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Title:      The Blind Man's House (1941)
Author:     Hugh Walpole
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Title:      The Blind Man's House (1941)
Author:     Hugh Walpole





A Quiet Story




FOR

JOSEPHINE and ALAN BOTT

WITH LOVE




Forsooth, brothers, fellowship is heaven, and lack of fellowship is
hell; fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death; and the
deeds that ye do upon the earth, it is for fellowship's sake that
ye do them, and the life that is in it, that shall live on and on
for ever, and each one of you part of it, while many a man's life
upon the earth from the earth shall wane.  Therefore, I bid you not
dwell in hell but in heaven, or while ye must, upon earth, which is
a part of heaven, and forsooth no foul part.

William Morris, A Dream of John Ball




CONTENTS


PART I

THE HAWTHORN WINDOW


I.  Pelynt Cross--Passing Sizyn Church--At the Rectory--inside
Garth House--At the Rectory

II.  At the Rectory

III.  Garth House: Mrs. Gayner's Room

IV.  By Sizyn Church

V.  Garth House: In the Garden--In Julius' Study--In Mrs. Gayner's
Room

VI.  The Road to Rafiel

VII.  Garth House: In Julius' Study

VIII.  At the Lamploughs'--The Moor--Misty Afternoon--At Garth
House


PART II

THE WHISPER


I.  At the Rectory--In the Well

II.  Garth House: In Julius' Study

III.  Twilight near the 'Three Pilchards'--Afternoon--The Holly
Tree--The Rectory

IV.  In Celia's Room--The Winter Afternoon--At Mrs. Mark's Cottage

V.  A Night of Splendid Stars--At the Rectory--Mrs. Gayner's Room--
In the Garden

VI.  Garth House--Afternoon--Everyone Present

VII.  Garth House: In Julius' Study

VIII.  Garth House--Afternoon and Night


PART III

LIGHT IN THE HOUSE


I.  From Five to Six--At the Rectory

II.  Thunder Cloud--Rain by Sizyn

III.  In Simon's Room--On the Road

IV.  In Julius' Study

V.  Seagulls--At the Rectory--Seagull on Wet Grass

VI.  Third of March--A Stormy Night--Garth House--Walk through Wind
and Rain--Garth House

VII.  March the Fourth--At Raglan's Farm--Dawn by Sizyn Church

VIII.  In Julius' Study

IX.  By the Village Green--Three Figures--One Figure





PART I

THE HAWTHORN WINDOW




CHAPTER I

PELYNT CROSS--PASSING SIZYN CHURCH--AT THE RECTORY--INSIDE GARTH
HOUSE--AT THE RECTORY


She was frightened.  The fear was as sudden and, in one sense, as
unexpected as an unheralded sharp stab in the breast.  And yet not
unexpected, because it had been hovering near her, almost out of
her consciousness but not quite, for many weeks.

They were at the Cross-roads.  Pelynt Cross.  She knew where they
were, for Julius had told her and in her hands was a map.  The
Cross-roads.  Pelynt Cross.  You can smell the sea here, Julius
said.  She sniffed through the open window.  Yes, she could smell
it.  On a clear day you could catch a glimpse of the sea from the
Cross, which stood naked and bare on the edge of the Moor.  But
today you could not see far because of the summer honey haze which
veiled the world in trembling heat.

The car had stopped for a moment while Curtis hesitated.  Then he
saw the finger--'Garth in Roselands 1 1/2 M.--Rafiel 10 M.'  To the
left of them ran Pelynt Moor for miles and miles.  The light
enwrapped it and struck at fragments of quartz, at rough white
stones.  It seemed to shake with voluptuous pleasure at being thus
enwrapped.  The air through the window smelt of honey and gorse.

The car went on.  She had taken off her hat, and the short curls of
her dark hair moved in the breeze.  She had thrown back her coat,
and her body drank in the heat.  She loved, she LOVED the sun!  She
looked quickly across to Julius and then quickly back again.  Was
he asleep?  Who could tell?  His eyes were closed, but that meant
nothing at all.  She had been married to him for six months, and
yet about a matter like that she could not be certain.  His big
body sprawled against the corner of the car.  He too had taken off
his hat, and his hair, so fair a yellow that in certain lights it
seemed white, moved a little against his forehead.

His face, which she loved so dearly, was composed and calm.  Why
had she been frightened?  Was it because she was coming to a new
place?  No.  She was never frightened of a new place.  She loved
new places and new people because she always conquered them with
her charm.  She did not pride herself on her charm.  She had no
conceit.  But she was pleased, as anyone would be, with its
effects.

Was it because her new home was his OLD home that she was
frightened?  No.  Anything that was his was hers.  He gave her
everything freely, abundantly, completely.  She would never feel a
stranger where he was.

Was it because of herself that she was frightened?  She sat up very
straight and looked out of the window, shaking her little head as
though she would have the sun penetrate and enrich the curls.

Well, what about herself?  For six months she had made Julius so
happy that he told her he was 'mad' with happiness.  She had
behaved well.  She had lost her temper only twice, once with that
silly old Mrs. Gayner, the housekeeper whom Julius adored so.  Only
once had she broken something and then it was only a glass--old it
was, but you could always find another like it.  She had forgotten
engagements scarcely at all and had shown impatience with tiresome
visitors very seldom.  She could not help it if she showed her
feelings clearly.  That was her character.  After all, she loved
people twice as often as she hated them.  She had tried in every
way to make herself a good wife and she had succeeded.

Was she frightened because he was fifteen years older than she?
The husband ought to be older than the wife.  When Julius was sixty
she would be forty-five, an old, old woman.

Was she frightened because he had been married before?  Oh, these
were ancient questions!  She had asked them before and found happy
answers to all of them.  Wasn't Julius the kindest, noblest, most
loving, most tender, most unselfish of men?  Didn't she look up to
him and admire him dreadfully, and didn't she, in spite of that
admiration, find him a friend and a companion?  Was he ever a bore?
No.  Never, never!  Never a bore.  But . . .

Yes, now they were coming down the hill, and that lovely wood,
sparkling like a dark fire, must be the Well.  Julius had told her
about the Well.  It was the most famous wood in all Glebeshire for
primroses.  They left the wood and climbed the hill, and now the
salt wind from the sea really met them, fresh and taut and vigorous
in spite of the blazing heat of the summer afternoon.  Into endless
distance now stretched the Moor.  You could hear the telegraph
wires singing.

No.  Julius was never a bore, but . . .

She heard him move, push out his great chest as though he would
drink in the sea air, put his hand to his hair.  His blue eyes were
wide open.  He smiled.

She knew why she was frightened.


On the left of them now was the square, sturdy, solitary little
church, Sizyn Church, that contained the wonderful window, the
'Hawthorn Window' that people came from miles to see.  Julius had
told her that when he was a child at Garth in Roselands it was
almost the first thing that his mother had taken him to see.  He
described the window to her: the masses of hawthorn blossom, the
two priests, the patient donkey with the silver bells, the
inscription to the dead Prior of the Franciscans.  (She had said
'Abbot' and Julius had corrected her.  The Franciscans had Priors.)

This window had been placed in the church in the early years of
Elizabeth.  There had been a Trenchard in Garth House even then.
That Tudor house had been burned down in the eighteenth century.
She was thinking of all these things, trying to arrange them in her
disorderly mind, when, with a consciousness of that guilt for
something neglected that was always with her, she remembered how
she had promised Julius to tell him when they were passing Sizyn
Church.

It was already out of sight, but he wouldn't know that, so she
tugged at his sleeve.

'The Church, Julius!  The Hawthorn Church!  We're just passing it!
You told me to tell you.'

He turned upon her his sightless blue eyes.

'We HAVE passed it, darling!  We are going downhill again.  Did you
see it, take a good look at it?'

She was beginning to be aware, ever more and more, of her
uncertainty as to the sharpness of his senses.  His sense of touch,
his sense of smell, his sense of hearing.  These were all so far
stronger than her own that always when she was with him she felt as
though her hands were muffled, her nose blocked, her ears dimmed.
Should he ever use those senses against her . . .

As it was now he put out his big strong hand and caught her little
one.  She thought that she had fallen in love with him partly
because of his hands.  Large though they were, they were most
beautifully shaped.  They were a man's hands.  You could feel the
bones, strong and supple beneath the smooth fine skin.  His nails
were especially beautiful.  From the very beginning she had thought
it remarkable that a blind man should have such beautiful nails, so
perfect in colour and shape and yet a man's nails, beautiful by
nature and not by artifice.

And now as his hand held hers and his wide, staring blue eyes gazed
at her, through her, beyond her, as he drew her towards him, closer
and closer until her cheek and ear rested against his side and she
heard his heart claiming her with its steady possessive beat, she
murmured, 'Oliphant!'

Oliphant was Julius' valet, that small, active, devoted, aloof man
who, as yet, knew so much more about Julius than she did.  He was
seated, very straight, beside Curtis the chauffeur.

Julius laughed.

'Oliphant is part of myself--like my waistcoat buttons.'  He bent
down and kissed her warm sun-drenched cheek.

'Did you see the Church?  Do you remember what I told you--about
the window and everything?'

'Of course I remember.'

His strong hand moved about her body.  Because his blindness
strengthened incredibly his sense of touch she felt an especial
significance when he touched her.  His hand now pressed her breast
through her coat, and that pressure was so strong, so certain, that
she was divided, as all women of character are when a man possesses
them, between joyous resignation and irritated rebellion.

They were going down the hill and very soon they would be in Garth.
She WOULD not ride into their own village for all the villagers to
see her for the first time, lying publicly in his embrace.

'Garth in Roselands!  Garth in Roselands!' he was murmuring into
her ear.  'Isn't it the loveliest of names?  Haven't I repeated it
to myself over and over again all these years I've been away.'

She gave an impatient push and separated herself from him.

'I can't be driven into Garth for the first time in my life lying
in your arms.  I'm sure people are watching from every window!'

He laughed.  He was so happy, and she adored him to be happy.  So,
at this moment, as they rode down the hill and then passed the alms-
houses into Garth, she adored him BECAUSE he was happy.  She was to
remember this at a later time.  Nevertheless he held her hand
tightly.

'It is too fine an afternoon for them to be bothering.  All the
same the Rectory drawing-room windows look on to the village green,
so there MAY be . . .'  He stared through the window as though he
could see.  'When I was a boy at Catsholt there used to be
Trenchards at the House.  There were Trenchards there for
centuries.  It seems a shame that now it should be US.  But we
never knew the Trenchards.  He was a fine man--quite famous in his
day--wrote books about the English Poets.  But she was a bit of a
Tartar, I believe, and had some sort of row with my father. . . .
Ah, now, now!  Soon we will be turning up the drive!  In a minute
we will be there!  Hold my hand tight.  I am so excited that I can
scarcely breathe!'

Before the car turned from the green towards the drive beyond the
little street it was held for a moment by a big dray.  While it was
so held the ladies in the Rectory drawing-room had a fine free look
and made the very most of it.

There were four of them: Miss Vergil, Mrs. Lamplough, Miss Phyllis
Lock, and Mrs. Ironing.  They were gathered there for the Ladies'
Sewing Meeting.  Now so very often, in English novels and plays,
have the Sewing Meetings of English country towns and villages been
made a mock, a sport, a derision, that there shall be no derision
here.  To tell the truth, on this especial afternoon very little
sewing had been done, and that was partly because Mrs. Brennan, the
Rector's wife, was absent in London.  It was also because, for the
last hour, these ladies had been expecting the arrival of Mr.
Julius Cromwell and his wife, and had been eagerly on the lookout
for it.  It was an event of great, even supreme importance in the
village of Garth in Roselands, and lest that should seem an old-
fashioned sentence that might have come straight from the pages of
one of Mrs. Gaskell's delightful fragrant novels, let it be said at
once that not telegraphs, telephones, wireless telegraphy, motor-
cars, or aeroplanes have made the very slightest difference to the
excited interest that ladies of an English village feel concerning
their neighbours.

Although Mr. and Mrs. Cromwell arrived in a motor-car it was
exactly, in so far as excitement obtained, as though they had
arrived a hundred and fifty years earlier in a barouche, except
that they were, physically, less visible.

Of the four ladies Miss Vergil was the eldest and most cynical,
Miss Phyllis Lock the youngest and gayest.  Miss Vergil had short
cropped hair, wore a hat like a gamekeeper's, a short brown jacket,
a waistcoat with brass buttons, and a short rough skirt.  Her legs
were strong and shapeless, and in her hat there was fastened a
bright green and crimson fly such as fishermen use.

Miss Phyllis Lock was auburn-haired, inclining to the plump, and
dressed in so flimsy a dress that even in these days it was not
quite respectable.  But then Miss Lock did not care at all about
being respectable.  She lived with her old mother at the end of the
village, drove her own car, went frequently into Polchester for
parties, and was supposed to 'send men mad.'  She appeared to be of
a type only too frequent both in novels and real life.  She was
not, however, quite what she appeared.

Mrs. Lamplough looked an old dear.  She was short and plump, very
like Queen Victoria in appearance, and wore bonnets and shawls.
She had a soft, purring voice and was always leading people into
corners for confidences.

Mrs. Ironing was the stupid member of the party.  She might be said
to be passing through life without understanding anything about it
at all.  She was a widow with a comfortable income which was
managed for her by her brother, Fred Ironing, who lived on her most
cheerfully and was considered by everyone to be a good, jolly
fellow, and remarkably patient.  He said that he had known his
sister so long that he had never expected her to be anything but
what she was, and that she was a lot deeper than people gave her
credit for.  Gladys Ironing was a tall, thin woman with a face like
an enquiring sheep's.

These ladies were good ladies and only one of the four had any
malice in her.  They were in the position of many English ladies
during this period of history between 1920 and 1940.  Because
investments were continually going down and because they were unfit
(owing to their excellent English education) for any useful job in
the world, they collected in little groups in London or provincial
towns or villages and made life as interesting as possible by
taking in one another's social washing.

It is true that, in this present instance, both Mrs. Lamplough and
Mrs. Ironing had ample means, but Mrs. Lamplough was not
imaginatively generous and Mrs. Ironing was not imaginatively
clever, so they stayed where they were and found it good.  Miss
Vergil had barely enough to pay her bills but paid them all the
same--she had an English gentleman's sense of honour.  Miss Lock
and her mother were moderately comfortable.  These ladies, then,
formed a kind of guard of honour to Mrs. Brennan, a superb woman
whom they were lucky to find in a simple little village like Garth.
Having found her they treated her like a queen, as indeed she
deserved to be treated.

And now the four ladies looked out of the broad windows of the
Rectory, saw the Cromwell car held for a moment by the dray, saw
within the car the dark curly hair of Mrs. Cromwell, the light-
golden head of Mr. Cromwell, the fine chauffeur and the neat little
man beside him.

'You'd never think he was blind!' Phyllis Lock said as they turned
away from the window.


Celia Cromwell saw the house in front of her like a ship sailing
through golden mist.  Everything was light--even the thick, dark
rhododendrons were penetrated with light, the lawn shone like glass
and the giant oak at the end of it was illuminated, every leaf a
thin gold plate and the great trunk dark with splendour.
Excitement always rose in her very swiftly.  She passed from mood
to mood like a child.  Now, as she stepped from the car, she
thought like a child:  'Oh, I WILL be good!  I will make them all
love me!  I'll never lose my temper, I'll be wise and quiet and so
very happy!'

She moved forward to help Julius, but Oliphant, as always, was in
front of her.  Julius stood for a moment breathing in the air,
which was scented with hay, carnations, roses, and a salt tang of
the sea.  His hand groped for hers.  She caught it.  He bent down
and kissed her lightly on the cheek.

'Welcome home, my darling,' he said, and they went into the house
together.

The hall was long and, even on this summer's day, dark.  There was
a large oak chest opposite the door and beside it a staircase with
a lovely black twisted balustrade.  Mrs. Gayner, the housekeeper,
stood there.  She was a little, plump woman some sixty years of
age, incredibly neat, her grey hair sleek and charming, a gold
brooch fastened on to her black dress.  She had been with Julius
for ten years.

'How are you, Mrs. Gayner?' Celia said.  Mrs. Gayner had come ahead
of them to see that everything was right, to engage the maids.

'Very well, thank you, ma'am.'

'That's good.  Isn't it a lovely day?'

'It is indeed, ma'am.  I hope you had a pleasant journey.'

'Lovely!  What good luck that I should see everything for the first
time in such lovely weather!'

'Yes, ma'am.'

'Is everything all right?'

'Quite all right, ma'am.  I've got two maids and the cook is from
Polchester.  She's a nice woman and a good cook--at least, she
promises to be.'

'That's grand.'

But she noticed that Mrs. Gayner's eyes looked beyond her towards
her husband.  That had irritated her before.  It irritated her now.
It was natural that Mrs. Gayner, Curtis, Oliphant, who had all been
with her husband for a long time, served him, loved him, should
consider him always, but was not she someone too?

'Is that Mrs. Gayner?'  Julius' voice was full of happiness and
joy.

'Yes, sir.'

He stretched out his hand and caught Mrs. Gayner's plump one.

'Everything all right?'

'Oh yes, sir.  Very satisfactory indeed.'

He turned to his wife, who was close to him, put his arm around her
waist and began slowly to mount the stairs.

'I was only in this house once.  I came with my mother one time.  I
was about ten.  Yet I remember it all.  Is that oak chest still
there?  They told me a story that someone was caught in it once and
couldn't get out.  One of those stories.  It's Italian.  I told
them to buy some of the old things that had belonged to the
Trenchards, but for the most part you'll find everything you had at
Bramgrove, darling.  And of course you can arrange things just as
you please.  The drawing-room, now.  It's here on the left.
Everything OUGHT to be just as it was at Bramgrove.  Only of course
the room isn't quite the same shape.'

They stood in the drawing-room.  It was flooded with sunlight.
Celia gave a little cry, for the view from the windows was
enchanting.  Beyond the old stone wall that bordered the garden,
fields ran down the hill to a straggling wood, then slightly up
again to a level horizon, and above this was a line of sea, now one
stroke of trembling gold.  In the fields were old trees, set deep
into the soil, and under their cool soft shadow cows were lying.
The windows were open and the sea breeze blew, very delicately, the
fawn-coloured curtains.

All the Bramgrove things were here: the water-colours that her
father had collected--Wilson and Cotman and David Cox, the sofa
chairs with their pale primrose chintz, the piano, the oil-painting
of Julius as a young soldier just before he went to the war where
he was blinded.

She raised herself a little, caught Julius around the neck and
kissed him again and again.

'Oh, Julius, we're going to be happy here!  I know we are.  It's a
lovely house!  I'll do everything--everything!'

She was crying.  He felt the salt on her cheek as he kissed it.

Afterwards they went together to their bedroom.  There was nothing
that she loved better than this leading him through strange places.
She felt now his utter dependence upon her.  He leant against her,
holding her tightly to him.  His blue eyes stared without winking,
and he moved, step after step, rather as a walker on a tight-rope
does.  She felt then that his whole body belonged to her.  It was
as though she, little though she was, surrounded his great girth
and breadth.  He was naked in her hands and she could do what she
would with him.  And all that she wanted to do was to love him!

They stood in the bedroom enwrapped in one another's arms, the
sunlight bathing them.

There was a knock on the door.  It was Curtis in his chauffeur's
uniform, looking so smart, so official, so impersonal that Celia
turned away.  Curtis was all right, but just then she didn't want
to see him.  And of course there was already something important
that Julius must go and settle.  They had not been in the house
five minutes.  It was always so.

'Come down as soon as you've washed, darling, and we'll have tea in
the garden.  Under the oak.'

He put his hand through Curtis' arm and they went away.

She had told him that she wanted their bedroom to be exactly as it
was at Bramgrove.  Yes.  Perfect.  The twin beds, the long mirror,
his dressing-room to the left, the same glorious view as the
drawing-room's (this was better, far, far better than Bramgrove),
two pictures by Russell Flint of people bathing, their own bathroom
to the right, everything fresh, cool, fragrant.

She looked at herself in the glass.  Very small she was, but her
figure, for her size, was perfect.  She looked like a boy in girl's
clothes, perhaps--but no, her colouring, her small breasts, her
beautiful arms and hands could never belong to a boy.  She raised
her arms above her head, breathing with happiness and pleasure.
She began to dance about the room, moving most gracefully in the
sunlight, and the room reflected her in her pale dress, with her
dark hair, her big excited eyes.

'This WILL do!  This WILL do!  The loveliest place I've ever
known.'

There was again a knock on the door.  The maid came in, a pretty,
tall girl with brown hair.

'I've come, ma'am, to unpack.'

'Oh yes--but never mind just now.  I'm going down to tea.  You can
unpack then.'

'Yes, ma'am.'

'What's your name?'

'Violet.'

'Violet.  That's a nice name.  Where do you come from?'

'Oh, I was born in London, ma'am.  But five years ago I went to
service with Mrs. Ironing--Mrs. Ironing of Cumberleigh, ma'am.'

'Oh yes.  And Mrs. Gayner stole you from her?'

'Oh no, ma'am.  There were reasons--I had left--'

'I see.  I'm sure we will be friends.'

Celia smiled and Violet smiled too.  They WERE friends already.

Violet departed.

Celia looked out of the window and saw tea being laid under the oak
tree.

When she was ready to go she knelt down beside the bed and prayed.
She didn't know whether she believed in prayers, but they gave you
a comfortable feeling as though someone very strong put his arm
around you and told you you need not fear.

Why had she been afraid in the car?  She had forgotten why.  How
foolish!  There was indeed no reason for any fear.

She rushed down the stairs, crying out:  'Julius!  Julius!'


The light had mellowed across the village green, sinking deeply
into every blade of grass, then soaking the soil like wine.  The
sky above Mr. Boss the butcher, Mrs. Irwin, post-mistress, Teak,
stationer and bookseller, and the Methodist Chapel, was of a blue
so magnificently self-satisfied that only one small ragged cloud,
urchin and homeless, dared to cock at it a streaming finger.

The four ladies were gathered about the table.

Mrs. Ironing smiled brightly about her.  It was one of her
irritating traits that she should be so bright as well as so
stupid, for this lent weight to the theory, very prevalent during
these years in England, that if you had any brains you must be a
cynic.  To think well of life meant simply that you were
Shakespeare's Idiot's Tale, signifying nothing as indeed Mrs.
Ironing did.

She said now, with a kind of gurgle because she was biting her
thread:

'I expect there are compensations in being blind.'

'Oh yes, Gladys dear,' Miss Vergil in her deep, booming voice
replied.  'Just as it is the best luck in the world to have no roof
to your mouth, and there's NOTHING so lucky as being born with one
leg shorter than the other!'

'Oh, do you think so?' said Mrs. Ironing happily.  'I should regard
it as most unfortunate to have no roof--'

'Hell!' Miss Vergil cried, abruptly rising.  'I can't stand this
any longer.  To be blind!  My God!  And to come back to the very
place you were in as a boy when you could see.'

'At any rate,' Mrs. Lamplough murmured, purring like a little
kettle, 'he's got a young wife--years younger than himself--to lead
him about.  I hear from someone who lived quite near their place in
Wiltshire that she's very undependable.'

'What do you mean, Alice?' Miss Vergil said sharply.  'Undependable?'

'Oh, I don't mean anything except that she's VERY young for her
years and loses her temper in public and then apologizes in public
too, which is so very embarrassing.  Then she's fifteen years
younger than her husband, which is quite a lot.  They say she likes
young men's company, and that, after all, is quite natural.'

'Certainly,' said Gladys Ironing.  'I like young men much better
than old ones, just as Fred likes young girls--'

This was interrupted by hearty laughter from everybody, and Gladys
opened her mouth and stared and rubbed her nose and said:

'Well, I really don't know what I've said . . .'

Ten minutes later May Vergil and Phyllis Lock were alone in the
room.  They moved towards the door.

'I meant what I said,' May Vergil said.  'To be blind--in this
weather.  To be married to someone years younger--Isn't life awful,
Phil?  Intolerable!  Oh no, of course you don't find it so.  There
are always men around, aren't there?  Men!  What a lot!  However, I
won't start that again.'  She put her hand for a moment on Phyllis'
sleeve, then quickly removed it.

'Did you see her?' Phyllis Lock asked.  'In the car, I mean.
Wasn't she lovely?  With that dark curly head?  Isn't it funny to
think he's never SEEN her?  Held her in his arms and all that, but
never SEEN her?  He can't really know what she's like, however
often he's told.  And she's so lovely--with a head like a Greek
statue.'


The village green enjoyed a space and time of absolute peace and
tranquillity.  Two seagulls, after circling the roofs and screaming
their eager, scornful contempt, settled down upon the sun-warmed
grass, and moved, raising at a moment their blood-stained beaks to
heaven, deliberately--arrogant owners of this lovely world.



CHAPTER II

AT THE RECTORY


The Reverend Frank Brennan, Rector of the parish of Garth in
Roselands in the county of Glebeshire, was quite possibly the
handsomest clergyman in the whole of England, and quite certainly
the laziest.

His hair was thick on his head, and snow-white although he was but
sixty years of age.  He had the face of an aesthetic poet of the
Eighteen-Nineties, a figure supple and erect, and a voice, as
Phyllis Lock said, filled with 'organ notes.'  His charm, too, was
beautiful, and although he never did anything for any man, woman,
or child in the village, save when nature, by bringing to birth or
urging to matrimony or slaying in due time, forced him, he was
everywhere popular because he never interfered with anyone or
anything, was shocked by nothing and nobody, and laughed so
infectiously when he had forgotten the name of a farmer with whom
he had had tea only the day before.

He conducted as few of the church services as possible and left a
great deal to his red-haired kindly curate, Mr. Townley.  Strange
it was that he had not even any hobbies.  He liked a novel in front
of the fire, a drive in the little family Austin, food, drink, and
a pretty woman, although his morals were irreproachable.  What
spirit slumbered inside his slumbering form no one knew.  He wore
shabby old clothes, but his linen was always shining and his person
as clean as a new penny.  He was seldom seen without a pipe in his
mouth, and he would look at you, his hands deep in his pockets, his
brown eyes half closed and a little smile hovering about his
handsome lips.

Now, oddly enough, his wife, Daisy Brennan, was also a beauty.
Phyllis called her once 'a Juno in the cornfield,' and although
this meant really nothing at all, everyone liked and repeated it.
She was a tall, big, full-breasted woman with masses of corn-
coloured hair which was piled, in old-fashioned style, on the top
of her head and braided above her temples.  She wore clothes in
bright gay colours that fitted her closely so that her bosom, her
thighs were handsomely defined.  She walked with her head up
gloriously, and only Mrs. Irwin, the post-mistress, who hated her,
made the rude comment:  'Pantomime Queen, that's what I call her.
You know, one of them big girls in tights walks down a lot of steps
at the end and calls herself Canada.'

This magnificent pair had three children: Dorothy, Gilbert, and
Simon.  Dorothy was aged seventeen, Gilbert fourteen, Simon eight.
Gilbert was at school at Polchester but was at present home for the
holidays.  These children were very unsophisticated and unmodern.
They had all been born in the Garth Rectory, and, until Gilbert had
gone to boarding-school, none of them had been away from there
except to the Glebeshire seaside on expeditions.

They had mingled with the village children quite happily.  They had
known a number of governesses, and the best of these had been Miss
Fritch, who had led them carefully first through Stumps, Rags and
Tatters, Alice in Wonderland, then The Cuckoo Clock, Mrs.
Overtheway's Remembrances, Engel the Fearless, then The Daisy Chain
and The Dove in the Eagle's Nest, then Micah Clarke, Lamb's Tales,
The Wind in the Willows, and The Talisman, then David Copperfield,
Pride and Prejudice, The Oxford Book of English Verse, The Path to
Rome, The Cock-House at Fellsgarth, and Don Quixote; after which
nothing else mattered.

Unhappily Miss Fritch departed after a quarrel with Mrs. Brennan, a
mysterious quarrel because only Mrs. Brennan gave any account of
it, and from this it was clear that Miss Fritch had been quite
impossible.

No governess succeeded Miss Fritch.  Gilbert went to school and
Mrs. Brennan taught Dorothy and Dorothy taught Simon.  At least,
that was the idea.

The three children adored their father, who never denied them
anything; they thought their mother wonderful.

They had, however, none of the experiences of good modern children.
They had never been given handsome toys, nor been taken to the
theatre, nor learned of the troubles and perplexities of the mature
from the lips of the mature.  Dorothy was tall and slim with a face
as honest as a human face can be.  Gilbert was slim, pale, and
inclined to take things seriously, while Simon was short and thick
and led a very intense life of his own.

Two years at school seemed to have made very little difference to
Gilbert, for whom Garth was still the centre of his world, his
father the most wonderful person IN the world, his mother the
loveliest, Dorothy the best companion.  He led, it seemed, a rather
solitary life at school, although he was quite happy there.

Mr. Brennan looked at his children with surprise, whenever he saw
them.  He was delighted to discover that he had such charming
children, and this discovery was fresh every new day.  Mrs. Brennan
was, as Phyllis again recorded, 'the mother facile princeps.'  To
see her move with her children along the village street was a sight
never to be forgotten.

Three days after the arrival of the Cromwells, the children had
just finished tea, and Lucy, the maid of all possible and
impossible work, was clearing away the tea, which she did with a
great deal of banging and clashing as though she were a Salvation
Army girl and the china were timbrels.  At the same time she
steamed through her nose as though her inside were a kettle.  But
she was a good girl and a warm-hearted.

When Lucy was gone Gilbert suddenly said:

'I want something frightfully.'

Dorothy, who was gulping down Chicot the Jester as though he were a
life-restorer, and turning one ear to Simon who was telling a story
both to her and himself, said, rather impatiently, 'What do you
want?'  She knew that in five minutes' time they must go down to
the drawing-room to spend half an hour with their mother, and she
wanted to reach the end of her chapter.

Gilbert, standing straight in front of her, his eyes fixed
anxiously on her face, told her.  He expressed his desires so very
seldom and they were intense within him when they DID appear.  He
spoke slowly, choosing his words.

'Well, you see, there's an awfully decent chap called Paynter.  I
like him better than anyone else at school--in fact I like him
awfully.  His people have taken a house for the summer just outside
Rafiel--on the cliff--and he wants me to go on Tuesday and spend
the day with them.  And I can take a bus.  It's quite all right,
but Tuesday's the only day.  They go back to Polchester on
Thursday.  His father's a Canon there.  He wants me to go for the
whole day.'

'Which day did you say?' asked Dorothy.  At the same moment she
snatched a line or two of Chicot, and said 'Yes, dear' to Simon,
who, seated on the floor like a Buddha, was half chanting:  'Which
he COULDN'T do because there was a river right across, a great big
river with rocks and stones and serpents and dozens of croc--'

She cleared her brain.

'WHICH day did you say, Gillie?'

'Tuesday.'

'But that's the day Mother said she might take us into Polchester.'

'I know--that's the awful part.'

They looked at one another.  She had forgotten Chicot and Simon.
Here was a real trouble.  Gilbert so very seldom said that he
wanted anything; when he did it was serious.  They were devoted.
Gilbert, in spite of his time at school, still thought that Dorothy
could settle every difficulty, that she was the wisest, most far-
seeing person in the world.  At school he would say:  'Oh, but you
should see my sister.  She's marvellous!' and said it so
convincingly that no one ever thought of teasing him about it.

Dorothy on her side was aware that Gilbert was more sensitive than
the others, felt things more severely and for a longer time.  Her
feeling over him was, although she did not know it, partly
maternal.  She HATED that any misfortune should happen to Gilbert.
Simon did not seem to need her care in the same way.

'You see,' Gilbert went on, 'it isn't as though Mother could go
ONLY on that day.  She said she had several days to choose from.
And it's the ONLY day for the Paynters.'

'Yes, but--.'  Dorothy looked anxious.  Why did they both know that
as soon as their mother heard that THAT was the day the Paynters
wanted, THAT would be the day that she wanted too?

'The only thing, Mother may think that the BEST day for Polchester.
Thursday's early closing, I know, and that only leaves Wednesday
and Friday.'

'That's two days, isn't it?'  Gilbert's voice had in it a new note
that she thought she had never heard before.  'You see, I like
Paynter better than anyone I've ever known, except the family of
course.  He plays in the Second Fifteen and will be in the First
next year, I shouldn't wonder, and I didn't think he was keen on me
at all, although I was awfully keen on him.  So when I got the
letter this morning I was awfully pleased, as anybody would be, and
if I don't go he'll think I'm being snooty or something, and
besides I do want to go most awfully.'

He ended with a deep breath.  His eyes were pleading into Dorothy's
face.

Simon suddenly said from the floor:

'Dorothy and me saw the blind man this morning.'

Dorothy raised her head and looked at the schoolroom window that a
thin weeping rain was misting.  It had been clear but not sunny
this morning when, coming out of the stationer's with Simon, she
had seen Mr. Cromwell and his wife walking across the green.  He
had his arm in hers.  He walked, his head very erect, staring
straight in front of him and talking all the time.  He had a most
pleasant smile.  She had told Simon that he couldn't see.

'Why can't he see?' Simon asked her.

'He was hit with a bullet in the War.'

'He can't see the teeniest, teeniest thing?'

'Nothing at all'

'Not the teeniest?'

'No.  Nothing.'

At the same moment she had seen the postman going to the Rectory
gate.  He must have had the letter for Gilbert.

It seemed to her now as though that had been a dramatic moment--the
blind man and the letter for Gilbert.

'I'm going to ask Mother.'

'Yes, of course.'

'If I tell her it's the only day--'

'Don't make her feel we don't WANT to go with her to Polchester.'

'No.  Of course not.'

They looked at one another.  He was changed.  His mouth was set and
his eyes angry.

'I'm going to ask at once, now, as soon as we go down.'

'Yes.  We'd better go down.  It's time.'

Simon got up from the floor.  He enjoyed going down to the drawing-
room.  He enjoyed practically everything except cold fat, barking
dogs, and women who kissed him.

'Here.  Let me brush your hair.'

He had a lot of light brown hair that would, unless he was
careful, fall over his forehead into his eyes.  One of his most
characteristic gestures was tossing his hair back from his eyes.
Then he was like a little pony stamping.

He slept in a room with Gilbert, and into that they now went.  He
stood grinning while Dorothy brushed his hair.  He looked so
pleasant, so independent and sturdy in his blue smock, that Dorothy
would have kissed him had she not known how greatly he disliked it.

He rushed down the stairs crying out:  'Mum--Mum--Mum.'

However, when they reached the drawing-room only their father was
there.  He stood in front of the fireplace, which was defended by a
very hideous screen of green elephants walking up to pink pagodas.
As usual, Simon rushed up to him and hugged him round the thighs,
and as usual Mr. Brennan looked at his offspring as though he had
never seen them before.

'Well, well, how are you all?'

'Quite well, thank you,' Gilbert answered gravely, and then went
straight on without waiting a moment:  'Father, there's a boy
called Paynter at school and his people have asked me to spend next
Tuesday at Rafiel with them.  Do you think I can?'

'Why, of course, certainly, do you good.'

'The only thing is, Father,' Dorothy said, 'Mother said she'd take
us into Polchester next Tuesday to see about Gillie's new suit.'

'Your mother can take you another day.'

'Oh, Father, do you think she can?'

It was as though little fires had suddenly been lit in Gilbert's
eyes.

'Certainly.  Of course.'

He was so handsome and knew this so well that he had a trick,
picked up long ago and now quite unconscious, of turning his head
first to one side and then to the other as though to test which
profile were the finer.  He did this now.

'Where's Mother?' Dorothy asked.

'She's been out to tea with Mrs. Lamplough.  Should be back any
moment.'

He stretched himself and yawned.

'I must be off to work.  Work, work, work--nothing but work!'  He
grinned at Simon.  'Your old father is a slave--a slave to duty.
Aren't you sorry for him?'

But Simon was considering something else.

'I saw a man who was blind this morning.  He couldn't see anything,
not the teeniest thing.'  Then he tried to do what he was always
trying to do, turn a somersault.  But, as usual, he failed.  When,
rather confused by the upside-downness of the drawing-room, he
looked about him, his father was gone.

Gilbert was greatly excited.

'Did you hear what Father said?  He said that of course she would.'

Dorothy shook her head.

'Father often says things without thinking.  And then he forgets
that he's said them.'

'All the same, he's quite right.  It can't matter to Mother which
day it is.'

Daisy Brennan came in.  She was wearing a pale blue dress with a
white rose pinned at her waist.  She looked lovely and was a little
cross.  However, she took them all with her to the sofa, threw her
hat on the floor, stretched her length, gathering them all about
her.

'Oh, you darlings!  You darlings!  I ought to have told you I'd be
out.  You've had your tea?  Yes.  That's right.  Oh dear, how tired
I am and what a day!  We were to have had tea in the garden and of
course it rained, so there we were all crowded into the drawing-
room and such a noise--my head's simply splitting.  What do you
say, Simon, pet?  You saw a blind man with Dorothy?  Oh, you mean
you were WITH Dorothy when you saw a blind man.  Oh, of course,
poor Mr. Cromwell.  And now tell me what you've all been doing,
because I've SUCH a headache I shall go straight up to my room and
lie down.  Yes, Gillie, tell me everything.  What do you say?  You
had a letter?  When?  This morning?  Who are they?  Paynter?  Never
heard of them.'

Gilbert stood in front of her as though he were reciting a lesson.

'Paynter's father's a Canon at the Cathedral.  He's awfully decent,
so's Mrs. Paynter.  They've taken a house at Rafiel for the summer--
on the cliff.  You know, over the harbour.  Above the Warren.
Well, they want me to go on Tuesday for the whole day.  There's the
nine o'clock bus and one comes back at six.  Can I, Mother?  Can
I?'

'Rafiel?  All day?  I know you'll get into some awful trouble--fall
into the sea and be drowned.'

'Of course I won't, Mother.  I've been going to Rafiel all my
life.'

'Heavens, child!  You say that as though you were a hundred.
WHAT'S the name of these people?'

'Paynter.'

Dorothy knew from his breathing that he was growing more desperate
with every moment.

'But _I_ don't know them.  They could easily have called if they're
only at Rafiel.'

'They WILL call.  I'll ask Mrs. Paynter.'

'But she ought to have called without being asked.  What day do you
say it is?'

'Tuesday.'

'On Tuesday!  That settles it.  We're going into Polchester that
day.  You've got to have your suit fitted.'

There was a short pause.  Gilbert was heaving up his determination.

'But, Mother, there's Wednesday and Friday--'

'Wednesday won't do.  I forget why.  Friday's too late in the week.
No, it's got to be Tuesday.  You can go to those people some other
time--only I WOULD prefer that she should call on me first.'

'Father says I can go.'

('Oh,' thought Dorothy, 'that's a mistake!')

'Your father!  What's HE got to do with it?'

'He said you might go another day.'

'Oh, he did, did he?  Well, I've explained to you why I can't.'

'No, Mother, you haven't.  I WANT to go.  I want to go most
awfully.'

At this his mother sat up, patting at her golden braids with her
large strong hand.

'My DEAR Gillie!  You want to go, do you?  More than you want to
come with your mother.  That isn't very kind.'

'No.  It's not that.  Of course I want to come with you.'

'It always USED to be the greatest treat coming into Polchester
with me.  You'd look forward to it for weeks.  But now going to
Rafiel to have a day with some strange people is more important to
you than being with your mother.  Well, I suppose every mother must
expect that.  That's what school does.'

'No.  It isn't.  But--'

'Every mother must expect to lose her son.  She is everything to
him while he needs her, but the moment he can fend for himself the
mother's set aside--'

Dorothy could not endure this.

'Gillie isn't saying he doesn't want to go to Polchester, Mother.
He does want to go--as much as ever he did.  Only he thought we
might go to Polchester another day--'

'Thank you, Dorothy.  I don't want you to explain Gillie to me.  I
understand him perfectly well.'

Gilbert, white of face, holding his small thin body rigidly
together, moistening his lower lip with his tongue, began again.

'Paynter is a form higher than me, I didn't know he'd ever ask me
in the holidays.  If I refuse now he'll think me snooty.'

'Snooty!  What a disgusting word!'

'Well, he will.  And it will make all the difference next term,
because I like him most awfully.'

'So I perceive,' said Mrs. Brennan coldly.  'You like him much
better than your mother.'

'I don't,' said Gilbert between his gritted teeth.  Then he burst
out:  'Oh, Mother, let me go!  It isn't I don't want to go to
Polchester.  Of course I do, just as I always did.  But we can go
on Friday.  If you let me go to Rafiel on Tuesday I'll be ever so
good.  You see, it means EVERYTHING, because if Paynter's my friend
next term I can get on ever so fast with maths and geography, and
next term's Rugger, and I'm not much good, that's QUITE certain,
but Paynter's most awfully good and he'll show me a lot of things.'

He paused, breathless, his eyes shining with hope.  His mother
looked at him with tenderness.

'My dear Gillie, you've hurt me not a little.  When you're older
you'll understand.  You are all I have, you and Dorothy and Simon.
It's quite natural that you should want to leave me for perfect
strangers.  Quite natural.  But it hurts me all the same.  You
shall go into Rafiel on Tuesday and you shall have the suit fitted
later.  I'm sorry.  It isn't kind. . . .'

Her lower lip quivered.

Gilbert looked at her

'I didn't want to hurt you.'

'No, I'm sure you didn't.'  She waited.  Everyone, even Simon,
expected that he would say that he did NOT wish to go to Rafiel.

'It's just the same as it always was about Polchester,' he said.

'I'm glad to hear it.'

Mother and son looked at one another.  Then Gilbert turned and,
with his head down, like an animal butting, ran from the room.

Mrs. Brennan sighed and lay back against the cushions.

'Do you know these people, Dorothy?'

'No, Mother, I don't.'

'How very odd of Gilbert!  He's never been like that before!'

'I don't think he's ever wanted anything so much before.'

'No.  That's what I said.  It's the beginning of the end.  My
headache's frightful.  Go up to my room, darling, and get those
cachets.  Two with a glass of water.'

Dorothy went and found Gilbert sitting on his bed, stony-eyed and
speechless.

Downstairs Mrs. Brennan and her youngest-born enjoyed one another's
company.  For they had a good deal in common.  It was quite
impossible to hurt Simon's feelings.  He went his own way and
always got what he wanted.

'Thank you, darling,' Mrs. Brennan said, took her cachets and
leaned back against the cushions, closing her eyes.  But her repose
was not for long.

The door most unexpectedly opened and in came Mr. Brennan.  With
him a lady.  The lady was short but not stout, grey hair under her
hat, brown eyes, very quietly dressed.  All this Daisy Brennan, who
was no fool, at once took in.  She rose from the sofa.  Simon rose
from the floor.  Dorothy stayed where she was.

'My dear,' Frank Brennan said, 'I have brought someone in for a
moment whom I want you to know.  This is Mrs. Mark.'

Mrs. Brennan, entirely bewildered, stepped forward.  The little
lady smiled and they shook hands.

Brennan went on:  'That will mean nothing to you, but it WILL mean
something when I tell you that Mrs. Mark's maiden name was
Trenchard and that she was born in Garth House and lived there most
of her time until she was married.  She knows every turn and twist
of THIS house, by the way.'

They had sat down by now, Mrs. Brennan and Mrs. Mark side by side
on the sofa.

'I really ought to apologize--' Mrs. Mark began.  She had a soft
gentle voice.

'Oh, but I'm delighted.'

'The fact is I've never come back to Garth all these years!  More
than thirty years.  I haven't dared.  I was so happy here, but my
husband didn't like it.  So, until his death, I stayed away.  He
died three years ago and since then I've been trying to pluck up my
courage and face my memories.  And now I've taken Copley's Cottage
at the end of the village for a month or two.'

'How very charming!' Mrs. Brennan murmured.  'We shall be
neighbours.  You must find a lot of changes.'

'I don't know yet.  I've only been here three days.  But I don't
think I shall--not externally, at any rate.'  She smiled and looked
across at Dorothy, for the first time, with a friendly glance.

'I was born in the House.  We all were.  And now I'm the only one
left.  My father and mother died long ago.  I'm sixty, you know!
My sister Millie died five years ago, and my brother Henry was
killed in a motor accident.  You probably read about it at the
time.  He was quite famous as a dramatist.'

'Why, of course.  Henry Trenchard.  How sad that was!'

'Yes.  Very.  He ought never to have driven himself.  He was so
very absent-minded.  Dear Henry!'

She paused for a moment, her eyes misted a little.

'And so you see why I've dreaded coming back.  I'm not quite alone
in the world.  I have a son who's an astronomer.  Isn't that an odd
thing to be?  But he's married now and so--well, here I am!'

Her confidences were so quiet and so simple that no one felt it at
all strange that she should tell them these things.

'And so you knew this house quite well?'

'Oh, very well--as well as our own.  The clergyman at that time--
just before I married--was called Smart.  He used to race through
the services, especially in the summer when he wanted to be
gardening.'  She laughed.  'I remember him so very well.  And Mrs.
Smart was a big, stout woman who wore the most outrageous hats.
But before that, when we were children, there was a clergyman
called Penny and he had ever so many children.  That was when we
were here so often.  We used to play Hide-and-Seek all over this
house, and Henry would be lost and we'd find him at last somewhere
in a corner reading a book.'

'What a nice lady,' Dorothy thought.  'I never knew anyone more
natural.'  Simon, after he had taken one look at her and summed her
up to his satisfaction, continued his own life on the carpet, now
and then making a little hissing noise, and Mrs. Brennan said:
'Hush, Simon!'

'It WILL be interesting for you, noticing all the changes,' Frank
Brennan said.  'You know that some new people have taken the
House.'

'Yes,' said Mrs. Mark.  'They arrived, I believe, the same day as I
did.'

'He was blinded, poor man, in the War,' Mrs. Brennan said.  'This
is his second wife and she's years younger.  He's got plenty of
money, I believe.'

'I hope I shall meet them.  I do want to see the House again.'

'Of course you will.  Won't you have some tea?'

'No, thank you.  I must be going.'  She rose.  'Your husband found
me in the church and insisted on bringing me in.'

'I'm so glad.'

But there was to be yet one more interruption.

The window that led to the lawn opened.  They all turned.

A young man stood there.  He was dressed in rather dirty flannels,
he was as brown as a chestnut, his hair stood up above his ears, he
was very good-looking.  He looked at them with an amused and rather
cheeky greeting.  'Hullo!' he said, and was gone the moment after,
leaving the window open behind him.

'Good heavens!' Brennan cried.  'That was Jim Burke!'

'He's back again!' Daisy Brennan said.

'How like him!' said Brennan.  He went to the window and called:
'Jim!  Jim!'

But there was not a sign of him in the warm misty rain.

Brennan said to Mrs. Mark:  'Now isn't that like him?  He's a young
man called Burke.  He used to help Fred Ironing--Oh, but you don't
know, of course.  A wild young fellow.  We all liked him.  He's
been away two years.  I wonder what he's back for.'

He closed the window.  Mrs. Mark made her farewells.



CHAPTER III

GARTH HOUSE: MRS. GAYNER'S ROOM


DEAR ALICE,

I should have answered your letter ever so long back but the fact
is I've been so terribly busy that I've hardly known whether I'm on
my head or my heels.  Well, Alice, you know I always tell you
everything and what's a loving sister for if you don't, but the
fact is I'm writing this very letter in a bit of a tremble and the
reason is that only a quarter of an hour ago Mrs. Cromwell's been
in here and lost her temper in a shocking fashion.  Of course I
never said a word as where would I be by now if I hadn't learned to
control my temper, besides which I can't help liking her.  She's
only a child when all is said and done.  Besides as you well know
I'd do any mortal thing for him and well he knows it.  Besides,
Alice, he loves her something terrible and so does she but she
doesn't understand him one little bit nor what it is to be blind,
although she WANTS to understand if you get me.

Mind you she's a grown woman and she's no right to get in the
states she does.  I don't think she's happy and that's the cause of
a lot of it.  When you're unhappy about something you just want to
fly out at someone, at least that's how it used to take me until
I'd had such a lot of unhappiness that I saw flying out about
anything was just a waste of time.  But she comes in just now and
asks me why the letters haven't gone to the post.  That's not my
business as she well knows but Curtis the chauffeur's, but not
wanting to put the blame on Curtis, I say I'll see to it and then
she's in a rage and says she doesn't know why it is but
everything's been sixes and sevens ever since we've come to this
house and I say we've only been here a fortnight and then SHE says
that I'm getting careless so then I just smile and say I'm doing as
I've always done and she flings out of the room banging the door
just like a naughty child.

You know what it is, Alice, she's jealous poor thing.  Jealous of
me and Curtis and especially of Oliphant--anyone her husband has a
kind word for.  I think she's frightened of his blindness, not
realizing it at first but thinking she'd have all the more power
with him because he WAS blind and now finding that he seems to get
away from her where she can't get after him.

You and I know what jealousy is don't we, Alice, and yet if I could
have Henry back with all his unfaithful ways I would and gladly
just to feel the roughness of his cheek and lay my hand on his
shirt where his heart beats because it's that much more lonely
here, Alice, than it was at Bramgrove and it's an old house with
dark passages and I can't help thinking half the time--well, you
know who I'm always thinking of.  All the same we've settled in
well enough seeing that they've been here only a fortnight and the
cook and the girls get along finely together.  Mrs. Cromwell's very
good with them I must say and goes into the kitchen just like one
of them.  She's not a snob that I must say and yet they mind what
she tells them.  The housemaid Violet simply worships the ground
she treads on.

I know what you're asking all the time, Alice--how's HE getting
along?  Well I've never seen him so happy, never, and it does your
heart good to hear him humming to himself and laughing and kissing
her when he thinks there isn't anyone there.  It OUGHT to be all
right when two people are as much in love with one another as those
two are but she's restless all the same, jealous one minute and
flirting with someone the next.  She doesn't mean any harm you know
but there's something in him she's frightened of and not at ease
with, and there's a sort of relief and ease comes over her when
she's found someone her own age who isn't blind and can see just
what SHE sees.

We've had a lot of people calling, the Rector and his wife.
They're a handsome pair if you like with three nice children but
she's stuck on herself and her fine appearance if you want my
opinion.

Then there's a Mrs. Mark staying in the village who was a Miss
Trenchard and was born in this house and her family lived here for
hundreds of years.  She's quiet and a proper lady.

There are some old maids of course as there are in every village
but it's not bad as villages go and they leave me to myself which
is a blessing.  I have only one trouble as you know, Alice, and a
grievous trouble it is but not one word have I had although I've
written three times to the address he gave and I really don't know
what to think.  If it weren't for God's goodness I don't know where
I'd be I'm sure but I leave it all in His hands as He bid us do.
Write soon and tell me how that Mrs. Nutting works out.  Don't let
her have her way too much but she seems a good soul from what you
tell me.

Your loving sister

LIZZIE


Lizzie Gayner finished her letter with a sigh and sighed again as
she licked it, fastened it up.  Alice Fisher, housekeeper to old
Mrs. Nutting in St. John's Wood, London, was her only sister.
Funny that they should both be widows and both be housekeepers.
But then it had run like that all their lives long.  Alice was five
years younger.  They had been always devoted--'never a cross word.'
They knew everything about one another.  Alice knew Lizzie's one
great secret and Lizzie knew about the week Alice had spent with
the Commercial Traveller at Bournemouth.  Alice's William had been
alive, in his second year of his illness it was, and Alice had gone
off just because of that.  She had been nursing William so
arduously that she had to do something, and the Commercial
Traveller, who had been after her for months, was what she had
done.

