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Title:      A Prayer for my Son
Author:     Hugh Walpole
eBook No.:  0600041.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          January 2006
Date most recently updated: January 2006

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Title:      A Prayer for my Son
Author:     Hugh Walpole




FOR

COLONEL W. A. T. FERRIS

TO WHOM TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS AGO MY FIRST NOVEL WAS DEDICATED--

THIS STORY IS OFFERED IN GRATITUDE FOR A SPLENDID FRIENDSHIP






My homeward course led up a long ascent,
Where the road's watery surface, to the top
Of that sharp rising, glittered to the moon
And bore the semblance of another stream
Stealing with silent lapse to join the brook
That murmured in the vale.  All else was still:
No living thing appeared in earth or air,
And, save the flowing water's peaceful voice,
Sound there was none--but lo! an uncouth shape . . .

WORDSWORTH, The Prelude.




No characters or incidents in this book have been in any way
suggested by characters or incidents outside this book.



CONTENTS


PART I

THE QUIET ENTRY


I.  Snow-shine for Arrival

II.  Heart and Soul of a Young Man

III.  Birthday Party

IV.  Life and Death of Janet Fawcus

V.  Glory of this World

VI.  John listening


PART II

THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY


VII.  The Party returned

VIII.  Threshold of Danger--or isn't it?

IX.  Conquest of Janet--The House has a Cold--Mr. Rackstraw is Not
       Well--Rose lights a Candle

X.  Flight from Despotism--with Rump

XI.  Inside the Colonel as far as one Dares

XII.  Janet comes to Life and is Imprisoned


PART III

FIVE DAYS


XIII.  May 14th: How Mr. Rackstraw quoted Landor, Michael tore his
         Trousers, and Janet counted the Daisies

XIV.  May 15th: How the Colonel had a Birthday

XV.  May 16th: This Day belongs to Janet

XVI.  May 17th-18th: Flight out of Egypt

XVII.  The Trembling Sky




PART I

THE QUIET ENTRY



CHAPTER I

SNOW-SHINE FOR ARRIVAL


This moment of anticipation was the worst of her life--never before
had she been so utterly alone.

Her loneliness now was emphasized by the strange dead-white glow
that seemed to bathe her room.  She had just switched off the
electric light, and the curtains were not drawn upon the long gaunt
windows.  Although it was after five on that winter afternoon, the
light of the snow still illuminated the scene.  Beyond the windows
a broad field ran slowly up to a thin bare hedge; above the hedge,
the fell, thick in snow, mounted to a grey sky which lay like one
shadow upon another against the lower flanks of Blencathra.

Rose had learnt the name of this mountain from the first instant of
her arrival at the Keswick station.  She had not known whether she
would be met or not, and she had asked a porter whether he knew of
Scarfe Hall.  He knew of it well enough.  It lay near the
Sanatorium right under Saddleback.  And then, because she was
obviously a stranger, and he unlike many of his countrymen was
loquacious, he explained to her that Saddleback was the common name
for Blencathra.  'What a pity,' she murmured.  'Blencathra is much
finer.'  But he was not interested in that.  He found the motor-car
from the Hall and soon she was moving downhill from the station,
turning sharply to the left by the river, and so to her
destination.

She had had tea alone with Janet Fawcus in the drawing-room
downstairs; such a strange, old-fashioned, overcrowded room, with
photographs in silver frames and a large oil painting over the
marble fireplace of Humphrey's father.  So odd, Rose thought, to
have so large a painting of yourself so prominently displayed.  She
had seen before, of course, photographs of Humphrey's father and
had always liked the kindliness, the good-humour in his round
chubby face, the beautiful purity of his white hair, his broad
manly shoulders, but this oil painting, made obviously a number of
years ago, gave him a kind of dignified splendour.  She had always
thought him like Mr. Pickwick, but now he was a Mr. Pickwick raised
to a degree of authority that yet had not robbed him of his
geniality.

So she and Janet Fawcus had shared an embarrassed tea.  It was no
surprise to her to discover in Janet the perfect spinster--that is,
a woman of middle age whose certainty that virginity is a triumph
is mingled with an everlasting disappointment.  Janet was dressed
in the hard and serviceable tweeds of the English dweller in the
country.  She talked to Rose with all the kindliness of a hostess
and the patronage of a successful headmistress.  Rose saw at once
that Janet had always hated her and that meeting her had not
weakened that emotion.

However, she had expected this, counted on it, in fact, and she sat
now in this old curiosity shop of a drawing-room, the heavy, dark,
ancient curtains drawn against the snow, brightly and falsely
amiable about Geneva and the League of Nations and the selfishness
of France, and what a pity it was that despotism was beginning to
rule the world.  It was explained to her that young John was out
with his tutor skating on some pond towards St. John's in the Vale
and that Colonel Fawcus himself was at a meeting in Keswick about
pylons, and that was why Janet must do the honours alone.  'But, of
course,' Janet said, 'you will see John when he comes in.  He is so
excited about your coming.'  In that last sentence Rose knew there
was something sinister; that immaculate tweed-clad virgin would not
give an inch.  'But then,' Rose thought, 'I have no intention of
asking her.  I have not come here to fight.  There is no battle in
the air.  John's grandfather has invited me out of kindness and
generosity.  There was nothing in the signed agreement which
compelled him to do this.  It has been simply warm-hearted kindness
on his part.  I am not here to fight.  I am not here to get my son
back.  I am not here to win his affection away from anyone else.
He is not mine.  I surrendered him deliberately, fully knowing what
I was about.  I am not here for any contest of any kind with this
unagreeable, tiresome, self-satisfied prig of an Englishwoman.'
But as she smiled and said that, yes, she would have another cup of
tea, and how good it was after a long cold journey--she was forced
to repeat to herself:   'I am not a mother.  I surrendered John not
only because it would be for his good, and because he would be
given so many many things I could never give him, but also because
I was not meant to be a mother.  There were other things that I
could do better.  I am not maternal.  I am a modern woman of my
time.  I do not wish to be hampered with a child.  I have things I
want to do for my generation and civilization and, although it is
true that I am now thirty years of age and have done as yet very
little for anybody, there is still plenty of time.  I have
surrendered John, and no amount of disliking his aunt from the
bottom of my heart must make me want to take John away from her.'
She thought further:  'She is looking at my clothes.  She is
envious of them and that makes her dislike me the more.  I am very
pleased.  My clothes are certainly not remarkable and at least they
do not look like a sheet of mail armour.'

'I expect,' Janet said, with her considerate, indulgent smile, 'you
would like to come to your room now?'

To her room Rose was taken.  What a strange, old, confused place it
was!  It must be, she realized with a thrill of excitement, the
actual room of which Humphrey had often told her.  The room where
he had slept as a boy.  Also it must be very little changed from
those long-ago days, for there hanging near a window and opposite
the four-poster bed was the oil painting of Abraham offering up
Isaac for sacrifice.  All the details that Humphrey had given her--
the dark, angry hill painted a sinister red, the white body of the
boy, the Patriarch with knife raised, and a black cloud breaking
into spears of lightning, through which God's voice spoke.
Humphrey had told her how, as a child, he had lain in bed and seen
the mounting field beyond the window, the sky above it, the serried
edge of Blencathra, almost walk into the room and mingle with the
old oil painting, so that he used to fancy that Abraham and his
knife were waiting there on Blencathra for himself as the appointed
victim.

This, then, was the very room that Humphrey had had.  All the
furniture in it was old and black.  There were dark-green hangings
with a red pattern on the four-poster, and the only concessions to
modern life in the room were the electric light, an electric fire
in the old stone fireplace and a small collection of recent books
in gay colours near the bed.  Then Rose made her first really
serious mistake.  'Why,' she said, 'this must be the very room that
Humphrey had.'  Her impetuosity that she thought by now she had
learnt to control had once again betrayed her.  She felt Janet's
whole body stiffen, and she knew with her quickness of apprehension
that Janet had loved her brother with an intense passion.  Why,
Rose wondered, had she been put in Humphrey's room?  They could not
have forgotten.  Perhaps it was the only spare room in the house.
No, she knew that the place was of a rambling, undisciplined size.
There must be many spare rooms.  Janet had not answered.  She had
gone to the door and switched on the light.  They had been for a
moment standing together in the dusky white-stained twilight.
Janet said, 'As soon as John comes I will bring him up to see you,'
and went.

As soon as she was alone Rose switched off the light again and
stood without moving, looking on to the fields that grew with every
moment darker, seeming to smell that sharp, friendly, aromatic
scent of freshly fallen snow.  At last she went to the door and
switched on the light again, then stood in front of the long old
looking-glass bordered with dim gold that hung between the bed and
the door.  She looked at herself with a new interest.  She was a
woman devoid almost entirely of personal vanity.  She liked to be
clean, to be healthy, to be equipped for whatever she might have to
do.  Since Humphrey's death she had thought very little about men
except as, indirectly, companions.  She had had no sexual life at
all.  She had been living, she fancied, in a world entirely of
ideas, and now, looking into the mirror, she suddenly wondered for
the first time whether the ideas had been worth while.  In this old
room, with the intense stillness of the snowy world beyond it,
things altered their values.  She saw herself one of an eager group
of men and women at a table in a Geneva caf, or in somebody's
room, or in the bureau where she worked, sharp, opinionative voices
saying, 'But then, of course, Barthou means something quite
different,' or 'But, I ask you, Simon and Mussolini, how could they
ever understand one another?' or again, 'Americans go only skin-
deep: that is why the world is in the mess it is.'  Yes, these
voices, so sure, so clever, so brittle, echoed with a kind of
ludicrous inefficiency which came down in front of that old mirror.
Five minutes' talk with Janet Fawcus seemed to have changed, in
spite of herself, the whole world.  She did not want it to change.
She was paying this visit because she was sure that she was
impregnable, but now, was she sure?  What unexpected influences
were beginning to work upon her?

She looked back at herself in the mirror--slim, slight, dark-
haired, much too youthful-looking for her thirty years, she
impatiently reflected.  She wished to impress them all with her
stability, her firm security.  She was on a visit to her little son
whom she had definitely surrendered, coming from outside, remaining
outside, a safe modern woman who was at work for the world's good,
rather than for personal maternity.  'How detestably priggish that
is,' she thought.  'But perhaps the whole of Geneva is priggish?
What have I done coming here?  I did not expect to feel so
defenceless.'

It was then, standing in the middle of the room, that she knew her
moment of wild, terrified anticipation.  What would John be like?
How would he greet her?  How had he been taught to think of her?
It was ten years since she had surrendered him, and she saw again
that last dreadful minute in the cold room of the London hotel when
she had delivered him up to the nurse and to the family man of
affairs, and, seeing that minute again, she thought to herself:
'It was not because I did not want him that I gave him up, but
because I knew that it would be so much better for him; and it
shall be.  I must have no personal relationship with him.  I must
let them keep him from me as much as they wish.'

It was at that moment that she heard, even through the closed door,
the sharp, clear call of a boy.  The door opened, and John, his
aunt just behind him, stood there looking at her.

There were two things she at once realized when she saw him; one
was that he was strangely like the baby she had surrendered, the
other that he had an astonishing and most moving resemblance to his
father.  It was the second of these two things that instantly
warned her, like an inner voice:  'Take care, take care.  You must
not be affected by this'--for indeed it was most desperately
moving.

John, now twelve years of age, was small and slight and very fair
in colouring.  His hair, which was rather stiff (a little tuft of
it stood up sharply on the back of his head), was pale honey-
colour.  His face was sharp and thin.  His most remarkable feature,
which you saw at once as you had done in his father before him, was
the eyes, grey-blue in colour, strong, fearless, masculine, full of
character.  His nose and mouth were thin and pointed.  The shape of
his upper lip might have been, as his father's had been inclined to
be, cynical and sarcastic.  But John's mouth had suddenly a rather
babyish softness which was probably transitory but, at the moment,
very appealing.  His slim child's body was as straight as a dart.
He was dressed in a light blue pullover and short grey flannel
trousers, but you felt the nervous activity of his body beneath his
clothes.  He stood urgently on his feet as though he were about to
start a race, but this may have been because he was feeling the
excitement and strangeness of this meeting.  His pale hair, his
sharp-boned, delicate colouring, the athletic urgency of his poise
gave him at once an air of life and spirit that scarcely seemed to
belong to that old, dark room, nor had it anything to do with the
spare, thin figure of the woman who stood beside him, her hand
lightly touching his arm.  But he was like the baby Rose had left
and like the man she had lost, and it was no sentimental weakness
for her to feel a catch in her throat, or to see the room suddenly
sway behind a misty cloud of uncertainty.

'Here's John,' Janet said.

'Hullo,' John said, and then he held out his hand.  'How are you?'

She felt and shared his own sense of intolerable shyness.  He did
not in all probability realize all the implications of this
meeting, but he knew enough of them to feel a deep awkwardness and
possibly strong, urgent resentment.

She went forward and took his hand.  'How are you, John?' she said.
She bent down and kissed his forehead.

He received her kiss as though he had known that this ghastly thing
must occur.  She realized that that had been one of the moments he
had been dreading and that now everything would be a little easier.
She realized, too, that to the virgin mind of Janet Fawcus all this
was of a dreadful indecency--the unmarried mother greeting her
bastard child--and suddenly she thought:  'How inconceivably stupid
of me!  Janet must have fought her father's decision to invite me
here with all the force she possessed.  I had never realized how
abandoned she must have thought me.'  She felt it exasperating that
Janet should be present at her first meeting with her own son.  She
longed to have the courage to say, 'Leave us for a moment, won't
you?' but she could not and the woman did not move.  Something had
to be done, the pause had already lasted too long.

'You have been skating, John, haven't you?'

His eyes were eating into her face.  He was studying her with an
absorbed attention, having forgotten completely all the rules of
conduct, that you must not stare at strangers, and so on.  His eyes
never wavered from her face as he answered:

'Yes.  The pond's been frozen for a week.  I'm getting quite good.'

'John, dear,' Janet said softly, but he gave a little impatient
wriggle of his shoulders.

'Oh!  I'm not swanking, but Mr. Brighouse said so and he can skate
like anything.'

'I live in Switzerland most of the time,' said Rose, 'so I get
plenty of skating, or could have if I wanted it.'

'Why, don't you want it?' he asked, his eyes wider than ever,
staring at her.

'Yes, but you know what it is,' she said, smiling, 'when you have
so much of anything all round you, you don't value it in the same
way.'

'No, I suppose you don't,' he said.  'It's like being an assistant
in a sweet-shop.  They get as bored as anything with chocolates and
cakes.'  He drew a quick little breath.  'I don't think I'd ever be
bored with marzipan,' he said.

Janet pressed her hand in a little on his shoulder.  'Come, John,'
she said.

And it was at that moment that Rose knew her first instant of
sharp, intense rebellion.  What right had this woman to tell her
son to go at this moment?  This was HER moment.  If the woman had
had any kind of decency she would have left them alone together.
Then Rose remembered.  She smiled, looked him full in the eyes,
nodded and lightly said:

'Good night, John.  See you to-morrow.'

He said, his eyes still on her face:  'Yes.  I hope the frost
holds, don't you?'  Then turned and went out with his aunt.


The room was very quiet.  There was a gentle tap on the door.  Rose
said, 'Come in,' and a small, rather pinched-faced little maid
stood in the doorway.  She asked whether she might pull the
curtains.  Then, standing near the window, she asked whether
everything was all right, please, miss?

'I didn't know,' she said, 'whether that would be the dress you'd
be wanting to wear.'

Rose looked and saw--what she had not noticed before--that her
evening frock was laid out on the bed, and that it was the smart
one of grey and silver.  She smiled.  'Oh, thank you.  How nice
everything is!  But I think that I'll have the black one to-night.'

'Oh yes, miss.  I didn't know.'  And she moved very quickly to the
drawer, brought out the black taffeta dress and put the other one
away, then drew the heavy thick mulberry-coloured curtains across
the windows and moved to the door.  Again she said:  'Will that be
everything, miss?  Dinner's at quarter to eight.'

'Yes, thank you,' Rose said.  'What is your name?'

'Sally, miss.'  The girl gave her a sharp, inquisitive look.

'I suppose,' Rose thought, 'they already know all about
everything.'  But there was more in the look than mere personal
curiosity.  It said not only 'I wonder whether all they say about
you is true,' but also 'I wonder how much you know about us.'

There was something pleasant about the girl's face, something
unagreeable too.  But Rose felt, without having any real reason for
her instinct, that this young girl was important in the house.
While she dressed she had to struggle against the cold.  The
electric fire gave out heat, but the room seemed to contain cold as
a well contains ancient water.  The walls gave off cold so
concretely that she could almost see it, and the cold from the
world outside seemed to press in from the windows.  'I suppose,'
she thought, 'it is the central heating I have been used to in
Geneva that makes me feel this.  I have never been so cold in my
life before.  It is as though there were something personal about
it.'

When, however, she went down to the drawing-room, there was a great
fire leaping wildly in the old dark fireplace, and all the many
many things in the room leaped and sparkled with it.  The room
seemed filled with a kind of aimless chatter.  Two clocks were
ticking away.  Two canaries in a gilt cage near the window were
twittering.  There was the noise of the fire.  And behind all these
things a kind of undertone, as though people out of sight were
whispering together.

'The fact is,' Rose reflected, 'this house is so old that you feel
the past in it more than the present.'  She stood, one shoe up on
the fender, her skirts a little raised, warming her ankles, looking
into the fire.

The door opened and a young man came in.  He was slim and dark,
with a bright intelligent face--that was all she noticed about him.
He seemed to her a perfectly ordinary boy with that odd gesture of
surprise that belongs to so many of his generation as though he
were discovering that things were very different from what he had
been told they would be.  She noticed all this--his dark good
looks, his friendliness and his rather surprised eagerness as he
shook hands with her and said:

'My name is Michael Brighouse.  I'm John's tutor.  I know who you
are.'

And she showed that at once they were friends when she said to him:
'And I know who you are.  You are the first person John mentioned
to me.'

'He is a jolly good kid,' Michael Brighouse said.  'I'd have known
anywhere you were his mother,' he added, staring at her, she knew,
with admiration and liking.

'He is very young for his age,' she thought, 'but we are going to
be friends, and that is a good thing.  I shall need a friend here.'

The door opened again and Colonel Fawcus came in.  Her impression
of him at once was of height and breadth rather than the stout
Pickwick rotundity that she had expected.  He must have been well
over six feet in height, his shoulders seemed tremendous, and only
his round, bespectacled red face and snow-white hair carried on the
Pickwick illusion.  But she was bathed at once in the full tide of
his kindly congeniality.

He came forward with both hands outstretched and caught hers, and,
all his face smiling even to his large, rather protruding ears, he
said:  'Welcome, my dear Rose, welcome.  How kind of you to come.'

She noticed that in some trick of light his round glasses caught
the glare so that she could not see his eyes.  What she did see
were his mouth, his nose, his cheeks, his high red forehead and,
above all, his ears.  All these were smiling in a kind of ecstasy
of welcome, but it was at that moment as though a blind man were
greeting her.

'You know Brighouse?' he said, putting his hand on the boy's
shoulder.  'I expect he has introduced himself.'

'Yes,' she answered, 'and I had heard of him from John before
that.'

'Ah! you have seen John,' Colonel Fawcus said quickly.

'Yes.  He came to my room for a moment.'

'And what did you think of him?  It must have been extraordinary
after so long.'

She realized that he intended to deny and hide nothing.  He was
welcoming her with all the facts on the table.  She had not
expected to find him so large, so strong, so breezy.  She had known
that he was kind.

Then Janet came in wearing a black dress that fitted her badly and
emphasized her bony neck and her thin arms.  She did not use any
kind of make-up.  Her nose was a little red, pinched with the cold,
and there were faint streaks of purple veins on her sallow cheeks.
But the great thing about her was that however plain she might be
she did not care.

'She is full of pride,' Rose thought, 'of self-satisfaction.  She
knows just what she wants and always gets it.  She is by far the
strongest person in this room.'

The echoes of the gong rolled in the distance.

'Dinner, dinner,' Colonel Fawcus cried, as though he were
announcing a wonderful new event that was about to change the
world's history.  'Come, my dear Rose, you must, I am sure, be
ravenous,' and the two clocks, the canaries and the undertone of
whispering chatter repeated 'ravenous.'

Seated at the old mahogany table, the impression that Colonel
Fawcus made was overwhelming.  Sitting, he looked more massive than
ever, more massive, more benevolent, more completely head of the
family, more entirely commander of all he surveyed; and he
surveyed, she noticed, a very great deal.  His eyes were
everywhere.  While he talked--and he talked voluminously, words
pouring from his lips--his eyes darted like fish in a pool up and
down the room.  You could feel that the maid, Sally, was immensely
conscious of his supervision.  Rose was interested to notice that
here at the table Janet Fawcus counted for nothing.  It was the
big, hearty, benevolent man who dominated everyone.  He talked to
Rose exclusively, once and again saying genially:

'Well, Michael, what do you think of it?' or 'I am sure Michael
would tell you the same,' or 'Michael knows what I feel about it.'

He spoke to her as though he were almost bursting with happiness at
her arrival.  She could not but wonder.  She was of a generation
brought up to regard simple kindness as extremely suspect.  Let
anyone be accused of the worst crimes in the human calendar and she
would offer them the friendly protection of Freudian analysis.
Just as the works of John Galsworthy, Sir James Barrie, Mr. Milne
and other kindly creatures were to her pernicious, so if she were
told that anyone was kind or good she assumed instantly that they
must also be false and hypocritical.  And yet here she was
surrendering at once to kindness, goodness, benevolent hospitality,
eager friendship, because that was what he was.  It was long since
anyone had shown her so plainly that he meant well by her.  People
did not show you that in Geneva unless they wanted something either
sexual or financial.

'I do hope you will enjoy your time with us, Rose.  Of course there
will be John, who will be a host in himself, and we have neighbours
who should interest you--the Parkins, for instance, eh, Michael?'

'Oh! the Parkins certainly,' said Michael, laughing.

'Who are the Parkins?' Rose asked.

'The Verdurins,' Michael said, smiling at her.

'The Verdurins?' she repeated.

'Yes, Proust.'

'Oh!  Proust,' she said, laughing.  'I'm afraid I haven't read him
for ages.  In smart circles in Geneva he is more old-fashioned than
Anatole France, and that is more old-fashioned than'--she laughed
and looked about her--'I can't think of anything more old-
fashioned,' she said.

'Well,' Michael said, 'when you have met the Parkins once or twice
you have read certain parts of Chez Swann again.'

Rose fancied that Colonel Fawcus did not altogether enjoy this
little literary interruption; although he had not moved, he yet
seemed restless.  He looked at them benevolently as a kind guardian
watches children hunting for sea-shells on the shore.  Then he said
to her that he did not get half the time he would have liked to
keep up with modern literature.

He was, of course, although she did not know it, an author himself.
He told her very modestly of the two little books that he had
published, one on Ancient Monuments in the Cockermouth district and
the second on Old Cumberland Churches.  He had been for many years,
he remarked, president of the Cumberland-Westmorland Antiquarian
Society.  He had been forced to give it up because of the
accumulation of business.  If he ever had time again he planned a
work on Anglo-Saxon life in Cumberland, which would, he hoped, be
of some general interest.  He had accumulated much material, but
alas! try as he would, each day seemed busier than the last.

'And my age,' he cried to her joyfully.  'How old do you think I
am?'

Although she knew that he was more, she suggested, 'Sixty.'

'Sixty,' he cried.  'Sixty-eight--sixty-nine in a month or two.'
He was so plainly delighted with his health and vigour that she was
delighted too.

He was more of a scholar than she had imagined.  She had not known
that he had all this antiquarian knowledge.  Why had Humphrey never
told her?  She could now faintly remember Humphrey once saying
something like, 'Oh!  Dad's all right if you flatter him on his
hobbies.'  This, perhaps, was one of them.  She saw that he took a
child's delight in his own little affairs; so many men did and that
was why so many women felt maternal.  She looked up at him.  Their
eyes met.  They both smiled.  She felt for a moment as though she
were his mother.

During the meal, which was plain and good--a rich thick soup, fried
sole, roast beef and apple tart--Janet Fawcus spoke very little.

Once she said to Michael Brighouse:  'How did John behave to-day?'

'Very well,' said Michael.  'He is getting on with his skating like
anything.'

'You mustn't flatter him too much.'

'On the contrary,' said Michael, 'I'm sometimes afraid I don't
encourage him enough.  He is very easily discouraged, you know.'

She said nothing to that, but there was an implication in the grave
authority with which she considered the food on her plate, that she
did not wish instructions from Michael about John, that she knew
quite enough without his telling.  Later in the meal she said:

'Father, Mr. Cautley rang up.'

'Oh! did he?' said Colonel Fawcus, suddenly changed from gay to
grave.  'What did he want?'

'Oh! the usual thing,' said Janet.  'He wanted to come and have a
talk with you about the pylons.'

'Oh! DID he?' said Colonel Fawcus.  'Well, he can wait.  He can
take his stuffy self-importance somewhere else.  You'd imagine that
I'd nothing to do but fuss about little men who do not know their
proper place.  Cautley, indeed!  I should have thought I'd snubbed
that man enough to last him a lifetime.'

'How like Geneva!' Rose thought.  'How like everywhere in the
world!  How like every portrayal of daily life in every novel!
Always there is somebody in the way of somebody else.  Always
everywhere there is someone who just prevents life from being
perfect.'  Her sympathies were all alive for poor Colonel Fawcus.
She could just figure to herself the kind of self-important,
interfering little man who would drive a great, generous, impulsive
creature like Humphrey's father to frenzies of irritation.  There
were so many of them in Geneva.

After dinner she had a little conversation with Michael Brighouse.
This contained one or two odd things which she was to remember
afterwards.  Janet disappeared about some household business.
Colonel Fawcus said:

'Will you excuse me for half an hour?  I have a little business to
finish and then I am at your service.'

So Michael and Rose were left alone in the lively, whispering
drawing-room, and sat by the side of the fire and had a little
talk.

She looked at him and decided that she not only liked him, but
trusted him too.

'Tell me about John,' she said.

'No,' he answered quickly, 'not yet.  I've thought it all out
before you came.  I want you to see him for two or three days
yourself first and make your own conclusions.  I don't want to say
anything about him until you see for yourself.'

She nodded her head.  'That's right.  I think that's wise.'

'I only want to say one thing,' he went on promptly.  'There is so
much more going on here than you know, and if at any time later you
want a friend, I offer myself.'

'It's very nice of you,' she said, and also rapidly, 'You may
detest me.  We may fight over John.  You cannot promise friendship
so quickly as that.'

'Oh yes, I can,' he answered eagerly, 'in this case, at least.
However much I might dislike you, I would be with you in this
affair for John's sake.'

'You speak,' she said, 'as though there were going to be an
inevitable taking of sides.'

'There will be much more than that,' he answered.

'You want to frighten me.'

'No,' he said, 'of course not.  I hope you will have a lovely time.
I know it will be an interesting one.'

She looked at him.  Her eyes dwelt on his face.  'I am sure I can
trust you,' she said.  'That is one thing I know about people at
once.  Tell me yourself.  Do you like it here?'

She was aware that they were both speaking urgently, almost
furtively, as though they knew there would be an interruption,
almost as though they were sure that someone was listening.  She
looked about the room.

'This is a funny place.  You can almost believe there are people in
the room you cannot see.  But tell me.  I want to know.  Do you
like it here?'

'Like it?'  He laughed.  'That's a mild word.  There's more than
liking or disliking here, as you will soon find.  But I am glad to
be here for two reasons: one John, the other the country.'

'The country?'  She gave a little shiver.  'Isn't it terribly cold
and bleak and rough?  Doesn't it rain all the time?  But perhaps
you are North-country by birth.  That would make a difference.'

'No,' he said.  'As a matter of fact, I'm not.  I was born in
Dorset, near Corfe Castle.  I have never been north before I came
here, and it isn't the North that I thought I loved so much, but
this immediate piece of country.'

'Why?' she asked.  'Of course I know the lakes are beautiful, but
aren't they desolate in the winter, and tripper-haunted in the
summer, and isn't the Wordsworth-Coleridge inheritance dreadfully
dreary?'

'That has nothing to do with it,' he said.  'I can't explain to you
now.  Besides, you may not feel it, and if you don't, nothing that
I say will be of the slightest use.  If you do, you won't need me
to explain it to you.  It's lovely.  It's perfect.  Every inch of
ground is exciting.  For instance, there is snow everywhere to-
night; well, it never lies for long except on the mountain-tops and
in a day or two, perhaps to-morrow, the fields will slowly reveal
themselves again, and then every detail of them will be important.
You will go, for instance, beyond the pond where we were skating to-
day, to the road that leads up to St. John's in the Vale, and every
tree and every field, every hedgerow, will have some shape, or some
colour, or some effect under the changing sky that will make it
exciting.  I had a friend at Oxford who was great at Anglo-Saxon.
He would have some piece of manuscript that he would study, a
square of parchment, and every letter and every scrap of colour
would mean beauty and history and human interest.  So I feel about
every inch of country here.'

'I suppose,' Rose said, 'that whenever anyone loves the country
they feel that?'

'Perhaps so,' he answered.  'I don't know.  I have never felt it
about anywhere before.  Listen, here's a little poem.


     "Close-fitting house of velvet, foxglove bell,
     My heart within your walls might live at ease
     And never heed Time's knell;
     And you, like rose, upturned by infinite seas,
     To bleach here on the foam-remembering fell,
     Could teach my spirit by obscure degrees
     Of gossamer tension between heaven and hell;
     But heart and spirit are roving, hiveless bees."'


'How beautiful!' she said.  'Who's that by?'

'A friend of mine copied it out and sent it to me from Oxford.  He
said it was by somebody called Bowes-Lyon, a new poet.  But it has
exactly the quality that this place has for me.  "Close-fitting
house of velvet"--that is what this is, as you will find, and "foam-
remembering fell"--that is what the country is.'  And he added, his
voice almost sinking to a whisper:  'There is a battle here.  Our
own battle, of which the poet of course knows nothing, scarcely
anybody knows.'

'Battle?  What battle?' she asked.

But before he could answer her there was the strong, friendly voice
at the door:

'Finished sooner than I expected.  Now, Rose, let us have a cosy
talk.'



CHAPTER II

HEART AND SOUL OF A YOUNG MAN


Michael Brighouse was twenty-three years of age.  He was two years
old and a little bit on August 4th, 1914, six years of age and a
little more on November 11th, 1918: the War, therefore, meant
nothing to him at all and this inexperience was shared by all his
contemporaries.  He was not moved in the slightest by Armistice
Day, or by any appeal to remember war veterans, or by Mr. Lloyd
George's aspersions on Earl Haig's war conduct, or by the few
remaining sentimental poets who still wailed about the unhappy time
that they had had in the trenches.  The War meant nothing to him
also because he had all his life lived in a state of war.  From the
time when he had been at all conscious of any happening outside the
excitement of his own rectory garden, there had been war going on
somewhere, or if not actually war, at least conflict.

He had seen the kings fall and the despots rise; he had seen the
American boom and the American slump; he had seen the quiet
absorption of Manchukuo by the Japanese; he had seen the rise of
Hitler, the flight of the Jews, the murder of Dollfuss, and only a
week or two ago the plebiscite in the Saar.  His generation,
therefore, did not despair of the world as had the generation
before them.  Poets of Michael's day, Auden, Stephen Spender, Day
Lewis, were the only figures at this moment in the world of art who
were at all representing him.  But there were thousands upon
thousands of young men like Michael, who out of an extraordinary
welter of machinery, speed, half-baked science, complete sexual
frankness, poverty, cynicism and unemployment were achieving a new
calm, not of indifference, but of a kind of philosophical humorous
fortitude.  The world was indeed a ludicrous mess, but it was a new
world, as new as the early Elizabethan one had been.  It offered,
no doubt, every kind of parallel to that other splendid epoch--the
speed, the machinery and the unemployment were all necessary parts
of it.  What a time to be alive in!

On the other hand, he had no illusions; above all, no sentimentality,
no unbalanced idealism:  'Keep calm whatever may be offered you, be
it death, supreme beauty, or a job at three pounds a week.'  Michael
was like his generation in all these things.  He was like his
generation, too, in that underneath the superficial colouring of his
period he was like every other young man who had ever been--
idealistic, sentimental, patriotic, sometimes very childish.

His father was rector of a small Dorset parish, and lived in
perfect contentment there in a charming old rectory, with a high-
walled garden, and a view from the upper windows over rolling down
to the sea.  Michael's father and mother were very philosophical
people, that is, practically nothing disturbed them.  Michael was
their only son and they loved him, but they were quite happy when
he was away, and always believed that all was for the best in God's
world, even though Michael's mother had severe rheumatism in one
leg and his father a heart that might kill him at any moment.

Michael went to school at Uppingham, had a history scholarship at
Cambridge, got a double first and must, therefore, be considered a
brilliant young man.  He was not, however, really brilliant, but
had a ready capacity for putting things on paper and a good memory.
He knew very well that he was not brilliant.  He knew that he might
be a don--he didn't wish to be that.  He thought that he would make
a good journalist, but he didn't wish to be that either.  He did
not know until he had come to Cumberland what it was he wanted to
be.

He knew his character pretty well.  There was something weak in the
middle of it, a soft, oozing spot somewhere.  He was consistently
to his own chagrin coming upon this mossy, boggy centre.  It was
not that he was sentimental so much as that he gave way before he
knew it to unreasonable emotions, desires, impulses.  He did not
realize that no young man is a nice young man if he is hard right
through.  What exasperated him was that his consistent weakness was
the result of no logic.  He was quite ready to excuse weakness on
definite philosophic grounds, but he hated to be ashamed of himself
without a reason.  The friends that he had made at Cambridge--
Horlock, Redmayne, Burnam--were all perfectly aware of why they
were weak when they wanted to be weak and what the results of their
weakness would be.  'You see,' Redmayne would say, 'my doing that
the other night proves what Jung says in his book'; or Horlock
would simply cry, 'One must get one's fun where one can.  It's poor
fun.  Isn't it astonishing that for thousands of years people have
made such a fuss about love when this is all it comes to?'  But
Michael, alas! was far more unreasonable than his friends.  One day
when he was walking from Wastwater over to Eskdale he faced it
quite frankly.

'I'm soft.  I get bowled over by anything, but perhaps I am right.
Perhaps there is more in this business than Horlock or Redmayne
imagines.'

What he meant by 'this business' was the look-back from the spur of
the fell to Wastwater, which lay black as jet in the Screes.  The
silence everywhere was so beautiful and comforting that it offered
a true reassurance against these black waters.  A sheep-trod
running in front of him was also comforting.  When he slept in
Eskdale that night he determined to write to Horlock about it.

'You see, Horlock,' he meant to say, 'everything that we talked
about at Cambridge is nonsense.'  But of course in the morning he
thought better of it.  Every day in Cumberland put Horlock more out
of touch.  He began to grow a new spiritual skin.

He had always supposed that the tutoring of a small boy was as
unpleasant a job as could ever be imagined.  He did not care about
small boys.  He disliked the idea of teaching them anything.  The
word tutor was an offence.  Some old schoolmaster friend wrote to
his father to ask whether he knew of a likely young man who would
give six months in a very lovely part of England to looking after a
nice small boy.  The point was that the pay was excellent and the
work easy; the young man would have leisure to study for his own
purposes.  The point in Michael's case was that, lying in bed, he
saw the white road which ran like the spine of a fish into a
cluster of stars scattered about a moonlit sky.  In this sky, and
on either side of the road, rolled smaller hills, whitened with
moonlit powder.  This surprising scene had for him miraculous
power.  'That,' he thought, 'is because I am nearly asleep,' but in
the morning the power remained, and to his own astonishment he said
to his father at breakfast:

'I think I'll go to these people--Fawcus, or whatever they are
called.'

'It's time,' his father said gently,' that you should make up your
mind what you are going to do.'

'I know quite well what I am going to do,' Michael said.  'I am
going into the City to sell ivory collar-studs and make a lot of
money.  Then I am going to devote the money to--'  He stopped.

'To what?' asked his mother.  'I hope you are enjoying the kedgeree
because Cook made a great fuss when I said we were going to have
it.'

'To what, I don't know,' Michael went on.  'The trouble is all the
things you really care about seem to do better when you don't help
them than when you do.'

'Why collar-studs?' asked his father.

'Because I know the man who has asked me to go in with him.  He has
inherited his father's business--it isn't only collar-studs of
course.'

So in this indeterminate manner he went up to Cumberland.  Before
he went the schoolmaster friend of his father wrote to him:

'Old Fawcus is all right,' he said, 'if you remember the things
that he has done in the past.  He has been M.P. for the Penrith
Division of Cumberland, but years ago.  He served in the Boer War,
which is why he is a colonel; but he isn't as real a colonel as he
would like people to think he is.  He has written monographs about
monuments--bad ones.  He is very easy to manage if you think him
important.  The boy is his grandson, illegitimate, but being
brought up as heir to a great deal more than a non-existent estate.
Fawcus has a spinster daughter.  The house is ancient, and dark and
cold, but the country is lovely, and the rain is not so bad as it
sounds.  I consider the pay more than adequate for what you will
do, because the little boy is not tiresome and old Fawcus easily
placated.  There are, however, ghosts in the house--a certain
madness--and I advise you, if anyone starts throwing spells, to
watch out.'

This friend of his father was called Mr. Harris, and Michael
thought he sounded so nice in his letter that he wanted to meet him
in London, but Mr. Harris did not wish to be met.  He was quite
frank:

'I am sure you are a very nice young man,' he wrote.  'I had a
great affection once for your father, but I care now only for
chess, Bach and Handel.  I live in Eastbourne and hate coming to
London.  Good-bye.  Let me know how you get on in Cumberland.'

When later on Michael asked Colonel Fawcus about Mr. Harris, Fawcus
said:

'Poor old Harris, as mad as a hatter!  Went into King's Chapel once
without his trousers.'

Be that as it might, Michael found everything that Mr. Harris had
said very strangely true.  The house was dark and ancient and cold;
Miss Fawcus was a spinster all right; the Colonel liked flattery;
the little boy was a nice little boy.  These were the things that
he discovered at first.  It was only when he had been there some
little while that the business of witchcraft and spells began to be
apparent.  It lay, of course, partly in the country.  Michael read
certain books about Cumberland and Westmorland.  A man called
Collingwood, he decided, was the only one who knew anything about
the matter.  Popular novels, with a great deal of highly coloured
scenery, revolted him.  The guide-books were for the most part
concerned only with the tracks, stiles, stone walls, and seeing as
many named places as possible from one particular point.  Only two
men since Wordsworth and Coleridge had written any poetry about the
Lake District worthy of the name; nothing that anyone had written
except Wordsworth and Collingwood, nothing that anybody said
accounted for the curious spell that the country laid upon him.  He
could not put it into words, except that its main appeal at first
was to his personal vanity.  The little stone walls, the fell, the
fields and the streams whispered to him, 'Nobody has ever
understood us before you.  We cannot tell you how relieved we are
that you have come.'  While they did this he knew that they were
mocking.  He determined at first that he would not allow himself to
be cheap about the colour simply because popular novelists were so
easily cheap about it, but he could not deny that one mulberry-
tinted cloud resting its chin upon the white powdered line of
Saddleback (the rest of the sky grey with impending snow) held an
intangible delicacy beyond anything he had ever seen.  He stared at
it from the windows of the Hall waiting for it to go, because
clouds are so lovely the shade must be impermanent.  But the dark
mulberry only lightened as he watched it to a sharper purple.

Snow began very faintly to fall across the shadow of the fell, and
the dark trees of the Hall garden.  But even this did not diminish
the mulberry cloud.  Shadows of pale gold, a final suggestion of a
sun that had not appeared all day, broke into the grey expanse of
sky, and then, steadily supporting the cloud, this was the only
fragment of light and colour in all the world.  As the falling snow
thickened, the garden grew ever darker, and over the fell a
whiteness gleamed.  At last, when all was dark, he fancied that he
could still see the mulberry cloud.  He was never quite to lose
sight of it again.  Now coloured clouds and falling snow are not
the property of the North of England alone, but he discovered that
in this country, because the hills are so near and the stretches of
water so personal, many things happen that seem personally
significant.  He decided that the whole country was bad for one's
egotism.


He was forced, however, very abruptly to think of people rather
than places.  He had never before lived intimately with a family
not in any way of his own kind.  He had been brought up, as are
most young men, to congratulate himself on circumstances and
surroundings that were in fact exactly right for him.  Now he was
an intruder, almost, he felt at times, a spy upon the lives of
people who were as alien to him as West African natives.  He had
been brought there for a purpose which was, he very quickly
perceived, not at all the education and development of one small
boy.  The boy himself he found easy.  In the first place he had
from the very beginning a kind of tenderness towards him because of
his illegitimacy.  He would not have pitied himself had he been
illegitimate, but he had not been in the house two days before Miss
Fawcus very sternly, very briefly, and as though she were reciting
to him one of the more indecent passages of the Old Testament, gave
him the bare bones of the facts.

'My brother,' she said, 'my only brother, was one of the finest men
I have ever known.  He was everything in the world to me.  He had
one weakness--women--only because of his kindness of heart, not
because he had a horrid nature.  He was married--well, some people
said unhappily, I believe not.  I think that Gertrude and he might
have had a most successful marriage had not others interfered.
However, that's as may be.

'Gertrude was in some ways an odd woman.  She needed understanding.
I frankly disliked her very much.  In any case, after he had been
married some five years a dreadful thing occurred.  He lost his
head, ran away with a girl of eighteen.  Gertrude very rightly
refused to divorce him.  He had a child in Switzerland.  John is
that child.'  She paused.

Michael perceived that she was labouring under stress of terrible
emotion.  There were tears in her eyes.  She could scarcely speak.
With a tremendous effort, which he could not but admire, she
recaptured her self-command.

'My brother was killed climbing the Alps.  It became evident later
that the girl who had ruined his life had no means, and my father,
very nobly as I thought, made her an offer that if she would
surrender her boy entirely, never see him again, or have any kind
of claim on him, the child should be brought up with every
advantage of my father's special care.  Not to my surprise, the
woman consented, so little had she of any real feeling.  But quite
calmly she gave up her baby.  John was brought here when he was two
years old--ten years ago.  She kept her part of the bargain.  We
had no word from her of any kind.

'I think, Mr. Brighouse, you ought to know these facts if you are
going to be John's constant companion.  You will find him a good
little boy, I think--at times strangely like his father, he seems
to me.  It would be better, I think, to make no allusion whatever
to his mother.'

It was not long, however, before Michael realized that Miss Fawcus
meant little in the house in comparison with her father.  After his
first week Michael knew that there was no one in the place, from
Miss Fawcus herself down to the small spotty boy who helped under
compulsion in the garden, not aware of the Colonel during every
minute of the day and even more aware of him when his bodily
presence was felt rather than seen.  There was something curious in
this, Michael thought, because the Colonel's robust geniality was
anything rather than frightening--a kinder and more agreeable man
surely did not exist anywhere.  He was generous and open, more than
fatherly with Michael from the very first moment.  He had a way of
putting his hand on Michael's shoulder, of gripping his arm, that
was extremely pleasant, so cordial, so spontaneous.  As a rule,
Michael fastidiously disliked any kind of physical contact with his
friends and acquaintances.  He inherited this possibly from his
father, who had never kissed him although they were such excellent
friends.  The Colonel pressed his hand into Michael's shoulder,
drew him a little towards him, looked him laughingly in the face,
and then said with such spontaneous, cordial honesty:

'We're in luck, Brighouse.  You're just the man I've been wanting.'

And Michael replied:  'I'm the lucky one, sir.'

He found himself after a while eagerly sharing in the Colonel's
past triumphs: the present ones were, he was bound to admit, very
small and he wondered that a man of the Colonel's character and
broad-minded good-nature should value so seriously the little
encounters in Keswick, trifling compliments paid him in a letter,
foolish little nothings that the wife of Mr. Broster, the
clergyman, or old Mrs. Page-Hunter had paid him.  'But that,' he
thought, 'is what happens when you live for a long time in the
country; little things become so important and the old boy's
getting on.  It is natural for him to wish to live in the past.
The fact that he is a bit of an egotist is nothing against him: we
are all egotists together and as we grow old we are afraid of being
left alone.'

After a month or two, it might be said that Michael almost loved
the Colonel.  He was excited at his approach.  He had never before
thought very much of the physical appearance of any man, but the
Colonel's cleanliness and physique and freshness of colour, a faint
aroma of an extraordinarily healthy soap, a very fine virile
tobacco, a tang of open-air health that the Colonel carried with
him, gave Michael an intimate satisfaction, and when the Colonel
drew him a little towards him and he could see those clear bright-
blue eyes and the rough cleanly strength of the stiff white hair,
and measure the broadness of the chest and appreciate the fine set-
back of the shoulders, then Michael felt a warmth of almost filial
affection.

One morning going to his bath, the door being open, he went in and
found the Colonel singing in a funny high treble that was almost
falsetto and rubbing himself fiercely with an enormous towel.

'Come in, my boy, come in,' the Colonel cried.  'Room for us both.'

And it was then that Michael was compelled to admire the splendid
physical strength of that body, its freshness and symmetry and
energetic happiness.

'Wouldn't think I was nearly seventy, would you, my boy?' said the
Colonel, punching his chest.  'Like to see me touch my toes?  How's
this for an old man's exercise?'  And obviously extremely proud of
his strength he bent and twisted and turned, his beautiful white
hair standing up on end, the muscles of his shoulders and thighs
rippling under the fair skin.

'My word!' said Michael.  'I wish I could be like that when I am
nearly seventy.  How have you managed it, sir?'

'Luck,' said the Colonel, his whole face smiling like that of a
happy child.  'Luck and obeying a few sensible rules, watching the
teeth and the colon, exercises every day.  Here, let me see you do
an exercise or two.'

Michael was ashamed of his thin, meagre body.  The Colonel felt his
muscles, slapped him on the back, and then looking at him with real
fatherly affection said:

'I can tell you, my boy, it's a happy thing that you've come here.
It makes a difference to all of us.'

'Do I indeed?' said Michael, blushing with pleasure.  'I want to do
my best; you are all so very good to me.'

One individual with whom intimate relations were not at once
established was little John.  He was from the beginning polite and
obedient, but at first he kept absolutely aloof.

'How much does he know of his history?' wondered Michael.  'Does he
suffer because of it?  Is he aware of his own loneliness and
isolation?'--because lonely it seemed the boy was.  It was clear
that he admired his grandfather intensely and that he obeyed in
every instance his aunt.  But it was not so clear that he loved
either of them.  His affections were elsewhere.  First and above
all other, the Parkin boy, who was three years older than himself.
After that the mongrel kitchen dog named Romp by the cook and more
vulgarly Rump by everybody else.  Rump was of the engaging kind of
mongrel as common in life as in fiction.  He was a sort of terrier,
but with a round, amiable, friendly face that belonged more to the
sheep-dog kind.  He was a dog who had been brought up from the
beginning in the worst kind of social snobbery.  He was gay and
merry in the kitchen quarters, but if ever he ventured higher he
became painfully subservient, crawling across the floor, wagging
his tail, looking up into Miss Fawcus' face with a beseeching
manner--and well he might, for if she found him in any part of the
house other than the servants' rooms he was swished and shooed and
driven away.  He would run for his very life.  This creature John
loved.  The third item in his affections was the gardener, old
Lewcomb, an absolutely silent, saturnine man, who so far as anyone
could see hated mankind.  Nevertheless John worshipped him.  He
would sit by him for hours in the very depressed garden under the
fell, would ask him endless questions which Lewcomb did not answer.
He had an irresistible fascination for John, who thought him
infinite, wise and omniscient.

Into this select company of three Michael was not admitted.  On the
other hand, John after a while did more than tolerate him.  He
liked being with him.  He liked being taught by him.  He was
obedient and very seldom sulky, but he did not surrender himself,
and after four months Michael knew the boy very little better than
he had at first.

Then came Miss Fawcus' extraordinary announcement.

Miss Clennell, John's abominable mother, had been asked by the
Colonel to pay a visit.  Miss Fawcus' horror was almost pathetic in
its ineffectiveness.

'My father has invited the woman to stay here.  His reasons I
cannot imagine.  I have argued with him, protested, done all that I
could.  You are a young man, Mr. Brighouse, but you will understand
the scandals to which this visit must inevitably give rise in a
small community like this.  My father, as you know, has been a
Member of Parliament for this district and has lived here for many
years.  Even small day-by-day occurrences give rise to much
comment.  The appearance here of Miss Clennell will be the talk of
the place.  But in addition to that, I consider it an insult that
she should be brought into this house.  What her influence on the
boy may be I shudder to think.'

Miss Fawcus' announcement left him in a state of curious excitement
and he realized very quickly that it was not the anticipation of
Miss Clennell's arrival that excited him so much as his sharpened
consciousness of some kind of mysterious conflict that was going on
in the house.  Where did the conflict lie?  Was it between Miss
Fawcus and her father?  Was it between the Colonel and some person
or persons whom he, Michael, had not yet realized?  Was it between
the servants in the house and their superiors?  Was John the centre
of it?  Was it simply the house itself and the country that
surrounded it?

Why was it that he, who until this visit had never been afraid of
anything, was conscious so often of little moments of apprehension?
Yet he was happy here.  He was happy partly because of the very
excitement that the place produced in him.  Was his love of this
country making him more sharply perceptive than the facts
warranted?  In any case, putting these vague sensations aside, what
an extraordinary thing for the Colonel to do--Miss Fawcus was right
there--to ask his son's mistress to the house where her child was,
when he had made the sharpest condition that she should never see
the child again.  He had imagined that in spite of his vigour and
full body the Colonel was a strict moralist, in fact he told
Michael on more than one occasion that he disliked this modern
broad-mindedness and that if he had his way young people should be
taught to obey the old rules again; especially he emphasized his
opinion that women to-day were surrendering almost everything that
made them valuable and attractive.

'I may be old-fashioned,' he said, 'most men are at sixty-eight,
but the world will find out one day that I am right.'

But Michael was by this time more than suspicious that there was a
great deal in the Colonel that he had not yet perceived.  One
family of friends, the Parkins, confirmed him in this.

Mrs. Parkin was a little, thin, very tidy woman, with short well-
cared-for grey hair and a rather pinched white face.  She was
immensely energetic and vivacious.  Her husband, who had made money
in buttons or something of the kind and had now retired from
business, was a thin, tall man, completely under the domination of
his wife.  Mrs. Parkin lived for her circle of friends.  This
circle was by far the most important thing in her life and meant
much more to her than either her husband or her child.  Every
member of the circle had to be distinguished for something or
other.  It was not so very easy in a little neighbourhood like this
to find a number of distinguished people, but Mrs. Parkin had
achieved marvels.

There was, for instance, Mr. Latter who played the piano: Mrs.
Lincoln who had sung solos in oratorio.  Then there were Mr.
Morphew, his wife and daughter, who all wrote.  They were
naturalists, and in one of the Northern papers once a week there
were delightful things by Mr. Morphew about what the blackbird was
doing, why owls made the noises they did at night, and so on.  Amy
Morphew knew all about dogs, and quite often little articles would
appear hither and thither about the skins of dogs and the right
biscuits to give them.  But Mrs. Parkin had failed, alas! to
capture the greatest prize of all, Mr. Bauman, who lived on the
other side of the Lake, a quite famous novelist.  He was in
appearance a stout cheery-faced man who could be seen walking
furiously on the fell or along the road, swinging a stick, and as
he went he would often sing aloud.  He seemed so cheerful a person
that he should have been easy for Mrs. Parkin to capture, but he
refused absolutely.  He was, in fact, extremely rude to her, and if
you wanted to please Mrs. Parkin, even if it were very easy, all
you had to do was to abuse Mr. Bauman.

Mrs. Parkin was extremely tenacious of her friends.  Once you were
a member of the circle it cost you your very social life to forsake
it.  It might be that all her geese were swans, but there was
something very charming about her enthusiasm.  To listen to her you
would think that Mr. Latter played the piano like Cortot, that the
Morphews were naturalists like Monsieur Fabre, and that Mrs.
Lincoln was the recognized equal of Clara Butt.  Unfortunately this
enthusiasm instantly died did you refuse one of Mrs. Parkin's
invitations, or, still worse, pretend you were ill and then be
discovered at some other person's house.

Mrs. Parkin was a lady of immense character and determination.

'We may live in the depths of the country,' she would say, 'but we
can find our culture wherever we are.'

Now the one person of whom Mrs. Parkin was afraid was the Colonel.
It was difficult to see why, for the Colonel was always charming to
her, laughed and joked with her, complimented her, went to her
parties.  But if he did not, if he said to her quite sharply:
'Nonsense, Emmeline, I have no time to waste on that foolishness,'
Emmeline Parkin would smile and say:  'The dear Colonel, he is
sometimes out of sorts.  I understand him so very well.'

Michael had, of course, been drawn into the Parkins' circle.  He
found it indeed one of the trials of his young life, for he had not
the mature courage to refuse an invitation.  Once he had said he
must go back home and work, and instead of that had visited some
extremely sophisticated friends of his, the Lascelles, whom Mrs.
Parkin detested even as she detested Mr. Bauman and for the same
reason that they would have nothing at all to do with her.  Mrs.
Parkin discovered his falseness as she always discovered
everything, and he found that, within a week, the most dreadful
suspicions about him were being circulated in Keswick and the
district: that no girl was safe from his amorous advances, that he
had been sent down from College in disgrace, that his father was
ashamed of him, and that he was the worst possible young man to be
tutor to a small boy.  He did not know that Mrs. Parkin had said
any of these things, but in sheer cowardice he went and made his
peace with her and his character seemed suddenly to recover its
pristine innocence.  May and Kate Lascelles chaffed him brilliantly
for his cowardice.  He frankly admitted it.  He wanted to live at
peace with all the world.  It was the Parkins whom he had specially
in mind when he heard of the visit of John's mother.  What
excitement there would be, what chatter, what gossip!


At the first sight of Rose Clennell in that warm, old, crowded,
whispering drawing-room, he forgot all about gossip, all about
local curiosity and chatter, all about the Colonel, all about Miss
Fawcus, even all about John.  He fell at once, completely,
entirely, for the first time in his young life, in love.  He did
not know why.  He had never had any experience of this before, so
that he could offer to himself no comparisons.  It was as though
his heart and soul were bared to himself for the first time.  He
was, from that instant of experience, no longer a rather aimless,
rather clever, rather characterless young man.  He was sublimated
there on that drawing-room floor into a knight-errant, a
worshipping servant, a humble friend.  It was not that his breath
was taken away by her beauty; he knew at once that she was not in
the general sense a beautiful woman.  It was not that he could
discern any special ability of character or wisdom.  There was no
divine air, no heavenly music.  He kept his head.  He did not stare
at her in any kind of breathless fashion.  He had no wish at all to
catch her in his arms and embrace her.  He scarcely even wished to
be near her.  He only felt within himself such a surrender of his
personality to another, such a fire of a desire for service, for
unselfish action, that it was really a dedication of all that he
was and ever had been.

After his first little talk before the Colonel interrupted them he
decided for himself that she was very young for her age--exactly
the opposite impression from that which Rose thought she gave him.
Her talk about Geneva and the League, foreign politics in general,
seemed to him to be very simple and inexperienced.  He decided that
what she wanted to be was very different from what she was.  In his
room alone afterwards, as he was undressing, his principal thought
was:  'She needs protecting: she needs looking after.  I shall be
able to help her.'  And he lay awake for hours, feeling as though
his invisible room were lit with every kind of beauty.

This sudden and so unexpected experience coincided with the
revelation that the country had been to him.  The two things came
together.  In the confused and busy hours that follow a sudden
falling in love one cannot remember anything of the beloved in
actual fact--very often scarcely the name.  One can see nothing of
the features.  One hears the voice as a very distant echo of
something much more beautiful.  One is sunk, lapped round by a fire
as bright and fierce as ever lapped protectingly about Brunnhilde.
There are two fires: one, the flames of glory that come from one's
own ecstasy; the other, a mysterious, smoky flame that veils the
loved one.  Both fires die down, and when, afterwards, there is
only the cold hillside and all iridescence has faded from the sky,
then the first real meeting takes place.

