkness, lit only by gleams from the blowing street lamp,
gigantic.

"Who is it?" she asked.

There was no answer.  The figure stepped forward.

"What do you want?" she asked more sharply, drawing back.  The
scurrying rain was keen against her face, and the wind, rising once
more, blew her clothes against her legs.

"I want some supper and a bed."  He drew nearer to her, and she saw
that he was carrying a bag.  She realised instantly that his voice
was a foreigner's.

"I have nothing here," she answered sharply.

"There is a card," he said, raising one arm, "in your window.  It
says 'Spare room for gentleman.'"

The storm was now shouting at them, trying to drive them in.
"There is no room," she screamed against the storm.  "Engaged."

Then she saw his face as he stepped back beneath the street lamp.
It was the face of a boy.  She had expected some foreigner, some
hulking tramp threatening her.  She was not afraid; she had only
once or twice in all her life known fear.  She knew how to protect
herself.  But now suddenly she realised that there was no need for
protection--no need at all.  Then she remembered that the voice had
been soft, foreign, but an educated voice.

She moved back carefully into the house.  "You had better come in
for a moment out of this," she said, raising the lamp.

"Thank you," he said, and followed her in.

In the kitchen there was the light of the fire and the steady flame
of the lamp set now on the table.  She looked at him sharply,
keenly, as she always looked at every one.

She saw now that he was not gigantic but tall indeed, well over six
foot.  Broad with it.  Very broad in the oilskins that he was
wearing, the collar turned up high and a seaman's oilskin cap on
his head low down over his brow.  The first thing that she noticed
seriously was the child-like face shining with the rain through the
oilskin.  It was as though a boy had dressed in his father's
clothes.  But he was not a boy.  Thirty, perhaps, or more.  The
mouth which turned up at the corners now, smiling, was a boy's
mouth.  The eyes were bright blue and clear.  A lock of damp black
hair straggled down beneath the cap, touching his eyebrow.

He made a movement with his hand to push it back.

"You'd better take that oilskin off," she said severely.  "You're
dripping."

"I don't hope," he said in a voice rather husky, with a foreign
accent that puzzled her because it was strangely familiar, "that
you'll think me rude for coming at this hour.  My heartliest thanks
for your courtesy."

He suddenly clicked his heels and bowed stiffly from the waist up
in what she supposed was German fashion, in what at any rate was
not English.  Then he took off his oilskins, piling them on a
chair.  He was dressed in a decent dark-blue suit.  He was
certainly a very large man, as broad as he was tall.  He was not
fat, but his face was chubby, rosy and plump, his blue eyes staring
with a little blinking bewilderment as though he were in truth a
small boy suddenly wakened from sleep.  He was a man though.  He
stood like a man, a little on the defensive, balanced stoutly on
his legs, ready for any one.  Perhaps he WAS a German, with his bow
and his chubby cheeks, his blue eyes and his thick body.  She
didn't like Germans.

"You can rest here a minute or two if you care to," she said, "but
you'd better be getting on soon if you're wanting a bed to-night."
She looked at him, then added:  "There's a hotel down in the town.
In the market-place.  Down the hill."

"Yes," he said, smiling at her, "I were there and all was engaged."
He smiled so that she was compelled to smile too.  She did not wish
to.  She was compelled.  Then suddenly he saw Judy.

"My daughter," Mrs. Penethen said.  "My name is Penethen."

He bowed, then said:  "Hjalmar Johanson."

"I beg your pardon."

"Hjalmar Johanson.  Svedish.  Wait--I have a card."

He delved into his clothes and produced a very large pocket-book,
then, after searching, a card.  She read:


                      Hjalmar Johanson,
                    Gymnastic Instructor,
        Certified Professor of Gymnastics, Stockholm.

              Address:  Amager Faelledvej II/5,
                         Kobenhavn.


"Kobenhavn?" she repeated.

"Yes.  Copenhagen.  That's what you call it in England.  But I'm a
Swede.  Half--and half English."

"Half English?"

"Yes, my mother were English."

Having gone so far, accidentally as it were, without intending it,
she felt that she must offer him some food and drink.  Afterwards
when, as she so often did, she looked back to the events of this
evening, she wondered at her own actions.  Unlike her to admit a
strange man into her house without a question!  But it seemed to
her that she was caught by some force stronger than herself, and
before she realised it he had drawn up his chair to the table and
was eating the cold ham and bread and butter and drinking the beer,
talking, laughing, jolly as though he had known them a hundred
years.  And had he not?  It seemed to her that in no time at all he
was completely familiar to her.  She recognised a dozen little
tricks--the foreign accent, the fling back of the head, the sudden
dramatic gesture (this so un-English and yet so known to her), the
smile that had in some way a touching childish crookedness, the
corners of the mouth turning up so that it was saucer-shaped, clown-
like, or rather a child laughing so eagerly that the whole face
must share.  Through it all the clear, steady blue eyes were the
most familiar of any.  Her own steady, earnest gaze seemed to be
returned to her by his, so that their eyes held separate converse,
gravely, honestly, apart from the rest of his tale, like two old
friends who meet happily in a crowded inn.

As he talked Judy too was caught, Judy who never thought of a man.
She turned in her chair to look at him, fixing upon him that same
incredulous questioning glance that she had for all humankind.  She
said nothing, she did not move; she might have been a figure
painted in pale blue and grey against her dark chair.

Yes, he was half English, half Swede.  His mother was English, a
Glebeshire woman indeed--family Polruan, Annie Polruan.

She had gone out when quite a girl with some English people to
service in Stockholm.  There she had met his father.  He was a
farmer--not a good man, no.  He had been thrown from a horse and
killed when he, the boy, was sixteen.  The only child.  He had had
to work for his mother then.  Had been all sorts of things in
Stockholm, barber's boy, waiter, sold newspapers, door-boy at a
hotel, then because he was tall and strong he had been for some
years an artist's model.  He liked that.  Oh yes, he loved pictures--
never could see enough of them, would go to Italy one day,
Florence, yes, and Rome.  Then an artist had been good to him and
advised him because of his strength to go in for gymnasium, to be a
physical instructor, or a masseur.  Yes, there were many in
Stockholm.  He had gone through the course in Stockholm, doing it
well.  In the middle of it his mother had died.  Yes, he had missed
her terribly.  It was his first great loneliness.  He was so
lonely, although he had many friends, that so soon as he had
finished his course he went to Christiania.  He was there for a
year teaching gymnastics and doing a special medical course.  Then
he went to Copenhagen.  Yes, the capital of Denmark.  A very nice
town.  He did very well there, teaching exercises, making fat
gentlemen and ladies thin, instructing schools.  He made some money
too--quite a bit.  He was restless.  His great ambition was to go
to England and see where his mother had lived, and afterwards,
perhaps Italy . . . Donatello. . . .

Mrs. Penethen asked whether that was a place.

No, it was a man.  A sculptor.  Who made statues.  Not the
greatest, perhaps, but the kindest, the most human, the one to be
loved most. . . .

He pulled himself up.  He was talking too long.  But now he was
here.  In the town that his mother had always spoken of, with
the Cathedral.  He would perhaps live here.  Make fat ladies
thin, teach the children to be strong--and he had wonderful
exercises. . . .  He stopped again.  After all, if he were to find
a bed in the town. . . .

It was at this moment that Mrs. Penethen said that after all she
HAD a spare room.  She had been speaking the truth when she had
said that she had no bed.  This room she did not let save to some
one who would take it for a period, several months.  But on such a
night--and it was late--She was conscious of Judy's sharp gaze.
Yes, she was being impulsive, she who always acted so cautiously,
but this man was honest, she would wager her life on it.  And his
boy's face.  She COULD not turn him out into that rain.  She had
the room.  It would not take five minutes to make it ready.  But
some consciousness, perhaps, of her unusual impetuosity made her
voice grim as she said to him:

"You had better come and see it: you may not like it."

She picked up the lamp, raised it and walked ahead of him.  He got
up, pulling his big body together.

"It will have to be a bad bed not to be right enough for such a
night," he said, laughing.  He went with his bag after her up the
dark stairs, having to bend his head beneath the door-post.

When they had gone the girl rose from her chair and stood in the
middle of the room, listening.  Her stare as she waited, one hand
on her hip, was ironical, and at the same time rather pathetic, as
though she had lost her way, wondered of whom she should ask her
direction, but would have no real belief in the security of the
answer.

"Perhaps it's Miss Midgeley," she said aloud.  But it was not Miss
Midgeley.  There were the sounds of a key fitting in the lock, of
the door swinging back, of voices, and then three persons came into
the room, two men and a girl.

The girl was at once the most noticeable, being quite remarkably
beautiful.  Her beauty shone through the ugly waterproof that
reached to her heels, and in spite of the common cart-wheel of a
hat burdened with a multitude of cheap pink roses.  She did not
know how to dress, that was evident, but at once with her very
entrance into the room she had taken the pins out of the hat and
the hat off her head and was shaking the shabby roses in front of
the fire, and so revealed her beautiful fair hair, masses of it,
piled and crowned on the top of her tiny head.  She was small and
slight, perfectly proportioned, and giving the effect of being for
ever "on tiptoe for a flight," as though at any moment she might be
discovered to have wings and float out into the air, vanishing, a
speck of white and gold, into the blue sky.  As she turned from the
fire to speak to her companions it could be seen that she was
happy, excited, pleased.  Her ulster had been thrown off and she
stood there in her rather common pink dress, her bosom heaving, her
eyes dancing, her feet still moving to some enchanting strain.

"Oh, Judy, it was heaven!" she cried.  "You should have been
there!"

The two men were watching her each in his own way.  The one was a
big man, fat and fleshy, his face naturally red, turning in the
veins around the nose to purple, the eyes small, the eyebrows so
lightly marked as scarcely to be seen.  He was jauntily dressed in
a suit of light grey, and he wore a purple tie with a big horse-
shoe pin.  He had fat hands with short stumpy fingers.  His air was
genial but, for some reason to-night, a little uneasy--his age
anything between fifty-five and sixty.  His clothes fitted his
stout limbs too tightly, just as the flower in his coat and the pin
in his tie were too large.  His companion was a pale, rather
ascetic man, with a gentle smile and a courteous manner; nearly
obsequious, he nevertheless gave the impression that he had his own
private power.  His name was Reuben Fletch.  He wore a black tie
and a neat pair of black shoes.

He was of a well-known Polchester family, had been born and bred in
Polchester and had lived there all his life.  He had lodged now at
Mrs. Penethen's for a number of years, was a solicitor by
profession and a miser above all.  He was said to be extremely
able, to know neither conscience nor morals, and to have much power
over important individuals in our town.  He was forty-five years of
age and unmarried.

The two men looked at the girl, the eyes of the stout man narrowing
until they had almost vanished, and a very faint smile hovering
about his lips.  Fletch stared, his face immobile.

The girls as they stood together offered an interesting contrast.
It was plain that they were sisters, and that they were Mrs.
Penethen's daughters; they had, both of them, something of her
refinement in the sharp-pointed noses, the delicate ears and the
white shapely necks; but all the life and colour seemed to have
been stolen by the one girl from the other--stolen because Maude,
the elder, had the air of a victorious captor, and in her lovely
shining hair, her gleaming eyes, the soft colour of her cheeks, the
grace and movement of her body, she seemed to proclaim her contempt
for, her superiority over, the thin little lustreless girl at her
side.  Lustreless was what poor Judy was, her complexion pale, her
mouth frowning, her whole body uneasy and awkward in its pose.  A
plain girl, even were Maude not there--plainer by far in contrast
and from the power of some secret resentment and anger that she was
feeling.

Maude turned round to the men.  "Make yourself comfortable, Mr.
Hogg, do.  You know my sister Judy? . . .  Where's mother?"

"Upstairs," Judy said, staring at the two men as though she hated
them.

"She's not gone to bed?  I want my cocoa.  You know where the
whisky is, Mr. Fletch.  I'm sure Mr. Hogg would like a glass."

"Mother will be down in a moment," Judy said.  "She's showing a new
lodger his room."

"A new lodger!" Maude cried.  "At this time of night!--And mother
said she wasn't going to let the red room anyway.  As though we
hadn't enough with Miss Midgeley as it is--"

"I know.  She didn't mean to let it.  But he came in out of the
rain, and mother took a fancy to him.  He's a foreigner--"

"A foreigner!"

"Yes.  A Norwegian or Swede or something.  And he's about eight
feet tall."

Judy threw all this out scornfully as though she had contempt for
them all but wished to see what effect this news would have upon
them.

Not very much apparently.  The two men were seated at the table
helping themselves to the whisky, and Maude broke out:

"Oh well, bother it all anyway.  I want my cocoa.  It was a LOVELY
dance, wasn't it, Mr. Hogg?  Didn't you LOVE every minute of it?"

She danced a few steps and then stopped abruptly as the door opened
and her mother came in, followed by the stranger.

It was strange to observe the effect that at once he made upon all
of them.  Perhaps Judy alone of all that group observed it.  His
height had something to do with the challenge that he always
presented to any company that he confronted, but it was not only
his height.  No one, save possibly Miss Midgeley, quite defined it
during all that time that he was in Polchester.  Mrs. Penethen had
HER version, Mary Longstaffe had HERS, Fletch certainly had his,
Ronder his, Cole his--all of them different.  Why, to this very
moment, so many years afterwards, when it is all a legend, his
arrival, his deeds, the after effects, that exact impression of his
personality is still hotly debated.  "All I know is," Mrs. Penethen
herself used to say (she died in 1917), "you couldn't be the same
as you were before he came in, none of you.  You fell in love with
him at once or you couldn't bear him.  And I fell in love with him.
Yes, that very first wet night when he was sitting at my table
eating my bread and ham.

"'I've got a room,' I said, just as though it were some one else
speaking the words behind me, for I assure you I had had no more
intention of letting that room that night than I had of sailing
through the ceiling on wings.  But there it was, from the first I
couldn't resist him!"

On this present occasion Mrs. Penethen saw the new arrivals and
said shortly, "Oh, so you've got back.  Why, Mr. Hogg, good
evening!"  He got up and she shook hands with him, not overpleased
at his presence it seemed.  "Pray make yourself at home" (here just
a touch of irony perhaps).  "Oh, let me introduce.  This is Mr.
Johnson from Copenhagen.  My daughter Maude, Mr. Johnson.  Mr.
Fletch, Mr. Hogg.  Have a drop of whisky, Mr. Johnson, I'm sure you
need it."  Johanson shook hands with every one, clicking his heels
and bending from the waist.  That little habit may seem unimportant
in itself, but it had its later seriousness, as it led certain
people in our town to speak of him as "that German" at a time when
Germans were not very popular with us because of Hoffmann's
proposed Town Hall.

He sat down very comfortably at the table next to Samuel Hogg, and
was very soon telling that gentleman all about himself, his mother
and father, Stockholm and Copenhagen, his hopes and his ambitions,
it being always his simple way to believe that every one must be
interested in hearing about himself just as he was interested in
everything that they had to tell HIM.  And Hogg sat with a smile,
drinking his whisky.

From the first moment, however, eagerly though he talked, Johanson
was conscious of Maude Penethen.  He could not but be conscious of
her with her wonderful hair, her perpetual movement about the room,
her cries and laughter, her little coquetries and brazenries.  And
she also was conscious of him.

"Mother, I want my cocoa.  Never mind the men, mother, they can
look after themselves.  Ladies first.  Oh, mother, it was heavenly.
I danced EVERY dance.  Such a shame it had to be over so early.
Lady St. Leath looked in for a moment, mother.  Yes, she did.  She
spoke to Miss Cardigan and asked how the Club was getting on.  She
made us a little speech and said how glad she was we were all
enjoying ourselves.  Oh, she looked all right, but a little DOWDY,
you know, like she always is.  She doesn't know how to dress a bit,
and they say her husband would give her anything she'd ask for.  Oh
yes, and Canon Ronder came, just for ten minutes, and danced with
Miss Cardigan.  Oh, mother, you WOULD have laughed!  He's like a
tub and she's so skinny.  He spoke to me, too, and asked how you
were.  And I was much the prettiest girl there.  I'm sure I was.
Wasn't I, Mr. Hogg?"

"Indeed you were, Miss Penethen," he answered, smiling at her.

"Well, you shouldn't say so even though you thought it, and you
shouldn't think it even though you were it," said her mother.
"It's not for you to say."

Maude laughed, drinking her cocoa, balancing on the edge of her
chair and stealing glances at Johanson.  Suddenly he looked
directly at her.  Their eyes met.  She sprang up from her chair and
danced about, flinging her arms around her mother, then rushing at
Judy and kissing her, then pausing near Mr. Fletch.

"You never danced with me once," she said.

He looked at her full with his round black eyes.  "You never asked
me," he said.

"Oh, I did!  I'm sure I did!  Hundreds of times.  Never mind!
There's another on Tuesday--"

Samuel Hogg got up.  "I must be going, Mrs. Penethen.  It's late.
Thank you for your hospitality."

She did not try to prevent him, but said good night to him gravely.
Maude saw him to the door, and there was some giggling and
laughter, some low-voiced words before the outer door closed.

"I'm sure it's bed-time for everybody," said Mrs. Penethen.

But even then the evening was not concluded.  The farther door
opened, and a little woman with a wrinkled face looked in:

"Oh, I beg your pardon, but could I have another candle, Mrs.
Penethen?  Mine's about done."

She stepped into the kitchen.  Her face was a map of wrinkles, she
wore a red woollen jacket and a grey skirt.  She was just like a
robin.  Johanson happened to be near the door.  She looked up and
saw him.

"Good heavens!" she cried.

Maude burst into laughter.  "Oh, I can't help it. . . .  I beg your
pardon. . . .  But the difference in height. . . .  Oh dear. . . .
Mr. Johnson so tall and Miss Midgeley--!"

It WAS amusing!  Mrs. Penethen herself smiled as she laid:

"Miss Midgeley, this is Mr. Johnson.  He has taken a room here."

She looked up at him whimsically.  "It will never do for us to go
about together," she said drily.  "The whole town will laugh."

He smiled.  "They was always saying when I were a boy that I'd be a
giant.  I were as big when I were fourteen as I am now.  There are
plenty taller than me in Denmark."

No one had anything to say to this, so they all prepared to go to
bed.  Only Maude at the last, as he stood aside for her to pass,
said, smiling up at him:

"Good night, Mr. Johnson.  I do hope the bed will be long enough!"



CHAPTER II

THE REVEREND TOM AT HOME AND ABROAD


The steepest street in our town, and one of the steepest in
Southern England, is Orange Street, and nearly at the top of Orange
Street, just below the Monument, is St. Paul's Church.  The Rector
of St. Paul's at this time was the Reverend Thomas Longstaffe.  He
had been Rector of St. Paul's for ten years now, coming to
Polchester in 1897, Jubilee Year, the very week that Archdeacon
Brandon died so tragically.

He was a widower, about fifty years old when he arrived, and with
him a daughter of eighteen, Mary, a very pretty girl, the adored of
his heart, his only child.

When he had been four years in Polchester a terribly tragic thing
occurred.  Mary Longstaffe was a very bright, clever girl, modern
in her ideas, knowing many things that were entirely beyond the
average Polchester young lady of that time.  She even talked of
going up to Oxford, which was thought very daring of her by Mrs.
Sampson, Mrs. Preston and other ladies in the Precincts.  The
Precincts ladies in fact did not like her, called her fast, and did
not invite her to their houses.  In any case, the Cathedral set
always kept to itself in our town, and Tom Longstaffe, being only
Rector of St. Paul's and not even a Minor Canon, would be, of
course, outside it.  A certain Major Waring, a retired Indian
officer, lived in our town and had an only son who was at Oxford.
Lance Waring fell violently in love with Mary Longstaffe, and
throughout one summer they were always together, riding, playing
tennis, walking, and dancing.  Early in the September of that year
he was thrown from his horse and killed.  In October it was known
that Mary Longstaffe was going to have a baby, and that Lance
Waring was its father.

What horrified every one so terribly was that she stayed calmly on
in our town for several months after this was known.  She seemed to
have no shame at all, and walked up and down the High Street and
took her usual seat in the Cathedral just as though she were like
every one else.  Of course every one cut her, every one except old
Mrs. Combermere, who was eccentric and just did things to show her
eccentricity, and young Lady St. Leath, whose brother had married
the daughter of Samuel Hogg the publican, once owner of a low
public-house down in Seatown, who was "queer," therefore, in any
case, and the perpetual sorrow and cross of the old Dowager's life.

Mary Longstaffe had stayed in Polchester until Christmas of that
year, and after that she vanished.  It was rumoured vaguely from
time to time that she lived in London, that she had a son, that she
lived by writing for the newspapers; in any case she was not seen
again in Polchester.

On the whole there had been considerable sympathy felt for poor Tom
Longstaffe.  He had always been a popular man: she was his only
child, and he must be very lonely now without her.  It all came of
the girl having no mother and picking up all these advanced ideas.
It was as likely as not that she had become one of these
Suffragettes about whom now in London every one was talking.

Yes, the Reverend Tom was lonely, very lonely indeed.  He was now,
in 1907, sixty years of age, and for the five last years he had
lived quite alone save for an old family servant.  He was a short,
thick-set man with a face red-brown, the colour of a pippin apple,
grey hair, and a good strong chin.  He was a man who adored sport
of every kind and was never indoors when he could be out of it.
This was the man known to most of the Polcastrians, a jolly, red-
faced, kind-hearted sportsman with not too much of the parson about
him.

Within this man there was another, a man deeply religious and
passionately affectionate.  He was never much of a reader, his
sermons were so simple as to be called by many people childish, and
he never spoke of his religion unless it were his duty to do so; it
was, nevertheless, at the root of his whole life.

He was also, outwardly, nothing of a sentimentalist--nevertheless
he had had in earlier years two friendships, and afterwards his
love for his wife and his daughter, and these few relationships had
been passionate in their hidden intensity.  Of his two friends one
had died and the other had married; his wife had endured two years
of agony from cancer before her death; his daughter's tragedy was
common knowledge to every one.  What he had suffered through these
things no one save his daughter knew--nevertheless here he was, the
cheeriest and merriest clergyman in Polchester.

The Rectory was a square grey-roofed building standing back from
Orange Street and having a lawn and two old trees in front of it.
To the left of it and almost touching it was the church, and to the
right of it Hay Street, where was the famous Polchester High School
for Girls.

It was a jolly old Rectory with solid, square rooms, plenty of
space and light, and a fine view over Polchester from the attic
windows.

On a certain day in January 1907 Tom Longstaffe suffered from an
agonising temptation, and alone in his study on that grey January
morning he wrestled with this temptation, knowing in his heart that
he would be beaten by it.

He had that morning found on his breakfast table the following
letter from his daughter:


11 Gower Street, London, W.C.,
January 3, 1907.

DARLING FATHER--I am coming home.  Podge and I can endure being
away from you no longer.  I think I could have held out a while
more but for your last letter, which, for all its pretended
cheeriness, gave the whole show away.  If you miss me so much and I
miss you so much, aren't we sillies, when life is so short, to keep
away from one another?  And all for what?  All for a lot of
chattering old women about whose opinion we neither of us care a
scrap.  More serious than that is the one that if I come back to
live with you I may damage your congregation.  They may stay away
because of me.  Well, if they do I can but go away again.  But why
should they?  It isn't as though they didn't know all about it and
haven't known for the last five years.  And it isn't as though I
were going to make myself prominent in any way.  They'll never see
either Podge or myself if they don't want to.  You shall give them
their tea and listen to their outpourings just as you have always
done.  I shan't expect to be asked to any of their houses, and you
must go to them just as you have always done.  I shall make that
quite plain as soon as I arrive.  They'll be used to me in no time,
and only pity you and love you the more because you have such a
heavy burden to bear!  (Isn't that the phrase?)  And meanwhile, oh
MEANWHILE, darling Daddy, we shall have one another!  Just think of
that!  Morning, noon and night we shall be together and shall be
wondering all the time what we have been doing to have wasted five
precious years of our lives away from one another!

It is true that I have Podge, and that he is everything a mother
can want in a son, but he isn't you--and I need you both.  I do
indeed.  And so it shall be.

As to finances, we shall manage quite well.  I'm becoming quite an
authority on Housing questions, the Way the Poor Live (or Don't
Live), Women's Suffrage and anything else you like.  My articles
are the astonishment of economic London!

After all this you will expect to see your daughter with ink
(instead of vine-leaves) in her hair and holes in her cotton
frocks.  Wait!  Only you wait!  And you shan't wait very long
either.  Whether you like it or no, I am coming--so Prepare!
Your always loving

                                                    MARY.


This was the letter that caused him to pace up and down his study,
his head a little forward, his hands closed behind his back, his
short, rather stumpy body being moved forward in jerks as though by
the action of some secret spring within him.  As he moved, all his
past life seemed to swing around him, up and down through the bare
study, bare save for his untidy table with its crucifix, its piles
of letters and papers, his arm-chair, a worn sofa--bare and grey in
the ugly January light.

All his life, which seemed to him now in retrospect to have
consisted only of one brief moment, had been engaged in this same
war between his affections and his duty.  There had been that first
friendship made by him at Oxford--and he saw instantly a succession
of pictures of English summers and bathes and cricket-matches and
long walks in dusky evenings, an Italian holiday, a trip to Egypt--
and how surprised they had both been by the emotion that after a
while rushed in and filled their hearts, and how he, with his
English public-school training, had been afraid of sentiment and
feeling and had felt that his love for his friend was stepping in
front of his love for God, and how he had gradually withdrawn . . .
and his friend had married and that had been the end.  Then came
his meeting with the woman whom he married, his passionate
adoration of her, her quieter affection for him, some aloofness
that she had, something that he never quite touched.  And then in
the very middle of this, when his married life and his religious
life seemed so utterly to absorb him body and soul, the sudden
upspringing of that strange friendship with Charles Upcott, a man
of over forty, learned, a scholar, grave, an indoor man, nothing in
common--and yet this sudden friendship that flamed up in a day and
burnt with a steady fire until Upcott's death, a year after their
first meeting, from pleurisy.  Christina, his wife, had seemed to
understand this friendship and fostered it in every way.  She said
that it was what he needed, smiling at him in that quiet, strange,
aloof way that removed her sometimes so far from him. . . .

Here, too, he had doubted and felt that he was in the wrong.  It
was not only the emotional quality, felt both by Upcott and
himself, that his training told him was weak and sentimental
between men (although his soul told him that it was not), it was
also that Upcott was a declared and convinced atheist, gentle
towards Longstaffe's beliefs because he loved him, but showing with
every word and movement that he held them to be childish and
incredible.  So once again Longstaffe's heart was in the way of his
duty, but the matter was abruptly settled for him by Upcott's
sudden death.

He recalled now as he paced his study the grief and agony that that
death had meant to him.  Had he before or afterwards known such
pain and loneliness?  No, he must confess to himself that even his
wife's death had not afflicted himself so intolerably.  There had
never been a day, perhaps, when he had not thought of Upcott,
seeing his hatchet-jawed face, his dreaming student's eyes, his
long shambling body, heard the echo of his little stammer, felt the
warm touch of his hand. . . .

And then he passed to his wife's agony and death--her patience, her
courage, her wonderful, wonderful courage!  He could see her lying,
her eyes lost in distance, assuring him that she was not in any
pain, asking him about the trivial things of the day. . . .
Christina!  Christina!  Christina!  He said that name aloud as
though by the whisper of it he might bring her for a moment back to
him.  But in vain, in vain, as it had always been in vain.  She had
always eluded him, loving him as a traveller loves a town in which
he likes to stay for a moment before passing on--her eyes had been
fixed on other destinies.

And so there had been left to him only Mary.  Mary had been
everything to him, mother, daughter, brother, sister, friend.  From
the very first, long before she could speak, she had seemed to
understand him exactly.  They had been such companions as never
were!  He had taught her to run, to swim, to bowl quite a decent
fast ball, to ride, to shoot.  She had been clever, too, far
cleverer than he had ever been, and was soon reading books that
were far beyond him.  He had sent her to a splendid school for
girls in the Midlands; the wrench of her departures had been
terrible, but then their meetings, the holidays, the fun, the
walks, the games, the companionship.

And then--the awful tragedy.  Just as she was growing into perfect
womanhood.  Once again his heart had confronted his duty.  He
learnt in one fierce, blinding flash that did you love enough
nothing mattered--God Himself must turn and bow His head before
human love at its most intense.  He fought for her like a tiger, he
would have gone with her to the end of the world.  She would not
have it, seeing truly that his Polchester work was the only thing
to keep him sane.

His love of God saved him.  In his faith there were no
complexities, no doubts, no fears.  God was there and loved His
children.  God was sorry for Mary's sin, but had forgiven her and
was caring for her.  Again and again he felt that he must leave
Polchester and go to her; he did, of course, go up to London and
visit her whenever it was possible, but the loneliness as the years
passed grew harder and harder to bear.  And yet he knew that he
must not leave Polchester.  His duty was there, the only work that
his older years were likely to have for him.  Oh! how he longed to
have her back!  How every room in the house called for her; how old
Hephzibah, who had nursed her from her birth, longed for her; how
at night he would rise from his bed and pace his room fighting his
desire to ask her to return.

And yet he must not.  He could not ask her to face the ostracism
and social banning that there would be.  He did not know, too, how
he himself could endure it, what his own anger might not be.  Her
name was never mentioned by any one in Polchester save by Mrs.
Combermere, a rather eccentric widow who lived with her dogs in an
old house in the Precincts, but outside the Precincts life and
social code.  She seemed to be Mary's only friend.  And yet it
might not be so.  When they saw Mary and realised her sweetness and
goodness they would surely forgive that earlier fault.  How could
they help it? he said, looking up at her photograph on the
mantelpiece.

And at that look he yielded.  She shall come back.  For a little
while at any rate.  At the very thought of having her again in that
house his heart leapt with joy and his eyes filled with tears.

He sat down at the table and then again paused.  There was another
side to her return, a side involving wider and more public issues.

I have said already that the Rector of St. Paul's, unless he were a
man of very exceptional talent and intellect, would be by necessity
outside the Cathedral politics.

Tom Longstaffe was neither in talent nor intellect an exceptional
man, and during all his ten years in Polchester he had never on one
occasion been asked to dine with the Dean, nor had any of the
Cathedral ladies called on his daughter after their arrival.  Old
Bishop Purcell had indeed invited him to luncheon at Carpledon and
he had gone and had spent a most happy afternoon, but within six
months Bishop Purcell was dead and Bishop Franklin reigned in his
stead.  Bishop Franklin had not the personality of his predecessor,
who was a saint of God if ever one walked this sinful earth.
Bishop Franklin was a good man, but not too good, and his thoughts
were for ever with the Kings of Israel, whose slightest habits and
most abstruse customs were more real to him than were his wife (an
invalid) and two dried-up, pigeon-breasted daughters.

As to the Archdeacons, Witheram was growing an old man now and was
nearly always out of Polchester busied with visitations throughout
Glebeshire; the other Archdeacon, Brodribb, who had succeeded
Brandon in '97, was a man without any colour of personality,
agreeable, negligible, interested in Shakespeare Texts and
Elizabethan dramatists, a man who did his duty, was easily
influenced, and was something of a hypochondriac.

No, it was not these men who directed the Cathedral politics of our
town.  These were directed by two others, one the Rev. Ambrose
Wistons, Vicar of the church of Pybus St. Anthony, a village a few
miles out of Polchester, one the Rev. Frederick Ronder, Canon of
the Cathedral.  It may seem strange that some of the Cathedral
policy should have been directed from a small village outside our
town, but this was not the first occasion on which Pybus St.
Anthony had played an important part in the affairs of the
Cathedral.

It had been the custom for a number of years past that the Vicar of
Pybus St. Anthony should be a man of mark, and promotion to
positions of great importance had often arisen out of that humble
appointment.  Ambrose Wistons had been asked to come to Pybus with
the quite definite understanding that he would play a large part in
the Cathedral's affairs, the larger perhaps because he was not
actually one of the Cathedral staff.

Wistons had been at Pybus now for ten years, and he had made his
personality felt throughout the whole of Southern England.  He had
on several occasions refused advancement; he was a man who kept his
counsel, had few intimate friends, and was feared as much as he was
loved.  Himself was fearless, as every one knew, and was utterly
single-minded.

He was perhaps the greatest preacher in the whole of England at
that time, and Polcastrians crowded his village church on Sunday
evenings.  On the three or four occasions during the year when he
preached in the Cathedral, the Cathedral nave was packed.  People
went perhaps as much for sensation as for eloquence.  He seemed to
love to shock the orthodox; he was a modern of the moderns, as his
books showed, and to simple minds like Tom Longstaffe's many of his
utterances were treason.

"He seems to hate the Cathedral," Tom Longstaffe said, pacing his
study.  "He would pull it down if he could.  He says that it stands
in the way of Christ.  And yet there are times when he seems to
hate Christ too, or at least His Divinity.  Surely we are not meant
to destroy the Bible utterly, as Wistons would have us do.  He is a
terrible danger here!"  And yet the man's courage drew him and
attracted him as nothing else in Polchester did.  But Wistons never
noticed him, although they had met at many ecclesiastical
gatherings.  Wistons never did more than nod to him sternly.  He
never stopped to speak to him as did Ryle, or Bentinck-Major, or
Martin.  He did not want, it seemed, to know him.  He went with his
dry, wizened, almost sarcastic, spare face up and down the city
intent on his own affairs, wanting nothing for himself, not even
the love and affection of his fellow-men.

Very different was this other, Canon Ronder.  Ronder was now a man
of some fifty years of age, fat like a tub, with a red, jolly face,
smart and even elegant in appearance (a difficult thing for a stout
clergyman to be), and living with an elderly aunt in a comfortable
house in the Precincts.  Ronder was certainly at this time in 1907
the most important man in Polchester.  There was no pie whatever,
lay or ecclesiastical, in which he had not some finger.

"He is surely," said Longstaffe to himself, "the most popular human
being in Polchester, and quite naturally so.  He is hail-fellow
with every one.  He brings the Cathedral really into contact with
the town, and you will see Shandon the Mayor and Sharpe the Town-
clerk as often there as Bentinck-Major or Brodribb--more often
perhaps.  Every one must like him--he is so genial and kindly and
remembers every one, and is ready to listen to anybody's story."

And yet every one did not like him.  Although no open breach had
come it was quite certain that the town was divided into two
parties, the Wistons party and the Ronder party, and the Wistons
party did not hesitate to say terrible things about Ronder--that he
was false, money-grabbing, sycophantic, would sell his mother, if
he had one, to increase his personal comfort.  On the other hand,
the Ronder party said that Wistons was an atheist, a socialist,
propagator of immoral opinions, a scientist before he was a
Christian, an iconoclast, and so on.

The Ronder party were all for the development of the town.  They
wanted a better railway station, a new town hall, a golf links, a
racecourse, a theatre, two more hotels--heaven knows what!  Their
argument was that our town with its Cathedral should be the most
important in Glebeshire, that it COULD be if only the Polcastrians
would wake up and realise that we were in a new world now, the
Victorian era was, thank God, over and the Boer War had shaken us
all up.

And the Wistons party retorted that we were forgetting God
altogether, that the Cathedral was becoming a temple of Mammon,
that the very Canons were concerned in shady money transactions
that no honest man would touch, that officials in the position of
Ronder and Bentinck-Major ought not even to know such men as Samuel
Hogg and Jim Curtis.

To which the Ronder party retorted that the clergymen of the town
ought to know every one, that the fortunes of the town and the
Cathedral were intimately connected, that the Cathedral was badly
in need of funds, that restoration of one of the Towers was
necessary, that there were many other things to be done, that it
was all very well to have fine ideas about the Four Gospels and be
a professor of the very latest Higher Criticism, but where was
Higher Criticism if one of the Western Towers fell down?

And so on.  And so on.

Of all this Tom Longstaffe had been, until the last two months,
only a spectator.  Then suddenly, only a month or so ago, Miss
Ronder had asked him to dinner, and he had found there the old Dean
and his wife, the Bentinck-Majors and the Ryles--all the Cathedral
set.  Shortly after that Ronder had called upon him about tea-time,
had been very jolly, had played on his piano, had admired a little
bronze that he had picked up once in Rome, and had finally said
that they did not see enough of one another, and that they must all
pull together now for the good of the town and the Cathedral.  This
surprising visit had been followed by an invitation to dine at
Bentinck-Major's (every one knew that Bentinck-Major was a tool of
Ronder), and then, most amazing of all, he had received an
invitation to join the Shakespeare Reading Society, that society
that had for its members only the most exclusive part of the
Cathedral set.

The Cathedral had just discovered Tom Longstaffe--that was clear:
or at any rate that section of Cathedral society that claimed
Ronder for its leader.  It would be idle to pretend that Longstaffe
was not pleased.  He had had a very lonely five years; he wished,
as do most of us, to be liked by his fellows; above all, he adored
the Cathedral.  He had always felt that he was kept away from the
Cathedral, not so much by a set of social snobs as rather by some
force in the Cathedral itself.  He had seen no way by which he
might come closer to it.  There was, it is true, a third party in
the town who would have welcomed him to its arms, the party headed
years ago triumphantly by old Archdeacon Brandon, the old-fashioned
party who wanted everything to be as it always had been, who hated
any change whether in town or Cathedral; but that party was dying,
if it were not already dead, and consisted only of a few old men
and women who may have had some rightful place in the world before
the Boer War, but certainly had none anywhere now.

No, Tom Longstaffe was touched and pleased.  He would rather, it is
true, that it had been Wistons who had made some advance to him.
He was not sure of Ronder, there was something about the man that
he did not trust. . . .  Nevertheless . . .

He at once accepted the invitation to join the Shakespeare Reading
Society and received by return the notice that on January 18 the
play of Hamlet would be read at the Precentor's house at 8.15
sharp, and that he had been cast for the part of Guildenstern.

And if Mary returned?  Well, good-bye to the Cathedral set.  Not
that it mattered.  For himself he did not care at all, and if he
had Mary with him the whole world might cut him dead for all that
he minded.  But if God intended him to play a greater part in the
town, to take more share in the Cathedral's affairs?  Well, if God
intended that, He certainly also intended that he should love his
own dear daughter--and, at the thought of her, at the mere glimpse
of her smiling down at him from the mantelpiece, he sat at his
table once again and wrote to her saying that she was right, that
he could not bear to be apart from her any longer, that she must
come as soon as possible. . . .

Early in the afternoon of that dank day the mists came up from the
Pol and wreathed themselves about the town.  Longstaffe lit the gas
in his study soon after he had finished his solitary luncheon and
sat down and tried to work.  He had much to do, and had not
intended to go outside the house that day.  But the thoughts needed
for the prefatory letter to next month's parish magazine would not
come.  This was never in any case an easy task for him; he
certainly had not, of all men, the pen of a ready writer; and to-
day the face of his daughter slipped in between himself and the
paper and danced bewitchingly before him.  And something else too.
He did not know, he could not say.  Perhaps he was not well.  In
any case, this fog disturbed him, filling the room with a strange
brown, smoky light, and if he looked across at the window the bare-
armed trees beyond were hidden and then revealed, suddenly peering
in at him like skinny witches.

It was as though the whole world were smouldering in a cold,
billowy, smoky fire, and then, as though at the word of a
mysterious command beyond the window, it cleared and there was a
cold blue sky and the limbs of the trees were stark grey; only in
his room the brown mist still smouldered.

He would go out.  He had done enough for to-day--enough, that is
nothing, only that letter to his daughter which as he posted it in
the Orange Street letter-box surely changed his life for him.

He went slowly up the High Street through a ghostly town in which
doors closed, bells rang, voices murmured, walls slid forward and
back again, colours in windows flamed and were veiled, houses leapt
from the mist like centaurs and plunged then into a lake of grey.

Almost at one time he thought he had lost his way, and then the
Arden Gate was before him and the Cathedral hung like a gigantic
ship sailing through opalescent mist.  Near to the Arden Gate, on
the very edge of the Cathedral Green, a man was standing.
Longstaffe ran into him, apologised, stopped and looked up.  The
man was like a statue, and, in that mist, gigantic.  A hand was
laid on Longstaffe's shoulder and a voice, kindly, foreign, said,
"My carelessness.  But it is difficult in this mist.  I have heard
of your terrible English fogs, and now I see one.  Could you tell
me kindly if one may go into the Cathedral at this time?"

"Yes," said Longstaffe, "certainly.  Evensong is at half-past
three.  You have nearly an hour before that."

"My heartliest thanks."

Something kept Longstaffe there.  "You are a stranger?  Can I help
you in any way?"

"Oh, I have been in your town two weeks and into your Cathedral
every day.  But there are hours--once they wouldn't let me go in
and another time I must leave before I wished!"

It came into Longstaffe's mind then that he had heard something;
some one had told him about a Scandinavian, a Dane or a Swede, who
had come to the town, and intended to start a gymnasium or
something of the sort.  This might be he.

He liked the man's kindly face, and something husky and boy-like in
the voice.  But it was not his business.  "Nobody will disturb you
in the Cathedral for at least an hour," he said.  "It will be too
dark for you to see much, I'm afraid."

"You are very kind," the stranger bowed.  "My heartliest thanks."

But he did not move, and stood beaming down at Longstaffe as though
he expected him to speak.

"Are you staying long in Polchester?" Longstaffe asked, feeling
foolish.

"For a long time as I hope.  I am half English, you know.  My
mother was from this county."  He felt in his pocket and produced a
card.  "I am intending to start some gymnasia here.  There are none
in your town.  I like this town.  I like your people.  I have
already many friends.  I am very happy here."

"I am delighted to hear it," said Longstaffe.  "It's a very good
idea, a gymnasium.  Just what we want."

"Ah, you think so.  I am so glad.  I think so.  Mrs. Penethen think
so and her daughters, and Miss Midgeley and all my friends.  I have
some money that I have saved, and I have seen two rooms that is
very cheap, and an old sailor who will help, and his son who is
very strong.  Exercises is very good for everybody--for the
muscles, for the heart, for the brain.  It clears up everything and
makes every one happy."

This was a subject close to Longstaffe's heart.  "You are right,
Mr.--Mr.--" he consulted the card--"Mr. Johanson.  I wish you very
good fortune."  He found a card of his own.  "If I can be of any
help to you--"  His hand was gripped.

"Very kind indeed.  My heartliest thanks."  The man bowed and
strode off into the mist.

Longstaffe stood there for a moment, then turned up the Precincts.



CHAPTER III

FROM GABRIELLE MIDGELEY'S DIARY--I


FEB. 7, 11.30 P.M.--. . . which isn't what I meant to say to her in
the least, but she aggravates me so intensely sometimes that I say
what I don't mean at all.  The truth is that, unless I'm very
careful, I shall be in another year or two nothing but a cross,
sour old woman.  It was because of my fear of this, I suppose, that
I stopped this Diary six months back.  What's the use of recording
the thoughts, fears, likes and dislikes of a bad-tempered old maid
whom nobody wants and who, thank God, herself wants nobody.  I
meant never to open this shabby old book again.  But I have a new
reason--not a bad one either.  At any rate it isn't myself this
time.

The strange thing is that I'm getting back some of the hot temper
and nasty liveliness of fifteen years ago.  Who ever would have
supposed it?  Fifteen years' superb indifference and now suddenly I
want to wring Maude's beautiful neck until her head's round the
other way!  And the difference isn't in Maude.  She's always been a
pig.  The difference is myself.  Yes, and in Ma Penethen and in
Judy.  All of us widows or virgins.  Us women--and all because
there's a man in the house.

Not altogether that either.  Our dear friend Reuben with his yellow
poll has been with us for years, and we weren't excited.  But this
new man is something special.  It's certainly because of him that
I've opened this book again.  There is to be in these pages as
little of myself as I can manage.  One creeps in all the same, of
course, but I have some of my old novel-writing instinct back
again.  After the schoolgirl's pap that I've been serving out for
the last ten years--what a relief!  Perhaps--who knows--some of my
poor lost talent will come whistling back, the talent that Ruff
once said was going to burn the Thames dry!  Poor Ruff, if he could
only see me now!

The house is so quiet that it isn't difficult to bring those years
back again.  I haven't thought of them for ages.  Haven't I?  No, I
truly have not.  But this man brings them back whether I will or
no.  There is something in common between us there.  The belief in
things that I had then--the belief that he has now.  That belief
that he has irritates me, of course.  When he was talking to me the
other night I turned on him like a savage.  I told him that he
might as well know once for all that I hated sentimentality above
all things.  All this talk about changing the world!  As though you
could ever change anybody!  And he just smiled and said that that
was the last thing that he wanted to do, that he didn't want to
change anything or anybody.  He just had his ideas, and if two or
three other people thought as he did it would be nice to try a few
things.  I told him that he was deceived in people, they weren't as
nice as he thought them, or loyal or true or anything--they were
all rotten somewhere, and that one only made a fool of oneself by
believing in people.

He laughed and said that he was sure he'd met more rotten people
than I had, but he'd found most of them good somewhere--all this
with his funny accent and his singulars and plurals and pronouns
all wrong, and his large blue eyes that are like a baby's or a hero
of one of Crockett's novels.  I said he was romantic and idealistic
and sentimental, all things that I loathed, and that we'd never get
on.  And then he laughed and I laughed, and Maude came in and was
angry at his wasting his time even with an old woman like me
covered with wrinkles, and I liked that.  I'd do anything to spite
Maude.

Then there's no doubt that he's kind and polite--both things that I
like and see little enough of here.  He asked me whether there had
never been a time when I'd believed in things? and I said yes,
there had been.  And I saw myself that day Harland took my first
story for The Yellow Book, and asked me to go and see him, and how
rosy the world looked, and what a darling Harland was, and how I
loved every one!  And the night Ruff told me he loved me, that
night at Chris's party when Oscar Wilde came, and Ada Leverson was
there, and Max, and I seemed to be sitting with my hand on the very
wheel that turned the world round!  And that first month that I had
with Ruff when we went up to that little inn by Ullswater, the
nights and the days! . . .  Yes, yes, there WAS a time when I too
believed!

As I sit here the rain has begun, the only sound save for the clock
on the stairs in all the world, and although it's pattering on my
window-pane, it's from behind my Cathedral wall that it seems to
come.  As always!  Everything comes from inside the Cathedral, the
carts, the horses, the errand-boys, the bicycles, the old ladies--a
whole ghostly world--so that as I sit here for so many long hours
together in this room I have grown to imagine that building peopled
with ghosts--all the trade and traffic of a ghostly hemisphere.

And now to-night the rain is the ghostliest of the lot, footstep
after footstep pattering down that long dark nave, figures grey and
shadowy staring from behind every tomb and from under every brass.
For years I have been sitting here thinking that my life was over,
and now suddenly the stream seems to be trickling down from the
hills again, the dry bed beginning to be moistened.  The very
energy of that man downstairs seems to have touched me, laugh at
him though I may.

Feb. 15.--Our friend the Swede is getting on.  He is making
acquaintances everywhere.  People take to him, which is strange
enough in a conservative little place like this where the very word
"foreigner" frightens every one.  He has started his gymnasium or
whatever he calls it.  He has taken three rooms over the market-
place--where Bassett the dentist was--has hired an old sailor and
his son as assistants and already has some clients.

Little Longstaffe of St. Paul's has taken him up warmly, old Bently
of the Bank goes to him to get his stomach down, and they say that
the Choir School is going to have him for some hours a week, and
that even THE School itself may condescend to give him work.

It might easily develop into a craze here.  During the last few
years every one has been after any new thing, and what with Mrs.
Sheringham and the Pageant last year, and the Regatta, and doing
"Elijah" in the Cathedral, and the Benson Company coming to the
Assembly Rooms, there's no knowing where we may end.  I'm sure I
wish Johnson or Johanson, or whatever his name is, all the luck.
They can't manage his name here, and every one calls him Harmer
John, and that will stick, I should think.

Personally and privately he isn't as tiresome as I at first
expected.  He hasn't impressed upon me any more of his views about
the goodness of humanity; he is, in fact, a great deal more
practical than I had fancied him, but if I were responsible for him
(which, thank God, I'm not), two things would worry me.

One is that he got the rooms, or did the business of getting them,
through Fletch.  Now Fletch hates him--hated him on sight--and is
of course a perfect devil in anything to do with money.  I tried to
warn him about Fletch, but he only laughed and said that he had
been kind to him and made him special terms, and that he was sure
that he was honest.  Fletch honest!

The second thing is our dear little friend Maude.  The man is
fascinated by her, and in that, to do him justice, there's nothing
very remarkable.  She has fascinated plenty before him.  She's the
prettiest girl in the place, and she has ways . . . !  Moreover,
she herself is really taken with him, his physique, I suppose, his
laugh and the rest.  Then he's really something new for her.  She
has never been farther than a trip to Drymouth, and the men of this
town are not Adonises.  She is determined to catch him, and dances
round him like a puppy round a juicy bone.

There is something good in the girl, I daresay.  I have never been
able to be fair to her.  She's so young that her character can't be
formed yet, and he may form it for her.  They go for walks
together; she's been several times to his gymnasium.  The trouble
is that she's bone selfish.  He'll please her until she's tired of
him.  I don't know.  As I say, this may change her.  She's become
more serious in the last fortnight than I've ever before known her.

She is nicer to me, too--quite polite, and when I went to bed with
one of my headaches the other night, brought me some tea herself.
We had a funny little conversation on that occasion.  I was lying
there like an old scarecrow, sallow as a fog, and she was looking
lovely, all youth and life and colour.

"You don't like me, Miss Midgeley, do you?" she said.  "You never
have.  Why don't you?"

"Don't bother me with your questions," I said, "my head's too bad."

"I'm not so silly as you think," she said.  "I want to get away
from here and improve myself.  What chance has a girl got in a
stuffy old town like this?"

"Oh, I don't know," I answered, "there are plenty of ways of
improving yourself here if you like."

"I want to see foreign countries," she said.  "Mr. Johnson's been
telling me wonderful things."

So he's been playing Othello to her Desdemona?  But Desdemona is
not her type.  Cressida, perhaps?  And if Othello had married
Cressida? . . .

Feb. 24.--The man's mad.  Eaten up with idealism and fantastic
desires.  He's been here a little over two months and he wants to
strip every Polcastrian naked, pull down the town, beat drums in
the Cathedral, anything impossible you like.  We were a funny lot
the other night gathered in the kitchen (one of the finest old
rooms in Polchester, yes, or in England for that matter).  The wind
was curling down the chimney, Ma Penethen and Judy were playing
patience, Fletch reading the paper, Maude making eyes at Johnson.

Suddenly he comes out with it, speaking to the air--what he wanted
to do.  WHAT he wanted to do!  To have a wonderful town, a town of
craftsmen, modern Donatellos; to pull down the slums, Seatown and
the rest; to build magnificent streets up from the river with
statues and towers; to have the most splendid architects, the most
wonderful sculptors to come down to us and start a school here; for
every one in the town who cared for beauty to work to make the town
beautiful, to work not for gain but for love of art and your
country; even a little--one street, a statue or two--and other
towns would see, admire, and imitate; to pay some great architect
to design new buildings instead of the Seatown slums; to develop
our own school of craftsmen, nineteenth and twentieth-century
craftsmen, who would work with their hands as they did in the
Florence of the Renaissance--no machinery, no ceaseless
reproduction of beautiful things, but the beautiful things
themselves, each one made by the loving hands of the loving
craftsman.  And with this we Polcastrians are to have beautiful
bodies, not too fat and not too scraggy, and we are to have
beautiful children, and to lead beautiful lives--jolly lives, he
explained, all of us in good health and loving one another and
speaking the truth and being jolly.  Oh dear!  Shades of William
Morris!  The idiot! . . .

I burst forth.  I couldn't see Fletch looking at him over the top
of his paper with those cold glass eyes without wanting to protect
him as though he had been a baby in a perambulator playing with a
snake.  And yet I had to attack him.  I did, too.  I asked him
whether he knew our town, whether he knew the parsons and the old
women.  I reminded him that only the other day he had told me that
he didn't want to change anybody, and that here he was,
propaganding with all the silly old-woman business that cranks had
tried over and over again--and always failed.  He looked at me as
though he had been lost in sleep and I had jerked him awake.  He
said, as he had said the other day, that he didn't want to change
anybody, but he thought people weren't as happy as they might be or
as beautiful as they ought to be, and that if a few saw things as
he did they could band together and do a little, and that then
others perhaps would join them.  He said that he had always thought
that it would be nice to have a few men and women working together
as they used to in Florence.  He knew that many others had tried
it, but they hadn't altogether failed if they had worked hard.
That there was the most wonderful Cathedral here, and that he loved
the town because his mother had lived near to it.  But that he
didn't want to alter anybody. . . .  He only dreamt sometimes . . .

Then Maude broke out, jumping up and banging on the table.  She
thought Mr. Johnson's ideas were beautiful and that I was always
down on everything, and then to every one's amazement she burst
into tears and rushed out of the room.  Johnson got up and stood
staring after her, his eyes shining.  All Fletch said was, slowly,
"Pull down Seatown!  Why, Mr. Johnson, you don't understand things
here!"

And all the shadows in the Cathedral pressed close and listened
with their ears up against the wall, and a little titter went down
the nave, the echo of an echo!  I heard it behind the rustle of
Fletch's paper.

Johnson stood there looking at the door through which Maude had
flung herself, as though carved in stone.  Then he turned round to
me.

"You was talking sense, I'm sure, Miss Midgeley," he said.  "I
dream sometimes, and it's foolish to dream aloud.  I don't hope
Miss Penethen's really upset."

That brought out from Judy a ferocious, "Oh, Maude's all right.
Don't you worry."

Then he sighed as a dog does just before it settles to sleep, and
sat down at the table again.

Am I a little queer, I wonder, living in this funny old house so
long?  Am I being drawn back into life again?  Is it against my own
will?  I like him.  How can I help it?  He would drag the maternal
out of any woman--yes, even out of me.  And on the other side of
the wall they titter, I am sure, long after I am asleep.



CHAPTER IV

PORTRAIT OF THE HERO


"Your hot water, Mr. Johnson."

He almost slipped on the white stone, turning back for a moment to
catch the reflection of the light on the green sloping lawn as it
ran like bright water down the sharp hill.  The house was
extraordinarily quiet around him--not a sound.  He turned from the
steps, opened the door on his right and stared, as though drunk
with the delight of it, at the long high room with the white walls,
the bare gleaming floor flooded now with sun.  What would he have
here?  Only two pictures.  And two statues.  The Donatello
"Amourette"--the boy with his foot on the snake at the farther end,
and there in that corner by the door the "David," the David with
the helmet. . . .  Nothing else.

"Your hot water, Mr. Johnson."

He turned reluctantly from the room and, standing still, sniffed
the sharp morning air, heard suddenly the birds beyond the door at
the bottom of the white steps, heard the trees knocking, ever so
softly, their heads together, saw through that gap in the branches
that was so wonderfully right that he never COULD believe that it
was accidental, the faint line of the dim plum-coloured hills.  The
voice of one bird rose in a thin flute-like cry above the others,
and the peace of the house rose beautifully, nobly to meet it.  The
purple shadow of the trees in their spring dress seemed to slip
very faintly across the sunny hall.  A clock struck.

Then--knock, Knock, KNOCK.

"Mr. Johnson, your hot water--half-past seven."

Slowly he opened his eyes, rubbed his hand across them, then
scratched and ruffled his tangled hair.  The little dark room met
his gaze.  He could hear the rain drizzling against the window.  In
the centre of the room on the oil-cloth stood the tin bath filled
with water the night before.  A large square patch of grey sky,
like a sheet sagging with moisture, stretched beyond the window.
There was the faded green wall-paper with the pink roses, and the
mottle-coloured wardrobe, and the chest of drawers with the looking-
glass that was for ever suddenly jerking forward and striking you.

In another moment he was out of bed, had gone to the door and
brought in the hot water, had crossed to the open window, looked
out on rain-scarred Canon's Yard and the grey butting end of the
Cathedral.  A moment after that his pyjamas were on the floor and
he was in his bath, then, naked before the window, was doing his
exercises, his mind utterly concentrated upon them, although for
how many years now had he done them without missing a day?  But he
could only think of one thing at a time, and that thing must be
whatever he was at the moment doing.  One--two--three.  Eight,
left, left, right.  Down to the toes.  Up again.  Above the
head . . .

He stopped and looked in the glass.  Every morning there was this
same anxiety.  Was he out of condition, becoming fat anywhere?  Any
signs of a belly?  His chest, his thighs, his buttocks?  No, his
face was the fattest part of him.  The chubbiness of his cheeks was
his old enemy.  But that had always been so.  He passed his hands
down his thighs, hard like iron, touched his toes, then fell to on
the exercises again furiously.  He counted.  Thirty-two, thirty-
three, thirty-four--enough for to-day.

Rubbing himself he began to hum; then slowly, mysteriously the
scene that he had left on opening his eyes began to steal back to
him, the high white staircase, the gentle sunlight, the empty white
room, the plum-coloured hills . . .

He stopped whistling, stared in front of him, lost, gone away,
his eyes seeming to film with some dim shadow.  The Cathedral struck
the quarter.  With a jerk he was back, in his shirt, shaving,
cursing the razor-blade, finding a collar, pulling on the blue
trousers, brushing his hair with a kind of windmill movement,
singing now, fastening up his boots--then, just once again before he
left the room, staring at his bed as though he might recover. . . .

He was well accustomed now to that scene in the old kitchen, but
never came down the little staircase without pausing before he
pushed back the door, because he hoped--what did he hope?

He looked in through the door, lowering his head, and saw them all
there, Mrs. Penethen, Judy, Miss Midgeley, Fletch, all at their
breakfast, that extraordinary habit of these English to stuff
themselves with food early in the morning before the day has
properly begun!

He adored the kitchen with its huge fire-place, its immense beams,
its uneven brick floor, its whitewashed walls, its heavy oak door.
"The finest kitchen in Polchester," he said to himself, "and here
am I living in it.  I find it first shot."  The room had, too, some
of the happiness and warmth that comes from continuous habitation.
The whole life of Mrs. Penethen's household hung about it.  The
sitting-room on the next floor with its stuffed birds behind glass,
its feathery everlastings, its green plush table-cloth, was dead as
a coffin.  All the life was here and the kitchen knew it.

They seemed a silent breakfast party.  Somebody was missing.
Maude, of course.  Down at eight o'clock in the morning she never
could manage to be.  She always so intended.  "See you at
breakfast, Mr. Fletch," she would say, and now, to Johanson,
"You'll see me on your way through in the morning, Mr. Johnson"--
but of course he did not--no, he never did.  He could imagine her
curled up in bed like a little cat, her cheek on her hand, her
lovely hair scattered over the pillow. . . .

They seemed a dull enough party without her.  Not one of them--Mrs.
Penethen, Miss Midgeley, Judy, Fletch--could be called talkative.
But as he passed through they all, save Judy, smiled.  Fletch said,
raising his yellow pate, "Wet morning, Mr. Johnson."  Mrs. Penethen
said something, and that funny cross-patch of an old maid something
sharp, and he replied with a laugh and a joke, turned once towards
the door to see whether it would not open, then shouldered his way
out into the rain.

Already, during the few weeks that he had been in the place, he had
made numbers of friends on his way down to the market.  In Canon's
Yard there was the old cobbler who, like Hans Sachs, chose to sit
in his doorway from morning to night hammering at his shoes; there
was the butcher at the very end of the Yard; then the stationer's
assistant in Bodger's Street, pimply and sallow-faced; then the old
barber with a black patch over one eye, who stood in his doorway
chatting during so great a part of the day that it was difficult to
see when he did any work; after these, who were all now accustomed
to see the tall, smiling, broad-shouldered man striding past, there
were the birds and the trees of green flame; then at the top of
Orange Street the Monument, whose frock-coated hero seemed to bend
forward and give Johanson a special gracious bow; then down Orange
Street there were the maids scrubbing the steps of the neat little
houses (all lawyers and doctors surely), and on the right St.
Paul's and the house, where his friend Tom Longstaffe lived,
already so great a friend of his that it was difficult not to step
in across the lawn and look in through the bow window and greet him
at his breakfast; then, at the bottom of Orange Street, the shops
beginning, the really smart shops, shops as smart as any in the
High Street--Polrudden's, the hairdresser's, Crack's, the
confectioner's (Mrs. Crack, orange hair, often in the doorway and
always ready with a smile for Mr. Johanson); and so into the market-
place, where already the day was in full bustle and the old apple-
woman was arranged under her green umbrella, and the cabs were
drawn up in a row along the cobbles, and the stalls in the dark
cloister market were opening.  So, with smiles to Mr. Fletcher, the
cabman, and more smiles to Beckit, another cabman (shabbier than
Fletcher), and a nod to Mr. Green in his doorway (the smartest
hairdresser in Polchester); so, a step aside into Pinner Street,
through the door, up the broad stone staircase, past the first
floor (W. Quid, Solicitor, left side--Mund & Son, Provision
Merchants, right side), on to the second floor.  One moment to look
with pride at the brass plate:


                      HJALMAR JOHANSON,
                    Gymnastic Instructor.
                         Hours, 9-6.
                       Saturday, 9-1.


and so into the home of health and vigour and physical beauty, the
sacred dwelling-place whence all the future strength and glory of
Polchester life was to issue.

The sacred dwelling consisted of three rooms--a little room first,
and that was the office; a large one second, and that was the room
for exercise and drill; and a little room third, and that was the
room for private examination and consultation.

The little first room was furnished with some things that Johanson
had bought from the last tenant, the dentist: a decent red carpet,
a solid office table, four chairs--and a portrait of the King and
Queen of Sweden over the fire-place (these brought from
Copenhagen).  At the table there was seated a boy of about
eighteen.  He had yellow untidy hair, freckles, a thin, pointed
face and a very high white collar.  He looked up when Johanson came
in and smiled with the whole of his large mouth.

This was Fred Trenant, only son of Billy Trenant, Johanson's
assistant.  Fred was a clever boy with a real head for figures.  He
had been in a bank two months ago, hating it, and when his father
went to Johanson he had insisted on going too, "to manage his
affairs for him."  His duties were:

1.  To manage the accounts.

2.  To deal with correspondence.

3.  To interview strangers.

Of these three duties he loved most the last, having a glib tongue,
an engaging manner, and adoring his master so passionately that it
was not difficult to put a special urgency into his voice when
persuading hesitators.  His faults were:

1.  A passion for the worst and cheapest of cigarettes.

2.  A tendency to magnify the achievements, virtues and appearance
of those whom he admired.

3.  Untidiness.

Johanson smiled at him, hung his coat on a peg and went through
into the farther room.  This room was bare and white.  Its
furniture consisted in a pair of parallel-bars (second-hand from
Drymouth), a rather faded, battered "horse," a spring-board, half-
a-dozen pairs of dumb-bells, and around the whitewashed walls a
series of large photographs displaying Johanson in a series of
exercises.  There were twenty of these.

When Johanson came in Billy Trenant was rubbing up the parallel-
bars, whistling through his teeth as though he were scrubbing a
horse.  He was a short, square man with a very large head thatched
with stiff, wiry grey hair.  His legs were short, thick and sturdy,
his back broad, his face red.  He had a scar across his forehead,
and two fingers of the right hand had lost their tips.  These
accidents had befallen him during his service in Her Majesty's
Navy, where he had been a gymnastic instructor for twenty years.

Shortly after his arrival in Polchester Johanson had been told of
this man; it had seemed to him the very thing that he needed.
Billy lived in a very shabby pair of rooms with his son in Seatown.
He had a small pension and was a widower.  Both father and son lost
their hearts to Johanson at first sight.  Billy adored physical
strength and cleanliness; he also adored himself, his comfort and
his two shabby rooms; for no one else would he have left them.  He
was an obstinate man, thought that he knew everything about
physical culture, was garrulous about himself and his achievements;
his brain was slow and his outlook upon life immature.  These
things might mean trouble in the future, but for the moment all was
well.

Johanson, no dreamer now, but moving, the sure captain on his
accustomed deck, greeted Billy and went into the question of the
parallel-bars.

"They'm not as handsome as I'd like to have 'em," said Billy,
shaking his head.  "In point of fact, they'm not handsome at all."

"They'll do for the time," said Johanson.  "We shall afford better
ones soon."

Billy shook his head.  "The prettier to start with, the richer to
end with," he said.  "When folks come along and see it all shabby-
like they'll be thinking the instructor's the same--not worth their
money."

Johanson was looking out of the window into the marketplace,
coloured now with figures, the sun shining on the cobbles bright
like jewels after the rain.  He turned round and put his hands on
Billy's shoulders, looking down on him.

"If you don't believe in me, Billy," he said, "we shall part and
be friends."

"I believe in 'ee," said Billy, looking up at him.  "Fust foreigner
I ever took to.  I ain't saying nothing agin they bars--only that
they ain't as fresh as I'd like 'em."

He shook his head rather like a dog out of the water.  "You'm
powerful strong," he said.  "You could pretty well throw me out o'
that there winder. . . .  Well, well, I'm not so young as I was."

Johanson moved off into the other room.  "Now, Fred," he said, "we
shall look at the morning's letters."

Quite a number.  One from a gentleman who was always dizzy when he
awoke in the morning, had tried every medicine and many doctors,
and now wondered whether exercises might not be what he needed.
One from a lady who had two children with perpetual colds--would
exercises be good for them?  One from a firm of sports providers in
Drymouth; one from a vegetarian who would like to join forces "for
the good of humanity"--to preach vegetables and exercises hand-in-
hand--and one letter that shall be given in full:


                                         3 PEPPER LANE, POLCHESTER.

DEAR SIR--Last night at the meeting of the Glebeshire Antiquarian
Society I had the great pleasure of a conversation with the
Reverend Thomas Longstaffe, Rector of St. Paul's Church in this
town.  Before I go any further, I should say that I am an Art
Instructor, Teacher of Painting (oils and water-colours), Drawing,
Modelling in Wax, etc., etc.  For twenty years now I have
instructed the Young Ladies of the High School of this town.
Thirty years ago I worked in the Art Schools of Paris and London,
my dear Father and Mother sacrificing their All that I might
benefit.  I had in those far-gone days Great Ambitions, now, alas,
long quenched by the Waters of Disappointment.  The Reverend Thomas
Longstaffe last night informed me of your arrival in this town and
of your desire to improve the Bodies of our Fellow-Citizens.  He
informed me further of your enthusiasm and Love for the Great
Artists of the Italian Renaissance--for the mighty Michael Angelo,
the graceful Verrocchio, the tender Mino da Fiesole, the beloved
Donatello--and that, inspired by their Glorious Masterpieces, you
would revive in our town some of the lost Arts and Handicrafts.

What a draught of nectar was this news to your humble servant who
more than thirty years back lit the fires of his Soul at the Altars
of Divine Art in Florence, in Rome and in Naples!  May I not come
and call upon you?  I know that your time must be precious indeed,
but I will not detain you for long, and, by your courtesy, you will
be blessing the lonely hours of your faithful servant,

                                               BENJAMIN SHORTT.


Johanson turned to the boy.  "Know any one called Benjamin Shortt,
Fred?" he asked.

"What!  Old feller with long hair below his collar--looks as though
'e never washed--teaches droring?"

"That sounds like it!"

"I know--used to go to the High School to teach the girls.  Hard
luck on the girls!"

They started on the day's engagements.  "Nobody this mornin', sir,"
said Fred.  "Mr. Barnstaple, 3 to 4, Major Comstock, 4.15 to 5.15.
To-morrer mornin's the Choir School, 10 to 11.  The Band of Hope's
comin' along to see you this afternoon, sir, leastways the head
man, Mr. Tittmuss."

"And what does he want?"

"Exercisin' the bodies of the Band of Hope, I shouldn't wonder,"
said Fred, "and they need it.  But he won't pay much.  Mean as
mustard."

Johanson got up, stretching his long arms.  "It's this hanging
about is the hardest," he said, talking to Fred as though he were
his equal in age, experience, size and authority.  "I'm impatient.
I want to be forward with this.  When I look out through this
window I would wish to go down into the market and bring them all
up here.  They all of them wants something done to them.  It's a
shame all men doesn't realise how strong they might be!"

"Most of 'em haven't got time, sir, I expect," said Fred.  He
looked up with intense admiration at Johanson's size and strength.
"If you'd been born small and crooked," he said, "you wouldn't KNOW
you were small and crooked.  Leastways you'd be proud of yourself
for BEING small and crooked, think it made you more interestin' or
something."

Johanson laughed.  "They are coming in all right, though, aren't
they, Fred?  New ones every day."

Fred beamed.  "Why, we're doing something wonderful, sir," he said.
"All the town's talking of us.  We'll be famous right through
Glebeshire in a week or two!"  The door-bell rang.  Johanson went
through into the inner room.  The door opened.  Three clergymen
appeared.

"Mr. Johanson in?"

"Yes, sir."

"Could he see me for a moment?"

"I'm sure he'd see YOU, sir, at any time."  Fred's face was
teaming.  This was Mr. Longstaffe, friend and chief supporter of
the establishment.  With him the Reverend Canon Ronder, the
Reverend Canon Bentinck-Major, dignitaries of the Cathedral.  An
important visit for the establishment.

Fred disappeared--reappeared.

"Will you come through, gentlemen?  Mr. Johanson will see you."

They went through to the inner room, the little one where important
interviews (this was the first the establishment had encountered)
were held.

Of the four men Tom Longstaffe was the most nervous and self-
conscious.  That little man had the virtue or the defect (whichever
way this modern cynical world may see it) of greeting a new
friendship with terrific enthusiasm and of working in every
possible direction for that new friend like a little Mercury.  He
had taken to this man quite enormously, taken to him for himself,
taken to him for the work that he wanted to do.  There was nothing
this town needed so much as new physical vigour, something to brace
everybody up and send the citizens skidding along in fresh, healthy
directions.

Here was the very man, a man also who was himself after
Longstaffe's own heart in sincerity, honesty, courage.  So far so
good, but the next step was difficult.  Johanson and his little
gymnasium would never get anywhere without the patronage of
Polchester's Upper Ten, and Longstaffe had not himself penetrated
so deeply into the sacred circle that he was thoroughly at home in
there.

Everything was a little more difficult because of Johanson's
simplicity.  Longstaffe was simple, but not so simple as Johanson.
Johanson, eager though he was for his venture to succeed,
confessing indeed to Longstaffe that he had put every penny of his
savings into it and that therefore succeed it must, nevertheless
seemed to fail to understand the real importance of Ronder, of
Wistons, of Mrs. Sampson, of Lady St. Leath.  He was convinced, it
appeared, that all reasonable people would realise at once the
advantage of good health, the splendour of physical fitness, and
that the rest would follow.  They were all, it appeared, good and
wise and intelligent.  That there should be cliques and rivalries
and jealousies seemed never to occur to him at all, and that he
should go out and solicit favours was an obvious impossibility.  It
was true that people were coming in just now thick and fast, but
when the novelty was over only the patronage of the Cathedral, the
School, the Cathedral set would keep it going.  Johanson was so
simple about people that Longstaffe could only wonder where, then,
he had lived all his days.  Were they all angels in Scandinavia?
Was no one false, jealous, mean, spiteful, dishonest in Copenhagen?

Oh yes, there were such, Johanson did not doubt, but he had been
very fortunate.  And he would be still more fortunate here.  Were
not all Englishmen honest, and was not he, Johanson, a wonderful
reader of character?  He could tell at a glance, he was never
deceived.  And nine out of ten human beings were honest and true.
After all, he had seen the world.  His father had been a bad one.
THERE was a bad man if you like, but he had never had a proper
chance, and when he was sober he was not so bad after all. . . .

"But don't you understand," Longstaffe had broken in desperately,
"that in a little town like this there are dozens of intrigues and
sets within sets?  It's always so in a small town.  You must choose
your friends and stick by them--but you can't be friends with every
one."

Johanson had clapped Longstaffe on the shoulder with a mighty
smack.  "Well, I shall stick by you," he said, "for ever"--which
finally had nothing to do with the real question.  So, when
Longstaffe had met Ronder and Bentinck-Major in the High Street and
Ronder had stopped to talk and, soon afterwards, had mentioned
Johanson's name, and Longstaffe, on impulse, had asked them to come
with him to see him, he had wondered as he walked with them through
the marketplace whether he had been wise.  Johanson was a queer
fellow.  These were important men, and Johanson might not realise
it in the least . . .

It appeared that he did not.  He was completely at his ease.  He
asked them to sit down, and then stood opposite them leaning
against the wall, smiling upon them as though they were his long-
lost brothers.

Little Bentinck-Major was at once uneasy.  As he explained
afterwards to his wife, "The fellow leaning against the wall looked
tall enough to go through the ceiling and broad enough to break the
window and door at the same moment without stirring.  I was sitting
down, my dear, and although I am not exactly a dwarf, never felt,
physically, so small in my life."  So he sat there fingering his
gold watch-chain, looking at his neat, shining boots, touching,
once and again, his neat, shining hair.

Ronder, on the other hand, was at his best.  He liked this man at
first sight.

Ronder always liked men better than women, liked them better and
trusted them more.  In the furthering of his many little schemes
and plans (schemes and plans never malevolent in their intention)
he found that women were easier to use and adapt, and therefore he
liked men better.  He despised always his agents, and when a man
became soft and pliable in his hands he always noticed that he had
much in his character that was feminine.  Here, he saw at once, was
a proper man.  Himself was now growing much too fat, and some
exercises, some massage, perhaps, would be an admirable thing.  And
upon that instant seizure on an opportunity for his own increased
personal comfort there began to work in him a little moving pattern
of possible combinations and developments.  This man might have his
place in larger issues than the reduction of Ronder's figure.  You
cannot be the most important man in Polchester for ten years
without much manipulation of human beings, and the manipulation of
human beings (always with good intentions) was the very breath of
Ronder's nostrils.

Yes, but Johanson was of course entirely unaware of all this.
What, at first, he was mainly aware of (as he told Longstaffe
afterwards) was Ronder's figure.  He had not for a long time seen
anything so fat and round and also so neat and shining.  Fat men,
he had often noticed, were as a rule untidy, creased as to their
garments, unbrushed and spotted.  But Ronder was a miracle of
smartness from the tips of his boots to the splendour of his
admirably parted hair.  His face (that of a blooming cherub) was
kindly indeed, his expression clever and animated.  In three
minutes Johanson liked him very much indeed.

Ronder, in fact, took trouble to be his most charming, and how
charming that could be every one in Polchester by this time well
knew.  So genuine, too.  When his heart wanted to burst through his
waistcoat he allowed it to burst through; the pleasantest sensation
he knew--like a thorough and hearty sneeze.  He loved to be moved
warmly towards people--he was moved warmly towards Johanson now.

The little meeting ended by being a great success.  Johanson did
not say very much.  Ronder talked for everybody.  This was exactly,
in his opinion, what Polchester needed.  He knew that it was what
he, Ronder, needed.  Johanson might count on his hearty co-
operation.  It was not much that he could do, but he had his little
influence in the place, and, such as it was, it should be all at
Johanson's service.  Then there was the School--THE School.  Would
Johanson have time for some work up there?  He thought that a word
from him in that direction . . .  He had some slight influence. . . .

Longstaffe, watching his friend, was immensely relieved.  Johanson
took Ronder's advances just as they should be taken--with
friendliness but no sycophancy, thanking him but with no
effusiveness, looking him straight between the eyes, and shaking
hands so heartily at the last that the Canon's bones must have
remembered for a good hour afterwards.

"I don't hope," Johanson said at the last with his courteous bow,
"that you shall think that what we have here is as it will be.
Everything begins.  I mean that the continuation shall be very
good."

He suddenly turned on Bentinck-Major, who was picking his way
delicately like a hen round the parallel-bars.

"I do hope you like it," he said rather as a child might who has
built a castle of bricks and turns to his father for approval.

"Oh yes, yes," Bentinck-Major stammered nervously--"Delightful!
Delightful!  Charming!"

Johanson tossed his head.  "It shall be better," he said as though
Bentinck-Major had criticised him, "much, much better."

In the outer room they saw as they came through an old man waiting
there.  Not so old in years, perhaps, but shabby with that
hopelessness that can only come to a human being when he has
abandoned altogether even the semblance of a struggle.

He presented at first sight the image of a decayed actor in the
familiar Irving pattern--hooked nose, long wispy hair falling over
a greasy velvet collar, tightly buttoned long faded black coat,
thin bony frame, large patent-leather boots with a crack across the
toe.  His face was anxious, submissive, a little furtive.

Seeing Ronder and Bentinck-Major, who were, it appeared,
sufficiently well known to him to call a faint flush into his
sallow features, he bowed low.  Ronder gave him a sharp glance.  It
was as though he realised that now that he had taken Johanson under
his protection, had drawn him into the world of his manoeuvres, he
must attend to every detail of his circumstances, to his visitors
above all.  They had become of great significance to him.

He bowed to the shabby old man, repeated his assurances to Johanson
and departed, followed by Bentinck-Major.

Longstaffe for a moment remained.  He knew this shabby figure well
enough, and felt impatient at his appearance there.