She had liked him, too, and told Lizzie that she could gather him
up in her arms 'like a bit of laundry.'  She had never seen him
again, or so Lizzie understood.  Anyway, he was married and his
wife didn't die as Alice's William had done.  Lizzie had felt no
moral shock at Alice's adventure.  She had been glad for her to
have her bit of fun.

For herself, if it were not for one constant gnawing anxiety she
would be a happy and contented woman.  She had had now, for ten
years, a perfect place and a perfect master.  The coming of this
second wife, Mrs. Cromwell, could not make any difference at all.
She, Lizzie Gayner, and her beloved master, Julius Cromwell, had by
now a relationship that no person on this blessed globe could
break.  Besides, Lizzie Gayner would make a friend of this Mrs.
Cromwell before all was over.  You see!

Mrs. Gayner turned in her chair and surveyed her room.  It was nine
o'clock in the evening and she debated as to whether she would
listen to the News or not.  No.  She would not.  There was nothing
but trouble these days with those Germans stirring everybody up.
You'd have thought they'd had enough in the last war, but it seems
they hadn't.

She sighed again, but this time it was a sigh of satisfaction, for,
really and truly, her room did look nice.  It was as bright and
shining as the silver slip of new moon outside the window in the
sparkling star-scattered heavens.

First she looked at the cat, Peter, on the hearthrug.  Those rude
men Curtis and Oliphant called it Goering because of its great
size.  When she had it as the smallest black cat in the world it
was operated on for the world's future happiness if not for its
own, and that was why it was the size it was.  It was a great black
barrel as it lay there with its paws folded under it and its head
cradled in its own fur.  Lizzie Gayner loved it in spite of its
size.

What she liked about her room was the cleanliness.  Also the
colour.  Also the cosiness.  In fact it was the loveliest, most
perfect room in the world, and Lizzie really thought this because
she had seen so many grand rooms but never a one to her own taste
as this one.

On the cream-coloured walls were views of Windsor Castle, a
photograph of the King and Queen and the two Princesses, and an
especial picture of the Duchess of Kent, whom Lizzie considered
simply the loveliest woman in the world.  There was a round table
covered with a crochet mat in red and blue, and on the crochet mat
a vase of iridescent yellow, and in the vase pink and white roses.
There was a coal-scuttle of shining brass, a small sideboard on
which were two empty silver vases, a silver christening mug, and a
silver cake-plate.  On another small table were her Bible and
prayer-book and a photograph in a green plush frame of herself and
her Henry on their wedding day.  He was a big stout man with a
great buttonhole, a great grin, and a bowler hat several sizes too
small for him.  There was a small cane bookcase containing her
books: the poems of Longfellow, the poems of Tennyson, a book of
General Knowledge, What Can the Answer Be?, The Channings and Lord
Oakburn's Daughters by Mrs. Henry Wood, two stories by Dorothy
Sayers, Missionary Work in India, and a number of Penguins.  On the
mantelpiece were a clock in solid oak, two pink vases, and a
photograph of her sister Alice.  There was a door to the left
leading to her bedroom.  The window looked on to the drive, the
rhododendrons, the little wood on the left of the house, and the
stables where in these days the two cars were kept.

Yes, it was a perfect room and any widow would be glad and lucky to
end her days in it.

She got up and went to the table.  Now was her time for reading.
There were two new Penguins that she had bought for herself on the
journey down and had not had time as yet for reading.

There was a knock on the door.  She opened it, and there before her
was Julius Cromwell.  She took him by the hand and led him to the
best chair.  He sank down into it, crossing his big legs, folding
his hands after straightening his black tie.  He looked, she
thought, splendid in his evening clothes--a proper gentleman if
there ever was one.

'That's right, Lizzie.  Thank you.  I haven't been in here before.'

'No, sir.'

'I thought I'd come in here for a little talk.'

'Yes, sir.  I'm very pleased, sir, I'm sure, sir.  Won't you smoke
your pipe?'

'Yes, I will.'  He filled it.  'Tell me just how the room is.  I
can find my way alone all over the house now.'

'Well, sir, there's the round table in the middle.  The chair
you're in is to the left of it.  There's a little table behind you
to the right.  The chair I'm in is to your right.  There's nothing
else in the room to be a bother, sir.'

'That's splendid.  Have you everything you want in here?'

'Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.'

'Fine.  Everything as it was in the other house?'

'Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.'

'Grand.  How have you been getting on?'

'Very well, I think, sir.  The new maids seem quite all right.  I
hope the cooking's satisfactory.'

'Very good indeed.'

He paused.  He seemed to be staring at her with his blue eyes as
though he saw straight into her very soul.  She remembered how,
years ago, this intense gaze had frightened her.  How much did he
see?  How much did he really know?

'Do you know one odd thing, Lizzie?  Every new house I live in I
seem to be able to see further than in the last one.  Oh, not
really, of course!  But we've been in three now, haven't we?  You
came to us first in Eastwood, didn't you?  I remember that first
day so well.  I got Elinor to describe you.  "She's short and round
and very tidy and has a GOOD face!"  That's what she said.'

They both laughed.

'Very complimentary of Mrs. Cromwell, I'm sure,' said Lizzie.

'Yes.  You liked her, didn't you?  Always.  You never had a row.'

'Not a single one, sir.'

'And when she was ill you were wonderful.  She always said that you
made all the difference.'

'I'm very glad of that, sir.'

'Yes.  And she still seems to be with me.  I'm not a spiritualist,
you know, but when you're blind you live in another world.  It's
easier to imagine that someone's not really dead.  Isn't it queer
to think that I never saw her?  What do you remember now best about
her--physically, I mean?'

'Well, sir, she was tall and carried herself beautifully.  But what
I remember best was her face--the calmness and goodness of it.  She
was a saint if there ever was one!'

'Yes, she was.  She was never angry, never impatient, never in a
hurry.  And in all that suffering at the end she never complained
once.  And yet she wasn't a prig.  She had a great sense of humour.
I never felt dependent on her and yet I knew everything was all
right if she was there.'

He paused again, puffing at his pipe.  Lizzie Gayner sat upright,
sometimes smoothing her black silk dress with her hand.

'You know, Lizzie, the odd thing is the blindness doesn't get any
easier with the passing of time.'

'I'm sorry to hear that, sir.'

'Oh, of course the earlier difficulties are gone.  I don't rebel
and curse and swear as I once did.  I've resigned myself.  But the
calm I ought to find.  It doesn't come.'

'It will, sir, God helping you.'

'I don't know whether He helps or not.  I don't want to shock you,
Lizzie, because I know how much He means to you, but I'm not sure
that He's there at all.  The world I live in is made up of scent
and sound and touch.  I hear so many things that people with sight
don't hear, and my mind seems to go deeper, deeper into things,
until I reach a place where there is only my body.  You know how I
love music, and when the gramophone is playing, or the wireless,
even in the grandest things it seems to stop at the sound.  I say
"That's beautiful," and that's all.  Whereas, before the War, when
I could see, music carried me on further and further. . . .  Now it
stops with the sound.'

'I think, sir,' Lizzie said, 'that's because you don't want to be
cheated.  You were always a great one for honesty.'

'That's very clever of you, Lizzie.  But it's partly because I
don't want anything to carry me too far.  When I sit staring into
myself I dare not go--dare not go to where I may find that
everything's a cheat.  When you can see, you know what's real.
When you can't, reality and unreality mix.'  He pulled himself up.
'But now I'm getting dismal and I'm most awfully happy just now.
Only I like talking to you.  I always did.  There wasn't anyone I
could talk to in the same way, even Elinor.'

'I'm very glad and honoured, too.'

'Yes, it's because everything with you is so straight and simple.
You believe in God and trust Him.  You do your job and your duty.
And that's all.  You haven't a complication in your life, have
you?'

How far could he see?  What did he mean by that question?  She
didn't answer him and he went on.

'We're such wonderful friends.  I can tell you anything and know
you'll be wise about it.'  He sat up, he caught his knee with one
hand.

'Lizzie, I'm so terribly, so fearfully in love!'

'Yes, sir.  I know you are, sir.'

He seemed now to be engaged in some terrible struggle with himself.
She watched his face, yearning to help him, striving with all that
she had in her to help him.

'There are things I suppose a man should always keep to himself.
Englishmen especially think it wrong.  But we've been close friends
for ten years, haven't we?'

'Yes, sir.  I'm proud to say we have.'

'You know me so well.  You're the only human being alive now who
knew both Elinor and myself as we were truly together.'

'Yes, sir.'

'You know how devoted we were, what a grand, fine human being she
was, so much finer than myself.  You know how lost I was after she
went.  You comforted me as no one else did.'

'I did my best, sir.'

'And so, Lizzie, you can understand better than anyone else what it
means when I say that I never knew what love really was before I
met my present wife.  I don't know what it is now.  I'm making new
discoveries every day.  And--listen to this, Lizzie, mark it, put
it deep in your mind--if ever I have regretted being blind, if ever
I have agonized over it, and cursed it, and regretted it, I'm
cursing and regretting it now.  I told you just now that the
cursing part of it was over long ago.  Well, it's all come back.  I
love her so terribly, Lizzie, and I can't see her, I can't tell
where she goes to, I don't know what she's doing.  She may be
making faces at me for all I know!'

'She loves you, sir, quite as much as you love her.  I'm sure of
it.'

'Then listen to this.  Two nights ago I woke up.  Our beds are so
close that I can reach out with my hand and make sure that she's
there.  I reached out my hand and she wasn't there.  I heard her
laughing somewhere in the room.  She said, "You were snoring, so I
woke you up."  I asked her to come back but she wouldn't.  She
said, "I'm going--I'm going--I'm gone."  Then I got out of bed to
find her, but of course I couldn't.  She turned on the light--I
could feel it against my eyes--but she wouldn't let me find her.
Then I barked my shin against a chair and at once she was in my
arms, crying.  Crying, Lizzie! swearing that she loved me, that she
loved me so terribly but I didn't love her and liked Oliphant
better--nonsense, nonsense--and I had to take her in my arms and
console her and she went to sleep. . . .'

He was shaking from head to foot, trembling.  His blind eyes were
closed.

'I know how it is, sir,' Mrs. Gayner said.  'You haven't been
married long enough.  They always say the first year is difficult
for anybody, getting to know one another and fitting in.  I know my
Henry used to be queer as queer the first year or two, wanting to
do the strangest things.  I used to be angry with him, but years
later I wished him back again as he was at first.  When people are
new to one another they're like Columbus discovering America--don't
know whether it's poisoned arrows or ropes of pearls they'll be
finding. . . .  Then she's only a child, if I may say so.  She's
never been married before and you have.  She's ready to try any
trick to be sure of you.  It's not being sure of you, sir, makes
her temperamental.'

'Do you think I'm too old for her, Lizzie?'

'Why, no, sir.  What's fifteen years when all's said and done?'

'She lost her temper with you this very evening, didn't she?'

'She WAS in a bit of an upset.'

'She came and told me.  She said:  "Julius, I've been misbehaving,"
just like a child.  She was very sorry.'

'Oh, that was nothing, sir.  She'll get to know me in time.  We'll
be great friends before the year's out.'

'Do you think she's frightened of my blindness?  What I mean is,
that she mayn't have realized it at first.  And now she does.  What
it's like being married to a blind man.  Elinor was patient and
just made to look after people.  But Celia is impatient.  More
impatient than anyone I've ever known.  And she can't hide
anything.  She says things that hurt me, but I won't let her see
that they do.  She can do what she likes to ME.  It's the way she
hurts herself that matters.'

Mrs. Gayner said gently:

'You must be patient, sir, like your first lady was.  I used to
think when I saw you together that each of you was getting
something of the other.  People do when they're always together and
fond of one another.  You know, sir, when I came first to you I'd
think that you liked to be made a fuss of.  People with your
misfortune always attract the sympathy of others.  It's natural
enough they should, although I'd think myself to be totally deaf
would be as sad a trial, but deaf people don't get half the
sympathy.  And because they don't they are often grumpy and won't
say a word to you.  While people with your misfortune, sir, are
charming and sweet-natured just because everyone wants to help them
and be good to them.

'And I used to think, if you'll forgive me, sir, that when I first
knew you you looked out for that sympathy and indulged yourself
with it.  You were young about your misfortune, sir, if I may put
it that way.  But your wife showed you a better thing.  You came to
think of yourself less and less and of her more and more.  Isn't it
the other way with you now?  Aren't you thinking too much of her,
and so finding yourself impatient?  Give her time, sir.  Let her
grow.  She's not been married before.  You have.  You're older and
wiser and can study her more wisely than she can study herself.'

He got up and she rose too and began to lead him towards the door.

'Bless you, Lizzie.  You're right as usual.  Only I'm not wise
enough.  That's the trouble.  When you're in love it isn't so
easy!'

He sighed and stood still.

'By the way, I've taken on someone else.  A young gentleman called
Burke.'

'Yes, sir.'

'He was with the Ironings.  He went away and now he's come back
again.  Ironing says he's a marvel about the house, in the garden,
everywhere.  A bit wild, but I liked his voice.  He came to see me
and told me all about himself.  He wants little more than his keep.
He'll help Cotterill in the garden and do odd jobs generally.  He's
the son of a clergyman, Ironing says.  He knows shorthand, can
type, and, Ironing says, is sober and honest.  But he can't stick
anywhere for long.  He'll disappear one day without a word to
anyone.  Be decent to him.  I know you will.  I liked his voice.
The timbre of it . . .'

'Yes, sir.'

He said good-night and for an instant put his arm round her.

When she was alone again she sat there thinking, her hands tightly
pressed together.  With one solitary exception she loved him more
than any single human being on earth.  She loved him as though he
were her son, although in truth he was her master and she was his
housekeeper.

But she loved him also in another way--she loved him as though she
were his defender, his protector.  When Elinor Cromwell had died
this suddenly had come to her--that now he was alone in the world.
He had a brother and a sister, but both were married, with families
of their own.  He had no children and no friends of a close
intimacy.  His blindness marked him off from normal men.  So she
took him as her charge without his knowing it.  When he told her
that he was going to marry again she had known, for a little, a
wounding, hurting jealousy.  But only for a little.  Her love for
him was big enough to want his happiness beyond all else.  He was a
strong, lusty, physical being and she was wise about men.  Men need
women.  She could not give him more than her secret protection.
She was sorry at first when she knew that his second wife was
little more than a girl, and even now, tonight, when she felt his
passion, saw him tremble with it, there was a stab of jealousy
again.  She was sixty years of age but was she never to give any
man love ever any more?  No.  Of course not.  That was over for
her, but the memory of it, the thoughts of it, were not over.

So she took up her Bible and read in the Revelation of St. John the
Divine, which always led her into grander, more brilliant worlds,
worlds where her own small weaknesses and desires were lost.  She
finished a chapter and moved towards the door of her bedroom.  Time
for bed.  She pulled the curtain back and saw the silver sickle
moon caught in a tall tree above the little wood and stars dancing
between white moonlit clouds.

And even then her evening was not yet over, for once again there
was a knock on the door.  Startled she said, 'Come in,' and
standing there was Mrs. Cromwell.

'Oh!' she cried, but the girl didn't move, only, in a small
frightened voice, almost whispered:

'I've come to apologize!'

'Oh, please, ma'am.  Come in.  Sit down, please.'

'No, I won't stay.  I'm on my way to bed.  But I thought that I
must apologize.  I was angry about something that wasn't your
business at all.'

'Oh, it doesn't matter, ma'am . . . please.'

'But it does matter.'  She moved a step or two into the room.

'Mrs. Gayner, I want you to help me. . . .'  She began to finger
the things on the table, looking down on them.  'You're a very old
friend of my husband's.  I want to help HIM.'  I want to do
everything for him I can--and you must tell me if I make mistakes.'

'Oh no, ma'am,' Mrs. Gayner said.  'I couldn't do that.  It's not
my place to interfere in anything except the running of the house.'
Her voice was, in spite of herself, a little hard.

Mrs. Cromwell broke in.

'I'm very young and inexperienced.  I know I am.  All of us who
have grown up since the War are stupid about other people.  It's
been our own fault.  We are selfish and conceited.  We have our
good points, too.  We're tough and we're honest, and we don't whine
or bewail our fate or anything Victorian like that.  But we're NOT
good about other people and we're so honest that we show our
feelings all the time.

'I want you to help me with a little advice when you see me going
wrong.  Will you?  I'll take anything you give me.  Will you?
Please?'

She held out her hand.  She looked entirely charming, her eyes
smiling, her wide, unlined forehead open and honest.

Mrs. Gayner took her hand.  'Indeed, ma'am, I will do anything--
anything.'

'Thank you so much.  Good night.'



CHAPTER IV

BY SIZYN CHURCH


By Sizyn Church there is a very old wall.  It runs straight across
the Moor until it reaches another wall, a very modern one which
Frank Partridge of Sizyn Farm helped to make with his own strong
hands.  But the wall by the Church is very, very old, thirteenth-
century they say, although nobody really knows.  Some who have been
up very early in the morning and have passed that way as evening
light is fading, say that they have seen a donkey close to the
wall, cropping at the grass--a ghost donkey, of course.  It is said
that you can walk right through it.  The donkey, they say, belonged
to the Franciscan who designed the famous Hawthorn Window early in
Queen Elizabeth's reign--so early that there were still Franciscans
to be found wandering the country.

In any case that part of the Moor is a haunted place, for behind
Sizyn Farm is the oak tree where the young lady hanged herself in
Monmouth's time because she was going to have a baby.  And there
are the Crazy Stones, eight of them, in a half-circle, on the
projecting spike of the Moor above the wood known as the Well, and
nobody knows how old THEY are!  And at the very Cross-roads
themselves, on the Garth in Roselands--Rafiel road, they say that
the highwayman of Charles II's time, whose treasure is still
supposed to be hidden somewhere on the Moor, was buried with a
stake through his heart.  Across this Moor the English marched to
defend their country against the Spaniards, to fight for Cromwell,
to die for Monmouth, to challenge the French in 1805--yes, and
many, many marched before those days.  We can see them, horde upon
horde of naked men and women driven like cattle, the hide-whips of
the Danes whistling in the air above them.  And before them again,
the men with bowed hairy backs and monkey-faces, and before them
again the giant horny beast with the long neck and the tiny head
rising sluggishly from the sea which lapped with its crystal wave
the very edge of the Moor where the Church now stands.

Through it all the Moor unchanged, the tough little grasses
blowing, the sea-birds screaming against the sun even as they are
today.

For it is a fine day and everyone is thankful--Mr. and Mrs.
Cromwell, Mrs. Brennan and her children, Dorothy, Gilbert, and
Simon, Mr. and Mrs Lamplough, Miss Vergil, Mrs. Ironing and Fred
Ironing her brother, Miss Phyllis Lock, her old mother, Oliphant,
Curtis, and Jim Burke--all, all are thankful that it is a fine day.

For what is a picnic when it rains, or, worse than that, when the
sea-mist comes up, as on the Glebeshire coast it does so often, and
veils the world in water?  Dangerous thing, Jim Burke warned
Oliphant and Curtis, to have a picnic on the Moor late in August.
Weather can change there in the twinkling of a firefly--seen fifty
weathers up there, Jim Burke had, all of one afternoon.  Queer
place the Moor.  Many a picnic had been ruined by it.  The Moor
doesn't like ginger-beer bottles, silver chocolate paper, orange
peel, ladies' lipstick.  Upon which crazy statement Oliphant, who
had no imagination but only knew his duty, and Curtis, whose mind
was entirely mechanical, stared at him as though Jim Burke were
mad.

Whereupon Jim Burke, straddling his lively body on his restless
legs and sticking his thumbs into his trouser-pockets, saw fit to
say:

'That's all blighters like you can think of.  All right, Dick
Oliphant, I've known you just a fortnight, haven't I?  What's the
matter with that?  I think you champion but limited.  Why shouldn't
you be limited?  Much happier that way.  But you ask your master
you're so sure of whether he's sure of himself--whether since he
was blinded he hasn't been more and more uncertain about the past,
the present, and the future.  What's the past, the present, the
future?  Just words.  And haven't I seen a little short man in a
brown habit going into Sizyn Church carrying the box he's going to
make Mass out of?  But if I haven't, I haven't.  But do you, Dick
Oliphant, know the Moor as I know it?  Have you watched it all
times of day in all weathers as I have?  Alone, mind you.  Alone.
That's what you've got to be.  And that's what your master, Dick
Oliphant, is the only one in the whole of this blessed place to be
save myself.  We're alike in that, him and I.'


The cars drove up the hill and stopped near the Church.  It was a
day of a pale lighted sky, warm in sunshine, the faint odorous
chill of approaching autumn in the shadow.  The line of sea
stretched milk-white against the blue-white sky.

Out they all tumbled: Julius and Celia from one car, Mrs. Brennan,
Dorothy, Gilbert, and Simon from another, Mr. and Mrs. Lamplough
with Miss Vergil from a third, Mrs. Ironing, her brother Fred, and
Mrs. Mark from a fourth, Phyllis Lock and her old mother from a
fifth.  After them came Oliphant, Curtis, and Jim Burke bearing
baskets.

There was a great female chattering as of birds released from cages
into the sunlight.

'Where is it to be?'

'There's a lovely spot to the right of the Church--there, where
those stones are!'

'How charming of you, Mr. Cromwell, giving us this party.  I do
love a picnic above all things.'

The children ran ahead.

Julius Cromwell was led slowly forward by Oliphant.

'Now don't take your coat off, Alice.  This time of the year it's
most treacherous.'

Little Mrs. Lamplough, who had no intention of taking her coat off
and knew exactly always what she intended to do, murmured to
Phyllis:  'I do think it was very strange of Mr. Cromwell to engage
that Burke boy.  Everyone knows the things he did when he was with
the Ironings.  To be with someone who's BLIND must always have been
his dearest wish.'

'He's very good-looking,' Phyllis said, with a sigh.

Mrs. Brennan was advancing, a splendid ship in full sail.

'It was so very good of you, Mrs. Cromwell, to invite us all--such
a lot of us, but I'm sure you'll find the children no trouble.  My
husband, poor man, had to stay behind and write his sermon.  This
afternoon was his only chance.'

'I always think,' Celia said, 'that clergymen and doctors are the
most unselfish and overworked people in the world.'

She didn't mean a word of it--she had been told that Mr. Brennan
always READ his sermons, choosing them from some clever OTHER
clergyman's clever book, so that she wondered that Mrs. Brennan
should bother with so obvious a lie.  Still it was no business of
hers, nor did she care in the least.  She was amazingly happy.
Mrs. Brennan could tell as many lies as she liked.

They found a perfect site, almost under the Church wall and yet in
the sunshine.

'I think,' said Celia, 'that we'll have lunch at once.  It's almost
one, and I know I'm fearfully hungry.'

'Oh yes!  Oh yes!' everyone cried, all except Gabriel Lamplough,
who began to wander away with a vague independence.

Celia thought that he was a very odd-looking man, so tall and thin,
with a broken nose and eyes fierce and haughty.

They were all conscious of Julius.  A blind man made an unexpected
difference.  There he was, his big body planted against the wall,
his long legs stuck out, his blue eyes staring into space, his
hands folded, saying nothing, but a queer secret little smile on
his lips.  Mrs. Mark was seated beside him.

'Did you come up here often when you were a boy?' she said.  'We
came very seldom.  My mother for some reason disliked the Moor.
She forbade us to come here alone even when we were quite old.'
Julius turned his face toward her.

'I was always coming here.  Catsholt was no distance.  I loved this
Church.  You know the old story about the window?'

'No.  I've forgotten . . .'

'It's in one of Baring-Gould's books.  When the Franciscan was
sitting in the Church painting his design for the window a young
gentleman came riding by.  His name was Herries.  He stopped and
ate with the Franciscan, and then they found that the Monk's
beloved donkey had been stolen.  They knew who had stolen it and
I'm afraid it was an ancestor of yours, Mrs. Mark.  He was the big
man of the place and lived at the House.  One of his soldiers had
stolen it, so young Mr. Herries, who was a bashful kind of boy,
bravely went and faced the grand people at the House and demanded
the donkey back.  But your ancestor said it wasn't the Monk's
donkey.  Young Herries had been told that the donkey had her
initials cut under her belly.  The Monk had told him.  And with
that knowledge young Herries was able to prove that it was the
Monk's donkey and bring it back to the Monk.  And they say, if
you're up VERY early in the morning, you can see the donkey waiting
patiently for her master.'

'That's a very pretty story.'

'Yes, isn't it?  Now tell me--is the House dreadfully changed?
Have we ruined it?'

'Oh no, it's ever so much more beautiful than when we were there,
although of course I don't like it nearly so much.  In our day it
was filled with odds and ends, old things that were of no use, but
that nobody could bear to destroy.'

'It must have been an exciting moment the first time you saw it
again.'

'Yes.'  Her voice dropped.  'I stood in the door out of which my
husband and I eloped.  It was a wild stormy evening, but I remember
there was one brilliant star shining between the clouds.  Just
before I left I met my brother Henry on the stairs, and he,
thinking I was just going to the village, said:  "You'll be late
for dinner," which was an awful crime in those days.  I said, "No,
I won't.  I shall hurry."  I wanted to kiss him but didn't, and I
ran out.  I eloped because Philip and my mother didn't agree.  They
were both domineering people.'

'It seems to be,' he said, 'a house in which things happen.'

'Yes, I think it is.'  She added quietly, 'I do hope, Mr. Cromwell,
you'll be very happy there.  Mrs. Cromwell is so charming.  I like
her already so very much.'

'Thank you.  She likes you, too.  You can be a good friend to her,
Mrs. Mark, if you will.  She's younger than her age in some ways.
I want our marriage to be simply perfect!'  He laughed.  'I suppose
no marriage is that.  But perhaps we'll be the exception.'

Mrs. Mark said:  'Mine was as near perfection, I think, as you
could have.  Philip grew finer and finer as he grew older, and we
were companions in everything.'

'Yes,' Julius said.  'That's just it.  You see, Mrs. Mark, I'm
blind and fifteen years older than my wife.  Do you think we can be
companions in everything?'

'Yes--if you are both patient and both unselfish.  Trouble often
comes, I think, from trying to make someone you love the same as
yourself.  It's the differences between you that give life to the
companionship.  But I don't know.  I'm only a looker-on now and, as
a looker-on, I find I can't help anyone much.  The world's so
strange and young people want things to be right in such a hurry.'

The food was spread.  Oliphant came over and touched his master on
the shoulder and said:  'Luncheon is ready, sir!'  Celia stood,
waving her hand.  'Come on, everybody!  Time for food!'

Even old Mr. Lamplough, standing like a stork against the pale
horizon, heard her.  He turned back slowly towards them.

Very possibly the last rich picnic in Great Britain.  The
Ichthyosaurus raises its scaly head above the slime, the naked Pict
dances on his splay-toed feet, young Mr. Herries shifts his hand to
his jewelled dagger and turns for a last look before he rides away,
the psalm of the marching Ironsides comes faintly on the sea-breeze--
and Phyllis Lock cries out:  'Oh!  Galantine of chicken!  I love
galantine!  Have some, May!' and Miss Vergil answers deeply:
'Doing very well, thank you, Phyllis.'  Oliphant, Curtis, Jim Burke
move about offering champagne, hock, cider-cup, ginger-beer.  'How
pleasant,' the ladies think, 'to have a wealthy man living in Garth
again!  There are so many things he will be able to do.'

But, as the meal proceeds, they all feel a little queer--queer not
from the food and drink.  Oh no!  But they are being fed by a blind
man.  Soon they will be accustomed to him, of course.  But will
they?  Won't he always be outside their world, reminding them of
more worlds than their own, worlds more dangerous, worlds leading
to other worlds? . . .

Phyllis Lock couldn't take her eyes off him, and yet didn't wish to
be seen looking at him.  May Vergil's eyes were always on HER, and
May could be so very sarcastic and beastly!  Moreover, she must
think of her old mother, who, sunk into her old furs, her hat a
little askew, her bony brown fingers clutching at the food, looked
more like a monkey than many monkeys look.

Phyllis, the young child of her middle years, hissed at her:  'Do
sit up straight, Ma, for heaven's sake do.  Here!  What is it you
want?  A piece of that pie?  You'll never be able to eat it with
those bad teeth of yours!  There's Mr. Lamplough speaking to
you. . . .  Shake yourself together, for pity's sake.'

And to cover her daughterly embarrassment she began brightly:  'I
was reading the other day about a picnic in a novel--just like this
it was--sitting near the sea.  Only they all began to quarrel.
Such a funny novel--it had the Devil in it.  Yes, really, I mean
it.  The Devil in modern clothes, and there was a man with a Punch
and Judy.  No.  I don't remember its name, nor who it was by.  I
never remember the name of a book nor who it's by.  I read so
many.'

It was at this moment that Mrs. Brennan felt that she was being
left out of it, and this feeling led, in the end, to unfortunate
consequences.  On so slender threads do human fortunes hang!  Had
Phyllis Lock attended, at that moment, to Daisy Brennan instead of
to her old mother, the lives of several persons might have been
different.

For Daisy Brennan was accustomed to worship.  She was not getting
it.  Why?  Because little Mrs. Cromwell, in her dark hat with the
red feather, was dominating the scene.  True, it was her party, but
need May Vergil and Phyllis Lock and the Lamploughs and Fred
Ironing all behave as though they had never seen a pretty woman in
their lives before?

As a matter of record Daisy Brennan did not care at all for that
childish, girlish figure, that excited laugh, that obvious courting
of anybody's favour!  Cheap!  That was what Celia Cromwell was!  No
dignity!  No sense of a married woman's proper behaviour!

How preposterous if now, just because she had money and laughed and
chattered like a schoolgirl, Mrs. Cromwell were to take the lead in
a district that had belonged for years to Mrs. Brennan!  And, most
unexpectedly, Daisy Brennan felt a hot suspicion of tears behind
her eyelids when she thought of the shabby Rectory, and the trouble
to meet the bills, and the expense of Gilbert at school--yes, and
of Gilbert's very peculiar behaviour, for he had spent the day with
those people at Rafiel and had never apologized but had rather
shown a sulkiness. . . .  Nor was her husband of the least use when
she complained, but only laughed and shrugged his shoulders.

So she was angry and looked about her and saw that no one was
paying her any attention, and from that moment she began to dislike
Celia Cromwell very much indeed.

The Brennan children had eaten their fill.  Simon, who was a
realist, had eaten more than his fill, but he had a stomach that
was his true friend, accommodating and adventurous like himself.

He was now absorbed by the food, not because he was greedy but
because he always flung himself wholeheartedly into anything that
at the moment he was doing.  Short and sturdy, with his bullet-
shaped head, large clear brown eyes, in his cricket-shirt and grey
flannel shorts, sitting back on his haunches, staring, he was like
some friendly self-possessed animal who had found the picnic by
chance and was seeing human beings' food for the first time.  His
eyes took in everything: the big crusted pies, the egg-stuffed veal
and ham, the pale marble-coloured galantine, the new crisp-crusted
bread, the brilliantly yellow pats of butter with roses stamped on
them, the sandwiches with sticks that had names on little flags--
Foie gras, Chicken, Tongue, Smoked Salmon--the fresh curling
lettuce with brilliant red stabs of beetroot against its green, the
two giant trifles with red cherries and streaks of jam, the cut-
glass bowl with the fresh fruit--melon, pineapple, peach, oranges,
apples, floating in a sea of golden liquor--the round, wide-eyed
box of preserved fruit, and, best of all, perhaps, a great cake
with icing in the shape of a fortress with two red and blue
soldiers--real wooden ones.

He stared and stared; then, as always, when he was absorbed, talked
to himself aloud--and also to Dorothy.

'I wouldn't mind being sick if I could have everything once.'  He
was leaning right forward now, his chubby hands pressing on to his
bare knees.  'Because perhaps never'--here there was a deep sigh--
'never and never and never will it all be at one place again--will
it, Dorothy?--not the SAME place.  And no person could eat it all
but he'd be sorry afterwards, wouldn't he?'  Then, in a husky
whisper, 'Won't they cut the cake?  Do you think we'll all go away
and they HAVEN'T cut the cake?'

'Hush, Simon, you mustn't be so greedy.'

He felt, as he so often felt, a deep disappointment in his strange
and unpredictable elders.  Living a life of his own that was
altogether wise and completely satisfying, he could never
understand the omissions, both in deed and thought, of grown-up
people.  They seemed to have NO sense at all!  For instance, they
all sat round looking so silly and talking such nonsense and NOT
apparently even wanting to try all those wonderful things.  What
did it matter if they WERE sick?  (He was so thoroughly accustomed
to that grown-up monition:  'No, Simon!  Not another piece.  You'll
be sick if you do!')  They would forget the sickness and have
wonderful things to remember!

'It isn't greedy about the cake,' he said to Dorothy, but not
turning his head away from the glorious sight.  'I just want to
try!  Then he added disgustedly:  'What do they bring everything
for if no one EATS anything!'

At that moment Celia Cromwell jumped up, waved a knife and cried:
'Who's going to cut the cake?'  He could scarcely believe his ears
when she went on:  'You're the youngest, Simon!  You must cut it!
We'll do it together!'

Jim Burke brought her the cake.  Simon knelt on the grass beside
her and she guided his hand.  She smelt of violets.  He cut down
into the cake with ferocity.  He would show them!  It was an
enormous piece and was divided on a plate.  Then he murmured, so
that no one else could hear:

'Can I have a little soldier?'

He had been told again and again never to ask for anything, but
when he wanted something he got it.  'Of course,' she said quite
practically.  She gave him the soldier and, miraculously, did not
kiss him.  From that moment he was her devoted slave.

'You mustn't let him bother you, dear Mrs. Cromwell.'

'Oh, he doesn't a bit.'

'Only a little piece for Simon. . . .  No, darling, not that bit.
It's too rich.  You'll be sick.'

Mrs. Brennan began to explain the children, whom she had gathered
around her, to Mrs. Mark.

'What I should do without my Dorothy I simply DON'T know!  She's
the little mother in the house.  Yes, Gilbert goes to school in
Polchester.  You like school, don't you, Gilbert?'

'Yes, Mother.'

'He isn't very distinguished for anything YET--but he will be one
day, won't he, Gilbert?'

Gilbert said nothing.

'My Anthony,' Mrs. Mark said, 'was quite uncertain until he went to
Cambridge what he was going to do.  We never dreamed it would be
astronomy.'

'Oh, I'm afraid Gilbert will never be clever enough for that.
Something much more ordinary.'

Dorothy, who hated it when grown-up people talked about them over
their heads, was really watching Jim Burke.

The three children adored Jim Burke.  When he had been in Garth
before he had shown them every kind of thing.  He had been like an
elder brother to them.  She was so very glad that he had come to
Garth again.  His immediate duties over, he was sitting away by
himself against the Church wall doing something with a knife and a
piece of wood.  That was so very like him.  He must always be at
something.  She watched his brown quick fingers moving.  Every part
of him was alive and the warm sun lit up his body with a kind of
flame.

She heard her mother's voice.  'Yes, they're a nuisance sometimes,
but who would be without them?  No, Simon--NOT one of those fruits.
Oh, you naughty boy!  Well, only the one.  No, please, Mrs.
Cromwell, don't offer him another--WHAT a wonderful spread!  I'm
sure I've eaten far too much.'

But now the meal was over and they must all do what they will: lie
back against the wall with a handkerchief over his face like Mr.
Lamplough, or sit smoking a great cigar and talking silly talk to
Phyllis and Miss Vergil like Fred Ironing, or sit with a book like
Mrs. Lamplough and watch, with bright restless eyes, over the
book's innocent edge, or spread yourself out and sit, as on a
throne, Queen of the Moor, waiting for humble people to come and
talk to you, as Daisy Brennan does, or run off laughing with the
three children, crying 'We'll explore, shall we?' as Celia Cromwell
has done, or sit, motionless like a happy boy gazing at the sky for
signs, like Julius, or crouch, whistling, making a pipe of Pan out
of the clean white wood as Jim Burke is doing. . . .'

'Well, what do you think of him, Fred?' said May Vergil, smoking a
little cheroot and watching Phyllis Lock.  Fred Ironing was a big
fat jolly man who must either kill some animal or kiss some woman
if life were to have any kind of flavour.

'Him?  Who?' he asked.  He was always rather short with May Vergil,
because it was one of his creeds that if a woman wasn't a woman
she'd better take strychnine at once.  And he had no interest in
Phyllis Lock, because he had discovered that her policy with men
was to tease rather than satisfy.  But Celia Cromwell!  By golly,
there was a neat little woman with lovely legs!  AND a blind
husband!  What more could you ask?

'Who? . . .  Why, Julius Cromwell, of course.'

'Well, I think it's very decent of him to give us all such a grand
meal!'

'Oh, that, of course!  No--idiot!  What sort of a man do you think
he is?  Is he a fool, or isn't he?'

'I suppose he's like the rest of us--sometimes a fool, sometimes
not such a fool.  For instance, he's a fool for one thing because
he's taken Jim Burke to work for him.  I could have told him a
thing or two about Jim Burke, but he didn't ask me.  All he asked
me was whether he was industrious.  Industrious!  I should say!'
Fred Ironing grinned.

'Oh, you mean he's always after girls!'

'AND some!  However, that's Cromwell's affair.  Only he must be a
simple, trusting kind of chap.'

'Phyllis thinks he's Sir Galahad and St. Christopher rolled into
one.  Look at her!  She's staring round the corner of her nose at
him now!'  May Vergil coughed but not kindly.  Then she rose on to
her knees and said very affectionately:  'Come for a stroll, Phil,
old girl.  Do you good.'

They strolled off together while Fred looked after them with
cynical good-temper.

Mrs. Lamplough, seated beside her husband still lying with a
handkerchief over his face, whispered without moving her eyes from
her book:  'Phyllis Lock has fallen in love with Mr. Cromwell
already.  May Vergil's furious.'

When Celia returned with the children she went to her husband, sat
down beside him, and caught his hand.

'Happy?' she asked.  'Julius, those are the sweetest children,
especially the small one.'

'I expect they are.'  He put his arm around her and drew her close
to him, not caring who was there.

'Darling, I want to go into the Church.  Shall we?'

'I'd love to.'

'I'd been waiting for the right moment.  I've been waiting ever
since I came to Garth.'  He raised himself up, he stretched his
arms, breathing in the air.  'Salt and sun and the grass.  I put my
ear to the ground just now and I could hear a million animals
marching.'

He gave her again his broad strong hand and she helped to lift him
until he stood on his feet.

'Aren't I a weight?  The last time I was in that Church I was
eighteen years of age and I went in with a girl whom I thought I'd
fallen in love with.  I sat and looked at the window and knew that
I didn't love the girl a bit.  Perhaps I shall have another
revelation now!'

'Oh, I hope not!' Celia's cry had in it a fear.

'The difference, my pet, is that now I can't see the window--or I
still see it as it was that day all those years ago.  And there
have been wars and rumours of wars ever since.  And yet the window
is the same.  I bet it's the same.'

'Of course it's the same, you silly.  It's been the same for
hundreds of years.'

'I'm the only one of all of you that sees it the same.  Your eyes
change every time you see it.  But you!--Of course, I was
forgetting.  YOU'VE never seen it at all yet!'

Celia looked around her.  She wanted passionately that they two
should go alone into the Church.

It was so.  Mrs. Brennan was seated with her back to them, queening
it with Phyllis, Miss Vergil, and Mrs. Lamplough.  The Brennan
children were with Jim Burke.  No one observed them.  She took his
arm and they slipped round the corner, pushed their way through the
little door, and sat down on one of the old benches.

The sun was shining fiercely behind the Hawthorn Window.  The
fierce white of the hawthorn blossom, the brilliant green of the
grass, the purple that coloured the name of the Prior to whom the
window was dedicated, burned brilliantly as though the old glass
were beaten into the air that was sun-flamed.  The little Church
wrapped them round with friendliness.  They sat close together,
hand in hand.

'The sun is shining behind the window,' Celia said.  'It makes the
colours very brilliant.'

'It was the first coloured window I ever saw,' Julius said.  'As a
little boy my mother brought me the first time here.  I thought the
figures of the monk and the donkey were alive.'

'They are alive now.  The donkey has silver bells.'

'It can never be spoiled for me again.  Whatever the weather,
however dark or cold it is, when the rain is thundering on the roof
or there is sea-mist everywhere, it makes no difference.  It will
always be brilliant and burning and alive.'

He pressed her hand.  'I love you so dearly, Celia.  Whatever may
happen, never forget that.  Nothing can change it.  If ever you are
troubled think of this moment.  Remember it always.  Darling,
remember it.  Never let it go.'

'I will.  I will.  I will always remember it.  I love you, Julius,
so deeply that I'm afraid.  I think perhaps I haven't the character
to love anyone so much.  It's as though love of this kind had come
to the wrong person.  I don't deserve it.'

'We none of us deserve it.  It's a gift, maybe, more than either of
us can carry.  We mustn't be cheated by lesser things.'  He
laughed.  'I was going to say "blinded."'

'Be patient with me, Julius.  When we were married six months ago I
thought it was all going to be so easy.  I would look after you and
we would love one another and everything would be lovely.  But of
course it's not going to be like that.  I'll tell you something.
When we were driving in the car that first day, just as we were
passing this place I was suddenly terrified.  I wanted to get out
of the car and run.'

'Why?'

'I don't know.  I think I saw myself clearly for the first time.
I've been so rottenly brought up.  Father was always abroad, and
Mother never bothered about training me in anything.  She only
wanted me to be happy so that I wouldn't be a nuisance.  I had
everything far too early.  Boys made love to me before I was
fifteen.  I was bored with sex before I was eighteen, bored with
everything, really.  Everyone said that religion was rot and that
all anyone cared for was to have a good time, and that life was a
take-in anyway, however good a time one had.  Until I fell in love
with you I was a complete waster.  And now I'm beginning to see
that I've got a job that I'm simply not up to.'

'Why?' he said, smiling at her.  'Am I so difficult?'

'No.  Of course not.  You're adorable.  But you don't know what
someone like me is capable of.  And when one day you DO know . . .
I seem to be about half a dozen different people and some of the
half-dozen are really beastly.  I've never been taught restraint or
self-sacrifice.  I'm greedy and vain and selfish.  I ought never to
have married you.  It's a DAMNED shame. . . .'

He laughed.

'I'm not much to shout about either.  I've been blind for twenty
years and that's made me selfish and self-centred.  I've always had
as much money as I wanted, which in THESE days is a crime as bad as
murder.  I've always been waited on hand and foot.  I've liked all
sorts of women, some pretty rotten ones.  I get very depressed
sometimes and then I'm as cross as a bear.  There are days when I
think I'd be much better dead, just cumbering the ground.  So you
see, you'll have to put up with a lot. . . .

'But the great thing is we love one another--REALLY love one
another.  I know lots of other people have thought the same and it
hasn't been true.  But that's because they haven't been able to
stand enough.

They've been beaten half-way through.  We won't be, will we?'

'No.  Never.  Nothing shall beat us.'

She stared at the window as though she were committing her oath to
the Prior, the Monk, and the Donkey.

She laid the palm of her hand against his cheek.

'If I loved you less I wouldn't ever be frightened.'


The sun shone down hot on to the grass and the heads of Jim Burke
and the three children.  The children were absorbed, for Jim was
cutting a head out of a piece of wood.  There it was emerging as
the fragments of white wood scattered through the air--the round
head, the small ears, the wide blind eyes, the mouth smiling.

'He's blind like Mr. Cromwell,' Gilbert said.  He could scarcely
speak for excitement.  This was what he wanted to do.  Jim should
show him.

'Can I have it afterwards?' Simon asked.

'Hush!' Dorothy said.  'You mustn't ask for things.'

'Why mustn't I?'  Then he smiled mischievously.  'I've got this,'
he said, showing the little red and blue soldier.

'Of course you can have it,' Jim Burke said.  He was whistling.
All his body, his bright eyes, his brown neck, his arms bare to the
elbow, seemed to work with his hands.

Dorothy watched him and thought him wonderful.  He could do
anything and was always pleasant.

He looked up for a moment at her and their eyes met.

'Now it's done!  Now it's done!' Simon cried.

'No, it isn't.  Wait a minute.  I knew a man once could carve
animals out of stone--rabbits and dogs and horses.  He made a bird
once.  It was a yellowhammer and you could see it moving against
the gorse and such.  It seemed to be all gold, but it wasn't
really.  There wasn't a spot of paint on it.  Only he could make
you fancy things, that man could!'

'Jim,' Gilbert asked again, almost below his breath, 'could you
teach me to make things out of wood?  I'd work and work--'

'Oh, I daresay.  But you've got to have it in you.'

'I've got it in me!  I've got it in me!' Simon cried out.

'That's just what I think you haven't.  You want the things AFTER
they're done, not BEFORE.  I know your sort.'  Jim grinned.
'There.  You can have it now!  Yes.  He's blind like Mr. Cromwell.'

Simon caught at it as though he were afraid lest someone should get
it before him.

Jim took a long look at Dorothy.

'I'll do something for you much finer than that one day,' he said.

They were having tea.

Simon, although he had eaten so much at luncheon, could manage very
easily scones with strawberry jam, saffron cake, and rock buns so
new that they were still warm.

But there was a greater fascination for him than food.  He could
not take his eyes from Mr. Cromwell.  That big man and yet not able
to see anything!  Did he feel like ordinary people?  If you touched
him was he just the same all over as everybody else?

Unknown almost to himself he crept nearer and nearer.  No one
noticed him.  Everyone was talking, drinking tea, thinking 'This
has been a nice day, this has!'

Simon had arrived.  He put out his very grubby hand and laid it on
Julius' knee.

Julius started.  'Hullo, who's that?'

'It's me,' Simon said.

Julius' big hand came down on Simon's little one.

'Well--what do YOU want?'

'A piece more of the sugar cake,' Simon said in a husky whisper,
terrified of his mother, who was not far away.  Julius' thigh was
warm and strong and altogether reassuring.  Julius put an arm
around him.

'You're Simon?'

'Yes.'

'That's right.  Enjoyed yourself?'

'Yes.  Thank you.'

'Will you come and see me in my own home one day?'

'Yes, I will--if Mother lets me.'

'Why shouldn't she?'

'She says I'm not to bother.'

'Oh, you won't bother.  I like little boys.  How old are you?'

'Eight and twenty-six days.'

'It isn't too late for me to give you a birthday present.'

Simon was about to say:  'Look what Jim's given me.'  But he
suddenly remembered.  Poor Mr. Cromwell couldn't see ANYTHING!  A
stray impulse of protectiveness commanded his heart.  He felt
exactly as he had felt a week ago when he had seen a small terrier
at the farm that had broken its leg and lay, with helpless eyes, in
a basket.

So, while he ate his cake, he clutched Julius' hand very hard.

Tea was over.  They all prepared to go.  Mrs. Ironing, of course,
made the only tactless remark of the whole afternoon.

'Oh, Mr. Cromwell, I wish you could see!  Then you'd know how happy
we've all been!'

But Julius was delighted.



CHAPTER V

GARTH HOUSE: IN THE GARDEN--IN JULIUS' STUDY--IN MRS. GAYNER'S ROOM


Celia Cromwell found herself in the little wood to the left of the
House and lost in it.

Now, at the end of the real summer, there was a thick pressure from
the trees of leaves about to burgeon into amber, gold, saffron, a
glorious transmutation before death.  She had noticed it before--
that hushed listening pressure of senses before the change--silent,
heavy, ominous as with the passing of a human being.  Death itself
is light, almost careless.  Preoccupation with death is sinister,
as though it were against the law.

The little wood, weighted with darkness, was pierced with shafts
and spears of light.  How ridiculous to be lost in it when it was
so very small and already she knew it so well!  In the very centre
of the little wood was a holly tree that seemed to be more alive
than any tree should be.  The leaves are so dark that they suggest
steel, but the bark is white.  The leaves are fiercely independent,
caring neither for God nor man, but the bark is silk.  The wood of
the holly is so close-grained that in country-made furniture it has
been inlaid to look like ebony, and in its natural state to imitate
ivory.

This tree was shaped into a provocative hostility and, for a
moment, Celia had the foolish fancy that it caught and enveloped
her.  She even looked at her hand to see whether the flesh were
torn.  Ever since she could remember she had suffered from a kind
of claustrophobia, hating to be shut in, to be held by any one or
anything unless she loved.

Now she shook off the imbecility.  Was it to right or left?  With
her arms she brushed some branches aside and burst out on to the
long, smooth, open lawn, green, sparkling, clear under the early
afternoon sun like water.

She stood, without moving, the little trees behind her, gazing on
that open view, with the fields that ran down to the hollow, the
hill that ran up beyond, moving with rhythm like a sloping green
wave of an endless ocean.  She saw Jim Burke, with his back to her,
bending down above a flower-bed that bordered the path in front of
the house.

She moved across the lawn towards him and stood again watching the
strong sturdy figure working with such easy pleasant naturalness.

'Well, Jim,' she said.

He started as though a bird had cried in his ear.  The whole world
had been so very still.  He straightened up and turned to her.

'Planting some chrysanths.'

He wiped the back of his hand on his cheek.  He was hot and his
forehead shone with sweat.

'I might help you if it weren't so hot.'

'The last days of summer.'  He always looked at her with an honest
amused frankness.  He always seemed to find something funny about
her, and that she didn't like.

'I hope you find plenty to do,' she said.

His shirt was open and the hair on his chest was golden and damp.

'Plenty,' he said.  'But I like work.'

'And do you like being with us?'

He grinned.  'I always like where I am for the time being.'

'Do you never mean to settle down to anything?'

'No.  Why should I?  This isn't a world for settling down.  The
settling-down days are over.  There'll be another war soon and then
I'll have a real job to do.'

'Oh, I hope there won't be another war!'

'Of course there will.  It's like turning the soil over before you
plant the new seed.  My father was a parson, you know, and he used
to say:  "Give us Peace in our time, O Lord."  But I say:  "Give us
War, and War until human beings are made to realize the sort of
world there ought to be.  Shove it down our throats and then we'll
realize!"'

She thought of the holly tree.

'That is very fierce of you.  You speak as though you'd had a hard
time.'

'I haven't.  Not at all.  I've enjoyed my life.  It's been just
what I wanted.'

She disliked his self-confidence.

'You're lucky.  Very few of us can say that.'

'That's because most people do what they think they ought to do,
not what they want to do.'

'If everyone always did just what they wanted, everyone would be
miserable.  You have to think of others.'

'Do you?' he said, looking at her and laughing.  'I mean--does
everybody?  Not as I see it.  Everyone's for himself.  It's only
cowardice makes them think of others.'

'What an extraordinary idea!  Don't you believe in the goodness of
anyone then?'

'Oh, I like people!  Everybody, almost.  But that doesn't mean that
I admire them--any more than I admire myself.  Everyone's the same--
look after number one.'

She was suddenly angry.

'Well, I don't agree with you.  I know lots of unselfish people--my
husband, for instance.'

'Mr. Cromwell.  He's different.  I think the world of him.  There's
nothing that I wouldn't do for him.  That's how I feel at present,
anyway.  I may change, of course, and when I do I'll go somewhere
else.'