Michael may have conjured up for himself these immature rhapsodies,
but at least he knew for a certainty that his life would never be
the same again and that the country and Rose Clennell had come to
him together.

As he lay in bed, staring into the darkness, he saw as though from
a great distance line upon line of little hills, mouse-grey, and
then, as though he himself ran towards them, the background
expanded into long, rough expanses of fell.  He climbed the rocky,
twisting path and now he was on the top, the wind whistling about
his feet.  He could move now all day over turf that sprang with the
running touch of his step, and he turned the corner, as he had done
only a week before, starting from Cat Bells, and saw the valley of
Newlands lying with its farms, stone walls, and marvellous,
shapeless symmetry, stained with colour between the hills, an
intense green, and then grey, like smoke, where threads of mist
drifted in between the hollows.

He passed from vision to vision, from recapture to recapture of
little places that he knew, of journeys that he had taken, and
whether he stood on Esk Hause and looked down the rolling slopes to
Eskdale, or climbed the hill above Hawkshead and saw Coniston in a
blue mist, or watched small blue waves curl about the reeds on
Rydal, or from the downs above Uldale stared at the Scottish border
and the silver line of the Firth, it was always the same--Rose
Clennell was the country and the country was Rose, and he himself
was happier than he had ever been in his life before.



CHAPTER III

BIRTHDAY PARTY


On the second day after Rose's arrival Mrs. Parkin appeared at the
Hall.

It was at once evident that she had come for one purpose and one
purpose only--to look at Rose.  She was a little bird-like woman
whose eyes instantly spoke her mind.  Over her tongue she had some
command, over her eyes none at all.  Were she bored with you her
eyes showed it.  Were she expecting the entrance into the room of
someone more important or interesting than yourself her eyes showed
it, for, while her tongue addressed you, her eyes were fixed over
your shoulder at the door.

In this present instance her eyes devoured Rose.  Her gaze absorbed
everything.  She stripped Rose of every shred of clothing, then
dressed her slowly again, considering every article before she
neatly readjusted it.  While her eyes were thus occupied her tongue
chattered.  She scattered about her absent-minded friendliness.
You would think to listen to her that her only desire was that Rose
should be happy now that she had arrived, for the first time in her
life, in 'the dear, delightful, soaking Lake District.'  She could
not help but speak of the Lakes as though she had invented and
owned them, but in this she was only one of many, for everyone who
lives in the Lake District does the same.  She apologized for the
rainfall rather as a lady letting her house apologizes for the hot-
water system:  'We must make you happy, dear Miss Clennell.  WE
will show you our Lakes and YOU shall tell us about the League of
Nations.  That is Mrs. Broster's hobby--the League, I mean, she is
so VERY good about it and SO enthusiastic.  She gives us almost TOO
many pamphlets!

'You must come soon to see us.  We live most simply but we have our
little Circle.  Music--do you care for music?  There is Mr. Latter--
he plays the piano quite delightfully.  And Mrs. Lincoln sings--
she has one of the most powerful contraltos I've ever heard.  But
you must come and try us out.  Now Friday--next Friday.  That is
Roger's birthday--our only boy.  He is a great friend of John's
although he is three years older.  They are the GREATEST friends.
John thinks the world of him.  Now come you must.  I'll take no
refusal.  John is coming, of course, and Michael Brighouse and
perhaps the Colonel if he hasn't a stupid meeting.  Of course
you'll come.  It will be a good opportunity to meet my friends.
Maybe we shall have a little music--we older ones--while the
children have their games.'

Rose promised.  Mrs. Parkin vanished into her little Austin, eager,
smiling, her eyes fixed on her next horizon.


During the following two days and nights the heavens opened and the
rain descended.  The rain never ceased for a single instant.  It
thundered down upon the house, personally, savagely, as though it
wished to beat it to the ground.  The house was so dark that, in
the passages, Rose moved with her hand in front of her face as
though she expected a bat or some other obscene animal to fly at
her eyes.

Beyond the windows the whole world surrendered to the rain, hills,
trees, stone walls, and always there was a roar of water beating
with a kind of drumming rhythm in the air.  The people in the house
were entirely unconcerned with the rain and went about their duties
placidly.  Rose noticed that automatically they raised their voices
to a higher pitch.  She looked out of window and saw the white,
almost phosphorescent stream on the fell-side leaping through the
air.  The old gardener, a sack over his shoulders, moved quietly
along, water dripping from his cap.

On the second afternoon she was moving cautiously down the upper
landing to her bedroom when she encountered John.  He was dragging
Rump by the collar.  Rump with a look of blind and obsequious
obstinacy was resisting at every step.

'He hates to come upstairs,' John explained.  'He thinks Aunt Janet
will be after him.'

'Ought you to bring him upstairs,' Rose asked, 'if Aunt Janet
doesn't like it?'

'Oh, she doesn't mind.  She only THINKS she minds.  Unless he's
very dirty of course.  But he's awfully afraid of her.'

'He seems afraid of me too,' Rose said.  She knelt down and began
to stroke him.  He submitted but the whites of his eyes were turned
towards the stairs.  He was ready to run at a moment's notice.  On
her knees she was very close to John.  He did not move away.  He
considered her gravely.

'You're my mother, aren't you?' he said.

'Yes, I am.'

'And father's dead?'

'Yes.'

He drew a short trembling breath.  'You haven't bothered about me
much all this time,' he said.

The rain was thundering down but they could hear one another very
easily.

She looked at him steadily.

'Why haven't you?'

'I'll tell you,' she answered.  'Because I knew your grandfather
could give you so much that I couldn't.  He could send you to a
fine school and I couldn't.  When you were a baby I had very little
money.'

'You might have come to see us sometimes,' he said.

'Would you have liked me to?' she asked.

That question closed him up entirely.

'Oh! it's very decent here,' he said casually.  'Come on, Rump!
There's nothing to be frightened of.'  And he marched off down the
passage.

Safe in her room she tried to read a book.  But WAS she safe?  She
got up and began to walk about, the rain, as it seemed, marching
with her.  She saw herself in the long mirror and despised the
small insignificant figure that she saw there.  She was not far
from tears.  She had not cried for ten years and she would not cry
now, but John, in those few short sentences, had brought back
John's father to her almost beyond endurance.

'Humphrey!' she murmured.  'Humphrey!'  He had said to her once:
'Rose, darling, you're not at all what you think you are!  You want
to be hard and wise and sophisticated, but really you're soft and
not very wise and simple.  You've got to love someone--otherwise
you're lost.'  Well, he had been wrong.  For all these years she
HAD been wise and sophisticated.  She had hated sentimental people,
sentimental ideas, sentimental books and plays, weak, flaccid
philosophies.  But she HAD been lonely.  It came on her now in a
flash that she had been unhappy and had known it but had never
admitted it.  Her obstinacy had carried her through, but carried
her to what?  To nothing at all.  Nothing had been so real to her
as that sentence of John's a moment ago--'You might have come to
see us sometimes.'

Biting her lip, she fought her weakness.  THIS was the sentimentality
that she had always despised.  She imagined what she would have
thought and said if some woman had come to her and said:  'So I gave
up my child because I thought it was right, and then ten years later
when I saw him again I wept and wanted him back.'

She must go.  That was clear.  She must leave this house and never
return.  She would throw herself into her work and perfect that
self-training that would make her one of those wise controlled
modern women to whom a cause was more than any person and a stern
ideal more beautiful than any relationship.

But Humphrey!  John, with the tuft of fair hair, the shy honesty,
the physical independence, had brought Humphrey back so that he was
with her in the room, HIS room where he had slept and dreamed--and
from that very window he had looked out and seen the climbing fell.

His arms were round her, his cheek against hers, and his voice
saying:  'It won't be easy, darling.  It won't be easy unless you
love me enough . . .'  She brushed her eyes with her hand, blew her
nose and went down to find Colonel Fawcus.

She knocked on his study door and went in.  He was there, seated at
a large official-looking table, and in front of him a big book.
Before him was a bottle of paste, in his hand a pair of scissors.
He was very busy, his cheerful countenance grave, his eyes bent
sternly on his task.

'Who is it?' he said quite fiercely, not looking up.  'I thought I
said--'

Then when he saw who it was he beamed.

'Well, my dear--'

She stood some way from the desk, her hands at her side.

'I'm disturbing you, I know--'

'Not at all.  I'm delighted to see you, my dear.'

'I had to come.  I couldn't wait.  I had to tell you that I must go
away--at once.  I must leave to-morrow.'

He stood up.  He smiled at her like a benevolent father.  He
stretched out his hand.

'Why, dear Rose, whatever is the matter?  Go away?  What nonsense!
Come and sit down and tell me all about it.'

'No.  I won't sit down, thank you.'

He came towards her.  His large fresh healthy body closed in some
of her horizon.

'Colonel Fawcus,' she said, 'why did you ask me to come here?'

'Why do YOU think I did?'

'I don't know.  I've no idea.'

'Mightn't it have been--curiosity?'

'Curiosity?  If that was it you would have asked me before.'

'Perhaps not.  Perhaps for a long while I felt rather bitterly.
And then, maybe, after all these years, I felt that I had done
wrong.'

'But you knew what asking me here would mean--the gossip, the
difficult position for John--'

'Why, has anyone been rude or unkind to you?'

'No--everyone has been very kind.  THAT isn't why I'm going.'

'What then?'

Her voice faltered.  'I hadn't realized, I hadn't known--what I
would feel when I saw John again.'

He waited, looking at her with the greatest kindness and even
tenderness.

She cried out almost desperately:  'Oh, I can't tell you!  I can't
explain!  And why should I?  We are under no obligation to one
another.  We made a bargain and we've kept to it.  I've seen John.
I realize that he is in splendid hands, and so, having seen him, I
can go away with a quiet mind.'

'Have you had,' he asked her, 'a quiet mind all these years?  You
have never enquired about him, never written--'

'I didn't dare,' she said very quietly.  'I see now that he was
never out of my mind.  I pretended to myself.  I was always
thinking of him--'

'And won't you now, if you go away--?'

'Perhaps I shall.  But that will be better than staying here,
loving him--'  She broke off.  Her voice was trembling.

'Must you?' he said to her very gently and with such kindliness
that suddenly her very soul revolted against the softness and
sentimentality of her state.  There was something uneasy, unreal,
about their conversation, about her own feelings, even about his
looks, and beneath all the unreality, some two layers down, there
was a hidden reality of most important significance.  The very fact
that their conversation was unreal meant that something was
developing, something that was using this unreality for its own
purpose.

She shook her head as though she had come to some sudden resolve.

'I don't think we're saying what we really think.  I know you're
being very kind, trying not to hurt me.  All that has happened to
me is that I saw John half an hour ago and that he was so like
Humphrey that I began to be soft and sentimental.  I hate to be
sentimental, and that's why I am going.'

She had expected that at the mention of Humphrey's name some
emotion would have been expressed by him--in the eyes, in the
corners of the mouth, in those eyes that were so kind and generous
and yet, as she was beginning to realize, eyes UPON eyes, so that
in all probability there lurked quite another pair behind those
bright ones.

He answered her very quietly.  'My dear Rose, I don't like
sentimentality either.  Of course you must go if you wish to.  We
all like you here--'

'Not Janet,' she broke in angrily.

'Oh, Janet!  Is she the cause of the trouble?  Janet doesn't
matter.  But if you like I will speak to her.'

'Over my dead body,' Rose cried out.  'I admire Janet for not
liking me.  I'd have hated myself if I had been her.  She's
perfectly polite to me and it's not Janet that's the trouble.'

'Who then?'

'Myself.  I didn't realize before I came how alive Humphrey would
be in this house.'

'And that's why I want you to stay a little longer,' he said.  'You
asked me just now why I invited you.  Perhaps you are the only
person in the world beside myself who knew really what Humphrey
was.  Perhaps I have been looking for that someone who knew him.'

'Janet did,' she cried.

'Janet loved him, but never knew him.  And that's why Janet is
jealous of you.'

'No,' Rose thought, 'that is not the reason and he knows it's not
the reason.  And it is not because of Humphrey that he asked me
here.'

But she felt herself submitting.  It was extraordinary the
influence that he had.  When you were with him in a room you wanted
to do as he wished.  He was almost double-sized, that is, he seemed
to be on every side of you and you did not resent him because his
kindness and his intelligence were so attractive.  Yes, he was
extremely intelligent and she had never realized it before.  Why,
with his charm and intelligence, then, hadn't he become something
much more than he was?  Why had he not gone much further?  Was he,
knowing in himself how intelligent he was, deeply disappointed, and
did he perhaps hope that she would understand and give him some
kind of compensation?  She had moved, without knowing it, nearer
him, and at that instant he put his hand on her arm--a strong, fine
hand with an almost iron pressure.  She did not dislike his touch.

'Stay,' he said.  'We all need you--myself, Janet, John.  Don't
think about any gossip there may be.  That will very soon die down.
I don't think you should run away from this before you have tested
it a little.  You are not a coward.'

She made no answer.

He went back to the table and sat down.  He took up the paste-pot
and looked over it at her, smiling, so exactly like a boy who was
sticking stamps into an album.

'Well,' she said shyly, 'I seem to have no will of my own.'

'Is that a bad thing?' he asked her.

'Certainly it's a bad thing,' she answered almost fiercely.  'I
hate weak women.'

'You're not weak,' he said, 'only kind to a rather lonely old man.'
He threw up his head, laughing.  'See how senile I am.  I am
arranging old press-cuttings of one or two feeble speeches I have
made.  Look.'

She came forward and glanced over his shoulder, and saw something
that had just been pasted into the book headed:  'Lt.-Col. Fawcus
opens Rose Show at Carstairs.'  She thought:  'What an extraordinary
thing for him to take pleasure in!  As though it mattered to anyone,
his opening a rose show.'

They looked at one another and in his gaze she saw something
pathetic and almost arrogant, as though he said to her:  'You think
it foolish of me to do this?  One day you shall know.'

She felt a sudden curious nervousness and left the room.


On the Friday was the Parkins' party and at first all that Rose
could think of was young John's excitement about this event.  He
had bought his present entirely with his own money.  What he had
bought was a small red writing-case, and this was because young
Parkin had once said to John:  'Oh, what a ripping writing-case!'
John's had been all blue leather and he was very proud of it.  He
would have liked to offer it to young Parkin, but it had been given
him by his grandfather.  He had seen that young Parkin wanted it
and there had been rather uncomfortable moments.  Young Parkin had
so clearly expected John to offer it and John had thought:  'I
can't give him this case, because Grandfather gave it me, but I
will get him one for his next birthday.'

Rose realized on this morning how very highly strung John was.  She
was almost frightened by the intensity of his feeling.

'Why do you like him so much?' she asked him.

'Oh!  I don't know,' John said.  'He's awfully decent.  I'm three
years younger, you know, but he lets me do things with him and he
never minds my not knowing as much as he does.'

'I should think not,' said Rose indignantly.  'I'm sure you know a
lot of things he doesn't know.'

'He's most frightfully clever,' said John.  'He's good at exams and
games too.  He's good at practically everything, except swimming.'
He dropped his voice and into his eyes there came a look of awe.
'It's pretty rotten for him,' John said, 'but he's frightened of
the water.  He is, really.  His nurse, or someone, held his head
under once.  He gets blue all over the legs and arms before he is
in the water at all, and he had an uncle who threw him in out of a
boat.  It's dreadful, because at school he has to dive and
everything so that the other boys won't know.  It's a terrible
secret.  Nobody knows but me.'

'Well,' said Rose, who hated young Parkin already in prospect, 'I'm
glad there is something he can't do.'

'That's the only thing,' said John.  'He's teaching me to box.'

'Do you like that?' Rose asked, looking at his slender body and
very sensitive face.

'I don't terribly,' said John, 'but I shall, he says, if I keep on
at it.  It isn't much fun at first, you know, because you're hit
all the time.  He just hits me where he likes and the other day I
came back with my nose all swollen and Aunt Janet was very angry,
but Grandfather said it was all right--it would make a man of me.
Only you see,' he went on more confidentially, 'I've got to get
thicker in the chest and I don't know how to.  I do exercises and
everything, but perhaps I am young yet: they say two or three years
make an awful difference.'

He packed up his red leather writing-case himself with the utmost
care and wrote on the outside in his large, boyish handwriting:
'For Roger William Parkin from his sinsere friend, John Fawcus.'

Rose noticed that he had spelt 'sincere' with an 's' instead of a
'c,' but she said nothing.  She only wondered whether Roger Parkin
would point out this mistake to her John.  If he did she thought
that she would probably kill him.

'Do you think he can see through the tissue paper what it is?' John
asked.  'I don't want him to know until he has taken all the paper
off.'

So Rose lied.  'He won't have the least idea what it is,' she said.


They walked to the party, for the Parkins' house was not very far
away--Michael, Rose and John.

After that great tempest how dry the land was!  But in the sky the
soft watery spaces seemed to hold a bloom like flowers after rain.
The Helvellyn range, where it approached the sky, also was faintly
iris-coloured and thus the slopes ran almost into spring-warmed
country.  The brown of fell and tree had a feathery promise, the
sun was hot, the snow all gone save for thin white shadows on the
tops.

As they reached the bend of the climbing hill and saw St. John's in
the Vale below them it was all that Rose could do to keep back a
cry, for the little narrow valley was bursting with life.  Every
tree seemed to be swelling with importance, the purple-veined
tranquil smoke from the farm chimney moved upward with an exultant
promise, sheep and cows raised their heads to gaze as though they
expected some skyward manifestation.  The light was so clear that
detail, the green glitter of a leaf, the bubbling pause of the
stream before a black stone, the dark lustre of a heap of manure,
these things shone like sharp jewelled fragments.  And the hills
were so close.  The rough fell was personally concerned in the
civilized world of farm and garden; every hill had its double
service of intercourse with man and the upward movement to the
freedom of air and space.  The sky was marbled with white feathers
of cloud that formed changing patterns on the blue.

All was light and all was movement.  Freedom and anticipation of
some universal holiday were everywhere; the sky was water-dimpled,
blue, trembling, the hillside damascened, the life of the valley
tumultuous with colour, sharp green, ice-grey in the stream, amber
brown of the tree-branches.

'And that's the Parkins' house,' said Michael.

Rose looked down to a white rambling house that was charming with
its dovecote, its old rose-garden wall and a green lawn on which
she could see figures moving like little dolls.  Sometimes in March
there comes surprisingly one of those warm days, almost a day of
early summer.  This moment's pause before the move downwards seemed
to her for some reason to be one of infinite importance.  She was
waiting, suspended in this world of white and blue sky, stirring
breeze.  For the last time perhaps she could make her choice.  She
could go back.  She could run away.  Once involved, once she risked
that downward step, she was irrevocably caught.  She looked about
her, back to the rough and rolling fell, up to the soft, almost
iridescent sky, then down to the detail of farms and animals and
puppet human beings.  She looked at John, who had already started
down the side path.  Then, with a little toss of the head, she
followed him.

Michael, beside her, said:  'Don't be afraid of the people down
there, of their gossip, I mean; or of their looking at you too
sharply.  It means nothing.  It will only be a nine days' wonder.'

She smiled.  'You're a noticing kind of young man.  You thought I
hesitated.  Well, I did, and I'll tell you honestly I didn't know
all I would be in for.  If I had I expect I would have never come.'

'Oh yes, you would,' he said confidently, 'and it's a good thing
you have.  It's probably saved John.'

'Saved him from what?' she asked, looking at the small figure ahead
of them absorbed in its own thoughts and interests.

'Oh, I don't know,' Michael answered lightly.  'A boy ought to have
a mother, oughtn't he?'

'I'm afraid he doesn't like me very much,' she said doubtfully.

'Oh, he will,' said Michael.  'The story's only just beginning.'

And then they were at the Parkins' and Mrs. Parkin was there
looking over Rose's shoulder at the garden gate, her eyes wandering
about like little magnets, hoping to attract as many steel filings
as possible.

'Well, Miss Clennell, this is good of you!  And the Colonel
couldn't come?  Too tiresome of him.  But he's such a busy man.
What we would all do without him--'

She broke off and her eye picked up her son, a nice-looking boy,
with black hair, dark eyes and a strong self-confident nose and
chin.

'Roger, here's your friend, John.  Miss Clennell, this is my boy--
Roger.'

The boy had excellent manners.  He seemed quite a grown little man
already and he was perfectly at ease with everybody.  But Rose's
attention was absorbed by her son.  John was in a quiver of emotion
and sensitive feeling.  He was clutching his parcel and at the
moment the boy joined them John pushed it into Roger's hand.  His
face was crimson and he muttered something that nobody heard.
Roger took the parcel rather like a monarch receiving tribute from
one of his subjects.

'Oh, I say, John, that's awfully decent of you.  How ripping!'

And he was about to investigate it when a boy came running across
the lawn, calling out:  'Roger, they say we are going to have races
and there will be prizes,' and he turned, holding his parcel,
joined his friend, and with a rather hurried 'Wait a minute.  I'll
be back' to John, ran across the lawn carrying the unopened parcel
in his hand.

Rose's whole soul seemed to be caught by her son.  She did not
appear to be looking at him, but was, it seemed, listening to some
of Mrs. Parkin's chatter.  She did not, in fact, hear a single
word.  Only about her head a bee-swarm of voices.  She was caught
up by her son as though she were a part of him and he of her,
physically as well as spiritually.  His disappointment was so naked
to her that her only longing was to protect him.  No one, perhaps,
saw it but herself, although she fancied that Michael was aware of
it.  John was making a courageous effort to cover it and stood
looking at Mrs. Parkin and shifting from one small leg to the
other.  But his lips were trembling; there were tears in his eyes,
and the defiant way in which he had thrown back his head as though
he were challenging all the world to try and hurt him was simply
his father over and over again.  Roger had not even looked at the
parcel.  He had scarcely thanked the giver of it.  And Rose at that
moment felt for Mrs. Parkin's offspring a hatred stronger than
anything that even the Fhrer himself had ever been able to arouse
in her.

She was soon compelled to think of herself, for Mrs. Parkin was
bringing up to her one or two friends.

'Miss Clennell, you MUST know Mr. Latter.  What the Parkin family
would do without Mr. Latter, it simply doesn't know.  You're part
of us, Reggie, aren't you?  Bone of our bone, we might almost say.'

And this, Rose thought, was especially applicable to Mr. Latter,
who was very tall, very thin, and resembled a telegraph-pole in
that he was constantly humming little indistinct tunes to himself
just as the wires hum above your head as you walk in the country.

'Reggie plays the piano, Miss Clennell, better than any amateur I
have ever heard in my life.  And to call you an amateur, Reggie, is
a terrible insult.  It simply is, Miss Clennell, that he plays for
the love of playing and refuses to take a penny for his beautiful
art, don't you, Reggie?  This is Miss Clennell, Reggie, a friend of
Colonel Fawcus, and she is passionately fond of music, and the one
thing in the world she wants is to hear you play.'

Rose knew at once that this long thin man with the high cheek-bones
and a hungry look in his eye, as though he never had enough to eat,
had heard all about her and probably knew much more of her private
history than she knew herself.  He did not look unkind or
patronizing, but terribly unhappy, as though the one thing in the
world he wanted was to escape, and she fancied that she detected a
look almost of hatred that flashed from his despairing eyes to the
little bird-like figure of Mrs. Parkin.  However, she had not very
much time to consider him because other ladies and gentlemen were
speedily brought up to her and she detected in them all that same
glance of inquisitive recognition.  They, having heard everything
about her but seeing her for the first time, were busily adding
experience to surmise.  She felt a panic rising within her and it
was roused in her especially by the Morphew family, who curiously
resembled rabbits, Miss Morphew in particular, having had her front
teeth sadly neglected in early youth.  In fact, as so often happens
with people, physical appearances fitted in very exactly with
occupation and interests.  The Morphews were the famous
naturalists, Mrs. Parkin explained, and there was nothing about
cuckoos and moles and ferrets that they did not know.  But Rose
perceived that she herself was the animal whose habits they were
just then intently studying.  They stared at her as though they
were stripping the very clothes off her back.  She could detect
Mrs. Morphew busily writing in her brain:  'This little animal is
unusual in several particulars.  Its plumage is bright, but its
appearance altogether deceptive, for as the dusk falls it flits
from tree to tree uttering a shrill sharp note--' and so on and so
on.

Miss Morphew was especially excited.  She was a plain girl, very
badly dressed, self-conscious in all her movements, but her eyes
were soft and pleading as though she were saying:  'Oh, Miss
Clennell, I do so want to get away from Papa and Mama.  I don't
care about natural history a bit.  I would like to be bold and
daring as you have been, and I do hope you will tell me how I can
manage it.'

But now the whole scene was becoming exceedingly animated.  Mrs.
Parkin was here, there and everywhere.  She was stirring everyone
up to show their very best paces, rather as a trainer with
performing lions goes round from lion to lion trying to rouse them
from their sleepy indifference.  Rouse them she did.  There were a
number of children who passed with surprising quickness from the
instructed politeness as proper little visitors to the excited
horse-play of small animals released from their cages.

Rose heard Mrs. Parkin's cheerful impersonal voice saying:

'And now that the children are happy, shall we go indoors and have
some music?'

'How terribly difficult it is,' she thought, 'to be a really good
hostess!  Just when you have learnt the technique sufficiently you
are ruined, because you are at last a professional and that is the
one thing a hostess must not be.'  Mrs. Parkin was so thoroughly
professional that Rose felt as though she were one of the Albert
Hall choir being driven on to the platform to rehearse Elijah.
What she wanted to do was to see that John was all right.  As she
moved to the door of the house she saw him waiting with several
other anxious-looking children, while Roger Parkin and another boy
picked sides for a game.  She knew so well the embarrassment of
that waiting.  Would you be chosen?  Or would you be left to that
terrible lonely position when, in a kind of tortured agony, you
heard someone say:  'Well, I suppose I have GOT to have Rose.'  She
knew just what John was feeling; how desperately he would be
wanting to be on Roger's side.  She was on the point of saying:
'Oh!  I must just stay in the garden another few minutes.  It's
quite warm even though it IS March!' but she hadn't the courage,
and meekly she followed her hostess in.

She found herself in an overcrowded drawing-room--a room containing
a vast piano, many signed photographs, and an extraordinary, high,
thin, white Chinese pagoda under glass--with a nervous little
woman, with a voice like the rustle of dry autumn leaves, sitting
beside her.  This little lady told Rose frankly that she did not
like music at all, but that she adored Mrs. Parkin.

'I can't help thinking that it's a pity on a nice afternoon, with
the sun shining, we should all sit in here listening to Beethoven.
I never know which is Beethoven, and which is Bach and which is
Brahms, and I am so dreadfully afraid of giving myself away.'

'Why,' asked Rose, 'do you come if you dislike music so much?'

'Well, of course, I love Emmeline and I do think she should be
supported for the way in which she is trying to bring culture into
Keswick.'

'Does Keswick really want culture?' Rose asked.

'No, I don't suppose it does,' said the little lady, 'any more than
any other place.  You either have culture, or you haven't, don't
you think?  And if you haven't got it, you really don't want
somebody else to give it to you.  You don't want it and you ought
to have it.  That's the way I look at it.'

'Oh!  I don't agree at all,' Rose said.  'If you don't want it,
don't have it.  If you really hate music you will never like it
however often Mrs. Parkin has concerts.'

'Well,' said the little lady, 'Emmeline promises me that I shall
like it one day.  She says that it all seems difficult at first,
but that suddenly one morning you find that you love it.'  Then she
dropped her voice.  'Of course I don't think they play VERY well,
Mr. Latter, I mean, and the Bunnings.  And then I really do dislike
Mrs. Lincoln's singing.  I know that she's got a splendid voice,
but she ought to be heard in the Rocky Mountains or in the African
desert--somewhere where there is plenty of space.  I have wondered
sometimes whether the windows would not be broken in this little
room: they shake like anything when she sings.  Hush! they are
going to begin.'

They did.  Mr. Latter had sat at the piano with the melancholy
anger of a prisoner picking hemp.  He looked round the room with a
complete loathing for everybody.  Then he bent towards the piano
and his face became more gentle, happier.  He seemed suddenly to be
wearing the right clothes and his figure looked no longer stiff and
awkward.  He played very well--Chopin and Delius and Holst.  He was
a real musician and a sudden peace came into the room as the
beautiful notes softly stole about it, and very faintly, beyond the
windows, came the cries and laughter of the children.

But Mrs. Parkin was restless, so as soon as one of her trained
performers had begun his exercises she was eagerly thinking what
the next item in the entertainment would be.  She did not want the
performance in the least, only that the performers should perform,
and so when the last note of the gentle Holst chorale had died
away, Mrs. Lincoln was being whispered to.  She was indeed only too
ready to sing.  She rushed at the piano like a trained seal opening
its mouth for sardines.  Mr. Bunning was to play her accompaniment--
a little man who had a resemblance to the Hatter in Alice.  This
was perhaps because of his large mouth, his almost imbecile,
friendly smile at everyone in the room.  Mrs Lincoln sang 'O Rest
in the Lord' at such a pace and with such violent determination
that Mr. Bunning was left far behind.  It was just as she finished
and said in her jolly, deep, policeman's voice:  'And what will you
all have next?' that Rose saw the door open and a very surprising
person enter.

The newcomer was a small, stout, untidy clergyman.  He had a round,
red face and his trousers were still bound with clips.  He had
plainly just come off a bicycle.  His face was pleasant and
agreeable, but, as Rose at once noticed, a little unsteady.  He
held his soft black hat in his hand and he smiled at everybody, but
rather, Rose noticed, as though he were not sure of his welcome.
It was at once clear that there was a reason for this, for Mrs.
Parkin had just said to Mrs. Lincoln:  'What's that lovely thing,
Hilda dear, about the moon and running water you sing so
beautifully?' when she was aware of her new visitor.  She gave him
a look of sharp and even angry disapproval.

'How are you all?' said the little clergyman.  'I wasn't asked, but
I knew it was Roger's birthday and I've brought him a present.  Go
on with your music now and don't mind me.'

There was an empty chair on the other side of Rose and into this he
dumped with a violent movement as though he had been dropped out of
something.  He seemed, Rose thought, a trifle unsteady on his legs.
He regarded everyone most merrily in spite of Mrs. Parkin's
discontent and went on, sotto voce, to Rose:

'Dear Mrs. Parkin doesn't like my coming.  She's long given up
asking me, but I come all the same, because I think it's good for
her.  Do you ever do things to people because you think it's good
for them?'

'No,' said Rose.  She was feeling uncomfortable because Mrs.
Lincoln was just beginning to sing and their whispered conversation
was plainly disconcerting her.  'I'm not ever sure of what is good
for people.'

The little clergyman nodded his head.  'I always know exactly,' he
said.  'It's one of my gifts.'

Mrs. Lincoln began to sing.

There was a great deal of music.  The Bunnings played duets and Mr.
Latter the Moonlight Sonata.  It became exceedingly difficult to
stop Mrs. Lincoln, who almost before she had finished her song
cried out:  'And what will you have next, all of you?'  When at
last tea arrived and she could sing no longer, she stood in the
middle of the room, large and hearty and jolly, eating whatever
came her way.

She cried out:  'I like to sing.  It does me good.  No, I assure
you, it's no trouble at all.  I sing as naturally as I breathe.
Have done ever since I was a baby.  So if you nice, dear, kind
things enjoy listening and I enjoy singing, that's all right, isn't
it?'

'It would be all right,' the little clergyman remarked to Rose, 'if
dear Mrs. Lincoln was not so sure it was all right.  I like a
little diffidence in public performers, don't you?'

'I don't know that I do,' said Rose.  'A really diffident public
performer is pretty terrible--you know, a lecturer with a whole
bundle of apologies, or a singer who isn't sure where the next bar
is coming from.'

She did not quite know what she was saying, for she was longing to
get away to rescue John, to be secure from all the curious eyes
that inspected her.  Only a few weeks ago she was sure she was
completely indifferent to public opinion, and now a few country
people in this little country room embarrassed her and made her
angry.  Some of them were moving out into the garden.  She went
too, the little clergyman at her side.

'My name is Rackstraw,' he said, 'and you are Miss Clennell, I
know.  I heard all about you half an hour after your arrival at the
Hall.  There's not a man, woman or child in Keswick, or its
surroundings, who doesn't know that you are John's mother.  That
doesn't worry you, does it?'

'I don't know,' she answered.  What right had this little man to
fasten himself upon her and speak to her so intimately?  As she
stood on the lawn and looked at the quiet sun-burned hills under a
sky that was now all a milky blue, without a cloud upon it, she
prayed that she might not make a scene.  The sun was setting and it
would soon be very cold.  Everyone would be going home.  She
thought that she could hold on for the few minutes that remained.
But what she wanted to do was to turn and cry out to all of them:
'What has it to do with you whether I am John's mother, or not?'

The little man went on:

'Mrs. Parkin is very vexed at my coming to-day.  There is nothing
that she could possibly dislike more.  That's because I sometimes
drink too much and always talk too much and always say what I
mean.'

He drank too much?

Yes.  His words came a little thickly and his eyes had that faint
look of anxiety as of a dog who sometimes behaves badly in public
and is so anxious not to shame his master.

Mr. Rackstraw went on:  'I'm a clergyman, but I have no church.  I
believe in God, but no one listens to me because they all think my
habits disgraceful.  You might call me,' he continued cheerfully,
'the real scandal of the neighbourhood.'  Then his voice became
almost pleading.  'I'm not really very scandalous, but I was drunk
once publicly in my church, and now if I have a cold or a slight
indigestion, or talk in a voice so that the words are indistinct,
everyone thinks I have been drinking again.'

'Why do you tell me all this?' Rose asked.

'Because,' he answered, 'I liked you the moment I saw you.  People
will tell you all this about me and more, but I'd rather you had it
first-hand.'  Then he added:  'If you stay here and are in any kind
of trouble, remember that I'm not so foolish as I look.'

'Yes, I will,' Rose said.  And they shook hands.

Afterwards, walking home, she thought that that was a very rude
thing to have said.

The party was over.  She, Michael and John walked up the dusky
road, seeing the hills now like shadows against a white sky, in
which stars were beginning to sparkle.

'Have you enjoyed it?' Michael asked.  'Was it very tiresome?'

Rose shook her head.

'I don't know.  Enjoyment certainly isn't the word.  The only thing
I know is, I am going to stay and see it through.'

Her heart beating, she took John's hand in hers.  He let it lie
there for a little while and then very gently withdrew it.  They
walked in silence over the brow of the hill.



CHAPTER IV

LIFE AND DEATH OF JANET FAWCUS


Janet Fawcus was born on September 23rd, 1895.  The first thing she
consciously saw and remembered was a bright green curtain blowing
in an open window and a tempest of rain driving into the room.  She
lay in her cot and screamed.  Her father stood in the doorway, a
giant he seemed to her; he was bare to the waist and his face was
covered with soap, for he was shaving.  From the middle of the
white lather came a nose and two large bright eyes.  On his chest
there was hair, and round his neck a gold chain, and hanging to the
chain a gold locket which swung a little and gleamed.  He bent
down, picked her up and pressed her against his hairy chest.  She
would have screamed the louder, but she did not, because his eyes
told her that if she did something quite terrible would happen.
With one hand he closed the window.  On her cheek she felt the
white drops.  He carried her into the bath-room, sat her on a
chair.  He took off all his clothes, stepped into the bath and
stood there, shaving.  She heard the storm beating against the
window.  When he had finished shaving he lay down in the bath and
she saw only the top of his head and then suddenly two large white
knees.  When he stood up again he was pink all over.

Every detail of this she remembered; the noise of the rain, the
smell of the steam, of soap, of human skin.  She must have been
about three years of age.

When she was nine she had a governess, Miss Spanner.  When she was
ten her mother died.  She remembered her mother as a slight woman
with very pretty hair and a nervous way of saying:  'I don't know,
I'm sure.'  She connected her mother also with the Keswick church,
St. John's.  They drove there in a pony trap.  When her mother
prayed a look came into her face of passionate intensity.  Her lips
would move in prayer as though she were asking for something with
the greatest urgency.

The day of her mother's funeral there was snow on the ground, and
the black figures moving through the garden were like long thin
holes in the snow.

Miss Spanner, her governess, was a small plump woman who laughed a
great deal.  Janet came into a room unexpectedly one day and saw
her sitting on her father's knee.  Miss Spanner on the whole was
kind to her and taught her French, History and Geography very well.
But when Janet was about fourteen Miss Spanner told her all about
sex in a very unpleasant way.

After that Janet loathed her.  All this time there was Humphrey,
her brother, whom Janet adored.  Humphrey went away to school at
Giggleswick but in the holidays he was generally at home.  Everyone
loved him except his father.  Janet could not understand why her
father was always so sharp and unkind to Humphrey when he was so
charming and friendly to everyone else.  Charming, that is, if you
did what he told you.  Janet soon discovered that he must be
absolutely obeyed and she obeyed him.  Humphrey also obeyed him but
he could not do right.  Sometimes his father whipped him and after
a whipping he was for a little while kind to him--but only for a
little while.  However, Humphrey seemed to care very little about
it; he was always cheerful and happy and good-natured with
everyone.  As Janet grew up this love of Humphrey became the great
passion of her life.  When he was away she thought of him, dreamt
of him, and wrote him letters into which she poured all her
thoughts.  He never wrote to her in reply, but then boys do not
write to their sisters.

When she was nineteen years of age she fell in love with Miss Hetty
Francis, the sister of a doctor in the neighbourhood.  Hetty
Francis was over thirty and not beautiful, for she was masculine in
appearance, wore stiff white collars and a coat and waistcoat like
a man.  For a while Miss Francis was very kind to Janet, and Janet
knew some months of frenzied happiness and agitation.  Then, quite
suddenly, and for no apparent reason, Miss Francis was bored with
Janet and told her so.  Janet nearly died.  Indeed she thought a
great deal about suicide.

Miss Francis left the neighbourhood, and Janet was now austere,
reserved, cynical.  Only her brother was still adored by her.  The
rest of mankind was vile.

She had learnt by now to manage the house extremely well.  'What an
efficient woman Miss Fawcus is!' people said.  She was very severe
with the maids, who disliked and admired her.  She took some pride
in the excellence of her management but more pride in her general
scorn of mankind.  Nothing pleased her better than to discover the
little vanities, meannesses, selfishnesses of her neighbours, and
there were plenty, of course, to discover.  Yet, all the while, how
she was longing to be loved!  But not sexual love.  When she
thought of sex--and she was compelled to think of it very often
because books, newspapers and animals are for ever reminding one--
she saw her father rising, all pink from his bath, and Miss Spanner
saying 'And then, after he has taken you on his knee, he . . .'
and Hetty Francis, on their first meeting, kissing her as no one
had ever kissed her before, and Hetty Francis saying only a month
or two later:  'The truth is, dear, you're rather a bore.  I like
to be honest with everyone and it's just as well you should know
that you made me feel an awful fool the other night. . . .'

So she hated sex and all those who exalted it, wrote or sung or
pictured it.  A maid, Mary Bess, was discovered to be with child
and was dismissed with ignominy.  Mary Bess, tossing her head,
cried defiantly:  'I'd rather be me than you, miss, any day.
Anyways I knows what a man's made of.'  Her father agreed that Mary
Bess had always been a wanton.

As time went on she realized that she would one day be a bitter old
maid, and oh! that was not at all what she wanted to be.  She
wasted her heart on Humphrey who was now always in London and
seldom wrote to her.  She made once and again timid advances, now
to a child, now to a new-comer, now to someone who spoke a friendly
word to her at a party.  But she did not know how to do these
things gracefully.  Her figure was austere in its uniform tweeds,
her face stiff and unbending.  A pretty girl came once to stay at
the Parkins' and one evening at a musical party, walking in the
garden (a lovely June night), this girl poured out her heart to
Janet, how she loved a clerk in a bank and her parents would never
allow it and she had no money and neither had he and so on and so
on. . . .  Janet listened and gave advice.  Her eyes were tender,
her voice soft.  The girl cried, 'How good you are to me!  No one
has ever been so good!' and threw her arms around her and kissed
her.  Janet lay awake all that night thinking that a new life had
begun for her.  She would help the child and be her guide, friend,
mother to the two young people. . . .  Next day the girl was gone.
Janet wrote but there was no answer.

Meanwhile there was her father.  Her relations with him were very
odd, for they were twofold and the one half did not belong to the
other.

First she admired him, aided and abetted him, was his intimate.
Secondly she feared him and was a stranger to him.  She often, when
she was near to him enough to smell the rough cloth of his country
clothes, the faint aroma of soap, of tobacco, saw him rising all
pink from his bath.  Then she hated him.  She knew that he had a
constant energetic sexual life.  For many years he went away at
intervals, to London, to Manchester, to anywhere you like.  Letters
were forwarded always to the Savile Club, London.  She knew why he
went away and she imagined to herself what his mistresses might be--
plump, jolly, greedy women.  She saw him sitting with such a woman
on his knee, just as she had seen him in her childhood with Miss
Spanner.  But she fancied that he also enjoyed sexual pleasures
nearer home.  Had he not been so jolly and cheerful a man and so
popular there would, she thought, have been more said.  There had
been maids in the house who came to her quite suddenly familiar and
impertinent, but when she dismissed them her father made no
protest.

He never opposed her in any of her domestic plans, and here they
were strong allies and even friends.

He treated her in all these things like a man, a good fellow.  He
kept her up to the mark as an officer a soldier in his regiment,
and she responded to this, listening in silence to his anger when
something had been wrong.  In matters of affairs he was always
just, but in relation to himself, his past history, his inner
feelings, he was frequently unjust.  That is, he moved then in a
world that had laws and rules only for himself.  Anyone outside
that world must be often bewildered and confused.  When he was
angry it was often, it seemed, for no reason at all, or if there
were a reason it was something so trivial as to be incredible.

Janet knew that his strange and arrogant tempers (cruel, fierce,
savage) were aroused by some inner discomfort or need.  She tried
to satisfy these, but moved in the dark world of his impulses so
uncertainly that she grew cautious.

Finally the situation was this: that in the management of the
material life of the house they worked together in complete
understanding--in everything else they were strangers.

Janet lived with some vitality until Humphrey's marriage.  Five
weeks after that event she died.  Humphrey married a Miss Gertrude
Penner.  Miss Penner was the only daughter of a Birmingham
manufacturer and was wealthy.  When, after a honeymoon in Italy,
Humphrey brought her for his father's inspection, it was Humphrey
who was inspected rather than Gertrude.  Gertrude presented her
husband as though he had never been seen by any of them before,
saying:  'This is a very handsome thing that I have bought.  It
looks well, speaks well, my money will keep it smart and efficient.
Please congratulate me.'

Gertrude, who was handsome--she reminded you of a magnificent mare,
trained to the minute--was complete mistress of all situations.
Within a week of her arrival she was ordering meals and altering
the furniture.  To say that Janet hated her is to say nothing--it
was much more than hatred.  And she loved Humphrey with a deeper,
more yearning, more maternal passion than ever before.

She saw the great danger that she was in.  For a fortnight she
controlled herself admirably, then one afternoon she told Gertrude
all that she thought of her.  Humphrey was present.

He was physically obsessed by his wife, so completely absorbed by
her body that he spoke like a thin, small voice, whispering from
behind Gertrude's fine cold eyes.

So he told Janet that he would never forgive her, that she had
grown cantankerous, peevish, that everyone detested her, that he
was ashamed to possess such a sister.  Janet picked up the novel
that she had been reading, gave him a glance, almost shy, of bitter
reproach and died.  No one knew at dinner that night that she was
dead, for her ghost talked very brightly about garden parties, Mrs.
Parkin and the summer weather.  Her ghost also apologized to
Gertrude.

The years passed.  Humphrey, rid of his physical obsession, grew up
and realized that Gertrude was too equine for intimacy.  He fell
truly in love for the first time in his life with Rose Clennell,
gave her a son and died.  Gertrude married a fine horse who made
much money in the stock-market, and was very happy indeed.

Janet's ghost lived on in the dark house and managed the accounts
and the servants quite as efficiently as Janet herself had done.

It is the property of ghosts that they may return to human life
again if they can only connect.  The link, however, must be there.
One link there was and that was the country in which Janet lived.
That hung about her, with its streams, its clouds and mountain-
tops, urging that life should return.  The connection may one day
be made.  At present, no.

It was not so much that she loved this country as that she was part
of it.  She was able therefore to abuse it, and this she did, but
when she left it on a visit to cousins in Durham or for a brief
stay in London, she hungered for it as many a ghost hungers for its
home.  Above everything she resented all those who praised it.  She
would never forgive Wordsworth for his comments on daffodils, or
Dorothy because she saw the last leaf on the tree, or Coleridge
because he borrowed from Dorothy.  As to the modern ecstatics there
was murder in her heart when she saw the red car of Mr. Bauman, the
popular novelist who had a house in Newlands and was often
photographed in his Lakeland garden, tempting his dog with cake.

When someone said 'How beautiful are the Lakes!' the ghost almost
connected with life again, so bitter and intense was the
resentment.  But never quite.  Only the room grew chill, the window-
curtains blew a little in an unexpected breeze and, out of space, a
sharp spinsterish voice said:  'Oh, do you think so?  It rains
constantly, you know.  We, who live here always, find the country
monotonous often enough.'  And at those words of betrayal there was
mocking laughter in heaven.

Then John, Humphrey's boy, came to live with them for ever and
ever.  At the first sight of the baby, very white, very still, the
connection was almost made; Janet Fawcus almost lived again.  Even
now the child had so strong a look of his father.  But there was a
nurse, very efficient, very sure of herself.  The child disliked
Janet's cold hands and bellowed.  The connection was not made.

John grew and Michael Brighouse came.

In a thick orange-backed book, locked with a key, Janet scattered
in a spidery hand the white paper with a broken, ghostly monologue.
She wrote at night in her ugly bedroom, wearing her hideous
dressing-gown of brown and white squares.  'Dust all over the
dining-room mantelpiece.  Spoke to Millie about it, but dust means
nothing to her.  She revels in it.  Dust.  Dust.  Dust.  Could
write it a thousand times over, I hate it so.  Visiting Miss
Babbitt.  Water below Friar's Crag translucent green with a grey
flurry like worm-castings on surface.

'Miss Babbitt said "I won't go to St. John's again unless they
promise me 'Abide with me'."'


          30642
          10321
          24340
             36 1/2
          ------
          65339 1/2 + . . . 103
                            104
                            ---
                            207


'The more I bother about these figures for father the less he
cares.  Yet he gives me sheets of them just now.  Says it's
something to do with the town water-supply. . . .

'. . . yes, and Anthony Adverse.  I read and read the thing.  Why?
I don't know; it bores me. . . .

'John very naughty last night.  I had to look after him. . . .
Michael went to the pictures.  John said that he had fleas.
Insisted so I undressed him.  No sign of anything.  I put him to
bed then and kissed him.  He didn't like it. . . .

'I like the house when everyone is out of it.  The garden was
moonlit and sheep were crying on the fell.  In the afternoon I had
motored over to Grasmere to see Mrs. Bricknall.  She's sillier than
most.  Saw some swifts, glossy and dark, chins white.  Spring
weather--blustering with sunny rain against very dark fell. . . .

'Seemed to be out of my body altogether last night.  Old frustrated
maids go mad, they say.  Saw myself in mirror reflected six times,
the last a shadow, only the two white buttons of my sleeves
showing.  I don't care.

'Father furious temper to-night.  When angry his lips are grey, he
doubles his right fist and the knuckles are bone white.  All
because Mr. Grayson passed him in Keswick without speaking.  But
he's been rude to Mr. G. at meetings for years.  What does he
expect?

'Quite cheerful at times though.  But he laughs too loud after a
temper.  As though he were throwing something out of himself.  He
liked the new savoury with herring-roe and bacon. . . .

'Rose Clennell arrived this afternoon.  Young-looking.  Her being
here an insult. . . .'



CHAPTER V

GLORY OF THIS WORLD


That moment when, after leaving the Parkins', Rose told Michael
that she was going to see this through was, as she saw long
afterwards, one of the major crises of her life.  She knew,
directly after she had spoken, that John was more to her than
anything in this world or the next.

'More than anything in this world or the next,' she repeated to God
that night in a dream.  God was clothed in a long woollen dressing-
gown and was standing at the foot of her bed.  He had a face like
an ivory hatchet, with horns on his head like Michael Angelo's
Moses, and on the second finger of his right hand he wore a purple
signet-ring.

'I'm glad you've realized that at last,' God said.

'I can't think how I've been so stupid all these years,' Rose
observed.

'Well, now see if you can rescue him,' God said, and at once Rose
realized that on the other side of the dark-panelled wall John was
in deadly peril.

Although she could not see him she knew that he was standing, his
small hands clenched, his mouth trembling, his eyes dim with
fright.

'John!  John!' she cried.  'I'm coming!'  But she could not move.
It was as though she were tied with invisible cords to her bed.

'You've got to do more than that,' God said, and only his dressing-
gown remained, hanging in midair with the cords quivering.

On the road above Manesty, some days later, with Michael and John,
she had a wild notion that she would take John by the hand, find a
car, drive to Carlisle, catch a train and never return.  The
temptation was as real and as sudden as though it were sensual.
She stood there, looking at the Lake, her heart thumping.

The glory of the day made the absurd impulse more positive.  On a
day like this anything was possible.  The March winds had died
away.  Only birds broke the depths of silence.  Recently trees had
been cut down here and the logs lay piled on the turf.  The Lake
was held in a half-circle by larch and fir.  On the farther bank,
above sloping fields, Blencathra rose to a sharp serried edge
against a sky that was all shining light--tremulous with light.

A thin scattering of snow on the jagged ridge was opalescent.

But the colour of the Lake was the wonder.  Violets pressed down
and pressed again but alive in spite of that pressing.  You could
almost scent them from where you stood, while the naked brown of
the tree-branches was translucent, light quivering through brittle
stem upon stem.  Then a breeze, the voice of the sunlight, stirred
the flower-depths of the Lake to a surface ruffle of silver, but a
movement so slender, so sparkling that Rose held her breath lest
she should disturb it.  Quick lines of darker steel ran like whips
toward the border of sun-lit golden bank on the other side, then
scattered into a fan-shape of stars.  The breeze died back into the
sun again and all the violet-field lay still.  The colour of the
water now, as though encouraged by silence, grew deeper and deeper,
spreading in pools of purple on the blue expanse.  The cliff of the
hill towards Lodore threw out spears of ebony, along its flank, in
the shelter of its rocky hollows.

John had turned up the hill towards the Cat Bells path.  Rose said
to Michael:  'I had the maddest impulse then--to run off with John
to Carlisle and then London and never come back.'

'I'm afraid you'd have to give him up.  You resigned all your
rights.  He belongs to his grandfather.'

'There was a case the other day,' Rose said.  'Some woman gave her
little girl to another woman to look after when the child was a
baby.  Then years later she wanted her child back and the judge
said she must have her.'

'Yes, but you signed papers, didn't you?'

'The judge said a child ought never to be kept from its mother
unless the mother was cruel or abandoned or--'

She paused.  She pressed up the fell after her son.  Then she
looked back.

'This is beginning to be more than I can manage,' she said.

She came back a step or two to Michael and put her hand on his
shoulder.  'You must tell me,' she said.  'I've no one else to ask
but you.  In fact you're my only friend here.  Janet hates me, the
Colonel I don't understand.  John himself won't yield an inch.  I
must seem to you a most awful fool.  I seem so to myself.  To have
given up my baby like that, never to have tried to see him all
those years . . .'  She caught her breath.  He thought that she was
near to tears.  'I was so sure of myself.  I thought I was so wise.
I thought all our talk, in Geneva, I mean, all the things we
bothered about, so important.  I was forcing myself to be something
I wasn't.  Do you understand that, Michael?  And how could I have
been so blind?  Conceited, self-satisfied . . .  And now I don't
know WHAT I am.  I don't know what to do next.  I seem to have no
common sense.  And the Colonel.  What has he invited me here for?
What's his plan?  What's he going to do?  Michael, you've got to
help me, to advise me.  Tell me how I'm to win John, how I'm to
make him fond of me.  How am I to get him back?  Because I must
have him.  I MUST!  He's MINE!  He belongs to me and to no one else
in the world!'

Michael was bewildered.  She had seemed to him, ever since the day
of her arrival, so self-controlled, so certain of what she was
doing.  He had wondered often whether she cared for John at all
and, because he had fallen in love with her, he had excused that
lack in her by defences that, he knew now, had never been
sufficient.  The one thing that he had wanted was that she should
love John, but now that he saw how passionate that love was,
ironically he wanted her to love him as well--and he had known her
for only a week or two!

She felt his shoulder tremble under her hand and, looking at him,
saw that his face had flushed and his lip was quivering.

'What is it?' she said.

'Nothing,' he answered.  'Only I've wanted to be sure that you
loved John.  It seemed so unnatural somehow--'  He broke off.  'You
see, I admire you more than anyone I've ever known.'

'Admire ME?  Me?  But that's absurd, Michael.  Look at me!  I'm the
most miserable failure in the world--and the world's full of them.
I'm grown-up, a woman, I'm John's mother, and I haven't a spark of
character, a scrap of wisdom.  If I had I'd go to Colonel Fawcus to-
night and tell him he can do what he likes.  John's mine.  We're
leaving by the first train in the morning and he's got to make the
best of it.'  She looked away, out to the Lake.  'I believe I'm
afraid of that man.  I thought I was afraid of no one but I'm
discovering that everything I thought about myself was wrong.  I'm
not clever, not strong, not wise.  I've no character.  I'm rotten
to the core.  All the same I needn't wallow in it.  I'll do
something about it and you'll help me.'

'Of course I'll help you,' Michael said.  'I'd do anything in the
world for you.  Anything.  Murder Fawcus if you like.'

'It isn't so simple as that,' she said slowly.  'We've got to think
of something better.  And he's kind, he's friendly.  When I'm with
him I like him.  When I'm away from him I'm afraid of him.  I don't
like the house either.  It's dark under that fell--and then there's
Janet.  How she does hate me, that woman!'

'She's unhappy,' Michael said.  'And she worshipped her brother.'

'Yes.  I understand that,' Rose said.  'It's natural for her to
hate me.  I don't blame her.  But I HATE to be hated.  I want to be
liked.  I want everyone round me to say:  "Ah, that Miss Clennell.
She's a dear."  But even the servants don't like me.  Or is that
Cumbrian reserve?  But the funny thing is that in Geneva I never
cared whether anyone liked me or no.  And they did.  They said:
"Rose Clennell's delightful.  She's clever and good company and
doesn't care a damn about anything."  But now . . .  When I kiss
John good-night his cheek shrinks.  I feel it.'

'He doesn't like being kissed,' Michael said.

John ran back down the little steep winding path and joined them.

'Was that a heron,' he asked Michael, 'going into the wood just
now?  I do hope it was.'

'I didn't see it,' Michael said.

'When are we going to eat?' John asked.

'When we get to the top.'

'I'm awfully hungry.'

He didn't look at Rose.  They walked on in single file up the path.

At the top (and the top of Cat Bells is so gentle, the turf so
resilient) they saw, recumbent in the sun, a strange sight.  It was
the little clergyman, Mr. Rackstraw.

He lay on his side, reading, and one grey trouser-leg was rucked up
to the knee, showing his bare leg.  His round childlike face was
dug deeply into his book.  One arm was raised aimlessly in the air,
flourishing a twig.  You would not think a clergyman could lie on
the top of a hill in the middle of March (it was March 13th to be
exact) in Cumberland, but, in fact, the sun was so hot that even as
they looked at him he felt his leg was burning and pulled down his
trouser.  As he did so he turned round and saw them all.  'Hullo!'
he said, and waved the twig at them as though he had known them all
his life.