Were the charlatans and the beggars of the place already gathering
round his friend?  He had himself a tender heart, but no good could
come from association with old back-me-downs like this old Benjamin
Shortt--right on the back of Ronder, too.

But Johanson apparently realised nothing of the kind.  Fred
superciliously had given the old man's name--"You had a letter from
him this morning, sir"--and Johanson had at once gripped the shabby
one's dingy hand as heartily as before he had gripped Ronder's
plump one, and in his eyes shone a light of kindliness and
compassion.  He turned to Longstaffe.

"You'll excuse me?  I must talk to my friend here.  He has written
to me.  Heartily thanks for your goodness in bringing your friends
to see me.  One day I will show you how I am grateful."

He put his hands on Longstaffe's shoulders, shaking him a little.
"Good-bye," he said.  He burst out laughing.  "That's a fat
clergyman," he said, "if he wants massage he will have it.  And it
shall hurt too!"

Then he turned back and led the way into the other room, followed
apprehensively by Mr. Shortt.  He sat the man down in the chair but
now occupied by Canon Ronder, then himself sat down close to him,
balanced on the end of the table, his long legs swinging.

"Mr. Shortt, half an hour ago I read your letter.  Thank you for
writing it.  It was good of you."

The man's eyes filled with tears, filled too readily, a cynical
observer might have fancied.  "Oh, Mr. Johnson, when our friend Mr.
Longstaffe--he seemed in something of a hurry this morning I
fancied--told me the other night of your projects and ambitions for
our town, my heart swelled with gladness, and I said to myself, 'I
will not delay, I will go at once and put myself at the feet of
this stranger who is realising at last dreams--dreams--'"

He paused.  He pulled out a very grimy handkerchief and wiped his
eyes.  "Forgive me, sir," he said, "I have not been well of
late. . . .  It is too much. . . ."

"You're hungry, that's what you are," said Johanson, "wait a
moment."  He swung off the table and went out.  Soon he returned.
"You will have some sandwiches in a minute.  I've sent the boy out.
You can eat them in here where you shan't be interrupted."

Mr. Shortt blinked his eyes.  "Your goodness--coming after these
hard years. . . .  Since my wife died five years ago I have had
nothing but tribulation.  I must tell you," he hesitated, "in my
letter there was something that was untrue.  It is two years now
since I last instructed the young ladies of the High School.  It
was a foolish lie, because you would discover it so quickly.  I
have here some drawings--"  He fumbled with a dirty roll of paper.

He produced something for Johanson's inspection.  Johanson took
them in his hands.  They were drawings, rather faded now, copies--
Michael Angelo's "Moses," Verrocchio's "Madonna and Child" from the
Bargello, a baby from one of Mino da Fiesole's tombs, and here his
beloved Donatello, two of them, the David with the helmet and the
St. George.

They had never been very good drawings, and now they were faded and
smudged, but Johanson's heart beat excitedly as he looked at them.

"Oh, you're in luck to have been there," he said.  "Soon, when this
is successful, I too will go.  We shall go together and then return
and have a school for sculptors and artists and painters and make
this town beautiful, keeping the old lovely things and making new
things in tune with them, and the Cathedral above all . . . and
fine men and women all working for the love of their town. . . ."

He began to stride about the room.

The man watched him with blurred eyes which occasionally he rubbed.
Fred came in with a pile of sandwiches on a plate and a bottle of
Bass.  Mr. Shortt gave him a sharp look to see whether he were
laughing or sneering at him, then between gulps and bites he
murmured, "Oh yes, indeed, . . . glor-i-ous . . . glor-i-ous!  Our
beautiful town. . . .  My dreams coming true, Mr. Johnson, indeed
they are.  What is life but the pursuit of beauty?  And all these
years I have been labouring in the wilderness alone--and now at
last when I had almost given up hope."  A tear welled into his eye
and slowly trickled down his cheek, to mingle with the crumbs of
sandwich on his chin.

Johanson turned round abruptly and stood over him.  He was
tremendously excited.  He raised his arms.  That already when he
had been in the place only a month or two men and women should be
springing from the very stones of the city as it were to join him
with their enthusiasm!

"We can found our school here, we can make it perhaps famous
throughout the country--a new life, simpler, kinder, a new town
rising out of the beautiful old one, every one happier!"

He wrung Mr. Shortt's hand again.  "All your life you have worked
here and not seen your dreams realised, now at last they may come
true. . . ."

Mr. Shortt looked at the plate to see whether the sandwiches were
finished.  They were.  He rose slowly from the chair wiping the
crumbs from his mouth with a very dirty handkerchief.

"Indeed, indeed, Mr. Johnson, this is a very great moment in my
life.  You can be assured now and always of my cordial co-
operation.  This is truly a happy day for me."  He paused, looking
anxiously about him.  "There is one little matter," he glanced down
at his boots; "coming this morning I was compelled to miss a
possible engagement.  Five shillings would, I imagine, cover the
loss.  I quite understand, of course, if you find it impossible--"

Johanson had not heard him.  He was staring towards the window.
"Five shillings would cover--" repeated Mr. Shortt anxiously.

Johanson wheeled round.  "What's that?  Five shillings?  Why, of
course. . . ."  From his trouser-pocket he produced some silver.
"There, Mr. Shortt.  Come and see me soon again, remember.  We
shall have much to discuss. . . ."

Fred appeared in the doorway.  "Two ladies to see you, sir," he
said.  Mr. Shortt started apprehensively.  "Well, well, I must
hasten back to my work.  I have found a friend, Mr. Johnson.  I
shall never forget that to-day I have found a friend. . . ."

He shuffled off.  In the outer room he almost shuffled into Mrs.
Penethen and her daughter Maude.  He bowed and, his head bent,
disappeared through the door.

Miraculous morning!  Johanson in his happiness could have kissed
Mrs. Penethen, who greeted him with her customary severe smile.

"I have no right to intrude, Mr. Johnson," she said, "I can see
that you are very busy, but we are passing and I have a little
matter that will take me only a minute to discuss with you."

"Certainly," he said, smiling at Maude, "I am delighted to see
you."

They moved, the three of them, into the little room, and all stood
together looking out of the window on to the marketplace, now
soaked with sun under a faint pigeon-blue sky.  What Mrs. Penethen
wanted to say was that March 13 was Maude's birthday and she
intended to give a little party.  Would Mr. Johnson honour them
with his presence?  Only perhaps a dozen people--Mr. Ben Squires,
her brother-in-law, Mrs. Boultewood (a friend from girlhood) and
her daughter, Miss Midgeley and Mr. Fletch, and one or two more?
In the kitchen, of course, supper and then a dance.  They would
have old Mr. Harty, who played the fiddle like a two-year-old.
Now, what Mrs. Penethen wanted to ask was not only would Mr.
Johnson come, but would he ask his friend Mr. Longstaffe?  Did he
think that he dared?  It would be so nice to have a clergyman, and
Mr. Longstaffe was so popular.  It would just give a finish to the
evening.  Mrs. Penethen didn't dare herself . . . but perhaps Mr.
Johnson wouldn't mind. . . .

"Why, of course I'll ask him!" Johanson cried, "and I'm sure he'll
come unless he have some other engagement.  I'll ask him, that's
certain."

Mrs. Penethen's stern features relaxed as she thanked him.  What a
charming place he had here.  It really was charming.  She moved
into the other room to examine everything and began one of her
dignified polite conversations with Billy.  The other two remained
beside the window.

They spoke no word.  Johanson, staring down into the market-place,
saw nothing.  Slowly, as though a thin paper sheet had been held
before his eyes and was suddenly split by some strong hand, he
beheld the scene of his now so familiar dream.  He heard the
fountain.  The long white staircase came into view, the cool of the
dark sheltered garden, the long, high, empty room with the shining
floor, utter peace, the voice of the birds.

He had never known such happiness.  In another moment he would be
shown the secret of life, some secret so simple that it would be
amazing that for so long every one could have been so blind--

He turned to the girl.  Almost on his lips were the words, "Come
and see my garden.  It is so quiet there and no one will interrupt
us. . . ."  The girl's hand touched the back of his.  "Well, Mr.
Johnson, we must be getting along," she said almost as though she
had been waiting for something that had not happened, and was
disappointed.  "We've got ever so much to do this morning."

She waited yet a moment looking up at him.  She knew that she was
bewitching when she looked up at some one, her chin tilted ever so
slightly.  Then, as he did not move, she turned with a little shrug
of her shoulders and walked out of the room.



CHAPTER V

FRIENDSHIP: MARCH WEATHER


However tightly I stretch out the quivering elastic of my memories,
I can summon up no vision of a time when I was not conscious of our
Cathedral.

When I was very small it came to me with two quite separate
personalities, the distant, magical, mysterious one, an animal with
grey ears, a ship with silver masts, a box ruby-coloured, a net
salmon-tinted, always above the town, separated from it, swinging
with its own life in space--the other the long shining distending
nave with its slippery floor, down which our family, always late,
would self-consciously clatter, the heads on either side turning as
we moved, the verger undoing the cord for us, the pause, the choir
slipping past, the cold clear voice of the Precentor.

It was not until I was much older that the inside of the church
approached me--and that on a never-forgotten day when, having
nothing to do, urged by the lovely evening to wait a moment before
going home, I slipped in, was caught by the grey cloud of the dusky
walls and pillars, and then saw, suddenly flaming, the windows near
the King's Chapel, all six of them, the windows known as "the
Virgin and the Children."  These were, with the exception of the
great Rose window at the East end, the oldest in the Cathedral.  In
one of them the Virgin Mary, in a purple gown, bent down over a
field of lilies to watch the baby Christ at play; in another the
Christ and St. John paddled in a stream while Mary watched them
from the windows of a crooked house set in a cup of hills; in
another children were running in a crowd after a white kid and Mary
held back her Son, who stretched out his arms after his playmates;
in another Joseph was in the workshop, Jesus was sitting on the
floor looking up, and the Virgin, in a dress of vivid green, stood
over him, guarding him; in another they were walking, Father,
Mother and Child, up the steps of the Temple, watched by a group of
grave old men; in another Jesus was playing at his Mother's feet,
while an ox, an ass and three strange dogs with large black eyes
seemed to be protecting them.

On this late afternoon the sun lit the windows with a rage of
colour, and every detail of colour was visible to me.  More than
the central figures the detail of the backgrounds fascinated me,
the little roads winding into purple hills, the stiff trees so
vividly green, the white castles like toys on craggy rocks, little
boys with networks of shipping, and then suddenly the colour was so
intense--the purple, the green, the crimson, the pale silver white,
the dark ruby red--that I lost the detail and seemed to swim
through the dusk of the darkening church on a jewelled carpet to
heaven.

From that day the Cathedral was mine; I seemed to know it all, from
the Black Bishop's tomb with its wonderful green stone to the
smallest babyest cherub hiding in the right-hand corner of the
monument to Henry, eighth Marquis of Brytte.

The history of that monument was a strange one.  Henry, eighth
Marquis of Brytte, the last of his family, the oldest perhaps of
all Glebeshire's great families, spent the last years of his long
life at Brytte Court, ten miles from Polchester, and died in 1735.
He had done many things during his lifetime for our town, which he
loved, and, of course, we gave him a monument.  A curious thing
happened.  A local artist was discovered, a young man Simon Petre,
a protégé of the old Marquis, who, learning of the boy's talent,
had sent him to London, Paris and finally to Italy.  He came back a
sculptor of fine promise.  His benefactor's monument was his first
public commission.  He worked at it for a year and a half and died
of some queer fever a week or two after finishing it.  He was a
poet too, young Simon Petre, and a writer of no mean prose.  After
his death a little memoir with some poems and an Italian diary were
published.  The book has vanished now, but I have a copy, The Life
and Remains of Simon Petre, London, 1739--a small brown book
stamped in thin gold.  There are some curious things in that
Italian diary and one little section--"A Florentine Adventure"--
that may one day be re-published--curious and unusual at least,
saturated with the decadent colour of that place at that period.

I, of course, had never been to Italy when I decided that for
myself the "Virgin and Children" windows and the Brytte Monument
were the loveliest things in our Cathedral.  It is certain, though,
that Mino da Fiesole himself would not disdain the babies crowding
at the head and feet of the recumbent figure--the loveliest babies,
some laughing, some grave, one with his finger on his lips, one
looking back, calling to his friend, two bending forward, their
chubby fingers on one another's shoulders--adorable, adorable
babies making perfect the delicacy of the lace-like background, the
strength and dignity of the simple figure, the symmetry and pattern
of the wings of the guarding Angel.

In this thing at least Johanson and I were one--it was this
monument that at once won his heart.

One of the most mysterious elements in the whole of his story is
his connection with the Cathedral.  After tradition had set to work
and had piled absurdity on absurdity it became the habit to acclaim
him a kind of St. George defending the Cathedral from its many
foes.  I believe the truth to be exactly the opposite.  His
religion was Protestant of the plainest, simplest kind; he
repeatedly exclaimed against what seemed to him the falseness and
flummery of the Cathedral life, but what caught him, I fancy, was
its Past, its beautiful, romantic, fighting, poignant Past.

He found here, as he had found nowhere in his own Scandinavia, the
work of the craftsman, striving with his hands to make Beauty for
the World that he loved.  He found it in the floor, in the roof, in
the pillars, in the windows, in the Cloisters, in the Bishop's
tomb, in the Brytte Monument--in the Brytte Monument above all.
That must have been, at his first vision of it, as though it had
stepped straight out of his beloved "Donatello" book (Donatello, by
Lord Balcarres, Duckworth, 1903).  And then when behind the sight
of it he learnt the history of young Simon Petre, it must have
seemed to him as though here, right before his eyes, was the very
example of native craftsmanship for which he had been longing ever
since he set foot in our town.  A boy of the town, born and bred
here, returning to it, doing his first work in the heart of it and
for very love of it, and doing it so beautifully too!  I believe
that from the moment when he heard the history of young Simon Petre
he felt that that same boy was at his side, caring for him,
encouraging him, urging him on. . . .  Something that he said
afterwards, just before the end, to Mary Longstaffe . . . but that
is a later story.

On a certain day he lunched with the Rev. Thomas at St. Paul's
Rectory and went with him afterwards to a football match--a day
that they were never, either of them, to forget.

Leaving the Choir School, where he had been drilling the choir boys
for a most strenuous hour, he looked into the Cathedral for one
moment before going on to the Rectory.

The nave was deserted save for three visitors, who were being
conducted by Cobbett, the Verger, seventy years of age now, as
brisk as a young bee, but with some of the pomposity proper to his
office.

He knew Johanson by this time and greeted him with fitting dignity.
He liked Johanson.  The fellow made no fuss, was always cheery and
respected Cobbett's office.  Moreover, Cobbett's youngest was at
the Choir School and was already ecstatic over Johanson's physical
prowess.

"This," he said to the three visitors, a burly man, a timid woman
and a little girl with creaking shoes, "is known as the Brytte
Monument.  A work in commemoration of Henry, eighth Marquis of
Brytte. . . ."

They gaped, gasped, and moved on.  Soon the only sound was the
creaking shoes of the little girl.  A faint, very faint, breeze
seemed to whisper round the dim corners of the distant pillars.
The floor was like a lake, the colours from the "Virgin" windows
faintly staining it.  Johanson held his breath, staring up at the
clustering babies until they seemed to move, to turn towards him,
smiling, inviting him.

Oh! if only things turned out as he hoped, what would he not do
here, for the town, for the Cathedral, perchance for England!  It
had all begun so marvellously, he coming as a stranger, swept into
the town, as it were, by a torrent of rain--

He drew himself up and a prayer formed in his heart, a prayer
without words, and he felt again an ecstatic vision, of worship
towards the beauty that he felt in the world, of humility in the
face of his own capacities, of happiness because every one was so
good to him.  He liked to be liked, he liked to have friends, he
liked to be moving in tune with the life around him; he felt an
intense gratitude because of the love in the world.

"I'll do my best," the words formed in his heart.  "I'll work as I
have never worked before--I'll spare nothing--I'll give myself
utterly.  I have found at last the work that I was put into the
world to do."

And before he turned away he seemed to hear the friendly voice in
his ear of that strange young man, and to see at his side the thin
face, the burning eyes. . . .

He left the Cathedral and went through Bodger's Street and Green
Lane to St. Paul's.

Old Hephzibah looked after Tom Longstaffe like a cat after her only
kitten.  She was a short stout woman with the coal-black hair that
one so often finds in Glebeshire people, an inheritance from those
ancestors who once invaded the Glebeshire shores in their pirate
ships and put the Glebeshire wastes to fire and sword and then
settled there and begat children of the women they spared.

Warm of heart, irascible, impetuous and untidy, Hephzibah made of
the Rectory a haystack.  Nothing was in its right place, and Tom
was too busy to care.  The two men sat down to a meal that was
dumped down on the table anyhow.  They didn't notice.  They had
other things to think about.  Tom was in tremendous spirits and
very soon he gave his friend the reason.

"My girl's coming home next week," he said.  He paused, suddenly
looking sharply at Johanson.  This was the first time that he had
mentioned his girl to his friend.  Johanson must have heard some
gossip.  This thing was nearer to his heart than anything else in
the world.  What would Johanson say?

Johanson had heard nothing.  His face lit up.

"You have a daughter?  You never told me."

"I was waiting until we had a time really alone.  My girl is more
to me than all the rest of the world put together.  She's been
living in London for seven years.  She's very clever.  She's a
journalist and makes a good income."

"She's all alone in London?"

"She has a boy of six."

"What does her husband do?"

"She's not married."

The colour rose in Longstaffe's face.  "I'm prouder of her,
Johanson, than I can ever say.  Don't you make any mistake about
that.  She lived here with me, of course.  We were splendid
together, never a cross word, perfect confidence, love such as
father and daughter can seldom have had.  She met a young fellow,
son of an Army officer here.  She told me something about it.  I
was pleased because I liked the boy.  But his father had great
ambitions for him, and wouldn't consent to an engagement.  I should
have stopped her then perhaps seeing him, but I couldn't.  She
loved him so, and I thought the old man was coming round.  He was,
I think.  No one could resist Mary once they knew her.  Then the
boy was killed in an accident.  A month later Mary told me that she
was going to have a baby."

"Poor girl, poor girl!" said Johanson.

"Then we had our first difference--the first in all our lives
together.  Mary was happy.  She stayed on here, not caring what any
one said or thought.  She said she was glad that he had left
something of himself that she could keep.  That he would always be
with her through the child. . . .  The people here, of course, were
very hostile.  I had my own struggle.  She had committed, by my own
lights of everything in which I had been taught to believe, a great
sin.  I tried to speak to her of that, but I broke down.  She
seemed suddenly to know so much more of life than I.  And if you
love some one truly, how can you change, especially if they are in
trouble and disgrace?

"But she felt after a time that she was doing me harm here, my
church and my congregation.  So she went away.  Her baby was born,
a boy.  She lived in London and began to write, and, as I say, has
been very successful.  I needn't tell you, Johanson, how I've
missed her--it's been an agony sometimes--but I wouldn't press her
to come back.  I couldn't, when I knew of the way they might treat
her here.  But at last she has insisted.  She is coming back with
the boy next week."

The look that the two men exchanged settled their friendship.  It
had its birth in that first moment of meeting, that misty day in
the Cathedral Precincts, it had had its growth through their happy
and easy comradeship of the last few weeks, now it was certain.  No
separation of time or place could change it.

"My heartliest thanks for telling me," Johanson said.  "It will be
fine to know her."

After the meal Longstaffe took his friend over the house.  It was
one of those old rambling spidery houses that are so especially
English, and then still more especially Glebeshire.  In the upper
rooms there was a smell of apples and candle-grease.  In the
attics there were torn wall-papers and supplements from the
Christmas numbers tacked on to the walls, and out of the attic
windows there were views of Polchester, smoky orange in the spring
weather, with the Cathedral sailing through the air.  The house was
a mess.  Fine though Hephzibah was, the house was a mess.
Longstaffe's bedroom was sad to see--drawers were half opened, ties
like tongues, collars like yawns hanging from them.  Over the back
of the chair clothes were tumbled, shaving things, the brush soapy,
the razor gaping for a fresh victim, were lying loosely on the
dressing-table.

"I beg your pardon," said Tom Longstaffe, "I oughtn't to have
brought you in here."

Instantly Johanson was busy.  The drawers were closed, the clothes
were folded and put away, the shaving things were in their case.

He stopped in the middle of the room, his face flushed.  "I do beg
your pardon.  I had no right to do that.  I could not bear to see
that confusion.  It hurts.  How can you live like that?"

Longstaffe looked rather like a scolded school-boy.  Then suddenly
he roared with laughter.

"Fancy you," he cried, "a man of your size putting those things
away.  You're right, of course.  I've lived in the most awful mess
here for years.  I've never thought about it.  But it's the last
thing I expected you to do."

Johanson suddenly came across to Longstaffe and putting his hands
under his shoulders lifted him into the air.  "You're getting fat,"
he said.  He put him down, "You're having stomach."

Longstaffe shook himself.  "By Jove, you're strong--and yet you put
those clothes away like a fussy old bachelor."

"No, I'm not fussy.  But untidiness, I hate it.  It makes dirt.
This house, I should wash it all down with soap and water."  He
suddenly looked anxiously at Longstaffe.  "You aren't angry?  I
don't think first.  I do something and then I think afterwards.  I
will be in trouble one day for that."  He put his hands on
Longstaffe's shoulders:  "You're not angry?"

"Angry?" said Longstaffe.  "Why, I think you're the best fellow I
ever met."

They started off for the football match.  Johanson and Tom
Longstaffe were both very simple men.  Longstaffe had that
simplicity that is often to be met with in clergymen who have lived
good and pure lives, and who are not mentally very subtle, who
believe utterly in the dogmas of their religion, who have lived for
a long period in a rather remote place.  They are moved by feeling
rather than thought, and their feelings are direct, honest, and, as
a rule, uncomplicated.

The problems that Longstaffe had hitherto in his life been
compelled to face, his problems of love, friendship and belief,
would have soon been constructed into complicated shapes had a
subtle brain worked on them, but Longstaffe's brain was not subtle.
He had that confidence in God which a small child feels for his
mother, and so all his earthly life was simplified.

Johanson was like Longstaffe in many ways, the reason perhaps of
the beginning of their friendship, and was unlike him in many more,
the reason undoubtedly of its continuance.  In some things he had
not developed since he was a boy of fifteen, in his faith in human
nature, in his naïve pleasure in his physical strength, in his
sudden angers and instant after-forgetfulness of any grudge, in his
impetuous enthusiasms, in his generosity, in his sudden distresses
and equally sudden joys--in all these things he was a boy.  But he
had a nature capable of far deeper complications than his friend's.
He had the soul of the artist, and therefore would know suffering,
failure, strange longing, deep loneliness, passionate regret,
exquisite happiness as Longstaffe would never know them.  He had in
him the artist's complex of woman and man, masculine absolutely in
his physical self and its nature, feminine often in comprehension,
sympathy, and the longing for something that he would never attain.
His mixed blood, too, had flooded him with an imagination that
Longstaffe's English blood would never know.  There were also his
dreams.

The two men moved up the hill, past the Monument, out on to the
road above the town.  The day was one of a little group that marked
the end of winter and the beginning of spring.  The trees were yet
bare, but from their heart there seemed to steal a faint pink flush
as though the sap that throbbed in their veins prompted them
already to some timid expression of their approaching beauty.  They
stretched out their arms to a sky of blue washed with water, and in
this lake of thin colour shapes of cloud-like swans floated gently,
aimlessly, now in concert, now singly, now fading, with an almost
audible whisper of farewell, into some farther silence.  The fields
and the grass and moss in the hedges were of a bright sharp colour,
not yet fully green, but accentuated as though painted on china.
Here and there a primrose, a yellow eye, peeped out, wondering
whether the world were yet ready for its full approach.  The road
was hard and rang beneath the men's feet, but here, too, there was
promise of warmth and running sap beneath the yielding frost.

When they reached the turn of the road both men instinctively
looked back.  Polchester, like a child's collection of coloured
bricks huddled into a green basket, lay below them; from its heart,
a pennon of blue, the Pol streamed out to the hills and the
Cathedral rode over all.

"You wouldn't believe," said Longstaffe, "how I love that place!
After Mary, it is everything in this world to me.  And you wouldn't
believe either," he added, "the intrigues and plots and cabals that
are going on there."

"You see it too close," Johanson said.  "Look at it from above and
get your real picture.  You must not be too near to a man, you see
only his waistcoat buttons.  How beautiful that place is!  I am a
man in luck to have found my home at last."

"And do you really feel this town in which you have been only a few
weeks to be your home more than the country in which you have spent
all your life?"

"I do so.  We have all of us a dream-town, and my one was to be
always in England.  You see, I loved my mother, and she, because
she were an exile, would always talk of England as of Paradise, and
it was THIS England that she talked about, the high deep hedges,
the grey cottages hanging with their toes to the sliding hills, the
sea on both sides, so narrow that one big wave could sweep the
country, the salt smell in the breeze, the women with their black
hair. . . .  And my father was a bad man, so that his country
seemed unkind to me and unfriendly.  He were bad because he could
not help himself; his lusts was so strong.  He must have a woman
every minute, and always a new one, never the same one twice.  He
did not care what he did to them, and yet my mother loved him,
always, to the very last of his life.  She said she liked him bad
better than other men good.  It were well, she said sometimes, that
he was so bad, because if he were good she would die at once of
such happiness.  She said he was good, an angel, just for two weeks
after their marriage--wonderful--and those two weeks was enough to
have made living worth while.  English-women, I am sure, are very
patient."

They were moving now between thick, high hedges that hid all the
world from them.

"Tell me," said Longstaffe, "did you always, since you were very
small, mean to come to England?"

"Yes, always.  I cannot remember the time when I did not dream of
it.  I used to lead always two lives: the one that had my father in
it and earning my living, and all the daily Stockholm life--that
was fun, especially when we went out to the Islands, and in the
summer when we was all day in the water . . . and the other when I
would try to draw and paint and make things out of coloured paper
and ask my mother questions, and then at night I'd dream!"

"So you're a painter too?" Longstaffe asked.

"No.  I hadn't any gift.  It was because I had not that I
determined to do what I might with my body.  My strength seemed the
best thing I had.  First, I was a model for artists, and then a
painter took interest in me and paid for my lessons in massage and
gymnastics.  But it was not until I went to Copenhagen that I saw
really what I wanted."

"Don't the Danes hate the Swedes?" asked Longstaffe.

"Oh, hate!  No.  That's too much of a thing.  But you know what it
is when people lives close to one another--they see the spots.  But
they was kind to me in Copenhagen.  Very kind.  The Danes are jolly
people--they drink and laugh and make love all the time.  I soon
had plenty of work--much as I could do.  And good work.  The
doctors they liked me and sent me their patients.  And I had work
with the schools, too.  And many friends.  I was very happy."

"And, if it isn't impertinent, how was it you didn't marry?"
Longstaffe asked.

"I was too busy.  Always I wanted to make enough to come to England
and see the place where mother was born.  I hadn't time to be in
love.  There was the beginnings, yes, of course.  The Danish women
are very jolly, and they understand love, but when it came to
something serious--I had no time.  I had a nice flat out in Amager,
and I worked from six in the morning until eleven at night.  I can
tell you I was tired sometimes.

"Then one day a strange thing occurred.  One day I was walking by
the shops and I saw a blue plate--one of those deep blues like the
sea.  I thought it was the most beautiful colour I'd ever seen.  It
wasn't glass, it were some sort of clay.  I bought it and took it
home.

"I put it on the mantelpiece of my sitting-room, and before it had
been there half an hour the mantelpiece looked shabby, so I went
out and bought two pictures--prints of Copenhagen.  In the evening
I was looking up at that plate, and the rug in front of the fire
were so faded I was properly ashamed of it.  So in the morning I
went out and bought a new rug, a good one, purple colour to go with
the plate.  Then I had a terrible time.  Everything in the room
looked wrong by that rug--old shabby things, no sort of use.  I
cleared them all out.  The room was bare.  I whitewashed the walls.
I put my money together and bought a Zorn etching.  It was like a
fever, then.  It spread to my other rooms, then my clothes, then
the view out of my windows.  My flat looked on to a blank wall.  I
changed the flat and got another that looked over the water and the
trees.  Then one day in a bookshop window I saw a book open, and
one page had Donatello's 'David,' and the other one of his prophets
for the Florence Cathedral.  I couldn't forget that prophet all
day.  I went back the next morning and bought the book.  That
morning my life changed.  I said, Why shouldn't it be now once
again in the world as it was then--why shouldn't we build towns in
which everything was beautiful, lovely streets, wonderful statues?

"And I thought of England and that town my mother had talked about
with the Cathedral, and I swore that one day I would go there and
would live there and work there, and--and--here I am!"

He stretched out his arms.  "And I'm happy.  I've found my work and
my life, and every one are kind to me, and already I make a living.
Oh! how fortunate I have been!"

"And you don't feel," Longstaffe asked, "any sense of exile?
You're not home-sick?"

"No; how can I be?  Is not this my home?  Was not my mother born
here?  And for that is not the world my home?  Will I not go
afterwards to Italy and China and Spain and see all the wonderful
things men before me have made?  All the world is my home."

Once again Longstaffe felt as he had done when first he had heard
his friend talking to Ronder--a wish to warn him that this place
into which he had come was not so simple and that these people with
whom he had chosen to live were neither so straightforward nor so
unsophisticated.  But he could not.  He could say nothing.  It
might be that after all Johanson was seeing them more truly than
he.  He had lived in the place so long.  He had his prejudices;
especially he had them since Mary's disgrace.  What if Johanson
after all did make the place different, the place and every one in
it?  Did not people become what you thought them?  And might not
some one as genuine and sincere as this man . . . ?

But Ronder.  And Bentinck-Major.  And the Bishop.  And men in the
town like that rogue Hogg.  He would wait.  At least Johanson had
made a good beginning.  The Town, conservative to its core about
foreigners, nevertheless liked him.  He heard nothing but good
reports of him.  Every one seemed to be glad that he had come.  He
would leave it alone and wait.

They had walked on a little while in silence when Johanson said:

"Do you ever dream?"

"Dream?" Longstaffe laughed.  "Too busy."

"No, but I mean at night.  Do you ever have the same dream again
and again?"

"Why, I have a nightmare sometimes if I've been working too late or
eating something."

"No, not a nightmare.  A happy dream.  The vision of a place--a
house, a garden.  Always the same house, very quiet, very
beautiful.  Somewhere that is yours more than anything in real life
is, something so quiet and so still--"

Their road suddenly joined the other road from the town, the St.
Mary's Road, and they were caught in a throng of men and boys who
were going up to the football.  Some one spoke to Longstaffe.  They
were no longer alone.

They arrived at the field where the game was, passed through the
gate, paid their sixpences and walked forward.

Along the centre of one side there was a rough-and-ready stand, but
most of the company were lining up beside the ropes and Johanson
and Longstaffe did the same.  They had scarcely taken their places
when the teams ran out on to the field.

"It's South versus North Glebeshire," Longstaffe explained.  "A
very important game.  It's the last of the season, a return match.
The North won in the game before Christmas, but only just, twelve
points to nine, so we're bent on winning this time."

Johanson had never seen a game of Rugby football before.  They
played plenty of Association in Scandinavia, and he was himself a
good player.  At once, when the Southern forwards had kicked off
and charged down the field, he sniffed the air, his heart began to
pound and his fingers to twitch.  It was always so when he watched
any game.  It was the same, too, with Longstaffe, and it was as
though the one electric current ran through the bodies of the two
men, eagerly hanging forward over the rope, pressed shoulder to
shoulder.

Johanson very quickly picked up the main points of the game, helped
by Longstaffe.  The principle was the same as in all the other
games in the world.  At first the frequent blowing of the referee's
whistle and the many ensuing "scrums" troubled him, but from the
moment, about ten minutes after the start, when the Southern three-
quarters started down the field slinging the ball from man to man,
his excitement knew no bounds.  He stamped with his feet and
shouted, crying, "Splendid!  Splendid!  Good!  Very good!  Bravo!"

Longstaffe too was shouting like a man possessed, his little
twisted face purple:  "Go on!  Run yourself!  Don't pass, Coppy!
Keep it!  Keep it, you fool . . ." and then his voice suddenly
dropping, "What DID he pass for?  He'd have got in if he'd held
on!"

"Yes, damned fool," said a youth next to Longstaffe, sucking a
straw.  "It was young Coppy let us down the last blasted time.  Got
a match, mister?"

"That was fine," Johanson cried, his face flushed, his feet still
tapping the ground.

"We ought to get over now," Longstaffe said excitedly, "we're right
on their line."

Johanson felt, as he had felt so often before in his life, that
surge of vitality that almost forbade him to stand where he was.

As he stared at the straining backs and thighs of the pushing,
struggling scrums he wanted to rush into the field and shove too.
Several boys and young men were running up to the far end of the
field to see better what was occurring, and his impulse was to run
with them.  But he held on to the ropes, leaning forward, the men
on either side of him yelling, "Shove them over!  Shove the b--s
over!  You've got them!  You've got them, by G--!"

But the South had not got them.  The Northern back ran in and
relieved by a long kick into touch, and the men came streaming down
the field.

As the players came towards mid-field Johanson noticed in the
Northern team one of the three-quarters--the merest boy--and
suddenly he was deeply sympathetic to him.  He looked younger and
slighter than any other man on the ground, and in his face was a
look of eager, almost bitter, determination which Johanson
understood exactly.

This was perhaps his first important game, it meant almost
everything to him, and so far not a chance had come his way.  It
might be that he had been put into the team at the last moment as a
substitute and was being watched and criticised by the men behind
the rope and knew that it was so.  He was outside wing on the far
side of the field and the ball WOULD not come his way.  Then
suddenly it was swinging in his direction.  The inside wing,
getting it, seemed to hesitate as to whether he would go on
himself, then, a Southern three-quarter coming for him, at the last
moment, before he fell, slung it out to the boy.

The young fellow was off.  He had slipped his opposing "three" and
now had a clear course, running like slipping water, just inside
the touch line.  Oh, he could run! And Johanson was glad.  Five
minutes before he had been shouting for the Southerners, but now,
although it was a Northern three-quarter who had the ball, once
again, crimson in the face, he was shouting, "Well done!  Bravo!
Splendid!  Splendid!"

The Southern full-back was after him, made a dash for his knees,
missed them, went sprawling.  The boy was over and, unopposed,
touched the ball down between the posts.

There was a roar from the Northern supporters.  Johanson roared
too.

"Well, you're a nice one," said Longstaffe.  "You're a Southerner.
What are you shouting North for?"

"I'm very sorry," said Johanson, "I couldn't help it.  He wanted
his chance and he COULD run.  Oh, he could!  Bravo!  Bravo!"

The kick for goal failed: the game went on for a while in the
middle of the field, the whistle blew and it was half-time.  The
teams moved about sucking lemons, lying on their backs, kicking the
lemon-peel. . . .

There was a hush, and the sun, and the pale sky, and a March wind
blowing across the ground suddenly seemed to enter the field like
new spectators.

Longstaffe put his hand through Johanson's arm:

"Enjoying yourself?"

"Should just think so."

"That's right.  We'll come to lots more games together.  I am glad
you've come to this town.  It's not that I've been lonely exactly
these last years.  Oh, well I have, if you want to know.  It's
strange, but I can talk to you more easily than to most of my own
countrymen."

"Yes.  I can to you."

"It's as though we had known one another all our lives."

Johanson pressed Longstaffe's arm.  "We'll stick together always--
just like this.  It don't matter WHAT shall happen.  I have always
thought it should be the finest thing in the whole world to have a
man friend whom nothing can alter.  Love--that is something
different.  It comes--it goes.  Now it is up, now it is down.  But
friendship is a steady thing.  It is always there.  You must not
for ever be looking to see whether it grows or dies.  I have never
had a real man friend before."

It seemed to him as he looked across the field that everything had
suddenly been given to him.  Home, ambition, work, friendship--and
love?  At that he caught his breath.  The figures, taking their
places for the second half, were blurred.  Was that the true reason
for all his happiness to-day?  Was he at last, after all these
years, in love?  He saw the girl moving before him with that
tantalising glance, that eye suddenly soft and appealing, the
yellow hair. . . .  His happiness was suddenly confused.  He did
not know that he wanted to be in love.  Work and friendship, those
were straightforward things that he understood.  But this--there
was some hint of danger in it.  It seemed suddenly to thicken the
pure austerity of the work that he had before him.  But could he
deny it?  If it came to him, could he refuse it?  And why should
he?  Would not a home and children be the best thing for him?

His happiness was changed.  His eyes were no longer on the game.
He did not notice that, as is the way with March weather, a little
wind had come up and with it a flurry of thin rain driving in thin
silver lines about the field.  A cloud reached out and caught the
sun.  Men, on every side were turning up their coat collars.

He realised that some one was speaking to Longstaffe, and, turning,
saw that it was that stout, red-faced fellow who had come in on
that first evening at Mrs. Penethen's.  He was smiling.  He
stretched out his hand.

"Good day, Mr. Johnson.  You won't remember me.  We met some weeks
ago.  Seen you about the streets occasionally."

"How do you do?"  Johanson shook his hand, which was soft and warm.

"Fine game!"

"Yes, it is."

"Ever seen our Rugby before?"

"No, never."

"Ah! must be interesting for you?"

"Yes, very."

"Glad to hear you're doing so well.  Must come in one day and 'ave
some exercises.  Take down some of my fat."

Johanson said nothing.  The man nodded and moved on.

Johanson said to Longstaffe, "That man came into Mrs. Penethen's
the first night I arrived.  What's his name?"

"Hogg--Samuel Hogg."

"I don't like him."

Longstaffe dropped his voice.  "No, he's a bad lot.  Was a publican
once.  Now he owns most of the Polchester slums.  He's behind most
of the rotten things in the town.  He's a bad hat."

"He's a friend of a man at Mrs. Penethen's who helped me about
getting my rooms."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Longstaffe said.  "Have as little to do
with him as you can."

They turned back to the game.  The misty rain made it difficult to
see.  There was no more scoring, however, and just as the whistle
blew for "time" the storm drove across the field in torrents.



CHAPTER VI

THE SISTERS


Maude Penethen had known ever since she was conscious of anything
at all that she was beautiful to look upon.  Almost as swiftly had
come the further discovery that others were, for the most part,
ugly, or if not ugly, plain, undistinguished.

She had WONDERFUL HAIR--gold, auburn, butter-cups, sunset, amber,
but for the most part GOLDEN--"liquid gold" an old fat friend of
her mother's had once called it, running the strands through his
podgy fingers when she was quite a little girl.

This hair, this delicate, slight body, these tiny hands and feet,
these red lips and large "laughing eyes"--that also from the little
podgy man--she realised, very early indeed, that these were the
things that she had, and that because of these people would pay her
more attention than they did to other girls.

She naturally centred in more and more upon herself.

As she grew she became, in certain directions, frank about herself.
She knew that she was not what people called "clever"--that is, not
clever at books and sums and things like geography and history.
But she could see, very quickly indeed, what people were after,
especially boys--and then, in a year or two, especially men.  She
could hold her own with any man.  She knew, or thought that she
knew, from a very early time everything about "Love."  As a matter
of honest record she knew nothing about "Love" at all.

She was vain, violent-tempered and selfish, but with those things
went a most attaching streak of naïveté, simplicity, purity.  She
never listened to the other girls when they whispered stories to
one another at the High School.  Just as she would spend hours,
were she permitted, in attending to her body, washing it,
beautifying it in every way that she knew, so also she kept her
mind clean.  She fussed about her bedroom seeing that it was
spotlessly neat.  Her linen, a tremendous preoccupation with her,
was bright and fresh like clear water.

Her violent temper was considered by herself rather an asset.  She
could "turn it on" when it would be useful to her.  She was afraid
of one person in the world--her mother--but only of one.  Upon her
mother her tempers had no effect whatever.

With the mind and vision of a grown woman she knew that she was
beautiful and that men would always desire her.  Behind that
knowledge was the heart and ignorance of a little child.  She
thought that she was astonishingly unusual.  She saw no one in her
world in the least like her.  They said in the town that young Lady
St. Leath was beautiful.  Maude liked to look at Lady St. Leath,
and then indulge in one of her triumphant exultations.  That girl,
riding in her carriage, opening a bazaar, walking with her husband--
that girl with the simple face and the simple clothes and the
timid smile--she might have her castle and her fat husband, her old
cockatoo of a mother-in-law and her little baby boy--have them and
welcome--she couldn't hold a candle to Maude Penethen!

And in her heart Maude knew that Lady St. Leath had something that
she had not but would adore to have!

Sometimes, after she had gone up to bed, she would strip and sit
naked on her bed looking out at the moon, and let her red-gold hair
down and dip her shoulders luxuriously into it, putting her hands
round the small firm cups of her breasts, and so sit, hunched up,
breathing with deep luxurious pleasure, staring through the window,
then glancing down at her tiny feet, then through the window again
as though she were inviting some one to come in.

And once in his calm, unblinking fashion Reuben Fletch had placed
his arm round her waist and tried to kiss her.  How she had slapped
his cheeks!  Her rage!  How terrible!  How magnificent!  And Reuben
Fletch had seemed to like her anger.

She had a plain sister.  She had never QUITE accustomed herself to
Judy's plainness.  And there was something more than that--the fact
that Judy seemed to be proud of her plainness.  Had she, Maude,
been as plain as Judy she would not have known how to lift her head
in company.  But Judy had a pride, the sort of pride that baffled
Maude just as something in Lady St. Leath baffled her.  She could
not understand why people who should surely have baffled her much
more--old Canon Ronder, for instance, and Reuben Fletch and Samuel
Hogg, did not baffle her at all, whereas Judy and Lady St. Leath
had something . . .

She did not know Judy's feelings towards her.  She herself did not
dislike Judy.  She pitied her.  And she was honest enough not to
pretend to herself that Judy was jealous of her.  No, with all her
plainness, Judy envied no one in the world.  She wanted to be only
herself.

And Maude was more honest than that.  She knew that she was selfish
and that Judy, were her affection moved, was not.  She, Maude,
gloried in her selfishness.  She didn't care.  She wanted to live--
to have Everything!  As Reuben Fletch in his room upstairs was
greedy of money, so was she greedy of life and success and
admiration.

She wanted to be the first in this house, and then the first in the
town, and then the first in England, and then--the first in the
world.  Well, why not?  Was there any one like her anywhere?  Any
one so lovely?

She stood up naked before her glass, her hands rippling through her
hair, seeing the faint thin shadows lie, as though they were
painted, under her breasts, on her thighs.

She sighed.  She laughed.  Yes, she was lovely.  And the Swede, the
Dane, whatever he was, the child, the simpleton, was in love with
her.

She thought of that.  Saw him standing above her, around her.  She
saw herself, a little ball.  He picked her up with his great arms
and held her close to his breast.  She shivered with delight.  At
least she would be engaged to him.  Just to annoy Judy.  Just to
feel his lips upon hers.  Just to see that childish look of wonder
lighten his eyes.  To know that she could do that--do that with any
man!

But marriage?  She began to put on her clothes.  Well, marriage was
a long way off.

She was downstairs in the big kitchen-living-room, alone in the
house.  She was sitting in the old rocking-chair, creaking
backwards and forwards, reading the serial story in The Golden
Penny.  The round, moon-faced clock clattered the hour--four
o'clock.  There was a knock on the door.  She went across, opened
it and looked into the darkening street.  An old woman stood there.

"I beg your pardon," said Maude.

"Oh, isn't this Mrs. Penethen's?"

"Yes, it is.  But she's out."

"Oh!  I wanted to speak to a Mr. Johnson, a foreign gentleman, who
lodges here."

"Yes, he does.  But he's out too."

"Oh . . .  Oh yes.  Thank you, I'm sure.  I wonder if I might leave
a message for him?"

"Certainly.  Won't you come in?  It's growing dark outside."

"Oh, thank you, I will."

Maude was nice to every one until she had conquered them and won
them to her side.  Then she didn't care.  She knew at once who this
old woman was when she saw her standing there under the light of
the kitchen lamp.  It was poor old Miss Eldred.

POOR Miss Eldred.  As Maude emphasised to herself that happy
adjective she felt an increased tenderness for her visitor.  Seen
there under the mellow light of the lamp she was indeed a poor old
creature with her black bonnet and its faded strings, her crinkled,
anxious pink face, her worn black mantle, her thin black cotton
gloves.  Some wisps of grey hair straggled untidily beneath the
bonnet.  At the tip of her pinched, inquisitive nose was a dew-drop
of emotion.  She had the faded air of a print exposed too long to
every kind of weather.  She was mottled and anxious and obsequious.

"I am sure, Miss Penethen, it is too, too good of you to have me in
like this.  And your time so valuable too, I'm sure.  It is merely--
if I might entrust a message--if I am not too--"

She came to a sudden pause as though her agitation--which she had
been expressing with every kind of movement of the gloved hands,
pushing them now at her throat, now at her watery eyes, now to
cover her thin and hard lips--was too strong for her.

"Oh dear, oh dear," she murmured at last, gazing about the room
with an eye that was both despairing and inquisitive.  "I KNOW that
I'm taking up your time--"

"Of course you're not," said Maude, gazing on her with kindness.
The poor old thing!  And to think that when Maude had been a little
girl Miss Eldred had been a Power.  Well, if not exactly a Power,
at any rate some one held up to admiration with her class for
Modelling in Wax, her "Bead-work" Courses and her "Talks on British
Painters."  Why had it all come so suddenly to an end?  Maude did
not know.  She did not greatly care.  And suddenly her patience was
over.  She wished to return to her Golden Penny.  Her eyes
hardened.  Miss Eldred perceived it.  She was suddenly quite brisk.

"Yes, dear Miss Penethen.  It is only that your lodger, Mr.
Johnson, expressed a wish to a friend of mine that he might meet
me.  It seems that he is interested in the Arts.  He heard that
there we had a common bond. . . .  Quite, quite.  I thought that I
would leave my address--and a word to say that if I can be, in my
poor, humble way, of any use--"

She pressed a soiled card into Maude's hand and turned to the door.

Her voice was suddenly sharp and acid:

"You won't forget to give it to him, I beg?"

"No," said Maude, startled at the new tone.

"Good night, then," and the old figure was gone.

The clock ticked on, the coal slipped and stuttered in the grate
and Maude read on.  The serial story, "A Princess of Vascovy," was
exciting, the pictures enchanting, but--but--

What was he about to have an old wretch like that in his company?
What could that old thing do for him but make him ridiculous?  What
kind of a man must he be to seem so simple about other people?  The
paper slipped to the floor.  The man rose in front of her, standing
with his stature and strength between her and the fire, and as she
gazed at her picture of him there rose in her breast a strange
mingling of pity and contempt--contempt that he, so mature and so
strong, could be such a fool, pity because he needed some one to
look after him, to advise him.  She jumped up and began to move
about the room and soon, as they so often did, her steps turned
into a dancing measure.  She was turning, twisting, twirling,
turning . . .

The street door opened.  Some one paused to hang up a coat.  Maude
turned expectant, then sighed--it was only Judy!

Judy was the last person she wanted just then.  But Judy was always
the last person she wanted.  She wondered--as she had so often
wondered before--how Judy could be her sister!  That straight, thin
creature, like a stick, without a curve in her, so black and so
frowning and disapproving!  Judy disapproved of everything she did,
of everything she said, of everything that she thought!  Well, so
much the worse for Judy, then--stupid, stuck-up thing!  SHE didn't
care!  Let her disapprove!  And yet well she knew how pleasant it
would be to win Judy's approval, to win it only for a moment and
then to show her how little she cared whether she had it or no!

Judy, as was her custom, said nothing.  She came forward, bent upon
the fire her dark, far-seeing eyes, then quietly sat down on a
little stiff-backed chair.  And, as had happened on many thousand
occasions before, Maude was irritated by her silence, was
uncomfortable indeed at anybody's silence, fearing it as something
dangerous and threatening.

"Old Miss Eldred's been here," she said half truculently, half
expectantly.

Judy said nothing.

"She was asking for Mr. Johnson."  Judy slowly raised her eyes.

"Mr. Johnson?  What did she want with him?"

Maude continued to dance, moving in and out, up and down across the
old floor.

"Oh, I don't know.  He wanted to see her."

"To see her?  To see Miss Eldred?"

"Yes. . . .  You heard, stupid."

"To see Miss Eldred?  Mr. Johnson?"

Maude stopped and came over to the fire.  "Yes. . . .  Oh please,
Miss Penethen. . . ."  She imitated Miss Eldred's obsequious voice
and nervous movements.  "I know I'm taking up your time, but that
nice Mr. Johnson--"

"She didn't say that nice Mr. Johnson," Judy interrupted
indignantly.

"All right, have it your own way.  I ought to know, oughtn't I?"
Continuing Miss Eldred:  "He wants some one to help him make
Polchester beautiful, and he's asked me to help him, and here I am--"

"I don't believe a word of it," Judy answered.  "Why, Miss Eldred's
awful!  She drinks and steals and does everything dreadful."

"The man's a simpleton," said Maude.  "That's the truth about Mr.
Harmer John.  He's been having old Benjie Shortt in his office.
He's going to give him work to do and pay him a regular salary.
He's potty."

"How dare you," Judy flared up.  "What do you know about it?
You're the laziest and most ignorant girl in Polchester.  What do
you know about his reasons or his work or anything else?  If he
thinks Mr. Shortt can help him he probably can.  It's just his
kindness, anyway."

Maude's beautiful eyes gleamed with malicious pleasure.

"So that's it, is it?" she said, laughing.  "You're in love with
him, are you, like Miss Midgeley and mother?  Like every one in
this house except Mr. Fletch and myself."

Judy sprang up.

"Now, don't you say that, Maude Penethen.  You're always making
mischief wherever you can.  I'm not in love with any man, I hate
them all."

"Well, you're jealous of me, then.  You know you are.  You know
he's in love with me and has been from the first moment he set eyes
on me.  And you hate me having any fun.  You always do and you
always have."

"He's too good for you," Judy answered fiercely, "a thousand times
too good for you.  You're playing with him as you've played with
lots of others.  When you're tired of it you'll just break his
heart, and it's a shame, a wicked shame!"

Maude did not resent this.  She took it as a tribute.

"How do you know it's just like the others?" she said slowly.
"Perhaps it isn't.  HE isn't like the others.  Not a bit like any
one else.  Maybe you're wrong this time, Miss Know-All.  You're not
always right, with all your cleverness."

"I know this, anyway," said Judy, "that there couldn't be anything
more unhappy for him in the world than his marrying you.  He isn't
your sort.  He doesn't begin to understand a girl like you.  He IS
simple in a kind of a way.  He hasn't met many women, I should
think--not REALLY met them.  Oh, leave him alone, Maude!  You
wouldn't be happy if you WERE married to him!  He would take it so
seriously.  And you couldn't be faithful to any one, not if you
tried ever so!"

"Oh, couldn't I?"  Maude began to dance again.  "You know an awful
lot, don't you?  But I tell you this," she came dancing round until
she stood over her sister:  "If you try and interfere with me in
this, I--I--I'll pull your hair out!  And you haven't such a lot
that you can afford to miss any."

Their mother came in.  Mrs. Penethen, although she was only a
daughter of a small Glebeshire farmer, had a very fine air.  She
had got it, perhaps, from the Castle, where she had been, as a
girl, under-housemaid.  Or she had it from one of those old
Glebeshire raiders who had been kings in their day.  Or she had got
it . . . but never mind.  She had it.  She was a distinguished
woman, and "what I like about Mrs. Penethen," Mrs. Sampson, the
Dean's wife, had said, "is that she always keeps her place."  In
1907 in Polchester it was still important that places should be
kept.

Never mind.  Mrs. Penethen was passive about this, as she was about
everything else.  Every mother must learn passivity, must develop
that internal security and peace whence no eccentricity or
selfishness of husband or children can drive them.

Years of married life with her John had begun to teach her, years
of motherhood of Maude and Judy had completed the lesson.  She was
serene whatever occurred, the serenest woman in Polchester.  To her
boarders, her children, her friends, to them all alike she was, if
not indifferent (that would imply a cold heart, and she had a warm
one), remote.  She lived her own secret life.

But, just at this time, for the first occasion for many a while,
her remoteness was threatened.  It was threatened because of her
feeling for her lodger, Mr. Johnson.  She had never recovered from
that strange sense of intimacy with which she had recognised him on
that evening of his sudden arrival, and that intimacy was the
stranger because she never liked foreigners; but he had not been a
foreigner, in spite of his accent, his broken English and the rest.

He was almost like a son of her own; he drew from her the maternal,
and the maternal was the strongest passion in her.  She had been
maternal to her John in spite of, perchance because of, his many
infidelities, and she would have been maternal to Maude and Judy
had they allowed her.  They had not allowed her, and therefore she
had taken refuge in her own dignified serenity.

But now once again, after so many years, there was some one who
needed her.  And he was in love with her Maude.  It was this that
threatened her serenity, because she was not sure of Maude.  She
was not sure, although she was her own mother, whether the girl
were good or bad.  Not all good, of course, nor all bad.  She knew
the girl's faults, her vanity, her selfishness, her obstinacy, her
bad temper, but she knew also something childlike and touching that
was there, something innocent and wondering and naïve.

A real love, a true love, might be the making of the girl, but did
she care for him?  Was it only vanity or his strangeness that
touched her?  And meanwhile if he, Harmer John, as the whole town
now called him, was to be hurt and wounded by her own child, she
would never forgive herself.  No, she would never forgive herself.

As she came into the kitchen she looked at her two daughters and
saw that they had been quarrelling again.  They were always
quarrelling.  She stood before the fire warming her thin hands and
gazing into the crimson glow very much as Judy had done a little
while before.

"Oh, mother," Maude burst out, "who do you think has been here?
That old Miss Eldred.  And what do you think she wanted?  To see
Mr. Johnson.  To help him in his Art, if you please.  She said he
wanted her to help him.  What can he be thinking of?"

"More than you understand, I've no doubt, dear," said Mrs.
Penethen.

"Oh, of course, I don't understand anything," said Maude, tossing
her head, "_I_ never do," and wondering for the thousandth time, as
many a girl before her has wondered and many a time since, why they
were all so stupid in her family (yes, and old Miss Midgeley too)
not to see how charming and amusing and attractive she was, a fact
most patent to all the outside world.

"You don't understand much, and that's a fact," said Mrs. Penethen
placidly, "and I won't have you going about with Samuel Hogg.  For
one thing, he's nearly old enough to be your grandfather, and for
another he's no gentleman."

"I don't go about with him," said Maude, suddenly sulking.  "If he
speaks to me, I can't prevent him, can I?"

"Now, I mean this, Maude.  You've got no father, and I'm the only
one to look after you.  You know he's a bad man, and all the town
knows it, so that's enough."

"Who says I go about with him?"

"Never mind who.  It's a fact and I've told you.  He's not coming
inside this house again if I know it."

"Well, I don't like him," said Maude with one of those sudden
submissions of hers that were so charming, "so you needn't bother
your head, mother."

"That's a good girl," said Mrs. Penethen.

Upon the tranquil scene there suddenly ventured Miss Midgeley,
coming in, as she always did, with a sarcastic expression on her
twisted countenance.  Miss Midgeley was a lady, a lady born and a
lady bred, and all the Penethens were aware of that.  Mrs. Penethen
and Judy liked her, liked her both because she was a lady and
because she was sarcastic, and those were precisely the reasons why
Maude disliked her but wished to be liked BY her.

Miss Midgeley was carrying various small parcels and was looking
rather pleased with herself.  She dressed mannishly, a brown
waistcoat with brass buttons, a hard white collar and a short brown
skirt.  Her iron-grey hair was brushed back sharply under her hat.
Her little puckered face, strawberry colour, was alert and cynical.

She leaned on the table and looked at the three women.

"Well," she said, "now you'll ask me where I've been and what I've
been doing, and I'll tell you.  I've been shopping and talking to
Society.  You'll ask, 'What Society?' and I'll reply, 'The very
best.'  None other than our dear Mrs. Bond, who met me in the High
Street and said, 'Why, Miss Midgeley, what an age it is since we've
met!'  Smiling so sweetly too, and I said, 'Yes'; and she said,
'Working at anything just now?' and I said, 'Yes'; and she said,
'One of your delightful girl stories, I suppose?' and I said,
'Yes,' and she said, 'I do so wonder how you can write.  It MUST be
so difficult.  I remember once I met Olive Schreiner in South
Africa and said the same thing to her.'  I said, 'Yes' again, and
here I am just as though nothing had happened!"

Maude never knew how to take Miss Midgeley when she talked in this
fashion.  Had she met Mrs. Bond in the High Street and Mrs. Bond
had stopped and spoken to her, she would have alluded to it
carelessly afterwards as though she didn't care in the least, but
Miss Midgeley really seemed NOT to care!  Maude would have cared
very much.

"Well, I don't like that Mrs. Bond," said Mrs. Penethen.  "She
talks too much and says things about people she shouldn't."

"Which reminds me," said Miss Midgeley suddenly, "she had something
else to say to me.  She understood that this gymnastic instructor
Mr.--what was his name?--was living in the same house as myself.
She had heard that he was a delightful man--what was my opinion?
Well, my opinion was not for her basket, and so I just said 'Yes'
again and left her staring; but you'll all be glad to hear that
she's sending both her younger boys to his gymnasium class, so our
Mr. Johnson is in luck."

She paused, raised her head sharply, whistled a few notes of a
little tune (a favourite habit of hers) and said:

"Judy, suppose you come up to my room a minute and arrange these
odds and ends--and very odds and ends they are, too.  I've got some
flowers here that want water."

"She never asks me to her room," said Maude discontentedly, as she
watched them vanish through the door, "and I'm much more amusing
than Judy."

"Perhaps that's why," said Mrs. Penethen placidly.

Maude suddenly burst out, "Mother, I'm sick of this!  I'm going to
find some work and get away from this town."

"Yes, dear," said her mother, "what kind of work?"

"Oh, anything!  All sorts of girls are working nowadays--nobody
stays at home any more."

"Yes, dear.  But what direction exactly were you thinking of?"

"Oh, I don't know.  There are lots of things.  I know you think I
can't do anything.  You all do in this house.  You and Miss
Midgeley and Judy.  And Judy's jealous because Mr. Johnson's in
love with me."

For once Mrs. Penethen was indignant.  "I just won't have you
saying that, Maude.  For one thing, it isn't true, and then it's a
nasty thought to have of your sister.  You don't seem to have any
natural feelings."

"Well, she is, then," retorted Maude.  "You should have seen her
flare up just now when I said he was a fool to have people like old
Shortt and Miss Eldred round.  And so he IS a fool.  I'd tell him
to his face."

Mrs. Penethen put out her hand and drew Maude towards her.  The
girl came reluctantly.

"Be more loving, Maude.  Don't be hating everybody so.  Hating
never did any one any good that I ever heard of.  Yes, wriggle away
from your old mother.  She won't try to keep you.  I've learnt my
lesson.  You can't keep any one in this world if they don't want to
stay--no, not though you break your heart trying.  But your
mother's your friend--the best friend you'll ever have, maybe.  I
seem dried-up and old, but I've had my tempers in my time and have
got 'em still, if all were known; but life's so short and men so
everlastingly childish that it isn't worth fashing yourself.
You're pretty, Maude, and men will run after your body from all
sides of the town, but a good man will ask questions about your
soul, and that's the only way you'll hold him."

"Oh, the soul!"  Maude broke in impatiently.  She had been standing
close at her mother's side, her head cocked a little like a bird on
the alarm.  "That's all right, mother, when you're old, but I'm
young and I want to have some fun.  I know I'm the prettiest girl
in the town, and every one else knows it.  I won't be pretty
always.  I know that.  No one ever is.  And I want to dance, and
have men look at me as though they could eat me, and then tell them
I don't like them.  I'm all right, mother.  I can look after
myself.  There isn't a man in the place can touch me if I don't
want him to."

"Well, that's bad talk, Maude," Mrs. Penethen answered, "that's
what it is.  You and your prettiness!  So you ARE pretty in a sort
of way, but you haven't done half for yourself that you might have
done.  When have you ever learnt anything?  Haven't I tried again
and again to get you to make yourself useful?  What man will want
to marry you when he knows you can't cook nor sew nor look after a
house to keep it clean and decent?  And the way you talk as though
any man who saw you would fall at your feet!  There's many of them
would think you too stupid to spend five minutes with.  No, if a
good man comes along and likes you, think yourself lucky and take
your chance.  And consider others a little--Selfish!  Why, I never
met such selfishness!"

Maude was so often unexpected.  Now she smiled, bent down and
kissed her mother's cheek.

"Mother, dear, I know who you're thinking of.  He does like me,
doesn't he?  And I like him.  He's so strong and he's such a baby.
I can do anything with him--ANYTHING.  And he's going to have a
good position here, too.  Every one likes him.  He goes to Canon
Ronder's house three times a week to bring his fat down.  Do you
think he'll ask me to marry him, mother?"

Mrs. Penethen looked past her daughter into space.

"If he does," she said slowly, "and you accept him, it will be more
than you deserve, Maude Penethen.  And if after that you treat him
badly, don't look to me for sympathy.  I would never forgive you."

The kitchen door opened, and the man of whom they were speaking
came in.

The thing that Mrs. Penethen noticed about him now--and it was the
first thing always that she noticed about him--was his cleanliness.
No men with whom she had been concerned--not her husband nor his
friends nor the men about the house, not Fletch nor, if you carried
it farther, any of the townsmen of the place, had HIS kind of
cleanliness!  Of course the gentry--Bentinck-Major, Ronder, Ryle
and THEIR world--with them you expected a superior neatness,
although some of them were shabby enough.  But with Harmer John--
she had fallen, as they all had, into the town's diminutive--it was
something much more than neatness--he wasn't neat at all--something
more than cleanliness even: a radiant physical health that came
from his contentment of mind as well as from fitness of body.

He hung up his hat and his coat, then came across to them, ruffling
his hand through his hair.  He stood over them, looking down upon
them, his legs wide.  But it was not true that he was looking down
upon them; he was staring at Maude as though he saw her for the
first time.

She, looking up at him, was aware, as though she had slipped from
one room into another, of a new experience.  Was it love?  She had
never felt like this before.  Call it rather physical consciousness.
She was aware, as she had never been, of his black rumpled hair, his
blue eyes, his round face crooked a little because he was smiling,
his immense breadth, rocking himself so slightly on his heels.  She
had a consciousness that his arms were moving out towards her
(although she knew that they stayed motionless at his side), and for
the very first time in her life she was confused, tranced in a hot
mist of arrested feeling, so that her heart was not beating, her
eyes not stirring and she could think of nothing--only of those
advancing arms that yet did not advance.

It seemed to be long after that she moved her head and saw that her
mother had left them and was attending to something in a cupboard
at a far part of the room.

Their conversation then was absurd, meaningless, a scattering out
on the floor of little coloured counters, nothing in themselves,
but standing for a game of great import.

"Well, how's to-day been?  Any new customers?"

"Yes . . . and I've been to Ronder's and given him a rub."

"Is he nice when you're rubbing him?"

"Yes--if he wouldn't be I could soon make him.  He don't like to be
hurt, that's certain.  But he's a kind gentleman, speaking well of
everybody."

"Oh, I expect he's all right.  And what else have you done to-day?"

"I don't hope it could interest you telling you all about the class
from the Boys' School, Miss Maude.  But they'll be fine all the
same when I've finished with them."

"Do you like boys better to drill, or men--or girls, perhaps?"

"Oh, it's much in a muchness.  What I want is work, don't you see.
Oh!  I can't have too much of it . . . work . . . and love . . .
only love . . ."  His voice dropped.  He was standing very close to
her.  She had sat down in the chair that her mother had vacated.

She had not heard anything that he had said.  She felt his body
above her; it was standing, it seemed to her, on every side of her.
His eyes--so childlike and simple and unquestioning--embraced her.
It was as though already he had held her in his arms, although in
reality he had not touched her.

"Yes," she said, "go on, Mr. Johnson, it is so interesting."

"And so--and so--" he went on.  But his voice broke.  He could say
nothing.  His hand moved and touched the arm of the chair and the
sleeve of her dress.  "Now I must go--I must go--"

She said nothing.  The kitchen was silent save for the ticking of
the old round-faced clock.  Mrs. Penethen was sitting at the table
working at something in a black book.

"I must go--I must go--"  She touched his hand lightly for a moment
with hers.  Then she sprang from her chair.

He moved carefully, as though he feared lest with an awkward
movement he should break something, out to the stairs that led up
to his room.



CHAPTER VII

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY


Although the year 1907 is not, as years go, so very distant, yet
immense differences of thought and of actual living separate it
from the life of our own day.  One great difference--in our English
country towns at any rate--is that we still in those pre-war years
found much of our entertainment under the shadow of our own roof,
beside the warmth of our own hearthstone.  For the Polcastrian at
any rate the cinema was not, the theatre ALMOST was not, the circus
twice a year only, the ball likewise.  But in our own homes we had
our own fun.  It would seem simple enough, that fun, I have no
doubt, to the dancers and theatre-goers of 1926, just as the
dancers of 1926 will show a kind of barnyard air to the chickens of
1970, but happiness is happiness wherever and whenever it may come--
and perhaps the simpler pleasures are, the happier they are.  I
don't know; I merely offer it as a possible suggestion.

In any case the Penethen kitchen was famous for its festivities.
From the very earliest days of the Penethen married life parties--
rollicking, rolling, riotous parties--had been given there, and
even when Mr. Penethen had been at his most unfaithful, and the
family coffer most nearly bankrupt, the parties had continued, nor
had any observer detected at the heart of their splendour fainter
fires.

For they WERE splendid, and they were splendid because Mrs.
Penethen intended them to be so.  Dry, austere, ironic as she might
appear, at her heart she adored a party.  Nothing pleased her more
than to be asked to one--save in truth to give one herself.

She had the gift for a party.  She knew precisely the ingredients
of one.  She could BAKE a party with the best--a little salt here,
a little sugar there, so many raisins, some ginger and candied
peel. . . .  She had the lightest hand for a party in the four
kingdoms.  Christmas, Easter, and Maude's and Judy's birthdays,
these were the occasions--and an out-of-doors picnic in the summer.
She never invited too many guests.  A dozen was enough for that
kitchen.  She knew her mind and held to it, and no agonised appeals
on Maude's part to add one, two or three could change her.

"But it's MY party, mother.  It's MY birthday."

"So it is, child."

"Then why can't I . . ."

And this year there was no begging for additions.  Maude seemed
satisfied.  And every one knew why.



Maude was in time for breakfast THIS morning.  Oh yes, certainly.
And she timed her arrival with a charming appropriate gesture--
every one there save Reuben Fletch, but ONLY just there, still
gazing at the breakfast table and wondering whether it was eggs and
bacon or sausages.

A moment later--just behind her in fact--Harmer John arrived on his
way, as usual, to his office.  He was carrying a pot of flowers in
his hand.  Wrapped in tissue paper.  Maude, with a cry of delight,
tore off the paper before looking at the other things on her plate.
Very early daffodils.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Johnson.  Aren't they sweet?"  But she was
disappointed.  She had expected that he would give her something
better than mere flowers.  He did not know that.  He was blushing
and staring straight into her eyes.

"Many happy birthdays!" he said.  "I don't hope that you'll grow
old--ever!"  Which was so odd that they all laughed and while they
were laughing he was gone.

There followed for Maude a slight sense of reaction.  She had
thought that he would stay "just this once."  Not as though she had
a birthday every day.  Always his silly old business.  What did ten
minutes matter?  And flowers?  After all any one could give her
flowers, and with all his talk of beautiful things. . . .

Nevertheless it was her intention to-day to be charming, and in a
moment charming she was.  It was not difficult.  She loved to be
given presents, she ADORED to be liked, to be the centre of
attraction, to make people around her happy if to do so was easy,
and did not make herself unhappy, and here they were, even Judy and
Miss Midgeley looking at her kindly without that nasty "I-know-your-
game" look in their eyes.

Herself looked bewitching.  She knew that she did.  She was never
prettier than when she was in her simplest dress, to-day a pale
blue frock, and an airy gentle poise about her as though at an
instant she might be off through the window dancing through the
light spring-whispering March air.

Her mother gave her a bead necklace, Judy a pair of gloves, old
Midgeley some handkerchiefs.  Fletch gave her nothing, of course.
He had never been known to give anybody anything, but so gentle was
his air, so amiable his smile as he wished her "Many happy
returns," that it was as good as a present.  And then the street
bell rang.  She danced herself to the door.  A boy with a parcel.
She was back among them, her face alight with excitement.  What
could it be?  Something unusual.  A box?  No.  A cage!  And in the
cage a nightingale.  A card tied to the cage:  "For Miss Maude
Penethen, with the respectful compliments of Samuel Hogg."

"Samuel Hogg!  But how did he know?  How--?"

Her mother's voice interrupted her.  "You must send it back.  I
won't have you taking presents from that man."

Her face clouded.  Such a pretty cage!  With gilt bars.  And the
nightingale was singing already.

Mrs. Penethen saw the frowning face.  After all it was the child's
birthday.  Afterwards. . . .  To-morrow. . . .

"Well, Maude, leave it.  Only you've got to make it plain to him
he's not to be giving you presents."

"Why, it's the first thing he's ever given me!  And after all it'll
be Judy's as much as mine."

"Yes," said Judy, "I'll have the looking after it.  If it were left
to you it would be dead in a day."  Already she had gone to the
cage and was talking to the bird.  She loved animals passionately.
The fox-terrier, Caesar, was hers.  Maude hated dogs--rough messy
things.  But she liked cats--when they purred and nestled in your
arms.

So every one was happy, and they settled down to the merriest
breakfast ever.

Later there was peace in the kitchen.  Only Mrs. Penethen was
there, seated at the table peeling potatoes.  They were all away
busy about their own affairs, Fletch at his office, Maude shopping
in the town, Judy upstairs doing the rooms, assisted by Mary-
Thomasine, the maid-of-all-work, who was stupid but willing, Miss
Midgeley in HER room writing perhaps, reading perhaps--who knows?
A funny old maid with her own ideas.  And Mrs. Penethen as she
peeled her potatoes (just as Miss Midgeley upstairs was peeling her
ideas) was thinking deeply.

On the preceding evening Harmer John had spoken to her.  They had
been alone in the kitchen and he had sat down beside her and asked
her whether he had her permission to propose marriage to her
daughter.  She had heard him out in her silent determined way.
What he had said had been very simple.  He loved her daughter,
Maude, with all his heart and soul.  He had loved her from the
first moment he had seen her.  Of course he was a foreigner and she
might not wish that her daughter should marry a foreigner.  But he
was half English, the stronger half of himself, he thought.  He had
saved a little money, not much but something.  He was doing very
well here.  His business was increasing every day.  In the last
month he had made a profit.  It might become a very large business,
and in any case he was not a boy to lose his head and be
extravagant.  He would be faithful to Maude.  He was not a man who
ran after women.  He did not drink nor gamble.

He was strong and would work for her with every muscle in his body.
He had never loved a woman before.  He thought that perhaps she
cared for him.

Mrs. Penethen heard him out and then she said that if Maude was
willing she also was willing, and upon that he turned and had his
arms around her and hugged the breath out of her body.  No one had
ever hugged her before.  Her husband had never hugged her in his
most loving moments.  His way had been different, looking at her
with his brown eyes and his strange pleading smile.  But this man
had hugged her as her son might have hugged her had she had one.
Now as she sat there peeling her potatoes the memory of that
embrace touched her heart, so lonely for so long a time, most
deeply.  She had tried, after that, to be her sensible self,
telling him that Maude was very young and knew nothing about life
at all; that his position was still uncertain, and that even if
Maude were willing to marry him they must be engaged for a while
and see how everything went.

He agreed to that: it was what he himself would wish.  Looking
back, his triumphant unquestioning happiness frightened her.  How
little he knew Maude!  He thought her an angel!  Maude an angel!

But then love might change Maude, might give her all that at
present she lacked.  She sighed over her potatoes.  Had she done
right?  Right for him, she meant.

It occurred to her as she sat there how strange it was that all her
anxiety should be for HIM!  Here was she, about to accomplish the
thing that had been for years to her a harrowing and constant
anxiety--Maude's engagement to a good man (it had always been so
possible with her looks that she would marry a bad one), and now it
was about the MAN'S happiness that she was thinking, the man whom,
a few weeks ago, she had neither seen nor considered.  And with
that she was aware, sharply, of her deep affection for this man.
Affection!  Nay, love--love as though he had been truly her son.
It was all the maternal in her that he had touched.  He would
appeal chiefly perhaps to rather elderly lonely women, women who
had lost their husbands or sons, or had better have lost them,
women who had longed for children and been denied, women who had
loved and not been loved in return.  There was something simple,
trusting and ignorant about him that made her for ever want to call
out to him:  "Look out!  Take care!  There's danger that way!"  Not
that the man was a fool or unpractical--his ability at his job
showed that he was not that--but he did not know enough about
people, he trusted them too readily, he--And with that she was
aware with a second stab of sharpness that it was against her very
own girl, Maude, that she was moving forward now to warn him--"Look
out!  Take care!  She's not like that!  I know her!"

For shame!  Her own daughter!  A good girl at heart.  Love for a
good man was what she needed.  This was the very thing. . . .  But
as she peeled her potatoes she shook her head and sighed.  If any
harm came to him through her daughter!  But what harm could come?
He was a man.  He could fend for himself.  He was a boy too, a
child--and as she thought of that she smiled.  And she was in no
kind of way whatever a sentimental woman.



By seven o'clock that evening everything was ready.  The carpet was
up, the old board floor waxed and shining, and the trestles and
boards (a hundred years old at least) in the place of the familiar
table.

It was a chill March evening, the sky palely green beyond the
window at the setting of the sun, little aguish winds creeping
round the Cathedral corners, the few primroses in the lanes above
the town shivering before they slept, but in the great oven the
fire was so hot that the warming-pans, blue plates, the copper pots
and the picture of Queen Victoria receiving news of her Accession,
all smiled in the heat.  Down the long table, causing the sturdy
trestles to do their full duty, were the "Eatables."  "Eatables"
sanctioned by a strange Penethen tradition that had persisted now
for twenty years at least without the shadow of a change--a huge
Glebeshire-cured ham, two vast veal and ham pies, two great dishes
of Cornish pasties, loaves of bread mountain high, moons of butter
so handsome that the face of the great Alderney cow stamped upon
them was triumphant in its arrogance, honeycombs dripping with
amber sweetness, and Glebeshire cream with a crust as richly thick
as a parchment missal.  And this Gargantuan feast for twelve
persons only!  Well, there--were others--Mrs. Penethen made her
Feasts the excuse for After-Feast charities, and the pensioners on
her bounty would be calling to-morrow morning and mornings again
after that.

I have said nothing of the drinks because the guests, for the chief
part, would drink--tea!  Yes, and tea of no ordinary quality, so
strong and so black that Glebeshire women boasted that one cup of
it would slaughter strangers from "Up-Along" by the myriad; even
"Quality" from the town, though they had lived in Polchester all
their days, had been known to faint before it.

But there was beer and cider for the men--and a large jug of water
for Fletch, who had never been known to drink anything else.  In
the centre of the table--the table-cloth was pink with large
staring red roses marked upon it--was a great brown jug of
Glebeshire pottery, and this was filled with daffodils sent all the
way from the Scillies by a cousin flower-farmer.

The chairs, with thick black arms to them, were a hundred years old
at least, and a "silly old fule" from London had once offered
enough money for them to give both the girls princess's dowries.
His offer had been rejected with mockery and scorn.

The Boultewood family arrived, as it always did when it was invited
anywhere, before the fitting time.  Luckily Mrs. Penethen, in her
grey silk and her cameo brooch, was there to receive them, knowing
from olden time "Fanny Boultewood's little ways."

Her affection for Fanny Boultewood was sustained rather by
tradition and the memory of "ancient days" than by heartfelt love
and admiration.  Mrs. Boultewood had one overwhelming quality that,
as the years had advanced, had like the lean kine in the old story
eaten up all the others--she was "terrible mean."  You could see it
in her spare nervous figure, in her restless inquisitive eyes that
noticed everything and its positive value in lightning strokes of
appraisal.  Not a bad woman but a widow, who, having, while her
husband lived, to "make both ends meet," and finding, on his death,
"that he had ever so much more" than she had fancied, had continued
the paring practice out of habit and then had made it her only
friend.  Her only daughter, Aggie Boultewood, was a silly giggling
girl, plain, over-dressed and coquettish, but an heiress.  Many a
young man, hoping to make her wealth his own, had approached,
summoned up courage, and then on further examination of her faded
away.

She had indeed been engaged for a whole year to a young farmer from
St. Mary's Moor, but at last, after much suffering from Mrs.
Boultewood's many economies, he had fled.

Young Isaac Boultewood, thin and pallid and liable to "sweats," was
said to be as mean as his mother, but of this no one was sure
because he spoke so seldom and did in general so little with his
young life save to eat and to sleep.