'Did you like it at Mr. Ironing's?'

She was sure that it was wrong to gossip about her neighbours, but
curiosity drove her on.

'Fred Ironing!' he laughed.  'Oh, he's all right.  You didn't have
to bother yourself with admiring HIM.  We had some times together,
we had--'

'Where have you been in between?'

'Let me see.'  He considered.  'I was steward on a liner for a bit.
Then I helped in a joint in New York.  Then I trekked out to
Hollywood and did Extra work for a bit.  I was valet to a man in
London.  Then I helped with some fishing down at Penzance.'

'What brought you back here?'

'I've never liked any place in the world as much as this.  I used
to think of it over and over again in America.  It's got
everything, this place has--the sea only a few miles away, and the
Moor, and the prettiest little church in England.  I like the
people here too--Fred Ironing and old Mr. Lamplough and Corbin at
the "Three Pilchards" and the kids at the Rectory.'

'Weren't you surprised when my husband took you without knowing
anything about you?'

'No, I wasn't.  He could tell I meant it when I said I would do
anything for him.'  Then he added:  'There, that's enough questions
for one day, isn't it?  I must be getting on with my work.  I
promised Cotterill.'  He turned his back to her and went on with
his gardening.

She laughed.

'Your manners aren't terribly good, are they?'  She heard him
chuckle.

By tea-time she had decided that she would ask Julius to get rid of
him.  There was something she didn't at all like about him.
Besides, he wasn't needed.  They had already Cotterill the
gardener, a gardener's boy, Curtis and Oliphant.  Four males!
Quite sufficient, surely.  What with Mrs. Gayner and all these men
about the house there seemed to be no place for her at all.  If it
came to that, Mrs. Gayner wasn't REALLY needed.  Julius adored her
and was dreadfully under her influence.  One day Mrs. Gayner should
go--but not yet.  She must work slowly and with caution there.  It
was not in her nature, however, to work slowly about anything.
This business of Jim Burke's should be settled at once.

Between six and seven she went into the room that they called the
Study, a foolish name perhaps, but it was Julius' own room where he
had the gramophone, his Braille library, and his own writing-table.
When she came in music filled the room.

'What's that?' she asked, going over and sitting on the arm of his
chair.

'Elgar's Second Symphony.  Shut it off.'

'Not if you want it.'

'I don't want it if you're here.'

'You mean,' she said, laughing, 'I don't like good music.'

'You don't, as a matter of fact.  But what I really mean is that
when you're here I like to talk: I don't want any sound but your
voice.'

She shut off the music, went back to him, kissed him and moved
away.

'I'm not going to sit with you, because there's something I want to
say.'

'Can't you say it just as well if we're together?'

'No.  Because when you're holding my hand I'm weak.  And now I want
to be strong.'

'Go ahead then.'

'First--I hate Daisy Brennan.'

He turned on his side and stared about the room as though he were
looking for her.

'How terrible!  I don't like her very much myself.'

'She hates me, too.  Mrs. Lamplough told me--'

He interrupted her almost harshly.

'Look here, Celia, you're not to listen to a word that woman says.'

'Oh, I know she's a cat--'

'I mean that seriously.  We've come to live in a little village and
villages are full of gossip.  Some people aren't harmed by it, but
you're so made that you take everything seriously.  You must pay
attention to NOTHING!'

'Why, how serious you are!'

'Yes.  I get a sort of warning of things sometimes.  Perhaps it's
being as I am.  I hear more than most people.  Come here!'

She didn't move.

'Come here!  Come here!'

His voice had a crying note in it, of unexpected urgency.

She ran across to him, threw herself on to him, kissed his eyes,
his cheek, his mouth.

'I tease you.  I shouldn't.  It's the worst thing I do.  But I want
you to love me.  I want you to!  I want you to!  I like to hear you
cry out like that!  I mustn't.  I shall tease you once too often!'

After a little while she got up and stood out of his reach.  'No.
What I said is true.  I CAN'T fight for myself when I'm touching
you.  I believe you have twice as much magnetism in your body as
people who can see.'

'We need some compensation.  Come back.  Come back.  I want you.'

'No . . .'

He stretched out his arms.

'No, Julius. . . .  Look here, what do we need to keep Jim Burke
for?'

At that name passion that had filled the room died suddenly from it--
just as a drum on an instant ceases to beat.  In the new silence
their words fell coldly.

'Jim Burke?  Why--what's the matter with him?'

'I don't like him.'

'First Mrs. Brennan, now Jim Burke.'

'Oh, you ARE tiresome!  What I mean is that we don't NEED Jim
Burke.'

'Don't we?'

'We've got Cotterill and Johnny and Oliphant and Curtis.  I know
you want this place to look nice, but surely we don't need Jim
Burke as well as all these other men.'

He leaned right over the fat leather arm of the chair, staring just
a little to the right of her.

'Now--this interests me.  What HAVE you got against Jim Burke?'

'It isn't that I have anything against him.  I simply don't see
what you want him for.'

'I like him.'

'Oh, you can't like him already.  You only met him a week or two
ago.  It isn't as though you could SEE him, and anyway you're not a
woman.  He's awfully good-looking, of course.'

'No, it's not his physical charms,' Julius said, grinning.  'I like
him--that's all.'

'Why do you?' she said tempestuously.  'There's nothing to like
about him.  He's a gentleman by birth.  What's he doing loafing
around--'

'He doesn't loaf.'

'No, I must say he doesn't.  Anyway he's a waster.  In the last two
years he's been every sort of thing from a tramp to gentleman's
valet.  He told me so.'

'Oh--so you've been having some talks with him?'

'I asked him a question or two.  He has the most DREADFUL
reputation, Julius.  When he was with the Ironings no girl in the
place was safe from him.  He's said to be the father of at least
half a dozen children in the village.'

'Said to be!  Said to be!' Julius retorted.  'There you are!
Gossip again!  I know he's not a saint, but I don't want saints to
work for me.  They'd make me feel uncomfortable, not being a saint
myself.'

How maddening and irritating he could be!  Yes, and frightening!
The change was coming that she knew so well, when he passed out of
her reach--with his blind eyes he looked into a room where she was
not.

'It was silly of me,' she said, 'to talk about his character.
You're quite right.  That has nothing to do with it.  The point is
you don't NEED him.'

'That's for me to say.'

'No, it isn't altogether.  It's to do with me a little, too.
You've got all these men about the place AND Mrs. Gayner.  I'M not
wanted.'

She felt a sudden horrid little fear within herself lest he should
suddenly say:  'No.  You're not.'

'If it weren't for you,' he answered slowly, as though he were
counting his words, 'we shouldn't be here at all.  I wouldn't
bother to have a house or servants.  I'd have a room at my club and
sometimes go to sea.'

'And you'd have Oliphant to look after you and be twice as happy as
you are now.'

He shook his head.  'No.  Not MORE happy.  A different kind of
happiness.'

He was gone.  He wasn't in the room at all.  She was alone.  He was
always removed from her as soon as he began to see.  He was seeing
now.

'Then,' she cried, 'you can have your old ship and your room at the
club and Oliphant!  If you don't want me you needn't think--'

He was back in the room again.

'Come here.  Come here,' he said softly.  'Don't be angry so often.
Like a little child. . . .  When I love you so . . . so very, very
much.'

She came to him.


Exactly as eight-thirty struck from the grandfather's clock half-
way up the stairs Violet brought in Mrs. Gayner's supper.  Mrs.
Gayner liked that her meals should be precisely punctual.

Just before Violet's entry Mrs. Gayner had drawn her curtains.  The
sky was dark but luminous, promise of the rising moon.  Stars
silver and virgin shone with a brilliant quiet.  The little
clustered wood lifted its ragged head against the waiting sky.

She saw that the ladder was still outside her window.  Cotterill
had been tending the creeper that covered her side of the house.

She gave the curtains a last loving tug and turned back to the
table.  There was her favourite supper: cold tongue and cold
chicken, a salad, some Stilton, an apple, and a jug of beer.
Violet stood waiting.

'Will that be everything, Mrs. Gayner?'

'No.  As a matter of fact it will not.'

How pretty the girl was!  With her dark hair and rose colouring,
her large black eyes with the black eyelashes, her body held erect
but lightly.  The girl had breeding from somewhere.  She had
impertinence too.  She stood there now, expecting a scolding,
angry, her mouth curved with scorn.

'Oh yes--she thinks I'm an old dumpy woman whom men can't love any
longer--so what's the use of me?'

She showed no temper, however, but said quietly:

'Violet, I have a job in this house just as everyone else has.  And
that job is to see that everything goes along quietly.'

'What have I been doing then?'

'You know well enough.  You were impertinent to Mr. Curtis this
morning when there was no call to be.  It wasn't your place to tell
him to be quicker about his work.'

'Mrs. Cromwell wanted the car and sent me to tell him so.'

'Did she tell you to be rude to him?'

'He doesn't bother with her.  He only thinks of Mr. Cromwell.'

'That isn't true, but even though it were it's none of it your
business.'

'It's my business to see that my mistress is properly served.'

Mrs. Gayner looked at her.  She felt a kindly warmth--she was
little more than a child and so very pretty!  She sat down to her
supper.

'Sit down for a moment, Violet.  I don't mean to be angry.  I know
that Curtis is sometimes irritating.  He's been with Mr. Cromwell
so long and he doesn't like new faces.  But with a girl as pretty
as you he can't be unfriendly long.'

Violet had sat down, but on the very edge of her chair.  Her face
was clouded with sulkiness.  She didn't speak.

'We've all got to get along together,' Mrs. Gayner went on.  'You
haven't been here very long, have you?'

'No, I haven't.'

'It takes time to know people, and this house isn't quite like
others, Mr. Cromwell being blind.'

'I tell you what it is, Mrs. Gayner, there's a lot too much made of
Mr. Cromwell's blindness.  Oh, I know it's an awful thing to be
blind.  I'm sorry for him all right.  But there are plenty of other
people blind.  Look at all the St. Dunstan's men!  Anyway, you'd
think from the way Curtis and Oliphant go on--yes, and yourself
too, Mrs. Gayner--you'd think no one had ever been blind before.'

'It isn't only that Mr. Cromwell is blind,' Mrs. Gayner said
quietly.  'It is that we have become very attached to him.  You
will also when you've been here a little.'

'Oh, he's all right,' the girl said impatiently.  'I've nothing
against him, but it's my mistress I'm thinking of.  You all of you
behave as though she were of no account at all.'

There was a little pause, then Mrs. Gayner said:

'I didn't ask you to stop, Violet, to discuss our mistress and
master.  That's not our business.  All I want to say is that if you
can't behave you'll have to go.'

Violet sprang to her feet.

'Oh, will I?  And who's to have the saying of that?  Am I at your
beck and call or Mrs. Cromwell's?  Mrs. Cromwell seems well enough
satisfied with me, and that's good enough for ME.'

She left the room, banging the door behind her.

Well, really! . . .  Well, really!

Lizzie Gayner ate her supper, but without enjoyment.  In all her
time with Mr. Cromwell such a thing as this had never occurred.
There had been troubles, of course, and girls had been impertinent,
but unless they apologized they went.  There had been little
apology here.

And Mrs. Cromwell?  Would she be behind this impertinence?  The
trouble came from the fact that Lizzie Gayner did not yet know Mrs.
Cromwell.  All that she knew about her was that she was young,
spoilt, impetuous, with a real heart, kindly but probably ill-
judging.

She realized that Violet had conceived for her mistress a passion
and that Mrs. Cromwell was indulging the girl more than was wise.
How Lizzie wished that she had never engaged the girl at all!  She
had hesitated between her and a plain-faced child from Rafiel.
Something had warned her that Violet would be difficult.  Things
were not as easy in this house as she had hoped they would be.  She
did not like this Jim Burke who was under nobody's orders and was a
gentleman really.  She profoundly distrusted gentlemen who were
servants.  It was against nature.

She pushed her tray away from her and sat there thinking.  She must
proceed carefully.  It would never do to complain of Violet to Mrs.
Cromwell and then not be supported.  This would need tact and
knowledge of human nature.

She raised her hand to pull the standard lamp nearer to her so that
she might see well to read, and fancied that she heard a tap on the
window-pane.  No, that it couldn't be.  One of the tendrils of the
creeper. . . .  There was the knock again!  Something told her that
this was a human being.

She stood up, her hand at her breast.  She was frightened.  Then
she shook her head.  No, she was NOT frightened.  She was in God's
hands.  So she went to the window, drew back the curtain and looked
out.  Because of the light in the room she could see very little,
but someone was there, balancing on the top of the ladder.  He was
peering in with his nose against the pane.

She knew who it was.

'Oh God!  God help me!'

She pulled the window open and drew him in.  He jumped on to the
floor.

'Gee, Mother,' he said, 'you do take a time!'

He was a thin man with high shoulders, large bony hands, a face
that was ancient and babyish--a timeless face with light watery
eyes, faint eyebrows, a large mobile mouth, and a small thin nose.
He stood there, peering about him as though he had been living in a
cellar.  He was not a beauty and he was Lizzie Gayner's only son,
Douglas.  She had hold of his arm and the first thing she said was:

'Are the police after you?'

He looked at her with scorn.

'No, of course not.'

His suit, although too big for him, was not shabby, and he wore in
his buttonhole a faded flower.

She held him off, looking at him.  Then she kissed him.

'All right, Mother.  Don't eat me.'

'Where have you been all this while?' she asked sternly.

'What while?'

'It's four months since I heard from you.'

'Well, I couldn't.  I've been moving about!'

'Moving about!'  She spoke scornfully.  'I'm sure you have.  And
now what a nice way to come and see your mother--through the
window.'

'Well, how was I to know?'  He spoke in a whine and you expected
him to put up his arm and shield his face from a blow.  Not that
Lizzie Gayner had ever struck him.  It was his general attitude to
life, that he was one of the strikable.

'You're in a posh position here.  You wouldn't want me coming in at
the front door, would you?'

No, she wouldn't.  She gave a quick look at the door.  No one must,
for the moment, know.

She had seated him by the table, herself close to him.

'He hasn't prosecuted you--Mr. Menzies, I mean?'

'He hasn't caught me.'

'He easily could.  You aren't so difficult to find.  They got the
cigarette-case back and everything.'

'Of course they did--I was a mug.'

'Oh dear, whatever did you do it for?  Such a nice place as you
had, and Mr. Menzies so good to you.'

'That's what I complain of.  If he was so good to me why couldn't
he be a bit better?  He wouldn't let me have the money when I asked
him for it, so, I being in the mess I was, I had to take something,
didn't I?'

'Where have you been all these four months?'

'Oh, moving about!'  He suddenly grinned.  It was the strangest
smile, wicked, tragic, and forlorn.  'I've been on the Halls!  I
have really!  Doing my song and dance.  Listen, Mother!'

And of all things, he moved back and began a shuffling tap-toe kind
of dance and at the same time, with a voice as hoarse as a frog's,
sang something about 'Smile, Smile, and Happy Days are coming!'

She jumped up in alarm.

'Stop!  Stop!  Do you want them all to hear you?'

'Well, I was only showing you.'

He collapsed like a bagpipe and, all huddled up with his shoulders
perched so high that it was almost a deformity, sat leaning over
the table.

'Do you want something to eat?'

'I had a feed at the pub.  I don't mind finishing the beer though.'

He poured it out into her glass and drank greedily.

'How did you know which my room was?'

'I saw you an hour ago looking out of it.  I was standing in that
there little wood.'

'And what do you mean to do now?'

'Stay here for a bit.'

'Oh no!  You can't do that!'

'Not in the house, silly.  In the village.'

In spite of her fears she was pleased.  She loved him and he would
be near her.

'You might get me a job.  Oh, I don't mean to claim relationship.
I don't want you to lose your job.'

'I shouldn't.  Mr. Cromwell would understand.  All the same, it's
better that way.'

She was thinking of Mrs. Cromwell.  If Mrs. Cromwell knew she had a
thief for a son, who was, perhaps, at that very moment being sought
for by the police, it would be awkward for everybody.

'What do you call yourself?'

'Henry Sharp.  That's my stage name.  Don't you forget it.'

'Where are you staying?'

'I'm at the "Three Pilchards."  Got a bedroom that's cheap as
things go.  And that reminds me.  Got any money?'

'Yes.  A little.'

She went across to the little bureau, unlocked a drawer, and
returned with three pounds.

'There!'

He had watched her every movement, his eyes as sharp as a pocket-
knife, although they were watery.

'Thanks, Mother.  And now, so-long!  I'll be seeing you.'

He let her enfold him in her arms.  She stroked his sleek watered
hair.  She held him away for a moment and looked at him anxiously.

'You want feeding up.'

'I'm all right.  So-long.'

When the window was closed and there was silence in the room, she
fell on her knees and began to pray.



CHAPTER VI

THE ROAD TO RAFIEL


Dorothy Brennan had never as yet known a close friend.  Because she
had never gone to school, and because there had never been, in her
lifetime, large families either in or near Garth, she had never
exchanged confidences with anyone of her own age.  She read books
and newspapers, listened to the wireless, and went once a year to a
dance in Polchester.

A horrid girl, older than herself, Sylvia Bond, who stayed for a
while with the Ironings, enlightened her as to the processes of
conception and birth, and offered some pictorial anecdotes of the
behaviour of men under stress when a beautiful young female chooses
to tease them.  None of this entered Dorothy's real world.  She was
not a silly girl: she was not more sentimental and romantic than
any child of her age who has had no friends outside her own family.
She was, for one thing, extremely busy.  When the governess
departed she had to be governess to Simon.  All day long there were
things to be done for her mother.

She adored her mother.  It seemed to her, quite simply, that there
could be no one else in the world so beautiful, so wise, so noble.
That the ladies of Garth should make her their queen seemed to
Dorothy inevitable.  When they visited Polchester and people turned
and looked, Dorothy thought it only the inevitable tribute, not
realizing at all that people turned to look at the slim girl with
the honest eyes and the nobly-carried head, quite as much as the
magnificent woman, her mother.

Dorothy, up to this present time, never thought of herself at all.
No one had ever expected her to think of herself.  Her ideas were
very simple.  She believed in God and, although she admitted to
herself the foolishness of it, still saw Him, a stout old man with
a white beard, sitting on a cloud in the heavens.  His eye was
always upon her and He would have given her up long ago in despair
had it not been for His son, Jesus Christ, who was her friend and
watched over her.

She did not, in fact, feel very remorseful about her sins, because
she had no time to think about them.  So soon as she was in bed at
night she was asleep, and she slept until the bell roused her in
the morning.  But as she never thought of herself, so she never
thought herself either good or wicked.

It was her heart that was for ever engaged.  Her immediate family--
her father, her mother, Gilbert, and Simon--took up all her time,
for if any one of them was unwell or unhappy she could not rest
until everything was right again.  After the family came various
people in the village, the curate, and anyone who was nice to her.
She believed, up to the present, everything that anyone said to
her.

She was still very much of a baby in many things.  She was easily
hurt and tears would come into her eyes, and sometimes she would
retire into her bedroom to cry.  Any little pleasure excited her,
and when they went to The Pirates of Penzance in Polchester she
thought of it, in all its details, for weeks and weeks afterwards.
She loved dearly to read books but had little time for that
extravagance, and one of the very few things that she did not
understand in her mother was that she thought reading 'time
wasted.'

'Now, Dorothy!  I TOLD you to go to the post-office and there you
are reading a silly book!'

Well, it WASN'T a 'silly book.'  It was Vanity Fair.

'I'm reading Vanity Fair, Mother.  I simply love it.'

'Never mind what you're reading.  I want you to go to the post-
office.'

One of the principal characteristics of the Brennan household was
that there was never any money.  Dorothy took this quite naturally.
She had never lived where there was any money.  She did not know
what it felt like to have any.

But she did know that the house and her clothes were with every
swallowing week a little shabbier.  Her mother always looked
magnificent, but her father was not as he should be, nor was
Gilbert, whom she was ever having to patch up.  He was greatly
distressed about his clothes, and that made it the odder that he
should take so little interest in the visit to Polchester to have
his new suit fitted.  He had been very quiet all that day and had
not been excited even over the luncheon at the hotel in the Town
Square.

She loved Gilbert and Simon so passionately that everything that
happened to them happened to herself.  Simon's independent and
completely satisfactory personal life did not admit her, of course,
but she did not wish that it should.  All that she wanted was that
he should be happy, and that he most certainly was.

But Gilbert was altogether another affair.  Gilbert told her
everything, and believed absolutely in her judgement.  It was this
belief in her judgement that sometimes frightened her.  It made her
so very responsible.

Now, quite suddenly, he had said to her:  'Dorothy, Mother doesn't
WANT me to have a good time.  She'd rather I didn't.'

At the moment she made no answer except to say:  'Don't be an ass,
Gillie.'  But that night she did not fall asleep at once, but lay,
listening to the owl hoot and seeing the moonlight shadow with pale
austerity the old red carpet.  She slept always with her window
open and the curtains undrawn.

What was the matter with Gillie?  Ever since the day when he had
been asked to Rafiel, the day when Mrs. Mark had paid her call and
Jim Burke returned, something had been wrong between Gillie and his
mother.  For the first time in her memory Dorothy would not be
sorry when the time came in a fortnight or so for Gillie to return
to school.

Simon was to give trouble too.  On one purple-shadowed afternoon of
early September, Mrs. Brennan appeared in the schoolroom and said:

'Where's Simon?  I've been looking for him everywhere.  I want to
take him into the village.'

There was no Simon, and Dorothy, with a pang of apprehension, knew
where he must be.  There were times when she was frightened of her
mother.  She was frightened now.

'Get him for me, Dorothy.  I haven't much time.'

She said:

'He's not in the house.'

'Not in the house!  What DO you mean?'

'I know where he is.  He's at the Cromwells'.'

'At the Cromwells'? . . .  Was he asked, and if so, why wasn't I
told?'

'He wasn't asked.  He just went.  I'm sure that's where he is.'

'You're only sure?  You don't know, then.  I thought you were
looking after him this afternoon.'

'Yes, Mother.  But Father wanted me to take a message to Mr. Boss--
and while I went Simon disappeared.'

'He may be dead--he may be anything!  It's awful his going to the
Cromwells' when they don't want him.  What were you thinking of,
Dorothy?  You could have taken him across the street with you.
What's come to you, all of you?  Gillie looks at me as though he
hates me, you lose your head, even Simon wants to be with those
Cromwells all the time!'

Mrs. Brennan came close to her daughter.  Her face was white.  She
was shaking.

They looked at one another and it was as though Dorothy said:  'I
love you.  Don't be angry with me.  There's nothing I won't do for
you.  I, too, realize that something has happened.'

Mrs. Brennan looked out of the window, then turned and left the
room.

Dorothy felt an awful desolation.  She had betrayed the trust in
her.  She should have gone at once to the Cromwells' and found
Simon there.  She ought to go now, but she did not, for out of the
window she saw Simon, his hand in that of old Wallace the gardener,
pointing excitedly to a bonfire beyond the lawn that Wallace was
making.

So Simon had not gone to the Cromwells'.  Why had she not tried to
find him?  Some anger in her mother's face had paralysed her, made
her stupid.  She ran out of the room and found her mother, her hat
still on, seated writing a letter.  She flung her arms around her
and kissed her.

'Mother, it's all right.  Simon's out in the garden with Wallace.
Shall I call him in?'

But her mother did not respond.  Her lovely cheek was cold.

'Never mind, Dorothy.  Never mind.  But you ought to look after him
better than that.  Now run away, dear, I'm writing a letter.'

Dorothy went out and started walking down the road to Rafiel.  One
of those moments had come to her that come to all of us, when,
without warning, the fancied walls of security are removed and life
is revealed as a menacing enemy.  Her mother did not care for her
any more.  Simon preferred the gardener.  Gillie was in a dreadful
state of rebellion.  She did not know what to do, nor where to go.
She was icebound by a dreadful loneliness.  She could get at
nobody: nobody could get at her.

Why had she said that Simon had gone to the Cromwells'?  Why was
she for ever thinking of the Cromwells?  Why had her mother been so
cold and unresponsive?  Why was her mother angry with Gilbert?  How
could she bring the two of them together again?

She saw nothing as she walked.  She knew that she was near to tears
and was determined that she would not cry.  She stopped for a
moment and looked over the hedge to the faint early September sky,
coloured around the sun with the burnished gold of the breast of a
kingfisher.  Everywhere else it was too brilliantly full of light
to have colour.  She looked at the sky, smelt the air, which seemed
to her to have a cold blackberry freshness in it, and her
unhappiness, her loneliness left her.  Unhappiness belonged to the
past, never the future.

She saw a cottage and someone picking flowers from the rose-bushes
near the gate.  The cottage was Copley's Cottage and the lady
picking flowers was Mrs. Mark.  Dorothy did not know whether she
would pass on, and then Mrs. Mark saw her.  She straightened
herself up and shaded her eyes against the burnished sky.

'Why, it's Dorothy Brennan.'

'Yes,' said Dorothy, smiling.

'Come in.  Come in.  And soon we'll have some tea.'

Dorothy came into the little garden and stood there rather shyly.
She did not know Mrs. Mark very well.

'Thank you.  But I mustn't stay to tea.  I've got to get back and
look after Simon.'

'Stay a minute or two anyway.'  Mrs. Mark went into the porch and
produced two very faded deck-chairs.  'I think they'll hold us.  I
found them here when I took over.  It will be nice to rest for five
minutes.  Aren't I lucky, looking on the road as I do?  I can pick
up people like you as they go by.'

'Aren't the motors tiresome?'

'To be frank, I thought the motors would beat me.  But they don't.
There are no corners just here and so they hoot scarcely at all.
And I've had the very worst of it, the real tourist time.  There'll
be many less after September.'  She leant forward.  'I'll tell you
a secret, Dorothy.  No one else knows it.  I rather like to see
people rushing about enjoying themselves.'

'I suppose when you were here as a child you were VERY cut-off.'

'We were indeed.  Going to the sea to Rafiel was a whole day's
expedition.  We'd start off quite early in the morning, and Sleath
Hill was a terrible business.  We went in every year to the Feast
in a waggonette, and how that waggonette creaked down the hill; you
could hear it miles away!'

'The Feast's all spoilt now.  It's become all trippery.'

'Yes, and Rafael's spoilt too, I expect.  I dare not go there.  But
as I remember going in to the Feast in March it used to be so
beautiful.  In spite of the Methodist Chapel with 1870 stamped on
it, there was the valley stream making little chuckling noises.
Then, before every house there was a garden filled at that time of
the year with daffodils, primroses, hyacinths; there would be a
forge full of fire, and then that sudden wonderful view of the sea!
The bridge, the harbour, the houses rising one above the other on
the rock.  All so wild, and the Peak, guarding the little bay, the
two streams tossing over the harbour ridges, and all the boats of
the fishing fleet rocking as though to a dance-tune, and a flurry
of gulls overhead. . . .  No, no!  I wouldn't dare go back.  I
don't believe I ever shall!'

'Yes, it's all spoilt,' Dorothy said mournfully, 'even I can see
that!  There's a great big garage in the middle of the village and
"Ye Olde Tea Shoppes" everywhere, and "Bed and Breakfast" in every
window.  The motor-buses and cars are everywhere.  Nobody minds,
though--it doesn't matter if nobody minds, does it?'

'I don't know,' Mrs. Mark said.  'I never can be sure.  It cuts
both ways.  Everyone can enjoy beautiful places now, but if too
many people enjoy them they aren't beautiful places any more.  So
there you are!'  She added:  'I must say, Garth isn't changed one
scrap.'

'Oh, isn't it?  I'm glad.'

'No.  It's almost frightening.  I walk about and find two lots of
people with me all the time--the dead people and the living ones.
The funny thing is that at present the dead people are very much
more alive than the living ones.  For I haven't got to know anyone
here very well yet.  Especially my sister Millie seems to be
everywhere with me.'

'Did you love her very much?'

'Very much.  She was delightful.  I'll never forget the day she
came back from Paris, where she had been living quite a long time.
We were all waiting to receive her--it was in London--grandfather,
our great-aunt in a white feather boa, father, mother, Henry, our
two aunts, my dear Philip, and myself.  That was before I had
married Philip, of course.  There she stood in the doorway, looking
so lovely, the darling!  I remember she was wearing a smart black
hat with a blue feather.  I remember my mother saying:  "It must be
nice to be home again, Millie dear."  That was so characteristic of
all of us!  We couldn't imagine but that London and England, and
especially our family, MUST be nicer than any other country, town,
or family in the world.  And when Mother said that, I caught a look
in Millie's eyes which showed me that she was cosmopolitan now,
that she'd never be the same again as she was before she went
away! . . .  Oh dear, it is as though it were yesterday. . . .  And
then she and I went up to her room alone together.  And at once she
asked me about Philip, whom, of course, she'd never seen before.
"My dear, who's that nice-looking man?"  That's what she said!  And
I was so pleased that she called him nice-looking.  Oh dear, and
I'm over sixty and they are all gone--all gone!'  Her eyes were
dim.  She blew her nose.

Dorothy was enchanted.  No one had ever talked to her like this
before.  Mrs. Mark spoke to her as though she were grown-up and,
better than that, as though she trusted her.

'I'm longing to grow, up,' she said, 'really grow up.  Of course
I'm proud of helping Mother, though.  Were you proud of helping
your mother?'

'No.  I'm afraid I wasn't.  Not after Philip appeared.  You wait,
my dear, until suddenly somebody--'

'Oh, I shall never be married,' Dorothy said.  'I've got to look
after Gillie and Simon until they go to College, anyway, and then
there are so many things to do in the house.  We haven't very much
money, you know.  You mustn't tell anyone--although I suppose
everyone in the village is fully aware of the fact!'  Dorothy shook
her head.  'Don't you think it's a shame that Father should be paid
so little when he works so hard?  Anyway it's a shame for Mother,
and I know she felt it the other day when we went to that lovely
picnic.  I'd never seen such lovely food in my life before--nor had
Gillie and Simon.'

'Yes, it WAS a nice picnic,' Mrs. Mark said.

Dorothy, now thoroughly happy, went on:  'Isn't it strange what a
difference Mr. Cromwell has made to everybody by just coming to
live here?'

'What kind of a difference?'

'Everyone's changed.  I don't know why.  Simon, for instance, has
gone simply mad about him.  We can't keep him at home.  He goes
slipping off and just turns up at the Cromwells' house.  Isn't it
awful, when they haven't asked him or anything?  I thought at first
it was Jim Burke he was after.  He's working there now.  But it
isn't.  It's Mr. Cromwell.  He's simply fascinated by him.'  Her
forehead was puckered.  She sighed.  'The boys are a terrible
responsibility.'

'Are they?'

'Yes, you see--Gillie's sweet but he believes everything I say, and
I often say the wrong thing.  And now--'

She paused.

'Oh, well, I don't know whether I ought to say anything.  But I've
been very worried and there isn't anybody--'

Katherine Mark laid her hand for a moment on Dorothy's knee.

'I'm such an old woman you can tell me anything.  You don't know
how many secrets I've had to keep in my time!'

'No, I expect you have,' Dorothy said, looking at her with intense
admiration.  'It all began the day Simon saw Mr. Cromwell for the
first time.  He saw him walking in the village and when I told him
he was blind he couldn't get over it.  And at the same time'--
Dorothy nodded her head at this as though it were terribly
important--'I saw the postman going into our house and he had a
letter from some people asking Gillie to spend the day with them at
Rafiel.  Gillie wanted to go most dreadfully, because they were the
father and mother of his best friend, but Mother had arranged to
take Gillie into Polchester that same day to have his new suit
tried on.  In the ordinary way Gillie would have gone with Mother,
but this time he wouldn't change and Mother was awfully hurt.'

'Why was she hurt?' Katherine Mark asked.

'Well, of course she was!  Gillie ought to have done what she
wanted.'

'Couldn't she have changed her day for going into Polchester?'

'That's what she did do, but even then Gillie was sulky about it
and wouldn't thank her or anything.  And he hasn't been the same
since.  Mother's most awfully hurt.  And I feel in a sort of way
it's my fault.'

'No, of course it isn't your fault.'

'Well, I don't know.  You see, Mother expects me to look after the
boys.  It's my job.  I love Gillie more than anybody except Father
and Mother and Simon, of course.'

'I see.  Can't your father do anything about it?'

'No.  Father's always so dreadfully busy.'

'I see.'

There was a little pause.  Then Dorothy said:

'Mrs. Mark, what makes the real difference between people?'

'How do you mean?'

'It seems to me that, although people are all different from each
other, of course, there's another difference.  I can't explain.'

'I think the great difference is whether people are generous-
hearted or not.  I don't mean whether people just give money away
or not, but whether their hearts are generous or mean.  Whether
they'll take risks and be generous in ideas, in love, in trust, in
optimism, in not wanting to own the people they love, in defending
their friends if they're attacked--ready to lose their souls, you
know, unselfishly, and so gain them.  Some people, although they
seem very pleasant, are mean and greedy.  They won't give away a
thing.  They won't have a generous view about anything.  They want
to assert their power.  They want to be safe and rich.  They're
cautious about everything.  I think that's the REAL difference in
human beings.  Of course some people are clever and some are
stupid, some are well educated and some are not, some are beautiful
and some are ugly, some are lucky and some unlucky.  But none of
that REALLY matters.  It's the generous-hearted who see God--now,
just as it was thousands of years ago.'  She laughed.  'There, my
dear, I've been preaching a sermon, but you asked me, you know.'

'Thank you very much,' Dorothy said warmly.  'I'd never thought of
that.'  She got up and looked gravely in front of her.

'I'm afraid I'M not very generous-hearted, but I shall try to
be. . . .  Oh, damn!  There's a ladder in my stocking!'  She twisted
her head to see the back of her leg.  'And I shouldn't have said
"Damn," either.'

Mrs. Mark kissed her.

'I shouldn't worry about that.  I'm so glad I caught you.  Come and
see me whenever you like.'

'Oh yes, I will. . . .  Thanks most awfully.'

She was rather shy, as she always was when she felt anything
deeply.  When she was in the road she looked back and waved her
hand.


She had made a new friend.  When she thought of her friends she
always began with Jim Burke.  After that she was at a loss, not
because she had no other friends, but because she liked everyone in
general and no one in particular.

She thought everyone was 'awfully nice.'  She smiled, and they
smiled.  She said, 'Isn't the weather horrid?' or 'What a ripping
day!' and they said, grinning, 'Yes, dear,' or, if they were of the
village, 'Yes, miss' or 'Yes, Miss Dorothy.'

Walking along she discovered this curious fact--that she had no
friends.  You couldn't call Miss Vergil one, or Mrs. Lamplough, or
Mr. Ironing, or Phyllis Lock, or Mrs. Boss the butcher's wife, or
Mr. Teak the stationer.  She liked them as, until now, she had
liked everything and everybody.  But now--what had happened to her?

She stood looking about her, as though she were seeing a new world.
On the day of the picnic something . . . something . . .  She
recalled things.  She remembered Jim Burke saying he would make her
something really good one day.  And she remembered looking across
the table-cloth while they were having tea and noticing that Simon
had his hand on Mr. Cromwell's knee.  Her impulse had been to go
quietly and take Simon away, but there had been something in Mr.
Cromwell's expression, in his gazing, abstracted face, his yellow
hair, his large, strong, casual body, that had caught her
imagination.  He LIKED Simon to be there, and he was moving,
because of his blindness, in some wonderful country where none of
those around him could follow him.

So she, at that moment when Jim Burke had looked at her, at THIS
moment in the garden with Mrs. Mark, had begun to move into some
new country.  New forces were stirring in her--forces that made her
feel radiantly happy, so that she could sing and dance down the
road, and hug the first person who came along.

A gate from a field opened and shut with a click and, turning, she
saw a man.  Was he a man or a boy?  A man.  Wearing a rather shabby
mackintosh that reached to his feet.  He moved with an odd quick
shuffle and she saw that his face was pale and sharp, with small
restless eyes.

All these things she noticed because at once, without thought or
reason, she hated him.  So badly did she hate him that she looked
and saw that she had yet quite a piece of country road to cover
before the outskirts of the village began.

He shuffled along and spoke to her.

'Fine day, miss!'

'Yes,' she said, looking straight in front of her.

'I've been for a walk--over the fields and far away!'  He half sang
the last part of the sentence.  He had a husky speaking voice, as
though he were always a little breathless.

'I say, miss, you might tell me.  I haven't been here long.  Are
you resident here?'

'Yes, I am.'

He dropped his voice confidentially.  He was walking quite close to
her.

'Why, to tell you the truth, miss, I know who you are.  I won't try
to deceive you.  Why should I?  You're the Rector's daughter--the
Reverend Mr. Brennan.  That's right, isn't it?'

'Yes, I am.  If you don't mind, I'm in a hurry.'

'That's all right, miss, I quite understand.  But you might tell me
all the same if you know of any job round here.'

'No, I don't.'

'I'm very adaptable.  I am really.  I can sing AND dance, I've been
on the Halls.  It's truth I'm telling you, and my turn was popular
too.  But it's wearing work.  Always on the move.  So I thought I'd
settle here for a bit--quiet-like.'

He was so close to her that she thought for a horrible moment that
he would put his hand on her arm.  His teeth were bad and a faint
breath came from him like the distant odour of bad cheese.

She was walking so fast that she was almost running, but he kept
pace with her very easily, shuffling along and now and then giving
a little skip.

'I could be a servant to a gentleman.  Perhaps your reverend father
could do with some assistance.  Or I could write his letters for
him.  I'm handy at letters.'  He drew in his breath with a little
whistling sound.  'Your father would like me.  I'm a wonder for
stories and I'd always respect the cloth.  Oh, I know what's what.
I've been about the world a bit.  One day, if you care for it,
miss, I'll do my song and dance for you, same as I do on the
Halls!'

How she hated him!  He was to her like something out of a dream.
In another moment he would touch her.  He must not, he must not!

Someone passed them slowly on a bicycle.  It was Jim Burke!  She
cried out:  'Jim!  Jim!'  He looked back, he got off his bicycle
and came towards her, grinning.  The strange man touched his hat,
muttered something, and shuffled off to the other side of the road.

Jim reached her side.

'Hullo!  What are YOU doing?'

She was breathless.  She caught his arm, pressed it as though to
thank him, then dropped it again.

'Oh, Jim, I'm so glad! . . .  No, it's nothing.  But that strange
man spoke to me and I didn't like him!'

'Did he, by blazes!'

Jim Burke looked after him.

'No.  He didn't do any harm.  He only asked me if I knew of any job
anywhere.  He says he's staying in the village.'

'He won't be here long if he makes trouble.  I'll see to that!'

She was perfectly happy again, walking along beside him.

'How are you, Jim?  Do you like it at the Cromwells'?'

'Certainly I do.  He's a grand man, he is truly.'

'And what's she like?'

'Oh, she's funny.  A bit wild, I fancy.  But I like her all right.'

'I'm very glad.  That means you'll be staying here.'

'I'll be staying if YOU want me to!'

Dorothy laughed.  'Of course I do.  We all want you to.  We missed
you like anything when you were away.'

'Did YOU miss me?'

'Of course I did.'

'That's fine.  How's your father?'

'He's all right.  There's SUCH a lot to do in the village.'

'I bet there is.  I'll be coming in to have a chat with him one
day.'

They had reached the first houses.  He got on to his bicycle, waved
his hand, and rode ahead.



CHAPTER VII

GARTH HOUSE: IN JULIUS' STUDY


Julius Cromwell's Journal

September 5.--I began a Journal once, I remember, in hospital when
I was well enough to amuse myself.  I had just learned that I would
be blind as long as I lived.  I wasn't unhappy.  It seemed an
exciting new experience and everybody was so kind to me.  I was
revelling in a new sense of touch.  There was a nurse whose hands
were miraculous.  I daresay she was hideous.  I never knew.  But I
remember touching the cool firm edge of her palm and the sensation
was as exciting as though I had all her body in my arms.  I
remember thinking:  'I shan't go searching now for women who are
beautiful and finding them but rarely.  Any woman who is kind and
has smooth skin and isn't too fat and soft . . .'  I was very
young.  I was young enough to have said to Alfredson:  'I'm
beginning to believe Beethoven has been over-praised,' just before
I took that moment's look over the top and got the bullet that
blinded me.  I was awfully well that day.  No indigestion.  No
constipation.  Light in the eyes, the mouth, the heart, the
bowels. . . .  Light!  My God.  Light!  For the very last time.
Had I only known, I would have taken in every last detail of that
hateful desert, the blue sky and the filthy soil.  Every last grain
of dust I would have taken in.

Now I'm writing melodrama.  'Take it quietly, my son,' is what the
doctor said before he operated.  I did and I will.

I have always wanted to write.  That's why I keep this Journal.
I've read almost nothing in the last twenty years.  I hate being
read to.  Reading Braille is somehow for me not amusing.  The
writer in Braille has to be so damned swell.  Shakespeare, Dickens,
and a Braille anthology of poetry.  But I have found that there are
other things I enjoy more.

I kept up the other Journal for a long time.  I was twenty years
younger then.  I stopped when I married.  I used to tell Elinor
everything, so why write?  After her death I began again, and went
on until I met Celia.  Then I stopped.  I was too happy to go on.
Now I've begun again.  Does that mean, then, that I'm unhappy?  No.
That something's wrong?  Not quite.  But nearly.  It isn't working
out as I expected.  This house isn't.  Celia isn't.  I'm not.

What is happening?

Well, then, to begin with, I am in a way obsessed by my blindness.
After twenty years I perhaps oughtn't to be.  But, in a way, I am
obsessed more than I was twenty years ago, and I believe that that
is true of everyone who is blind, whether they will admit it or no.

I have repeated IN A WAY because THAT is the point.

What kind of a man was I before the War?  Not a man, but a boy.
Physically very strong and loving to excel at games, keeping myself
fit for them, never having a woman, drinking very little, that
ascetic corporeal life whose origins are Greek, whose business
development is British.

But I felt, behind this, that I was some sort of an artist.  I
never mentioned this to anybody except when once, a boy of fourteen
at Eton, in love with Headley, I told him.  And how he laughed!  He
shamed me out of a lot of it, but not out of music.  Young as I was
I realized that neither he nor anyone else could touch that.  And
yet I refused to learn the piano.  I think I had a sort of
foreknowledge that I'd only be a tenth-rate amateur and that that
was a sort of insult to Beethoven and Bach.  The same with writing.
I remember that I got an alpha plus at Eton for an essay on
'Cromwell after Naseby.'  For a little while I thought that I would
be an historian or a novelist.  No.  There again, an insult to
Shakespeare, Keats, and Cervantes.

Queerly enough, I never cared very much about reading.  And then I
had all my games--Squash, Tennis, Rugger--good fun while it lasted.

I didn't mind the War, did I?  Honestly I liked the reality of it--
the reality of friendship, comradeship, fear, boredom.  I was
planning what I would do after it.  I knew that I would have plenty
of money through my father's steel.  Money made out of war.  I
planned to create a kind of perfect workman's Paradise.  To give
myself heart and soul to that, to bring up my sons to the true
Utopian Socialism.  And I would marry a woman who cared also for
those things.

September 8.--The greatest division between men is, I think,
whether they are conscious of their individuality or no.  I'm sure
that we'll be fighting for this same individuality sooner or later,
so we may as well be aware of what it means.

If I were not blind I should scarcely have time to stop and think,
and so it is, I suspect, with millions of people everywhere, but
BEING blind there's almost nothing that I like so much.  For
blindness has placed me for twenty years altogether apart from
other men.  Only Elinor and Lizzie Gayner in my whole world have
understood that they must come to me.  I cannot go to them.  This
is not egotism or conceit.  It is a law.  It is as though I were in
a cage.  This Celia cannot understand.

But it is a cage that, for myself (and only myself), opens into a
new world of light and infinity.  I have for twenty years now been
constantly tempted to explore this new mysterious world that my
blindness has opened for me.  I go a little way and then retrace my
steps, BECAUSE THE FURTHER I GO THE MORE DEEPLY REMOVED I AM FROM
THOSE I LOVE.  I have underlined this (a little crookedly I expect)
because this is the cause of the trouble between Celia and me.  We
love one another, but she wants to possess me totally.  My blindness
eludes her.  Both her heart and her pride are frightened. . . .

September 11.--There has been a stupid little scene.  I suppose
Celia and I are in the wrong.  For some weeks now little Simon
Brennan, aged eight, has taken it into his head to come over here.
The fact is that ever since a day when I gave a picnic by Sizyn
Church I have fascinated him.

It began with his surprise at my blindness.  He did not conceive it
possible that there could be anyone who could not see.  Then I
became fond of him.  I always liked children, but after my
blindness they became very dear to me, for the tactfulness, the
thoughtfulness of children to me is astonishing.  It is one of the
things for which I am most grateful.

Simon has been like a kitten or a puppy tumbling over me.  He turns
up quite suddenly.  I hear his voice at my knee.  'Hullo, Mr.
Cromwell!'  For some reason or other he always declares himself in
a whisper as though we had some kind of mysterious pact together.
I say 'Hullo.'  He then climbs on to my thigh with my assistance
and kisses me.  I understand that in general he hates to kiss or be
kissed, but he kisses me enquiringly, with a kind of lingering
wonder as to whether I am really true flesh and blood.  Then I put
him down and he begins on his own affairs, happy and independent.

I hear him hissing or chuckling and he will suddenly say something
like:  'Cheese is twopence today, Mr. Brown.'  Once I overheard him
indignantly come out with 'You dirty bastard,' so I chided him,
asked him where he heard such things.  Apparently from Jim Burke.
I asked him did he know what the word meant.  He said, of course he
did, and that a bastard was a bird that lived in hot countries and
waited until you were dead to pick your bones.  'A dirty bird!  A
dirty bird!' he went round the room shouting as a kind of warlike
challenge.

Celia and I, honestly, are already devoted to him.  He has an
honest courageous independence beyond all praise.  We'll have one
like him ourselves one day.  We've done wrong, though, to keep him,
not to send him home.  For myself, I supposed that he came with the
full approval of his parents.  Not so, however.

Yesterday afternoon about three he arrived, kissed me and went off
with Jim Burke into the garden.  Half an hour later Celia had given
me a hug, preparatory to going off to tea with the Ironings, was
making sure that I was all right, when--Mrs. Brennan is announced.

She comes in full sail.  I could tell at once from the little
sounds she made that she was indignant, and I couldn't help
thinking of the arrival of Mr. and Miss Murdstone in Betsey
Trotwood's cottage.

'Where's Simon?' she said at once, as though we had kidnapped him.
I did the wrong thing.  I laughed.

She turned on me.  'It's all very well for you to laugh, Mr.
Cromwell, but it is really past a joke.  The child is always
disappearing, without a word to any of us, and it's here that he
comes.'

I was at once apologetic and conciliatory.  I said that we had done
very ill, but that in fact we thought that he came here with his
parents' knowledge.  He liked the house and the garden.

'Not at all,' she broke in.  'It's you that he likes, Mr. Cromwell.
He's mad about you.'  Everything might then have been well.  She
approves of me for some reason or other.  But Celia burst in with
something about our naturally supposing that Mrs. Brennan knew
where he was.  We should never imagine that so young a child would
be allowed to wander off just as he pleased.

And that set Mrs. Brennan off.  Mrs. Cromwell hadn't any children
and therefore would naturally not understand the modern child.
Then the two ladies were at it, icily polite, their voices packed
with dynamite.  In the middle of this, Simon innocently arrived
with his cheerful sentence about 'the dirty bastard.'  It was of no
use my saying that he thought it was a bird.  The damage was done.
Mrs. Brennan dragged Simon away and Celia made herself sick with
laughing.

The real pity is that we shan't have Simon any more.  If he does
arrive he must be sent at once home again.

September 13.--Sitting alone and thinking, I have a number of what
seem to me marvellous convictions.  For instance, that the Saint is
the only human being that knows real happiness.  That if only I can
become unselfish enough, undetached enough, I will solve the
mystery of living.  It is there waiting for me.  I know the key
that will unlock it.  I possess the key and yet I am too lazy or
too preoccupied to apply it.  That love of one's fellow man, of
one's enemies, of the people that bore one, is essential if one is
to learn anything about life at all.

I write these down and they are the oldest platitudes.  All in the
New Testament, put much better.  And yet, as I sit here alone, and
one of them hits me, I'm inclined to jump up and shout:  'By Jove--
THAT'S what it all means!' as one does under an anaesthetic.  It's
as though someone were for ever whispering in your ear:  'Come on.
Stir your stumps.  Start on your journey.  WHY don't you start?'

September 14.--Old Lamplough in to tea today.  A rum old bird,
always speaking as though his mouth were full of cold potato.  He
told me today that his great private pleasure is Shakespearian
research.  He tells no one of it.  He has volume after volume of
notes but intends never to publish any of it.  He delves in the
obscurer plays.  None of your Hamlets for him.  No.  He has been
more than a year now over The Two Gentlemen of Verona.  He is at
present delving into the psychology of Proteus!  Hard gemlike flame
of austere scholarship for its own sake.

He told me he had been reading a recently published autobiography
of a great scientist.  A long book, some six hundred pages, for
many years eagerly expected by the world.  But the scientist says
almost nothing of his discoveries, his adventures with scandalized
Puritans, his correspondence with other scientists, his friendships
with his fellow pioneers, but for five hundred pages maunders on
about his love for his second-rate, hysterical, domineering wife,
giving many silly love letters, praising her madly but obviously
finding much more comfort and happiness with her successor!  This
is Lamplough's disgusted description.

How well, though, I can understand the fellow!  Were Celia dead and
I a great man writing my autobiography it would be filled with
Celia.  What achievement, what discovery, what acquaintance with
great men can compare for a single instant with a great love?  Now
about Elinor there would be in my autobiography very little.  Yet
how good she was, how happy we were, how she guarded and protected
me, how grateful I was and am!

It was, I suppose, just because this wife of his was difficult and
unsatisfactory and hysterical that the scientist was obsessed by
her, never reaching the peace and security that he thought he
longed for.

So with Celia.  She is NOT second-rate.  She has something in her
of the finest and noblest.  But I have perhaps done her the
greatest injustice by marrying her.  I am for ever haunted by this.
Too young she was to realize what marriage to a blind man must
mean.  Only now, since we came to this house, is she beginning to
realize it.  Most truly does she love ME but NOT my blindness.
That she HATES.  She is too young, too vital to be intimate with
any impotence, any disfigurement.  She loves me all the more
because I am blind, but she cannot COHABIT with my blindness.  She
loves to protect, to mother me, but AT THE SAME TIME she wants me
to be free, to be a strong able man and TO BE ALWAYS WITH HER IN
SPIRIT.  I escape her when I am adventuring into the world that my
blindness has made for me and THAT ONLY BLIND MEN CAN ENTER.

She doesn't analyse any of this.  She is too young to analyse.  She
only knows what she wants, what she feels.  At present she is an
egotist because of her youth.  The only egotists who are disgusting
are the mature egotists.  Perhaps mature egotism, whatever
achievements it leads to, is the real sin against the Holy Ghost.