'Do you want us not to notice you?' asked Michael, 'because if so
we can walk on as though we had not seen you.'

'Oh no, not at all,' Mr. Rackstraw said, getting up as far as his
knees.  'For they are very nice,' he thought.  'Three most
agreeable young things AND how young they are and how young _I_ am,
for I am reading Homer with the greatest enjoyment and feeling
quite extraordinarily hungry and I could kiss that nice girl with
the greatest of pleasure although I wouldn't dream of doing so.'

He looked so very comic on his knees, for his body was short and
fat and his posterior very prominent.

But Rose was glad to see that he was looking in the best of health
to-day, very different from the bemused caller on Mrs. Parkin.  He
had evidently been drinking nothing but God's air.  His eyes were
especially bright, she noticed, like dogs' eyes, that is, lambent
and soft.  Not eyes to be trusted perhaps.  But his nose, which was
short and strong, and his mouth, which was humorous and kind, these
are to be trusted!  And the mouth is the thing.  The mouth will
tell you everything, which is why Victorian men wore beards.

She saw that he was not very tidy; there was a small tear in his
shirt to the left of his tie, and a hole in the heel of one sock.

'If you'll keep quite still, a moment, all of you,' he said, 'I'll
read you something.'  And still kneeling, he began to read, the sun
shining on his face, and the breeze blowing through his hair:


'Odysseus the while lingered before the gate of Alcinous' renowned
dwelling.  He stood there, not crossing its copper threshold,
because of the host of thoughts thronging his heart.  Indeed the
brilliance within the high-ceiled rooms of noble Alcinous was like
the sheen of sun or moon; the inner walls were copper-plated in
sections from the entering in to the furthest recesses of the
house; and the cornice which ran round them was glazed in blue.
Gates of gold closed the great house.  The door-posts which stood
up from the brazen threshold were of silver, and silver, too, was
the lintel overhead: while the handle of the door was gold.  Each
side the porch stood figures of dogs ingeniously contrived by
Hephaestus the craftsman out of gold and silver, to be ageless,
undying watch-dogs for this house of great-hearted Alcinous.

'Here and there along the walls were thrones, spaced from the
inmost part to the outer door; the feasters in the great hall after
dark were lighted by the flaring torches which golden figures of
youths, standing on well-made pedestals, held in their hands.

'From outside the court, by its entry, extends a great garden of
four acres, fenced each way.  In it flourish tall trees; pears or
pomegranates, stone fruits gaudy with their ripening load, also
sweet figs and heavy-bearing olives.  The fruit of these trees
never blights or fails to set, winter and summer, through all the
years.  A west wind blows upon them perpetually, maturing one crop
and making another.  Pear grows old upon pear and apple upon apple,
with bunch after bunch of grapes and fig after fig.  Here, too, a
fertile vineyard has been planted for the king.  A part of this
lies open to the sun, whose rays bake its grapes to raisins, while
men gather ripe grapes from the next part and in a third part tread
out the perfected vintage in wine-presses.  On one side are baby
grapes whose petals yet fall; on another the clusters empurple
towards full growth.

'Beyond the last row of trees, well-laid garden plots have been
arranged, blooming all the year with flowers.  And there are two
springs, one led throughout the orchard-ground, whilst the other
dives beneath the sill of the great court to gush out beside the
stately house: from it the citizens draw their water.

'Such were the noble gifts the gods had lavished upon the palace of
Alcinous.'


He got up from his knees, which must by now have been very stiff.
He was holding the orange-coloured book in his hand lovingly.  He
had read in a clear ringing voice as though he wanted all the
valley to hear.

'There!' he cried.  'That's the way Alcinous lived!'

Rose noticed that nothing that Mr. Rackstraw did seemed at all
strange to John.  He clearly knew him well.  All he said now was:
'Mr. Brighouse, I want to go on walking.  Can we?'

Rose said quietly:  'You and John go on for a bit, Michael.  I'll
stay with Mr. Rackstraw.  Come back in half an hour and we'll have
lunch here.'

Michael gave her one sharp look of kindness, understanding,
sympathy (it irritated her: she thought, 'I don't want his
sympathy.  If John behaves as though I'm not there I can deal with
it'), and followed John, who was already running up the slope.

Rose sat down.

'You see how my son feels about me,' she said.

He had undone a packet of sandwiches and was looking at it with
longing.

'Have I got to wait half an hour before I eat?  Must I?'

'No, of course not.'

'Will you eat with me?  I've sandwiches enough for a village.'

'No.  I'll wait till they come back,' Rose said.  'Oh, damn!'  She
clenched her hands on her lap.  'John behaves as though I don't
exist. . . .  Help me!  I want him to love me.  How can I make
him?'

Rackstraw finished his sandwich, drank half a bottle of ginger ale,
then said:  'You can't make anyone love you.  You've neglected your
job for years.  What do you expect?'

'I'm not asking for comfort,' she replied angrily.  'I don't EXPECT
anything.  I thought you'd give me good advice.'

'Why should you think so?' said Rackstraw.  'On one side are baby
grapes whose petals yet fall.  That's fine.  The orchards, the
pears, the pomegranates and the palace, shining with copper, silver
and gold.  The day as fair as this one and Nausicaa with her
maidens.  Why should I bother with you and your child?'

She got up.  'I'll catch the others up,' she said.

He looked up at her.  He was now lying on his back and eating an
apple.  'Don't be silly,' he said.  'You're very young for your
age, aren't you?'  He sat up.  'You must realize--although how can
you, for you don't know me at all?--that it's my passion to give
advice, that I've been thrown out of place after place for giving
it.  So that now when I'm asked for it I'm cautious.'

He patted the ground with his hand.  'Now sit down and be friends.
The sun's so warm and it will soon be gone.  Tell me what the
trouble is.'

She sat down, looking very unhappy.  He put his hand on hers.

'I like you very much,' he said.  'I would suggest that we pledge
our friendship if it were not that I'm not a very good friend for
you.  At least that's what people would say.  As a matter of fact
I'm an excellent friend--none better.'

She let her hand rest in his.

'Of course we'll be friends,' she said.  'I liked you the moment I
saw you at Mrs. Parkin's.'

'That's good,' he said, greatly pleased.  'But I must warn you that
to be a friend of mine won't make your job here any easier.  I must
also warn you that Colonel Fawcus abominates me.'

'Why?' Rose asked.

'For every possible reason.  Fawcus is a very strange man.  He
plays a part and it's very important for him that the scene should
be set properly.  I'm as irritating to him as Osric must have been
to Fortinbras.'

'What do you mean--"he plays a part"?'

He shook his head.  'I'm not going to tell you all I think about
Colonel Fawcus.  I shall leave you to your own discoveries.'

'Tell me this at least,' Rose said.  'Why am I afraid of him when
he is so charming and kind and apparently likes me?'

'Oh, you're afraid of him, are you?'  He shook his head.  'You
mustn't be afraid of anyone.  Never, never, never!  And I'm
surprised.  I shouldn't have thought you like that.'

'I've never been afraid of anyone before so far as I know,' Rose
said, 'but now, in that house, he seems to take my strength away.
I do what he says.'

'Do you?'  He reflected.  'Later on you won't.  Then he'll fight
you.  He won't be charming any longer.'

'Why?' asked Rose.  'What does he want?  Why did he ask me to come?
Why, when I wanted to leave the other day, did he press me to
stay?'

'You wanted to leave, did you?' Rackstraw said, looking at her
curiously.

'Why do you look at me like that?  What is there behind all this?'

'I don't know,' Rackstraw said.  'Fawcus is a tremendous egotist.
He sees himself as a kind of Napoleon, and he's been spoilt all his
life.  He was of some importance in the place once, and so long as
that was so he was satisfied.  He isn't any longer and it irks him.
You know when Napoleon invaded Russia he halted at Smolensk.  That
was before Borodino.  He ought to have waited there because Jerome
had failed in his job of separating the Russian armies.  He should
have postponed his invasion over the winter.  But he couldn't stop.
His egotism drove him on to his destruction.  Fawcus is being
driven on.  Many things that were harmless in him when he had some
power are evil in him now that he hasn't.  I expect he wants to
keep you AND the boy, for ever perhaps.  He invited you in the
first place, I expect, partly from curiosity, partly because it
amused him to show you how completely he owned your boy.  When you
came he found you very charming.  It is a new interest for him to
have power over you as well as the boy.  It has begun, you see.
You admitted it yourself.  You can't go because you find that you
love your child.  He has of course seen that.  He is a man of very
active passions which he has never learnt to control.  Had he been
a great financier or a successful Cabinet Minister or Archbishop of
Canterbury he would have been a good man.  As it is--'

Rose said at last:  'Thank you.  That's cleared up a number of
things.  I must get away with John as soon as ever I can.'

He went on:  'I'm glad you came.  It's now or never with John.
That's a very charming boy, but he's very sensitive and feels
everything passionately.  It has been bad enough for him already to
be shut away in that house as he has been.  You've no time to
waste.'

Rose nodded.

'I know.  I felt that from the first moment.  I'll do my best.'

'And don't count on my appearing your friend too openly.  As I've
told you already, it won't help you.  I AM your friend, but
remember always that I'm a reprobate old clergyman.  People laugh
and say, "There goes old Rackstraw, drunk again."  Generally I'm
not, sometimes I am.  Not badly drunk, you know, but enough to slur
my words and sometimes stumble a bit--'

'Oh, why?' Rose broke in.  'Why do you?  Now, both of us sitting
here like this, you seem so strong, so--'

'Ah--why?  That's a long story.  Nobody but God knows all about it
and, although I don't suppose for a moment that He excuses me, He
is very wise, very tolerant.  I had a living up to three years ago,
over Shap way, and I was prouder of my little church--it was a
thousand years old, part of it--and of the people in my parish than
any clergyman ever was.  They trusted me, too, and believed in me.
But others--from outside mostly--complained, so I gave it up before
they turned me out.

'My dear'--he took her hand again--'there's nothing so terrible as
the blood.  Things from outside you can fight, but when it's in
your blood, when your own blood betrays you, you're lost.  I'm lost--
but being lost,' he went on more cheerfully, 'I make the best of
it.  There are days like this, you know, and the company of the
Lord Jesus Christ Who turned water into wine.  And there's always
the chance that it may never happen again.  Here with you, this
afternoon, it seems impossible, but there will be an evening and
the door of "The Jolly Huntsman" will be open and there'll be light
and a fire and good talk and a glass of ale.  One glass and another
and another--'

'Perhaps I can help you,' Rose said.

'You do help me.  You've promised to be my friend and I shall think
of that. . . .  But one day I'll be free of this body and have work
entrusted to me where there'll be no hindrance and I'll be happy
again as I was in Little Boding.  Bring that day near, O Lord,
bring that day near, for I am still Thy faithful servant.'

They were silent and it was after a long while that Rackstraw said:
'Don't let's ever speak of this again.  I only wanted you to
understand why one of these days I may pass you without a greeting.
And don't pity me, I'm my own failure.  It's no one's fault but
mine.  Remember--I don't pity myself.  Pity's the poorest of all
human weaknesses.  And if there comes a day when you're ashamed of
me, when you don't want to see me any more, don't be distressed.
I'll understand only too well.'

They saw Michael and John coming down the hill.

Luncheon was eaten and there was desultory conversation.  Rackstraw
was now very silent.  He might even be considered sulky.  He
answered in monosyllables, and suddenly, getting up, nodded to
them, said good-bye and was off towards Robinson.

'I do hope he's not hurt,' Rose said.

'Hurt?' Michael answered.  'No.  Why should he be?  But he's
unhappy.'  He said no more because John was there.

When they started down, the sun was about to fall behind the line
of hills.  A little way down they looked back and were almost
blinded by the intense light that lay over Newlands.  One slope was
a sheet of sun-mist without shape and vivid.  It seemed to swing in
the air as they watched.  The air about them was odorous.  There
was perfect calm in the lee of the fell--not a breath stirred and,
although they were on the bare hillside, the motionless sunlit haze
seemed to draw up the scents of the valley so that they felt the
resinous sap of the trees, the liquid delicacy of the new grasses
and the deep richness of the soil itself.  The ranges across the
valley were burning with a red glow while the sky behind them grew
ever whiter as though with the intensity of its own light.
Derwentwater was silver-shielded, the islands reflected in dark
metallic circles.

Michael was walking ahead, and Rose, encouraged by her talk with
Rackstraw, but painfully alarmed as though she were attempting some
desperate assay, challenged her son.

'John, don't let's catch up Mr. Brighouse for a minute.  I want to
say something to you.'

He gave her an apprehensive look.  He was flushed and tumbled with
his exercise and the sun and air.  He reminded her of a ruffled
bird who suddenly wonders whether danger is near.

'John, I'm your mother and I love you very much.  It can't seem
that I can love you when I've been away for so long, but it's true
all the same.  I want you to tell me--quite honestly.  You wish I'd
go away again, don't you?'

Her heart ached for the distress that she was giving him.  She knew
that something he had been dreading had at last happened to him.

He murmured something that she didn't catch.

'Don't mind if it sounds rude,' she said.  'I want to know.'

He said:

'It's funny--having a mother suddenly.  Most boys have them
always.'

'Yes, I know.  It's all been my fault.  But here we are.  This is
how it is.  We can't alter it.  And I think we ought to understand
one another.'

He seemed to appreciate that she was talking to him as one grown-up
person to another.

'Are you going to be with me always?' he asked.

'I want to be,' she answered.

'Because Grandfather said you'd only come for a week or two.'

'Yes.  That's what I meant to do.  But now that I've seen you I
don't want to leave you.'

He considered that.

'I expect,' he said in a small strangled voice, 'we'll get used to
it after a bit.'

'What,' she said, 'do you find it hard to get used to?'

'I'm not good at making friends,' he said.  He spoke for a moment
like an elderly man.  'You see, I haven't been to school like other
boys.  Roger's the only friend I've got.'

'Will you try and be friends with me?' she asked.

'Yes, I'll try,' he said.

They came down into deep shadow and the world about them was
suddenly chill.

Before they joined Michael, John gave her a quick shy smile.



CHAPTER VI

JOHN LISTENING


John had been, from the very first, a listening child.  His
earliest memory had been of Black Maria snoring.  He did not know
at that time, of course, what she was called, but he did know that
she was black.  She was a large voluminous woman with hair so dark
that it shone in the candlelight, and she had on her upper lip a
faint black moustache.  He was asleep in his cot and would wake
with a start.  On the little brown table there glimmered the night-
light, and in the jumping flame of the fire Black Maria moved up
and down while from her person there issued earthquaking snores.
The sound was friendly and comfortable because it meant that
someone was there.  He could not then be attacked by the creeping
enemies from floor, wall, ceiling, that so often, when he was
alone, invaded him.  His early impulse had been to cry aloud
whenever he was in danger, but he discovered that to cry brought
dangers more actual than the unseen ones.  Hands were raised, his
body was shaken, and worst of all, the big shape with the deep deep
voice appeared towering above him to threaten--what?  He never
knew, but he held his breath and let his tears dry on his cheeks
while he stared and stared and listened and listened.

He became then very quickly a docile child.  Three figures in these
years filled his world.  The first was Black Maria, who was all
softness and yet was not truly soft.  She washed him (and oh, how
he hated that!), fed him and took him out in the perambulator.  The
words that he learnt before any others were:  'Oh, my poor
stummick!'  He did not know their meaning, but they were always
followed by a great heave of the bosom against which his head so
often reluctantly leant.  He learnt that beneath that bosom there
was a hard bony structure (for Black Maria wore stays) which it was
well to avoid.  He studied during many hours that great expanse of
sallow countenance, learning every detail of the thick strong nose,
the black wiry eyebrows, the little mound on the left cheek with
black hairs upon it, and the two chins that shook sometimes so that
you expected them to tumble off and roll on the carpet.

Black Maria was not unkind but she was not friendly either.  Years
later he was to learn that the smell so intimately connected with
her was of beer and a cheap soap, a faded and musty odour of
turpentine.

When she washed him she breathed so stertorously that he was bathed
in this odour rather than in soap and water.  When she turned him
over on her knee she breathed on to his bare back like a fiery
furnace.  She slapped his buttocks with her rough, gnarled hand.
'Drat my hair,' she said, for she had a great deal of it and it
tumbled into her eyes.

When he was older she told him stories of her astonishing life, and
most of this was obscure to him.  But there was a man called Harry
who 'fought in his cups,' and a grand piano, a cat without a tail,
and a little girl, Lucy, who was an angel from Paradise.

No, Black Maria was not unkind, but she was not kind either.

The other two figures of this early world were his Aunt Janet and
his grandfather.  His aunt, in those first years, he greatly
disliked because whenever she touched him she hurt him.  She kissed
him and his cheeks were sore for hours after.  She took him on her
knee, which, through her dress, cut his tender flesh like a knife.
He realized, too, as very young children, cats, dogs and parrots
immediately realize, that she had not the least idea of the way to
handle him.  She was nervous and ill at ease and angry with herself
for being so.

When he was grown a little older she was for ever checking him.
'Where are you going, John?'  'Don't do that, John.'  'Auntie told
you not to touch, John.'  But she had not the courage of her
decisions.  Told not to touch, he would wait and then, after a
while, do what he was forbidden.  But she had not the courage to
repeat her order.  She tried very earnestly to be affectionate, and
when he was five or so she bestowed on him some bursts of emotional
feeling.

'Come here, John, and Aunt Janet will tell you a story.'  He did
come, but instead of the story he was caught up, pressed and
hugged, his face covered with kisses.  He disliked this intensely
and soon she realized his dislike and pushed him away.  She talked
to him a great deal about his father.  Then there came a day (he
was seven years old) when at a children's party he realized very
vividly that other boys and girls had mothers.

'Where's my mother?' he asked Aunt Janet.

'She's dead,' his aunt said.

At the age of ten he learnt from Roger Parkin that his mother was
not dead but lived in Switzerland.

'Mother told me all about her,' Roger said.

'Why isn't she here with me then?' John asked.

'Because your mother didn't marry your father,' Roger said.
'You're what's called a bastard.'

He then explained all about babies to John, who until that moment
had never considered the matter.  He told John how boys behaved at
school and why three boys had been expelled from his house a year
ago.  Something very deep down in John absorbed this knowledge and
was disgusted by it.  Had he not admired and loved Roger so deeply
he would henceforth have avoided him.  But Roger was always right.

He felt, however, that his mother had done him a great wrong.  He
said to his aunt:

'Why did you tell me that my mother is dead?  She isn't.  She lives
in Switzerland.'

'She is dead as far as you are concerned,' Aunt Janet said.  'She
gave up all rights to you when you were a baby.'

'Why?' asked John.

'She did not want to be bothered about you.'

He bore his mother a deep grudge, but he thought of her very often.
What was she like?  Why had she wanted not to be bothered with him?
Other mothers cared for their children.  He was what was called a
bastard and it was apparently a disgraceful thing to be.

The third person in his life was his grandfather, and here very
deep and dangerous elements were involved, for he admired his
grandfather and longed that his grandfather should love him.  Also
he was afraid of his grandfather as he was of no one else in the
world.  The admiration he had always known; the fear had been
created in him by a scene that occurred in his ninth year.

When he was a very little boy it was made clear to him by everyone
that his grandfather was monarch of all this world.  Whatever his
grandfather did or said was right.  That great man was very kind to
him.  He would catch him up and swing him towards the ceiling, he
would ride him on his shoulder, he would give him sweets and toys
out of his pockets.  But John knew from the very earliest days that
he must do exactly what his grandfather told him; he must be very
quiet when his grandfather was near by; he must answer when he was
spoken to and be quick about it too.

Sometimes, when he was a little older, he would be taken in the car
to Keswick and he would sit very still and upright beside the great
man.  How proud he was as the people in Keswick touched their hats,
as he heard reverential voices say:  'Yes, Colonel.'  'Why,
certainly, Colonel.  It shall be done at once.'  And sometimes, on
the return journey, he would feel weary and his grandfather would
put his arm around him and hold him close, and he would lean his
head against the hairy, heather-smelling stuff of the warm coat and
would fall asleep very happily.

His grandfather seemed to him simply the grandest, biggest, most
wonderful man in the world.  He did not quite love him because
there was always a distance between them, but until his eighth
birthday he looked up to him as a king, almost as God Himself.

His life long he will never forget any detail of that afternoon.
It had been a day of misted rain.  John broke Aunt Janet's blue
glass bowl.  There are times for all of us when the Devil is very
active and uses the liver, the bowels, the weather or the second
post for his evil purposes.  On this day he crept in from the wet-
spidered garden, warmed himself in front of the fire and whispered
in Janet Fawcus' ear.  His whisper was so impertinent that to
relieve herself of his company she said, 'Now, John, don't do
that!'

The Devil then crossed to John and whispered in HIS ear so that
John, greatly to his own surprise, answered:  'I shall if I like.'
No one was more astonished than Janet, for John was seldom rude and
was almost always obedient.

As usual she was frightened at her own responsibility, but she said
very warmly:

'You naughty rude boy!  Go to your room!'

The Devil answered 'Shan't!' and no one was more surprised than
John who, in his bewildered astonishment, moved his arm and knocked
on to the floor Janet's blue bowl.  It lay there piteously in
pieces, and the Devil, having done sufficient in this stupid dull
house, went out into the wet garden again.

So then John found himself in his grandfather's room, for, thought
Janet, my beautiful blue bowl is broken, my lower gums ache again,
which is monstrously unfair, for there are no longer any teeth
there, and the child is too much for me.  I will go and lie down.

In his grandfather's room John felt a sudden terror.  Although
sensitive and nervous, he was not a coward.  He had also, quietly
within himself, a sense of humour which, on many occasions, had
saved desperate situations.  But now, in a moment of comprehension,
he realized that he was in serious danger.  As always at any crisis
he began to listen.

First he heard the thin rain weeping against the window.  Sometimes
rain was triumphant, sometimes querulous, sometimes angry.  To-day
it was simply laying its long grey fingers on the window-pane and
drearily weeping.  In the fireplace there was the spit and stutter
of fading coals.  Amongst the books on the shelves there was a busy
murmur of anticipation.  Something is going to happen!  Something
is going to happen!  We are glad that we are here to see!  He
realized that his grandfather was speaking to him.  Then he looked
up into his face.  What he saw there frightened him so badly that
his heart jumped into his throat.  For his grandfather seemed to
him to have swollen to twice his usual size so that he blocked out
the windows and the dark garden.  Staring out of this great body
were two cold eyes.  These eyes looked at John as though they would
catch him up and drag him in, away, under the eyebrows into some
dreadful confused darkness.

'Well, what have you to say for yourself?  Can't you speak?'  The
voice did not seem to be his grandfather's voice: it was rich,
deep, slow--it had in it the purring accent of a cat that is being
stroked by an understanding hand.

John said that he was very sorry and that he hadn't intended to
knock over the blue bowl.  He heard the books remark that that was
not enough.  Oh, not nearly enough!  He must think of something
better than that. . . .

His grandfather's hand lifted and touched his shoulder.

'Sorry is not enough.  What has happened to you lately, John?
You're not the good boy you used to be.  I'm afraid you must be
taught a lesson.'  His grandfather went to the corner of the room
and returned with a small riding-whip.  He told John to take down
his trousers.  John had never been beaten before and he felt now a
fear much greater than belonged to the beating.

He did not then know what it was he felt, but later, looking back
and facing it, he knew that he had been conscious of a dreadful
shame as though a thousand eyes were watching him lose the privacy
of his body.

He would have run naked into Keswick (if it were warm enough and
nobody objected).  But now he stood, his trousers about his ankles
and the low-lying malicious coals of the fire hissing contempt.

He shuffled to the table and bent over it as he was ordered.  He
set his teeth and made no sound or movement at the first two blows.
At the third he cried out, at the fifth he was sobbing in agony of
spirit while with one hand he guarded his eyes and with the other
fumblingly tried to draw up his trousers.

His grandfather, who was now kind, assisted him.  Then he drew him
to him, held him close and comforted him.

'No more shall be said of this,' his grandfather said.  'Be a good
boy.  We all love you.  We all love you very much indeed.'

After this he listened more intently than before because there were
enemies about.  He was not at all an unhappy boy, but now he was
reserved, cautious, very careful, and his fear of his grandfather
never left him.  The admiration, the desire to be loved by him was
as constant as ever, but he was afraid, not because he had been
whipped but because of the eyes that had looked at him before the
whipping.  Nevertheless he was on the whole a very happy boy.
Michael Brighouse came, and before Michael there had begun his
friendship with Roger Parkin.

It was at a children's party in Keswick that John first saw Roger.
He worshipped at the first instant of beholding.  Roger was one of
those boys determined to command, and as in this world nine out of
ten persons are not sure what they want, a strong determination
generally has its way.  Roger had all the qualities of the
preordained boss: he was healthy, happy, conceited, possessive,
unaware of his limitations, clear-headed, supremely self-confident.
He always knew what he wanted and was regardless of the feelings of
others.

All through his life he would have what he wanted.  He would not
have that love and devotion that is given only to the humble of
heart, but he would never be aware that he had missed anything.  He
was a very good-looking boy, dark and flashing, strong of body and
finely active.

When it came to a game in which sides were chosen, Roger, who was
one of the captains, chose, to the general surprise, young John.

'Here, you!  I'll have you!  What's your name?'

'John Fawcus.'

'All right.  Can you run?'

'Yes,' said John, who felt, in this triumphant moment, that he
could do anything.  He was in fact quick and adroit, and after the
victory Roger said:

'That was grand.  WHAT do you say your name is?'

'John Fawcus.'

'Colonel Fawcus' grandson?  That's fine!  We've come to live near
you.'

The love of one boy for another is considered a dangerous subject
for everyone, but it is in fact very often the purest, most
selfless, most heroic emotion that many men will ever know.  John
had never had anyone or anything to love until now, so he gave
himself, body and soul, to this worship.  Roger was away at school
for a large part of the year, so that John did not see him very
often.  The flame burnt the more brightly.  Also John said nothing
to anybody.

Roger was not a bad boy nor a heartless.  He thought young Fawcus a
very decent kid, a bit soft though.  He thought that he was being
generous in his efforts to harden him, and he made John run, fight,
and perform many feats of endurance.  There were, for a year or
two, no other boys in the neighbourhood of especial interest, so
John went often to the Parkins'.  Roger liked to talk a great deal
about himself, and as with all masters of men he was sure that no
detail of his life could be uninteresting.  So John listened and
worshipped.

'I wish I could go to your school,' John said one day with a sigh.

'Oh, well, you wouldn't see much of me if you did,' Roger answered.
'I shall be having a fag soon though.  Perhaps you'd be my fag.'

'Oh, I should love that!' John said, and indeed he thought that he
would.

John's love was the greatest of all kinds of love--that of the
imagination.  He made Roger into a glorious creature and round this
figure built a beautiful world of service.  He asked for nothing
but to serve.  In this world he went to Roger's school; he was his
fag.  There was nothing that he did not do for him.  And Roger was
indeed glorious.  He was captain of cricket, football, hockey,
everything.  He did not notice John very often, but John was always
there, and sometimes Roger said:  'That's fine, John.  Thank you.'
John knew nothing about school except from the things that Roger
told him and from the books that he read--Tom Brown, The Cock House
at Fellsgarth, The Hill--but it was clear to him that in any and
every circumstance he would be there, ready for every sacrifice.
While Roger was away he tried to do the things that Roger would
wish him to do--he ran, he threw balls, he did exercises.  But he
had no one with whom to play and it was difficult alone.

'Shall I be going to school soon?' he asked his grandfather.

'Of course.  Of course.'

He did not dare to ask whether he would be going to Roger's school.

It was now that his grandfather began to take a closer interest in
him, and in some ways it was a strange interest.

'What you need,' said his grandfather, 'is discipline.  We will
have some lessons.'

What happened was that he went to his grandfather's room, the door
was shut and the discipline began.

'Look at me,' said the Colonel, but in a very kindly way.  He was
in fact smiling.  John looked and saw this broad, stout, fresh
body, as strong as a tree, as confident as an eagle, as clean as a
lemon.  In the pocket of his russet-coloured jacket there would be
a silk handkerchief, brown with white spots.  He took off his coat
and his waistcoat.  John was instructed to do the same.

'Now bend.  Touch your toes. . . .  No, without bending your knees.
See.  Look at me,' and the Colonel bent, his shoulders seeming ever
broader and broader, and touched the toes of his shining brown
shoes.

'Do it twelve times.'

John did it twelve times and the Colonel did it twelve times.

'You're out of breath.  That's absurd.  Look at me.'

John looked.

'Come here.  Put your hand here and feel my heart.'  John did so.
'Now do you see?  It's absolutely steady.'  As a matter of fact it
was not, but John did not say so.

He had to do stranger things than this.

'Go into the corner and stand with your face to the wall.  No.  I'm
not punishing you.  I'm just seeing how obedient you are.'

It was queer indeed standing with your face to the wall because
after a very short time you were sure that many unusual things were
happening behind your back.  John did not know what the Colonel was
doing.

'Now,' said the Colonel in his rich, deep, happy voice.  'Don't you
turn round, whatever happens.'

There was absolute silence in the room except for the ticking of
the clock and, very often, the noise of the wind down the chimney.
Where was the Colonel?  Was he just behind you?  Had he crept up on
stockinged feet?  (He did this once.)  Would his hand suddenly
descend on your shoulder?  Had he left the room and if he had would
John remain standing there for ever and ever?  Was there someone
ELSE in the room (for such ideas do occur to you when you have been
staring at a dark-green wallpaper for, so it seems, an eternity)
and what was this other person like?  Was he not a LITTLE man with
a bald brown head like a geography globe and long brown fingers?
Once John turned round before leave had been given, and the Colonel
was angry.

'Come here,' he said.  'Kneel down.  Lay your head on my knee.'
John did so.  Something cold touched the back of his neck.  It was
only the ivory paper-knife with the silver head, but it had been
very terrifying.

'Do you want to obey me, John?'

'Yes, Grandfather.'

'Do you see how people look up to me and respect me and do what I
tell them?'

'Yes, Grandfather.'

'Do you love me?'

'Yes, Grandfather.'

'Very well, then.'

This room of the Colonel's became a very special place to John with
an atmosphere all its own.

It had high tall windows, and beyond these the garden and the fell
ran as though they were a continuation of the room, as though, in
fact, there was no glass.  What happened in the garden belonged to
the room, and John had often noticed that very peculiar things
happened in the garden when he was with his grandfather.  From
these windows the trees seemed to be twice as alive as from any
others, and a dog, a strange dog, would run along the garden path
and leap the stone wall on to the fell.  A fat black cat would
crouch on the flower-bed watching a bird.  Sudden winds would rise
and the branches would shake like mad, a mist would come down the
fell, enveloping the garden, and through the mist a faint sun would
glimmer like a turnip-lantern and everything would appear double.

It was only, of course, that the windows were large and so high
that the sky became part of the room as well as the garden and the
fell.

Inside the room there were certain objects that affected John very
strongly.  One was a bust in some pale material.  The Colonel said
it was a bust of Julius Caesar.  It had naked shoulders and blind
eyes and a long, sneering nose.  Then there was the rug in front of
the fire with a tiger's head.  Not only was this head very easy to
trip over but the teeth snarled and grinned both at the same time.
In general the room contained very little furniture, but it had the
atmosphere of being very full of something.  What it was full of,
so far as John was concerned, was the Colonel.


On the whole, however, up to this time things had gone well with
John.  He loved the country in which he was, although as yet it
seemed to him chiefly a place to play in, but because he had been
here most of his life he had absorbed the fells, the streams, the
Lake, like food that nourished his soul and body.  Nobody was
unkind, he had Roger to worship, and soon he was sure he would be
going to school.

Then Michael Brighouse came.  John liked Michael well enough but
formed no intimacy with him.  He worked at his lessons and found
History, Geography, English, easy.  But he was quite hopeless at
anything to do with Mathematics and Science.  These were also the
subjects at which Michael was not very clever.

Then two more things happened.  One was the arrival in the district
of a boy.  Bill Finch was his name and he was the son of a retired
colonel who bought a house near Friar's Crag.  Bill Finch was the
same age as Roger, he was dark, stocky, very strong.  Roger took to
him at once and John hated him.  He despised and mocked at John.

The other thing was that one day Michael said to him:

'John, I have some news for you.  Your mother is coming to stay
with us.'

'My mother!'

'Yes.'

'But Aunt Janet said she was never to see me again.'

'All the same she's coming.'

John drew a deep breath.

'Will she be here long?'

'A week or two, I expect.'

His delicate sensitive face was flushed and his body trembling.

'I don't want to see her.  Roger says she made me a bastard.'


The moment when, on Cat Bells, he smiled at his mother marked the
end of the prelude to the events that followed.


END OF PART I




PART II

THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY





CHAPTER VII

THE PARTY RETURNED


'The North!  The North!  I am taken prisoner by the North!  This
room is like a refrigerator,' Rose thought, trying to brush her
hair in front of the glass, but her hands were so cold that the
brushes trembled in them.  'And yet this is the beginning of April,
and in March we had those warm opalescent days of gold mist and the
Lake filled with violets and the trees odorous.  Now there is snow
on Skiddaw again and the daffodils are blowing in the wind.'

When, a little later, pressing her cold feet about the hot-water
bottle, she tumbled into an uneasy sleep, it was the North who
appeared to her, naked and flourishing a club, with long blue-
shadowed icicles on his chin.  She surrendered without an instant's
resistance, for behind him there was a landscape that seemed to her
of the very noblest and most heroic.  Hills, like mounds covering
the historic dead, tossed about the expanse of country, and at the
edge of it a grey ugly sea sulked over muddy flats.

But the plain was pierced with flashes of sun that tore thick
clouds like a sword; scattered about the plain were turreted
strongholds, little keeps of grey stone at whose feet ran brown
horseback-coloured turbulent streams.  About the keeps there was
constant battle, torches flaring, men in armour mounting and
falling while the peasants prayed to the Virgin Mary in little
strong churches whose bells clanged in the wind.

The heavy grey clouds drove above the moor, and the wind tugged at
tree-clumps, isolated and sturdy, while the men from the Border
drove the cattle towards Scotland and the village flamed against
the sky. . . .

This is the North and it has no weakness.  This is the North and it
has no confined closeness.  'This is the North,' thought Rose,
suddenly waking and hearing the rain beat against the glass.  'I
shall never be able to live in the South again. . . .'  She turned
on the electric light.  'This house is always worst at night.  I
wish I had someone sleeping with me for nothing but reassurance and
consolation, so that I do not always think that there's someone out
there in the rain tapping at the window.'

She could not sleep.  The cold crept about the room, not entering
the bed with her but breathing little chill wisps of discomfort now
on her forehead, now on the tip of her nose, now on the hand that
she stretched towards Mr. Sackville-West's Sun in Capricorn on the
little rickety table with a broken leg.

'That's Janet's fault and mine because I forget to tell her.  No,
she is a perfect housekeeper and I like her.  The appalling thing
is that I like her and she detests me.  She has a lot of Humphrey
about her.  She is the part of Humphrey that was frustrated.'

WHAT was frustrated in him?  His wife had not given him what he
wanted, nor, she was beginning to perceive just before he died, was
she herself all that he wanted.  No woman is all that any man
wants, and wise is the wife or mistress who perceives it.  Well,
then--where does the lack lie?  'Perhaps,' she thought in the misty
confusion that heralds the return of sleep, 'I can learn from
Janet.  I can make up to her for all that Humphrey missed.

'Yet he loved me.  He loved me with every day more dearly.  So he
would put his arm about me and touch my breast . . . and into his
arms she fell, her last act, before that happy surrender, to switch
off the light. . . .

So, on the afternoon of the next day, she said:

'Janet, I want us to be friends.'  And then before the other could
speak she went on:  'No, no.  Wait a moment.  Don't go.  Soon you
shall tell me all the horrid things you can think of.  No, don't
switch on the light.  The firelight's enough.  Listen--this is
important--for you as well as myself.

'Perhaps we can't be friends.  I know you're thinking that that's
the most impossible thing that could ever happen.  But I want you
to remember this.  We have something in common.  We shall always
have.  We both loved Humphrey.  I think it's been silly, all these
weeks in the same house and neither of us saying a word.  I
understand exactly what you must feel.  In your place I'd feel the
same, but it's wasted emotion.  It is indeed.  Humphrey's gone, but
if he were here he'd want us to be friends.  You know he would.
Don't you remember how he hated rows, how he did everything always
to avoid them?  I don't want to be sentimental.  I'm not really a
sentimental person at all, but I can't help liking you, admiring
you.  It would probably be easier for me if I didn't.  But there it
is.  On my side there's nothing to be done about it.  Whatever YOU
do, that can't change.'

Janet, who had risen as though she were leaving the room, turned
back.

'I don't care what you feel.  It's a disgrace that you should be
here.  The sooner you go, the better for everyone.'

'Why is it a disgrace?' Rose asked.  'It's true that Humphrey and I
weren't married, but we would have been if we could.  If we HAD
been, if Humphrey had lived and we had come here to stay, you and I
would have been friends--I know we would.  Is it simply because we
weren't married?'

'We would never have been friends.  Never, never!' Janet said
quickly, drawing her breath as though she had been running.  'Now
let me tell you something.  You invited me to be truthful, so I
will be.  You are the type of modern woman I despise--greedy,
selfish, vain.  You have come here into a house that you should be
ashamed to enter.  You gave up your baby without a care just
because you couldn't be bothered with it.  You say you loved
Humphrey--you never thought that it was his child when you
surrendered it.  And now when you see that John has grown into a
charming little boy you want to have him back again, although in
all these years you have never thought of him but have led your own
selfish self-satisfied life.'

She paused.  She had never been so rude to anyone before.  But the
woman had asked for it.

'Yes,' Rose said quietly, 'I can see how it must seem to you just
like that, but it isn't so really.  When Humphrey died I hadn't a
penny.  I didn't know whether I'd get a job and I'll tell you
frankly that I was frightened for John.  It isn't true that I
didn't love him, but I was very young and to give John up seemed to
make him safe for ever.  It isn't true that I didn't think of him.
I was always thinking of him, but I wanted to keep my part of the
bargain.  I knew that if I once saw him again it would make it
terribly hard.  And it has--it's made it impossible.  I can't leave
John now.  I don't know what his grandfather will do, but somehow I
must see him, must keep in touch with him.'  She stopped.  She was
afraid of what she might say.

'You've left it too late,' Janet said grimly.  'You've been away
from him too long.  He's grown used to having no mother.'

'But that can't prevent what _I_ feel!' Rose cried.  'If I love him
I love him whatever he may do or say.  And it's the same with you.
If I like you I like you.  You can't HELP my liking you!

'Oh, you won't like me long,' Janet said.  'I'll see to that!' and
she left the room.

This was to be an unusual afternoon for Rose.  A minute after
Janet's departure Michael looked in.

'Oh, I beg your pardon.  I thought John might be here.'

'No.  He isn't.  Can I do anything?'

It was a relief to her just then that here at least was someone who
liked her.  He was only a boy.  Her feeling for him was all
maternal.  In fact she felt for him rather as he felt for herself,
always a good ground for friendship.

'Come in a minute.  Are you so busy?'

'No, I'm not . . . .'  He came forward, hesitating, smiling.  'It's
only that I wondered where John was.'  He stood looking at her.

'Sit down,' Rose said, 'and let's be comfortable.'

He sat down.  'Have you heard?' he asked.  'Has the Colonel told
you?  He's going to give a party.'

'A party?  Oh dear! . . .'

'Yes.  A children's party.  He's never done such a thing before--
since I've been here anyway.'

'Why is he?' Rose asked.

'I don't know.  Who can tell why the Colonel does anything?  All he
says is that it's for John to return some of the kindness.'

'Have people been so kind?'

'The Colonel never seemed to think so.  It's your doing, I expect.'

'Mine?  Oh, I hope not!  I've nothing to do with the Colonel's
mind.'

'Of course you have.  And mine.  And John's.  And Miss Fawcus'.'

'Yours?' Rose asked, smiling.

He leant forward, looking at her intently.

'I'm in love with you.  I've told you already.  I've never been in
love with anyone before and now I really don't know what to do
about it.  Look here!  I have to know!  Do you care for me at all?--
a little bit?  Are there perhaps the signs of the beginning of
something?  Just the beginning?'

She thought that she would treat this lightly although she was
deeply moved.

'This is a remarkable afternoon,' she said.  'First someone comes
in and tells me that she hates me; then someone comes and tells me
that he loves me.  What is it about this place?  And there was
never anyone more ordinary.  All those years in Geneva--'

'No--please,' he said.

'Michael, dear.'  She looked at him with a tenderness that in the
circumstances he found maddening.  'I'm not in love with anyone--
I've never been in love except once, and that was Humphrey.
Besides, here, just now, I can think of only one thing and that is
John.  Anyway, Michael, I'd never be the woman for YOU!  I'm too
old, too unsatisfactory in every way.  I think that at this
particular moment I'm feeling my inferiority more than is normal.
Janet Fawcus has just been VERY straightforward about my character
and my abilities generally.  But in any case it's true.  You've got
to marry someone better than me, Michael--much, much better.'

'One doesn't marry people because they're perfect,' Michael said.

'No.  Certainly not for THAT reason, although for almost every
other.  Listen.  I'm proud that you care for me and I can't tell
you what a help it is to me just now and in this very odd place.
I'm a bit frightened, I'll tell you frankly, and now I know that
I've got a friend who'll be there whatever happens.'

'I'll do anything--anything!' Michael breathed.  But he went on:
'What am I to do about loving you?  How am I to stop it, stop
feeling like this, I mean, so that my heart beats like a hammer
every time I see you and I lie awake thinking and I want to touch
you, be near you--?'

'Think of John,' she said quickly, 'as I'm doing.  Let's
concentrate on that together, both of us.  And then, when this is
over, you'll find that you don't think of me romantically any more,
but only that we're splendid friends, and John and I will come to
your wedding. . . .  No, really, I mean it.  If I did love you--
which I don't and never will--I wouldn't be able, here and now, to
think about it.  You've got to help me to do two things--to win
John over and then to get him away--'

'To get him away?  To steal him, do you mean?  You'd only have to
give him up again.'

'Perhaps I wouldn't have to.  Anyway it's not come to that yet.
Perhaps it won't ever.  The Colonel perhaps will understand.  We'll
come to some arrangement. . . .'

She suddenly discovered that they were whispering together.  There
was only the light of the fire in the room, which, as on the
afternoon of her arrival, seemed to be stirring with little sounds,
tinklings, rustlings, the movement of curtains, the whisper of
leaves or of rain.

'What I mean,' Rose said, 'is--'

The door opened and Colonel Fawcus came in.

'Hullo, you two!' he said cheerfully.  'Sitting in the dark?  I'll
leave it like that.  It's damned cosy.'

He plunged into the old rose-coloured arm-chair near the fire.  He
stretched out his strong legs and leaned back, yawning, his hands
clasped behind his head.

'What are you two talking about?' he asked.  'Secrets?'

'Oh no,' Michael said.  'I was telling Rose about the party.'

'Ah, the party.  Don't you think it's a good idea, Rose?'

'It's very kind of you to take the trouble to have the house
upset.'

'Trouble be blowed!  It's yourself and Janet will have the trouble.
It's time we returned some of their kindness to John.  Mrs. Parkin,
for instance, has been enormously kind--enormously kind.  Although
she's done it partly out of courtesy to me, of course.'

'Yes, I know.  John will be very proud.'

'There are a dozen children or more we can ask.  If it's fine they
can play in the garden.'

Then Rose was conscious of something.  She was aware that Colonel
Fawcus wished Michael to leave the room and was furious with him
because he did not go.

She was not sure how it was that she was so certain of this, except
that perhaps the fire, which had leapt into a new energy, was
illuminating his face and it stood out so strongly that it seemed
to be close to hers.  She could see his little veins that would one
day be purple and the kindly wrinkles at the corners of the eyes.
Yes, he was kindly enough but at that moment was directing an
energy of force against Michael that filled the room as though with
the sinister rumble of drums.

But the boy was entirely unaware of it and after five minutes of
this it seemed to her that the Colonel would soon attempt a
physical assault.  For the first time she realized fully the power,
physical and psychical, that he possessed.

He made a movement.  She almost cried out in fear.  But he only
said, very quietly:  'You'd better go and see what John's doing,
Michael.'

'Yes, sir,' Michael said, and went out.


'I hope you're happy here now,' said the Colonel.  'You worried me
by what you said the other day.  You mustn't think of going--unless
you're bored.'

'Oh, bored!' said Rose, laughing.  'No, that's the last thing I
am.'

'That's right,' he said comfortably, as though everything were
settled.  'You don't understand me yet--but you will--you certainly
will.'

'No, I don't quite,' Rose said.

'What don't you understand?' he asked, stretching his powerful
thighs, spreading himself in the chair.

'For one thing, as I've told you many times already, I don't know
why you asked me here: now when I am here, why you want to keep
me.'

'Ah,' he said, smiling.  'I'm rather an unusual man.  You don't
mind my talking about myself for a moment, do you?'

'No.  Of course not,' said Rose.

'I'm a man of tremendous energy and I've never had the chance to do
all I might.  Of course I've been an influence in the place--a
greater influence than you've any idea of.  I might say without
exaggeration that almost everything here is what it is because of
my influence.  Do you think that very arrogant?  Well, perhaps I AM
arrogant.  I wouldn't say this to most people, of course, but with
you I can be frank, so I'll tell you that my power is tremendous
and it reaches maybe a great deal further than locally.  Did you
see my letter in The Times the other day about War and Peace?  No.
I won't bother you with it now, but it had its effect, undoubtedly
it had its effect.  Men seem important on the surface--Cabinet
Ministers, writers, industrialists--but often it's the men BEHIND
the men in power who affect the country's destinies.  And even in
so remote a place as this, one's working.  A word here, a word
there.  But it isn't enough.  You may be surprised one day at the
turn events will take.'

'Does he really think,' she considered, looking at him, 'that he
has power?  Is he cheating himself?  And power over whom?'

While he had been speaking he had gradually sat upright, then
forward in his chair until at last he was leaning towards her, his
big body thrust at her, his eyes willing hers as though, in another
moment, he would say:  'Come here, Rose.  Do what I tell you.'

The room seemed now very close and hot.  She even wondered
fantastically whether his gaze was not hypnotizing her, and she
looked down and then away at the fire.

'Do you want power so much?' she asked.

'Yes,' he said.  'I want it.  I must have it, and I've got it.'
The tone of his voice had changed: it was heavy with a kind of
sergeant-major thud in it.  'Right wheel!  Right wheel!'

'You see,' he went on, 'to take a small example, how I've
influenced YOU--even in this short time.  You came for only a day
or two.  But now--who knows how long you'll remain?'

'If I do stay,' she wanted to cry, 'it's not because of you but
because of John,' but she was aware how dangerous that would be.
The sense of danger to John and herself was quite new to her.  She
had never been afraid of anyone in her life before.

He got up.  'I must go on with my work.'  He stood over her.  He
put his hand on her shoulder.  'I'm so glad that we are friends,'
he said.


When John heard about the party he was greatly excited.

In his own private world of imagination he often saw himself as an
opulent and exultant host.  He was owner of a wonderful house with
high white pillars, a bell-tower and a marble staircase and a
gigantic dovecote.  In front of this mansion stretched lawns with
lakes, rivers and a grove of trees.  Behind the house was a great
garden and on the cherry-coloured walls nectarines and peaches
ripened.  There were peacocks and dogs and horses: he stood on the
steps while the lawns shimmered in the sun, welcoming his guests,
the principal of them being Roger.

'By Jove!' Roger would say, 'I didn't know you had a place like
this!'

'It's all yours, Roger,' John would answer, 'to do what you like
with.  You can live here and ride and hunt and play tennis and
football and eat as much as you like.'

He and Roger together then entertained the guests, and the lawns
were scattered with the most gracious and beautiful figures.  In
the evening there was a magnificent supper and footmen with
splendid calves carried in superb dishes.  The long tables in the
great hall were illuminated with branching silver candlesticks, and
at last, when everyone had eaten enough, Roger rose and proposed
John's health.

'Our host!' he cried.  'My best friend, the man whose kindness and
loyalty I can never repay!'  Everyone drank his health.  Then the
orchestra played, there was dancing, and, beyond the windows, the
moon rose and bathed the world in her silver light.

Now, with Rump at his side, John considered reality.  It was a pity
that Rump was not more of a social dog, was indeed at his very
worst in any fine society.  Rump alone with John, as he now was,
appeared perfectly happy and content, sitting on his hinder part
surveying the world with an imbecile look of satisfaction on his
face, one ear down and one ear up, unapprehensive and sedate.  But
let anyone in authority appear and he became at once sycophantic,
obsequious, low-born and ill-bred.  That was why John both loved
and despised him, for his sympathies were immediately aroused for
anyone who was frightened.  Himself he knew what those terrors were
and longed for the time when no one could give his heart that twist
of alarm, when he would no longer start at an angry voice nor watch
with apprehension an opening door.

This made him think of his grandfather.  Why was his grandfather
giving this party?  He had never given one before.  Was it because
of his mother?  And at that thought he stirred uneasily, pulling
Rump closer to him, moving restlessly his eyes.

He wished that his mother would go away.  Nothing had been the same
since she had come.  It was not that he disliked her but rather
that she was a strange mysterious figure to him.  Ever since she
had spoken to him on Cat Bells he had wondered what he ought to do
about her.  She wanted him to love her but he did not, he could
not.  He loved no one but Roger.  Women in any case were not to be
loved, because they had nothing about them to make them lovable.
Black Maria, Aunt Janet, Mrs. Parkin--who would wish to be with
them if he need not?  They did nothing well, were always in the
way, were always forbidding and objecting and complaining.

Yet there was something about his mother that he could not quite
dismiss.  No one had ever before asked for his affection and,
because his nature was generous, he always wanted to give if he
were asked.  He liked her face, her voice, yet he wished to
disappear when he saw her coming.  Everything had been settled
before her arrival.  There were his grandfather, Aunt Janet, Mr.
Brighouse, and soon he would be going to school.  But now
everything was unsettled.  There was a stranger in the house and
with her an atmosphere of drama as though something unusual might
at any moment occur.  Then his aunt said that his mother had been
wicked.  She did not LOOK as though she had been, but then his aunt
must know.  On the other hand his grandfather and Mr. Brighouse
liked her.

He sighed.  What was going to happen?  WAS he going to school?  And
this new boy Finch, who was Roger's friend, what about him?  John
hated him, and the thought of this hatred made him as uncomfortable
and miserable as though the room had become suddenly darkened and
filled with grey cloud.  Meanwhile there was the party.  He was
immediately happy again.  There would be games and a splendid tea
although there would not be peacocks and no one would drink his
health.  His heart warmed towards his grandfather who was so good
to him, although only last evening he had made him march up and
down twenty times in the study, stopping at the word of command and
saluting as though his grandfather were general of an army.  He
sighed again.  Would they NEVER send him to school?  He asked Rump,
but Rump had no answer.


On the day of the party it poured with rain.  The landscape wrapped
itself in its shabby cloak like a charwoman going home, then came
close to the house and peered in at the windows.  Everything must
be indoors.  Clear the drawing-room for games.  There can be hide-
and-seek around the house.  Tea in the dining-room.

The house, although apparently spacious, was not so in reality.
Old age occupied so much of it.  As it does in many places, old
age, if given permission, is easily vain and spreads itself
complacently.  So it was here; prowling black furniture, four-
posters, and the large oak chest with the arms of Sir Herbert
Malmesbury . . . a good house, though, for hide-and-seek.

There would, it was thought, be eleven children besides John--one
Parkin, two Meadows, three Thompson-Wests, two Bullens, one
Marberry and two Lazenbys.  The Colonel was greatly pleased that
Lady Thompson-West permitted her treasures to drink his tea and eat
his cake (the plainer sort, for the Thompson-Wests were always on
diet).  Lady Thompson-West was a widow and took from April to
October a large gloomy tree-ridden house under Skiddaw.  Her
children were brought up with so much care that there was no
disease possible for children that they did not catch.  The
children of Dr. Meadows were boisterous and noisy, the two Bullens
were phlegmatic and greedy, the Marberry boy short-sighted and
mathematical, the Lazenbys jolly and stupid.

Mrs. Parkin, Roger as her guard, arrived easily first.  Out of the
rain she emerged, bright-eyed, eager, and looking around for the
Thompson-West children because for so long she had been striving to
add their mother to her circle.

'Well, now, isn't this nice?  Isn't this splendid?  Fancy you
giving a party, Colonel!  You DID surprise me!  And yet why not?
Why not indeed?  Lady Thompson-West here yet?  No?  Rain may be too
much for her children?  Oh, I hope not!  I hope not indeed!  I
remember she was at the Trials at Threlkeld with her little girl in
much worse weather than this.  Well, perhaps not WORSE than this,
because it IS pouring, is it not?  Oh no, too kind!  I shall be
perfectly happy here--I like to move about, you know.  Who else is
coming?  The Bullens?  Why, that's marvellous of you, Colonel,
because we are QUITE agreed about Mrs. Bullen, aren't we?  Yes, I
know.  We'll keep it to ourselves.  Ah, Miss Clennell!  How
charming you're looking!  Don't mind an old woman.  I must say what
I think.  About the seventeenth.  I sent you a note.  Only a little
music and PERHAPS a discussion.  Would you MIND a discussion?
Something about the Greeks and Romans, we thought.  Which has meant
the most to world civilization?  Ah, there are the Lazenbys, poor
things.  How very wet they look!  Yes, Mrs. Lazenby's father was a
bookmaker, I believe, and did extremely well. . . .  No, no, how
wicked of you!  I meant nothing of the kind!'

Rose had neither looked nor said anything at all, but it was one of
Mrs. Parkin's traits to father some of her more malicious
criticisms on an innocent audience and proclaim loudly, thereafter,
the false parentage.  Rose had been scarcely aware of Mrs. Parkin's
pleasant chatter, for all her attention was absorbed by John's
attitude to young Roger.

She had seen her son, of whose every thought and movement she
seemed now to be part, transformed by Roger's entrance.  The great
moment of the party had occurred for him when, as yet, it was
scarcely begun.

'Hullo, John!' she heard Roger say.  What a good-looking boy and
how supremely confident!  What a child, a baby almost, John seemed
beside him with the tuft of hair sticking up on the back of his
head, his gentle unformed colouring--and how beautifully he does
it, this difficult business of being host, how Humphrey's blood
comes out in him and how unordinary he is with his nervous
sensitiveness, his perception of so much that is going on around
him without his knowing that he perceives it!

'Hullo, Roger!'

There was a pause.

'We're the first, aren't we?'

'Yes.'

'Hope you don't mind.  I told mother we'd be early.'

'Oh no, I'm jolly glad!'

The Colonel was there with his white hair, his rosy cheeks, his
beaming friendliness, and even as he beamed on the Parkins so did
his portrait on the wall beam down upon him.  The room seemed to be
filled with beaming Colonels.

'How do you do, sir?  Very jolly of you to ask me!' Roger was quite
grown-up in his neatness, his aplomb, his self-confidence.

'Not at all!  Not at all!  Of course I must ask John's best friend.
Glad to have you, my boy.  How's school?'

'All right, I think, sir.'

'That's good!  That's good!'

John was standing there, staring at his friend.  Rose thought:
'When he is older he will learn not to do that.  He will discover
by bitter experience that the last thing that the beloved wishes is
to be stared at in public.  It is certainly the last thing that
Roger wishes.'

For he was moving restlessly and his mother's blood in him was
demanding that he should, in some way, take up a commanding
position, figure in a situation that would show off his brilliant
accomplishments.  He was already moving away from John.

Others were arriving, the Lazenbys stout and jolly, the Bullens
wondering when the tea was to be, the Meadows at once demanding
games.  And here at last was Lady Thompson-West with her treasures.
She was a massive lady with a very large bosom, a lot of white
hair, and weak piercing eyes, for once she had been handsome and
would not imperil her beauty with glasses.  She had a wearied
languid voice and her attitude to life was that the world contained
only some dozen people, all of them Thompson-West or Bastingham
(she had been a Miss Bastingham of Coventry).