His mother loved him dearly, and sometimes a Homeric struggle might
be observed between her maternal feelings and her habits of
economy.  If she was generous to any one it was towards her Isaac.
Finally about Mrs. Boultewood it may be said that she admired
Reuben Fletch beyond any one in the world; his ability to create
shillings out of nothing and then to keep them for ever chained to
his side was the cause of her admiration.

Soon after the Boultewoods arrived Mr. Ben Squires, a stout jolly
roaring widower, half-brother to John Penethen but ten years
younger than he.  He kept an excellent haberdashery establishment--
No. 10 High Street--and was known everywhere for his jolly ways,
his genius for billiards and his merry laughing evasion of all the
Polchester young women, who had endeavoured to marry him and had
not yet abandoned hope.  He was stout, square and red-faced; he had
lost most of his hair, but all that remained to him was tended so
carefully, watered so frequently and parted so handsomely that it
was still one of his most engaging features.  He was a kindly good-
natured creature, with a great affection for his sister-in-law and
his two nieces.  On occasion he drank too freely, and his stories
gained what they lost by their repetition in their energy and air
of excitement.  He wore gay waistcoats and laughed at everything.

One of the remaining guests from the outside world was Mr.
Longstaffe, and about him, although she would confess it to nobody,
Mrs. Penethen was anxiously nervous.  Of course clergymen went
everywhere and were no respecters of class.  Mrs. Penethen had been
to his church on many occasions, and he had always spoken in the
friendliest way to her and her daughters when he met them in the
town, but she would never have ventured to invite him had it not
been for his great friendship with Mr. Johanson.  He was a little
different too from the others because of that story about his
daughter.  Of course the girl had left the town years ago, but the
affair had made him "less of the quality," more like "anybody
else."  Mrs. Penethen had been divided in her judgement over that
story.  Her natural humanity had caused her to pity both the girl
and her father, but her traditional morality had led her to judge
with the rest of the world.  Girls "who went astray"--there could
be only one verdict.  She pitied and she condemned.  But that was
so long ago; there wasn't a better man in the world; and while the
girl had the decency to stay away from the town the matter must
surely be forgotten.

Nevertheless he was a "foreigner"--not one of their kind--would he
spoil their jollity and merriment?  Would every one be shy and
awkward and silent?  She wondered whether she had been wise.

But her questions were soon answered.  As soon as he came in she
was reassured.  So smart in his black silk waistcoat and yet so
healthy with his red-brown, pippin-apple face, and yet again so
easy with his handshake and his boyish laugh as he saw the bright,
loaded table.  Oh! a nice little man!  And he started with surprise
when he saw Maude, hadn't expected that she would be so beautiful,
in white, radiant, so beautiful, so beautiful.--And Mrs.
Boultewood?  No, he didn't know Mrs. Boultewood, nor Miss
Boultewood, nor Mr. Boultewood.  He was greatly pleased to have the
honour. . . .  But Squires!  You here!  Now that is excellent.
Excellent.  Upon my word, excellent.  And Mr. Fletch.  Of course he
knows Mr. Fletch.  Who in Polchester doesn't?  How do you do, Mr.
Fletch?  A nasty March evening with a nip in the . . . but his gaze
continually returned to Maude.  He hadn't expected her to be like
that.  And to-night she was wonderful. . . .  Wonderful was the
word.  Her birthday of course.  Her party.  She would be excited,
and excitement always lends . . . Miss Midgeley?  Why, of course,
he knew Miss Midgeley!  How do you do, Miss Midgeley?  Isn't this a
delightful gathering?  Yes, a cold evening but it's warm enough
in . . .  And where's my friend Harmer John?  A most punctual man
as a rule.  Oh yes, every one calls him that now.  He seems to have
become a regular town favourite, which is odd because the town's
conservative.  Oh, conservative undoubtedly.  None the worse for
that, perhaps, but for a foreigner to have made so emphatic a mark
in so short a time is remarkable, nothing short of remarkable.
What's that?  A bird-cage?  Under that green cloth?  A nightingale?
A present for Miss Maude?  Why, how charming!  Birds are such
pleasant . . . !  Does he know Mr. Harty?  No, he hasn't that
pleasure.  Mr. Harty plays the violin.  Will give them some dance
music after supper.  First rate.  First rate.  Nice old gentleman
with long white hair, knee-breeches and large buckles to his shoes.

Every one was present save Johanson, and in another moment he was
there too.  He came down the stairs and through the door with a
rush as he always did, having very little time, it seemed, to
waste.  He was fine to-night, splendidly washed and brushed and
handsome.  "Never seen him look so well," thought Longstaffe--and
then for the first time considered the two--Harmer John and Maude
Penethen.  Maude Penethen and Harmer John.  He had not considered
it.  His friend had said nothing.  But now when he looked at them--
how could either help it?  She so lovely and he so jolly.  What
woman would not love him, not in every mood perhaps, but as he
stood there laughing, so good-humoured, so boyish, so honest and
true?  Sentimental?  But no.  Why was it sentimental to admire good-
humour and courage and honesty, qualities quite as interesting in
their way as cynicism, irony and disbelief, and easier, far easier,
to live with?  But as he looked at his friend he was unexpectedly
irritated.  He did not want him to marry that girl.  Why?  He did
not know.  He knew nothing against her.  She looked good-nature and
amiability itself as she stood there laughing with her uncle.  He
did not know why, but he did not want it.

Then Harmer John's hand was on his shoulder, his voice in his ear:
"It's jolly, no?  You was thinking I was dead?  Yes, not to-night,
thank you."

Then they all sat down with a great deal of laughter and confusion
and barking from Caesar the dog, who had a blue ribbon tied through
his collar and looked foolish accordingly.

This was the way they sat down:


                     Rev. T. Longstaffe
             Mrs. Penethen        Miss Boultewood
             Mr. Squires          Harmer John
             Judy                 Maude
             Mr. Harty            Isaac Boultewood
             Mrs. Boultewood      Miss Midgeley
                         Mr. Fletch


That was exactly what the table looked like except that, as I have
said, it was all in the gayest colours.  In the background was Mary-
Thomasine, crimson in the face, breathing hard through the
nostrils, and in fact like any serving-maid in any novel of English
country life.

She was as happy as any one of them.  In any case she adored a
party, but her special devotion was for Mr. Squires.  Whenever he
came to the house she was in ecstasies.  To look at him was enough
for her in any ordinary way, but to have an opportunity of serving
him, of handing him potatoes in their jackets, and beer and fruit
in its season--was not that enough good fortune to last her for a
week of Sundays?  Last of all there was Prudence the cat, who,
motionless with closed eyes, lay in patient unswerving hopefulness
beneath the nightingale's cage.



They were soon all jolly enough.  At first there had been a little
stiffness, and Mrs. Penethen and the girls were busied with
attending to different appetites, but Ben Squires was not one to
remain quiet for long and he had scarcely taken a mouthful before
he was leaning broadside across the table shouting out to Harmer
John his famous story of Ma Appletree and the Ghost of the Butcher--
a story so well known to every one else at the table that the mere
sound of the accustomed words put the company at ease.

Mrs. Boultewood was exceedingly well pleased.  To have Mr. Fletch
at her side for a whole meal with only that old crooked-faced Miss
Midgeley on the other side of him was wonderful indeed.  She pecked
at her food like a hungry but nervous bird, and examined every
mouthful very carefully as though she were enquiring its price.

"Why, Mr. Fletch," she said, "it's a long time since I've had the
chance of having a word with you.  I've always wanted to thank you
for telling me about that sale at Rosemeath Farm.  There were one
or two things there that were real bargains, I assure you."

Reuben Fletch, who, in his party black (shiny and faded, but
scrupulously clean) and his over-long locks, resembled tonight more
than ever a poet whose works were superior to the vulgar demand,
turned upon her the gentlest of smiles and said that he was glad to
help his friends.  "Well, yes, I'm sure you are, Mr. Fletch.  No
one could call me mean whatever else they might say of me, but if
there's a bargain or two about I don't see why I shouldn't be there
with the rest.  As I've many a time said to Aggie:  Look after the
shillings and the pounds will look after themselves--talking of
which," dropping her voice, "that ham's cost Fanny Penethen a
pretty penny, I'll be bound.  However, if she likes to fling her
money about--she's a good soul.  I've known her all my life and if
I were at my last gasp I couldn't say better than that--she's a
good soul if foolish."  Then, raising her voice again, "I suppose
you've not been letting the grass grow under your feet since I saw
you last, Mr. Fletch?"

Reuben looked at her with the mildness of a cow contemplating its
next dandelion:  "I beg your pardon?"

"In the money way, I mean.  You've brought off one or two pretty
little things, I'll be bound."

"I wish I had, Mrs. Boultewood," he said, sighing gently into his
plate.  "I grub along.  That's about all there is to it."

"Oh, come now.  We're too old friends for that, you know.  You can
talk safely to me, Mr. Fletch, old friends as we are."

But Mr. Fletch still sighed.  "A solicitor in a small way in a
little town like this, Mrs. Boultewood, stands no chance of
becoming a millionaire, I fear.  Appreciative though I am of my
hostess's good qualities, I should not be living here, Mrs.
Boultewood, could I afford a little place of my own.  And that's
the truth."

Mrs. Boultewood knew well that it was far from the truth, but for
the moment she abandoned the attack.  Indeed she had on this
particular evening other preoccupations--family cares.  Her beloved
Isaac had, for more than a year, been engrossed with the beauty of
Maude Penethen and, so far as he was capable of any passion, loved
her to distraction.  Mrs. Boultewood did not like Maude; she was,
she thought, a stuck-up, self-opinionated little minx, but she
adored her boy and for his sake she would suffer such a daughter-in-
law.  She thought, too, that she could train Maude into a very
pretty little piece of subjection before she had finished with her.

On the other hand there was this strange large foreigner about whom
all the town had, apparently, gone crazy, and Maude, it was said,
went with the town.  At the mere thought that he might interfere
with her dear Isaac's happiness, her maternal protective feelings
were aroused.

She disliked the great big baby-faced man, who behaved as though
the whole kitchen belonged to him, at sight.  She was prepared in
any case to dislike him, because during the last six months her
Isaac had walked considerably in the company of Samuel Hogg, had
gone with him to local race meetings and football matches.  This
friendship had at first alarmed the anxious mother because Hogg's
reputation in the town was queer enough; on the other hand the man
was a kind of uncle-in-law to young Lady St. Leath and owned about
half the town; he was, she had no doubt, not half what he was
painted, and, at least, he was clever enough at making money--and
Isaac thought the world of him.  Isaac had, in fact, on one or two
occasions brought him back to the house, and he had been very
polite.  On the last of these visits he had spoken of this
foreigner and had given the worst possible account of him, saying
that he was nothing better than an adventurer, here to plunder the
town, as the town would find out one day.

Well, well. . . .  Dear, dear. . . .  To think that every one
should be so taken in.  Great, fat, noisy creature!  And to make
your living by rubbing people's stomachs!  It was scarcely decent.

So she had plenty to do, with her good food and her admiration for
Reuben Fletch and her anxiety about her family.  Plenty to do.  She
was as busy as a hen in a neighbour's garden.

Like mother was not, in the Boultewood family, like daughter.
Aggie Boultewood frequently differed from her mother.  She did so
on this occasion, falling in love with Mr. Johnson at sight.  This
was nothing new for her.  She was always falling in love with men
and then hating them when they abandoned her.  She always saw it as
wicked abandonment, although, often enough, all the advance
movements were made by herself.  But to-night it seemed that she
received real encouragement.  To her tittering and giggling remarks
Harmer John made the most generous replies, turning round to her,
giving her his full attention and looking into her eyes in a way
that, surely, every one at the table must be remarking.  Of course,
she was an heiress.  And he was a foreigner--and foreigners were
always laying traps for heiresses; she must be careful.  She did
think him the most beautiful man she had ever seen, and banished
entirely from her heart and memory Mr. Ned Poinder, clerk to the
solicitors Kenworthy and Frost, who had, until this evening,
occupied that position.

"Mr. Johnson--I do want--you'll think me too silly--but might I
ask . . . ?"

"Yes, of course.  Anything you please."

"Do you--you'll think it too silly of me--do you have exercises for
ladies too?"

"Too?  Too what, Miss Boulteware?"

"No.  Too--as well, I mean.  Oh! how silly I am not to explain.
But what I mean is, Can you, can I, I mean, have exercises in your
school? or office is it?  Where you work, I mean."

"But, of course, Miss Boulteware.  Any day you wish.  There was two
ladies this morning, and I made them work, I can tell you.  You
come along any morning.  It will do you plenty of good, truly it
will.  You bring your mother, too.  Do her good.  I shall be very
pleased to welcome you."

"Oh dear.  That IS kind.  I'm sure mother would.  And will you
really give me them yourself--the exercises, I mean--and not leave
me to some assistant?"

"If we appoint a time I shall give them you all myself, but the day
now are getting full, and I thank God for it too.  I don't hope
I'll ever be idle another minute, I can tell you, Miss Boulteware."

But by this time the whole table was in an uproar.  Every one was
so jolly and so noisy and so merry that Mary-Thomasine, bringing
the jam tarts from the oven, thought that there had never before
been such a party.  Even Miss Midgeley was happy, practising some
innocent sarcasms on the helpless Isaac, who could but gaze on her,
open his mouth and shut it again as though he were pretending to
guess the answer to some riddle far too difficult for him.

The festival was now so triumphant that no one need notice the
demureness of Maude.  It WAS noticed.  Her mother and her sister
and Reuben Fletch noticed it--no one else.  Unless it were Prudence
under the bird-cage who, absorbed in the bird as she was,
nevertheless remembered her mistress.

Never before at her birthday party had Maude Penethen been so
quiet.  From the moment when Mr. Longstaffe said his beautiful
Grace, wishing for a blessing on all God's bountiful gifts here
provided, to the moment of Ben Squires' birthday speech, Maude sat
like a little nun, helping at first to make sure that every one was
happily started, then eating a little, talking a little, smiling a
little, and turning upon Isaac Boultewood so rich and lustrous a
gaze that that poor young man, harassed already by Miss Midgeley's
incomprehensibilities, could only plunge ever deeper into the
mire of his adoration and feel himself to be sinking, sinking,
sinking. . . .

She did not rouse herself even at the boisterous birthday greetings
showered down upon her by her uncle.  What compliments he paid her!
To what flowers he compared her, to what dawns and stars and moons,
to what goddesses and Peris and Naiads, to what virtues and
estimabilities and heavenly qualities!  He reached that stage so
customary in after-dinner speaking, when he had said everything
that he had to say, but could not wind up and conclude; in a
desperation bred of amiability and cider he leaned forward across
the table and mentioned "our foreign guest" whom we were all so
pleased to see, whom the town of Polchester was proud to honour,
whom we were all so thankful to have the chance of knowing, whom we
were all so pleased to see, whom the town, etc.: and then quite
unexpectedly sat down, to his own surprise as much as to any one
else's.

Harmer John rose and said that he thanked them all very much; that
he didn't know English well, so that perhaps they would excuse the
way he spoke it.  That he knew what an honour it was that a
foreigner like himself, who had been in the town but a short time,
should be invited to so intimate a gathering, but that he was so
proud to be a friend of Miss Maude Penethen and of Mrs. Penethen
and of all his other friends here that he sometimes forgot, perhaps
too easily, how lucky he was.  That was their fault for being so
kind to him.  He felt that this town was his home, and he would
like to do something for this town in return for its being good to
him.  But he didn't want to talk about himself.  It was Miss Maude
Penethen's birthday.  He would not pay her compliments.  The
gentleman opposite him had already done that so beautifully.  They
had a story in Sweden about a dwarf who lived in a hole in an
island near Stockholm, and he was very miserable and very lonely
and very bitter.  And one day the young Princess went by in her
beautiful golden boat, and the dwarf looked out from his hole and
hated the Princess because she was beautiful and he was so ugly.
And the Princess was so good and so pure that she always felt in
her spirit when some one near her was unhappy.  "Some one is
unhappy near me," she cried.  And the Court Magician who was at her
side said, "Yes, there is some one ugly and unhappy near you.  If
you throw what you treasure most into the water, that will make him
happy and beautiful again."  She hesitated a moment because she
knew what it was that she loved most; it was her gold box that held
the crystal ball.  But it was only for a moment that she hesitated.
She picked it up and threw it into the water.  At the same moment
the dwarf was changed into a beautiful Prince.  A week later he
came to the Court, bringing with him the gold box which had been
washed on to his island by the kindly waves.  A little metal polish
and it was bright as ever.  The moment the Princess saw him she
loved him and OF COURSE he loved her.  So they were married and
lived happily ever after.  "You must see," he ended, bowing a
little to Maude, "what power beauty when it are joined to great
goodness of heart can be able of.  I will drink Miss Maude
Penethen's health."

How they applauded!  What a beautiful story!  Only Maude had not a
word.  She blushed, rose for a moment, said something that was the
ghost of "Thank you," and sat down again.  It was then that Tom
Longstaffe knew how correct his suspicions had been.



The tables were cleared, the chairs ranged against the wall.  Then
old Mr. Harty was seen in his full glory.  He had been a little
overwhelmed at supper with all the noise and heartiness, and his
teeth behaved erratically, and his digestion was uncertain so that
he must be careful about his food, but now behold him in his glory
perched upon a chair with his beloved fiddle tucked under his chin!
Before this he had been a rather decrepit old gentleman who had the
obscene and derelict habit of taking snuff; now, in a moment of
time, he had his rightful place in the world, his eyes shining, his
nose twitching, his buckled shoe tapping, and his fingers moving
like loving spirits about the violin.  No one in Polchester was
better than he at this; none of your modern bands and ridiculous
pianists.  He had the music in his blood, and his fiddle had it
too.  He was in it for love, for love of Mrs. Penethen, whom he
greatly admired, for love of that pretty little "piece," her
daughter, but best of all for love of his divine mistress, music.
Was he bachelor and childless?  Was he poor, and had he only a
small bed-sitting-room off Orange Street?  Was he considered mad by
his relations, and a dotard by his contemporaries?  Ask his
mistress why this was so.  And did he regret an instant of his
faithful service?  Look at him, perched up there, with his white
hair flying and you had your answer.  They were all dancing--Mrs.
Penethen and Tom Longstaffe, Miss Midgeley and Mr. Squires, young
Boultewood and Maude; Judy and Harmer John, Miss Boultewood and Mr.
Fletch; only Mrs. Boultewood sat bolt upright in her chair counting
the cost of the shoe leather, and Mary-Thomasine, standing in the
doorway sucking the corner of her apron and imagining the arrival
of a fairy godmother who would throw her straight into the glorious
arms of Mr. Squires.

Dance followed dance; the world was ever gayer and more gay;
midnight had struck and beyond the windows the moon was cold like a
cheese-paring, and the stars through the wisps of fog gleamed like
fire-flies in a scatter of hay.  The lights of the streets were
dead, and the Cathedral was humped, black, its paws out, gripping
the town; a cold wind nipped round the corners and sighed away into
the woods and the tufted hills; but in the Penethen kitchen it was
hotter and hotter and hotter.

"Come up, Miss Maude," a voice was in her ear, "up the staircase."

They stayed side by side on the landing by the little window that
looked out to the faintly shining sky.  They stood side by side.
She was trembling.  He put his arm around her, and drew her close
to him.  She trembled yet more, put out her hand, and timidly
rested it on his broad back.  His other hand caught hers and drew
her arm around him--"I love you, Maude.  I ever loved you from the
first moment I saw your sweet face.  You've took me your prisoner,
and now, whichever way you think of me, I can't ever escape again.
It wouldn't be much to say I'd be good to you--any man would be
that--but what other could I say?  I don't suppose you can love me
yet.  I'm a stranger here and foreign--any ways half of me--but you
have the beginnings of liking me, and I'll make it grow like a
flower.  Will you marry me?  I don't hope--oh!  I don't hope you'll
say no."

He sighed with his anxiety.  If she looked up she could just see
his round face and black hair untidy with the dancing.  He seemed
immense to her just then; immense in his height and breadth, in his
strength and force.  She had no thought of anything save his
physical proximity.  This was what she had desired, thought of for
weeks and weeks; of no more than this and of nothing further than
this.  That she should be held by him and pressed close by his arms
and feel his heart beating beneath her cheek; that with the
physical power that he had she should feel on her side also power,
that she so small and weak could force him to such subjection that
he would do all that she should ask.

She murmured something.  He did not hear what it was, but her
gesture towards him, her hand moving up to his neck above his
collar, her head resting against his heart, told him everything.

They stayed in the dim shadow of that wall, the music coming up to
them utterly unheeded, the little sad breeze teasing at the window
with restless fingers, then, wandering off into the dark, knowing
that its time would come.



CHAPTER VIII

FOUR MEN


So swiftly do superstition and legend climb mountain-high that
although we are now but some seventeen or eighteen years from the
period with which this history is concerned, nevertheless the facts
of Johanson's first connection with the Cathedral authorities are
hard accurately to discover.  Nor is that discovery of great
importance.  In so small a town as Polchester the settling there of
any stranger would have, at least, its gossipy consequences.
Afterwards when it was discovered that he was a man of unusual
character who intended to take some place in the town's affairs, it
followed naturally that the leaders of the town's parties in local
politics would consider him and his possibilities.  And at about
the time of Johanson's engagement to Maude Penethen, four men,
entirely opposed to one another in training, temperament and
purpose, did so consider him.  Upon the lives of all those men he
was to have a deep and lasting effect.  And he himself was not to
know, even at the very end, that he had affected them at all.

One of these men he hated.  With all his amiable and friendly
qualities he could be an excellent hater.  He was not mean nor sly
in his hatred, but a streak of obstinacy ran through it, obstinacy
that came from his simplicity of view and inability for subtleties;
did he once convince himself that a man was, from his position,
really bad, it was hard to shake him in that.

Now bad men in this world of ours are exceedingly rare--rarer than
anything else to be found here; weak and stupid men on every side,
but bad--no.  There is insanity in absolute badness, something
motiveless, or something that reaches out, with a longing
arrogance, beyond the motive: Iago lusted after Desdemona a little
and hated Othello a great deal, but beyond those tiny passions was
a lust to possess the evil deed as a thing worth having in itself,
a flower, a jewel of the mind, a trophy of the intellect.

In this same fashion Samuel Hogg, who is perhaps the true
protagonist in Harmer John's battle, lusted after vanity and
cruelty and lies not as things in any way valuable in themselves,
but rather as paying fine tribute to his ever hungry arrogance.  He
was indeed no Iago; mentally sluggish, ignorant, loutish, without
any vision, but vanity clothed him with all the robes of glory.

He had at this time an odd position in our town.  It was
significant of the social change that had enveloped us that such as
he should hold it.  Born the son of an itinerant pedlar, kicked up
through the mire and filth of Seatown, the Polchester slums, into
the position of bottle-boy in a Seatown public-house, keeping
always one of his little eyes open to the main chance, betting
successfully here, stealing triumphantly there, winning at last the
heart of the publican's meek white-faced daughter, he succeeded to
those pot-house splendours.  And there, in all probability, he
would for ever have stayed, in spite of mean little conspiracies
and unsuccessful little blackmails, had not his only child, a
handsome independent girl, hating her father and longing for any
escape, eloped to London with the son of our Archdeacon Brandon,
the lord at that time of our ecclesiastical country.  This had been
swiftly followed by the death of Brandon and the marriage of his
only daughter to young Lord St. Leath, owner of most of Glebeshire
and the king of the castle above Polchester.  By the strangest
sequence of events, therefore, Sam Hogg, proprietor of "The Dog and
Pilchard," became cousin-of-a-sort to lords, ladies and "all the
clergy."  Not that his daughter ever set eyes on him again
(although he did what he could to force claims upon her), nor,
naturally enough, did Johnny St. Leath greet him as a brother; that
mattered little enough; sufficient for him that he could boast and
rant to all his vanity's desire, and boast and rant he did.  It
happened also that from this time things went well with him.
Perchance his wits were sharpened; maybe men dealt with him more
readily now that he was related to the "Quality."  He made money;
he bought property; soon most of Seatown was his.  He found an ally
in Reuben Fletch, and through him formed some loose connection in
small business affairs with some of the better people of the town,
with some of the clergy and even with our great Canon Ronder
himself who, advised by Fletch, bought a little Seatown property
from Hogg.  He mended his manners, wore quieter clothes, took a
little house in Orange Street, and was cared for by an elderly and
most respectable widow.  His principal danger was liquor; he had
been a drunkard in his Seatown days, and the evidence was yet in
the little purple veins that ran across his puffy cheeks, but had
you seen him walking slowly up the High Street in decent
broadcloth, his bowler hat smartly brushed, a fine cane held behind
his stout back, you would have thought him a prosperous and
respectable farmer.  There was indeed something remarkable in the
way that he threaded the whole life of our town, having relations
of one sort or another with almost every one from the Bishop and
Ryle and Ronder at the top down to the strange animals that moved
hither and thither in the dark obscurity of the Seatown mists.

Socially he did not press his claims upon the town.  Dark things
were said of his sensual passions, queer reports peered up once and
again out of the darkness, tales hinted at and mysteriously
whispered--but nothing was positively known.

"A useful man, Hogg.  Wouldn't wonder if he's Mayor one day."

If no one exactly liked him, no one exactly hated him either--no
one until Harmer John came along.  And Hogg was useful.  He was
useful especially to those men--Croppet and Harrow, Barnaby and
Summers--who wanted to popularise our town, to make it a sort of
perpetual Fair with hurdy-gurdies and roundabouts, to make the
Cathedral a peep-show and the market-place a railway centre, to run
excursions to the seaside and from the seaside to the town.  He was
the kind of man they needed.  He would do their dirty work and
would be fool enough to be tricked by them at the end when his
services had been rendered.

Meanwhile his vanity mounted and mounted and mounted.  That was his
true vice, the hidden creature biting at his breast.  And it must
be fed and protected and cared for.  Any slight to it, something
far short of insult, and his anger was roused with all the force
and strength that only the vanity of small and mean and cruel men
can summon.

And that was why HE hated Harmer John.  On that first evening in
Mrs. Penethen's kitchen his vanity had been wounded by the
attention paid to this stranger.  Soon there were many other fine
reasons.



On an afternoon late in March Sam Hogg stood in Reuben Fletch's
small office that was second floor in 19 Winnery's Lane to the back
of the market-place and just under St. James's Church.  An obscure
little cul-de-sac that grew grass between its cobbles, and a poor
little room with oleographs of their Majesties the King and the
Queen on the walls, an American roll-top desk and precious little
else.  Where Fletch kept all his papers, papers that involved most
of the town in one way or another, was always a mystery.

Hogg leant back against the mantelpiece, his stout body covering
the empty fire-place, his arms akimbo and his hat on the back of
his head.  His flushed cheeks, his bulging waistcoat, formed a well-
fed contrast with the thin poetic features of Fletch seated at his
desk.  Hogg to-day, as on many a past occasion, was trying to
discover both what Fletch thought and what he intended to do, and
for once in a way Fletch told him.  He doubtless had his own good
reasons.

"You're much too impetuous, Sam," Fletch said, raising his mild
eyes to the faded ceiling.  "Wait and see how things turn out.
There's plenty of time."

"That's just what I'm not so sure there is," said Hogg, impatiently
moving his shoulders and kicking one leg forward, "he's getting so
damned popular, blarst him.  I went in the other afternoon,
pretending I wanted some exercises, just to look around a bit, and
the place was fair humming.  'Is 'Ighness couldn't see me just at
the moment.  Would I wait?  Well, no, I wouldn't.  I'd have kicked
his whole bloody place to pieces if I'd stayed another five
seconds."

"That's you all over," said Fletch quietly.  "Why get so excited
about it?  The man hasn't done you any harm as yet, beyond getting
engaged to a girl whom you couldn't marry however hard you wanted
to.  We've got a hold over him with those rooms of his.  He's as
simple and unsuspicious as a puppy.  Leave him alone and watch the
way things turn out.  Either he'll be a real success and very
useful to us, or he'll make a mess of it and cook his own goose, so
to speak."

"You're so detached, Reuben," said Hogg, quite plaintively.  "And
yet you've got your passions--as far as money goes, anyway.  If he
stole five pounds from your till you'd be excited enough."

"I don't know that I'd show it if I were," said Fletch.  "You
always get more by keeping quiet.  Besides, I quite like the
fellow.  There's something rather taking about him."

"Taking!  That's just the word!" said Hogg, with an oath.  "He's
taken the only pretty girl in the place as it is, although he
hasn't got her yet, by God.  But I fair hate the man.  I did from
the first moment I set eyes on him, and when I hate a man I want to
do him an injury.  That's the sort of man I am."

"You've been drinking, Sam," said Fletch.  "That's foolish of you.
You know you can't stand liquor nowadays, and you've been drinking
much too often lately.  You always go and do something foolish when
you're this way.  What do you do it for?"

"What do I do it for?  What does any man do it for?  Isn't a man
what is a man to have any bloody pleasure?"

"Yes, but you can't stand it as another man can.  You know how well
things have gone with you lately, and it's only because you've kept
off drink.  Why go and spoil everything?"

"By God, you're right, Reuben!"  Hogg moved away from the fire-
place and stood, his fat legs straddling.  "There isn't a man in
the place that has risen as I've done.  And who's there been to
help me?  No one.  Who's ever held me out a helping finger?  No
one.  I'm the most remarkable man in this town, and most of them
knows it.  And I haven't stopped growing neither.  No, by God, I
haven't."

Fletch looked at him as though surrendering to a mild and pleasant
admiration.  "Well, then," he said, "don't ruin it all by taking to
drink again."

"Paugh!" said Hogg, "what's a drop now and then?  The thought of
that foreign bastard pawing that girl all over's enough to make any
decent man drink.  Damn 'im!  With 'is baby face and 'is foreign
words and 'is Almighty manners!  I'll have him on his knees before
the year's out or my name's not Sam Hogg."

He moved about the room, lurching ever so slightly, then, as though
at some sudden thought, steadied himself and moved across to
Fletch's table.  "But you're right, Reuben.  You're right.  Quiet
and patient's the word.  If Ronder and those other bugs are going
to take to him we can work a thing or two.  I see that as clearly
as you can."

A door of an inner room opened, and a long thin boy with spectacles
and a haggard expression brought Fletch some papers, then, without
a word, but sighing deeply, retired into the inner room again.

"Well, I can see you're busy," said Hogg, who had long ago learnt
his friend's signals.  "I'll be off.  I'll make up to that swine
and see if I can get something out of him.  But he'd better not
come up against me.  He'd better look out.  He'll be sorry before
he's finished with me.  So long, old cock."  He swaggered out,
banging the door behind him.  He had been drinking a little, but
not very much, and the cool March air soon sobered him completely.

As he turned the corner out of the shabby little street and came
abruptly into the noise and bustle that eddied, like a pool stirred
by wind, at the bottom of the High Street, he thought what a good
fellow he was.  A good sort.  A kindly man.  A credit to any town.
And because it had always been the way with him that he could only
think of one thing at a time, he saw himself a glorious figure,
just above the flight of steps that led down to the river, the town
a quaint huddled background to his splendour, and the world
compressed into one bending figure murmuring, "And all this he has
done for himself, no one helping him!  He has made himself what he
is!  From small beginnings he has come to this!"  Clever too!  He
could see as far as Fletch with all his cunning and secrecy!  A
trifle more impetuous, perhaps, more red blood in his body, not a
bag of grasping bones like--He was interrupted, called from his
glorious self-contemplation, and the thing that called him was the
vision of his friend, Canon Ronder, on the very point of beginning
his ascent of the High Street.

He smiled, a little sly, self-congratulatory smile.  He had drunk
just enough and was self-flattered just enough to receive his
opportunity with open arms.  He saw two things with a swiftness a
little above his everyday perception.  He saw that it would add
greatly to his own self-esteem to walk up the High Street with the
Canon, and that it would be a kind of demonstration in the face of
all the world as to how friendly with the Canon he was.

His self-esteem prevented him from perceiving a third point in its
favour--namely, that it would annoy the Canon very greatly.

It DID annoy him when, feeling a tap on his shoulder, he turned and
saw Hogg's red face and sly, confidential smile.  It was true that
he had been forced of late, for the good of the town, to see
something of the man.  For the good of the town he had thought it
right to take an interest in civic things and even to buy a little
town property, but all this was very far from being seen
prominently in close companionship.

Only ten years ago Hogg had been concerned with the death of one of
the town's most prominent Churchmen in a fashion that was more than
suspicious; he had been a drunkard and a wastrel, thief and even
blackmailer, it was said.  It was true that he was now a greatly
reformed character, and that such men as Croppet and Harrow took
him into their civic confidences and even suggested him as a
possible future Town Councillor: all this was far from the open
demonstration of acquaintanceship that an intimate walk up the High
Street admitted.  And yet how difficult!  It seemed that if you
took one step, a thoroughly justified step, in a certain direction
it led you inevitably to a future step not quite so justified.  He
disliked the man cordially, but he could not, as things now were,
afford to make an enemy of him.  The man was at his side.  He must
endure his company.  With every step, however, his discomfort grew.
The ten years that he had spent at Polchester had not made him less
sensitive to public opinion.  He had won success and popularity in
the very first six months of his life there, won them with
exceeding ease.  Circumstances had helped him, of course, but once
those pleasant things were his, once the comfort and even luxury of
his life cushioned him round, ease, popularity and high position
became important to him as they had never been before.  He had
always liked them, of course, but now they were absolute
necessities, and clutching them to himself he heard, more and more
clearly as the years passed, voices, whispers, shadows of whispers
threatening to take them away.  He could not put his finger on his
detractors; that was the trouble; he would have said that he had no
enemies in the place.  And yet--and yet--Ambrose Wistons, whom he
had himself helped to bring into the diocese; it was not true to
say that he was more respected, nevertheless his name was for ever
to be heard, now an article in a paper, now a sermon in his village
church, now a discussion at some gathering over something that
Wistons had said, now some comment on his strange, ascetic life--
and all this although Wistons held himself apart from all men, made
no friends, went socially almost nowhere, interested himself not at
all in the life of the town, paid no man compliments, was of the
rude and brusque in his manner.  And yet--and yet--Would Sam Hogg
have tapped Wistons on the shoulder and said in that thick,
confidential voice, "Well, Canon.  A bit nippy this air--more rain
before night"?

No, Ronder, behind that rosy, cheery face, behind those round,
shining glasses, was not comfortable, nor was his happiness
increased when, as he advanced up the street with his unwelcome
companion, he seemed to pass every one whom he least wished to see:
there was that gossipy Mrs. Bond with her eldest boy, there was
that simpering Mrs. Ryle, there Julia Preston and Mrs. Bentinck-
Major--all the chattering women of the town!

"About those bits of houses of yours, Canon," Hogg was saying
(odious figure with his rolling, swaggering gait, stick fixed
between his arms behind his back, hat tilted slightly to one side),
"there's another nice little lot likely to come into the market
pretty soon--a bit higher up than your two or three--towards
Roston's Mill.  They should come in for a mere song, I should say,
and nothing wants doing to them; least when I say NOTHING, what I
mean is they can go on very well for a year or two without anything
doing.  The tenants that's there now seems contented enough."

"Which reminds me, Mr. Hogg," said Ronder, speaking nervously and
looking about him left and right, "some one was saying the other
night that the whole of Seatown wants pulling down, that conditions
there are a disgrace.  I haven't gone into it myself, and I believe
the Town Council's very well satisfied.  Of course there was all
that trouble in Nineteen Two and things should be all right now.
Nevertheless, I shouldn't like to be owning property that's a
disgrace to the town.  I must go down myself and have a look."

"WAS somebody saying?" broke in Hogg bitterly.  "That's just the
sort of gentleman who wants ducking in the Pol, if you ask ME!
Just the sort of nosing round into somebody else's business that
you'd expect from a foreigner, a dirty German or a Dutchman like
that booby-face who's going to teach us all gymnastics.  Beg
pardon, Canon, if I'm speaking too strong, but I can't abide these
nosey-parkers with their meddling round other folks' business.
It's true enough that there ain't any marble-tiled bathrooms in
Seatown, but what would they do with 'em if you gave 'em them?
Fill them with a month's coal, of course.  Who knows if I don't?
Who's lived there if I haven't?  And mighty comfortable I was, too,
for donkey's years.  Why, I'd never have moved if it hadn't been
the thought of my daughter who used to make it homelike for me, and
her deserting me as she did sort of made me take against the place.
No, Canon, don't you pay no attention to those gas-bags.  Go down
for yourself, Canon, and see.  There isn't a brighter or a 'appier
spot in Polchester than Seatown."

After which long speech, Samuel Hogg brought his stick to the
ground with a bang and looked about him with a triumphant smirk.

They were half-way up the High Street by now.  The street was
filled with people and on every side of him Ronder fancied that he
detected glances of surprise at his company.  Detected falsely, no
doubt!  There was a time when he was wise enough to know that every
man is concerned first with himself, and only afterwards, and at a
great distance, with the behaviours and eccentricities of his
fellow human beings.  We are safer than we know.  But his
nervousness made him speak more sharply than he intended.  "Well,
Mr. Hogg, you can take it as settled that I buy no more property in
that direction.  I would not have done what I did had I not thought
it for the town's good that some of the Cathedral Chapter should
take a closer interest in the town's progress.  I must go more
nearly into this question of conditions down in Seatown.  If all I
hear is true, something must be done."

So that was the way of it, was it?  Hogg's little eyes narrowed.
This fat, sleek parson was going to make trouble, was he?  He'd
better look out!  Hogg knew a thing or two, Hogg did.  He'd better
look out.  But who was this who'd been talking about Seatown?
Devilish awkward if people began poking their noses in that
direction again.  What about this Harmer John with his gymnastics
and the rest, improving the body and all that my-eye?  Why not?
Just the kind of rotten foreigner to go interfering with other
people's business!

"Beg your pardon, Canon," Hogg said confidentially (how odious his
confidence to Ronder's sensitive soul!), "but it wasn't this new
gymnastic fellow what's been talking to you about Seatown, was it?"

"Gymnastic fellow?" said Ronder, bowing to Mrs. Preston and looking
about him for some avenue of escape.  "Gymnastic fellow?"

"Yes, him they call Harmer John.  Great tall fellow who's opened a
gymnasium.  I know you're acquainted with him, and I thought--"

"Dear me, no," said Ronder, hurriedly; "an excellent man.  Quite an
asset to the town.  Oh no, he knows nothing about Seatown.  Why
should he?  Ah, I go in here--if you'll excuse me, Mr. Hogg.  Good
afternoon.  GOOD afternoon."  He turned into Bennett's bookshop,
that same doorway in which his old dead rival had once also sought
refuge, and left Hogg standing there.  Left him also in no amiable
state of mind, left him in that unhappy state of wounded pride and
creeping suspicion that can only mean danger when men of Hogg's
half-human mentality see their security threatened.



Stepping hurriedly into the dim bookishness of the old shop, he
saw, as on a similar occasion Brandon himself had once seen, that
Wistons was there.  Wistons was, just then, exactly the man whom he
did not wish to see.  But it was too late to retreat.  He nodded
friendlily, his spectacles catching the gaslight so that he seemed
all shining with amiability.  Then he sat down in the old arm-chair
near the books, the arm-chair that had held so many a worthy book-
lover before him, and gazed pleasantly about him, at the framed
letter of Walter Scott's, the two holograph verses from Don Juan, a
Dickens scribble with lines like a staircase under the signature;
pleasantly, but in his heart he was irritated to-day by that tall,
lean, ascetic body as perhaps he had never been before.  How it
towered above him and how quiet and aloof and reserved it was!  He
looked down at his own stout thighs, spotless trousers, shining
boots, and wished, how fervently he wished, that he had avoided
this meeting.

One never knew how Wistons would take anything: on a day he would
scarcely be aware of his surroundings, on another he would be
friendly and agreeable.  To-day little Mr. Carter, the new shopman
(from London with new ideas, new authors, new prophecies), came
rolling forward and asked what it was that he could do for Canon
Ronder.  Canon Ronder wanted Trelawny's Recollections of Shelley
and Byron, and Mr. Carter went to search among the second-hand
shelves in the rear of the shop.

Wistons, whose nose had been buried in a number of the Hibbert
Journal, looked up and said:

"Ronder, do you know anything of a man I am about to visit, a
Swede, I think, Johanson by name, a gymnast or a masseur?"

Ronder looked up smiling:

"Why, yes, I know him quite well.  He has been coming during the
last fortnight and giving me massage.  A good fellow, I think.  I
like him.  But YOU don't look as though you needed massage."

He laughed in that friendly, easy, natural manner of his that had
become by now SO natural to him that it had ceased to be natural at
all; only nobody knew that.  Wistons seldom laughed.  "No," he
answered gravely, "it isn't for that I'm going.  I'm interested in
what I've heard about him.  You know little Longstaffe?"

"Yes, of course."

"He has been talking about him to me.  Longstaffe's a loyal little
fellow and all his geese are swans, but this man does seem
something out of the common.  I promised Longstaffe I'd go, so I
wrote and made an appointment.  He IS a Swede, isn't he?"

"A Swede or a Dane.  I can never tell them apart.  His English
might belong to either.  He seems to mean to settle down here.  He
has got himself engaged to a girl of the place."

"Oh, I didn't know that!"  Wistons' nose was deep in Hibbert again.
Ronder said:  "Did you know that Longstaffe's daughter is coming
back here to live?"

And in his heart he was saying, "You pig!  I'll make you attend to
me.  Who brought you to this place if I didn't, and now you are as
remote from me as though I lived in another world.  Not good enough
for yours, I suppose!  But I'll smash your remoteness.  I'll make
you come down from your pedestal!"  A strange little wind of anger
blew up in his soul, strange because he was seldom angry.  But he
seemed to feel a crisis between himself and Wistons as though
months and months of action had been preparing for this meeting in
the book-shop, a crisis the stronger because Wistons was himself so
completely unaware of it.  His anger needed physical expression and
he jumped to his feet.  They stood close together under the
gaslight, one round and shining, the other brown and spare.

"Isn't it a pity, don't you think, that Longstaffe should have his
daughter back here?"  His voice was peremptory and so unlike his
accustomed suavity that Wistons' attention was caught.  He stood,
twisting his lips in a way that he had, his eyes staring into the
book-shelves.

"No.  It all happened long ago.  It should be forgotten now.  Poor
girl, she has paid in sorrow and grief."

"Yes," said Ronder irritably.  "But that is just what some of the
women in this place will not remember.  They have long memories for
the scandalous part of it, though."

"How long is it since it happened?"

"Some seven or eight years, I fancy."

"And she's bringing the child with her?"

"Of course."  Then Ronder went on.  "It's for Longstaffe's sake I'm
sorry.  He's a fine fellow and doing a fine work here.  He'll have
trouble, I'm afraid."

"Well, what if he does?"  Wistons turned on Ronder.  "You're too
much afraid of trouble.  Why not trouble and difficulty and sorrow?
Why not?  Why not?  Good for us.  Good for us all," and, turning,
dropping the Hibbert Journal on the chair as he passed, he had left
the shop.

Ronder stared about him, hoping that no one had witnessed that
abruptness.  But really!  To treat him, Ronder, in that fashion!
Things were going too far.  They were indeed.  As good as though he
had told Ronder to his face that he was too comfortable.  After
Ronder's own courtesy and kindness.  He did hope that nobody had
witnessed that strange outburst.  For Wistons' own sake it would
never do.  Mr. Carter came forward washing his hands and grievously
saying that there was no "Trelawny" just now.

"Never mind.  Never mind."  Ronder was nervously brushing his hat.
"Try and get it for me from London.  Good day.  Good day."

He passed under the Arden Gate, angry as though some one had rolled
him in the dust.  The thing was going too far!  He would let
Wistons know.



But Wistons had already forgotten that Ronder existed.  He was
suffering just now, as he often suffered, from a mood of intense
depression.  God had veiled Himself from him, and He had veiled
Himself rightly, because he, Ambrose Wistons, had so terribly
failed in his task.  That task, given to him ten years ago, had
been to bring these people nearer to God.  And he had not brought
them.  He had done nothing.  It was as though he had never existed.

When he had spoken those words to Ronder he had intended them for
himself.  It seemed to him to-day that his life during these last
ten years had been spent in the very apron of luxury.  His little
country vicarage with its small tangled garden, its few bare rooms,
its old cook-housekeeper, appeared to him extravagant splendour.
Everything had gone well with him there; he had been tended and
watched over like a woman; he had grown soft and flabby.  And as he
strode down the hill people looked after him, at his long bony
body, his fierce protesting gaze, his thin swinging arms, and saw
the ascetic, the man who lived only for God, and felt, too, for a
brief instant a strange rending in the clouds, a glimpse of another
journey, a more distant kingdom. . . .

He liked Johanson's rooms as soon as he crossed the threshold.  A
class of boys from the School had just finished their exercises and
were pouring through the doorways, jolly little boys like dogs,
Sealyhams and Scotch terriers and cockers, pugs and poodles.  A man
taller and broader than Wistons had expected stood in the middle of
them, himself a collie or Newfoundland.  They had to be pushed out
of the room, and old Billy Trenant shouted at them and pretended
terrible rage and enjoyed it hugely.  Then they all saw Wistons,
whom they knew well by sight, and in a moment they were transformed,
touching their school caps, decorous, slipping away in quiet
restraint.

Johanson had seen Wistons before although he had never spoken to
him.  He came forward holding out his hand.

"How do you do, sir?" he said.  "Will you not come in?"

The two men looked at one another as fearless men estimate a
newcomer in the first glance, and at once a firm relationship was
established--not at all one of friendship as it had been
immediately between Johanson and Longstaffe, but of something quite
different.  Wistons, as he felt the strong, warm grasp of the other
man's hand, knew that in that moment some of his trouble and
depression slipped away from him.  Here was a man whom he could
trust: whatever else might appear, that was certain.  He was not a
man who made friendships or desired them.  He had an ascetic mind,
he had no atom of sentiment in him.  He only knew as he looked at
that other honest, open face that he was reassured and rested as
though he had come to a room where there was a comfortable chair.

And Johanson knew instantly that he was face to face with the most
remarkable human being whom he had yet in his life encountered.
With him also it was not friendship he felt, but subservience,
discipleship.  He was eager to hear everything that this man might
say.  He would drink in every word, and he had a curious sense of
haste and urgency, as though he knew that he would not see this man
many times but that every meeting would be of extreme importance to
him.

So it was that when they were seated in the little inner room,
close to one another and searching one another's faces, they
dropped all preliminaries, all fencing, all hesitations, and began
at once about themselves, talking eagerly like men to whom this
time is very precious.

The room was small.  Wistons sat in the only armchair, his long
thin legs stretched out in front of him.  Harmer John, leaning
against the wall, spread out his broad back, looking at his visitor
with eagerness, with a sort of hunger of interest.  "Longstaffe,"
Wistons began, "is a friend of yours, I know, Mr. Johanson, and it
was he the other day who was speaking of you.  Of course I've heard
of you from many people here--you can quickly become famous in this
little town, you know--but Longstaffe told me that in his opinion
you were going to do a great work here, and therefore--I'll be
perfectly frank with you--I was inquisitive to see the kind of man
you are."

Johanson laughed.  "I am very happy.  I will tell you anything and
perhaps you would help me.  This grows so quickly that it is very
difficult to make the foundations steady.  So many people have been
writing how it would be possible to make it perfect in two minutes.
I don't hope for that, but I have my own thoughts, you know, as to
how it will all be."  Wistons, looking at the man, liked with every
moment increasingly the honest gaze and fearless mouth.  The man
was happy with some inner impetus: it might be merely physical well-
being or pleasure at his immediate success, but with a sort of envy
Wistons fancied that it was something deeper, something for which
he had himself long been searching.

"And what is it exactly, this 'it' that you are after?" Wistons
asked.  Johanson needed no encouragement.  He never did.  He was
always eager to pour out all his story to any one who would care to
listen, touchingly confident that what seemed to himself so true
and amusing would seem so to others.  At the first hint of
weariness, however, on the side of the listener he would cease,
blaming himself for his stupidity or carelessness or selfishness,
but he never learnt from these checks.  And it was from no egotism
that he poured out his story: he would have told any other story as
eagerly, only this one happened to be true--he would vouch for it--
and so it MUST perforce, because of that truth, have an appeal!

Wistons was far from any boredom.  He heard it all--the youth in
Stockholm, the bad father, the good mother, half-English, the
artists and their models, the gymnastic training, Copenhagen; and
then the little story of the blue plate, the carpet and Donatello,
the desire for England, the journey, the arrival, the Penethens,
the start of the venture, the money borrowed, some of it, from that
kind, generous man, Mr. Fletch; the success, then the dream of the
new town, the artists coming to Polchester to make it beautiful,
the wonderful world with everything beautiful, all starting from a
LITTLE thing--one beautiful stone and so the beautiful building,
one beautiful building and so the beautiful street, one beautiful
street and so the beautiful town, one beautiful town and so the
beautiful country, one beautiful country and so the beautiful
world . . .

"And here is the place with the Cathedral standing in the middle.
Don't you see, sir, that because that monument that the young man
made who was in Italy is so lovely everything in the town can
surely be, in its own way, its own style, and we think of beautiful
things and there are no room in our brain for other things.  The
brain have only so much room--fill it up, then, with what is fine--"

He stopped abruptly.  "You will think, sir, that I want to make
people better.  NO, sir, I would have them only to see my idea and
then perhaps of themselves they say:  'This is fine.  It is fun to
do this.'  But not to change them against their wish.  That is so
tiresome to interfere in other people's business, don't you think
so, sir?  But a few will come who like to be strong in body and
happy in their minds and look out of the window on fine sights and
always to be occupied with kindly feelings."

"Your idea is not a new one, Mr. Johanson.  Many men have thought
as you do and wished passionately to clear some of the mess away:
it has seemed so simple to get a few to think as they do and then
all to work together--and it has been so difficult--and they have
died, most of them, defeated men."

"Oh, indeed I know, sir," said Johanson eagerly, "I am not clever.
I have had no education, you understand.  I have not seen the
world.  But it may be because I am an ignorant man and only know
some true things about the body, and have only ONE idea, I can do a
little and then wiser men come afterwards and do more.

"We have a clever lady at our house, Miss Midgeley, and she have
read everything, and she lends me books and talks.  She has told me
of an Italian gentleman, Garibaldi, who went to Sicily with only a
few friends and one old gun and he conquered everybody.  Yes, he
did!" Johanson cried, waxing as enthusiastic as though Wistons must
be hearing of Garibaldi for the first time in his life.  "Indeed he
did, sir! and when it were all over and the King came along and
finished it with a big army, Garibaldi took off his hat and bowed
and went home to his farm.  Oh, that were great.  I would have
liked to have been one of his men and fought with him--or only just
to have seen him . . ."  His eyes stared beyond the walls of the
little room.  "There isn't time.  I know nothing, I had no
education, no books, no clever friends," he brought his gaze back,
"but I am strong and young and every one is good to me here."

Wistons, no mean judge of his fellow human beings, gave this man a
penetrating, searching stare.  Was he a charlatan?  Was he one of
those windy gas-bags who appeared once and again covering some mean
little selfish, mercenary project with fine cheap phrases and the
patter of a tub-thumping park orator?  Could any one in these
sophisticated, semi-educated, journalistic days be so naïve, so
platitudinous in idea and yet genuine?  One glance was enough to
assure him, once for all and for ever, that this man WAS genuine,
complete, authentic.  And who knew but that out of the mouths of
babes and sucklings . . . ?

He was stirred beyond anything that he had expected, but he did not
surrender himself.  He was in himself so selfless, so ascetic in
his abnegations that if, for a moment, the thought came to him that
here was a man with whom he could work, into whom he could pour his
own beliefs and creeds, he withdrew at once.  There were to be for
him (he knew it absolutely) no human contacts; he would be alone
always; his search for Christ, his passionate thirst for THAT
intimacy, precluded all others.  Nevertheless, he was touched by
this man as he had never before been touched by any human being.

"I understand," he said slowly.  "All my life the beauty of
holiness has been to me perhaps too exclusively the first thing in
all our existence, but I know that there is also a holiness of
beauty, only another door through which we pass to the same
temple."  He sighed.  "There are other things, though, Mr.
Johanson.  Practical things.  There is that difficulty you
mentioned--how to spread your idea, your belief, without
interfering with other people's lives.  If you build you must
destroy and you must destroy things that other people care for.
You must preach.  People, most people--and this little town is not
unlike other towns in this--resent it when you touch what they care
for.  They hate your interference with their private lives.  They
think you dangerous or foolish.  Or they think you can serve their
purpose and would drag you in to fulfil THEIR plans, not your own.
They have their own affairs, money, love, ambition, and only care
for their own projects.  To build castles in the air is one thing,
but to pull down castles that other people have built to make room
for your own--then the difficulty begins.  I wouldn't discourage
you.  I know that what you say is true.  But the people here are
like the people elsewhere, no better, no worse, human.  A time may
come for you when you will have to choose--to choose perhaps
between a fine business and profit and success and your Idea,
persecution, loneliness, apparent failure.  It has happened many
times before; the seeming failure has been the final success, but
the man himself sees no results.  They remain when he has gone."

Johanson nodded his head.  "I know something of what you say.  I
have felt it myself--but, sir, if such a moment would come I would
try to remember what you tell me.  I know, as well, that there are
very many people in the world who will never think the things
beautiful I think--that is natural; but there is some things SO
beautiful that every one must be keen at them, and some things so
ugly that every one must wish to destroy them.  I don't hope I'm so
conceited as to want to do more than to get a few friends together
and all of us, together, make something.  Shall I show you first
what we are doing here and how it goes at present?  Will you come
along?"

Wistons readily came with him and was at once astonished at the
other side of the man now revealed to him.  Here, at the business
end of the affair, was no dreamer but a very practical man of
business.

It was about human nature, apparently, that the man was sentimental
and idealistic, seeing men and women at a complete remove from
reality, but now in the arrangement of his gymnastic concern he was
as sharp and acute as a "two-thimble lawyer."  First he introduced
old Billy Trenant and the boy, who knew Wistons well enough, but
snatched delightedly at an entirely fresh introduction in honour of
the place and occasion.

Their pride and pleasure in their master was very pleasant to
witness.  Then he showed Wistons the instruments of torture, the
spring-boards and the horse, the dumb-bells and the rings, the
ropes and the boxing-gloves.  Then he showed him his books, all the
engagements he had, and the classes he was starting and the letters
of advice and instruction he was sending into the country.

He made Billy and the boy do some exercises, and then, tearing off
his collar and coat and waistcoat, he swung himself up to the rings
and did some marvellous evolutions, convolutions, and what Charles
Lamb, speaking of the Elizabethan dramatists, calls "extraditions."

Wistons, who had never before seen such grace and beauty of
movement in a man, nor a body so strong and magnificently formed,
felt as though he were listening to a piece of very fine music and
was moved accordingly.

Then they went back and sat in the little room again.  After a
short silence he said:

"I told you I'd be frank, Mr. Johanson, and so I will be.  I know
by now that it is what you would like me to be.  I believe you will
have here a very difficult time.  I can see that your gymnasium and
your work in connection with it is going to be a great success.
Our town is just ready for such a thing.  Ten years ago, when I
first came here, it was shut up inside itself; it had changed very
little, I fancy, in the last hundred years.  But of late many
outside influences have attacked it, and there are many people here
who would push it and make it commercially profitable, and there
are others who would have it more gay and up-to-date.  They will
all seize on such a man as you.  You are just the man for their
purpose, and they will use you if they can to their advantage.
There is nothing wrong in that.  This gymnasium will be very good
for them.  But when it comes to the other half of your project--
your spiritual beauty, if that phrase isn't offensive to you--then
I fancy you are in for trouble.

"We are not bad people here, but, like people everywhere else, we
are lazy and selfish.  The two hardest things in the world to find
are true altruism and honest clear thinking.  If we all thought
more of the good of others than of ourselves, and if we thought
STRAIGHT without allowing sentiment and self-interest to confuse
us, this world would be your beautiful country to-morrow.  But we
are all afraid--you and I like the rest--afraid of our safety,
afraid that some one will rob us, or laugh at us, or hurt us
physically, or make us feel small.  We are not--most of us--cowards
about big crises, but it is the little things that destroy us.  You
have been given your vision clearly at this moment.  But later on--
when you have built up a fine business and discover that people
will like you while you are successful and don't interfere with
their lives, but will hate you if you try to change their comfort,
their profit, their moral code, their safety--will you see as
clearly then?"

Johanson was gazing out of the window on to the marketplace.  "I
don't know, sir," he answered gravely, "I have had a happy life.  I
don't know how I would do when people did not like me.  I like them
to like me.  I want to be happy, and for them to be happy.  But I
must see what I see," he cried, jumping up from his chair, "I can
see no other.  I see the wide street and the noble houses and the
fine bodies of the people, and kind thoughts one of another.  Every
one would wish that, sir."  He turned to Wistons pleadingly.  "Seat
any one in that chair and say to him, 'Do you wish that?' and I
don't hope he would say no.  I must go on and follow it as it comes
to me."

Wistons stood up and held out his hand to him.

"I wish you good luck," he said.  "If I can help you I will, but I
shall not be able to help you much.  I fancy that you will have to
work alone.  And if you are alone, think of Christ Who was the
loneliest of all.  And on my side I shall like to think of you.
You will help me, give me courage.  Well . . . good night.  Good
night.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Good night."

He turned, leaving the room abruptly, hurrying away with his head
bent, his long arms swinging.  He looked back once, timidly
smiling, and was gone.  Johanson stood at the window looking down
at the darkening Square but not seeing it.

He was wrapt in the future.  It was as though the trumpets had
sounded for battle, afar off from the other side of the river, but
clear, challenging.  He stood up, bracing his shoulders, waiting
for the attack.



CHAPTER IX

MARY'S RETURN


Every one in the house was astonished at the change in Maude
Penethen--every one save Reuben Fletch, and what he thought no one
save himself knew.

Maude was another creature.

She had no asperities, no conceits, no sudden tempers.  She was
neither vain nor noisy.  She thought of others.  She was in love
with some one other than herself.

Even Miss Midgeley, who considered that she understood human
nature, was surprised.  Still she did not trust Maude, but she was
compelled to admit that "if the girl remained like this very long
she would be forced to change her mind."  Maude's beauty shone
through all the house.  It had needed to be softened.  Kindliness
had been missing in it, that it might shine like a lamp through the
texture of it.  The lamp was lighted now and shone steadily.

No one was more astonished than Mrs. Penethen.  She had thought
that she knew her Maude.  The best that she had hoped was that in
time, after constant companionship with that kindly, simple
creature, she would herself soften a little.  But this instant
transformation!  Something not put on--a sort of spring-cleaning
polish--but rather something that came from the girl's very heart
so that she was herself surprised by it, taken by an emotion so new
and overwhelming that she could only submit to it.

She did not "show off" her Harmer John as Mrs. Penethen had
expected that she would do, did not ask people in that they might
see what a capture she had made of this big clumsy giant, she so
small and delicate and he in her hands to be ordered whither she
pleased.  She did not order him anywhere, but rather waited for
him.  She was passive, expectant, altogether transformed by this
submission to another personality.

Only Harmer John was not astonished.  As he had from the first
thought her very perfection, it was not odd to him that she should
be kind and unselfish and gentle.  It was only odd to him--
astonishing indeed--that she, so beautiful and so perfect, should
care for him.

They did not see one another very often during the daytime.
Business was now coming to him in full flood, and she agreed
absolutely with him that he must neglect his work for nobody.  She
was intensely ambitious for him, and the only impatience she ever
showed was in connection with his job.  She was down in the morning
to see him off, she went sometimes with her mother to fetch him in
the afternoon.  When the spring evenings with their pale primrose
light began to steal upon the town she walked with him, strolling
up the lanes above Orange Street.

But after supper was the best time.  She sat very quietly in the
kitchen close to him, her hand in his, saying very little, looking
at him sometimes, meeting his eyes and holding them.  She busied
herself about his clothes, mending his socks, sewing buttons on his
shirts.  She liked best of all to be quiet, very close to him, her
body touching his, feeling his body through his clothes, feeling
the pulse beat in his hand against hers.  It was as though she were
holding this moment like Joshua bidding the sun stand still in its
course, as though she had some forewarning that just this moment
was the best that she would ever have.

He loved her so terribly that it frightened Mrs. Penethen sometimes
to see the way that he looked at her, as though he drew her in and
in and in to himself, and then fiercely held her against all
possible challenge.  But as yet there was no challenge.

He was for ever buying her things, and such strange things, not at
all like the things that any one else would buy.  Where on earth
did he find them?  Maude liked what he bought for her because she
was in love with him, but had she not been in love she would have
preferred more ordinary things like necklaces of pink coral or
bright ribbons or pieces of lace.  His engagement ring for her was
a funny old one of twisted silver, with a small blue stone.  He
found her little silver boxes and old porcelain figures, and an
amber seal, and a silver dish and a print of a ship in full sail,
and a string of glass green beads, and a shawl with roses.  Where
did he find them?  Little old shops.  They were beautiful things,
but people would think them odd.  Now, because Maude was in love,
she did not mind that; had she not been in love she would have
thought them rather shabby.

He was extremely gentle with her, and she liked it best when he put
his arms around her and held her close to him; she could feel his
heart beating in the struggle that he was making not to hold her
closer to him and crush her.  She would be crushed one day; that
was in the future.

She liked to put her hand up and stroke the back of his neck.  His
skin was warm and smooth, and then just below the neck it was cold
and smoother yet, like marble.  She laid her hand gently against
his cheek, and then she knew that he closed his eyes and she could
feel his hand clench around her.

He talked to her a great deal, but she did not listen very much.
She had never listened to what other people said, and she could
not, all in a moment, acquire that habit.

She sat, dreaming, beside him, hearing his voice very far away
beating through the beating of her own heart; it was her own heart
to which she was listening.  She soon trained herself to say "Yes"
and "No" at the right places, and "Yes, that she agreed," or
"Wasn't that interesting?" and "Just fancy!"  Curiously, although
she was so ambitious for him and wanted him to be a thunderous
success, and that every one should be proud, yet she was not
interested to hear about his hopes, his dreams, his schemes for the
future.  When he mentioned names, important names, Canon Ronder,
Wistons, Mrs. Bond, Ryle, Mrs. Combermere--she listened greedily.
When it was Tom Longstaffe or old Miss Eldred she sank back into
her trance-like lethargy.

And he poured out everything to her--to Mrs. Penethen and Judy
also.  To Caesar the dog and also the cat.  These were happy
evenings in the old high kitchen: the two lovers close, side by
side, Mrs. Penethen sewing at the table, Judy a book on her lap but
not reading, and sometimes Miss Midgeley.

He felt now that he was a member of the family, and so he might
tell them what he meant to do.  But it was all in reality for
Maude; everything was for her.  Only when he was caught into the
very heart of his dream, when he saw Polchester rising about him,
the Cathedral in its midst, beautiful streets with avenues of trees
spreading to the central Square, and there a wonderful fountain,
its waters sparkling in the blue air, happy people, wonderful
children . . . for the moment Maude was forgotten.  No dirt, no
squalor, no unkindness. . . .  Foolish words Maude thought them
when she caught a few, but she loved him, she loved him.  He
would be a great man, the greatest man in the town.  Even Lady
St. Leath . . . and she also had her dreams. . . .



They had in those first days only one quarrel, and that was a
little one.

One evening before supper Johanson, looking up at the gilt cage and
the nightingale drooping, said:

"I will let that bird go, Maude; you don't want it to be unhappy.
Birds in cages is like wrongly-married people.  Maude, let it go."

For a moment she was like the old Maude.  "It was a present," she
said quite fiercely.

Laughing, he went up to the cage.  She sprang forward and stopped
him.  "It's mine.  Don't you touch it."

He saw that she was angry.  The light left his eyes.  He turned
away.  "Well, if you like it.  It's cruel, you know.  How would you
wish it--to beat your hands again and again against the wire?
Always the same prison.  But if you like it . . ."

Mrs. Penethen, watching him, thought:  "Ah, he can be sulky--like
an angry child."

Maude then was wonderful.  She went up to him, pulled his head down
and kissed him.

"Of course you're right.  It's horrid; I didn't see it that way
before."  They went to the door together with the cage.

Hardly a quarrel.



He loved to tell them about his earlier life, days in Stockholm and
the Islands, Copenhagen and the long sea-shore.

He had a great gift for word-painting through his broken English,
English that now became with every week of his stay less broken.
He had imagination, and, through it, he could awaken theirs.

The waters of Stockholm, the canals, the bridges, the sea; the
lights as they swim in a long amber chain over the dark water; the
ripples that the steamers made as they slipped like secret
messengers from landing to landing; the sudden avenues of dark
trees with the band playing; the light on the white walls and the
green trees and the blue water--no light and no water like that
anywhere else, except in Venice, maybe.  He had heard that in
Venice . . .

And Stockholm drew near to his vision of his ideal town.  They were
doing things there, men of our own time, beautiful things.

But he had not been happy in Stockholm.  He told them terrible
stories of how, when he had been a small boy, his mother and he had
waited in terror for the return of his father, waited in a little
grey flat right up in an immense grey building, and the flat was so
small and had so little air that it seemed like a cage.  They had
heard the fumbling at the door, had seen the handle turn, and then
the big man with the black beard would come in quite sober.  That
made it worse.  He beat them out of cruelty.  He beat the small boy
until the blood ran down his naked body, while the mother, tied to
the bed-post, hid her face in her hands.

And then Harmer John grew too big to be beaten any longer.  That
was a fine day when at last he defied his father and liberated his
mother.  "Father and I was sort of friends after that--friendly
enemies; watching one the other like dogs.  There were an
understanding between us."

The odd thing was that he, Harmer John, was happy through all of
that--some happiness deep inside that nothing could touch.  Life
was too interesting for one to be unhappy.

"I can understand that," Mrs. Penethen remarked, biting off a
thread.  "That's true what you say, Mr. Johnson.  However deeply
you're touched, however sick in body you are, something remains
interested.  I could read Marie Corelli if the house was on fire."

Oh, novels!  He didn't think much of novels.  But pictures and
music, and the forest outside Stockholm and men unloading barges,
and little fruit and flower shops, and a funeral going into a
church with the door open and the lights over the altar, and two
strong men wrestling.

Then Maude, drawing him back, made him forget all these things.  It
was one of his troubles that he had so much work to do, but when he
looked at her he forgot it, he forgot it all.  He had not known
that love burnt like a fire.  The heat, the heat and then the
chill, like fear!

One evening he was back earlier than usual, and washing his hands
in his room he heard a knock on the door.  He said, "Come in," and
there was Maude.  She had never before been in his room while he
was there.  She stepped back.  "Oh!  I didn't know . . ." she said.

"Come," he said, holding out his arms.

She came, and he held her to his breast.  He sat down on the bed,
and she, on his knees, had her arms around his neck and her cheek
against his.

"Dear, I have wanted you so all day.  All through my work you was
there, standing beside me, waiting for me.  Oh, Maude, I have never
known that love was like this, never dreamt of it."

She was trembling and he held her closer as though defying some
enemy.  The spring light, orange behind the window square, made the
chimneys and roofs black, and the sky was so pale that it might not
have existed had not one silver star given it life.  The room was
dusk.  Maude whispered, "I love you.  I love you.  I love you.  You
are so strong that I don't think of myself any more.  Oh, why can't
it always be like this?" she broke out passionately, turning a
little away from him.  "It won't be!  It won't be!  I won't be
always like this, and I want to be.  I'm better so."

"But it shall always be like this," he answered her gently, "I
don't hope that we will ever change.  I love you so that I can
never be another man.  I know it, I have always known it.  When
there was other women in Copenhagen I always shook my head because
something were missing.  'It isn't this time,' I said.  'Not yet.
But it will come, and I will be patient and wait for it.'  And that
first evening when you came in at once I knew--in one moment for
ever."

"You knew the first second you saw me?"

"I knew the first second I saw you.  As I came in at the door I saw
you, the fire behind your hair.  I don't hope there'll be another
moment in my life like that."

Maude sighed, nestling close to him again, her eyes closed.

"And there won't be another moment like that," she murmured
sleepily.  "Oh, why does love start at the top and then it can only
go down?  Now there'll be marriage and children and it will all be
common like other people.  I'm selfish.  I'll want my way later
when you are less wonderful."  She had a vision of herself.  She
shrank from it, creeping closer to him.

But he had no fear.  "It shall grow more wonderful and more
wonderful as we know each other better and better, and our children
shall be beautiful, and when we are old we shall be so happy
looking back--"

But she closed his mouth with her hand.  "Don't let us talk of the
future.  It's now, now, now I want.  Love me.  Love me."

Their lips met.  They had not kissed like that before.  They lost
individual consciousness, all sense of time and place.  They were
still, motionless, mouth pressed to mouth, as the light faded and
all the stars came out.

From an immense distance she heard his voice as though he were
conscious of some danger.

"Come down with me.  The others--it is time."

But she held to him, her body quivering.

"No.  Let us stay.  A little longer."

"We must go down."  He almost pushed her from him, then, picking
her up, carried her out of the room, his mouth buried in her hair.



But his love did not cause him to forget his friends.  Something
very important now was about to happen to Tom Longstaffe--the
return of his daughter and his grandson.

Now he could say to himself, "I have been given everything--health,
work, love and a friend."  He trusted Longstaffe absolutely, told
him everything, would share with him everything, would defend him
anywhere, laughed with him, argued with him, wanted him continually
at his side, was always wondering what he was doing, thought often
how he might make him happy, and all this he had in return.  They
were true friends.

On a certain day Mary with her boy would return to Polchester.  At
first Johanson did not understand all that that would mean, then he
realised that Longstaffe was deeply apprehensive.  Why?  What could
there be to fear?  They would be rude to her, perhaps insulting,
and then he, her father, would not be able to stand by and see. . . .
Rude to her?  But why?  Because she had had a child out of wedlock.
It was audacious of her to return.  But that old story? It had
happened years ago.  Every one had forgotten.  Forgotten? Wait and
see, my friend.  But Johanson in his fresh enthusiasm about
everything that had to do with Polchester could not believe that
any one in the place could be so narrow and so cruel.

He reassured his friend, laughing at him, encouraging him.
Nevertheless some doubt crept into his own heart.  There was even
perhaps something selfish in his feeling.  Why was this girl
returning to disturb their friendship?  She was very clever and
very learned, he had heard.  He was terrified of clever women.  Or
he thought so.  It was true that he was not terrified of Miss
Midgeley, but then he KNEW her.  Was he to lose all those jolly
times with Longstaffe, the evenings when he ran in on his way from
his work, the half-holidays when they walked their feet off, the
Sundays when they talked, their feet up on the fender?  There would
always be this girl now.  He shook his head, then abused himself
for a selfish brute.  How happy Tom would be to have his girl back
again, to see his grandson tumbling about the house, to hear the
old rooms wake up and laugh and sing.  He, Johanson, with his own
marvellous love-story, how could he resent this piece of luck for
his friend?  Resent it?  No.  He was delighted.

Nevertheless as the day approached he caught much of Tom
Longstaffe's nervousness.  It was arranged that he should come
along about six o'clock.  She was to arrive at the station about
five-thirty.  Her father would meet her and bring her home.

That was an afternoon of pouring rain, and as Johanson turned up
Orange Street he thought to himself:  "There's something wrong
about this.  I feel badly about it.  I believe something bad's
going to come of it."  He opened the gate and crossed the sodden
lawn as though he were passing into some foreign country.  Behind
him Orange Street was dimmed with drizzle; in front of him the
windows of the Rectory were blurred with rain.

He rang the bell, and when the door was opened he could see at once
that the old housekeeper was in a quiver of excitement.  She
glittered with her starched apron and cap, and whispered in a voice
hoarse with emotion, "She's here, Mr. Johanson, sir.  Lizzie's up
taking the tea now."

He felt as though the house was new to him: he did not bound up the
stairs two steps at a time as was his usual habit, but hung up his
waterproof and cap, carefully straightened his tie in the glass,
passed his hand over the rebellious tuft at the back of his head
that would never lie down, and then slowly mounted.  At the turn of
the stairs he almost crossed to the left, where was the study, the
accustomed den in the evening of the two friends.  But now it would
be the drawing-room, that dim, yellow, chilly room haunted by
ghosts of old water-colours and faded photographs.  And with every
step shyness gained upon him.

But when he opened the door he was at once surprised.  The room was
bright and almost gay.  A large fire was burning; there were
flowers in the vases, primroses and daffodils, and the tea table,
with its silver and hissing urn, was alive and friendly.

Seated there was a woman, Tom's daughter; standing in front of the
fire was Tom himself, and at the window, looking out at the rain,
was a small slight boy with a round head of jet-black hair.

Mary Longstaffe had her back to Johanson, but at the sound of the
opening door she turned and then, seeing a stranger, rose.

Tom came forward.

"Old man, this is my daughter.  Mary, this is my friend, Mr.
Johanson, of whom I've told you."

She held out her hand and smiled.  "How do you do?  Father has
written about you so often in his letters that I feel as though I
know you quite well."

Her voice was soft and musical, and the grip of her hand strong and
honest, but at first he felt that he did not like her.  She was
unlike her father in that she was largely built, broad,
Scandinavian in her very fair colouring, her round open face and
blue eyes; her hair was brushed back from her forehead and parted
down the middle.  She was not handsome, but pleasant, frank,
friendly, a little masculine in her lack of subtlety and coquetry,
meeting him almost as man to man.  He could admire her health and
strength, her fine colour, her honest sincere gaze, but, dominated
as he was just then by a type so opposite from this in grace and
delicacy and beauty, she seemed to him like one of the women in his
own country, a kind that he had known all his life, women of the
countryside, unsexual, uninteresting, plain.

When the boy came forward it scarcely seemed possible that he could
be her son.  He was dark and fragile, with close-cropped hair,
large black eyes and a small obstinate mouth.  He was proper boy,
though, sturdy in spite of his delicate build, graceful in spite of
his sturdiness; he was quite self-possessed, giving his hand,
saying, "How do you do?" and making a funny little bob with his
head.

Johanson was uncomfortable, ill at ease; so also was Tom
Longstaffe.  The girl and her son were perfectly possessed.

"I hope you've had a good journey," Johanson said, standing in the
middle of the room, which he seemed to fill.

"Oh yes, thank you," she answered, smiling up at him.  "How do you
like your tea?  Strong?  Weak?  Milk?"

"Oh, tea," he answered in a voice of disgust.  "Oh, not for me,
Miss Longstaffe.  I'm not keen at it, thank you.  I've never tasted
any in all my life."

They all laughed.

She began to talk, telling him about the little adventures in the
train--the old lady who would not have the windows open, and the
country-woman with the hen in a basket, and that wonderful crossing
of the river after Drymouth that must always bring a lump into the
throat of every Glebeshire native returning home.  This last might,
in the especial circumstances of her return, have hinted at
awkwardness, but she showed no hesitation or confusion.  After a
while she got up and put her hand through her father's arm, and the
two of them stood there together facing the room.

That action roused in Johanson the oddest feeling of jealousy.  It
was so, then.  He was to lose his friend; no longer the two of them
together, but always this third.  Nay, he would be the third.  He
would not be needed any longer, and he would come there less and
less, and at last not at all.

Conversation flagged, and would perhaps have died, when the boy
turned round from the window and said, looking up at Johanson:

"I've got a parrot!"

"Have you?"  Johanson turned towards him, laughing.  He would go
anywhere, do anything, for children and animals.  "Where is she?"

"It's not a she.  It's a he.  Mother, may I show this man my
parrot?"

"No, dear.  Not just now.  And you mustn't say 'this man,' Billy.
This is Mr. Johanson."

But he was paying no attention to his mother.  He was gazing up at
Johanson with eager excitement, as though he were seeing him now
for the first time.

"Why, you're the highest man I've ever seen," he cried.  "How high
are you?"

Johanson laughed.  "How high do you think I am?" he asked.

"Oh, I don't know," Billy answered, with a little swagger of the
body.  "About eight feet."

"No, I'm not so much.  And how high are you yourself?"

"Oh, I don't know"--dismissing himself before this superior
interest.  "Do you think you could lift me with one hand?"

"I expect so."

He bent down, very gently caught Billy by the slack of his sailor
trousers, then raised him slowly from the floor.  He held him high
in air, then lowered him again.  Billy, whose face while this had
been proceeding had been one of deep solemnity, was now in a state
of wild excitement.

"Mother!" he cried, stamping with his feet on the ground.  "Did you
see that?  He lifted me with one hand.  He's terribly strong, I
expect.  Can you lie down and have a cart and a horse on your
stomach?"

"I've never tried," answered Johanson gravely.  "It needs practice,
I should think."

"Oh, you could! you could!" cried Billy, dancing about the floor.
"I'm sure you could.  Will you take your things off and show me
your muscles?"

"Not just now," Johanson answered, laughing.  "Sometime I will."

"And I'll show you all my things.  I've got a train and an engine
and a whole railway and a cricket-bat and a parrot.  Will you come
now?  They're all upstairs."

"Hush, Billy," his mother interrupted, "you mustn't bother Mr.
Johanson now.  Some time he will, I'm sure.  Besides, they're not
unpacked yet."