Elinor understood my inevitable APARTNESS.  So does Lizzie Gayner.
And I THINK the nice Mrs. Mark who once lived in this house.  But
that is because they have all deeply suffered.  Celia has not
SUFFERED in any deep sense at all.  She has only sometimes been
frustrated or been made to wait.  Everything has yet to happen to
her, and it is through me that it will happen.  Sometimes, when I
am depressed, I think it may be ruin for us both if we are BOTH not
fine enough.

I am amused with myself for being as bad as Queen Victoria in
underlining, and I daresay that my lines go right through the
words, making it all null and void.

No matter.  This Journal has a lock and key.  NO EYES will ever
read these words.  I cannot tell, looking back, what I have
written.  It clears my brain, though--the double brain, the seeing
brain that is blind, the blind brain that is beginning to see new
things.

September 18.--A morning of the most desperate depression
yesterday.  I was removed, far removed, from all human beings.  I
wanted none of them.

Celia as yet cannot leave me alone.  If I am lost and bewildered
and away from everyone, she thinks that it is with her that I am
hurt.  It must be with HER that I am hurt!

And so last night I told her, having her in my arms, that she must
realize, once and for all, that I am MAIMED for life, that when
that bullet hit me it not only killed my sight but also did me some
general damage--my soul, my mind, my body.  Upon that she protested
that it was not so, that it was exactly that morbid idea of myself
that I must conquer.  That I BROODED and was too much alone
thinking about myself.  That she would take me out of myself,
wouldn't allow me to brood, and so on.  That I listened all by
myself to that stupid music far too much.  That I was far too self-
centred, and that often she must say things twice over before I
would answer her.  She HATED to see me sitting in my chair, not
speaking, not smiling.  If I allowed myself to brood it would grow
on me.  And so on.  Oh God, and so on!

Very quietly, and I hope lovingly, I tried to show her that it was
NOT brooding nor melancholy, but only love of following my own
thoughts.  That I had been blind for twenty years now and that
naturally I lived often inside my own mind, but that my doing so
did not mean that I loved her less or was angry or unhappy.

She made love to me then with a kind of ferocity, as though she was
determined to make sure that I was really there.  Did she, after
all, make sure?  Is skin and bone enough?

My depression yesterday morning was a return of the mood that I got
sometimes in the trenches--that we all got--that the war was going
on for ever--but really for ever as far as our personal lives were
concerned--year after year, and year after year, and we, all of us,
at last dead.  Some few survivors perhaps advancing out of the
trenches, half blinded, into the devastated open.

Jim Burke reads for an hour every morning bits out of the papers
for me.  He does it very well, with sense and humour.  I can see
very clearly that another world war is inevitable and that it will
be more devastating than the last, simply because, for all of us,
our resources will be fewer.  After a year or two our civilization
really will be smashed.  And then what?  And why so horrified?  It
has happened often enough before.

But what a fate!  A blind man sitting in his chair as chaos creeps
like a fog across the garden towards him.  I thought of Celia, so
lovely, so young--and perhaps our son.  But beyond them this lovely
world that I still see in retrospect, night skies scattered with
stars, and the line of the foam on a marbled shore, and this first
musty-cold scent of chrysanthemums.

I was in despair all morning.  I sat there with my hands folded
waiting for some kind of sound announcing destruction.

And then Celia rushed in and thrust a chrysanthemum under my nose
and my hand closed about that wet, papery texture. . . .  That
other tug at my brain began to work.  'Follow me.  Let yourself go.
There's a solution to all this and the solution is in yourself.  Be
yourself enough and lose yourself in love of others, and chaos is
meaningless.  Chaos is the background.  The movement is all with
YOU, not with civilization.  You ARE civilization, and your sons
and your sons' sons.'

Celia at lunch said that she was wearing a fawn jacket with ruby
buttons, and that she had put it on for me.  She was right.  I
could SEE the buttons and the jacket open on either side of her
neck, and her curls on her round hard boy's head, and the
chrysanthemums, pale, she told me, almost the colour of wash-
leather gloves, and my happiness sailed up like a fish from
translucent depths, cleaving its path like a knife, and then
feeling the sun between its fins.

I catch her hands: I feel her standing, her heart thumping.  I know
her eyes are on my face, serious, enquiring like a child's.  I hold
her close to me, her head against my beating heart.  Our two selves
meet then as scattered mercury runs to one piece.  Our lips cannot
separate, for our conscious selves are not there to tell them to
part, but are far away lying dreaming together in an ecstasy.
Celia, Celia, at such times I am not afraid of my age, my
blindness, my lonely questioning pursuit. . . .

September 22.--Sometimes Celia and I are both together and at the
same time completely childish.  There is an extraordinary lightness
that comes from light or good digestion, or a fine sleep.  I don't
know.

Celia has the gift especially.  Even though she had been having a
row with someone half an hour before, she will quite suddenly throw
it off completely.  I never knew anyone who begs pardon and says
she is sorry so easily--a thing I find it dreadfully hard to do.
She has one of the finest gifts the gods can give us--the ability
to see the other person's point of view.  'You were quite right to
be upset about that.'  She has no meanness or sulkiness.  She
simply falls out of one mood into another with no self-
consciousness whatever.'

The day began with the sudden appearance of Simon Brennan.  He
stood in his blue smock quietly beside Celia quite a long time
without her realizing it.  She was writing letters before going
into the village.  When she saw him she tried to scold him
severely, and said he must go straight back home again.  Upon which
he whispered to her confidentially that his mother and Dorothy had
gone to Polchester for the day to see Gilbert back to school and do
some shopping.

So there seemed to be no harm in leaving him with me, for the
morning.  As usual he amused himself with old volumes of the
Illustrated London News.  He lies, I understand, flat on his
stomach on the floor and then describes to me the pictures.

For instance:  'There's three ladies with very big dresses giving a
dog some sugar.  There's a clock and fans on the wall, and a tree
in a pot.  The room's ever so full.'

He believes that he is performing a very useful function for me--
MAKING ME SEE.

I was still under the influence of Celia's light-heartedness or I
would have been distressed perhaps by two things.

Lizzie Gayner came in about the housekeeping accounts and I
realized that something was wrong--HAS been wrong, in fact, for a
fortnight or more.  How do I realize this? for she has said
nothing.  In voice or movement, but especially in something that is
SCENT more than voice or movement, Lizzie has for many years
represented to me a kind of dried, ageing, immensely clean, good
health.  Her breath has the very faintest odour of dry hay, a
little peppermint which is her tooth-powder.  Then there is the
starched cleanliness of her linen.  Is there scent in a smile?  Of
course there is.  It is as though the mouth took a step forward and
the breath fanned your cheeks ever so slightly.

For a fortnight now Lizzie has not smiled.  Now and then there is a
tremble in her voice.  Her hand is hot and the pulse beats in it.
Something is greatly distressing her.  I felt it especially this
morning.

After she was gone Jim Burke came in and said quite abruptly:  'I
expect I'll be off on my travels again very shortly, sir.'

It was a great shock to me.  I thought he was very happy and
contented with us.  Simon was there, still faithfully reporting to
me on the Illustrated, so I couldn't say anything.  Anyway I
wouldn't.  But I asked him why.

'Just restless again.'

'Perhaps you'd better go,' I said.  'You're beginning to be useful
to me.  I don't want to be dependent on anyone.'

'Do you mean that, sir?' he asked, with a quick catch of the voice.

'Yes, I mean it.'

Then he began a long, silly, impetuous business about being weak,
no good, biting the hand that fed him.

I dislike people to run themselves down.  But I laughed and asked
him whether he was robbing me.

'I might,' he said, 'I might.'  And then he went off.

Finally Celia.  She was full of things she had seen.  Nothing is
ever too unimportant or dull for her.  But she must have someone to
share it.  She cannot bear to be alone about anything.

She had seen the oddest man in the village, in an old waterproof.
He had three mongrel dogs at his heels.  He spoke to her, saying
that dogs were better than humans any day.  He said that he was a
music-hall performer staying in the village.

She was sucking a brandy-ball.  She had a whole bag of them.  Her
lips were sticky when she kissed me.



CHAPTER VIII

AT THE LAMPLOUGHS'--THE MOOR--MISTY AFTERNOON--AT GARTH HOUSE


Celia was kindly by an instinct as natural as breathing.  Just as
when she was in a temper she wished to hurt her adversary by any
means, however illegal, in her power, so when she felt kindly she
would go to any distance, take any trouble, give anything away.

Her tempers were transitory, her kindnesses remarkably lasting.
She was only unkind when she was unhappy or frightened or unable to
deal with circumstances.  She always wanted 'everything to be all
right.'  She expected, as a sort of justice, a perpetually happy
tranquil world, and although her own generation told her again and
again that, because of the older generation and a ridiculous
monstrous War, everything was wrong, nobody was happy, the only
mood was one of grasping selfish cynicism, she did not in her heart
believe this.  It OUGHT to be a happy world. . . .

But about her kindliness there was no reasoning at all.  If someone
was ill, or had no money, or had lost some friend or lover, then
Celia rushed off to help and never asked herself whether she were
wanted or whether she COULD help, or whether she understood the
psychology of the trouble.

So when she heard that poor Mrs. Lamplough had missed pneumonia by
a breath and was weak and devastated after a sort of bronchial
influenza, she hurried off to the Lamplough mansion, bearing two
bottles of wine, a bag of tangerines, and a bottle of brandy-balls,
the last a cure, to her mind, of every conceivable ill.

She did not really LIKE Mrs. Lamplough very much: she knew that she
was a wicked old gossip, and a liar of a fearful kind . . . still
she had done Celia no harm, and it was entertaining to hear her
talk about other people, and had she caught pneumonia she would
almost certainly have died.

Mrs. Lamplough was delighted to see Celia; she was still in bed.
Celia stood in the doorway bearing her gifts and sniffing with her
nose.  The room had that odour of scent, camphorated oil, and
flannel that belongs to a lady's sick-chamber when she isn't very
ill.  The room was pretty but oppressively hot.  Sitting up in a
pink bed-jacket, wearing a white cap with a pink bow, her face soft
and crumpled like a rosy apple pudding, her little eyes sparkling,
rouge on her lips and rings on her boneless fingers, was Mrs.
Lamplough.

Her voice was always of the soft and whispering kind, but today,
because of her bronchial troubles, it was even more so.  She asked
Celia to come over and sit beside the bed, as though she were about
to tell her a most improper story.  It was not out of her power to
do so--but never with anyone whom she knew so slightly as Mrs.
Julius Cromwell.

Celia, who loved to give people things, even when they hadn't the
least desire for them, explained her presents.

'I would have come before, but oddly enough I knew nothing about
it.  You've been in bed a week, haven't you?  What a shame!  I
brought you the tangerines, but don't eat them if you don't like
them.  Their advantage is that the skins take off so easily, and
the disadvantage that they're full of pips.  Julius sends the two
bottles of port.  He says they'll cure you in a day or two.  And I
added the brandy-balls, because I never can resist them if I'm ill.
We have them sent down from Fortnum's.  If your throat's sore, or
you have a cough, they're perfect.  There!  I'll put them down on
the table!'

Mrs. Lamplough caught Celia's hand in hers.

'That's sweet of you,' she whispered.  'You oughtn't to have
bothered.'

'Does it hurt you to talk?'

'Not a bit!  It does me good.  I was only telling Henry this
morning that I wanted a good talk with someone.  I like to hear all
the news, you know, although I don't believe in gossip, not
malicious gossip.'

'No.  Nor do I,' Celia said.  'At least, it's very difficult to
tell where it BEGINS to be malicious, don't you think?'

'Oh, I think one can ALWAYS tell,' whispered Mrs. Lamplough.
'Never say anything you wouldn't like the other person to hear.'

'Oh, I don't know.  That's VERY severe.  We all say things about
one another that aren't unkind exactly but that we wouldn't like
other people to hear.  I don't mind anyone saying what they like
about me!'

'You don't?'

'No.  Not as long as I don't know about it.  What I don't hear
doesn't worry me.'

Mrs. Lamplough settled herself in against her pillows.  She had
the face of an old baby who was waiting to be mischievous.
Nevertheless her eyes were grave and she never let herself go in
merriment.  Although she swallowed greedily all that you had to
tell her, she was intent on the next question that she would ask
you.  You could see her hanging all her questions on a sort of
mental clothes-line.  She liked a joke or a tall story.  One of her
favourite sentences, as she pressed confidentially your hand, was:
'My dear, I'm unshockable.'  This, she explained, was because she
had French ancestors.

She was always intensely sympathetic with her immediate confidant,
always sharing his or her point of view, even though she abandoned
temporarily other confidants.  'I know, dear,' she would say.  'I
know.  As a matter of fact, S. told me only last week that the real
trouble is morphia.  Yes, dear, I know it's horrible, but that
would account for her being so queer the day you went there.'

She had, in fact, built up her life on the astonishing truth that
people, while believing any horrors about other people, never face
the fact that they themselves are discussed with the same ruthless
devastation.  Mrs. Lamplough made every friend feel a privileged
listener.  She enveloped her friends, when they were with her, in a
sort of cocoon of false confidence, winding it round and round with
her gentle whispers, her boneless fingers, her little pats and
chuckles, and serious, rather melancholy eyes.  She added to her
innocent kindliness by the fact that she could not pronounce her
r's very firmly.

With all this she intended no harm, wished everyone well, loved her
friends.  It was Nature's intention that she should be at the
centre of things--should notice more, hear more, have more wisdom
about human beings than the ordinary man or woman.  She meant no
harm to anyone.  Indeed, she often wondered why others were not as
kindly, tolerant, indulgent, as herself.

She proceeded now to wind her cocoon round Celia, who looked very
young with a little blue coal-scuttle hat perched on her dark
curls, her pretty face smiling, her small body perched on the edge
of a chair.

'And how are you liking it, my dear?  Are you really SETTLED IN?'

Mrs. Lamplough gave a soft emphatic pressure to certain words as
though she were digging them down as evidences, later on, of the
plot she was constructing.

'Yes, thank you.  It's all very nice.'

'And your husband?'

'Oh, Julius is very happy.  Although he can't SEE the places,
having been here as a child makes it all so real to him.'

'I suppose it does.  We're all SO excited about your being here,
you know!'

'Oh, are you?  I can't see anything very exciting about US--
especially about ME!'

Mrs. Lamplough's eyes sparkled.

'Your being RICH is one thing.  We haven't had anyone here with a
penny in anyone's memory.'

Celia smiled.

'Even Mr. Brennan is waking up a little.  I'm sure he's been asking
your husband for all sorts of things.'

'No, I don't think he has.  We're not, I'm afraid, very religious.
That is, we don't often go to church.  And Mrs. Brennan doesn't
like ME very much.'

When Celia made this last remark it was exactly as though she had
plopped a ripe, very sweet plum straight into Mrs. Lamplough's
mouth.

'Oh, really!  What makes you think that?'

'Everyone knows she doesn't.'

'That's because she's jealous.'  Mrs. Lamplough nodded her head
with infinite pleasure.  'She's been a kind of queen here for a
long time.  Silly old maids like Miss Vergil have flattered her to
death.'

'Unfortunately,' said Celia, 'her small boy has taken a great fancy
to my husband and will come round to visit us unknown to his
mother.  She came round to fetch him one day and was quite rude.'

'She was, was she?' said Mrs. Lamplough quite eagerly.  'She was
RUDE, was she?'

The lady raised herself, leant a little towards Celia, and her hand
descended on to Celia's.  It was hot, formless, like a little
muffin.

'One thing,' she said earnestly, 'I rather wonder at your husband
doing was to engage that wastrel Jim Burke.'

'Oh,' Celia said, staring at her, 'he seems all right.  Julius
likes him.'

'All right!  When he was with the Ironings what he didn't do! . . .
However, it's really no business of mine.'

'What sort of things?'

'Well--no woman was safe from him, for one thing.'

Celia laughed.  'That was the fault of the woman I should think.
Women can be safe if they want to be.'

Mrs. Lamplough delightedly pursed her lips.  'I'm not one for
scandal.  Again and again I used to stand up for him.  But at the
last--there was the maid at the Ironings' going to have a baby and--'

Celia laughed again.  'Anyway he's not dangerous in OUR house.  Old
Mrs. Gayner looks after the maids like a demon.'

'Does she?  Does she?'  Mrs. Lamplough drew in her breath.  'That's
good, because your husband can't see what's going on and you're
very young--much younger than he is.  And he's so fascinating.
That silly Phyllis Lock is madly in love with him . . . not that
that matters . . . anything in trousers . . .'

Celia said:  'I don't feel that he's so much older.  I love him so
terribly.'

'Do you?  Do you, my dear?'

Her hand now was clasped tightly.

'Yes.  Of course I do.  I'd been brought up to think that no one
was any good, that fine character was a thing to laugh at.  He's
too fine for me--that's the trouble.'

'Is he?  Is he?' Mrs. Lamplough whispered.

'I am always so afraid that I'm going to disappoint him.  He trusts
me too much.  You know, someone who's blind is different from other
people.  He has to take a lot on trust.  In our house--'

'Yes.  In your house--?'

Celia had forgotten Mrs. Lamplough.  She had been thinking of
Julius, of their life together, of her own fears.  She came back to
another realization with a start--a realization that was visual
rather than anything else--a picture of Julius and herself sitting
in the lamplight close together, the dark walls safely about them,
and Mrs. Lamplough was at the window, peering in, eagerly peering
in.  They were threatened, they were watched, they were overheard.
Something evil was trying to get into the house.

She released her hand.

'I must be off.  I should have a glass of that port right away.'

'Perhaps I will.  It has been so VERY interesting, what you have
told me.  We are all so much interested.'  She pulled a little at
the pink bow in her cap.  'It has been the sweetest thing your
coming in to see me like that.  You've cheered me up wonderfully.
Yes, and given me a lot of things to think about!'


Celia climbed into her Austin and drove straight out to the Moor,
which was not what she had intended to do.  It was yet early
afternoon, a day of golden quivering mist, an early autumn day when
there is a suspension of sound, so that, hearing a cart rattle on
the unseen road, you almost put your finger to your lip and
whisper, 'Wait.  Wait a minute,' as you do before the first cry,
subdued or challenging, of an orchestral symphony.

But Celia had never been taught to wait.  Patience was not at all
her virtue.  She wanted to be somewhere by herself, or with someone
who would make her happy.

That old woman had disturbed her, frightened her.  How?  Why?  What
was coming?  What was the matter with her nerves?

One thing the matter with them was that she had not enough to do.
Somehow Mrs. Lamplough had shown her that.  Her picture of her life
with Julius in the depths of the country had been a loving
alliance, Julius depending on her, everyone depending on her,
voices whispering:  'She's marvellous.  All that she manages to do--
and little more than a child!'

She laughed out loud in the car, for she had a good sense of humour
about herself and she saw how very different facts were from
flattering, egoistic fancy.

But there was NOTHING to do.  Mrs. Gayner did the housekeeping,
Curtis the car, Oliphant the valeting, Jim Burke the newspaper-
reading.  She did the loving, the sentiment, the emotion. . . .  Oh
yes, and they talked, but she fancied that although he did not
think himself very clever, he thought that she was less so.

She drove the car forward furiously.  He was right.  She had had no
education.  She had been taught to dress, to drink, to prevent
young men from reaching their ultimate but very temporary desire.
That was all.

She had hoped that by now there would be promise of a child.  There
was none.

She knew, quite suddenly, what it was that she wanted.  She wanted
someone of her own age, her own kind, as bad and selfish and
uneducated and stupid as herself, to whom she could pour out her
heart.  There was no one.

Why had that old woman with the pink bow in bed the power to hurt
her?  What if Mrs. Brennan DID dislike her?  She knew, though, that
that did hurt her.  She liked to be liked.  She wanted everyone to
say:  'Dear Mrs. Cromwell.  Dear, dear Mrs. Cromwell.'

She was not at all accustomed to being disliked so quickly.  But
Mrs. Brennan really HATED her.  With us all, someone who hates us
becomes to us someone so peculiar, original, unusual, that their
portrait in our gallery is double-sized.  Celia could laugh at
herself, despise herself, be bored with herself, but she could see
nothing in herself worthy of hatred.  But Mrs. Lamplough knew of it
and so, probably, did everyone else in the village.

Then Phyllis Lock!  Mrs. Lamplough had said that she was in love
with Julius.  Well, the girl was a fool and everyone knew it, but--
a blind man was so defenceless.  Julius was so kind, so good to
everyone.  The Lock girl might misunderstand.

Then the curiosity that Mrs. Lamplough had shown!  The sudden
vision of her peering in through the window of Garth House.
Imagination!  But was not everyone in the place doing it?  'They
are talking about us!  They are spying on us!  Everything we do is
watched!'  Mrs. Lamplough had known about young Simon coming round
to the House so often.  No doubt but that it had been discussed
everywhere.

Oh, stupid, stupid!  What the hell did it matter if they all
discussed, watched, waited?

But she herself was also watching and waiting.  That was where the
wrong was.  She was not herself at ease.  Julius had recognized it,
for only two days ago he had suggested that she should pay London a
visit, see her parents, have a good time.  Why had he suggested it?
Was he already tired of her?  Why was it that she could never tell
exactly what was in his mind?

Mrs. Lamplough had perhaps realized that.  She had suggested that
Julius' mind, imagination, went away, left them all. . . .  But if
Julius and she truly loved one another, that could make no
difference.  And they did.  With every day they loved one another
more.  But within that love they were restless, uncertain, uneasy.
Or SHE was.  She was encountering some new experience for which her
life had not prepared her.  It was as though she, still a child,
was encountering mature shapes, presences half seen and of another
experience from hers.

She pulled the car up.  She was at the Crossroads.  Through the
tangerine-tinted mist the Church floated like the Ark.  She got out
of the car and stood on the road, feeling the grit beneath her
shoe, then moved up on to the Moor and seemed in that mist, with
that yielding life-giving surface beneath her, herself to be
floating.

A lovely cold tang, as though something of exquisite freshness was
kissing her cheek, met her.  It was the first autumn roughness.
The colours of the mist as now she looked into them were orange
amber, the stiff raddled rosiness of puckered apples, the brittle
crinkling saffron of the dying leaf, a sweep of palest gold from
some tree dripping with yellow blossom, the dark glistening green
of a mossy well-top, the dark purple thorn of a rose-stem, the
purple, washed and shining, of a grape-cluster, the smoky furred
green and crimson of a peach-skin.

All these colours seemed to throng the mist, for the afternoon sun
was beating in the heart of it.  Sounds, too, were in it like
muffled guns, wood sharply broken, bells ringing in towers, oars
striking the water, the plaintive yielding 'hush' of the tide as it
withdraws from the shining sand.

There was no sound in the mist and there was every sound.  Then,
most unexpectedly, there was a voice.

'Mrs. Cromwell.'

It was Jim Burke with his bicycle.

'Why--what are you doing here?'

She was angry, as though he had been spying upon her.  Then, she
knew not why, she was pleased.

'My father, when he rang the bell for Early Service, used to say:
"You never know your luck!"'

She felt that she must explain something--but what?

'I drove up to get a breath of air. . . .  Mrs. Lamplough's in bed,
ill.'

They were moving together, he pushing his bicycle over the
springing rejoicing turf.

'Oughtn't I to lock the car?'

'There'll be nobody stealing it.'

'I'll be going straight back.  I promised I'd be back for tea.'

She looked at him.  In the mist he seemed naked, as though his blue
coat, shirt, trousers were phantasmal.  He was as strong and hearty
a young man as she had ever seen.  He must be about her own age.

'How old are you, Jim?'

'Twenty-six.'

They were approaching the Church, which seemed to float forward to
meet them.

He said, grinning:  'You don't like me much, do you, Mrs.
Cromwell?'

'Oh, I don't know!  I didn't at first.  You've got a very bad
reputation, you know.'

'Only because I'm natural.'  They were standing looking at the
Church.  'I wouldn't like to hurt anybody, though.  Only I don't
believe in anything.'

'No?'

'What is there to believe in any more?  Love of your country is
vulgar, belief in God stupid, belief in man sentimental.  There'll
be another war shortly.  We'll all be blown to bits.'

'And so?'

'Take what you can, while you can.'

'What do you want to take?'

'Food, women, work with your hands, everything that lives in the
open air, sleep.'

'And that's enough?'

'Oh, not enough.  It's a sort of makeshift for what ought to have
been.  We've been cheated.'

She felt happy in his company.  She was talking at last simply,
without affectation, to someone of her own queer lost generation.

'Cheated?' she said.  'I don't know.  Who ever promised us
anything?  We're not very much, are we, to be given presents.  Now
my husband--'

'Mr. Cromwell!  Yes, I'd do anything for him.  I don't know how
much it's his blindness, though.  Without it he might be a very
ordinary man, maybe.  But that gives him something extra, something
special.  He sees further than the rest of us--or doesn't he?'

'I don't think he knows himself.'

He put out his hand and touched her arm.

'I'm awfully glad you don't dislike me, Mrs. Cromwell.'

She didn't move away.

'No.  I don't.  But I think it's a pity with your birth and
education you've turned into a sort of loafer.'

'Now that's a snobbish kind of thing to say.  Birth and education!
You should know better than to use those words.  Birth and
education!  As though birth means anything any more, and I'm
educating myself all the time.'

'I used to think birth didn't mean anything any more.  But now I'm
not so sure.  It means something if it means good manners.  We, all
of us, have been so rude and unkind for so long.  We thought we
were honest, courageous, said what we meant.  Now that rudeness is
getting as old-fashioned as courtesy seemed to us.'

'I don't think I'm rude,' he said gently.  'I don't want to hurt a
soul, and if a lie makes them happy, why not?  But I don't want to
waste my time, because time's so short and there's nothing to come
after.'

'How do we know?' she said.  'How do we know?  Perhaps there is.'

'It doesn't frighten me if there is.'

'No,' Celia said.  'I shouldn't think things frighten you.'

He took her hand and kissed it and was gone with his bicycle.  She
heard him whistling in the mist.  His lips had been warm and strong
on her hand.  She went slowly back to the car and stood listening
for a moment before she got into it.


She stood in the hall of the House looking up the stairs.  Then she
heard the music from the study and went in softly, stood inside the
door, swinging her hat in her hand.

The music stopped.  There was a little pause while the record fell.
Then it began again.  He was sitting straight up in his chair with
a pleased childish smile on his face.  A flute ran up the scale.
Then the music stopped.  As it began again she went forward and
ended it altogether.  She stood looking at him defiantly.

'I want to talk,' she said.  'Tea will be here in a minute.'

He smiled and held out his hand.

'Only two more little movements.  Beethoven's Serenade for Flute,
Violin and Viola, Op. 25.  They all go out into the wood at the
Flute's invitation.  The Flute is young, foolish and happy.  The
Violin and Viola not so VERY old, but think they are.  Entrata.
Then Tempo Ordinario.  All in the wood sitting under the giant oak.
Kind of As You Like It scenery.  Flute, dear young thing, very
chatty, but Violin talks even more and tells the Flute:  "When he's
OLDER--"  This makes the Flute reflective for a bit.  But soon he's
happy again.  He HAS to be.  It's his nature.  Then Allegro Molto.
Their minds are made up.  They are all agreed.  Lovely night.
Stars between the trees.  Why not go and serenade the second
violin?  There is a lamp in her window.  They agree.  Andante con
Variazioni.  Off they go.  Under her window.  They all play their
best.  But the Flute is so young, so gay, so irresponsible, he
outbids the others.  There is a face at the window and the Flute's
enchanting up-the-scale ecstatic question--Ta-Ta-Ta-TEE? . . .  And
then, darling, you stopped it all.'

He would go on sometimes like that--to her ridiculously.  For what
point was there in adding stories on to music?  Music was music,
wasn't it?

She put her arms round his neck, rubbed his cheek with hers.

'I went to Mrs. Lamplough's.'

'Was it nice?'

'Nice!  No.  Horrid.  The room was suffocatingly hot.  She
frightened me.'

'How could she?'

'I don't know.  She did.  She said Phyllis Lock was in love with
you.'

He laughed, kissing her eyes.

'She said I was too young for you.'

'She did?'

'No.  She didn't SAY it.  That was what she meant.'

'And then?'

'And then I went away.'

She knelt down with her head on his thigh.

'I love you so much--so very, very much . . .  And then I went on
to the Moor.'

'Was it beautiful?'

'It was beautiful beyond anything--a gold trembling mist.  Jim
Burke appeared on his bicycle.'

'You like him better now, don't you?'

'A little.  After a minute or two he went away.'

She broke out, clutching his hand in both of hers:

'Julius--isn't it awful?--I don't want ever to leave you.  I mean
not even for an hour or two in the afternoon.  That's the kind of
wife I said I'd never be, clutching, possessive.  It's just the
kind of wife I am.  I want ALL of you, ALL of you.'

'You have all of me.'

'No, I haven't.'

'What _I_ haven't got,' he spoke slowly, 'is your youth.  I'm so
old.  I sit here and think how much older I am.'

She caught his head and his thick strong neck in her arms.  She
kissed him again and again, laughing.

'If you'd been younger I never would have fallen in love with you.
I hate young men--stupid, conceited, ignorant.  Aren't they?  You
know they are.'

'Yes,' he said.  'But when YOU'RE feeling young yourself don't you
want them like that?  Stupid and arrogant--your own kind.'

She stood between his thighs staring into his blind gaze.

'If you could SEE how I love you,' she said.

She slipped out a little later to see where the tea was, and
someone was coming downstairs.  Celia was in the shadow of the
door.

It was Mrs. Gayner, fully dressed to go out.  She walked softly,
almost furtively.

She slipped past, opened the front door with great care, and
vanished.


END OF PART I




PART II

THE WHISPER



CHAPTER I

AT THE RECTORY--IN THE WELL


On the fourth of October Mrs. Brennan received notice that one-
third of Gilbert's school was ill with chicken-pox.  The school
would be temporarily closed.  This news was received at breakfast
time.

Daisy Brennan said:

'NOW what are we going to do?'

Mr. Brennan, whose breakfast was always a joy to him, took the last
sausage and the last piece of toast, winked at Simon who had
observed this, and said:

'Do about what?'

'Do you realize that this means that Gilbert will be at home
without a break until nearly the end of January?'

'Well, dear, why not?'

'Why not?  Why not?  But what's he going to do with himself all
that time?  Who's going to teach him anything?'

'Teach him?'  Frank Brennan looked across to his wife with his
profile neatly turned.  'Let him learn from Nature for a while.  It
won't do him any harm.'

'Frank . . .  Please . . .  Be serious for once.  Do you know
Gilbert's age?  Nearly fifteen.  He's getting very difficult
indeed.  Last holidays he was rude and surly.  He'll probably spend
his time with the Cromwells, like Simon.  A holiday of more than
two months will be simply fatal for him.  Who's to look after him?
I certainly cannot.  Is he your son or isn't he?'

'He certainly is.'

'Then have you a responsibility or haven't you?'

'Certainly I have.  I won't attempt to deny it.  The question is
whether I fulfil it by sitting on the poor boy, forcing him to
decline Latin nouns against his will, causing him to loathe his
father so that he runs away from home on the first opportunity and
marries a barmaid, or whether, like a WISE father, I allow him
freely to develop his personality, to observe and learn the simple
things around him, to discuss them freely with me, to help me in
one or two jobs and so lighten my burden a little.  This, my dear,'
he ended, putting the last piece of sausage into his beautiful
mouth, 'seems to me by far the wiser way.'

Daisy Brennan looked across the table, as she had often done
before, wondering what next she should say or do.  Long years with
her husband had taught her that he was unassailable.  To lose her
temper with him was fruitless.  He simply caught her temper,
enclosed it in a paper bag, and blew it up with a bang.  Dignity
was of no use, for he only winked and grinned.  Tears were
hopeless.  He did not even lend her a handkerchief.  Threats were
absurd, for there was nothing to threaten him with.  He was
altogether outside her power.  She was in the familiar position of
a wife who was powerful outside her own family, powerless within
it.  Everyone beyond the Rectory thought her lovely, intelligent,
charming, homage-worthy.  Why then were her husband and children so
unperceptive?  Dorothy at least was not.  She had heard the news
with rapture.

'Oh, Mother, how lovely!  He can learn with me.  We can read the
same books and Mrs. Mark has promised to teach me some French.'

'Mrs. Mark?  What has she got to do with it?  Simon, that's quite
enough marmalade.  Other people want it beside you.'

'I'm making a tunnel.'

'I've told you again and again to eat your food quietly and not
make messes.'

'It's not a mess.  It's a tunnel.'

'PLEASE, Simon . . .  Don't answer me back.  It's such very bad
manners.'

But Simon, who already knew his mother much better than she knew
herself, only grinned and tilted his plate a little so that the
marmalade should slide away from the bread.

'Why Mrs. Mark, Dorothy?'

'Oh, she's most awfully nice.  She talks to me as though I were
her own age almost.  Do you know, Mother, she ran away with her
husband--?'

'That's sufficient, Dorothy.  Say Grace, Simon.  You've been
playing with your bread and marmalade long enough.'

Simon, with one eye brightly alert above his folded hands, said
Grace.

Daisy Brennan followed her husband into his study.  She knew well
what he now would do--sit, his long legs stretched out, smoking a
pipe, reading the Daily Telegraph, in front of the fire.

For once, however, he listened.  Her voice was sharp, her distress
real.

'Frank, things can't go on like this.  Either, you do something
about it or I go up to London and leave you alone with the
children.'

'Do something--about what?'

'The children.  Dorothy will soon be grown-up.  Gilbert is nearly
fifteen.  He listens to nothing I say to him.  He is sulky and
rude.  Even Simon has been disobeying me, running off to the
Cromwells at every possible opportunity.  In fact'--her voice rose--
'it is since the Cromwells came here that everything has been
going wrong.  Mrs. Cromwell has taken it into her head that she
owns the whole place.  I don't mind her being rude to ME--what else
can a poor clergyman's wife expect?--but when it comes to stealing
one's children, turning them against their own father and mother,
indulging them--'

'My dear, what ARE you talking about?'

She saw that she had caught his attention.  She rushed ahead so
that not a moment might be lost.

'I'm talking about Celia Cromwell.  Within a few weeks she has
undermined all my work and position.  You must admit, Frank, that
I've been a good wife to you.  I can't say that it's been easy.
We've never had any money and you haven't given me much help
socially.  I don't blame you.  That was MY job.  For years and
years I've slaved.  Because I LOOK strong no one ever supposes that
I can be tired.  Be tired!  Why, sometimes I've wondered how I can
bear it another minute!  You haven't helped me much about the
children, either.  When we found we couldn't afford a governess any
longer I took on the whole thing.  I've scraped and slaved so that
Gilbert might go to a good school.  Now after all these years this
man and his wife come to live here.  He's blind and rich--two
interesting things.  She's supposed to be pretty, although I can't
see it myself.  What happens?  Everyone for miles round pays them
homage, goes to their house to see what they can get.  Even our own
children . . .'

She was near tears.  She looked superb with her bosom thrust
forward, her handsome head thrown back.

He admired her.  He loved her in his own way.  But there had been
many of these little scenes and he was longing to get to his
newspaper.

'My dear, I still don't understand.  I agree with you.  You've been
splendid.  What we should all have done without you I don't know.
But the Cromwells--what have they to do with it?  I find him a fine
fellow, poor chap.  She seems harmless enough.'

'Harmless!  She's seduced Simon already.  It was after they arrived
that Gilbert began to be rude.  Even Dorothy--'

'Come now, Dorothy's an angel.  I won't hear a word against her.'

'Yes.  Everyone's an angel except me. . . .'

She controlled herself and said calmly:

'You just wait.  There'll be a scandal in that Cromwell family that
will make even you pay attention!  Then you may be sorry that
you've allowed your children to prefer THAT house to their own.'

He answered reflectively, picking up his paper and sticking his
head into it:

'It's an extraordinary thing.  Just because a man's blind he seems
to have some extraordinary power.'

'It isn't because he's blind,' she answered.  'It's because he's
got a wife years younger than himself and can't look after her.'

She ended:

'It's only the children.  Nothing matters except the children.  But
if Gilbert treats me as he did before he went back to school you'll
have to do something about it.'


Dorothy told Simon that they must take care to make Gilbert as
happy as possible.

'He'll be dreadfully disappointed.  He was looking forward to this
term like anything, playing football and making his mark.'

'What's "making his mark" mean?' Simon asked.

'Making his mark on the school.  Now's the time when he's got to do
it.  He'll be fifteen soon.  He wants to be a Prefect and Captain
of the Football, perhaps.'

Simon stared at Dorothy as though she were some new species of
sister handed to him for the first time.

'I think that's all very silly,' he said.

'What is?'

'Making your mark.  I'm not going to school.  I'm going to be a
gardener.'

'Of course you'll have to go to school.'

'Why?'

'To learn things so that you can make a living when you grow up.'

Simon said:  'Gardeners make a living.  You put something in the
ground and later on you eat it.  I shall be Mr. Cromwell's
gardener.'

'But that will be years and years.  You can't be his gardener until
you're twenty.  You're only eight.'

'Mr. Cromwell has a boy who's only fourteen and a bit.  I asked him
and he said, "I'm fourteen and a bit."  I think it's silly making a
mark at school.'  He grinned.  'Mother hates Mr. Cromwell.'

'Oh no she doesn't!' Dorothy cried indignantly.

'Yes she does, AND Mrs. Cromwell, AND Jim Burke.'  He lay down on
the floor again, where he was drawing with coloured chalks.  He
wriggled his legs and laughed.

'I can do a ship with three sails.  And now I'm going to do a
mountain.'


When Gilbert arrived Dorothy took the greatest care not to be
demonstrative.  On every occasion when he returned from school she
had a secret fear that he would believe in her a little less.  It
was natural that, as he grew, he would discover many people more
interesting than herself.  She did not complain of that but awaited
the inevitable day with fear of the pain that he must give her.

She saw with delight that he needed her more than ever before.  He
was nervous about his mother.  He looked at her shyly.  On the
morning after his arrival he spoke to Dorothy about it.

'I was rotten to Mother last holidays.'

'You were angry.  You thought she'd been unfair to you.'

'No.  It was more that I thought she didn't care.'

'Of course she cares, Gillie.  She cares most awfully about all of
us.  But she likes us to show that we want her.  Her feelings get
hurt because she cares for us so much.'

'Yes,' Gilbert said.  'Last holidays I got awfully funny.  I don't
know what was the matter.  I almost HATED Mother.  I thought she
didn't care for us a bit but only for herself.  Now, of course, I
see that's all rot.  I'm going to show her that everything's all
right.'

'I'm awfully glad.'

His face was eager, his slim body strong and taut.

'Dorothy, look here!  I'm going to be home a long time now and what
I want is for Jim Burke to teach me how to carve.  Do you think he
will?'

'Of course he will.'

'I want it more than anything--to make things with my hands.  I
tried a bit at school this term.  I got some clay from somewhere
and I did make a sort of man's head, but it wasn't right.  I didn't
know what to do.  My hands were all ready, but when I wanted them
to do something they did something else.  I expect Jim knows.'

'Of course he does,' Dorothy said proudly.

That afternoon, a very fine one, Gilbert went off for a walk to
think things out for himself.  It had been a terrible blow to him
when the school closed.  This term had promised wonderful things.
It was to be the bridge between childhood and maturity.  Something
had happened to him; what it was he did not quite know.  Once,
during the summer holidays, he had enjoyed a talk with old Mr.
Lamplough, who had informed him that everybody was made up of gas
and water and that there was very little difference really between
a chair and a human being, except that a human being could
reproduce himself, which on the whole Mr. Lamplough thought was a
pity.

This had struck Gilbert very much, but it had not convinced him,
because the changes of which he was aware in himself could
certainly not be experienced by a chair, and no imaginable
combination of gas and water could be as angry with his mother as
he had been.

Thinking of this as he walked along, he wondered why, if he was
only a mixture of chemicals, he felt this passionate desire to make
something with his hands.  The beautiful day was part of this, the
scent in his nostrils, the pure colours of the sky and the auburn-
amber foliage, the faint smoky light in the air as of silver and
flame.  He did not wonder very much.  He was too happy, too free,
his stomach was too healthy, his legs too strong.  It was as though
he was being swung along, almost flying in fact.

He made for the Well, the thick wood below the Moor, where the
primroses always came first.  He had known this wood since he was a
baby.  In the heart of it there was a small waterfall, a little
pool, and a stream that ran, he believed, ultimately to the sea.
He thought often of this waterfall, which seemed the centre of this
country where he had always lived.  When he was at Rafiel, watching
the sea or bathing in it, he thought of the waterfall as the centre
of the sea.  If the waterfall ceased to tumble, then the sea would
withdraw and all the land beneath it be dry.  He had believed that,
of course, only when he was very small, but the fancy still
lingered with him.

At the entrance to the wood, by the side of the road, he saw a
motor-car.  Nobody was in it.

He entered the wood by a little path that he knew well and traced
his way, treading over the dead leaves, and stopping sometimes to
wonder at the silence.

He cut himself a stick and, as he walked, peeled it with his pocket-
knife.

He pushed some branches aside and came out on to the clearing and
looked at the waterfall.  Mr. Cromwell was standing there, leaning
against a tree.  He was quite motionless and staring into the sky,
his head cocked as though he were listening.  His body seemed very
big and strong to Gilbert.  His hands were still, his face was
still; his open eyes stared upwards.

At first Gilbert thought that he would go away, but Mr. Cromwell
had at once heard him, although Gilbert had made very little sound.
His body was suddenly alive.  He smiled.

'Hullo!' he said.

'Hullo!' Gilbert replied.

'That's a boy,' Mr. Cromwell said.

'Yes,' Gilbert answered, moving forward.  'I'm Gilbert Brennan.'

'I thought you were away at school.'

'I ought to be, but we've had chicken-pox and I've come home.'

Mr. Cromwell, who was wearing a large rough dark-blue overcoat,
said:

'Come over to me, then we can talk better.'

Gilbert, rather frightened although he didn't know why, went over
to him.

Mr. Cromwell leaned comfortably back against the tree again.

'When you're blind,' he said, 'you can hear leaves dropping.
That's what I was listening to.'

'Can you really?'

'Yes.  As they fall they make a kind of rustle half-way down as
though they fought one last time for life.  It's nothing to be
depressed about, of course.  If the leaves didn't die there
wouldn't be new green ones bursting out in the spring.  And that
goes for everything and everybody.'

Mr. Cromwell put his hand on Gilbert's shoulder.

'Are you alone?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Not even a dog?'

'No.'

'Just going for a walk by yourself?'

'Well, you see, where the waterfall is I've always thought the best
place of the lot round here, and I was awfully disappointed at the
school shutting, and I'd only just got home, so I thought I'd come
here.'

'You think this the best place of the lot, do you?'

'Yes, I do.'

'Well, for sound and smell I should say it is.  How would you
describe it now?'

'Just below where you are there's a rock with some pink lichen on
it.  It isn't pink exactly, but rosy.  And under the rock there's
the pool.  It's small and now there are a lot of leaves in it and
they've choked where the water runs away.  There's a stream all the
same, and it's quite blue now under the brown and gold leaves.
There are two rocks like scissors and a yellow little tree.'

He was wrinkling his forehead and trying to be exact and detailed.

'Thanks,' Mr. Cromwell said.  'Where does the stream go to?'

'Right out to the sea.  At least everyone always says so, and when
I was a kid we used to think that if the stream dried up the sea
would dry up too.'

Gilbert laughed as though the idea were extremely foolish, but as
he laughed he felt as though he were betraying something or
somebody.

'As a matter of fact that isn't such nonsense,' Mr. Cromwell said,
quite gravely.  'Everything depends on everything else, and you
can't be sure if one thing stops everything won't. . . .  I must be
getting back.  Give me your arm.'

Gilbert proudly did so.

'You can just see me to the car.  Would you like a drive?'

'No, thanks,' Gilbert said, 'I'm walking.'

'Of course you are,' Mr. Cromwell said.  'I forgot.'

Gilbert led him to the car with the very greatest care, but had a
curious impression that Mr. Cromwell was leading HIM.

'You know, your brother Simon is a great friend of ours.'

'Yes.  He's always talking about you.'

'Is he?  That's very flattering.'

'You don't know Dorothy much, though, do you?'

'No, I don't.'

'She's the best of the lot.  She COULDN'T be better.'

'You must bring her to tea one day.'

'Oh, may I?  I want to see your house most awfully.'

'Yes, we'll settle a day.'

The car was there and Curtis now sitting in it.

Mr. Cromwell gripped Gilbert's shoulder a moment and climbed into
the car.

Gilbert's adventures for that afternoon were not, however, yet
ended.  Walking back to the village he considered Mr. Cromwell from
every possible point of view.  He liked him very much, but, unlike
Simon, felt that he was strange.  He was not strange to Simon at
all, but there was something frightening and lonely about
blindness.

Gilbert even stopped for a moment in the road, shut his eyes
tightly and then walked along to see how it felt.  The blackness
was horrible.  It was shot with flashing lights.  He reeled from
side to side exactly as when you play Blind-Man's-Buff.  Mr.
Cromwell had been blind, of course, for a very long time, and that
made it better.  Nevertheless it was beastly.  It was the more
beastly because Mr. Cromwell was so big and so strong.  He was like
a prizefighter or a footballer, and VERY like Gilbert's greatest
hero in the world, W. H. Hammond.  Yes, VERY like Hammond.  This
made it much worse.  Were you a measly little man you wouldn't want
to do things, but Mr. Cromwell must always be longing to swim, play
tennis, cricket, to box perhaps, or even to fence.  He could swim,
of course, and walk if he had somebody with him.  But how beastly
always to have somebody with you!  Why didn't he have a dog?  That
was a grand idea.  Gilbert might suggest it.

Thus thinking, Gilbert, looking ahead, saw THREE dogs and a very
strange little man in a shabby waterproof walking with an odd
skipping walk beside them.  The dogs all trotted at his heels,
keeping close to him.  They were most certainly not beauties--in
fact, mongrels.

One of them was a black dog who would have been a retriever had it
not been for his tail, which was short and stubby; another was
nearly a French poodle, and the third was a fox-terrier with a
touch of Aberdeen.  The semi-retriever was limping and on his face
was a slight anxiety as though he feared that he might be left
behind.  The dirty woolly ear of the poodle was torn and raw.
There seemed to be nothing the matter with the fox-terrier, who
walked along, sniffing the air, bright and eager, a little OVER-
bright and eager, perhaps, as though at heart there was a creeping
doubt.

The odd little man saw Gilbert coming and stopped.

'Good afternoon, sir,' he said.

'Good afternoon,' Gilbert answered politely.

The dogs also stopped.

Gilbert did not care for the looks of the little man.  There was an
odour somewhere in the air: his face was wrinkled and uneasy.
There was furtiveness in every inch of him.  He couldn't keep
still, but tapped on the road first with one foot, then with the
other.

'Are those your dogs?' Gilbert asked.

The fox-terrier was looking at him with burning pleading eyes, a
sycophantic crawl-on-my-belly-if-you-want-me-to look.

'They are and they aren't, as you might say.  The fox-terrier was
given me.  The farmer out towards Sizyn was going to shoot him
because he said he was nothing but a nuisance.  The black dog
called Horace came limping up to me, and I don't know WHERE he's
come from.  The sort of half-poodle hasn't a home either.  He came
down the road one day and some cottage people took him in, but
they're mighty glad for me to have him.  Funny when you come to
think of it, for dogs are superior to human beings--at least,
that's the way _I_ look at it.'

'I've always wanted to have a dog,' said Gilbert, sighing.

'Have you now?  Well, you can have any one of these you like to
pick.'

'Oh no!  Mother and Father would never allow me to keep one.'

The man looked at him, grinning, and so displaying some very ugly
teeth.

'You never know till you try.'

The fox-terrier, as though he were aware that there was a
possibility of something exciting, began to pretend that he had a
game with a flying leaf.  He barked shrilly, ran a little way and
looked up at Gilbert.

They all walked on to the beginning of the village.

'What's his name?' asked Gilbert.

'I called him Benson because there was a man in the last hall I
played in called Benson remarkably like him.  He was a man who
hadn't done too well in life because he was in prison for bigamy
once.  As a matter of fact he had three wives at one and the same
time--three too many if you ask me.'

Benson continued to run, look up at Gilbert and run again.

'There's nothing I wouldn't do for a dog,' the man went on.  'As a
matter of fact, the pub where I am doesn't like them.  I keep them
in the garage and I must say they are as good as butter.  More than
I could say for the rest of the bastards.'  Then as though he knew
that he oughtn't to use such a word before a little boy, he coughed
behind his hand.

'I know who you are,' he said.  'You're the Rector's son.'

'Yes, I am,' said Gilbert.

'I was talking to your sister one day.'

'Oh yes?'

'Look here,' the man said, 'I'll tell you what I'll do.  I want
Benson to have a good home.  You take him and try him--see what
your mother says.  He's a clean little dog.  Scrup'lous about the
house.  Does anything you tell him, too.  Got a loving heart and
beautiful manners.'

Gilbert knew that he was lost and Benson knew that he knew.

'I'll tell you what I'll do.  You take him home and if they won't
let you have him you bring him along to me.  "Three Pilchards."
That's where I'm staying.  Get your mother to try him for a day or
two and then she won't be able to resist him.'

Gilbert's heart was beating so that he could scarcely breathe.

'All right.  I will.'

It seemed that it was not his own voice that had spoken these
daring words.  'So-long.  See you later.'

It was as though the little man had known him all his life.

Gilbert moved towards the Rectory.

'Go on,' said the man to Benson.  'There's your master now.'

Benson did not hesitate.  He followed Gilbert, keeping close to him
and wagging his tail.

When they were in the garden Gilbert hesitated.  It might be more
hopeful could Benson have a bath before he was presented.  But a
bath was a business and could not secretly be undertaken.  Well,
what did it matter?  His mother would not consider the possibility
for a single moment.  There had never been a dog in the house.
There never would be.  Gilbert opened the door, walked into the
hall.  Benson ran forward, barked, and Mrs. Brennan was standing
there.

'Hullo, darling, have you--?'

Then she stopped.  She saw Benson.  She could not help but do so,
for he was smelling at her calves.

Gilbert began at once:

'I hope you won't mind, Mother, but I met a man and he said I could
have this dog who's called Benson after a man the other man knew.
We've never had a dog, have we, Mother, and this one is house-
trained and everything, and anyway he could sleep in the tool-shed.
I'd be responsible and as I'm going to be home a long time, now
would be a good time to start with him, wouldn't it?  I expect he's
awfully good with mice.'

This last he added on the toe of the dramatic moment, because he
knew that his mother hated mice as she hated snakes--saw, in fact,
little difference between the two.

However, at any ordinary time, neither mice nor any other animal
would have made the very slightest difference.  Benson would have
left this pleasant house as quickly as he had entered it.

It happened that Mrs. Brennan loved her son.  She loved him with
self-pride as well as with other things, and her self-pride had
been desperately hurt.  She wanted him back as he had been: she
wanted him back with his old adoration, his old confidence in her,
and his old obedience.  She saw herself as the great divine
goddess, pardoning, bestowing, Olympian, human.  She scarcely was
conscious of Benson, who, finding her ankles sterile, was pursuing,
in a corner of the hall, a mice-suggestion.

She looked at her son and loved him.  But she would not surrender
too quickly.

'A dog?  My dear Gillie!'

'I know, Mother, but--'

'And WHAT a dog!'