'A wet afternoon.  I wondered whether I should bring the children,
but in the car they could not, I think, come to much harm.  I've
brought their governess, Miss Hastings, with me.  I hope you don't
mind.  Yes, Miss Hastings--not too near the fire.  Very heating
after the drive . . .  Ah, how-do-you-do, Mrs. Parkin? . . .
Alice, Alice, come here, dear.  Stay with Miss Hastings.  Thank
you, Mrs. Parkin, but I'm afraid I NEVER go out in the evening.
Afternoon?  That's too kind.  I fear that I may be in London.  Lucy
Bastingham's girl is being married.  They want me for the wedding,
but whether I can leave the children . . .  Harold, stay by Miss
Hastings, dear.  No, not for the moment, darling.  It's such a VERY
heating game.  You can play later on.'

For they had decided to start with Musical Chairs, a well-known
breaker of ice.  Rose would play the piano.

From her seat there she could view the whole room, watch the elders
gathered uneasily together (for WILL the children behave, and if
they do not can one succeed in blaming others?).  Janet Fawcus is
doing her best to unbend and is so uncomfortable that it is
distressing.  For against every woman present she has a grudge, and
yet, Rose thought, were they suddenly to applaud her, if, for
instance, Lady Thompson-West were to stand on a sofa now and cry:
'Three cheers for Janet Fawcus!' how exceedingly delighted she
would be, how she would blush and bloom, how her heart would
expand, what generosities she would commit!

The chairs were arranged, the music began, with solemn caution the
children moved forward.  Roger Parkin and Harry Meadows were the
vital spirits--Roger was stepping out, his eyes shining, and
already he had given little Ruth Bullen a push so that she nearly
fell.  'He SHALL not win!' Rose thought vindictively and, just as
he turned the corner at the end, at the moment when no chair was at
hand, she stopped the music.  Roger darted for a place, but the
Marberry boy, short-sighted though he was, was there before him.
Roger, the great splendid Roger, was 'out' first time, and oh!
didn't he mind it!  He threw up his head, he smiled, she heard him
say to his mother 'A lot of kids--I wanted to give them a chance,'
but Rose saw too John's distress, how his eyes followed his friend.
In the next round John was out.  He didn't want to win if Roger
were not there.

Roger had drawn near to the piano and was standing, a look of
haughty indifference on his face.  John came up to him.

'I'm awfully sorry, Roger.'

'It's a kids' game.  I only played because--'

'Yes, I know.'

'When's tea?'

'Oh, soon, I expect.'  John looked at him.  Rose knew that he
wanted to ask him to come and see his things, to go with him alone
about the house, but he did not dare lest Roger should refuse.

The game became exciting: only Harry Meadows, the Marberry boy and
big fat Lettice Lazenby remained.  They moved like little tigers
round the two chairs.  Rose stopped, and fat Lettice, jolting Harry
Meadows in the stomach with her stout arm, sat down.

Meadows cried 'Oh, I say!' then like an injured but still noble
Roman moved away.  Lettice won.

She sat on the one remaining chair in a trance of satisfaction
while everyone clapped.

'That's just like Lettice,' Mrs. Lazenby cried triumphantly to the
world.  'You never saw such a child for winning things.  Last year
at St. Bees she beat all the other children in the races on the
sands.  She just makes up her mind. . . .'

The room was now very hot and the rain beat frantically on the
windows.  Children's parties are dangerous.  The child's world is
all its own--no mature person can tell what happens in it.  All the
passions rage and only a lucky providence can sometimes keep them
in check.

Rose, standing near Mrs. Parkin, noticed how extremely excited the
Colonel was.  His eyes shone, his rosy cheeks flamed.  And from
him, she thought, the children themselves caught an added zest, a
wilder freedom.

Tea was announced and in they trooped.

'One should see the Taj Mahal,' Mrs. Meadows said to Mrs. Parkin,
of whom she was greatly afraid.

'Yes, I suppose one should.  No.  Let your little girl sit beside
my boy, Lady Thompson-West.  HE'LL look after her!  Oh, no trouble
at all.  There, dear--Roger will see you have everything you want.'

'Of course,' Mrs. Meadows went on, 'some people have been
disappointed, but not if you see it by moonlight--no one can be
disappointed then.'

She would like to be invited to Mrs. Parkin's parties.  She could
not understand it.  Often, lying in one of the twin beds, she had
discussed it with her husband.

'We're not clever enough,' he said, turning on his side and longing
for sleep.  'That's what it is--and Ma Parkin can go to hell for
all I care.'

Nevertheless Mrs. Meadows thought:  'I could have been clever.  But
bearing children and bringing them up when you haven't enough
money, and although Crosby (her husband) works his fingers to the
bone, so often it's for nothing and we never have a REAL holiday.'
She looked at the Thompson-West little girl and hated her.  Her own
children were rough, untidy, bad-mannered.  There was something
they terribly lacked.  And she COULD have been clever had she only
time. . . .

The children sat at table while the parents stood about.  But the
tea was not a success.  Why?  No one could tell.  Everything was
there, a large cake with pink and white icing, small cakes, scones,
jam, rum butter, honey.  But things were not right.  Quite suddenly
the little Bullen girl began to cry.  No one knew the reason.  It
may have been the lightning which flashed once quite visibly
through the lighted room.  Thunder muttered like a grumpy old man
in the garden.  The Lazenby children cared nothing for the thunder,
for they were intent upon eating.  You would think, to look at
them, that they had never seen food before.  Mrs. Lazenby did not
mind.  Red-faced and jolly, she encouraged her offspring.

'Would you mind passing the plum cake?  So good of you.  There,
Lettice--mother will cut you a piece.  Don't grab, darling.'

'Yes,' she said, smiling on Rose.  'It does one good to see them
enjoying themselves.  I know they say Lettice is too fat, but I'm
too fat myself and has it ever done me any harm?  None in the
least.  I know it's all the fashion now to have no shape, but
you'll never persuade me that men like it.  They have to put up
with it, that's all.'

She had not known, before she turned, that it was Rose to whom she
was speaking.  She was a little uncomfortable.  Although she wanted
everyone to be happy, she must, in spite of herself, grudge
something to a woman who had had a lover and not had to pay for it.
Here Rose was, sin and all, as though she had done nothing
reprehensible!  All the fun of marriage without the ties!  Perhaps
that was why the Colonel had invited them.  (He had never asked
them inside the house before.)  That they should be kind to the
girl.  Well, she was a pretty thing and that was a nice little boy.
Who was she to judge others?  There had been a time or two when she
might herself . . .

'Let Mother spread it, Lettice.  Honey's messy if you aren't
careful.'

Hide-and-seek followed.  The Colonel insisted but Rose knew at once
that it would be a great mistake.  The children were in too
disorderly a state for it to be safe.  But it was only when she
went, the little Bullen girl's hand in hers, to hide in one of the
rooms, that she knew what a mistake it was.  Her mind was set upon
John.  Where was he?  With whom was he?  Was Roger kind to him?
And so, absent-minded, she found herself with the little Bullen in
one of the spare rooms--a large cold room with a black bed, black
chairs, and a picture of Saint Sebastian's martyrdom over the
fireplace.  The little Bullen girl looked at the arrows with
frightened interest.  Did it hurt?  Oh, it must have, because once
she stuck a pin in her leg just to see. . . .

'Yes, dear, I know.  Come.  Shall we hide here behind the bed?
They'll never find us here.'

So there they were pressed between the bed and the window.  The
little girl's hand in Rose's was like a warm squashed tomato.  From
this window you could see the hills, the Helvellyn range, the
low running shoulders of the slope soot-black now under the
thunderstorm.  The sheets of rain above St. John's in the Vale were
coming down fan-shape or like the corded strands of an inverted
basket.  The cloud was so black that it was metallic.  But behind
it the Helvellyn slopes were already clearing, and a faint shimmer,
light seen through gauze, began to spread, and Rose knew that
Grasmere would soon be lying, a platter of gold, in the sun.

She thought of Grasmere and of how in a very clever novel about
India that she had been re-reading the author had used Grasmere as
a symbol of England's smugness, smallness, security as against the
passion, vastness, timelessness, danger of India.  Well, India was
dangerous.  But so could this be!  Oh, so could this be.

'Do you think they'll find us here?' the Bullen child whispered.
'I don't like this room, do you?'

No, it was a BEASTLY room as though murder had been done in it.
Unkind words at least had surely been spoken.  They listened.  The
house was quite silent.  The little Bullen girl was trembling.
Hide-and-seek had been all WRONG.  But the Colonel had wished it,
and Rose saw in a flash of clarity how fierce and almost insane his
egotism was--when he had wished Michael to leave the room, or now
when a children's game had made his voice ring, his eyes flash . . .
What was happening?  Cries rang out.

'Somebody's been found,' Rose said.

'Oh, let's see!  Let's see!' the child cried as though they had
been in darkness.  A moment later they were in the passage, and
here indeed was a scene.

Roger stood facing John.  The passage was so dark that there were
voices only here, no faces.

'What are you following me around for all the time?  I didn't ask
you to come up here, did I?'

'No.  But--' John's voice said.

'All right.  Now you know.  I'm sick to death of you.  You can't
play a game decently and I can't STAND your hanging round looking
like a sick cow--'

'Yes,' said John's voice.

Roger must have turned because as though they had been flung by a
humorous immortal out of space he collided with Rose.  Shameful!
Shameful!  Attribute its origins where you will.  She slapped his
face.  Mrs. Parkin, coming with the Colonel to collect scattered
children, heard it.  She also heard:

'You conceited little swine!  I've been wanting to do that for
weeks.  Leave John alone.  As though--he--cared' (breathlessly now)
'for anything you say.  You can--'

'Roger!' Mrs. Parkin cried.

'She hit me, mother!  I hadn't done a thing--' and he began to
snuffle, his pride (although it had been dark) desperately hurt.
Also Rose's hand had not been soft.  And there was a ring on it,
although not a wedding one.

'What's up?' the Colonel demanded.  (Rose fancied that there was
joy in his heart.  But why?  Had he wanted this to occur?)

She addressed herself to apologies.

'I am very sorry, Mrs. Parkin.  I lost my temper.'

'And why?' asked Mrs. Parkin, her voice like reluctant silver
striking the church offertory-plate.

'He was rude to John--'

'Come, Roger.'

They were seen for a moment as the new sun, thunder-burnished,
struck the passage-window, mother and son.  Rose had made an enemy
for ever.  John was nowhere to be seen.

Only the little Bullen girl, her eyes round with wonder, was
collecting amazing news for her mother.



CHAPTER VIII

THRESHOLD OF DANGER--OR ISN'T IT?


Rose, on waking the following morning, was instantly conscious that
dramatic events awaited her.  She stared about, sat up, saw the sun
pour like a soundless primrose river from window to floor, then
realized how things were.  The party had ended; everyone had gone
away.  She had seen John only for a moment flit past her down the
passage as she went to her room.  She had cried after him quietly
'John!' but if he had heard he had given no sign.

At dinner she had expected to be scolded, but as seemed to her now
the rule in this house, the opposite occurred.

'I beg your pardon,' she had said quite suddenly.  'I'm afraid
you'll never forgive me for being so rude to one of your guests in
your house.'

But the Colonel, as fresh and lusty as a prize bull at a show, had
cried:  'My dear Rose, not at all.  Not at all.  She'll never
forgive you, of course.'

Janet looked up.

'Has anything happened?' she asked.

'Yes,' said Rose.  'I slapped the face of Mrs. Parkin's boy.'

'Oh!' Janet breathed--and for the first time since Rose's entry
into the house, Janet looked at her amiably.  Even she smiled.
'You slapped Roger's face?'

'He was rude to John.  I'm afraid I lost my temper.'

'You did?'  Janet returned to her fish.  'He's wanted a slap a long
time.'

So the boy had been rude to Janet: at one time or another he had
offended that maiden lady.

'I've never slapped anyone before,' Rose said.

'Never too late to begin,' the Colonel remarked cheerily.

'I'm afraid Mrs. Parkin will never come here again.'

'Oh yes, she will.  Don't you fear.  Whenever I ask her.  But I'm
afraid you'll not be going to her house again.'

Michael burst out laughing.

'Did you really, Rose?  When and why?'

There was something rather shameful to her in this triumphant
discussion of her misbehaviour.  It was not a thing of which she
was in the least proud.

'While they were playing hide-and-seek.  Upstairs.  He was brutal
to John.'

'Yes, he's a bit of a cad, young Parkin,' Michael remarked.  'He
wasn't always.  It's a pity.'

'You'll be a marked figure now,' the Colonel said.  'It's almost as
though you'd slapped Mrs. Parkin herself.'

She felt as though in some way he were implying that this incident
had given him a new hold over her.  Why was he so greatly delighted
and why did she feel that he had arranged it?  Because he had not.
She was a free and independent creature.

But John was the only important thing.  That morning she sought him
out and found him.

She had left the dining-room after breakfast and saw him crossing
the garden.  He opened the little wooden gate that led on to the
fell, hesitated, then passed through it.  It was a soft and warm
morning, the daffodils were golden against the hedge, and the fell
shone with a faint green shadow promising summer.  She ran across
the garden and caught him as he began very slowly, his whole body
dejected, to climb.

When he turned and saw her he started as though he were trapped.
Then, without a word, he began to climb again.

'John,' she said.  'I can't help it.  We've got to talk.  It can't
go on like this.'

'Like what?' he asked in a muffled voice, his face averted.

'Walk more slowly.  It's no use.  You can't escape me.'

He slackened his pace.  She saw that he had been crying.

'You're ashamed of me, I suppose,' she said as nonchalantly as she
could.  'Of what I did to Roger.'

He produced a very dirty handkerchief out of his pocket and blew
his nose.

'It doesn't matter,' he said.

'That's nonsense.  It matters terribly.  I'm not sorry that I
slapped Roger's face and I never will be, but I want to tell you
why YOU mustn't be sorry about it--about Roger, I mean.

'I know,' she went on, 'you must hate my talking about something
very private like your friendship with Roger.  But I have to do it
because I'm older than you are and know more than you do about
friendship.  Forget all about my being your mother just now.  That
has nothing to do with it.'  He was walking more slowly and she
knew that he was listening.  'Friendship's like this,' she said.
'There must be two people who care.  It's hopeless otherwise.  I
know there are some people who think it's fine to go on caring for
someone who doesn't want them, unselfish, self-sacrificing, and all
that.  Well, I think it's rotten and self-indulgent.  It's cruel to
the other person, too, because it bores them stiff and often forces
them to pretend to feelings that they haven't got.  Roger never
cared for you and never would.  He's selfish and conceited and
cares for no one but himself.'

'That isn't true,' John burst out.  'He did care for me before you
came and spoilt it.'

'Did he?  Be honest with yourself.  I haven't been here for long,
but at that party that day at his mother's when you gave him the
present I saw at once how it was.'

John blew his nose again.  Then he said, his voice trembling as
though tears were not far away:

'He's the only friend I had.  I'd have done anything--'

'Yes, YOU would.  And he'd have taken it until somebody else came
along--'

'It's been MY fault,' John went on.  'Because I couldn't play games
like he wanted me to.  I tried and tried, but I've never been to
school and there's nobody here to play with.'  He gave her then the
most hostile look she'd yet had from him.

'You're a woman and you wouldn't understand.'

'What's being a woman got to do with it?'

'I hate women.  I want to go to school.  Why can't I go to school?
Grandfather said I should.'

'You shall go to school,' she cried.  'That I swear.  I'm your
mother and I'll see to it.'

He looked at her curiously.  'But you gave me up to Grandfather,'
he said.  'You can't do anything if he doesn't like it and no one
else can either.'

'You see,' she said.  They were on the brow now and the haze was on
their faces.  They stopped and looked across the valley to
Helvellyn.

'You must forget I'm your mother.  I'm just your friend.  There's
not such a terrible difference in our ages.  If we both live I'll
be fifty-eight one day and you'll be forty.  We'll seem almost the
same age.'

That seemed to strike him.  He stood looking at the small clouds
that furled and unfurled before the sun.  His body was warmed and
strengthened.  She felt as though the sun were binding them
together.

She took his hand.

'I'm no age,' she said, 'and I never felt as young and inexperienced
in my life as I do now.  I'm quite as lonely as you are.  If it
comes to that I don't suppose I have a real friend in the world at
this moment.'

'Mr. Brighouse likes you,' John said.  'I know he does because I've
seen him looking at you.'

She realized that this time he hadn't taken his hand away.  Her
heart was beating furiously and she longed to put her arm around
him and draw him close to her, but she knew that any sentiment at
this moment would be fatal.

'Oh, Mr. Brighouse!' she said.  'He's kind and attentive, but it's
YOU I want to be my friend.  Do you think you could be?'

'I don't know,' he said.

There was a little pause.

'Let's go down now, shall we?' she said.  'They'll be wondering
where we are.'

All the way down she told him cheerfully about adventures she'd
had, how she'd been lost in Palermo once, and the old blind man in
Geneva who'd tried to rob her, and the mad dog who bit a policeman
in Athens, and the great Nazi demonstration in Munich.

He said never a word: only as they entered the garden he cried,
'There's Rump!' and ran off.

Michael from his bedroom window had seen her cross the garden.  He
had seen the crocuses like sparks of white and blue fire star the
grass, and the young beginning daffodils tugging a little at their
roots against the breeze, the fell with the sun smoothing it, and a
cloud as once, steaming towards Greece, looking back, he had seen
Etna a white cumulus in mid-air, blue above and below it.  Through
this beauty Rose hurried to her son, and as Michael watched her he
climbed a step in maturity because for the first time he wanted to
take a woman in his arms and feel her heart beat against his.
Until this instant of the daffodils tugging at their roots he had
wanted to kiss Rose and he knelt at her feet.  Now suddenly in his
mind he got up, stood beside her, took her, kissed her eyes and,
his hand on her breast, murmured 'I love you.'

He saw her join John, knew that he had eaten too much breakfast
because he could not resist sausages, and wondered what, in all the
long dreary future, he would find to do.  'Because I shall love
only her all my life long, never anyone else.  Am I then to be a
celibate, a hermit?  Shall I, through abstinence, become a sexless
withered thing?  Will she perhaps one day repent when, after many
years, she learns how fickle men are and only I am faithful?  And
will,' he honestly asked himself, 'pleasure remain when we are both
old, possibly toothless and certainly rheumatic?'

And he remembered an awful story that a friend had told him about a
man who had loved faithfully for years, and the lady had married
another, and then after so, so long the husband had died, the
faithful lover was at last rewarded.

But alas, the lady snored.  One snoring night had undone the
devotion of twenty years.  It had not, of course, been true love, a
romantic sentimentality . . .

Rose might snore an she wished . . . but at the thought of being in
so close a communion with her his heart constricted, his temples
pressed in upon the skull, his nose was cold at the tip.

He sat on his bed and saw her stand naked before him, but it was
only at her face that he looked, her face, eyes, nose, mouth, so
young, so kindly, so courageous, in colour, delicate form, dark of
the eyes, rose of the lips like a--like a--and then it was
terrible, for he could think only of the most dreadful images, a
candle-lit turnip, an inverted basin, a Stilton cheese . . . not
that Rose's face resembled any of these things, but that was what
fate did in its malicious perversity.  Oh, the horrible, horrible
images that pass through the minds of the Saints of God!  Then his
eyes passed downwards and he considered the small breasts, the
navel, the flanks, the thighs, the feet.  She has had a child.
Once there was a man who enjoyed all this, to whom she surrendered
everything. . . .

Oh, the horrible, horrible images that pass through the minds of
the Saints of God!  Everything is holy and for the true lover
nothing is common.  And yet, true lover, take not too many risks!

'Always shave in private,' a friend had told Michael.  'The secret
of a happy marriage is never to see your wife dressing.'

But Michael made his vows, standing in front of the glass, drawn up
stiffly as though someone were playing the National Anthem:  'I
swear that I will love and serve her, faithfully, without expecting
any reward, so long as she may need me!'

And indeed he was to keep his vow before all were ended.


And on that same morning John unburdened his mind.  Geography just
then was the thing, and Michael had made the astonishing statement
that some enterprising men were thinking of draining the
Mediterranean and flooding the Sahara with it, when John
unexpectedly remarked:

'Do you think it's no use being friends with someone if he doesn't
want you?'

'Anything's of use,' Michael said sententiously, 'if it makes you
feel fine.'

'That's not what mother says,' John remarked.  'But I don't know
how much mother knows.  What do you think, Mr. Brighouse?'

'What do I think about what?'

'About mother.'

'How do you mean--what do I think?'

'Well--it's rather extraordinary, isn't it?  We've been here for
years and years and she never writes a word or bothers.  Then she
comes for a day or two and stays weeks and upsets everybody--and
she says she wants to be my friend!' he ended breathlessly.

'Do you think you ought to tell me what she says?' asked Michael.
'Wasn't it in confidence?'

'Oh, I came to YOU because I know you like her awfully.  I've seen
you looking at her.'

'Yes,' said Michael.  'She's the finest, grandest person I've ever
known.'

John considered this very seriously.

'Is that because she smacked Roger's face?'

'Oh no--I don't consider THAT very important.'  He looked at John
and, with a kind of new perception that had come to him in some
strange way, on this very morning, realized what the boy was going
through, how resolutely determined he was that no one should know
that his whole world had crumbled about him, how many stiff and new
problems he was facing, how lonely he must feel with Roger gone for
ever.  Michael forgot everything in this new perception of John's
courage.  He realized another thing--that he and Rose and John were
all young and inexperienced together in a dangerous and very
ancient world.

'How have I not seen this before?' he thought.  'We ARE linked
together whether we wish it or no, whether SHE wishes it or no,' he
thought, his heart triumphantly accelerating.

John was talking.

'Now--after yesterday--I must go to school, mustn't I, Mr.
Brighouse?'

Michael knew what he meant.  'Now that Roger has said those things
to me and everyone heard, I must go to school and do fine things
just to show him!'

'Roger didn't mean what mother thought he meant.  You see, Roger
doesn't understand.  He thinks you'd be able to swim and play rugby
and everything just the same whether you're at school or you
aren't.  And then, of course, he thinks I'm awfully slow.  I'd be
the same in his place.  And if she hadn't got angry with him it
would have been all right.'

'She loves you very much,' Michael said slowly.  'You're lucky.'

'It's very lately, then, that she has,' John said.  'She's only
been here a week or two.'

'Shall I explain that to you, John?  It's very important that you
should understand it.'

John said nothing.  He looked down at his geography book, then up
and out of the window.

'All right,' he said.  'But Roger says I'm a bastard.'

'He did, did he?' Michael said furiously, and jumping up, he began
to walk about the room.  'Now, listen to this, John.  I've never
talked to you about it before because it wasn't MY business anyway
and I wasn't sure whether you were old enough.  But now I know you
ARE old enough and it IS my business.  Listen!'

He sat on the edge of the table close to the boy.

'Your mother and father loved one another devotedly.  They couldn't
marry because your father was married already, but they would have
done if he'd been free.  I expect you know how children are born.
It is the result of two people who care for one another coming
together.  The man gives the woman the seed of his body for her to
keep and cherish.  She does keep it for him months inside HER body,
and all those nine months it grows, then when it is big enough it
pushes its way out of her body and begins its own life in the
world.  But the important thing is that some children are the
result of true love, some are not, and to me this matters more than
whether the father or mother were properly married or no, although
marriage does matter too.  I'm not very old myself yet, but I've
seen enough of life to know that a happy marriage between two
people who love one another is the happiest lot on this earth, but
loving someone else is very complicated.  For one thing both people
must be worthy of it.  One isn't enough.  Now your father and
mother were both worthy of it, and although they weren't officially
married you are the result of their love, and all your life you
must be proud of it.  There is nothing to be ashamed of.  Always be
proud of your mother and father.'

John said:  'Why didn't she want me when I was a baby?'

'She DID want you.  Only she was very young and she'd had such a
short time with your father.  When he died it must have killed
something in her.  She probably felt she didn't mind what happened.
She felt, too, that life could be terrible, could suddenly step in
and kill the thing you loved best in the world without warning, for
no reason.  The one thing she wanted was for you to be safe.  You
were only a baby; she had no money and no prospects.  She knew that
if you went to your grandfather your future was secure.

'I expect she thought of you all the time after you were gone, but
she'd made a bargain.  She felt she ought to keep to it.  It wasn't
until she came here and saw you that she realized that she'd always
loved you and always would love you.  And since she's stayed here
she's got to love you more and more.'

'I see,' John said.  'So she'll always be where I am?'

'No.  Not WITH you always.  Not when you go to school, and later on
you'll grow up and go off on your own.  But she'll be there to help
you if you want her, to stick to you if things go wrong, never to
change whatever you do or say.'

'I think,' John said, 'that I'd rather be alone.'

'Why?' Michael asked.

'I don't want to be friends with anyone any more.  If you're not
friends there's nobody can say that you hang around too much or
that you're a nuisance.'

'She'll never think you a nuisance,' Michael said.

'She might.  And then there's Grandfather.  Perhaps if I like her
he'll tell me I'm not to see her any more.'

'It's certainly high time,' Michael thought, 'that he got away from
this house.'  He asked a question that he had often wished to ask.

'Are you afraid of your grandfather, John?'

'Yes.'

'Why?'

'He's so funny.  If you don't do what he says he's very angry.
That's one reason I want to go to school.'

'He's angry, is he?' Michael asked.

'Yes.  In a funny way.  He smiles at the same time.'

'That's enough,' thought Michael.  'I'm discovering too much.'

'Come on,' he said.  'Let's do some geography.'


Twice on that strange afternoon, one of the queerest and most
sinister that Rose had ever known, she was to think of Mr.
Rackstraw.

The rather silly chattering clock in the drawing-room had just
struck three when for no very actual reason she went out of the
front gate and stood looking across the fields towards the Druid
Circle.  That misnamed but superbly situated group of stones she of
course could not see--and yet at this moment in the faint April sun
that threw shadows of the most delicate apricot over hedgerows and
sloping field she thought she COULD see them.  We are told that
nothing visible is really seen, nothing tangible is to be touched,
nothing occurs but in the past and in the future.  We see then what
to the human eye is invisible, and so for Rose the stones were
there, cows were grazing and the altar-stone had suffered
sacrifices of orange-peel and silver chocolate-paper.  There was
nothing unusual about that, for tourists offer the gods the things
that are of no value to themselves, but what was interesting was
that Mr. Rackstraw in a shirt and trousers was doing obeisance
before the altar, bowing his head and turning his body north,
south, east and west.  She saw his grey coat and waistcoat folded
on the grass.  The cows cropped undisturbed and a line of birds,
imitating aeroplane formation, swung with steady purpose across the
blue.

She gave her body a shake.  This was absurd.  And of course it was,
for the stones were not there, a dog barked and the hill rose
calmly where the stones had been.

She returned into the house, and with that simple crossing the
threshold her whole life on this cinder of a planet was changed.

The door of the Colonel's room opened and John came out, sobbing,
his arm across his face.  He stood for a moment thus, then he ran
upstairs as though the fallen chief of the angels were at his
heels.  Satan, not the Devil.  She remembered afterwards that she
was aware of this distinction as though she knew at once that this
was no ordinary occasion either for her son or herself.  Her first
impulse was to hurry after him, her second was to go, without
knocking, into the Colonel's room.  This she did, but as soon as
she was inside some friendly power warned her.  Say nothing.  Do
nothing.  Discover what this is.  If ever you have learnt control,
use it now.

The Colonel was seated at his table, licking with his rosy tongue a
stamp that he might stick it on an envelope.

He did so.  Then he smiled at her.

'Why, Rose, my dear!' he said.

She smiled back at him.  She stood by the door, her hand upon it.

'Come for a walk,' she said.  'It's such a lovely afternoon.'

He looked at the things on his table, then got up.

'Why, certainly,' he said.  'What a good idea!'

She went up to her room for her hat.  It needed all the control she
could find, within herself and beyond herself, not to knock on
John's door.  'I must find out first,' she said to herself.  'I
must discover everything.'

When she came down the Colonel was ready.  They went out.

'Where shall we go?' he asked.

'Oh, anywhere.'

They turned down into the Penrith road towards Keswick, then off to
the left towards the Vale.

At first they were silent.  Then he said:  'Have you been here long
enough to notice that nothing in this country is what it seems to
be?'

'How do you mean?'

'What I mean is that everything turns over on its back as you look
at it.  It's a trick of light perhaps.  You see a field, a running
brook, a clump of trees.  You glance away for a moment.  When you
look back the trees have shifted, the stream has another formation,
the field is flat instead of sloping.  That is why so few can paint
this country.  It's like an artist who told me once that in New
York he went out to etch a building that was to be pulled down.  He
worked all morning, went for his lunch, and when he came back
everything was gone.  There was only a hole where the building had
been.'

He stopped her, his hand on her arm.  She discovered that she liked
his touch although at this moment she was hating him.

'Turn round.  Look to the left for a moment.'

She did so.  They stood in silence staring out towards Shap.

'Now turn back. . . .  Don't you see?  The wood seems to have come
a little closer.'

Yes, it certainly seemed so.

'But we must walk on.  The sun will be down behind the hill soon
and then it will be cold.'

On the brow of the hill she asked:  'Tell me.  What do you intend
to do about John?  Is he to go to school soon?'

He said:  'You're his mother.  What do you think?'

'Yes, I'm his mother.  But you have all the rights.'

'Well,' he said, 'John's been living with us all this time.  I've
come to some conclusions about him.  All the same--I repeat, you're
his mother.'

'What conclusions HAVE you come to?'

'About John?'

'Yes.'

'He's a charming, shy, sensitive boy.  Discipline is good for him.
He has a sweet, loving nature--'

'Yes.  Don't you think he should go to school?'

'Why?'

The Colonel stopped, turned until he was directly in her path, and
looked at her.  She noticed that behind them the whole valley was
filling with a thin purple light that lay almost like a
transparency above a world of gathering smoke into which it was
beginning to penetrate.  The hill-tops were a glory, blazing with
powdered bronze, and through the shadowed valley streams were
running, singing, breaking the rhythm, singing again.

She had the impression that the valley was supporting the Colonel,
forming a wall, as though behind him, through its streams, it
whispered:  'Yes.  This is so.  No movement without the Colonel's
permission.'

'Why?' he said.

She answered as lightly as she could:  'Oh, because it's not good
for a boy to be so much by himself.  Roger's too old for him;
besides I've smacked his face.  There's no one else here of his own
age whom he likes.  Certainly he should go to school.'

He stood there, not moving, and to her excited fancy he seemed to
grow in size.

'I'm not sure that I agree.  He's not ready for school.'

She laughed.  'He wants to go terribly.'

'Yes.  But he has to learn that he can't have everything he wants.
That's what I'm trying to teach him.'

'Oh,' she said, 'but he's not at all a greedy or selfish boy.  He's
almost too sensitive to other people's wishes.'

The Colonel smiled.

'You love him very much, don't you?  I suppose that I ought to say--
"Well, dear Rose, take him.  I give him back to you."  I'm not
sure that I can though.  For one thing I'm not QUITE certain that
you're ready to look after him yet.  You're very young.  VERY
young.  Although you're his mother you might be his elder sister.
Then he's been with Janet and myself for ten years.  We've grown
very fond of him.  It's not easy to give him up.'  He looked round
him.  'Shall we start back?  The light is failing.  There's a cold
breeze.'

She looked at the valley and saw that it was like a vat in which
purple clouds were bubbling.  He kept his hand on her arm.

'No, my idea, Rose, is this.  Now I'm going to make you jump.
Don't answer at once.  Stop and think it over.  MY suggestion is
that we should BOTH look after John.  In fact I want you to stay
with us always.'

She thought that she had heard the words, then she was sure that
she had not.

'I don't--' she began.

'Oh yes, you do,' he said, most genially.  His grasp now was tight
on her arm and she fancied even that his fingers gently caressed
it.

'You know just what I mean.  I want you to make the Hall your home.
We'll be John's joint guardians.  I'm old enough to be your father,
my dear, but I'm going to say something quite revolting--which is
that I should ask you to marry me if it were not within the
prohibited degrees.

'Instead I invite you to make my home yours until I die--and then
after that if you wish.'

Her tongue was dry; her knees trembled a little so that she paused
to feel the breeze on her cheek and to see a stream shining in the
fading sheen, leaping quartz, running into quicksilver gestures,
then dead dusk.  White again.

She was able to say very quietly:

'There would be a good deal of scandal, wouldn't there?'

'Do you mind that?  Does it matter in the least what they think?
Isn't John more important?'

She looked him in the eyes and seemed by them to be drawn closer.

'And there's my work.  You forget that is very important to me,
that I couldn't leave it.'

'Not as important as John, is it?'

'Perhaps not.'  They were at the brow of the hill again.  'Do you
mean that I can only be with John on condition that I remain here?'

'Yes.  I mean exactly that.  I wish you to stay.'

'Why?'

'You have become very precious to me, my dear Rose--just as John
has.  I am an old man--probably only a few years to live.'  (She
could see him in the dusk, shoulders back, chest spread, head up,
as though he were challenging the world.)  'I am, as you have
probably noticed, a very unusual man.  I should have been in a very
different position.  I would have enjoyed great power.  I might,
had things been a little different, have changed the world's whole
history.  As it is--I must do what I can.  I have for some time had
the notion that I would make John carry on what I should have
begun.  John can be, if he obeys me, one of the world's great men,
and in years to come he will tell the world that it is to me that
he owes his greatness.  You shall do your part in moulding him.
Together we can do wonderful things for him. . . .  Now you perhaps
can understand why I can't let him go--even to school.'

'You promised him that,' she said.

'Yes, but when he understands that it is not my wish he will
agree.'

'You want him to have no will of his own?'

'I want him to have MY will, MY thoughts, MY power--'

'But he isn't, so far as I can see, that kind of boy.  He isn't
unusual in any way.  He's only rather gentle, shy, very sensitive.'

The Colonel spread his arms.  'My dear Rose, I can do anything--
anything.  With you to help me.'  Then he repeated more softly:
'With you to help me.'

He put out his hand and touched her cheek.  She had a dreadful
revulsion--but she did not move away.

As they turned into the Penrith road she sent out a prayer for
help.

He passed into the house in front of her, humming to himself, gaily
swinging his stick.  An idea suddenly came to her.  She waited in
the dusk, then turned and, very softly, went back to the road.  It
shone whitely against the grey country that now was very silent and
cautious like an old man with his finger to his lip.

Rackstraw's cottage was up a little lane just above the village of
Threlkeld--no distance.  She ran up the road, walked slowly through
the first part of the village, turned to the left, and there was
the cottage.

She knocked on the door.  He came himself.  At the sight of his
funny face with its crows'-feet, the mouth a little humorously
twisted, she knew an extraordinary relief as though all her
troubles were over.

'May I come in a moment?'

'Miss Clennell!  Why, of course!'

She followed him into a sitting-room, a shabby comfortable place
with a hole in the carpet, bookcases with worn and tattered books,
one print over the fireplace, a coloured reproduction of
Constable's 'Hay Wain,' a long rack with many old and much-used
pipes, and on the table a vase with daffodils, a pot of tea, a
Stilton cheese, a tin of sardines, a loaf of bread and a pat of
butter, a large pot of apple- and-blackberry jam.  A fire was
burning and there was a piebald cat asleep in front of it.  All
these insignificant things seemed, as she stood there, to have a
warm and welcoming life.  That other house was against her: this
was for her.

'Sit down.  Have some tea.'

'No, thank you.  I'm so sorry I've interrupted you.  Go on, won't
you?'

'Yes, I will.'  He sat down and began to spread a very thick chunk
of bread with butter and jam.

'I have my chief meal of the day now.  Then I have the whole
evening free.'

'Yes.'  She found it difficult to begin.  'I came on an impulse.
I'm in bad trouble.'

'Why,' he thought, 'she doesn't look a day more than eighteen.'
Her cheeks were flushed with running, a strand of hair had blown
over her forehead.

'What is it?'

'It's simply that John and I have got to escape from here as soon
as we can.'

He nodded, his mouth full of bread and jam.

'It all happened this afternoon, although I suppose it really
started from the moment I arrived.  With every day two things have
been happening--I have been loving John more and understanding the
Colonel less.  I can't help it.  I love John so much that I am
changed, entirely altered.  Nothing that seemed to me important
matters to me any more.  Soon after I came I saw that something was
wrong.  He was so shy, so nervous, not what a boy ought to be.  Of
course _I_ meant nothing to him.  That was natural.  But he seemed
to care for nothing except that Parkin boy.  We've talked about
this before.'

'Yes, I know.  Go on,' Rackstraw said.

'I mustn't stay.  They'll be missing me.  But this is what happened
this afternoon.  While I was in the passage John came out of the
Colonel's room crying bitterly.  He ran past me.  When I saw that,
I was frantic.  I don't know what the Colonel is, what he does, but
John has GOT to be taken away--and at once.  I tried to do what I
thought was wise.  I asked the Colonel to go out for a walk.  He
was only too pleased.  As we walked he told me that if it were
possible he would ask me to marry him.  As it wasn't he wanted me
to stay there, at the Hall, always. . . .  He said,' she began to
stammer in her agitation, 'that he was training John to be a great
man and to take his place as HIS, the Colonel's, representative, so
that all the world should see through John what a great man he, the
Colonel, was.  I was to stay and help in this.'  She paused.  Then
she threw out her hands towards him.  'Mr. Rackstraw, tell me--is
he mad?'

The old man smiled.

'Don't be frightened, my dear.  I knew this was coming.  We'll
manage it.  No, he's not mad, but he's got an egotism, an egomaniac
energy that is starved.  I told you the other day on the fell--he
doesn't count for anything here any more.  He doesn't count for
anything anywhere.  So he fixed on John.  His IDEA isn't mad, but
if it grows into an obsession it may lead to what people call
madness--that lonely, empty place filled with voices and culs-de-
sac.  You came.  He'd asked you, as I've said before, to show you
his power over John.  But when he saw you, his desire for power
extended to you.  He sees you perhaps as part of John, part of
Humphrey whom he loved, who ran away to escape his father's
egotism, part of himself even.  Can you understand that?
Understand that, pity him, forgive him and take John away as soon
as you can.'

She looked at him with real fear in her eyes.

'I don't want to go back. . . .  I don't want to go back.  I
wouldn't if it weren't for John.  And I've no rights.  If I did get
John away I wouldn't be able to keep him.'

'You might,' Rackstraw said.  'The Colonel might be afraid of any
kind of publicity.'

'But I CAN'T get away--not with John.  We are both watched every
minute of the day.  There's himself and Janet and the servants.
I'm not even sure that John would go.  I mean almost nothing to
him.'

'We'll think of a plan.  We'll have a plot.  I'm a wonder at
plots.'  He came over to her and put his arm round her.  She rested
her head against his shoulder for a moment.  Then she got up.

'It's nice here.  Cosy, comfortable.  Everything's friendly.'

He sighed.

'I'm glad you like it.  It isn't always so.  Now I'm in on this.
By to-morrow I'll have thought of something.  Go back, give no sign
of anything but peace of mind.  He's suspicious, he's clever, he's
always the last thing you'd expect.'

She kissed him.

'You're a darling.  I feel safer, more secure.'

She ran through the darkness.



CHAPTER IX

CONQUEST OF JANET--THE HOUSE HAS A COLD--MR. RACKSTRAW IS NOT WELL--
ROSE LIGHTS A CANDLE


Someone else besides Rose had seen John come out of the Colonel's
room.  Sally the maid had seen him and she smiled.  Janet saw him
and she did not smile.  Janet had been scolding the cook and,
refreshed as one who has taken a vigorous piece of exercise, she
stood on the top step of the stairs that led down to the kitchen.
She saw her father's door open.  John came out, Rose standing in
the passage.  She saw Rose's face, she saw her enter the Colonel's
room.

Then very slowly she went up to her own room.  This was an austere,
bare, uncomfortable place.  She sat down in the little wicker chair
in which she had been sitting for a part of every day ever since
she was ten, and looking in front of her at the timetable of
household events pinned on the wall, sought for personal honesty.
The thing on which above all others she prided herself was her
honesty about herself.  'I am a plain old maid.  I am unattractive
to absolutely everybody.  I have no purpose in life except to do my
duty.  I might just as well be dead.  But I AM honest.  I DO do my
duty.  I stand no nonsense either from myself or anyone else.  All
the same I might just as well be dead.'

The time-table said:

     Called .  .  .  .  .  .  7.30
     Breakfast .  .  .  .  .  8.30
     Visit to Cook   .  .  .  9.30

'I might JUST as well be dead.'

She knew, however, that to-day she was NOT dead.  This might be
possibly because she was not feeling well.  She had not been well
for several days.  It was one of those indeterminate malaises than
which there is nothing more irritating, when there is a universal
weakness and lack of energy and, at the same time, a continuous
sequence of mild aches and pains--first the right temple, then the
left, now an eyeball, soon a nostril, a knee, a great toe, the
larynx, an ear and, so that it may not be forgotten, the
impertinent officiousness of the upper gums.  Janet was accustomed
to aches and pains, but, contrary to the common opinion, she did
not love them the better for that.  She had written last evening in
her Journal:

'My body is nothing but a piece of impudence.  I wash it, clothe
it, and pay it constant and tiresome attention.  I have never
outraged it.  It owes me gratitude.  It shows me none.  I refuse to
grant it obsequious attention.  I refuse to consider it a miracle
of ingenious construction.  It is one of the clumsiest, stupidest
things, confused with unnecessary intricacies.  Whoever thought it
all out was a tiresome, meddlesome fool.'

She had felt better after that, but nevertheless slept badly and
suffered in the morning from a violent neuralgia that jumped from
place to place like an energetic but inefficient performer on the
piano.

It was not now, however, of her neuralgia that she was thinking.
It was of John's crying and Rose's face.  It was of her own
responsibility in this matter.  Why had John left her father's room
in tears?  This was not for the first time.  No one, she reflected,
left her father's room quite as she or he entered it.  She had seen
Sally the maid leave it with a smile.  Also some of Sally's
predecessors.

She thought of Rose.  She did not hate her quite so badly after she
had smacked Roger Parkin's face.  To be entirely honest, she had
not hated the woman so badly ever since she had told her that she
liked her and WOULD like her whatever might occur.  Nobody had ever
spontaneously told Janet that she liked her, and although here
there was undoubtedly some further purpose, Rose's face--her eyes,
her mouth--had been even more convincing than her voice.

Rose's face.  It had expressed, at that moment of John's passing
her, a distress, a fear, an unhappiness that Janet, however hard
she might try, could not forget.  There was something maternal that
Janet would have given all that she possessed to experience; not
that she possessed very much--a time-table, a fur coat and a
diamond brooch that her poor mother had left her.

Janet did not sleep very well that night.  She suffered from an old
familiar dream in which she chased an omnibus down a crowded
street, was mocked with jeers, dropped parcels, caught the
balustrade of the omnibus, was dragged along the pavement, then
fell through a dark hole down, down, into a bottomless pit.

When she woke for the fifth time it was seven-thirty.  Sally
brought her tea, impertinently as usual.  Janet sat up in her
rather worn bed-jacket, sipped her tea and realized that she had a
headache, a sore throat, and pains in her legs.

She was, however, not easily beaten, and dressed as though she were
ten different pieces of ten different women, all severed in the
wrong places.

She discovered that it was the worst kind of day for anyone
suffering from chill.  There was no rain, but a cold April wind
swept across the garden and up the fell.  Clouds raced one another
with a streaming animosity above the Penrith road.  They were ill-
dispositioned clouds with the texture of torn and water-soaked
wool, lengthening now into thin grasping fingers, now taking the
shape of gland-swollen faces, now like hunched discontented
shoulders or winged birds of ill-omen.  The trees creaked and
cracked.  Everything was blown away and birds rose and fell like
black wisps of paper rising from some conflagration.

Having been severe with the cook, short with Sally, she was
summoned to her father's study.  Father and daughter faced one
another with dislike.  His thought was:  'Can it be possible that I
was ever responsible for this sallow-faced, ill-conditioned old
maid?'

And hers:  'His self-complacency is intolerable.  Based also on
nothing.'

Aloud he said:  'Janet, a week ago I spoke to you about the
inadequacy of the bath water.  This morning the water was tepid.'

He sat behind his desk, bulky, aggressive, his white hair a little
disordered as though the wind without had penetrated the house.
There was no smile, no cordial spirit.  He and his daughter knew
one another too well to waste geniality.

She answered coldly:  'You know that we need a new tank, and higher
up the fell.  I've spoken about it often enough.  Six months ago
you promised to write to Lord Tuscover.'

'Well, well,' he answered testily.  'That may be.  You know that
I've so many things to think of.  I will write.  Meanwhile surely
something may be done.'

'We have,' she answered, her body rigid, her hands folded in front
of her (she would die there on his study carpet rather than let him
know how severely her temples throbbed, how savagely her throat was
aching), 'an extra person in the house.  It was difficult enough
before, and now--'

'Nonsense,' he answered.  'You're not going to tell me that Rose
makes all that difference.'  They looked at one another.  'Are you
ill?' he asked.  'You seem to be none too well.'

'I'm perfectly well, thank you.'

Something in her voice touched him.  Poor old devil!  It must be
hell to be an old maid, never to have been loved by a man, never to
have been kissed with passion.  His own pride rose as, looking at
his daughter, he thought of all the women to whom, in his long
life, he had so successfully made love.  He did not think of them
individually but only as a rosy cloud, shining colour, movement,
hushed whispers, secret laughter. . . .

She was thinking:  'He's really like an animal with his thick neck,
his bulging arms. . . .  I must get away from here. . . .  I've
stood it long enough.'

And in her irritation, her voice urged on by her malaise, she said
the worst thing in the world.  She said:

'By the way, Father, I do wish you'd leave Sally alone.'

'Sally?'  His eyes narrowed.

'Yes.  You give her the idea that she's a favourite here.  The
result is that she's impertinent and does her work badly.'

He looked at her, hating her.  But he said:

'If she does her work badly, dismiss her.'

'Yes.  I think I will.'

She turned to go.

He raised his voice a little.

'Janet!'

'Yes, Father.'

He spoke quietly, tapping the table with the silver-topped paper-
knife.

'Run the house as you please, but remember I am master in it.'

'Yes, Father.'

'I have not interfered with you for a long time.  Don't exasperate
me.'

She made as though she would speak, then decided that she would
not.  She closed the door softly behind her.

Early in the afternoon she felt so unwell that she could scarcely
stand on her feet.  At luncheon she had pretended to eat only.  A
piece of mutton guarded by string beans and a swollen offensive
baked potato had seemed to her so maliciously alive that she
regarded it with a kind of terror.  There are times when the decent
romantic screen is lifted and we see with a deep disgust these
bodies seated on wooden erections, engaged in shovelling alien
substances into a hole surrounded by skin and bone.

Some of these bodies, aesthetically ill-instructed, perform this
business without closing the hole at decent intervals.  The
Colonel, when happy and well at ease with plenty to say, was one of
these.  At such moments Janet felt a nausea as compelling as any
sea-sickness.  To-day, with the wind howling about the house, her
own aches and pains, her father's happy volubility, this fragment
of mutton defied her to leave the table.  'Touch me and see.'  She
gazed at it slowly congealing, resting between the potato and the
beans, immortally satisfied like the navel-stone at Delphi or the
Louvre 'Monna Lisa.'

With a ferocious effort of will she cut it in half, raised a piece
on her fork, laid it down again.  She must indeed be extremely ill,
for it seemed to her as if the two pieces had joined together
again, and that the beans stirred like weed-tendrils in a pond.

Nevertheless she sat there.  She saw the mutton removed, still
smirking, and Sally smirking above it.  Sally was to lose her job;
that at least was one comfort.

She said:  'Oh, do you think so?  I like a novel in which
everything ends happily.  There's so much unpleasantness in life
anyway.  Why have it in our fiction?'

Rose had observed her, came into the drawing-room as Janet was
bending down to stir a reluctant sulky fire and said:  'Oh, Janet!
do let me do that!  Even though you do hate me I can poke the fire
for you.'

Janet straightened herself, then staggered so that Rose must catch
her arm.

'Why must you always be facetious, Rose?'

'Come--sit down.  You look dreadfully ill.  And you ate no lunch at
all.  I wasn't spying.  But I couldn't help seeing.'

Janet sat down.  She put her hand to her head.

'Yes, I have a headache, I won't deny.'  Then she added:  'I hate
mutton.'

Rose, who was on her knees before the fire, looked up.

'It's none of my business, and you run the house beautifully, but I
think the cook's lazy.'

'She is,' Janet said.  'I'm giving both the cook and Sally notice
before the end of the week.'

'Sally?  I AM glad!'

The two women looked at one another and exchanged a glance of real
comradeship.  Both knew why everything might be better without
Sally. . . .

Then a wonderful thing happened to Janet.  As she looked at Rose,
kneeling there on the floor, she was conscious of a sudden
exaltation.  She felt (not for the first time in her life)
maternal.  She hated Rose, she wanted her out of the house, she
didn't wish to speak to her, yes, she hated her--but she felt
maternal.  The girl was so young for her age, helpless in spite of
Geneva and the League of Nations, helpless at least in this present
situation.  She looked away out at the trees straining in the wind,
and the clouds marching now like an army across the sky--this
sudden protective urgent tenderness would pass.  It had in reality
nothing to do with Rose whom she hated.  Any young thing kneeling
like that . . . any young thing who had looked as Rose had looked
when John came out of the study . . .

Rose had risen and, after a moment's hesitation, had sat down on
the faded green sofa beside Janet and taken her hand.

'Would you mind, Janet, very much if I fetched my thermometer from
my room?'

Janet took her hand away.

'Indeed I would.  I hate being fussed over.'

'But this isn't fussing.  Forget for a moment that I am Rose.  I am
nothing, simply a disembodied spirit who fetches a thermometer.
For you have a temperature.  I'm sure that you have.'

'The last thing you look like,' said Janet grimly, 'is a
disembodied spirit.  And I have myself a thermometer, thank you.
As a matter of fact I think I WILL go and lie down.'

'Why not undress and go to bed?' said Rose.  'One does feel so much
better in bed if one has a bad headache.  And it isn't a day to
stay up for.  It's a horrible day.'

Janet was near to tears--tears of aggravation, weakness and pain.

'Would you mind leaving me alone?  I don't want to be rude, but
when one is unwell the only thing one wants is to be left alone.'

Rose got up from the sofa.

'Yes, I know.  It's only that one push from someone outside is
sometimes useful although always disagreeable.  When one ought to
go to bed but can't quite make up one's mind--'

Janet got up.  The room surged about her.  The room, always full of
noises, clocks, canaries, and everlasting whisperings, now shouted
in her ear.

She staggered and found herself leaning against Rose.

'I can manage perfectly well.'

'No, you can't.  You've got to let me help you to your room whether
you like it or no.'

'It's only,' murmured Janet, 'a kind of nausea.'

'I know exactly.'

They went upstairs together, Rose's arm round Janet's waist.  In
Janet's room Janet said:

'If you don't mind--I'd rather be alone.'

'Of course.'  Rose left her.  'Only have you some aspirin--and you
will take your temperature, won't you?'

'Yes, I have some aspirin, thank you.'


In the drawing-room again Rose waited wondering what she should do.
The poor old thing was plainly ill, and for the first time Rose
realized how lonely Janet was.  Except for Rose there was not a
soul in the house who would trouble.  When Janet had been ill
before what had happened?  She had lain there in that ugly room, in
that dark cold house, and the cook or a discontented, reluctant
maid had brought her medicine, seen to her needs.  The Colonel
would visit her perhaps for a moment but would hasten away, for
Rose knew him well enough now to realize that he would hate any
kind of illness and fear it.  How miserable, how frightened, how
deserted she must often have felt!  Rose understood, feeling her
own health and youth and vigour, how Janet must have detested the
weakness that illness would bring her, physical strength being her
only asset.  Yes, it was a tragic situation met with courage and
honesty.  She would go up a little later and see how things were.

She had been for the moment absorbed by Janet and stood looking out
of the window at the garden.  The wind had suddenly fallen and the
scene had miraculously changed as it does so often in this country.
Blue was breaking through the thin web of grey sky, and little
shining white clouds, like ragged snowballs, hinted at an advancing
sun.  The garden was quite still, and the light which was not yet
there but soon would be gave a silver colour to the new leaves,
which had a glitter as though rain had fallen.

She was breathing in delightedly this new peace when she saw a
figure open the gate, stand uncertainly and look about him.  A
moment later she realized that this was Mr. Rackstraw: Mr.
Rackstraw, an umbrella in his hand, a soft shapeless hat set
crookedly on his head.

Her instant thought was that he must disappear.  Her second, where
was the Colonel?  For the Colonel detested Mr. Rackstraw.  Hastily
she went into the passage and listened: not a sound save the
twittering of the canaries from the drawing-room.  She opened the
front door and ran out.

As soon as she reached him she realized that he was drunk.  He
swayed slightly on his feet and as she approached him he raised the
umbrella unsteadily and opened it over his head.

Last night she had rested her head on his shoulder, she had kissed
his forehead, she had thought him her champion.

'If,' he said, 'it is raining, come under my umbrella.'

She caught him by the elbow, drew him into the road and hurried him
out of sight of the house.  When they were round the bend he
struggled a little.

'Miss Clennell'--he bowed, the umbrella bowing with him--'I came to
call.  I will NOT be prevented.'  His lower lip quivered.  With
trembling fingers he closed the umbrella.  Then looking at her, his
eyes full of tears, he whispered:

'I'm sorry.  Disgraceful.  Beg your pardon.'

She did not know what to say.  She was so bitterly disappointed
that she could herself have cried.  Catching her arm as though he
were going to say something very important, he cried:


     'But far from dances and the back-blowing torch,
     Far off from flowers or any bed of man,
     Shall my life be for ever; me the snows
     That face the first o' the morning, and cold hills--'


'Mr. Rackstraw,' she interrupted.  'Please, please go home.  It
will be so bad if you are found here.  Please, please.'

(She realized when she looked back on this episode afterwards that
he had spoken his poetry with absolute clarity, stumbling over no
single word.)

'My dear,' he said, 'I want to help you.  I am an old man, a
disgraced old man--"far from dances"--yes--"far off from flowers"--
but I can offer you a meal--hospit-hospit-hospitality.  You shall
be saved from your enemies if a wretched worthless old man--'

Then once again her eyes brought comprehension breaking through.
'I'm sorry.  I apologize.  I hadn't intended, but one glass of
whisky is no mortal sin.  Who says it's a sin?  I defy them!  I
defy them all!--my only friend.  I have no friend.  Rightly, you
will say--but whether right or wrong that is my punishment.  We are
all punished in our time.  The gods see to it.  Forgive me.  I need
your forgiveness.'

By this time they had reached the turn of the hill and the houses
of Threlkeld were in front of them.  She stood back from him.

'Please go home, Mr. Rackstraw,' she said quietly.  'You oughtn't
to be out like this.  It would be unfair if anyone saw you.'

'Yes,' he said gently.  'It would be unfair--but then everything is
unfair.  Most unfair.  Life's only lesson.'  He looked up at the
sky which was now an unbroken serene blue, the hills lying against
it as though asleep.

'I see that it is not raining,' he said.  'I will go home.'

And very steadily, tapping the road with his umbrella, he walked
away.  'And that,' she thought, 'is the end of my champion.  There
is no one to help me.  I must manage this thing myself.  Yes, there
is Michael.  The three of us, it seems, against the world, the
flesh and a bottle of whisky.'  But, standing in the garden,
marvelling at the golden silence and the freshness of it, she
sighed for Mr. Rackstraw.  'He'll be so terribly sorry to-morrow,'
she thought.

All through the afternoon Janet, having taken as much aspirin as
any decent lady ought to take and not consider herself a dope
fiend, having extracted a hot-water bottle from Sally, had lain in
her bed following the pains that ran like hostile mice from one
part of her body to another, keeping misery at bay, for if she is
miserable who is there to care?