"Perhaps they are," Billy cried, tugging at Johanson's hand.
"Let's come and see!  Oh, do let's!"

But they were prevented.  The door opened and some one came in.

Johanson knew at once who it was.  It was Mrs. Bond.  There is
something afterwards to be said of Mrs. Bond, who was at this time
a very important person in our town; for the moment there is only
her appearance as she stood there pausing in the doorway, so
pretty, so fragile, egg-shell china, her cheeks pink with comfort,
good living, and interest in her neighbours, her hair steely-black
and dress silver-grey, smart as we in our town reckoned smartness,
of the wider world, travelled, cosmopolitan, eagerly friendly in
the way of one who is being constantly a friend to people to whom
she is at heart indifferent.

She moved forward, not seeing Mary Longstaffe, and shook hands with
Tom.

"I came in only for a moment--"  She had the prettiest voice, and
her eyes swam up to you as she spoke.  Then she realised the
company.

"This is my daughter Mary, Mrs. Bond.  She has just arrived.  You
know Mr. Johanson, don't you?  And this is my grandson Billy."

She broke into rippling smiles.  Then in a friendly, almost
beseeching movement, as she laid her hand on Mary's arm, looking up
at her:

"My dear, I'm so glad you've come.  What happiness for your
father! . . .  And this is your little boy?  Mr. Johanson, how do
you do?"

They all sat down, and Mrs. Bond took the field.  She had a gift of
conversation as no one in our town had ever had before she came--
something so accomplished, so widely travelled, so informing
without patronage, so gentle and yet so bold.  She seemed to the
natives of Polchester to have been everywhere; she was a widow and
so a little sad, a mother of three boys and so a little mature, and
yet so gay and so young that her widowhood and maturity were
fantasies.  She had seen all the world, and yet preferred to live
and die in Polchester which was flattering to us.  She had known
French Presidents, had had tea with D'Annunzio, and called on
Bernhardt, and yet took an interest--a very keen and active
interest--in our little local affairs.  She had charm and tact, and
smiled and laughed and declared that she loved everybody and
everything.

Nevertheless this was not one of her successful afternoons.  Billy
was sent upstairs.  Johanson sat there and said nothing.  Mary
Longstaffe was not easy.  At first, bathed by the cascades of Mrs.
Bond's laughing chatter, she passively accepted the shower.  Then,
when she spoke, she was so quiet and gave so little assistance that
Mrs. Bond seemed, in a moment, to be left deserted, naked and
helpless beneath her own fountain of words.

Tom tried to help, but he was embarrassed to-day, uneasy, shy.
Johanson tried to help.  He began a long Copenhagen anecdote, but
his English was so slow, and every one knew what must be the
conclusions of his sentences long before they were reached.

Silence fell.

Mrs. Bond's eyes, blue like very pale butterflies, danced all over
Mary Longstaffe.  Up, down!  Here, there!  Then she rose.

"Well, this has been DELIGHTFUL," she said.  "Tactless as I always
am, I came right in on your domestic scene.  I don't suppose you'll
ever forgive me.  Will you forgive me, you wicked man?"  She put
her little hand on Tom Longstaffe's arm.  He was confused, murmured
something.  She turned to Mary.  "I love your father.  He is the
only good man I know.  The only one.  In Spain once there was
another.  But he, alas . . ."  She shook her head, then brightened
with a brave triumphant effort.

"Will you forgive me for loving your father, dear?  You will have
to share him with a good many now, you know.  I am so glad you have
come to make him happy.  Good-bye, Mr. Johanson.  You are turning
my boys into marvels of physical fitness.  I am so grateful.  Good-
bye.  Good-bye.  No, no, you are not to bother.  I can find my way
perfectly."

But Tom Longstaffe did bother.  Johanson and Mary were left alone.

Mary smiled.

"She didn't ask me to go and see her," she said.  "They won't, you
know."

"Do you mind?" he asked.

It seemed as though in a second they had become friends.

"For father's sake, yes.  I want things to be easy for him.  He'll
be hurt if they are rude to me.  But I mean to stay, to make my own
life whatever they do.  I won't slink away.  This is Billy's home
where his father was, and this is MY home where my father is.  I
love every stick and stone here, Mr. Johanson.  I've dreamt about
the river and the fields and the Cathedral for years.  They will
like me to be back here if no one else will.  Does that sound
sentimental to you?"

"No," Johanson answered.  "I oft have such thoughts."

He was troubled.  He saw that his town that he loved and believed
in would perhaps behave badly in this affair and so lose some of
its beauty.  He did not want that to be.  And he did not want the
girl to be hurt, nor Tom, nor the little boy.  They must not be
hurt.  He would protect them.  But if his town was against them,
and then, because he protected them, was against him too?

He moved across the floor towards her as though already the attack
were beginning.



CHAPTER X

SEATOWN CAVES


Looney One-Two-Three, no older now than he was forty years ago, sat
on the old green bench in the corner of the market-place and
frizzled in the sun.  He was saying to himself, as he had been
saying now for forty years, "Something Strange and New is coming,"
and his object was, as it had been for forty years, to catch that
Something.  To catch it and then to do what with it?  He did not
know.  Like any wise man he would tell you when he caught it.

He was a fine man, very thick and broad, with hair snow-white (he
had not worn a hat for forty years; he would make his catch all the
better without it).  He was dressed as a fisherman in a blue jersey
and broad blue trousers, and he was dressed as a fisherman because
he was one.  Before he had given up his life to this catch of his
he had been a very good fisherman at Propperty Zezan-Tolooth.  Then
one night a storm had come crackling down from the heavens, and
ever since then he had given up catching pilchard and such poor
trash, and lain in wait for this other.  He had tried many a spot,
but the best of all was just here, under the wall of the Free
Library, whence you could see right across the shore to the line of
breakers, and it was there that the sea came pounding up from above
the Seatown Caves.

It amused him greatly (people often asked him why he smiled so much
to himself) to see all the queer traffic that crossed that shore--
not the sort of traffic that you would see on most sea-shores, but
sheep and oxen, carts and barrows, shining bits of furniture and
plates and flower-pots, all spread out there on the shore with the
line of water held, gleaming, just under the ridge of high cliff
that stupid idiots said were houses.  Houses!  As though he didn't
know better!  Houses!  As though he couldn't hear the sea pounding
down below in Seatown Caves; as though he couldn't see the
glittering shine of the sea, held taut like a string.  But one day
it would not be taut.  It would come roaring right across the
shore, carrying the farmers' legs and the booths and the cattle in
a fine confusion with it--and then, on that happy day, it would
carry right to his feet that Something New and Strange for which he
was waiting.  And wouldn't he collar it then?  It would be his, his
own, his very own.  No one else had waited as he had done, day
after day.  That was why he smiled to himself.  Because he knew
what was what.

He knew very well what the others would do if they found this new
thing.  They would play with it and praise it and show it to their
friends, and be proud of it so long as it kept its proper place and
didn't put their other things out: if it did they would throw it
away.  He would behave very differently.  It should do what it
liked with him.  He knew its value well enough.  Everything else
should go--his seaman's chest, his baccy jar, his stuffed parrot,
his copper coins, his compass and his Bible.  Yes, his Bible too.
He wouldn't want one when he had his treasure.

He felt as though to-day might be the day.  There was something in
the air, a kind of smell, a kind of shine.  The sun was so powerful
hot.  He could feel it upon the smooth wall of his chest; it
crawled up his trouser legs, it patted his arms.  He would watch
carefully to-day.  This afternoon (the Cathedral had sounded three
o'clock) the market-place was deserted.  He could see right across
to the line of thin white foam.  At any moment the sea might lurch
forward and cast the thing, round, glittering, golden, at his feet.
He stroked his strong legs.  He would watch . . .  He would
watch . . .  And so he fell asleep.

Not very far above his old white head, in a little room on the
first floor of the building that held the Free Library (given to us
in 1900), Cooper's Art Gallery and Dennison's Stores, Mr. Temperly,
the hairdresser's assistant, was also asleep, his pale hands
crossed over his thin chest and his shiny black hair falling over
his eyes.  He too was dreaming of Something New and Strange, and
his Strangeness was a woman all thighs and kindliness.  There were
no customers just then.  Mr. Broadbent, his master, was still at
his dinner.  He would be angry if he returned and found Temperly
sleeping: meanwhile the young man smiled and raised one hand.  But
One-Two-Three was right.  Did he catch his Strangeness he would
insist instantly on converting her into Temperly, and if she would
not be converted he would break her and throw her away.  But as yet
he had not caught her.

To the right of him again, and on a floor yet higher, Mrs.
Brodribb, the wife of the dentist, was nodding over her novel.  The
novel was entitled Her Lover's Pride, and between its pages Mrs.
Brodribb was finding HER Strangeness, a Strangeness to which
Brodribb had not as yet introduced her.  Her fingers clutched at
the vision.  Lord Hartopp bent towards her, his face all smiles.
She turned to make him proper Brodribb--the book fell with a
clatter to the floor.  She woke, and the vision was departed.

Far to the right, again, Harmer John was holding his first class of
middle-aged men.  The dark-blue blinds were half way down the
windows to keep away the sun, but patterns of colour lay across the
boards of the floor, and lozenges of light slipped up the legs of
the horse and fastened like leeches on to the parallel bars.  Above
the patterns of light six men, four fat and two lean, in their
vests and trousers, bent and raised, grunted and groaned.

It had been the idea of Mr. Cassidy, our leading grocer, only a
week ago.  He had caught it from his boy, who, a day-boy at the
School, was a member of Johanson's gymnastic class, and was so
deeply enthusiastic that he had broken the washing jug in his
bedroom.  Mr. Cassidy, a large, jolly, red-faced man, as all
grocers having to deal with delightful things like honey, dried
plums, figs, seed-cake and orange marmalade ought to be, caught his
son's enthusiasm, forgave the washing jug, and said to Mildmay the
auctioneer that very evening, "Why shouldn't we?  Good for us.  I'm
too fat and you're too fat.  Puff and blow going upstairs.  He's a
good fellow, that Swede.  I'll speak to him."  He did, and here is
the first class all puffing, bubbling, blowing and happy with self-
righteous approval.

Harmer John, in singlet and trousers, his neck and half his chest
and his arms bare, cracks out his commands, "One Two Three.  To the
right.  To the left.  Now forward.  Up again.  To the left.  To the
right.  One Two Three."

He loved them as he looked at them.  Not precisely as human beings,
but as fat to be reduced, knees to be straightened, muscles to be
developed, cheeks to be browned.  Look at that Cassidy with his
belly!  How was his heart going to stand all that fat?  And little
Massing of the Post Office with legs like matchwood, no chest, no
shoulders, no anything but a wispy moustache and an eager pathetic
eye!  And Carlyon the nurseryman--a giant of a man and brown,
healthy, clear-eyed!  What was he doing with that paunch and that
double chin?  The devil of it was that he had so little time with
them.  As it was they had squeezed this hour together with great
difficulty!  So busy they were!  And yet what did they do?  With
the exception of Carlyon, spending their days behind counters,
hiding in little rabbit-holes totting up their money, hurrying home
at night to stuffy meals, stuffy rooms, stuffy beds.  (This
business of sleeping two in a bed, how disgusting and insanitary!)
If only he could arouse them to the enthusiasm of five minutes in
the morning before the open window!  But looking at them, at their
middle-aged solidities, he knew that it would be no easy task.  He
must put some fire into them, some beautiful, cleansing, golden
fire that would burn away the dross, the fat, the sweat, the
accumulated laziness of years!  His face glowed, his body moved in
beautiful rhythmic time with his orders, "One Two Three.  One Two
Three.  Forward.  Now down.  Up again . . .  And now at rest!  Mr.
Cassidy, you breathe only with your nose.  Open your mouth.  So.
Breathe!  Breathe, man!  So.  That's better!"

The room was filled with friendliness and kindliness.  As they
rested they felt their pleasure with themselves and with him.  They
were stiff, they were hot, they were fatigued, but they were alive.
He was a good fellow, although a foreigner.  And really only half a
foreigner.  His mother had been an Englishwoman, and he was engaged
to a proper English girl.  They looked on him with approval.  They
admired the muscles of his arms and his great chest.  The strongest
man they had ever seen and modest with it.  Liking the town.  Best
town he'd ever known, he said, although he'd seen plenty of those
foreign places.  New ideas were good for Polchester so long as you
didn't upset everybody.  And the "Quality" liked him.  The
Cathedral people.  For a foreigner he was a remarkable man.

The hour was over.  They put on the collars and coats.  Better, he
told them, if they could bring special vest and trousers for these
exercises.  Best of all to follow the exercises with a cold
shower.  And then in the morning five minutes at the open window,
stripped. . . .

But they were not listening.  They had done enough.  They were
pleased with themselves and did not wish to feel that they had any
farther to go.  But they had thoughts of forming a Club, a Town
Gymnastic Club.  What did he think of the idea?  Drill in the
evenings.  Thirty, forty, fifty of them.  He thought it a fine
idea, and that led him on to the expansion of his own premises.  He
had thought of taking two much bigger rooms behind St. James's
Church in West Street.  Mr. Fletch knew about them and thought he
could secure them.  Not room enough here for the way things were
going.  Well, good day, good day!  Next Tuesday.  Same time.  Just
try five minutes before the open window . . .

He threw up the blind and the window and stood, looking on to the
sun-bathed Square.  He was free for the remainder of the afternoon.
The Square was yet deserted save for old Looney One-Two-Three
staring there in front of him.  Poor old Looney!  And yet not
perhaps to be pitied!  Always expecting something and happy in his
expectation.  Was there any better state?  But happiness?  Was
there any one in the world so happy as he, Harmer John?  Maude, his
work and the beauty there was in the world.  And this physical
fitness running through him like some mysterious stream of
beatitude and comfort.  He doubted nothing this afternoon, neither
his love nor his work nor his luck.  This blessed town and these
blessed people.  Their kindness and generosity and simplicity.  He
was moving them all and yet without preaching at them or trying to
change them.  Simply showing them this good idea of theirs.  And
when he was married to Maude and they had their little house and a
baby or two. . . .  What had he done to deserve such happiness and
such love?  Wasn't it unfair that he should have all the luck and
the work that he liked and the girl that he adored?  He would make
it up for the others, for the less fortunate.

At the very thought, as though he had evoked her, one of the less
fortunate entered his vision.  She was crossing the Square, moving
into the sunlight slowly, mournfully, with a dreary purposelessness.
Old Miss Eldred.  He was conscious of a momentary irritation, a tiny
pebble of annoyance breaking the shining surface of his pool of
content.  She moved across the Square trailing an umbrella after
her.  She looked up at the sky as though asking whether it were
going to rain, the kind of thing that on a beautiful stainless blue
day like this she would do.  Then she trailed on, turning in
melancholy fashion towards his building.  He moved, on an impulse
too sharp to be resisted, into the next room where Billy Trenant was
scratching his round head over some accounts.

"Billy, if Miss Eldred calls I'm not in, see?"

Billy grinned.  "Thought t'would come to that," he said.

"No, it hasn't come to nothing.  It's just that I'm busy."

He went back, closing the door behind him.  In his imagination he
could see Miss Eldred, her old bonnet a little askew, her thin lips
tightly set, umbrella clutched in her hand, pausing at the door
downstairs, opening it, then slowly trailing upstairs. . . .  Why
was he avoiding her?  It was his first piece of cowardice.  Back at
the window again he faced it.  He knew that he had two jobs on hand
and that one of these was prospering marvellously and the other was
not prospering at all.  The one that was prospering was the
practical one: for this he had, he saw quite clearly, a positive
genius.  His arrangement of the different classes, his organisation
of his different publics, the School, the Cathedral set, the town
officials, the tradesmen, the beginnings of his outside
correspondence (exercises sent by post, directions for fat
reduction and so on), his individual cases for massage like Ronder,
all this work was successful beyond his most ambitious hopes, and
successful because his natural talent stretched out into that
direction so that he worked in that field by intuition, by native
instinct.

But behind this work lay another and strangely, obstinately, almost
against his will, of far greater importance than the first.  With
the second work were embraced all his dreams, his visions, his
longings.  Those dreams of his at night that were of his very soul,
those visions that sprang into full glory when he stood beside the
Brytte Monument in the Cathedral, those longings that were all his
inner life, his love for Maude, his worship of beauty; a ladder
that stretched from the blue plate in his Copenhagen lodging to the
full glory of Heaven.

It was this second work that was not progressing at all.  Both
Shortt and Miss Eldred were failures.  He had asked Shortt to draw
some pictures for him, his ideal street, his town with the
beautiful buildings, the avenues of noble trees, the fountains and
the Squares, and Shortt had produced mussy scribbles.

Moreover Shortt was always drunk.

He had suggested to Miss Eldred that she should, with his help,
start a small class of girls, a class to discuss the Arts, to
consider Italian painting and sculpture, but Miss Eldred had done
nothing at all.  She only complained and protested.  He suspected
that she also drank.

He knew that many people laughed at him for making any advance
towards such failures as Shortt and Miss Eldred, and he was
conscious that when his dreams moved him he became blinded about
people and judged them badly.  He thought perhaps that he would
always be like that and would make the same mistakes in the future,
choosing the Eldreds and the Shortts all over again.

He saw, too, very clearly that in this second business of his he
would, as Wistons had warned him, have to pull down before he could
build up, and that, in pulling down, he would offend people and
would run into a new stream of contacts, many of them hostile.

And yet, although he saw this too clearly, his Dream was, with
every new day, becoming more important to him than his Business.

He did not, no indeed he did not, wish to improve people or change
them, but his fingers were itching to do things that would prove to
them, even on a tiny scale, how beautiful life might be.  It was
not that people were lazy or wicked or selfish, but that they
simply had not SEEN!  Their eyes were closed.  He was no better
than they, but he had been given an opportunity of SEEING.  He was
sure that it was all so simple.  A little co-operation, a little
comradeship with fun and goodwill, a little throwing aside of
personal interests, animosities, rivalries and the thing was done.
But where to begin?  He could not with his own hands pull down the
hideous brewery at the corner of Market Street, he could not go
down to Seatown and . . .

At the thought of Seatown he turned back from the window.  During
all these months he had intended to go down to Seatown, but every
moment had been occupied.  Now he had two clear hours.  He got his
hat, called to Billy to close the place up and stamped down the
stairs.



The market-place was busier now.  Old looney One-Two-Three still
sat there staring before him.  People moved in and out from the dim
arcades that were filled with plum-coloured shadows.  Two or three
farmers, their stout legs apart, their hats tilted back on their
heads, discussed together.  A nurse and a child dragging a toy cart
passed along.  The warm day played on the dark surfaces of the
sleepy buildings.

Harmer John, moving slowly forward across the Square, could not rid
his mind of Miss Eldred.  Anything more amateur than he had been in
his dealings with her and with Shortt too.  (He did not acknowledge
to himself that Maude was influencing him.)  Who had ever heard of
engaging a besotted drawing-master to make plans of an ideal city!
He should have engaged some capable efficient architect.  Capable
efficient architect!  The very words cut his dreams into ribbons of
air.  It was because Shortt was NOT efficient, because he had also
his dreams and visions, that Johanson had chosen him.  Yes, Shortt
had had his dreams once, but now so sodden, shiftless, mean had his
life become that his dreams, in sorrowful regret, had spread their
wings and left him.  Dreams would not stay for ever.

He was thus thinking, looking neither to left nor right, when,
close beside St. James's Church, he ran into somebody.  He stopped
abruptly, looked up, raised his hat.  It was Mary Longstaffe.  They
were in the shadow here, and the end of the houses beyond the
church ran forward, shutting them away from the market-place.
During these last days he had had so much upon his hands that he
had not thought of her.  He had a sense of shame now because of
that.  As he looked at her he again felt as though she were a woman
of his own country, flaxen, big-boned, upright, clear-eyed, brave
and--unromantic, unstirring.

She smiled, without shyness, honestly, as one man might greet
another.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Johanson," she said.  "Isn't it lovely
weather?"

"Yes."  He felt again that he liked her because she was tranquil,
calm, honest.  She would give good advice, would be wise and
temperate in council.  "How is the boy?  I must come one day and
see his treasures."

"Oh, Billy!"  She laughed.  "You made a great effect on him the
other day.  He is always speaking of you.  He calls you the Giant.
Do come and see us one afternoon.  We are both always in at tea-
time."

"Yes, I will."  He still held his hat in his hand.  He looked
straight into her eyes, and she had a deep impression of his
honesty, just as he had had of hers.  "I'm very busy and I like to
be that.  I can't have too much work.  I'm so keen at it that I
NEVER can have enough to do.  All the same," he looked at her with
a little perplexity, rubbing one hand through his hair, "I want
things to happen too quickly.  Miss Longstaffe, why is it you can't
make people see what you see, at once--hey, crack crack--just like
that.  We had in Stockholm an old clown at the circus when I was a
boy, and he went Hey, crack crack! like that with his fingers and
in a moment the girl on the white horse was a princess in gold and
silver.  I'd like to do it too with a snap of the fingers!  Hey,
crack crack!  And all is beautiful and people isn't fat any more,
and no one--"  He broke off.  "I'm getting preachy like a parson.
And I hate preaching, but I've gone so far I want to go farther,
and it's the next step is so difficult."

"Yes," she answered.  "But perhaps it wouldn't be good for you if
the next step were too easy.  You'd get conceited.  I'm getting
preachy too.  How easy it is to be preachy if you have an idea that
obsesses you.  Perhaps you shouldn't be afraid of being preachy,
but just go ahead.  Risk everything.  I'm all for risking!  We're
all so afraid of everything!  Why, before I came down here I was
afraid sometimes of whether the women would cut me.  And now I
don't care--I don't care a little bit."

"But they're not cutting you?" he asked almost fiercely.

"Oh no.  Of course not!"  She looked at him as though she dared him
to doubt her, then with a smile left him and went on her way.

As he too went forward he thought of Mary Longstaffe, and
considered her with his own Maude.  Strange that one woman should
move him not at all, and that the other with every glance should so
fire his senses!  His senses!  Yes, he was aware that with every
passing hour his love for Maude was growing.  He must marry her
soon.  She, too, was aware of that.  Their contact now, were it
only the touch of hands, stirred with danger.  He was unsteady with
the physical sense of her, and that physical sense seemed to hang
like a curtain of flame and smoke between his real spirit and hers.
It was her spirit that he loved, but, oh! he loved her body too and
he was afraid always now lest some movement, some accident of
privacy and juxtaposition, should be too strong for them.  A year
ago he would have said that his control over his body was such that
no earthly power or temptation could shake it.  But now he was not
sure.  He had been so ignorant then of what that blinding,
deafening, all-consuming physical need could be.

Old Miss Midgeley knew about this.  She was his great confidant
now.  He told her everything, and she understood marvellously.  She
knew Maude too.  He was not altogether blinded by his love.  There
were things in Maude that seemed very odd to him, English things he
supposed them.  Pruderies, conventions, superstitions, prejudices.
Pruderies in the very heart of her love, so that she would astound
him by her eager anxiety as to what neighbours would say or think.
She had little jealousies and rancours that seemed to him
altogether unworthy of her, and she had, apparently, a positive
hatred for her sister Judy.  That strange girl he did not pretend
to fathom.  She never said anything, only looked oddly and
cynically at them both, went about her household work as though she
scorned them all.  He must confess that he did not himself like her
very much.

In fine, complications were beginning to arise around Harmer John.



He was plunging down now into Bridge Street.  This was a lovely
afternoon, and if ever Seatown were to look its prettiest it would
be now.  But it was impossible for Seatown to be pretty.  Once,
perhaps, when a few cottages had nestled together at the foot of
the wooded hill and the Cathedral and Castle had towered into air
above them, when the Pol had run full flood and birds had sung in
the forest on the opposite hill.  These days were long departed,
nor would they ever return.

Seatown had been for many a day the place of outlaws, nor were
these outlaws of the picturesque and romantic kind.  Rather were
they the off-scourings of the district, loafers, idlers, thieves
and prostitutes.  In 1902 a disturbance had been made, and it
seemed for a moment as though the whole place would be uprooted,
but other influences had prevailed, a few cottages at the far end
of Pennicent Street had been pulled down, and that was all.

Disturb Seatown and you stirred a nest of wasps.  The foreign
strain always prevalent in Glebeshire blood was here paramount.
During that 1902 disturbance a mob of wild creatures had penetrated
the decent quarters of the town, threatening fire and brimstone,
swearing that they would burn down the Cathedral were they not left
alone, pulsing up to the very windows of Lord St. Leath himself.
And left alone they were.  At once they settled down to their old
customs.  To do them full justice, they did not interfere with the
rest of the town.  They despised and scorned their neighbours, kept
their outlawry proudly before them, called themselves descendants
of kings and Vikings, and hummed busily in their own hive.  They
are gone now, and their abiding-place with them, and the man at
this moment descending Bridge Street was the prophet of their
destruction.

The fine afternoon could do nothing for Bridge Street but make its
dirt and disorder the more apparent.  The very fashion in which the
street tilted down to the river as though it had not intended to go
as far but had been too backboneless to stay its impulse, gave a
slipshod air to the uneven and awkward buildings.  Once there had
been fine houses here--the doors and porticos showed that--but now
windows were broken, washing fluttered in the sunny air, dirty
unwashed children tumbled about the steps, mongrels sniffed the
gutters.  As he proceeded Johanson's wonder grew.  He was entering
into a new world, and a world for which he was not prepared.  He
had on two occasions been half-way down Bridge Street in search of
somebody, but he had not realised anything of this present
degradation.  He had seen, of course, slums bad enough both in
Stockholm and Copenhagen, and Nexö has painted for all the world
pictures of that jungle civilisation.  But those were big towns,
marts for the world.  The whole of the present world must change
before that wild garden of despair and ruin could be uprooted.
Here was another question.  Here was his own little town, the
little place that he had taken to his heart.  Here, too, was
something that COULD be altered.  The occupied space was so small,
the souls concerned comparatively so few. . . .

As he descended he had an odd sense that, like Wotan and Loge, he
was penetrating into some Nibelungen world.  The air thickened,
life became furtive and mysterious, faces peered at him from behind
dark windows, dogs slipped by busy on furtive errands, images
leaning with waxen figures against the walls were inhuman--of some
other race than man.  The bright blue air fell as though through
the opening of a vast encircling well.  The sky was brilliant
overhead, but the sunlight shadowed and thickened as it fell.  He
paused for a moment to gain some sense of the district that he was
reaching.  Above him on the left an old Georgian house with a
carved doorway and two bow windows on its first floor stretched
heavenwards.  Charming that house must once have been; now it had
fallen into slatternly and shabby habit.  No sign of life there.
He looked up to two attic windows on the top floor.  High up.  A
superb view there.  He did not know why he looked at them, or why,
having gazed, he earnestly read the number of the house.  One
hundred and three, Bridge Street.

What told him that that house was to take its place so prominently
in later events?  Enough that he knew.

But the silence!  He would not have believed, had he not witnessed,
that so close to the market-place, St. James's Church, the High
Street, life could thus change its character.

Above his head they were standing in the sun on the market cobbles
discussing happily the world's affairs.  Up the High Street the
Cathedral folk were passing to their tea, soon the Cathedral bells
would happily ring for Evensong, but here, as he stood, the strange
purple light enfolded him as though it were a disease cloud
descending from the heavens, as in some story that he had somewhere
read, to slay the world.

He passed onward and downward.  Bridge Street fell into Pennicent
Street, the main thoroughfare of Seatown.  This more than Bridge
Street had, in eighteenth-century days, known a gay and polished
life.  The street ran beside the Pol and was bounded from it only
by a thin grey wall.  The waters of the Pol ran sluggishly, and
with a strange blue iridescence.  The houses were reflected in that
water, dark, at odd angles with strange marks of personality,
living and sinister things like the buildings in a Meryon etching.
Here were ruin and destruction indeed.  Once, maybe, these houses
had had their gardens running to the river's edge gay with flowers.
Grubby remnants of gardens truncated by the intersecting street
remained, and in one there were even the ruins of a sundial.
Little alley-ways ran through the houses and behind them.  Beyond
the open doorways dark passages gaped and shaky wooden staircases
could be discerned.  Here, along Pennicent Street, there was more
life than in Bridge Street.  The fine afternoon called the people
out, and, like figures painted on some screen, they hung motionless
against the stealthy background, sitting on the river wall, on
steps, leaning against doors, or slipping in and out of passages.
They stared at Harmer John as he passed.  Because of his height and
breadth and swinging walk he always commanded interest wherever he
went.  He turned round once and smiled at two children, and they
ran silently into the house behind them.  He spoke to a man leaning
against a wall:  "A splendid day," he said, but the man gave him no
answer, only stared.

As he went anger rose in his heart, a strange confused anger new to
his experience.  He hated and loathed this place, and he hated and
loathed the indifference of the people above them who made this
place possible.  Those sleek overfed Canons and their superior
patronising women!  Then he remembered that only an hour or two
before he had been loving these people and praising them for their
kindness; so then his anger swung round upon himself.  How was he
better than they? he busied about his little selfish money-making
schemes, and he had been here for months and had not even bothered
to come near the place.  As he smelt the smells, saw the tattered
rags that stuffed the windows, saw the filthy children tumbling in
the puddles with the mongrel dogs, there was a great pain at his
heart, a pain that in some way, instinctively he knew, would never
let him go again.

He had stopped, without definite consciousness, in front of a
building rather more tottery and damp-scarred than its neighbours.
Some impulse moved him to penetrate the black passage, and then,
scarcely conscious of his own movement, he started to climb the
rickety staircase.  Here silence indeed engulfed him.  Almost
frightened at the sound of his own footfall, he paused.  As he
stayed there in that gathering dark it seemed to him that if he
moved higher he was taking a step that would change all his future
life.  Should he go up or should he go down?  A fantastic fear held
him; it was even as though some one laid a hand on his coat and
bade him descend.

So soon as he recognised this as fear, the choice was settled.  He
moved forward, but, even as he moved, he knew that he had taken
some decisive step.

Reaching a landing, he found on his left a closed door.  After a
moment's pause, moving still as though he were under the direction
of an outside power, he pushed it open and entered.  A room with
some of the panes of the window broken, with a large dirty bed
covered with sacking and one thin torn sheet, a smaller bed by the
side of it in which a little girl was lying, some broken chairs,
some bottles, some dirty plates on a table that had only three
legs, a tall thin woman with a long pale face standing by the end
of the bed, her hand to her throat, her eyes wide but not startled,
all this he at once realised.

"I beg pardon," he said, taking off his hat.  "I don't hope--"
Then he paused.  What had he to say?  For what reason was he there?

The woman said nothing.  She made no movement at all.  He stood
beside the door, smiling.  The room smelt musty, of unwashed flesh,
stale beer, cabbage, sickness, medicine, bad breath.  The sight of
the child touched him instantly.  He forgot the room, the woman.
He adored children always, one as another, good or wicked, weak or
strong, noisy or quiet.  He went over to the small bed.  The little
girl was perhaps five or six years of age.  Her hair, jet black,
scattered the pillow; her face, tiny for her age, like the face of
a doll, was peaked with weariness and pain.  She was not asleep:
her eyes moved drearily from right to left, from left to right.  He
bent forward and picked her up, then, with almost the same
movement, wrapped the blanket about her, sat down on one of the
chairs and held her close to him, feeling the hot little body
through the thin nightdress.  The child laid her head quite
naturally against his breast and her hand moved forward and caught
his.  She thought perhaps that he was the doctor.

"What's the matter?" he asked the woman.

"It's 'er 'ead," the woman answered.  "Terrible ache in 'er 'ead.
The doctor can't do nothing.  Says we came to 'im too late. . . .
She's dying.  Poor worm too."  The woman burst into low passionate
sobs.  She still stared in front of her, but the tears trickled
down her face as though she were powerless to stop them and did not
care.  She showed no surprise at his presence, nor at his holding
the child.  It was as though she had known him always.

Very gently he stroked the girl's forehead.  Ever since he could
remember there had lain special power in the touch of his hands.
How many he had cured ere now of headache, neuralgia and such ills!
His hands were strong and gentle, but also something emanated from
him, something of his own strength and fortitude and tenderness.
The little girl moved at first restlessly; once she looked up and
stared into his face as though asking him a question, then, with a
deep sigh, she settled down in his arms.  His hand moved backwards
and forwards across her forehead.  He did not speak, nor did the
woman.  She did not move.  Over all the house there stood silence.
For a long time his hand moved, then, the child deeply sleeping, he
took her and laid her gently in the bed.

The woman drew a deep breath.  "She ain't slept, not to call it
sleeping, for days and days," she whispered, gazing down at the
child.  She looked up at him, wonderingly.

He did not want to embarrass her.  He would like to give her money,
but thought that she might be proud, so he only said:

"I shall look in to-morrow, shan't I?"  He gave her a bow, walked
to the door, turned back once to look at the child and went out.



The little episode had relieved him for the moment of some of his
anger.  He must have been in that room a long while; when he was
again in the street the sun had vanished behind the houses and long
amber shadows engulfed the distance.

Then, once more, looking about him his anger came full tide.  The
dirt, the misery, the degradation!  He stood, his legs apart, his
arms moving as though, like Samson, he would pull the whole place
about his ears, even though himself were crushed in the ruins.

"Good evening, Mr. Johanson," a voice said in his ear.  "Who would
expect to find you down here?"

It was Samuel Hogg.  Not strange that it should be.  Johanson had
had an odd sense for the last month or so that the man had an eye
on him, watched his movements, followed him, insisted on some
strange relationship with him.  The very fact that this was the
only man in all the world whom he, Harmer John, hated gave their
relation some queer extra twist.  A tie of melodrama, so that he
always saw Hogg as some one unreal, out of drawing.  This meeting
now jerked his passion to a heat unusual to him.  This man owned
most of these houses.  It was due to him rather than to any other
that they were as they were.

"You've got a nice place down here," he said, turning round upon
him.  "Charming place--healthy and with every modern improvement.
I congratulate you."

Hogg stood quite close to him, his hat tilted back on his head,
smiling friendlily and gently.

"Now, come," he said, "it isn't all mine, you know."

"Oh, aren't it?"  Johanson was shaking with anger.  "You've had
plenty to do with it though, with this dirt and ugliness and smell.
You're proud with it, are you not?  You look at it and smile and
say: I'm a fine man, I!  I make plenty of money from their sores
and sickness and tears.  I'm a clever man, am I not?  I blind and
deafen them up there in the Town Council so that they don't enquire
too much and too often, and I find a Canon or two to buy a house or
two, and then it all looks respectable.  I have the finest slum in
all England, I have! the dirtiest and smelliest and most dangerous,
with disease so that all the children dies and the dogs feed in the
gutters.  I are a splendid man.  Every one's keen at me.  I will be
decorated one day for the fine things I do."

But Hogg was not at all annoyed.  He looked at Johanson in the
friendliest fashion.

"Now, see here, Mr. Johanson, don't get all worked up.  And take a
word of advice from me.  You've been abusing me, haven't you, so
you've given me the right in a kind of way to give you some
warning.  You're a foreigner.  You've been in this country only a
few months.  Every one's been nice to you and likes what you're
doing for the town.  Well and good.  Well AND good.  So long as
you're dealing with what you understand, it's all very handsome.
You're good at the massage business.  You understand about it,
which no one else in this place does, and it's good for the town
that you've come here.  I'll grant you that.  But you don't
understand everything, and my advice to you is to keep your nose
out of what don't concern you.  You begin messing round here and
you're asking for trouble--"

"Trouble!  Trouble!"  Johanson broke in.  "You dare to talk to me
of trouble and you let this go on, you make money of it, you--"

"Very well--very well," interrupted Hogg patiently.  "Grant that
I'm a scoundrel.  By your beautiful lights I daresay I may be.  But
I'm not talking about myself.  I'm talking of YOURSELF.  I'm in no
danger that I need to worry about, but YOU are.  You start fussing
round in places that aren't your business and you see the sort of
trouble you raise for yourself!  Lord! what do you know of English
social conditions or the way people live here or want to live?  And
you've got no poor in your own beautiful country, I suppose?  All
Paradise there, ain't it?  I DON'T think."

Johanson answered more quietly.  "You think you can frighten me.
You can't.  You think I'm talking of things I don't know.  It's
true I'm a foreigner, and it's true I don't know English social
conditions, but I know enough with my eyes to see this are wicked
and I'm going to make other people see too.  And I say you are a
dirty scoundrel, because you see how filthy this is and encourage
it being filthy so you make more money out from it.  That is the
foulest thing a man can do.  Any man would feel the same as me if
he could see what I see, and so he SHALL see!"

Hogg stepped backwards.  He stood, feet apart, his hands deep in
his trouser pockets.

"So you're going to down me, are you?" he said.  "Well, Mr.
Preaching Parson, try it and see."

With a nod not unfriendly he strode off down the street.




BOOK II

OF HOW HE STAYED WITH US




CHAPTER I

IN THE UPPER AIR--POPULARITY


The brotherhood of man might quickly be a realised happiness were
it not for the soil that divides us.  In spite of the timorous
flatteries poured down upon the unbending head of Mother Earth by
apprehensive worshippers, the soil divides.  We are standing
together, shoulder by shoulder, the view before us superb, the
sentiment in our hearts warm and comforting, when--a sudden fissure
at our feet, one of us tumbles in, the other hurries to safety.

Who knows but that Looney himself and Mrs. Bond might have been,
years ago, twin brother and sister, had it not been for that
hissing whisper from the sky that made all the Mrs. Bonds in the
world in an instant meaningless?  Other fish to fry.  Meanwhile
she, unaware of any friendship averted by nature, deserves a
further word.

When she came to live in our town she came with the most amiable
intentions.  She was a most amiable woman, amiable to herself,
amiable to others.  With the double object of being kind to herself
and very friendly to every one else, she settled down among us.
She chose her home wisely.  Her means were small.  She was a widow
and had three sons, Horace, Wellesley and Joseph, to educate.

In a larger town she might have slipped out of general notice; in
the country she would not have seen enough of her fellow human
beings whom she adored; she must be in some place where Horace,
Wellesley and Joseph could be educated adequately but economically.

It shows, I think, how swiftly our town was advancing that Mrs.
Bond should so easily and with so many smiles of welcome from her
neighbours occupy the place taken only a few years before by Ellen
Stiles and a few others.  When Archdeacon Brandon was alive we
were, socially, very small beer indeed.  At the little tea-parties
and dinners given by our upper ten, when scandal was talked at all
it was scandal of a very local kind.  We scarcely glanced beyond
the Polchester walls, and if London were mentioned it was spoken of
as a place remote and foreign.  How swiftly Mrs. Bond altered all
that!  She had travelled so much, knew Europe so thoroughly and the
East so charmingly that with one turn of her beautiful hand she
swung Polchester into the centre of the Universe.  "Pompeii!" she
cried to timid Mrs. Ryle at the very first tea-party that she
attended.  "You should see Timgad!"  (She was afterwards christened
Timgad by her enemies.  Who in this censorious world has not a
few?)

Consciously or unconsciously we all assisted in this splendid
attempt to push Polchester into the middle of Europe.  One shove,
all together, one more, together again, and we had done it.  There
Polchester is, somewhere nicely situated between Madrid and Paris.
But, once landed there, she had to be kept there, and the only one
of us who knew enough to carry THAT job through sufficiently was,
of course, Mrs. Bond.

It followed then, "as the night the day," that in no time at all
Mrs. Bond was the social leader of our town.  She recognised the
position and most graciously accepted it.  Her house (near the
bottom of Orange Street, just before you come to the river) was
tiny, and her means of course ridiculously small.  (Had she not
three growing sons to educate, and were not investments always
descending, and could you have expected Mr. Bond, who had had money
in oil, to leave very much?)  We never anticipated more than a cup
of tea or a sandwich in the evening as entertainment; nevertheless
her little dinner-parties were charming, and it was she who
introduced into our town the fashion of reducing dinners to three
courses, so much healthier for all of us.  (As every one knows, the
custom is now universal.)

The most wonderful thing about Mrs. Bond was the way in which, so
swiftly, she had the whole of our town at her finger-ends, the
people, I mean, and what they were all about, who loved whom, and
hated whom too, why so-and-so was offended with so-and-so, and why,
if you didn't take care, you'd have so-and-so at so-and-so's
throat. . . .  All about so-and-so, in fact.

Another wonderful thing was that she realised with astonishing
rapidity all our social grades and differences, recognised them
indeed a great deal more clearly than most of us ourselves had
hitherto done.  In Brandon's time there had not been many social
differences: there was the Cathedral set, the Tradespeople, and
what Mrs. Combermere used to call the "Huggermuggers," she of
course declaring in her funny independent way that she liked the
Huggermuggers best.

But now, developing as we were, every kind of social difference
began to appear: Mrs. Bond had her little finger on them all.
Which of us, for instance, had clearly perceived in the old days
that Mrs. Ryle the Precentor's wife wasn't "quite quite," and had
indeed in her earliest time been, for a short period, a governess?
Mrs. Bond discovered this when she had only been in our town a
fortnight.  Not that she disliked Mrs. Ryle.  She liked her
immensely.  She thought it a wicked shame that the fact that she
had once been a governess should influence anybody.  But there it
was.  Mrs. Bond wasn't going to allow it to influence HER.  That it
influenced certain other people less high-minded than Mrs. Bond
was, I am afraid, undeniable.

Then there was the question of the St. Leaths.  Every one knew, of
course, that young Lady St. Leath didn't get on very well with the
old Dowager Countess.  There was something to be said for both of
them.  You couldn't expect the Dowager to be glad that her only son
had married the daughter of a man who had died in disgrace, and the
sister of a man who had married Samuel Hogg's daughter, could you?
On the other hand, it was scarcely the fault of dear little Lady
St. Leath, who was so modest and kind and sweet-natured, that her
family had behaved so badly.

But none of us had ever thought for a moment of interfering or
taking sides in the St. Leath affair until Mrs. Bond came along and
showed us that we really couldn't be indifferent to it all.  For
her part she liked them both so much--the old Dowager and the young
Countess--that she was going to do her very best NOT to take sides.
Nevertheless . . .

I think that the Dowager and young Lady St. Leath were just
beginning to settle down together when Mrs. Bond came with her
European standards and showed them that it was impossible that they
should.

In a surprisingly short time Mrs. Bond knew every one in our town
and the private circumstances of every one.  This last was made
easier for her by the willing co-operation and help of her three
sons.  Horace was sixteen years of age, Wellesley thirteen, and
Joseph eleven.  They were fat, pale-faced boys, curiously like one
another, and not very popular at the School, I believe.  But they
were day-boys, and it is always difficult for day-boys to be
popular at a school that consists mainly of boarders.  Undoubtedly
they were very useful in bringing home social news to their mother,
whom they loved dearly.  They picked up so much that was
interesting from the other day-boys, and if they didn't actually
pick things up they invented them, which was almost as good.  They
had very polite manners, and would sit for hours in a room quietly
just noticing things--so quietly indeed that you forgot altogether
they were there, which forgetfulness was sometimes unfortunate in
its results.  Mrs. Bond adored her boys.  She called them her three
jewels.  They were all, she said, that she had now to live for.

If you wished, at any time, to discover just what it was that was
occupying the Polchester mind, all that you had to do was to drop
in at one of Mrs. Bond's delicious little tea-parties.  Here you
were most truly breathing "the Upper Air."  Mrs. Bond was careful
whom she had to these intimacies--she chose her generals, captains,
lieutenants, with the greatest tact.  Did you look in you would be
almost certain to find Julia Preston, a pretty but not very
intelligent lady, there.  Then there would be, as likely as not,
Canon Bentinck-Major, smart, shining and worshipful; Mrs.
Hammersley, wife of our most prominent banker, one of the Callender
girls, and Colonel Cartwright, our leading Conservative.  These
were Mrs. Bond's principal friends and supporters.  She had no
enemies.  "At least," she would say, "I refuse to recognise any.
If certain people don't like me it isn't my fault, is it?  I like
every one in this town.  I do indeed.  Why waste time and temper
over hostilities?  Yesterday some one told me that Ellen Stiles
couldn't abide me.  'My dear,' I answered, 'is that my fault?'  I
think Ellen is a perfect dear.  Only the other day I was defending
her when Aggie Templar said that she wouldn't have any more to do
with her because she wouldn't pay her card debts.  Why, even if
that were true . . ."

As I have said before, and as after events showed, it was a
thousand pities that we hadn't, all of us, Mrs. Bond's spirit of
charity and forgiving understanding.

Had you dropped in just now at one of Mrs. Bond's tea-parties you
would have discovered at once that Harmer John was the centre of
the town's observation.  And you would have discovered another
thing--that every one loved him.

He had taken the town's fancy, and when any one takes our town's
fancy we are generous indeed.

He took our fancy the more securely because he took it gradually.
At first there had been the sight of him--his tall, strong figure;
his jolly, friendly countenance; then rumours of his personality,
his kindliness, simplicity, love for our town; then a gradual
interest in the work that he was doing.  Gymnastics, health, vigour
and strength; then the recognition of his social acceptance, giving
Ronder massage, taken up by the School; then real knowledge of the
man himself; almost every one met him.  Because he was a foreigner
and "different," room could be made for him socially in every kind
of way; then his engagement to a girl of our town, his happiness at
that, and OUR happiness at seeing HIM happy (because truly at heart
we wanted nothing but to see every one happy).  And then, finally,
the creation of this Legend, the first of the Harmer John Legends.
(It will be seen afterwards how many there have been, and even
until this day . . .)

THIS was the Viking Legend.  Straight from the icy North he had
come, clean and straight and strong like a sapling from the
northern frost. . . .  And so on.  And so on.  The point was that
he should not be seen by any of us any longer as a human being, but
as a romantic illustration to some almost forgotten fairy tale.
Not QUITE forgotten.  He brought back with him our childhood again,
those delightful days when, at our mother's knee, we sat before a
roaring fire. . . .

In Mrs. Bond's little orange drawing-room, Julia Preston, gazing in
front of her, balancing her tea-cup on the thinnest bone of her
very thin knee, whispered in reminiscent murmur:

"There was that story of Hans Andersen's, that LOVELY story, about
the forest and the man who cut down the trees. . . .  Oh, don't you
remember, Beatrice (to Mrs. Hammersley)?  I can't remember it
precisely, but I know there was a forest and that splendid man. . . .
When I saw him coming up the High Street this morning swinging
along in that fine way--"

"You're too romantic for anything, Julia dear," Mrs. Bond
interrupted.  "The point really is that he is exactly what the town
wants.  So long as he doesn't interfere with anything that any one
else is doing--"

"Is it true," asked Beatrice Hammersley, "that he's a close friend
of Mary Longstaffe's?  That's a pity if it's true.  I haven't heard
it on any good authority, only somebody said . . ."

"There," broke in Mrs. Bond, standing up in her indignation and
addressing them all, "isn't that exactly like this place?  If
there's one thing that I detest it's scandal.  Why need we be for
ever running others down and speaking of them uncharitably?  Oh, I
don't mean you, Beatrice dear.  I'm sure a warmer-hearted woman
never existed.  But this is just another instance.  Why, Mr.
Longstaffe was the first friend he made in the place!  It's most
natural he should know the daughter.  _I_ don't think it odd that
he should have been there to meet her the first afternoon she
arrived."

"Was there when she arrived?" Julia Preston and Mrs. Hammersley
cried in chorus.

"Yes, I was there myself," Mrs. Bond rather reluctantly admitted.
"I'd no idea the girl was arriving just then.  Went in quite by
chance--and who should be there but the girl, her small boy, her
father and Johanson.  All most domestic.  There are many people who
would think from that that he was being admitted much too closely
into the bosom of the family.  It doesn't seem so to me.  He's
engaged to that nice pretty girl at the place where he lodges, and
any one who says to me that there's anything between him and Mary
Longstaffe . . ."

"All the same," Mrs. Hammersley broke in, "it does seem a pity.
That nasty girl and that splendid man, especially as he's engaged.
I think that some one ought to say something to him."

Mrs. Hammersley did not really MEAN that Mary Longstaffe was a
"nasty" girl.  She was a large red-faced woman brimming over with
good nature, but she admired Mrs. Bond immensely, was happy to be
there in that intimate circle drinking tea, and wished to take her
part, to fit into the atmosphere, to say something that would seem
striking and pleasant.  Mary Longstaffe and Harmer John were both
dim shadowy figures to her.  They did not cross her actual intimate
world.  She would have faced the most fearful ostracism or
deadliest isolation in defence of her lean, bald-headed husband,
her two bespectacled little girls, or her old mother in Drymouth.
But these distant figures, why should she not toss them about a
little if to do so made her position more pleasant and assured
round this charming tea-table?

Canon Ronder was announced.  Every one was delighted.  The moment
that his friendly, beaming spectacles were seen, a cosiness was
added to the cosiness already present.  He was given the best
chair.  He smiled upon them all.  He liked to be there.  They
adored to have him.

"We are talking of your protégé, Canon Ronder," Julia Preston said.
"The Great Dane.  The Viking.  Harmer John, you know."

Ronder was pleased.  He wished that Harmer John should be
considered his protégé.  He had heard that Wistons was taking him
up.  Just the way to ruin the fellow.  Who had given him his first
private job?  Who was always first in looking after the town's real
interests?

"Well, I can tell you something about that," he said, beaming round
upon them all.  "What do you say to a lecture from this hero, or
even two or three?  A demonstration, you know, with some of his
ablest pupils.  The suggestion has been made to him, and I think
something will come of it.  He's such a modest fellow that he
needed some persuading, but when he was shown what a help such a
thing would be to the cause that he had at heart he gave in.  The
affair is practically arranged.  In the Town Hall about three weeks
from now, and I am to take the chair."

Now wasn't that splendid?  Wasn't that the very thing?  How clever
of Canon Ronder to have thought of it!  A general sense of the
progressiveness of our town stole through the tea-scented air.  Who
could say that we were not moving?  Might not this man be the talk
of the County before long, and then, beyond the County, of London,
of England, of Europe?  A general movement was made towards Mrs.
Bond, naturally able to estimate Europe's trend of thought better
than the rest of us.

"In Odessa I remember once when my husband and I were passing
through . . ." she contributed.  Where exactly was Odessa?  But it
did not matter.  Odessa and Polchester met, hands clasped.

"He must be a remarkable sort of man," old Colonel Cartwright said,
stepping forward in his slow, cautious way.  "Have you heard the
way they're talking about him down in Seatown?  I'm told he
wandered down there the other day and into some rooms or other and
found a child dying there.  Just put his hands on the child's
forehead and cured it.  The women down there say he's a saint, they
tell me, and when he goes down, bring their babies and their
ailments, and one thing and another, just as though he were Christ
Himself."

"Ah! that's a pity," said Ronder gravely.  "He must stick to his
job.  He's just a fine young fellow who knows his work and is full
of enthusiasm for it.  If they begin spoiling him and making him
theatrical it will be a thousand pities.  I must speak to him about
it."

There was general agreement about this.  We don't want him spoilt,
and we don't want him putting his nose into something that he can't
possibly understand.  That's the worst of it; if you're not an
Englishman you never know where to stop.  However, he's young and
unspoilt.  A word from Canon Ronder.  And WHAT a fine fellow!
Straight from those northern mists, those virgin forests, those
untrodden snows. . . .  The figure rises, gigantic, God-like,
higher and higher, above the tea-cups, out over the house-tops,
towering titanic above the Cathedral roofs themselves.



At that very moment Johanson, in his shirt sleeves, was leaning
over the table in the outer office of his gymnasium, reading from a
book.  He was bending down upon his straightened arms as though he
had been arrested by the sight of the open book on the table as he
was crossing to pick up his coat.  His hair was tousled, his face
flushed.  He had just ceased work.  He was about to close the place
and go home.  Old Billy Trenant was standing there, looking up at
him with exactly the expression of a dog waiting for his master.
With his short thick body, his stumpy legs, his impertinent mouth
and affectionate eyes, he resembled precisely a Sealyham.

Johanson was reading:


When Levin reloaded his gun and moved on, the sun had already
risen, although it was still invisible behind the clouds.  The moon
had lost all its splendour and looked faint and pale; not a single
star could be seen.  The puddles, that a short time ago had looked
silvery in the dew, were now golden.  The grass too, that had
appeared bluish before, now assumed a yellow-green tint.  The swamp
birds were chirping about in the bushes sparkling with dew and
casting long shadows.  A hawk was sitting on a rick wagging its
head from side to side and looking discontentedly over the marsh.
Jackdaws were flying about in the meadow; a bare-footed boy was
leading the horses up to the old man, who raised himself from under
his coat and began scratching different parts of his body.  The
smoke from the shot lay like a white mist on the green grass.  A
boy came running towards Levin.

"There were wild ducks here yesterday!" he shouted from a distance
as he tried to catch him up.


Johanson was savouring a moment of exquisite pleasure.  He drew a
deep breath through his nostrils, raising his head, expanding his
chest.  The book was open there by chance--Anna Karenina, by
Tolstoi.  Miss Midgeley had lent it him.  He had not begun to read
it yet; the volume had been lying on the table there in the outside
office and some one had opened it at that place.  He had caught
sight of the open page as he was passing through to get his coat,
and he had stopped.  He was caught instantly away into that world
that during the last two or three months he had in some way lost.
There again was the house, the open rooms bathed in light, the
silver birch, the faintly purple sky, the Donatello "David" seen at
the top of the gleaming staircase . . . and with it all this
Tolstoi country blended, the bushes sparkling with dew, the bare-
footed boy, the horses, the smoke lying like a white mist. . . .

He straightened himself, looking about the room like a man in a
dream.  "Ah, that's good!" he thought.  "That life is mine.  That
is very true life."  And again, as so often before, he understood
that funny strawberry-faced old Miss Midgeley was always leading
him back into his true life, either by a book or a word or a
glance, as though she understood better than any one else in the
world what his life was.  There were people like that, not at all
your most intimate friends, almost strangers to you perhaps, who
yet understood better than any one else what your life ought to be
and were always leading you back to it.

But, stretching his arms, feeling through all his body the
magnificent weariness of a well-spent day, above all scenting ahead
of him the exquisite joy that was in store for him (a joy freshly
renewed every day, kept suspended in front of him and approached
ever more closely as the afternoon advanced), his evening meeting
with Maude, he went up to Trenant, took him by the shoulders and
gently shook him.  "I'm happy, Billy, terribly happy.  Is it
dangerous, do you think?"

"You deserve to be happy," Billy answered, looking at him with eyes
full of pride.  "You're a good man."

"Will you stick by me, Billy, whatever happens?"

"I'll never leave you," the old man answered, "'less you ask me to.
I've got terrible fond of you."

"You're an obstinate old devil," Johanson answered, "but I was
lucky to find you.  Well, good night."

"Good night, sir," Billy answered, and turned about to put the room
straight before locking up.

Coming out of the building and into the market-place he sniffed the
evening air, loving its freshness, its scents of the country town
where, the business of the day over, the smell of the fields, the
woods, the hill, comes stepping lightly into the streets, pressing
up the stairway, threading through the windows.  How small and
simple this place, but how lovable and friendly with the greetings
at the doorways, old Looney there on his faded green bench, and the
Cathedral bells singing the time through the air as though
especially for Harmer John going home from his work.

He felt, as so often before, that he would yet further postpone the
glorious instant of that meeting with Maude; that sight of her that
always told him with a rush of sensuous triumph that she was more
wonderful than all his imagination of the afternoon, stretching
like a gorgeous tapestry behind his hard and concentrated work, had
assured him.

"I will go in for a moment to Tom's.  The boy will just be going to
bed.  He misses me if I don't come."  He climbed Orange Street,
loving the English decorum of the old eighteenth-century doors, the
shining knockers, the neat propriety of the little stone steps, the
smiling pride of the gleaming professional plates, doctors and
lawyers and architects.  "No streets like these anywhere else in
the world, and they are mine.  Although I am half a foreigner,
England is mine.  I belong to it and trust it.  It has given me my
love and my Work, and in return I will give it everything I have
and am."

He opened the creaking gate and walked up the path.  Soon he was in
the old house smelling the old smells of varnish and books and
geraniums and tobacco that seemed to speak to him with a personal
voice.

"Hullo!" he called.

"Hullo!" came Mary Longstaffe's voice from upstairs.

Tom Longstaffe, puffing at his pipe, appeared at the doorway of the
study.

"Mary's upstairs bathing the kid," he cried, "I'll join you in a
minute."

He went up.  He knew the way to the bathroom.  The door was open;
Billy was in the bath sailing his boat; his mother, her sleeves
rolled up over her arms, was soaping his back.  At sight of his
friend he jumped up, scattering the water, pushing his mother back
with his hand, standing waving his arms:  "Mr. Johnson!  Mr.
Johnson!  I've got to ride you to bed, haven't I?  I've nearly
finished.  Oh, mother, that's soap enough.  I'm clean as clean.
Mr. Johnson, I've got a dog.  He's a Sealyham.  Grandfather's got
him.  He's down in the kitchen."

His voice, in his excitement, broke into a funny squeak: his body
shining in the light, the water running down his legs, his black
hair sticking up in little points made him seem a little animal
caught in the woods somewhere, quivering now with life.

"Good evening, Miss Longstaffe," Johanson said, "I don't hope you
mind my coming a moment."

She smiled as though they were very old friends.  "Oh no," she
said, straightening herself, seeming very large in the little room;
"Billy would have been terribly disappointed if you hadn't come.
He always seems to expect you on bath nights."  She sat down, a
towel on her lap, another over her arm.  Billy climbed out and
stood between her knees.

He talked all the while as his mother dried him:  "Mr. Johnson!
Mr. Johnson! the puppy's got a black eye.  That's why grandfather
bought him, because of his black eye.  Sealyhams oughtn't to, the
man said, and he isn't a proper Sealyham, but he's nearer that than
anything else.  I'm going to teach him to walk and hunt and
everything, only the awful thing is," here his voice dropped to
great gravity, "that he likes the kitchen better than anywhere and
he hasn't got to.  Mother says it's because he picks up scraps, but
I'm going to tie him to the leg of the dining-room table when I'm
not there.  That's enough, mother.  I'm dry now.  Yes, I really am.
I'll do my ears myself.  Mr. Johnson, I'm not fat, am I?  I haven't
a bit of fat on my body, have I?"

He said it with so grown-up an air that they both laughed.  He
turned round to Johanson, stretched out his arms, stood on his
toes, his face pursed up, anxiously, for approval.  So he stood,
his perfect little naked body like a flower in its first bloom, the
skin rosy from his bath, the eyes of absolute innocence and
honesty, the head royally posed, the little muscles showing beneath
the soft skin.  So he stood before life had written its narrative
upon him.

His mother threw his night-gown over his head; he wriggled into it
as a butterfly might waggle back into his chrysalis after a
moment's release.

"Now!" he cried, clapping his hands.  Johanson bent down, touching
the floor with his fingers.  Billy climbed on to his back, fixing
his arms around the thick, strong neck.  Johanson slowly rose and
the ride upstairs began.  Billy sat, his face lit with a serious
ecstasy, surveying the world from that great height.  All the world
was now different to him--the tops of the pictures, the corners
under the ceiling, the funny sudden ending of the wall-paper when
its pattern was only half finished, the great distance of the floor
and the strange different pattern that the carpet now made, the
foreshortened furniture with dumpy legs, but above all the pride,
the adventure, the triumph at being so high, at taking such risks,
at the companionship with the man whom already he admired more than
any one else in the world--all this was happiness and all this was
the first promise of that same spirit that was afterwards to lead
him to such splendid adventure and so glorious a death.

Up the narrow stairs they went, brushing the Caldecott pictures as
they went, along the passages lit now with the evening sun; soon he
was sinking, sinking; strong hands were about his body holding him
so firmly and yet so tenderly; he was between the sheets gazing in
silence at the ceiling.

In silence because it had been so great an experience.  Then he put
up his arms, pulled down Johanson's head and kissed him.  Then he
turned to the wall, sighed with happiness and almost at once, like
the animal that he was, was asleep.

They stood watching him for a moment, then went out into the
passage.  "What do you think?" Johanson said as they walked
downstairs, "I'm to give a lecture, perhaps two or three.  Canon
Ronder made the suggestion.  He says people want it.  I don't know
myself--what do you think?"

He was already feeling that this girl had more common sense than
any one else he knew.  No, not more than old Miss Midgeley, but
common sense of a different sort, knowledge of the world.  He felt
that she had suffered in the way that he would suffer if Maude died
or left him--suffer so that the wound would always be there, not to
make him misanthropic or cynical, but to change him forever.  So
she was changed.

"I think it's a very good idea," she said, smiling up at her
father, who had joined them.  "What will you do?  Read them a paper
or just talk?  Talking's better."

"Ah, that's one trouble," he said, "my English is so bad.  I'm shy
to expose it.  But I thought I would speak a little, and then have
some drilling exercises--four or five of us--and then speak some
more.  What do you say?"

"I think it's fine!" Tom Longstaffe cried eagerly.  "Why, you're
becoming the most important man in the place, Johnnie.  And then
you'll be so important that you'll be deserting us and going up to
London, and we'll never see you again."

"No, but you do think it's good, wise?" he asked earnestly, turning
round to her, his hand on her father's shoulder.  "Not too
conceited, not too bold?"

"Not a bit," she answered him confidently.  "And you'll have the
great satisfaction of being sure that no one else in the place
knows anything about it.  That's a great help, I'm sure, when
you're lecturing."

As he walked to his house he thought of the two of them standing
together in their doorway waving him good-bye.  They were wonderful
friends.  They would stand by him for ever whatever happened.  But
why this eternal "whatever happened"?  Into his happiness for a
moment a little chill foreboding fell.  It was because everything
was prospering so that he feared.  Not entirely.  He stopped for an
instant under the monument of that funny old frock-coated townsman
to be honest with himself.  It was because he was keeping things
away from himself, because he would not face everything, Seatown
and other things.  He had been to Seatown a number of times during
the last weeks seeing that sick child and--No, he would not!  He
gazed up at the evening sky with almost passionate entreaty.  This
day must be splendid.  He would not make it miserable with thought
of wrongs that he could not cure.  No, that he could not cure.  Not
now.  Afterwards.  Later.  Later.  Later.  Later.  The sibilant
trees seemed to whisper after him down the lane.

Outside the door of the house, as once before on that stormy night,
he stopped, waiting, with a beating heart, as though he were afraid
of the joy that was to come.  What if Maude were ill or had been
hurt in some accident, or were angry with him and would not see him
or--Laughing aloud at his own folly, he turned the handle of the
door and went in.

In the kitchen there was only Judy laying the table, gravely,
silently as always.  She did not like him, he could tell that; but
to-night every one must like him, and, conscious that for another
moment he was extending that gorgeous heart-throbbing anticipation
of Maude, hanging up his coat he said to her:

"Well, Judy, how is it?  All well although I'm away the whole day?
Bearing up?"

"You mean is Maude well?" she said, not looking at him.

"No, I don't.  I mean you--everybody.  I love all of you."

"Yes, so you say."

"But I do."  He went up to her, caught her head back and kissed
her.  Her cheeks flamed, but she replied nothing until, standing on
the other side of the table, she said quietly:

"You shouldn't have done that, Mr. Johanson.  It wasn't kind."

He was distressed.  In Denmark you kissed every girl, you thought
nothing about it at all; and she was Maude's sister.  And now he
had made her unhappy.

"Ah, Judy," he said, "I'm to be your brother.  We're brother and
sister almost already.  I want you to be happy as I are happy."

"Keep your kisses for Maude," she answered fiercely, "I don't want
them.  And we're not brother and sister.  You haven't married Maude
yet."

He looked at her with so kindly and friendly an expression that she
dropped her eyes as though she didn't wish to realise that he could
look at her so.

"No," he said, "that's true.  I've not married Maude yet.  I'm
terribly sorry I've hurt your feelings, Judy.  Why is it I'm always
wrong with you?  If I'm keen at anybody or anything I don't stop to
think enough.  People think longer in England than in most
countries.  I'll be the same when I've been here a while."

Her hand trembled as she arranged some knives and forks.  She only
said, looking up at him quickly:

"Here's Maude."

She came towards him wearing her hat and coat.  "Let's go out," she
said to him quickly.  "There's twenty minutes before supper.  It's
so close in here."

He took down his hat and they went out.  They often did that now--
privacy was difficult in the house; but on such a purple silver
evening as this they could cut away, along the lane and then
through the wicket-gate to the left down the slope of the field,
through the hedge and up the hill on the other side, over the very
ground, had they but known it, once trodden so disastrously by
Brandon.

They had a favourite tree, old, thick, of multitudinous branches,
and under it on a warm evening they could sit, close together,
seeing the lights of the town come out, smelling the evening scents
of grass and flower, sometimes facing the orange glow of sunset as
it whirled across the sky.

To-night he knew, by the way that she clung to him, kissing him
again and again, stroking slowly his hair, thrusting her hand in
between his waistcoat and thin shirt above the beating of his
heart, that she was in a storm of love.  Every throb of his blood
responded to her, but as he held her close to him with all the
strength that he could muster he controlled himself, feeling that
she was like some small lonely bird in his hands--the nightingale,
perhaps, that they had released--and that he must keep her safe
from all harm, must watch over her and guard her.

Her cheek resting against his, she murmured, "I have wanted you so
to-day--oh, terribly!  It was all I could do not to go to the
office to see whether you were still there.  Yes, I felt this
morning that you had disappeared.  Just as you came here that
night.  You don't belong to us really--not to mother, nor me, nor
the town, nor any of us.  You'll go one night just as you came.  I
know you will.  I know you will."

He held her closer and closer, her body in his hands as though it
were his body.  But he felt a swift strange apprehension born
through her words.  Was it so?  Did he not belong here?  Was this
place, this love, this work a dream, and was there some other life
waiting for him that would catch him back and awaken him to
reality?

No, his love for her was real enough.  He knew it: it went far
beyond the desire of body for body, far beyond these embraces that
were only the feeble sign of its presence, deep into some dark
under-world of longing.

"We can never separate, you and I," he spoke to the pale shadow of
the sky, the dark curtain of the tree above their heads.  "If we
were to quarrel, to separate, never meet in the flesh again, I
would still hold you, you will never be free of me."

"But I don't want it like that," she answered.  "Oh, Johnnie, I
want us to be married--soon, soon, soon.  You aren't mine until
then; but when we are sleeping together, and when I can look up and
see you sleeping there beside me and know that the whole of you is
mine, that you aren't a ghost--"

"And when we have children," he broke in upon her gently.

"No, I'll be jealous of them.  They'll take you from me, part of
you.  I'll be jealous of anybody, anything--"

She drew herself away from him, resting her elbow on the grass,
looking up at him.

"Where were you to-night before you came home?  You were later than
usual.  I know.  You went in to see those Longstaffes."

Her voice that had been soft was now sharp, a little shrill, with a
common Glebeshire tang in it.

"Yes," he said quietly, "I looked in there for a moment."

She drew farther away from him.

"I knew it.  You're always going in there.  What can you see in
those people?"

He made no answer.  She waited, then went on, her voice more
shrill.  "I know what you see in them.  It's that girl, that girl
that ought never to have shown her face in this town, bringing back
her baby and all.  I--"

She broke off, aware perhaps of the speed with which they were
travelling away from their happiness of a few moments before.  She
plucked at the grass.

He drew her back to him.  Her body was at first stiff, then
yielded, and with a sigh she buried her face in his coat.

"Maude, Maude," he answered her gently, "you must trust me more
than that.  You must know what my love for you are.  There can be
nothing but trust when two people love one another as we.  Tom
Longstaffe were my first friend, outside your house, in all this
place.  He were the first to hold out his hand and take mine.  I
don't hope you're jealous of Tom Longstaffe--" he laughed.

"No, not of him," she murmured, "but of the girl--"

"Then there is the boy," he went on, "the small boy.  He is a fine
little boy, strong and brave, and until you give me some I must
have some children somewhere near.  Always I had to have, in
Copenhagen, Stockholm, everywhere."

"But you'd give them up if I asked you?" she said quickly.

"Give them up?" he asked.  "How do you mean?"

"If I said that I wouldn't marry you unless you gave them up--"

"Ah, but you wouldn't," he answered her.  "You couldn't.  It
wouldn't be you.  Another woman, yes.  But I couldn't love another
woman while you live."

"But if I asked you to give her up?"

"Give her up?  Miss Longstaffe?  Yes, if I loved her.  I would see
then that I must choose between you and her.  But I don't love her.
I shall never love her.  You don't understand, Maude, how my love
is for you.  It is everything--all my body, soul, spirit.  While
you live there will never be another woman.  I have waited for you
all my life and now I have you.  But I must be free too.  Not free
to love other women, but to have my friends and my life.  And you
must be free too, to have YOUR life."

She realised that.  He was just.  She believed in what he said--
now.  But later?  She leaned up, drew his head down to her.  So
they stayed for a while, then quietly walked down the darkening
fields towards the town.



CHAPTER II

THE FIRST LECTURE


Three days later Maude went for a week to the little village of
Rafiel to stay with an aunt who was expected to leave money.

Johanson wrote her five letters, and these are extracts:


MR DEAREST BELUVEDEST DARLING--I am escaped the dull wether its
been since you left by a lot of work but I am thinking so much of
you and I hav had no word from you onely that line with lov, I
don't hope you're angry with me?

I am beginning to wok tomorrow for the lecture and every one are so
nice about it onely old Miss Eldred with complains over my not
giveing her more to do because I am always thinking of myself.
Well, I'm not are I, darling?  It shall be fine for the lecture,
first I shal talk about thery and such things, not much talking you
know becaus my english is bad and then there will be five of us--
me, Walter Pearce, Harry Pearce, Franklin and my young Trennent boy
and we shall do all the exercises and the pyramyd and everything.
Then I shal talk some more and it will be all over--one hour and a
haf I think.  I shal look forward darling til your coming and
seeing me mak my ecercises properly wich you never hav yet.  I
think of you allways morning afternoon evening and I hop we shall
spend a nice time together when you return.  I do love you so--I do--
I love you for ever and ever and ever.  A great hug from your
devoted luver,

                                                      HJALMAR.


. . . Last night I could not sleep.  It aren't like me at all not
to sleep but I wanted you so badly my darling.  I walked down and
up my little room and thought of you and how you would be sleeping
and then of all the great towns in the world and not one haveing
any one so luvley as you and I sent you such heeps of lov that I
think you should have waked in your sleep and known what I were
thinking.

The work are moveing finely.  The two Pearce boys are proud I have
asked them and I have nau aranged everything for my perfermence, I
feel something like a Cirkus darling like a cammul or ellifant you
understand how I would feel dont you but Cannon Ronder says it
shall do all the people good and I'm sure I hop so.  I am nau
ending this but shal write again tomorrow and I thought your letter
should hav been longer but it was very sweet what it said and I lov
you more with every breth I breath.--Your adoring luver,

                                                      HJALMAR.


. . . I were so tired yesterday with all the work for the lecture
and all the audinary work to that I com home an hour erly.  I read
a book Miss Midgeley have given me, very fine, Anna Karenina, by a
Russian about marriage happy and unhappy.  I dont hope you shal be
like Anna darling onely when I am returning to wok when we are
married you must not be dul without me as she were without her
husband that is the way for married people to be unhappy with one
another.  There is another man in the book Levin his name is and
although he is a Russian that dossent matter because he is like a
brother to me.  I feel like he does about everything.  Your mother
have a cold and Judy sulks she wont spik to any one and we doessent
know what is the matter.

Fletch is asking me about the new buildings I should hav will I hav
them and I said yes allthow I must borrow money from him but I must
have more room nau dont you think so darling?  Your mother is a
wunderfull woman.  I luv her allmost like you not quiet but neerly.
She is so quite but allways the same and we understand one anuther
wunderfull.  You must forgiv my spelling dearest onely english is
not written as it is spokken is it.  Your muther dossent want me to
tak the money from Fletch but what shall I do?  I must have more
room and there is no other place will do like these rooms in Market
Street and I must hav them from Fletch if I get them.  What do you
say darling?  In your letter you say you count the minites till you
see me again and so I do you.  I am onely hoping we shal be married
in two or three munths I cant waite longer for you and these
engagements are cruel are not they when two people luv one another
like you and me.  O darling com home, com home I ake and ake for
you to hav you in my arms and mak you happy with kisses and heer
your voice and see your eyes--Darling, darling if I could writ to
you in Swedish language I would say so mutch but with this spelling
it caches me up.  I luv you so more every minit.--Your luving
luver,

                                                      HJALMAR.


. . . and the day after tomorrow you shall be home again.  It seems
to mutch to beleeve.  I am coming to the station although I should
not because of my wok.  That goes splendidly and every one seems
keen at the lecture.  In anuther day or more there will be notices
in the tawn about it and then they will buy tikets or I hop so.
Would not it be terrible darling if no one bought tikets and onely
a few friends came but I dont hope that and Cannon Ronder says that
every one are comming.  I had a dream of you last night singing in
my garden not a garden you know of but one I dream of and allways
the same garden.  You was never in it befor but last night you were
there singing in a tree and I could not see you but you sang that
you were allways there now and would never leave me and that made
me terrible happy.  You told me once that dreams were foolish but
somtimes I am not certin which are dreams and which are real.  You
are perhaps a dream what is truely you I mean. . . .  Com quick, I
want you.  I want you I must kiss you soon. . . .


She returned, looking so lovely that he did not know why every one
in the street did not stand transfixed by her beauty.  But they did
not; only old Looney sat motionless watching the sea draw its
crystal line up on the shore beneath the shaggy rock.

Notices were posted.


                          A LECTURE
                          ENTITLED
                  PHYSICAL FITNESS AND ITS
                RELATION TO HUMAN HAPPINESS,
                    WITH DEMONSTRATIONS,
                        WILL BE GIVEN
                             BY
                      HJALMAR JOHANSON,
                     GYMNASTIC PROFESSOR
            (Stockholm, Gothenburg, Copenhagen),
                             ON
                 Wednesday, May 22nd, 1907,
                           IN THE
                   TOWN HALL, POLCHESTER.
                   Chairman--CANON RONDER.
                         ----------
                      Doors Open 7.30.
                       Carriages 9.30.


They were posted liberally.  It was impossible to avoid Johanson's
name.  He felt shy like a girl.  He walked up the side streets
home.

Then four things occurred, all small things and all, for their
consequences, important.

First, he met Mrs. Bond in the street.  She looked like a flower,
so dainty and fresh and dewy she was.  She smiled--the smile that
has made people happy from Timgad to Beersheba.  It made Johanson
happy; he was happy already because it was a fine day and the
tickets were selling so well for his lecture.  He looked down at
her, and she looked up at him.  She did not like men who were too
tall; that was something that she had against him from the first.

"Oh, Mr. Johnson, I am so glad to see you.  I am coming to your
lecture, you know.  I am looking forward to it so much."

"Yes," he said.  "It shall be very interesting."

"I'm sure it will be," she answered.  (What a conceited man! she
thought.)  "And so good for all of us.  And oh, Mr. Johnson, my boy
Horace tells me that he is in your gymnastic class at school, and
he is enjoying it so much.  I do hope he is good at his work and
improving."

Johanson should have been warned, but it was a beautiful day and
every one was smiling.  Then he had never been a cautious man.  He
hated the Bond boy; of all the boys in the class that was the boy
the most hated by him.  The Bond boy was mean and false and
treacherous, trying always himself to avoid work and to fasten it
upon others.  Yes, he hated the Bond boy, so, looking down upon the
smiling mother, he answered, "No, he doesn't work.  I'm sorry to
say it, but he's the most lazy boy in the class.  He's not keen at
his work at all and he's too fat, much too fat for his years.
White in the face too."  And, having said this, he looked at Mrs.
Bond with the same friendliness as though he had said nothing at
all to wound her maternal heart.  And she smiled back at him with
all the courtesy of a thousand European civilisations.

"Oh dear, I'm sorry to hear that.  I must speak to him.  He didn't
give me that impression; he seemed to be enjoying his work so much.
All my three boys are coming to your lecture and I'm sure it will
do them so much good.  We ARE so looking forward. . . .  Good-bye.
Good-bye--"

And that same afternoon she began her work, declaring at Mrs.
Ryle's, "I met that nice gymnastic man in the High Street this
afternoon, and I do like him so much.  It's quite untrue that he's
getting swollen-headed, as people say, and the rest.  People are so
unfair.  Of course a foreigner has a different code of morals
altogether from ourselves.  Nevertheless to say, as people do . . ."



The second thing that occurred was an impulse.  He had an amazing
unexpected impulse to strangle Canon Ronder.  He went, as always,
twice a week, to massage Ronder in his house.  This deed was
executed in his bedroom.  He did not like the Canon's bedroom
because it was, to his feeling, too effeminate.  The curtains were
of old rose brocade, there was a piece of African silk on the bed,
a copy (a fine one) of Botticelli's "Primavera" over the
mantelpiece, a dressing-gown of dark brown silk over the back of
the chair.  The Canon, during the massage, wore pyjamas of white
silk.  There were flowers in the room, rose-coloured tulips, and on
the floor a thick purple-tinted Persian carpet.  Too much silk, too
many colours, not enough windows open.