Gilbert, amazed that his request had not been at once rejected,
began to hope.

'You see, Mother, he can be most awfully useful.  I don't know how
we've got on without a dog so long.  If he sleeps in the kitchen he
guards the whole house, and you know that tramp there was hanging
around last winter, and you said--'

'That's quite enough, Gillie.  I don't know WHAT your father would
say--'

'Oh, Father always does what YOU want, Mother.'

'Besides, what kind of a dog is he?'

'He's a fox-terrier, of course.'

'He's got a funny head for a fox-terrier.'

Gilbert, shy of demonstration, nevertheless went to her and kissed
her.

'Mother, thank you most awfully.'

Her heart beat ridiculously fast.  For a grand Juno of a woman, the
adored of the countryside, she was betraying absurd maternal
emotion.

'Well . . .  There, Gillie, that's quite enough.  Mind you, if
there's the slightest trouble with him, if he isn't perfectly
clean--'

'Oh, but he is, Mother, he is!  Oh, thank you, thank you!  Hurray!
Hurray!'

Transformed with happiness he rushed up the stairs, Benson barking,
rushing after him.

At the top of the stairs was his father.

'Good heavens, what's this!'

'It's Benson, Father!'

'Oh, I see.'

And Gilbert rushed on.

He must tell Dorothy.  Above all things he must tell Dorothy.  In
the schoolroom she was reading Engel the Fearless to Simon.

Benson, who like all mongrels was warm-hearted, rushed at once up
to Dorothy and made leaps at her.  Dorothy was, of course,
delighted.

'Oh, what a lovely dog!  Whose is he?'

'He's mine.  He's ours.  He belongs here.  He's been given me.'

'Belongs here?  But WHAT will Mother--'

'Mother says it's all right.  Mother says I can keep him if he
doesn't make a mess--'

'Oh, how lovely!  Where does he come from?'

'There was a funny little man in the road.  He gave him me.'

She knew at once about the funny little man.  A strange shiver
touched her body.

'Gillie, do you think it's all right?  That's a horrid man.  He
spoke to me once.'

Gilbert was scornful.

'Of COURSE it's all right.  He'd been given Benson--'

'Benson!  What a funny name!'

'That was the name of a man he knew once.'

Simon, always the realist, said:

'Who will feed him?'

Gilbert, very serious, went on:  'That's it.  He must NOT become a
kitchen dog.  WE'LL have to feed him--always.  When they're fed in
the kitchen they get scraps and things and then they get fat and
want always to be IN the kitchen.  He's got to be OUR dog.'

'Can he do tricks?' Simon asked.

'No, of course not,' Gilbert said impatiently.  'He's not that sort
of dog.'

Benson was sitting with his tongue out, grinning and panting.

'He wants water,' Gilbert said.  Looking at Dorothy he added, 'It
was awfully decent of Mother, wasn't it?'



CHAPTER II

GARTH HOUSE: IN JULIUS' STUDY


Julius Cromwell's Journal

October 23.--I have had a strange return of what I must call, I
suppose, for want of a better word, my day-nightmares.

Before the War, when I was a young man, there was no one more
normal than myself.  So healthy was I that I simply couldn't
understand any ill-health and I was a bore, I suppose, with my self-
confidence and easy solution of everything.  But even the
healthiest has a queer morass of indecency, obscenity, abnormality,
obsession, muddy and greasy, down in the cellars of his house.
Freud's stock-in-trade.  It wasn't until I was blinded that I
realized mine.

I have been thinking these days of old Spencer.  He lived about
three miles from Bramgrove and was crazily enthusiastic about the
French Neo-Surrealist painters.  He would come and talk by the hour
about them to me and I remember a good deal of it still--Chagall
who painted flowers rising out of the heads of lovers, and dream
landscapes where sea and land were utterly lonely and little
stunted trees had giant leaves; Ernst who stuck pieces of cork and
wire on to his paint; Miro and the later Picasso.

I never could see these pictures, of course, and I had no idea what
Spencer was like except that he was VERY bony and had about him a
scent of liquorice and tobacco: but I can hear his high rather
piping voice as he described a picture of Chirico's, of giant trees
growing in a room, of Dali's long sunlit plains with a woman
standing, her stomach full of clocks, or something of Picasso's
with a violin rising out of some melons.  One landscape I
remembered especially.  It was by the sea-shore, and under the moon
a man was moving towards a tower whose corners were women's
breasts.  A mirror stood all by itself near the sea and reflected
in its glass a listening ear.  I don't know what's happened to the
Neo-Surrealists.  They are all gone and forgotten, I daresay.  I've
long ceased to find any interest in them, but I remember that,
during that time when Spencer used to come and see me, my
subconscious created for me a world of dead slimy seas, deserted
plains where clocks ticked and beautiful nude women carried eyes in
their entrails and flowers were made of fur and sealing-wax.

Because I could not see these things with my physical eyes I saw
them twice as intently with my spiritual eyes.  I had only got to
look down into my secret world and there were those seas and
plains, deathly, eternal, the only sound the ticking of clocks, the
only figures mechanical presences.

During the last fortnight these worlds have returned to me, and
because my own real world all around me is going all wrong.  How
great a relief it is to me to write those words down!  For weeks
and weeks I have been hesitating to say them to myself.  What is
the matter with everybody--with Celia, with Mrs. Gayner, with
Burke, even with Oliphant and Curtis?

Well, with Celia at least I know what it is--she is beginning to
hate my blindness.

From the first moment that we entered this house I had some sense
of this--no, before that, for I was aware of something in the car
as we drove here.  So opposite, isn't it, from what in stories or
plays you would be told?  There everyone has such burning sympathy
for the blind, and the beautiful girl who marries the blind hero
has no intention of doing anything else than look after him for the
rest of his days with loving and devoted care!

So, I am sure, Celia originally intended.  She is loving, generous,
sympathetic.  Too much so.  Many women less sensitive than she
would have devoted themselves to me and asked nothing better.

But Celia is beginning to find my blindness her enemy because it
won't surrender to her.  Her youth and beauty are too ignorant and
inexperienced to understand its personality.  ME she has, but my
blindness is another force--not myself--that I myself can't control
and can only dominate at times.  My blindness does not want to be
cosseted and protected and comforted and cared for.  It is proud
and independent and is scornful often of myself.  She thinks that
it is _I_ who am scornful and independent!

The more she loves me and WANTS me, the more she HATES my blindness
and resents it and is angry with it.  The odd thing is that
everyone else in the house seems to be going queer because we, she
and I, are not tranquil.  It is upsetting everything.

October 25.--'It is upsetting everything,' I wrote here two days
ago--and now indeed is everything upset.  Celia and I quarrelled
this afternoon in good dead earnest.  I behaved badly.  I behaved
badly because I am a perfectly ordinary man.  This afternoon I was
furious like an ordinary man and, like an ordinary man, I wanted
passionately to love her and to smack her at the same time.  The
quarrel arose, of course, out of nothing--a little nothing
tremendously symbolic.  The whole business of successful lovers is
to keep in step.  A little in front, a little behind, just that
much out of step, and almost at once you begin to lose yourselves
in terrifying darkness.

The quarrel this afternoon was, like Othello's, about a
handkerchief.  It had a sort of stage-management.  Half an hour
before tea Celia says (as she too often does), 'Is there anything I
can get you?'

I say:  'Yes, a clean handkerchief.'

She moves to the door.  I hear it open and know that Oliphant is
standing there.  I say:  'Oh, Oliphant will get it.  Don't you
bother.'  I tell him to fetch my handkerchief.  He goes.  She
stands there without speaking and I know that she is holding
herself in, trying not to shout.  And I think to myself:  'How
stupid!  She is about to make a row about nothing,' whereas I
should have thought:  'This seems to be about nothing, but it goes
to the very roots of our relationship.  I must be very careful.'
In fact, if I'd thought of it, my darling Celia was standing there,
like the woman in Dali's picture, her stomach full of clocks all
ticking at once.

Neither of us spoke a word.  No movement.  Then the door opens and
I touch Oliphant's cool firm little hand and the fresh crisp
handkerchief is in my pocket.  He goes out.  She breaks then into a
kind of schoolgirl cry:

'I wasn't good enough, I suppose, to fetch you a handkerchief.  It
must be Oliphant.'

Women want what they want so desperately that the end of their
world is threatened every Tuesday and Friday of the week.  But when
they've got securely what they want they'll go through every
torture, suffering, deprivation, quite tranquilly.  Celia, because
she wasn't sure of me, would plunge us both into hell over a
handkerchief.  If she had been sure of her possession of me she'd
have suffered the stake and the fire without a murmur.  Analyses of
small unimportant love-affairs are stupid, but this Journal is for
my own self-relief and clarity of mind.  I want above all things to
tell the exact truth.  Later on everything may depend on it.

I tried to draw her to me.  I am greatly dependent on touch.  The
first time that I meet anyone whom I mean to know I like their hand
to rest for a little while on my arm or my thigh.  Personality is
perhaps more truly revealed by touch than by anything else, even
for normal seeing persons.  Had I held her in my arms there would
have been no quarrel.  Sexual intimacy between two persons who wish
to know one another's hearts and souls has nothing gross.  It is so
spiritually revealing that the reactions that follow it are nine
times out of ten disappointing.  But Celia and I had passed all
that.  As with so many women, in my arms at night she was entirely
relieved, all her doubts were over.  This was especially so in our
case because at night I did not seem to her blind.  My blindness
drew stealthily away.  With the first beam of morning light it
returned.

She knew now that physical contact would settle our differences--
and she did not want them to be settled--so she stood away!  When I
realized that, I was angry.  An ordinary man, like myself, when he
loses his temper with a woman he loves, feels suddenly that the
whole of their sex is inferior, and he is the more angry because,
in his earlier words of passionate love, he has let his own sex
down.  Only normal healthy men feel this, of course, but when I am
in a rage I am a normal healthy man and a very stupid one.  Plumb
normality IS stupid!

Our conversation then was ridiculous.  Something--I don't know--
like this, perhaps:

'Darling, Oliphant knows just where everything is.'

'And I don't, I suppose?'

'Why should you bother when Oliphant can do it so easily?'

'Bother!  What a word!  Why did I marry you?'

'Now, Celia, you're like a child.'

(Yes.  Are not normal men in a rage stupider than stupid?)

I remember that here she said very gravely:  'No.  That's your big
mistake.'

She was so quiet that I said again, with a kind of tranquil
patronage:  'Well, then, come!  Let's have tea.  It's all nothing.'

She replied quickly, drawing in her breath:  'Yes, it's all
nothing.  Nothing at all.  Our relationship to one another.  I've
discovered that now.  I've been discovering that ever since we came
here.  You want me for nothing but to be in bed with you at night.
You have never thought, have you, that I'm a human being too?  That
I married you for something?  I married you because I wanted us to
be together and we're not together--never, never, never--except at
night, perhaps for half an hour, when you want to make love.  It
isn't only that I'm nothing in this house, but I'm nothing to you
either.  All the time you're away from me, imagining your own
things, seeing your own things, or listening to music you don't
want me to share.'

I said, not too convincingly:  'I want you to share everything.'

'Yes, everything that is part of your need at the moment.  But you
don't want to share ME, the kind of person I really am.  You push
ME away.  But I'm a real person, quite as real as you are, although
I'm NOT blind.'

She wished at once that she hadn't said that, and because I knew
that I used it to hurt her.

'That isn't just,' I said very quietly.

We knew then that, through stupid unconsidered anger, we were both
being hurried along into places where we should never go.  But we
couldn't stop.  It was as though someone had taken us both by the
shoulders and was hurrying us along.

'Just or no, it's true.  Have you tried to help me?  Have you made
me share your own things?  You know you haven't.  You think I know
nothing about books or music.  I know more perhaps than you think.'

'I'm sure you do,' with a sort of cheap sarcasm.  I was angry.  I
hated this row.  Men hate rows.  Women don't.  That is women's
advantage.

But if I was angry, she was angrier.

'You think this is all about nothing.  You're saying to yourself
"Poor child!  What a baby she is!"  (Incredible the fury and rage
Celia put into this.)  'Well, you're wrong.  It isn't all about
nothing.  It's about your conceit, thinking you're so superior to
me that you needn't bother at all.  I'm like a kept woman in your
home.  I'm a prostitute--that's all I am.  I'm nothing in this
house but a whore!'  And she rushed out, banging the door behind
her.

October 26.--This is serious, monstrous, ridiculous, absurd.  After
the quarrel we dined, saying polite nothings.  Then we sat in the
study and I turned on the Sibelius Fifth--which was stupid, I
suppose, because one of the things we are quarrelling about is
music, oddly enough.  I couldn't hear a note of it and when it was
over I began:  'Celia, darling--,' and at once she went out.

Later, I went up to bed and knew that she was there before me.
When I lay down in my bed I stretched out my hand to take hers.  As
soon as I touched her arm she withdrew it.  Then she said in the
voice of the ice-maiden:  'Please--don't touch me.  I don't want to
be touched.  If you touch me I'll have my bed somewhere else.'

'I don't want to be touched.'  And she said it like a child.

This morning I caught her as she was going out, led her into the
study, shut the door behind us, put my arms round her and kissed
her.

'Forgive me.  Forgive me.  I've been stupid, blundering.  I'll be
better.  I'll be wiser.'

But she wouldn't surrender.  Her lips were warm but dead.  She
said, quietly, as though she were repeating a lesson:  'There's
nothing to forgive.  It's just stupid,' and went out.

Now another mystery.  Before I went up to dress for dinner Mrs.
Gayner came in.  She wanted to know about some sheets and blankets
she was ordering from Harrods.

'You must speak to Mrs. Cromwell, Lizzie.  I want her to be
consulted about all those things.  She has been feeling that she's
left out a little.'

'I quite understand,' she said.

I put my hand on her arm.  It was trembling.

'What's the matter?' I asked.

'The matter, sir?'

'Yes, Lizzie.  You're in trouble.  You've been so for weeks.
What's your trouble?'

She withdrew from my touch.

'I think, sir,' she said, 'I'll have to leave.'

Oh, damn these women!  Damn them!  Whom do they ever think of but
themselves?  Here she had been with me for years and years.  We had
grown to be devoted friends.  And now she says quite indifferently:
'I think I'll have to leave!'

'Don't be silly,' I said.  'That's nonsense.'

'I mean it, sir.  It's no good as it is.'

'What's the trouble?  Is it my wife?  Are you getting on badly?'

'Oh no, sir.  That's all right.  She'll understand me in time.'

I knew, suddenly, that she was very unhappy--not only unhappy, but
frightened.

'If it's not that, what is it?'

'I'm afraid I can't tell you, sir.'

'Can't tell me?  But you've always told me everything.'

'It's my own private affair.'

'But your affair is mine.  You know that there's nothing I won't
help you about.  Is it money?  The other servants?'

'No, sir.  Thank you, sir.'

I took her hand then and held it, for so I must do if I'm to SEE my
friend.  I told her that I was myself in some trouble, that things
weren't easy, that I needed her as I had never needed her before.

Her hand was warm and trembling in mine.  She said at last:  'Very
well, sir.  I can't leave you if you need me.'

I tried once more.

'But WHAT is it, Lizzie?  Is someone pestering you, are you ill?'

She said then:  'Mrs. Cromwell has discovered that the two silver
cigarette-boxes in the drawing-room are missing.'

I laughed at that.

'She doesn't accuse YOU of taking them?'

'No, sir.  I must say she trusts me.'

'Well, then, where's your trouble?'

'It isn't pleasant, sir, when things are missing.'

'Of course not.  But if there's a thief we'll soon find him.'

'Yes, sir.'

I let her go.  She was changed.  She was a thousand miles away from
me.  Damn these women!  I shall move into a monastery.

November 2.--This ridiculous business has reached a new stage.
About a week ago Celia and I were lovers again after an interval of
more than a fortnight.  After that, until now, she loved me
passionately at night and was stiff and schoolgirlish during the
day.  She is in a nervous, exaggerated state.  I sometimes hope
that it may mean that she is going to have a child.

Meanwhile, I am having a struggle with myself not to submit to her,
utterly, completely, abjectly.  To do anything she may order.  To
dismiss Oliphant and Curtis.  To surrender to her dressing of me,
bathing me, leading me everywhere by the hand.

I love her just now in a frenzy of this disturbed passion.  For
three nights last week we were like lunatics in one another's arms--
as though we had never met before.  We were hysterical, frenzied,
as though we had not a moment to lose.

Finally we were unsatisfied.  We had not really joined one another
in those struggles and we knew it.  Day by day I have had to walk
as though on eggshells not to cause her unhappiness.  That is
humiliating.  Against my surrender is my insistence that I should
not surrender to anyone.  I feel that I am doing what our
Government is doing--surrendering all along the line to keep the
peace.  And I hate myself.  I despise myself.  And I love her so
passionately that my heart all day is like toothache and my throat
dry.  I hate, I hate, I HATE this submission and preoccupation.
That world opened for me by my blindness is altogether darkened and
obscure.  When I was happy and free it was as though I lifted the
latch and pushed the door back.  I saw a noble landscape and what
some writer called once 'The Great Good Place.'  At least I knew it
would be there when I had travelled in the right direction.  It was
like the third movement of the Mozart Trio, No. 5 in G major, where
it is all lightness, haymaking, dancing round the maypole,
forgiveness and love everywhere.  Now I can see nothing.  I think
of her all day long.  I am suspicious.  I am even, God forgive me,
jealous.  For she HATES my blindness.  It is my blindness that is
the villain.  And how I ache to see, as never, never before.

This morning she was in the room.  Jim Burke came in.  I fancied
that they stood looking at one another.  And why should they not?
The last man alive I would be jealous of is Burke.  He is devoted
to me.  Devoted?  An exaggerated word.  He likes me.  I trust him.

A ridiculous little dialogue occurred.

'I want to cut some of the trees down in the wood, Mr. Cromwell.
They are far too thick.'

And Celia says quickly:  'Oh, not the holly!'

I say:  'What holly?'

Jim says:  'They're far too thick, anyway.'

There's a little silence, short, meaningless.  But I feel that
something is happening and at the same moment warn myself that if I
begin to be suspicious of anything or nothing I'm a ruined man.

I say:  'Come with me into the garden, Jim.'  Lest she should be
offended I add:  'Come too, Celia.'

She says quickly:  'Oh no, I have to speak to Mrs. Gayner.'

Jim and I go out together.  His hand is through my arm.  He presses
on it just below the shoulder.  His hand is as strong as mine.  We
are two men together.  There are no women in our world, and I have
the fancy that he is glad as I.  I have the fancy that he is
suddenly relieved as I am.  We are shoulder to shoulder.  His grip
on my arm tightens.  We are walking on the lawn, strong and springy
to our tread, and the sunlight on my face is thin with a ghostly
warmth.  We have never been so close as now, nor understood one
another so well.  It is almost--ridiculous thought--as though we
were banded together against Celia.

We don't say a single word.

November 5.--Mrs. Mark has been all afternoon with me.  Celia spent
the day in Polchester, came back just before dinner, said she had a
splitting headache and went to bed.

I go up in half an hour's time.

Meanwhile, I like Mrs. Mark.  She is, it seems to me, just what I
need at this moment.  I imagine her as of middle height, grey hair,
squarely built, quiet, determined, goodhearted, a little
sententious.  This last she says she is.

'I am like the good moralizing daughter in the novel who, after
sacrificing herself all her life to her parents, marries the hero.'

'Whose novel?' I asked.

'Anyone English before 1920.  I've grown into the good, patient
Commre who solves everyone's trouble.  A good, patient, priggish,
nice woman.'

I told her that, to me, if she didn't mind my saying it, she stood
for the past.  When she was here the whole house had a double life.
It was not only that I realized, through her, how important that
other life had been, but that it was still resonant.

'Yes,' she said.  'I can hear Millie calling from the garden.
There's a noise Henry used to make coming down the stairs.'

She went to the door and opened it.

'I'm feeling the worn places on the banisters--little smooth
hollows.  I know every one of them.'

'I want to tell you one thing,' she said, coming back to me, and
putting her hand on my arm.  'I'm so glad it's you that took this
place--the whole village is glad.'

I laughed and said that I made no difference to anybody.

She told me that no one could be unaware of me.  It was as though I
could see them all at their most secret purposes, that there was no
escaping me.

'Why, Celia and I feel that about THEM!' I cried.  'As though they
were watching everything we do, overhearing every word we utter.'

'And so they are,' Mrs. Mark answered.  She told me then an
interesting thing.  She had come down here to complete her life--it
was to be the final rounding of her circle.  'Not that I'm
expecting to die tomorrow, or any nonsense like that.  I'm only
sixty and, so far as I know, perfectly healthy.  But I suppose the
imminence of war makes all the old people feel the same.  TWO world
wars in our lifetime!  This surely must be the end for us.  And so
I wanted to see all this before I die.  So I came.  But death?  Not
a bit of it.  Life, rather!'  She caught my arm and held it,
speaking excitedly like a girl.

'I'm in love again!'

'Good heavens!' I exclaimed, not very politely.

'Oh no!  THAT'S all over--long ago.  I've only loved one man in my
life.  No.  Dorothy Brennan.'

'She's a nice child.'

'She would have been my perfect daughter.  There's something lovely
about her.  In THIS world--that such a child should exist!  Life is
rushing through me again.  I have someone to care for, protect. . . .
Oh, I'm not going to be a fool, you know.  I shan't interfere.
She's got her own mother.  But I feel, somehow, that I AM here to
protect her from something, from someone.  And that's connected
with you too.  If you hadn't come here, Dorothy's life would be
different.  You make us see things we never would have seen without
you.'

I said to her before she went away:  'There's someone else you can
help too--and that's me.  I'm having my own difficult time.'

I like Mrs. Mark.  She's generous-hearted.

November 7.--I had the oddest sense of Jim Burke for a moment this
morning.  He was standing quite close to me and it seemed to me
that he was seized with some extraordinary passion--that he was
standing there mastering it.  I saw his eyes burning in a total
darkness.  I heard him sigh, almost groan.  I could hear, I
fancied, like thunder, the beating of his heart.  His eyes and his
heart.  I wanted to help him.  I nearly said something.  Then he
sat down and opening the paper remarked quietly:  'That filthy
Hitler will ruin the lot of us before he's finished.'



CHAPTER III

TWILIGHT NEAR THE 'THREE PILCHARDS'--AFTERNOON--THE HOLLY TREE--THE
RECTORY


Simon Brennan discovered suddenly that life was of an absorbing and
dramatic interest.  Not that life had, during the whole of his
eight years, shown the slightest sign of dullness.  He had not,
since he first drew breath, known a single moment's dreariness.  He
had been angry, scornful, gay, sardonic, greedy, anticipatory,
grateful, disappointed, intriguing, adventurous, sleepy, revengeful--
never dreary.

He had always planned his life on his own lines, and anyone who
does that knows that he must outwardly acquiesce in the foolish
desires of other people.  He had learned at a surprisingly early
age that to bend anyone in your direction you must flatter him or
her.  He was already an excellent judge of character.

With all this he was not a horrid little boy.  He was saved by the
possession of a warm heart.  That would be a trouble to him later
on, as anyone who suffers from the combined impulses of a sardonic
mind and a warm heart well knows.

He was not, however, sardonic (sardonic children ARE horrible) so
much as determined.  He saw his course clearly and pursued it.

Since the arrival of Julius Cromwell and the return of Jim Burke
the whole direction of his life was altered.  He really loved
Julius Cromwell.  This was the first human being he had really
loved as yet.  He loved his sister Dorothy ALMOST.  He was hindered
from complete love by her too-ready submission to his will.  It
would be too strong a thing to say that he despised her for that,
but he liked, and would always like, people whom he must fight a
little.

It is true that he didn't want to fight Julius Cromwell, but he, by
his blindness, his physical size, his mysteriousness, was removed
from all other men.  When Simon climbed on to him and leaned his
head back against his great thundering heart he felt immortal--or
would have felt it had he known what immortality was.  Leaning
against Julius' waistcoat he was in another world, a world where
magic rules.  He was not, however, at all a sentimental boy.  He
hated to be kissed and Julius never kissed him.  HE kissed Julius
and always as though the kiss might lead to some new adventure.

Jim Burke was, in comparison, an ordinary person, but Simon had
always liked him.  Jim told him all the things that he wanted to
know.  The colours of birds, for instance.  The Stonechat is rose-
coloured with a black head and a white collar.  The Whinchat is
more sober in colour and has a light-coloured streak over the eye.
And the distinctive mark of the Wheatear is a white patch just
above its tail.  The Yellow Wagtail has a canary-coloured breast
and an olive-yellow back.  The Grey Wagtail has a grey back and
head and yellow on its chest.

You could, of course, get all these facts from a Bird Book that
Gilbert had, but you didn't notice them when you READ them.  It was
quite different when Jim Burke told you about them.

He had developed now a very clever technique about visiting the
Cromwells.  He knew that his mother greatly disliked his going
there.  He knew, too, his mother's habits exactly.  Twice a week
she went to a Sewing Party at the house of Somebody, unless
Somebody came to the Rectory.

These affairs lasted for some three hours and during them his
mother was altogether absorbed.  He waited until Dorothy was
engaged and then he slipped away, taking care always to return
before his mother should enquire for him.

If the weather were fine he occupied himself in the garden with Jim
Burke.  There was always plenty to do.  When it was wet he was with
Burke or Curtis in the garage or potting-sheds.  He at once
discovered that it pleased Mrs. Cromwell if he was defying his
mother.  When she saw him she said:  'You naughty boy, Simon!  Go
home at once.'  He said:  'Mother's at the sewing party.'  Then she
laughed and gave him a brandy-ball.  But, of course, his real
objective was Julius Cromwell.  On a fine afternoon Julius motored,
walked, or pottered about the garden.

Sometimes Simon was lucky and met him when he was starting for a
walk, either with his wife or Oliphant.  Then Simon said he was
just on his way home and would go with them part of the way.  He
always added:  'Mother's at a sewing party.'  He made up to that
neat, silent little man, Oliphant, who had, he knew, very much
influence with his master.  He ran joyfully along beside Julius,
like a little dog.

But best of all were the days when he found Julius in the garden,
or the wet days when very slyly he penetrated the study.  Then he
would say softly:  'Hullo!' and Julius would turn, looking with his
blue eyes away above that small body, and say sternly, 'Simon!'

Simon would say:  'Mother's at a sewing party.'

'That doesn't make it any better.  You know you oughtn't to come
here.'

'I only looked in.'  Simon had picked this mature phrase up from
somewhere.

Then Julius laughed and picked him up, and Simon leaned back
against the waistcoat and heard the heart beating.

Often Mr. Cromwell was listening to music.  Simon didn't mind this.
The sounds were pleasant and soothing.  He liked the sweet soaring
note of the violin and especially when it went high above all the
other instruments.  Mr. Cromwell would say:

'That's the Mendelssohn Unfinished Quartet.  The Andante has one of
the loveliest themes in the whole world.  Mendelssohn isn't
sentimental as people think,' which meant nothing at all to Simon,
but he was flattered.

Always he kept his eye on the clock, for, like Cinderella, he had
his fatal hour of return.

On a certain afternoon in November, when the dusk was beginning to
sweep through the valley in a violet-grey haze, Simon was in the
Garth garden.  A bonfire of dead leaves was burning and crackling
at the end of the lawn.  Simon was hiding in the wood, for he
thought that Jim Burke was coming.  He would spring out on him and
surprise him.

Julius was alone in the study listening to the 'German Dance'
movement in the Quartet in B flat major by Beethoven.

Celia was coming in from her afternoon walk.  She stopped at the
end of the lawn to watch the little gold and sullen red tongues of
flame as they sprang from the bonfire and mocked the sky.  She
thought that she would walk to the house through the wood.  She was
very unhappy.

Jim Burke, pushing dead leaves into the bonfire, saw her cross the
lawn and followed her.

The afternoon was not cold.  So, at least, Mrs. Gayner thought,
slipping out of the house, keeping close to the hedge as she
hurried along the road.

There is, some thirty yards before you reach the 'Three Pilchards,'
a narrow path that leads off from the main road between fields.  In
the late spring and summer it is a famous traditional resort of
lovers, for the trees overshadow it and there is a fine private
stillness here, save for the birds and the murmuring human voices.

It is desolate now.  Across the dun stubbled field the light fades
into a milky white, and from this stalks and barren stems and gaunt
leaves protrude with contorted, frustrated gestures as though they
were making some last desperate appeal.  A band of red gapes above
a black-bellied cloud.  If anything moves it moves stealthily.  The
air is close and sulky.

Mrs. Gayner found her son waiting for her.  She kissed him as she
had kissed him when he was a little boy, on the cheek and then on
the mouth.  When her gloved hand touched his thin body she felt
such a trembling of love within her that the road with its bare
trees was suddenly misted.

'All right, Mother.  That's all right now.'

'Why didn't you come last week?  I haven't seen you for a
fortnight, except once passing you in the road.'

'I couldn't get away, Mother.'

'Get away from what?  You aren't doing any work that I know of.'

'Well, there you're wrong--see?'

'What ARE you doing then?'

'I've sold a dog and some other things.'

'Yes.'  Mrs. Gayner moved away from him a little.  'I know what
you've been selling.  Those cigarette-boxes.'

'Look here, Mother, I told you I hadn't taken them, didn't I?'

'What do you lie to me for?  That last time you came to see me when
Mr. and Mrs. Cromwell were out at the dinner-party, you slipped
into the dining-room and took them.'

'I did not.  See?'  He did his little shuffle on the road.  'It's
blasted hard on a fellow when his own mother thinks him a thief.'

'I KNOW you're a thief, God help me.  And everything else that is
bad.'

He suddenly slipped his hand into hers.  She could not help but
hold it and press it.  It was so thin and so slight.

'Look here, Mother, have you brought me the dough?'

'I've brought you enough to get to London with.  I've written the
address of the place you're to stay at there.  To that address I'm
sending you your ticket for the S.S. Andromeda that goes to
Jamaica, and a few pounds more.  I've written to my cousin, Mr.
Jacobs, in Kingston, and he'll give you something to do.  I know he
will, for he's a kind man and wrote to me about you last year, as
I've told you.'

There was a silence.  The little man shuffled about on the dry
leaves.  At last he said:

'Gee, Mother, I don't understand you.  I'm the only son you've got
and I've come to live near you and here you are pushing me
thousands of miles away just as though you hated the sight of me.'

'It isn't you I hate, Douglas,' she answered passionately.  'It's
your character.  And why you've got that character I can't tell.
It isn't all your own fault, I suppose, but being what it is I'm
not going to have you robbing the man who's been better to me than
any other human being, as long as I live.  And I'm not going on
with all this secrecy either.'

'I hate that man,' he said reflectively.  'I bet he knows who I am
and all about me.  I bet he knows I'm here with you now.  He fair
gives me the creeps.  They all say in the village he sees more than
any man that's got the use of his eyes.  There was a man in the
same lodging as me in Coventry once, just the same.  If I was to
steal anything from him,' he added, 'it would be only fair.  What's
he got everything in the world for and me nothing?  There's a time
coming when we'll be all equal, just like they are in Russia.'

'You and Mr. Cromwell equal!' she answered scornfully.  'But never
mind that now.  Are you going to London tomorrow?  Answer me that.'

'I don't know.'

'You don't get a penny unless you do.'

'Oh, don't I?  That's all you know.  What would your Mr. Cromwell
say if he knew you'd got a son like you say I am?  What would he
say if he knew I HAD taken those cigarette-boxes?'

'He'd understand.  He'd do anything for me.'

'Mrs. Cromwell wouldn't then.  I know all about it.  She's jealous
of her husband, she is, and would like to get rid of the lot of
you--that snarky companion that dresses him in the morning, the
chauffeur, and all of you.  _I_ know.'

'It doesn't matter what you think you know, Douglas.  You don't get
a penny unless you're off to London tomorrow morning.'

'Well, I'm not going--see?'

She looked at him and then looked away at the desolate ghostly
scene, at the chill dark that approached like an enemy.

What was she to do?  He looked as though he hated her.  He was thin
and cold and badly clad.  She longed to put her arms round him,
lead him to a roaring fire, place before him all the best food and
drink in the world.  But he was bad.  He was a liar and a thief and
ungrateful.  These things made no difference to her love for him.

'You can't do anything by staying here.  You know you can't,
Douglas.  I can't go on keeping you.  I haven't got the money.'

'I'm going to stay,' he answered.  'I like it here.  I can't leave
my dogs, anyway.  They'd just be killed if I went away.  Nobody
wants them but me.  Besides--there's a girl.'

'A girl?'  She caught her breath.  'Oh no--'

'You needn't worry, Mother.  I'm not going to touch her.  She's the
parson's daughter.'

'Miss Dorothy?  Why, she's a child!'

'She's lovely,' he said.  'I'd do anything for her.  She won't come
to any harm from me, but I like to look at her.  I like to see her
walking out.  She's so serious and she's kind.  She's like a spring
flower.'

'Don't you frighten her or speak to her or anything!' Mrs. Gayner
said fiercely.  'If you do, I'll tell Mr. Cromwell and have you
sent away.'

Something touched him.  The distress in his mother's face perhaps.
He kissed her.

'Don't you worry.  I'll think about going to London.  I will,
straight.  A man can't make up his mind all in a moment.  I've got
to find homes for the dogs, haven't I?  You must see that.  It
wouldn't be decent. . . .'  He shivered.  'It's dark almost.  You'd
best be getting home.'


Celia stood for a moment watching the bonfire.  She remembered no
time in all her life when she had been as miserable as she was now.
She was furious with Julius and loved him more than ever before.
She loved him but he had eluded her.  He was separated from her by
all these people who surrounded him--by Oliphant, by Curtis, by
Mrs. Gayner.

She was lonely with a new loneliness.  She had not a friend in this
horrible place.  She hated Garth, she hated Glebeshire.  And they
hated HER.  Headed by the loathsome Mrs. Brennan they all hated
her.  In every place before they had loved and admired her.  She
had been surrounded by friends of her own age.

She remembered how Gerda Mills had said to her when she heard of
the engagement:  'Why, Celia!  He's old enough to be your father,
AND blind.'  Those had been the attractions then.  She had fancied
herself weary of the young and crude.  He was blind and would need
her.  Physically she had adored him and physically she adored him
still.  But she had no contact with him.  The physical contact was
nothing unless she had other contacts as well.  What she needed was
a friend, and he shared his friendship for her with all these
others.  Oliphant was always there, and if it wasn't Oliphant it
was Curtis.  The odious Mrs. Gayner was for ever spying on her,
creeping up and down stairs, watching her.  Julius poured out his
heart to her.  Celia was a child to him, inexperienced, only to be
teased and cuddled.  But she was NOT a child!  She was a mature,
experienced woman.  If Julius thought he could keep her out of
everything, if he thought that she would be content to satisfy only
his physical needs, then he was badly mistaken and must be shown
that he was.

Because she loved him she liked to hurt him.  The only way that she
could show her power over him was by hurting him.  He would not
allow her any other power.

She walked slowly across the lawn.  She realized, as though she
were looking at another person, that she was in a silly hysterical
state.  Her eyes were filled with tears for no reason at all.  She
was angry and she was miserable.

Had Julius quite suddenly appeared in front of her, crying out:
'Oliphant, Curtis, Mrs. Gayner, are all gone, darling!  I knew you
didn't like them, so I have dismissed them all,' she would have run
to him, hugged him, hugged him, knelt at his feet, allowed him to
do what he would to her.

And yet she did not care so very deeply about Curtis, Oliphant, and
Mrs. Gayner.  They were figures symbolizing the barrier that his
blindness had built up.  To think that she must live for ever with
this blindness, this intangible, hateful blindness that detested
her.  For ever and ever!  She was young and had all her life to
live.  What was he doing now?  Listening, in all probability, to
his beastly music.  Quite happy, perfectly satisfied!  Not thinking
of her, not needing her. . . .

She entered the wood.  She saw the holly.  How dark the leaves, how
white the bark in the thickening dusk!  The leaves were ferocious.
And behind the tree Simon was waiting to leap out.  But he would
not until Jim Burke was also there.

She heard the steps crunching the crisp fallen leaves and turned.
'Jim--hullo!'  She was pleased.  He had become in these last weeks
her friend, because he was almost of her own age, was just what he
seemed, was friendly and honest and--might be anything.  That
fascinated her--the things that he might be.  When he read the
papers to Julius of a morning he read them as though he had a
perfect education.  He read them with a little of the parson, a
little of the actor, a little of the casual friend in the tone of
it.  And yet he preferred to be a sort of under-gardener.

She knew also that he was in love with her.  No one else was--no
one else in the whole world.  And no one else was young.  He was
attractive, always clean, however grubby his hands might be from
his work.  His control of his body pleased her.  He was so very fit
that he needn't give his body a thought.  She had considered what
he would be like without his clothes.  It was a pity that he must
wear clothes.

'Hullo!' he said, and grinned.  'I'm just going to the garage.
Like to come?'

'No, I don't think so.  It's nearly tea-time.  Funny it isn't
colder, the sky looking as it does.'

'It's always close in this little wood, whatever the weather.'  He
stared into her face.  'You're not looking very gay.'

'I'm not feeling very gay.  Do you feel very gay always?'

'No, I'm damned if I do.  Sometimes I'm like a dog with a tin can
to its tail.  Sometimes I'm like a man shut up in a cell.
Sometimes I've got no head, only a stomach.  Sometimes I could howl
like a tom-cat on the tiles.'

She smiled.

'You ARE eloquent!'

'What's the matter?' he asked abruptly.  'Don't tell me if you
don't want to, but your being happy means a lot.  I watch you
sometimes and think:  Is she happy or isn't she?

'Why should it matter to you whether I'm happy or not?'

'Oh, I don't know.  It just does.'

It was growing darker and he moved towards her, staring into her
face.

'I'm glad someone cares!' she said bitterly.  She moved as though
she would go away.

He touched her sleeve.  'Don't go for a moment.  We never talk.
Not since that day on the Moor.  I've seen for a long time that you
were unhappy.  I told Mr. Cromwell that I must leave; I couldn't
bear to see you as you were.  He doesn't want me to go.'

'Yes, he likes you very much.'

'And I like him better than any man anywhere.  What's the matter
between you two?'

She didn't reply.

'I oughtn't to ask.  But I simply can't help myself.  You don't
have to answer, though.'

'What's the matter,' she said slowly, 'is that when we were married
I thought I'd be able to look after him.  But I was wrong.  He's
surrounded by people who look after him.  If we hadn't any money
and lived in a workman's cottage alone, then it would be all
right.'

'Yes, I understand.  You're lonely.  No people of your own age
about--except me,' he added.

'Well--there it is.  It will be all right.  It's a comfort to say
something to somebody.'

'You can always talk to me.  Because I think the world of him.  It
wouldn't be right to talk about him if I didn't like him.  At
least, that's the way I see it.'

'No.  It wouldn't be right.'  She sighed.  'I suppose most people
are unhappy about something.'

He came very close to her.  She could feel his breath on her cheek.

'But I don't want YOU to be unhappy.  I can't bear it.  I lie
thinking about it.  I want to make you happy.  You're so beautiful
and so young, it isn't right for you to be unhappy.  It isn't
right, and it mustn't be.'

The words came from him breathlessly.  He caught her shoulders in
his hands, kissed her on the mouth, turned and went out of the
wood.


Young Simon Brennan had, on this particular afternoon, mistaken the
hour of his mother's sewing party.  For this reason or that, it was
to be at four-thirty instead of three-thirty.

Dorothy, standing at the window of the schoolroom, watching the
blue-grey dusk, was thinking about Jim Burke.  She was wondering
what Jim Burke was doing.

Gilbert, seated on a tip-tilted chair at the table with the shabby
green cloth, was wondering about Jim Burke too.  But in quite
another fashion from Dorothy.  He was wondering when Jim would give
him another lesson.  He had in front of him, piled on a sheet of
The Times newspaper, a heap of putty.  Jim had given him already
one lesson; his sharp skin-tight face with its ardent eager eyes
was drawn into the work as though face and putty were one.  Jim had
not had time to show him very much.  The fact also was that Jim did
not know very much, working by the light of nature rather than
reason.  But Jim had told him enough to make certain things more
obvious.  For instance, a head must have proper proportions, and
these proportions must be decided before the work was begun.

Benson, the dog, lay on the floor, his head on his paws, his eyes
fixed on his master.  In his muddled, neglected life he had never,
before this, belonged to anybody.  Now, quite beyond any question,
he belonged to Gilbert Brennan.

Gilbert felt for him a burning love which was part of his ardent
repressed nature.  He wanted to love all the world; everything was
appearing to him as though for the first time; but he was
desperately shy and full of pride and terrified of rebuffs.  He
seemed to many people a sulky, rather ill-mannered boy.  But Benson
would not rebuff him nor would he think him ill-mannered.  Benson
worshipped him.  In Benson's eyes Gilbert could do no possible
wrong.  Even Dorothy thought that Gilbert could do wrong and
sometimes told him so.  It was a new experience to him to have this
worship and it touched him deeply.

Dorothy turned from the window and came to see what Gilbert was
doing.  She realized that although as yet he knew nothing at all
about it, there was something in the movement of his slim strong
fingers that meant a talent.

'Gillie--do you think Jim really cares anything about us?'

'Care about us?  Of course he does.'  His eyes were bent over the
table.

'No, but I mean--would it matter to him if we died tomorrow?'

'Of course it would.'

'I do hope so.'  She sighed.  A month or two ago she would have
said what was in her mind--'I love him most awfully.'  Now for some
reason she did not.

There was nothing wrong in loving Jim Burke, but now, for the first
time, she wanted to keep it to herself.  She thought of love as
something that you felt when you wanted to protect and defend
somebody, and to help him in every possible way.  She loved her
family and she was beginning to love Mrs. Mark, but that was
something different.  It was as though Jim Burke were surrounded
with a ring of almost blinding light.

'You know that horrid man who gave you Benson--'

'There's nothing horrible about him.'

'Oh yes there is.  Everything is horrible about him.  That
waterproof he wears and his eyes and his teeth and the way he
shuffles along--'

'Well?'  Gilbert was moulding the putty.  It was a funny-looking
head, but all the same he felt behind his fingers a new power.
This power was the most exciting thing he had ever known.  His
fingers couldn't DO anything yet, but soon they would.  It was as
though they were alive with separate life.

'He spoke to me again this morning--when I was coming out of the
Post Office.  I do wish he wouldn't.'

'What did he say?'

'Something about he might be going to London, and he hoped I was
well, and was the little dog all right?'

'What did you say?'

'I got away as soon as I could.  I HATE him.  I wonder who he is
and what he's doing.  He said something about Mr. Cromwell.  He
said he didn't want that blind man coming along spying things out.'

Gilbert stood up, stretching his thin arms.

'Of course it doesn't look anything YET.  But Jim said I wasn't to
put in the eyes and mouth until I'd made the general shape right.'

As soon as he rose, Benson rose too.  Now the whole of his body was
moving and his eyes pleaded with Gilbert--to do what?  It didn't
matter so long as they did it together.

The door opened and Simon came in.

It was obvious at once that something had happened to him.  When
Simon was excited his whole personality was bent to one purpose--
namely, to realize his excitement to the full.  He was not
emotional or sentimental so much as running at full power.  When,
at the age of four, he was given his first train he said nothing,
not even 'Thank you,' but at once, without losing a single moment,
set himself to doing everything with a train and railway lines that
could be done.  He was a realist with a wonderful power for
disregarding everything that was not to the point.

He had never as yet in his life seen any human being kiss another
as Jim Burke had kissed Mrs. Cromwell.  He had never as yet seen
any human being look at another human being as Jim Burke looked at
Mrs. Cromwell.  He did not, of course, think it shocking or
immoral.  He supposed that anybody could kiss anybody; himself he
hated to be kissed.  But he had not remotely supposed that Jim
Burke would want to kiss Mrs. Cromwell.  Jim Burke was not, in his
experience, a kissing person, and was all the better for that.

There had, however, been something very strange in the kissing of
Mrs. Cromwell by Jim Burke, something very strange also in the way
Jim had rushed from the wood, something very strange in Mrs.
Cromwell's face as she stood there afterwards without moving.

Simon had crept away and then run home.  He wanted to tell someone
about it and discover what it had really meant.  He would ask Jim
Burke as soon as he saw him.

He said very little to his brother and sister.  He went to the
bedroom that he shared with Gilbert to take off his overcoat.
Coming out he encountered his mother, who was going downstairs to
receive her guests.

'Why, Simon!  Haven't you had your tea?'

'No, Mother.'  Then he said slowly, 'I've been in Mr. Cromwell's
garden.'

She was in a great hurry and so could not be as cross as she ought
to be.

'You naughty boy--I told you--'

He was staring at her with excitement.

'I was in the little wood and Jim Burke was there and Mrs.
Cromwell.  I was hiding to give Jim a surprise, but he kissed Mrs.
Cromwell and ran away.'

Mrs. Brennan stopped on the top of the stairs.

'What!'

So there WAS something exciting about Jim kissing Mrs. Cromwell!
He was right.

'Jim kissed Mrs. Cromwell and ran away!'

'Jim Burke . . . !'

She stood staring at her small son as though she were in a trance.
Simon knew nothing about trances, but he did know that delightful
warming self-approbating sensation of being the bearer of important
news.  At the same time, very oddly, he was uncomfortable.  There
was something in his mother's face that frightened him.  WHY should
Jim Burke kiss Mrs. Cromwell?  That was what he wanted so eagerly
to know.

Now he was suddenly wondering--why should Jim Burke NOT kiss Mrs.
Cromwell?  His mother's face made him ask himself that question.

The ladies had already arrived.  After a little pleasant
conversation they settled down to their tea.

Mrs. Lamplough was sitting in a chair by the fire.  Daisy Brennan
touched her arm.

'Alice, come over here a moment.  I've something to tell you.'

They went together to the window.

'You won't believe it, but it's true.  My Simon . . .'

Miss Vergil called out:

'Now you two!  What's the mystery?'

Very soon they all of them knew.



CHAPTER IV

IN CELIA'S ROOM--THE WINTER AFTERNOON--AT MRS. MARK'S COTTAGE


Celia stood listening with all possible intentness.  As she had
expected, the Voice came from the heart of a golden cloud.  She had
always thought that it would.  God's Voice in a cloud.  She must
not miss a single word.  The Voice had the tone and measure of a
singing-master who had once taught her or tried to teach her; it
was rich, resonant, and patient.  It was also, as she had not
expected, quite conversational.  It was friendly, just as the
singing-master's had been.  He had attempted once, she remembered,
to kiss her.

'I am not saying,' the Voice continued, 'that you are entirely to
blame.  Allowances will be made.  But it IS entirely your own
affair.  You can't say that you haven't had plenty of warning.'

The Voice paused as though it expected her to say something.  But
she did not speak.

'You have, of course, been shockingly educated.  Simply not
educated at all.  A great deal of that has been your own fault.
You were not at all a stupid child, and if you had not been so lazy
and selfish you would have protested against the kind of education
you were getting, or rather not getting.  There was plenty of good
education to be had.  You might have learned at least one language
properly, read some books that taught you something.  You might
have tried to learn what music was really about.  You had some
natural taste.  You were too idle and self-willed to bother.'

The Voice paused again.  Celia said nothing.  There was nothing to
be said.

'You disliked being made love to, especially by old men, but your
vanity was exorbitant.  That night you spent with young Fellowes
you did not enjoy at all.  The bottle-parties you went to really
disgusted you, especially the one at Mrs. Highman's, but you were
frightened to seem peculiar.  No one else was shocked, so you
mustn't be either.  All very stupid.'

The Voice paused again.  It was getting very cold and there were
shadows like gigantic mailed figures in the mists that clung about
the mountainside.

'However, you are at last in real danger.  I am warning you.  I
shall do nothing whatever to stop you.  I gave you freewill just as
I gave it to everybody else.  If you do the wrong thing it will be
nobody's fault but your own.  I am warning you.'

Celia thought that perhaps she should say, 'Thank you very much.'
She said nothing.  Her teeth were beginning to chatter with the
cold.

The Voice became suddenly more tender.

'But, my dear child, I cannot tell you what happiness it will be to
me--and indeed to all of us--if you avoid this danger.  I have a
great tenderness for you.  I shall have the same tenderness
whatever you do.  It is yourself that you will punish, and most
bitterly.  This is your last chance.  Pray consider . . . pray
consider . . . pray consider . . .'

The Voice faded away.  The cloud was no longer golden, and there
was much movement, confusion behind the mist.  She was now so
dreadfully cold that she must do something about it.  She was
naked.  She rose to her feet and found Jim Burke standing there.
He was naked also.

'How foolish!' she said aloud.  'He was only my singing-master.'

'Certainly he was,' Jim Burke said.  'Come with me and we'll forget
all about him.'

This was the moment.  She saw quite clearly that thousands of eyes
were watching her through the mist.  There was intense silence.
They were waiting to see what she would do.

'Why shouldn't I?' she cried aloud, defying them.  'Why shouldn't I
have some fun?'

She caught Jim Burke's hand, but she wasn't happy.  He caught her
in his arms, but his body burnt her as though with fire.

'Oh, don't!' she cried out.  'You're hurting me!'

'I don't care!' he shouted.  'I've got you now.  You're mine!
You're mine!'

'I'm not!' she cried.  'I belong to Julius!'

But it was too late.  The wind rose and shrieked about them.  They
were rushing down the mountain at a terrible speed and she knew
that, in a moment, they would be destroyed.  Horrible things were
there waiting for them.

Her terror was frantic.  She could not see Jim Burke.  She could
not stop her falling.  She fell, she fell, she fell!

She screamed:

'Julius!  Julius!  Save me!  Save me!'

She woke up.

She felt at once his arms about her.  He had slipped out of his bed
into hers.  He held her closely against him, pushing her head back
a little so that he might kiss her mouth and stroke her forehead.
Above everything else she loved the touch of his hands on her
forehead.  His hands, his hands!  She clung to him.  Her eyes were
wet.  Passionately they loved.  Completely they were mingled, and
when at last they drew apart it was only their bodies that were
separating.

They lay now very quietly, their hearts hammering but wrapped in a
great peace.  Her head was on his breast, her hand on his thigh:
his hand very gently enclosed her neck, stroking it a little,
moving downwards to the hollow of her back.

They began quietly to talk.

'What was it?  A nightmare?'

'Yes.  I dreamt that God was warning me.  His voice was like a
singing-master's I once had.'

'Warning you of what?'

'Of being an idiot!  And I WAS one.  I was nearly lost.  I went
rushing down to perdition.'  She said nothing about Jim Burke.

'And then you called out for me?'

'Yes.'

'That was one sensible thing anyway!'

She sighed.  He laid his hand above her heart.

'Don't sigh.  The danger is over.  You're safe.'

'I don't know that it is.  At night everything is all right.  We
love one another.  We trust one another.  Oh, Julius, you are a
darling at night!'

He kissed her.

'But in the day it is all different.  As soon as it is dark we run
towards one another with cries of joy as though we had lost one
another during the day.'

'In all married life,' he said, 'it is either the day or the night
that is more difficult--unless both are so easy that they amount to
nothing at all.  Darling . . . I can ask you now, what has been the
matter all these last weeks?  Why have you been so nervous?  Why
have you been suddenly so angry with me?  Tell me--tell me
truthfully--do you find my blindness more than you can endure?  Are
you frightened when you see years and years of it stretching ahead
of you?  Did I do you a terrible injustice by marrying you?'