One thing especially worried her and that was the house.  The house
had a cold.

Her perceptions were fiery, lit by pain and fever, no imaginary
exaggeration was it to perceive how the chimney snuffled, how the
ceiling ached, how little chilly tremors ran along the floor, how
all the apertures were closing with rheum, how the staircases
shivered.  Somewhere in the house's middle quite awful pains were
stirring; she could in her own feverish state see the house raise,
like a hand, the ugly bow-window outside the drawing-room, and
heaving a deep sigh of distress through all its Cumberland stone
feel the heavy ache of its tiles and plaster while down the channel
of the central chimney tears of soot fell softly in sympathy.

The horrible thing was that all the apertures were closing just as
her own throat, eyes and nostrils were constricted.  Soon there
would be no air in the house: fever would heat the rooms and
passages, the windows would darken, the very chairs and tables
thicken with high temperature.

And she would die in this horrible old room of hers, and at the
last, choking, gasping for breath, she would be strangled by her
own disease.

She sat up looking wildly about her.  She had not switched on the
light because she had hoped that she might sleep, and now, in the
dusk, it seemed to her that the room was growing smaller.  Surely
the wardrobe, which appeared now to be double its ordinary size,
was nearer the bed than customary!

'I'm crazy,' she thought, 'and nobody will come.  If I ring the
bell it will only be Sally again.  I cannot bear her in the room.
I shall die here and nobody will be sorry.  There's not a soul in
the world but will think it a good riddance.'

There was a gentle knock on the door: it opened and someone was
there.

'Why, you're all in the dark!'  Then more gently:  'Janet, are you
asleep?'  Rose turned on the light by the door.  'Only for a
moment.  Don't let it hurt your eyes.  Wait.  The lamp by the bed.'

She switched on the lamp and in another moment it was the only
light in the room.

'How are you?  May I stay for a minute or two?'

'Please,' Janet said.

'How was the temperature?'

'It was a hundred and two.'

'Oh dear! . . .  Now may I take it again?'

Janet submitted.  She lay there with the thermometer under her
tongue and stared in front of her.  Rose's fingers were on her
wrist.  There was silence.

'Yes--it is still a hundred and two.  Won't you have a doctor?'

'Perhaps it would be best.  Doctor Meadows.'

'Do you mind my leaving you a moment while I telephone?'

Again silence.

Rose was in the room again.  'He's coming at once.'  She sat beside
the bed.  'May I make you more comfortable?'

She smoothed the pillow, lifted Janet so that she lay against her
breast.

'Do you mind this eau-de-Cologne?  It helps the headache.'

She sat beside the bed, Janet's hot hand in her cool one.

'The house has a cold,' Janet said.  It seemed to her that Rose was
isolated by a cloud of cool water that surrounded her with a
shining nimbus.

'Is there someone standing by the door?'

'No.  There's no one there.'

'Only yourself in the room?'

'Yes.  Only myself.'

'It was very good of you to come.'  Then she said again, breathing
with difficulty:  'This house has a cold.'

'It seems to me very warm--too warm.'

'No.  I don't mean that.  It has the influenza just as I'm sure I
have.  It's all stuffed up and full of aches and pains.'

'Yes, I know how one feels.  But you mustn't talk.  Shall I go
until the doctor comes?'

'No, don't go.  Talk to me a little.  Tell me things.'

'Shall I?'  Rose stroked her hand.  'I'll tell you one thing I've
been thinking this afternoon.  That it must have been lonely for
you other times when you've been ill here.  I don't think this is a
good house to be ill in.  I was afraid you wouldn't like me coming
back to see how you were, but the house is depressing to-day.
John's in Keswick with Michael.  I don't know where your father is.
I'll confess something.  I came to see you as much for my sake as
yours.'

Janet turned her head on the pillow and looked at her.

'How young you are!  Ever since I was so rude to you the other day
I've been thinking of that.  Not that I'm ashamed. . . .  I meant
that . . .'

'Hush!  you mustn't talk.'  Janet shook her head.

'I only want to say one thing.'  She took her hand out of Rose's.
'Don't think because I'm ill that I've given in.  It was wrong of
you to come here--wrong to stay.  And to be kind to me.  You're
only doing it for a purpose, I'm sure.  But I'm weak.  I'm foolish.
I've been lonely so long.'

'Janet, dear. . . .  Not now.  We'll have it all out one day--but
not now.'

Janet gave Rose a feeble little push.

'But you shouldn't stay here.  You'll catch the influenza.'

'Well, if I do--then you can nurse me.'

'Yes, I will.  Don't imagine I won't do my duty--whatever it may
be.'  Janet began to speak excitedly.  'I tell you, Rose, I can't
help it.  I know what's right and wrong.'

'Do you?' said Rose.  'I wish I did.'

'Of course you do.  Everyone does.  And yet--I see how you love
John.  I know it now as I didn't the other day.'

'Yes,' said Rose.  'I do.  It's changed everything.'

'Well, there it is.  We can't alter it and I won't pretend I don't
like you to care for me.  But perhaps you don't.  To be quite
honest I don't see how anyone can.'

'I do care for you,' Rose said.  'I didn't expect to but I do.  And
now PLEASE, Janet, don't talk.  Lie down.  Let me see that the hot-
water bottle is all right.'

Janet lay down.  Rose felt her forehead.

Janet said:  'Let your hand stay there, Rose.  It is so cool.'

'No.  Wait.  This will be cooler.'  She had found, when she
telephoned to the doctor, some ice in the pantry and now she
brought from the washbasin an ice-cold towel.

'There!  Don't you like that?'

'Yes.  Thank you.  Don't go till the doctor comes.  Will you light
that candle, please?'

'A candle?'

'Yes.  That one in the silver candlestick.  It's one of the few
pretty things I have.  Mother had a pair.  They're really old, I
believe.  Father has one in his study.'

Rose lit the candle.

'Now will you switch off the lamp?'

There was again silence.

'Isn't it charming?  So much nicer than electric light.  I've seen
my mother doing her needlework under that very candle.  She did
such beautiful work.'

There was a knock on the door.

'That must be the doctor.'

Rose bent down and kissed Janet on the cheek.  Janet threw up her
arms and drew Rose's head down for an instant.

Sally said in the doorway:  'It's Doctor Meadows, miss.'



CHAPTER X

FLIGHT FROM DESPOTISM--WITH RUMP


Janet was quite seriously ill with influenza for a week, and during
that time Rose devoted herself to the poor lady.

Janet was a good patient, for gratitude worked real havoc in her
sentimental heart.  When, after so much misery, she sat in her
chair, a shawl about her shoulders, sipping chicken broth while
Rose read to her a novel by Mr. Albion, she was so weak, so
grateful, and so sentimental that tears rolled down her cheeks and
salted the broth and nobody heeded.  'We are friends now for life,
I suppose,' Rose thought, while she read a moving account of the
Squire's difficulties because the ancestral home was mortgaged.
This story, she thought, she had read before and it would not
please her circle of friends in Geneva, who preferred something
more obstetric, but how agreeably English it was and how easy to
read aloud was Mr. Albion's prose.

'Oh, how beautiful, dear!' sighed Janet.  'Do read that bit again!'

'Yes, I have her now for life.  I am her only friend.  I shall
never, never be rid of her, and although I shall so very often be
irritated I shall more often be glad and say to myself:  "Well,
anyway there's Janet!"'  Looking back she was not surprised at
Janet's so sudden surrender, for she has been longing, Rose
thought, to love somebody.  She's fine, she's brave, of a grand
integrity and has a sense of humour most unexpectedly.  Also she
detests her father the Colonel.  She is an ally.


When, later, Janet was sleeping and Rose went down to the drawing-
room for an hour's rest she found, to her amazement, Mrs. Parkin.

A frosty eye saluted her.  There was no handshake.

'I have come to see Colonel Fawcus.'

'Oh yes. . . .'  Rose's eyes sparkled.  She did what she had
determined to do.  'I have been wanting to apologize, Mrs. Parkin,
for losing my temper with your son the other day.'

Mrs. Parkin said nothing, but her little breasts rose and fell
under their stout and not very decorative grey covering.

'It was unpardonable when you were a guest here.  I do most
sincerely apologize.  At the same time I do want to say that I do
not for a moment regret it.'

'Well, really, Miss Clennell!'

'I quite understand how indignant you must have felt, Mrs. Parkin.
I felt indignant too.  I think we're all square.'

Mrs. Parkin was so very angry that her hand, holding a little black-
beaded bag, trembled and her mouth twitched, but she replied with
dignity:

'Miss Clennell, on my side I have nothing to say except that when
you arrived here in an invidious position I was friendly and
introduced you to my circle.  I might have behaved quite otherwise.
You have repaid this with violence to my son and rudeness to
myself.  I am an old friend of Colonel Fawcus, but I'm sure you
will agree that, when I visit here, you and I had better meet as
polite strangers.'

There was a ring of Charlotte Yonge or Miss Worboise about this
speech and Rose was touched.  She would behave again as she had
behaved before if the same occasion arose: nevertheless she thought
Mrs. Parkin rather a pet.

She smiled, then thought her smile must be aggravating and looked
serious.

'Yes.  I behaved very badly.  I often do, I'm afraid.  Polite
strangers.  Yes.  I'll do my best,' and she went out of the room.


And John is the other question.  What has he been doing?

He thought, when first he heard of his Aunt Janet's sickness, that
it was a good thing--and this not from cruelty but simply a
judgment from a real boy's acceptance of facts as they are.  Aunt
Janet in bed meant more freedom for himself, Rump, and the old
gardener.

But--it did not turn out like that.  Something very strange
occurred.  His mother paid him no attention at all.  It seemed as
though the only person in the world for her was Aunt Janet, and
this was odd because he had thought that his mother did not like
Aunt Janet.

He discovered that he missed his mother's interest in him, and that
not at all because he wished that she should be kind to him.  Only--
she had said that they were to be friends.  Was this being friendly?

He had known often before what it was to be lonely, but now it was
as though no one had any interest in him at all.  Even Mr.
Brighouse . . .

During algebra he said:  'When will Aunt Janet be better?'

'She's getting on.'  Mr. Brighouse looked at him severely.  'We
happen to be doing algebra if you don't mind.'  Mr. Brighouse's
temper was very uncertain this week.  Could it be that he also was
missing somebody?

It was then, after considering everything and everybody, that John
had an idea.  The idea remained; it grew and burgeoned.  His
grandfather's behaviour made it a fact.

On a very dreary afternoon when, although the sun shone, it seemed
that the world was dead, he was summoned into his grandfather's
study.  He at once took off his coat, preparing for exercises.  At
the same time he considered how extremely beastly this all was, and
in that instant the idea grew a little older and a little stronger.

His grandfather stood up in front of him, looking a mountain of
health and strength.

'Yes.  Now stand with your heels together.'

John did so.

'Your hands at your side.'

John stood as stiff as a steel rod.

'Now listen to me.  I have been training you for a considerable
time.  Why, do you imagine?'

John considered.  It seemed that here was occasion for a little
propaganda.

'To prepare me for school.'

'Not necessarily.  It may be that I shan't send you to school.  You
are having a better training under me than you'll ever get at
school.'

John's nose twitched.  He longed to scratch it and that longing
revealed to him the true beastliness of his position.  Something
had happened to him on that day when Roger turned on him.  Perhaps
some new manliness, perhaps a new disgust.  In any case his soul
revolted because his nose demanded something that he was not free
to give it.

'You're a happy boy, aren't you?'

He was not, but he felt that this was the wrong moment for protest.

'Yes, Grandfather.'

'You certainly ought to be.  It is time that you should know what I
have in mind for you.  I shall in a year or two be seventy.  I'm as
strong and fit as a man of thirty.  When you are seventy you must
be as I am.'

'Yes, Grandfather.'

'To be so you must be strongly disciplined.  Have you ever heard of
Sparta?'

'Yes, Grandfather.'

'Tell me about it.'

'It was a part of Greece where they trained boys to play games and
fight and not be frightened.'

'Quite so.  Have you heard of the Spartan boy and the fox?'

'Yes, Grandfather.'

'Do you think you would have kept quiet with a fox eating your
vitals?'

John considered.

'No,' he said.  'I think I'd have made a noise.'

'Well, that's honest anyway.  But the Spartan training was the
finest the world has ever seen.  Do you know what the Germans are
doing?'

'No.  I don't think . . .  They burnt a lot of books, Mr. Brighouse
says--'

'Pish!  I don't mean that.  Quite right to burn them if they didn't
like them.  The Germans to-day, under their great leader, Hitler,
are doing what the Spartans did.  They are training their boys and
young men to become the greatest heroes the world has seen since
Sparta.  They are disciplining them, making them sink all their
private wishes and impulses in the service of their country.  They
are no longer individuals but only members of a great body to whose
slightest wish they must be subservient.  Instead of the sloppy
young men with cigarettes and hair over their eyes, who think of
nothing but pleasure and idleness, who won't earn their living even
when they have a chance, they are a splendid body of young heroes,
ready to live and die for their country at the word of command.'

John, who now was suffering from pins and needles, said:

'Yes, Grandfather.'

The Colonel paused.  A kind of transfiguration took place in him.
His whole body seemed to swell with a wonderful glory.  His eyes
were misted, his voice trembled as he said:  'I might be where
Goering is to-day had I been born a German.'

John, who had no idea of Goering, simply stared.  He also began to
be frightened.

'Nevertheless we must do what we can.  One English boy at least
shall learn what obedience, physical endurance, discipline mean.'
He put his hand on John's shoulder, drawing him slightly towards
him.  'I love you, John.  You are all I have now that I have lost
my dear son.  I was meant to do great deeds in the world, but fate
decided otherwise.  You shall do them for me, and when the world
acclaims you, remember to whose training you owe your power.  So,
after all, my life may be of some account.'

John sneezed.

'I'm very sorry, Grandfather.  My nose has been tickling. . . .'

'Have you been listening to what I've been saying?'

'Yes, Grandfather.'

The Colonel was feeling his arms, his chest.  He pinched his ear.

'You're not very strong yet, are you?  No muscle at all--'

'I think if I went to school--'

'Nonsense!  We'll see that you're strong before you're much older.
We won't do any exercises to-day because I want you to think over
what I've been saying to you.  From now on you obey me in thought,
word and deed.  Whatever I tell you to do, you do.  Do you
understand?'

'Yes, Grandfather.'

'If I wake you up in the middle of the night and order you to run
to Keswick, you run, do you understand?'

'Yes, Grandfather.'

'The slightest disobedience and you're punished--because I love
you, because I mean to make you a great man, because I'm going to
put my spirit into you so that you may do what I should have done
after I'm gone.'

'Yes, Grandfather.'

'Come here and kiss me.'

John was enfolded in his grandfather's arms and smelt heathery
tweed, tobacco, shaving-soap and hair-oil.  His grandfather was now
sitting down and John was standing between his legs.

'This is now my life-work.  I surrender at last all hopes for
myself.  You are me, me as I might have been, as I should have
been.  You are my dear son come back to me again.  From to-day we
are one. . . .  What are we?'

'We are one,' said John.

'Good boy!  To-morrow we start.  Now you may go.'

John went.

In his own room he stood considering.  The Idea was now a Fact.
Moreover not a minute was to be wasted.  He started at once to
pack.  The Idea was that he should run away.

He had been approaching this decision ever since the scene with
Roger.  Not only was life blank and empty without Roger but it was
now also extremely unpleasant.  There was his mother who said
'Let's be friends,' and then was unfriendly; there was his
grandfather who said, 'Now we are one,' when most certainly they
were NOT one and never would be.  John was not without humour,
although nobody except Rump had ever encouraged humour in him.
There was something very comic in his grandfather saying, 'Now we
are one.'  There was something frightening also.  In fact--it was
time to depart.

He would, he fancied, have started on his world-adventures ere this
had it not been for two things--Roger and the prospect of school.
Both were now taken away from him.  It was time to go.  He had
planned his campaign.  Almost all the boys in all the books that he
had ever read had run away at one time or another, and especially
in his favourite book which was, so old-fashioned was he, David
Copperfield.  David had walked to Dover.  It ought not to be
difficult to walk to Carlisle.  Once in Carlisle he would be
compelled to pawn the gold watch and chain that had belonged to his
father in order to travel to London, but, once in London, he did
not doubt but that he would find employment.  He could be Boots at
an hotel, or a messenger boy, or possibly an acrobat, seeing that
his grandfather had trained him to stand on his head.  Then he
could redeem the watch.  Moreover, as he was taking Rump with him
the two of them might perform for a while in the London streets.
No one could call Rump an intelligent dog, but at least he could
beg and bark if you said the word 'Policeman.'

He would walk between Skiddaw and Blencathra to Uldale, and thence
to Carlisle.  He had gone to Skiddaw Forest (which was no forest:
there was not a single tree there) with Mr. Brighouse, and,
although it was lonely, and, as he had heard, a man had once been
killed there in a duel, and there were stones that made singing
noises, still he would have Rump with him and he would be afraid of
nothing then so deeply as he was afraid of becoming One with his
grandfather.  Better to starve in the Forest that wasn't a forest
than be wakened in the middle of the night by his grandfather and
ordered to run to Keswick!

His new-found manliness (he had grown in the last few weeks) made
him independent and even cheerful.  In fact as he stood in his room
and considered his packing he was whistling 'Smoke gets in your
Eyes' considerably out of tune.

To-morrow morning would be an excellent day for the adventure
because it happened that Mr. Brighouse had been allowed two days'
leave to visit some friends in Yorkshire.

He had bequeathed John enough Algebra, History and Geography to
last him a month at least.  John was very much afraid that, as
things were, he would not be learning the Algebra, History and
Geography.  His grandfather never thought of him till tea-time and
his mother would be busy with Aunt Janet. . . .

As to the packing, John had been given two Christmases ago a
rucksack by Aunt Janet.  This would hold one pair of pyjamas, one
pair of stockings, two flannel shirts, a tooth-brush, a piece of
soap and a ball of string.  He would take with him his three
favourite books--David Copperfield, The Broad Highway and
Greenmantle.  Also a cricket-ball which Roger had once given him.
Item a collection of cigarette-cards.  Item a photograph of his
father.  He thought that would be about all.

His further plans were somewhat indefinite.  As he was not to be
allowed to go to school, he might as well begin to be a man at
once.  There were many possibilities.  He might be an explorer and
spring from ice-floe to ice-floe as he had seen, in the cinema at
Keswick, young men gallantly performing.  He might fly an aeroplane
from Australia to Croydon or even act in Hollywood as several boys
appeared to be doing.  The world was full of opportunities and,
once a hero, there was a letter to be written to Roger.

It would be something like this:


DEAR ROGER--You have seen, I expect, in the newspapers that I have
just flown from Australia [or discovered a new mountain in Iceland,
or brought home Pigmies from Africa, as the case might be].  I
have enjoyed myself very much and shall shortly be starting
another Expedition.  If you care to come with me I'll be awfully
pleased . . .


Simply that.  No reproaches.  No glorification.  Simply that.


He awoke very early next morning and saw, from his window, that the
world was veiled in mist.  His gold watch told him that it was
seven o'clock, but as Summer Time had been a week in progress, this
meant that it was in reality only six.

He dressed very quietly, took his rucksack that had been packed the
night before, and stole out to the top of the stairs.  Save for the
clocks the house was silent.  The servants would be about but in
the kitchen.  He crept downstairs, cautiously opened the door into
the garden, and advanced, like an Indian on the trail, to Rump's
kennel.

The garden was a sea of mist through which the trees sailed like
the masts of leaf-growing ships.  Behind the mist there was a faint
stirring as though some fire blazed the earth at an infinite
distance.  Spiders' webs brushed his face, and leaves were wet
against his cheek.  A bird sang and seemed to follow, with its cry,
above his head almost like his own voice.  He found Rump's kennel
and the dog asleep.  He dragged him out.  Rump looked at him,
wagged his tail feebly, yawned and tried to return to his kennel.
John, who had long been accustomed to speak to Rump like a human
being, having not too many real humans for intimate conversation,
knelt down on the wet grass, put his arm round Rump's neck and
explained the adventure.

'Try not to be too much of an idiot.  This is the one chance you'll
ever get.  You'll soon be fat and wheezy as you're going on here,
and you know you hate Aunt Janet and Grandfather.  You shake
whenever they look at you.  Coming with me you'll have a chance to
do something in the world.'

He thought that he heard a door opening from the house and stopped
to listen.  He looked back but could see nobody through the mist.
He had brought with him some buns, a large piece of cake and some
fragments of cold chicken which he had found in a luckily
unoccupied pantry the evening before.  He gave Rump half a bun, and
Rump, who was always hungry at any time of the day or night, began
to look about him a little more hopefully.  As with many human
beings his fears were always more active than his hopes, but he was
not afraid of John--in fact he rather despised him although he also
loved him.  Like most terrified persons he despised a little those
who were kind to him.  He never loved so truly as when he was being
sycophantic to a tyrant.  At the moment, however, John appeared to
be the only mortal in this cold, dim and early world, and therefore
John should be obeyed.  He followed him through the gate and up the
fell.  John, as he closed very softly the gate behind him, fancied
that he heard steps on the gravel path.  He listened for a moment
before he struck up the fell, but the only sound was the song,
steady, joyous, confident, of the garden bird.


For two hours or so they travelled forward together valiantly, but,
from the very beginning of this remarkable adventure, it seemed to
John that they were accompanied.  This was, of course, the effect
of the mist, which was not strong enough to confuse his path but
actual enough to confuse his mind.  He did not FEEL as though he
were starting on an affair that was to change his whole life, but
he remembered how, in a book of explorers that he had read, it had
been explained that nothing seems extraordinary at the moment of
its happening.  A true explorer never permitted himself surprise or
curiosity, and had not Stanley said:  'Dr. Livingstone, I presume'?

He felt no regret nor 'the lament for loved ones lost.'  There WERE
no loved ones in the house now abandoned to the mist.  Only,
queerly enough, he would have liked one last word with his mother.

It seemed a bit caddish when she had come such a long way to see
him and had told him that morning on the fell that she liked him,
to go away for ever without a word.  Not that he liked HER--or if
he had begun to like her a little she had dropped him as quickly as
she had picked him up.  He believed that women and girls were never
to be trusted.  Roger at least said so.

He DID like Mr. Brighouse, who had been awfully decent always, but
Mr. Brighouse had other interests.  After all, John thought, if _I_
were a man _I_ shouldn't care about boys.

So there was really no one except Rump and the gardener.  As to the
gardener, he cared for roses and carnations more than for John,
whose questions he was tired, as he had said only the other day, of
answering.

So there was really no one. . . .  He was afraid of his grandfather,
he hated his aunt . . . no one at all.

He found the Sanatorium quite easily, struck the path that led
along the flank of Skiddaw, and soon was alone, with Rump, in a
world of noise and shadow.  He had never imagined that there would
be so many noises.  His own feet in the first place!  Whenever he
stumbled on a stone he seemed to rouse the echoes of the world.  A
pebble rolled and the whole ground shook.

Then running water.  If he stopped and listened, which he began to
do more often than was wise, water seemed to be moving on every
side of him.  Not friendly water either.  One of the things that he
had always cared for best in this country, that he loved without as
yet knowing it, were the brooks and leaping waters of the hills,
the sudden unexpected rivulets through turf, the dark pools under
chattering falls, the torrents after rain, the glitter in sunlight
of broadening streams.

But these waters were unseen.  They occupied the country as though
it belonged to them and they resented any invader.  In the half-
light he felt as though, with an incautious step, he might be
involved in water that would hold him and drag him down.  That was
absurd, for there were no marshes here, but nothing was real in
this strange country whose only human inhabitant he was.

Nor was he helped by Rump, who liked the mystery no better than he.
Rump followed at John's heels, venturing not a yard away.  Rump was
not a dog for a crisis.

'I think we'll sit down for a moment,' John said.

He sat down on a boulder and Rump cowered close beside him,
pressing against his leg and giving, every once and again, an
uncomfortable little shiver.

It was now that John, sitting and listening, heard steps as of men
marching.  If you strained your ears you heard nothing; if you
tried to think of other things, tried to see the true shapes of the
climbing fells behind the mist, then the tramp-tramp became
insistent, forcing itself up into your actual consciousness.  But
then, so soon as you applied your actual consciousness to it, off
it disappeared again!  Then it was easy enough to fancy that you
saw figures--figures of listeners, inhabitants of the valley
perhaps.

Mr. Brighouse had told him that there was an old tale that, under
Skiddaw, the great Cumbrian heroes of the past lived in a vast hall
where they drank, sang songs, played games.  This was not true, of
course, only a story, and yet on a day like this in a place like
this anything might be true.  And suppose that, in the middle of
their festivities, one or two of them stepped up out of their great
cave and came to the upper world to look about them--John Peel in
his long great-coat, Rogue Herries with the scar on his face,
little Hartley Coleridge with his elf-like eyes and wild leaping
step--John had heard of these and many more, real people and fairy-
tale people, but of all the figures of the place those that
dominated his imagination most strongly were the men, the heroes,
who had followed Prince Charlie in the '45 and been hunted and
killed here and towards Shap by Butcher Cumberland and his cruel
men.  These were the heroes for John, who had the nature of one to
sympathize with the lost, the fallen, the strayed, the martyred.

How vividly he had often seen those men hiding, running, lying in
bog and marsh, creeping from boulder to boulder on just such a
misty day as this!  Down the valley would march Cumberland's
soldiers; a shadow would move in the half-light, then the cry, the
pursuit, the rolling echo of the shot--one more martyr to the
Prince of the splendid Lost Cause!

It did not seem fantastic to him now that hunters and hunted should
be moving near him.  And what if some of the old ghosts should
resent his presence there, or simply out of some maliciousness
place their cold hands about his throat and draw him into their
company?

He was the kind of boy--he would be later on the kind of man--to
whom there would always be two worlds, the unseen more real than
the seen.  That was why his grandfather had power over him.

Yes, there were footsteps, there were shadowy figures, there was
always the running water. . . .

Then, like a true son of his father, he pulled himself together.
After all it was very little use, was it, to start on the adventure
of his whole life and, after an hour or so, sit on a stone and see
ghosts?  How about Africa and the Pigmies?  How about the Arctic
and the floes?  So up he got and marched on, surprised to find that
his legs were already rather stiff, his rucksack unexpectedly heavy
and his stomach remarkably empty!

In these parts light can play odd tricks with natural circumstances,
especially during those weeks when Spring is changing into Summer.
It is then that the closeness to Nature, a characteristic of these
hills, lakes and valleys, seems to slip the barrier between man and
his planet.  The bursting of a leaf-bud is of more import than the
signing of a cheque, and a stream rising mysteriously on a fell-side
is more emphatic than a bevy of bridesmaids.  A cold in the nose
suddenly caught here is an insult to the young bracken, and
rheumatoid arthritis a joke to the first piracies of the cuckoo.
Mist which so often veils the hills at this time is not only mist
here.  It is a covering for the secret life of the mountain-tops and
slopes, and from the heart of Skiddaw, Blencathra, Helvellyn and the
other immortal possessors of this land a strange radiance may be
seen by watchers to proceed, a radiance not only of the sun but of
the inner being of the earth, lambent there under soil through
winter, issuing now in clouds of light that do not lie on the hills
so much as permeate them.  Advancing through the mist the watcher is
suddenly conscious of a warmth that wraps him like a robe and a glow
that comes, as it seems, from his own heart, making him one with the
ground at his feet.  He is drawn inward and is aware of a life so
urgent, permanent and independent of time that, for a brief instant,
he fancies that he will snatch the secret of his own immortality.
Very swiftly he passes into the colder mists again and, returning to
Cumberland ham, matrimony and the Income Tax, wonders at himself for
a fool.

The hills, of course, have not been aware of his solemn presence;
they have so many real things to occupy them.

It was such a morning now for young John.  As he walked forward it
was not so much that he could not see as that he saw everything
wrong.  With Mr. Brighouse he had been able to name peaks; he had
turned back and seen Helvellyn through the gap.  But now the hills
walked with him, trailing clouds of mist like men rising from bed
and dragging their blankets with them.  It had seemed in clear
daylight a short walk from the entrance to the little cottage in
the middle of the treeless Forest.  But now there was neither
beginning nor end.

Everything was on the move, for the vapour, thin now like tissue-
paper, shifted in movements without form but filled with purpose.
Hills were revealed only to be hidden, and grey streaks of fell
stood out with grim stone and lean ragged lines like crocodiles'
backs.

Soon he became uncertain of his direction.  The unseen running
water, the consciousness that others were moving with him, the
strange shifting of the hills themselves, all this was illuminated
behind the mist as though, he said afterwards, giants were secretly
watching him with lanterns.

He stopped to take his bearings and at once the space about him
seemed to shake to the tramping of men.  He could not find Rump.
He felt the fear of loneliness and isolation coming upon him, the
same old fear that he had known in dreams, in his grandfather's
room.  It was of no use to say that he would not be frightened.  He
WAS frightened!  Giants with lanterns!  Giants with lanterns!

He cried out:  'Rump!  Rump!  Rump!'

The mist flung up its arm, and a jagged rocky peak that appeared
jet-black and ringed with sunlight threw out its shoulders at him.
A moment after, the sun was gone again as though it had never been.
He advanced and stumbled, his rucksack bouncing forward and
striking the back of his neck.  He was on his knees and it was as
though cold hands held him down.

Suppose they WERE there, standing round him now in a ring?  He
thought of Roger.  HE wouldn't allow a little mist and a few stones
to stop him, so up he got--but now he didn't know which way to
turn.  He had stumbled FORWARD, but then, in rising, he had turned.
Was he going BACK?  Tramp-tramp!  Tramp-tramp!  WHO are they?
Who's here?  Who's in this valley?

Who are you?

I'm John Fawcus.

What are you doing here?

I'm going to London.

Oh no! . . .  Oh no! . . .  He isn't going to London. . . .  He
isn't going to London. . . .

He began to run, panting.  A stone again, and this time he fell
flat.

He was breathless.  He cried out 'I can't . . . I can't . . . I
don't know where--'

And then, miracle of all miracles, a voice cried:

'John!  John!  Where are you?'

He called back:  'I'm here!  I'm here!'

A real figure, no ghost, grew out of the mist.  He was on his
knees, feeling blood on his cheek, for the stone had cut him.  He
looked up wildly and saw that despised, useless, interfering woman,
his mother.  The sense that he had had from the first about her
that she was of another nature from other persons was now confirmed
in him.  Still on his knees, he stared at her.

She was wearing the little dark-blue hat and dark-blue costume that
were sufficiently familiar, but nevertheless she must be a witch, a
bogy, the kind of ghost that he had been fearing.  He only expected
her to vanish.

However, instead of vanishing she said (and she did not come near
to him but stood a little way off):  'I beg your pardon, John. . . .
I'm afraid I've been following you.  I was just giving Aunt Janet
some tea when I heard the stairs creak.  I looked out and there
you were, crawling downstairs with a bundle on your back.  So I
followed you.'

He dabbed at his cheek with his now very bloody handkerchief.  The
mist was clearing.  To his right was a thin stream of water,
glittering in the sun, running through the rough weedy grass.

'I'll just wash this,' he said.  He felt very shy--a most awful
fool in fact.  What did she mean following him like that?  A piece
of cheek!  But as he knelt in the wet grass, bending down and
trickling the water on to his face, he saw the world almost upside
down, and, at the same moment as he caught the lower flank of
Skiddaw heaving on a sunny air with blue sky slanting fan-shape
into vaporous cloud, he knew that he was glad that she had come,
that she had taken that trouble, that she wasn't so unfriendly
after all.

When he returned (and although he didn't know it he had mud on his
nose) she said in a very ordinary voice (he didn't know what he had
expected--trumpets? tear-torrents? rages?):

'I brought some food.  I'm afraid I stole it from Aunt Janet's room--
some slices of chicken and toast and some oranges.'

'I've got some chicken too,' he said proudly, but when he produced
it what a nasty mess it was!  Cake, chicken, butter all mashed
together.  Rump, reassured by the sun, another human being and a
pleasant scent of rabbits, enjoyed it.

John and Rose sat on a flat stone together and ate.

'I kept just a little behind you most of the way.  In this mist,
though, I lost you until I heard you call.  Are you angry with me?
And would you mind telling me what you were planning to do?'

He realized that their relationship was entirely changed.  She
might almost have been Roger sitting on that stone beside him.  Her
hand was on his knee and he didn't care.  In fact he moved a little
closer to her.  After all, it was true what she had said, that she
was almost his own age.  Anyway she looked very young, sitting on
that stone with her hat off and her hair blowing about.  When he
moved a little closer she put an arm round him.

'Don't think I'm making up to you,' she said, 'but I'll be off this
stone if I don't hold on to you.'

'I don't mind,' he said, his mouth full of chicken.  He hadn't
imagined that before eleven in the morning you could be so hungry!

Light was filling the valley.  The warmth was radiant now and the
sunlit glitter of the thin stream a thread drawn crookedly through
green weed-stuff.

'And WOULD you mind telling me, John, where you were going to?'

'I was going to London.'

'London!  But how?'

'I was walking to Carlisle and then taking the train.'

'Oh, I see!  And what then?'

'I don't know.  I'd have earned my living somehow as a messenger
boy or an acrobat or something.'

Rose held him a little closer.

'I didn't know you were an acrobat.'

'Grandfather taught me.  He makes me stand on my head and all that
kind of thing.'

'Stand on your head?  But doesn't it hurt?'

'A bit, but he says it's good discipline--like the Spartans.'

'Well--tell me--why did you want to run away?'

He looked down at the ground, where Rump, properly gorged, was
asleep, his nose on his paws.

'Oh, I don't know.  It was slow after Roger went, and Grandfather
said that perhaps I wasn't going to school after all--and you were
in Aunt Janet's room all the time.'

'Did you mind that?'

'Yes, I did.'

'Then you missed me?'

'Well--you said we were to be friends--and you said--you know what
you said that day we had a walk.  And then, right after that, you
go and don't see me at all.'

'I had to look after Aunt Janet.  There wasn't anyone else to do
it.'

'She was all right before you came.'

'Then I thought you wouldn't want me fussing.'

'I don't mind.  Now Roger's gone there's nobody but you--'

His head was nodding.  The sun, the food, the air, the walk, the
early start . . .

His head fell forward against her breast.  He murmured something.
He was fast asleep.

She sat there on the stone, holding him against her, looking at the
empty sunlit valley with what her detractors would have described
as her 'cock-sparrow' expression.

In any case this was her happiest, most triumphant hour since the
day when John's father had told her he loved her.



CHAPTER XI

INSIDE THE COLONEL AS FAR AS ONE DARES


This is now the Colonel's last great opportunity.  He is good for--
how many?--say ten more fine emphatic years.  There is a
possibility of twenty, for men with a fine physique have reached
ninety ere now and never lost a faculty.  Only in his head is there
a trifling confusion; the rest of him is superb, heart, lungs,
sight, hearing, blood-pressure, appetite . . . only in the
brain . . . and there a sort of glorious excitement, everything
astir and on the move, so that the clocks tell the time as though
with a special private message to him, and the trees wave with a
regal obeisance and clouds at his bidding refuse to obey the sun.
He stands at his bedroom window, stripped to the splendid buff, and
raises his arms.  But, stooping later to find his disobedient sock-
suspenders, he knows an instant of awful alarm.  As he bends, there
is a cramp in his left side.  He sees the rising sun wearing a cock-
eyed grin and there is a woodpecker unexpectedly regardless of him.
The danger of our egotisms is that they have a theatre-backcloth
for scenery, and scene-shifters, who also carry their own egotisms
with them, are easily careless.  The only impregnable stage-armour
is humility, but the dramatic colour of that virtue is tiresomely
grey.

The Colonel did not believe in humility, and rightly so, for were
the humble just now inheriting the earth?  Most certainly they were
not.  He stood in front of his window again, wearing now his socks
and sock-suspenders.  His chest was inflated, his buttocks shone in
the morning sun whom, in the manner of the German Neo-Paganism, he
greeted as an equal.  He was paying a visit to the town of Keswick
this morning and the thought of this visit gave him pause.

He realized, with only too actual a consciousness, that Keswick did
not seem to need him any more.  It is very easy to despise the
citizens of a small town neighbouring you--easy but not wise.  The
Colonel knew this, for he had lived here all his life.  The
citizens of Keswick are, it may be supposed, of common clay like
the rest of us, but for a certain kind of honesty, independence and
loyalty they are worth a common man's friendship.  The Colonel had
never felt that he was a common man: nevertheless he had respected
Keswick and been proud to lead it along the right paths of
patriotism and civic virtue.

Although he might not actively realize it, he was proud of every
inch of it and would regard fondly the windows of Mr. Chaplin's
bookshop, the photographs of Mr. Abraham and Mr. Mayson, the silver
of Mr. Telford, the groceries of Mr. Bawden, as though, God-like,
he had created the whole of them.

Now, brushing his beautiful white hair with his beautiful ivory
brushes, he was conscious that he was not a Justice of the Peace
nor on any particular Committee, not even on one of the innumerable
Lake-Preservation-Town-Planning-Save-Us-from-the-Vandal Societies.
It was more than three years since the Keswick Lecture Society had
asked him to address them on one of his Antiquarian subjects. . . .


It was in this unsatisfactory state of mind that he visited Keswick
on this particular morning.  Despots are dangerous, but a despot
without authority, although a contradiction in terms, is a menace
to all his neighbours.  All despots are self-justified and feel
that they are working for the people's good, but a despot wishing
his people good and unable to benefit them is a man mad with
righteous indignation.  So with the Colonel on this important
morning.

During one short walk from the War Memorial to the Post Office he
was like God visiting the children of Israel.  Everything
exasperated him.  In Chaplin's he could not obtain the Spectator
and was maddened to observe that the place was littered with Mr.
Bauman's Lakeland novels.  He detested that red-faced, self-
satisfied bounder who had never called on him or shown him any
respect whatever.  Passing Telford's he encountered a fleet of
perambulators all directed by sauntering, gossiping young women who
pushed him ruthlessly off the pavement.  At that dangerous corner
that leads to the town Square he was all but sacrificed to a
Juggernaut of a charabanc, in the Post Office itself the fact that
he needed stamps immediately seemed altogether unobserved by the
lady behind the counter, who deliberately preferred to him a young
farmer, a stout woman in spectacles, and an old man with a parcel
to register.

Here, I'm sorry to say, he lost his temper and, like everyone who
is noisily cross in public, realized, with a wave of indignant self-
pity, that there are many other egoists in the world.

With a general maddened impression that he was going to report
everyone to somebody he was in the street again and face to face
with Mr. Rackstraw.

Now if there was one man on the face of this wearisomely restless
globe whom he both despised and repudiated, that one was Mr.
Rackstraw.  A drunken parson, a reprobate, a scandal, a brazen
hypocrite.

The little man stood in his way.

'Good morning, Colonel.'

The Colonel would have passed him without a word.  Mr. Rackstraw
was ubiquitous.

'Fine day, Colonel,' Mr. Rackstraw said.  'I'm glad I've met you
because I'm hoping to pay a call.  When am I likely to find you at
home?'

The Colonel answered to the point.

'Never, Mr. Rackstraw.  I have no wish for our future acquaintance.'

Rackstraw smiled.

'I'm afraid you've got to see me.  It's a matter of some
importance.'

'There can be nothing of importance for US to discuss.  I may
surely be allowed to choose my own acquaintance.'

'Certainly, Colonel.  Certainly.'

'Well, then--good day.'

Then an astonishing thing occurred which later, in retrospect, the
Colonel altogether failed to understand.  Mr. Rackstraw laid his
hand on the Colonel's arm, and the Colonel neither moved away nor
attempted to restrain him.

Mr. Rackstraw's appearance was displeasing, for he wore a shabby
soft black hat, he had cut himself shaving, and between his left
knickerbocker and his grey worsted stocking there was an interval
showing a streak of white woollen pants.  The Colonel on the other
hand was, as usual, resplendent.

Yet Mr. Rackstraw there, outside the Post Office in full public
view, restrained the Colonel, and anyone passing might, in view of
their physical intimacy, consider them friends.

'Excuse me, Colonel,' said Mr. Rackstraw gently.  'It isn't for my
own sake that I wish to see you.  Rather for yours.'

'For mine?  What the devil--!'

'Give me only a quarter of an hour.  I'm sure that you don't
realize the danger you're in--'

'Danger!'

'Yes.'  Mr. Rackstraw pressed his fingers on his arm.  'Oh, not
what YOU mean!  Not from any PERSON.  But you are contemplating an
act that is likely to be deeply resented.  Oh, don't misunderstand
me!  I repeat--not by any human being.  But you can't do things
here as you can in other places.  Surely you know that!  You've
lived here all your life.  Every larch tree is dangerous, and as
for stone walls--'

'Will you be so kind as to take your hand off my coat?  That you're
crazy is well known--'

'I'm drunk sometimes,' Mr. Rackstraw, who was perhaps a little too
fond of mentioning the fact, remarked.  'But crazy--no!  I mean
every word I say.  Don't run the risk, Colonel.  Sink your pride
and let them go--otherwise look out for rolling boulders, rivers
running through your dining-room, and a wild tree or two.'

'Let them go?  Let who go?  Upon my word, the police--'

'Nonsense!  You know what I mean.  I'm not being offensive.  It
isn't offensive to try and save a man from destruction--especially
a man you don't like.  Give me half an hour and I'll show you the
risks you're running.'

'Give you half an hour!  Give you a year in gaol more likely!'  And
this time the Colonel did break away, striding up the street to his
car in such a temper that all the Keswickians, calm and controlled
and rich in a sense of humour, enjoyed immensely the spectacle.

As he drove himself away he could only with the greatest difficulty
control the wheel.  The impertinent and insulting thirty-mile limit
was a further source of intense aggravation, for the Colonel, like
many another, felt the restriction as a personal insult to himself,
his ancestors and all his present relations.  Then, turning away
from the river and up the hill, his mood of self-pity gathered
power.  He should not have lost his temper in the Post Office.  A
pity!  A pity!  Lose your temper, yes, but only when it is a
tactical wisdom to do so!  It had seemed but yesterday that he had
been nothing but smiles and kindliness in Keswick!  With how
buoyantly paternal a gesture had he patronized the local Easter
light opera, sitting in the second row of the stalls next the
Reverend Mr. Lewin of St. John's, turning round and greeting Mr.
Abraham or Mr. Bawden, charming, charming, charming--yes, feeling
his whole heart warm to his fellow-beings who liked him, whom he
himself liked.  Going then, in the interval, behind the scenes to
congratulate them all, crying out in his hearty welcoming way that
he had seen The New Moon in London, indeed, indeed he had and, yes,
this was good, very good indeed.  London must look to its laurels.
Thanks, a cup of coffee would be pleasant--wonderful on so small a
stage how well they managed (seeing, as though in an all-
surrounding mirror, this fine vigorous, robust figure, the snow-
white hair, the friendly smile, with voices, voices everywhere
murmuring 'How friendly the Colonel is!  How generous the Colonel!
How delightful to hear what he thinks!').

And now this was gone.  They had been rude to him in the Post
Office, the perambulators had driven him into the gutter, Rackstraw
had insulted him.  Very well then!  He nodded at himself in the
little mirror.  If they would not have him as a benevolent friend
they should have him as a man of quiet, unrelenting power.  He
would begin at home--John, Rose, Janet, Michael Brighouse.  He had
been indulgent to the world long enough.  John was growing, Rose
was an intelligent woman, young Brighouse would do as he was told,
Mrs. Parkin should be influenced.  There were men in Keswick who
would soon be eating out of his hand.  Once a power here, how
quickly it would spread to Penrith, Cockermouth, Carlisle!  The
voices that had been dimmed returned:  'You don't know Colonel
Fawcus?  He's really the man.  I'll give you a letter to him.  He's
well over seventy but has more influence than anyone else in the
North.  Why has the North gone Fascist of late?  There's your
answer.  When they say that it's youth that runs the world to-day I
think of that wonderful old man. . . .  If you saw him you wouldn't
think, except for his white hair, that he's a day more than
forty. . . .  Oh yes, that's his grandson.  Clever young fellow.
Owes everything to his grandfather.  Ask HIM what he thinks of the
old man.  He'll tell you.  It's his settled conviction that we
would never have had Fascism in England if it hadn't been for his
grandfather.  If Baldwin hadn't paid that visit to Keswick in the
spring of 1937 . . .  You remember?'

The voices were so loud that the Colonel all but clashed with a
small Bentley, and it was a marvellous vision of an irate vulgar
face that leaned from the car and cursed him in that instant of
transition.

'He wouldn't have been so violent,' the Colonel, now happily
restored to his easy good-nature, thought, 'if he had known . . .'

He passed, like a benevolent Jove, into his house.


Meanwhile, in his own canary-chanting drawing-room, there had
occurred in his absence a little scene that contributed,
considerably, to later events.

Mrs. Parkin had been paying a morning call.  She had called to
enquire after the health of poor Janet Fawcus and had been
fortunate enough to find Janet downstairs for the first time, very
gaunt and pale, wrapped in shawls and sipping beef-tea.  Fortunate
indeed!  The one person in the world with whom Mrs. Parkin wished
to have a quiet little talk.  Not that she liked Janet; she was
also well aware that Janet had always disliked herself.  But all
minor dislikes were now swallowed up in the one great major dislike
that, Mrs. Parkin was assured, they both shared for Rose Clennell.

Since her quarrel with Rose an odd thing had happened to Mrs.
Parkin.  She had found it exceedingly difficult to keep away from
the Hall.  Like many other ladies who have not quite enough to do,
her relations with her neighbours filled her days with drama.  She
wished to be despot even as the Colonel, but only for the very best
possible reasons.  She served on Committees, helped with Sales of
Work and Bazaars, because she was sincerely convinced that without
her everything would crumble to pieces.  She often complained with
genuine weariness that the number of things she had to do would
certainly kill her; her efforts after Culture in this VERY barren
neighbourhood were making her an old woman before her time.
Nevertheless she gladly gave herself; it was the least one could
do.  She kept a smiling face; no one KNEW how she dragged herself
to bed more dead than alive, what the arranging of just a SMALL
musical party meant in sheer physical energy!

It followed, therefore, that anyone who opposed her in even the
smallest degree was Public Enemy Number One.  There was no PRIVATE
malice in her resentment.  She felt for him as Queen Victoria felt
for Gladstone, Lenin for Kerensky.  They were simply in the way of
the world's progress, these bad people.  And Rose Clennell now
obsessed her.  She thought of her in her lying down and her rising
up, she absorbed her in her soup, she threw her to the dogs when
she flung a bone to her red setter out of the sitting-room window!
What was she doing, this wicked, immoral creature?  What were the
stories to be told, where the scandals to be spread?  Janet Fawcus,
who so rightly hated the woman, would have them all.

So she set off, with a brief word to Mr. Parkin:  'Poor Miss
Fawcus!  I must go and cheer her up!'

'Thought you detested the woman,' Mr. Parkin murmured.

'Nonsense!  You can't detest a poor old maid like that.  You know
I'm not one to bear malice.'

Later, sitting in the room opposite Janet, she could not feel the
patronizing self-pleasure that she would wish.  For she was a kind
woman by instinct and if she had lived in the old days, the wife of
some rich and important squire, there would have been no limit to
her generosities.  She would have been satisfied with her position
and, a happy woman, could be busy in beneficences.  As it was she
was frustrated.

Moreover poor Janet was sadly ill, yellow-faced, gaunt-eyed,
sticking her chin out of her shawls as though it were her only
feature for dignity.  Nor did she believe in Emmeline Parkin's
protestations of sympathy.  The little woman, sitting upright on
the edge of her chair, with her red-brown costume that would never
belong to her, however hard she wished it, wanted something out of
her.

What she wanted was soon apparent.

'But, Janet, how MISERABLE for you!  Influenza you say?  I wonder
how you caught it.  And it pulls you down so.  I expect you feel as
weak as a kitten!'

'I'm getting along nicely, thank you.'

'I'm sure you are.  But now's the time to be careful.  Pneumonia,
you know.  That's the danger.'

'I'll not be having pneumonia.'

'No, of course you won't.  But all the same you can't be too
careful.  What a cheerful noise those canaries make!  Are you sure
they don't worry you?'

'I'm used to them.'

'Yes, of course you are!  But I always think that when one's been
ill little things are apt to irritate.'

There was a silence.  Janet was not helping at all.  She sat
propped up against her pillows, without moving, staring in front of
her.

'How is everything?' Mrs. Parkin began at last.

'Everything?'

'Yes.  Everything and everybody.'

'I don't know.  I've been in bed.'

'Of course.  So dreary for you!  How is dear John?  Roger goes back
in a few days' time.  I so regret that little trouble.  But John
mustn't mind.  He must come out to us again just as he used to do.'

'I'm afraid John does mind.'

Emmeline felt irritation stirring within her.  Tiresome old thing!
But agreeable one had come to be and agreeable one must remain.

'It was most unfortunate.  I'm not a hasty woman as you know, but
really'--here she dropped her voice and looked at the canaries
hopping to the sunlight as though she would strangle them--'I know
you'll agree with me--Miss Clennell, considering her very awkward
situation, is bold to a degree.  How much longer will she remain
here, do you think?'

'I'm sure I can't say.'

'Oh, of course not.  There!  Let me arrange those pillows for you.
They look so very uncomfortable.'

'No, thank you.  I can manage.'

'Well--what was I saying?  Oh yes.  Of course everybody is talking.
Simply everybody.  We are all broad-minded these days and no one
wanted to help her more than I did.  But as it's turned out--she
really IS . . .  How unpleasant for you it must all be!'

'Unpleasant--in what way?'

'But, Janet! my dear!  It's very noble of you, of course.  But to
have a woman of no morality at all, brazen-faced, you might call
it, planted here without your even being asked--'

'Yes.  It was all my father's idea--'

'I know.  So very odd of the Colonel!  Not that it's for me to
criticize, and if only she behaved herself!'  She leaned forward
until her little ramrod body was almost off the chair.  'Tell me.
Is she simply too dreadful to you?  You keep her in her place of
course.  I've seen the way you behave, and very right and just
too.'

'How do I behave?'

'Oh!  I've seen you!  I tell everybody when they ask--Janet is
exactly right, behaves with absolute dignity.  As of course she
would.  But tell me--is she rude to you?  Is she behaving badly
with that young tutor?'

'Behaving badly?  In what way exactly?'

'Oh, you know what I mean.  In these days with everyone talking
about birth-control and the awful books that are published, and of
course she's one of these modern young women--'

'I don't know about birth-control,' Janet said.  'It's not my
business anyway.'

'No, of COURSE it's not your business.  What I mean is--aren't you
going to make some sort of protest?  Is she to stay here for EVER?
And John hates her.  He was SO ashamed at the way she behaved to
Roger.  The poor boy!  I was so sorry for him.  It was really far
worse for HIM than it was for Roger and me!  But what I want to say
is that if there's anything I can do to help you . . .  Perhaps I
could say a word to the Colonel.  Someone from outside, a friend of
the family, can often assist with a judicious word.  And the
Colonel values my opinion, I know.'

'As a matter of fact,' said Janet slowly, looking into her cup to
see whether any beef-tea remained, for her appetite, thank God, was
returning, 'I don't want her to go.  I like her very much.'

'You--what?'

'Yes.  I like her.  She's a fine woman.'  How greatly Janet enjoyed
this moment!  With a sparkling merry eye she stared at the two
large brown spots on the right side of Emmeline's little nose.

'But,' Emmeline stammered, 'I don't understand.  I do not really.
I'm stupid, I'm slow.'  (And within she was thinking:  'Stupid old
fool.  She's only saying this to irritate me.  She doesn't mean a
word of it.')  'Of course I know your good-nature.  You mean to see
the best side of her, of course.  But I can't believe--I really
cannot . . .'

'Can't believe what, Emmeline?'

'Why, that you find her anything but intolerable.'  (And here
Emmeline's irritated indignation began to get the better of her
although she knew that it should not.)  'You've not been well,
dear.  You've been very unwell indeed and so you see things from a
different angle.  Influenza especially.  I know when I had it last
September.  You remember.  The Colonel was so kind, sending those
flowers.  I know that I saw people quite oddly--not at all as they
were.'

'No,' said Janet with quiet pleasure, 'I'm not a lunatic, Emmeline,
in spite of the influenza.  Rose Clennell is one of the best women
I have ever met.  I'm proud to be her friend.'

Mrs. Parkin got up and smoothed down her dress with trembling hand.
'I don't understand this,' she said.  'There's something very odd
going on in this house.  First the Colonel, now you. . . .  All I
can say is that people will be amazed. . . .'

'I don't care a damn,' Janet said, 'what people think.'

After that there was nothing more to be said--or only this:

'Well, Janet dear, I'm delighted to find you so much better.
Delighted.  All the same--do be careful.  Influenza can be very
dangerous in its effects.'

'I know exactly what you're going to tell everybody, Emmeline.
"Poor Janet Fawcus.  I went in to see her.  You know these old
maids.  Well, if Janet Fawcus isn't in an asylum two years from
now . . ."'

'Janet!  How can you!  How monstrous!  Are you sure those canaries
don't worry you?  They would me.  I must say you're in splendid
spirits.  I'll be in to see you again if I may.  Give my love to
the Colonel.'

'Good-bye, Emmeline.  No, you'd better not kiss me.  I'm still
infectious, I expect.  So good of you to come.  I'll be out and
about in a day or two.'


And how much better that visit had made her!  She was aware of a
new triumphant exultation.  She had a friend whom she might defend.
If she could not love, then she must hate, but how greatly she
preferred to love!  She had a friend, she had a friend!  She was
alone in the world no longer, and this child (for really Rose was
no more than a child) needed her championship.  Battles!  Battles!
Janet loved a battle--and here at last was Father . . .

'Where have you been, Father?'

'In Keswick.  In Keswick.  Where else could I have been?  The Post
Office is scandalous.  I must make an official complaint.'

'What did they do to you, Father?'

'Do to me?  How do you mean--do to me?  Really, Janet, you put
things in the oddest way.  Simply incompetence.  Badly staffed.'
He stood there eyeing her.  Poor yellow-faced, skinny creature.
His daughter!  It gave him the queerest turn.  'You don't look too
well.  You should be in bed.'

'I'm feeling wonderfully better.'  She raised herself on her
pillows.  'Emmeline Parkin has been here.'

'Oh, has she?  And what did SHE want?'

'Just came to see how I was--and to talk a little scandal.'

'Scandal?  About whom?'

'Rose--whether Rose was misbehaving with Michael.'

The Colonel enjoyed that.  He laughed, throwing back his head, and
all the canaries chirruped in sympathy.

'Rose!  That's a good one!  What did you tell her?'

'I told her nothing.'

'That's right.  She'll think the more.'  He reconsidered the Post
Office, Mr. Rackstraw and the rude man in the passing car, so he
decided on immediate authority.

'Well, well. . . .  Mustn't stay down too long the first day,
Janet.  I'll help you up to your room.'

Janet looked down quietly at her folded hands, then up at her
father again.

'Oh no, thank you, Father.  I'm very comfortable.'

'Ah, yes, you THINK so.  But I know what's good for you.  Now--lean
on me.  I'll lift you up.'

'No, Father.  Thank you.  I shall stay where I am.'

'Come, Janet.  Don't be foolish.  We can't have you bad again.'

He moved towards the chair, then stopped.  She had a strange light
in her eye.  She laughed.

'You're very strong, I know.  But a struggling, kicking woman is no
joke.  I might even bite.'

He frowned.

'You'd better do what I ask.'

Janet smiled.

'Dear Father!  I'm a grown woman.  You've not bothered me while I
was ill--why bother me now?'

'Are you trying to be impertinent, Janet?  Because if so--'

'Impertinent?  No, of course not.  But I'm going to stay downstairs.
Rose is looking after me.'

'Never mind Rose.  I wish you to go upstairs.'

'And I wish to remain.'

'Then it IS impertinence.  I think--'

But what he thought was for the moment concealed, for Michael
Brighouse came in.