When the Canon lay on his bed (the African silk removed from it),
his pyjama jacket open, his skin was so fat and so smooth and so
white that Johanson felt, looking at him, a strange kind of
impropriety.  He had not a hair on his chest, and without his round
spectacles his eyes were strange, cynical, sarcastic, sensual.  "He
didn't ought to be a clergyman" had been Johanson's first thought
when he saw him naked, without his spectacles, stretched upon his
bed.

However, he had been to see him now on so many occasions that he
had lost some of his uneasiness, almost all of it.  Then to-day,
unexpectedly, it came back to him and in great force.

"Turn over, please," and Ronder slowly, like some animal rolling in
a pool, turned over.

All this while Ronder, lying on his back, had been talking and
talking well.  He had stared at the ceiling and from it had
extracted the true purpose of his discourse, which was as follows:
that by this time he and Johanson were friends--was it not so?  The
town in general recognised this, and it was felt by everybody that
he and Johanson were working together for some common purpose, and
that purpose was the advancement of Polchester.

Now, each had his own gifts, Ronder his and Johanson his.  Johanson
knew so much that no one else in the town knew, but Ronder was
older, had more knowledge of the world and had more knowledge
especially of Polchester, its citizens, its classes and divisions,
its true needs.  This lecture that was coming might be taken as the
first public step forward made by Ronder and Johanson together.
Would Johanson then be guided a little by Ronder?  This town was a
queer one, odd in its prejudices, superstitions, sudden
resentments.  One false step might ruin everything.

Now--and Ronder, gazing at the snow-white ceiling, hoped that
Johanson would remember that he had not anywhere in the world a
better friend--would Johanson mind a little plain speaking?  He,
Ronder, had heard one or two things.  This was, like all small
towns, a terrible place for gossip, and Ronder had heard that
Johanson had been expressing in public his horrified surprise at
the state of things in Seatown.  Of course, Seatown was not
perfect.  Something had already been done and there were plans for
the future--well, Johanson might trust the Cathedral body to see to
the future.  And was it really quite Johanson's place to meddle in
this matter?  Wasn't he interfering a little in the province of
others?  Did he understand sufficiently as yet English conditions?
He had heard that some hysterical women in Seatown had been
proclaiming Johanson as a kind of miracle-worker.  That was a
dangerous mood if it went too far.  Those people down in Seatown
had foreign blood in their veins--foreign blood, dangerous when
roused.  And then another thing.  Ronder did hope that Johanson did
not mind this friendly word.  But was Johanson wise to make such
close friends just now of the Longstaffes?  Excellent fellow, Tom
Longstaffe.  One of the best clergymen in the whole diocese.  But
Johanson, being a foreigner, did not in all probability quite
realise what English people felt about Miss Longstaffe's behaviour.
Poor girl!  Ronder, who was a man of the world, could see clearly
enough the extenuation for her fault.  But a fault it was, a fault
against God and the social laws of our country, and she had been,
beyond doubt, ill-advised to return with her child to the place
where it had occurred.  He did not blame her; it was natural enough
that she should wish to be with her father, but Johanson must
remember that he was now beginning a splendid work that might mean
the happiness and well-being of many thousands of human beings, and
that he had but recently engaged himself to a charming girl in the
town, and that people WOULD talk. . . .

It was at this moment that Johanson said, "Turn over, please."

After Ronder turned over he had but little opportunity for further
advice.  Johanson gave him that evening an excellent massage.  His
white flesh crimsoned.  His stout legs were bent backwards, his
thighs twisted, his arms stretched.  Once or twice he uttered
little cries, he panted, he writhed.  Once he half rose in protest.

At the end he sat up, breathing very heavily.  "Oh, dear one!" he
cried.  "You did give me a pummelling!"

Johanson laughed.  His round, boyish countenance expressed nothing
but happy friendliness.  "If I hurt you--" he began.  He stopped
and then added reflectively, "It won't last long."

"You didn't mind what I said, did you?" asked Ronder, feeling for
his spectacles.

"Not at all.  Not at all," laughed Johanson.



The third incident was brief.

One evening returning homewards, he ran into the Longstaffes to
tell them some agreeable news about the lecture's prospects.  The
door was open.  No one was in the hall.  He called.  There was no
answer.  He crossed into the study and, knocking, entered.

Little Tom Longstaffe, his face puckered with distress, was
standing there.  Mary Longstaffe, turning to leave the room, almost
ran into Johanson.  She was crying.

He had seen her always strong, absolutely controlled, like a man
rather than a woman.  This was a new figure revealed to him.  She
brushed past him without speaking and left the room.

"Why, Tom, what's this?" he cried.  Then, as Longstaffe looked at
him in a kind of bewilderment as though he had not recognised him,
he went on quickly, "I'm sorry.  I should not have come in.  I'll
come to-morrow."

"No," Longstaffe said, smiling through his trouble.  "It's all
right.  We're a bit upset.  Only a letter a beastly woman's sent me
about Mary.  I was a fool to press her for her reasons for giving
the church up.  One ought always to leave people alone.  But she
was one of the best workers we had--"

"About Mary?" Johanson asked.  "What about Mary?"

"Oh, the usual thing.  That until Mary leaves the place she must
give up coming to the church.  That I ought to understand the
scandal it's making, and so on and so on.  I didn't mean Mary to
see it, of course, but she opened it by mistake.  And now she says
that she must go back to London, she and Billy, and the trouble is
that now I don't think I can get on without them.  Having had them
here these weeks makes it so hard.  And yet there's my work. . . ."

Johanson breathed deep.  "That's what this town is," he said
slowly.  "After all these years they can so persecute you. . . ."

"It's right," Tom interrupted, "from their point of view.  I saw
it, of course, from the very beginning.  It's no animus against
Mary, but the thing she stands for.  Forgive her and you have to
forgive so much.  And they have children, girls of their own."

Johanson was silent, thinking steadily.

"But not the cruelty," he said slowly.  "Not the persecution.  And
how can they judge?  With their own faults. . . .  Who is good
enough?  It's blindness, dead blindness."

He looked so deeply distressed that Tom went up to him, drew his
arm through his and so stood close to him.

"Don't you worry about our troubles," he said.  "We'll see the way
through them."

"But I must worry," Johanson answered.  "You're my friend."

"Yes," Tom answered, laughing.  "But friendship doesn't involve
such burdens."

"It involves every burden," Johanson answered.  "It were as though
it happens to me myself.  I am you, you am I."

"Well, the sentiment's all right even though the grammar's a bit
mixed," said Tom.  "It's something having you for a friend.  Yes,
it IS something."

Johanson turned away slowly.

"I must go to Mary," Tom said.  "Come in to-morrow."

Johanson walked away, thinking deeply.  For the first time he had
forgotten that Maude was waiting for him.



The fourth incident was a dialogue, and it stepped, one spring
evening, out of the great West door of the Cathedral.

The shining stretch of grass was deserted.  Perfect peace rested
there.  No human soul to be seen until Ambrose Wistons pushed back
the leather flap of the door and emerged.  A moment later Johanson
followed him.

For a second Johanson hesitated.  It had been dark in the
Cathedral, a changing shadow of purple dusk.  He had been standing,
as he loved to stand, before the Brytte Monument, feeling that odd
companionship with the young artist who preceded him.  Surely
something there?  Something stirring in the heart of the grey stone
seeking for his affection, wondering impatiently, perhaps, why
contact was not achieved more easily?  Was it only fancy bred of
his love of the beauty of the brass and stone? or was it that he
had a friend here who was struggling to tell him something that he
should know?  As the dusk fell closer about him and he turned away,
as he always did, with a sigh for something baffled, bewildered,
frustrated, was it only fancy that the ghost of a sigh came to him
across the evening air?  At least, leaving the great church, he was
aware in his very heart of the personality of that young artist
taken away so early and yet lingering so long.  One beautiful
conception, one fine thought, one gracious kindliness--how
interminably long these things lasted, irritating all the cynical
souls, exasperating those who would see life truly as it is,
encouraging the sentimentalists in their false and cowardly dreams!
Life as it is!  How difficult!  If it would only stand still for
one moment to allow one to survey it properly.  "Now, life!  Stand
still, can't you?  How can I photograph you if you are always
moving?"  Life as it isn't!  Some hope there.  Daily bread for the
poets at least.

But Johanson was not troubled.  He took all the fish that came into
his net, threw back the small ones into the water again and
consumed the others.  Cruel?  If the position had been reversed he
would not have grudged the fish their meal.

Now, coming into the proper clear-minded air, he saw Wistons.  He
had spoken to him only once since that conversation of theirs, and
that had been for a moment in Orange Street, courteous, friendly,
but with no contact.  The man had warned him that there could be no
friendship with him, but it was not friendship that Johanson
needed.  He admired this man as he admired no one else in
Polchester, coldly, perhaps impersonally, but with a certainty of
his courage and his passion for truth.  He must speak to him even
though he were snubbed.

"Sir."  He came up with him.  Wistons stopped abruptly.  "I beg
pardon, but it were such a lovely evening."  He paused, fingering
his hat which he had taken off like an awkward boy.

Wistons turned and held out his hand.  "I'm very glad to see you,
Mr. Johanson.  I didn't know you were in the Cathedral."

They walked slowly together across the Green.

"I hope you'll forgive me," Johanson said, "but I couldn't help
speak to you.  I think often of the talk we had.  It helped me so
much and I thought I should tell you that."

"It helped me too," Wistons answered gravely.  "How are you getting
along?  I see you're giving a lecture.  That's good.  I'm glad."

"You think it's good?" Johanson said eagerly.  "I feared you might
feel it impertinent of me after being here so little a time--"

"No, no.  How could I?  The more people that you can interest in
such things as bodily fitness and healthy exercise the better."

"But it don't stop at that," Johanson went on still more eagerly.
"The body's so mixed with the rest.  I'm beginning to think of so
many things, Mr. Wistons, that maybe isn't my business at all, and
yet if I stay with what IS my business I'm not comfortable.  I'd
wish not to think of the other things, but they won't lie down."

Wistons turned to him almost angrily.  "Why do you come to me?" he
asked.  "When I can't help myself, how can I help others?"

They had stopped and stood looking at one another.

"Because," Johanson answered, "more than any other in this town you
care for the truth.  Many questions are coming to me now, Mr.
Wistons, that never come to me before.  Every day there are more.
They won't leave me alone.  I wouldn't speak to you now, but what
you said the other day when we talked gave me encouragement."

Wistons looked at him for a long time without speaking.  Then he
said abruptly, "Will you come out to my house one evening, after
this lecture, and have supper with me?"

"Yes, sir, I will."

"That's good.  I'll write to you."

"Thank you, sir.  I'll be glad of it.  Goodnight."

"Good night."



And now it was the night of the lecture.  Already by seven o'clock
there was a little crowd outside the Town Hall doors, for the most
part small inquisitive boys who climbed about the steps, made faces
at the statue of Sir Samuel Bowerman, M.P., to the right of the
door, and whistled and shouted until Perry, the policeman, a
splendid figure, advanced and rebuked them.  Then, his back turned,
they triumphantly resumed.

It was the right kind of evening for the lecture, fine and dry, but
not too warm.  We had not, in those pre-war years, had so many
lectures in Polchester that we could regard this one indifferently.
And this was an unusual lecture.  We had had nothing like it since
Signor Della Rosa, the Strong Man, in '92.  So, by seven-thirty,
there was a thick stream pouring through the doors into the
vestibule.  Here you bought your tickets.  The unreserved tickets
were the ones that sold.  It was understood that the "Quality" had
bought all the reserved seats weeks ago, and then when Tommy
Probyn, a tall, haggard man, the owner of the "Curio" shop near the
Cathedral, who was superintending the ticket selling, announced
that this was not so, but that there were three whole rows of
reserved seats still for sale at only a shilling more than the
front unreserved, there was the trouble of sitting with the
"Quality," perhaps cheek by jowl with Mrs. Combermere herself!  No,
happier in the balcony (front three rows, 1s. 6d., fourth and fifth
rows, 1s., sixth and seventh, 6d.).  The sixth and seventh rows
were very quickly filled, and by the rowdy element.  But the
rowdies were to-night good-tempered; from the very first you could
tell that their strange cries, fragments of song and violent
whistling were all tuned to love and admiration.  Tonight at least
they had come to praise Caesar not to bury him.

In the two front rows of the balcony and in the middle part of the
hall were the decent people of the town.  In the very front row of
the balcony were Mr. Cassidy with his family (Mrs. Cassidy, three
girls and one boy) and Mr. Mildmay with HIS family (Mrs. Mildmay,
ancient mother of Mrs. Mildmay, two girls, one boy); and Cassidy
and Mildmay, being founders, instigators, leaders of the
tradesman's gymnastic circle, felt that had it not been for them
Johanson would not exist.  They, therefore, with great dignity and
benevolence prepared to enjoy their evening.

Some trouble was caused by Mr. Shortt who arrived, having on his
arm a very ancient female in rusty black and a bonnet with bugles,
and enquired of Mr. Probyn for his two reserved tickets; when given
them he complained loudly because his seats were not in the front
row.  He held up a tumultuous crowd of fellow-citizens while he put
his case; it seemed that both he and the lady in bugles had been
already celebrating the famous event.  It appeared that the front
row was reserved for members of the Cathedral body, and as soon as
Mr. Shortt discovered this his voice was raised in very violent
complaint indeed.  Who were the Cathedral body?  What had they done
for Mr. Johanson or indeed for any one in this town that they
should be given the front seats?  Had not he, Mr. Shortt, been
Johanson's first friend in this place?  Had not Mr. Johanson sent
especially for him to help him in his Italian art and reproduction
of ancient masterpieces?  And had he not helped him?  Had not he
drawn some of the most beautiful . . .

At this moment the voice of Mr. Perry, the policeman, could be
heard from somewhere in the back of the crowd making enquiries as
to who was obstructing. . . .  Mr. Shortt's voice fell into murmur;
his arm was violently pulled by the old lady; he accepted the seats
offered to him.

The next excitement for everybody was the arrival of Mortimer
Shandon the Mayor.  It was known that Mr. Shandon always considered
very seriously before he allowed the sunshine of his presence to
break out over any gathering.  He took his duties as Mayor with
extreme seriousness.  He was a large, heavy, solemn man and was as
clay, I am sorry to mention, in the hands of one or two of his Town
Councillors; Aaron Sharpe, Jim Curtis and Ben Eagle may be named in
this connection.  He sailed up the middle aisle, the black wings of
his fine frock coat floating behind him and his pale white-haired
wife trying as ever to catch up with him.

In his party to-night were Aaron Sharpe (thin, intellectual, high-
domed forehead) and Reuben Fletch.  He nodded graciously to
favoured ones as he passed on his way.  But scarcely had the
sensation of his arrival ruffled the waters of expectation than a
greater breeze arose.  Who could this be but the Dowager-Countess
herself, and with her young Lord St. Leath and still younger Lady
St. Leath.

Like a splendid white cockatoo the Dowager pecked her way to the
front.  Here was excitement indeed!  How long was it since she had
last attended any town ceremony?  AND with her daughter-in-law too!
Was it true that they were for ever quarrelling?  No matter.  She
was a sweet little thing, young Lady St. Leath.  How pretty she
looked in her dress of pale blue silk, and how proud Johnny St.
Leath seemed to be of her!  It wasn't her fault that her brother,
etc. etc. etc.  She was a good sort, she was.  No false pride about
her!  Our Town can praise nobly when it pleases.

And then, as though they had all been waiting for the Countess, in
came the Quality.  There was Mrs. Bentinck-Major and there Julia
Preston, there old Mrs. Combermere with her walking-stick and there
Ellen Stiles, sitting by all perverse fortune next to Mrs. Bond and
her three boys!  And there the Canons Foster and Martin, Bentinck-
Major and Rogers, Ryle and Ellis.  So eager was the public interest
in these public figures that scarcely any attention was paid to
Mrs. Penethen and her two daughters Maude and Judy as they quietly
found their way into their seats in the middle of the room.  And
Maude was looking very pretty too.  She deserved SOME attention.

Notice was, however, taken of the entrance of Tom Longstaffe and
his daughter.  Some cheek bringing his daughter out in public with
him like that!  Wonder she didn't bring her child with her!  Great
big woman!  Ought to have known better.  Didn't look as though she
minded either.  All of which added to the general sense of
pleasurable excitement very greatly.  Another figure, quite
unnoticed, was Samuel Hogg who stood, near the door, smiling in his
genial way upon everybody.

It struck eight o'clock, and, a moment later, Canon Ronder appeared
on the platform.  How did he always work his miracle?  How did he
contrive, so easily and with such ready grace, to throw his spell
over them all?  In a moment of time he had the hall in his hands.
A smile, a little joke, an intimate allusion to something known
only among the townspeople, his voice cultured but not superior,
and the whole appearance of him so smart, so bright, so kindly!  No
one in our town could approach him at THIS game!  No, and perhaps
not in the whole world, thought his old aunt sitting in the second
row and watching him with eyes loving but also cynical.

In five minutes he made the whole room feel that it was all his
doing that Johanson was there at all, and that it was the very best
thing for Polchester that Johanson WAS there.  It was as though he,
Ronder, had gone out into the highways and hedges of the world and
had found, after infinite trouble, the very thing that Polchester
was needing.  No one else in Polchester had known--only Ronder.
And he loved Polchester so dearly that no trouble was too great for
him did the town benefit from his labours.  And here, as many of
them knew already, but as all of them would know after tonight, was
the best thing that Polchester had ever had.

He stepped aside, looked towards the door and then, as Johanson
came in, waved his hand.  His face was one happy beaming smile.

The Hall broke into a roar of applause.  It clapped again and
again.  It cheered.  The rowdies in the gallery stamped their
approval.  A hush fell.  Johanson stepped to the front of the
platform.

He was dressed in a singlet, white cotton trousers and white shoes.
His face, neck, shoulders, arms, were a dark red-brown.  He stood
simply and quietly and, with a shy smile, explained that, as many
of them knew, he was not a very great speaker of English.  So he
would speak slowly and he hoped clearly, but if any one in the back
of the hall could not hear, would he please call out and say so.

And then some one cried from the gallery, "Aye, Harmer John, we
will"--at which every one laughed.

He explained then, slowly at first and afterwards with greater
confidence, what it was that he had come there that evening to do.
Some of the things that he said have become now such commonplaces
to every one throughout the world that it would be very
uninteresting to recapitulate them here.  But at that time in our
town it was all new to us and had even a spice of adventure, daring
and almost impropriety in it.  Johanson had on his right hand a
blackboard and over this he threw some charts.  First, a chart of
the interior of the human body and a chart so decent and proper
that it was quite impossible to tell whether it were male or
female.  Nevertheless this public exposure of the human mechanism
was something of a shock to one or two of our ladies.  Then he
showed us muscles and nerves and arteries, all very clearly and in
a language that a child could understand--did, in fact, understand,
because Mrs. Bond's youngest boy was heard to declare that "there
was nothing new in all that stuff.  He knew it all by heart."

Then, putting aside his charts, Johanson explained that five
minutes a day, in the morning, before the open window would work
marvellous results.  He showed what harm obesity could do to the
heart and enumerated the muscles that with most of us are never
exercised at all.  Old stuff this!  Yes, but not for us.  We seemed
to be that night in the very vanguard of human progress.  What if,
for an instant, a blinding vision of a new world flashed before us?
Before all of us--Ellen Stiles and old Shandon, Jim Curtis and Mrs.
Mildmay, poor, dear Ryle and ancient Alice Ronder--a new world of
giants and heroes, goddesses and angels?  The vision would pass and
soon enough.  We were not so mad as to hold it and thus threaten
our daily security.  But, fleeing, it left something in its train.

Having explained some very simple exercises with diagrams, he
paused.

"And now," he said, looking up at the ropes and rings that had been
slung from the ceiling, "myself and one or two friends shall try
and show you by exposition what I mean."  He bowed.  Frantic
applause.  He retired to the back of the stage.  He bowed again.  A
little pause, and his companions entered--Walter Pearce, Harry
Pearce, Franklin and the Trenant boy.  At the sight of these well-
known faces the Hall broke into renewed applause.  These were our
own, our very own.  Every one knew Walter and Harry, had known them
from birth, and their father, grandfathers and great-grandfathers
before them.  Walter (working now in the Post Office) was a short,
thick-set youth with a round, brown face, and of great strength.
Harry was tall and slim, paler, more graceful than his brother.
Robin Franklin was a young-giant in the coal business; of young
Trenant, having been earlier introduced in this chronicle, it is
only necessary to say that this was the proudest moment of his
life.

They were all dressed like their master.  First they went through a
drill of the exercises of which Johanson had been speaking.  I was
not present on this now famous evening, but I have been told by
more than one surviving member of that audience that at once every
eye was fastened on Johanson.  How is one to peer, at this distance
of time, through the mists of legend and fable that surround his
figure?  Had he some miraculous gift of grace and beauty of
movement, something quite beyond his natural strength and fitness?
Would he, if one could see him now, rouse in one that same sense of
excitement and battle and mystery?  Himself, his character, his
thoughts, the conflict that he raised in our town, the picture
seems to rise clearly enough before me.  No one simpler, more
straightforward, more honest; those qualities come clearly enough
from every statement of every observer.  But this physical
effect . . . of that there are a thousand different reports.  One
saw this, another that, and always perhaps they saw some aspect of
themselves, hostile or friendly.  He antagonised, he attracted
because of the response that he roused.  No one, through all this
strange time, no one from Looney to Wistons was indifferent to him;
love, hatred, confidence, scorn, the reaction always came.  To-
night, of course, there was no hatred and when, at the last, the
young men swung through the rings and formed a pyramid on his
support, the rhythm and the grace were so perfect that every one in
the hall jumped up and applauded.  His friends vanished and he
stood once more alone on the platform.  He stood there for a moment
hesitating.

He did not look glad nor triumphant, but puzzled and distressed.
He wanted to say something.  The words came to his mouth and he
forced them back.  The pause was long-enough to be awkward and make
every one uncomfortable.  Mrs. Bond said afterwards that "really
she did not know where to look."

Then quite abruptly he broke out, "Thank everybody for their
kindness," and with a sharp little bow turned and vanished.
Thunderous applause followed.  There were repeated shouts from the
gallery:  "Harmer John!  Harmer John!  Harmer John!"

He did not appear.  The floor broke up into excited little groups
and, in the first enthusiasm for a remarkable experience, social
difficulties were forgotten.  Something true and something
beautiful had been created there before their opening eyes, as
though it were a bud bursting into flower or a fountain
unexpectedly revealed, and they were triumphant and also a little
sad as though unforeseen truth had jostled settled conviction.
Mrs. Bond talked to Mrs. Tape of "The Cathedral Arms" with charming
friendliness.  Young Lady St. Leath, her eyes lit with pleasure and
happiness, talked with the Precentor and little Bentinck-Major.
"But it was beautiful! beautiful!" she could be heard crying.
Every one lingered as though they expected something more to occur.
The room slowly cleared.  Two old women appeared with brushes.
Perry could be seen, monumental, waiting for emptiness and silence.
Where was Johanson?

Would he not come round and join them there?  They wanted to
congratulate him.  Vaguely Mrs. Penethen, who knew him now, felt
that something was wrong.  At the end his eyes had been fighting
something or somebody.  She with her two daughters waited in the
vestibule of the hall.  He had promised to escort them home.  But
when they were in the house again he was not there.

He came in very late, and only Mrs. Penethen was up, reading.  She
was going to speak to him, but when she saw his face she only said
"Good night," and when she heard his door close blew out the lamp
and went up herself to bed.



CHAPTER III

FROM GABRIELLE MIDGELEY'S DIARY--II


So many things interfere.  For instance, I was getting on with my
work nicely last night, properly set, house all quiet about me, my
drop of whisky beside me and my head as busy as Mrs. Jellaby's,
when what must I do but leave the whole thing and work for two
hours or more at this diary?  This entirely useless diary, because
no one will ever set eyes on it save myself, and although it clears
my brain, I suppose, of some tiresome stuff, more tiresome stuff
rushes in so quickly to fill up the empty spaces that I am not, I
fancy, very much benefited.

The truth is, I'm an old, brooding woman, and real life will keep
breaking in upon my attempted inventions.  Not that I think this
book of mine to be bad: I would never have so nearly finished it if
I thought that.  It's a nice, nasty, cynical, bitter production,
and I'm properly proud of it.  It will make so many people
uncomfortable.

But unfortunately the more cynical I am on paper, the more
sentimental does my daily life appear to be.  That's perhaps true
of all cynical writers, and conversely I never knew a crueller,
more selfish or harder-hearted man than Stewart Frost, the author
of all those mystical sentimental Innisfree kind of books that
fluttered the '90 dovecotes.

I can look at myself quite honestly, of course, and say that I am
sentimental in one direction only, but then that direction has,
like the lean kine in the Testament, swallowed up all the others.
This Johanson?  What am I to do with him?  Am I in love with him?
No, that I can honestly say, I am not.  Not that a woman of my age
might not be in love with a man of his if she wished.  It has
happened often enough.  But I know, by this time, what love feels
like, and I am not in love.

Nor have I the maternal feelings for him that Ma Penethen is
experiencing.  I have no maternal feelings for anybody, not one
soul in this world.  I never wanted a child from any man and I'm
happy to say I've never had one.  No, I don't yearn over Johanson
as a mother at all.  I've wanted to smack him often enough, but
that's been out of sheer irritation and exasperation.

I think friendship's the thing that I feel, a well-wishing-God-be-
with-you kind of friendship.  Very much what one man feels for
another, I suppose.  I like his brain although it's only half awake
and only a quarter educated.  I like his heart still better.  That
he has, and let us be quite unsentimentally clear about it, the
best, truest, soundest, honestest, warmest heart of any human
creature I have yet encountered.  And then I suppose there is just
enough sex in the thing for me to appreciate his strength and good
looks.  But honestly they count very little.  I don't want him to
kiss me and put his arm around me, and often I feel him much too
big for my little room.  No, it's friendship, and when you see a
friend heading straight for disaster, you want to do something
about it, don't you?  And yet is it disaster he's heading for?  Is
it not the most brilliant success?

The principal fact just now is that he came back from his undoubted
triumph at the Town Hall a most unhappy man.  I didn't go to the
lecture.  I hate lectures anyway, and I suffer such agonies when my
friends make fools of themselves in public (as they most of them in
the old days used to) that I long ago resolved to spare my
feelings.  My precious feelings would not, I think, have been
damaged on this occasion.

He had a most unquestioned success.  The Town has been talking of
nothing else since, and every one is longing for the next one.  But
the man himself is unhappy and dissatisfied as I have never seen
him before.  He came up to my room yesterday evening after supper
and stood there fingering the things on my table in a restless way
that he has, which always drives me crazy.

So I told him to stop it and asked him straight out what was the
matter.  Oh, he couldn't say.  He roved restlessly about the room.
He was dissatisfied.  Ashamed with himself.  Ashamed with himself?
Good Heavens, why?  Something he'd done--or rather something he'd
not done.  He'd been a coward.  A coward?  (That really surprised
me.)  How?

Oh, he'd liked the applause the other night and so he'd left out
the principal thing he'd meant to say lest he should make them
angry.  That was cowardice of the worst sort.

Oh, I see!  (I was very bitter here.)  He'd wanted to preach to
them, to make them better.  Well, if he wished for my opinion. . . .
No, he broke in upon me, I knew that it wasn't that.  He didn't
want to preach to anybody.  But what had he done?  Nothing but
glorify himself.  He had wanted to show them his idea of what life
might be, and instead he had pushed his body about like an actress.
All the applause had been for himself because he was strong and
knew his work.  That wasn't what he wanted.  That was the wrong
direction.  He didn't want them to think of himself at all, but of
making their town beautiful and not to be cruel to unfortunate
people. . . .  Preaching, preaching, preaching!  I broke in.  I
hate preaching.  Leave people alone.  Don't try to make them
better.

But he WANTED to leave them alone.  Couldn't I see that?  But he
must put in front of them his idea--his idea, so easy, so happy, if
only a few would see it.  But all he was doing now was to glorify
HIMSELF. . . .  And there was Maude, angry because he wouldn't give
another demonstration next week, angry because he wasn't proud of
himself.  Ah!  Garibaldi, who went back to the fields when the king
came with his army, Levin, who was so humble and so happy with
humble men, what would they have said if they had seen him the
other evening, strutting about, pushing out his chest, performing
like a dancing bear. . . .

But next time he'd show them.  Next lecture they should realise
what a filthy place Seatown was. . . .

He was more childish than I had ever seen him, child though he
always was.  He wasn't far from tears, I believe.  His anger with
himself was the motive of it all.  He hadn't realised what a cheap
thing a public performance like that would be.

And he hadn't his earlier confidence in his dear beloved Polchester
any longer.  He'd lost it.  Of course, no one but the naïvest of
the naïve would ever have had it.  It wasn't Polchester's fault
that he fancied it perfect.  God defend us anyway from our
idealistic friends!  But he isn't blaming Polchester--he only wants
to make it see what a heaven-sent place it might be.  And how to
make it see that without preaching to it?

The foolish part of it is that I believe he's infected me with his
idea.  Me! who am on the point of finishing a novel that for
bitterness and irony will give points to the bitter Maisie South
herself!

But when he talks to you, laugh at him though you may, there is
something in it.  Three people, four people, five people . . . find
them and start your little crusade.  Get them to find five more
people and those five five more again.  How many people must really
see that the brewery beyond the Town Hall is hideous, that Seatown
is a disgrace, that cruelty at tea-parties is a crime as bad as
child-beating, that the detracting view of any one at most is only
half the view, that beauty grows and grows with what it feeds on.
One blue plate means one Persian rug, one Persian rug means one
good water-colour, one good water-colour means a new wall-paper,
one new wall-paper means a new view from the window. . . .  And why
are we all standing still doing nothing, letting a tiny minority do
all the work?

And it is so fine after this string of platitudes to snuggle down
into my chair, pile up the fire and not care a twopenny damn if
every soul in this world suffers the torments of hell.

And what do I really care?  Do I want to save the world or improve
it?  Not, in my heart, one little bit.  But I do care for the man
and I want him to be happy.

But his way would be easy and inevitable enough if it weren't for
his love of Maude.  He'd just go the path of all fanatical
Quixotes.  Preach a bit in the market-place, be kicked out of the
town (they can be a bit rough at times, my dear fellow-townsmen),
stumble on somewhere else, preach again, kicked out again, and so
go on to a dreary old age, dragging a few other fanatics with him.

But he's not all fanatic; that's the trouble.  And he knows it.
He's admirably practical at his own job, and if he'll only settle
down here now, go on with his work, fall in with the Ronders and
the rest, shut his eyes to Paradise, he'll make a very nice little
income for his dear little Maude and the results of their devotion.
He will have his work, and she the civic honours and respect that
she longs for.  I'll do him the justice, however, to say that if he
didn't love her as he does there'd be no struggle at all.  He does
love her with all the passion, sincerity and worship that a
physically vigorous man who has never been in love before can feel.
He adores her.  He's not quite so blind to her though as he was.
There are things in her that worry him.  She's not so perfect as he
first thought her, but he loves her all the more for that.  She
needs protecting, advising, encouraging.  He wants to be her
mother, her father, her brother, her sister, her friend, her lover,
her child and her comrade all in one.  Lord! why didn't any one
ever love me like that?  I'm worth a thousand Maudes and always
was.  Just because I haven't yellow hair.  The fools men are!

Which brings me to Maude.  She rushed in this morning.  None of
that hanging about looking at me out of the corner of her eye that
she used to have!  She doesn't know me any better than she did nor
love me any better either, she's still afraid of me, but this
affair has really shaken her right out of her selfish little body.
She does love him in her own shallow way and will even continue to
love him after all the intimacies of matrimony if he'll only follow
success, make money, get a position, keep his fine friends.

But what's he after now?  She simply can't understand it.  She
rushed at me as though I were her only hope.  "You, Miss Midgeley!
You understand him!  You have more influence with him than any one
else!  Talk to him!  Find out what's the matter with him!  Is he
crazy?  Here he's just been and had the most wonderful success.
Every one's talking about him.  Every one's praising him.  And he
thinks it's a failure.  What's the matter with him?  Isn't this
what he wanted?  Oh, Miss Midgeley, talk to him, talk to him!"

Dislike her as I do, I couldn't but be sorry for the poor child.
She was so helplessly bewildered.  She was so proud of him.  I
suppose she had never enjoyed a night in all her little life as she
did the other evening when she sat there and heard every one from
the Cockatoo Countess downwards praising her man.  HER man!  HER
man!  It must have seemed like the reward of all her life to her.
And now it's all gone wrong.  It's like finding your milk's all
sour or that you've had your purse stolen.  And, I repeat, she does
love him in her own way.  She does want to understand him.  "Tell
me, Miss Midgeley, why he's like this?  What's disappointed him
when it was all so splendid?"

And what, pray, is the use of my telling her anything?  How is she
ever going to understand that he isn't thinking of himself in this
at all, or wouldn't be if he weren't in love with her, and that he
hadn't realised, until this public performance showed him, that no
one here cares about the thing he truly has at heart.  He's
bothered by a dream, but what are dreams to Maude unless they are
dreams of his arms around her and his lips upon hers?  But I did
try to tell her something, and the result was even worse than I had
expected.

I tried to show him to her a little as I saw him and, in trying, I
said something about his being a "stranger"--not only a foreigner,
but also some one, in his capacity for dreaming and worrying about
impossible unrealisable hopes, who would never be entirely at home
in a world which to commonplace people like Maude and myself was
always straightforward enough.

I could have said nothing more unfortunate.  If terror is too big a
word, fright will do--and that was what came into Maude's eyes.
She knew that--she knew it a great deal better than I could.  It
was his queerness--that was what she couldn't stand.  He talked
about his dreams as though they were real: some place that he went
to in his sleep, a nasty place all empty and cold and full of trees
and statues.  It was as real to him as Polchester was; well, she
called that "spooky" and she wasn't going to stand it.  After their
marriage she'd put a stop to it.  It was indigestion as likely as
not, but whatever it was she was not going to stand it.  Dreams
were all nonsense, as every one knew.

And it was just this dreaming that was standing in the way of his
getting on, as every one could see, and that horrid Longstaffe
woman, who should be ashamed to show her face instead of flaunting
about as she was doing, was just the one to encourage him.

Now Maude was truly launched and revealed herself as the little
mean, selfish, cruel, greedy, vulgar, jealous egoist half of her
is.  But only half of her.  I'll do her that justice; and a justice
I wouldn't have done her half a year ago, because she at an instant
dropped Mary Longstaffe and her grievances and became something
very genuine, touching, and human.  She spoke of her love for him.
She did love him, oh yes, she really did!  "I know you don't like
me, Miss Midgeley--you never have and I don't blame you in a way.
Of course you think I'm not fit to clean his boots.  Oh!  I know
I've been a bit spoilt and made to think a lot of myself.  Loving
him so has sort of made me see that--and then I get tearing jealous
when I could do anything--I'm so mad.  And then he's so irritating,
not seeing which way his bread's buttered, and how's he going to
keep me after we're married and children perhaps, if he hasn't got
a good job and made friends with the principal people.  And they
won't be his friends, Miss Midgeley, if he goes preaching to them
about what they ought to do and how they ought to pull the town
down and all the rest of it.  Such nonsense!  As though he could
know anything about it, being a stranger and only here a few
months.  What is he, after all, but a gymnastic instructor?  He's
got to keep his place, Miss Midgeley, hasn't he, like anybody else?

"But, oh dear, I do love him!  I do terribly.  I just want us both
to be happy in a nice little house and every one liking him.
Because he IS lovely! he is indeed.  No one knows how good he is!"

Thus Maude loquitur.  Something touching about the creature.  And,
oh dear, how pretty she looked as she stood there!  It isn't only
her hair, although that's beautiful enough.  It's the daintiness of
her, the perfect colouring, her lovely skin, the absolute
proportion of her little body, the animal grace of her movements,
her helplessness as though, if you deserted her, nothing could save
her from destruction.  And yet any one less helpless than Maude I
have never known!

I did my best with her.  What I tried to show her was that she must
stick to him whatever happened, even though he got whipped out of
the town without a rag to his back.  That he was worth that and
ever so much more.  But I could see that the very thought of
disgrace and unpopularity terrified her.  That, I am convinced,
she'll never stand, and if that's the way he's going he'll lose
her.  Lose her!  Why not?  She'll cheapen everything he believes
in.  I've noticed in life that when two humans live together, one
of fine material and the other of base, there's never any doubt of
which way the issue goes.  The baser metal always wins.  There's
something bed-rock in complacent selfishness which nothing can wear
away.  Yes, but on the other hand she's malleable.  She does see in
a sort of way that this is the chance of a lifetime, that she'll
never get anything like it again, and that if she does let jealousy
and meanness and selfishness break in, she'll be doing something
she'll regret for ever.  She sees that subjectively; it pokes its
head up and reminds her every once and again.  But of course her
nature will be too strong for her and the only question that truly
remains is as to whether HIS nature will be too strong for HIM.
Will he give up his dreams and lie down in Maude's bed never to
rise from it again?  That's the point.  There's the struggle and
we'll see what we'll see. . . .

. . . Such a tempest of rain and wind to-night like that night when
Johanson first came to us.  He hasn't been in my mind the last two
days (the book has absorbed me--all my old excitement returned for
a wonder), but this morning when that strange girl Judy came to
dust my room she brought him back to mind again.  And that is a
queer girl too--impossible to believe that she's Maude's sister, as
dark as the other's fair, as dry as the other's talkative,
industrious as the other's idle, as thoughtful as the other's
thoughtless.  Thoughtful! yes, but about what?  I think she likes
me in a kind of way.  At any rate thinks I have brains.  I make her
talk when I can.

I began this morning:  "Well, Judy, what did YOU think of the fine
lecture the other evening?"

"What did I think?"  She turned round fully upon me as though I had
challenged.  "Oh, it was all right."

"All right?  Most people had much more praise for it than that," I
answered, going on with my work.

"As to what they did," Judy continued, "I don't see there was much
in that.  Why, the acrobats at the Fair in the summer do more than
they did."

"Yes, but the acrobats do things that no one else can do.  The
point of Mr. Johanson's lecture was that he was showing people
things that they all could do if they liked, and be ever so much
the better for it."

Judy smiled, one of her grim smiles.  "I'd like to see mother and
Mr. Hogg and Mrs. Cassidy doing those exercises he showed us."

There was silence for a little.  Then Judy turned, looking up from
her work, to me and said, "Don't you think, Miss Midgeley, it was a
pity his showing himself off like that?  Seemed to cheapen him
somehow."

So she had felt that, felt what he did, felt it, maybe, because he
did.  I could be sure that she was the sole creature in the whole
of Polchester who had realised it.

"I wasn't there," I answered quietly.  "I don't go to lectures.
But many excellent people have given lectures.  It's quite a decent
thing to do, I believe.  Going to them--that's another matter."

"Yes, Miss Midgeley."  She said nothing for a little, then began
again:  "But it's different showing off as he did.  It's silly of
me, I know, but I couldn't help wishing he wouldn't.  So many
strangers there, not knowing him as we do.  He's too good for
that."

"So you think he's a fine man, Judy?" I asked her.

"Yes, he is," she answered quite gravely.  "Don't you think he is?
He's kind and generous and quiet.  I like quiet men."

"Quiet?  No, I hadn't thought of him as that.  He's so cheerful.
Sometimes too noisy for my taste."

"But quiet inside, Miss Midgeley.  Not always changing every
minute.  You know where you are with him."

I saw in a flash that she loved him--loved him truly, deeply,
steadily as none of the rest of us in this house do.  I had
perceived this, of course, long before.  I have set it down, I
fancy, in this very diary.  But I had not before perceived its
strength.  His love for Maude--Judy's love for him--real love.  Her
mother has that same steady strength, but she is beyond physical
love now, and the maternal is of another star, not a less lovely
one, but another.

And if Judy had had yellow hair?

She came to the table close to me, her thin pale plain face all lit
with the determination of her thought.  "Miss Midgeley," she said,
"you've travelled, you've lived in London, you've seen the world.
How would he be outside this little town?  We have so few strangers
here.  We can't compare him.  But you've seen all sorts.  Would he
be just ordinary in London?  I suppose there are lots of men who
can do the things he does, many as kind, plenty cleverer.  Would he
not be noticed in London?"

"He'd be noticed by some people," I answered her.  "Perhaps not by
very many.  There's not much time in London to notice things."

She nodded her head.  "If I knew him in London," she said, "perhaps
he'd need me more," and, a moment later, she left the room.



Sitting here half dreaming, staring into my little fire, I have a
vision.  Johanson and I are given leave to do what we will.
Together with eager hands we pull this place down.  House after
house goes toppling.  How we tear up the bricks, scattering them
over our shoulders!  How we work, the sweat pouring into our eyes,
panting with our eagerness!

The place is empty, naked, void.  A voice, shouting from the skies,
roars:

"NOW!  CREATE!"



CHAPTER IV

LIFE AND DEATH OF A CRISIS


Four days after the lecture Johanson received this note:


                                                 PYBUS ST. ANTHONY.

DEAR MR. JOHANSON--You will perhaps remember that you promised me
that you would come and have some supper with me one evening?
Would next Wednesday suit you?  There is a convenient train that
leaves Polchester at 6.30, reaching here at 7.  The Rectory is easy
to find, up the village street and to the left at the top of the
hill.  I am looking forward to seeing you.--Yours truly,

                                                   AMBROSE WISTONS.


He was surprised at his own pleasure at receiving this letter.  He
had but just been through three of the most disturbed and uneasy
days of his life.  His discomfort had been so sharply acute that he
had been utterly unlike himself, silent, morose, preoccupied.  And
preoccupied with what?  He did not know.  With something that stole
like a dark cloud from the thin horizon towards him.

But Wistons would resolve his trouble.  He knew at once as he saw
that handwriting on that page that it would be so.  The cloud
retreated.  He was himself again.  Then he was aware of Maude.

They had taken their evening walk, and now were under their dark
embosoming tree, upon whose thick texture the stars were like
silver buttons.

He kissed her as though he had found her again after a long
absence.  She surrendered herself at first with that light sigh of
abandonment, as though this were the one moment for which she
lived, that he had come so especially to connect with her.  Then
she seemed to recollect.  She drew away from him, sitting back
against the broad wall of the tree, looking at him critically.

"You HAVE been queer these last few days," she said.

"Have I?" he said.  He was lying full length on the grass.  As she
looked her gaze altered, more intense, flooded with an intensity of
longing and passion and desire, a strange intensity for Maude's
light fickle eyes that were not meant to hold so much.  She bent
forward and kissed him, first his mouth and then his eyes.
Afterwards, with a queer humility that he had never seen in her
before, she took his hand and kissed it.

"I love you so much, and sometimes you're so queer and such a
stranger.  What are you thinking of when your eyes are so far away?
You aren't seeing me at all.  It's your silly old dreams.  I HATE
your dreams.  They are what make you so queer."

He laughed again.  "Why should you hate my dreams when you are part
of them?"

"I'm not part of them.  I want to be part of them."

"You're part of everything that I am.  You can't not be whatever I
am."

"I'm not yet.  You haven't got me yet.  Perhaps I'll marry some one
else."

She sprang up and stood, light-footed, fairy-shaped against the
giant tree.

"I'm free.  I'm not any one's yet."

He leaned forward and caught her, held her between his hands, then
drew her down to him.

"You are mine.  You are mine.  You are mine.  Don't pretend.  You
know it.  My heart is in your body and yours in mine.  Come more
close, more close.  Now are you mine?  Have I caught you for
always . . . for ever?"

No one ever came that way.  The silence was absolute, save that
once and again the leaves of the tree gave a little shiver of
exquisite comfort.

It was time to go.  They rose and moved slowly down the field.  She
was supremely happy.  She felt her power.  It seemed to her that
she could do anything with him that she pleased.  She scurried in
her brain to find something.  She knew that he did not care for
dancing.  He had never yet taken her to a dance, so she said:

"I want you to do something."

"What is it?"

"Promise me before I tell you."

"Certainly not.  That never for anybody."

"Oh, you must.  It isn't something you'll mind."

"Then tell me what it is."

"Promise me first."

"Maude, don't be so childish.  Tell me what you want."

He knew that she was pouting, and he could feel her hand stiffen
against his arm.

"Yes, you're so fine with your words.  You say you'll do anything
for me, but then when I ask you a little thing--"

"I shouldn't promise God Almighty anything without knowing it
first.  That takes my freedom."

She was reassured.  He still loved her best, better than any one in
the world.  God couldn't get more from him than she could.

She pressed tightly the muscles of his arm again:  "I want you to
take me to a dance."

He laughed aloud.  They were just entering the quiet and deserted
street.

"Oh, is that all?  Why, of course, I will."

"But you don't like dances."  Her triumph seemed too easy.

"No, but I'd do more than that if it gave you pleasure.  When is
this dance?"

"It's next Wednesday.  It's the Bible Class of St. John's."

"Why, of course--"  He stopped.  "Oh no, I can't.  I'm terrible
sorry.  I have an engagement that night."

"You can change it."

"No, I can't.  It's important."

"More important than me."  She drew her arm away, tossed her head,
walked faster, gaining a little on him.

He could change it, but he knew with an instant surprise that he
did not intend to.  He had a reverence for Wistons that made it
seem an impertinence to bother him.  He was obstinate too.  He felt
that swift resentment at the interference of women in men's affairs
that every man born into this world has felt at one time or another--
and often felt with the woman he loves the most.

Her whole body was shaking with anger, and he knew that their first
real quarrel was upon them.  He was desperately sorry; he wanted to
take her in his arms, stroke her hair and tell her how sorry he
was, but he would not change that engagement.

"You needn't hide who the engagement's with," she said.  "I know
well enough.  You needn't lie to me about it."  Because he never
lied about anything, it gave her especial pleasure to say that.
She could the more admire his marvellous honesty, set up like an
altar in the middle of the jungle of hatred that she was feeling.

"You know that I never lie," he answered quietly.  "It is with Mr.
Wistons, the engagement.  I am to go to supper there."

"I don't believe you," she retorted.  "You are going to that
woman."  She had never ventured so far as this, she had never loved
him so much, and she had never felt such a delicious excitement.

Jealousy was a human emotion that he had never known.  He could
never have jealousy of another human being, because he believed so
intensely in liberty.  If you loved another human being, how could
you take their freedom from them?  They gave you as much as they
could, and you took that and treasured it.  But the rest--if you
took it by threat and extortion and tyranny, how shameful you must
be.

But although he did not understand jealousy he did, because he
loved her so much, understand Maude.  He caught up with her.

"Darling, don't be angry.  I shall take you to one dance after
another, but Mr. Wistons is the man I have most reverence for in
the world.  He's not my friend like Longstaffe, and if he were my
friend I would ask him to change the engagement, but we are not on
such terms.  He is very good to give me an evening.  I promised him
to go when he asked me.  Now I have written and said I should go
that evening.  I don't hope you shall be angry and make us both so
unhappy."

She turned on him a face under the lamp, cold, hard, gleaming like
a cut and sharpened stone.

"Yes, you have plenty of words.  You can talk a lot, but when it
comes to doing something!  You're selfish, that's what you are.
You never think of any one but yourself.  And you're so stupid.
You're so simple.  You don't care what people say about you or what
they think.  You're engaged to me, but you go to that woman's house
every day, although she's had a baby when she wasn't married, and
you don't think of ME and what people will say--"

"Of what people will say?" he answered.  "What does it matter what
people say if you haven't done wrong yourself?  And they will say
anyway.  Were you a saint from heaven come down to earth, they
should talk all the same."

"Yes, you mayn't care, but what about me?  Am I not to mind?"

They were close to their door.  He stopped her, put his arms about
her.

"Maude, darling, we must each of us have some freedom, and we must
trust one another.  The Longstaffes are my friends; I can't be
unkind to them or disloyal.  You have friends I don't like, Hogg,
for an example.  But you must have your freedom too.  Only while we
trust one another we can have our freedom.  If the trust goes, then
the freedom goes with it, but if the trust goes, then we are no
more together.  If we don't trust we don't love."

She turned from his embrace.

"Will you give that woman up?  Will you promise never to see her
again?"  Her voice shook, quivering with the intensity of her
feeling.

"But, Maude dear, I can't.  Her father's my true friend.  I love
him and would never give him up for anybody."

"I'm not speaking of him.  I'm speaking of her."

"But he loves her.  I couldn't give her up without leaving him
too."

"Then you won't?"

"Give up my friend?  No.  Never."

"Then it's over.  Do you see?"  With a trembling hand she opened
the door.  "I don't love you.  I hate you.  It's all over, I tell
you."

The door was banged.  He stood there, his heart aching for love of
her; he had never before felt so tenderly about her.  But his
purpose did not change and he knew that it would not.



Next day they were reconciled.  It had been their first quarrel and
it was over, but everything was not quite as it had been.  Her
power over him had been questioned; she would not rest now until
she had completely asserted it.  To assert your power completely
over another human being is to condemn two souls to permanent
imprisonment.

He felt the change in their relation, and it was with a heavy heart
that he set off for Pybus St. Anthony.  He was experiencing that
loneliness belonging to lovers who are too confident.  We are so
close together that not God Himself can separate us--one body, soul
and spirit.  Then, in a moment of time, a word, a phrase pokes up
its ugly face and there is no relationship at all--strangers in a
strange place.

As he walked down the long Polchester platform to find the little
local train, lonely by itself like a poor relation, his love for
Maude constricted his heart, hurting him physically.  She seemed to
accompany him down the platform, treading lightly at his side, and
saying to him again and again:  "Am I not worth everything?  Is
there anything of more value than me?  Surrender yourself.  Will
you give me up for a shadow?"

As he climbed into the stuffy, tight little compartment he knew
that the crisis of all his life had climbed in with him.  He had,
in fact, never known any crisis before.  Life had been direct.
First there had been his mother to protect, and he had protected
her; then there had been his father to fight, and he had fought
him; then there had been his living to earn, and he had earned it;
then there had been his work to love, and he had loved it.  It was
when the other loves had come to him that the struggle had begun,
love of beauty, love for his friend and love for a woman.

As he sat there and saw the little fields, brilliantly lit by the
evening sun, the hedges like wet lines of paint, the cottages so
characteristic of Glebeshire in their isolated defiant pastures,
his heart ached as though he were saying farewell to it all.  And
yet he could formulate nothing.  His problem was a wood in front of
him, into whose heart he had not yet penetrated.  He knew that
Wistons would help him.

He was the only traveller to alight at Pybus St. Anthony.  The
little village was dead and bright like a picked bone as he walked
up the sunny hill.  Maude was still with him, walking beside him
and saying, "Am I not of more value . . . ?"

He turned to the left at the top of the hill, walked down a little
by-road; he opened a white gate sorely in need of paint, pushed up
a weed-stained drive and saw the Rectory, bare, four-square,
unadorned, impersonal.  When the old Glebeshire servant answered
his ring and he stood in the hall he felt as though nothing had
been done to this house for ever and ever.  And it did not care
that anything should be done.  If help were offered it would refuse
it.  The pictures would fall from the walls, the fresh wall-paper
wither, the stair-rods trip the unwary.  Everywhere was the proud
spirit of resistance.  The old servant ushered Johanson into
Wistons' study.  It was exactly as he had anticipated it--
absolutely spare, distempered white, a table, a crucifix, a
photograph of Leonardo's "Last Supper," a wall of grimy and
dishevelled books.

Wistons looked pleased to see his visitor.  For the first time in
their acquaintance there was something warm in his greeting.  They
talked a little, trivially, and very soon went into the other room
for supper.

Wistons did not apologise for the food which was bad--poorly cooked
turbot, cold beef and hard potatoes that clung sullenly to their
jackets, apple tart with pastry of lead.  Wistons did not
apologise, and Johanson did not consider it.  He ate heartily and
happily.  His mind had cleared.  His depression had retreated like
a defeated enemy.  They achieved during the meal that relationship
that was to last to the end.  It was not so personal as friendship;
it was rather the frank intimacy of two human beings who recognise
in one another those two great qualities, reality and honesty.
Whatever the future might bring they would always meet with
interest and, cataloguing in their minds the true human beings they
had known, they would remember one another.

After supper they went out into the little garden.  The moon was a
sickle of apricot, the scent of the flowers lay thickly on the
evening air, peace flowed like a river down the hill.  They sat on
two old shabby garden chairs and Johanson faced his problem.

"I must settle it now," he said, leaning forward, and staring at
the sky that flowed above the sharp wall of the garden like a
stream of pale lemon-coloured water.  Tiny clouds of gold moved on
a faint wind.  Wistons, a true observer of men, studied his face as
he talked.  Although it had in the curve of the mouth and the
determination of the chin a man's character, its roundness, the
simplicity of the blue directness of the eyes, the buoyancy of the
brow, had still the happy unclouded kindliness of the boy who has
not yet learnt to distrust.

The brows drew together in perplexity as a boy's might.  Wistons
knew that the man was face to face with the first real trouble of
his life.  "I must settle it now, but what is it I must settle?
Sometimes I fancy that I am inventing all my trouble, making it up
like a story.  Perhaps you shall tell me that, sir, when I have
finished, but I don't think you shall.  When I first came it was
all simple.  I was lucky and got my work quickly and made friends.
No man ever was helped so fast in a foreign town.  Shouldn't I then
be satisfied?  Here I had my work that I could do, and I was not
lonely, and then I fell in love and was loved too.  Should I not
have been happy, sir?  But I was.  I have always been happy.  But
from the first there were something more.  There was two things.
First, I don't hope you shall think me foolish.  There has always
been a place I dream of in my sleep.  I saw it first as a little
boy when my father had beaten me and I slept because I was tired.
It were always the same place, a house, empty but for a few things,
very clean and shining with sun.  Long stairs with the sun gleaming
on them, open doors and mirrors with green trees reflected, running
water.  I myself placed some things there, a statue of Donatello,
the Leonardo 'Virgin of the Rocks.'  There was always birds
singing, water running, trees and a line of hills.  It is so real
to me I could tell you of the marks on the walls, the hollow in the
hill and the thin white road out of my window.  I were very happy
there.  Secondly, there were the Cathedral.  You know the Brytte
Monument and the young man who made it?  I seem to have known him
and spoken to him.  And when I were with him I had ideas that I
couldn't control--my own work, the gymnastics and the rest, was
unimportant and didn't matter.  I wanted what he too had wanted, to
make a beautiful place with beautiful people.  Just one place, or
one street even, or one house.  But that were not my business.  My
business were clear--to do my work and mind my own affairs.

"Then when I fell in love everything was lost in that.  I had never
been in love before.  I loved her the moment I saw her, but for
some time I did not know that she loved me, and then when she said
that she did, oh, sir, wasn't I happy?  For a time I seemed to have
everything.  I sang all day, and every one else was singing too.
My work grew and grew; every one was more kind and more kind.  All
was made clear and straight for me.  Perhaps I were too happy.  I
had suspicions of being too comfortable.  I don't know what it
were, but I began to dream again and then to watch the people
around me.  I saw that some of them were for using me, not badly,
you know, sir, but for their own purpose, not caring for me and my
work for what was good in it, but only for what helped what THEY
wanted me to do.  Do I make it clear?"

"Perfectly," said Wistons.

"Then there came two things.  I have a friend.  His daughter came
home.  She had once been unhappy and unfortunate here.  You know,
of course, sir, who I mean.  People were cruel to her.  I had not
thought they would be so narrow or so self-righteous.  Perhaps I am
not to blame them, but they are hurting her because they like to
hurt, not because they are shocked by what she did.  It makes them
feel better to make her feel worse.

"And then there were Seatown.  I went down one afternoon.  Oh, sir,
it is terrible, the dirt, the walls tumbling, the windows broken,
the smell, the rags.  In such a town as this, so beautiful, so old,
so happy, to have such!

"It's only a little place, one street, fifty houses.  One day would
pull it down.  I was made unhappy by that.  You told me once I
couldn't build before I pulled down.  Perhaps that is true.  But
what right had I to say anything?  It were not my business.  I am a
stranger.  And deep in my heart I don't wish to change people.  I
am not confident enough of my own goodness to teach others.  But if
we were all at it together, not because we were better than others,
but because we all saw the same thing to do and set about to do it!

"Then the lecture came.  It were a success, you know.  I was happy
for most of it, seeing my friends there pleased in front of me, but
at the last, when I came to make a speech, I were in a moment
ashamed.  What was I doing standing there glorifying myself?  This
wasn't the work I intended.  I wanted to make a speech speaking of
Seatown, and all working together for one beautiful place that the
world might see and so make more beautiful places.  But I was
frightened.  I knew I should make some angry, should lose some
friends and most of all disappoint my girl.  I was afraid.  It was
the most shameful moment of my life and I went from the lecture and
hid myself.

"After that everything was clear.  Certain in the town made me see
that it were not my business to say anything were wrong with the
town or the people in the town.  One important gentleman told it me
quite plainly, and that I must give up the daughter of my friend if
I would go on to be a success here.  Then my girl--she is Miss
Maude Penethen, sir, and I lodge with her mother--she is young, and
she wants me to be the greatest success the town has ever seen.
That she must have--success for me, you understand, not for
herself.  She wants everybody to like me, you see.

"With every hour from the lecture I see more clearly I must make a
choice.  I must be quiet about Seatown, I must not see my friend's
daughter, I must do what certain gentlemen and ladies of the town
tell me, and then I shall be a true success here.  I shall marry
and have money and build a big business, later perhaps in Drymouth
and then in London.  I know I can because I have that practical
gift.  But if I try to change anything, be myself, and keep my
integrity and freedom, I am ruined here, and so it will be
everywhere.  Always the same in every place.  And perhaps I shall
do nothing in the end.  Just be a failure, you see.  But if I work
here at my gymnastics I MUST do good.  And Miss Penethen she won't
love me if I'm not as she thinks moral, if I am friends with people
who she thinks are wicked.  She must be happy and see me happy too.
I understand her so well.  She is young and beautiful, and she is
proud of me.  If she's no longer proud she don't love me.  So I
must do what every one tells me or I lose my work, my girl and my
friends.  And for what do I lose them?  For a dream, an idea.  And
why should I meddle with other people?  But how can I live and not
be honest?  How can I live and not be honest?"

He ended with that despairing cry.

He had poured out his words tempestuously, but Wistons had
understood him.

"This question of honesty," Wistons said at last, "aren't you
making too much of it?  It is not, I think, of such overwhelming
importance these days.  Your trouble comes down to very little if
you look it in the face.  To get on, to make a good job out of the
material world, to put money by, to live on twenty-four hours a day
according to a sharp materialistic pattern, to study success as an
art--all of that is the point in these days when God has been
proved a liar and all religions a sham.  Where's your trouble?
Stay here quietly, do what you're told for a year or two, give up
ridiculous dreaming, get power and position and then, when you're
really strong in the place, pull down Seatown if you like."

"You!" said Johanson.  "You to advise that!"

"Well, why not?  What do we think of honesty when, to take only a
small example, at this very moment one of the principal dignitaries
of my church is neglecting his ecclesiastical duties (for which by
the way he is quite decently paid) in order to earn easy money by
writing sensational articles in the daily press?  The thing is as
old as the world.  You wish to give up your home, your job, your
love, because one or two old houses are falling into ruin, and a
lady of your acquaintance has not been sufficiently called on.
Folly!"

Johanson answered.

"Why are you so bitter about life?  Has every one always
disappointed you?  Have no one been true or honest?"

"I am not bitter," Wistons answered.  "I was putting a point of
view to you that many very good people hold, and with much justice,
I daresay.  When I was a young man I had a friend who came up from
the provinces to London.  He was a painter.  For some while he made
very little progress.  He was a hard-headed, clever fellow with no
nonsense about him, but he had, rather to his own surprise, a very
warm heart.  He thought that this got in the way of his success, so
he did what he could to cool it.  Great fame came to him in a
night.  That was the critical moment of his life.  He might have
been contented with that--it was enough to content any man.  He
might have sat down, thought less of himself and his career, learnt
to love his wife, who was charming.  But he chose the other.  He
wanted more success and more money and more and more and more.  He
got rid of his wife, who was, I daresay, tiresome from the
successful point of view.  He got fatter and fatter and ever more
deeply concentrated upon himself.  He is, I admit, a very happy
man."

"You think he's done wisely?" Johanson asked.

"Yes.  He's concentrated upon certainties.  He has possessions that
he can finger, a stomach that needs an ever-widening waistcoat,
motor cars and a fine sum at the Bank.  He is laughed at and
sneered at, but he comforts himself with the thought that those who
laugh at him are the jealous, unsuccessful ones.  He has touched on
certainties.  And what are the other things?  The spiritual life?
What man or woman alive to-day but has doubts of its existence?
God, Christ, the Saints?  Does not book after book seek to prove
them fairy-tales?  This death--has it not a tangible stink of
corruption about it that is never out of our nostrils?  Art,
friendship, love, are they not for ever fading and failing?  What
are we but a little gas and water, formed for an instant, blown
back into æther a moment later?  Why think of others who think only
of themselves?  Why pray vainly to a God who is not there?  Why
study the life and words of a Christ whose every movement is
riddled with modern suspicion?  Why cheat ourselves with all this
illusion?  No, let us clutch our certainties.  You are a fool,
Johanson; you are giving up something for nothing--for nothing at
all save certain defeat.  What can you do in this place with your
reforms?  You are a foreigner.  I told you before and I tell you
again that they will not let you take one single step against their
will.  And why should they?  This is their town, they have built it
on certain moralities, certain social laws.  Those moralities and
those laws make them safe.  They have to protect their wives, their
children, their earthly property, their heavenly souls.  You come
from outside and attack them.  Why should they not defend
themselves?"

"I will not attack them," Johanson answered fiercely.  "I told you
I would not wish that.  I have no right, as you say, and no desire.
But I must be honest.  I must not be something that I am not.  I
would say to them, 'I think in this way and in this, but that are
only myself.'  I must not lie about myself."

"Yes," answered Wistons, "but you are against them, and the things
you want may seem to a few others desirable, and so a little group
will grow, and that group will not be contented, as you are, with
simply stating their ideas.  They will want to put them into
practice.  Then hostilities begin whether you wish it or no."

"It is more simple than you suppose," Johanson said in a little
while.  "I have no doubt that it is right to do.  I must not agree
to what I know to be wrong, I am not to interfere with others, but
my own integrity is to be protected at every cost.  At almost every
cost.  Here is the struggle, you see.  I love that girl, Mr.
Wistons, with heart and soul and body.  If I for a moment look over
the wall and see myself without her it is terrible, standing alone
in the world.  Once that were possible.  I did not mind to be
alone, but now that I have been close to her, to be alone will be a
terror.  I love her body, but much more I want her for my
companion, some one who knows my troubles and I knows hers, some
one I can always talk with, some one who is true whatever else may
happen, some one who knows me and loves me although they knows me.
Some one half me and I half them.  She is not very wise, perhaps,
she is young.  She can't think of two things at once, and she must
have some things or she is angry; and she values some things
falsely.  We shall quarrel--perhaps often--but my heart shall be
hers and hers mine.  I love her so that if I can't have her I can
never be intimate with any one again."

They sat in silence.  After a long time Johanson said, almost
timidly, "What am I to do, Mr. Wistons?  What am I to do?  I can't
lose her."

"And must you lose her," Wistons asked gently, "if things go badly
with you in the town?  Doesn't she care for you more than that?"

"She is very young," Johanson answered, "and she is jealous.  She
loves me, I am sure, but she has been spoilt.  She wants her way.
I know that if we were married a year or more I could control her,
but now, if I don't promise not to see my friend's daughter, I'm
afraid her jealousy shall, at some moment, separate us."

"Then go on for a year with your work," said Wistons, "be married,
keep quiet for a while about Seatown.  That will come right if you
wait.  There are others besides yourself who are moving in that."

"And give up my friend?" Johanson asked.

"Oh, you can be diplomatic about that.  Go there a little less, not
see the daughter privately. . . ."

"But they are my friends," Johanson broke in.  "Do you think at
once they would not see that I was as the rest of the town?  'Yes,'
I say to them, 'I love my girl, and she doesn't like that I come
here.  So we meet in secret, you understand?'  Oh yes, THEY
understand!  Only a little flush in the face, a little dropping of
the eyes, but Tom Longstaffe's heart is hurt for ever and I have
been false to my word.  No, no--No, no, no!"

"Then," said Wistons quietly, "you must persuade the lady you love,
explain to her.  If she loves you--"

"If she did not love me," Johanson broke in, "I could, perhaps.
But she are jealous because she love me.  Jealousy is so strong
that the one who has it cannot reason.  They can only cry out like
they have been wounded.  It is not themselves, but a disease in
their stomach like a cancer.  And when it is cured they wonder they
have had it. . . ."  He sat there, his hands clasped tightly
together.  In a voice full of pain he said at last:  "Oh, Mr.
Wistons, show me how to keep her, and yet be honest, show me how."

"There is no way to show you.  This is something you must fight out
with your own soul as I have had to fight it out and many another
man.  Your real life is at stake now."

"You believe, then, in a real life?" Johanson said urgently.  "My
dreams aren't all mist, my desires not all untrue, there is
something--?"

"I believe," said Wistons, "that if God Himself came flaming before
us here in this poor garden and commanded us to put away our
superstitions, to bury our beliefs, to abandon our little shreds of
ideals, to think only of the material life because there was none
other, to know that Christ Jesus was a sham and a fake, to practise
selfishness and gain and worldly success, to put heaven away from
our eyes and to pray no more, I believe that behind this thunder
there would be a still small voice comforting us and bidding us
still believe--

"If the spirit of man is a delusion and a joke, then it is a joke
of so much greater power, glory, hope and comfort than any serious
word that I will go to my grave feeding it, caring for it, giving
it all I have."

"I know how loose words are," Wistons went on quietly after a
little while.  "What have I said that means anything or that can't
mean anything you like to make it?  But what I know is that there
is more in life than anything that men can do or say, that there is
an immortal spirit whose history, whose struggles, whose victories
and defeats give the whole meaning to this life which is only one
short paragraph in the book of that greater life.  These are our
fleshly conditions and we must obey them, but through them, always,
we must be waiting, listening, for ever at attention to catch the
movement of that other life.  Your honour, your courage, your self-
sacrifice, your gentleness, kindliness, if you lose these things
you had as well be a sheep's carcass hanging in any butcher's.
That I KNOW to be true."  Then he added, "There's a storm coming.
I've felt the thunder over the hill a long time back.  The breeze
has gone."

He came over to Johanson and put his hand on his shoulder.  "Come
into the house and drink some bad coffee."

Johanson stood up.

"No, thank you.  I think I'll be off.  I'm going to walk back and
I'll not be caught by the storm."

Wistons answered, "Very well.  I won't keep you."  He added slowly,
"I've not been much help to you.  It's my fate never to help the
people I want to, but I doubt in this whether any one could help
you much.  It's your own fight."

"Yes, it's my own fight."  Johanson shook himself like a dog coming
out of water.  "But you have helped me.  Immense.  I don't know
which way it will be, but whatever way it is I shall never forget
what you have said."

Wistons nodded his head.

"All right, then.  Come up again some time.  I shall always like to
see you.  I wish you luck."

They shook hands and Johanson strode away.



The sky blackened, the stars vanished, and a little underground
breeze rustled along the ground like a creature whispering news; a
distant mutter grumbled behind the hill.

The way back to Polchester was straight enough, but as he left the
little village and pressed to the top of a bare and desolate hill
he felt as though he were entering strange and hostile country.  As
is so often the case with the inland Glebeshire country, thick and
wooded valleys give place with swift precipitancy to plains as bare
as a knuckle-bone.  On these plains there is little life, never a
tree to be seen, only a bare cottage or two clinging, with feet
stubbornly implanted, to the hostile and ungracious soil.  It was
on such a desolate plain that Johanson now found himself.

But he was not conscious of the scene nor of the coming storm.  As
he left Pybus behind him, so, too, Wistons faded.  It was true that
Wistons had helped him, but rather by listening than by his own
words.  Those words had been, it seemed to Johanson, a little
melodramatic, a little sentimental.  They might mean anything or
nothing.  This spirit of man, what was it?  This after-life--was it
of any use to consider that when one had so much ado to carry
through the present one?  Johanson had never, in that sense, been a
religious man.  All his impulses, both spiritual and temporal,
drove him towards the creation of something in this world.  That
seemed to him to be his whole business.  He prayed sometimes to
God; he thought, as every man must do, of the consequences of
physical death, but he did not LIVE for any after-life.  His
business seemed to be all with this one.

Clergymen, he had often thought, took it too readily for granted
that men's constant preoccupation must be with the life of the
spirit.  They slipped into phrases that were too easy to be
interesting.  He knew that Wistons was different from other men in
that his constant preoccupation was with the spiritual life, and
that his angry, starved, lonely, discomforted soul had no other
hope but the hope beyond the grave.  Wistons was no humbug and no
loose thinker either, but for that very reason he could not
understand Johanson's aching love for Maude.  There was all his
trouble, all his problem this night.  He was going to lose her, he
was going to lose her!

He saw her with marvellous clarity as he strode across the plain.
True and deep love is not blind: it sees defects and weakness with
an intensity that is part of its agony.  He knew that she was
spoilt and shallow, ignorant and vain, that she would not be able
to endure the tests of unpopularity and poverty and hostility, that
her code of morality was harsh, limited, stupid, that her view of
the world was provincial and ignorant, but he saw also beneath all
this most truly that she was a child capable of infinite tenderness
and goodness, were she only loved long enough and wisely enough.
Give him one year and he would change her so that her own mother
would not know her!  He would make himself so necessary to her that
when at the last the test came, she would endure anything rather
than leave him.

But now--seeing her only for a short period of the day, not sharing
with her those loving hours of the night that bind human souls
together as no other power can do--the least trouble, a flash of
jealousy, a refusal on his part to go her way in some social
matter, and she would be off riding ferociously on the wind of her
outraged vanity.

He knew that it was not only Mary Longstaffe that would be the
trouble.  Unless he bowed his head to the Ronders and the Bonds,
unless he smiled on Hogg and his wretched Seatown, unless he
permitted himself humbly to be patronised by the Cassidys and
Carlyons of the town, unless he surrendered for many a year his
dream of beautiful buildings and a place worthy of that Cathedral,
unless all this were so, his whole position would change, his
business would droop, it might be that real hostility would break
upon him.  He had at least one enemy in Hogg, who was only waiting
for his moment.

And then he would lose Maude.  You might fancy that she was worth
but little if she were so easily lost.  But she was as yet but half
created.  Every lover has the thought that he is creating the one
he loves, not in his own image, but in something far more beautiful
and divine.  He would not have loved Maude so dearly had she not
needed his tender care.  Love is only half love if it is not half
maternal.

He felt the first warm drops of rain upon his face.  The little
breeze had gone and the air was so close that he seemed to be
packed within an iron cage.  The thunder cracked across the plain,
a God snapping his giant fingers.  The cold, pale face of the
lightning swerved like a turning mirror across the earth, and he
saw a white world, bare, chill and dead.  Then the thunder burst,
cracking again and again inside his brain, as it seemed.  The rain
descended like whips and the ground hissed like snakes.

In that instant it seemed that he saw Maude, lovely, untouched by
the storm, her hair uncovered, her arms out to him.  He caught her
to him, stumbling to the ground, and murmured as he caressed her
cheek:

"Darling, darling . . . it's all over.  Stay with me.  I give up
everything for you.  What is anything else worth if I haven't you?
Come closer.  Come closer.  Love me terribly.  Yes, yes.  I will do
that and that and that.  I will do anything, everything.  Only stay
with me, love me.  I will shelter you.  Come here under my coat.
No one shall touch, no one shall hurt you.  Yes, yes, I will do all
you tell me.  No, I have given up my dreams.  They worried you, so
I threw them away. . . .  Love me, love me, love me.  Put your hand
there on my heart.  Here, I will lay my head between your breasts--
so.  Now close my eyes as you kiss them.  Slowly, slowly.  Don't
sigh, darling.  No trouble shall ever come to you again.  Only let
me lie here.  Draw down my head and kiss my eyes again.  Come
closer, closer so that the rain does not touch you.  Now let your
heart beat with the beating of mine.  So.  Both of us together.
Now we are one body and one flesh.  No one can separate us.  Have
no fear.  Have no fear. . . ."



The lightning flared across his eyes.  He was on his knees alone
and the plain was like the plain of the moon in its desolation.
Maude was not.  He had betrayed himself for her, and the reward was
not enough.  He knew, absolutely, that it was not enough.  Maude
had come to him, had crept into his very spirit, but the betrayal
of himself that had invited her had changed her into dust.

He struggled to his feet.  The rain was coming down in a joyful
flood, dancing in the plenitude of its power.  He was soaked with
it so that he became part of it.  The thunder was remote; the
lightning palely trembled on a far horizon.  He stretched his arms,
raised his head to heaven.

He knew that his crisis was finished and for ever.  Not for God
himself could he betray the Godhead in himself, far less for man.

It was as though a thief had come in the night and tried to steal,
as he slept, the only treasure that he had, and he had woken in
time.

He had realised Maude utterly, possessed her completely, and it had
not been enough.  Nor would anything else be enough to compensate
for the loss of his immortal part.

He gazed about him bewildered, like a man who had been sleeping.
He pressed the back of his hand, washed with the rain, against his
eyes.  The crisis had been so swift.  He did not know how long he
had been on his knees.  It was truly as though Maude had been
there.  He had possessed her, had triumphed with joy, and then had
known that desolation of betrayal and dismay at his unexpected
loss.  All this, it might be, in a second of time.  He did not
know.  It had been like a revelation, and his whole life was
settled by it.

As the rain washed his face he felt the strength rise within him
like a flood.  It was so wonderful to see his purpose so clearly.
Yes, he would love Maude no less, he would keep all the love in the
world that he was permitted to keep, but he had been given his
scale of values, values mortal and immortal.

He walked on triumphantly, through the rain.



CHAPTER V

SUMMER NIGHT


I have remarked elsewhere in other chronicles of our town on the
strange progress of rumour.  Polchester was less confined and
provincial in 1906 than it had been in 1897, but it was closer to
that earlier town than to the modern city that Carstairs Bellows
and the rest afterwards made of it.

The town life was still very largely a family affair.  Servants,
related through centuries of Glebeshire ancestry, still carried
gossip from door to door, and from the filthiest Seatown slum to
the quiet splendour of the Bishop's library at Carpledon the chain
ran link by link from house to house.

The gossip was seldom of evil intent.  People will see a puppy,
kettle tied to tail, chased by small boys, and will shrink with
horror at the sight; returning then to their tea, they will happily
chatter away the life and happiness of two human beings who have
never harmed them.  Sight is everything: for most of us what we do
not see we do not feel.

Our Town had seen Harmer John and, foreigner though he was, had
loved him.  It had taken him to its heart and, of course, expected
him to be sufficiently grateful for that honour.  He had begun to
show his gratitude quite properly by giving the place a new hobby,
by declaring his devotion to its beauty, by engaging himself to a
native and by providing a novel and charming entertainment.  All
this was well: for a mere foreigner very well indeed.  He must now
carry on that good beginning by devoting himself to the town's
interest, transforming himself into a true citizen--difficult work
for a foreigner, of course, and only to be achieved by his complete
surrender to the town's wishes.

A week or two after the lecture it began to be whispered that this
same surrender was neither so swift nor so desirable as it should
be.  Some one said that some one else had said that some one had
heard Harmer John say. . . .  Some one said that Harmer John was
having trouble with his girl, and some one added to that that his
girl thought that he was spending too much of his time with another
lady.

Here, indeed, you touched upon one of the tenderest spots in
Polchester morality.  Once publicly engaged, you were engaged.  To
walk out casually with a lady to see whether you liked her, that
was a wise precaution against too precipitate matrimony, but,
engaged before the world, proclaimed at a dinner, danced upon and
sung over, after that, there you were and there you must stay.

Of course, one knew what foreigners were: dangerous in sexual
matters as no Englishman could ever be.  Did one not know what
Paris stood for, and although Harmer John came from the North
somewhere, as far from Polchester as Paris was, nevertheless, once
out of England the danger was the same.  And if Harmer John once
played fast and loose with a Polchester girl . . . !

Then, Rumour continued, there was this Seatown affair.  What had
happened in Seatown?  No one precisely knew.  He had gone down
there and laid his hand on a sick child's forehead and the child
had instantly recovered.  Since then certain women in the town were
always bringing him children with colds and coughs and headaches,
and he cured them just by looking at them.

Witchcraft?  Well, this was a modern world and we know that
witchcraft is nonsense--nevertheless these foreigners learn funny
tricks in these foreign places.  Every one knew that you cured
colds with quinine, not by looking the patient in the eyes.  That
was hypnotism or mesmerism, the kind of thing practised once at the
annual Fair in our town by a foreign gentleman in a shiny tall hat
and a soiled white shirt, chased ultimately away by the policeman.
In any case what had Harmer John to do with Seatown?  Why was he
down there so often?  Some of the roughest men in the place had
been heard to suggest that if he came meddling with their women
they'd have something to say. . . .