She answered at last, in a low trembling voice:  'I'm not good
enough . . . I haven't any character . . . I'm just rotten.'

He caught her and held her so close to him that she felt the pulse
of his heart beat against her ribs.

'Darling, darling!  You HAVE character; you have everything.  Only
trust yourself as well as me. . . .'

But she drew back from him a little and said again, very low:

'Would you forgive me, whatever I did?  Would you still love me,
whatever I did?'

He did not answer.  She was suddenly aware of his blindness.

At last he said:

'I don't know . . . I can't tell.  I don't know myself well enough.
I don't know how I'd behave.'  Then quite sharply he asked:

'What do you mean?  Whatever you did?'

'If I stole, if I went to prison, if I were unfaithful.'

'I don't know.  I can't tell how I'd behave.'

She went on in so low a voice that he could scarcely hear her:

'Because I would love you just the same.  If I did something
terrible it wouldn't be because I didn't love you.'

He sighed as she had done.

She went on:

'The trouble is I don't know myself.  I love you so awfully that it
might drive me . . .'

He said almost with a cry:

'What's the matter?  Are you frightened of doing something?'

'That's the trouble.  I'm frightened of everything.  In the daytime
I'm all by myself--I've never been so lonely in my life before.'

To his horror she began to cry, submissively, like a child.  He
caught her to him in an agony of distress.

'You mustn't cry!  You mustn't cry!  Dearest, dearest--you mustn't!
You mustn't!  Lonely?  How can you be lonely?  When I am with you
always, loving you always--'

She interrupted:  'No, no!  You are not with me always!  In the day
you're not.  Often you go away from me and from everybody.  Then I
have no one else.  No one here--no one of my own age who
understands what we're like--all of us who never had any proper
life.'  She was quiet.  She sat up, away from him, staring down at
him although it was so dark.

'I've never told you, Julius--but I slept with a man when I was
seventeen.'

'I've never asked you, have I?'  He pulled her down to him.  'I
understand more than you think.  I know the kind of life you had.
I know how much older I am. . . .  We have to be tested, both of
us.  We don't know what we really are yet.  I'll pull you through.
You'll pull me through.  Only tell me everything--everything.  Then
I'll help you.'

'Yes.  You help me,' she murmured.  'I'm nearly asleep.  Help me,
Julius.  Help me.'


On a certain afternoon early in December Celia decided to call on
Mrs. Mark.

It was the first day of winter.  In Glebeshire winter is seldom
severe.  It is a season there of mists, of sudden bursts of
sunshine as warm as early summer, of drifting rain that seems, even
in December, to be encouraging violets and primroses; above all, of
winds from the sea that blow the chimney-smoke athwart the sky and
carry the salt spray on to lanes and fields far from the shore.

But today was winter.  The sky was snow-blue, the air still with a
sting of frost.  Scent was keen.  You could smell the leaf-mould of
the hazel.  There had been a night-frost and, in spite of the sun,
patches of faint silver lay like spider-web still on the field.
The silence was winter's silence.  A dog barked; somewhere a motor-
engine purred; a bird sang, stopped, and sang again.

Celia was made happy by the weather.  When she encountered Phyllis
Lock at the end of the village she felt very friendly.  She thought
Phyllis Lock a silly young woman, but she was sorry for her because
she had so awful an old mother.  Phyllis was wearing a frightful
coat of bright green.  Celia knew that her own little flame-
coloured hat and short fur coat beautifully became her.  She felt
therefore more kindly towards poor Phyllis.

'What a lovely day!'

'Yes, isn't it?'  Phyllis stared at her with all her mouse-coloured
eyes.

'That is because of my hat,' Celia thought.

'How are you?  I haven't seen you for quite a while.'

'No, we haven't--I mean I haven't . . .'

Phyllis had a laugh so meaningless that the kindest thing was to
call her nervous.  She was not, however, nervous of anyone or
anything.

'How is your mother?'

'Very well, thank you.  WHAT a lovely day!'

'I hope you'll come to tea one day.'

'Thank you.  I certainly will.'

Then, with an intentness that was more than polite, she said:

'How is Mr. Cromwell?'

'Very well, thank you.'

'Oh, I AM glad!'

'Why--had you heard that he had been ill or something?'

'Not at all.  Oh no, certainly not.  We all like Mr. Cromwell so
much, you know.'

Celia laughed.

'Of course you do.  Well, I must be going on.'

'Yes.  So must I.'  Phyllis stared at Celia's hat so passionately
that Celia almost offered to give it her.  But it would look
terrible on Phyllis.  Everything did.

'Well, good-bye.  Mind you come to tea soon.'

'Yes, I will.  Thank you very much.  What a lovely day, isn't it?'

So Celia went on beyond the village, pleased about her hat.  But
what a girl!  Now that she thought of it, Mrs. Lamplough yesterday
had also stared, but Mrs. Lamplough was awful and Mrs. Brennan was
awful and Miss Vergil was awful.  Why were there no nice women in
this dreadful place?  No one save Mrs. Mark, and she did not belong
here.

Celia was as suddenly depressed as five minutes before she had been
happy.  They did not like her, these women.  Mrs. Brennan, of
course, hated her.  They liked Julius.  That had been an odd remark
of that silly girl's.  'We like Mr. Cromwell'--as though she had
said:  'We don't like YOU, though.  None of us do.'

What did she care?  What did it matter if a lot of silly old women
in a silly little village disliked her?  But she did care.  She
wanted to be liked, to be gay, to be popular.  Why did they not
come more often to see her?  That was Julius' fault.  He did not
care for dinner-parties.  He wished to sit alone with his music.
No one liked her.  No one loved her.  Yes, poor Jim Burke loved
her.  That was very wrong of him.  She had not spoken to him for at
least three days after he had kissed her.  But it was very warming
that someone should love her, and, because she loved Julius so
dearly, there was no danger in it.  She knew how to manage Jim
Burke as she had managed so many other young men before him.  And
he WAS young!  Young as all her friends had once been.  And he
could see when she wore pretty clothes and looked her best.  Could
see and admire.  Of what use was it to say:  'Julius, I am wearing
a flame-coloured hat.  Julius, this dress is blue like the sea'?
Julius only knew that she was there when he touched her.

There were tears in her eyes.  How she wished, oh, HOW she wished
that Bobby Hills or Diana Maurice or Stephen Ludlow would appear in
the road at that moment.  What fun they would have!  How words
would rush out, how they would laugh, the jokes there would be!

Why did she not invite Diana or Bobby to come down and stay?
Julius would not like it--or, if he did, THEY would not like it!
Dull for them, a place like this.  Dull for them, dull for
everybody.  And here, instead of Bobby or Diana, was Mrs Mark's
cottage.

She rang the bell.  Mrs. Mark herself appeared.

'Why, Mrs. Cromwell!  How delightful!'

Celia was depressed, she was lonely, she was therefore on her
dignity.  She felt warm towards Mrs Mark, but, because the old
ladies in Garth did not like her, she would be the grand Mrs.
Cromwell.  She was, in fact, as she walked graciously into the
cottage, like a child dressed up in her mother's clothes.

And she found other children there--the three Brennan children
seated at the tea-table.  She drew back.

'Oh, I didn't know--'

'It isn't a party.  It's just that they came over to tea.  We're
all delighted for you to join us.'

'No, no.  How are you, children?  I'll come another time.  It's
your own special party.'

'It isn't in the least.'

Celia saw Simon staring at her, then grinning.  She saw Dorothy
smiling shyly.  She saw Gilbert, whom she knew very little, staring
apprehensively, his hand on the collar of a ridiculous mongrel dog.

She saw also one of the most magnificent teas she had ever beheld.
There was a large china dish with yellow roses on the cover that
must hold muffins or crumpets or both.  There was a big saffron
cake.  There were brown buns with sugar like snow spread on them,
glass dishes with blackberry jelly, strawberry jam and gooseberry,
a comb of honey, a loaf of brown bread, crusty and dark, a square
of butter as yellow as ducklings, and a lovely 'tumble' of
Glebeshire cream with the crisp pale covering and the golden
luxuriance beneath it.

Now the weather had made Celia very hungry.  When she saw a cake,
three tiers of it, rising to a postman carrying letters in red and
white sugar, she could only stare like a baby.

'You see, it's Dorothy's birthday and Mr. and Mrs. Brennan have to
be in Polchester, so--'

'That's a nice shy girl,' Celia thought, 'I've always liked her,'
and, impulsively, as she did everything, she unclasped the necklace
of tiny seed pearls round her throat, went up to Dorothy, holding
it out.

'My birthday present is very late but most sincere.'

'Oh no, I couldn't--I really--I mustn't--'

'Please.  I bought these once in Paris to give to a friend in
London.  They are of no value, but I knew she'd like them.  And
when I got to London I found she'd married her bank manager, a
horrible fat old man, and I was so disgusted that I wore the
necklace myself.  So you see they were MEANT as a present!'

This was a story invented on the urge of the moment, and had not a
word of truth in it save that the pearls had been bought in Paris.
But Dorothy had never owned any jewelry save a ruby ring out of a
cracker, which, unknown to anyone, she had long treasured in a
drawer.  But this!  A pearl necklace!

'Oh, I couldn't!  I couldn't!  Mother won't let me!'

Celia smiled grimly.

'Don't tell your mother who gave it you.  Just say it was a
present.'

But the mention of Mrs. Brennan reminded her of her married dignity
again.  She pressed the necklace into Dorothy's hand and then sat
down rather stiffly.  She knew that the party had been gay just
before she entered and was gay no longer.  She wanted to throw her
flame-coloured hat on the floor, make them all dance in the middle
of the room, and then sit down to devour the largest tea of her
life.  But she was Mrs. Cromwell whom Mrs. Brennan, the mother of
these children, hated, so she was grand and stiff and ceremonious.

She fancied, however, that Simon, who for some reason looked
especially wicked with a napkin under his chin, knew just what she
was thinking.

'I do hope you're hungry,' said Mrs. Mark.

'Moderately,' Celia said with delicacy, eyeing the dish with the
yellow flowers.

'Because we are all ravenous.  And I do hope you'll stay and play
games with us afterwards.'

'Oh, well, I shall have to be getting along, I'm afraid.  Just one
cup of tea, and then . . .'

To her horror, after saying this, quite another voice spoke
straight from the heart of her stomach.  This voice said urgently
to Simon:  'Take the cover off that dish, Simon.  Is it muffins or
crumpets?'

Simon took the lid off the dish.  They were crumpets so buttery
that the very sight of them suggested dripping chins.

But all was not yet well.  The children showed a very delicate
politeness, as though Celia were their guest as well as Mrs.
Mark's.  Only Simon knew her.  Dorothy had heard enough to know
that her mother and her mother's friends disapproved of her.  She
could not, as she looked at her daintiness, the exquisite colouring
of her face, the smartness of her little hat, her youth and yet her
absolute maturity, believe that she was anything but perfect.
Dorothy had never before seen, close at hand, any lady who was like
the pictures in the Tatler and the Sketch.

She had always thought her mother beautiful, but now there was a
dreadful temptation to betrayal.  No, no.  Mrs. Cromwell was of the
Town, her mother of the Country, that was the difference.  But WHY
did her mother and Mrs. Lamplough not like this lovely creature?
Another temptation to treachery.  Could it be that they were
jealous?

Dorothy noticed another thing, and that was that Mrs. Mark was
completely at her ease with Mrs. Cromwell as her own mother could
never be.  Mrs. Mark was in appearance very ordinary, a squarely-
built, white-haired, elderly lady.  But Mrs. Mark was what
Dorothy's mother was not--secure in some inner confidence, so that
flame-coloured hats and plucked eyebrows could not shake her.

Gilbert, for his part, was thinking of Julius Cromwell.  Ever since
that meeting with him in the Well he had been thinking of him.  He
wanted very much to see him again, but he had none of Simon's
assurance.  Mrs. Cromwell was all right.  She was pretty and her
clothes were smart, but was she nice to Mr. Cromwell?  Did she look
after him and help him when he moved about, and be at his side when
he wanted something?  If she did not, Gilbert thought poorly of
her.

For the rest, he was preoccupied with the behaviour of Benson.  It
had turned out that Benson was a 'One Person' dog.  Now this no one
could have told.  Some dogs were and some dogs were not.  It had
touched Gilbert most deeply that Benson cared for nobody but him.
It seemed that he was the one and only human being for whom Benson
had been waiting.  If Benson had been a handsome grand pedigree dog
it would not matter so much.  But Benson was a dog wanted by no
one, thought beautiful by no one (and indeed he was not beautiful);
it was therefore something very wonderful that this neglected dog
should need him, depend upon him, trust him.  However, sentiment
apart, the point just now was--how would Benson behave?  For this
was Benson's first party, his first visit, since Gilbert had
acquired him, into society.

From the moment that they entered Mrs. Mark's sitting-room Benson
thought only of food.  He could not see the things on the table,
but he could smell them.  It was as though he had never smelt food
before.  He sat close to the table-leg and stared fervently upward.
His body was stung into a passion.  When someone said 'Benson' he
turned his head for a brief instant, but immediately it swung back
again.  Behind his desire there was still, in all probability, his
love for his master--but of the two devotions, which would be the
stronger?

'No one is to give Benson anything,' Gilbert said firmly.

'Who is Benson?' asked Celia.

'He's my dog.'

'What a funny name!'

'The man who gave him to me said he called him that because he was
like a man he knew once.'

'Funny!' Celia said.  'I knew a boy called Benson once.  He could
do tricks and he produced a rabbit out of a hat at our house once
and it was nearly killed by my mother's cat.'

Dorothy and Gilbert did not think this funny.  They were distressed
about the rabbit.  But Simon wanted to know more.

'Did the cat kill the rabbit?'

'No, it didn't kill it.  But it tore a lot of its fur and scratched
its eye. . . .'

Things were not going well.  Mrs. Mark wished, in her heart, that
Celia Cromwell had come on any other day but this one.

The situation was saved, however, by Celia's extraordinary
appetite.  Celia had been brought up, like all her generation, to
worship slimness and had gone through much suffering.  Today the
sharp air, the wonderful food, the presence of the children, made
her throw away all her caution.  The children watched her with
amazement.  They had always believed that only THEY were greedy,
that grown-up mature persons ate chiefly from a sense of duty.  Now
they beheld Mrs. Cromwell eat crumpets, three or more, then spread
brown bread with cream and blackberry jelly, then devour honeycomb,
then saffron cake, and then say, quite brightly, 'Dorothy, it's
about time you cut that cake!'

'Have some more blackberry jelly first,' Simon, who had been
watching her efforts with delighted amazement, said huskily.

'I think I will,' Celia answered.

Dorothy got up to cut the cake.  She blushed when she had to do
anything in public.  Her mother had told her so often that she was
awkward--told her with kindly irritation--'Now, Dorothy, REALLY!
Look what you've done!'

At one time she had envied quite desperately the girls of whom she
read in stories, who were for ever drilling in gymnasiums and told
to hold their backs straight.  If only SHE had gone to a boarding-
school, she had been wont to sigh!  But now it appeared quite
plainly that she was clumsy by nature and that no school in the
world could have cured her.

Oddly enough, both Mrs. Mark and Celia were thinking quite the
opposite of this, as they watched her.  Her body beneath the
village amateurishness of the pink frock showed the immaturity of
the child, but it had strength and poise and the naturalness of any
young lovely thing.  Her eyes were large, dark, and serious: her
dark brown hair fell in two strong plaits, one on either side of
her slim white neck.  Her mouth, her most beautiful feature, was
open a little with the excitement of the moment and was half afraid
to smile.

'She has lovely arms and legs,' Celia thought, longing to tear that
cheap frock off her and dress her properly.  The little necklace of
pearls seemed so very grand above the badly-cut collar of the
dress.

'Speech!  Speech!' Simon cried.  He got this from The Cock-House at
Fellsgarth, which he was at the moment enthusiastically reading.

Dorothy's hand that held the knife trembled a little.

'I can't make a speech, but it wouldn't be right not to thank
everybody, and I do very much.  Mrs. Mark has given me a cuckoo-
clock and I told her before that I wanted one more than anything,
so that isn't fair, and Gilbert has given me his first head he's
ever made out of clay, and that makes me very proud.'

'And I've given you some scissors,' Simon interrupted.

'Simon's given me some scissors which I wanted very badly.  Other
things I've had are a pot of chrysanthemums from Jim Burke and a
Bible from Dad and Mummy.  And then there's this.'  She fingered
the tiny pearls.  'I don't know what to say.  I think, perhaps--'
She paused, very confused, then cleared her throat and went on,
'Mrs. Cromwell was so kind and she saw I had a birthday when she
hadn't expected me to have one, and so perhaps she gave me the
necklace because she was so kind.  She was surprised and didn't
really mean--What I mean is, it's so wonderful and much too good--'
She hesitated.  She looked around her, her eyes full of tears.

Celia jumped up, put her arms round her and kissed her.

'Come on,' she said.  'Don't be an ass.  Of course I want you to
have the pearls.  I'm most awfully pleased, as a matter of fact.
Come on.  Cut the cake.  Simon just can't bear waiting.'

So the cake was cut and they all cheered and the sugar postman was
given to Simon.

Afterwards they cleared all the tea-things away and played games.
If they were all children Celia was the most childish.  She threw
her hat on the floor.  She played the piano for them to dance to;
she hid with Simon in a cupboard in Mrs. Mark's bedroom during Hide-
and-Seek, and some very strange feelings stole over her as she held
his thick strong little body close to her (for the cupboard was
small).  Would she have a child one day?  That would put everything
right.

Simon was engaged in wondering whether he dared ask her why she had
kissed Jim Burke.  The thought of his mother's face stopped him.
In some queer fashion he had the idea that he must not tell anyone
else of that adventure lest he should hurt Mr. Cromwell.

But how mysterious were grown-up persons!  He did not like women
and was relieved when Dorothy opened the cupboard door and
discovered them.  He had been terrified lest Mrs. Cromwell should
kiss him.  She seemed to be a very kissing person.

The best of it was, however, when they acted Charades.  Celia now
was really splendid.  She threw herself into this as though her
very life were threatened.  She did 'Shipmate' with Gilbert and
Benson.  In the first syllable she pretended to be seasick over the
side of a chair.  In the second she dressed Gilbert in a shawl,
gave herself a moustache with a burnt match, and tied a
handkerchief round Benson's head.  When they acted the whole word
they all pretended to be sailors rolling out on a spree and Benson
barked his head off.

When it was all over she stood in the middle of the room, the
moustache giving her a wonderful piquancy, clapped her hands and
cried:

'I know!  I know!  We'll have a wonderful Christmas party at Garth
House and ask everybody, and we'll have charades, wonderful
charades!'

Her eyes shone, her cheeks flushed, her body danced with happiness.
All the children clapped their hands.

Gilbert was especially happy, for Benson had behaved, from first to
last, like a perfect gentleman.



CHAPTER V

A NIGHT OF SPLENDID STARS--AT THE RECTORY--MRS.  GAYNER'S ROOM--IN
THE GARDEN


Daisy Brennan, like many another, was a disappointed woman.  Only
child of an adoring mother, she had been taught to consider herself
unique--unique in beauty, intelligence, goodness, and charm.

So long as she could believe that these graces were really hers she
was happy and kind.  She believed in them all until she married
Frank Brennan, for her beauty was undeniable, her circle stupid,
her nature on the side of the angels, and her charm resilient so
long as she was not crossed.

She was heroine of her group in Surbiton and her mother adored her.
Frank Brennan was curate at the church in Surbiton where she
attended, and they fell in love with one another instantly.
Because they were both virtuous marriage was the only cure.  At the
end of the first year Daisy discovered that she had married the
laziest man in England.

This discovery reacted on her in a number of ways.  She was herself
lazy and three childbirths made her lazier.  She was also
bewildered by her husband.  She could not tell whether he loved her
or no; one day it seemed that he did, another he was, it appeared,
unaware of her existence.  This uncertainty gave him a great
fascination for her.  She remained in love with him because of it.

She also loved her children so long as they loved her, which, when
they were small, they most certainly did.  Without ever saying so,
she gave them to understand that she was a wonderful woman.  She
had, wherever she was, a number of admirers, and these admirers
said to the children:  'There's no one like your mother, dear.
You're lucky to have such a mother.'

It was not until they had been for years at Garth in Roselands that
she discovered that she was a disappointed woman.  It happened one
night when Frank suddenly leaned in the bed towards her and said:
'We're not worth much, the pair of us.  We don't deserve to be
alive really,' and then turned on his side and went to sleep.

She never forgave Frank this little speech.  There had been a
terrible conviction behind his words.  He had never said anything
unkind to her before.  When in the morning she asked him what he
meant by it he asserted that he had never said it, or, if he had,
that it must have been in a dream and he was speaking to somebody
else.  'Probably my double, my dear.  Everyone has a double, you
know.'

She was not to be deceived.  Someone--and after all, the person who
knew her best, who had lived with her, eaten with her, slept with
her, whose children she had borne--thought her a woman of no value.
THIS was the direction in which life had taken her when she might,
had everything worked properly, been Queen of a London salon.

She saw at times, for a brief space, with clear eyes.  She saw that
she left her duties to Dorothy, to the cook, to the governess, that
her religion was a humbug, and that her intelligence had died of
atrophy.

She saw that the ladies of Garth and their compliments were nothing
to be very proud of.  She cried, and catching Gilbert to her
breast, asked him whether he loved her, and when he, his eyes
frightened, said that he did, she answered solemnly that he
mustn't, that she wasn't worthy of her children's affection, that
she was much better dead.

It is the fate of all of us, however, that we should be allowed
only brief moments of vision, and Daisy Brennan very quickly saw
herself as a misunderstood woman who had married the wrong husband,
been plunged into dreary seclusion, been robbed of all her proper
destiny.

Beneath this foolishness there was a good, kindly, well-meaning
girl who had never, in spite of the years, grown into a mature
woman.  When things went well with her she was generous and warm of
heart.  She concentrated upon the adoration of the Garth ladies and
the devotion of her children.

For a time things went very well.  She shared activity, she was
kind to the villagers, and she found that she was still in love
with her husband.  Sexually she was a one-man woman; physical
infidelity quite truly shocked her.  She listened to the funny and
sometimes coarse stories that Miss Vergil and Mrs. Lamplough and
Fred Ironing occasionally told her, and laughed with the narrator
because she wanted to appear a woman of the world, but she neither
liked them nor approved them.  Modern novels really revolted her
and she was passionately prudish about all the processes of nature.
All this was natural to her because she had no sense of humour.

So things went on until there was the shock of Gilbert's
extraordinary behaviour about Rafiel.  This was quickly followed by
Simon's passion for Mr. Cromwell.  Even Dorothy, the quiet,
obedient, faithful Dorothy, felt a devotion for Mrs. Mark.

She could not endure that her children should not think her the
most wonderful person in the world.  This was not only vanity but
also the apprehension of a very real love.  If her children
deserted her, who was left?  Then it appeared that Mrs. Lamplough,
Miss Vergil, Phyllis Lock, found Mrs. Cromwell lovely, smart, a
woman of the world.  They didn't LIKE her, of course, but the more
they disliked her the more they were fascinated.  So, very quickly
and very naturally, her hatred for Celia Cromwell became a motive
force in her life.  Celia was, to her mind, a poor little, almost
dwarfish thing who, because her husband had money, was able to
dress smartly and astonish the natives.  What an injustice was
here!  Daisy Brennan, with her magnificent figure and carriage, was
born to astonish London.  Because she was married to a poor
clergyman she could not even astonish Garth in Roselands and must
take second place as soon as this little upstart arrived.

It became evident very soon that Celia Cromwell was one of these
loose modern girls.  She sometimes went with her poor blind husband
to church (AND the clothes she wore on these occasions!) but you
could see, from her conceited, arrogant look as she sat there, that
she was a heathen.  Daisy Brennan had seen her lip curl scornfully
one Sunday at a passage in one of Frank's sermons--and this also
showed her ignorance, because Frank always chose his sermons from
the very best preachers!

Being irreligious she must also be immoral.  Girls of this post-war
generation never had any morals!  Lucky for her that her husband
was blind.  And he, poor simple man (no one could help but like
him), what must he do but engage Jim Burke, have him in the house
to read the daily papers!  Jim Burke, a man scandalous with women,
a scamp and a vagabond.

Then there came the episode of Simon.  Celia Cromwell insulted her
when she went, as any mother would do, to rescue her child.  To
confess the truth, Daisy Brennan was a little nervous of her son
Simon.  She could never be sure of his thoughts and he looked at
her now and then in the very strangest way.  Gilbert and Dorothy
were simple enough, but Simon, no.  He reminded her at times most
unpleasantly of her husband.  Father and son had the same
impenetrability.  Finally there came this dreadful thing--Celia
Cromwell and Jim Burke kissing in the Garth garden.  Her innocent
child had seen it, which made it the more disgusting!

Within twenty-four hours everyone in the village knew it.  No one
was surprised.  They knew their Jim Burke.  The villagers for the
most part took a philosophical view.  What would you expect of a
young pretty girl, always dressed in the latest London fashions,
married to a blind man old enough to be her father?

Sexual looseness was not regarded very seriously in Garth, The
record for illegitimate children in Glebeshire was as high as
anywhere in England, and ever since so many poor vigorous young men
had been killed in the last war, you might expect the men who
remained to be in lively demand.

But Miss Vergil and Phyllis Lock, ignorant of positive experience,
took their adventures vicariously, and Mrs. Lamplough had never
found Mr. Lamplough a very satisfactory husband.

Daisy Brennan was the only one of them all who was deeply and truly
revolted.

There arrived one morning in the post an invitation from Garth
House for a Christmas party.  Not only were Mr. and Mrs. Brennan
invited, but the three children also.  An afternoon party.

At first Daisy Brennan was determined that they should none of them
go.  They should not accept hospitality from that wicked woman's
hands.

On further consideration she was less certain.  Everyone would
accept.  She liked and admired Mr. Cromwell.  She was also curious
and inquisitive.  She would see how that wicked woman behaved on
such an occasion.  Moreover she enjoyed parties.  But the children
should not go.  On that she was determined.  She had been horrified
when she discovered that Celia Cromwell had been present at Mrs.
Mark's on the occasion of the tea-party.  Dorothy had shown her the
pearl necklace and she had wanted to order that it should be
instantly returned to Celia Cromwell.  But this she had found, to
her own surprise, she had been unable to do.

Dorothy's joy had struck a chord in her own heart.  She realized
that Dorothy had never been given anything of value in all her life
before.  Had she had the money she would have showered gifts upon
her children, who were part of herself and were good children and
she loved them.

She hated Celia the more, however, for giving her girl something so
much better than she could ever give her.  She found herself
kissing Dorothy and promising her, rather incoherently, that one
day she would give her something very much better.

'You poor child!' she said.  'It isn't your mother's fault that you
don't have lots of pretty things.'

Dorothy, surprised by these demonstrations and very happy that her
mother loved her, was determined to do twice as much for her as she
was already doing.

'You love your mother most, don't you, darling?'

'More than anyone in the world,' Dorothy said.

That was a night of splendid stars.  No one in Garth could remember
to have seen a night like this in their lives before.

'It's a crackling blue-smoked frost,' old Lamplough said to
himself, striding along to spend the after-dinner evening with
Julius Cromwell.  He meant that a pale-blue shadowed haze hung
about the hedges, and under it the rime sparkled on the grass.

On the moor farms, in the hamlets towards Rafiel, about the village
of Garth itself, people came to their doors and said:  'Oh, look at
the stars!'

In the doorway of a cottage not far from Sizyn Church the woman of
the house stood, gazing up, a baby of six months, wrapped in a
shawl so that only two eyes and a nose protruded, in her arms.

'Look at the stars, baby!  Look at the stars, baby!' and the two
eyes bright like diamonds stared up at the stars and then closed
again in sleep.

At Miss Vergil's they were playing bridge--the Ironings, Phyllis,
and their hostess.  Miss Vergil was dummy.  She had strolled to the
door.

'I say, come and have a look!  You've never seen such a sight!'

When the round was over they crowded to the door.  Mrs. Ironing
said:

'I always think that stars are like diamonds.'

Miss Vergil, moved beyond caution, put her arm round Phyllis and
drew her close.

'Don't, dear!'

'Why not?'

'Fred will make fun.'

Then they forgot everything, for the stars blazed their
personalities to nothing--and it was thus that they were at their
best.

Daisy Brennan, their meal over, drew her husband to their door.

'Did you ever see such a sky?'

He was lighting his pipe.

'It's a sharp frost.'

'Yes, you can almost hear them crackle.  Brr! it's cold.'

She followed him into the library.  He sat in his old leather
armchair, picked up a novel, stretched out his long legs, yawned,
sighed with satisfaction (for this was an hour that he loved), and
then, as she was standing in front of the fire looking at him, was
forced to say:

'Well, my dear, what is it?'

'It's this.'  She handed him the Cromwell invitation.

'Oh, so they're giving a party.  Well, what about it?  We're free,
aren't we?'

'I don't want the children to go.'

'Oh, poor kids--why not?  With all those stars shining too!'

'What DO you mean?'

'On SUCH a night--Shakespeare believed in stars.'

'Frank, please be serious.'

'I'm perfectly serious.  Poor kids, why shouldn't they go?  They
don't get such a lot.'

'To that wicked woman!  No.  I altogether refuse.'

'Wicked?'

'Yes, you know perfectly well.'

'She kissed Jim Burke--or so our youngest son says.'

She was angry.  Her voice shook as she answered:

'You condone adultery.  You're a clergyman.  You--'

'In the first place, we don't know that there's been any adultery.
Kissing to Mrs. Cromwell's generation means nothing whatever.
Further, I am quite certain that Mrs. Cromwell loves her husband.
Further, as to my being a clergyman--I'm the rottenest in the
Church of England.'

She said nothing.

'Does it ever occur to you, Daisy, that I'm sometimes ashamed of
myself, that I'm shy of looking at the stars?'

She answered hotly:

'No, why should you be ashamed?'

'Oh, no more than the rest perhaps.  All of us who have slipped our
job.  I'm not accusing myself.  But at least I'm also not accusing
anyone else.'

'It's your duty, Frank.  Here is the grossest immorality--'

'Come, come!  Jim Burke has kissed Mrs. Cromwell.  Would you care
to see the full sheet of all my thoughts--yes, every one--since I
got up this morning?  If you did you'd leave this house tonight.
Not that they're worse than the rest.  Does God go on forgiving, do
you think?  Over and over again?  Every minute of the day?  Or is
there something in the idea that as He made us so He must suffer
us?

'And, to return to this particular instance, do you really imagine
that at an afternoon party with every old maid of the district
present our children will have the chance of being perverted,
ruined?  I think not.  And anyway your friend and crony Mrs.
Lamplough is more dangerous than Mrs. Cromwell will ever be.'

She hated him in this mood.

'I don't want them to go.'

'They're going.  I wish them to go.  And that far-seeing man,
Julius Cromwell, will protect them.  In his house they are always
safe.'

'Far-seeing!  Why, he's blind!'

Her husband grinned up at her.

'Give me a kiss.  You are a better woman than you appear on the
surface.'

She kissed him because she loved him.  She hated his moods but
loved his unattainability.  And she had learnt, after many years,
that when he said a thing, he meant it.

On this night too--but not seeing the stars, for the curtains were
drawn--Mrs. Gayner sat writing to her sister.


MY DEAR ALICE,

It's been quite a time since I've written but I've been terribly
busy and there've been all sorts of troubles.  I know you're silent
as the grave, aren't you, dear, but things have a way of getting
back as I used to find in the old married days, and although you're
far away you never know, do you?

Since I wrote last I've made another very determined effort to get
Douglas off to Jamaica and this time I thought I'd done it, for he
comes in here one night--and every time he climbs in by that
window, he knows where they keep that ladder in the tool-shed, I'm
off my mind with terror--and begins to cry, laying his head in his
arms just as he used to do when he was a little chap, and I
couldn't get anything out of him for ever so long.  He's got a room
now with a Mrs. Gibbings at the far end of the village and it seems
that she had an old Sealyam (I've spelt that wrong, I'm sure) that
was all mangy and everything and, poor thing, it died.  Douglas it
seems had been nursing it and was heart-broken at its dying.  All
the same he's been stealing again--I know he has--and I pressed it
upon him that he must get away before the police nab him and he
brings disgrace on me as well as himself.  I thought he'd decided
but next day he's still here and cheeking the woman at the post-
office.  She goes so far as to ask me if I know who he is, saying
that no one in the village can bear the sight of him.  And yet,
Alice, if they'd seen him with his head on the table crying his
heart out over a mangy old dog they'd have thought different.

I'm just out of my wits and I'm sure I'm not myself for the sleep
I'm not getting and the little I'm eating.  I believe I'd be driven
to tell Mr. Julius all about it were it not for Mrs. Cromwell.  I
can't say that things are any better between her and me than they
were and I put down much of this to the girl Violet who, I'm
certain, tells her lies about me, for the girl hates me and that's
the truth.  And now I'm telling you things, Alice, you're not to
repeat, even to yourself, but it's a help to me to write to you
about everything just as it is.

They are saying in the village that Mrs. Cromwell was seen kissing
the young man Burke who I told you is helping Mr. Julius with the
newspapers and such things, and they say even worse than kissing.
That it's anything worse I don't believe for a single moment for
Mrs. Cromwell loves Mr. Julius as anyone living in this house can
very well see, but this Burke has no morals at all as everyone knew
from when he was living in this village before.  And yet you can't
help liking him for he'll do anything for you and is so young and
strong that if I was forty years younger I'd fall for him myself.
Where the trouble really is is that Mrs. Cromwell and Mr. Julius
are not hitting it off as they should do.  She's been used to a gay
life and plenty of friends and it's a dull life for her here and
Mr. Julius likes to sit quiet and listen to his gramophone.  It's
strange how two people can love one another truly and aggravate one
another all the day.  He's not a saint and never was one, and he
raps out at her in a way he shouldn't.  It's my idea he feels his
blindness twice as much since he married her because she's wishing
all the time he wasn't blind.  She's never learnt to put up with
anything she doesn't like and it's a new thing to her.  But what I
think, Alice, is that love is a very strange thing and however long
you live you'll always be surprised at the many different kinds of
love there are, like mine for Douglas and you, and Mrs. Cromwell's
for Mr. Julius, and Douglas' for his dogs, and that nice lady Mrs.
Mark for this house where she lived once so that she's always
coming over to have a look at it and puts her hand on the banisters
as though she'd take them away with her.  Just one small place like
this village and all the kinds of love there are in it--it makes
you think, doesn't it?

The funny thing, Alice, is that I'm doing all I can to send my
Douglas out of the country, and yet if he goes I don't know what I
shall have to live for, I really don't--only the Lord Jesus will
show me what to do as He has always done.

All the trouble there is in the world just now and the trouble
there is in this house is because God is forgotten and He must
bring us back by suffering . . .


There was a knock on her door.

'Come in,' she said, pushing the sheets under the blotting-paper.

The door opened and to her great surprise Jim Burke stood there.
He was wearing a white soft collar, a dark-blue suit.  His brown
skin made a fine contrast.  He was as handsome and as healthy and
as cheeky, Mrs. Gayner thought, as anyone she had ever seen--and
she wouldn't mind if he kissed her.

'Hullo, Jim!  What is it?  You're a stranger here.  Anything wrong
with your room?'

'No, Mrs. Gayner, thank you.  You're busy.  I'll come another
time.'

'Only writing to my sister.  That can wait.  Sit down.'

He took a chair and sat down, she noticed, like a gentleman, easily
and lightly for a boy with his thick back and heavy thighs.  His
hair rising from his temples was almost white, blanched with the
open air.  His nails were beautifully clean and neat.  Why wasn't
she twenty again?  Just as well perhaps that she wasn't!

'What is it?' she asked again.  'Anything I can do?'

'No, I don't know that there is.  Something I ought to tell you,
though.'

Oh dear!  More trouble.  As though there wasn't enough in the house
already!

'Something to tell me?  I don't want to hear it if it's
unpleasant.'

'I think I ought to.'

He leant on the table towards her and smiled at her kindlily.

'I've been having a talk with your son.'

'Oh . . . !'  She half rose, her hand at her throat.

'Now, Mrs. Gayner.  Please.'  He put out his hand and, for a
moment, touched her soft one.

'Don't be frightened.  I won't give you away.'

'How did you know?'

'Well, he stole my gold pencil.'

'Oh dear!  Oh dear!'

'Wait a minute and I'll tell you.  We were sitting in the "Three
Pilchards" having a drink.  Of course I'd seen him about a lot.
I'd noticed he was very decent to the mongrels he'd have at his
heels.  A perfect passion for dogs he's got, and I liked that in
him.  Otherwise--'

'No.  He isn't very likeable, Douglas isn't,' she sighed.  'I love
him because I'm his mother, but in general he isn't very likeable.'

'I'd been writing an address for a man on a bit of paper.  I turned
to have a drink and when I looked back my pencil was gone.  I knew
that your son, who was sitting next to me, had taken it.  I
happened to put a great value on that pencil so I waited until he
went out and followed him.  Outside I caught him round the collar
and asked for my pencil.  Of course he said he hadn't got it, but I
frightened him and he gave it me.  I still held on to him and
pretended I'd hand him over to the police, which of course I never
intended to do.  Then he told me he was your son.'

'Oh, what am I to do?  What am I to do?' Mrs. Gayner cried.  'It's
only got one ending.'

'Yes, it's only got one ending, Mrs. Gayner.  He must leave here.
Out of the country.  I've got friends in America.  Perhaps I could
do something.'

'I've been trying.  I was ready to give him the money for Jamaica,
where I've a cousin who would help him, but he won't go.'

'Why don't you tell Mr. Cromwell?  He thinks the world of you.
He's ever so kind.  Better he should hear it from you than from
someone else.  He's bound to know sooner or later.'

'Yes, I've thought of it often and often.  But there's Mrs.
Cromwell.  She doesn't like me, I'm afraid.  If she knew--'

At her mention of Mrs. Cromwell his face for a moment lightened.

'I'll turn it over in my mind.  You mustn't mind my knowing, Mrs.
Gayner.  I shan't tell anybody.'

'No, of course I don't mind, Jim.  It's a kind of relief.  It's
been awful having it all to myself.'

'Does he come here?'

'Yes, I'm afraid he does.'

'When does he come, and how?'

'At night.  This sort of time.  There's a ladder in the tool-shed,
the one that's half ruined and isn't locked at night.  He comes in
by the window.'

'That isn't so good.  Do you give him money?'

'A little now and again.'

She looked at him quite beseechingly.

'Well, you tell me if you're in trouble.  I've been about the world
quite a bit, you know.'

He got up and smiled.

'Don't you worry.  Rum, isn't it?  All the wasted love in the
world.'

'Oh, but it isn't wasted!  I'm all he has.'

'Yes, I know.  And a nice way he repays you.  There's other sorts
of love too.  Even in this small place there's enough different
kinds of love to run the world with--and yet all the world's
thinking of just now is hate.'

'I don't know what's coming to everybody.'

'Oh, it will be all right one day, I expect.  Love!'  His hand was
on the door.  He shrugged his shoulders.  'When it catches you you
can do nothing whatever--nothing at all.  It burns like a fire in
your very stomach.  I thought I knew a lot by now, but I never knew
what love was--not until now.  Well, so-long.  Don't you worry.'

After he was gone she took out her letter again.  But she couldn't
continue it.  She sat staring in front of her, thinking of Douglas.

Downstairs Julius and old Lamplough stood at the window of the
study.  The curtains had been drawn back.  The stars blazed down
over the dark deep well of the lawn.  Celia was standing a little
behind them.  Julius had his hand on Lamplough's arm.

I'm off to bed,' Celia said.  'The stars make me sleepy.  Besides,
I know that you two talk better without me.'

She held out her hand.

'Good night, Mr. Lamplough.'

He bent over her hand with a courtly old-fashioned gesture.  His
dark shabby velveteen jacket smelt of snuff.  She saw his nose like
the spout of a teapot.  She and Julius had had a dreadful quarrel
at dinner-time.  About what?  About the cooking of cabbage.

She was angry and rebellious and for twopence would cry out in
childish rage, whether Mr. Lamplough were there or no.  He disliked
scolding women.  In truth he disliked all women save the beautiful
and completely dumb.  His sharp old eyes regarded her.  He was glad
that she was off to bed, but sorry for Julius, because he was well
assured that there was a 'Mrs. Caudle' lecture for him in store.
And he liked Julius better than any man he had ever known.

When she was gone he returned to Julius, but this time he put his
hand, the veins of which stood out, purple and swollen, on Julius'
shoulder.

'Pity you can't see them.  I can't remember ever a night like this
one.  It must be some special keenness of the frost.'

'The funny thing is,' Julius said, 'it is as though I could smell
them--a whiff of gunpowder.  They are dangerous, Lamplough.
Dangerous.  War leans on the edge of the sky.  Don't you feel it?'

'Perhaps I do.  But I'm too old to care.'

'Not about mankind?'

'Mankind!  Not I!  Why, you're the only human being I've liked for
years.  I'm nearly dead.  I loathe and despise mankind for the mess
they've made of this enchanting, entrancing world.  These stars!
Why are we made to feel their beauty and majesty so desperately?'

Staring so intensely that it was as though he would leap through
the window, glass and all, he recited:


          "Thou shalt measure the stars:
          Orion and the Pleiades
          Shall send thee embassies;
          Thou shalt chart the cities of Mars;
          Thou shalt sift Aldebaran
          As gold dust in the pan;
          Algol shall undusk
          For thee his demon trouble . . .
          In vain!  All is husk,
          To be cast out with the stubble."


He repeated, with bitter, trembling-voiced scorn:


          "In vain!  All is husk,
          To be cast out with the stubble."


'Where is that from?'

'I don't know.  I learned it years ago.  My useless brain is
stuffed with rubbish.'

'Give yourself a whisky--me one, too.'

Lamplough filled the glasses, while Julius lay back in a chair, his
legs stretched out.

'Sit down, you bitter old man, and give me some advice.'

Lamplough, looking, with his scanty grey hair on end, like a
malicious bird, sat down.

'I'm very good at advice.  Having made a complete mess of my life
I'm an excellent counsellor.'

'We're friends, aren't we?' Julius said.  'Lately we've been
meeting a good deal.  I like you very much and trust you.'

'Thanks.  As far as you are concerned I'm trustworthy.'

Julius stared into his own world.

'You say you've made a mess of your life.  I don't suppose you
have.  None of us can tell until it's all over.  But I'm in a fair
way, I think, to make a mess of mine.'

'How?' asked Lamplough.

'I love my wife with heart, soul, body, everything I have.  I love
her more every day I live.  I have reason to believe she loves me.
And yet, with every day in this place, we are drifting further
apart.'

'You haven't been married very long.'

'No, I know that, and all about the first year being the hardest,
and the rest of it.  At the same time I DON'T know it, for my other
marriage had no difficulties at all.  It was supremely happy, and
yet I didn't love Elinor as I love Celia.  I've spoken of this,'
Julius went on quickly, 'to no other living human being.'

'I know what you're thinking.  That I'm married to the worst gossip
in England.'

'No.  I wasn't thinking that.  I shouldn't be talking at all if I
didn't feel I was talking to myself.'

'That's a great compliment,' Lamplough grunted.

'The trouble is I'm in a fog.  I came down here the happiest man in
the United Kingdom.  It seemed to me that nothing could go wrong.
But how queer a thing marriage is!  They always tell you that the
difficult time in marriage is after the first physical passion has
worn thin.  But in that way Celia and I are more in love than ever
we were.  Our BODIES are all right.  But our SOULS--Do you believe
in souls, Lamplough?'

'How can I but believe?  If men had only bodies they'd have settled
down long ago.  The strongest would rule the weakest and after a
bit of fighting that would have been the end of it.  I believe in a
cruel malicious God whose sport we are.'

'That's too simple, I think.  I don't feel that I'm anybody's
sport.  That's the devil of it.  Some way, somehow, if I'm
intelligent, brave, generous enough, I can put this all right.  I
suppose I'm not.  I suppose I'm not fine enough.'

'And your wife?'

'Oh, that's simple!  Celia reacts to her feelings.  If she's hungry
she eats; if she's angry she's angry; if she's generous she's
generous.  If she's disappointed she's disappointed.  She's
bitterly disappointed now.'

'Why is she disappointed?'

'She married me with the romantic notion that she was going to help
me.  She was, of course, in love with me as well, but it was my
blindness that touched all her generosity and kindness.  I was so
crazily in love with her that I thought of nothing but that.  I
knew that my blindness made me queer at times, but I thought that
she would get used to that.  You see, Lamplough, before I was
blinded I was just like anyone else.  I lived physically and,
except for a love of music, hadn't an impulse that wasn't physical.
But blindness leads you into strange places.  Another world grows
up in you.  It becomes intensely interesting.  It makes the outside
physical world shadowy, or rather it takes that outside world and
makes it part of the inside world.  I can't express myself.  That's
the trouble.  I try to write things down in my Journal but the
EXPRESSION is always eluding me.  I know what I mean but can't
write it or say it.  I haven't the equipment.  But I tell you one
thing: I know that if I don't hold on to the physical world--the
world of food and sleep and trees and walls--I'll lose contact with
everybody.  As it is I sit too much by myself, listen to music too
much, get suddenly impatient if Celia interrupts me, want to get
finished with meals and walks and people so that I can sit back and
let my mind go and penetrate through. . . .'  He shook himself as
though he were dreaming.  'There it is, you see.  That's the
danger.  My love for Celia is the one great thing that keeps me
sanely in touch.'

'Well, that's all right then,' said old Lamplough, 'as you love her
so much.'

'No, it isn't.  It's just THAT that she can't understand.  She's
been brought up anyhow.  No religion, no codes.  There's no reason
for her why she shouldn't do anything at all that she wants to.
Any kind of spiritual world seems to her nonsense.  She's got the
creed of her post-war generation that there IS no creed, that
life's a cheating business with no purpose, and the only thing to
do is to get as much out of it as you can.  At least that WOULD be
her code if she were not so kindly, sweet-hearted, childlike.  As
it is, she finds herself tied to a man fifteen years older and up
against a physical deformity that she hates, can't deal with, that,
she feels, separates her from me.  I shouldn't--' his voice
trembled--'I shouldn't have married her.  It was a crime.  I didn't
know it, but now I see it.'

'Yet you love one another,' Lamplough said.

'Yes, that makes it harder, for never before have I loathed my
blindness as I do now.  If I could see--if I could see!  Oh God, if
I could see!'

There was a silence, then Lamplough said:  'I think that's
melodrama, Cromwell.  You're damned lucky to love one another as
you do.'  He hesitated, then said slowly, 'I married my wife thirty-
five years ago because I wanted to go to bed with her.  She had
yellow hair then like a canary and was soft and playful like a
kitten.  I compare her with the animal kingdom because that's where
she belongs.  And for twenty-five years I've hated her--hated
everything about her--her lies, her mean gossip, her creeping
little eyes, her lisp, everything.'

'If that's so,' Julius said, 'why didn't you leave her long ago?'

'Because I'm as bad as she is.  I'm mean and think it's cheaper the
two of us together.  I'm lazy and can't be bothered to look after
myself.  I rather enjoy my hate, I think.  I look at her across the
table and think:  "You're a filthy old bitch, you are," and then
ask her, quite gently, to pass the butter.  If I had a little more
courage I'd murder her.  As it is, she thinks I'm rather fond of
her.  Yes, that's the position, and when I hear you go on as you
do, I want to say "Love each other.  Go on loving one another.
Don't mind what happens.  Love one another.  And to do that you've
got to respect one another."'

He got up rather clumsily and went over to Julius, put his hand for
a moment on his shoulder.

'She'll grow.  She's fine.  You're fine.  You can't go wrong.'

Just before he went away he said:

'Take your blindness as a gift, not a penalty.  I said just now I
believed in a malicious God.  And so I do.  He's beaten ME and is
proud of it, I don't doubt.  But don't YOU be beaten.  Don't give
Him that crumb of satisfaction.  Be wise and patient.  Wisdom and
patience.  They are the things.  And when I'm hanged for murder
remember what I've said.  Can I help you upstairs in any way?'

Julius laughed.

'Oh no.  I'm very clever at it.'

'All right, then.  Good night.'



CHAPTER VI

GARTH HOUSE--AFTERNOON--EVERYONE PRESENT


Dorothy awoke on that particular morning knowing that something
very special was in store for her.  She woke often with this sense,
and when, fully awake, she tracked the prescience to its reality
she found often enough that it was something very small--a book
that she knew she would enjoy, the promise by the cook of ginger
pudding, or an expedition with Gilbert and Simon.

'Oh; it's the party!'

She jumped out of bed to run to the window, to find that it was the
most sinister of all possible days.  Rain was pouring down from a
sky so heavy that it seemed to be composed of muddy mattresses.
However, what did it matter?  It would be indoors and the grimier
the exterior the more cosy inside.

There was the promise of a party for her so seldom, but never in
her life had there been promise of SUCH a party!  Everyone had been
saying, for weeks, that it would be a wonder.  Moreover, it would
not be for Dorothy this time a terror, as parties at the
Lamploughs' or Mrs. Ironing's often were.

The annual children's dance, given by the Ironings, was always a
terror.  Dorothy loved to dance and danced very well, but in the
district around Garth there were simply not enough boys, and the
boys there were could not, for the most part, dance.  What happened
was that someone like Fred Ironing kindly asked you to dance, and
you were pressed in a kind of despair against his soft and heaving
stomach.  Or, worse than that, you must dance with another girl--as
though anything could be sillier!  Moreover, Gilbert was always
unhappy at these dances, and any pleasure that Dorothy might have
felt was stolen from her by glimpses of Gilbert's unhappy face.

At the Cromwells' it would not be only dancing, there would be
games and charades.  Then there was an especial atmosphere about
Garth House because Mr. Cromwell, whenever he met you, was so
friendly that you could not feel lonely or desolate.  Then both
Gilbert and Simon loved Mr. Cromwell, so that they would be happy.

And, somewhere near at hand, there would be Jim Burke.

Dorothy collected her sponge, soap, and towel and made a dash for
the bathroom.  How lucky!  She was there first, and as she lay in
the bath, listening to the rain thundering on the roof, she felt so
happy that she looked upwards, smiling, and tortured her eyes with
soap.

While she was drying herself there came the knock on the door and
Simon's husky voice demanding, 'How much more time are you going to
take?' and, according to custom, she shouted:  'I'm just coming
out!

When she was back in her room she spread her party-dress out on the
bed.  She was forced to confess that it was shabby.  It was three
years old and she realized with a sudden alarm that she was growing
out of it.  This was a child's dress and she was a child no longer.
She threw off her old yellow woollen dressing-gown and looked at
herself in the glass that was cracked down the middle.

She tilted it back so that she could see the whole of herself.  She
was frightened.  It was a stranger that she seemed to see there.
She passed her hands down her body as though to reassure herself
that it really WAS her body.  A strange emotion, half of fear, half
of pride, surged through her.  She hurried, as though she were
ashamed, to dress herself.