'Fine to see you down, Janet!'  He smiled at the Colonel.  'That's
better, isn't it, sir?'

The Colonel, without a word, left the room.

'He's in a temper,' Michael said.

'Yes, he wants me to go to my room and I won't.'

'Mr. Barrett, Elizabeth, Mr. Browning,' Michael said, laughing.

'All the same,' Janet remarked, 'I'm old enough to be your mother,
Michael--or nearly.  I'm also a witch.  I make prophecies.  I
prophesy storm.'


Later on Rose put Janet to bed and then she went to her room.  She
sat on her bed, swinging her legs, looking at the dark picture of
Abraham and Isaac and the pale, pale silver-mauve that now washed
the sky above the fell.  The fell opened out to her fancy: it split
in half like the kernel of a nut and fold upon fold of hill lay
behind it.  These hills were all gentle in shape, between the folds
lay pools of mouse-silver water, and grey stone walls bound them.
Over these slopes sheep moved.  Hill after hill unfolded and behind
each were hills again.  There was no end to this pattern of shape
behind shape, and the peace that lay upon them was in the form, in
the colour, in the promise of refuge.  The sheep gathered into
multitudes, stars fell into the pools of water, and someone said
'Hush!'

She found that she had fallen asleep, sitting there on the bed.
She pulled herself together, yawned, stretched her arms and
realized her great happiness.  She was happier than she had been at
any time since Humphrey's death.  Why?  She stood up and smiled at
Abraham and Isaac.

Because of John.  He was hers, at last, and she was his.  She
remembered Cynthia Bones, in her room at Geneva, flipping ash all
over the carpet and saying:  'Children are nothing but a damned
nuisance.  Take it from me.'  Well, she HAD at the moment taken it
from Cynthia.  She could see now that room with the copy of some
Degas ballet-dancers on the wall, young Freddie Bones looking up
from the piano where he was attempting, badly, some fragments of
Arnold Bax and saying rather wistfully:

'Of course it isn't the THING now to care about children.  All the
same in the days of Eric, or Little by Little, they were happier, a
lot happier.'

'Oh, happiness!' Cynthia had said scornfully.

So they had talked and here was reality.  John lay within her
breast, in form threefold.  He was the baby she had suckled, he was
the man who, on her body, had begotten him, he was the boy now in
this house, standing, his figure alert, his eyes fixed gravely upon
her, ready to start for any journey that she named.

As the baby he was there with her in the room, for there was no
such thing as time.  He lay on the sofa propped with cushions, for
he was not as yet strong enough to sit upright, but he had the
devil of a driving force in him, for he pushed against her with his
legs, his fat shapeless knees rising and falling, his toes kicking
at her breast, while his ancient, cynical, sarcastic eyes gazed
into space and he shoved and shoved, his mouth obstinately set.

While she kept his head above the water, he kicked in the bath,
pushing out his feet.  While he lay on her lap to be dried his face
puckered for a howl, but he changed his intention and suddenly
smiled, gurgling with pleasure at some thought, malicious, cynical,
derisive.  Then, his arms about her neck as she carried him to his
cot, he rubbed his cheek against hers and, speculatively, pushed
his fingers into her eye, sighing with sleep, submitting to her,
trusting to her, recovering his innocence.

She had given him up: incredible, shameful act.  And now she had
won him back again, her life was full, glorious, rich in every
possibility.  She had been treated better, so very much better,
than she deserved.

She looked out of window and counted five stars.  So once with
Humphrey at Assisi she had looked out of window to see stars in the
sky myriad-thick and hear a bell ringing from the church.  And the
next thing, she thought, is to get him away, for get him away she
must.  His flight had shown her how urgent this was if nothing else
had shown her.

It was at this point that she stopped dead there on the floor where
she was, to realize almost superhuman difficulties.  It was surely
not a hard thing to walk with John to Keswick and take a train.
Well, they might try it, but something told her that they would not
achieve it.  From to-day on they would be watched, and the Colonel
eternally round the corner.  John was not hers.  He was the
Colonel's.  Once far enough away, she might defy him.  He would,
perhaps, as Rackstraw had said, fear a public scandal.  But to be
caught, in the streets of Keswick!  There was only one car
belonging to the house and she would not be allowed to use it.  She
might order a taxi from Keswick to meet her somewhere, but the
Colonel would know. . . .  How would he know?  Why was she so sure
of his omnipotence?

It was time to dress for dinner.  She slipped off her frock and
stood again, considering.  The situation had the elements of
melodrama and yet she was no heroine nor was the Colonel a villain.
The motives in this affair were too subtle for melodrama, which
demanded simplicity and colour, black and white.  There WERE no
such colours.  She slipped on a dressing-gown and moved towards the
little bathroom, when melodrama, after all, comically obtruded.
There was a tap on her door and there was the dear man, his white
hair ruffled, two ivory brushes in his hands, himself in stiff
shirt and dress-trousers, standing and smiling.

The door was open behind him, he did not attempt to close it; he
only said:  'Look here, Rose!  What have you been doing to Janet?'

She smiled back at him, but drew her dressing-gown (it was of black
and silver) more carefully about her.

'Done to Janet?'

'Yes.'  He came further in and closed the door.  He began, as it
were absent-mindedly, to brush his hair with one of the brushes.
'Forgive my coming in like this, my dear.  It's unconventional, I
know.  But I was passing . . . the idea struck me.'

'What's the matter with Janet?  I've just put her to bed.'

'Oh, you have, have you?  She wouldn't go when _I_ told her.'

'No.  She said something about that.  She said she wasn't a child
any longer.'

He laughed at that.  'A child!  No, I should think she isn't!  All
the same I'm still her father.  I know what's best for her.'

She said nothing to that but simply stood waiting for him to go.

He looked at her.

'For the matter of that I know what's best for all of you.'

She laughingly defied him.

'Oh, do you?  I don't think so.  No one knows what's best for me
but myself.'

He came nearer to her.

'Do you like this room?'

'Yes, very much.'

'It was Humphrey's, you know.'

'Yes.  I recognized it at once.  He described it to me.'

He looked about him.

'The furniture's a bit shabby.  But that's true of most of the
house.  I'll have it renovated--as you're going to stay you may as
well have a decent room.'

'Who says I'm going to stay?'

'I do.'

He was now almost touching her and in his face was a look of
triumphant elation.

'You don't think I'm going to let you go, do you?'

'You can't keep me.'

'Oh, can't I?  I told you when we took that little walk the other
day.'  He went on, his voice deeper:  'I can't help it if you're so
pretty.  That isn't MY fault.  You came here of your own free will,
you know.'

She turned back towards the dressing-table.

'I've got to dress.  It's nearly dinner-time.'

'Is it?'  He patted her shoulder with one of the hair-brushes.
'All right. . . .  I'll have this room done in any way that you
suggest.'  And he went out.

She found, as she sat at the little table, brushing her hair, that
her whole body was trembling.  He thinks he can do this now.  He
thinks he can come into my room while I'm dressing.  Why didn't I
lock the door?  But I will. . . .  She steadied herself.  He can't
do anything to me.  We're not living in the Middle Ages.  I refuse
to be frightened.  I need all my wits for John and myself.  I need
all my wits. . . .

So she put on her best frock--peach-coloured with silver strands,
long and pleated.  What's come to him?  It's as though he knew
something that we none of us know.

She came out of her room very quietly, looking down the passage to
see that no one was there.  She tiptoed along, moved softly up some
stairs and came to John's room.  There was no one about.  She
opened the door and saw that his light was still on.  He was lying
in bed reading a book.

'Hullo, Mother,' he said.

She closed the door, came over and sat on the bed.

'You ought to be asleep.'

'Why, it's only half-past seven.  As a matter of fact,' he said
confidentially, 'I think it's about time I stayed up later--until
nine anyway.'

'Listen.  Speak softly.  I don't want anyone to hear.'

She took his hand.  He said, staring at her:

'What a ripping dress!'

'Yes, it's my best.  In fact it's the only decent one I've got.
I'm glad you like it.'

'Yes, I do.'  He studied her critically.  'I don't notice generally
what women wear.  I haven't had much chance, have I?  There's only
been Aunt Janet.'

'Listen,' she said again and she pressed his hand.  'Do you think,
John, if a chance comes you'd run away with me?'

'Run away!'  His eyes widened.

'Yes.  The two of us.  You're not to say a word.  Your grandfather
will never let us go of his own accord and I think you've been here
long enough--I have, too, as a matter of fact.'

'My word!  Do you mean in the night or something?'

'I don't know.  I've got to think things out.  We needn't stay away
always, only you tried to go yourself the other day and I hate it
here.'

'Do you?  I thought you liked Grandfather.'

'Well--he's rather odd.  Don't you agree?'

John nodded his head.  'Yes.  He IS odd.  He wants me to be like
the Nazis.'

'Exactly.'  She bent forward and kissed his forehead.  'You shan't
be--not if I have anything to do with it.'

'Should I go to school if we went away together?'

'Yes.  I've promised you that already.'

He looked at her and she saw that now at last he trusted her.

'All right.  I don't mind.'

She kissed him again and got up from the bed.

'I must go down to dinner.  There's the gong.  Your grandfather
hates to be kept waiting.  Not a word to a soul, not even to Mr.
Brighouse.  Do you swear?'

'I swear,' he said, very solemnly indeed.

She stole to the door, blew him a kiss, opened it with the greatest
caution and hurried down to the hall, where the gong was raging
like a wounded beast.

They went in together, the three of them, the Colonel gallantly
giving her his arm.  Seated at table Rose saw that Michael could
only stare at her, his mouth a little open.  It was her dress, she
supposed, and he fancied that he was in love with her, dear boy.
The truth was that she was radiant and reckless with happiness
because John was hers.  Not for ever!  Oh no--not for ever!  No one
was yours for ever, but consider only this moment and how he looked
at her as he said so solemnly, Hamlet to his father's ghost, 'I
swear!'

But although she was happy she was also apprehensive.  This meal
was the most dangerous that she had yet had in that house.  Of how
much was Michael aware?  Moving her lips very slightly, smiling
across the table at him, she said:


     'Close-fitting house of velvet, foxglove bell,
     My heart within your walls . . .
     And you, like rose, upturned by infinite seas,
     To bleach here on the foam-remembering fell.'


'What's that?' the Colonel asked sharply.

'Oh, nothing . . . part of a poem that Michael taught me when I
first came here.'

She knew that Michael understood.  He shifted in his chair, looked
at the door as though he were on guard against it.

'Now poetry,' said the Colonel, looking at the sole on his plate
benevolently as though, out of the generosity of his heart, he had
created it.  'That's a funny thing.  I could have written poetry if
I'd had a mind to.  But it softens you--it weakens a man.  That
your own poetry, Michael?'

'Oh no, sir.  I can't write poetry.'

'Literature,' the Colonel continued, 'can be very dangerous.  Tell
the cook, Sally, that this sole is quite eatable.  Yes, as to
literature--'

('Sally is still here,' Rose thought.  'And the cook.  Wicked old
man!  He says they're to go, but they don't.')

'--as to literature, it can pervert the State--Shelley, you know,
and Swinburne.  That's why the Germans burnt all those Jewish
books.  No use to anyone anyway.'

'Don't you believe in the freedom of the Press, then, sir?' Michael
asked, picking his words delicately.

'No.  Not if it does the State harm.  We are the State's servants.'

'By the State, sir, you mean a despot--like Mussolini or Hitler?'

'Well--why not?  You can't deny that Italy and Germany are
immensely improved.  Why, Italy's another country!  People aren't
ready for freedom, don't know how to use it.'

'I'd hate not to be free,' Michael murmured, looking at Rose.

'But you aren't free,' the Colonel said, smiling.  'We are none of
us free--so why pretend?  By the way, my boy, how did you enjoy
your Yorkshire visit?  I've had no time to ask you.'

'Not much,' said Michael.  'I wanted to be back here.'

'Good.  Good,' cried the Colonel heartily.  He was carving the
roast chicken.  He did this extremely well, as though he had been
dismembering one thing or another his whole life long.  'Glad you
missed us.  How did John work in your absence?'

'Oh, all right, I think.'  Rose's lips moved.  Michael looked at
Rose.  Sally, holding the cauliflower, looked at Michael.

'Yes,' said the Colonel.  'He's a good boy.  We three'--he paused,
looking at the door--'will make something of him.'

'Do you know,' the Colonel went on, 'I was in the garden this
afternoon and I was thinking how curiously isolated this house is.
Yes, even in these days.'

'Isolated?' Rose asked.

'Yes, my dear.  Of course, as it is, we have plenty of callers--and
there are our friends the Parkins and so on.  But suppose someone
were ill--Janet, for example--and I let it be understood that we
did not wish to be disturbed--well, I think no one would bother
us.'

Michael laughed.

'You wouldn't like that, sir.'

'Wouldn't I?  I don't know.  Go into the outer world and you're
bound to be irritated.  I was this morning, for example.  Damned
impertinent at the Post Office.  And there was that drunken
scallywag Rackstraw, caught my arm in the middle of the street and
went on jabbering.  I was pretty short with him.  People think more
of you if they don't see you--physically, I mean.  Of course you
can make yourself felt without being seen.'

Rose said:  'I think this house would get on my nerves if I didn't
escape from it sometimes.'

The Colonel agreed.  'Oh, it would.  It's old, you know, and a bit
shabby.  It wants doing up.  Full of the past.  And not such a
remote past either.  A hundred years ago some people called Meakin
had it.  He shut his wife up.  Never let anyone see her.  People
said she was mad and they used to hear her screaming as they went
along the road at night.  There's some of their furniture in the
house still.  Try the port, Michael.  It's not so bad.'

'Thank you, sir, I will,' said Michael.

Then they went into the drawing-room where a fire was brightly
burning and silver, brass and gold all gleaming.

They sat comfortably round the fire, the Colonel and Michael, one
at each end of the sofa, Rose in a grey and white arm-chair.

'Pretty, that flame-colour against the white,' said the Colonel
appreciatively.

'It isn't flame,' said Rose.  'It's peach.'

'My mistake,' said the Colonel.

They had drunk their coffee.  Sally was gone, the door closed.

'And now,' said the Colonel, stretching out his stout legs, 'I want
to tell you two how glad I am that you are here.  I have been
thinking in these last days.  I have come to certain conclusions.
You are young.  John is very young.  I am old and in another five
years will be VERY old--or ten.'

'Oh no, sir,' Michael said politely.

'Oh yes, my boy.  At eighty?  Very few men are much good after
eighty.  However, I'm not eighty yet.  We have in front of us, say,
five years of growth and energy.  At the end of that time John will
be nearly eighteen.  You and Michael, Rose, will by then have
thoroughly imbibed (a bad word but it will serve) my ideas.  I
intend you, all three, during those five years to be my pupils.
You are all happy here, I think--I on my side am fond, very fond,
of you.  It should work admirably.'

There was a pause; then Michael said:

'I'm very sorry, sir.  Five years?  But I've no intention of
remaining here.  I have my life to make.  Also--it's a thing I've
been wanting to speak of for some time--John, in my opinion, ought
to go to school.'

'As to your going away, my dear boy, of course you are free.  You
can go to-morrow if you wish.  Tutors are easily obtainable, but
not, I fear, young men as agreeable as yourself.  Only--there's
Rose.  You are such good friends.  You don't want to leave her, do
you?'

Rose broke in:

'If Michael wishes,' she said, 'we'll be able to meet in London.
Dear Colonel Fawcus--'

'I'm your father-in-law, dear Rose,' he murmured.

But she went on:  'I'm not here for five years either.  You've been
immensely kind to me, but I too have work to do--'

'Exactly.  Of course you have,' he said, taking a cigar out of his
case.  'Thank you, my dear--a match.  Over there on the little
table.  You are perfectly free.  Go to London whenever you wish.
Only--if you go--you can't, I'm afraid, see John again.'

Michael very slightly nodded his head.  So that was it.  Michael--
Rose, John.  Michael stays for Rose, Rose stays for John, John
stays . . .

'No?'  Rose handed him the little silver matchbox.  'But--surely--
you can't keep John a prisoner?'

'I can't?  Why not?  I'm a peculiar man, dear Rose.  These are
peculiar circumstances.  That boy is mine--mine by your own act.
He is the child of my son.  He is going to be moulded into a
pattern of myself.  It is now the one and only intention and
purpose of my life.  Listen!'  He leaned forward, resting his arm
on his broad thigh, his rosy face full of energy and kindly
earnestness, his portrait, fresh and virile, beaming down on him
from above the mantelpiece.  'I'm not mad--or only in so far as we
all are a little.  It is simply that I've realized that this is my
last great chance.  I'll be frank with you both.  I regard myself
as an extraordinary man--one in a million.  That isn't only
megalomania--there's a truth in it.  I have a force and a power
that, if they'd been applied in the right place and time, would
have taken me anywhere.  But the time and place have failed me.
Some of it has been my own fault.  I've missed chances I might have
taken.  Well, I'm not going to miss this one.  John shall be a
great man, and if you're wise you'll both stay here and help me to
make him one.  But if you won't--I can't help it.  I'll do it
alone.'

It was a trick of light, of the fire, of the lamp whose orange
shade was up-tilted, but the shine on his glasses made them blank,
so that to Rose he had no eyes, only two gleaming orbs of
nothingness.

'But you can't,' Rose said gently.  'You can't.  John isn't that
sort of boy.  You can't turn him into just what you like.  He has
spirit, independence--'

'No.  Can't I?  You don't know, dear Rose, what happens in my
study.  Already.  His obedience, his discipline, is most
remarkable.  Already.  In another two years . . .'

Michael half rose.  Rose motioned with her lips that he should not
move.

Rose got up, turned down the shade of the lamp, then, standing
there, said:

'This is completely unreal.  You can't behave like a tyrant in a
Victorian novel.  You must see how silly it is.'

'It isn't silly at all,' he answered her.  'Not at all.  You'd have
said a year or two ago that it was silly of Hitler to think that
he'd ever be able to do what he liked with the German people--'

'John isn't a German,' Rose broke out indignantly.

'No, of course not.  But are the English so different?  Or would
they be if times went badly for them as they've gone in the last
ten years in Germany?'

He put out a hand towards her.  'Come on, Rose.  Sit down.  Let's
be friends.  I've told you my little plan.  There's nothing strange
in it.  I think I'm being very generous about John.  He's mine,
altogether mine, but I've invited you here, wanted you to stay and
now am asking you to be here altogether.  Michael too.  Nothing
will make me happier than for him also to remain.  What do you
say?'

Michael--Rose, John.  Michael and Rose exchanged one more glance.

'But I can't--' she began.

Then an odd thing happened.

The naked blazing glasses stared at her.  She saw nothing.

From a great distance she heard a voice say:

'Stand just where you are, dear Rose.  You look so lovely.  Your
charming dress--'

She could not move.  The glasses grew larger and larger, rounder
and rounder.  She saw nothing but the deep, deep emptiness blazing
with light, hot and fiery now, while all about them the space was
cold.  She was aware that she was removed from all sound.  She
could not hear the fire humming nor the clocks ticking nor that
little under-buzz as of stirring insects that belonged to this
room.  She could not see.  She would like to put her hand to her
face.  She could not move it.

She was terrified.

Then she heard the Colonel's voice again:

'Peach-colour.  I must remember.  A lovely dress, my dear. . . .'

She saw suddenly his shirt-front with the two little black pearl
studs, then his thick neck above the shining collar, then his round
rosy face.

A trick of light.

All the room was visible now and the sounds had returned.

'I do hope you'll think it over, both of you,' she heard the
Colonel saying.  'It will be such a happy thing for me if you
decide to stay.'



CHAPTER XII

JANET COMES TO LIFE AND IS IMPRISONED


'In fine,' thought the Colonel, 'I never felt better.  My digestion
is really magnificent these days.'  He heard the key turn in the
door.  'They're both inside there.  Well, well. . . .  How
disgraceful!'  He smiled.  He stretched his arms and yawned.  'I'll
tell them about it later.'

Rose turned from the door and looked at Michael, who was sitting on
the edge of the bed.

'Was it wise to do that?' he asked.

'He isn't coming in again as he did the other day.  I was only half
dressed.  All the same I wouldn't like him to know that I'd locked
us both in here.'  She hesitated, looking at the door.  'But he
can't.  He isn't back from the Parkins' yet, I'm certain.  And then
there's Sally prowling round.  She tells him everything.  You
mustn't stay long.'

'Don't you realize,' he said, 'that, loving you as I do, it's a
little difficult for me to be locked up in your bedroom with you?'

'What are you going to do with me?' she asked, laughing.  'Throw me
on the bed?'

'I should like very much to kiss you.'

'You may, Michael, you may.'  She went over to him.  'But you won't
want to long.  There's no response.  I can't help it.  It's not my
fault.  Then we'll be friends always, lovers never--and later, when
you love someone else, a friend like me will be useful.'

Trembling, he put his hand on her shoulder and kissed her.  Then he
sighed.

'You see,' she said, 'locked doors and bedrooms don't mean
anything.  With some men--well, frankly, I wouldn't be alone with
them in a room full of open doors and windows.  Michael, I'm
thinking of only one thing and so must you be.  Until we're safely
away you've really got to be a knight, all that the modern poets
disbelieve in.  You've got to be selfless, coldly chaste, a knight
without fear or reproach.'  She stood and put her hands on his
shoulders.  'I'm mad with impatience.  I've never been like this
before--but now I shan't eat or sleep or rest until I've got John
and myself out of this.  Is he mad, do you think?  Is he crazy?  Or
is the world full of him?'

'I think,' Michael said, putting his hand up, touching hers, then
taking his hand away, 'the world is full of elderly gentlemen and
ladies who'd LIKE to do just what he's doing.  They're in boarding-
houses, flats, hotels, slums, offices, shops--wherever there's two
or three gathered together.  They read their papers, go to the
cinema, watch their neighbours, argue with one another at the club
or cocktail parties, or in bed with their wives and husbands.  What
they'd adore to have would be power--heaps and heaps of it.  To say
to someone:  "Stand there!  Take your hat off!  Kneel down!  Kiss
my shoes!"  They read of Mussolini answering the salute of
thousands of little Italian boys and they sigh with desire.

'They haven't the chance, but if they had . . .  The Colonel HAS
his chance.  He has Janet and you and me and John.  John's his
chance.  He isn't mad but he's frustrated.  He may be mad before
he's finished, though.'

Rose looked at him.

'I believe you're right.  But now, there's very little time.  He
may go about the house calling for you at any moment.  And I must
go to Janet.  We've got to be practical.  We've got to work
something out with time-tables, trains.  And first we've got to
discover how to get away from this house.  I believe that
everything's changed since he talked to us last night.  He's sure
that something's up on our side.  I'm confident that Sally, the
cook, and probably old Lewcomb have all been given their
instructions.  I'm certain that if I telephoned to Keswick for a
taxi it would be known in a minute.  I believe that if I walked out
of this house alone I'd be allowed to do it, but I'd never see John
again.  Being sure of all this, what's the thing to do?'

'We must trick him,' Michael said.  'Night's the time.  When he's
asleep.'

'Yes,' she said thoughtfully.  'Night.  But getting out of the
house won't be so easy.  And what then?  Do we walk to Keswick?'

'There's a train to London early in the morning.'

'No.  Not nearly early enough.  Not, I think, before seven-forty.
That's daylight.  I'll risk no scene at the station with old
Lewcomb popping out behind a porter and shaking a spade at us, or
Sally suddenly emerging from a bookstall and saying:  "Master
forbids you to go, miss."  Once I put myself in the wrong position
we're in a hole.  It's HE who has to be in the wrong. . . .'  She
thought, walking about the room.  'It's better now than it would
have been a fortnight ago.  John's ready for anything, Janet's my
friend.  If it weren't for John I could snap my fingers at him, but
John's the whole case.

'Owing to my idiocy he's GOT him.  As we've said dozens of times,
if we once get properly away and he has to take it to the Courts to
get John back he'll probably funk it.  What with Sally and John's
discipline in the study and the rest.  But to get away--how?  When?'

She stopped to listen.

'I'm sure there's someone outside the door.  Wait.'

She went to it, turned the key softly, then Michael heard her say:

'Yes, Sally, what is it?'

'Nothing, miss.  Only two towels for the bathroom.'

'Thank you.  I'll take them.'

She came back.

'There!  Do you see?'

'Yes, I do.  Leave me to think it out.'


It was tea-time and to everyone's surprise Janet appeared, dressed,
on her feet, in her right and vigorous mind.

To explain this there is her Journal of the evening before:

'I am alive!  I am alive!  My bones are still water, but no matter
my bones--feeble, ugly and mean-spirited as they are.  Sally says,
"Here's a nice omelette, miss," and I say to Sally, "Where are you
going at the end of the month?  Have you got a nice place yet?" and
Sally says, "The master wants us to stay on a bit."  So I explain
to her why she won't.  Funny!  She's a pinch-faced, ivory-coloured
little thing.  What does dear Father see in her?

'"I shan't give you a character of any kind," I say.  "And you go
at the end of the month."  So, looking at me very impertinently,
she asks me what I have against her and reminds me that the
omelette is growing cold.  So I tell her what I have against her,
quite simply.  "You're not a good servant," I say.  "You don't do
your job."  She says nothing, only smiles.

'I'm gay.  I'm almost indecent, for I have put on my Chinese jacket
that old Uncle Prosper sent me once from Pekin.  It has red
flowers, purple leaves and gold thread.  I look at myself in the
glass and laugh, for I seem now to have the strength of ten old
maids, ten old maids who have at last a purpose in life, someone to
care for, their hatred turned into love.'

But Janet was not wearing her Chinese coat when she came down to
tea, but rather her plain brown tailor-made with the severe
buttons.  Brown was the worst colour in the world for her.

The Colonel, Rose, Michael all looked up in astonished surprise.

'But, Janet!'

'Yes, I know.  I'm tottering on my legs.  Thank you, Rose.  No, I
don't want to lie down.  This chair will do.  Yes, my legs are
feeble but my temperature's normal, I've got a fine appetite, I'm
ready for anything.'

The Colonel was in handsome spirits.  'Splendid!  Splendid!  But
don't you overdo it, my dear.  Pneumonia is the danger.  You're a
bit pale.'

'I'm always pale, Father.  Pasty if you like. . . .  Now tell me
the news.  What have you all been up to?'

'Up to?  Up to?  What should we be up to?'

'I don't know, Father.  How can I tell?'  She enjoyed her tea.

'There's a lot to be done,' she said at last reflectively, 'with
Sally and the cook both going at the end of the month.  I must try
the agency in Carlisle.'

The Colonel laughed.

'Sally's all right, my dear.  She's been very good while you've
been ill.'

Janet smiled, a prim housekeeping smile.  'I'm glad to hear it.
What do you think, Rose?'

Rose took Janet's cup and refilled it.  'Oh, I don't like her.  I
think she's impertinent and careless.  I thought it was understood
that she was going.'

The Colonel stood up, swinging himself a little on his legs.  Then
he carefully cut himself a piece of rich damp gingerbread cake.

'The cook can make gingerbread cake all right.  You know that poor
devil Armstrong at High Fell.  Well, he has diabetes and
gingerbread cake's his vice.  He simply CAN'T keep off it.  He goes
to the larder secretly and gorges.  Then he's fearfully ill and is
only saved by gigantic doses of insulin.  What a life! . . .  Are
you two ladies in conspiracy against me?'

'In conspiracy?' asked Rose.  'Why, of course not.  What makes you
think that?  Oh, I suppose what I said about Sally.  But I DON'T
like her.  I can't help my feelings.'

'And I can't help mine,' said the Colonel, going up to the canary-
cage and pushing a minute piece of gingerbread between the bars.
'How the wind's blowing up!  All the trees in the garden are
getting frantic.'

'And there's old Lewcomb,' said Rose, 'with a sack over his
shoulders.'

'Yes,' said the Colonel.  'He's old but he does what I tell him.'

'I expect he does,' said Rose.

'I like Sally,' the Colonel said, coming back and sitting down
again.  'And because I like her she's going to stay.'

'Then you've broken your word,' Janet said.  'You promised me
before I was ill--'

'My dear Janet,' said her father, 'everything's changed since you
were ill.  You've no idea how different things are!'

What Janet would have replied no one will ever know, for the door
opened and John came in.  It was plain that he had made
preparations for tea, because his hair was freshly plastered down,
all save the fair strong tuft that stuck up obstinately, and his
hands had that shining raw look that belongs to the newly-washed
hands of little boys.

'Where have you been?' the Colonel asked him.  'Tea's nearly over.'

'I'm sorry, Grandfather.  I've been with Rump.  I didn't know it
was so late.'

'You should have known.'

Yes, he should, and now, like a spy in the camp of the Indians, he
looked around him and took in all the dangers.  Good Lord!  Aunt
Janet was down again.  She was yellow in the face, but otherwise,
it seemed, restored to her natural condition, wearing her ugly
brown clothes.  Enemy Number One!

There was something strange about them all, he thought, almost as
though they had been having a quarrel before he came in.  Then,
using an art that he had long cultivated, he looked at the food as
though he were not looking at it.  There was gingerbread-cake!  His
heart leapt up.  There was also a honeycomb.  Would he by ingenious
subtleties succeed in obtaining some of both?  He sat down, very
modestly, on a little straight chair near a table.

'Like some honey, my boy?'

'Thank you, Grandfather.'

Having won half his victory, he was able to consider a little.  How
the trees were blowing in the garden!  Yes, the grown-ups were
talking as though they didn't mean a word they said.  How well he
knew that curious toneless empty conversation in which his elders,
when gathered together, indulged.  And then, when one or two had
departed, what life suddenly sprang into the talk of the remainder!
They were eloquent, amused, even as five minutes ago they had been
indifferent!  He had often wondered about it.

He considered his mother and at once he himself knew a fresh
activity.  How very beautiful she had looked when she had come into
his room and told him that they were going to run away together!
But it wasn't her beauty of which he was especially now aware.  It
was rather that she was, most unexpectedly, beginning to acquire
some of the qualities of Roger.  She remained a woman, of course,
and that was a pity, but he was beginning to have confidence and
trust in her as he had had in Roger.  He was not old enough as yet
to analyse his feelings about people, but he was already,
subconsciously, a good judge of his fellow-beings.  He didn't think
his mother wonderful as he had thought Roger wonderful.  Rose
indeed WASN'T wonderful in any way, but she was honest, courageous
and loyal, and now that he had overcome his first distrust of her
he began to perceive those qualities and rely on them.  Since his
attempted flight he had been swung, he found, into a real
adventure.  He had become a conspirator--the thing above all others
that a small boy loves to be.

And, indeed, within a very few minutes he was to become in actual
fact a real conspirator.

'That, my dear boy,' his grandfather was saying to Mr. Brighouse,
'is bosh--sentimental bosh.  Abolish capital punishment and you
take away the one restraining influence over criminals.  Hanging's
too good for many of them if you ask me, and if I had my way I'd
flog them as well.  I haven't a scrap of cruelty in my nature, but
if there's one thing I hate it's sloppy sentimentality.'

He was lying back in his chair in his favourite attitude with his
back turned to the window.  The others there were also looking into
the fire, and it was mere chance that John, one eye on the
gingerbread-cake, had his other eye on the groaning and tossing
trees in the garden.  The grey clouds were rushing across the sky
and, in the centre of all this storm and stress, his old black coat
flapping about his legs, quite close to the window--was Mr.
Rackstraw!

For a moment John thought that this must be a strange Arabian
Nights kind of fantasy--but no.  It was certain.  Mr. Rackstraw was
there and he was making signs.  Very quickly John realized that
what Mr. Rackstraw wanted was that he, John, should join him in the
garden.  There was, at the same time, something very absurd and
ludicrous in Mr. Rackstraw's movements, for he held on his shabby
black hat with one hand while with the other he made wild gestures.
In addition to this he watched the other occupants of the room and
disappeared out of sight when he thought one of them about to turn
towards the window.  The grins and gestures meanwhile that he made
to John might be considered frantic, and a lasting memory he was
likely to be, the eccentric figure with the clouds rushing over his
head, the trees swaying, his black coat flapping and his features
tortured with anxiety.

John nodded.  The figure disappeared.  He put his piece of bread
and honey down on his plate.

'Will you excuse me one moment, please?' he asked very politely.

Good manners reigned.  It is wise to allow little boys to leave the
room when they wish.

Very quickly and quietly John had opened the front door and was
almost blown into Mr. Rackstraw's arms.

'That's a good boy.  Come round this tree out of sight of the
windows.  Phew!  What a wind!'

Sheltered between trees and the garden wall, Mr. Rackstraw breathed
again.

'My word!  I didn't think you were ever going to look my way.  And
that old devil, your grandfather, kept going to the window.'

'What can I do for you?' John said, speaking with a polite
maturity, as, he felt, fitted the case.  'I mustn't be long.  They
think I only left the room for a minute.'

'I know,' said Mr. Rackstraw, nodding his head.  'To the doubleyou.
That gives you five minutes--I won't keep you so long.  It's only
this letter.'  He fumbled in his pocket.  'Here it is.  I want you
to give it to your mother, will you?'

'Of course I will,' John said, taking it.

'I didn't know how to get it to her safely.  I don't trust the post
nor the maids.  And you're not to let anyone see you give it to
her.'

Mr. Rackstraw put his finger on his lip, then he shook John's hand
very emphatically.

'You're a good boy.  You'll help your mother all you can, won't
you?'

'Of course I will.'

'What does he do?' Mr. Rackstraw said suddenly.  'Beat you?'

'Only once or twice if I haven't done right.'

'Haven't done right,' Mr. Rackstraw repeated scornfully.  'I'll
give him "haven't done right."  I tell you what, my boy, he ought
to take a look at the trees and the way they're all bearing down on
him.  That'll teach him something.  Don't you notice it yourself?'

'They certainly do seem very stormy,' John said.

'Stormy!  They'll give him stormy!  Now, you let your mother have
that letter, and no one's to see you hand it to her.  No one.  Not
your precious aunt nor the servants nor anyone.  Do you
understand?'

'Certainly, Mr. Rackstraw.'

'That's a good boy.  When you've leisure read Gibbon.  He'll show
you how to deal with your grandfather.  Now don't you move till I'm
in the road.  Safer.  No one can see us together.'

In a flash of time, as though in truth he had been caught up by a
drift of wind and carried off, with his hat and head one way and
his spindly, unsteady legs another, a second after he had repeated,
'Gibbon.  Don't you forget.  That's the man for your grandfather,'
Mr. Rackstraw was in the road making way for home.

John's adventure, however, was not yet concluded.  He had started
for the house when, most unexpectedly, created out of nowhere,
there appeared old Lewcomb the gardener, a sack over his shoulders,
a tattered broom under his arm.

'Hi!  Master Johnnie!  Where you bin?'

'I came to fetch something.'

'FETCH something, Master Johnnie?  Why, you's all to tea in the
'ouse.  I see you settin' there.  Didn't I see you with someone?'

'Not that I know.'

'I did, Master Johnnie, and all.  Don't you start lyin' to me.'

'I'm not lying.'

'Aye.  That's what you're after.  Telling me lies.  What did 'e
give you?'

'He didn't give me anything.  There wasn't anyone.'

'You be 'shamed of yourself, Master Johnnie.  You be 'shamed of
yourself.  Tell me what he give t'yer.'  He laid a gnarled, filthy
and knotted hand on John's shoulder.

'Look here, Barty,' John said.  'If you don't believe the word of a
gentleman--'  He finished lamely:  'Well, I haven't got anything
and I haven't been with anyone and it's none of your business
anyway.'

He had once adored old Barty Lewcomb, but now, although as time
went it was a matter of weeks, it seemed, that adoration, of
another age.  Instead of it there was, at this dramatic moment,
something very like hatred.

Regrettable, but he gave old Lewcomb a push.  He ran into the house
and all the trees waved their arms at the old gardener derisively.
Regrettable, for he was a good gardener.

He re-entered the drawing-room to find them all very much as he had
left them--only he saw at once that his chance of gingerbread-cake
was gone.  Sally was removing the tea things.  She had also taken
away his half-finished piece of bread and honey.

He sat down in his little straight chair.

'I don't think Master John had finished his tea, Sally,' said Aunt
Janet.

Well, who'd have thought?  Aunt Janet to speak up for him like
that!  Before her illness she would have reproved him for eating
too much!

'That's all right!' said his grandfather.  'Won't hurt him to go
without his tea for once.  Good discipline.  Why have you been so
long?'

A question confusing to a small boy's nature, so John murmured
something about not knowing he HAD been long.

'In my young days,' said the Colonel, 'we were trained to be quick
about things like that.'  Then he said sharply:  'Why, there's a
leaf sticking to your chin.  Have you been out?'

'I just went to the door for a moment,' John said, brushing off the
leaf, 'to see the wind.  It's blowing like anything.'

'You can see that from indoors, can't you?'  All this was in his
charming jocular way, and a more benevolent, healthy, elderly
gentleman you couldn't find in all England, thought Michael.
Really he isn't a bad old cock in his own way.

'Come here,' said the Colonel, spreading out his legs.  John came
over.  The legs closed in upon him.

'I'm going to ask you a question or two.  See whether you've been
working.  Let's see.  What about history?  Whose daughter was the
wife of William the Third of England?'

'James the Second's.'

'Good for you.  What was the battle that finished the Jacobite
hopes in England?'

'Culloden,' said John scornfully.  As though, living where they
did, everyone didn't know that!

'Right!  When did Queen Victoria come to the throne?'

'1837.'

'You're a bright boy. . . .  Now show them how you stand on your
head.'

John, very lightly and easily, turned over and stood on his head.

'Good.  Now go to the window and wait until I order you to return.'

John went.  He stood, looking into the garden, his heels close
together, his hands at his side.

Quite suddenly, and without actual reason, it was more than the
other three persons in the room could endure.  Something was there?
Was it in the Colonel's eyes behind the round, thick glasses?  Was
it in the twittering of the canaries, in the heat of the fire, in
the wild swinging of the trees?

Janet said:

'That's enough, Father.  Leave the boy alone.'

No one spoke.  John waited at the window.  At last (and to Michael
the packed excitement of that moment of silence was deafening, like
the explosion of a mine) the Colonel said:

'Come here, John.'

John came.

'Go along upstairs and read, play.  Anything you like.  Only keep
quiet.'

John went.

Then, thrusting his hand through his white hair, regarding Janet
speculatively, the Colonel said:

'You'd be better in bed, my dear.'

Rose got up and moved to the door.  Janet stopped her.

'No, Rose, don't go.  I've got something to say, Father, and I want
Rose and Michael to hear.'

All the Colonel said was:

'Be careful, Janet.  Be careful.'

'What have I to be careful of?' Janet asked scornfully.

The Colonel didn't answer.  He had risen and was standing quite
near to her, over her, looking down at her.  She got up and faced
him, and Michael thought that he had never seen a plainer, worse-
dressed lady.  He had also, he reflected, never seen her fuller of
energy, determination, and almost a sort of ecstasy.  Her pale face
was mottled with patches of red, but her eyes, he noticed, were
clear, bright and, at this moment, beautiful.

Unfortunately her knees trembled because of her days in bed, so she
must sit down and she did--on the straight little chair that John
had occupied.

'I'll go in a moment,' she said, 'but first I want to say one
thing.  There seems to be no one else in this house who can, so I
must.  I've been thinking while I was in bed.'

'I'm glad of that,' said the Colonel, who was sometimes very
childlike in his humour.

'I want to know what you intend to do about John.'

'Is that your business?' the Colonel asked.

'It's the business of all of us in this room.  It's mine in so far
as I've been in this house ever since he came here as a baby.  He's
never liked me, but I don't wonder at that, because I can't be very
attractive to children.  One can't help, however, being fond of
him.  And then there's Rose.  She let her rights in him go, like a
fool, her civil rights anyway, but that doesn't mean she hasn't got
human ones.  She has more rights to him than you have, Father.'
She paused; then, with a sharp click of her tongue, as though she
were snapping a bag:  'When is the boy going to school?'

The Colonel looked at her very steadily.  There was a sort of
amused disgust at the corners of his mouth as though he were saying
to himself:  'Fancy this nauseating old thing striking out like
this!  But she'll be sorry in a minute.'

At last he said:

'John is probably not going to school at all.  I have already
explained to Rose that I think his education will be better carried
on here.'

'Oh, you have, have you?  Well, I know what Rose thinks.  I know
what _I_ think.  I know what Michael thinks.  If John isn't sent to
school within the next six months I shall--'  She paused for
breath.

'Yes?' said the Colonel.

'I shall make a public scandal of it.  The whole world shall know.'

The Colonel, looking at her with great surprise, felt his nose,
then stroked it reflectively.

'The influenza's turned your brain a bit, Janet.  It does
sometimes.  You're making a scene, a thing you've always had a
horror of.'

'I'm not making a scene in the least,' she answered.  'This is
quite deliberate.  I'm perfectly cool and collected.  For years and
years now,' she went on, 'I've never interfered in anything you
wanted to do.  What I've thought about it is another matter.  But
I've never said a word.  However, I can stand this no longer.  On
three separate occasions I've seen John come from your room crying.
What you do to him there I've no idea--make him stand on his head,
I suppose, to judge by your pride in that ridiculous exhibition
just now.  Rose is careful to say nothing because she knows what
the difficulties of her position are.  But I can and I will.'

'Apparently you have,' the Colonel said.  He looked at all three of
them, considering.  At last he said:  'You're a bit of a fool,
Janet.  You'll be very sorry, very sorry indeed.  I don't forgive a
public exhibition like this.  I don't know what Rose and Michael
must be thinking.'

'I don't care in the least,' Janet answered, 'whether you forgive
me or not.  There have been too many things between us for too many
years for there to be a question of forgiveness.  Rose and Michael
haven't been here long enough to know, but your conceit and
arrogance have grown on you until you don't know who you are or
where you are.  Well'--she got up--'I've told you what I mean to
do.  If you don't send John to school and stop all this nonsense
you'll be sorry.'  At the door she added:  'And Sally and the cook
are going whether you like it or no.'

When she had gone there was a very awkward silence.  It was
extremely embarrassing both for Rose and for Michael, who knew that
here was an occasion when silence was quite golden.  The Colonel
walked about the room a little.  He looked out of the window.

'The rain's come at last.  Poor Janet!  The influenza's left its
consequences.  There's no doubt about it.  Don't you think so,
Rose?'

Rose smiled.  'I suppose,' she said, 'she has been worrying about
John.  She always says what she thinks.'

'Oh yes, she does,' said the Colonel.  'That's quite true.  She
always has.  She gets that from me.  And so,' he ended cordially,
'that's that,' and, humming a little tune, he left them.


An hour or so later he knocked on Janet's door, then he entered.
Janet was in bed, wearing her spectacles, a very ugly yellow shawl
round her shoulders, reading.

'Hullo, my dear,' he said genially, standing by the door.

She put down her book, took off her spectacles.

'Well, Father, what is it?' she asked.

'I only came to say that I have no ill-feeling whatever about your
extraordinary behaviour just now.'

'I don't care in the least,' she said, 'whether you have or not.'

'I don't understand it.  I don't know what's come over you.'

'Nothing's come over me.  I meant every word I said.'

He didn't move except to jingle the money in his pocket.

'I'm afraid what I said is true--that the effects of the influenza
are pretty serious.'

'They're not in the least.  I'm perfectly well.  In another day or
so I shall be quite my usual self.'

'I'm glad you think so.  I'm afraid I can't agree with you.  We'll
see how you are in a week or so.  Meanwhile I dare not--for the
sake of the servants, Rose, John, give you your liberty.'

He took the key out of the door.

She sat up, staring at him.

'For the time being I'm afraid you must keep to your room--'

'Indeed I shall not--' she began.

'I'm afraid you must.  Sally will bring you your food and see to
your wants.  The door will be locked and I shall keep the key.
Good night.'

In the passage he turned and locked the door.  He dropped the key
into his pocket.


END OF PART II




PART III

FIVE DAYS





CHAPTER XIII

MAY 14TH: HOW MR. RACKSTRAW QUOTED LANDOR, MICHAEL TORE HIS
TROUSERS, AND JANET COUNTED THE DAISIES


On the morning following these remarkable events Rose woke to an
early sunlit silent house and realized at once that she was now
living in a strange world indeed.

The first thought that struck her was incongruous but pertinent to
the situation--namely that they were now half-way through May, and
that Janet had insisted that Sally and the cook should depart at
the end of the month, not realizing that the end of the month was
already over.  No wonder that Sally had been laughing at them!

This led her to Janet and to an instant recovery of the dramatic
moment when, just before dinner, the Colonel had said to her:

'Janet won't be coming down to dinner, I fear.'

'Why ever not?' Rose had asked.  'Isn't she as well?  I must go--'

And then the Colonel had explained that she mustn't go, that he had
been in to see her and she had talked to him in so queer a fashion
that there was no doubt but that the influenza had, for the moment,
disordered her brain.  He had been compelled to lock her door and
he was afraid that just at present no one must see her.

So that was it!

Had a doctor been telephoned to, Rose asked.  No, the Colonel had
gravely replied.  He thought it better not for the moment.  He did
not wish outsiders to know poor Janet's condition.  After all, a
week or so might see her in her normal state again.

So THAT was it!

'But surely I--' Rose had begun.

No, the Colonel thought it better not.  Sally would see to her
needs.  Rose might excite her.

Of the many things that Rose wanted to say she breathed not a word.
After dinner she quietly played backgammon with the Colonel, who
laughed, joked, lost with a good grace and kissed her paternally on
the forehead as he wished her a good night.

So that there was handsome reason for her early waking!

After Janet, John.

As he left her to go to bed he had with a dexterity worthy of the
cleverest detective stories slipped into her hand a letter.

'Good night, my dear boy,' said the Colonel benevolently.  'And God
bless you.'

'Good night, Grandfather,' John replied, and went to bed like a
lamb.

She thought now of the letter.  She had been too deeply disturbed
as she undressed to trouble about it, but now she stretched her
hand to the little table and secured it.  If it had been composed
in sobriety it might contain something of value--and even if it
hadn't!

This was the letter.  It was written in red ink and in a most
beautiful (and certainly sober) hand.


DEAR MISS CLENNELL--I might begin this with a closer intimacy were
it not that I fear you will wish, after our last meeting, to have
nothing more to do with me.  I cannot blame you if that is so and
yet I beg you at least to read this letter and give me the benefit
of your generous doubt this once.

I would urge you, quite selfishly, to give me this one opportunity
of making a lonely old age of unhappy and useless repentances
capable of one act of usefulness.  I am at your service in any and
every capacity and I swear to you most solemnly that not one drop
of spirituous liquor shall pass these lips until I have seen you
and your boy safely out of your present discomforts.  I realize,
better perhaps than you do yourself, the danger of your present
situation.  You will discover that every step you now take is
watched and that the Old Man of the Mountain, having allowed a
Notion to grow into a Tyranny, will become with every day more
tenacious of his purpose.

You must escape and quickly.  I suggest:

(1) Night-time.  Best hours 2-5 a.m.

(2) By car.

(3) Warm clothing against the night air.

(4) Communication with myself in the hollow under the FIRST oak-
tree on the left of the road past your gate TOWARDS the village.  I
will communicate in the same manner.

(5) No time lost.

May I add some lines from one of my favourite poets, that lion-
hearted old man who would, had he been here, have dealt with your
Man of the Mountain as he deserves, the great Walter Savage Landor:


          From heaven descend two gifts alone;
          The graceful line's eternal zone
            And Beauty, that too soon must die.
          Exposed and lonely Genius stands,
          Like Memnon in the Egyptian sands,
            At whom barbarian javelins fly.

          For mutual succour heaven designed
          The lovely form and vigorous mind
            To seek each other and unite.
          Genius! thy wing shall beat down
          Hate, And Beauty tilt her fears at Fate
            Until her rescuer meet her sight.


Beware the barbarian javelins!

                             I am, dear lady,
                                      Your devoted servant,

                                             HENRY HURLEY RACKSTRAW


She regarded this letter with tenderness.  Then she sighed.
'Beware the barbarian javelins!'  Yes, indeed.

Two things frighten me, she thought: one is the urgency and the
other the unreality.  He is right: there is no time to be lost, no
time for myself or John or Janet.  But what are we to do?  How are
we to act?'  The FIRST oak tree on the left of the road . . .'  But
that is absurd.  It is like something out of Wilkie Collins--ALMOST
like something out of Dorothy Sayers.  There is also a touch of
George Moore about the letter, and it may be that now in the
ghostly rooms of Ebury Street the Conversations are still
proceeding, those Conversations about the virtues of poor Anne
Bront and the vileness of Thomas Hardy's style that it would do
the Colonel so much good to hear.

For he is not wicked, she considered.  He is no villain.  I can
imagine that at tea-time this afternoon, under the chatter of the
canaries, while in the garden on this lovely day the shadows from
the fell stretch in long fingers over the lawn, myself, Janet,
Michael, with John in the background, will accept all the Colonel's
intentions.  Ah, then how happy he will be!  He will blossom like
the rose and with kindly smile, eager like a boy, he will show us
what we must do.  We will be his disciples, his propagandists, and
soon he will fancy that his power is spreading, that John is
becoming like him.  He will marshal us and discipline us, every
morning we shall receive our orders.  And in the end?  He will be a
feeble old man at our mercy.  We will be tyrants, Janet and I.  We
will lie to him, and laugh at him, and spend his money, and he will
recline, half asleep in his chair, dreaming that he is Goering and
Goebbels and Hitler and Pilsudski and Stalin and Mussolini all in
one, while we wipe the dribble off his chin and forbid a second
helping of potato.

But it can't be.  That will take too long and, meanwhile, there is
real danger.

It was that that made her jump out of bed and stand in her rose-
coloured pyjamas upon the sun-bathed floor.  The danger was real!
The danger was real!

Was it not entirely fantastic that in this month of May in the year
1935 she and her son should be, to all practical effect, prisoners
in a not very remote house in the county of Cumberland?  Was there
no wireless?  Were there not motor-cars and trains and even
aeroplanes?  And these modern things made this old-fashioned
situation only the more fantastic because she was held captive,
just as she might have been three hundred years ago, by her son and
by a maiden lady.  Yes, here was a new factor, for now, even if
John were not here, she could not leave Janet.  She had two
prisoners now to deliver.

She sat down on the bed looking down at her silver mules.  Of all
the absurd affairs!  What would Geneva think of it?  And yet the
trouble was as actual as a divorce, a breach of promise, an
operation for duodenal ulcer, desertion by a lover, or inability to
pay the rent.

She tested the reality by the things about her.  Through an open
window the sun poured in.  It shone upon Abraham and Isaac by the
other window, emphasizing the cracks in the paint, the whiteness of
Abraham's beard, the blackness of the thunder-cloud, the now faded
ruby of young Isaac's thigh.  It shone upon the few personal things
she had brought with her--Humphrey's photograph in its blue-leather
frame, a small copy of the Pompeian 'Boy with the Wine-bag,' the
red-leather box that had her few pieces of jewellery, the two or
three books that never left her, a Shakespeare, the essays of
Montaigne, and a volume of seventeenth-century poetry.  All these
things were real just as the thin tall glass with the orange and
red tulips was real, as her hairbrushes and manicure things were
real.

As real as all these was the fact that the Colonel, although no
villain, might, in an excess of vanity, murder any one of them.
Such things were not done?  Were they not?  They were done every
day.  There were also certain physical perils to herself not
pleasant to contemplate.  But by far more important than the rest
were the perils to John's soul and spirit.  For herself and Michael
and Janet the world had wrought this much--it had acquainted them
with evil, with the meanness and cruelty and lust that is part of
the nobility of man.  But John was unsoiled.

At that a sort of despair seized her.  She kicked her feet until
the silver mules shot across the room.  This was like some ballet
or play or macabre cinema film in which, from this corner or that,
from the roof-tops, from the top cellar-stair, out of some dark and
shadowless window, the head and shoulders of the puppet demon are
suddenly popping!  Stravinsky or Dr. Mabuse or even the old dark
musty figure of Hoffmann!

So here.  The scene is sunlit, the house fair and square, smoke
rising peacefully from its chimneys, the housemaid on her knees
washing the front-door steps, bacon frizzling in the kitchen, sheep
cropping the herbs of the fell--but we are imprisoned in this
house, at every window there is someone watching, behind every door
a listener, and, in that room where there is the pale bust of
Caesar, a lively old boy warms his heart with the fancied
indulgence of a nonexistent power.

'I must be practical,' she thought, and got into bed again.


The first effects of her early-morning thinking were tested that
same afternoon.  She had decided that, before anything else, she
must discover whether, after all, herself and John were not free to
go.  She was sure that they were not, but she would test it.

She would walk with John straight out of the house that afternoon
and see what happened.  Then, supposing that by a miracle they
reached Keswick undisturbed, she would find a car and drive
straight to Carlisle.  But what about Janet?  She was certain that
she WOULD NOT reach Keswick, but if she did--why, then she feared
that the temptation to go on would be too strong for her.  She
would leave John in London with friends and return here at once to
fight Janet's battle.  Janet would understand and would know that
she had not deserted her.

The morning passed most peacefully.  No sound from Janet's room, no
uneasy word spoken at luncheon, all morning John did his lessons
quietly with Michael.  The sun poured down in glorious splendour
and a little breeze turned leaf and flower into sparkling,
trembling colour.

After luncheon Rose gave John a sign and then, without another
glance at him, went straight to her bedroom.  Five minutes later
John had followed her.  The boy was no fool!

The door closed.  Rose began hurriedly.

'Listen, John.  In another ten minutes we're going for a walk.  We
shall step straight out of the house and along the road to Keswick.
IF we get to Keswick we'll take a car to Carlisle and the train to
London.'

The boy, his eyes fixed on her face, drew a deep breath.

'I don't suppose for a minute that we shall get as far as Keswick
without being stopped.  I want to test it.  But if we do--you're
willing?'

'Yes,' he said.

'I want you to understand.  If we do get away your grandfather may
come after us.  He may come to London.  He may start a suit in the
Courts to get you back, although I don't think he will.  You'll be
perfectly free to return to him if you want to.  You needn't come
with me this afternoon.  You're absolutely free.'

'That's all right,' he said.  'I told you the night you wore the
lovely dress.  Don't we take any clothes and what about Rump?'

'We can't take anything.  We go out of the house as though we were
having a stroll.  I'm afraid Rump will have to be left behind.
Mind you, I don't think we'll get even as far as the Druids'
Circle.  But I want to see.'

'What'll they do?  Shoot us?' he asked hopefully.

'No, nothing like that.  Not yet anyway.'

'Do you mind my giving you a kiss?' she asked carelessly.  'You
see, this is a bit of an adventure.'

He went up to her and flung his arms round her neck.

'I'm glad there's no one else coming,' he said.

Ten minutes later they opened the front door, crossed the little
path and were out, through the gate on to the road.

Not a soul was stirring.  The house except for its thin wavering
pennon of chimney-smoke was dead, the windows blank.  No one was to
be seen in the garden.  The hills and fields, purple-shadowed, were
like a painted scene.  They walked with slow casualness along the
road.  The Hall grounds ran for a considerable length and were
bordered from the road by a high stone wall.

'I think,' John said in an almost breathless whisper, 'that nobody
saw us.'

'On the contrary,' Rose said, 'I expect that everybody saw us.
Sally was behind one window, the cook behind another, Lewcomb
behind a tree, and your grandfather looking over the top of the
chimney.'

'Will we ever get our things again,' John asked, 'the things we've
left behind?  There are my books and two catapults and a cricket
bat--'

'Never mind your things,' Rose said hastily.  'If we reach Keswick
I'll give you fifty bats--'

She stopped abruptly.  They had reached the turn of the wall that
marked the end of the Hall property.  In the wall was a small
wicket gate, and in the gate was standing the Colonel.

'Why, where on earth are you two going?' he asked cheerfully.

'Only taking a little stroll,' said Rose with a smile.  'It's such
a glorious day.'

'Yes, isn't it?  Shall I come too?'