There was also the case of Mary Longstaffe.  Rumour had something
to murmur about that.  It had, of course, been hard on the girl
that her lover should have died before he could marry her, and had
she only stayed away from our town nobody would have interfered.
She would have been pleasantly and easily forgotten.  Had she
wished even to pay a short visit to her father, so forgiving is our
town and so conscious of human weakness that it might, for a brief
period, have turned aside and looked the other way.  But to come
back and live, bringing with her the child of her sin!  There was
obstinacy, pride and rebellion!  Why, it was as though Polchester
were nothing at all, a mere paltry village to be insulted quite
casually by anybody!  No, no, thank God, our town had its pride.
It had also its moral code.  The sons of our Archdeacons might run
away with the daughters of our citizens, but at least they had the
grace to run away and stay away.  Mary Longstaffe's presence in our
town was a perpetual menace to our good name and proper pride.
Once an evil liver always an evil liver.  Didn't every one know
that?  The pleasures of the flesh once tasted were too pleasant not
to taste again!

And here she was at her old tricks, detaching a man from his girl--
and alas, it seemed, if all that Rumour said was true, that he was
only too ready to be detached.

Nevertheless, at this present time our town had no intention of
being unkind to Harmer John: it had its eye upon him merely, and
entirely, of course, for his good.



It was not very long before many people noticed a change in the
man.  It was not that he was less pleasant or friendly, but rather
that he was sterner and something more preoccupied in his thoughts.

But the true change in him was made manifest to Ronder earlier than
to any one else in the town.  The massage was finished and Johanson
was about to leave the bedroom when Ronder, with that charming
friendly smile of his warranted to put dragons at their ease, said,
"And now, my dear fellow, what about the next lecture?"

Johanson, putting his things away in a small bag, said, "Oh, I
don't know."

"You don't know?"  Ronder shook his head with the greatest
friendliness.  "Come, that won't do.  We are all expecting it,
people are demanding it.  Besides," he drew near to Johanson and
put his hand on his shoulder, "it is necessary for the town.  You
are now a factor in the town's progress, remember.  You are no
longer a private citizen."

"Am I not?"  Johanson straightened himself.  "I shall have my
liberty though, Canon Ronder."

It was then that Ronder felt the change in the man.  It had been
his happiness that, all his life, he could deal with human souls as
though he played a game of chess.  He was aloof from them, vastly
indulgent to them, feeling no surprise at their weaknesses and
folly, liking them, often helping them and never pitying them.  But
this playing of them one against the other had become such a
passion with him that he now often played his game simply for the
love of playing it and without any definite purpose.

So, of late, he had been aware that at times he seemed to beat the
air; people eluded him as once they had not done; his touch was no
longer so sure.  Many persons in the town, from Ambrose Wistons
down to Samuel Hogg, seemed now to bear with them a faint air of
hostility.  He had been sometimes suspicious of late that people
laughed at him.  Did he lose his power over others he lost
everything in life save his private self-indulgences, and he was
still alive enough to see whither they might lead him, had they
rein.

But here in Johanson was a man whom he felt that he completely
controlled.  What made it pleasanter was that he liked the fellow.
He liked his physical size and strength and health and good humour
and naïveté and honesty.  He appreciated good qualities in others
immensely; they added to his sense of his own well-being.

This man, a foreigner, knowing little of the world and with an
infinite and touching belief in the honesty of others, was ideal
for his purpose.  He had never hitherto doubted but that he could
mould him exactly to his shape and pattern.

Now, in one flash of perception, he doubted.  There was something
in Johanson's eye, voice, the squaring of his shoulders, that
caused Ronder to wonder whether after all he had known the man at
all.  And the thought that was to be common in the next weeks to
many of his fellow-citizens came to him.  After all, with these
foreigners, you never can tell!

"Your liberty, my dear fellow!  Why, who is threatening that?"

Johanson smiled, "Nobody."

"That's all right, then," said Ronder.  "We must see about a date.
If I am to take the chair for you again, as I should very much like
to do, it won't be so easy to find a free date within the next
month or two.  It's extraordinary how things pile up!  We should
have it before the weather gets too warm and before the children's
holidays start.  Let me see!"  He stood in his handsome dressing-
gown and furred bedroom slippers delicately considering.

"I'm in no hurry, sir," said Johanson, taking his bag and turning
towards the door.  "My mind's not clear yet about what I shall say.
It shall be necessary to go a little farther than the last time."

Again that new note in the man's voice!

Ronder did not intend to stand any nonsense; it would be as well to
put down that furred bedroom slipper here and now!

"Come, come," he said.  "What do you mean by that?  If I'm to take
the chair for you I must know what you intend to say.  You're not
going to plunge into controversial matters, I hope."

Johanson turned from the door smiling with all his accustomed warm
friendliness.

"Canon Ronder, you've been very kind to me for a long way back.  I
would like to do always as you would wish me, but I must be myself.
I can't be another.  I see life as I see it, and I see this town as
I see it.  I can't see it another way."

"Now, my dear friend," Ronder came up to Johanson, placed his hands
on his shoulders, and the two faces were so close to one another
that Johanson could see the little curling hairs in Ronder's ears
and the tiny red veins (and later they would be purple) that ran
down on either side of his nostrils, "we are friends, are we not?"

"Yes, sir," said Johanson, moving his big shoulders ever so
slightly.

"And have been friends ever since we first met, I think.  We both
love this town, and we have both of us certain gifts that we can
place at her service.  Now there are things that you know that I do
not, and there are things that I know, knowledge of the world a
little, perhaps, that you have not yet learned.  You have not, I am
afraid, taken our little talk of the other day to heart as I should
have wished.  I am not asking you--as indeed how could I?--to cease
your friendship with any one here, only to be a little more
discreet, a trifle less public--"

"You speak of Miss Longstaffe?"  Johanson moved away from Ronder's
touch.

"Oh, why mention names?  My good fellow, you won't take this amiss,
I know.  It is only because you are a stranger here--"

"But I like it better to mention names," Johanson interrupted.  He
paused a moment, then continued:  "Canon Ronder, you are a clever
man.  You understand the world.  Do you not realise that if some
one have a friend whom they know to be good it is when all the
world try to part them that they stick the closest?  Tom Longstaffe
was and is and ever shall be my friend.  His daughter I hardly
know.  I like her, yes, but all women is rather shadowy to me just
now because I love one woman so much.  But Miss Longstaffe is a
good woman, I think, and courageous and honest, and she have a dear
little boy.  Do you think I would give up my friends because they
are abused by people?  Why, no!  You would not yourself!"

"But no one is asking you to give them up," Ronder answered
impatiently.  (Lord! how tiresomely simple the fellow was!)
"Surely you can be as friendly as you like with them without being
for ever seen with them in public?  That's all I ask.  A little
discretion.  Your friends here want people to look up to you, to
admire you.  If you are to do good work in the town you must show
every one that you put some value on morality and decent living.
You are entering on a public career.  It is not as though you were
a nobody.  Many eyes are upon you."

"It is not true," Johanson answered slowly, "that I am seen often
with Miss Longstaffe in public, but speaking to me this way, Canon
Ronder, will assist me to be so.  I am not a boy.  I have my pride
like another man.  Were you the best friend I have in the world,
Canon Ronder, you should not dictate to me my loyalties.  Good
afternoon."  And before Ronder could shape his next indignant
sentence Johanson was away.

But he could not be preoccupied with Ronder, nor with any gossip
that there might be in the town.  His one thought was for Maude.
In some way he must persuade her sufficiently of his love of her
and of her absolute need for him, so that, whatever troubles might
come, she would not be able to leave him.  Give him only time!
Give him only time!  Could he only make her understand that he not
only did not love Mary Longstaffe, but that she was hardly more
than an acquaintance, and if then after that he might show her that
she, Maude, was the first, last and only love of his life!  But
with it all he was not very clever.  He had had but little
experience with women, his honesty (a quality not universally
practised by lovers) was for ever in his way, and he did not know
that Maude, like most women, lived on little assurances and
demonstrations.

He could, perhaps, during those important weeks, have chained her
to him for ever, had he been a little less single-minded, a little
more subtle.  But he was not subtle; he was not clever at
perceiving the things that people wanted him to be, do or say.

And yet he was wise enough to understand the real spirit that Maude
had; he understood it better than any one, including her mother.

He understood it better than any one ever would again.  The divine
spark in Maude at this moment was a small quivering flame, but it
was alight.  He could have fanned it into a fire that would have
made her a noble woman.

Poor Maude!  She also had had no experience of love.  She did not
know what this strange confusion of feeling--of jealousy,
selfishness, unselfishness, physical desire, maternal tenderness,
passionate surrender, autocratic domination, weariness and
excitement might be.  For the first time in her trivial vain little
life she encountered love, and it was not love exactly as she had
thought it would be; it was love with difficulty, love that needed
great qualities of unselfishness and charity and patience.  Those
qualities had not as yet grown in her to sufficient stature.

She was in a thousand moods a day.  Before he came home from his
work she sat up in her room listening for the sound of his step.
Her heart beat thickly, her cheeks were hot, her throat dry.  She
loved him so terribly that all she wanted was to stay quietly
beside him and feel him to be there.  When he came she would be so
good.  She would not say one word that would irritate him.  She
would not mention the name of that horrid woman. . . .  She would
not tell him the gossip that she had heard in the town, that he had
quarrelled with Canon Ronder or that the men in Seatown were going
to duck him in the Pol.

These things had disturbed her terribly; she watched his popularity
rise and fall with the breathless anxiety of a farmer watching his
weather-glass.  But she would not say a word.  She would only tell
him that she loved him and loved him and loved him.  And then when
she had been with him two minutes out it all came--all of it.  How
some one had said that he had spent all the day in Mary Longstaffe's
room; how some one else had said that he and Mary Longstaffe were
planning to run away together; how again she had heard that if he
were not careful and kept his tongue quiet he would lose all his
clients; how this, how that--out it all came in an angry tempestuous
flood, ending always with, "And you don't love me.  I know you
don't.  Otherwise you wouldn't behave so."

When first she had said that, it had delighted her to see the look
of astonished pain and surprise in his eyes as though he were truly
amazed that any one for a moment of time could doubt his love.  But
she had now said the same thing so often that it was impatience
rather than pain that his eyes showed.

"Tell me how much you love me," she demanded.  "More than you ever
thought you could love anybody?  More than every one in the world
together?  More than--"

At first he answered her with passionate assertions, but now the
demand was so frequent that he refused to answer.

"If you can't see," he said, "I shan't tell you.  It is an insult
to ask me so often.  You must know without for ever asking."  And
one day when his arms were around her and his cheek against hers
she was entirely reassured and felt that she could snap her
beautiful fingers at all the Mary Longstaffes in creation, but by
the following day she was all uneasy again and the reassurance was
demanded once more.

His love for her was so clear to himself and so patent, it seemed
to him, to all the world that he did not know how to make it
clearer.  He sought Mrs. Penethen in his trouble.  That wise woman
had made hitherto no comment.  She never offered advice, she never
asked questions.  Only when something must be done she said so; so
far as the household affairs were concerned it was always Judy who
did it.

It may be expected, however, that she had her private anxieties.
Her attitude to Johanson was still very much what it had been on
the night of his first appearance.  She had felt a mother to him
then: she would feel a mother to him to the last.  But she had
passed, in other years, through such deeps of emotion, sorrow and
self-control that she would be always an observer rather than a
participator.  She knew his trouble, though, before he came to her.

They took a little walk together to the Cathedral and then round to
the green paths under the grey walls.  Between the trees, heavy now
with the bright green leaves of the new summer, the waters of the
Pol flashed and sparkled in broken segments and squares and
circles.  Once and again the Cathedral chimes came softly down to
them like the very voice of the summer trees.

Mrs. Penethen always dressed in the same fashion when she went out--
a black or a purple bonnet, a dark cloak that fell in straight
folds like a knight's mantle, a white collar and white cuffs to her
black dress.  She seemed like the foundress of some mysterious
order.

"You may have to take her away," she said, looking at him with her
soft gentle eyes so unlike the sternness of her figure.

"Take her away?" he repeated, startled.

"Yes, it may be the only thing.  Here she must be the wife of
Somebody, that is her great determination.  If things go badly with
you here it will hurt her dreadfully.  In another place she won't
mind so much because she won't hear so much."

"You think things are going to go badly with me here, then?" he
asked.

She stood still looking at a splash of river intensely blue between
the curve of the leaves.

"I don't know.  But you're too strong to be beaten into the shape
they want, and it will take you years to beat THEM into anything.
Do you know that you can't change people?"

"Oh, you can," he answered eagerly, thinking of Maude, "if you care
enough."

She shook her bonnet.

"No, you cannot.  I never changed my husband.  He learnt to keep
some things out of my way and I learnt not to bother him with
questions.  That's the most married people ever learn."  She went
on after a moment:  "I was in service when I was a young girl.  My
mistress was determined to cure her husband of taking snuff.  She
died, poor thing, in the effort."

"But Maude is so young.  If I have her only long enough with me I
can make her see and feel in her very soul that I love her."  He
stopped for a moment, took off his hat and felt the sun on his
head.  "It's that--that she can think I don't love her--it's that
that beats me.  What should I do, Mrs. Penethen?  Tell me what I
should do?"

"I'll tell you what you should have done," she answered with
energy, "only, of course, it's too late now.  It's Judy you should
have married."

"Judy!" he cried.  "Judy!  Why, she hates me!"

"No, she does not," Mrs. Penethen answered.  "She loves you and has
always done.  And, much more than that, she understands you.  She
knows what you want.  She saw that that lecture was tomfoolery.
She'd like to see you fight the Town and beat it.  She'd back you
in anything.  She's the only one in all this place who knows you.
And she always has."

He felt a sort of provoked irritation.  He did not want to think of
Judy, that dark frowning girl who never laughed and watched him
ironically.  Besides, he did not believe a word of it.

"Misfortunately," he answered drily, "it's Maude who I love, and
love her so that no other woman can be even thought of.  Can't you
persuade her of that, Mrs. Penethen?  Can't you make her see that
she have so much reason to be jealous of the moon as any other
woman?"

"Jealousy isn't reasonable," answered Mrs. Penethen; "any one will
tell you that.  I was jealous once of my husband and a girl in a
grocer's.  She was ugly and stupid, but I hated her.  I'd have
poisoned her sugar and flour for her if I could.  I never knew
whether I had reason or not.  Jealousy's a thing to make you
ashamed of yourself if anything ever was, but it's a thing you're
to be pitied for too.  Maude's jealous.  Can't you see that woman
less than you do?"

"I don't see her very often," he said, "but her father's my best
friend.  The people here all cut her.  Wouldn't you stand up for
your friend?"

"But if you have to choose between her and Maude?"

"Choose!" he burst out.  "But that's ridiculous.  I don't hope that
you too think that I am in love with her!"

"No, I do not.  But just now, things being as they are, I think
you're a little too honest about it.  Why tell Maude when you've
been there?  There's no need.  I heard you two or three days ago
saying you'd just come from there."

"But why shouldn't I say when there's nothing in it?"

"Bless the man!"  She shook her head ironically.  "Don't you know
anything about women?  They'll put up with anything if it isn't set
right in front of their faces.  All they want is the permission to
cheat themselves.  They don't bless a man for too much honesty, I
can tell you."

He stared about him in a kind of dismay.  "I don't understand it,"
he said.  "It should all be so straight with me and Maude.  I love
her, heart, soul and body.  So I have always done.  I will give up
anything to her, everything I have--"

"Except what you think to be right," said Mrs. Penethen.

"Yes," he answered.  "I'm not worth Maude's having if I lose that."

"I don't think women care much," Mrs. Penethen said.  "What they
want is to have a man, all of him, head to toe.  Most women, I
believe, would rather have a man of poor character and have all of
him than a man of good character and only a bit of him.  I don't
know.  It's hard to say.  But what I'm afraid of with Maude is that
she'll get into one of her tantrums and fly off and find herself
engaged to somebody else before her head's clear, and then still be
too proud to come back to you again."

He stopped and stood there in the sunlight bareheaded.  She saw
that he was dreadfully troubled.

"Oh, Mrs. Penethen," he said, "I mustn't lose her.  I mustn't.
Life without her would be such pain.  Oh, help me not to lose her!
You're her mother.  Tell her.  Advise her."

All her heart went out to him.  She put her hand on his shoulder.

"For just now," she said, "I'll advise you.  Don't at this time see
the other lady too much and don't tell Maude when you have seen
her.  And don't get into trouble with the people here before you've
married Maude.  You've only got to wait until October.  When you're
married, if you have trouble she'll have to share it whether she
likes it or not.  And that will be good for her too."

She looked up whimsically into his face out of her soft grey eyes.

"All the same," she said, shaking her bonnet at him, "it's Judy you
ought to have married."



A summer night came.  The old phantasmal fires belonging to the
soil here before bricks and mortar were thought of had their brief
hour of resurrection in a flaming sky.  Loge, at some unseen
Wotan's bidding, hemmed in the Cathedral with a wall of fire, and
the woods caught the blaze and the Pol was stained with scarlet.
It sank, and a pale wash of silver white flooded the scene.

As dusk passed into early night and the stars stamped the sky,
summer became vocal.  It was the first real summer night of the
year, and a faint film of silver light hung like gauze about the
quiet streets.  Scents of flowers and trees and hedgerows
penetrated everywhere.  Mrs. Dunning, the widow who kept the "Blue
Boar," that stuffy little hostelry at the south end of the market,
smelt them and opened the sitting-room window and leaned out and
looked at the stairs.  Samuel Hogg, watching with smiling face
Fletch play Cassidy the grocer at billiards, smelt them and
went into the doorway of the Y.M.C.A. building and sniffed
contemptuously the air.  Mrs. Combermere, finishing a pleasant and
solitary little dinner in her house in the Precincts, a book about
dog breeding propped up against the water-jug in front of her,
smelt them and told her little servant-maid that she should be out
with her young man that evening--a night for lovers.  Miss Ronder,
finishing HER meal opposite her nephew the Canon, smelt them and,
looking cynically across the table at his eager intent to get the
very best out of his Angel on Horseback, thought of carnations, her
favourite flower, masses of them, dark crimson and wine-purple.
Wistons, sitting alone in his tangled little garden at Pybus, was
bathed in the flowers, in the soil of the hill, in the water of the
running stream.  He was thinking of Christ, watching for Him, as he
often did, to come in through the garden gate and quietly,
peacefully to sit down at his side.  So they would sit, the two of
them, in the little garden, friends who needed no words.

Johanson smelt them.  He stood in his bedroom, his head through the
open window, looking up at the fiery stars.  Fiery they were to-
night, some of them so restless as though they were intolerably
excited, and the steady ones shining with an extra gleam.  Maude
had gone to supper with those tiresome dull people the Boultewoods.
He couldn't abide them, mother, son and daughter.  He felt
strangely as though they menaced him in some way.  They!  Those
flat-faced cows!  He was in an ill temper to-night, knowing that
Maude had gone out to supper with them only to irritate him.  She
had asked him to take her to the house (it was at the south end of
the town), and then when he had eagerly agreed she had laughingly
told him that young Boultewood was coming to fetch her, and that he
could accompany the two of them if he liked.  She was always
teasing him in this way now, and behind the light superficiality of
it there was something serious and restless and angry.

Oh, why could she not be quiet and trust him and see that he loved
her?  Why must she be for ever probing him and defying him and
relenting, scolding him and forgiving, vehemently accusing him and
then passionately repenting?

As he looked out and swam up to the quivering silver of the stars
he longed for tranquillity.  Everything was rocking to a crisis.
On such a night he could not stay within doors.  He took his hat
and walked out.

He thought he would go round towards the south of the town and
perhaps he might meet her walking back.  She would not be eager to
stay very late; the family bored her quite as sharply as they bored
him; she had gone there only to provoke him and would soon have
enough of it.

On the south side of Polchester overhanging Seatown there is a
little public garden.  In 1907 it was a very small and overgrown
little piece with a tiny battered rococo temple, and some stairs
and rain-washed garden seats.  Now, as every one knows, the efforts
of Cassidy and others have changed it into a fine public park, and
once again, after more than a hundred years, the streets beneath it
have become fashionable.  From it you can no longer look over and
down to the small cluster of Seatown lights, for Seatown is no
more.

But to-night Johanson looked down.  The one Seatown street showed
its straight line of scattered lights, and behind that line the
others lay coiled like the eyes of watching animals nested lazily
in the warm night.  The place had a stranger fascination for him
than anything else, save the Cathedral, in Polchester.  He knew
that in some fashion it was here that his destiny would reach its
crisis.  In some fashion, too, that little bunch of dirty houses
would be his test, and he fancied that as he looked down those eyes
looked up, lazily, contemptuously, but with some shadow of
apprehension.

He turned away; it was not with Seatown that he was occupied to-
night, but with Maude--always and for ever with Maude.

He turned, saw first the little temple black against the milk-white
sky with stars hanging to its roof like birds, and then, close at
his side and quite unconscious of him, Mary Longstaffe.

His first sense when he realised that she had not seen him was to
slip away.  Here was danger, the course against which even Mrs.
Penethen had warned him.  Then, ashamed of his even momentary
hesitation, he went up to her.

"Miss Longstaffe!  All alone?" he said.

He saw her face in the starlit haze.  She had been thinking sad
thoughts.  Her broad strong figure, the fine brave carriage of her
head belied the almost childish distress in her eyes.  She covered
her melancholy with a smile as she turned to him, giving him her
hand.

"Yes," she said.  "It was so lovely a night that I couldn't stay
indoors.  Father has gone to some meeting and isn't to be back till
eleven.  Then we shall share our family cocoa."

They walked up and down the little garden path together, and at
once, as it always was with them, they reached a basis of frank
comradeship that Johanson knew with no other woman in the world.

"I have been a little sad to-night," she said.  "Anything very
beautiful has something sad in it, of course, because it is
unattainable, I suppose--beauty.  It slips away from you so
quickly.  And then on a night like this the time when I was happy
here comes back so sharply.  Of course I have my lover still.  He
never leaves me.

"But sometimes, however sure one is of that, one aches for
something tangible, the pressure of his hand again, the touch of
his sleeve."

"How do you mean," he asked, "that he never leaves you?"

"I'm not a sentimental woman," she answered.  "I've lived in London
now for years, working like a man.  I'm no spiritualist.  I
couldn't even swear to you that I am sure of a future life.  But I
mean that literally Lance never leaves me.  I think that perhaps
when I die we shall be separated, but until then he is as much with
me as he was before he had that accident.  More, because then it
was often difficult for us to be together.  Why," she said, turning
to him, "do you think I could ever stand it with all these cats
here behaving to me as they do if he wasn't at my side all the
time?"

"What do you mean?  That you can see him--definitely?"

"Of course.  More definitely than when he was alive.  We do
everything together.  Oh, but what is it?"  She turned to him
almost passionately.  "Do I cheat myself?  Of course I don't see
him, nor hear his voice, but most of the time he does seem to be
there.  Only there are the intervals.  There was one this evening.
I dread them so much.  At those times I feel that it is all a sham.
There is no Lance.  Billy is all that remains of him."

They walked a little while and then she said, "I'm so glad I saw
you to-night.  You were just the person.  But we mustn't meet very
much just now, and you must come to our house less often.  I've
been talking to father about it."

"I must?  Why?" Johanson asked.

"Because it's doing you harm.  We are marked people at present.
You've got your business to build up, and it would be really
serious for you if your reputation were damaged by knowing us.  I
shan't be here for so very long, I suppose.  I can stand it, but
when father loses his congregation through me it is time I went
away again.  It's hard.  I have only father and Billy and Lance.  I
don't want to interfere with any one.  Only to be left alone with
my three.  But they won't permit it.  And next time I go father
will go too, leave the work of his life.  I ought never to have
come--and yet, I don't know, father and I have had some wonderful
days.  So," she said, staring down at the Seatown lights, "you
won't come to our house very much just now--will you, please?"

He laughed.  "A fine friend I'd be, Miss Longstaffe, loving your
father and your son, and being a friend of your own, and giving you
all up for the town's gossip.  Would you think that of me now?"

"But it's serious," she went on.  "There's another reason.  Don't
think I don't hear everything.  I do.  There's the lady you're
engaged to.  She doesn't like your knowing me.  Forgive me if I'm
poking my nose in where it oughtn't to be, but you mustn't make HER
unhappy--"

He was silent a moment before he answered.  "No, I mustn't.  But
I've had all this out with myself.  I can't give my friends up for
nobody.  I can arrange that those who don't like one another don't
meet, or be tactful, you know, about speaking of them, but where my
heart is there I must be loyal.  Maude shall have that.  She must,
if we are to be happy."

His face seemed to her sterner and older than she had ever seen it,
as he now looked at her.  "You know, Miss Longstaffe, that shoe
shall very soon be on the other leg.  It will be whether you and
Tom care know me, not me you.  I shall in a little time be the most
unpopular man in Polchester. . . ."  He shrugged his shoulders.
"It shall be new to me, that experience.  Men have always liked me,
and I like to be liked.  But soon they'll drive me out of this town
if they can--"

"Why?  What are you going to do?" she asked.

"Do?  Nothing!  That's just it.  I won't be under their orders.  If
they ask me whether their town is beautiful I shall say, 'Yes, it
is beautiful, but your slum is filthy.'  If they ask me, 'Are we
not fine people?' I shall say, 'Yes, but you can be finer and me
too.'  If they say I must lick Ronder's shoes, I shall not.  I am a
foreigner.  Very quickly, in a night, a foreigner is a suspicious
person.  First I was good because I were pleased with everything
and had no opinions.  So it might have gone for a long while.  But
I saw Seatown and the way they treated you.  And they wanted me to
be a sort of clown and turn somersaults for them.  But I shall make
one beautiful thing, somewhere, some place in the town, and then
they'll kick me out.  I know it."

"Yes, I see that," she said.  "You must be yourself.  We are alike
in that.  Well, here's luck."

She held out her hand and he took it.

"Don't forget that you're not to get into trouble because of us.
That would make us very unhappy."

They walked out of the little garden and turned up the street
towards the market-place.

At the corner he paused.  "Forgive me," he said, "I shall wait
here.  Maude--Miss Penethen, you know--I'm engaged to, she's been
taking supper with some friends here, and she would be returning
just about now."

As he spoke two figures emerged from a side street.  He saw,
instantly, with a sense that this was fate, and prearranged by an
interfering Heaven, that these were Maude and young Boultewood.
There was nothing to be done.  Young Boultewood was laughing in
that idiotic way of his like a braying ass.  Maude was quiet,
walking swiftly.  "Perhaps she is hurrying back to me."  He had an
instinct to push Mary Longstaffe into a doorway.  Anything to
prevent the meeting.  But he did not move.  His companion, who did
not, of course, know Maude by sight, went on:  "Well, then, I'll
wish you good night.  I'm so glad that we met like that.  It was
the greatest piece of luck--"

Maude saw him.  Her eyes shone.  She was about to stop.  Then she
saw Mary Longstaffe whom, by sight, she knew well enough.  Her face
sharpened.  She looked at him, raised her head defiantly and walked
quickly on.



CHAPTER VI

THE QUARREL


He caught as though from a long way off the words repeated:  "Well,
I must say good night--"

He dragged himself back.  "Oh, no, Miss Longstaffe.  I'll see you
to your door.  It's almost my way home, you know."

She talked perhaps, and perhaps he answered her.  He saw men as
trees walking, and the clouds, frustrated by a cloudless sky,
rolled baffled at his feet.  He could think only:  "I must see her
to-night.  I must explain to her.  I can't go through the night
without having seen her."

But when he reached the house it was dark and silent.  He held the
candle high in the kitchen, but its quavering light showed no
figures, and from all the place there came no sound.  He went up to
bed and lay there through the warm night, struggling with his
distress.  As always, his window was open and his blind up, but the
stars could not help him.  No one from outside could help him.
Maude and he must fight this out alone.

He went, as lovers always do, round and round in a circle.  If he
would give up Mary Longstaffe, mind his business and do what he was
told by his superiors, Maude would love him.  If he didn't she
wouldn't, and if she didn't. . . .  Could he endure it?

That was the question that leapt at him out of the starlight.  Life
without Maude.  He had faced that question at Pybus and answered
it, but now it was presented to him more immediately.  Life without
Maude.  Life without Maude.  And if he did what he was told. . . .

After a little troubled sleep in the morning he got up and went
out.  It was eight o'clock.  They were washing their door-steps and
opening the shops.  Old Looney was walking to his accustomed market-
place seat.  He smiled, greatly pleased, when he saw Johanson.  The
sea had been very quiet down in the caves all night, just lapping
up against the rock.  But to-day bad weather was threatened.  One
must look out.  The line of foam over there was angry.  It couldn't
be held back for ever.  That wasn't in nature.  And when the
undertide had force enough--why, then you'd see something!  Looney
chuckled.  He hadn't sat there watching all this time for nothing.
He wasn't going to miss it when the day came.

Johanson stayed at his work, but when the last stout client had
departed, with merely a nod to old Billy, he hurried away.

He found Judy alone in the kitchen.  She stared at him defiantly;
her sleeves were turned up and her brown arms rested on the table
as she looked at him.  But he had no time to waste on Judy.

"Where's Maude?" he said.

"In her room," Judy answered.  Then quickly and almost under her
breath, as though she were ashamed, she went on:  "Look here, don't
see her to-day.  She's cross to-day and liking to be.  She's
patting herself on the back because she's got a grievance.  Leave
her a day or two and she'll come round."

But he hadn't even answered her.  He was up the stairs and knocking
on Maude's door.  "Maude!  Maude!"

There was no reply.  He waited, then he knocked again.  "Maude!
Maude!  It's me--Johnnie."

At last her voice, cold and sharp, came to him:  "Well?"

"Please speak to me for a moment.  I beg you."

The door opened and she stood there.  "Yes--what is it?"

"Will you not give me ten minutes in the box-room?"

The box-room was a small place on the floor above, round the corner
from Mr. Fletch's bedroom--strange, odd-cornered, with some dusty
bookshelves holding dustier magazines, two old chairs, a table and
a cupboard piled with forgotten relics.  Mrs. Penethen's house was
not well suited to lovers.  There were two sitting-rooms, but Miss
Midgeley had one and Mrs. Penethen herself the other.  But the
lovers were never interrupted in the box-room.  From its curious
slanting window you could see out over the roofs of Polchester to
the green country beyond, almost to the edge of the plain that
dropped down to the sea.  They had come to look on it as their own.

She looked at him sternly.

"Very well," she said.

They went up together without a word.  She stood in front of the
slanting window, the grey clouds rolling behind her as though she
had evoked them to assist her grandeur.  For she was grand.  She
was fully conscious that to-day she had the power, the whip was in
her hand.  She was pleased that there was going to be a scene.  As
with most women when they are in love the thought of reconciliation
after bitter words was intoxicating.  She was already playing her
part in that second consoling drama before the first ruthless one
had begun.  But beneath this was a torturing love for him, a
determined obstinacy and a raging jealousy.

He spoke humbly, looking up at her in the way that she liked best
with eyes that adored her.  "Please, Maude, whatever we say we
mustn't be angry, either of us.  Do you see that?  Don't you agree?
No?  For us to be angry would be terrible, because we love one
another.  We can talk quietly like friends, can't we?  You see, I
didn't know she'd be there, Miss Longstaffe, I mean.  I knew you
wouldn't like it, our being together.  But we met by chance."

"I don't care," she answered, "who you meet.  You can be with who
you like for all I care."

"No.  No.  Of course it matters.  Everything matters that gives you
pain."  He came to her and put his hand on her sleeve.  She drew
away sharply.  He pulled himself up, standing close to her, looking
with love into her face, but no more attempting to touch her.
"Maude, listen.  Let us be married soon.  Very soon.  Next week
perhaps.  All our troubles come from this, that we are not together
enough, only a little of every day, but when we are married then we
shall know--"

"Married!" she broke in sharply.  "A nice time we should have if we
were married, and a pretty sort of husband you'd make if you went
on as you've begun.  No, thank you.  When I have a husband he shall
be some one I can trust."

"Not that!" he said, flushing.  "Not that, Maude!  Say what you
please, but I am honest with you.  I don't hope you'll deny that.
You MUST not.  Other things I've been wrong about.  I've been
stupid, sometimes I don't understand, I'm a foreigner--"

She caught up that word.  "Yes, that's it.  You're a foreigner.  I
don't understand you nor does any one else.  You come here and
every one's kind to you, and then you begin to criticise everything
just as though you'd been here all your life.  You know better than
anybody, you do.  You take advantage of every one's kindness."

She had worked herself up now finely, and he saw her, in a flash of
understanding, almost exactly as she was.  Drawn up against the
window, her lovely hair and eyes, the perfect proportion of her
body under her thin summer frock, the pouting movement of her lips,
her little hands clenched, her young breast heaving, she looked the
child that she partly was.  He saw the child, he adored it,
worshipped it, but he saw beneath the child something ancient and
permanent, obstinacy, jealousy, hurt pride.  She was already a
woman in her more dangerous attributes.  Oh! if he could but catch
the fleeting child and hold it in his arms and keep it and make it
secure!  But there was the danger also of his own obstinacy and
anger.  She could rouse him and irritate him more easily than any
one else in the world, because he loved her more.

"Maude, darling," he said quietly.  "We are fighting air.  What are
we quarrelling about?  About nothing at all.  Because you saw me
with Miss Longstaffe.  I've told you that were an accident."

"You're not to see her again."

"How do you mean--not see her again?"

"Not see her again--not go near to her, have nothing to do with
her."

He moved his body impatiently.

"We've had all that out before.  I can't give up my friends unless
they are false or do you harm intentionally.  Can't you see that,
Maude?  I don't ask you to give up the Boultewoods, although I
don't like them.  What will we be, both of us, when we are married,
if we give up all our freedom?  We shall be slaves, the one of the
other."

"Oh yes," she retorted furiously.  "That's right.  It doesn't seem
funny to you to compare my friends, who are decent, respectable
people, with that woman who's a--"

"Stop that!"  He caught her wrist.  His face stared into hers, and
it was a new face for her to consider, cold and resolved.  The
boy's half-naïve, half-humorous twist had gone from it.  Let me
introduce to you, Miss Penethen, Mr. Hjalmar Johanson from
Copenhagen.  Yes, some one quite new.  She realised it.  She was
excited and frightened.

"Oh, you're hurting!"

He caught her other wrist and held that too.

"You shall drive me away from you if you talk like that, Maude. . . .
Let's have done with this foolishness.  We love one another.
What is all this quarrelling over?  We will give in to each other
always when we can, but there are some things we must not ask the
other to surrender.  Now kiss me and have done with this."

She broke into passionate crying, crumpled up into his arms, had
her scene of reconciliation that she had desired, but beneath their
demonstrations of love two other persons, darkly habited, crouching
low in their caves, muttered--



He had, at the same time, other troubles.  He paid the first
instalment on the new rooms to Fletch, and was entitled now to
enter upon them when he pleased; he went and looked at them.  They
were fine rooms, desolate, with torn wall-paper and straw-scattered
floors.  They were fine rooms, and he knew what he could do with
them, but he was conscious that he had taken them too soon.

Business was falling rather than rising.  Of course one must expect
that the summer would be a slack time; it was difficult in the warm
weather to expect people to care about physical exercises.  But the
preparations for the autumn season were not progressing as he
wished.  He had gained during the last month no new clients in the
town, and enquiries, in answer to his leaflets, had come in very
slackly from the country.

But worse than any of this was some odd change in himself.  He was
not working and thinking and planning with his old enthusiasm.  It
was as though he had lost much of his interest in himself and had
transferred it to something outside himself.  He stared at his
Donatello and Leonardo photographs as though he would drag their
souls from them.  He stood in front of the Brytte Monument in the
Cathedral, studying every line and vein of the beautiful marble as
though he had himself worked at it, and again and again he seemed
to feel some one at his side, some eyes upon him, some hand softly
on his shoulder.  In these early summer days Polchester was very
beautiful, and he would stand in the streets gazing up at the roofs
as they cut the field of deep sky or down upon the flags at his
feet like another Looney!  To make something beautiful, to form
something in the town that would flow like water in a flagon into
his empty spirit.  Be practical, man, and go back to your job!  He
stood at the window of his office and looked hungrily out into the
market-place.  One day he did a mad thing.  It was early evening,
and the market-place was a pool of dim blue water under the crags
of the houses.  At the foot of the Market Cross some one had left
from the last day's market some debris, pieces of wood, loose
paper.  He went down, walked hurriedly from the door, then, trying
to seem casual, walked over to the Cross, kicked, still, as it
were, casually, the paper and boards away, cleared the foot of the
Cross, rubbed his hand caressingly against the stone, then slowly
went back to the office.  Only Looney, sitting on his bench,
observed him.

Thirdly, he felt an altered attitude in the town.  He had burnt his
boats with Ronder of course.  The weather was too warm, the Canon
thought, for massage just at present.  Then when Cassidy one
afternoon spoke proudly of Polchester, saying that it was a perfect
town, no town like it in England, Johanson pulled him up sharply.
"Lord, man!  Don't you see how beautiful it MIGHT be!  How can you
be contented?  Don't you see. . . ."

But Cassidy didn't see and went away with an aggrieved expression.

Nor was he, Johanson, as amiable and light-hearted with every one
as he had once been.  He was haunted always now by a desire that
they did not share, and so he was a little separated from them.
Sometimes he had an impulse to start to work with his own hands at
some street corner, to clear dust from here, to chip off with a
hammer some ugliness there.  He saw himself possessed with divine
power, raising in the space of a night at the top of Orange Street
a statue.  Such a statue!  A figure more human than the Donatello
"David," more significant and urgent than the "Winged Victory!"

All the Polcastrians to wake one morning to find it there!  And
then how they would start to rebuild their city; first, all the
windows and doors in Orange Street would be cleaned and shining,
then down with the brewery at the market turning, then to limbo
with the Town Hall, now for widening the High Street, that great
sweep up to the Cathedral broad and shining with trees on every
side, then . . .

Laughing, he would come out of his dream.  He was almost home.  And
walking back he had cut every one.  They would notice and speak of
it.  No matter, when they saw his statue!

The next phase of his struggle with Maude was desolate and
desperate.  Her determination to dominate him was subconsciously
resisted by him with an intensity that he did not himself
recognise.  He loved her, but he would not surrender his free soul:
she endeavoured to capture it with every device that she knew.

He was in some ways casual; call it, if you will, dreamy or
phlegmatic.  One morning he left the house and she was not well;
she was in bed; she sent a message to him to come back early that
evening.  So he would have done, but a piece of work took him to
the outskirts of the town, a ferocious thunderstorm further delayed
him, he accepted an invitation to dine where he was, and he did not
return to his lodging until after eleven.

All the evening he was thinking of her.  He knew that she would
understand, as he would have understood had she been kept
somewhere.  But, of course, she did not understand; her anger
seemed to him to be selfish, but what it truly was was feminine.
He had not realised that her femininity (very young and naïve and
urgent) demanded altogether different proofs from his masculinity.
What seemed to him overwhelming evidence of his love was to her
nothing; something that was to him ludicrously trivial was to her
everything.  Then he had his masculine life.  He liked to be with
men, to be jolly, to have men's careless friendliness around him;
it was easy, natural, unburdened with atmosphere.  But she felt
that if he were not with her then he ought to be lonely and to be
missing her, and when he came and showed her very frankly that he
had been happy away from her she was enraged.  She was selfish,
yes, and greedy and rapacious, but all this was because she was not
sure of him.  Had he been one of her own country people, a native
of Polchester, she would have known instinctively how to deal with
him, but Johanson was always just out of her reach, as he was out
of the reach perhaps of every one in our town.

So that she was in a perpetual state of irritation, nervousness and
longing.  He was so often not demonstrative at the times and in the
manner that she wished.  He would be thinking of his work, or
perhaps of nothing at all; or he would be eager to talk about
something and would not be caring at that moment to make love to
her.  But she wanted to be made love to eternally; she could never
have enough of it.  She would invent for herself the way that he
would behave, the things that he would say, how he would look, and
then when he did not behave and speak and look as she had invented,
it was as though he had wilfully deceived her.

And behind these things there was her jealousy, and there was the
ever-growing fear that in the town he was a failure.  People said
that he was swollen-headed after the success of his lecture, a bit
above himself.  He waxed impatient with his pupils and scolded them
about their stomachs and double chins.  Canon Ronder shook his head
over him, and every Cathedral lady in the town questioned his open
friendship with the immoral Miss Longstaffe.

He had been heard to say that had he the power he would pull half
of Polchester down.  He consorted with the lowest kind of women in
Seatown; it was suspected that he would leave the town without
paying his bills.

All these things and many more were agony to Maude, to whom
Respectability, Popularity and Conventionality were the three
corner-stones of the building of life.  She was a snob through fear
and selfishness.  Her snobbery was only skin-deep.  Had she married
Johanson and gone away with him he would soon have snatched it from
her, but, at present, she cared terribly about Public Opinion, and
Public Opinion was changing about her lover.

It seemed so little a time since his success.  The night of the
lecture had been the turning-point; everything had gone wrong since
that night.

So they turned, like the figures in the Tower in Strindberg's play,
round and round upon one another.

Moments of real comprehension and perfect mutual love wheeled upon
them like flashes from a lighthouse upon a darkening sea.  But the
days passed.  Their relations became more and more restless.  Maude
was now a perpetual image of irritation.  He was for ever doing
wrong, not coming when he should, not speaking enough, speaking too
much, never loving her enough, ruining his future and therefore
hers, above all not surrendering to her the Longstaffes.

The catastrophe, at such a time, at such a place, was inevitable.



It had its origin, as catastrophes between lovers so often do, in
tiny things, but those tiny things were small symbols of
fundamental differences.

Johanson had bought Maude a little present, an old French silver
box; he had found it in a small shabby shop behind the market-
place.  It was curiously worked with Cupids and wreaths of roses.

He had bought it for her because things had been going so wrong
between them during the last days.  He could not understand it.
Some one must be supplying her with false information, because on
every evening of his return she had some new story against him
that, during the day, she had collected--stories of his
carelessness, his unpopularity, his stupidity.  There was some
enemy at his back.

Moreover, the incessant scenes were wearying him.  They were
interspersed with reconciliations, and every reconciliation seemed
final, as though there could never be a quarrel again, and then two
hours later there would be accusations, recriminations, miseries
again.  Every quarrel in one fashion or another attacked his
devotion to the Longstaffes--they beat up, one after another, like
waves against the rock of his loyalty.  But here neither his love
nor his pity for her made him yield an inch: he had an obstinacy
about certain things that was as hard as it was dumb.  His love for
her through all this trouble did not alter at all.  He realised
that her anger with him came from her love for him, but at moments
now a sort of despair of their future together came over him and
then, on the other side, the desolation of his life without
her. . . .

He gave her her present.  She was in her room and standing at her
door.  He caught her to him and kissed her hair, her eyes, her
mouth.  As he did so some strange terror invaded him.  He saw at
once the old dissatisfaction in her face.  There was going to be a
scene.  He was tired, the day had been difficult and the air hot
and thundery.  To-night there must not be a scene.  He could not
endure it.

She thanked him perfunctorily for the present, barely looked at it,
went in and laid it on her table.  Then she returned, and leaning
against her door, her hand on her hip, regarded him ironically.
Her eyes, though, were not ironical.  They pleaded with him as
though they said:  "Don't mind the rest of me.  I love you, but I'm
lost.  I'm always saying and doing things I don't mean and don't
want to say and do."

"Is it true that you said that to Mrs. Bond?" she asked.

"Mrs. Bond?" he repeated, bewildered.  "What Mrs. Bond?"

"WHAT Mrs. Bond?" she answered.  "How many Mrs. Bonds are there in
the town?  One's enough, I should think."

"Well, what about her?" he asked gently.

"What about her?  Oh, nothing.  Only I wanted to know whether it's
true that you told her to her face that her boy was hopeless."

"Hopeless?  No, I don't think I told her that."

"Well, whatever you told her you've ruined yourself in that
direction.  She only happens to be the most important person in the
town, that's all."

"I'm sorry," he answered, still very gently.  "But what's made you
bring all this up to-night?"

"I only thought you'd like to know.  It's important, isn't it, if
you make enemies of all the chief people in the place?"

"Maude, Maude!"  He went up to her and put his arms around her.
"Aren't you tired of all this?  Why can't we be happy together?
What's come over you lately?  We were so happy, and we ought to be
happy still."

"Oh yes, of course, it's all my fault," she broke out, drawing away
from him.  "It's never anything you've done.  We're supposed to be
going to be married, aren't we, and all the same I've got to stand
by and see you ruin everything without protesting.  If you think I
am, you're wrong."

"I don't hope I AM ruining everything," he answered her slowly.
"But if I are can't you tell me of it in a friendly way?  Let's be
friends, Maude, whatever happens, and not for ever this anger as
though you hated me."

"Sometimes I think I do hate you," she answered quickly.  "You're
so STUPID and so CONCEITED.  You don't see what every one else
sees, that you'll just have to leave the town if you go on like
this, telling every one what they ought to do.  Well, I'm not going
to leave the town, I can tell you, so if you leave the town you
leave me."

And all the time her eyes besought him:  "Don't believe this.  I
don't mean it.  Take me out of this.  Help me to escape."

Very distant thunder rolled, as though some one were moving
furniture there in the empty depths of the Cathedral.

"Now," he said sharply, feeling as though the thunder were rolling
in his own head, "you've got to tell me, Maude, who's putting you
up to all this.  Who tells you every day things against me?
There's some one behind this--"

"Oh," she answered scornfully.  "If it's hearing of all the stupid
things you do you needn't think it's any special person.  One's
only got to listen for a moment to any one."

"I didn't know," he answered quietly, "that my affairs were of so
great importance to every one.  You must exaggerate in that, Maude.
But it's your friend Mr. Hogg who tells you these things.  I know
it quite well."

"If you know it, why do you ask me?" Maude answered.  "At any rate
he's fond of me and doesn't want to see me give myself away for
nothing."

Hogg, as he had long known, was his real enemy in the place.  Any
mention of him roused some cold, deliberate anger in his heart, the
worst and most dangerous element in him.

"We have indeed gone far from one another," he said sternly.  "If
you can listen every day to lies from a man like that about me, how
can we trust one another?  What has HAPPENED to you, Maude?  How
CAN you be disloyal, you . . . ?"

"Yes," she answered furiously.  "You can put my bad man against
your bad woman.  You can leave me for hours because you want to be
with a woman who's disgraced herself, and has the cheek to come
back here and stare every one in the face.  That's what you do and
then you dare to talk to me!"

He caught her, held her for a moment rigid in his hands, then shook
her, crying to her:  "You stop that!  You stop that!  You drive me
crazy!  You've no decency!  You want a good beating, that's what
you want."

He let her go; she stumbled, caught at the door, ran back into her
room, banging the door behind her.  But a moment later it had
opened again and she appeared there quivering, shaking with
passion.  They were both so angry that they did not see one
another, but only images of themselves distorted.

She screamed at him:  "You brute!  You've beaten . . .  You've
beaten . . . hurt . . .  I'm done with you, you cad.  You're a
foreigner.  You don't belong here.  You don't belong here.  We all
hate you here!  You'd kill me one day.  Yes, you would.  And then
you'd be hung.  Yes, for killing me.  You cowardly brute!  No
Englishman. . . .  No Englishman. . . .  It's not safe with you.
I'll never be alone with you again.  You're not safe.  No
Englishman. . . ."

She rushed past him down the stairs.  He followed her.

He saw in a confused mist the old kitchen, Mrs. Penethen, Judy,
Miss Midgeley and Fletch.  And he saw Maude in the midst of them
crying out.

He watched the ring of startled faces, the eyes amazed, the heavy
motionless bodies.  He heard her voice, shrill, sharp like a
parrot's screech.

"He hit me!  Mother, he hit me!  Don't let him touch me!"

Then he saw her, the mist clearing, the kitchen clock and the china
plates jumping at him, make a movement, snatch something from her
hand, and throw it furiously (and awkwardly as women throw).  He
knew it was the ring (the funny old silver one) that he had given
her.

"I'm done with him!  I'll never speak to him again!  You're all
witness.  He beat me. . . .  I'm done with him."

She rushed past him back up the stairs.

He stood there for a moment looking at the stupid faces.  Then he
went and got his hat from the wall and without saying a word to any
one went out.



CHAPTER VII

GABRIELLE MIDGELEY'S DIARY--III


Old women.  Old women.  Old women.  Some one has written an article
about them in the Spectator.  How old they are.  How nice they are.
Nicer than old men.  That is what swiftly I am becoming--nicer than
some nasty old man.  I am running into old age like an express
train.  I haven't a minute to wait.  No station to change at.  Nor
is it true to say, as approaching-old-age women always say, "I feel
as young as I did at twenty."  I don't.  Sometimes I feel nine
hundred and ninety-nine and a half.  I feel so to-night.

They are playing billiards in the Cathedral.  One can hear the
click of the balls.  But where do the Cathedral noises come from?
Ghosts?  Brandon and the Black Bishop amusing one another?  I am so
old that I can afford to believe in fairy-tales.

The life has gone from this house so completely that one can listen
to the Cathedral noises as easily as one pleases.  When Johanson
left this house, for two of us--for Judy and myself--everything
went with him.  I shall change my lodging, I fancy--or leave the
town altogether.  Sentiment?  Not entirely.  He HAD a life,
spiritual as well as physical, that gave zest to my old withered
turnip of a soul.  And the love of the two of them held such
promise.  I could have beaten them both after that wretched scene.
Why could he not have stayed?  Next day she would have been another
creature.  He might have excused her youth and vanity and
silliness.  But I must be fair to him.  I think he did.  Before he
moved his things to his new lodgings he came here to say good-bye.
He meant to win her still.  To be away for a week and then to
return.  She had been too sure of him, he thought, and now she
would miss him.  I'm not too certain.  I begged him not to leave
her.  She has bad friends here who egg on her vanity all the time.
When he is there he can beat the lot of them, but when he is away
she sees him as something foreign and queer--and somebody who has
insulted her.  That's her word.  She came and talked such nonsense
to me on THAT theme that at last I drove her out of my room.  I
told her a few home truths first, though.

I told her that she was giving up, for a miserable petty jealousy,
one of the finest, most generous and noble human beings that ever
descended from a monkey.  Sentimental?  I was sentimental all
right.  As I talked I saw a kind of heroic figure, one of the
Donatello statues he's so fond of, and as unlike the real Harmer
John as may be.  Never mind.  She listened to me.  She even cried a
little.  Yes, and she even said that she would never love any one
again.  And she went further than that.  She said that love made
her uncomfortable and that he had such funny ideas.  It was better
not to love a foreigner, perhaps.  Foreigner.  Foreigner.
Foreigner.  I could have smacked her.  When his heart was as warm
and true and honest as this Johanson's, what was she bothering
about his foreign blood for?  There were plenty of Englishmen, yes,
and Polcastrians too, who had more foreign hearts than he had.
Yes, that was all right--of course he was a good man and kind too--
but she was frightened of him all the same.  His IDEAS.  Now there
was a thing.  What was he doing here making himself so unpopular?
It might be silly of her, but really she couldn't be the wife of an
unpopular man.  And he didn't care whom he offended--he didn't
really.  Mrs. Bond or Canon Ronder, it was all the same.  I broke
in upon her there.  How DARED she talk of loving him?  Love?  Did
she call that love?  Why, she didn't know what love was.  She
interrupted me then.  Oh yes, she knew what love was very well.
And she loved him.  And she would never love anybody else.  She was
sure of that.  But she thought that perhaps she wasn't meant to
feel that kind of love.  There was something unnatural about it.
She wasn't a very grand person.  She never would be.  She knew her
faults well enough.  She'd only make him unhappy, always
disapproving of the things that he wanted to do.  She would never
understand him.  She ought to marry some one much more commonplace
and ordinary, but no one would ever again make her feel as Johanson
had made her feel.  And she was glad.  She didn't want to feel that
way.

She wouldn't see him any more because if she saw him, even for a
minute, it would all begin again.  She did hope that she wouldn't
see him in the town.

Queer girl.  But then there was something in what she said.  She
looked so pretty as she stood there.  And so tiresome.  And a
little vulgar.  She's quite right--she isn't good enough for him--
but without her--what will he do without her?  What will he do in
that lonely lodging?  I have to wax myself to my chair or I'd be
running off to see after him.  Mrs. Penethen's been often.  But she
has a right.  I'll take him some books one day, pay my proper
polite little call.

Judy's the third of us.  Yesterday she coolly asked me what we
intended to do about it.  What we intended to do about what?  Why,
Mr. Johanson.  Did we know that he was in that wretched lodging all
alone with no one to see to him?  Did no one care what happened to
him?  It wasn't her business, but she hated to see people so false.
Pretending to be a friend of some one and then deserting them when
their luck was out.  Oh, she named no names.  But all the town was
the same.  Taking him up one minute and dropping him the next.  She
as good as said that I was as bad as the rest.  She positively
looked as if she hated the sight of me, and then stalked out of the
room with her head in the air.

The next thing that happened to me was a meeting with that dear,
lovable creature, Mrs. Bond.  And where?  Of all places in the
world--the Circulating Library.  My old flame, old Professor
Henning.  Professor of what?  Of languages, and now, penniless,
eaten up by his white beard, stamp-collecting in his dirty little
lodging, starving his body and increasingly liberating his soul.
Never mind about him, but, as this Diary knows, I like him.  I like
the way his eyes flame out of his beard and his long white hands,
so clean, so thin and so aristocratic.  The Circulating Library is
always our rendezvous.

We can sit there in its hinder end keeping company with Godwin
and Barham and Miss Ferrier and Jane Porter without too much
consciousness of our advancing years.  Dust and bookworms and one
or two bright ideas--because really the Professor and I are very
witty together.  We laugh consummately.  Or rather I laugh and he
crumbles in his beard.

Miss Leeson, the librarian, is a nice young thing.  SO young.
Clean and shining like a new penny.  She is kind and considerate to
the aged too, and eats sugared almonds out of a little paper bag,
and we hear from our corner her teeth crunching and her sighs over
the Corelli that she is investigating.  I like the place, the sun
(when it shines) making Jacob's ladders out of the curtain of dust
and the spiders spinning webs over the faces of dear, dead authors.
And I slip a bun into the Professor's pocket.

Two days ago I was discreetly waiting and listening to Miss
Leeson's gay little tinkle, the door opened and there was my dear
Mrs. Bond.  Why do I detest that woman so thoroughly, and
especially in that she is always so polite to me?  And why is she
polite?  I am nothing.  I am less than nothing.  I am less than
that again.  And yet she is polite.  Because, of course, she
intends to get something out of me.  But what?  She regards me
perhaps as some one just a little international.  Because of my
London life and because I have published books.  She hopes, maybe,
that one day I shall put her into one.  I shall, and she won't
recognise herself.  That will be her tragedy.  When she greets me,
she always looks me over, as though she were wondering whether she
could possibly endure for another minute acquaintance with a
creature whose appearance is so quaint as mine.  She pulls herself
together.  You can see her valiantly determining that she won't be
put off.  No, she won't be.  But why won't she be?  Why make the
struggle?  Most mysterious.

She is always so smartly dressed and yet not beautifully.  Too
much.  Too little.  And her face is too soft.  Without bones.  And
too pink.  The curls above her white forehead are too black and too
hard.  They gleam like metal.  But how friendly she is!  She held
my hand in both of hers, while her eyes, surveying my odd costume
and my strawberry features, revealed their accustomed struggle.
Her nobility won, and so, accepting one, she launched into her
stream.

Where was I living now?  I always tell her and she always forgets.
Why, of course, in those same rooms.  And then--why, surely yes--
was she not right?  That was the very place where Mr. Johanson had
lodged.  AND was lodging no longer.

Too sad.  Such a pity.  Such a nice man and such a disaster.  What
was sad and what was a pity and what was a disaster?  Why, Mr.
Johanson.  She understood him, she fancied, better than most people
here.  Because he was not English.  She had seen so much of the
world.  She had been surprised that a man of high character, as she
understood him to be, should have given up the girl to whom he was
engaged--and a nice, pretty girl too--for--well, one must not
believe everything but some one else apparently was involved.  One
only heard half the truth about these things, and, for her part,
she defended Mr. Johanson wherever she went, but he had apparently
been very rude to Canon Ronder, which was, people felt, ungrateful
of him when the Canon had done so much for him.  But she LIKED him.
She didn't want to see him go to pieces.  That nice, pretty girl
would have been so good for him?  Why had he left her?

A question at last.  I can remain impassive for ever.  A sort of
deadness.  She felt it.  It made her uncomfortable and so she asked
her question.  I answered it.  I told her in the sweetest way
possible that she was a liar.  Oh! she didn't know that I was
telling her that, of course.  She thought that I was paying her
compliments.  She KNEW, of course, that I knew.  And living in the
same house.  She had always felt just what I felt, that he was one
of the HONESTEST men--one of the TRUEST . . . and when people said
these things.  Yes, there was something boyish about him.  So
attractive.  And when people said these things. . . .  For instance
they said . . .  I stopped her there.  I didn't want to know what
they said.  No, naturally.  But opinion had changed.  They had all
liked him so at first.  He had become all in a moment so
independent--as though he knew better than anybody else.  She liked
that strength of character.  But, of course, for a foreigner to
judge everybody!  The English character was something all to
itself, was it not?  And could a foreigner . . . ?  That was the
question.

And on that question we left it.  She stared at me as though she
was wondering most truly WHY I existed and then passed on to the
bright Miss Leeson to secure the book that was being kept for some
one else, but would be yielded to her simply because of her
autocratic power.

She leaves devastating ruin behind her.  One knows the people--men
and women--who do that.  One cannot listen to them for five
minutes, and they at their sweetest, without sniffing death and
destruction.  How and why do they do it?  Is it a kind of jealousy
of the human race or a sense of their own unworthiness that impels
them to pull down others to their own level?  In the old London
days there was Forrest the novelist, son of a clergyman too--how
smilingly he hated his fellow humans, how eagerly he sniffed out
mean motives, how greedily he listened to detractions!  And dear
Mabel Barmes with her biting tongue, her clever newspaper criticism
and her over-written novels, how her eyes would shine and her
sallow cheeks faintly flush when some one came up for condemnation!
Why do they like it?  Where's their fun?

Anyway, I know that Mrs. Bond, curse her, made me on this occasion
profoundly miserable.  Foolish of me.  Didn't I realise her by this
time and understand her false and mean little soul?  Nevertheless,
the sense of her power depressed me.  My poor Harmer John--so
helpless against her!  I might encourage myself by remembering that
in the end, his character against hers, she's snuffed out like a
candle!  But, in the meantime, the things that she can do!

Enter my dear old Professor.  We retired quietly to our spiders and
philosophical discussions.  Considering the Infinite extinguishes
the Bonds, but how few souls have time enough!

And so I've paid my visit.  With my books under my arm I climbed
the stairs and found the room.  He's at the top of that house that
hangs over the descent to Seatown and swings there in the wind like
a weather-cock.  He has two rooms, and the sitting-room is all
cuckoo-clock, plush divan, wool mats, flowers and fruit under
glass.  Amidst these relics of a happier age I found him sitting,
his coat off, elbows planted on the table, looking out between the
geraniums at a sky that was as green as a primrose leaf.  He might
have been in Daddy Wordsworth's little boat:


    "Away we go--and what care we
     For treasons, tumults and for wars?
     We are as calm in our delight
     As is the crescent moon so bright
     Among the scattered stars.

     Up goes my Boat among the stars
     Through many a breathless field of light,
     Through many a long blue field of ether,
     Leaving ten thousand stars beneath her;
     Up goes my little Boat so bright."


Yes, he was as remote and as tranquil I would have said; but at the
sound of my coming in he turned and I saw, by the flush on his
cheek, that he was hoping for some news from me, that he thought
that I wouldn't have come if I . . .

And then he had that particular courtesy and tenderness that is so
peculiarly his.  Old-fashioned, I fancy.  I am a plain, bitter-
tongued old woman, attractive to no one, but he always treats me as
though I were Queen of the Andes.  He brought me one of those
chairs with warm, adhesive seats, and took away my shabby ulster,
and seemed so happy to see me--almost as happy as I was to see him.
He looked different.  Older.  I asked him why he hadn't come back
to us and when he was coming.  He sighed and then said that he had
meant to return at the end of the first week, and that then Mrs.
Penethen had been to see him and told him that Maude was so strange
that she thought that he had better wait a little.  He had been to
the house and had tried to see Maude and had failed.  Could I tell
him anything or advise him, perhaps?  His unhappiness came through
then and I saw, in a flash, that he had been having a desperate
time.  I don't know why, but I got in the break of his voice, as he
asked his question, a sense of his love for her far stronger than
anything that I had had before.  "I am very bad without her, Miss
Midgeley," he said.  "I have temptations to go to her and do
everything she asks, give up my friends, all . . . but we wouldn't
be happy that way.  I know it.  But I am very bad without her.  The
nights are so long.  I miss her terrible."

I told him of my talk with her and I advised him not to wait any
longer, but to insist on seeing her.  She wasn't in a state to be
left alone.  There were others influencing her.  She loved him, I
was sure; or at least she was as near to it as her nature,
timorous, selfish and vain, permitted her.  I tried to say
something then about her being unworthy of him, that he would find
some one else. . . .  He broke in upon me there and poured out to
me his picture of her.  How touching, and, at the end, how true!
He saw her just as she was, but he saw her also as she would be if
he cared for her enough!  That is true of Maude.  She's beguiling
in her possibilities.  He gave me proof after proof of her
subconscious longing to be taken by him and held against the enemy
like some fortress.  But how was he to take her without
surrendering his own fortress first?

Ridiculous similes.  We had just talked like two friends up there
in that high little room with the sky turning to crystal and the
geraniums smelling woollier and woollier.  My first friend for
years.  He is both boy and man, so that I am, with him, both mother
and friend.  Mother!  I, the most sterile of women!  Yes, he has
taken from me a little of my sterility and I will bless him for
that to my death.  He has the divine gift of tenderness and
compassion.  Nothing is mean to him nor ignoble.  If he hates, it
is some poison in the nature not the poisoned soul that he detests.

And he is so unconscious in his goodness and kindliness of heart,
that one wonders why no one has ever drawn his attention to those
qualities!

He seemed to me as I talked to him to be a little dazed.  He told
me quite frankly that his experience of unpopularity was new to him
and bewildered him.  It was so short a time for the change.  It
bewildered him but did not frighten him.  His mind seemed to be set
on some new purpose, and this new purpose would make him happy
later on.  Not his work.  I asked him about his classes and the
rest, and he scarcely seemed to care.  He meant to be busy, he
said, about something that had nothing to do with himself; he meant
to get himself right out of it.

Oneself.  Oneself.  Wouldn't it be fun to be rid of oneself or at
least to be so completely occupied with something else that oneself
never occurred to one?  But the room was dark.  One couldn't see
the geraniums any longer.  I left him urging him not to leave Maude
alone for long.  There were Boultewoods and Hoggs and all sorts
waiting for their chance. . . .

I snivelled a little going down the stairs.  He seemed to me so
VERY lonely.

He has seen Maude.  No success.  She insisted on her mother being
there.  She wouldn't say anything except that she thought they
would never do for one another.  Quite polite.  Trying to be a
lady.  Her mother longing to whip her.  Harmer John very patient,
eating her up with his eyes.  Then quietly he went away. . . .



CHAPTER VIII

SEATOWN FANTASY


Johanson's position was now extremely precarious.  When he had
arrived in our town he had saved a few hundred pounds, but he had
put them into his business.  His expenses had, after the initial
outlay, been slight and the business good, but then came the time
when he developed his advertising in the country, purchased new
instruments for his exercises and paid Fletch the advance for the
new rooms.  He had never been very wise about money, but spent what
came to him as it came.  He had always been generous to the point
of folly, but after his engagement to Maude he tried to realise
that he had new responsibilities and must save.  But this business
of saving seemed to him to have something mean about it.  There
were so many in the town who were hard-hit.  He himself had been so
fortunate.  He owed them something for his luck.

But he had not thought of the difference that the summer would
make.  He lost one client after another; finally he decided to
close his place until the beginning of September.  Billy and son
went on a discontented holiday.

It was strange to find himself idle, and this coincided with his
quarrel with Maude and departure from Mrs. Penethen's.  He sat up
in his high room, looked out at the clouds, and waited.

He had not long to wait.  What came to him was Seatown.

A very hot August that year.  And before Seatown, plus the hot
August, came to him, he was compelled to face something very new
and strange, a surprising and menacing loneliness.  Menacing
because it seemed to promise in the future something even worse
than its present performance.  He had never been lonely before.
Even in the worst days of his childhood there had been people
about.  Now it was as though, by some mysterious device, a wall of
cotton-wool had been let down between himself and Polchester.
There was silence on every side of him, and only blank faces turned
his way.

His landlady, Mrs. Prespin, had the blankest face of any.  That was
because she was preoccupied with her mother, a very, very ancient
lady, over a hundred or so they say, and so bitter and melancholy
that, as the maid of all work darkly muttered, "She'd be 'appier
dead."  She was, however, not only alive, but also her daughter
Mrs. Prespin's whole existence.  Where Mr. Prespin was no one knew
nor cared, and had not the ancient Mrs. Mathias existed, Mrs.
Prespin might have looked about her and asked herself whether it
was wise to admit into her beautiful rooms so dangerous a foreigner
as Mr. Johanson.

But when he, after climbing the stairs, having remembered his
earlier vision of this house, enquired for rooms, Mrs. Prespin was
so deeply occupied in heating milk for her mother that she could
but answer, "Yes, that rooms were there," without once looking at
her prospective lodger.  Mrs. Prespin squinted and found it
difficult to look at anybody; she was white and long, with a high
bony horselike head, but her devotion to her mother made her almost
beautiful.  The surprising thing about old Mrs. Mathias was that,
in spite of her hundred years, she was not bed-ridden, but would
make sudden dramatic appearances, her withered head wrapped up in a
red shawl, her feet in clinging, grey, tapping slippers, would push
herself half through a door, look in with her red-rimmed eyes, move
her toothless gums, and disappear again.

So that Mrs. Mathias and Mrs. Prespin were not, by any means, what
Mrs. Penethen and Miss Midgeley had been.  They were, in fact,
exactly nothing at all.

He increased, too, his loneliness by that sensitiveness that all
men who are suffering under unpopularity feel.

He did not go to the Longstaffes as he had formerly done, because
he thought that Tom might not wish his name to be connected any
longer with Mary's.  He had, innocently, made scandal enough in
that direction.  But he missed Tom Longstaffe terribly.

It was, of course, not seeing Maude that, during these first weeks,
drove him almost to madness.  Yes, to madness; for he would walk
his bedroom floor for hours at night struggling to forget and only
more hopelessly remembering, and he would pierce the hurrying
clouds with his gaze fixing her there in their woolly folds, seeing
her eyes, her hair, hearing her voice laughing beyond the sun.

Was she also thus missing him?  Strangely, although again and again
he had spoken of their love for one another, he had never been sure
of hers--he was not sure now.  She would miss the happy times but
would lazily congratulate herself on her escape from the difficult
ones.  But there were things that she MUST remember--evening half-
hours beneath their sheltering tree, embraces, whispered desires,
loving confidences, things that she MUST . . .

And then the long white face of Mrs. Prespin:  "Well, mother's a
bit better to-day, thank you, Mr. Johnson.  Yes, she just went off
for an hour or two, which is a thing to be thankful for at her age.
Mother always says:  'If I get an hour or two these days I'm
thankful,' but she really is a bit better than yesterday, thank
you.  The heat affects her, of course, but she's wonderful,
considering, I do think.  It's just the pain in the back that
troubles her, but, as I always tell her, you must expect something
when you're over a hundred."

You must indeed, and what ancient Mrs. Mathias expected nobody
knows, but the tip-tap of her slippers about the floor was like
mice skipping behind the wainscot--some company after all for a
lonely man.

From his windows he could see the whole of the town--below him
Seatown, the river, the fields rising to the wooded hills; on the
other side (screwing your neck round the window) the narrow street
winding up to the market-place, a glimpse of the High Street, and
then the Cathedral towers striding above the roofs across the sky.

Directly below him was the street, hesitating an instant before its
downward plunge.  Just in front of the house it widened, having no
buildings opposite but only a thick wall, leaning on which
visitors, idlers and philosophers might gaze down over the rock to
the waters of the Pol, the Seatown huddled encampment, and the
farther country.

To the right of this wall Johanson noticed on his second or third
day a deserted patch of grass, some grey stone and a forlorn tree
that huddled into the wall's corner.  It was the desolation of this
tree that first caught Johanson's attention, the way that with a
sort of desperate despair it clutched the wall with its arms and
protested in waves of exasperation against every wind.  Then, going
out into the hot August light, the patch of shade beneath the tree
was inviting.  He walked across the street to investigate.  He
found an old broken seat worn with rain and washed free of paint,
cracked and bird-soiled.  The grass was thick and tangled; to the
right of the tree, and almost hidden by the overhanging wall, was
something else, some old deserted monument of grey stone.

He did not stay then to investigate it further, but strangely
enough that night when he was lying in bed he thought of it.  He
had been lying there restlessly, turning over and over, his heart
aching for Maude.  His heart beat wildly: he seemed to be on the
edge of some foolish action, as though he might dress and go out
and beat on the door of Mrs. Penethen's house.  He did not know
what he might not do.  The night was so hot, he had had now a
fortnight of this loneliness and longings; his nerves were
stretched to their limit.

It seemed so impossible that only a month ago they had been so
close and so intimate, and that now they were separated by this
wall of misunderstanding.

When he had talked to her the other day he had seen on her set and
determined face the presence of some obstinate resolve.  Although
her mother had been there he had got up suddenly, gone across to
her, put his arms around her and said:  "Maude, Maude, come back to
me."  He had felt her body tremble, and for a moment her hand had
fluttered on to his; nevertheless, she had said in a small remote
voice:  "Will you promise never to see the Longstaffes again,
then?"

After that it was hopeless.  There was a blind resolved obstinacy
there that had behind it some subconscious reasoning.  Mrs.
Penethen tried to do what she could.  There was nothing to be done.
Maude would only return on her own conditions, and they were
conditions to which Johanson would never agree.

But to-night the heat seemed to strangle his brain.  His body was
damp with sweat.  He jumped up, flung off his pyjamas, and walked
naked about the room.  It was then in the depth of his loneliness
and unhappiness that he thought of the tree, the grey stone, the
wall.  He went to the open window and looked out to the splendid
night fiery with stars.  The Cathedral clock struck half-past
three.  The town slept like a dead man; the blue haze that
enwrapped it quivered with the coming dawn, and there, pale like
the skeleton of a tree, was that for which he was looking.  It
seemed friendly to him, to be as lonely as he.

He put on some clothes, went quietly down the creaking stairs,
lifted the chain of the house door, and stepped out into the
beautiful night, soft with southern softness, quiet and still with
the silence of mysterious preparation.

He crossed the road, bent over the seat, felt its poor neglected
roughness with his hand, and then, stepping into the rough tangled
grass, looked at the grey stone.  In the dim veiled light he could
see but little; with his hand he pulled away some weeds and then
some clinging ivy.

Kneeling down, he found that here was something round and smooth;
very dimly he could discern carved figures.  Pulling away more of
the ivy, he saw at last that this was a deserted fountain filled
with earth, and, on the earth a broken figure, the upper half of a
Satyr holding a wine cup.  He took out the Satyr's head and arm and
held them against the sky, then carefully he replaced them upon the
soil that filled the circle of the fountain.  His hand rested for a
moment on the grey stone; then mysteriously comforted, he returned
softly to his room.



To those who know Polchester now in these chilly post-war days it
will seem incredible that so recently as 1907 we should have
possessed anything as medieval as the old Seatown.  The modern
river-side street with its neat line of workmen's cottages and
gardens, its border of young trees and its low wall of pearl-grey
stone, is altogether admirable.  To quote the Polchester Courier
for March 10, 1924:  "We have here something of which we may be
proud--modern and yet beautiful; practical and yet dignified;
modest and yet artistic.  The pretty gardens rich with lovely
flowers, the fine asphalted road, the raised walk that gives the
visitor an opportunity of surveying the beauties of Nature in a
practical and commodious manner, the cottages themselves with their
pale stone, their dignified outlines, their perfect sanitation--
these are things, we repeat, of which the Polchester citizen may
well be proud."

And the Polchester citizen IS proud.  I am proud.  We are all
proud.  It is only a pity, perhaps, that we had not the opportunity
of being proud a little earlier.  The Polchester that Johanson
found was divided into three very distinct camps--there were the
citizens, the rebels, and the ruffians, and all these three parties
were huddled together within an area of a mile or so.

The citizens, who considered themselves the chief of the Polchester
kingdom, consisted of four or five old families who had been among
the earliest settlers in Glebeshire.  These families worked
honestly in the town, for the most part at net-making, and kept
themselves entirely apart from the other Seatown population.

The rebels were the loafers, and numbered the most here.  They were
the scavengers, the idlers, the wasters, drifting in from the sea,
the country farms, other towns such as Drymouth and Buquay.  There
were some foreigners among them, but for the most part they were
pasty-faced, lean-shanked and furtive-eyed, and lived by mean theft
and petty larceny.

The ruffians were the dashing ones, the romantics, the buccaneers.
They were less in number than the rebels, but infinitely more
energetic and dominating.  They were gypsies in origin; and dirty
vagabonds though they were, their rich brown colouring, large black
eyes, jet black hair, told a story.  It would need a George Borrow
to investigate sufficiently their beginning, but on some old day
some caravan had stumbled into Polchester streets, had rested for
the night, and permanently remained.  The ruffians were the enemies
of all civilised society.  They flourished in those happy days
before the word Bolshevism was known, nor had even the most learned
among them heard the blessed and holy name of Karl Marx; they
followed perhaps rather the pattern of Robin Hood and the late
beloved Turpin, save that they had no grace of charity or humour.

They had no saving grace of any kind, being cruel, mean,
treacherous, superstitious, disloyal, avaricious, morally debased,
and of a physical filthiness.  But they had romantic names--
Romilly, Carne, Santin, Escarpia, Froment.  Johanson had already
encountered one of them, Bloody Bill Romilly, a creature six foot
four in height and black-bearded.

On Harmer John's first visit to Seatown, as I have recorded, he
stumbled by accident into the room of a woman who had a sick child.
He sat beside this child, stroked its forehead, talked a little to
the mother, and went away.  But the child at once improved and soon
was out of danger.  There may have been some virtue in the touch of
Johanson's hand--there are all around us people who have a gift of
this kind--but I should imagine that there was a much stronger
virtue in Johanson's heart.  He always loved children so
passionately that it would be strange indeed if they did not feel
something pass from him to them.

The mother, who was the beaten and down-trodden wife of one of the
ruffians--a sandy-haired blackguard known as the Sandpiper--lost no
time in proclaiming the miracle.  It was not odd that it should
have seemed like a miracle to her.  A stranger comes into her place
from nowhere, speaks with an odd accent, is taller and bigger than
any one she has ever seen, sits down beside her sick child and
cures it, and vanishes.  Was it not natural that she should speak
of it?

Nor did he become less of a miracle when he appeared again.  He
came on several occasions, bringing little gifts for the child with
him.

He would sit there and talk for an hour perhaps, and mostly with
the child Emily Maud, who of course adored him.  The mother did not
talk but sat there with her eternal sewing-machine--like the woman
in Hood's poem, she made shirts--and watched them.

The Sandpiper arrived once, stared for a long time without saying
anything, and went out again.  Women sometimes came to the door and
stood there looking.  One day a woman asked him whether he would
come and look at her little boy.  The doctor could do nothing with
him.  Johanson went and found an attic so filthy that the child was
almost invisible.

When discovered he seemed to be suffering from little but vermin
and bad food; he was a boy like a blackberry, with a merry eye.
He, with a mangy dog, attached himself to Johanson, would watch for
him at the corner of the street, and even on one occasion ventured
as far as Johanson's lodging.  His name was Husky, an allusion to a
queer throaty voice that he had, and his dog was called Charlie.

When the news of this second marvellous cure spread about the
excitement was immense.  His town nickname, Harmer John, caught the
Seatown fancy, and it was to be heard everywhere.  Ladies in
various stages of undress waited for him on stairs, at doors, down
the street, and begged him in hoarse voices to cure colds, coughs,
toothaches, asthma, rheumatism, internal pains of every kind, and
many quite unmentionable Seatown complaints.  He tried to explain
to them that he could cure nothing, and that the first thing for
them to do was to sluice their floors with water, open the windows,
and drink less.  Of course they would not listen.  He made at once
enemies to the death of the two local witches, Mother Harper and
old Mrs. Clay.

Mother Harper was long and thin, with grey wispy hair and
protruding teeth; old Mrs. Clay was bent so double that she did not
look like a human at all, and she walked leaning on a stick just as
a witch should.