At breakfast their father said:  'The party's all off.  Mrs.
Cromwell's got scarlet fever.'

The dismay in the children's faces made their mother say:  'That's
too bad, to tease them like that.'

'How do YOU know?'  He went on, 'I may have just had a message.
Anyway Simon can't go.  He's wanted by the police.'

This cleared the air.

'I'm going to be a policeman one day,' Simon said.

'Why?'

'Because you can imprison people for lots of things, and then, when
they're in prison, you can go to their houses and take what you
want to.  Besides, you see lots of murders.'

He walked about that morning with his head in the air.  Ever since
he had caught Jim Burke kissing Mrs. Cromwell and had observed the
sensation that his news made, he had considered himself as a very
exceptional detective.

He prowled around and watched people.  He decided that everybody
did many things that others were not to know.  He discovered that
there were many things that you must never mention.  In fact the
world was twice as interesting as it had been before.

A party must be an ideal situation for noticing things.  He wished
no unkindness to anyone, for he was warm-hearted and friendly, but
his curiosity was widely awakened.  He was especially interested in
Mrs. Cromwell because of her behaviour at Mrs. Mark's tea.  Above
all he regarded himself as the great friend and protector of Mr.
Cromwell, whom he adored.  He saw himself, in fact, as Mr.
Cromwell's private detective.  He intended to enjoy himself.  He
knew that the food would be excellent.  The only adverse
circumstance was that he hated to wear his navy suit.  He looked
such a ninny in it.  No one had told him, but he knew that it was
so.


The rain had ceased when they started off and the sky had broken
its grey with little furrows of blue.

Inside the drawing-room Dorothy stood lost in wonder.

The room had been cleared, but on the walls were still hanging the
old water-colours in their gold frames, to give everything a
friendly air.  The light was soft and glowing.  Garlands of red-
berried holly were hanging from wall to wall, and at the far end by
the window was a magnificent Christmas tree.

Tea and coffee were being carried round by the maids.

This was not a children's party, so Dorothy was not embarrassed by
a confusion of little boys in Eton jackets and girls in white
frocks, all standing about self-conscious and either arrogant or
sunk into shyness.  Instead everyone she had ever known seemed to
be there.  There was a tumult of voices and she heard Mrs. Ironing,
who was heavy in dark-red velvet, say, 'It's been raining like
anything.  When it does rain it does rain, doesn't it?  But after
all we must expect rain sometimes, mustn't we?  It can't be dry all
the year round.'

Very soon she saw Jim Burke, in his dark-blue suit, helping with
cake and bread and butter.  Almost at once he was passing her and
he stopped.

'Well, I never!  Why aren't you having some tea?'

She looked at him smiling at her and knew that she loved him so
that she would do anything he asked her.  If he said:  'Now go on!
Run all the way to Rafiel,' at once, in her party-frock, she would
run.

He perhaps felt something in her serious gaze.  Among all those
grown-up people, all talking and gesturing falsely, this child in
her shabby frock ('Why doesn't her mother buy her a new dress?' he
thought, quite angrily) was apart and better than they.  Or so he
felt.  But there was something else he was feeling very much more
strongly, someone else at whom he was constantly looking, whose
voice he was always striving to hear.

'We've only just come,' Dorothy said.  'Have you?  You're late.'

'That's because I couldn't find a clean handkerchief,' Simon said
promptly.

'Look here.  If you want some food, go over to that little table
near the Christmas tree.  There's no one sitting there.'

'Oh, thanks most awfully,' Gilbert said politely.  What he longed
to ask Jim was whether he would give him another lesson in
modelling soon.  He hadn't seen Jim for several weeks.  And Jim
remembered!

Before he hurried away he said:  'What about the modelling?  I'll
be over one of these days soon.'

'Oh, thanks most awfully!'

Wasn't Jim a marvel?  To Gilbert, who was shy of asking for
anything, this seemed a miracle.  After Benson, Jim was next.

The three children reached their table, but to their horror old
Mrs. Lamplough sat down at the same time.

'I'm not going to stand any longer.  I'm an old woman.  Much better
to have a sit-down tea.'

She peered at each of them in turn, screwing up her little eyes to
see them better.

'Your mother and father here?'

'Of course,' said Simon, who hated her.

'That's not a very polite way of answering.  I'm sure your mother
taught you better than that.  You're getting a big boy now, Simon,
and manners are manners.  Too big for that sailor-suit, _I_ should
say!'

'Shall I get you some tea?' Gilbert said, because he felt that it
was right.

'No.  A maid will bring me some.  I suppose so, at least.  I can't
say that things are very well organized.'  She was peering about
the room with her little eyes.  'Everyone seems to have come.  Can
you see who that is standing next to Miss Vergil?'

'That's Major Richardson, I think,' Dorothy said.

'Fancy!  Coming all the way from Dundyke!  They must have motored
over.  Hired, I expect, because I hear that things have been going
so badly with them they've had to put their car down.  There's poor
Mrs. Wintringham.  She looks terribly ill, doesn't she?'

'What's the matter with her?' Simon asked.

'Hush, Simon!  You mustn't!' Dorothy said.

'Why not?'

'Little boys,' Mrs. Lamplough said, 'mustn't ask questions.'

Then they saw Julius Cromwell.  He was standing, with Celia's arm
through his, talking to Miss Vergil and Phyllis Lock.

'By gum!' Simon said, 'this chocolate cake is scrumptious.'

But something drove him.  He wouldn't be happy until he had spoken
to his friend.  He jumped up, nearly knocking Mrs. Lamplough's
elbow, and pushed his way through and caught Julius' hand.

'Hullo, Mr. Cromwell!'

'Why, it's Simon!'

Phyllis Lock kissed him.

'I tell you what it is,' Mrs. Lamplough said, 'Simon's getting out
of hand.  I've known you children since you were born so I've a
right to say something.  I shall speak to your mother.'

'It won't make any difference,' Dorothy said, hot in defence.
'Mother and Father want Simon to be quite natural.  And he's as
good as anything.'

'It isn't much use being good if you haven't any manners,' Mrs.
Lamplough said.  But she wasn't really thinking of the children.
Her eyes were never still, up and down the room, taking everything
in.


This was Celia's afternoon, or, at least, she was determined to
make it so.  Before she had married Julius it was an occasion such
as this that had been her especial glory.  So many hostesses were
baffled by the sight of other people driven together under one roof
and standing, hostile, critical, waiting for everything to go
wrong.

Such an occasion lit some fire within her so that she felt that
exaltation alive within all of us when our personal talent is
precisely demanded.  This was the thing for which she was destined.
To make everything go, to see that everyone was happy.  Since they
had come to Garth there had been no opportunity to show the whole
neighbourhood what she could do.  This was no vainglory.  She LIKED
people to be happy.  She could not pretend now, as she looked
around her drawing-room, that this was a very intelligent or lively
set of humans.  They were making a lot of noise with their chatter,
but, really, what a collection!  Poor old Major Malpas with his
purple nose and game leg, Mrs. Ironing in her velvet, Miss Vergil
with brass buttons all down her flat chest, old Lady Drumacre with
her lorgnette, Mrs. Brennan, a Juno in a small pork-pie hat, that
old horror Mrs. Lamplough in her dingy bonnet!  She had to confess,
without any prejudice, that her own two men were like eagles to
crows.  That poor boy, Jim Burke, who looked at her as though he
could eat her (she did hope that nobody else was noticing!), and,
of course, Julius with his splendid body and grand head.  He was
the centre of everything always.  Her love for him hurt her heart;
she did not mind if Jim kissed her again.  She could imagine it was
Julius adoring her.

Then she actually forgot him.  She remembered nothing but her
determination to make the party go.  She determined perhaps a
little too much.  Glebe-shire is, inland at least, a sleepy,
somnolent county.  Canon Ronder of Polchester used to say of it, in
the old days, 'The Lotus Land--all minor characters can end their
days peacefully here.'  In any case, even in 1938, when the world
was rocking, Glebeshire was not very greatly disturbed, nor wished
to be.  Nearly everyone had lived there since the Conquest.  Time
was not.  Innovations were unpleasant.

Perhaps three-quarters of the men and women in the room that
afternoon felt something a little unpleasant about Celia's
excitement, her drama, her manipulations.  They were accustomed to
parties where old ladies literally fell asleep in their chairs and
no one thought the worse of them for it, where friends danced
lazily with one another and talked a little scandal, where there
were set out some bridge tables, where no one was very definitely
host or hostess.

But Celia made a little speech.  She stood near the Christmas tree
and clapped her hands.  Then, when everyone was silent, she cried
out in her clear child-like voice:

'Now we're going to dance to the gramophone.  And everyone has to
dance!  There's room for everybody!'

People did not want to be TOLD to dance.  And did she not look
strange, standing up there, in that wonderful rose-coloured frock
that fitted so over-closely to her figure, did her eyes not shine
quite unnaturally, need her voice be pitched to that excitement?
It was, after all, a very pleasant party.  The room was pretty, it
was interesting to see this handsome blind man in his own house, it
was comfortable to feel for an hour or two surrounded by riches,
even though they were somebody else's.  Then, as usual, it was
agreeable to meet old friends and chat a little, amusing to notice
clothes and behaviour.  What was the need then for all this
direction and ordering, especially as Mrs. Cromwell was little more
than a girl and didn't, in any case, belong to Glebeshire?

Nevertheless excitement of a kind--excitement half rebellious, half
acquiescent--DID pervade the room.

It was Julius' handsome, completely up-to-date gramophone that
played.  These modern dances were easy, and even though you
couldn't dance at all you could make some sort of a show of it.

Celia went about the room urging everyone to dance, speaking to
them as though she had known them all her life!  She danced herself
with young Johnny Hope from Rafiel, and how beautifully they did
it!  No one else in the room could approach them, so perfect, so
easy, so graceful and casual were their movements.  So young, in
fact, they both were.

Julius had danced for a little while with Celia, she guiding him
with great skill; then he retired quietly to a corner, sat down on
a little sofa set back against the wall and listened to all the
sounds, the music, the voices, the stirring of the feet that came
to him in a coloured web behind his eyes.  He was very happy.  He
was a shy man.  He had been blind for too long to be self-conscious
because of his disability, but he was self-conscious in another
way.  He thought that he must be dull to anyone with sight who did
not know him very well.  He understood completely the gruffness and
irritations of the deaf.  It is not only that the blind and deaf
are shut off from human activities, but they must of necessity be
continually imagining the many active things that human beings must
be wanting to do.  'You run along now, I'm perfectly all right,'
Julius was always beginning to say.

Above all, he could not endure to be pitied.  He had reached an
amazing sensitiveness to the slightest hint of pity whether in
movement or voice.  He was not only shy, but he was also proud.

That was why he did not care for the company of strangers.  It was
not that he did not love human beings, but rather that he loved
them too well.  He refused to have either their pity or their
boredom, and he often imagined these things when they were not
there.

But now he was happy, for he was host, successfully, in his own
house.  His guests were enjoying it all--he could tell from their
voices and their laughter--but they did not drive themselves in
upon him.  He hoped that in the general gaiety he was forgotten.

He had been greatly proud when he had heard Celia's voice
announcing the dancing--her young freshness, her own clear
happiness, these things, through her voice, made him see her
beauty.

'Dear Celia.  Dear, dear Celia.'  He was thinking of her so
intently that he was irritated when he found that someone was
sitting down on the sofa beside him.

A hand touched his arm and a voice said:  'It's Katherine Mark.'

'Oh, I'm so glad!'

He turned, smiling, towards her.

'You didn't LOOK pleased when you heard me sitting down.'

'I didn't know it was you.'

'I had to come and tell you how beautiful Celia is looking, and how
happy.'

'Yes.  I could tell from her voice just now that she was happy.'

'The whole thing is the greatest success.'

'Is it?  I'm so glad.'

'Of course I don't know what parties are usually like round here.
Pretty dull, I expect.  We used to have parties forty years ago in
this very room and they WERE dull.'

'Didn't you liven them up?'

'No.  I wasn't good at that.  I was too shy.  I'm shy still, for
that matter.'

'I'm shy too.'

'Yes, I know you are.  When Millie came back from France the
parties were brighter.  She was gay enough for anything!  But
Mother was afraid to unbend and Aunt Aggie was a terror and Father
used to go away to his study and work at his writing.'

'Are you enjoying this?' he asked.

'Immensely.  I love to see people happy.  I am getting especial
pleasure from watching Dorothy.'

'Dorothy?'

'Dorothy Brennan.  You know, Mr. Cromwell, it's wonderful to reach
the age when you can love someone without being possessive.  Being
possessive is the root of all evil.  I'm still a little possessive
about my son, I'm afraid, but not in the least about Dorothy.  She
is a darling--quite unaware of her own merits, generous-hearted,
enjoying everything.'

'Yes,' he said, nodding his head.  'Being generous-hearted is the
thing.  It's almost everything.  And being possessive IS the devil,
you're quite right.'  Then he added, quite shyly:  'Look here, Mrs.
Mark, will you call me Julius?'

'Certainly.  If you'll call me Katherine.'

'Let's shake hands on it.'

They did so.

She said:  'You know, you have the most beautiful hands.'

'Oh, nonsense!'

'Hands mean a lot to me.  They're an index to character.'

'Everything is.  We give ourselves away all the time.'

'Yes, we do, don't we?  And yet our bodies are nothing.  Only a
kind of wrapper on the box.'  She laughed.  'When I was a girl I
used to think it would be dreadful to be old.  Forty, I used to
think.  To be forty, how awful!  And now I'm sixty and my opinion
is it's the best age.  You're not decrepit and you've lost some
follies, and you don't expect more than the daily charms, and the
daily worries seem less important.  Even, later on, to be decrepit
needn't be so very bad.'

'Aren't you lonely?' he asked.

'Yes, sometimes, but God is much nearer.  By God I mean some kind
of company that you can't see, only feel.  And feeling is much more
certain than seeing.'

She got up.

'Mr. Lamplough seems to want me about something.  He's making signs
to me.'

After she was gone he too stood up.  The gramophone was playing the
'Blue Danube' waltz, which even now, after so many years and
endless repetition, was fresh and lovely--the most beautiful waltz
in the world.

A voice said in his ear:  'You should watch Jim Burke with your
wife.  There are fine goings-on.'


The children had enjoyed the dancing.  Dorothy had had a wonderful
time, for after Simon had insisted that he should be allowed to
bump around the room with her (he had no idea of dancing at all),
Johnny Hope, who had been performing so wonderfully with Celia,
approached her and asked if she would give him a dance.

This seemed to her so incredible an adventure that, for a moment,
she could not speak.  Then she said shyly, 'Thank you very much,'
and advanced into the room as frightened as a mouse who scents
cheese but fears a trap.  There WAS, however, no trap.  Johnny was
a very nice young man who, finishing his dance with Celia, said,
'That girl over there's got a sweet face.'

'That's the parson's daughter.'

'Why, of course.  Last time I saw her I was in Etons and she had a
torn stocking.  I'll ask her to dance.'

Johnny was so good a dancer that anyone could dance with him.

Dorothy knew an enchantment.  She found that there came to her new
adventurous steps; she did what it was brilliant and clever to do
before she had thought of doing it.

She knew that everyone was looking at her.  She knew that as,
before her glass, she had realized the change in her, so others too
were realizing it.

'That's the Brennan girl.  How she's growing!  Why, she was a
schoolgirl when I saw her last.'

And HOW she hoped that Jim Burke was aware of her!  A word of
praise from him would make her afternoon joy complete.

Gilbert, too, enjoyed himself and his pleasure came from an
unexpected quarter.  It was old Mr. Lamplough who, watching the
dancing, saw also the thin-faced little boy with the large serious
eyes, quite alone and, in some undefined way, rather fiercely on
his guard.

'Well, young Brennan, you look very thoughtful!'

Gilbert turned sharply and was rather frightened at the near
neighbourhood of the bent-shouldered, hook-nosed, shabbily-coated
old man who had hairs growing out of his nose and large purple
veins on the back of his hands.

'How do you do, Mr. Lamplough!'

'How do I do?  How do I do?  Why do I come to these silly affairs?
To enjoy myself?  Dear me, no!  To please my wife?  Not that
either, I'm afraid.  But because my friend Julius Cromwell likes me
to be here.  Why are you not at school?'

'There was chicken-pox, so we were all sent home.'

'Chicken-pox!  And what are you doing with yourself?  Idling, I
suppose.'

'I'm not learning much, I'm afraid.  I read some French with
Dorothy, and do Latin exercises.'

The old man smiled, and when he smiled his ugly face was quite
hideously kind.

'Take my tip.  Don't you worry if you ARE doing nothing!  I was
very diligent at school, and very intelligent too.  With what
result?  I've done nothing with my life whatever.'

'You know a lot about Shakespeare, don't you, sir?' Gilbert asked
politely.  He had been told that this was so.

'I DO know a lot about Shakespeare.  And all perfectly useless.
I'm like an ant who is for ever climbing up a stone that is too
slippery for him.  Shakespeare is slippery, my boy, damned
slippery.  He isn't a man at all.  He's the whole planetary system.
However, never mind about Shakespeare.  What do you do with
yourself all day?'

'Oh, there's plenty to do!  There's the garden, and helping Dorothy
and Mother, and I'm trying to model.'

'You are, are you?  Model what?'

'I can't do anything yet, sir.  Jim Burke's shown me a little, but
he hasn't much time.'

'Humph!  I've got one or two books that might help you.  I'll leave
them at the Rectory.'

'Thanks most awfully, sir.'  This was so encouraging that he went
on:  'I've got a dog too.'

'Oh, have you?  What sort of a dog?'

'He's mostly fox-terrier.  He's a bit of Aberdeen, too.  He's a
mongrel.'

'They are the best--always most intelligent.'

'Yes.  Benson's VERY intelligent.  He's almost human.'

'Everyone always says that about their dogs, as though it were
remarkable.  As a matter of fact, I sometimes think that human
beings are dogs, and dogs are human beings.  Is he a one-man dog?'

'That's exactly what he is, sir.  He doesn't really care about
anybody except me, and I suppose that's selfish, but I like it all
the same.'

'I should think you do.  That's what we're all looking for.  You
must bring him to see me one day.  We will take a walk together.'

'I should like that very much, sir.  Thank you.'

Simon joined them.

'Well, young man, what have you been up to?'

He was very hot and grinning.

'This beastly suit tickles me.'

'Take it off then!' Mr. Lamplough said.

This was a new idea to Simon, and a fascinating one.

'Mother says it's wicked to be naked.'

'A fig-leaf!  A fig-leaf's all you want.  Fig-leaves are so large
now in England that they cover religion, politics--everything.
We're false when we're clothed and hideous when we're not, so it's
a bad choice either way.'

Simon wriggled his shoulders but hadn't an idea of what the ugly
old man meant.  Nor did he care.  For Celia was speaking again.


Julius stood there, not a muscle in his body moving.  No one
approached him just then, for all were listening to Celia.  He
heard her voice through a cloud of darkness.  She was saying that
now there would be Charades.  Chairs were being brought, sofas were
pushed forward.  She was saying that she would lead the first one
with Johnny Hope, Winifred Hope his sister, Fred Ironing, Phyllis
Lock, Colonel Baines.

His brain leapt to life.  Who was it who had spoken to him?  He had
not recognized the voice.  It had, in all probability, been
disguised.  How cruel and malicious a thing!  Like an anonymous
letter it must be entirely disregarded.  But, like an anonymous
letter, it left its sting.  How monstrous a thing from a guest in
his own house!  It had been a woman's voice.

They were sitting down, laughing and chattering.

Someone said to him:  'Wouldn't you like a chair, Mr. Cromwell?'

He smiled.  'No, thanks.  I'd rather stand.  I can see better.'

Jim Burke . . . Jim Burke . . . Jim Burke.  But he liked Burke and
trusted him.  Celia?  At the thought of her it was as though water
moved over his heart and rocked it.  Celia was faithful.  She loved
him.  He would stake his life on her honesty.  His life?
Certainly.  His life was worth very little to him if she were
dishonest.

If one person said this to him, others were thinking it.  Perhaps
everyone in this room. . . .  No.  It was a gossiping foul-minded
woman.  Mrs. Lamplough?  Yes.  Very likely Mrs. Lamplough.  But he
could not see.  If he could see, all would be clear in a moment of
vision.  One look at Celia's face . . .  But now he was doubting
her.  How shameful a thing!  Because a dirty-minded old woman had
whispered in his ears.

One of those passions that he so greatly dreaded was hovering near
him.  A mood when all the blacknesses bred in his blindness swept
down upon him, when the world clouded so that he could see nothing
real but only the fancies that belonged to his blindness.  He dug
his nails into his palms.  He must control this.  No one must
detect anything, either now or ever.  He must give no one the
satisfaction of knowing that he was touched.  In the room now, with
him, was the woman who had whispered to him.  She was watching him,
hoping for some sign.

They had begun their acting.  People were laughing at their
appearance.  They had dressed themselves, he supposed, in odds and
ends as you did in charades.  He heard Celia's voice, clear as a
bell.  She said:  'But I told you, James, that I cannot BEAR
cucumber.'

Yes, for the woman to have whispered that, they must be talking.
There MUST be some talk.  And it sprang from nothing.  Celia was
young, heedless.  She had been kind to Burke as she was kind to
everybody.  Here, in this country community, anything was
suspicious, and because he was older and because he was blind . . .

Everyone was clapping.  The first syllable was over.

'Very good, wasn't it?' some man said to him.  'By Jove, your wife
can act!'

'What do you think it was?'

''Pon my soul I don't know.  First I thought it was "hash."  All
about cooking it was, anyway.  But "hash" makes a damned bad
beginning to a word.'

The thing was, of course, to dismiss it utterly, as though it had
never been spoken.  But there was a wild trembling in his mind
that, for the moment, he could not control.  Jealous?  He had never
been jealous since he was a boy.  Jealous?  Jealous of Celia?

They were back again, but now he heard the voices in a mist.
Broken sentences.  'Your cabin must be the one--'  'Oh, I do hope
it won't be--'  'Yes, the steward told me--'  Something to do with
a ship.

Celia loved him.  She had been bored a little and cross a little,
but she LOVED him.  On that he must fix his mind.  As though he
could doubt it . . . some filthy old woman . . .

With a rush the anger was upon him.  The words were forming in his
brain.  He would call out to them all sitting so smugly watching
this foolishness:  'I'm blind!  I'm blind.  I can't see!  Think of
that, you idiots.  How would you like it?  What would you do?  I
can't see my wife.  You can see her and I can't.  Even when I am in
the same room with her I can't tell what she's doing!  I'm in
darkness, perpetual darkness, for ever and ever and ever!  Isn't it
funny?  You can see my wife and I can't!  You're laughing.  You're
clapping your hands . . . and I can't see.  I don't know what
you're laughing at.  I can't see my wife.  What do you think of
that?'

'If you ask me,' the man said, 'I think it's "bedrock."'

He moved very cautiously, touching a sofa-end, a chair, a picture-
frame, and found the door.

He slipped out of the room.



CHAPTER VII

GARTH HOUSE: IN JULIUS' STUDY


Julius Cromwell's Journal

January 3.--I listened to someone on the wireless this morning who
very chattily ('My dear, it was exactly as though he were sitting
over a fire in the same room with you') told us that there are
three ways of keeping a diary--World Events, Self-Analysis, small
daily detail--'had roast beef for dinner, a bit tough--saw first
primrose--moon on its back tonight forebodes rain'--but, liking
none of them, he would keep no diary this year.

I don't like any of them either.  World events are horrible.  I see
no way out.  Our country is pusillanimous, the very thought of
Hitler makes me bilious.  Anyway, what do I know of what is really
happening?

As to self-analysis, I am a regular conventional man placed in
irregular abnormal circumstances.  I know that I am on the edge of
a real disaster as many, many an ordinary married man has been
before me.  I love my wife and am, God forgive me, jealous of her.
I ask God's forgiveness, because jealousy is the vilest, meanest of
all the human passions.  I am determined not to surrender to it and
I surrender every hour.

So far I may be said, in the external sense, to have behaved
decently--yes, extra decently.  Celia has for the most part, I
think, been happier in the last two weeks than at any time since
she came here.  And that is because I have been more considerate,
more careful to please her.  And I have been careful to please her
in a sort of spying way.  My motives seem good, but behind them I
am asking, will she give herself away now?  Shall I tempt her to
some sudden confession?  Foul, foul!  In all my life nothing
fouler.

There come at times hours of the most radiant light, the most
perfect confidence.  Every suspicion seems to have cleared away.  I
see with the utmost clarity.  How could I have suspected her for a
single instant?  As she talks to me a great weight is lifted, as
though by a divine hand, from my heart.  I can see my other twisted
self and look on it as an obscene madman, just as one does for a
brief while after yielding to some sensual temptation, in the
reaction from some basely satisfied moment of passion.  I remember
a soldier in the War telling me that he went to a brothel chiefly
for the wonderful sense of purity, simplicity, clarity that was his
for a brief while after he came away.  The intervals when one moves
out of Jealousy's company are like that.

But Jealousy is very strange.  He leaves you in order that he may
return where you least expect it.

This afternoon for example.  It was a faint dim day of the New
Year, warm and comforting.  Not a breath of wind.  We motored to
the wood called the Well to look--or she was to look--for
primroses.  They are found here sometimes before Christmas.  We
were both very happy.  Her hand was on my arm and sometimes I put
up my hand to touch hers.  She prattled on about her childhood,
about her incredible mother whom death has relieved from being the
most ridiculous old lady ever seen.  She was capable of changing
her clothes a dozen times a day and she used to dress Celia up in
the most fantastic things, tear bits of ribbon off her, put them on
again, kiss her and be enraged with her all in a moment, and then
suddenly, dressed herself only in her vest, sit down in a chair and
go on with a library novel, eating chocolates by the dozen at the
same time.  Celia was rather fond of her and, when she went for a
year to a finishing school in Paris, missed her badly.  'She was
always having lovers,' Celia said.  'I suppose it's from her that I
get my dreadful infidelities.'

And at once I was changed.  I could have caught her round the
throat and throttled her.

'What do you mean?' I asked her.  My voice was choked.

At first she noticed nothing.  She had left me; she was looking for
primroses.  Her voice came from a long way off.

'I've told you,' she said.  'I've only misbehaved once in my life
and I hated it.  But if I hadn't married you--'  She called out:
'Oh, there they are!  The darlings!  A whole clump of them!  Wait,
Julius!  I'll pick you such a bunch!'

We walked back to the car and she noticed that something was wrong
with me.  I could tell at once that she was frightened and, because
she was frightened, she was angry.  My sane self talked to my
insane self.  'Now, that meant nothing.  You were happy.  Go on
being happy.  There's no reason for any change.'

But my body would not obey my reasonable mind.  My heart was
beating.  My arm trembling.  We were walking apart.  We were
silent.  I tried to force myself into the easy happy tone of half
an hour ago.  The words would not come.  With the increasing
silence my anger, my misery, my physical pain of heart and throat
grew more active.  We drove home in silence.  She went up to her
room without a word.  She hadn't given me the primroses.

January 7.--I said the other day in this Journal that I was a
normal ordinary man in abnormal unordinary circumstances.  I am
coming to believe that every man born of woman is as UNordinary as
every other man.  It is circumstances that betray the truth.

Now take Boss, the butcher in Garth.  When young he must have been
a boy of wonderful physique.  He is short but his strength of
shoulder, arm, and thigh must have been terrific.  He had, however,
first an adoring mother, then a kindly orderly wife.  (Very nice
woman Mrs. Boss.)  He has grown, as butchers do, stout.

He makes a decent living, has three nice children, and a loving
faithful wife.  His contentment is supreme.  He is too lazy to run
after other women.  He plays darts and bowls and would be drunk on
occasion if it were not for Mrs. Boss.  He told me the other day
that his digestion is perfect and he never has a cold.  He is proud
of his garden, and his politics are summed up in the two phrases,
'We don't want foreigners meddling here' and 'I'm a Socialist
really.'

That's Boss as he is.  But imagine a handsome stranger invading
Garth and making love to Mrs. Boss.  (She is still, they tell me,
very personable.)  My guess is that Boss would appear suddenly to
be a man of almost maniacal intentions.  His temper would be
frightful, he would drink like a fish, he might, if things went far
enough, commit suicide or even murder.  Everyone would then say how
changed he was, 'You wouldn't know him for the same man,' and so
on.  Not at all.  He is the same Boss.  He has now latent in him
cruelty, obscenity, abnormality, frenzy.  He will probably escape
through life in safety unless disease touches his brain.  'There
but for the Grace of God goes . . .'

These are platitudes.  Of course.  I am not an original, I see
nothing for the first time as painters, writers, musicians,
philosophers of a good class see things.  But a platitude is for
oneself no longer a platitude when it is experienced in one's own
life.

This morning Jim Burke, as usual, read me the morning papers.  I
thought of him with devilish malignity and great affection.  I like
no one, save Celia, to lead me about, be close to me, put his hand
through my arm as I do Burke.

But when he had been reading for about half an hour I said:

'What's the matter with you, Jim?  Something's on your mind.'

(There had been no sign of his being different.  I said this to
test him.)

'I'm all right,' he said.

'No.  I've noticed it for some while past.  Something's on your
mind.'

He said nothing, but began to read again.

Once more I interrupted him.

'Stop for a moment.  Never mind the papers.  I want you to tell
me.'

'Don't you think,' he said at last slowly, 'that sitting there as
you do you imagine things sometimes?'

'Perhaps I do,' I answered cheerfully.  'But you know they say that
if you're blind your senses are much more alert than an ordinary
man's.  There's something in that.'

'The village thinks so anyway.'

'Thinks what?'

He laughed.  'That you can see farther than people who CAN see.
They say that it's as though they were living in this house and you
could see all they were doing and thinking.'

'Do they really?'  Then I said:  'Come here.  Sit close beside me.
Put your hand on my knee.'

After a little hesitation he did so.

'That's better.  Now I'm really talking to you.  What do the people
in the village say about us, Jim?'

'What do you mean--SAY about you?'

'About Mrs. Cromwell and me.  We've been here quite a long time
now.  I'd like to know what they REALLY think.'

'Oh, they like you--they all like you.  They think you're a fine
man.'

'I'm glad of that.  And Mrs. Cromwell?'

He hesitated.  I felt his hand tremble ever so slightly.

'Some of them like her--some of them don't.'

'Why don't they?'

'The old maids.'  His voice was suddenly hard.  'And Mrs. Brennan.
That lot.  They're jealous of her.  They think she's stuck-up.'

I laughed.  'That's a funny idea.'  Then I went on lightly:  'Do
they consider us a devoted couple?'

'Why, of course--anyone can see that!'

'Do YOU think we're a devoted couple?'

I could feel that he was annoyed with me for asking these
questions.  It would seem to him in bad taste.

'Do _I_ think?  What does it matter what _I_ think?'

'It matters a lot.  You've lived in this house quite a time.
You're sensible.  You've travelled about the world a lot.  You have
watched human nature.'

He broke out:  'Well, you ARE, aren't you?'

'Certainly we are.  I only would like to know how it seems to you?'

He took his hand from my knee.  He sprang to his feet.

'Here!  Why are you asking me these questions?'

I realized that he was greatly agitated.

'Don't get so excited.  There's no reason to be excited.'

'I tell you what!' he went on.  'It's as I said--you sit there
imagining things.'

'Perhaps I do.  Perhaps you'd be the same if you were blind.'

His voice softened.

'Perhaps I should.  It's a damned shame.  You don't know how sorry
I am.'

'I don't like to be pitied,' I said.

'I'm not pitying you.  I like you better than any man I've ever
known.  There's nothing I wouldn't do for you.  No, nothing.'

'That's all right, Jim.  Don't let's get sentimental.'

'It's not sentimental.  It's just how I feel.  You go probing and
probing until I don't know where I am.'

'All right.  Let's get on with the reading.'


It has not been strange in the circumstances, I suppose, that my
mind should have dwelt much on the question as to who it was
whispered in my ear on the afternoon of the party.  It is not
strange either that I should at first have decided that it was Mrs.
Lamplough, she being the core or heart of the village gossip.  So I
asked the Lamploughs to tea.

When Celia heard that I had done this she was angry.  (She is
constantly angry now, angry in a kind of self-defence way and ever
since the primrose-picking exhibition.)

'That's unkind of you, Julius.  You know how I hate her.'

(I take great pleasure in remembering for my Journal the exact
words of past dialogues.  My memory for trifles now seems
prodigious.  I wonder whether it is so with all blind people.
Perhaps that is the real reason why chess masters can play so many
boards at the same time--that they are blindfolded helps them
rather than hinders them.)

In any case I can recall this conversation with Celia most vividly
and how Jealousy, like a fat blowzy woman, wheezed in my ear:  'Has
she been kissing Burke, do you think?'  Vulgarity, bad taste,
flaring clothes, eructations, cheap scent--all these things are
part of Jealousy's furniture.

'Whatever did you ask her for?'

'I want to know something.'

(I couldn't resist saying this.  I don't know myself.  Three months
ago you couldn't have persuaded me that I would act like this
because some foul-minded bitch--or perhaps not a woman--whispered a
line of dirty gossip in my ear.  But then, you see, I'm in LOVE
with Celia.)

'To know something?  What on earth can Mrs. Lamplough have to tell
you?'

'Well, my dear, she's the village's prize gossip.'

'Gossip?  What do you want with gossip?  I thought you were above
such a vulgar thing!'

'A blind man is above nothing.  He is constantly wondering.'

'I know you are.  That's what I--'

She quite suddenly came over to me, put her arms round my neck, her
cheek against mine.  Her cheek was wet with tears.  With what agony
I loved her then.  Yes, AGONY . . . for the pain constricted my
heart and my bowels.

'Celia!  You're crying!'

She put up her hand to her cheek and mine.

'No.  It's nothing.  I hate Mrs. Lamplough so.'

When they came Celia was out.  I had to apologize.

I had, of course, never seen Mrs. Lamplough but her clothes always
smelt of moths.  The purr of her voice was pure animal.  I mean a
physical sound without humanity.

I was amused, after his declaration of the other day, that old
Lamplough should be so charming to her.  He is certainly afraid of
her.

'Have one of these rock buns, my dear.  They're charming.'

'Alice says, Julius, that Sizyn Church wants some looking after.
It's being neglected.'

She spun an unbroken web of chatter.

'It certainly does.  Frank Brennan is the laziest parson in the
whole of the British Isles AND he knows it, which makes it worse.
However, perhaps it's just as well for Daisy Brennan that he is.
If he had some energy the village girls might be in danger, because
he's still good-looking and his religion is MOST queer--not a
religion at all, if you ask me.  I wonder the Bishop hasn't
something to say to it, but he's as lazy as Frank, if you ask me.
They say his eldest boy--the Bishop's, I mean--is simply going to
pieces at Cambridge--wine, women, and song.  His College bills are
simply AWFUL, I hear, and, as it is, the Bishop's had to strain
things financially to send him there, and Mrs. Crawford's health is
just being undermined by it all.  I was told in Polchester the
other day that she's under drugs half the time, and her two girls
are just running round Polchester without anyone bothering where
they go or who they go with.'

'Try some of this blackberry jelly,' Lamplough suggested.  'You'll
like it.'

I, quite suddenly, knew that it was not she who had spoken to me at
the party.  There was something in her voice that could not
possibly disguise it from me--no, not for one sentence.

Then she asked:  'How are you finding Jim Burke, Mr. Cromwell?'

I knew that she was waiting passionately for my answer.

'Oh, I like him.  He's a good fellow.'

'I'm glad that you find him so.  That's more than he used to be.'

'I expect gossip exaggerated things.'

'Well, I never listen to gossip myself, but it was more than gossip
when he was with the Ironings.  However, I believe in giving
everyone a fresh chance.'

How odd her voice!  It has the property of hypnotism.  You listen
in a kind of trance, loathing it, but wanting it to go on.  But
this time I did NOT want it to go on.  I had found out what I
wished to know.  I got rid of them early.  I know that she went
away deeply insulted because Celia was not there.  I suppose, when
you come to think of it, she was right.

January 10.--That I am extremely unhappy is nobody's fault but my
own.  Things have not been made easier in these last few days by
the fact that Jim has seen fit to show sulks.

This particular kind of sulks, I believe, is the especial property
of real true-blood Englishmen.  Being by nature inarticulate it is
a real relief to be in a mood in which no words are necessary at
all.  Burke's politeness is intolerable and he answers me in
monosyllables.  The answer to all this, of course, is to send him
away, and some of the time I think this is the solution.  But I
care about him, that's the nuisance of it.  I am at heart, I
suppose, unsure of myself and perhaps have always been so.  This
unsureness makes me want to secure the affection of everyone round
me.  I can't bear to have anyone under my roof who dislikes me.
But Jim and Celia both must just now find my moods intolerable.  I
say to myself:  'Get rid of him.  Everything is settled as soon as
he goes.'  But, of course, nothing is settled by his going.  If
there has been any infidelity to me the fact of the infidelity is
there whether he goes or stays.  And I must know.  I MUST KNOW.  If
I say to him, 'Jim, are you in love with my wife?' and he says,
'Yes, I am,' and I say, 'You'd better go then,' and he says, 'Of
course.  I asked you to let me go long back,' where am I better
off?  And I cannot ask him:  'Is my wife in love with you?'
Moreover I know that she is not.  Of course I know it as I know
that my heart beats in my breast.  But does that preclude
infidelity?  Things that, because of her upbringing, are nothing to
her are to me at the very root of our relationship.  He is young
and vigorous.  Only to know.  TO KNOW.  To ask her once:  'Have you
flirted with Jim?  Has he kissed you?  Has he taken you in his
arms?'  Oh, God, God! help me to be a real man, wise, beneficent,
generous-hearted.  But I am not--I am as mean, spying, underhand as
any other of the multitudes of jealous husbands who have, from the
beginning of time, known this unworthy wretchedness.

And, just now, everything is against me.  I have a fancy that
Celia's maid, Violet, is somehow in this business.  At any rate
there is a feud between Mrs. Gayner and her.  Mrs. Gayner wants her
to go, says she is impertinent, lazy, always stirring up trouble
with the other servants.  But Celia won't hear of her going and is
now at open war with Mrs. Gayner.

Apart from all this, Lizzie herself is no longer at my side as she
has been for so many years.  She has her own secret, although what
it can be with so upright, loyal a woman I cannot imagine.

My worst and most maddening irritation is that I fancy that if I
could see I could settle all this trouble.  Could I once look into
Celia's face, I tell myself, everything would be resolved.  I would
say, 'Do you love me?' and she would say, 'I do,' and it would be
all over.

As it is, when she speaks to me, I imagine a hundred different
nuances.  I fancy that she is looking away as she speaks, or is
frowning or scornful.  And she is afraid of me, of my sudden moods,
my unaccountable silences, my abrupt questions.

January 12.--I am ill.  I have been ill for half an hour.  I am
very seldom ill, have not an ache or a pain.  But half an hour ago,
as Celia began to read to me, a pain, a little pain, crept into the
skin of my forehead between my eyes.  I asked her to stop reading.
Once again she was hurt by my abruptness, and went up to bed.  A
quarter of an hour ago I took out this Journal and as I began to
write my whole body began to be invaded.  Little pains are running
about it like messengers.  Someone is turning a knife inside my
forehead.  My legs and arms ache as though they were not MY legs
and arms at all, but had been forced on me by an enemy.  I am
shivering, but my head is like a hot thunderstorm.  It is so long
since I have been ill that it seems impossible that this can happen
so suddenly.  An hour ago I was perfectly well.

January I don't know what.--I have no decency to be writing.  When
I was laid here I insisted, half delirious as I was, that my
Braille Milton and my padlocked Journal and a photograph of Celia
should be put on the table beside my strange bed.

Celia was in her dressing-gown.  Lizzie Gayner found me trying to
crawl upstairs to my room.  She and Oliphant undressed me.  I
remember that as she buttoned my pyjama-jacket over my bare hairy
chest I fancied that it was my mother again and sleepily said:
'Good night, Mum.'

I was in bed when Celia came in.  I remember little more.  It has
been a sharpish attack of influenza.  There is a danger of
pleurisy.  I have spent most of the days in dreaming, but Lizzie
Gayner said half an hour ago:  'Now straight off to sleep, mind.'
And here I am, the moment she was gone, finding the key in my match-
box, unlocking the Journal, and sitting up with my head like a
swollen apple-pudding, writing from my favourite poem of all poems:


     Ye valleys low where the milde whispers use,
     Of shades and wanton winds, and gushing brooks,
     On whose fresh lap the swart star sparely looks,
     Throw hither all your quaint enameld eyes,
     That on the green terf suck the honied showres,
     And purple all the ground with vernal flowres.


How lovely it is with the old spelling which I made Celia once
repeat to me from an early Milton that old Colebrooke gave me.  And
how silly Celia thought it.  'Spelling it like that just makes it
absurd!'  And how hot, dirty, sweaty, choked, and rheumed I have
been all day, and how simply repeating 'That on the green terf suck
the honied showres' refreshes and WASHES one with a kind of crystal
shower.  How too this notion that poetry is only for the aesthetes
breaks down.  There never was less of an aesthete than I (perhaps a
LITTLE aesthetic on the music side).  But those words are PHYSICAL.
My body is gross, heavy, unclean.  There is something else, though,
that if washen and reclothed rises from this bed and sits singing
in the window, urged thither by Milton.  And this foul room!  And
my dreams.  My dreams of all day and all night.  Vast caverns
'immeasurable to man,' or whatever it is, with the too-familiar
Beethoven Fifth booming away where the sea will shortly rush in,
and an old witch--Mrs. Lamplough--naked-dugged, thick, glistening,
oily black hair, digging in the sand for oysters, and that
dreadfully supercilious fellow on the Weekly Round whom Jim reads
out to me of a Sunday morning, sitting on a rock near Mrs.
Lamplough and telling her in that lazy, superior voice of his that
Milton is lacking in 'symphonic rhythm,' or some such nonsense, and
little Simon Brennan wallowing in the green-blue pool at the mouth
of the cavern, cocking a cheeky eye at Lamplough meanwhile and
deliberately splashing his untidy clothes with sea water!

Now the odd thing is that I have full vision in my dreams.  Is my
picture of young Simon anything like the reality--and the critic
whom I never give a thought to save for a brief moment on Sunday,
does he really look the self-satisfied, lazy, untidy beggar I see
him as?  And the orchestra playing the Fifth Symphony all in
evening clothes, a cross between waiters and artists, with a wave
nearly knocking Adrian Boult off his rostrum!  Such a noise!  The
trumpets blowing, the drums banging, the sea roaring ever nearer
and nearer, and Headache, a large green crab with hairy claws,
making a peck at me every now and then, threatening to lie across
the whole of my face and eat into my nose.  But, above all, I must
not betray myself in my dreams.  Nothing of Celia, nothing of Jim.
No shout, no cry, no murmur.  I said to Lizzie half an hour ago:
'I haven't been talking nonsense, have I?'  I fancied that she was
looking at me with rather a pitying tenderness.  Although I can't
see her, I know she has so good a face, that old woman--goodness
without a single afterthought, goodness for no ulterior motive.
Goodness because she can't help being good.  I can write no more.
My hand sweats on the paper.  Out, light that oppresses my
eyeballs.  Now for the brilliant, peopled darkness!



CHAPTER VIII

GARTH HOUSE--AFTERNOON AND NIGHT


To all of us, even the most insensitive, there come days, or only
hours perhaps, when danger threatens us so nearly that every step
taken, every word spoken, seems full of risk.  Not definite and
named danger; there is rather a general danger in the air.

It was so for Celia on this 14th of January.  At the moment of
waking, looking round her and expecting to see, as she still did,
Julius sleeping in the bed beside her, she said aloud, still only
half awake:  'I've got to be very careful today.'

The room was dark.  Violet had not yet arrived to call her.  She
came and drew the blinds back, in the January half-light; at that
moment the furniture seemed to settle itself down as though it had
been alive and stirring in the dark.

'What's the matter, Violet?'

'Nothing at all, ma'am.'

'You look as though you'd got out of bed the wrong side.'

Violet made no reply but busied herself about the room.

'I wonder you stay here,' Celia went on, drinking her tea.

'Why,' ma'am?'

'You don't like it here.'

'I like to be with YOU, ma'am.'

'That's very nice of you.  We're neither of us very popular, you
know.'

Violet looked at her as though they had a secret understanding,
which was annoying because of course there was nothing of the kind.
It might be that Celia, bored and out of temper, had on occasion
chatted to Violet with more familiarity than was wise.  But Violet
was young and pretty and always on the side of her mistress.  They
had common ground in their dislike of Mrs. Gayner.

'You know that funny little man in the village, ma'am?'

'No, of course I don't.  What little man?'

'The one who always goes about in a waterproof with a lot of dogs
at his heels.'

'Oh yes.  I've seen him.'

'He was in the garden last night.'

'What!'

'He was, ma'am, really.  I saw him myself.  It was my night off and
I spent the evening at the Raglans'--he's a farmer at Konstans, two
miles from Sizyn.'

'Well, well, get on.'

What had this wretched little man to do with her?  And yet he HAD
to do with her.  Everything was dangerous.

'Well, ma'am, young Will Raglan drove me back on his motor bike.
It was eleven or thereabouts.  I was just going indoors when I
heard someone moving.  I stayed hidden in the porch and he hurried
past me.  There was half a moon and I saw him as clearly as I see
you.  He hurried along, down the drive, and out at the front gate.'

'What an extraordinary thing!  All right.  I'll wear the blue.
That's all.  I'll turn the bath on myself.'

'I thought I ought to tell you, ma'am.'

'Yes, of course.'

In the afternoon she encountered Miss Vergil near the Post-Office.

'How's Mr. Cromwell?'

'Oh, he's better, thank you.'

'Out of bed?'

'Oh no.  He had a touch of pleurisy.'

'Old Greening isn't bad, is he?  When you think he's been here
thirty years.'

'No.  For a country doctor.'

Miss Vergil, who was looking, in her man's hat and severe tweeds,
like an old soldier in mufti, muttered with her gruff casualness:

'Mrs. Cromwell, I oughtn't to say this, I suppose--damned cheek no
doubt.  I know you don't like any of us, and I daresay you're
right, but I'd rather be friendly than not.  What I mean is, if I
ever can be any sort of help you can rely on me.'

'Thanks very much,' Celia said, surprised.

'Yes.  I've made a muck of my life on the whole.  Not that that
interests you.  But you can trust me.  So-long.'

And she turned and walked, as though she were on parade, down the
street.

That was nice of her, Celia thought.  The first one that's been
decent.  But this, too, seemed like a warning.  What did May Vergil
mean?  Why should Celia need anybody's help?  She didn't WANT
anybody's help.  What she wanted was kindliness, affection, someone
whom she liked to comfort and console her and tell her that she was
beautiful.  And, at the same time, she knew that what she wanted
was that someone should tell her that she was no good, a failure, a
wife so unsatisfactory and ignorant and weak that her own husband
had grown to despise her and neglect her and wish for any company
rather than hers.

At home again, she took off her things and went in to see her
husband.  He was fast asleep, lying on his side, his mouth a little
open, helpless as a baby.  Mrs Gayner was sitting near the bed.
She got up when Celia came in.  Celia shook her head and then
motioned with her hand towards the door.

The two women went together into the passage.

'He's sleeping.'

'Yes, I see that he is.  You go back, if you don't mind waiting a
little longer.  I'll be with him when he has his supper.  After
that, when they've made his bed for the night, he'll be all right
alone.  He's got the bell there.  He's ever so much better, isn't
he?'

'Oh yes, ma'am.'

'Has the doctor been?'

'He came just after you went out.'

'What did he say?'

'He seemed pleased.  He said the chest was almost right and he
thought Mr. Cromwell could get up for a little tomorrow.'

'Ah, that's good! . . .  Mrs. Gayner.'

'Yes, ma'am.'

'Something worries me.  Have you seen a little man in the village,
he always wears a waterproof and goes about with a lot of dogs?'

'Well, ma'am, I'm not sure . . .'

'Oh, you must have seen him!  A horrid little man, and they tell me
in the village he's up to no good.  They all wonder what he's doing
here.  He doesn't seem to work and yet he has money.'

'Yes, ma'am.'

'The point is that the village people suspect him of stealing,
although they haven't caught him out yet.'

'Oh yes, Mrs. Cromwell.  I think I HAVE seen the man.'

'I'm sure you have.  Violet says she saw him in the garden last
night.  It was her evening out.  She came back about eleven and he
passed her as she was going in.'

'How could she be certain?'

'There was some moonlight.  She saw him most distinctly.  I don't
want to bother Mr. Cromwell with it just now.  But it rather
frightens me all the same.  Jim Burke sleeps in the house.  I shall
tell him to keep a look-out.'

'It certainly IS upsetting,' Mrs. Gayner said.

'If you hear anything will you let me know?'

'Certainly I will.'

Celia had her dinner alone and her uneasiness increased.  She hated
to eat alone.  Nothing made her feel so melancholy and deserted.
After dinner, she went up to see Julius again and talked to him for
a little.  Then she went back to the study and began to read a book
about Marie Antoinette.  This she did partly because she was so
ignorant and must improve her mind, partly because she was a little
like Marie Antoinette herself and felt a real sympathy for that
poor mistaken lady.

The door opened.  She looked up and saw Jim Burke standing there.

In her heart she was delighted to see him, although she would most
certainly not tell him so.

'Hullo, Jim!'

'Hullo!  I came to tell you that everything is locked up and all
right.'

'Oh, Jim, I wanted to tell you.  Violet saw that awful little man
who has the dogs in the garden last night.'

'What was SHE doing in the garden?'

'It was her night off.  About eleven.  He was after no good.'

'All right.  I'll watch for him.'

Very casual he is about it, she thought.  He looks cross.

By the door he said:

'What have you had against me these weeks?'

'Had against you?  Well--yes.  I haven't forgiven you yet.'

'I forgot myself.  That's all.'

He stared at her as though his eyes were beyond his power to
control.

'I suppose you hate me,' he said slowly.

'I don't hate you.  Of course I don't.'

He came into the room a little way.

'I don't mind--I don't mind anything--if you're kind to me.'

She was firm.  But she did like him very much and she had perhaps
punished him sufficiently.  'We'll say no more about it.'

'I'd do anything for you--anything.  If you told me to kneel down--'

'Now, Jim, don't be a fool.  I don't want you to kneel down or
anything else.  Good night, and keep an eye open for that horrid
little man.'

He said no more.  He turned his eyes from her and looked about the
room.  Then he went out.


After his supper, when Celia had left him, Julius fell into a light
sleep.  He was asleep and yet not asleep; he was dreaming and yet
not dreaming.  Someone was playing his favourite of all the
Beethoven Sonatas, Opus 31, No. 1.  'How much better,' he said,
'than the "Moonlight."  The trouble is that hardly anyone can play
the last movement.'  This time it was played superbly, malicious,
humorous happiness falling in a shower of notes, touching his eyes,
opening them, so that he stared in passionate delight at the room
he had never seen before, stared with wonder at the high white
walls, the wide-open windows, and beyond them a night sky of stars
such as old Lamplough had once seen in his company.

But it was the enchanting little melody of the Scherzo that
somebody was singing, the melody that Beethoven repeats so often,
that is never monotonous.