'Of course, we'll love it.  But we mustn't be out long.  I promised
Michael a game of chess.'

'Chess?'  They were now strolling up the hill together.  'I didn't
know Michael played.'

'Oh, he doesn't.  Not to call it playing.  Nor do I.  But he's
suddenly become keen.  He bought a book by Lasker or somebody and
that stirred him up again.  He used to play as a boy.'

'Yes.  Start as a boy.  That's the thing.'

'He's going to teach John.'

'Is he?  Splendid!  And the winter's long here.  You'll find it a
relaxation, both of you.'

They were climbing the hill.

'Sure you weren't making for anywhere particular?' the Colonel
asked.

'Oh no,' Rose answered.  'We thought we'd go up to the Circle
perhaps and look at the hills.'

'Good idea.  We will.'

Rose said:  'Have you seen Janet?  I do hope she's better to-day?
Perhaps she'll be able to come downstairs for a little this
evening?'

The Colonel looked grave.

'I'm afraid not.  It's her head she complains of.'

'Has the doctor been?'

'Not yet.  It's hardly a case for a doctor.  Nerves.  That's the
trouble.'  The Colonel gave Rose a severe condemnatory look.  What
game was she playing?  Why was she talking like this in front of
the boy?  Didn't she know any better?  But Rose smiled serenely.
He thought, 'How lovely she is!  She is the most beautiful, the
freshest creature that has ever come into my life!  And now that
I've got her I'll keep her!  I've never,' he thought, his heart
pounding, 'failed with a woman I've cared for yet.'

And then the sensation that he had often noticed lately occurred
again--an expanding, as it seemed to him, of his whole person, a
lightness as though he floated rather than walked, and the
strangest consciousness of power as though, if he now raised a
hand, the hills would sink, the trees bend, the streams come
running to his feet. . . .

They were soon in the centre of the Druids' Circle, and now it
seemed to Rose also that the hills surrounding them floated towards
them; the air was so light, so sun-lit that the strong line of the
Helvellyn range passed into the crystal intangibility of the ether.
A great sweep of pale white, orange, blue elements merged into one
dazzling quivering brilliance, although there was no heat, only a
gentle warmth tempered by the little breeze.

In all this light the Stones stood defiantly concrete, of a
monstrous weight, solidity, defined form.  It was as though they
were so ancient that they had withstood again and again this attack
of light.  They had been placed there by man, and yet, long before
man, they were, and the brilliance of this sky, the determined
encircling of these hills had in wave after wave of light assaulted
them, and scornfully they had kept their own darkness and the
independent spirit of their eternal secret.

Rose would not forget this moment, for even as the Colonel laid his
hand on her shoulder (she remembered as an incredible dream that
she had once liked his touch) saying 'Very indistinct the hills are
this afternoon' she was praying to a deity in whom she didn't
believe.

'Oh, God! help me out of this!  Get us away.  Let John and me
escape--and soon!'

Then they turned home.


Tea was finished, the chessboard was set out, she and Michael were
opposite one another.

The Colonel, in the big arm-chair, his legs stretched in front of
him, seemed to be asleep.

'I say, sir,' Michael called, 'do you feel that open window behind
you?'

There was no answer.

Michael's questioning sign to Rose was:  'Do you think he's
asleep?'  Rose's eyebrows answered:  'I don't know.  Look out!'

They talked casually.

'Which hand will you have?'

'The right.'  That hand held the white pawn.  'You begin, then.'

Rose moved her king's pawn.

Soon Michael said:  'That's one of the few things I remember.  If
you don't know much about the game get your knights out.  At any
rate you won't fall to Fool's Mate.'

The Colonel was snoring.

Rose moved.

Michael said:  'Oh, look here, I shouldn't do that.  Is he asleep,
do you think?  Because if you do, your bishop's caught.'

'Oh, I see--how stupid of me!  No, I don't think he is.  There!
I'll move that pawn instead.'

'You oughtn't to let my knight get so far down the board; get your
other bishop out.  That leaves you free to castle.  Don't say a
word--I don't trust him.'

They played for a little.

'Check to your queen.'

'To my queen?' said Rose.  'I thought you only checked the king.'

'Yes,' said Michael.  'It's only my good manners.  I'm warning you
that your queen will be taken if you don't do something about it.'

'Oh, I see,' said Rose.  'Thank you.  There!  I've put my bishop in
front of it.'

Then occurred an unexpected interruption.

Sally put her head through the door.

'What is it, Sally?'

'The master--'

The Colonel shouted from his chair.  'Hullo!  What is it?'

'May I speak to you a moment?  It's rather important.'

'Yes, I'll come,' he said.  He strode out.

'Quick,' Michael said.  'We've got a moment.  Look at the board so
that if he comes back unexpectedly . . .  Listen!  I've found a way
to communicate with Janet.'

'Yes,' said Rose.

'Below her window a corner of the porch juts out just below a part
of the house wall.  That gives me climbing opportunity.  I can get
up half-way to her window and could tap on it with a stick, take
things from her and hand things up.'

'Yes,' said Rose quickly.  'But we're watched all the time.  John
and I hadn't got ten yards down the road this afternoon before the
Colonel joined us.  Lewcomb is everywhere.'

'I know.  I'll try something after seven; there's a good half-hour
between the dressing-bell and eight o'clock.  He always has his
bath then and the servants are in the kitchen and the dining-room.
Lewcomb goes home at seven.'

'He's supposed to,' Rose said, 'but last night he had supper in the
kitchen.  I saw him about nine o'clock.'  She went on in the same
voice.  'Look here.  It doesn't matter my asking you because I'm
learning, but will something awful happen if I move the rook down
on to your back line?  That would be check, wouldn't it?'

'I wouldn't,' said Michael gravely, 'because my king can easily get
out of it and YOUR king will be entirely undefended.  Look out for
my queen and bishop.  If my bishop takes that pawn--'

The Colonel had come in and was standing over them.

'As a boy,' he said, 'I played exceptionally well.  I won the
junior tournament at my school, I remember, and then--too many
calls on my time--too many calls on my time--I had to give it up.'

They went on playing.

'Check,' said Michael.

'I don't see . . . oh yes!  I'll put my knight there.'

'What people especially suffer from in this district,' said the
Colonel, 'is rheumatism.  Poor old Lewcomb now.  He's a martyr to
it.  Don't know how he does his work as well as he does.'

'Check,' said Michael.

'I've never had a touch of it myself.  If I had I should know I was
breaking up.  Once the poison's in your system you may as well
throw up the sponge.  When rheumatism gets me I'll confess myself
an old man.  But there's no reason why it ever should--not leading
the life I lead.  I flatter myself I'll go to my grave without
knowing what a rheumatic twinge is!'

'Checkmate!' said Michael.

'Oh no--is it?  Oh, surely I can get out of that!'

'I don't think you can.'

The Colonel got up from his chair and stood over them.

'Finished your game?'

'Yes--I think so.'

'That's good--because I want you, Michael, for a moment in my
study.'  He looked at them both benevolently.  'By the way, you
two,' he said, 'when you want to have a VERY private conversation
together I shouldn't have it in Rose's bedroom with the door
locked.  Servants talk, you know.'


The gong rang for dressing.  Rose turned the top corner of the
stairs, and Michael (from where he had come she had no idea) was at
her side.

'Here.  Take this.  I managed it.  It's from Janet.'  He put
something into her hand.

'Oh . . . did you?'

'Yes.  I don't think I was seen.  Unfortunately I tore the seat of
my trousers--on a nail just above the porch.  But I tapped at her
window; she opened it and without a word or waiting an instant
dropped this into my hand--wonderful woman.  It's addressed to
you.'

'Did anyone see you?'

'I don't think so.  You can't tell, of course, but afterwards I saw
old Lewcomb looking out of the pantry window.  I don't--'

There were steps on the stair.  They separated and Rose, as she
closed the door, heard the Colonel's cheery voice.

'Like your bath first, Michael?  There's time for both of us.'  And
then in a deeper tone of astonishment:  'My God, what HAVE you been
doing to your trousers?'

She did not hear Michael's reply.  In her room, her door locked,
she read Janet's letter.  It was scribbled in pencil over several
sheets of notepaper and was sometimes almost illegible and once at
least seemed to have no meaning.

'I am sure that, sooner or later, Michael will be able to get to my
window or something, so I will have this ready.  I expect I shall
have to begin it and stop it and hide it and begin it. . . .  It
won't be very coherent either.  I never HAVE been--not my nature.
And at present I'm so INDIGNANT.  That's a mild word.  I've got the
temper of a devil, you know, Rose, and have smashed up several of
the best things in my life with it.  My hand is trembling with rage
as I write.  To have a door locked on me at my age and by Sally!
Doesn't she enjoy doing it too!  However, let's be practical.  I
could smash the door down, I suppose.  I've got an old hockey-stick
in the cupboard.  I used to play for the Ladies of Cumberland.  Did
I ever tell you?  Outside right.  Anyway, the point is that if I
were alone in this I'd undoubtedly do something of the kind, but
I'm NOT alone.  You and John are in this too.  Also I could, I
fancy, climb out of the window although I'm not as agile as I used
to be.  If Michael can get half-way up I can get down.  But that
doesn't solve anything either, nor do I relish being caught by old
Lewcomb in the garden.  Still, at about three in the morning I
fancy I could get away.  Something serious stops me--something so
serious, dear Rose, that for the very first time in my life I'm
frightened.  HE'S been in once to-day.  Didn't stay long.  Looked
at me with real kindness.  "Come on, Janet," he said.  "Stop this
nonsense."  I asked him what nonsense.  Interference.  I told him I
stuck to what I'd said--that he was to leave John and yourself
alone and that he might keep me here for the rest of my life and I
wouldn't alter.  Then, in a few well-chosen words, he told me that
he'd seen it coming for a long time, that other people had also,
that he might have to take medical steps.

'Oh, Rose, do you know what that means?  Do you know--of course you
can't--what it is to be a middle-aged old maid whose thoughts have
been so long isolated in her brain that they've been at times a
little riotous, a little disorderly?  My loneliness--my loneliness--
my loneliness.

'And there have been hours in the early morning perhaps when I have
said to myself that I'm losing control, when I've seen three, four,
five of myself, shadow upon shadow . . . but not that . . . not . . .
I have had command, I have command now . . . absolute . . . never
stronger than now because you have come and I'm alone no longer.
But as he stood there softly suggesting that others too have
noticed . . . have they, do you think?  Dear Emmeline, with the two
moles at the side of her nose.  Just before her Quartet attempt
(and fail so lamentably) at their little bit of Schumann, can't you
hear her saying:  "But she did, my dear.  In the middle of the
night.  Yes, out of her window.  They found her in Keswick.
Terrible for the poor Colonel, isn't it, but she's been queer for a
long time.  We've all noticed it."  Oh no, no.  No, Rose.  Don't I
know how we take a suggestion from others?


          "'Tis like a camel indeed,
          Now methinks it is like a weasel.
          It is backed like a weasel.
          Or like a whale?"


Well then . . . here's sanity.  Here's good sober sense.  I must
get out of this.  And you also.  The three of us and no loss of
time.  We have our means of communication now and you don't know
what that means to me.  I count the yellow daisies on the wall.
Have you not always hated them?  Between the mirror and the window
one hundred and thirty-two from floor to ceiling.  And what do you
think?  Only three books in the room, that novel by Mr. Albion
you've already read to me.  No matter.  This is waste of time.
Remember I'm ready for anything.  Only watch everyone in the house.
I can see from Sally's malicious lips that she is having the time
of her life.  Don't come near my room.  After dark is better for
Michael.  Someone is coming. . . .'

It ended there.



CHAPTER XIV

MAY 15TH: HOW THE COLONEL HAD A BIRTHDAY


The following day, May 15th, was the Colonel's birthday and so for
him a very great day indeed.  He was sixty-nine years of age and he
felt, as do many survivors of sixty, that with every added year he
was securing an astonishing personal triumph over some secret and
sinister enemy.  He knew that after sixty many people quite
suddenly broke up, crumbled, had nothing left for them but to
prepare for death.  He had for so long thought about his splendid
physical vigour that he could not conceive any kind of life without
it.  Many of us as we grow older are prepared for almost any
catastrophe at any moment--a cancer, the sudden treachery of
friends, and, worst of all, the revelation to ourselves of our own
meanness or falsity.  Not so the Colonel.  Everything good was
rightly his that came to him; he had not received his sufficient
due.  That was all.

So his birthday was Nature curtseying to him, and a very nice
curtsey on this occasion she made.  For the weather was lovely, his
health was superb, and he was playing a game that he was greatly
enjoying.

To tell the truth, locking his daughter into her room had whetted
his appetite for more.  He had felt an entirely new sensation when
he dropped that key into his pocket, and to discover a new
sensation at sixty-nine is something.

He did not wish to be cruel, in fact he had never liked his
daughter so much as now.  Soon she would say to him:  'Father,
you'd better have your way with John.  And we'll all help you.'
And Rose would say:  'Very well, Janet's given in.  I'll give in
too.'  Dear Rose!  Dear, dear Rose!  What a companion for his old
age she was going to be!

But locking Janet's door had stirred him to further activities.  He
had been, he must confess, surprised at the eagerness with which
old Lewcomb had agreed to 'keep an eye open.'  The Colonel had
given no reasons.  He had simply said:  'I don't want anyone to
leave this place for a day or two without my knowing.'  The barest
word, of course, was all that Sally had needed.  And how Sally
hated Rose and Janet!  You wouldn't have thought she could hold so
much feeling in her little skinny body!

This was all a new game for the Colonel.

On the breakfast-table there were presents, an amber cigarette-
holder from Rose, a tobacco-pouch from John, some ties from
Michael.  Nothing from Janet.

'Nothing from Janet,' he said, smiling across at Rose.  'She
hasn't, of course, been able to go out and get anything.'

'Will she be coming down to-day?' asked Rose.

'I'm afraid not, my dear.  Rest is what she needs.  Rest and
seclusion.'

And how happy he was!  It did your heart good to see him.  He was
wearing a carnation in the button-hole of his light grey tweed.  He
was so clean and healthy and shining that he made Michael feel
quite shabby.

'Thank you, my dears.  Thank you, thank you a thousand times.
Kidneys, Michael?  Oh, you should.  They smell so good.  What about
giving John a holiday, Michael?  I'll take him out in the car.
Like that, John?  What are your plans to-day, Rose?  Such a peach
of a day.'

'I don't know.  I thought of taking John into Keswick.  He can go
for a drive as well.'

'Oh, we'll all go into Keswick.  We'll have coffee at Storm's.  How
I adore presents!  I remember as a small boy--'  He picked up one
of Michael's ties, a purple heather-coloured one.  'Just my colour,
my boy.  How did you guess?'

'Oh, I don't know.  I knew it would suit you.'

'Did you?  Well, you guessed right.  My God, I'm sixty-nine--just
think of it!  And touched my toes after my bath as though I were
twenty.  Michael, you're having no breakfast.  What about an egg?'

'No, thanks.'  Michael got up.  'Then John's to have no lessons to-
day?'

'No.  He shall spend the day with me.  Like that, John?'

'Yes, Grandfather.'

'That's good.  That's good.'

He polished his spectacles with his dark red silk handkerchief,
then got up, and went off to the study humming.

Rose followed him.

She stood in the doorway.

'What is it, my dear?'

She closed the door.  She was by her own wish shut in with him,
alone with him and the pale naked head of the saturnine Caesar.

Then quite suddenly and altogether to her own surprise she lost
control--that control that she had lost only once since arrival
here, on that occasion when, in the passage, she had smacked
Roger's face.  It was a witness to the change in her perhaps that
never, during all those years at Geneva, had she lost control about
anything, not even when the First Secretary of the Ellonian
Legation had asked her to stay with him at the Rocklitz Hotel for
two nights.

She had intended now to be calm, but he was holding John's tobacco-
pouch in his hand and appraising it.

'You ought to be ashamed to be holding it!' she cried.  'If I'd had
my way he wouldn't have given you anything at all!'  She really was
astonished at the sound of her own voice.  It was as though a third
person were with them in the room.  But in fact she caught sight of
the third person.  There was a small cheap gilt mirror hanging on
the left of the door.  It was hanging crookedly and swayed ever so
slightly on its nail.  Its surface was blurred and a trifle
distorted; it reflected one corner of the Colonel's desk, his arm
and shoulder, sometimes his full face, sometimes his nose and cheek
only; the cheek was swollen, bulging as though the Colonel were
sucking toffee, and as the mirror so gently swung, so the Colonel
swung as though he were a marionette on a string.

Rose could see this mirror and its reflection from where she stood.

'My dear!  Why, you're in a temper--and my birthday too!'

'No.  I'm not in a temper, but I'm angry. . . .  Oh, stop
swinging . . . no, never mind.  I'm a little incoherent.'

She came close to his desk, her eyes shining, her face flushed (as
bald-pated Caesar observed) with her eagerness.

'Listen.  What are you doing with Janet?  What about John and
myself?  Don't you see how ridiculous and unreal it all is?  You
can't lock me up as well as Janet.  What do you do if I go out and
tell everyone that it isn't Janet who's mad, but you?  What will
you say if I tell them that you ill-treat John and make love to
your housemaids?  You've locked Janet up all right, but I'm free--
I'M free!  You can't stop ME!'

'Yes, dear Rose, I can.  After all, John's mine, isn't he?'

'Not if I prove that you're crazy, that you--'

'Oh, but I'm not crazy, not in the very least.  There's not a
soberer, quieter gentleman in the North of England.  Say what you
like.  Who's to believe you?  Everyone knows that you have no right
in John.  Everyone is prepared for you to say anything crazy in
order to get him back again.  Who's to believe you, my dear?  Mrs.
Parkin doesn't love you and she's taken care, I'm sure, to spread
abroad her opinion of you.  I'm sorry to say that Sally and the
cook don't love you either.  There's only young Michael and
everyone knows that he's fallen a slave to your beauty and isn't to
be trusted, poor young man.  No, no, I should have the best of it
there and you'd never see John again.'

Then he did an odd thing.  He took off his glasses and laid them
carefully on the table.

'Look at me, my dear.  There, that's right.  I know you don't like
my spectacles.  See, I've taken them off.  Now, look at me.  You
can't say I'm not a friendly old man who means well.  I do.  I do
indeed.  We are two people all of us.  Jekyll and Hyde if you like--
a very old story.  If I am rude or thoughtless or arrogant to
somebody he or she sees me unpleasantly.  I am charitable,
generous, honest--lo, I'm an angel!  I'm neither devil nor angel
any more than the rest of us.  There is a third, the real true
creature whom so few people know.  Won't you be one of them, my
dear?  Won't you try and understand this ambition of mine, the last
of my life?  If I lose John I lose everything at the moment of
losing him--my health, my vigour, everything will go.  I've looked
after him, fed him, clothed him, brought him up.  Who else but I?
Why shouldn't I fight to keep him and to keep you too?'

'You can't!  You can't!' she answered passionately.  'You can't
imprison us here.  We must have our freedom.  Don't you see that?
Forgive me if I'm excited.'  She suddenly smiled.  'Don't mind
that.  Don't notice it.  Things have been so strange in this house
during the last week.  What you say is true, I'm sure.  Well then.
Let John and me go.  We'll come back.  John shall go to school, but
he'll write to you every week and this shall be his home as it
shall be mine if you wish it.  Don't you see that it's the only
way?  You CAN'T keep us here.  You can't really.  John shall be
yours just as much--'

'John IS mine.'  He put on his spectacles again.  'I can't keep YOU--
no.  But John I can keep and will.  Is the door shut, my dear?
There's a draught.'

She went to the door.

'Yes, it's closed.'

'That's right.  Think it over.  DON'T be upset.  We'll go to
Keswick and have a real birthday party.'

'And Janet?'

'Ah, there you ARE going a bit too far.  After all she's my
daughter and I know many things about her that you can't know.
Poor Janet!  I've seen this coming for a long time.'

'But she's perfectly sane!' Rose cried.  'There's nothing the
matter with her whatever.'

'That's what YOU think, dear Rose.'

'It's hopeless then,' Rose said quietly.  'I've done all I can.'

'Are you threatening me?' he asked her, smiling.

But she had left the room.  The mirror swung on its cord.  He got
up to straighten it.


She found Michael.

'Listen,' she said.  'It's all settled.  I've had my last talk with
him.  There's nothing more to be done with him--now or ever.'

She looked about her.

'Where we've got to talk is right in the middle of the lawn where
everybody can see us and no one can overhear us.'

They went out and walked slowly up and down the lawn while the sun
blazed down on them.

The queer thing was that Rose felt, as she took those few steps
into the garden, as though they were the first steps of her life
into freedom.  The grass in the light of that sun ran like water to
the purple-leaden shadow under the big oak, and this sense of
movement under her feet made her part of the honey-scented air, the
blue hills, and a sky so stainless that it fell into deeper and
deeper spaces of light shadowing light.  The thing was that she was
suddenly sure of her freedom, and so, looking at Michael, loved him
like a sister.

'This is final, then,' she said, and saw old Lewcomb, with his
sleeves rolled up and his thin-pointed stern towards them, bending
down over a flower-bed.  'I've given him his chance.  I've put it
to him for the last time.  Now what we've got to do is to get out
of here at the first possible moment.'

'Yes,' said Michael, 'to-morrow night.'

'Perhaps that's too soon,' Rose said.  'There's Mr. Rackstraw to be
consulted.  I propose that I write him a note now, at once, saying
that we're leaving immediately and at night.  When can he be ready?
You will shortly stroll up the road and leave the note in the tree
as he explained.'

'Why shouldn't I go straight to his house?  What's to stop me?'

'Nothing's to stop you except that he must have had some reason for
advising otherwise.  In any case we don't want Lewcomb or Sally
running at once to the Colonel with the news that you've been to
see Rackstraw.  If you're clever you can drop the note into the
tree without anyone seeing you.'

'All right.  I'll do it,' Michael said.

'Doesn't it give you the very strangest feeling walking up and down
this patch of grass?  Lewcomb is watching us from under his
armpits.  Sally and the cook are looking at us from the kitchen
window, the Colonel from his study.  But here we are on magical
ground, in sanctuary.  No one can come to us and say we are doing
wrong, no one can overhear us, the fells look down protecting us.


          "And you, like rose, upturned by infinite seas,
          To bleach here on the foam-remembering fell."


Don't you see, Michael?  You can be free anywhere INSIDE the prison
walls.  There's the sun-scattered patch, you can SEE the fells if
you wish it!'

He saw that she was beside herself with happiness.

'What is it?' he asked.

'For the first time in my life I see my way.  I shall love the
Colonel the rest of my days for showing me.  And when you've
escaped with us, Michael, and we're all together in London, I'm
never going to bother any more at the small things that used to
worry me--chagrins, piques, disappointments--for there we'll be,
all four of us, Janet, you, John and me, on our square of sunlit
grass, and people can lock doors or look out of windows, they can't
TOUCH us, they can't TOUCH us.  We're ourselves, independent . . .
and THEN we can be of use to others.  Don't you see?  Only AFTER we
can stand by ourselves.'  She caught his shoulder, she gave him for
a brief moment a hug.  'Now.  They've all seen that.  They're
wondering, they're speculating.  They are sure that soon we shall
be sleeping together, I the siren, you the poor hapless young.'

'The only thing is,' Michael said, 'that when you go I'm not coming
with you.'

'Not coming?'  She turned in her steps and stared at him and, for
that moment, loved him--his youth, his loyalty, his devotion to
herself.  He saw in her eyes something that he had never seen there
before, and for that instant they stood there, entranced, on that
golden sun-scented lawn.

Then he knew that it was illusion.

'No, I'm not coming.'

'But why?  Of course you're--'

'No.  I must stay behind.  To tell him for one thing.  That's a
pleasure you mustn't deprive me of, Rose, dear.  For another, in my
case it would be running away.'

'Well, we ARE running away--the lot of us!'

'With you it's different.  He's been violent to Janet and refused
freedom to yourself and John.  He hasn't refused me anything.  As a
matter of fact he's been very decent to me always, in every way.
I'd much rather stay and have it out with him.  To tell you the
truth, I'm rather fond of him.'

'So, as a matter of fact,' said Rose slowly, 'am I.  That's what
makes this whole affair so absurd and unreal.  I hate him when he
makes love to me and is crazy to John, and it's because he DOES
things like that we've got to go--but the rest of him . . .  Don't
you think,' she said, 'that when we HAVE got away all will be well?
He'll come and see us in London.  We'll make him.'

Michael shook his head.  'Never.  It's a cruel thing we're doing.
We can't help ourselves, but it's cruel all the same.  He'll NEVER
get over it!  The jokes in the neighbourhood, the failure, the
loneliness . . .'

Rose turned to the house.

'Oh, isn't it BEASTLY!' she cried.  'Either way.  Whether we go or
we stay.  Whether--'

But he was coming out of the house towards them.

'He couldn't bear it any longer,' Michael said.  'He HAD to know--'

'Well, my dears,' the Colonel cried.  'What about our trip to
Keswick?  Where's young John?'


Half an hour later the three of them, the Colonel, Rose and John,
were seated in Storm's Caf.  This is the meeting-place for the
Keswick gossipers of a morning, and on a fine day it is one of the
most cheerful places in the universe.

From where you sit you can look out on to the town Square, see the
motor-cars marshalled into their resting-places by the genial lame
man who is like a mother to them, watch the figures pass, hurrying
to their business or staying for laughing conversation, see the
sheep driven wandering-fashion from point to point, consider the
visitor from the outside world who lingers from shop to shop.  This
is the human world, and the other world above it and around it is
also human, for this little huddle of brick and mortar is planted
in the very cup of the hills.  You cannot ever forget Skiddaw
breaking like a flower, Blencathra with its serried edge, the two
Lakes spreading on either side, one to the Border country deep in
battle, foray and sudden death, the other to the most beautiful
small valley in the world, enclosed immortally by imperishable
hills.  Nothing changes here.  Motor-cars may come and go, from the
hotel opposite faintly may be heard the strains of the midday radio
music, still the sheep scatter by on silent feet, Southey wrapped
in contemplation of the new box of books from London walks
solitary, Hartley Coleridge takes a skip and a jump, snapping his
fingers, and darkly, more ghostly, behind these, the thick-set
German miners, with their Elizabethan colours, stand, cautious,
foreign, while the hump-backed pedlar strikes the sun with his
silver and cheap gold.

Nevertheless what Rose saw was that, holding the centre of the room
and greeting the Colonel with the most cordial of welcomes, were
Mrs. Parkin, Mrs. Lincoln and the Morphew family!

Well, what of it?  In another two days they would be as the dust of
yesterday's road!  She was aware, however, that their own arrival
created in the caf almost a frenzy of excitement.  For here was
the wicked woman and her bastard child, here the unfortunate father
of the lunatic lady!  Never, however, had that unfortunate father
been more gay, more brilliantly alive.

'Now, if that isn't splendid!  On my birthday too!  Did you know it
was my birthday, Emmeline?  I bet you didn't.  Yes, coffee.
Coffee.  Your very best on this splendid morning!  An ice for you,
John?  Coffee, vanilla, strawberry?'

'Vanilla and strawberry, please,' John said.

Conversation continued and Rose forgot everything else in her pride
in her son.  He had gained, she thought, new poise and independence
in the last few weeks.  That might of course be her imagination,
but she was assured that he felt himself freed from some bondage.
He sat in his chair next to the pale and despondent Miss Morphew,
and Rose heard him say:  'Yes, it is a lovely day, isn't it?'

Mrs. Parkin beamed and words flowed from her.  'No, I HAD
forgotten!  How careless of me!  But I'm sure you don't remember MY
birthday!  Not that I WANT it to be remembered because I'm really
the most TERRIBLE age!  What we OUGHT to do is to serenade you with
some music.  What do you say, Hilda darling?'  (This to Mrs.
Lincoln.)

'Music!  Rather!  Not that I'm in very good voice.'

'Nonsense, Hilda!  I never heard you sing better than the other
evening.  That song about Celicia.  What was it?  Brahms,
Wagner . . . ?'

'Strauss, darling, and her name wasn't . . .'

'Never mind.  It was LOVELY.'  Then Mrs. Parkin really began.  'But
I forgot.  A serenade would never do for poor Janet.  How IS
Janet?'

Everyone listened--even Miss Morphew, who had just been saying to
John:  'But I don't care for animals.  I know everyone thinks I do.
As a matter of fact I'm sick--'

'Janet isn't too well,' the Colonel said gravely.  'What we fear is
a nervous breakdown.  She's been doing altogether too much, and
then that influenza . . .  No, Janet will have to go carefully--'

'Oh, isn't that terrible!'  Mrs. Parkin's eyes sparkled with
excitement.  'As a matter of fact when I came over to see her the
other day and had a little talk with her I thought she wasn't at
all herself.  VERY excited and--'

'Do you know,' Rose broke in, 'I think she's perfectly well.
You'll be seeing her about in a day or two.  The rest will have
done her a lot of good.'

There was a silence.  Rose could hear the undertone:  'Fancy!  That
woman daring . . . !  The poor Colonel!  But he brought it on
himself!'

And the Colonel said, beaming on them all:  'I dare say Miss
Clennell is right!  We shall see!  We shall see!'  After a while,
wiping his spectacles, he got up.  'We must be moving on.  Finished
your ice, my boy?'

John had not, but being a proper guest he murmured that he had.
The Colonel paid and into the sunlit Square they went.  John was a
step behind them.  The Colonel said:

'Dangerous, my dear, dangerous.'

And then, as they approached the car:  'How you women do stick
together!'

On the return journey Rose realized that the battle had advanced
another stage.  He was furious--but he made her the prettiest
speeches.  His voice was now so refined and delicate that the
feelings concealed were like lions and tigers behind bars.

'Now this IS a day!' he said.  'Dear Rose, aren't you learning to
love this country?  Will you ever be able to leave it again?  I do
hope not.  Can you write?  Novels, I mean?  I wish you'd try and
put that wretched Bauman out of existence.  Although as a matter of
fact it's a NATIVE who ought to write the epic of this soil--
someone born and bred here.'  So he chattered on, and the
incongruity between words and feelings was so great that she was
reminded of various oddities--of John Lacey who told her that he
always had a volume of Proust by his side when he worked and yet he
wrote like a navvy, or of a white-haired American publisher once
pointed out to her at the Savoy, shepherding intellectuals like May
Tooney and Consett into luncheon, and he with not a notion of
literature in him!

'He would like,' she thought, 'to take my neck between his red
hands and snap it.  What WON'T he do if we give him time!'

But to give him time was just what they mustn't.  And then, so
absurd was this affair that she had an unexpected movement of
affection towards him as they moved into the house.  She touched
his arm.

'Please,' she murmured.  'Think it over again.  Just give the other
plan a trial.  See how it works.  Let Janet free.  Give John and
myself a week in London.  I promise we'll return.'

He didn't answer her.  He didn't look at her.  He turned back.

'John!  John, my boy!'

'Yes, Grandfather?'

John came running up.

'Come into my study a moment, will you?'

Then, after John had passed him, he said to Rose:

'John is mine and by your own wish.  I love you, dear Rose, but I
don't trust you an inch.'  He bent forward and very lightly kissed
her cheek.  'Funny thing, I've never trusted a woman all my life
long.'


So, after luncheon in her own room, Rose wrote her note to Mr.
Rackstraw.


DEAR MR. RACKSTRAW--Everything's been done that can be done--in the
line of persuasion I mean.  The funny thing is that in a way I
understand him.  This is his last chance to prove to himself that
he is still SOMETHING--that he has the power that he's always
wanted so much.  But what's the use?  We can't all be sacrificed to
his desire to prove himself.  As a matter of fact I think I'm going
a little crazy in this house--Michael and Janet too.  The only one
of us who is perfectly happy and enjoying it all is John.  So we
must get away as soon as possible.  THERE'S NO TIME TO BE LOST.
Janet is locked in her room but Michael can get her out through the
window.  I feel the absurdity of writing this, as though we were
living in a detective novel, but it's real enough, as poor Janet
knows.  As you say, night is the only time and, I think, two nights
from now.  That is the night of the 17th to 18th.  The morning of
the 18th between one and two.  I don't know what your advice will
be, but I've thought it out and I'm sure that the best thing will
be to motor to Seathwaite, leave the car there, walk over Stye Head
to Wastdale, get something there to take us to Seascale and then
catch a London train.  Anything from Keswick is impossible.  There
isn't a train till 7.40, which will be full daylight.  He won't--IF
we get away--know of it till the morning.  Michael, brave boy, will
stay behind (by his own insistent wish) and tell him that we've
gone although not WHERE we've gone.  By that time we should be at
Seascale and well in the train before he gets there.  Let me know
what you think of this.  I think if your car is waiting at the tree
where I put this note that will be best.  It is good of you to help
us.  I shall never forget it.

                                                   Yours,

                                                          R. C.


As had been already arranged, she came out of her room and Michael
crossed the passage at the same moment.  They brushed together; she
made some laughing remark; the note was in his pocket.

At the same moment the cook's head appeared at the top of the
stairs.

'Excuse me, miss--'

'Yes, what is it?'

'It's only about dinner, Miss Clennell.  I was wondering whether
you'd fancy a nice little bit of veal.'

Rose burst out laughing.  The cook looked at her suspiciously, then
her rather long sallow face (a sheep's head with some dark hairs on
the upper lip) slowly flushed.

'Yes, miss?'

'Oh, it's nothing.  Forgive me, Mrs. Button.  I was thinking of
something.  Yes, veal will be splendid.'

'Very good, miss.  I'm not wanting to bother Miss Janet with the
meals just now.'

She had disappeared.

Rose returned to her room.  From one window she could see the
garden, now misty with accumulated sunlight as though it had been
stored through the day; from the other the fells, now stripped bare
with warmth, a nakedness of heat.  But it was the window over the
garden from which she watched, standing behind the curtain.  She
also could see the road for a considerable way before it turned.

First she saw old Lewcomb on his knees before a flower-bed.  Then
she saw Michael saunter out with Rump at his heels.  Through the
open window she heard Michael's voice:  'Coming for a run, old
boy?'  She saw Rump wag his tail ecstatically, then give Michael a
suspicious look as to say:  'Is this another plot to lead me into
some impossible situation?'  He was reassured and ran wildly to the
gate.  She saw Michael saunter through.  A moment later Lewcomb
rose to his feet, looked cautiously about him, then, carrying a
flower-pot in one hand and a rake in the other, wandered with a
kind of lop-sided casualness to the gate.  He opened it and moved
into the road, but he had taken too long over his plotting.
Michael was returning.  They met ten paces down the road and Rose
heard, through the clear sunny air:  'Hullo, Lewcomb.  What are you
doing in the road with a flower-pot?  Planting flowers in the
hedges?  I forgot my pipe.'  And he came up the garden path
humming.  The note had been delivered to the tree.


Only one further incident of this day need be recorded.

One night of the week John had a hot bath.  Rose passed the
bathroom door and heard from within a voice singing 'Smoke gets in
your Eyes' greatly out of tune.  She knocked and entered.  He was
lying flat, wriggling the toes of one foot.

'Do you mind me, John?'

He rubbed the water out of his eyes with his knuckles.

'No, of course not.'  He smiled, but this time not cautiously.  'I
say,' he whispered hoarsely, 'how's the plot going?'

'It's very hot in here, isn't it?'  She sat down on the little cane-
bottomed chair beside the bath.

'You bet it is.  The hotter the better.'  He turned over on his
side.  'I've been wanting to see you all the afternoon.  When are
we going, Mother?'

She leaned towards him.  'Two nights from now, I expect.'

'Golly!'  He sat up.  'You know,' he said, 'it's funny, but I'm
looking forward to it like anything.'

'Looking forward to what?'

'Going away with you.  Only we'll see Grandfather sometimes, won't
we?'

'Of course.'

'He's very decent sometimes.  Then other times he isn't.  It would
be better not seeing him always.  What school am I going to?'

'I don't know yet.  Where would you like to go to?'

'Oh, Rugby, I think.  I met a chap at the Parkins' who said they've
got an awfully decent Head there now.  How are we going to run
away?'

'In the middle of the night.  Mr. Rackstraw's taking us in his
car.'

'I say--won't that be fine!  Is Aunt Janet coming?'

'Yes.'

His face fell.

'You don't like her?' Rose asked.

'Not exactly. . . .  It's . . . I can tell you everything now,
can't I?'

'Of course you can.'

'I don't like women--except you.  And I didn't like you at first.'

'You haven't seen many, have you?'

'Oh, I don't know.  There's Mrs. Parkin and Aunt Janet and Mrs.
Lincoln, the singing one, you know, and Mrs. Morphew and Sally and
Mrs. Button--'

'Well, there ARE others!' Rose said slowly.  'You do like me now,
then?'

'Oh yes, awfully.'

'I'm glad.'

He sponged his face.  'I think I'll get out now.'

He stepped out and stood in front of her.

'Do you mind my drying you?'

'No, of course not.  Only you'll get awfully wet.'

'No, I won't.  I'll put this towel over my dress.'

She had his body in her arms.  She wrapped the towel round him,
held him tightly, then kissed the back of his neck.

He paid no attention but went on chattering like a little bird.

'It will be frightfully exciting in the middle of the night.  We'll
have to go downstairs as quietly as anything.  Have you noticed?
They're awfully creaky?  And there's another thing . . .'

He was unaware with what agitation her heart was beating against
his steady one.



CHAPTER XV

MAY 16th: THIS DAY BELONGS TO JANET


This is Janet's third day of imprisonment.  Her room has become her
world.

'And praise the Lord that I didn't prevent him putting in those
bathrooms five years ago.  Two of them.  My room and Rose's.  The
funny thing is that he holds to that small Spartan bedroom of his
own and trots across the passage every morning to the general bath
carrying his big sponge like a banner and tap-tapping with his
bedroom slippers. . . .'

But now on the third morning she is thankful for nothing.  A kind
of terror has crept in.  It is as though the walls were closing.


Yes, it was a lovely summer morning.  She had flung both her
windows wide open, and now she stood, as she had done already so
many times, in her pyjamas and dressing-gown, looking into the
outer world.  From the main window that looked into a garden alive
with bird-song, the abode now of sunlit peace (old Lewcomb was not
about as yet), the jump was tremendous for a middle-aged lady.  The
old house was a high one.  There was nothing to break the fall.

From the other (as she now well knew) the descent would not be
difficult could she make up her mind to it.  Twice now Michael had
visited her.  She took from the pocket of her dressing-gown the
note of the evening before:


Courage, Janet dear.  We have settled on Friday night.  (By the
way, tear this up as soon as you have received it.)  I have word
from Mr. Rackstraw that he agrees with our plan to leave between
one and two on the morning of the 18th (night 17th-18th).  He will
take us in his car.  More to-morrow evening.  Love.  R.


She had not obeyed her orders.  She tore the note up now into
little fragments and dropped them into the w.c. in the bathroom.

She considered the descent.  First she must climb on to the window-
sill.  (She would have the window open all night so that it should
not creak with the opening.)  Then she must slip (and here for a
moment she shut her eyes) down the length of pipe until she reached
the roof of the porch.  Here Michael would be to secure her.  Then
she must jump.  She must jump out and away so that she landed on
the lawn and she must trust to luck that she did not break a leg or
an arm or sprain an ankle.  The distance was not great and for most
people an easy jump.  Michael would jump first and he had told her
that he was strong enough to catch her, but she was no light
weight, was clumsy and awkward.  Nevertheless she had once played
hockey for the Ladies of Cumberland and she could do what she had a
mind to!

She turned from the window with a quaver at her heart!

She had lived in this house her life long, and now she must jump
from a window to escape from it!  Incongruous incident for a sober-
living spinster!

She returned to her bed and steeled herself for another day.  Last
night she had slept scarcely at all.  She had heard every hour
strike from the crazy old clock on the stairs that went first
'Boom!' as though it meant a terrible business, then hesitated
clearing its throat, then faltered into a pitiful whisper of
strokes, apologizing for its very existence.  With every hour
struck, the room, large though it was, had seemed smaller.

At no time had it been beautiful, for Janet did not care for
aesthetic beauty.  'Serviceable' was what she wanted things to be.
She could appreciate a vague nebulous rotundity of words, like the
prose in Mr. Albion's novels; a sunset could stir her were it large
enough, and Mrs. Lincoln's singing appealed to her because of the
noise that it made.  But she would not have her room littered with
trifles.  Tidiness was what she demanded.  Tidy it was, but now
that same sparseness was beginning to be terrifying.  The large
gaunt wardrobe, the squat chest-of-drawers, the dressing-table with
its ugly mirror, an old photograph of her father and mother, taken
shortly after their marriage, a very large and gloomy coloured
engraving of 'The Massacre of Glencoe'; these objects, familiar to
her for so long, seemed now on this third morning to be threatening
her with some personal malevolence.  She had never lived with them
so long at a time before.  She had gone in and out of that room a
thousand thousand times, she had dressed and undressed there, had
slept there, but her life--that had seemed to her so active and
filled with important detail--had conquered the room and made of it
a colourless background.

Now it was her whole life, her world, and it had already in these
few days witnessed some scenes, unpleasant enough, wounding enough,
humiliating enough to give that furniture a new arrogance, a fresh
wicked assurance.  The wardrobe had appeared to her simply as a
convenient piece of furniture.  Now its broad flat surface was, she
was sure, studded with pale quirks and rounds, that if you looked
at them continuously stirred rather as evil-looking jellies waver
in a sea-pond.

She might even fancy that at times this wardrobe surged with a kind
of inside life, and it would, she told herself, need only a trifle
more of energy for it to move forward with some secret purpose.

But it was, after all, the swinging mirror at her dressing-table
that gave the room its increasingly active spirit.  It had always
been of an evil nature, this thing, swinging forward when you least
expected it, sticking with obstinate peevishness at its screws so
that no pulling nor tugging could make the nasty thing budge.

But now, for no reason at all, it would swing, and the whole room
would take up a horrid activity, the very chairs seeming to be
endowed with life, and all of them, even the pictures on the wall,
fixing their eyes on her, as they would say:  'We have you now
locked in with us and it is we who are now of importance, not you.
And this you will be made to understand before you are very much
older.'

But it was that riot of the daisies that was the worst.  She had
never liked them, wide, flat-faced things with small white eyes
that sprang at you, as you looked at them, from a hundred places on
the wall.

It was her attempt to count them that was causing them now to
obsess her.  It seemed that they were scornfully delighted with her
effort and, once she had made it, they would not let her alone.
They would show her what they could do, so now they rioted from
pattern to pattern, their little white eyes running together into
one pallid indecent eye or separating into hundreds upon hundreds
of eyes all daring her to count them.

It was not also imagination merely that persuaded her that the room
was smaller than it had been three days ago.  The door to the
bathroom and both windows were open and yet the closeness of the
air was not to be denied.  She had a passion for fresh air; it had
always been so, and never until now had she thought this room close
or confined.  She had not realized before how little space there
was for walking.  Now she would stride, her arms locked behind her,
her head forward, from end to end, but always she must avoid a
chair or the wooden foot of the bed or the sharp edge of the
dressing-table.  It was almost as though they came forward to meet
her.

Her physical strength was restored--she felt no longer any of the
influenza weakness--but it seemed that the furniture also had its
own strength, challenging her and saying:  'As the days go on you
will grow weaker and we stronger.  You will see.'

But the days must not go on, and thank God they would not!  Why, to-
morrow night she would be free unless, in her escape, some accident
befell her.  The thought of that possibility increased with every
moment of the day.  If she fell and damaged some limb not only
would she be ignominiously held (and this time for ever) but the
others would be held too.  Did she let her imagination work there
was no end to the horrors that she could picture!

But she must not!  Lying in bed she picked up the book beside it, a
novel, Kate O'Brien's Ante-Room, that already, although she had
read but little, comforted her with its beauty, with its pity for
the weak and indulgence for sinners, with its wisdom and reticence.
She was no judge of literary merit, but her soul could respond
actively to the soul of another, and so here it responded.  And how
proud she was that this beautiful book had been written by a woman!
How wonderful women were to-day, how understanding, fine-minded,
courageous in their passion for freedom!  Did she escape from this
she would show Rose what a woman's loyalty and affection could be!
And to think that so short a while ago she had hated her, wished to
do her harm!  But it was love that she had needed, love for which
she had been starved!

So, with a more cheerful spirit, she bathed and dressed.  Then she
prepared for the horrible irruption of Sally with her breakfast.
At every visit this thing became harder to bear.  First the
unlocking of the door (to Sally only her father lent the key), then
the appearance of that hated face, smirking above the tray, the
body superciliously triumphant.  Janet was silent.

Sally said:  'Hope you're feeling better, miss.  I've brought you
nice egg and bacon for your breakfast.'  Then she would smile as
much as to say:  'You thought you'd be rid of me, didn't you?
Well, you see what you've brought on yourself, silly old thing.'

Later she would appear again to do the room, and this, although
carried out in silence, was eloquent with suggestion.  Sometimes
their eyes would meet and it would, alas, be Janet who dropped hers
before that bold, contemptuous stare.  But Janet was not unfair.
The girl hated her because from the first Janet had taken no steps
to create any contact with her.  She could look back now, in this
new light that experience was bringing her, and see that all
servants in the house had disliked her.  In her pride at her own
good management she had seen servants as automata in an arrangement
whose perfect pattern must be preserved.

She had deserved this, but it did not mean that she loathed Sally
any the less.  With every day she loathed her more.

Once again the key in the lock. . . .  Janet was sitting very
thoroughly dressed in her green tweed, which looked so warm on this
fine day that it made the determined snows of Glencoe falter.

'Come in,' she said, and straightened her back, for she knew it was
Papa.  She thought grimly of Wimpole Street, whose Victorian
bedroom had appeared to her, two years ago, in a London theatre.
'Ba' too.  But then 'Ba' was a genius and Janet was not.

She regarded him sternly.

'Well?' she said.

He stood looking at her rather sheepishly.  It would not have been
unexpected that he should suck his thumb.

'Now, my dear, my dear,' he said reproachfully.

How can he look so firm, so solid, so healthy at his age, she
wondered?  And yet there is disease in him somewhere.  Quite
suddenly an ache in the thumb, a twist in the groin, and he will be
an old helpless man.  Or he may not be.  In these days sixty-nine
is nothing. . . .  How I wish I knew which it is going to be?

'Well, Janet?'  He was still reproachful as he moved into the
middle of the room and glanced about him.  'He is looking,' she
thought, 'to see whether there is a rope-ladder or a man in hiding
or possibly a bomb.  He walks carefully as one does in Blindman's-
buff.'

'Why don't you say something?' he asked irritably, impatience and
perhaps a certain moral awkwardness strangling his good-temper.

'There's nothing to say.'  She looked at him calmly, taking The
Ante-Room from the little table and laying it on her lap.  'Except
that the weather's lovely. . . .  Oh yes, and thank you for my
delightful breakfast.'

He moved nearer to her.  'Now, Janet, let's end this.  Say the word
and you shall go downstairs as free as--as free as--as ever you
were.'

'I never was free,' Janet answered.  'I've only discovered that in
the last three days.  But--what word do you wish me to say?'

'You know perfectly well.  All I want is that you should promise me
something.  Promise that you will not interfere, either by word or
deed, with my plans for John.  That's all there is in it.  Anyway
it's no affair of yours.  Can't you see that, my dear?  In many
ways you're such an intelligent woman.  I cannot understand what's
put you up to this.  I suppose you and Rose have been setting your
heads together--'

'Rose has had nothing whatever to do with this,' Janet quickly
interrupted.  'You are entirely responsible, Father, for this whole
absurdity.  Locking a middle-aged woman into her room!  Why, that's
Victorian melodrama!  Of course,' she went on reflectively, 'I
could take it into the law courts.  I have been considering that.'

He drew a quick breath.  'Janet, please--When you talk like this it
confirms my worst fears--the fears of everyone.'

Her own heart beat at that and her hands tightened on the book.

'You know,' she said, 'that I'm as sane as Rose, as anybody.'

(But did she herself know?  Did SHE know?)

He drew a chair close to hers.

'Please, please, Janet, give in about this.  Don't you see that
I've HAD to put my foot down?  John is mine.  What right have you
or Rose or anybody to take him from me?  Can't you SEE that?'

'What right have you,' she answered quickly, 'to deprive that boy
of his freedom?  Don't YOU see that you can't keep him THIS way?
Lock him up as you have done me.  Starve him.  Beat him.  He'll
leave you just the same.  But let him go, give him his freedom, and
he'll NOT leave you. . . .  Father, this is madness, really it is.
You are wanting to show your power in the wrong way.  You can't
stop freedom by shouting about it, imprisoning people, making laws.
You can have your prison camps, your armies, your tortures, for a
time, but it never lasts and soon you're swept away, you're--'  She
put her hand to her head.  'I'm talking like a newspaper. . . .
The chief point about our situation is that it's ridiculous.  You
can't lock me up for ever.  You can't go on--'

'No,' he said quickly (and she noticed that some other strange
passion was working in him).  'But there are other places where you
can be kept--until you're better, until you see things sanely
again.'

He got up.

'This isn't recent, you know.  It isn't just because of John's
affair.  We've been fighting one another for years--in this house.
You've resisted me at every step, you've--'

'Well, then,' she said, 'let me go away.  Let me lead my own life
somewhere independently.'

'Yes.  Certainly.  If you promise not to interfere about John.'

She did not reply.  She looked in front of her at the horrible
wardrobe with the pale swaying lozenges. . . .

She saw at once that she could not promise.  That would be to
desert Rose, to be false to her new friendship.  For Rose, she saw
so clearly, must fight to the very last to get possession of John,
and she must be at Rose's side.

'No, I can't promise that.'

'All right then!'  He was shaking with anger.  'You're a fool,
Janet--an obstinate, mulish fool.'

'It doesn't help calling names,' she answered.  But he was gone and
once more she heard the key turn in the lock.

'So that's that.'  She turned back to her book, but she could not
read now, for the room was surely smaller and closer than it had
been half an hour before.

As she could not read she wrote in her Journal.  It was an ugly
saffron-coloured leather volume with a red line at the side of
every page as in an account-book.  Her spectacles were tilted at
the end of her nose, and her pale forehead wrinkled as she wrote.

'Father has been and gone.  His visit this time has made one thing
quite clear--that escape IS the only thing--no other alternative,
none other WHATEVER.  So I must look at this quite normally being
the woman I am, a sane normal woman with no nonsense about her.
Blot.  Blot.  It's this damned pen that drips like a cold in the
nose.  I must say to myself, "Janet, climbing out of a window in
the middle of the night is as normal as brushing your hair.  Feel
no kind of alarm."  (By the way, this book is carefully locked
after every writing and dear Father will have to tear it open over
my dead body if he find it.)  Step on to the window-sill--first
movement.  Grip the pipe firmly with both hands--second movement.
Close your eyes and slide--third movement.  You will then find
yourself in Michael's arms.  Then the jump.  Oh! the jump!  The
jump!  What a nightmare!  But make it normal.  Force it to be.
Make it like tying your shoelace.  Make it so, Janet.  MAKE it!
Michael will jump first.  That's one thing.  And the distance is
very short, the gravel path very narrow.  He will be there on the
lawn to break my fall.  And even if I DO break a leg or twist an
ankle, I'll stick it.  I'll set my teeth and they shall carry me to
the car.  And if I faint I shall at least have the satisfaction of
unconsciousness.  Where are they going to?  Kendal, Carlisle,
Penrith, Cockermouth?  Not Carlisle nor Cockermouth, I should
imagine.  They are too obvious.

'My slow mind moves forward, for it IS slow.  I am only now
beginning to realize what this escape, if it comes off, will mean
to me.  For I'm middle-aged and haven't a friend in the world save
Michael and Rose.  It's all very well to say that I intend to
devote myself to Rose and John--but will they want that devotion?
Rose and Michael are young and all their lives are before them.
Rose is sweet, warm-hearted, loyal, but she is impetuous, full of
energy.  She will make some new grand life for herself and John,
and in that what place can an old maid have?  I am very plain and
shall be very poor.  I have a pittance from my mother that father
can't touch, but that depends on investments.  All the same I can
work.  That I'm a good organizer I know, and I will try in the
future to love people more, to forget myself in their interests.
But CAN I?  Don't I want love to be romantic, emotional?  Don't I
hunger and thirst for the kind of warmth and reciprocation that
I've never all my life had from anybody?  And how can anyone give
it me?  I have no charm, no culture, no interesting brain.  Yes,
but there must be many, many women in the world even as I who long
for affection from someone, who are lonely and plain as I am.
Yes, but can I give MY affection to someone who is plain and
uninteresting?  Don't I need someone who is pretty and clever like
Rose to rouse it in me?  But what am I demanding?  Who ever said
that life was bound to give me the BEST things?  What obligation is
there in life?  None whatever.  It is my part, as it is everyone's,
to fit into what one is given, not to make impossible demands.  And
fit I will.  That I swear.

'The house is very silent.  I have two more days to pass here in
this horrible room.  I found myself, in the middle of the night,
telling myself over some of the things I love as though I would
never see or touch them again.  Is this a prophecy?  Oh, God
forbid!  I thought of ridiculous things--turning over spools of
silk in a shop, having an ice-cream at Storm's, standing on the top
of Stye Head with the wind blowing about my legs, picking roses in
the garden for the drawing-room, a trip to London after a long time
here when, as the dirty houses close about one, one realizes that
in three minutes one will be in the London station, shopping in
Keswick, exchanging greetings (I never realized until now that I
loved the Keswick people), changing a novel at Smith's and
listening to Mr. Birkenshaw's advice, people coming to tea and
seeing that everything is nice, the silver shining, the flowers
fresh, the tea-cake hot, going to Emmeline's or anywhere else for a
little party, wondering for the thousandth time whether on THIS
occasion I shall not be at last bright, beautiful, engaging,
reading in the garden with the sun coming off the fell, hot and
strong, yes, even going to the cinema in Keswick and seeing some
lovely creature like Garbo or Dietrich and imagining that we are
close, intimate friends, overhearing Dietrich say:  "Yes, but Janet
Fawcus is my REAL friend--without her I don't know what I'd do!"

'Folly!  Nonsense!  Are other women as foolish?'


But after tea was the time.  Every day worse but to-day quite
horrible.  All the afternoon there had been no sound.  The sun had
bound the house tightly about.  In that mesh of light the garden
swam but no one moved there.  Only at 4.30 Sally came in, set the
tea on the table and went.  From 5 until 7.30 the expectancy lasted
and with that expectancy every kind of suspense.  Suppose Rose were
ill--an influenza?  Or suppose a discovery, something overheard,
some letter read?

And then after seven had struck there was the agony of anticipating
Michael.  She sat, bolt upright, in her green tweed as though she
were about to leave for a journey, her heart hammering, her mouth
dry, her eyes dim with a film of intense watchfulness.  Her eyes
fixed on the window, but she could not see it.  It was as though a
web of lawn blew to and fro. . . .

To-night no one came.

At eight o'clock Sally brought her dinner--chicken, brussels
sprouts, and the potato that she hated machined into fragments.
After that, nothing.

No word.  No movement.  Only the whirring grumble of the clock.

Shivering as though with cold, she started to undress for bed.



CHAPTER XVI

MAY 17TH-18TH: FLIGHT OUT OF EGYPT


'There is no doubt but that at this time the blind obstinacy of
James prevented him from seeing the true facts; and it may be
noticed how again and again the crises of world events are prepared
for by just such obstinate personalities--'

'Give some other examples of this,' said Michael.

'Charles the First,' said John.

'Yes.  What was the belief that made Charles the First so
obstinate?'

'Divine Right--' began John.

His mind was distracted.  Rump was scratching at the door.

'May I let him in?'

'Yes.  I suppose so.  He's no right here.'

'This will be the last day,' John whispered.

He went to the door, opened it, and Rump entered, not joyfully but
with caution.

'It's almost as though he knows,' John said.

'Here.  Close the door.  Rump, lie down.'  Michael leaned across
the table and looked at John with great seriousness.

'John, I want you to understand.  This isn't just a grand lark, you
getting away to-night.'