He also made an enemy of the local doctor, Rufus, a fat, drunken
man, white-haired and purple-nosed.

When he found that his visits were causing a disturbance, that the
children and dogs clung to his heels, the women collected about him
and the men leaned against the wall and scowled at him (he was not
popular with the Seatown men; they hated him from the first) he
came no more.  For several weeks Seatown did not see him, and his
only connection with it was the mysterious appearance of young
Husky and Charlie at his heels in various parts of the town
hitherto unblessed by his presence.  Then came the trouble with
Maude, and he took up his lodging at the Seatown gates.

From that moment Seatown haunted him.  He no longer cared for the
consequences; do something for that abandoned place he must.  It
was unfortunate that by the time he began his regular visits to
Seatown his glory in the upper town had begun to fade.  Although
the Seatown inhabitants cared defiantly less than nothing for the
opinion of the outside world, they were snobs like the rest of us.
Every one in Seatown very soon knew that Harmer John had treated
his girl wrong, that the clergy thought badly of him, and that he
had said that he wished to pull Seatown to pieces.  Half the place
hated him then, and the other half looked on him as a magician who
was to be justified only by successful miracles.

A few, the mother of Emily Maud and one or two others, worshipped
him; certain children and dogs followed him devotedly wherever he
went.  The others, instructed by their elders, shouted at him and
called after him abusively.

There was a nice young clergyman, Grahame, whose especial spiritual
province Seatown was, and Johanson might have found him a fine ally
had he not unfortunately gone just now to Buquay on his August
holiday.  It need scarcely be suggested that he was badly in want
of it.

Johanson was discovering in himself new elements.  He had always
been obstinate, but something was in him now that was more than
obstinacy--something hard and almost remorseless.  So far as
Seatown went he could no longer say that he did not wish to change
people's opinions.  He did not care whose feelings he hurt, how
many enemies he made, if he could alter the Seatown conditions.
The filth, the smells, the broken windows, the overcrowding, the
incredible immorality consequent on that overcrowding, the
degradation and despair--the complacency of the Upper Town about
these things stirred a deep and unchanging anger.

There is nothing in our English life, perhaps, more amazing to the
visiting foreigner than the close juxtaposition in towns both big
and small of absolute poverty and degradation and comfort and
security.  Very much has been done during the last twenty years to
improve the housing conditions of our towns, but in 1907 Polchester
was not the only place in England with a Seatown.  Only in
Glebeshire there has always been a strain of foreign blood in the
people that gives them something alien, picturesque, if you like,
and also dangerous.

Seatown had a sharp and brilliant colour like some exotic flower.

Our Town Councillors and aristocracy were not easy about the
Seatown conditions--the trouble in 1902 had showed that--but once
begin to change things and you stirred up a whole world of
responsibilities, slanders, accusations and denials.  Anything
better just now than a public scandal--and just now was always.

Hogg and others, whose business it was to see that Seatown remained
medieval (there were many things and persons in the present Seatown
very useful to Hogg) knew that once scandal burst consequences
might be disastrous for them, were very active in helping the Upper
Town to forget the Lower, and the Upper Town was not unreluctant.

Then comes this abominable foreigner. . . .



The Sandpiper was one of the first to express publicly his dislike
of "this bloody foreigner."  Having one day knocked his wife's face
in because she upset his beer, and being confronted by Johanson
while he was resting from his gentle exercise, Johanson kicked him
out of the room and tumbled him down the smelly stairs.

From this moment he, so far as Johanson was concerned, physically
disappeared.  It was as though when he landed on the bottom stairs
he vanished through the ancient boards into the bosom of Mother
Earth--physically disappeared, but not spiritually.  That was, as
Johanson now discovered, the very oddest thing about Seatown--that
it was impossible to put your finger directly upon any one, but
that you walked as though in some place of ghosts.  It was as
though the mists that gathered about the Pol, morning and evening,
enveloped so much more than their own slow waters and low-hanging
fields.

Hogg, for instance, was never to be seen there, and yet his
presence was ever to be felt.  He did not once during these weeks
encounter Johanson, and yet Johanson was never free of his
presence.

Johanson had thought at first that he would bring together one or
two of the principal Seatown residents and form with them a little
band of reformers--but the clergyman was away, the doctor hated
him, and--there was no one else.

There was literally no one else!  Try and put your finger on any
one and he at once disappeared!  Only idle women, children,
lounging loafers, foul-mouthed buccaneers, and dogs remained.
Young Husky remained and Charlie and Emily Maud--and Bloody Bill
Romilly.

This last, as Johanson soon perceived, was deputed his principal
harasser.  Romilly's large black-bearded lumping body was soon at
every quarter.  The Sandpiper and others were doubtless not far
away, but they did not appear.

Johanson believed always in grasping his nettle, and he at once
followed Romilly to his lair.  That was not so grim a place as you
might have imagined, but rather a tumbledown cottage on the edge of
the country above the mill.  Romilly was resting, lying on a pile
of straw and sacking when Johanson invaded him.  His great body
stretched its full length, his tangled beard, his small and puzzled
eyes and, oddly enough, rather fine and delicate hands, made a
queer picture in the tumbled and thick-smelling cottage.

He did not raise himself when he saw Johanson, but asked him what
he wanted.

"I want less of your company," Johanson said.

Romilly laughed, and then explained that he could bloody well go
where he bloody well pleased, and what the hell was a bloody
foreigner doing down in Seatown anyway.

Johanson explained that Seatown was free to all the world, to
himself and to others.  He would come there when he pleased and, he
repeated, he would like less of Romilly's company.

Romilly slowly rose from his straw and, stretching his arms and
yawning, asked Johanson what he intended to do about it.  The two
men stood facing one another.  They were much of a size; Romilly's
open shirt showed a chest with black hair like a bear's.

Romilly surveyed him curiously and still with that puzzled look in
his eye, animal and a little pathetic.

"Will you fight?" he asked at last.

"Now?" asked Johanson.

"No.  To-morrow night at the 'Sucking Pig.'"

"Yes.  If you fight fair," Johanson answered after a moment's
thought.  Romilly would fight fair.  There was something in the
man's slow gaze that promised it.

"Now get out," said Romilly.



Johanson woke at five the next day.  He went to his window and
looked out at the lovely summer morning and the town as quiet as a
sleeping child.  Layers of sun were stretched above it, awnings of
faintly washed colour, and the Cathedral towers were of bright
gold.

He bathed himself, dressed, and very softly went down the stairs.
He had a jack-knife and a little hammer and chisel.  The street
shone in the sun with the freshness that Nature gives to things
before human beings have meddled with them.  A little breeze
rollicked down the hill.  There was no human being to be seen.

He walked over to the seat and the tree.  He knelt down on the
grass before the stone fountain and worked there with his hammer
and chisel for an hour or so.  Then, as the first comers began to
pass down the street and the Cathedral bells chimed seven, he
returned to his room.



The "Sucking Pig" was an inn a mile out of the town on the border
of the desolate strip of moor known as Humpathumb (and of that same
place there is a story to be told one day).  In 1907 it was kept by
an old blackguard called Coffen.  It was burnt to the ground in
1910.

On that fine summer night its central room was crowded.  Johanson,
surveying it, felt a strange throb of satisfaction.  At last there
was a hope that he would come to close grips with his enemy.  For
weeks past everything had eluded him; he had been fighting shadows.
Now at last there was Bill Romilly's dark face and hairy chest to
batter at.  He felt as though here at last was his first
opportunity to knock down a bit of Seatown.  Everything in his
other life, even Maude, was distant and misty to him to-night.  He
knew what the results of this thing must be in the Upper Town.  "A
drunken brawl.  Fighting in a low pub.  Oh, quite gone to pieces,
my dear . . ."  He cared not at all.  To-night was his first step
on his real road.

As he looked about him he wondered what kind of a fighter he would
turn out to be.  He hadn't been in a real fight since he was a lad,
but he was in splendid condition, which Romilly most certainly was
not.

It happened as it had been arranged.  They were lounging about,
drinking.  Romilly pushed Johanson's arm, muttered something;
Johanson replied, Romilly knocked his glass of beer out of his
hand.  Instantly from all over the room there were cries of "A
Fight!  A Fight!"  The crowd scattered and then ranged itself back
against the bar and the three walls.  A short, squat, broken-nosed
fellow touched Johanson on the arm:  "I'll be behind yer," he said.
The centre of the floor was clear, and about it in the strange
mingled light of the summer evening that was fading into ivory
beyond the windows, and the harsh light of the jerking, hissing
gas, the faces pressed.  Everything was irregular: here eyes
swollen and protruding, there a beaked nose, here strange caps and
shawls, there a whole face thrown up into sharp relief like a dead
upturned face in its motionless intensity, and behind these a
restless, ceaseless murmur and shuffling of bodies like the lapping
of sea on the rocks.

Two chairs were set in the empty space.  The two men stripped to
the waist, buckling their trousers about them according to time-
honoured tradition.  A long thin man with a face like a skull
stepped forward and announced that these two gentlemen having had a
difference of opinion they intended to settle it here and now with
their fists as gentlemen should.  That Mr. Ben Hawser would
referee.  This last was received with murmurs of approval.
Johanson noticed, as he sat there, that there was no louder sound.
It was more like a dream than reality.  Seatown still maintained
its odd quality of being yet beyond touch.  Those odd sinister
faces, the queer half light beyond the inner circle, the dark
background like the outskirts of an undiscovered wood, the tall
thin fanatical body thrown into bold relief near the window of old
Mother Harper, the witch, the pursuing murmur as though persons
unseen were always on the move behind him, this was all in its
outer aspect unreal, unlike any life that he knew, but in his inner
soul it was part of an intense reality; as a sinner may feel,
perhaps, when at length he comes to grips with that sin for which
all his life he had been searching.

They made a strange contrast as they stood up facing one another;
Johanson's body so white, without a hair on his chest, Romilly
covered with a thick black felt on his shoulders, arms, breast.
They were men much of a size, and Romilly had not so much fat on
him as you might have expected from a man who must be out of
condition.  As they stood there Seatown obviously considered that
it had not for a long time had the opportunity of beholding two
mightier men.  The faces dipped and bobbed, the hissing murmur of
the water dragging back over the sand rose and fell, and a flood of
orange spread fan-wise over the reed-misted, water-logged moor
beyond the open window.

There were to be no pauses, no breathers, no rounds.  Simply one
man was to knock the other out of sight.  Seatown sighed once again
its satisfaction.  This was the way to deal with the stranger
within its gates.

Mr. Hawser murmured something and the fight began.  It was at once
very plain that neither man was a trained fighter.  Romilly had
fought most of his battles (and they had been many) in liquor, but
to-night he was serious sober.  Both men were cautious, circling
round one another, their eyes intent, as though wire stretched from
face to face holding them.

Johanson hit out and lightly grazed Romilly's cheek.  Romilly
breathed hard, gazed at Johanson with that same dumb look of
enquiry that was so especially his, then got one in on Johanson's
right breast, which flushed a dull red.  Johanson returned and
caught Romilly hard on the left shoulder, breaking the skin.

Johanson was aware then that this man wanted to kill him, and that
every man and woman in that place wanted to kill him.

He had intruded; he had stirred up their nest and they would get
rid of him.  But sure as he was of this, he was also sure that to-
night the fight would be fair.  Seatown had some traditions,
this of fair fight on such an occasion was one.  But on a later
occasion . . .

He felt arising in himself an eager burning longing to smash
Romilly's nose flat.  He bore Romilly no kind of grudge, but his
big black lumbering body was a kind of insult.  The thing was so
large and clumsy, and yet so elusive.  Anger was rising in him, not
at all against Romilly, but against anything as ugly as Romilly's
body.  There should not be in the world anything as ugly as that,
and it was Johanson's duty to break it up.  But it was strangely
difficult to touch.  Johanson knew that he must conserve his
strength, and that every unnecessary step that he took he must pay
for, but when he seemed to have that black heaving mass at his
mercy suddenly it wasn't there.

The circle of his horizon narrowed.  He had at first seen the whole
room with the bar, the shining tumblers, the wall with the old
dirty coloured print, the pressed circle of faces, the open window
with the evening like a glass picture.  Now it narrowed and
narrowed, first to the shining floor below him, to the queer ugly
face of his supporter, to the chairs opposite him; then that closed
in and he saw only Romilly, Romilly with his sweating forehead, his
black beard with beads of perspiration on it, his heavy breasts and
a roll of his fat hanging over his tightened trousers.  Then it
narrowed again and he saw only a square of flesh, first here, now
there, something that he must get into contact with.

He had not a great idea of self-defence.  He knew that Romilly had
caught him first here then there.  He dimly expected that at some
moment there would arrive a swinging blow that would pitch him down
into darkness, and this expectation gave him a sense of urgency, as
though he had not much time and must get his blow in first.

He did get his blow in.  Romilly's face seemed to leap at him, and
his own fist crashed out and met it.  He felt the contact of bone
with bone.  Romilly's face was red through the black, a flush of
blood that covered the whole sky, so that for an instant Johanson
could not see anything but that.  Romilly lurched and tottered, but
then was as strong as ever again: in a moment he was back and
crashed as it were with his whole body into Johanson's forehead.

The floor rose in a great curve, as though worked by an engine, and
stood over Johanson.  Some voice somewhere said:  "If you don't
hold on to this thread you'll fall into the very bowels of the
earth and never appear again.  Your life depends on holding this."
A tiny white thread, its end tipped with silver, was held out to
him, and he held on to it with every force--moral, spiritual,
physical--that he possessed.  The floor was still hanging above
him, and he, standing on the edge of it, almost slipped into that
eternity of blackness quivering with stars that waited for him.
But he did not slip, and when Romilly returned with a hand extended
that need give but the slightest push to tumble him over he managed
to evade that hand and, sick, blinded, tottering, kept his feet.
Slowly the world returned.  He felt about him an air of surprise
that he should still be there.  The pain in his head was awful, but
the rest of his body was strong enough.  Vigour was flowing back
into him and, turning, he saw Romilly quite clearly, blood
trickling through his hair and the big body shaking uncertainly.

That vision was his salvation.  He saw Romilly only for an instant
before blood trickling from his forehead bruise blinded him, but
that instant was enough.  With every atom of the vigour of all his
past and present life behind it, his arm shot out, his fist crashed
into Romilly just under the chin, and Romilly fell and where he
fell he lay and where he lay there he stayed, stretched his length
like a dead man.

Johanson stood staring.  The murmur around him was still low and
ceaseless--like bees now buzzing in the bracken.  Yes, he stood and
stared, not thinking of anything save that he had hit Seatown at
last.  And Seatown also knew it.  The faces did not change, the
bodies scarcely moved.  The gas hissed and fretted, there was no
light now beyond the window and so still was it that a stream in a
field could be heard jumping down the hill, hurrying to the Pol.

Johanson was sitting on his chair, a towel over his shoulders.  No
one congratulated him, but his second bathed his forehead with a
sponge.  Romilly had been dragged to a chair and men were bending
over him.  But Johanson did not care about Romilly.  He was
watching with a curious, almost somnolent, gaze the faces in the
room.  They stared at him abstractedly, unmalevolently, but with a
definite purpose in their gaze.

They would let him alone to-night, but they would finish him off
later.  Time enough.  Time enough.  He was almost asleep there in
his chair.  How his forehead ached!  What a headache he would have
to-morrow!

Then, slowly rising, he moved off.  Quite silently they all made
way for him.



CHAPTER IX

THE LAST LECTURE


And here I must, I am afraid, bring myself into it.  I have reached
the moment when I had my one and only glimpse of Johanson.  I was,
myself, present at that famous last lecture.

I was at the end of my first year at Cambridge and had come to stay
for a week or two with some relations in Polchester.  I had been
brought up in Polchester and every stone in it was familiar to me:
on my very first evening I heard of Johanson.

The way that his story came to me was, I think, instructive: he was
described to me, quite simply, as a foreign ruffian.  I was asked
to imagine to myself a man who had come from some dangerous place
abroad with definitely sinister designs upon our simple-hearted
town.  He had in the first place "wheedled" himself into people's
sympathies by a tale of ill-luck and hardship, he had been boarded
and cared for by one of the "kindest women in the town" (my
informant was at least correct there), had started a gymnasium and
interested some of the "foremost clergy" in his efforts, had
managed to engage himself to the daughter, "a most beautiful girl,"
of his landlady and then--THEN--what had he not done that was
shameful and base?  He had betrayed apparently every one, leaving
his fiancée for the company of a most immoral woman, had come out
in his true colours advocating the pulling down of most of the
town, had insulted those of the clergy who had been so good to him,
had played some charlatan tricks with the women of the place,
pretending to cure their children of all sorts of diseases, and had
finally been fighting in some low pub in the slums among a drunken
crowd of the town's worst citizens.  And, after all this, he had
actually the impertinence to announce another lecture; notices were
posted all over the town.

It must be remembered that this was the first I had ever heard of
the man.  I did not know of the existence of most of those who were
afterwards to give me all the full and elaborate information upon
which this history has been built--Judy, Mrs. Penethen, Miss
Midgeley, Maude herself, Ronder, Tom Longstaffe, Mary and the rest.
I knew nothing of life, of course.  I saw him that evening as the
foreign ruffian described to me by my aunt.

This was exactly the fashion in which almost every one in our town
was at that moment seeing him.  That last fight down in Seatown had
given the final touch to Legend No. III.--the legend of the foreign
ruffian.

I wonder myself that his new landlady when she saw him with one eye
closed and a bruise on his forehead bigger than a duck's egg did
not at once beg him to seek rooms elsewhere.  But, she afterwards
confessed, "She had taken a sort of liking to him!"  She didn't
know how.  She didn't know why.  There it was.  She was sort of
sorry for him.  And then, of course, all her attention was given to
her mother.

For himself I know that at this moment he was considering not at
all what the town was thinking about him.  He was occupied, as Tom
Longstaffe discovered, with two things and two things only, and
these two things warred the one against the other.

One was his idea, which grew in him with ever-increasing force,
that somehow he MUST get rid of himself.  If he could do that and
do it completely, then the most wonderful discoveries awaited him.
He would see and feel and be surrounded by such beauty as he had
never even begun to imagine.

I fancy that now his old dream of his empty house with its shining
purity, its view and its murmuring trees was always with him.  It
was in some way HERE that his discovery would come to him.

But on the other hand there was his other preoccupation, and that
was Maude.  He thought of her morning, noon, and night.  How was he
to rid himself OF himself when he loved her so much?  It was he who
loved her, he, Harmer John, he, Hjalmar Johanson, he, not an
abstraction, not a spirit, but he himself with his bones and blood
and beating heart!

It was not only that he wanted her so badly, but that he was afraid
that she was so unhappy.  He was, himself, suffering so terribly
because of his separation from her that he could not but believe
that she was suffering too.  I don't know, and no one will ever
know, how often at night he went and stood outside that house and
went quietly away again.  Mrs. Penethen came to him when she could.
She promised to tell him instantly when there seemed a chance.  But
the chance never came.  I suppose that it was Maude's fright that
held her back.  She saw him in an atmosphere of danger and terror
and distress and she wanted her safe little life of comfort and
assurance and that her own free will should do what it pleased.
What lover is there who has not sometimes, at the very highest
moment of his love, felt terror at the increasing surrender of his
own self-will?  I imagine that Maude had never seen Johanson as he
really was, but had loved him for the very strangeness that
frightened her.  She had perhaps--and who will ever know?--many and
many a moment during this time when she longed to run and surrender
everything to him.  But she wanted her own way, and there was
something in him--some independence--that she would never be able
to conquer, and the stories in the town grew and grew (you may be
sure that they were all brought to her ears) and people flattered
her and encouraged her in her selfishness, and she was very young
and very ignorant--and so she missed the chance of her life.

If she had, at this time, once been alone with him for an hour he
would, I think, have won her back again.  But would it even then
have lasted?  I fancy not.  There were certain things to which he
must have held, and those things would have terrified and
antagonised her to the end.

Had he been a cleverer, more sophisticated, man many things would
have been different.  But he was not, as everyone must have seen by
this time, a clever man at all.

The ideas that he was discovering for himself were not new.  They
were as old as the oldest hills.  Nor was he subtle-minded, nor was
he very quick at perceiving what others were thinking.  He could
only see one or two things at a time, and those things that he saw
he clung to.  So he went on his inevitable way, but before he
reached the climax of his last lecture a queer thing occurred.



At the beginning of September he reopened his office.  Nobody came.
He sat there day after day, sent out his circulars, did a little
correspondence with people in the country, and waited.  All his
regular classes--the School, the tradesmen, the Young Men's
Christian Association--these had all lapsed.  He put an
advertisement in the local Polchester paper, and one or two people
came to see him, but his enemies and detractors warned them, I
suppose, and they did not come again.  Two of his most active
enemies at this time were old Miss Eldred and the miserable Shortt.
They went about everywhere loudly complaining.  To listen to them
you would think that Johanson had robbed them of every penny they
possessed.

He was not, I imagine, at all surprised or disappointed that he was
thus abandoned.  His mind was now fixed upon something quite other
than teaching physical exercises to Polchester citizens.  One
thing, however, worried him, and that was old Billy Trenant.  That
old man was a perfect nuisance.  It would be pleasant to draw a
picture of the man's touching fidelity, the faithful servant
(another Caleb Balderstone) remaining when every one else deserted
his master.  And he did remain.  Let that at least stand to his
credit.  He remained from some real dim sense of loyalty--but he
remained complaining, grumbling, abusing, criticising.  As with
every true Glebeshire peasant there was a note of patronage in his
attitude to all other humans, be they kings or paupers.  He had
patronised Johanson even at the height of his admiration for him.
Now he admired himself immensely for remaining, and let Johanson
know it.  His Glebeshire pride must have suffered a horrid blow
when all that splendid erection tumbled to the ground.  Deep down
he must have felt for his master, and it would seem from his after
account of his devotion that he had always loved him and loved him
to the last.  But he showed his love, like many another, in
grumblings, complaints and mutterings.  He would not allow his son
to come to the office any longer, and indeed there was no work for
the boy.  There was no work for the old man either, and, of course,
no pay.  He stayed there in the outer room cursing.

The lecture was to be in a week's time.  There was every kind of
rumour about it, and there was no doubt but that the place would be
full.  Johanson had taken this time a big room at the back of the
Public Library, often used for local "Penny Readings," Missionary
meetings and so on.  This time there would be no chairman.

Then the surprising thing occurred.  Johanson had a visitor, and
the visitor was Canon Ronder.

I have received two accounts of this interview, one from Ronder
himself and one that Johanson gave to Longstaffe.  It seems that
Ronder, on this occasion, obeyed one of the sincerest and truest
instincts of his life.  For once he did not stop to consider
whether this were a wise step or one calculated to help his
schemes.  He came simply because in his heart he was fond of the
man and thought that he was rushing to his destruction.  He may
have had, too, some guilty sense that he was responsible for him,
he may have felt a deep discomfort about Seatown, and, most
probable of all, he may have had some startling vision of the
rapidity with which he himself was changing.  On that morning at
least it was not only Johanson's descent of which he was aware.

Johanson was greatly surprised to see him.  He had for the moment
quite forgotten Ronder's existence.  He was pleased to see him,
though.  He never at that time or any other bore the slightest
grudge against any human being.  Hogg he hated, but impersonally,
as he hated disease, meanness, and evil-speaking.

His forehead was still bruised, his eye yet discoloured, but he
showed no embarrassment when Ronder came in, greeted him as warmly
as he had ever done.  Their relations were, however, now altered.
They were equals, and that sense of power and command that Ronder
had felt at the last meeting was now increased.

"I have come," Ronder said, "to ask whether you would care for me
to be chairman again at your approaching lecture."

It was a fine thing for Ronder to do, and Johanson knew at once
that it was so.  Johanson saw by that time clearly enough into
Ronder's character; he knew how much his social prestige meant to
him, how he had worked unceasingly for many years to obtain his
present command in the town, how deeply precious to him was his
power over his fellow human beings.

"That's good of you," he said, smiling into Ronder's face.  "It
shan't be like the last lecture, you know."

"That's all right," Ronder said hurriedly.  "I don't ask you
anything about it.  It's better perhaps that I shouldn't know what
you mean to say.  But I'm delighted to take the chair if you wish
me."

"There's likely to be a row, you know," Johanson went on.

"Yes," said Ronder.  "There may be."

"I'm not a popular man any longer."

"Not so popular as you were," said Ronder.

"I don't hope," said Johanson, still smiling, "that I should be as
mean as to drag you into one of my rows."

"That's all right," Ronder repeated firmly.  "If you want me I'm at
your service."

"That's fine," Johanson said, his eyes smiling.  "I shall never
forget that you offered.  I thank you.  But this time I shall be
alone."

Ronder said:  "You'd better have some one with you, you know.
After all it may help matters."  He got up from his chair,
hesitated, then went on:  "I don't understand you.  You're like no
man I've ever met before.  You seem to WANT to make trouble, and
yet, knowing you, I would have said you were one who wanted to live
at peace with his fellow-men."

"I do want to live at peace with them," said Johanson.

"Well, then--"

"But not if, to do so, I must be dishonest."

"We've had all this out before," Ronder said rather quickly.  "I
know you've got some idea in your head that won't let you rest, but
couldn't you have given that idea a better chance if you'd gone on
as you were going at first, if you'd established yourself and won
all men's regard--wouldn't they then have listened to you more
readily?"

"I don't know," said Johanson simply.  "I had to think as I
thought, and then say what I thought.  Men are finer than I and
cleverer and know the world, but I don't understand.  No, I don't
understand two things.  Men don't seem to care about Life, nor they
don't seem to care about Beauty."

"About Life?" Ronder asked.

"What Life's for.  What Life means.  They are always asking to be
happy, but they don't care about Beauty.  How can any man be happy
when he doesn't care for Beauty?"  Then he put his hand on Ronder's
sleek, rounded shoulder.  "Don't you worry yourself about me, see?
I find my own way.  I must, but I'm pretty glad you came to me as
you did.  I think that was fine."

Ronder's heart, in spite of the fatty degeneration of the last
years, was filled with alarm and distress about the perils into
which this poor, foreign devil was so blindly rushing.  He had
heard, I suppose, a good deal during these last weeks; he knew
something of the Seatown gentry, of Hogg and his friends.  His
concern was the most genuine human feeling that he had known for
many a day.  Johanson offered more than one man a chance at that
time.

"Don't you see," he began, pacing the little room in his agitation,
"that it serves no purpose at all to raise such hostility?  Upon my
word, I don't know how you've done it.  The things I hear are
absurd, of course.  But Seatown--"  He stopped at the name, having
his own none too comfortable thoughts in that connection.

"Was it wise," he went on more quietly, "to interfere there about
matters in which you could not possibly have any real concern?"

"Concern!" Johanson broke in.  "Concern!  Do you know, Canon
Ronder, what that place is?  But you can't know.  Come down with
me any afternoon and I shall show you--like beasts . . . like
beasts . . ."  His voice broke.  "In my own country," he went on more
quietly, "there are horrible places--in Copenhagen and Christiania
too.  But these are big industrial towns; there is problems that
belongs to our time, difficult, gigantic problems I know nothing
of.  But here in this little town, so small, so beautiful, that
there should be such a place!  One day's work would take it all
away.  Can't you see that?  Can you have your breakfast and your
dinner in quiet when at your door there are the four families in
one room, men, women and children sleeping in one bed, humans like
pigs, sorrow and hunger and cruelty . . . and no one cares?  Oh!
you English, what is it with you?  You are so moral and you look
unblushing on such immorality, you are so kind and you watch
patiently such cruelty, you are so religious and you listen without
caring to such blasphemy, you are so wise with all you have learnt
from your old civilisation and you permit such stupidity. . . ."
He came up to Ronder, took him by the shoulders, shook him.  "I
don't understand.  Why do not men care more to make the world
beautiful for others?  How CAN they be so indifferent?"

"It's true what I prophesied," Ronder said.  "I said the time would
come when you would want to change men.  It HAS come.  You're just
like all the others."

"Yes, it HAS come," Johanson cried, "I CAN'T be quiet.  I can't.
And if there are so many others, where are they? because I would
join them and work with them.  Two or three of us--what we could
do!  I'm so alone in this.  No one cares.  Every one goes on as if
everything was all right.  And I'm not clever.  I don't know
anything.  I've never learnt anything. . . ."

Then he laughed, looking a boy again as he used to look.  "Of all
men the worst is the one who would teach others when he don't know
anything himself.  I'm just such a one."

That was true.  Ronder felt it.  Of all the types of man presented
to him the one that he hated most was the noble Propagandist, the
He-Man, the Splendid Saviour of Men who dealt in vague words and,
thumping his tub, gathered in the shekels of the sentimentalist.
Johanson, by all the rules, was becoming such a one.  But his
ignorance saved him--his ignorance and his honesty.  Ronder was
sentimental when his brain allowed him to be.  He was sentimental
now.  He felt as though Johanson were a small son of his who was
going to a boarding-school for the first time.  He always liked
children if they were not impertinent to him.

He renewed his offer of taking the chair.  Johanson refused it.
Then Ronder, ashamed of himself both because he had done so much
and had not done more, hurried away.

Johanson sat on alone in his little room, forgetting Ronder,
forgetting the lecture, forgetting Seatown; longing, longing,
longing for Maude.

These empty hours without work were not good for his strength of
control.



Every one knows how swiftly in a small provincial town alarm can
raise its head.  I remember when I was a small boy in Polchester
that a housemaid had her throat cut, and the story rose that Jack
the Ripper, weary of London as a background for his crimes, had
chosen our little town for a week or two.  There was no basis for
this tale, but every night for weeks young men went out after dusk
with sticks to search for the monster.  All the kitchen-maids of
Polchester cowered beside their kitchen fires, and all the teeth of
all the old women chattered. . . .

So it was now with Harmer John.  In the days that preceded the
lecture there was no story about him too fantastic to be believed.
He was the emissary of a secret society, a hireling of a foreign
nation sent with dynamite in his pocket to blow up the Cathedral;
he had been seen o' nights talking at street corners with sinister
characters; some early riser had seen him creep out of his house at
four in the morning, look up and down the street, then cross over
to a tree and hide himself there; men and women recalled how in
those earlier days of his popularity he had wormed himself into
their secrets and extracted their confidences.  He was a leading
member of a secret society of Jews and his real name was Moses
Aaronson.  And so on, and so on. . . .

Myself, being at that undergraduate stage of my education when
nothing was holy to me, and cynicism my only wear, of course
discarded all these stories and laughed openly at my aunt, who was
one of the principal purveyors of them.  My aunt, a gaunt and bony
woman, as superstitious as she was kind-hearted, declared to me:
"Why, one of his principal friends, they say, is the chief lunatic
of the town, an old man who has been crazy ever since I can
remember!"  This seemed to me a real argument in favour of his
innocence, but to herself it was final proof of his wickedness.

I was interested; there was not much in the Polchester of those
days to amuse an idle undergraduate.  I looked about me trying to
see the fellow.  I even went down to Seatown, his favourite haunt,
I was told.

But the nearest I got to him was old Looney, whom I discovered
watching the tide in the market-place.

I looked at the old man but did not speak to him.  I felt a kind of
shyness.

There was some talk that the police intended to prohibit the
lecture, but that, I imagine, would not at all have suited the
plans of Hogg and the rest.

Excitement about it was intense.  Every kind of catastrophe was
expected.  My aunt implored me not to go.  I would not have missed
it for all the aunts in Christendom.  When the evening arrived I
found a companion in young Jeremy Cole, older than myself by two
years and just finished with Oxford.  He was a good, stout fellow,
with no nonsense about him.  He had spent only a little of this
vacation in Polchester, but had picked up quite another version of
the story.  He knew Longstaffe.  Longstaffe had told him that this
was a man in a million.  But I was sceptical.  "One of these Hyde
Park orators," I said.  "I know them!"

Cole was not a man of many words.  "There's no nonsense about
Longstaffe," he said.  "If he likes a fellow there's something in
it."

We set off for the Library together.  Our tickets were for reserved
seats, but we congratulated ourselves on being twenty minutes
before time when we saw the mob that pressed about the Library
door.  It was evident at a glance that we were going to enjoy a
disturbed evening.  There were men and boys hanging about there who
had certainly come for no other purpose than to make a row.

There were actually three whole live Polchester policemen at the
door.  Three, and in the same place at the same time.  I had not
seen so many Polchester police since the '97 Jubilee.

The crowd was at present good-natured.  We had not very great
trouble in passing through the doors (Cole is a thick-set, stocky
fellow, as an Oxford Rugby half needs to be), and then we streamed
up the stone staircase with all the Polcastrians.  I noticed at
once that the crowd was not very respectable, many more men than
women, and men of the kind who shout to one another as they go and
whistle loudly through sheer vacancy of spirits.  It was the kind
of crowd you may see any day at a League football match.

I had heard that his first lecture had been honoured by the
presence of the Cathedral "Quality."  Perhaps to-night they would
come in later, because their seats would be reserved, but it was, I
think, as I felt these men jostling past me up the stairs that I
was conscious of my first twinge of sympathy towards this man
Johanson.  I felt in the air about me that "crowd" savagery that
springs often from nowhere at all, something for which no
individual is responsible, but to whose power every individual
yields.

Cole felt the same.  "There's not going to be much lecture, I
fancy," I heard him mutter as we were pushed forward.

However, when we passed the doors into the hall we found everything
quiet and decorous enough.  The hall was nearly filled.  Our seats
were towards the back under a narrow overhanging balcony and not
far from the door, as I noticed to my relief.  If there was a bad
row we might want to get away quickly.

Nothing could look more proper.  It was one of those commonplace,
square, flat-faced rooms with white distempered walls, bad
paintings of certain plain and elderly gentlemen, round white gas
globes and an empty stage with two chairs, a small table, and a jug
of water.

As we seated ourselves I wondered whether there would be room for
everybody.  The place was already three-quarters filled, and still
they were pouring in.  We were all pushed very closely together,
and Jeremy Cole had to put his arm around the back of my chair to
hold on securely.

As the hands of the smug-faced clock turned towards eight o'clock
the room seemed to be absolutely packed, and there was a thick
gathering of men and boys around the door.  Two mild and elderly
men who were showing people into their places went constantly to
the door and called out that there was no more room inside, but
still people pressed forward, and there was a great deal of
protesting and noise and laughter.

I saw, as I looked about me, that the impression that I had had
coming up the stairs was a true one; not only were the "Upper Ten"
not present, the better townspeople were not there either.  It was
in truth a pretty ruffianly gathering.  The majority of those in
the room had certainly not paid for their tickets; whether some one
else had paid for them was another question.

I remember that as I looked about me two faces detached themselves
from the crowd, one familiar and one not.  The familiar one was
that of Samuel Hogg, and indeed he was standing quite close to me,
leaning against one of the grey mottled pillars of the balcony.  I
fancy that I got the impression as I looked at his fat body and
flushed red face that he surveyed the scene as though it were all
his handiwork--an air of pride, that is, and self-congratulation.
He was smiling pleasantly, and looked most amiable.  But he was
very quiet, apparently rather far away in his thoughts and not
wishing to disturb anybody.  He was dressed in a very decent suit
of dark blue.

The other face--unfamiliar--was that of a girl.  She was sitting
some way up the room on the outside of her row, and leaning
outwards as though she wished every one to see her.  She did not,
however, give the impression of showing off but rather of defiance.
She was dark and slight, plainly dressed, not pretty but noticeable
because of the challenging, fierce, hostile way she looked about
her, as though she were saying:  "You thought I wouldn't come, but
here I am and I don't care who knows it."

One other thing.  Just after eight o'clock had struck I heard some
one--a man--behind me say:  "His girl--you know, Maude Penethen--
just gone and fixed herself with young Boultewood.  That'll make
him pretty mad.  Wonder if he knows it."

His companion said something and he answered:  "Can't imagine.
He's a rotter, that young Boultewood.  Always was and always will
be."

Soon after the strokes of the clock had died away a door at the
back of the stage opened and Johanson came in.  There was a
demonstration as soon as he appeared, but not a very violent one,
some clapping, some booing and hissing.  He seemed to pay no
attention to that, but came forward quietly to the front of the
platform and stood there waiting until it had ceased.

He was a fine man to look at, finer than I had expected.  With his
breadth and height he had also a magnificent carriage that would
have made him noticeable anywhere.  But the thing that struck me
most strongly was his perfect control.  Men give away a great deal
of their real personality in that first moment of their appearance
on the platform, and you could not doubt when you looked at this
man but that there was something very honest and noble about him.
At least so it seemed to me.

Then his face was agreeable, simple, direct and, what I had not
expected, rather humorous.  A boy's sense of fun perhaps, although
to-night there was something in his gaze as he looked out over the
room indignant and surprised.  He stood very well, his hands
quietly at his side.  He was dressed in a dark suit and wore a
black tie.

The demonstration had quickly died down and, as a newspaper man
would have written, you could hear a pin drop.

I liked his voice too when he began to speak.  There was a marked
foreign accent and he used certain words, noticeably prepositions
and adverbs, wrongly, but he spoke remarkable English for a
foreigner who had been in our country for so short a time, and his
voice was strong and carried admirably.  I liked the simple way he
spoke, without any ostentation and as though he had forgotten
himself entirely.

I was prejudiced then at once in the man's favour, but when it came
to the things that he said, that was quite another matter.

You must remember that I was at that stage in my young life when I
was entirely disillusioned, and thought that I knew everything.
Because I was deeply sentimental at heart I was terrified of any
point of view that could, even faintly, be called sentimental.  In
religion I had flung "the Churches" behind me, and if pressed would
perhaps have confessed to some very superior sort of Buddhism.  I
had picked up at Cambridge a jargon of old-world weariness.  There
were beginning to be heard very faintly at that time the
whisperings of the creed that those two clever gentlemen Freud and
Jung were afterwards to make so popular--namely, that nothing was
anybody's fault, that you were what you were.  Also the first signs
of that universal pessimism and realism that the war made so
inevitable.  I was a young jackass, and entirely pleased with
myself.

Jeremy Cole was otherwise, having given most of his attention while
at Oxford to football and birds.  I liked him, but wished him
cleverer.  When he astonished us all later I couldn't understand
it--but I understand it now.

After three minutes my condescending pity for Johanson knew no
bounds.  It was exactly as though a child of six were expounding
life to us; at the end of a quarter of an hour I was surprised to
find myself still listening, and I decided that it must be the
man's obvious sincerity that held me.  At the end of half an hour
(when the crash came) I was on the man's side, let him talk what
nonsense he pleased.

He had begun, diffidently and with rather a charming shyness, by
saying that this lecture was a sequel to one that he had given some
while before.  In that other he had spoken entirely about care of
the body, and had shown them some simple means by which the body
could be kept strong and healthy.  But that, as he had told them
then, was only the beginning of living rightly.  He must apologise
when he was himself ignorant and inexperienced for making
statements that probably to many in the room had been obvious long
ago.  But he thought that it was always interesting if one man
should tell, honestly, to others the things that he had found to be
true.  He was not trying to force his ideas upon any one, but there
might be some who thought as he did, and, if there were, he would
be glad to meet them.

He explained then how all his life he had been concerned with
physical culture, but that it was only after he came to this town
that he discovered that this physical culture was unimportant
compared to the other things that it led to.

He had, like other men, often wondered about life, what it meant,
what it led to, why human beings were alive at all.  The religions
that he had encountered had not satisfied him, and he was
perpetually dissatisfied with himself because he was so selfish,
and only cared for the things that brought himself happiness.

Then he made his first discovery--that this pursuit of selfish
happiness was no good, no practical as well as no moral good.  Why,
one day he asked himself, was he always so preoccupied about making
himself happy and so intent upon himself that he was missing all
the time the beauty that was on every side of him?  If he thought
more of the beauty that was outside himself then he would think
less of the dissatisfaction in himself.  He then gradually saw that
this beauty went farther than the beauty of material physical
things.  It was fine to have a beautiful body, to have it in
splendid trim, to feel healthy and strong.  That was the first duty
of beauty, to keep your body fit.  Beyond that was the beauty of
all outside things--the beauty of Nature, the beauty of pictures
and of music, the beauty of furniture and of houses and of streets.
That was the second duty of beauty.  But beyond and extending these
was the third beauty--the beauty of conduct, of unselfishness,
loving-kindness, fidelity and courtesy.  And this third world of
beauty led to God.

He found then that all the trouble in the world came from two
things, from selfishness and fear, and that as soon as one became
interested in something, however small, outside oneself, one became
less anxious for one's own safety, less eager to challenge others.
There might come a time, he thought, when we would be, all of us,
so busy with the creation of beauty, whether of beautiful things or
of beautiful deeds, that our concern for our own safety would be
forgotten altogether.

Our health, our daily bread, these things would be found to be much
more simply obtained when we were not always concerned about them.
The conduct of life rested, it might be, on certain very simple
things like fidelity to our word and thoughtfulness for others.  If
we made only one beautiful thing, not for ourselves, but because we
would pay our debt to beauty, we had done something with our lives.

So far he had gone, and you may imagine what I felt.  The
triteness, the sentimentality, the cheapness of it!  How many
millions of times had the world not been greeted with little books,
little orations, little sermons proclaiming just such a creed!  How
many good and stupid women, how many humbugging charlatans, how
many idiotic cranks, how many sentimental priests and pastors, had
not, in the history of this old, grey, disillusioned world,
proclaimed just such platitudes!  I looked around me expecting to
find in others the exasperation that I was feeling in myself.  I
did not find it.  They were listening.  The row that Cole and I had
confidently expected was not yet upon us.  There they all were,
staring in front of them, with wide-open eyes, cow-like, complacent.
I had the sense that they were not listening very much but were
rather, in some way, mesmerised.  Mesmerised by the voice, perhaps,
or by the quiet attitude of the man.

This led me to consider more closely the speaker.  I had to confess
to myself that I liked him.  He might be talking sentimental
nonsense, but at least he was in utter earnest, speaking only
because these things seemed to him to be the most important in the
world, and they would not let him be quiet.  I listened to him with
less intolerance, expecting no longer to hear anything but tiresome
platitude, but expecting to find in the man himself a personality
that was, far more than I had supposed, worthy of my august
attention.

He went on to say that he knew that one answer that would be made
to him was that he knew nothing about the social conditions of
modern life, that it was very easy to talk about beauty, but that
when you had no money and a family to provide for there was not a
great deal of time left in which to think about extras.  That when
you were hungry or saw those you loved hungry, you thought about
your stomach, not about beauty.  To that he answered that there
were very many, even in this little town of Polchester, whose
conditions were easy enough to allow them to create beauty in the
lives of those who were less fortunate.  The creation of beauty
could go on in any place.  Something was for ever being created
every moment of the day.  Creation was always at work, and if it
was not beauty that was being created then it was ugliness.  Every
word of slander or unkindness about another was creating more
ugliness, every hypocritical condemnation of some one for a fault
when we were in our own private lives, as we all well knew, so
guilty, was an act of ugliness.

Every insanitary room, every house insecure to the wind and rain
that we allowed to stand, was a work of ugliness.

He had come to Polchester, loving it at his first sight of it,
feeling that here was his home.  What had he found here?

He paused.  A stir, like a little wind, ran through the room.  What
had he found?  He had found hypocrisy, evil-speaking, slander,
malice, and the worst slum in Europe.

I caught my breath at that.  I knew that the moment had arrived.  I
looked again hurriedly about me and I saw still, in most faces,
that same staring gaze as of a crowd mesmerised.

But a voice, detached, like a stone flung through the ceiling,
cracked the silence.

"Yah!  You and yer beauty.  What about yer mistress up to St.
Paul's?"

The silence, although cracked, held.  Johanson's voice came back
clearly and without a falter:

"My love for this town--"

They were the last words we heard.  Chaos was upon us.  Look back
as earnestly as I may it is chaos that I see.  I can remember that
shouting and screaming of voices, fragmentary sentences:  "Go back
to your own bloody country!  We don't want you.  Oo are you
preaching at?  Oo crawled in at the Rec'try winder?  Oo kissed two
girls at once?  What about yer own dirty be'aviour?"  And this
rhyme:


     Harmer John!  Harmer John!
     Went to bed with his trousies on;
     Kissed the girls and made 'em cry;
     Maudie, Mary, pudding and pie!


But it was not possible to hear anything distinctly.  The more
respectable part of the audience, seeing that riot was truly upon
them at last, fled for the doors.  The less respectable, in a
shouting, bellowing mob, pushed for the platform.  Things--
vegetables, rotten eggs, bad fish--were hurtling through the air;
men and boys were scrambling down from the balcony, sliding the
pillars.

Cole caught my arm.

"Come on," he said.  "They'll do him in if some one doesn't stop
them."

I looked across the room and saw that he was standing quietly and
without any alarm on the middle of the platform.  Men, shouting and
waving their arms, were scrambling up towards him.  As, tumbling
over chairs, we reached the front of the hall some heavy fellow
made a lurch at him.  He moved back, still without any sign of
alarm, towards the wall, and as Cole and I clambered on to the
stage, we saw him struggling there, several men and boys striking
at him and dragging at his knees.

I forget then exactly what occurred.  We rushed forward, and soon
there was a glorious mêlée.  Cole was no mild antagonist, and I
think that the mob very soon retreated.  But I know that my
dominant impression was of Johanson, his collar and shirt torn
open, being extremely quiet and doing little more than keep his
assailants back.  I had the notion that with one thrust of his arm
he could have scattered them all to the Hebrides.

In any case, in another moment we found ourselves, the three of us,
tumbling towards the door at the back of the stage and then,
surprisingly, alone, breathless, in the cool current of air that a
dark passage provided.

We could not see very clearly, but I fancied that he smiled and
said:

"Thank you.  I don't hope you're damaged at all."

He shook our hands, I think.  Then, very quietly, was gone.




BOOK III

HOW HE LEFT US




CHAPTER I

ALONE


Mrs. Bond was out early one morning.  Awaking pleasantly after the
healthiest of sleeps, she had seen, as it were in a vision, that
the sleeves of the new dress would never do.  They would NEVER do.
And how could it be that she had NOT seen that last night.  She had
considered the sleeves while undressing and they had seemed to her
exactly the thing.  And now this morning . . .  Miss Nightingale,
the little dressmaker just below St. Paul's Church, was both cheap
and obliging, so obliging, indeed, that she encouraged Mrs. Bond to
bully her, and positively enjoyed being trampled upon.

Cheap and obliging, yes, but so hardworking that before you knew
where you were those sleeves would be finished, and then what a
business of altering and altering.  Sleeves were important in 1907.

So there was nothing for it but to hurry through breakfast and go
down and stop her.  So tiresome, but it was Mrs. Bond's duty to
Polchester that she should be properly dressed, and for her duty
she would do anything.

It was a lovely September morning and Mrs. Bond, having enjoyed a
pleasant chatty time during the last week or two and having most
amiably been as kind as possible to half a dozen reputations, was
in excellent spirits.  The sun shone upon everything, and Mrs. Bond
could not help but think that she was rather like the sun beaming
upon Polchester with the rays of her happiness and talent, and what
Polchester would do without her Mrs. Bond, modest though she was,
found it impossible to imagine.  Miss Nightingale also found it
impossible to imagine, and said so, which was noble of her,
considering how little Mrs. Bond paid her, and how much work she
demanded of her.

She scolded her now about the sleeves, and explained to her that
she would never to be able to retain the custom of the best people
in Polchester unless she kept her eyes open, and Miss Nightingale,
although this alteration in the sleeves was precisely the one that
a week ago she had recommended, entirely agreed with her.

After this had been most satisfactorily settled, and Miss
Nightingale, who had sat up all night to finish a dress in time,
had sighed and smiled and sighed, and then sat down to the sleeves,
Mrs. Bond greeted, as one sovereign another, the sun again.

Slowly she took her way up the hill.  One did not hurry on so
lovely a morning.  It was then that she saw a strange sight.
Positively shining in the sun was a seat, and this seat was newly
painted a dazzling white.  So new was the paint that tied to the
corner of the seat was a notice "WET PAINT" written in a large and
sprawling hand.

Mrs. Bond had never noticed this seat before (and, indeed, she was
not often in this low part of the town).  Nor would she have
noticed it now had it not been for the sun.  From no spirit of
vulgar curiosity, but rather because she was in a way Polchester's
guardian and must be aware of everything, she crossed the street
and examined the seat.  Then she saw something truly astonishing!

Behind the seat and under the shadow of a spreading tree was a
little fountain, the prettiest little fountain ever!

Surely it was new.  Mrs. Bond had never seen it before, she had
never before noticed this corner with its charming view over the
lower town, the river and the fields.  Avoiding very carefully the
fresh paint, she bent forward.  Here was a beautiful thing!  With
her continental taste she could most truly appreciate it.  A little
improper, perhaps (the Satyr wore no fig leaf) but here too her
continental taste helped her.  The delicate symmetry of its gentle
curves, the running groups of figures (gods and goddesses, Bacchus
and his crew, Paris and the apple, what were they?), the carving of
vine leaves and fruits and flowers, how delicious and classical!
And how nobly it stood, raising its central figure so daintily and
with such dignity!  Then, peering more closely, she saw a date.
1735.  1735!  All those years and she had never seen it until now.
Nor any one else.  No one had ever spoken about it.

She stayed for a moment, losing, for the briefest instant, her
consciousness of herself, Louisa Bond, her consciousness of her
position, her wit and talent, her kindliness and good-humour.

With a little breath of a sigh she moved away.  Here was something
for her to speak about!  She was the first, positively the first!
And with that up swept her consciousness again.  She was her normal
self, thank God, once more.



On that same morning Johanson spent half an hour with Reuben Fletch
in his office.  Very quiet there.  Very friendly and very cold.

Johanson was there in that neat, stern and unaccommodating room
exactly half an hour.  He was very uncomfortable.  He always hated
to ask for anything, and especially did he hate to ask Fletch for
anything.

And yet he must.  He must ask whether the payment of the next
instalment for the new rooms might be postponed for a little.  Or
possibly they might be let to some one else.  The business that he
was doing just at this moment did not quite justify him . . .

How he hated it!  And yet Fletch was, as he had always been to him,
very kind, speaking in his low voice, smiling often, conveying no
hint that he had ever heard that Johanson was a failure, or was
conscious at all of the terrible scandal of the recent lecture.

But no one in Polchester was able to make Johanson feel so
absolutely that he was both a foreigner and a fool.  He was both
these things--he knew it well.  But he did not want Fletch to tell
him.

Fletch, smiling a little sadly, shook his head.

"You see, Mr. Johanson" (he was one of the people in Polchester who
knew Johanson's name exactly), "those rooms are an awkward size.  A
little difficult.  And, of course, you are liable.  No getting away
from that, I am afraid.  I fancied that you were a little
precipitate, but I didn't like to say anything.  It was not my
place.  We all make mistakes, of course."

Silence followed.  Fletch never said anything when there was
nothing to say.  Johanson stood in the middle of the room without
moving.  Yes, he was a fool.  He saw it in Fletch's eyes, and he
saw it also in the eyes of the young clerk who entered at that
moment.

"Well, you shall let me know if anything--"

"Why, of course I'll let you know, Mr. Johanson."

"Good-day."

"Good-day, Mr. Johanson."

Later it was a wet afternoon, wet with a thin driving rain.  Autumn
had come in and you knew that in the woods the trees were shaking
their heads and shivering, aware that they were soon to lose their
leaves.  The lamps were blurred and people were not visible, only
umbrellas.

As he entered his room, closing his door behind him, he was aware,
as though it were personified for him by the actual presence of a
dark and silent stranger, that the worst and most terrible hour of
his life was with him.

He had known few bad hours although things had often not gone well
with him, and it was because of this, perhaps, that he had kept
until now so much of the boy's temperament.  But on this dark and
shivery afternoon in this desolate room he was a boy no longer.

There are states of the soul--dark, lonely, suspicious states--that
no boy can know.  Johanson was aware that such a state stood now
behind his chair.  He sat down at the table, took some papers that
had to do with his business, set them before him and tried to study
them.  He knew that he must once again close his office and this
time perhaps permanently, but that did not touch him.  He knew that
beyond the rain-starred window the little fountain was standing,
but that did not touch him.  He knew that below the fountain was
Seatown, miserable enough on this wet evening, the place that had
of late become with him an obsession, but that did not touch him.

He saw none of these things.  He saw only himself facing him at the
other end of the table.  He saw himself as a fool and as a failure,
a complete and total failure.

He was not as a rule a man who thought about himself, and all the
events of the last months had been driving him towards one end and
one end only, that he should forget himself altogether and lose
himself in other greater things.

But now he saw only himself, himself Hjalmar Johanson, the fool,
the foreigner, the failure.

This was the first thing that hurt him, that he felt himself now a
foreigner in this little town that had seemed only a few short
months ago to be his true home.  He had loved it from the moment
that he had entered it, and it had seemed at once to respond to his
love.  It had something so beautiful, so touching and so personal
about it that it had appeared to him as though it must have been
meant for him.  Now it had abruptly been taken away from him.  It
was not only because the people here who had before been so
friendly were now so hostile.  He had known, on that day when he
had visited Wistons, that the choice that he had made then would
estrange them from him.  The scandal of the last lecture had not
distressed him; he had felt after it triumph because he had been
honest with himself and had tried to say what he thought was true.

No, it was the town itself that had withdrawn: the streets were
foreign now, the houses frowned on him, and the stones of the
market-place were hard to his feet.  What right had he, the town
might say, to come here, a foreigner, and patronise it with his
notions, his ignorant childish notions.

He told Longstaffe afterwards that he fancied that the rain as it
lashed the window was carrying the message of the town's scorn and
dislike to his ears.

Then, behind the town, he saw Maude.  Now he lowered his head and
groaned aloud.  He could see how foolish, yes, and how ignorant and
how selfish he had been.  He had talked to her so much of liberty
and that they must both be free.  But what freedom had he allowed
her?  Had he not resented every friendship that she had made?  Had
he not driven her into the arms of the Boultewoods and Hogg and the
rest?  Could he not have found some way easier for her than his
insistence on her obedience and acquiescence in his ideas?  When
they had been engaged for only a few weeks he had begun to tell her
what she must do and what she must not do.  Was that his sense of
liberty?  And his selfishness!  He had thought of her, yes, but
only that she might be with him and that he might see her and hear
her laugh and watch her smile!

Just before entering the hall on the night of his lecture some man
near the door (he had not seen his face) had come up to him and
whispered:  "Your Miss Penethen's engaged to young Boultewood."
All through the evening those words had whispered and whispered.
Young Boultewood!  A miserable ne'er-do-well with whom she could
never be happy.

Stung with this thought, he paced his room, walking fast, his head
down.  Oh! he must persuade her!  He must show her!  He must do
something!

He sat down again and quickly wrote to her.  (This letter was found
afterwards in the drawer of this same table.)


DEAR MAUDE--You shal not want to here of me but I beg you becaus we
was friends before and hav butiful memorys to read this littel
letter.  I am not spelling this very wel becaus I am writing it fas
becaus of my feelings but I do beg you just to read it and think of
what I say.

I hav been told that you hav engaged yourself to mary young Mr.
Boultewood and I think that perhaps you hav done this becaus you
are angry with me and not becaus you luv him.  Dear Maude I don't
hope you shal do this when you don't luv him truely.  Place me
right out of youre mind and don't say I shal do this becaus I hate
anuther man but only do it if you luv him.  Perhaps I am wrong and
you do luv him then Maude I have no rite to say a word but if it is
becaus you hate me don't do it Maude don't do it.  You hav all your
life to come and I am not important enuff for you to spoil your
life becaus of me.  Think not of me but of yourself Maude.

                                                HJALMAR JOHANSON.


But when he had finished this letter he felt in a greater despair
than before.  What influence could he have over her now?  What
influence could he hope to have?  He had no right, and when she
read this letter she would only be angry and more obstinate than
before in her purpose.

He had lost her, but he thought that he could bear that, if he had
not also the belief that he had ruined her.

And for what?  For the prosecution of some vague, empty ideal that
would be childish to any other man than he.  Why could he not have
waited quietly in the town, doing his honest work, winning the
approval of all good men, minding his own affairs?  Why must he
resent so intensely that Ronder and others, men older than he, and
wise in the ways of this country, should show him what he should
do, and should order his steps a little?  Was it not the last
arrogance for him to resent their advice and think that he knew
better than they?  His evening with Wistons, that had seemed to him
at the time to involve a genuine struggle of the soul, now, in
retrospect, appeared to be only the struggle of his self-will and
conceit for liberty.

His continual assertion of his friendship for the Longstaffes
appeared to him now a mockery.  What had come of that?  What had he
done but to involve them in further and more public scandal?  Why,
he had not seen them during the last weeks.  It was true that he
had kept away from them after the fight in Seatown, and the fiasco
of the lecture, out of a kind of delicacy, and they had stayed away
from him, he supposed, for something of the same reason, but how
ironical that he should have wrecked all his life with Maude for
the sake of people whom he never saw!

And Tom Longstaffe!  Tom whom he loved more than any one in the
world after Maude (and more deeply than Maude in certain spiritual
ways), Tom who was more than a brother, who had seemed part of
himself, who had shared his heart with him, had not come near him.
And why should he?  Was not Tom's first duty to his daughter and
Billy?  His daughter had been involved already enough with this
foreigner!  That was how Tom must look at him in spite of all the
devotion that they had, most truly, felt the one for the other.  It
was not possible, it might be, to have a real friendship between
men of different nationalities.  Their points of view must differ
so deeply.  And then Tom had his religion.  But it had seemed for a
time as though he and Tom had had their hands upon the very souls
of one another.

Now, strangely, it was the thought of Tom Longstaffe and not of
Maude that drove the sharpest agony into his spirit.  It was dark
now, but he did not care nor heed.  He walked swiftly up and down
the room thinking only of Tom, of their first meeting in the mist
outside the Cathedral, of the first real talk they had had when
they had smashed through their shyness, of the day when they had
walked up to the football match together, of the afternoon of
Mary's return, of fun with Billy and of evenings alone in Tom's
study when they had said very little but had felt their love for
one another like a tight wire holding them together.  That had been
friendship real enough and true enough while it lasted, but it had
not lasted because Johanson had not been worthy of it, because he
had been thinking only of himself and of his ideas and wants and
ambitions.  What feeling had he really given to Tom, how much had
he really considered Tom's work and Tom's religious ideals and
Tom's love for his daughter?

He sat down at the table again, weighed down with self-reproach
and loneliness.  He was truly alone; nothing now remained--his
ideals, his dream, his work, his love, his friendship, everything
was gone for him.

I do not know how long he sat on there in the dark, the rain always
driving against the window and his only company, but at last the
worst temptation of all came to him.

He seemed to be no longer himself.  Another soul sat darkly in his
body, and to this soul came the thought of putting an end to
everything.  With that thought came a sense of great relief, as of
a crisis achieved and a question answered.

He got up and lit two candles.  Then he crossed to the old worn
sofa that was against the wall, and under the sofa was his old,
shabby, black bag.  He dragged this out and like a man who is
moving in a dream felt deep in it and, under shirts and collars,
found an old revolver that he had had with him ever since the old
Stockholm days.

He took it out and fingered it under the candlelight.  There was
one shot in it.  He sat down at the table, drew the candles towards
him, placed the revolver between them and leaned his head on his
hands, staring in front of him.

He did not think any longer.  He seemed to be already dead and the
room smelt strangely empty.  Several times he picked up the
revolver and looked at it and laid it down again.  A slight
movement was all that was needed.  It seemed to him that he was
sinking through the earth, and that when he reached a certain depth
he would crash with a bump, and that with that bump all would be
over.



He was looking at the revolver so intently that he did not hear the
opening of the door.

Some one sat at the table beside him, but he did not look to see
who it was.

He and the stranger sat together without speaking.

The stranger put out his hand and took the revolver.

The stranger was Tom Longstaffe.

His first feeling was one of irritation, and also of unreality and
melodrama.  Some one had come in and prevented him just as they
always came in in plays and stories--in what is called "the nick of
time."

His next sensation was one of extreme weariness.  He could just
have laid his head on his arms there where he sat and dropped off
to sleep.  But at last he said:  "Well, Tom."

"Well, Johnnie.  I thought I'd come and see how you were getting
along."

He had not put the revolver away, but had laid it on the table on
the side of him away from Johanson.

Johanson looked up and felt a sharp warm comfort at seeing Tom
Longstaffe sitting there just as he used to be in his black coat
and with his brown, rough face and kindly wrinkled eyes.  He was
touched oddly by the rough, brown hands with the stumpy fingers
laid out there on the table.  He was dragging himself up, up, up
from that deep place beneath the ground where he had been and it
took a long time.

They were silent for a little, then Longstaffe said:

"I tell you what.  Do you know what time it is?  It's supper time.
I'm hungry.  Have you got anything to eat?"

That "I tell you what" was so like the old Tom that it pulled
Johanson up a long way from under the ground.  He was almost all
the way up now.

"I don't know," Johanson said slowly, "I hadn't thought about
eating."

"Well, I had," Longstaffe said, laughing, "and I'm hungry, I can
tell you.  I had a service at seven, and I came straight down."

"If you're hungry--" Johanson said, rising.  He moved about the
room at first blindly, as though he did not know where he would go
next.  Longstaffe did not watch him, but went on talking, talking
about anything.  Little foolish nothings.  What somebody had said
about the weather, what the church looked like now there was the
new reredos.  Then he began about Billy, and soon there was more
than enough for him to say.  Billy had done so many amusing things.

Billy was like a piece of quicksilver; why, do you know what Billy
only the other day . . .

Slowly Johanson, stumbling about the room in the candlelight, came
right to the surface.  He did not hear what Longstaffe was saying,
but it was comforting to hear his funny jumping voice again.  Oh!
yes, it was!  He realised the room now and knew what he must do.
He must give Longstaffe some food.  He laid the cloth on the table,
got out the cheese and the bread and the butter, lit the fire and
put the kettle on.  He had a tin of corned beef.  He opened it.

Turning to Longstaffe, he said:

"What time is it?"

"Half-past nine."

Half-past nine!  And he had been in that room ever since four
o'clock.

"It's a long time, Tom," he said at last.  "We haven't seen one
another.  I've missed our meeting."

Longstaffe looked him directly in the eyes.  "We thought you'd had
enough trouble through knowing our family.  We thought you'd be up
to see us when you wanted to see us.  I've waited and waited for
you to come.  I couldn't wait any longer."

Johanson said nothing to that.  The kettle was boiling, so the tea
was made and they sat down to the table.  Johanson ate very little,
but Longstaffe ate a great deal.  He seemed truly hungry.  He went
on talking, too, gaily about the things he had been doing, the
people he had been seeing, about Mary and Billy.

Then, without warning, Johanson broke out:

"Tom, if you shouldn't have come to-night . . .  It's been
terrible.  I've been seeing myself as I truly am.  Yes, as I truly
am.  I have been thinking myself fine and honest and I'm not, Tom,
I'm bad--truly bad.  What have I been here but selfish and thinking
only of my ways, and what I should do here?  And I have been
telling every one what they should do.  Canon Ronder, he's been so
good to me, and what did I do?  I went to him telling him he was
all wrong and I were all right.  I don't hope you know, Tom, all
the things I've said to people.  That Mrs. Bond, she isn't much,
but what right had I to tell her her boy was no good.  She loves
her boy, don't she, the same way as I love you, Tom?  What should I
do when some one comes and tells me you're no good?  I've just been
stuck up on myself and the fine things I'll do for this town, and
what's it all come to?  A foreigner knowing nothing--that's what I
am.  I'm ashamed.  I have no right . . ."

"No," said Tom quietly, lighting his pipe.  "You were all right.
You had an idea.  You weren't pushing your theories for yourself,
but because of your idea.  Your idea wouldn't let you alone.  And
your idea is fine.  Perhaps you're a little simple yet, Johnnie.
You came to this town thinking it was all Paradise and it wasn't.
No place on earth is.  If any place on earth was we'd all go to it,
and we aren't ready for Paradise just yet.  And you're a little
simple about people too.  They are more mixed than you think them,
not bad altogether, nor good altogether, but a bit of both.  You've
rushed in too quickly, maybe, wanting to put everything right at
once.  But I don't know.  If you waited you'd lose the force of
your idea perhaps and become just like the rest of us.  It's hard
to say.  I've been angry myself the way they've treated Mary, but
why should I be?  We all have to protect ourselves.  We none of us
are safe.  Life's dangerous all the time.  And so we hit out at one
another all the time, loving one another really maybe."

But Johanson would say no more.  They sat opposite to one another,
one on either side of the fire-place, and Tom talked.  Johanson
looked at him with an odd, hungry look, as though he could not have
enough of his plain face and his wrinkled eyes.

Tom talked and talked.  The fire died.  The room was cold.  He got
up at last, knocking out his pipe.

Johanson rose also, still not taking his eyes from Longstaffe's
face.  "Good night, then," he said.  "It's been kind of you
coming."

Holding his hand, Longstaffe hesitated.  His face flushed.  He
looked up to Johanson, who towered above him.

"I tell you what," he said, "do you know--if you don't mind--I'd
like to stop here to-night."

"Stop here?"

"Yes.  Sleep here."

"But where will you sleep?"

"On that sofa.  It's just the length.  Have you got a blanket and a
pair of pyjamas?"

"Oh! yes.  Of course."  Then Johanson added, with a sigh, "Oh! I'd
like you to stop!"

"I'll look funny in your pyjamas!"  They both laughed.

Johanson found the pyjamas and the blanket.

When Johanson was almost undressed Longstaffe said:  "Aren't you
going to do your exercises?  You always do, don't you?"

"Yes," said Johanson, "I forgot."  Stripped, under the candlelight,
he did his exercises.

Longstaffe, sitting on the sofa, his legs lost in Johanson's
pyjamas, watched with eager admiration.

"I say, you're fitter than ever!  Wonderful!  I wish I could keep
my body like that!"

Johanson paused, pleased.

"Am I truly all right still?  Not fat?"

"Fat!  I should think not!  Not an ounce of fat anywhere.  Touch
your toes again.  That's something like!"

"Ever seen me do this?"  Johanson raised himself on his toes,
raised his arms, his body stiff as though of shining metal.  "I can
stay like that for ever so long."

The candles guttered, throwing fantastic shadows.

Soon Johanson was in bed and Longstaffe on his sofa, the room dark.

"I say, Tom."  Johanson's voice came.  "I was terrible lonely to-
day.  I'm glad you came.  Oh!  I'm glad you came!"

"You won't be lonely any more, will you?"

"No, I shan't be."

"Good night, old man."

"Good night, Tom."



CHAPTER II

THE WATCHERS


I suppose that any boy who has been living, during his early and
impressionable years, in a Cathedral town acquires two things--a
sense of romance and a sense of the past, and these two things are
only one and the same thing for some people.  M. Proust will tell
you what a historical church can do for an imaginative child.

But I am not at all sure that for young Polcastrians the spirit of
the town was not more potent than the spirit of the church.  That
Rock to which the town clung with all its toes, that mysterious
country flowing ever away to yet more mysterious seas, that rich
and ancient blood that is the fine inheritance of the Glebeshire
native, those fights of armoured men up and down the paths of the
rocky hill, the beacon flaring from the higher peak, the lights
streaming from the Cathedral doors as they opened to admit that
sombre procession of silent monks and priests--these things were
not of yesterday but of to-day, yes, and to-morrow, too.

Many a time I have heard a Glebeshire man tell his tale truthfully
and soberly enough, and then be accused of melodrama by his
hearers.  "Such things," they murmur, "don't occur in Cathedral
towns."  But it is not the event that is melodramatic (and that is
a poor word for a fine thing), but the Glebeshire man's vision of
it.  He can no more not see it in a romantic way, poor fellow, than
help breathing.  Your modern realism is of no use to him.  Why, of
how ordinary a kind was the decline and fall of poor Brandon in our
town.  How many times in one day's paper will you see just such a
collapse recorded, but for all of us, happening against such a
background as our Cathedral, it seemed to involve the contest of
immortal forces.  "There's more in our town than meets the mortal
eye," I heard old Cassidy murmur once, and many of us would agree
with him.

I have noticed often enough with most of us who belong to
Polchester and Glebeshire that time seems to have no boundaries--
past, present, and future scarcely exist for some of us, and
confused and dreamy we sometimes are.  Young Cole, who is built,
physically at any rate, on a stocky pattern, has told me that when
he was a tiny fellow he saw the Black Bishop in the Cathedral.  He
has no doubt of it at all, nor does it surprise him that it should
have been so.  There are no ghosts with us.  Physical death does
not divide.  Like us or no, that is the way we are.

It was so now in all the town's chatter about Harmer John.  Every
one was watching to see what would happen, but not only were we--
Ronder, Mrs. Bond, old Ryle, anybody you please--the watchers,
there were others, thousands and thousands of them, who were
spectators too.

I was very conscious of this when one day I went to take a cup of
tea with an old lady who had been often kind to me, one of the
leading characters in our town, Mrs. Combermere.  She was, of
course, not so very old, but to a boy of my age, who had heard of
her as a powerful figure in his very earliest days, she seemed as
old as time.  She was one of the principal figures in our town, a
downright, masculine lady, a widow who lived with her dogs and her
Tory ideas, and thought both the dogs and the ideas the best of
their kind.

She had inhabited the same little house in the Precincts for I do
not know how many years, and she thought that the best of its kind
also.

She was very faithful to old friends and did not care, as a rule,
for newcomers.  Mrs. Bond, for instance, she abominated.  I could
be pretty sure of my company, and, entering the little old-
fashioned candle-lit room, I found that my expectations were
justified.  Her house was never very tidy, and many things that
seemed to my modern eyes unnecessary accumulated, but I expect that
she was about her possessions as she was about her friends.  When
she had acquired them she liked to keep them.  Herself seemed to
occupy most of the space.  She was square and solid, and had
dressed in the same fashion ever since any one could remember.  She
wore stiff, white collars, short skirts, a shining, black belt at
her waist, and her dark hair was brushed straight back from her
forehead.  She had not even now a single grey hair, and she smoked
large, fat cigarettes and had been doing so for twenty years.

I expected to find Ellen Stiles, Miss Dobell and old Doctor
Puddifoot, and those were precisely the people I did find.  Old
Doctor Puddifoot had brought into the world many of my generation;
now he must be getting on for eighty, and had retired from
practice, living only for golf and port.  Ellen Stiles was the Mrs.
Bond of an earlier generation, and yet that is an unkind
description because in HER gossip malice had never been intended.
She liked to see the proud pulled down from their high places, but
also she liked to see the lowly exalted, and often in her day had
assisted in exalting them.  But her day now was over.  She was
simply an untidy, forlorn and shabby old maid.

When I had been given my chair and my cup of tea the conversation
that I had interrupted continued as though I did not exist.  Young
people were not unduly flattered in the Polchester of 1907.

Nevertheless, I was unexpectedly called upon.  "But you were
there," Mrs. Combermere cried, turning round upon me sharply as
though I had committed a crime.  "Tell us about it."

"Tell you about what?" I asked.

"The terrible lecture and Harmer John.  I hear that you and the
Cole boy saved him from being torn to pieces."

I answered lamely enough.  For some queer reason I didn't want to
speak about it.  Why?  I don't know.  I wasn't ashamed of myself,
and I wasn't ashamed of Harmer John either.  But I didn't want to
talk about it.

"What did he say?  What made every one so angry?  Was it all
arranged from the beginning?"

"Of course it was all arranged," Ellen Stiles broke in.  "That
horrible Samuel Hogg.  He bought all the tickets and packed the
place.  That poor man!  I think it's a shame the way the town's
treated him."

"You would!" Mrs. Combermere answered.  "You're as sentimental as
ever you were, Ellen, and so you'll be to the end.  The point is
that the man proposed pulling the town down, and certain people
didn't welcome the idea."

"No," I said, "that wasn't quite the fact.  What he'd said--"  I
paused.  What HAD he said?  I wasn't sure.  I broke out:  "He's a
jolly fine man!"

Strangely enough they agreed to that, and Mrs. Combermere came out
in her strange, grumpy voice:  "Of course he's a fine man--but he's
a foreigner and a simpleton.  He should have known that English
people have no imagination."

Puddifoot, who had been lying back, stomach protruding, eyes half-
closed, in his chair, muttered:

"Went to his first lecture.  Finest man to look at I've ever seen.
Why couldn't he stick to that instead of wanting to interfere with
everybody?"

But Mrs. Combermere returned to me again.  "But you--you've told us
nothing.  Come on.  Speak up.  Fine man, yes--but what more?"

I was held by the stupidest inhibition.  I blushed and stammered
like a baby.  At last I got out something; I hadn't thought that
he'd said anything to offend anybody, but that of course they were
all waiting to be offended; they had come there intending to make a
row.  He talked for a long time, though, before they interrupted--

"Well, what did he say during that time?" Mrs. Combermere broke in
impatiently.  "That's exactly what I want to get at and nobody can
tell me."

I couldn't tell her either.  He certainly hadn't said anything that
was very new, only that beauty was of three kinds, the brain, the
heart and the soul, and that we ought to be creating it instead of
always thinking of ourselves.  And that we worried too much whether
we were happy or no and so missed the beauty that was all around
us.  That our bodies ought to be beautiful and our surroundings
ought to be beautiful and our lives ought to be beautiful and . . .
and . . . as the platitudes came stammering out of me I felt
increasingly foolish.  I ended:  "Oh! it wasn't what he said.  He
spoke like a baby, all the old things, and it was exactly as though
they were so startlingly new to him that they must be new to every
one else too.  I laughed at him at first, but you couldn't help
liking him and then--when they went for him--the odds were too
damned unfair!"

"I do think," said Ellen Stiles, nodding her head, "that it's most
true what he said.  We ought to think more of others, certainly,
and--"

"Oh! shut up, Ellen!" Mrs. Combermere interrupted most rudely.
"The infant here is right.  There isn't anything in what he says--
anything new at least.  The point is that he believes it, that he's
got an idea that's more to him than his happiness or personal
safety.  That's what's affected us all.  That's why we're all
frightened of him, because he's making us all uncomfortable,
because we KNOW we're wrong and slack and self-satisfied and
greedy.  Don't I know it about myself?  Didn't I start life with
fine ideas, and where are they all gone to?  Don't I know that if I
got up to-morrow morning with the resolve to think less of myself
and more of other people, determined to grumble less, to help to
rid the town of the slums, to give my two maids better bedrooms, to
go up to London once a year to see a picture gallery and hear some
music (I used to care for those things once), don't I KNOW that I
could do all these things and that life would be better worth
living if I did?  But I'm set, hard and fast, and the very thought
of that man going round disturbing the place is irritating!  Ever
read The Heir of Redclyffe, Ellen?"

"When I was a girl," said Miss Stiles, "and cried myself sick over
somebody's deathbed."

"It's that sort of priggish, moral, uplifting effect this man's
having on all of us.  But he isn't a prig, so far as I can see.  He
doesn't want to make a soul in the town better.  He's just got a
notion, and his notion won't let him rest.  After all, there IS
something in it.  If only a few of us stopped quarrelling and
backbiting and seeing only the mean side of our neighbours and--No,
it's no good."  She stamped with both feet on the ground.  "I'm too
old to change either myself or other people."

"What's this," old Puddifoot drawled out, "that Mrs. Bond's got
hold of?  About a fountain or something there behind St. Paul's.
Been there for years, and he dug it up and stuck it together.
Pretty thing, she tells me.  Funny idea for a man to have.  He's a
bit cracked, of course.  Trained his body too hard and gone in the
top story."

"Yes, that's very English of you, Charles," said Mrs. Combermere,
"because a man finds something beautiful and troubles about it you
say he's mad.  I must go down and have a look at the thing.  And
where is the man now, anyway?  They say he's living in Seatown and
is likely to be murdered at any minute."

"I don't know where he's living," said Ellen Stiles eagerly, "but I
do know that the police are talking of asking him to leave the town
lest there should be any disturbance.  The Seatown people are just
furious with him for saying that their houses ought to be pulled
down, although they are really in a shocking state, I believe, and
you'd have thought they'd be grateful to him for bothering.  But
not at all.  They can't say anything bad enough about him, and I'm
sure there's going to be trouble, and then what a scandal there'll
be!"

"It's most peculiar," said Mrs. Combermere slowly.  "There have
been plenty of foreigners in this town before, but I can't remember
anybody who has affected everybody in the way this man has done.
The truth is he's managed to put his finger on one or two things
that nobody's quite comfortable about.  It's all very well to say
that we're proud of this place and there's nothing the matter with
it, but as a matter of fact we all know that there's plenty the
matter with it, only we're all too lazy or too frightened to
bother."

"All the same," said Ellen Stiles, changing her side now that
Polchester was down and Harmer John was up, "I don't quite see why
HE should come and tell us all our business.  What does he know
about us or England?  Why should he push Mary Longstaffe in our
faces?  Why should he be so rude to Canon Ronder and Mrs. Bond and
the others?  Why, he said the most dreadful things to Mrs. Bond
about her boys!"