'I don't think it IS a lark,' John said, 'but it's awfully
exciting.'

'Oh, it's exciting all right, but the point is that it's more than
exciting--it's dangerous, and for no one more than yourself.
Listen.  In the eyes of the law your grandfather has absolute right
in you.  If you get clear away there are reasons why he won't
probably press his claims.  But you've ALL got to get away--'

'You're coming too, aren't you?'

'No, I'm not.  I'm going to stay behind and tell your grandfather
in the morning.'

'By Jove, WON'T he be angry!'

'Yes, he may be, but I can look after myself.  What I want you to
realize is that it's been very important that your mother shouldn't
put herself in the wrong.  IF something fails to-night that's just
what she will do.  We shall all be here, just as we are now, but
your grandfather will be able to say that we've been conspiring to
steal you.  Things aren't too easy.  Your Aunt Janet for instance.
I couldn't get to her last night and I dare not this evening.  She
may not be ready--'

'Isn't it a pity,' John said frankly, 'that Aunt Janet's got to
come?'

'Use your imagination a moment.  Would you like to be locked up?'

'I'd get out of the window.'

'That's exactly what we hope your aunt's going to do.'

'She'll have to jump, won't she?' said John, greatly excited.  'And
I don't expect she's much good at jumping.'

'It isn't far and she's plucky.  But of course someone may be
awake, looking out of the window, and there's old Lewcomb.  You
see, John, what I want you to realize is that a lot will depend on
you.  WHATEVER happens, keep quiet.  Don't cry out or shout or
anything.'

'Of course I'll keep quiet,' said John indignantly.

'It may not be so easy.  You've got to help every way you can, but
without a SOUND, do you understand?'

But John's mind was already travelling forward.

'Don't you think,' he said, 'that you could put something in
Grandfather's coffee at dinner?  Not to hurt him or anything--just
to make him sleep sound?  I know it's often done.'

'Well, it's not going to be done this time.  I thought you were
fond of your grandfather.'

'So I am.  But as we're escaping we may as well do the thing
thoroughly.  It wouldn't HURT him.'

Michael considered John.  How greatly he had changed from the
sensitive shy boy of a few months ago!  Or had he not changed?
Rose had brought something out of him.

At that Michael felt a miserable unhappiness that had, through all
this week, been growing on him.  To-night would see the end of his
romance, his very one-sided sterile romance!  Rose would be in the
house no longer.  His own personal worldly prospect would not be
too cheerful, for no one could foretell the kind of vengeance that
the Colonel would be likely to take!  But for that he cared little.
For Rose he would sacrifice his very life and future!

But here, in this house, he would see her no more, nor warm his
heart at her smile, nor feel the touch of her hand, nor hear her
voice.  He pulled himself up.

'All right, John, I see you understand.  You're doing this for your
mother, you know.'

'I think she's grand, don't you?' said John.

'Yes, I do.  You'd better get on with that history.  Read pages a
hundred and six to a hundred and twenty before I come back. . . .'

For with every minute of this last day there was pressing upon him
the necessity of being with Rose for every second of the time!  If
he could!  If he could!  If he could only, in these final hours,
gather from her some word, some look that would promise to him in
the future some change in her feeling!  Something that he could
store, conjure over, remember!  It might be, he thought, that his
actions to-night would stir her!  She would realize, as she had not
before, the stuff of which he was made, that here was someone whom
she would not be likely to find, the world over. . . .

Once more he beat down his desires, his hopes, his longings.  He
was a brave and unselfish young man, quite as brave and chivalrous
as any young Elizabethan, to whom, like many of his generation, he
was, in spirit, true brother.  Left alone with Rump, John had also
his own distresses.  He could not take Rump with him.  He would
never see him again.  Considered simply as a dog Rump was nothing.
There were thousands and thousands of dogs more beautiful, more
wonderful, and certainly more intelligent.  But beauty and brain
have little to do with lasting friendship.  That very lack of
qualities had created in John's heart a maternal care and a deep
affection.

What WOULD Rump do when he was gone?  Neither Sally nor the cook
cared for dogs.  Rump was simply a nuisance to them, and to
Lewcomb, his more constant companion, he was less than the dust
that he raised with his ragged old broom.

Moreover if you do not care for a dog he does not show you what he
has in him.  Rump HAD qualities.  He did understand your moods and
suffer them all, that principal reason for the attraction that dogs
have for humans; he was only too ready to suffer them.  But he had
also a life of his own; he knew, it might well be, the cursed
inhibitions of his own cowardice, and when he rose above these, his
joy and sudden vigour were very pleasant to share.

The tragedy of leaving a dog is that he does not know the reasons
why you have left him.  Cynics, non-dog-lovers, that strange and
incomplete kind of man, say that it is only for their bellies that
dogs pretend to love you, and if you do not love them that is true.
No one who has loved a dog but knows that there is more in it than
that.  There can be a relationship so human between dog and man
that that puzzling entity, the soul, must be called into question.
John, as yet, knew very little about the soul, and Rump nothing,
but they did know where their relationship lay, and that it was a
precious thing.

John felt that he was committing a cowardly and treacherous act--
perhaps the most treacherous deed of all his life.  For five
minutes or so, as he sat there with Rump lying at his feet, he was
tempted almost to say that he would not go unless he could take
Rump with him.  Of course he could not take Rump.  One excited bark
and all was in ruins.  Could he not wrap something round Rump's
head?  But no--that meant a visit to the other side of the house,
where the kennel was, an infinite delay.  Perhaps he could send for
him later?  No.  There would be no mercy on his grandfather's side.
He might even destroy him.

At that horrible thought John was in a passion of distress.  He
took the dog on to his lap, a clumsy and ungainly business, for
Rump had always, and quite rightly, refused to be any kind of a lap-
dog.  But of what now was he aware?  For instead of his customary
wriggle, his refusal to be held by any hand, his scorn for soft
places, he huddled himself into John, fitting his legs under his
belly, a thing that he hated to do, and then attempted to lick
John's face, a thing that, in his turn, John also hated.

So John sat there and considered the scene.  It was a day
altogether unlike those glorious ones that had preceded it.  At
breakfast-time a faint sun, dim as a fried egg, had fought a feeble
battle with filmy clouds and trailing mists.  But it had been
beaten, as it had known from the first that it must be.  Even the
mists had been but half-hearted in their victory, wandering among
the trees as though looking for a resting-place, crawling across
the lawn as though they were thinking out some splendid plan for
strangling the whole world, in a minute abandoning all their
purpose and vanishing, only to leave behind them grey-packed clouds
that seemed to hold in their heart the wails of disconsolate cows
and the bleatings of forlorn lambs looking for their mothers on the
fell.

Rain had threatened but it had not fallen, and this imminence of
some minor catastrophe hung in the air so that in the stillness the
flowers drooped and the trees dejectedly turned their leaves to see
whether they might not be more handsome on the other side.

'This is a beastly day,' John thought.  'I wish there would be a
noise somewhere.'  But more than that how he longed that he might
explain to the dog, whose heart he could feel beating against his
thigh, all the reasons for his going, show him that it HAD to be,
that he must stand by his mother to whom he had now sworn
allegiance, that go to school he MUST or he would grow up without
having had any fun at all, and that he would do his best, his
absolute best, to secure him again, and that if he DID so manage,
Rump would find his new life most wonderfully superior to his old
one.  But he could say nothing of this.  He could only stroke the
dog, and pull his ugly ears, and (what Rump preferred to all things
other than a fine meal and running after stones) turn him over and
tickle his belly.

But even to this last Rump to-day did not respond as was his custom
with little sighs of ecstasy, kicking of the legs, and a frenzied
wagging of his tail.  He lay still and passive, only once and again
making that always frustrated attempt to lick John's face.

Such was the urgency of his feelings that at last John spoke aloud.

'I'll do my best to come back, or if I can't do that I'll have you
sent to me.  You won't like the actual train, but after that, when
you see me at the station waiting for you, it will be splendid.  We
shall probably live in the country somewhere and when I'm away at
school Mother will look after you and see that you have everything
you want.  She LIKES dogs, which nobody here but me does.'

However, it was of no use.  Rump understood nothing.  John put him
on the floor and there he stood, sniffing around for a stone which,
in his stupidity, he expected to find in any place and at any time.
Then, when he abandoned that hope, he lay patiently down at his
master's feet again.

During the afternoon the mists lifted and patches of faint blue
like the blue of an old faded quilt appeared above the trees.
There was no life anywhere and no heat.  It was as though the sun
had, in a fit of exasperation, decided to bother no further with
this silly planet, and, lending still just enough warmth for life,
had wandered off to see whether some other star might not prove
more rewarding.

For Rose and Michael it was an incredible afternoon and evening.
It seemed impossible that when such a plot was about to burst upon
the world there should be no stir either in heaven or earth.

The house itself was the voice of ordinary tranquillity.  After
tea, as on another occasion, the two of them played chess while the
Colonel, his eyes now wide open, watched them, hummed to himself a
little, and broke once and again into reminiscence to which he
required no answer.

'Oh, you're really TOO good for me, Michael,' Rose said.  'There's
my queen gone!'

She played in a dream and it seemed to her that all this had been
enacted in her presence before.  Somewhere there had been a game of
chess over which hung the menace of a great catastrophe.
Somewhere, at some time, she had wondered:  'Now if I exchange
knights here my bishop can move forward and threaten the rook'--
while beneath this surface preoccupation she had thought:  'If that
door opens I must run for it.  Can I get to that tree in safety?'

'I remember once,' said the Colonel, looking at his pipe to see
whether it were still alight, 'that I wrote to Baldwin about the
Housing Problem.  I never had an answer.  I never really expected
one.  But he must have taken notice, for my suggestions were on all-
fours with what they are doing now.  Only think of all the years
wasted!'  He picked up the Daily Record that was on the floor
beside him.  'Now what I like about the Record,' he said, 'is that
you know exactly where you are with it.  No shilly-shallying, none
of this modern effeminacy.  It says what it thinks without fear or
favour.'

'Check!' said Rose.  'Oh, Michael, I've got your queen.  I've
forked you!'

'I never saw it,' Michael said, pulling himself up, staring at her
so that she was suddenly herself aware of him.

'Now I've got a chance of winning,' she said.

'Yes, you have.'  Michael looked at the Colonel, who was now in
reality deep in his paper.

'I love you,' Michael said softly.  'Whatever happens, don't ever
forget that that is true.'

'No,' she answered.  'I'll never forget it.'

When she came down to dinner the same unreality pervaded the scene.
There was the Colonel, very fresh indeed after his bath, his shirt-
front gleaming, carving the chicken.

There sat Michael opposite her, the silver shone on the sideboard,
and the yellow daisies that she disliked so much stared at her from
the centre of the table.

The Colonel looked up from above the chicken.

'What will you have, my dear?  Wing or leg?'

'I'll be greedy and have the wing,' Rose answered.  'Not very much,
thank you.  I'm not hungry.'

'Hullo!  Not hungry?  Not going to be ill, I hope?'

'Oh no.  I had too big a tea, I expect.'

'Push those flowers a little to the side, will you?  I can't see
you properly.  Yes, you look a bit pale.  If it's fine to-morrow
we'll have a run in the car.  What about taking a run over to
Ullswater and then over Kirkstone home?'

'Not if it's a day like this.'  She was, in spite of all her
efforts, shivering.

'No, of course not.  We wasted those lovely days.  Never mind.  You
wait until you've had June here.  June is generally glorious
weather, isn't it, Michael?'

'Very often,' said Michael.

What would the old man do if things went wrong for them?  Would
Rose after all be sitting opposite to him to-morrow night?  Would
they be perhaps ALL locked into their rooms?  No, that was
fantastic. . . .

A little later the Colonel said:  'Ah, ginger pudding!  Now if
there's one thing I like . . . !'


'Ha! ha!' said the Colonel (and all the clocks had just struck
eleven: the grumbling clock on the staircase, the ladylike clocks
in the drawing-room, the old gentleman clock in the dining-room and
the little sandy-faced cuckoo-clock in John's room--'Cuckoo!
Cuckoo!  Cuckoo!' most derisively).  'This is what they call
poetry,' and he read from his paper these lines.  (He was derisive
like the cuckoo-clock, and for the same sound reason.)


     'Men lower nets, unconscious of the fact that they are
        desecrating a grave, and row quickly away--the blades of
        the oars
     moving together like the feet of water-spiders as if there
        were no such thing as death.
     The wrinkles progress upon themselves in a phalanx--beautiful
        under networks of foam,
     and fade breathlessly while the sea rustles in and out of the
        sea-weed.'


He read every word scornfully, but also carefully as though he were
afraid lest a phrase or a sentence might unawares jump up and bite
him.

'I think that's beautiful,' Rose said.  She heard the clocks
striking.  She looked at Michael, who was reading.  'What's that
you're reading, Michael?' she asked.  She knew that the Colonel
never now would go to bed before they did--no, let him be ever so
sleepy.

'Sylvie and Bruno.'

'It's not so good as Alice, is it?'

'No.  Not so good.  There are some grand things though.'

'And that's what they call poetry!' said the Colonel, throwing down
the paper impatiently.  'Poetry!  Now Kipling's a poet!'  He looked
about him with defiance, for Rose had incomprehensible notions
about the arts.

All she said was, raising one arm and yawning:

'Well, I'm for bed.  Good night all.'

'Good night,' they said.  'Good night.  Good night.'

'Do YOU call that poetry, Michael?' the Colonel said, stumping
about.

'I suppose there are all sorts,' Michael said.  Then, after a
little pause:  'I'm for bed too, sir, if you don't mind.'

'Not at all.  Not at all, my boy.  Sleep well.'

So the Colonel was left alone.  But not alone for long.

The door opened and Sally came in.  She stood there quietly,
looking at him with her small but lively eyes.  Her eyes lived when
she saw a man who once had kissed her.  The Colonel once had kissed
her but not now.

He stood, jingling his money in his pocket.  His speculative,
unenterprising gaze was that of a man who has kissed in the past
but will not again.

'All well, Sally?'

'Oh yes, sir.  I think so.  Miss Janet very silent to-day.  Not
said a blooming word.'

'Oh, hasn't she?  No one tried to get into her room?'

'Oh NO, sir.  Nothing doing anywhere as you might say.'  She looked
at him expectantly.  She was afraid of him and not afraid of him.

All he said was:  'Very good, Sally.  Thank you.  Good night.'

She closed the door quietly behind her.

Servants spying.  He really didn't like it.  But also he did like
it.  All the strings in his hand.  He owned this house and everyone
in it. . . .

So he too went up to bed.

Standing only in his vest, half an hour later, he, greatly to his
own surprise, sighed.  What would this all come to?  Would it be as
he wished?  He closed and unclosed his hand.  He brushed his teeth.
He put on his pyjamas.  He climbed into bed and stretched out his
hand for The Death in the Bathroom, the story that he was then
reading.

Why had he sighed?  He felt a vague melancholy, a curious
loneliness.  Soon he turned out the light and five minutes later
was asleep.


Sally, taking off her stockings, said to the cook:  'I'm going to
give my notice.  There's no fun in this house any more.'

The cook, standing in her voluminous nightdress like a vast white
lighthouse, said:

'I shouldn't, Sally.  There's more fun coming, I give you MY word.'

Sally shivered.

'Ough . . . I don't know.  Got the willies tonight somehow.  That
woman in her room not speaking--I 'ATES taking her meals in, honest
I do.  What's his game anyway?'

Then she saw that the cook was on her knees saying her prayers.
For some obscure reason she resented this.

'Might give us a room to ourselves anyway,' she thought.  'Big
house like this.  Beastly old house if you ask me.'


Rose undressed.  Michael undressed.  John undressed.  Those were
the orders, for who, at any moment, might come knocking at your
door?  But Janet had had no orders.  This had been a day of terror
for her.  She had abandoned hope.  Something had gone wrong with
the plans, some discovery had been made. . . .

For two days now she had had no word from her friends.  Nevertheless
she undressed and lay in the bed, gripping her hands tightly,
staring at the foul wardrobe.  What she was doing was summoning her
courage.

'Whichever way it goes I can face it.  Nothing will happen.  There
will be silence.  Not a word to-morrow from anyone.  I can stand
that.  And then perhaps in a few days' time I shall be ordered to
get up and go to some strange place.  I'll fight that, fight like
the devil.  And if it comes to that, Rose will be there to help me.
For whatever else happens I know that Rose won't desert me.
WHATEVER happens that will be true. . . .

'But I can't ENDURE this room much longer.  It isn't cowardice,
it's a kind of nausea.  The windows are open but the room is full
of smells, of furniture, of food, of cats.  Yes, there is really a
smell of cat.  Shall I get up and look?  No, not yet.  Once I am up
I shall walk about and then the furniture begins to move with me.
This afternoon I found myself in the MIDDLE of the room afraid to
go right or left.  I can see through the window that there is a
faint moon and a lot of mist--a light that would be moonlight if it
were JUST a little stronger.  That is half-past twelve striking.
Why didn't Michael come?  No one will ever come again.  They have
given it up.  They have abandoned me.  Yes, I must look.  Soon I
shall be sick.  I will get out of bed and look.  In any case when
half-past one strikes I will dress and be ready.'


As the clocks struck two the thin, lunatic, whey-faced moon pushed
her swaddling clouds aside and crept warily into the open.  Spare
spider light mildewed the landing: across it the three figures at
intervals of some minutes appeared, vanished.  They had made no
sound and their passing was so swift that the two mice exploring
from the small hole to the left of the grumbling clock lost
consciousness of them almost as soon as they had caught it.

Michael had been first.  He wore a dark suit and no shoes.  The
grass would be dry.  There had been no rain for days.  His only
weapon was a long coil of strong thin cord, this for helping Janet.
It might not, it almost certainly would not . . . but you never
knew.

He paused for only a brief moment before he started down the
stairs, caught by an almost irresistible impulse to shout at the
top of his voice.  It was as though some stranger, hopping from the
moonlight, had caught him by the shoulders and said:  'Now yell!'

It was the consequence perhaps of the strain of waiting during
those long hours in his room when his brain, on fire, had gone over
every possible contingency, every aspect of almost certain
disaster.

But this instant of time when he paused at the head of the stairs
lasted, it seemed, an eternity.

'Yell, you blackguard!  Yell!'

He put his hands to his throat and the stranger was gone back into
silence again.  For the stranger was himself, carried now tightly
in his pocket.

No stair creaked, but the small sitting-room door had to be opened.
They had decided on this exit because, although the door was locked
(the Colonel locked all doors before going to bed and all windows,
save fortunately in the bedrooms), it was, they had found, a key
that easily and softly turned.

This was a small, unused room neighbouring the drawing-room, filled
with bookcases loaded with old dust-laden volumes of Cornhill and
Temple Bar.  He had reconnoitred it and knew that there was a
table; also four chairs and a writing-desk.  The blinds were drawn
and it was dark.  The handle of the first door moved silently.
Inside the room he drew a breath and felt as though he were so
crowded about that every step meant danger.  He brushed with his
hands as though against a thousand spider-webs, then he had found
the key, turned it, and lightly jumping the gravel from grass to
grass, was on the lawn.


Rose was second.  As she opened her bedroom door she heard, but so
lightly that it was like the blowing of a leaf against a wall, the
touch of Michael's foot as he reached the bottom of the stairs.
She paused too, but not from Michael's impulse.  It was rather to
go to John's door and see that he was awake and ready.  They had
agreed that she must not do this because to go to his room meant
mounting several stairs and a grave increase of every kind of risk.

John had been given, beyond any question of confusion, his orders.
He was to wear his cricket shirt, shorts, grey stockings, gym
shoes, and over them his thick dark winter coat.  When he heard two
strike he was to come out, go straight down to the Book Room, as it
was called, and thence on to the lawn.  Michael would be there and
show him where to stand so that he would not be seen while the
rescue of Aunt Janet proceeded.

He had listened intelligently and repeated instructions exactly.
There could be no mistake.  Nevertheless Rose's impulse now was all
but irresistible.  It might be (it was indeed likely) that with the
excitement and suspense of these last days he had fallen asleep.
If, when Rose joined Michael on the lawn, John was not there, then
Michael must return, climb the stairs again, go to his room, wake
him . . . a dreadful increase of danger of discovery.

How easily now she could slip up the stairs, open the door. . . .
Sally and the cook were on that same passage. . . .  She had given
her word.

But the impulse was stronger than any physical expediency.  She had
a crazy instinct that in this single act of leaving the house she
was abandoning her child for the second time.  It was as though her
own consciousness told her:  'For your own safety, security, you do
this . . .' and afterwards, looking back, she was to realize that
this was one of the deepest, most significant moments of her
growth, arising from depths of her real self, a new self in which
the old was embedded.  She would give now much more than her life
for John.  The impulse passed as swiftly as it came.  She had given
her word.  If she did not depend on John now, acting for himself,
in his own self-reliance, she would never depend on him.

She was at the bottom of the stairs, through the Book Room, and
with Michael on the lawn just as an owl, with its frustrated and
lonely melancholy, called from the moon-shadowed darkness.


John had not slept.  He had found the lying in bed not at all
tiresome, for he had had the idea (no novel one, of course) that he
was a Red Indian scouting on a dark and difficult trail.

Balanced on a tree branch, enveloped in the damp darkness of the
surrounding forest, alive to the chatter of the monkeys, the
occasional scream of a bird, the far-distant roar of the prowling
tiger, he had waited without moving, his ears alert, for the first
sound of the advancing enemy.  His nostrils were filled with the
warm humid stench of the forest, and so alert was he, so practised,
that the breaking of a twig, the fall of a leaf was as thunder to
his consciousness. . . .

At half-past one he left the forest, got out of bed and dressed.
Then he waited, sitting on a chair, until it should strike two.
When it did so he put on his shoes, slipped into his pocket his
jack-knife, a ball of string and a packet of nut chocolate (this
last altogether his own idea), opened his door, heard from Cook's
room a snore like the beating of a small drum, and set out on his
adventure.

He had a notion that he would like to say good-bye to his
grandfather, as though he might go into his grandfather's room, jog
his arm with:  'Grandfather, I'm off now!'

So ridiculous was this that he almost laughed.

A moment later he was with Michael and his mother on the lawn.


In Janet's room all was half-darkness.  She had turned on no light
lest it should show under the door into the passage, but no blind
was drawn, so the first unreal curdled shadow of the veiled and
unveiled moon was pallid like milk across the floor, against the
wall, on the bed.

In the centre of this pallor, upright in a straight chair, was the
motionless figure of Janet.  She did not move, because her ears
were straining for every sound.  She was wearing her brown costume
and on her head was a small shell-shaped brown hat pulled sharply
on to her forehead: it suited her very ill.  In one hand she held
tightly, as though afraid that it might escape her, a brown
reticule.  In this reticule were a handkerchief, a brown faded
daguerreotype of her mother as a young girl, her Journal, a little
red address-book, a bottle of smelling-salts and a recipe for
heartburn cut from the newspaper.  This, with another extract from
a newspaper telling of a hockey match between the Ladies of
Cumberland and the Ladies of Lancashire, was inside the address-
book.  She had been dressed by half-past one and she would sit
there until half-past three.  If no one came by that time she would
know that the adventure had failed and she would return to bed and
await the morning.

She was, by now, quite certain that the adventure HAD failed.  She
was not surprised.  Her father was very clever where his own
interests were concerned.

But the thought of her own future was so terrifying that she dared
not look at it.  So she simply sat there, thinking of nothing,
staring at the window.

She heard two strike.  As happens when one is waiting at an
appointment and is going to be disappointed, the time moved with
astonishing rapidity.

It seemed to be only a moment after the striking of the hour that
the ferrule of a stick tapped very gently on her window-pane.

With that sound she was instantly changed from the despairing
apprehensive virgin of the last two days to the practical
determined Janet Fawcus of her ordinary life.  That her heart was
beating with almost tumultuous joy did not stop her for a single
moment.  She went straight to the window and very, very quietly
raised the lower pane.

'Can you hear me?' came the whisper from below.

'Yes.'

'There's not a moment to lose.  Look here.  Do just as I say.'

'Yes.'

'First, sit on the window-sill.'

'Yes.'  She was on the window-sill, grasping the wood with one
hand; in the other she held her bag.  She was no good at heights--
even the ridge of Blencathra made her sick.  The moon had gone
behind its attendant clouds again and she could see only the things
nearest to her--otherwise the world was a slightly swaying, grey-
coloured soup made of trees and soil.  The night breeze blew up her
legs and under her skirt.

'Can you see the pipe?'

'Yes.'

'Good.  Now listen.  There's plenty of room for you to get your
arms round it.  Lean slightly forward and clasp it.  Then hug it.
Let yourself go and slide gently down it.  I'm here to catch you.'

She was once again the frightened virgin.  Something inside her
said:  'Don't be such a fool!  Get back into the room.  You'll miss
the pipe and fall headlong.'

Indeed the effort to lean forward and touch the pipe was more,
surely far more than she could ever do.  She was balancing on the
sill, her head went round like a twirling globe, she was balanced
over that soupy, swaying darkness.  She could not do it.  She
preferred to die.  But she HAD done it.  She had touched it.  She
had clasped it.  She clutched it now with an almost maniacal
ferocity.  It seemed to pull her from the window-ledge, and, her
hands clasped round the pipe (hands and bag together), she found
that she was slipping.  Then she could have screamed.  She was (oh,
traitress to Rose and friendship) about to shriek when she found
herself in Michael's arms.

She was almost on her knees, but the stone beneath her was solid,
giving her reassurance, although the ledge was not very broad.  He
whispered in her ear:  'That's splendid!  splendid!  Now what
you've got to do is to jump.  It's nothing.  It's no distance.
Only jump FORWARD so that you land on the grass.'

'But I can't see.  I can't see anything.'

'It's better for us not to have the moon all the same.  You don't
want to see.  You've only got to jump out and forward.  There's
nothing in the way--nothing to hurt you.  What's that you have in
your hand?'

'My bag.'

'Give it to me.  I'll throw it down first.  You might hurt yourself
with it.'

But here a mule-like obstinacy seized Janet.  She would not give up
her bag.

'I can't.  It has everything I value.'

'Nonsense.  Please.  There's no time.'

'You shan't have it!  You shan't have it!'

'Oh, blast!'  She felt his hand on her shoulder trying to shake
her.  'Keep it then!  Now listen!  I'm going to jump first!  Wait
for a moment after I've gone and then jump.'  And he jumped.  Or
she supposed that he did.  She heard no sound.  She saw nothing.
She only knew that she was quite alone on a ledge of the world in
the middle of the night.  He had told her to jump.  Well, she could
not jump.  That was all there was to it.  If God Himself had
commanded her to jump she must have refused Him.  She could not
jump.  She WOULD not jump.

But also she could not go back.  She was unable to climb that pipe.
Hot burning tears filled her eyes.  How monstrous of them to force
her into this hideous position!  They were mocking her.  How
beautiful and lovely seemed the room that she had just left!  How
unutterable a fool herself to join in this mad insane attempt!

Her knees trembled under her.  Wildly she looked about her.  She
could see nothing but in a faint haze a pipe, a wall and somewhere
a threatening, clutching tree.  Overhead the changing clouds that
hovered and soon would swoop. . . .

She would not jump: and she jumped.

She fell on her knees, spreading out her hands--her bag vanished
into space.  Michael's arm was about her waist.  She leaned back
against him looking up at the moon, now both sheep-faced and sly,
that slipped from under a cloud and threw a glitter as of fish-
scales on the turning world.  'Sheep, fish-scales, how ridiculous!'
she thought, 'and the jump was nothing!'  Then she heard Michael's
mutter:  'Oh, my God!'

After that things happened quickly.  For the moon, pleased with her
appropriate gesture, showed them Lewcomb in a shirt and riding-
breeches with, of all things, on his head, an old nightcap like a
stocking-end, Lewcomb thus, straight on their heels.  (Michael for
curiosity asked at a later date about the nightcap.  It was, it
seemed, a family heirloom and worn against rheumatics.)

He was at them so silently that all that Janet, still on her knees,
perceived was his opening mouth.  He was about to shout, to cry, to
bay the listening moon.

But he did not--and this next was, in fact, so swift that time had
no place in it.

Michael too had seen the gaping mouth, and with the vision of it
came the action of stopping it, for he had the old man on the
ground and his hand over the tooth or two left to him before the
cry was born.

All he whispered was, 'Quick, the cord!' and to John's everlasting
pride it was John only who knew what that intended.  The coil was
lying on the grass in friendly company, as it happened, with
Janet's bag.  John in no time at all had the cord AND his jack-
knife at Michael's service.

No one, by the way, has ever understood why Rump was silent during
this turmoil.  But he had never been a very good watchdog.

After that John held hard at Lewcomb's ankles.  The old man
struggled and wriggled like an aquarium, but there was Michael's
man-size handkerchief over his mouth, the cord about his belly and
legs.  John surveyed him with seriousness.  He had read frequently
in his books of 'trussing' your enemy.  Now he saw it done.

'The summer-house.  That's the best place,' Michael commanded.  So
they dragged him across the lawn, Rose, Michael and John.

This summer-house was a rather handsome affair built by the Colonel
in the preceding year.

'Sorry,' Michael said.  'I've got to tie you to the table-leg.'

Having done so, he whipped off the handkerchief and was out of the
door in a twinkling.  There was a key which, after locking, he
slipped in his pocket.

Faintly half across the lawn they heard cries as of a swooning
vegetarian.  They would not break into the Colonel's dreams of
power.


The moon was veiled again.

'My bag!' said Janet.  She groped on hands and knees.

'Oh, come along!  Come ALONG!' said Michael.

'It has my address-book.'  She had found it.  The clasp was intact
in spite of the fall.  'I'm glad,' she thought, 'I bought the more
expensive one.  I so nearly got the other.'

In the road was the car and Mr. Rackstraw.  They climbed in.  Rose
turned to speak to Michael.  He was gone.



CHAPTER XVII

THE TREMBLING SKY


Janet sat beside the driver, Rose and John in the back seat.

The car started off at a tremendous pace, then, at the bottom of
the hill, the wheel began to wobble.

'That will be serious if it gets worse,' Mr. Rackstraw said,
turning round to them confidentially, 'but we ought to manage
Seathwaite all right.'  The car was nearly in the hedge.

'Please,' Janet said, 'look where you're going.  I don't want to be
tiresome, but an accident just now would be so very inconvenient.'

She knew herself and her irritable nature well enough to realize
that instead of being, as she ought, elated, triumphant, enchanted
at seeing dear Rose again, she was exasperated, not far from tears,
extremely conscious of a bruised left leg, aware that one sleeve of
her costume was torn, and above all, anxious to reassert her
dignity.  She realized how ridiculous this last at this time must
be.  But she could not prevent herself.  She had come hurtling
through the air, landed on her knees, in front of Michael, Rose and
John.  The boy especially must have thought it very comic.  It was
all in the dark--and she was sure that her leg was bleeding inside
her stocking.

'Please tell me,' said Mr. Rackstraw, but his gaze was now on the
road, 'did you get away without any trouble?'

'There was a LITTLE confusion,' Rose said, 'because Lewcomb the
gardener came rushing out on us.  We had to tie him up and put him
in the summer-house.'

'Do you think anyone heard anything?'

'No.  I don't think so.  We were all very quiet.  Of course you
can't tell.'

She was thinking of Michael.  How deeply she regretted that she had
not said anything at the last!  But, by his own intention, he had
gone!  And now he must face the horrible morning without a word
from her!  She heard again his voice over the chessboard telling
her that he loved her.  He was young, so very, very young.  He
would soon feel tranquilly enough about her.  Time--even a week or
two of absence--wrought such wonders, but the very knowledge that
that young love of his would so swiftly be gone saddened her with a
sense of loss, of waste.  She did not love him--that was not for
her ordering--but he was the best friend she had ever had.  He
should be STILL her best friend.

The moon was now out to her lugubrious full--not a beautiful
presence of silver light but a sick discontented creature, turning
all things to malicious unreality.

They were entering Keswick, and in a moment found themselves
opposite Chaplin's bookshop, impeded by a group of persons setting
out on some expedition.

One or two of these were quite clearly drunk, and the peace of
Keswick which should at this hour be immaculate was broken with
song and dance.  Two young men with Scotch caps on their heads and
plaids about their shoulders were dancing a reel solemnly in the
middle of the street.  A large car stood near by and out of this
two ladies leaned, imploring the dancers to stop their nonsense and
take their places.

They, however, refused to move for all Mr. Rackstraw's hootings.
Rackstraw stopped.  One young man leaned confidentially in to them.

'Are you climbing Great Gable?' he asked in the most friendly
fashion.  'Because that's what WERE going to do.  We'll all go
together.'

His accent had no trace of the Scottish, as is the case with many
wearers of the cap, the plaid and the kilt.

'If you don't get out of the way,' said Rackstraw, 'I'll kill you.'

The young man examined them all with a merry eye.

'Yes, we'll ALL go together,' he said, 'to see the sunrise.'  But
before he could speak further he was arrested by a massive woman in
Russian boots who, leaping from the other car, advanced on him,
dragged him away and flung him rather than persuaded him into the
equipage.

Rackstraw drove on.

'That's a nuisance,' he said.  'If anyone's following us they may
tell--and we shall have company on the Pass.'

They got then as far as the Lodore Hotel, only Rose, to whom at
this moment life had no bread-and-butter truth about it, was
reflecting as the car bumped and jostled that she had read
somewhere that there were at least ten different whites--snow
white, oyster white, ivory white, seven more--but that this colour
of the reluctant moon was shabby like a soiled tennis-shoe.  She
caught John's hand, for this last jolt is surely too violent for
safety, and she heard Rackstraw say:  'It's this damned wheel.  It
shakes like a jelly.'  The car stopped and at the same moment the
austere night-front of the Lodore Hotel, curtained, blind and
soaked in sleep, was broken by the opening of a door and a porter's
voice saying:

'You're all right, sir?'

'Oh, quite all right--all right--all right!  I should think we ARE
all right, ha ha!' and a stout gentleman emerged followed by a
lanky boy.  The gentleman was in bulging knickerbockers, shirt open
at the neck and a face all red and bursting with friendliness and
good cheer.  So strongly marked was this that it could be seen even
under the thin pale eye of the moon.

'Now, Edgar, come!  We must step up if we are to catch the sun!'

But such was his nature that he must speak to any and every one of
his kind be they within speaking distance.  He was clearly in the
category of men who love to shout down a megaphone at a garden
party non-existent through wet weather.

'Hallo, sir!  Had some trouble?'

'No, thanks!' said Rackstraw.

'Sorry.  No offence meant!  Just thought that I might be of some
use.  Edgar knows about cars, don't you, Edgar?'

The lanky boy said with a sort of ferocious melancholy:  'Should
think I do--damned sight too much.'

'Now, now!' said his elder cheerfully.  'Manners, my boy, manners
before ladies!'  He touched his cap of grey and brown squares
politely to Janet and Rose.  'Fine night for a climb, isn't it?
Just going up Great Gable, my boy and I.  Good for the adipose
tissue, what!  I live in Manchester and again and again I've said
to the wife, "Must see those Lakes."  She doesn't care for lakes
herself--neither lakes nor mountains.  Bridge is her line.  Bridge
and a bit of shopping, so Manchester suits her, but what I say is
that one should like one's own natural beauties--one's country's, I
mean--all very well the Riviera and Switzerland, but when you've
got close at hand--'

He had been leaning confidentially on the side of the car and
Rackstraw had been examining the engine; the little man with a
shake of his head was, on a sudden, back in his seat, the car
sprang forward, and the stout gentleman, moonlit astonishment on
his countenance, twirled like a knickerbockered top.

Rackstraw did not find words until they were passing Grange bridge.

'Would you believe it?  The whole world's--climbing Gable--to-
night.  You're more private--in the daytime along--this blessed
road.  What do they want--to choose this night of all--nights?
You'd think they'd--all come out to see--us pass as though we were--
royalty.'

His words came jerkily indeed, for now the car, tossing its head
and twitching its ears, had taken possession of them.

'This damned wheel--I beg your pardon--but if I go slowly--it's
worse--and if I go fast--'

There's nothing, except earthquake, like a trembling car-wheel to
give you a conviction of life's insecurity, and now they danced and
the world danced with them.  For along that valley road where once
witches had been dragged, Chinese murderers had persuaded their
reluctant brides, and the taunting cuckoo had derided the sincere
and obstinate natives, this little merry car triumphed in its
freedom.

Rose's arm was around John and she stared defiantly at fate.  We
are free!  We are free!  And if this is our final moment of
consciousness at least we are at liberty.  No walls confine us, we
need not whisper, for overhearing Sally and the cook are snoring in
their beds and the canaries are held in slumber.

'It's all right, John.  It's all right.  It's only the wheel's a
bit loose.  We're nearly there.'

'Oh, I don't mind,' he answered.  'It's fun, don't you think?  Did
you see?--that boy had a wig--'

'Nonsense, dear.  I'm sure he hadn't--a wig--'

'But he did, Mother.  You could see--the back of his neck--there
were bits of the hair--sticking up right away--from his head--'

The country jumped at them.  As they spun through Rosthwaite
village the blind houses danced at them and the garden wall of the
Scawfell Hotel skipped like a ram. . . .

At the turning to Stonethwaite where the little gate is, the car
pulled up.  'Oh!  I HAVE enjoyed that!' it hummed.  'Never had such
fun in my life!'

Nor would it again.  It was destined shortly for the degradation of
the rusted and ignominious scrap-heap.  Its short sunlit day was
done.

For now on the rocky and uncertain path to Seathwaite, Rackstraw
drove them at a snail's pace.  They tumbled into the wettest place
in Great Britain, bruised, battered, but triumphant.  They climbed
out and stood, a little group, the only sound in all the world the
swift chuckling running of the streams.

Now for the first time they felt their real liberty.  The cool air
touched with gentleness their cheeks, in their nostrils was the
smell of peat, fell-grasses, the faintly acrid odour of the farm.
A web of cloud, mysteriously milk-white as though reflecting a
world of moonlight, caught the hill-bastions into its folds.

After the rattling confusion of the already forgotten car the sound
of Taylor Ghyll, running, a steady triumphant voice of the night,
was all friendliness and comfort.

They started forward.

'It's ten minutes to three.  The sun rises just after four.  We
have plenty of time.'

They walked on over the stones and pebbles of the little path in
single file, exchanging no word, until they reached the Bridge.

Here they paused, waiting, listening for they knew not what.  It
was a wonderful moment for them all, and the moon, as though
recognizing them, stole out once more, now maidenly, gentle; her
light was silver now, scattering the running water with shining
coin, transmuting the tree that hung over the stream into dark
patterns of shadowed jade.

Janet looked almost timidly at Rose.

'I haven't said--now that we're together again.  Those last days
were awful.  What I mean--'

And to the astonishment and dismay of them all, she began to cry,
first with a sniff and a snuffle, then taking her handkerchief from
a bag, weeping unconstrainedly.

Rose put her arm around her.

'Don't, Janet.  It's all right.  We're safe now.  We're together
again.  Forget those last days.  You'll be laughing to-morrow--'

'Oh yes, it isn't that.'  Janet with a great sob threw back her
head, breathed in the air.  'It isn't that.  I know I'm so silly.
You wouldn't believe how seldom I cry.  It's only that I've not
been myself.  If you knew how dreadful that room's been, and with
every hour it was worse, and then the last two evenings Michael not
coming.  But it's all right now, indeed it is.  Only how ridiculous
you must have thought me jumping out of the window like that, but
there really wasn't any other way, was there?  However'--she blew
her nose and smiled upon them all--'I'm sure you quite understand
and if I WAS a little ridiculous it's allowable once in a way, and
I don't suppose it will ever happen again--'

They started up the path.  Janet was limping.

'Is your leg bad?' Rose asked.

'I hurt it when I fell.  It's only scraped and bruised.'

'Shall we stop and see what's the matter?'

'Oh no!' cried Janet.  'Oh no!  With every step it's better!'

And so she felt it was, for now a kind of grand insane exultation
seized her.

Stye Head has been trodden by many hundreds of thousands of
persons, but it has some very queer magical properties.  There are
many passes in Cumberland and Westmorland lonelier, more desolate,
and yet it can have a quality of loneliness richer than any of
them.  It is a path leading to the very heart of this small
district's character.  If, when you have climbed the Pass and
reached Sprinkling Tarn, when you have walked up over the gradual
slope to Esk Hause, looked over to the Langdales, down into
Eskdale, greeted Scawfell, if then you say that this is poor beside
the Scottish hills and nothing at all compared with Mont Blanc,
then hurry down, catch your train at Keswick or Windermere and
never return.

Only a few miles distant, only a minute in time as the aeroplane
flies, are towns, factory chimneys, all the business of man; Stye
Head miraculously assures you that you can escape.

It was this sense of successful flight achieved that elated them
now.  With every climbing step they were escaping far more than the
Colonel.  It really seemed that they were moving into another
world, for against the mouse-grey of the night sky a whirlwind of
small clouds, ivory in colour, blew like feathers hither and
thither while the moon shone and darkened, and shone again.  To
this eyeflash of light and dark the country responded.  They had
climbed as far as the little gate and, looking down, could see the
Borrowdale valley, closed in by Castle Crag, and beyond it Skiddaw
and Blencathra.  These hills, and the Borrowdale Glaramara, stood
like funeral pyres of ebony until the light struck them, when it
was as though water flooded down their flanks, pouring into the
valley which was suddenly transmuted into a silence of silver,
holding its breath lest a sound should disturb it.

For the brief moment before the cloud, itself silver-edged, came
over, so expectant was the silence that you waited for a cry, the
song of a bird, everyone to 'burst out singing.'  After that the
immediate darkness that succeeded was not threatening nor sinister,
for behind the darkness the light was present.

When at last they reached the flat run of fell, by common consent
they stayed, sat on boulders and rested.  The moon was gone.  They
would not see her again.  The very air changed.  There was a faint
movement above them like the stirring of birds; the whirlwind of
little airy clouds was gone and the sky from end to end was dove-
coloured, of great purity, without a mark or stain upon it.  The
arm and shoulder of Gable lumbered up into it, for Gable is a lazy
hill, of infinite good-nature and human understanding.  Only on the
side of it where Piers Ghyll cuts to the valley there is danger.
'But why,' says Gable, 'break your little necks on ME?  Step on to
my shoulder and you shall mount with ease and safety to one of the
jolliest Tops in the world--or if you want some adventure I offer
you the Napes.  Go and pay Gavel Neese a visit.  But, best of all,
I like you here, clambering about my neck, seeing the world with MY
eyes, touching me with warm hands and feet.  I am nearer man and
his childlike, trusting, timorous soul than any other hill in the
world.  Meanwhile I'm sleepy--talk if you like.  I enjoy human
voices.  But don't lose your tempers--and I detest bad manners.'

Rackstraw sat, looking down into the valley across whose floor
bales of mist were now rolling.

'Soon I must go back,' he said, 'and wobble that old car home
again.'

'Oh no--not yet,' Rose said.  'We will separate at the Tarn if
separate we must.  Why don't you come on with us to London?'

He smiled and shook his head.  They now resembled the gnomes in the
half-darkness that held their world.

'You'll think me very rude, I'm afraid, when I tell you that I
shall be glad to be rid of you.  You've been on my mind for weeks.
I've had to make vows that I've hated to keep.  It's been like a
perpetual Sunday.  Not that I haven't enjoyed it, but I've been
like a man on diet.  One's health's better but one's spirit is
deplorably weak.  I've loved you all, but--dear me--I shall be very
glad to see the last of you.'

'Why, if we've spoiled your life--' Rose said.

'Oh no, you haven't spoiled it.  I'm much too strong-minded for
that.  And anyway it's spoilt already.  It's spoilt, the sort of
life that people call worthy.  But there's another kind--a lost,
abandoned, ruined kind that still can be very jolly.  It's a mess,
of course, with a lot of disgraceful things in it, but it's an
exciting mess with many dramatic moments.  The fact is that like
everyone else one's pulled different ways--one likes people, wants
to help, loves company--and then HOW one detests them, how one
aches to get away from the very sound of their voices!  Christ was
the same, I think.  At one moment He said "Love your brother," but
after He had said it the one thing He wanted was to get away, on to
some hill somewhere, a hill like this, where nobody could reach
Him.  And He enjoyed flogging the money-changers.  There's no doubt
He enjoyed it.'

'You've been very good to us,' Rose said.  'Hasn't he, Janet?'

'Oh, he has!' Janet said fervently.  'I must admit to you, Mr.
Rackstraw, that until these last weeks I didn't like you at all.
It shows how wrong one can be about people.'

'Oh no, it doesn't,' Rackstraw said.  'You wouldn't like me at all,
Miss Fawcus, if you knew me.  I've lent you my car, not changed my
character.'

'Perhaps I've changed mine,' Janet said, rubbing her wounded leg.

'I don't suppose so.  You're free now.  That makes so much
difference.'  Dimly they saw him rise.

'Well, I'll go with you as far as the Tarn and then I'll be rid of
you.'

They started across the flat, still boggy in many places in spite
of the warm dry days.  They moved now in a world where they were
solitary save for the living presence of the stream that ran below
the cleft.

'Comic properties!' Rackstraw suddenly exclaimed.  'Comic
properties!  That's what they are!'

No one spoke.

'Drunken fool with a Scotch cap, woman in Russian boots, oaf in
knickerbockers.  They're not here!  They're not here!'  He called
out softly: odd and musical his voice sounded.  'Rose!  Rose!  They
couldn't be here!  They wouldn't exist!  And I go back to them!
I'm going back to them!'

'Yes, yes,' she said reassuringly, for she felt that he needed
comforting.  'But you can come here any time.'

'Yes,' she heard him say to himself, 'I can come here any time.'

She was walking a trifle behind the others with John.  They were
not touching, but he was close beside her and she felt, by an
intuition that proved their constantly growing intimacy, that he
was dejected.

'John,' she said, 'are you feeling unhappy?  You're not tired, are
you?'

He waited a moment before answering her.

'Tired?  Of course not.  Only, I say, Mother--do you think I'll be
able to get Rump back again?'

'Oh, Rump!'  That was the last thing of which she'd been thinking.
'Why, I don't know--'

She heard him sigh.

'I was afraid I wouldn't.  You don't think Grandfather will poison
him, do you?'

'Oh no. . . .'  She put out her hand, took his arm, drew him close
to her.  'Why should he?'

'He'll be in an awful temper, won't he?  And there'll just be Rump
and Mr. Brighouse for him to let out over.'

Yes.  Michael. . . .

'He isn't unkind like that.  He wouldn't hurt a dog.'

'Anyway it will be rotten for Rump.  He isn't a dog you'd like at
first sight.  But he's got feelings like anything . . .'

She held his arm tightly.

'We'll do our best to get him for you.  I think we can.'

John sighed again, but this time with satisfaction.  He was
beginning to trust his mother completely.

'John--when we start our new life together we'll confide in one
another.  I don't mean that I'll want you to tell me everything.
That's nonsense.  No one ever tells anyone everything.  But I don't
want you to think I'll be shocked or angry.  I'm really only
beginning to live myself.  My life with your father was a kind of a
fairy-story.  And after that it was nothing.  So we're really
starting together.  When you go to school don't forget I'm there.
Boys do, you know.'

'Yes, but then those are mothers.  I mean, boys have had mothers
all their lives and they think of them as mothers.  But I've never
had a mother and so you aren't one exactly.  I'll tell you things
just as though you were Roger.  Although you aren't Roger, of
course.  What I'd like best would be for Roger to see one day I'd
made a lot of runs at cricket or played in the Public Schools
Rugger and scored five tries.  Of course, you can't.  No one ever
scores five tries.  All the same it MIGHT happen. . . .  The best
thing is,' he added, 'that we like being with one another, don't
we?'

'Yes, we do,' she said.

She looked about her and saw that through the opaque forms were
emerging.  She could see Rackstraw and Janet, ahead of them, quite
clearly now.  She looked up and it seemed to her the sky was
trembling.  Although there was as yet no colour it was as though
every colour threatened, and she had fantastic notions that behind
that thin white skin-like texture anything might be.  Because she
was weary and exalted and happy her imagination was extravagant.
Yes, behind this trembling sky, dragons with green tails, red
parchment with letters in tarnished gold, fields of flowers--lupin,
larkspur, gentian, high rocks of crystal, and, raising its head in
solitary splendour, 'the greenish orchid fond of snow. . . .'

But this was elaborate, this was false.  The reality was more
lovely than any imaginings.  Veils were stripped from the earth.  A
clear light began to glow.  The sky, trembling in every breath,
shed its coverings which broke into myriads of small clouds rosy-
tipped.  The colour was so faint that it was like the ashen rose of
sea-shells washed pale by the sea.  And again, as the sea murmurs
its path through the mist into a shadow of blue upon white, so now
the sky foretold the blue that it held with a blue so pale that it
had no substance, no reality, only promise.  They were at the Tarn,
black and without life, but here, too, even as they approached it,
the new day's breeze touched it and it trembled.

They stood together, Rackstraw, Rose, Janet, John.  They looked
back across the flat land between the hills and saw the light
increase.

They saw too, striding towards them, the Colonel.


The little group stood with the Tarn behind them, instinctively
close together, as though on their guard against the enemy.  The
Colonel strode with his customary activity, throwing his whole body
into the good work.  He wore no head-covering, and his white hair
was in the increasing light an aureole.

When he was within speaking distance he stopped.  No one spoke.

He cleared his throat as though he were going to make a speech;
then he said sternly:

'You didn't expect me.'

Rose, who knew that this meeting was a climax to matters of such
seriousness that the only proper behaviour was to laugh, said:

'No.  We didn't.  Have you got guns about your person?'

'If you think this a joke--!' he answered furiously.

Rose, who was watching him closely, saw that he was trembling
violently--from anger, excitement, hurried climbing and walking,
and also from advancing years.

THIS made her suddenly tender, anxious, as though he were in her
care.  She wanted him to sit down and rest.  She went towards him.

'Must we stand at such distances?  Come and sit down with us.  We
can't fight with our fists.  There's nothing to be done but to talk
about it.'

But as she advanced towards him he retreated.

'Certainly I'm not going to sit down with you.  I've come to demand
my rights.  John, you are to come home with me immediately.'

'Oh no,' John said.  'I can't--not after all the trouble we've
taken.'

'You can't!' the Colonel began.  'You dare to say can't to me?'
And then he stopped abruptly because he saw, clearly enough, that
in this place with Gable and Scawfell in attendance the words were
simply foolish.  You could talk like that in the study at the Hall--
but most certainly not here.

They all felt that.  There was a general awkwardness, for the hills
quite certainly were laughing at them all.

Rose sat down.  Janet, aware of her leg, did the same.

'Well, what do we do now?' Janet said.  'We're on our way to
Wastdale, Father.'

'Oh, you are, are you--'  He broke off, aware again that fury was
here a mockery.  He looked at his daughter with angry curiosity.

'Do you mean to say that you jumped from that window?'

'I slid down the pipe first,' Janet said, 'and then I jumped.  I
hurt my leg in doing so--'

'I'm glad you did.'  He put his hand to his forehead.  He was at a
complete loss.  There were those people who had defied him.  Here
was he.  But what next?  It was the surroundings that stupefied
him.  Had he a gun, had Rackstraw a gun, they might shoot one
another.  But no one had a gun.  He and Rackstraw could not fight
one another with their fists.  He could not step forward, catch
John by the arm and drag him away.  John would elude him and there
was a whole world of space in which the eluding could be done.

'Tell us first,' Rose said, 'before we go any further.  How ever
did you track us down?'

He could not help it.  Rose was so beautiful, Rose was so tender,
would make so lovely a wife for his old age did not the law and
Rose herself forbid.  He found himself replying quite mildly.

'I sleep with my window open, of course.  I woke up to hear a noise
like a house falling in the garden.  I put on some clothes, went
out and found it was Lewcomb trying to kick the door of the summer-
house down.  I released him.  He had heard the car, so I drove into
Keswick.  There I saw a drunken young man sitting on the kerb--a
Scotsman it seemed.  He told me that you'd gone, his party and
yours, to see the sun rise on Gable.  A talkative man in
knickerbockers on the Borrowdale road confirmed it.  In Seathwaite
I saw the car.'  He was rather proud of this detective work.  The
pride was in his voice.  He realized that he was quite frightfully
tired.  He had climbed Stye Head at a pace and he was in his
seventieth year.  He longed to sit down.  Death rather.

But his voice was steadier and more reasonable as he went on.

'Never mind that.  It doesn't matter how I got here.  The point is
that I have the law behind me.  John's mine and must return with
me.  The rest of you can go to the devil.'

Rose answered, after a pause:

'That's all very well.  Perhaps we are breaking the law, but if we
are you've driven us to it, you know.  Later you must do what you
think right about that, but I warn you that if it's a case in the
Courts we won't stop from any kind of evidence we can get showing
that you aren't the right man to have John.'  She waited, but he
said nothing, so she went on.  'I don't believe you'll want that.
Don't you see?--I warned you.  I did everything I could to make you
change your mind.  So long as you had us there, in the house, you
had the power, but the moment we'd climbed Stye Head--you can see
for yourself everything's different.

'All the same--there's John.  It's now and always for him to
decide.  If he wants to go back to you I won't dream of preventing
him.  It's up to John.'  She looked round for him.  He was standing
close behind her.  'John--will you go back to the Hall or come on
with me?'

He said at once without a moment's delay:

'I like you very much, Grandfather, but I'd rather go with Mother
if you don't mind.'

The Colonel waited; it seemed to them all a period of silence
infinitely long.

At last he said:

'I can't stop you here.  I see that.  I don't know what I had in
mind when I started out.'  He raised his voice, he began to shout.
'But don't think you're going to get away with this.  It's
monstrous, monstrous, that's what it is.'

'I told you you couldn't,' Rackstraw said.  'I told you power
wouldn't work that way.'

The Colonel turned upon the ugly shabby little man as though he
were seeing him for the first time.

'You--you drunken sot--you disgrace--you swine--'

But he could not.  No angry voice here but was lost in the
attending hills, but must surrender to the new light flooding down
on them from the morning sky.

'The police shall deal with you,' he said quite mildly.  'And with
all of you.  You'll hear from me.  You'll see where you get to!'

It was over.  He stared at them all like an enraged and puzzled
bull.  Then he was a bull no longer.  He took out his dark red silk
handkerchief and rubbed his face.

They must go; nothing more to be done.  He would not, of course,
shake hands.  A pity.

Rose said gently:  'Later on, when you feel differently, we'll meet
again.  And please--don't be angry with Michael.'

She heard, as though in the air around her, Michael's poem:


          Close-fitting house of velvet, foxglove bell,
          My heart within your walls . . .
          And you, like rose, upturned by infinite seas,
          To bleach here on the foam-remembering fell.


Her farewell, sentimental no doubt, true certainly, to Michael.

The Colonel had not heard.  Without another word to any of them, he
had turned his back and was walking away.

They said good-bye to Rackstraw and started towards Wastdale.


Rackstraw stood there alone, then swiftly followed the solitary
figure.

As he neared him the Colonel turned round.

'By God, if you speak to me I'll kill you!'

He walked on.  Rackstraw followed.  The Colonel stopped.  What was
it he felt?  Had he not had some suspicion of it as he climbed the
Pass, a suspicion that he had fiercely denied?  What was this pain,
a burning, first as of a bee's sting, now as of a fire, in the
right thigh?

And now the calf was stiffening--cramp caught the leg and twisted
it.  He stumbled.

Rackstraw was up with him.

'What is it?'

The Colonel looked at him with the eyes of a frightened baby.

'In my right thigh.  Burning like hell . . . cramp. . . .  Oh,
God!'

He sat down on a stone.  Rackstraw sat down beside him.

'That's rheumatism.  Sciatica.  Here, let me rub it.  Wait.  We'll
go on in a moment.  You can take my arm.  I'll help you down.'

The Colonel got up.  He was not to be beaten.  He walked a few
steps by himself.  He WAS beaten.  He took Rackstraw's arm.  They
went forward together.



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