"Not half as dreadful as I'd say if you gave me a chance," Mrs.
Combermere interrupted.  "Of course he says rude things.  If you
have an idea in your head that won't let you alone, you feel that
there isn't a moment to be lost.  You HAVE to speak about it to
everybody and you haven't time to think whether you're rude or no.
I had an idea once about giving dogs garlic in their food and I
couldn't rest for a minute.  I had to tell every one.  Besides, who
cares whether old Ronder's feelings are hurt--greedy, self-centred
tub of a man.  Why--!"

At that moment, I remember, the maid announced Canon Ronder.  There
was, of course, not the slightest sign of confusion written
anywhere on Mrs. Combermere.  She did not greet Ronder very warmly.
He knew her well enough by now and did not, I suppose, expect any
great cordiality.  I think that it was during this summer that he
began to deteriorate.  You may connect it with Johanson or not, as
you please.  Movements, men, circumstances, come strangely together
in life, and our sins, our merits, our braveries and our
indifferences seem to wait as though with predetermined knowledge
for the moment of their fulfilment.

You can suggest, if you like, that Johanson was Ronder's chance
deliberately offered to him, and he missed it.  Or you can shrug
your shoulders and deny that the two men had any real contact.  I
only know that it was just at this time that Ronder's deterioration
became obvious to everybody.  He was losing touch with himself,
some one said.  And some one else said that he liked his food
better than his prayers.  He was certainly lazy now and began to be
less neat in his dress and careless about his sermons.  He was also
less amiable than he used to be, they said, and you never knew
where you were with him.  He didn't know, I fancy, where he was
with himself.

On this very afternoon I noticed, I remember, that he seemed
uncomfortable.  It may have been that he knew that we had been
talking about him before he came in.

The conversation flagged and died.  Then Ellen Stiles, getting up
to go, remarked:

"I shall go down and see that little fountain.  It's a pretty idea,
I think.  I expect there are all sorts of things in this town that
no one knows about."

"Fountain?  What fountain?" asked Ronder, peering up through his
glasses.

"Oh! didn't you know?" Ellen Stiles was quite stirred.  "Mrs. Bond
says that this man Johanson, whom everybody's talking about, found
an old fountain somewhere, dug it up, cleaned it and stuck it
together.  It's very pretty, they say."

The effect of this on Ronder was odd.

He sprang to his feet, nearly upsetting his cup of tea.

"We've had enough of that man," he cried, "disturbing the town and
all law and order.  He's got to go, and the sooner the better.  I
spoke to Griffiths about it yesterday.  He's nothing but a
charlatan of the worst kind.  There seemed to be something genuine
in him at first, but he's nothing more than a vulgar tub-thumper.
He refused all my advice, wouldn't listen to my warnings, wouldn't
listen to anybody, and now, if some one doesn't get him out of the
place, there'll be some disastrous riot.  But I won't be held
responsible.  No, I won't!  His blood will be on his own head.  He
was warned often enough."

"But no one will dream of holding you responsible.  What have you
to do with it?" Mrs. Combermere asked sharply.

Canon Ronder didn't answer.  He sat down again.  Very odd he
looked, flushed and bewildered.  So odd that I thought that the
only decent thing was to leave, and leave I did.



I went out into the dusky town in a curious mind.  When I was a
child I read a book that had a very odd effect upon me--Mrs.
Oliphant's A Beleaguered City.  It is, I think, as forgotten to-day
as all the other books by that fine and plucky lady.  I cannot
myself very clearly recall it, but as I recollect it had for its
theme the invasion of a certain town by the spirits of the
departed.  These returning citizens crowded the streets, pressed in
upon the doors, peered from the windows and invaded the churches,
with what dramatic effect or to fulfil what purpose I cannot
remember.

Now as I came out of Mrs. Combermere's door into the deserted
Precincts that old book drove itself upon my mind.  I doubtless
then, being in the early twenties and not very far from my
childhood, remembered the story clearly enough.  It may have been
responsible for my mood, but, however that may be, I remember that
I stood upon Mrs. Combermere's threshold hesitating.  It was one of
those September evenings when autumn mists seem to be on some
secret purpose, as though they shrouded the earth with their
vapours that they might the better, undisturbed, go about their
purpose of preparing the way for winter.  The long stretch of the
Cathedral Green was faintly grey, the row of old houses on the
Precincts' further side showed here a gable, there a rough chimney,
here a square of shrouded light, here a roof faintly glimmering
under the prophecy of an early moon.

The Cathedral itself towered up gigantic above the pattern of grey
shadow.  It was dark like ebony and the buttresses went flying off
into the mist as though they were the limbs of some gigantic beast
straining muscles in some urgent progress.

When I walked on to the path that bordered the Green I felt as
though I were pressed in upon by a crowd of figures.  I was not
conscious of any movement save my own, but, to my romantic
imagination, it was as though a thickly packed crowd of persons was
waiting there for some coming event.  Emerging from the small
heated room of Mrs. Combermere's tea-party, I should have felt
chilled and drawn my overcoat closer about me, but rather, as I
remember it at this flight of time, I was conscious that the
atmosphere was warm and close and thick.  To persons of a clear and
ordered and realistic brain such impressions are, of course, mere
folly, but to many of us they do occur, and I should be failing in
my purpose if I did not record what I felt.

I crossed the Green, and it seemed to me that I was truly elbowing
my way as I went.  I was not frightened or anxious either, and it
was as though I were asking myself, without any astonishment, for
what all these people were waiting.

When I reached the Cathedral door I was surprised to discover that
the Cathedral was not closed, and, pushing aside the heavy curtain
flap, I found that there were still lights in the choir and that
the organist was practising.  I remembered that within the next ten
days there was to be a performance of the Elijah in the Cathedral.
Doubtless a practice for this had but just ended.

No one, however, seemed to be in the great church but myself and
the organist.  My steps echoed brazenly as I walked up the nave.  I
had no very definite purpose in my mind.  I liked the beauty of the
dim lights, the faint patterns of the carving, the great height of
the soaring roof, the round strength of the unfaltering pillars.
Then I realised that I was not alone.  Some one came out of the
shadows towards me, and, with a sharp shock of recognition, I
realised that the some one was Johanson.

I had, of course, never before met him face to face.  You could not
call that hurried encounter with him on the night of the lecture a
meeting.  I was never to meet him face to face again.  I wouldn't
like to say how much of this book has been built up on this same
meeting, brief though it was.

My first impulse was to move on, and then something compelled me to
speak to him.

"I beg your pardon," I said.  I stopped and he stopped.

"You are Mr. Johanson, aren't you?"

He said "Yes" and smiled.

"I haven't any right to speak to you," I went on.  "But I just want
to say," I stammered a little, "that I did most awfully admire your
lecture the other night.  I--I was there, you know," I ended
lamely.

He looked at me and then he actually recognized me, amazing when
you think of the confusion and disturbance of that evening.  "Why,
of course, you were there," he said.  "You came and helped me, did
you not?  It was a rough ending."  He held out his hand.  "I am
most glad to see you again.  It is fine that I have a chance of
thanking you for your assistance."

My chief impression as he spoke to me was that all the people who
had spoken to me about him, or, in my presence, had talked of him,
had known nothing whatever of him as he really was.  I fancy that
he affected every one he met differently, and that every one
thought that their impression of him, hostile or friendly as it
might be, was the only true one.  He was, of course, much taller
than I, and seemed very large in that dim light.  But what I
chiefly felt was the jolly friendliness of his smile and the
extreme courtesy of his manner.  When you are just at the beginning
of life and pretending to be brazenly certain about everything in
it, you are tremendously at the mercy of the attention paid to you
by your elders.  And that attention has to be just right!  If there
is any patronage then you don't forgive it in a hurry.  But there
was no patronage in Johanson.

"I don't hope that you had any harm from that evening," he said
most earnestly.  "They were rather rough, weren't they?  They
didn't like, you see, my telling them what they ought to be doing.
And they were quite right.  We none of us like it, naturally
enough.  I should, perhaps, wait a bit.  But that doesn't matter
here," he went on.  "I wasn't expecting the doors would be open to-
night.  I came in half an hour ago and they were practising for the
Elijah, and I sat down and listened.  Splendid singing!  I had my
entertainment all for nothing!"

Then, shyly, but as though he were really interested, he asked me
about myself--did I live in Polchester, and had I always lived
there, and didn't I think it was a beautiful town, and was I going
to be long here?  I answered his questions eagerly, telling him
that I was in my first year at Cambridge, that I liked it very
much, that I had been born abroad but had come to Polchester as a
child of six and had lived there, off and on, ever since, but that
my parents lived now in London and that I had been staying here for
a fortnight with my aunt.

It was extraordinary with what swiftness I felt that I knew him.  I
was a shy youth in those days, very much wrapped up in myself, very
suspicious of strangers and especially of foreigners, but I would
have told him gladly anything.  I felt no difference in our ages
except that perhaps he seemed rather younger than myself, but he
was so kind and so friendly that he made it very easy for me.

We walked about a little, he showing me first one thing and then
another that pleased him, always rather diffidently, as though, of
course, I must know so much more about this place than he.  Then we
crossed over to the Brytte Monument.

We could not see it very clearly in the dim light, but I found at
once that here was the very enthusiasm of his heart.  He went on
talking about it as though he himself had created it.  He knew
every faintest mark in it, all the little figures, the flower and
fruit pieces, the ins and outs of the patterns and designs.

"But what do you think?" he broke out, seizing my arm in his
excitement.  "What do you think I found?  Down near where I have my
lodging I found a little broken fountain all under the earth with
the weeds on it.  I put it together and cleaned it and cleaned the
seat near it and made it all proper.  It's truly a beautiful piece.
But this is the wonderful thing!  It has a date on it--1735--and
I'm quite sure it was made by the same young man who made this
monument.  Yes, I'm sure.  It's his work, absolutely.  No one could
work his way.  He was a genius, you understand.  Entirely a genius.
You've read about him?  Oh, you must read about him!  And I don't
hope you'll think me silly, but from the first time I saw this
monument I thought I knew the young man and that he knew me and he
was wanting me to do something.  What was he wanting me to do?
Why, to find his fountain.  He knew it was there all broken and
dirty and he sent me to find it.  Is that silly to you?  Oh, but it
isn't silly!  Why shouldn't it be?  You must come and look at the
little fountain.  You'd like it.  Will you promise me to come?"

Of course I promised.  I would have promised him something a great
deal more difficult.

He would have stood there, perhaps, talking all night about his
young genius, but the organ had ceased, some one had turned out the
lights.  The old Verger came to us telling us that he was about to
close the Cathedral.

We went out into the Precincts and through the mists the moon was
faintly shining.

He looked at me, as we said good-bye, as though we had been friends
all our lives.

"You will promise me to come?" he said again.

"Rather!" I answered.  "Of course I will."

He gave my hand a great grip, nodded, smiling at me, and strode off
into the mist.



CHAPTER III

PENETHEN INTERLUDE


That agony of absolute loneliness was never to return to Johanson
again.  There was at least one human being in the world now who
believed in him and loved him.

But those hours changed him.  Every one who saw him and spoke to
him after that night is agreed that there was something new in
him--if they cared for him, it was something more gentle and
understanding; if they hated him, it was something more arrogant
and aloof.  "He's playing the bloody aristocrat," some one told
Hogg.

I imagine that what was to worry him now most urgently was the
business of paying his way.  He was almost penniless.  He would in
two months' time have to find a very considerable sum of money.

There were no prospects of any kind for him in Polchester, and
leave Polchester he would not.

Destiny, however, was to settle this question for him in its own
fashion.  Meanwhile the obsession of Seatown increased with him
rather than diminished.  Although he saw but few people and bared
his soul at this time to no one but Tom Longstaffe, he must have
been aware that the climax of his lecture disturbance had raised
questions far beyond his own personal fate.  Many a Polcastrian had
had for a long time an uneasy conscience about Seatown, and
especially about one aspect of the question that I have not yet
mentioned.

I don't know how many public-houses there were in Seatown at this
time, but I fancy that roughly one was provided for every thirty
inhabitants of that district.  At eight o'clock in the morning you
would find the houses all crowded, and at eleven at night out they
would all tumble, crowds of the most wretched drink-sodden
creatures this country could show.  Here I may quote, perhaps, a
more eloquent writer than myself:  "In the streets you will see
groups of the most utterly drink-degraded wretches it is possible
to find anywhere in the kingdom.  Men with soulless, bloated faces
and watery eyes, dressed like tramps, standing idle with their
hands in their pockets.  But there is not a penny there, or they
would not be standing in the mud and rain; and as for doing any
work, they are past that.  Here that rare spectacle, a man without
a shirt, has met my sight, not once nor twice but several times,
the naked flesh showing through the rents of a ragged jacket
buttoned or pinned up to the neck.  These loathly objects are
strangely incongruous at that spot, under those great towers, in
sight of the green, open, healthy downs. . . ."

Under those great towers!  Yes, something incongruous indeed!
Johanson did not find any of these "objects" loathly.  His heart
ached for them, and once seen by him they could not be forgotten
for a moment.  Always they hung there, a dark shifting tapestry, in
the back of his mind.  But what could he do?  Unaided, hated as he
now was, feared as he became, he could do nothing.  Unaided, no.
But, as I have said, he was aware that in the background other
faces were now stirring.  It was not for him, as for so many
figures in popular romances or plays, to lead with uplifted hand a
fine movement of revolt.  His hope was to wait, to hang on, to stay
until by constant reiteration of the Seatown scandal he could force
others to act with him.  All his passionate desire now was that he
should be able to stay in the place.

He would hang on to that indifferent Rock with all the force,
spiritual and physical, that he had.

It needed courage.  It was not easy to move about the streets
always under hostile eyes.  He had outraged all the peaceful and
law-abiding conventions of the town by the disturbance that he had
made.  The one desire of every one, save one or two, was that he
should go.  "Throw him out and forget him!"  Even the tiny affair
of the fountain was against him.  What right had he to go meddling
about with our statues and works of art?  Granted that the fountain
was a pretty thing, why could he not have left it to some one else,
some Polcastrian, to discover?  Nevertheless, no one interfered
with it.  Many people went to see it, and in one week's number of
The Polchester News these three questions among others appeared in
the "Do you know" column:


Do you know

That Seatown streets after eight o'clock at night are a scandal to
which decent Polcastrians are able to be blind no longer?

That it is time some of our Church dignitaries ceased to frequent
tea-parties and employed their valuable time among the poor of our
city?

That the recent discovery of a valuable work of art in our city is
causing some of us to wonder what the Town Council are thinking
about it, and whether they've got some more of the same covered up
with street rubbish which they are too lazy to clear away?


Beautiful days came with the beginning of October.  The fountain
looked fine in the sun.



Then one morning Johanson's landlady came and asked him whether he
would mind finding other rooms.  He was not surprised.  He had been
expecting this.  But he was sorry for her nervousness.  She was so
anxious not to hurt his feelings.  She wouldn't have bothered him
for the world, but people were telling her that there might be some
trouble in the house and she couldn't have any trouble because of
mother.  She didn't mind for herself, really she didn't, but if
there was any trouble and mother heard of it, it might finish her,
and then . . .  She fingered her apron.  Of course he would go.  He
would go at once.  Oh! no, at the end of the month if he didn't
mind.  To give him plenty of time to find somewhere else. . . .
She didn't wish to inconvenience him.

And that same morning he had another visitor--Mrs. Penethen.

At the sight of her standing there in the doorway so quietly in her
long black cloak, at the first glimpse of that kind and austere
countenance, his conscience rebuked him that even in his loneliest
moments he had fancied that he was without a friend.  Hers had been
the first hand that had touched his in that town, and from the
beginning until now she had been the same to him, loyal, honest,
faithful.  Not a week had passed since he had left her lodging but
she had been to see him.  He knew that all men might revile and
abuse him, but that she would not flinch from him.  And yet even in
that first warm welcoming glimpse of her he was aware that although
she stood beside him, she also stood apart from him--and not only
from him but also from every other human being in the world.  She
was, and had been for many a year, lonely, as he could be but
rarely, and, although she perplexed him in much, he understood
this, that there was something in that odd English blood of hers
that he would never understand.  These English!  Queer, apart
people! but even at their worst more honest than any others that he
had ever known.

She came in quietly, as she always did, and sat down beside him.
He had been struggling with his poor finances, striving as many
another to make them better than they were, and he had in front of
him a paper covered with figures.

She settled herself comfortably, and then looking at him with that
grave motherly look that he knew so well, said:  "How are you?"

"Very well, indeed."

"I'm glad of it," she answered him.

He wasn't one to waste time when he was eager about anything and he
began at once:

"Tell me about Maude, please.  Is she happy--with that young man?"

She told me afterwards that it was always the hardest thing for her
when he began to speak of Maude.  His eyes were so anxious and
distressed and so CHILDISH, urging her, as children do with their
elders, to tell him something good even though it were not true.
And yet, of course, it was the truth that he wanted.

"Happy?  Is Maude ever happy?  She doesn't know what she wants and
she never will.  And she wants more than ever she's going to get.
All the ha'pence and none of the kicks."

"But that fellow--he's not good enough for her.  He can't make her
happy.  Perhaps I couldn't, of course.  But he can't.  I know he
can't.  But she should be happy--she'd be so fine when she was
happy.  She needs happiness."

"What's all this about happiness?" Mrs. Penethen said sharply.
"There's too much talk about happiness in this world, it seems to
me.  Happiness!  Happiness!  Happiness!  All of them wanting
happiness!  That's what most of them are so unhappy for.  Why, you
don't think it's the first thing yourself."

"No, I don't," he answered slowly.  "Not for myself.  But for her
it should be."

"Well, it isn't her I've come to talk about," Mrs. Penethen then
answered firmly.  "It's something more important.  I've come to ask
you to go away."

"Go away!" he repeated.

"Yes," she answered hurriedly.  "I mean it.  Oh! it's for your good
I'm asking.  You know what I think of you, you know how much I'd
have done for you if I could have had my way.  But just for a
while, until things are quieter.  It isn't safe for you, truly not.
I know what I'm saying."

She says that he drew away from her then as though she had become,
in a moment, some one he couldn't trust.  "I didn't think you'd
want that," he said at last.  "You're my friend.  Surely I thought
so.  I don't hope you think I've done anything bad to run away
about."

"Run away!  No," she answered impatiently.  "But for a time you
can't do anything here.  They're angry about the lecture and things
you've said, or if they're not angry, all of them, it's Hogg and
some others who are telling them they ought to be.  What do you
know about how they feel here?  What have you ever known since
first you came here?  Why, if I'd had any idea of what it was going
to let you in for, your being in this town, and the way they would
treat you, I'd have bundled you off that first wet night you came
to my door.  Indeed, it's often enough I reproach myself for not
having managed things better.  But how was I to tell that all this
would come of it, and all the more when everything went happily at
first."

He must have seen then, I fancy, that something very real and
urgent disturbed her, driving her from her accustomed equanimity,
and that whatever her reason might be, her only motive was her
concern for himself.

He smiled and took one of her hands in his.

"What is it," he asked, "that's worrying you so badly?  Are they
meaning to shoot me or what?"

"I can't do other than beg you to go," she answered.  "I'm your
oldest friend in this town, aren't I now, and I'm old enough to be
your mother and I'm fond of you as I've never been fond of a man
since my poor husband died.  There's a thing for an old woman like
me to say!  But just because of that and because I've always been
honest with you from the beginning, you can believe me when I say
that it's right you should go.  They mean to make you go whether
you wish it or not.  And only for a time, mind.  I'm not saying for
long.  Just for a while, otherwise--Oh! they'll be sitting on you
one of these nights, some of those Seatown roughs, and they're a
mad lot down there, especially when they've been drinking.  Why
should you mind to go?  There's no shame in it!"

"Is this anything to do with Maude?" he asked her.

"Maude!  No!"

"Then I'm not going."  He got up and began to walk the room.  "Of
course I'm not going.  Where should I go to?  Do you think I don't
love this town, although they've been unfriendly just of late? and
there's Maude.  Though she don't love me any more, I must see after
her a bit--in the background, don't you see?"

"Maude!  Maude!" Mrs. Penethen broke in.  "I'm sick of Maude,
although she is my own daughter.  What's she got to do with this?
Mind what I say.  It's serious.  There are those working against
you who've been against you from the first.  Why give them the
chance they're wanting?  Ah! go!  Please go!"

She stood in front of him, stopping him.

"If it's money you're needing--" she began.

He put his arms around her and kissed her.  Then he led her towards
the door.

"I'm staying," he said.  "Yes, as long as I'm alive, I'm staying."

She saw something in his face that told her that all appeal was
hopeless.  Something, she said afterwards, that was not himself but
something stronger than he.

He was like a man doomed.  All her way home she could think of
nothing but that melodramatic phrase "a man doomed," and then broke
into that old irritation that she had known in connection with him
from the very first.  "He's stupid.  Stupider than any man should
be."

She sat all that evening worrying in her head at desperate schemes
that would get him away from the town.  But he was never to know
that it was Maude who had been her chief informant, Maude who had
urged her to go and see him, Maude who was sitting at that moment
of her mother's visit in the Boultewood's parlour thinking her
fiancé a contemptible ass, longing to see once more that strange
man with whom her life had been for a moment connected, longing and
hoping too most passionately that, for her safety and comfort, she
would never set eyes on him again.

But she was to set eyes on him.

Two days after Mrs. Penethen's visit to him, on a fine autumnal
afternoon, he walked up to the thick lane that runs above the
villas over the top of the town high above Orange Street.  This was
a favourite walk of his.  Above the lane, with only a step or two,
you reached downland, and from a high point there, on a clear day,
you could discover the sea.  Where the lane allowed gates to
intercept its high hedges you had a splendid view, the green fields
sloping to the town, and from the very heart of the roofs the
Cathedral rose like a gigantic ship tugging at its moorings,
seeking to float away into the sea of sky.  Seen from here the town
was the town that he loved, all beauty and peace.  It did not seem
so difficult, when he saw it thus, to recover his old first vision
of it and some of his old faith in it.  And when the world was so
still about him, only faint stirrings in the hedgerows, the distant
roll of some cart, the cry of a child from a near-by farm, he
seemed to himself to be approaching that moment when, if only he
had sufficiently rid himself of his own desires and his own fears
and if only the world outside were quiet enough, he would catch
that whisper that would explain everything.  From his earliest
childhood he had had some expectation of the kind, so that as a
little boy he would drag at his mother's hand in the street and
force her to pause and then, hearing only the noise of the traffic
in his ears, would move impatiently forward again.  Lately, in all
the trouble of his personal life the possibility of that whisper
had seemed irretrievably remote; for many a month he had not
dreamed his old dream.  But now, again, after that terrible day in
his room when Longstaffe had come, he had recovered his earlier
self-possession.

He was at peace, as he had not been since the first days of his
engagement to Maude.

So he was walking along the lane, rejoicing in the crystal
stillness of the air, watching a leaf, amber coloured, twirl and
turn and twirl again, so human in its movement that he could almost
hear it sigh as it abandoned itself to submission.

He told Longstaffe afterwards that he would never, until he died,
forget that leaf.  It seemed to have some special message for him.
He watched it as it lay, finally, lifeless on the ground.  Then,
looking up, he saw Maude Penethen walking slowly, quite alone, in
front of him.

What the surprise of that must have been!  It might seem that it
would be impossible to be for so long in the same small town and
not to meet, but it was true, nevertheless, that he had not seen
her face since that day at her mother's house when he had had that
last interview with her.

He could not believe now that this was she, but he knew the blue
coat and the hat with the blue feather, and then every movement
told him.  There was something in her walk that seemed dejected and
lonely and went straight to his heart.

He did not know what to do.  He stood still, staring.  Only they
two alone in all the world!  Should he turn back?  No, he was not
strong enough for that.  The sight of her, although it was only her
back that he saw, made him so hungry for the sound of her voice and
the light in her eyes that he could no more leave her than the
castaway could escape from the ship that is in sight to save him.
But perhaps she would think that he had followed her and was to
take advantage now of her loneliness?  He could not think clearly
though.  His heart was hammering, his eyes were clouded.  Another
moment and he had said in a voice strangled by his feeling:
"Maude, Maude.  Please, I must speak with you."

He told Longstaffe afterwards that he knew, at the moment that she
turned round and realised him, how completely and utterly he had
lost her.  She was terrified--no other word for it.  Terrified as
though he had been some tramp who, alone there far from any
possibility of human assistance, would offer her violence.  And
whether it was of him, or of her love for him, that she was
terrified, no one will ever know.  Certainly Maude Penethen, or
rather Mrs. Boultewood, of "Ivanhoe" Villa, will never say.

I suppose that, during all those months, she had been thinking of
him unceasingly, and as the reports of his various misdemeanours
reached her ears she must have been in a strange confusion of
thanking her stars that she was not married to him and longing for
his embraces.

At least that is how I see her.  Many people after the event
expressed wonder that he should have cared for her.  But, having
the heart that he had, the mixture of her fear of him and her
longing for him touched him everywhere.  She was, too, her mother's
daughter, lonely and apart against her will.  She would regret him
to the day of her death.  She gave Boultewood no easy time, I
fancy.  But she clung to safety and the things that she knew.
Safety and the good report of the world.

When she saw him she looked desperately about her and then said:
"Don't.  Don't.  I don't want to speak to you."

"We must speak," he answered gravely, recovering his self-control.
"It isn't right that we shouldn't.  I shan't hurt you or say
anything wrong.  You know I've never hurt you, have I?  I only want
your happiness--no one wants it so much as me."

She told her mother later, when haughtily she gave her version of
the meeting, that if he hadn't looked so unhappy she wouldn't have
stayed with him.  But I fancy that that was her romantic gloss on
the situation.  I don't imagine that he was unhappy at all or
sentimental.  His love for her was so settled a thing in his heart
that after the first shock of the unexpected encounter he quite
quietly set about the business that the opportunity of the meeting
gave him--to see whether there were any way in which he could help
her.

For myself I believe that she fell under his spell again
immediately, and that if he had thrown his arms around her she
would at the moment have done anything he asked her.  He had not
lost her the less absolutely for that.  Later all the old fear
would have returned and returned only the more strongly.

But, of course, he did not fling his arms around her.  He did not
even touch her hand, as she was very careful afterwards to tell her
mother.

He told Longstaffe that it was surprising how quickly they fell
into their old way, talking quietly, he asking her questions and
she giving him answers that at least if they were not true were
what she wanted him to believe.  His one eager desire was not to
frighten her and for a while he did not.

"Maude, allow me just for these minutes to think that I have a
right to ask you about yourself.  Are you happy and comfortable?"

"Of course I'm happy and comfortable," she answered him.  "Why
shouldn't I be?"  That in the old sharp way.  Then more softly:
"I'm glad we've met after all this way, because there's something
I've always been wanting to tell you.  I didn't treat you rightly
when you were with us.  I didn't, indeed.  I was just hateful.  But
you weren't like any one I'd ever seen before and perhaps if we'd
married at once and gone away out of this place . . .  But I don't
know--"  She looked at him then almost appealingly as she went on,
and how, for the next days, he was to remember the look!  "I'm not
much of a girl.  I'm not, truly.  You're lucky to be rid of me.
I've been spoilt.  That's what it is, I expect.  And I don't want
to change either.  You're the only one who could have changed me,
but I'd have fought you for trying to.  We'd never be happy
together.  And there's another thing.  You made me think of all
sorts of ideas I didn't want to think of.  You wouldn't leave me
alone, would you?  You said you wanted us both to be free, but you
wouldn't be contented until I did and thought what you wanted me
to."

That was penetrating of her.  "It might be I'd have learnt too," he
answered her.  "I've learnt something since I came away from you,
Maude.  Oh!  I've wanted you so.  You don't know how I've wanted
you."

The temptation then to take her in his arms was terrible.  He had
to stop where he was and think of her.  If he thought of her
enough, her helplessness and easily roused fear of him, the
temptation weakened, but if he saw her only in a mist of all his
longing--

He stood, gazing over the break in the hedge and the green of the
sloping field swung up to the blue autumn sky, and the thin veil of
smoke above the town enveloped him in its spidery haze.

She stood quietly beside him.  It might have been his moment.  Who
can tell?  He conquered it and walked on, not looking at her.

"Let's not talk of the past," he said.  "I was wrong, but I was
very ignorant.  You were the first woman I'd ever loved, and you
shall be the last.  Also it isn't easy for a foreigner to love an
English woman.  You mistook sometimes the things I said, and I was
so eager to have you always and I was jealous--"

She felt, I think, that she had just escaped a great danger, and
she began hurriedly:  "And now aren't you going to leave Polchester
for a while?  I know you haven't meant anything by what you've done
here, but what you say is true, I expect, that you are a foreigner
and don't understand the way people feel here.  English people are
funny.  They don't want to be told what they ought to do.  They're
angry with you, some of them.  Won't you go away for a little until
it's all quiet again?"

He shook his head, smiling.  "No, I won't go away.  Don't you see
why I can't?  Don't you see that the two things in the world I
love, the two things I think the most beautiful, are here,
Polchester and you.  I don't hope you think I'm rude to say that to
you when you're engaged to be married now to another man, but I
don't mean it in any way that can offend you.  I know, of course,
that it's better for us not to see one another.  I shan't try to
meet you.  Indeed I shan't.  But the time may be when you'd want a
bit of help.  I don't," he went on laughing, "seem just now anybody
to help another very much, but it shan't always be.  I have friends
here, and I am young and strong.  You may want me one day, and it
would be terrible that I wasn't here.  And then I can't leave
Polchester.  It isn't what I think when I first came here, but
perhaps it's something better.  No, I can't go away, Maude, thank
you very much."

Once more he had, I believe, a chance.  What could she think,
contrasting that oaf Boultewood with the man beside her?  If she
was happy, what was she doing walking all alone up there by herself
that day, she who hated to be alone?  But it was well for him that
she didn't give him his chance.  There was a better destiny waiting
for him than anything that Maude could offer him.

She continued to try to persuade him to go, but felt as her mother
had felt before her, that there was some stronger resistance there
than she could conquer.

They had come to the point where the broad road up from Polchester
met the lane.  He stopped in front of her, looking at her, as
though it would be the last time that he would ever see her.

"Remember then," he said, "that though you can't love me you're the
only love of my heart.  There won't be ever another.  All that's
good in me, Maude, is yours.  If it may be one day you're lonely or
unhappy, it shall be, perhaps, a comfort to think that there's some
one who loves you and can't ever change.  It's a happiness to me
that I've been able to say to you:  'If all the world comes to tell
you that I've gone away and left you, it won't be true.'  But I
don't want anything of you, Maude.  I don't want anything of any
man, and, I think, that's surely the way to be happy.  Don't you
think of me, if you think at all, as unhappy.  I've had my unhappy
times, but I'm a happy man.  And I'll be happy serving you, even
though you don't know I'm doing it."

She was frightened then.  Something in his look, in the way he held
himself, brought back her old fear.  She told her mother, "He
didn't look human, somehow.  The thing that's foreign in him came
out and frightened me."

She expected, perhaps, that he would kiss her, but he didn't move
even to touch her hand.  She nodded, tried to smile in an easy
fashion, then started quickly down the hill.

He stayed there looking after her.



CHAPTER IV

OCTOBER 7: ON THE HILL


I believe that that meeting with Maude raised him to the height of
all imaginable happiness.  It may seem strange that it could be so,
but it restored to him, I fancy, the one possession whose loss it
had been hardest for him to bear--his right to care for her.  He
had, for months, lost all touch with her; now, although he might
not see her, he would know that she was conscious of him, that she
knew that he was there, and that if unhappiness or trouble came to
her it would be to thought of him that she would turn.

Johanson was human, a great deal more human than many, and whether
that altruistic condition of feeling would have contented him for
long, who can say?  It may have been one of his "lucks" that that
particular test was not to be offered to him.

In any case the boy that was still in him helped him to react with
extraordinary swiftness from one mood to another.  He was now as
happy as he had been in his first Polchester days.  He rushed in at
once to tell Longstaffe all about it.  He gave him the minutest
account of his meeting with her, every detail.  He was filled to
the brim with new plans.  What was he going to do?  Well, the next
thing was that he intended to live down there in the very heart of
Seatown.  Yes, he did.  That was the only way to do anything.  He
wasn't going to missionise them or improve their minds or anything
of the sort.  He was going to know them, and they were going to
know him.  He thought he could earn enough teaching a few some
exercises, a little boxing, maybe.  Or he would MAKE things.  He
was quick with his hands and could make a wooden box as well as any
one.  It wouldn't cost him much to live down there--that was one
certain thing.

I think it was then, for the first time, that Tom Longstaffe became
seriously alarmed.  In spite of everything that had happened
Johanson seemed to have no true realisation of the way that those
men hated him.  If Seatown had become an obsession to HIM, HE had
certainly become an obsession to them, and it was that most
dangerous of emotions, ignorant crowd hatred fanned by Hogg or
another to a sort of fanaticism.  Johanson was "the bloody
foreigner" to them, and they "were going to bleeding well chuck him
out"--and here was he planning happily to live in their midst.

Longstaffe tried to show him some of this, but he didn't care that
day.  He had seen Maude again, he was to be allowed to look after
her, he was to begin his work again, honestly now in the way that
he wanted it.

He was lonely no longer, workless no longer, homeless no longer.
Then his dream came back to him again.

One night, physically tired out with a walk that he had taken all
day with Longstaffe across the Downs towards the sea, he fell at
once on tumbling into bed into heavy sleep.

He had poured everything out to Longstaffe, telling him many things
for which this narrative is the richer.  They had been, both of
them, so happy together that there had come a moment when, standing
on a shoulder of the moor and looking out to the thin purple scarf
of the sea, it had seemed to them possible to go on--and never to
come back.  A moment's dazzling illusion of eternal happiness,
swinging through air into space, with no duty, no foreboding, no
regret to burden them.  Then, laughing, they had turned back.  It
was in many ways the happiest and fullest day of their lives.
Longstaffe at least was never to know such a day again.

And now, closing happily his eyes, he swung at once into the place
from which for so many months he had been excluded.  For it was
like that, as though he were returning to his own place after a
long absence abroad.  He was walking up the long smooth path.  A
cool pale light was in the air.  The white house stood open and
waiting for him.  The flowers, the trees, the stream that tumbled
over the stones between the lawns all greeted him without wonder or
surprise, but with an infinite quiet pleasure.

He moved with an incredible freedom and ease.  The house when he
reached it was shining with light.  It was empty of everything and
yet strangely filled.  There again were the gleaming stairs and
beyond them the long still gallery.  Looking out from a window of
the gallery, he smiled with joy when he saw once more the line of
plum-coloured hills, the dark texture of the trees framing them,
the sun sparkling behind the darkness, when he heard the singing of
the birds and, coming up to him from below, the chatter of the
stream.

Oh! but he was glad to see it again!  He was home now.  He could
rest and think and listen.  And soon--he knew it as though he had
been informed of it--a message would come to him there.  He would
be told what to do.

His part was to wait there listening for the message. . . .

Next morning he woke to find the sun pouring into his room.  While
dressing he discovered this written on a grubby piece of paper and
pushed under his door:


              IF YOU DONT LEEVE THIS TOWN SOON
                   YOU WILL BE THRONE OUT.


He smiled at that.  He felt strong enough to-day for anything.

He spent the morning writing part of a fairy-story for Billy.  He
couldn't write English.  But that didn't matter.  It was plain
enough for the child to understand just as though he were talking.

This thing had begun a long while ago.  He had told Billy stories
when they were out walking together, and he had discovered, very
much to his own surprise, that he was crammed with stories.  He
didn't know where they came from.  Perhaps his mother had told them
to him, or told him pieces, and he himself had added the rest.

Once he began there seemed to be no reason why he should stop.  The
Swedish forest, the long seashores, the islands beyond Stockholm,
these were soon peopled with a moving, stirring world of dwarfs
with peaked red caps, kings stirring with their jewelled sceptres
their piles of glittering treasure, the wood-cutters' huts and the
wolves that threatened the wood-cutter's little daughter, the dark
silent pools on whose lonely banks princes, turned by evil
magicians into frogs, croaked for some one to come and deliver them--
no, there was no end to them, and Johanson was as deeply excited
by them as was Billy.  Then Billy wanted an old one over again, and
Johanson couldn't remember, so there came the order that they must
be written down.  That was what Johanson was now laboriously doing.
He was in the middle of the best one:  "The King's Daughter and the
Humpbacked Prince."

After his frugal midday meal he thought because it was so lovely a
day that he would go and see whether Tom or Billy or Mary would
come for a walk.

The whole town was glittering with light as in one of his own fairy-
stories.  Passing through the market-place he saw old Looney
sitting there.  He was asleep, his head fallen forward on his
chest.  The warm sun was too much for him.  For the first time for
many a day he had ceased to watch.  Who knew but that fate,
malicious a little, would choose that very moment to produce the
crisis for which Looney had so long been waiting?

Coming up to the house he saw Billy on the lawn trying to stand on
his head.  He could manage it almost, he cried to Johanson, telling
him to stop and watch, if his legs wouldn't be so wobbly.  He
commanded Johanson to hold his legs; then everything was fine.  He
could see the tree all upside down, and the smoke from the chimney
was like a flag.  Then he began to choke and Johanson turned him
over.

Tom Longstaffe came out on to the lawn.

"Mary and Billy were going up to Parmiter's Field," he said.  "Why
not go up with them?"  Parmiter's Field is a famous spot in our
country, because from there you can have one of the finest views in
all Glebeshire.

"I had come to ask for a walk," Johanson answered, picking Billy up
and holding him in the air with one straightened arm.  And that was
the way that Longstaffe would always afterwards see him, his legs
stiff, his head thrown back, he laughing and the sun broken into
fragments by the dark tree circling round him.

Mary came out, and the three started off.  By the gate Johanson
turned back.

"Good-bye, Tom," he cried.

"Good-bye."

"See you soon."

"Come in to-morrow evening and we'll have a talk."

"Yes, I will."

Longstaffe stood there looking after them.  He had a funny impulse,
he told me afterwards, to call Johanson back for a moment.  He had
something. . . .  No, he had not. . . .  He went back reluctantly
into his study.  He sat there for a long time staring over his pipe
at the thought of his friend.

They went gaily up the hill.  The day was so beautiful that every
one was happy.  A little nondescript dog, who had no home and no
family, looking about for something exciting to do, went with them.
He was a funny little dog with a head too large for his body, and
although during the short span of his days he had had nothing but
kicks and abuse, nevertheless, he was still confident in life and
expected it at any moment to do him some wonderful turn.

Johanson was always very much at his ease with Mary.  She was so
quiet and so sensible that he could tell her everything.  They
never reached a greater intimacy than that, and they never would,
perhaps because she was so sensible.  The one passionate experience
of her life was behind her, and she would never have another.  Even
her love for her child was not passionate.  She was writing a book,
she told Johanson, a book about certain famous women, Mary
Wollstonecraft, Harriet Martineau, Emily Brontë and some others.
That was the first of that series of works by which afterwards she
made her name.

She told him about the book, and he told her about anything that
came into his mind, and at last about the dream that he had had the
night before.  Dreams, she told him frankly, she didn't believe in.
Well, but if during many years the same dream returned to you again
and again?  Something to do with your digestion, she fancied.  And
Johanson laughed, tossing his head.  "You won't believe in
anything, Mary, unless it is sensibly explained, will you?"  And
she agreed, gravely, that she thought that everything had its
sensible explanation.

Soon they reached the moors, and their feet were treading the
springy turf.  Whereas the wet, windy autumn days are full of
melancholy and the spirit of distraction, the warm days when the
sun beats down upon a world almost breathless in its sense of
suspense are full of reassurance and comfort.  All that full summer
is gone, but now we can confidently hope because we feel that at
the very instant of death new seeds are being sown, new colours are
being born, new life is pushing forward.  Standing on these moors
on such a still, sunlit day as this, time stands motionless.  All
the past--the life of the Saxon, Dane, Roman, Briton--is continuous
with ours, and because the pageantry of summer is withdrawn we can
see the more plainly things that those vanished glories had hidden.

From Parmiter's Field on such a day as this you could draw within
your arms a vast sweep of hill and valley, black bunches of wood,
isolated farms gleaming white through their trees, streams of
silver thread, and best of all the slow, rounded shoulders of the
Downs.  Polchester flamed beneath the sun, windows sparkling like
eyes, the Pol bending it in and the Cathedral crowning it.

They threw themselves down upon the warm, dry turf, and the small
dog growled like a kettle and rushed at imaginary enemies, and then
abandoning himself flung himself down against the warm hollow of
Johanson's thigh and lay there panting, his tongue out, his shaggy
eyes sparkling with pleasure.

Now was the time for the story to be continued.  No other thing
would keep Billy still.  Johanson turned over, lying full length on
his stomach, his head propped between his hands, staring at the
vast curtain of sky and seeing, over the brow of the moor, the
Polchester roofs, the Cathedral crouched like a man, and the rising
fields.

"When the dwarf came to the wood it was nearly dark.  He couldn't
see very clearly because, as you may remember, he had only one eye
and he wasn't brave either.  'I don't hope you think I'm
frightened,' he called out just to comfort himself.  Somebody
laughed.  He couldn't see nobody, although he turned to the left
and the right and everyway, but somebody was laughing--"

"I know," shouted Billy, too badly excited to be silent.  "It was
the woodcutter's daughter."

"Hush, Billy," said Mary.  "You mustn't spoil the story."

"It were NOT the woodcutter's daughter," said Johanson.  "He looked
everywhere about him and he said out loud, 'Who's that laughing?'
'Wouldn't you like to know?' said a voice above him, and looking up
he knew that some one was in a tree, but yet he could not see who
that somebody was.  And then--right at his feet--something dropped,
and he could see although it was almost dark that it was a
beautiful pearl, the loveliest and the roundest pearl any one had
ever seen, all white and shining.

"'Pick it up,' said the voice, and although he had the rheumatism
very badly, he bent down to pick it up, and when he had it in his
hand it was just an ugly bit of nasty coal.  Then he was so angry
he stamped with his foot in his rage, and the voice laughed again
and said, 'If you're as angry as that you'll never find the golden
key,' which was what he had come into the wood to discover, you
shall remember.  'I'm just wasting my time,' he said, and he was
going off when another beautiful pearl fell at his feet.  He was so
greedy that although he had the rheumatism and was in a hurry to be
gone, he had to stoop down and pick it up.  But when that was in
his hand that was a piece of coal too, and this time he was so
angry that he took off his fine red cap and threw it on the ground
and stamped on it.

"'You'll never find the golden key if you get so angry,' said the
voice again--"

And so the story went on.  No movement in all the world.  They must
have seemed like painted figures there against the rim of the moor
and the great scoop of blue sky from whose texture the colour
slowly drained, leaving it even paler as though to prepare for the
ardent glories of the sunset.

"There, then, that's enough," Johanson said.  "The story's finished
for to-day."

"Oh, no," Billy cried.  "It isn't finished.  I want--"

But Johanson didn't answer.  It seemed to Mary Longstaffe that he
had been gradually losing knowledge of what he was saying.  The
words had tumbled from him drowsily, almost as though he were
falling asleep, and yet his eyes were wide open and staring.

Billy asked no more, but played with the dog, who had wakened and
was biting at anything he could see.

"Mary," he said, not turning to her, but still staring before him.
(She said afterwards that his whole body as he lay there had the
tenseness of expectation, so that she herself looked out to the
horizon wondering what it was that he saw.)  "Isn't it a funny
thing that I shall have been here in this place all this time and
done nothing except put together a little broken bit of carving?"

"You don't know what you may have done," Mary answered
sententiously.  (I can hear her saying it.  Mary was always a
little sententious.)  "Nobody knows the result of their own work.
You may have influenced many more people than you know.  You have,
I'm sure."

He did not seem to have heard her.  "It's an odd thing," he said.
"To-day I'm right back to when I were a boy.  There seems to be no
time between.  I come clattering up the stairs, you know, and I
look out of the window half-way up the stairs and there's all the
roofs covered with snow, and a blue star shining, and I say with a
thump of the heart, 'It's beautiful,' and I'm sad because it's
beautiful.  And I run a bit up the stairs and then run back to see
it once more in case the star should be away.  But there it still
is and it's like as though I take it in my pocket and keep it
there.

"And then I run upstairs, and there's father washing his head
because he's been drinking too much, and mother's crying, and for
the first time I'm not afraid of him.  For the first time, yes,
because of the star in my pocket. . . .

"Strange!  Strange!  I have it all round me here--the clock with
the face of the moon and the old picture of the skating in the snow
and the cage with the yellow canary--and father splashing the water
about the floor, looking through the towel like a beast at me.
Mary, what does life mean?  What is driving us for ever to do other
than we want, never to be easy and quiet?"

"God is driving us," she answered.

"God!  God!" he replied.  "This word!  It is so easy and it means
nothing.  But Beauty!  That's a word now that means something, and
I know to-day that I've come at last to the way to have beauty, to
touch it as I touched that star.

"To-day I want nothing for myself and I fear nothing for myself.  I
have lost myself.  I am empty of myself.  Always before I wanted
something for me.  Me, Hjalmar Johanson.  But now I will begin to
love beauty away from myself and to make things for others.  And
perhaps after all this beauty is the same as your God, Mary.  I
know it is the same as love.  It is part of the woman I love and
the place I love and the work I love.  But it isn't for me any
more.  It's for something greater than myself.  I can die to-night
and it goes on, I go on, we all go on for ever, and all things are
more beautiful and more beautiful until at last all is beauty."

It was something like this that he talked, and I suspect, although
she never confessed it, that to Mary it all seemed very childish.
She had read so much and had so good a brain that Johanson was
always to her like an ignorant, uneducated boy.  She didn't like
him the less for that, but she liked him for other qualities, his
loyalty, courage, honesty, not for his intellect.

I suspect, too, although this also she never admitted, that she
gave him then a nice concise pocket philosophy of her ideas about
life (the sort of things that wise men publish--"How to live
wisely," in fifty pages of neat tidy print), but I don't imagine
that he listened to her.  He liked her, too, for all sorts of
things, for her honesty, courage and loyalty, but not for her
intellect.

But she remembers that he said at last, "I'm so happy to-day,
happier than ever before.  I have people to love and work to do and
I fear nothing, I want nothing.  How lovely the world is and how
quiet and how still.  Just the time to listen for a message from
somewhere.  I can feel the earth under me and the sky above me and
my body's fit and my brain's clear.  I'm hungry and thirsty, the
sky's full of colour, the trees are turning brown, I hate no one.
I have friends and a woman I love. . . .  I'll build a town one
day, Mary, that shall be the most beautiful town ever seen, with
white towers and streets of fine stone, fountains and a great hall,
gardens of every flower and woods to shelter when it's hot, and
squares for processions, and every man shall have his own place
free for himself and work that he may enjoy and time to see
beautiful things, and no one shall be afraid of anything, and there
shall be the finest bands playing you ever heard!"

But it was turning chilly, and Mary was afraid lest Billy should
catch a cold.  So she got up and brushed the soil from her dress
and said she thought they must be going.

Johanson wanted to stay a while, so, Billy waving his hand a great
many times, they left him.  Only the little dog for some mysterious
reason stayed with Johanson.

He remained there a long time.  I hope that he had a magnificent
sunset.  No one can remember what the sunset was like that day.

The only witness was poor old Mr. Shortt, who told some one
afterwards that he was taking a walk up there, and saw some one
standing gazing at the sunset.

When he saw that the "some one" was Johanson he meant to speak to
him.  He had had every grievance against Johanson during the last
months and had complained bitterly of him everywhere.  But he was a
miserable old man and couldn't afford grievances when there was a
chance of making a penny or two.  So he advanced towards him,
apparently intending to speak to him.  But for some reason or other
he didn't.  He couldn't himself explain it.  The man was busy with
his own thoughts--"just as though," Mr. Shortt said, "he were
speaking to some one."  And then with a desire, I suppose, to show
his audience that he was still capable of the most gentlemanly
feelings:  "He was wrapt in his own thoughts and looked so pleased
about something that naturally I wouldn't interrupt him."

So he went away and left Johanson standing there.



CHAPTER V

OCTOBER 7: LIFE AND DEATH


He came down into the town in the dusk with the little dog at his
heels.  Several people saw him--young Walter Pearce, Aaron Sharpe,
Mildmay.

Mildmay, who had too genial a digestion and, as auctioneer, too
general a profession to quarrel with anybody, spoke to him.

"Why, Mr. Johanson," he said, "you look as though some one had left
you a fortune."

Johanson, laughing, answered him something and swung on.  It must
have been nearly dark when he reached his lodging.  Running
upstairs, he was met outside his door by his landlady.

"Mr. Johanson," she said, agitated as usual, "the boy would wait."
She, too, noticed and afterwards recorded that "he looked as happy
as anything."

"Boy!  What boy?" he asked.

"The one that's been here before.  He's in your room and brought
'is dog with 'im too."

Johanson knew then that it must be Husky, and sure enough it was
he, standing in the dusk holding on to his mongrel.

He smiled his confiding smile and explained that he had come there
because of his aunt--"she was terrible bad and wouldn't see no one
but Mr. Johnson."  This old woman, a drunken old thief and
responsible at an earlier time for the most villainous, disorderly
house in Polchester, had been from the first one of Johanson's
fiercest opponents.  Husky lived sometimes with her, sometimes with
a sick mother and sometimes with himself, but his old aunt coloured
his conversation more than any other human.  She was the only
creature alive whom he feared, and apparently because he feared
cared for in a sort of way.  It was perhaps admiration rather than
affection.  She was the wickedest, filthiest, hardest-swearing
member of his circle and so stood for something.

Johanson must have doubted when he heard that she wanted him.  It
wasn't in him to suspect tricks or plots, but he must have doubted.
But Husky wouldn't lead him into trouble.  Then Husky advised him
not to go.  He had told his aunt that he would deliver the message,
and now, having delivered it, in his queer, broken voice he gave it
as his opinion that he'd better go back and just tell his aunt that
he couldn't find Mr. Johnson.  Why, Johanson asked him, wasn't his
aunt really ill?  Oh yes, she was terrible bad.  Dying, the doctor
said.  And she had a sort of idea that Mr. Johnson could keep her
alive.  Doctors were no bloody good.  At least that was her
opinion.  But she was sick all right.  Terrible sick.

Johanson must have been reluctant to go.  He had had so good a day
and he wanted to sit in his room and think about it.  At least
that's apparently what he said to Husky, that he wanted to stay in
his room and think about something.  That stuck in Husky's mind
because it seemed to him so very odd a thing for any one to want to
do.  He never wanted to stop and think about anything.  However,
Husky was relieved.  He didn't mind his old aunt dying, and he had
his own private reasons for thinking it better that his friend, Mr.
Johnson, shouldn't go down there to-night.  So he jerked the piece
of string that attached the mongrel to his person and prepared to
depart.

Then Johanson changed his mind.  No, he would go.  If the old woman
were really ill, and asked for him, he must go.  Did she die, and
he not going, he would reproach himself.  In an hour he would be
back.

A funny mood then invaded young Husky.  He didn't want his friend
to go.  There were a lot down there who might do Mr. Johnson some
damage.  They had been talking about it for weeks.  He could go
down in the morning.  After all his aunt might not die to-night.
She had been ill for days and nights.  This was just a fancy she'd
taken into her head to see Mr. Johnson.  He'd just go back and tell
her that Mr. Johnson had been out and he'd left a message.

But now Johanson had made up his mind.  He was going, and that was
all there was about it.  He saw, perhaps, a change of mind in the
Seatown populace.  If this old creature turned to him, who also
might not turn?

Husky kicked the dog to ease his feelings a little, and led the way
down the stairs.

From the moment of his leaving his rooms to the witness of Rufus
the doctor nothing is very clear.  Something happened on the way
down, because Johanson didn't reach the foul apartment of Husky's
aunt until nearly eight o'clock.  That is, they took close upon an
hour to go from Johanson's rooms to the farther end of Seatown.
Husky can explain very little.  He says that Mr. Johnson stopped to
speak to somebody and that he couldn't see "who the bloke was."

I believe that somebody--Romilly perhaps?--did his utmost to
prevent Johanson from going on.  I have tried in every way possible
to discover who that somebody was, but at this distance of time
accuracy is difficult.  Longstaffe, Ronder, Mrs. Penethen, Mary,
Miss Midgeley, even Maude Boultewood have an astonishingly clear
picture of all their contacts with him, but when you pass from the
witness of these four or five people you pass into the world of
legend, and legend, often enough, of a curiously flamboyant and
sentimental kind.

We shall never know, I suppose, who had that half-hour's talk with
Johanson.  It must have been urgent or Johanson would not have
stayed.  I like, as I have said, to think that it was Romilly.
Sentimental?  Well, people of Romilly's natural animal order are
what more sophisticated beings call sentimental.  They are not
afraid of making fools of themselves.  They simply don't think
about it.

Dropping down into that old Seatown at night was an adventurous
affair.  There were very few lights and many holes and stumbling-
places.  Very little life to be seen until the crowd tumbled,
reluctantly, out of the public-houses.

On this particular evening there was a wonderful sky of burning,
flaming stars and a thin slip of an orange moon.  Seatown, silent
and starlit, had its beauty.  The river, owing to a recent
fortnight of rain, was running high, almost to the top of the river
wall.

Dr. Rufus died after a severe bout of delirium tremens in 1912, but
he told Longstaffe something of the events of that evening.  His
was not a very glorious part in the business, and he alluded
huskily to the necessity of his visiting another patient when his
retirement from the scene asked for explanation.  But I don't know
that one can blame him exactly.  He had always hated Johanson, and
it would have been a little melodramatic of him to offer his very
useless carcass . . .  But it might, after all, have been better
than the delirium tremens.

He was there, standing over Husky's aunt, when Johanson and Husky
came in.  Three old women (Mrs. Clay and Mother Harper were two of
them), like the "Macbeth" witches, attended Mrs. Furkins' (such was
the name of Husky's aunt) departure.  For light there were two
candles whose flame blew in the breeze that came in through the
broken window-pane.  It was good that the pane was broken, because
the smell in the room was, apparently, appalling.

Rufus, in spite of himself, admired Johanson for coming.  He was, I
suppose, as drunk as usual, but not too drunk to notice a good deal
of what passed.  He said afterwards that if Johanson hadn't been
always so damned interfering he would have admired him.  Johanson,
he confessed, was the sort of man that he might himself have been
if everything hadn't been against him.  But everything had been
against him from the first: he didn't care who knew it.

Mrs. Furkins was stout and red even in the hour of her death, and
was in complete possession of her faculties.  The three witches
stood at the foot of the miserable bed and looked at her gloomily.

They told her it was lucky for her that she was dying without pain
and drew lively pictures of other and much more painful deathbeds.

Old Mrs. Furkins was in terror, abject, gasping, tortured terror.
Terror of death.  She believed in hell fire and no reassurances on
the part of Rufus could comfort her.  Only one man could reassure
her about death, and that was "Armerjohn."  Once, and over again,
she repeated his nickname, as though it were a talisman against
death.  "Armerjohn, Armerjohn, Armerjohn . . ."

Some woman apparently had died in Seatown a few weeks earlier and
Johanson had been with her.  Something he had said had reassured
her.  Mrs. Furkins had heard of this.  She was not terrified
because of her sins.  Her sins didn't bother her.  After all there
were many worse.  She could give plenty of instances.  But this
hell with its perpetual burning, its little red devils with
pincers, its shrieks and groans and agonies, and all for ever--for
ever and ever.

Somewhere, from her far, far distant childhood this picture of
hell, after years of dismissal, had peered up at her again.  For a
week now she had seen nothing else.  Only Armerjohn could reassure
her.

The old women at the foot of the bed (fuddled with drink) were
themselves alarmed.  Long while since they had thought of hell.
But it was well known that just before you kicked the bucket you
saw things clearly, and if Carrie Furkins was destined for hell
then were they also.  They expected, then, the arrival of Johanson
with a good deal of interest.  They were eager to see what he would
do.

What he did was to go over to the bed of the old woman, draw a
rickety chair and sit down beside her.  He paid no attention to
Rufus.  After Hogg, he abominated Rufus more than any one in the
town.  Nor did he greet the three witches.  Carrie Furkins gulped
with relief when she saw him.  Gasping she explained to him that
she knew that she was about to die, and was going to hell, and that
the idea that she had of hell was giving her no end of a fright.
She didn't want no parson's business about her sins and praying for
mercy and the rest of it.  She wasn't going to pray for mercy to
any one.  But she understood that he knew more about hell than any
one else in the place, perhaps because he was a foreigner.  He had
given a lot of comfort to Mary Armstrong some weeks back when she
was worrying about the same thing.  Would he tell her what he had
told Mary Armstrong?

The room listened attentively.  Even Rufus thought that he might
hear something to his advantage.  Johanson looked at Mrs. Furkins
kindly and told her, as simply as though he were speaking to Billy
Longstaffe, what were his ideas of the matter.  He told her that
whatever she'd done (and he was sure that she had done a lot of
things that she'd better not have done) that no hell was eternal,
that everything was always changing and that he believed that Mrs.
Furkins would find that physical death made very little difference
to her condition.  She would have to mend her ways after she was
dead and set about being a little more useful and a little less
harmful to others.  There would probably be people to help her, and
she would have to work a lot harder than she had hitherto done.

On the other hand she would be stronger and would be rid of all the
mess that drink had for so many years been making of her.  He might
be wrong about other things, but there would be no fire and no
pincers.  That he could promise her.

Mrs. Furkins raised herself in her bed and smiled triumphantly at
the three witches.  What had she told them?  This feller knew more
than all the rest of Polchester together, parsons and all.  She
sank back on her grubby pillow with a mutter of relief and, then
and there, passed away.

It was now the turn of Rufus and the old women.  Johanson found the
smell of the room overpowering.  He moved to the door, opened it,
and, to his amazement, found the rickety staircase crowded with
figures.  They had not, I suppose, come into the room of the dying
woman because they were held back by some sort of superstition.
They were waiting for him outside.

While he stood there peering into the dusk, Rufus slipped out
beside him and vanished down the stairs.

His first thought must have been that they were all going to some
function on the upper floor.  Young Husky, to whom some of these
details are due, says that he stood back as though expecting them
to pass.

Then some woman's voice shouted:  "There 'e is, the bloody
furriner," and some one raised a lantern.  In this flickering light
Husky recognised one or two faces that meant trouble.

He whispered:  "I'd go back inside, guvnor, for a bit, I would,"
and was, I've no doubt, considerably tempted to go back himself,
but the thought of the corpse, maybe, kept him where he was.  Then
one of the witches came to the door and screeched out:  "She's
gone.  Carrie Furkins' gone!" and then some man from the stairs
shouted back:

"Then 'e's murdered 'er, that's what 'e's done.  Throw 'im into the
river."

So far young Husky is clear.  After that there is much confusion.
It must have been at the sound of those cries that Johanson
realised at last that he was in the hands of his enemies and that
his enemies intended mischief.

From what he said to Longstaffe I believe that, until this moment,
he fancied that that fight of his had won him favour with the
Seatown ruffians.  And so it might have done had it not been for
Hogg and others, who had for months been working behind his back.
But I believe that it was honestly now for the first time that he
realised that these men really hated him and meant to hurt him if
they could.

He stood without moving at the turn of the stairs and spoke to
them.  He asked them what the matter was, what they had against
him.

At that there was a kind of rush up the stairs at him.  Men pushed
from below, there was a great deal of shouting, men's and women's
voices confused.  The lantern vanished and everything was dim and
half seen.

Several men made for him at once.  He tried to hold them off from
him, but one of them fell backwards down the stairs and dragged
Johanson with him.  At that the brutal mob-instinct was roused, and
tumbling, cursing, hitting out blindly, shouting, they were all
pell-mell together.

There was a sort of struggle in the passage and then they were out
through the door into the street.  Here, under the starlight and
the moon, everything was clearer and there are several witnesses to
what followed.

He was seen to rise from his knees and with a great lift of his
shoulders and arms thrust several men from him.  For a moment he
stood clear, and if then he had turned and run I have no doubt but
that he could have escaped.  He was pretty sorely hurt by then.
One cheek was bleeding severely, his coat and waistcoat were gone
and his shirt was nearly off his back.  He was angry now, breathing
hard, his head back and his eyes, one woman said, "all fiery."  In
any case he was in a rage and he caught one man who went for him a
blow that landed him gasping up against the wall.  Then they were
on him again, four, five, six of them.  The struggle was quite
silent now, only muttering and curses.  Slowly he sank down,
disappeared, then was up again, was raised for a moment above them
all.  His face was now bleeding in many places.  Then some one
threw a stone, which hit him on the side of the head.  Once more
they were all around him; they were moving him to the river wall.
He seemed to be struggling very feebly.  In the dim light it was
all shadowy, not men but ghosts of men and all working in silence.

They were raising him slowly, and just as his body touched the top
of the wall he made another struggle but weakly, his head moving
aimlessly from side to side as though he did not know what he was
doing.  The narrator of this part of the struggle could see then
that he was almost naked, but his trousers were all about his feet,
so that he was trussed in them helplessly.

He was above the wall, men striking at his body, some figure
leaping up at him like a maniac and trying to tear at his hair.

For an instant of time he appeared in the starlight as though he
were standing on the river wall.

His knees were bent but otherwise he seemed to be standing there
quite naked and gigantic: this observer said that he was clear in
the starlight for a moment, his arms moving, his bare chest
heaving, his thighs rising as though against a gigantic weight.  He
raised his hand, he cried something, and there must have been
something triumphant in his cry because afterwards it was said by
several that he shouted victoriously as though he had beaten the
lot.

Then he vanished back into the rushing stream of water.

A woman burst out screaming, and the shadows vanished like smoke.



CHAPTER VI

MISS MIDGELEY REVISITS . . .


I have been asked to give, with what circumstantial detail I can,
an account of a day spent by me in Polchester in the month of
October 1913.

I am very glad indeed to do this, just as I have been only too glad
to offer certain extracts from my journals.

Well, to begin my little narrative.  Late in the month of September
of that year, 1913, I went down to Drymouth to stay there with a
woman friend.  I had been working all through the summer in London
at a book for whose progress the use of the British Museum was
essential.  Any one who has been compelled to use that reading-room
through the summer months, day after day, will sympathise with the
condition of fatigue and brain-exhaustion in which by the middle of
September I found myself.

When, therefore, this chance of a holiday in the south of England
presented itself I eagerly snatched at it.  I had left Polchester
shortly after Johanson's death in 1907 and I had never returned.
One of my intentions now was to make a journey over to Polchester
one day from Drymouth and see how the old place looked.

This intention was doubly strengthened when I read one morning the
following in The Western Morning News:


                  A POLCHESTER CELEBRATION

On October 7 will be formally opened by the Mayor of Polchester the
new street of houses facing the Pol.

This street is to be known as Riverside Street, and it promises to
be one of the finest streets in Glebeshire, bordered, as it is, by
the waters of the Pol and faced by a beautiful bank of rising
fields and woods.

For many Polcastrians October 7 will be a significant day.
Formerly the site now occupied by the new street was covered with
one of the worst slums in Great Britain, long felt by the citizens
of Polchester to be a scandal utterly unworthy of this Cathedral
city's great traditions.

Many efforts were made to rid the town of this eyesore, but no
effective steps were taken until a shameful riot on October 7,
1907, opened the eyes of every one to the urgency of the matter.
It is felt, therefore, that the civic ceremony could not take place
more fittingly than on October 7, just six years after the original
disturbance.

The civic ceremony, which will take place at ten-thirty in the
morning, will be followed by a service at the Cathedral, at which
it is hoped that all the Cathedral dignitaries will be present.
This will be succeeded by a luncheon in the Town Hall.

After the formal opening of the new street by the Mayor, a tablet
to the memory of a foreign resident of the town who lost his life
in the riot of 1907 will be unveiled.


Here was exciting news for me!  Then Harmer John had come into his
own at last!

My friend saw that I was moved beyond my usual habit and enquired
the reason.  I may say that it is not often that anything in this
amazingly unoriginal world can excite me.  I told her no more than
that on October 6 I would pay a visit to Polchester, returning by
evening train on October 7.  She offered to accompany me, and I
told her I would see her to Paradise first.  No, this little trip I
must accomplish alone.

It was at first my idea that I would sleep that night of October 6
under the roof of my old friend Mrs. Penethen, with whom at
irregular intervals during these years I had corresponded.  But,
considering the matter further, I decided that "The Three Feathers"
should have the honour of offering me a bed.  Old friends not seen
in the flesh for six years are apt to be unexpectedly difficult.
You try to pick up the old threads and behold! they were snapped
long ago!

Nor am I now, in my selfish old age, very easy for anybody, nor,
what is more, do I wish to be.  I have spent years of my life in
trying to be pleasant to unagreeable people and I cannot see, on
looking back, that the results at all justified the efforts.

No, I could see Mrs. Penethen and myself sitting one on either side
of that vast kitchen fire-place staring at one another and twisting
our brains for suitable subjects of conversation.  Horrible.  The
indifferent silence of "The Three Feathers" infinitely preferable.

On the afternoon of October 6 I packed my little bag and took my
place in the slow train that through the long hours would, unless
for some mysterious reason it changed its dull mind, drag its
length across the flats of north Glebeshire.

My last flatterer!  Is it unnatural that I should cherish his
memory?  How many times during these years in London, when life has
seemed so dry and sterile, have I longed for him to burst in with
his enthusiasm, his eagerness, his hope!  Just to see him sit down
at the table and deliver to me his latest idea, and then to see him
wait for my reply, so eagerly, so confidently, so certain that it
must be true what I say; and, in face of that eagerness and
confidence, how often did I examine my little stock and feel almost
shy of producing such shabby goods.  But not shabby to him!
Nothing was shabby to him.  Bad or good, yes, but everything
radiant with a bright, fresh colour, as though the sun had risen on
this old world for the first time yesterday.

It was raining at Polchester when, at last, my train consented to
arrive.  Safe in "The Three Feathers" I was quite excited to see
once again in the hotel lounge the wall-paper with the yellow
chrysanthemums, the copy of Frith's "Railway Station" and the
large, red vases with the everlastings.  The same waiter, too, with
the thin, pale face, the red nose and the stammer--and then from
some mysterious, magical distance the sounding through all the
fortresses of wall-paper of the Cathedral chimes, so that I could
see as I bent over the flickering fire the tall High Street shining
under the lamps in the rain, the dark dignity of the Arden Gate,
the heavy mass of the Cathedral walls.  I had a book with me, I
remember, that was just the thing for my mood, Zack's On Trial, a
magical thing, the kind of book that I should have liked to write
had I genius, throbbing in every page with just that same passion
for creating beauty that was also Harmer John's.  And as I went up
to bed and heard the rain hissing on the panes and saw the stuffed
birds under their glass, and caught the faint click of the billiard
balls from the floor below me, I seemed, for a moment, to revive
the thirst for life that old age, disappointment in my fellow human
beings, and the reading-room of the British Museum had almost
robbed me of.

In the morning the weather was lovely, a blue sky without stain and
a nice smell made of burning autumn leaves below my window, rashers
of bacon coming up to meet me in the hall and the naked shiveriness
of the oilcloth on the stairs.

I was told by my friend the waiter that every one would be at the
opening, and that I must go early if I wanted a good place, so at
ten o'clock down the hill I went.

Most of the town went with me, and, as it seemed to me, a gayer,
happier crowd than it would have been in the old days.  It was,
perhaps, the brightness of the day.  In any case the old town was
very much alive.

And so I reached the new street.  And what did I think of it?
Well, it was hideously ugly, so ugly that, at my first sight of it,
had I been younger and more open to illusions I should have turned
my head aside and cried.  Heavens!  This was what my Harmer John
had made, he with his dream of avenues and statues and noble
buildings with fountains playing!  Yes, hideous--but I am sure,
after all, a vast improvement on that terrible old Seatown slum.
No slum here any more.  The neat, sober houses each dressed in that
dull, grey stone that is my especial detestation, each with his two
windows decorated with nice overhanging slate eyebrows, each with
his grey ears pricking up to heaven so neatly in their appropriate
places.  Oh! the ugliness of that street!  But there was a fine,
smooth road in front of the little houses, a mild, grey stone wall
and the river Pol beyond--that last, at least, as it had ever been.

All so clean, so neat and comfortable.  Every little house with its
bath (h. and c.) and its excellent sanitary arrangement, a little
garden back and front to every house.  No slums any more and no old
inhabitants of the slums either.  Whither had they all fled, those
ghosts of the sinister past?  Hiding in the caves of the sea and
the hollows of the Glebeshire valleys?  Or all reformed with clean
faces and clean collars, forming part of this handsome crowd that
pressed in on every side?

No time for more speculation.  On a platform in front of us (we
were all packed together at the street end), behind a table covered
with a red cloth, stood the dignitaries of the town.  I recognised
some of them.  Why, cheery Mildmay, the auctioneer, was mayor, and
very happy in his handsome robes he looked, and there, on either
side of him, a little aged but only a little, were Mortimer Shandon
and Ben Eagle, Cassidy, gigantic Carlyon and Massing of the Post
Office.  No sign anywhere of my old friend Mr. Hogg.

Some of the Cathedral folk also.  Pretty Lady St. Leath with her
stout, amiable husband, Mrs. Sampson, Mrs. Ryle and, of course, my
adored Mrs. Bond.  How amusing to see them all again!  To see them
still here, leading apparently the same lives, busied in the same
interests, while I had been lost in that London turmoil, forgetting
their very existence.

Whether it was in some fashion like coming home again, I don't
know, but they appeared to me a kindly-faced, generous-minded
little group--I liked to fancy--so sentimental was I at the moment--
that some of this was Harmer John's doing.

So sentimental was I that I thought quite highly of old Mildmay's
speech.  I don't remember now a word of what he said, but I can see
him still in my eye all flushed and cheerful, taking every bit of
the work upon himself, quite complacent about everything.  So were
we all.  Myself was complacent.  I stamped the ground with my
umbrella, shouted "Hear!  Hear!" with the rest, and congratulated
myself most warmly for this fine improvement in our dear old town.

The sun was now shining fully upon the row of self-conscious
houses, and that was an excellent thing, because we could not see
them without hurting our eyes, and so did not look at them, and so
were able to shout "Hear!  Hear!" more convincingly than ever.

Then it was all over, and, in a great surging mass, we moved up the
street.

I was lucky in this, that having been on the outskirts of the first
ceremony I was one of the earliest to move up the street for the
second.

This second ceremony was, of course, the unveiling of the tablet to
Harmer John.  There we all stood in the broad space just in front
of the house where, during the last months of his life, he had
lived, staring at that beautiful view that he had so greatly loved.

Staring also at his fountain.  There it was, I very close to it,
kept from it only by some railings, looking so brave and handsome
and noble in the sun, the dark, friendly tree standing over it, the
old grey wall behind it.  And on the grey wall was a little brass
tablet, covered at present by a white cloth.  By this time I was,
let me at once confess it, very considerably excited--excited as I
had never been in all the last six years.  And how delightfully was
my excitement increased when I found that Lady St. Leath was to
perform here the ceremony!

She came, smiling so prettily, into the enclosure, stood under the
tree, and then facing so, blushing a little, made a speech.  It was
a very small one, but most honest and sincere.  What she said was
that she had scarcely known Hjalmar Johanson, and that she
regretted now, as many others do, that she had not.  She said that
he was a real lover of their town, and that his only thought had
been to serve it, but that, by many people, he had not been
understood.

They were all ashamed now of their mistake, and because they were
ashamed they had subscribed together (and she would like to say
that subscriptions had come in from all parts of the town) and put
up this tablet.  She pulled a string and the simple record stood
there:


                      HJALMAR JOHANSON,
                    FRIEND OF THIS TOWN,
                  DIED OCTOBER VII. MCMVII.


Every one clapped and Mr. Cassidy made a sentimental speech, to
which I did not listen.

Every one moved up the hill to the Cathedral service.  I stayed
there a while quietly by myself.

I went later to pay my call on my old friend Mrs. Penethen.  I
found her alone, in the old kitchen, and very much the same as six
years before I had left her.  She was surprised, of course, to see
me, and pleased, I think--pleased if I did not stay too long.

I sat down and we talked very happily together for an hour or so.

She had not gone down to the ceremony, she said.  I gathered that
she found this new Johanson legend pretty absurd.  They were as
false now about him, she implied, as they had been before when they
threw stones at him.  She said, however, very little about him--one
interesting thing, though, in connection with Maude.  I asked, of
course, very soon about that young woman.  Mrs. Penethen replied
drily that she was as well as could be expected.  Was she happy?
No, she was not, and never would be.  But she ruled her husband, I
gathered, with complete severity.  Mrs. Penethen also told me that
after her marriage she had fought a ferocious battle with the
mother-in-law, fought it and won.  Mrs. Boultewood, senior, had
retired to Buquay, where she sat in a lodging-house and counted her
money.

Had Maude, I ventured to enquire, quite forgotten Johanson?
Forgotten him?  No.  Indeed, she had not.  She had the maddest
idea: she thought that he was not dead.

"Not dead!" I cried.  "But that's lunacy."  Yes, it was lunacy,
Mrs. Penethen agreed, but lunacy or no that was Maude's idea.

Absurd beyond anything, I continued, because if ever in the world
any one lived who would show himself and return to those he loved
it was Johanson.

Mrs. Penethen agreed entirely.  It was all silly foolishness, but
many besides Maude had the same idea--ignorant people, of course.
There were stories.  He had been seen in the woods above Orange
Street, on Parmiter's Field, he had haunted the disappearing ruins
of the old Seatown.  "Always laughing, always jolly, they say he
is.  I wouldn't think," continued Mrs. Penethen, "anything at all
about it if it didn't disturb Maude so.  But the girl's always
thinking about it, expecting him to turn up one day."

No, the body had never been found.  That was why his death could
not be brought home to any individual.  The scandal, however, had
been terrific (as I could myself remember) and Hogg had been forced
to leave the place.  No one had intended, of course, that the
attack on Johanson should go as far as it did, but that was the way
of these things.  You couldn't tell where they would end.

Canon Ronder's reputation, Mrs. Penethen told me, had suffered
greatly in the affair.  He had done nothing wrong exactly, but that
he should have mixed at all in such company was considered very
damaging.  He took now a less prominent part in the town's life.
He had grown extremely stout.  There was talk of his retiring to a
country living.

So passed a very pleasant hour.  We had, each of us, our memories,
and these we mutually respected.  She was relieved, I think, when
having invited me to share her mid-day meal I refused, saying that
I had some sandwiches with me, and on this lovely day intended to
sun myself on the hill.  So we parted with friendly feelings and
guilty of no indiscretions afterwards to be regretted.

And going down the street whom should I encounter but Judy
Penethen?  Aged greatly, growing strangely like her mother, dark,
reserved, kindly.  It was hard for me, as I stood there exchanging
commonplaces with her, to believe in that day when she had stood
there in my room telling me that she loved Johanson.

It had been so, nevertheless, and although she did not mention him,
yet, strangely, in her quiet demeanour, I felt a deep, deep
reserved force still of passionate feeling.  Of the four women in
that house who each in her own way cared for that man, Judy had
been the one who truly loved him, who would always love him, I did
not doubt, for the remainder of her repressed, reserved life.

It was her slim, stern figure that, more than any other, I have in
these later days remembered.

Nevertheless, once up in the woods above the town, sitting on a
bank under a canopy of gold and amber leaves, feeling the sun beat
warm upon me, I soon forgot Judy.

I forgot everything and every one save Harmer John!  I thought of
him with eager longing.  Could I but see him for a moment again and
tell him that, through all these years, I had not forgotten him!

Was he perchance somewhere about his beloved town on this day when
every one was praising him? or, like Arnold's gipsy:


     At some lone homestead in the Cumner hills,
     Where at her open door the housewife darns,
     Thou hast been seen, or hanging on a gate
     To watch the threshers in the mossy barns.
     Children, who early range these slopes and late
     For cresses from the rills,
     Have known thee eyeing, all an April day,
     The springing pastures and the feeding kine;
     And marked thee, when the stars come out and shine,
     Through the long dewy grass move slow away.


I repeated the beloved words to myself, nibbling also at my
sandwiches.  The blue intensity of the sky and the thick gold of
the autumn wood, the still crystal air and the beauty of the so
familiar poetry, brought me an exquisite mood of silence and
tranquillity.

I sat there, without moving, as it were in a state of happy trance.
Then--was it sleep, was it fancy, how shall I ever know and who
will there be ever to tell me?--did the leaves part, the branches
spring aside and a face, so familiar, so gay, glance through at me!
Did I, for a moment of time, see him head to foot, strong and happy
as he used to be, there between the branches smiling at me with all
his old humour and friendliness?

I called out "Harmer John!  Harmer John!"

Of course there was no answer.  The sun was in my eyes.  I had been
asleep perhaps, or my desire for him had created him for an instant
before my eyes.

And yet I feel, to this very day, as though I had seen him once
more.  I seem to remember that his face was older, thinner, stiffer
than it used to be, that the sleeve of his coat was brown and
ragged.  How should I know these things?

I brushed the crumbs from my dress, burned the paper that had held
my sandwiches (How I detest the untidy, messy ways of the modern
generation!) and set off on the path down to Polchester.


THE END




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