'How loving, how tender Beethoven really must have been,' he said.
'And he was deaf as I am blind.'

'But you are blind no longer,' Lamplough said.  'You have succeeded
in breaking into that other world at last.  You knew it was there
but never gave yourself time enough in your search for it.'

'So many other things intervened,' Julius said, moving about,
staring with passionate delight at the grass that, although it was
night and the stars were blazing, gleamed like water into the far
distance.  He listened to the Sonata, to the wild but perfectly
ordered riot of notes that suddenly paused and waited with an
enchanting delight of anticipation.

'Now that you know this place is real you'll never again doubt its
existence, will you?' old Lamplough asked quite anxiously.

'Will I be able to see now always?' Julius asked.

'Yes, if you like.  It's your own affair.  It depends on your faith
in reality.'

'Then,' Julius cried radiantly, 'I need never be anxious or afraid
again.  Is Celia coming?'

'If you can persuade her.'

'How happy she will be that I can see after all.  There will be no
trouble any more.  She won't be lonely or restless now.'

The music had stopped and, following it, there was so full a peace
as Julius had never known.  The great white room opened into a
courtyard and there he saw many figures moving.  'How long it is,'
he thought, 'since I have seen a face!  What a weary time it has
been!  And now I shall be able to watch Celia's eyes.'

As he moved through the room towards the courtyard he woke up.  He
lay on his back, exceedingly happy, humming the little melody from
the Scherzo.  'That, at least, is real.  I could go down now to the
study and play the whole Sonata through on the gramophone.'

He lay looking into the darkness.  'There is such a place, there is
such a world.  It is real and true to me in this darkness.  How
wonderful it was to see, even though it were only a dream.  Perhaps
if I sleep again the dream will return.'

But now his brain was awake.  He turned on his side and from his
repeater learned that it was half-past eleven.

He was much, much better.  The dry sharp pain in his chest was
gone.  He pressed his hands on his body, his chest, his arms, his
legs.  His body was cool again and strong.

'This illness has been a good thing.  Something was wrong with me
that this illness has cured.  I know what I will do.  I will take
Celia on a cruise.  We will go to Italy and Greece.  Although I
cannot see, the sun will warm me and she will be so happy.  People
will all love her, not be jealous of her as they are in this little
place.  She shall flirt if she pleases.  I will lie in my chair and
feel the sun on my face while she dances.  It will be a little like
the white place of which I have been dreaming.

'First we will have a week or two in London and I can go and hear
some music.  I can enjoy the theatre if she is at my side to tell
me what is happening.'

He rolled over, luxuriating in the new awareness of health that he
had.

'It was my fault.  To bring her here and keep her all through the
winter!  I have been selfish.  For some reason I love this house
very much.  Katherine Mark has made me feel its past life and when
I am alone I am not alone.  But Celia has not felt it.  She is so
much younger and I have buried her here.'

He raised his arms above his head, yawning in his happiness.  'How
clearly I see everything now!  How mean and doubting I was to be
jealous!  And what Hell it was!  That is all over.  Burke is a good
fellow and is fond of me.'

He sat up.  An idea came to him.  He smiled in the darkness.
Carefully he got out of bed, felt for his soft wool slippers,
walked gingerly to the chair where his dressing-gown was.  He was
weak, of course.  His legs trembled a little.  He felt his way to
the door.  He stood there, smiling.  Then he opened it.


Celia could not sleep.  She turned on her light and tried to
interest herself in Marie Antoinette.  She hated to sleep without
Julius.  She had grown so happily used to that company.  Even
though she had quarrelled with him all the evening she had only to
grin at him as he lay, his eyes closed but his hand stretched out
towards her, for everything to be tranquil.

'I'm an awful fool,' she said suddenly out loud, addressing Marie
Antoinette, who was flirting with Fersen.  'But then I'm young, ill-
educated, spoiled.  How can I improve myself?'

The trouble was that she was not sure whether she wanted to!  Her
youth was so very charming and would be gone so soon.  And how
often her youth had saved her.  At seventeen or so she had flirted
with an elderly but famous painter, and had been saved from things
'worse than death' only because, not liking some exhibited painting
of his, she had written to tell him so and had added, 'And you see,
dear, I am so very jealous for you.'  These few words had
infuriated the famous painter so beyond measure that he had hated
her from that instant.  Yet she had meant so well!

She had not, she decided, lying back with her arms behind her head,
yet reached the moment when youth and age discover a common
understanding.  That awful moment when she will suddenly cry with
conviction 'I too will be fifty,' and the many millions of the
Fifties are waiting in serried ranks, their ears cocked, to hear
that cry.

No, she had not reached that crisis.  She still could not
understand the aged.  She LOVED Julius, she thought, leaning over
and considering the empty bed, but did not understand him.  At that
she was miserable and lonely again.  She wanted someone--almost
anyone--to take her in his arms and comfort her.  The Indecencies
which lie so very close, cheek by jowl in fact, to the Proprieties,
invaded her mind.  But she did not care.  She lay considering the
very incoherent, improper, loving, mean, generous, selfish jumble
her mind was.

She heard the click of the door.  She turned sharply, sitting up.
It was Jim Burke.  He stood just inside the door.  He was wearing
only a shirt and trousers.  His shirt was open at the neck.  On his
feet were shabby, faded, red bedroom slippers.  His hand was still
on the door.

'He's mad,' she thought.  'I'll call for Julius.'  But she did not.

At last in a whisper she said:  'Jim Burke.  Are you crazy?  Get
out of here.'

'Yes,' he answered, 'I'm crazy.'  He closed the door very quietly
and came into the room.

'If you don't get out this second I shall call Mr. Cromwell.'

'No.  Don't.  I was afraid you'd lock your door.'

She was now really frightened--frightened and furious.  Suppose
that Mrs. Gayner or Violet--

Her heart hammered at her voice and it trembled a little.

'I give you a minute, Jim Burke.  Otherwise I'll raise such a row
in this house that--'

'Don't.  Don't,' he said very gravely, as though he were giving her
advice for which she had asked.  He crossed the room and stood near
the window looking at her.  The only light in the room was from her
lamp beside her bed.

'I had to see you where no one would disturb us.  You've been
unkind to me for weeks so that really this is your own fault.  I
couldn't help kissing you that day and I can't help loving you,
although I think Mr. Cromwell is the finest man I've ever known.
You needn't think I've been happy over it.  I haven't at all.  Most
unhappy.  Never remember in all my life being so unhappy.  But it
isn't to do with ourselves whether we love anyone--'

'You crazy fool!' she broke in.  'Stop talking nonsense and get out
of here.  Don't you see that anyone can come in at any moment?  If
I ring this bell--'

He smiled but continued to stare at her in her black silk pyjamas
as though she were wearing nothing at all.  'There was a play once
I saw in London had just that situation in it.  Jeanne de Casalis,
the actress's name was, and I kept her photo for quite a while.'
He came closer to the bed.

'All I'm going to do,' he said, 'is to sit on this bed and hold
your hand and perhaps give you a kiss.  Nothing more.  I wouldn't
hurt you for anything--and besides, I think Mr. Cromwell's the
finest man I've ever known.  Tomorrow I'm going away.  I've been
meaning to go for weeks, because I'm really so very unhappy being
close to you every day and being able to do nothing about it.  I'll
kiss you once and after tomorrow you will never see me again.'

Her eyes never left the door.  She could think of nothing but the
danger of someone hearing a noise and coming to investigate.  Mrs.
Gayner's bedroom was directly above hers.

She was looking away from him, staring at the door, as she said:

'Please, please!  We'll talk in the morning.  We'll settle
everything in the morning.  Someone can hear.  Mrs. Gayner's room
is over this one.  Please!  Please!'

He came and sat down on the edge of her bed, which was the outside
of the two.

'Don't be frightened.  No one can hear us with the door shut.
Everyone's asleep, aren't they?'

He put his hand out and touched her arm.

She saw the handle of the door turn.  She switched off the light.


Julius thought:  'I will go in very quietly.  I will kiss her very
gently.  I will lie down perhaps for a little but not wake her.
Then I will go back to my room.  She will never know that I have
been there.  Perhaps she will dream that I kissed her.'  So he
opened the door very softly and closed it almost without sound.  He
stood there, his body trembling a little, for he was weak.  He
listened for her breathing and could not hear it.  That meant
nothing.  She could sleep so very gently.

He took some steps forward and then stopped.  He had the fantastic
notion that someone was in the room, someone as well as Celia.  He
shook his head, smiling.  He had noticed often that his senses had
become so acute since his blindness that a room would seem to him
full of people and there would be no one there.  A little wind
rattled very gently the blind.  He moved forward again and again
listened.  He stood taut, listening with all his faculties.  There
was no sound save the movement of the blind, but his apprehension
of a human being came rather from a consciousness of pressure on
the space of the room.  He had often felt the pressure of furniture
in a room, and then, when someone entered, the pressure would be
different.  He knew that Celia must be sleeping or she would have
heard the opening and closing of the door, however slight the noise
had been.  He felt now that someone was behind him and turned
abruptly, knocking his leg against a chair.  This noise would
surely wake her and he listened.  There was no sound save the
reiteration of the blind.  He stood thinking.  He must not frighten
her, but if she was awake, why did she not call out?

Then his second personality, his blind personality, angered him.
'There is someone here.  There is someone here.'

He turned back, found the door again, and began to move along the
wall, touching it with his hand.  Some fear, a sense of horror
quite foreign to him, was attacking him.  He had known this on many
occasions, especially in the years that followed immediately his
blindness.  He would be quite alone in a room and would be sure
that someone was going to attack him.  It would be the remains of
his war-nerves.  He would turn suddenly, throwing out his hands,
and there would be nothing but air.  He would be enraged and cry
out and even fight with his fists in space.  But many years had
taught him discipline.  There was nobody there--of course there was
nobody there.  But he would make sure.

His nose was sharp.  He could smell substances that to the normal
man had no odour at all.  It seemed to him, sniffing like a dog,
that there was a man's odour here--something of tobacco and earth
and a man's clothing.  At that thought his heart jumped and was
still.  A man!  A man!

He began now, stealthily, as though he were tracking something
down, to move along the wall.  He knew everything in this room, the
exact position of everything.  Here was the long wardrobe.  He
traced with his fingers its shining surface.  Here the small
writing-table with the little clock and the leather blotter.  He
moved on.  He was beside the far window now.  He stroked for a
moment the curtains, then thrust his arm behind them.  No one was
there.

He moved on, and here was his own smaller wardrobe where his suits
hung.  He opened it stealthily and pressed his hand among the
clothes.  No one was here.  He came to the other window, opposite
the beds, touched the curtain and, with the next movement, his hand
was against a cold throbbing cheek.

He paused there and drew a deep sighing breath.  Then his hand
moved, almost caressingly, over the face.  He felt the cheek, the
forehead, then the hair.

'Burke,' he said.

His brain was amazingly clear.  This was a familiar scene; he had
been through it, it seemed to him, before.  In plays and novels you
'crashed' your fist into the fellow's face.  His arms, though, had
fallen to his sides.  All he said was:  'What are you doing here,
Jim?'  He did put his hand up again and felt the neck and the
breast-bone.  His fingers lingered there a moment.  Then, perhaps
because he wondered whether Burke were naked, he touched the shirt
and the belt of the trousers.

'Why are you here?' he asked again.

The well-known familiar voice answered:  'I came to ask Mrs.
Cromwell something.'

'An odd time, wasn't it?'

'I meant nothing.  Mrs. Cromwell didn't know . . .'

'You'd better get out.'

'Yes, Mr. Cromwell.'

Someone moved quickly across the floor.  The door opened, was
closed.

Julius turned towards the bed.  He was fearfully tired.  His legs
shook so that he was not sure of himself and he sat down on the
edge of the empty bed.

'You awake, Celia?'

'I didn't know he was coming, Julius.  I didn't!  I didn't!  I was
reading.  I couldn't sleep.  He came in and stood there looking at
me and began to talk a lot of nonsense.  I was furious and told him
to get out.  But he wouldn't.  He said he was going away tomorrow
and wanted--'  She stopped.

'Yes.  Wanted what?'

'Wanted to kiss me before he went.  He said he'd been in love with
me since he came here and it was terrible because he thought you
the finest man he'd ever known.  That's why he was going away.'

'I see.  Has he ever been in here before?'

'No.  Never.'

'Has he ever kissed you?'

There was a long pause.

Julius said again:  'Has he ever kissed you?'

'Yes.  Once.'

'When?'

'Several weeks ago.  In the garden.'

'I see.  Were you angry with him?'

'Of course.  Furious.'

'But you didn't tell me.'

'No.  I didn't want to make a fuss.'

'And you've been quite pleasant to him since then.'

'No.  That's what he said upset him--my being unkind to him.'

'I hadn't myself noticed that you were unpleasant.'

'Julius, you must, you must believe--I didn't--I couldn't--I love
you so much.'

This was all horrible to him.  He must get away.  He must be by
himself, quite alone.

He got up.

'Somebody told me--'

'What did somebody tell you?'

'That you and Jim Burke--'

'There was nothing to tell.  Nothing, nothing.'

'Somebody thought there was.  Would he have come in here like this
if he hadn't thought--'

'I don't care what he thought.  He's mad, crazy.  I ought to have
told you, I know.  I was frightened.  I thought you'd be angry.'

'And that I would send him away?  Of course I would have done.'

He stood, thinking.

'Good night,' he said.

After she heard the door close she began to cry, miserably, with
childish crying.  She lay down, burying her face in the pillow and
crying into it.


END OF PART II




PART III

LIGHT IN THE HOUSE



CHAPTER I

FROM FIVE TO SIX--AT THE RECTORY


Within twenty-four hours the news was everywhere.  Mr. Cromwell had
discovered Mrs. Cromwell in bed with Jim Burke, had thrashed him
'within an inch of his life' (the settled 'scandal phrase'), thrown
him out of the window.  Jim had disappeared.

The only quite certain fact in the whole matter was that Jim Burke
had disappeared.  No--there were two more facts.  Someone had seen
Jim Burke entering Mrs. Cromwell's bedroom and only ten minutes
later Mr. Cromwell entering it.

Beyond this nothing was REALLY known.  WHO had seen these entries?
Some said Violet, Mrs Cromwell's maid, others that it had been
Oliphant, others Curtis.

From the house itself there was no word.  That Jim Burke was gone
was true.  Nothing else.  It has been said before that Garth in
Roselands was not an especially moral village--neither more moral
nor less moral than any other place.  The business of sexual
intercourse and its casual results--this was considered a
commonplace.  Did a girl have a baby, then there were many factors
to be studied.  If the man married her all was well: if she went
and had her baby somewhere else all was nearly well.  What the girl
must NOT be was 'bold-faced.'

Now Mrs. Cromwell was held, at once, to be 'bold-faced.'  She was
from London, she was young and pretty, she wore smart clothes, had
her eyebrows plucked, was rouged and powdered (although this, of
course, all the village girls were too), was 'a damn sight' too
free-and-easy with everybody.  Moreover her husband was blind, poor
gentleman.  Moreover the scandal involved Jim Burke, who, as
everybody had long known, was a libertine and a worthless man.  No
lady who WAS a lady should have lowered herself . . .

Mingled with this was the Newer Socialism, and a very odd one it
was.  We were all Socialists now, but we still liked Ladies to
behave and Gentlemen to be Gentlemen.  We wanted everyone to share
and share alike, all big houses to go, no one to save money that
might be given to the poor working-man--but, at the same time, we
liked to admire someone, and how could you admire your own lot who
had slept and eaten and drunk with you, whom you knew to be
wastrels or idiots or dullards?

Most especially had Mr. Cromwell been allowed privileges, for he
was so handsome and big and wore bright colours when he was out, a
blue scarf with a brown jacket for instance.  He was blind and so
he was mysterious; he was courteous and friendly--'a proper
gentleman.'  'A gentleman that WAS a gentleman.'

And now this painted, loud-laughing, self-pleased girl from London
had deceived him with the bad boy of the village.  She had not even
chosen someone like Johnny Hope or old Ironing to be gay with.

Within those twenty-four hours the whole village condemned her.
There was not a voice that murmured in her favour.  Even Mr. Boss,
the most tolerant of God's creatures, growled that 'it shouldn't
'ave been that Jim Burke.  If she was a bit restless-like let her
go up to London.'  In higher social circles scandal was, as it ever
is--packed with pleased superiority, news excitement, and a
comfortable satisfaction that 'something had happened at last.'

They had not, of course, liked her, from the first.  They had never
liked her.  They had expected something just of this kind.  Their
dislike of her was greatly heightened by their liking for Mr.
Cromwell.  His blind staring blue eyes, his broad kindly face, his
whole personality pervaded them.  They were all in love with him.
It was as though they entered Garth House and sat around him,
cheering him, reassuring him, comforting him.  In actual fact they
did not catch a glimpse of him.

Four days after Jim's disappearance they were all at the Rectory--
the usual time--four to six.  Gladys Ironing, Alice Lamplough, May
Vergil, Phyllis Lock, their hostess Daisy Brennan.

In Daisy Brennan's heart there was working a true and powerful
horror.  She was forced to consider the physical facts--that Mrs.
Cromwell had been found in bed embracing Jim Burke.  That Julius
Cromwell had discovered them thus.

There was, of course, no proof of any kind, but imagination ran
ahead, as it always does, of information.  Everyone knew that this
was what had occurred.  A detailed description was ready.  There
could be no doubt of any of it.

Daisy Brennan confessed her mind.

'I shall never speak to her again.  However long she remains here,
I shall never speak to her again.'

They were working round the table.  Mrs. Lamplough almost sunk
under a black coal-scuttle of a hat (she was like some white-faced
snail, moving her head, stealthily, from side to side under her
shell).  Phyllis, very girlish, was wearing no hat, and would
impatiently shake her flaxen locks as though to say:  'How young I
am!  My youth is beating at the window of my heart!'  May Vergil
beside her was wearing a soft white collar and a buff waistcoat.
She looked like an ageing male impersonator.  Mrs. Ironing would
look up at the window, stare at the sun as though she had never
seen it before, and then murmur something about her sewing or life
in general.  Daisy Brennan, her head up, her chest out, was
Offended Morality on her charger Indignation.  She repeated:

'If we let a thing like this pass--'

'A thing like what?' May Vergil asked.

Her question made everyone jump--spiritually jump.  For everyone
had been comfortable.  Daisy Brennan was pleased at her
indignation.  Phyllis Lock pleased at her own excitement.  Mrs.
Lamplough darkly pleased at wrong-doing.  Mrs. Ironing pleased and
safe because they never laughed at her when some general topic
commanded them.  Everyone had supposed that May Vergil was pleased
too.  It was clear from the rasp in her words that she was not.

'May, dear,' said Phyllis.

Miss Vergil fixed her martial eye on Mrs. Brennan.

'I want to know, Daisy.  A thing like what?'

May Vergil was in a temper.  Everyone knew the sign.  The fourth
brass button on her waistcoat trembled ever so slightly.  However,
Daisy was no coward.

'A thing like what, May?  A thing like adultery--a thing like the
pretty' (oh, what scorn on that word!) 'young wife of a fine fellow
who was struck blind in his country's service committing adultery
with a common young man in her husband's employ.'

'Now, now.  Stick to facts, Daisy.  Who SAYS that she has committed
adultery?'

Now SAYING a thing in so many definite words was dangerous.  Daisy,
who felt indignant at this most unexpected behaviour of May
Vergil's, whose voice therefore trembled with a sense of ill-
treatment, answered:

'Who SAYS?  Why, May, everybody.'

'And WHO is everybody?  Such statements are slanderous, you know.'

Phyllis Lock began to feel very uncomfortable.  She hated it when
May was in one of her 'policeman' moods.

Daisy threw up her head and took a firm stand.

'I'm not one, as you all know, to say anything against anyone that
isn't true.  Everyone will grant me that.  I've no intention of
discussing the facts.  I simply say that Mrs. Cromwell is not a fit
woman for my children or for anyone who believes in decent
behaviour to know.'

'Ha!'  May Vergil had a peculiar little snort all her own when she
was hot on the track of a criminal.  'That's all I wanted to know.
You have no facts, Daisy.  No one has any facts.  All that anyone
is certain of is that Jim Burke has left the village, and THAT'S a
good riddance.  As to Mrs. Cromwell, anyone with half an eye can
see that she's devoted to her husband.  In any case it's THEIR
business, not OURS.'

Daisy Brennan was furious.  Her bosom rose and fell most
handsomely.  She had never been scolded by May Vergil in public
before.

'I have always thought, May, that you are pretty lax about these
things.  You say it isn't our affair.  It IS our affair when we all
live together in a small place like this and are all meeting
constantly.  The whole village knows about this.  What will all
those who look up to us say when they see--'

'Look up to us my foot!' May Vergil broke in very rudely indeed.
'My dear Daisy, have you NO idea of the things they say of us
behind our backs?  Do you really imagine that they think us all
saints and angels?  What they think of ME everyone knows.  That
they think you and Frank the laziest pair in England--everyone
knows that too!

This was indeed TOO much!  Daisy Brennan was so angry that she saw
everything and everyone double as though she were intoxicated--and
especially Mrs. Lamplough's sharp little eyes, alight with
pleasured malice.

'I don't think, May, that personalities are quite the thing!  I
don't think--'

'To hell with what you think!'  May Vergil rose so abruptly that
her chair fell over behind her.  'I only want to warn you, Daisy,
that you'll be getting yourself into an action for slander.  You'd
better look out.  Mrs. Cromwell is a charming woman and, so far as
I can see, she's done nothing whatever but give that oaf Jim Burke
a flea in his ear for damned impertinence.  So-long--and mind your
step, the lot of you!'

She banged the door behind her.  There was general consternation.
This was most serious.  This was a real breach in the social life
of the community.  Everyone went home long before the appointed
time.

Yes, most certainly, one thing DOES lead to another.  The lives of
at least five people might have been altogether different had the
little Pardoes not happened to pay a call directly after the ladies
left the Rectory.

Daisy Brennan stood alone in her drawing-room so very angry that
her legs trembled and her throat was dry as hayseed.  May Vergil!
Before them all!  To call her 'the laziest woman in England,' to
say that Mrs Cromwell was charming, to charge them all with
deliberate lying!

Her anger was, as anger almost always is, mingled with self-pity,
and behind the self-pity was uneasiness, dismay even.  HAD everyone
in the village been saying that Frank and herself were lazy?  She
knew of course that lazy they were--or rather, building up her
defences, she agreed that Garth was a place where energy was
wasted.  Suppose that Frank DID begin to preach his own sermons
instead of reading a MUCH better sermon of some more brilliant
clergyman's, who would be benefited?  Mr. and Mrs. Boss perhaps!
And, for herself, if she were lazy in some ways she was energetic
in others.  She was charming to everybody and would be happily
beneficent had she only the money to be beneficent with.

But the root of her anger was her shocked astonishment at May
Vergil's indifference to immorality.  She had always thought that
there was something strange about May.  Now indeed she was sure of
it.  And yet, before the coming of the Cromwells, how friendly in
her dry sarcastic way had May always been, how greatly had she
admired Daisy Brennan--or so it had seemed!

And to be insulted in that way before Mrs. Lamplough!  This was a
sharp sword piercing Daisy's bosom.  For Alice Lamplough would now
be so very happy--triumphant, even.  The story would be everywhere
before another day was done.  Daisy would never speak to May Vergil
again.  She also would never speak to Celia Cromwell again.  And
yet there they were, all so close together, unable to separate,
meeting every day. . . .

At that moment through the half-open door Benson looked in.  The
children had gone for a walk with their father--a great occasional
event which they hugely enjoyed.  At the moment of departure Benson
could not be found, and their father had refused to wait, sadly to
Gilbert's disappointment.

Benson, returning from a sterile rat-hunt in the garden, was amazed
to find that Gilbert was nowhere.  Without Gilbert he was lost,
without Gilbert he was alone in a world of enemies.  Beyond that
there was always, when Gilbert was gone, the awful fear that he
would never return.  Who could tell with these strange mortals
whether they would return?  So he pattered about searching, and,
choosing a very wrong moment, peered into the drawing-room.

Daisy, seeing him, hated him.  She had never liked him.  Her good-
natured weakness had pandered to Gilbert.  His hair was disordered,
his eyes sycophantically anxious, his nose plastered with mud.  She
gave him one look and he fled.

A moment later the little Pardoes were introduced.  They were
always known as the little Pardoes because, both physically and
spiritually, they were little indeed.  Mrs. Pardoe was the widow of
a clergyman who had been Vicar of St. Mary's Moor and been knocked
down by a steam-roller and killed.  Always such ludicrous accidents
were happening to the Pardoes.  Who else COULD be run over by a
steam-roller?  He died penniless, and now Mrs. Pardoe and her two
children lived at Christiansland, two miles from Garth, helped by a
reluctant brother who sold cotton in Manchester and grudged his
sister every penny.  Mrs. Pardoe was very poor and very obsequious
and her children had learnt to be obsequious too.  They were very
small, very white in the face, suffered from adenoids, and watched
everyone with anxiety.

When they visited Daisy Brennan they came as though to the Queen of
Sheba, and Daisy liked that.  She was always kind to them and gave
Mrs. Pardoe old clothes discarded by Gilbert and Simon.

Now she ordered tea and suffered her anger to be changed into
graciousness.  Lucy Pardoe sat on the very edge of her chair,
breathed heavily and, when she felt it to be safe, stared at all
the beautiful things in the room, for to her they were beautiful,
especially the large screen with red dragons painted on it.
Laurence Pardoe, who was as thin as a match and wanted to run away
to sea at the first opportunity, hated these calls.  He felt dimly
that when his mother paid a call on anybody it was because she
wanted something.  Mrs. Pardoe herself was like a little mouse for
whom a fierce cat was always just round the corner.  But Mrs.
Brennan was kind and it might be that there would be a pair of
shoes or a jacket enriching her family before the call was over.

Conversation consisted in Daisy Brennan asking a series of
questions, such as:  'And how have you all been?'  'How is the
garden doing?'  'Tell me what fun you've been having lately,
children.'  To these questions Mrs. Pardoe, who was always running
ahead in conversation to make sure that no peril was lurking, would
answer:

'Oh, Mrs. Brennan, what a lovely bowl of primroses!  In that blue
bowl--so lovely, such perfect taste--a blue bowl--the spring
flowers.  Yes, we've been quite gay, haven't we, children? and Lucy
recited "It was roses, roses all the way," didn't you, Lucy?
Browning's "Patriot," but of course you know.  A mother is always
prejudiced, isn't she, Mrs. Brennan?  Or am I perhaps exaggerating?
In any case although she was nervous at the beginning she quite
regained her confidence before the end--didn't you, Lucy?  It was
for Foreign Missions.  In the Church Schoolroom.  I AM so sorry to
have missed the children.  Is Dorothy growing?  I expect she is.
Such a lovely girl!'

'Yes.  Their father insisted on taking them out for a walk.  Quite
a rare occasion and the children love it.  But of course if we had
known . . .'

'Oh, dear Mrs. Brennan.  No.  No.  Oh no, indeed!  That's just what
I said to Lucy.  "We'll go along as it's a fine day and just look
in for five minutes."  We didn't mean you to bother about tea--we
didn't, indeed.  And we mustn't stay.  Just a bite and we're off!'

But the tea was being brought in and the Pardoes, without knowing
it, followed the rather rickety little table that held the bread
and butter, the plum cake, the strawberry jam, with anxious eyes,
for other people's food was always better than their own.

Daisy Brennan, noticing the wide staring eyes of Lucy Pardoe,
thought:  'Poor child!  It isn't her fault that she's never learnt
manners, and she really does look hungry.  I wonder if they'd be
insulted if I offered them the plum cake to take home.  There isn't
a thing upstairs!  Or would those old flannel trousers of Gilbert's
not be TOO shabby?'

And at that moment Benson actually shuffled (for his walk, when he
was embarrassed, WAS a kind of shuffle) into the room.  The fact
was--he was desperate!  He had been from end to end of the house
looking for his master, pushing his muddy nose into every room,
sniffing at a shirt of Gilbert's that lay on the bedroom floor,
suddenly pricking up his ugly ears and listening at what MIGHT be
Gilbert's step.  Gilbert was not in the house.  He had gone for a
walk without him.  All that remained was that room with the hateful
woman inside it.  On an ordinary occasion he would have been too
anxiously nervous to venture for a second time.  But now every risk
must be taken.  So in he came with that air of one who has
committed an awful crime, the air of all frightened innocents
before the ruthless enemy.

At once Lucy cried:  'Oh, what a lovely little dog!'

Lovely!  That was the last word to apply, but to Lucy Pardoe all
dogs were lovely, all food appetizing, all possessions acceptable.

'Do you like him?' Mrs. Brennan said with a beaming patronage.

'Oh yes,' Lucy said, shrinking into herself, for she had seen,
after one glance from her mother, that she had forgotten her
manners.

'Well, you can have him!'

Here was a solution.  She hated the dog, it was doing Gilbert no
good, she would tell Gilbert that on his next birthday he should
have a REAL dog--a puppy of good breeding.

'Oh no!' Mrs. Pardoe broke in.  'We couldn't, really.  That's just
like your wonderful generosity, Mrs. Brennan, but we couldn't,
really.  Lucy, I'm surprised at you!  Well, just a half cup!  Such
delicious tea--only half a cup.'

'You'll be doing us a kindness.  Gilbert picked him up in the road
somewhere.  He's quite good about the house, no trouble really, but
it takes Gilbert's mind off his work.  He's at home because of the
chicken-pox, you know.  He's not much to look at, I'm afraid--the
dog, I mean--the children call him Benson.'

'Dear me, what a funny name!'

'It is, isn't it?  Certainly you must have him.  Lucy seems to have
taken quite a fancy to him.'

At the moment of departure Benson refused to go.  He stood with his
feet firmly planted, looking with agonized despair across the
village green.  However, a piece of cord was discovered, and the
Pardoes departed, leading, with little chirrups of reassurance and
comfort, the unhappy Benson.


The children greatly enjoyed the walk with their father.  He was
always at his best when he was alone with them.  He strode along
and Simon ran ahead with spirited bursts in order to keep up with
them.  Their father talked without ceasing and much that he said
they did not understand.  He constantly adjured them to do always
what pleased the people in power.  He told them always that if they
wanted to succeed in life they must placate the people in power
persistently until they became people of power themselves.  Then
they could trample on everybody in their own turn.  They understood
that he was being scornful, and felt, in a curious undefined way,
that he was asking for their consolation.

It was one of those spring days when everything has an especial
clarity and colour--not an April day of sunlit cloud and sudden
glittering rain that is gone as it comes, but a day when the air is
warmed with a hidden light.  The young green of the trees has the
sharp 'cut' look of carved jade, and the fields are freshly
coloured--a new amber, a pearl iridescence between hedges of a
faint moth-green.  The birds cry shrilly to one another as though
startled by their discoveries.  A dog from somewhere ran
frantically at the little stream that chuckled beside the road, as
though he believed that for an hour or two only would the waters be
so fresh and so crystal.  It was a day when, if you are a doubter,
you may suddenly wonder whether after all there may not be a first
cause, a planned universe, a settled destiny for everyone.

But Dorothy and Gilbert were not very happy, in spite of the beauty
of the day and their pleasure at being with their father.

Children live in a world so far removed from that other where grown
persons are active that they can discover events only by spying,
conjecturing, putting two and three together and making six of
them.

Something had happened.  One event at least was clear.  Jim Burke
was gone.  Gilbert was very sorry, because he liked him and because
now he would not teach him modelling.  But there was more than
that.  Gilbert, like all sensitive adolescent boys, was very
lonely.  He longed for affection but was shy of inviting it.  Jim
Burke was a friend, although in this friendship there was none of
the strange radiance that there had been in his meeting with Mr.
Cromwell in the Well.  But Jim Burke WAS a friend and he had none
other save Dorothy and, of course, Benson.

He was pleased when his father turned abruptly and started back
towards Garth.

'Time to go home!  Time to go home!  Tea!  Tea!  Mustn't be late
for tea!' . . .

For Dorothy there was alarm, threatening danger in the air.  Why
had Jim Burke gone so suddenly, in the middle of the night as it
were?  Had there been a quarrel?  About what were her elders and
betters whispering?  Something to do with the Cromwells.
Everything was to do with the Cromwells now.

She felt that she could not live without Jim.  Love had, for her,
as yet, nothing obscure or confused about it.  You loved someone as
Molly loved in Wives and Daughters, or Jane Eyre loved Mr.
Rochester.  You were ready to give up everything and follow the
beloved faithfully round the world.  It would be terrible to give
up Mother, Father, Gilbert, and Simon, but since that day of the
party at Garth House she had known that she would follow Jim Burke
to any place that he ordered.

She must discover where he was, why he had gone.  Had he money,
food?  Was he perhaps needing her, thinking her faithless?  She
hurried beside her father, seeing nothing but Jim's face, hearing
nothing but his voice.

She was taking off her things in her bedroom when her mother
abruptly entered.

'How late you are!  It's too bad of your father.'

'It was such a lovely day.  Father said--'

'Never mind your father.  It's nearly six o'clock.  The Pardoes
have been here.'

'Oh, poor Mother!  And you were all alone.'

'Well, never mind that.  Dorothy, there's something I want to say.
You must give that necklace back to Mrs. Cromwell.'

'Oh, Mother?  Why?'

'Never mind why.  There are good reasons.  And if Mrs. Cromwell
talks to you anywhere you're to say as little as possible and come
away.'

'What has Mrs. Cromwell done?'

'Never mind what she's done.  It's enough if I say so.'

Dorothy was standing very straight and still, her hat in her hand.
She said at last, staring into her mother's eyes:

'No.  I can't do that.'

'Can't do what?'

'Give the necklace back.'

'But of course you must if I say so.'

This was only another incredible event in an incredible day.
Dorothy who had always been so pliant, so willing, so obedient!

'Mrs. Cromwell gave it me.  It's mine.  I thanked her for it.  It
isn't yours, Mother, and Mrs. Cromwell didn't give it to you.  I
don't know what Mrs. Cromwell has done, but it would hurt her very
much.'

'My dear Dorothy!  Am I your mother or am I not?  There are some
things you mustn't know.  You are little more than a child.  If I
tell you it's right to do something, then it IS right!'

Dorothy began to tremble.  She felt sick.  But she repeated:

'No, Mother.  I'm awfully sorry, but I can't--'

The door burst open.  Gilbert stood there.

'Where's Benson?  I've looked everywhere.  I've whistled.'

Daisy Brennan looked at both her children.

'What's the matter with you?  Have you gone crazy?  Tea's an hour
late as it is.'

'Mother, where's Benson?'

She felt for the first time in her life frightened of her son.

'Now, Gilbert, don't make such a fuss.  It's perfectly all right.
Your father and I will buy you a dog on your birthday.'

'BUY me a dog?'  His voice was breathless.  'Where is he?  What has
happened?'  His voice dropped.  'Is he dead?'

'Of course he isn't dead!  What an idea!  The fact is the Pardoes
came to tea.  Poor little things!  They never have anything and you
have so much.  Benson came in and they liked him, so I said they
could have him.'

She didn't meet Gilbert's eyes.  She went to the door.

'Now, children, that's enough of all this.  Come and have your
tea.'

But Gilbert caught his mother by the arm.  He shook her.  He
screamed:  'You gave Benson to the Pardoes?  You gave him to the
Pardoes?'

She shook herself free so that he stumbled.

'Gilbert, you're forgetting yourself!  Really!  I'm ashamed.'

'I'll never forgive you.  Never!  Never!  You've done a beastly
thing!  Beastly!  Beastly!'

He ran past her, out into the passage, stumbling, tumbling down the
stairs.



CHAPTER II

THUNDER CLOUD--RAIN BY SIZYN


It had been always Celia's practice to sulk when people--parents,
loving young men, female friends--were angry with her.  With a
quick facility she discovered that she had been wronged and, after
that, sulks were both charming and effective.  We are, it is true,
always wronged in one way or another because we regard ourselves as
'something very special.'  That is a point of view that even those
who love us very much indeed cannot altogether accept.

Celia loved Julius and therefore she realized that something very
terrible had occurred, whether she were wronged or no.  But wronged
she was!  She had committed no crime.  She had not been even
indiscreet.  If Julius and silly Jim Burke chose the same moment in
which to visit her bedroom, was it her fault, and was there not
something ludicrous about it?  Every farce had enjoyed that
situation for centuries.

It was because she loved Julius that the situation was not only
ludicrous.  She realized that at once.  Jim Burke was already
forgotten.  Her whole attention was concentrated on Julius.

She went to his bedroom on the morning following the absurd affair.
She kissed him, and, because he could not see her, put as much
dignity into her voice as it would hold.

'Julius, I haven't slept at all.  I'm very unhappy.  But I had
nothing to do with his coming into my room last night.  I was
horrified.  I understand that he's gone.  No one has seen him this
morning.'

She realized then that she had to do with a Julius whom she had
never seen before.  For some while he did not speak.  At last,
staring at her and beyond her, he said:

'Please!  Please!'  Then he raised his voice.  'It's not a thing to
discuss.  Now or ever.'

She shrugged her shoulders.

'Oh, well, if you are going to believe all the silly chatter.  They
hate me, you know.  Those old women in the village.  They'll get up
some other scandal in a minute.  It doesn't matter WHAT I do,
they'll talk all the same.  It's your place to defend me.'

He picked up the newspaper on the bed.

'I'll do what's right.'

She thought of offering to read to him.  He would miss Burke.  But
she was going to be proud, a woman in the wrong.  So, without
another word, she left the room.

But what was she to do?  It was so difficult with a blind man.
Celia, angry, hurt, wronged, was so distressing a sight to anyone
who loved her.  But when she WASN'T a 'sight'?  When he could not
see her eyes dim with tears, her lips trembling, her pitiful
helplessness?

In her room she found Violet.

'They tell me Jim Burke's gone.'

'Yes, ma'am.  He has.'

'Why?  Do you know?  Did he have a quarrel with Mr. Cromwell?'

'I'm sure I don't know, ma'am.'

She hesitated.  She was sure now that Violet knew everything.

'What are they saying downstairs?'

This was disgraceful--to discuss servants with servants.  But she
must know.

Violet said vehemently:  'Mrs. Gayner says that Jim was rude to
you, ma'am.'

'Oh, she does, does she?'

How she hated Mrs. Gayner!  Then, carried away by her own sense of
injustice and loneliness, she burst out:

'Well, he was.  Most impertinent.  I told him to leave the house.'

'Yes, ma'am.'  Violet added, quietly:  'I never liked him.  Full of
cheek he was.  And he had a dreadful reputation from his last
place.  I don't know what the master ever engaged him for.'

'Was he ever free with you, Violet?'

'Well, ma'am, he would have liked to be.  But he didn't dare.  I
saw to that.'

When Violet had gone, she sat on her bed, and the old fright that
had first come to her in the car on that first day of driving into
Garth, returned to her.

This was terrible.  She had, by her own words, placed herself on a
level with Violet.  She was alone in the house.  She had not a
friend here.  She jumped up on the impulse of leaving at once and
returning to her parents in London.  That is what she would do!
Shake herself free of this horrible place where everything had been
wrong from the beginning.  She would be again with her own people,
her old friends who understood her and knew that she was good and
faithful.  She began to open drawers, to pick out clothes and throw
them on to the bed.

She stopped, standing in the middle of the room.  This would not
do.  If she left now everyone would say that she was guilty.  What
did that matter?  But it did matter.  She would face them all.  She
would show them that Julius loved her, believed in her.  But did
he?

She felt as though she were trapped.  But she was not one to be so
easily beaten!

'May I read the papers in the morning to you, Julius?'

'That's very kind of you.'

Before she began she asked for directions:

'How do you like them?  Do you want a summary of the news, then the
leaders, and then some gossip?'  She smiled gaily, remembered that
smiles were of no avail and felt exasperation.  Suddenly she
realized that this was all in very bad taste, reminding him of Jim
Burke as nothing else could do.  It was too late now to retreat.

'Read the things that interest you most,' he said.

He was sitting upright, leaning a little forward, staring.  She
fancied that he would not listen.  He was, in the way that she most
detested, lost in his own world.  She had read the papers already
to herself that morning.  It was exquisitely boring to read them
all again.

She began.  It was as though she were reading in an empty
mausoleum.

'Any country that still rests under the illusion that Hitler's word
is to be trusted must have felt some anxiety when it learned . . .'
She tried to find some news.  Each item seemed more trivial than
the other.  'Is this the way you like it?' she asked.

'Thank you.  Yes.'

At length she ceased.  He said nothing at all.

She went over to him and laid her hand on his arm.

'I'll do it better another day.'

'That was very good indeed.'

The next thing that happened was that she lost her temper with
Violet and dismissed her.

She rang for Violet and Violet did not come.  She rang four times.
That evening, as she was dressing, she asked her where she had
been.

'I was out, ma'am.'

'Was it your afternoon off?'

'No, ma'am.'

'Why were you out then?'

'I went down to the village.  I was away only half an hour.'

'You should have told me you were going.'

'Yes, ma'am.'

Violet looked at her.  It seemed to Celia an impertinent look.

'What's the matter with you?'

'The matter, ma'am?'

'Yes, you've been very strange lately.'

'I am very sorry, ma'am.'

Celia lost her temper.

'I'm not going to have it.  You were excellent at first, but now I
don't know what's come over you.  You can't even speak to me
politely.'

Violet made no answer.

'What's all this about?  Has something upset you?'

'Nothing at all, ma'am.'

'You WERE a human being.  Now you're an automaton.  You'd better
tell me what it's all about.'

'I don't understand, ma'am.'

'Yes you do.  Perfectly.  If you're not happy here you'd better
go.'

Violet said slowly:  'I'm not happy here.  No one is.'

'Why?'

'We never know where we are with you, ma'am.  I'm sure I've done
everything I can to please.'

Yes, her look was insolent.  It said:  'I know a lot and you know
that I do.'

'Well, you'd better find another place.'

'Very good, ma'am.'

But as soon as it was done Celia regretted it.  What a foolish
thing!  She had been friendly with the girl and told her many
things that she should not.  The girl would gossip, talk
maliciously.  She told Mrs. Gayner.

'I'm going to send Violet away.'

'So I understand, ma'am.'

'You never liked her, did you?'

'No, ma'am, I didn't.'

'Find someone else--a quiet country girl is best.'

'Yes, ma'am.  I daresay it won't be difficult.'

To her own surprise she found that she had a sudden impulse to
confide in Mrs. Gayner, to make a friend of her.

'Mrs. Gayner, do forgive me if I've been tiresome sometimes.  I
KNOW I'm tiresome.  It's the change from London perhaps.  This is a
very quiet place, isn't it?'

'It IS quiet.'  Mrs. Gayner smiled.  'Why don't you have a trip up
to London, Mrs. Cromwell?  It would make a change.'

'Perhaps I will.  If I can persuade Mr. Cromwell to go.'

She realized that Mrs. Gayner herself didn't look very happy.

'You wouldn't like a little holiday yourself, would you?  It must
have been quite a business settling in here.  Have you any children--
or friends that you would like to see?'

Mrs. Gayner paused.

'I have a son, ma'am.'

'Oh, how interesting!  I didn't know.  Where is he living?'

'He moves about.  His job takes him to different places.'

'Wouldn't you like him to stay with you here for a little?'

'He couldn't get away, I'm afraid, ma'am.'

'Well, mind you tell me if you want a little holiday.'

'I will, ma'am.  Thank you very much.'

Not much further there.  Mrs. Gayner hated her, she supposed, as
did everyone else in this house.  This beastly house!  This beastly
house!  The house itself hated its own silence.  What it wanted was
life, noise, singing, a family of children.  It wanted to be the
house that it had been when Mrs. Mark had lived in it.  Celia had
tried to wake it up.  She had given her Christmas party.  People in
the district had invited them to dinner, but Julius hated dinner-
parties.  And yet he enjoyed things like the picnic he had given at
Sizyn!

'Julius, the days are getting much warmer now.  Let's have an
afternoon party.  We can have them in the garden.'

'Very well, dear, you ask them.'

'No,--but would YOU like it?'

'Very much.'

'Do you think people would like to come?'

'I'm sure they would.'

For weeks now there had been no physical intimacy.  Once more they
slept in their twin beds side by side.  She would not ask him to
take her in his arms, but she longed for it.  Oh, how she longed!
She touched his arm.  He made no movement.  Soon it must all come
out.  This truce could not continue.

One day she walked into the village and saw Phyllis Lock coming
towards her.  Celia smiled and hurried her step, but Phyllis turned
down a little lane between cottages.  So that was it, was it?  They
were cutting her.

But, a day later, she encountered Miss Vergil, who was very
friendly.

'I wonder whether you would have tea with me one afternoon, Mrs.
Cromwell.'

'I should love to.  You'd better not ask anyone else though.'

'Why not?'

'They are all cutting me.'

'Oh, nonsense!'

'It's certainly absurd, but it's a fact.'  She looked into Miss
Vergil's face, as taut as a brown skin drum.  'What do they say
I've done?'

'They think you flirted with Jim Burke, and Mr. Cromwell turned him
out of the house.'

'I didn't, of course.  But what business of theirs is it anyway?'

'You know what little places like this are.'

'It all began,' Celia said slowly, 'with someone whispering in
Julius' ear at our Christmas party.  I wish I knew who it was.'

Miss Vergil was greatly interested.  She had not heard this.

'I thought,' Celia went on, 'that it must have been Mrs. Lamplough.
But Julius is certain that it wasn't.'  She broke out passionately,
'Why CAN'T they leave us alone?  I've never harmed anyone here.  I
only wanted to be friends.'

But Miss Vergil was thinking.

'I wonder who that was--a caddish thing to do.  I wonder . . .'
She ended:  'Pay no attention.  People have said things about me
all my life.  Do I care?  Of course not.  You WILL come to tea,
won't you?'

'Of COURSE I will.'

This encouraged her.  She had two friends at least, Mrs. Mark and
Miss Vergil.

On a fine afternoon she asked Julius whether he would go for a
walk.  Her hand through his arm they wandered up the leafy lane
towards the Moor.  She was determined that she should establish
some connection with him--an angry one, a brutal one: anything to
bridge this dreadful gulf.  She chattered brightly.

'How warm the sun is, Julius!  In this southern part of England it
is like another country.  It has taken a little time, but now I'm
getting to love Glebeshire.'

'I'm glad.'

'People used to tell me in London that it was stuffy, unless you
were right on the sea.  Do you know, in all these months we've
never been to Rafiel.  Shall we go one day?'

'I'm afraid Rafiel is spoiled.'

'The sea must be the same.  They can't touch that.'

'Charabancs go down there every half-hour.  Curio shops, cafs
everywhere.'

'It must have been lovely when you were a boy.'

'It was.  The most perfect place.'

'Oh, now we're coming out on to the Moor.  How lovely it is!  All
silvery!  How I wish you could see it today!'

'I can smell it.'

'Yes, a rich warm scent like toffee.  No, not toffee--that's too
sticky.  There's the salt of the sea in the breeze--as though it
were only a yard away.'

'So it was once.'

'Mustn't that have been strange?  Old Lamplough described it to me
once.  Slippery rock, marsh, and huge slimy animals crawling up and
down.'

Julius said nothing.  He looked weary.

'Shall we sit down for a moment?  Here's a good place,' she said.

They sat down: he leaned forward, resting his beautiful hands on
his stick.  She loved his hands.  She wanted to take one between
hers, feel its warmth, the strength of its bones, shiver with
delight as his fingers closed about hers.  Would she dare?  No, she
must not.  A lark was singing.  A little cloud like a silver-edged
mushroom went over the sun.

They started homeward.  She had achieved nothing.  She was very
miserable.

'You know that Violet is gone?  Mrs. Gayner and I agreed that she
was impertinent.'

He said nothing.

'Mrs. Gayner runs the house splendidly.'  She hoped that this would
please him.

'I'm glad you like her now.'

'I was very silly.  I didn't at first.'

They walked for a long time in silence and, during the silence, her
resentment mounted and mounted as though a horrid growth was
enlarging, with every footstep, inside her body.

They were almost home again when she burst out:

'What have I done?  Why won't you say?  I'd rather you were furious
and turned me out of the house.  I've done nothing.  That's the
ridiculous part.  It wasn't my fault that Jim Burke came into my
room.  I've done no wrong.  I haven't!  I haven't!'

'Please, Celia!  It's no good.'

'Why is it no good?  Aren't we married?  Didn't we--don't we love
one another?  If you don't love me any more say so and I'll go back
to London.'

He said very slowly:  'I can't help myself.  You must give me
time.'

'Time?  Why should there be any time?  It's weeks now.  It's
dreadful.  I'm all alone here.  If you don't love me--if you don't
love me--'

The words choked her.  They were at the gate of the drive.  He
walked forward.

She cried so that anyone might hear:

'It isn't fair!  I'll go home!  I'll go home!'

And she ran down the drive into the house, leaving him to find his
way himself.

After that she was as miserable as it was possible for a young
woman to be.

She was furious.  She was furious.  She repeated it to herself over
and over again.  She said it aloud, sitting up in bed.  The early
grey morning light showed his humped shoulder as he slept,
peacefully breathing like a happy child.  'I'm furious,' she said,
and waited to see that shoulder turn.  But it did not.  She
pictured to herself that scene when he would hold out his arms and
she would cross to his bed and be enfolded.

In actual fact he came every night from his dressing-room, touching
always the same things, the chair-corner, the shelf above the wash-
hand stand, pausing always before he moved on, stood above the bed,
threw off his blue dressing-gown, slipped into bed.

'Good night, Celia.'

Sometimes she replied.  Sometimes she did not.

What must she do?  So easy were she not in love with him.  But
easiest of all were he not blind.  NOW she knew why it was that she
had been afraid coming in the car for the first time by Sizyn--
lest, on one horrible day, he would be able, by the strength of his
blindness, to slip away from her.  Now that day had come.  Because
of his blindness she could not seduce him, could not frighten him,
could not insist that he kept contact with her.  And, of course,
the more that he eluded her, she, loving him, loved him the more.

One night she tried to seduce him.  He was like a dead man.  At one
moment he sighed.  At that sound she was so bitterly humiliated and
so wildly enraged that she slapped his face.  He made no reply.

'I'm sorry,' she said.  'I forgot myself.  I will never do it
again.'

'I can't help myself,' he said at last.  'I can't escape from
myself.'

She returned to her bed and lay there, wishing that she might
seduce all the men in England if only he could know that she was
doing it.

But that didn't last.  All she wanted was that they should be
friends.  She had nothing to confess.  If only she had!

At last one day she made a set speech:

'We can't go on like this, can we?  I had better go back to
London.'

'Perhaps you had, for a little while.'

'I don't understand you.  Only a little while ago you loved me
better than anyone in the world.  Nothing's happened really and yet
now you don't love me any more.  How can that be?'

'I don't know.'  He shook his head in a kind of despair.  'It isn't
as you say either.  If we could both wait--'

'Then I'm going to London.'

'Yes.  For a little while.  Perhaps that would be better.'

But she didn't go.  She found to her own surprise that now, more
than ever before, she didn't want to be away from him.  She wanted
to hurt him, strike him, knock him down, insult him, but be near to
him.  Now that his body was removed from her she loved it much more
dearly.  She loved everything about him--all of him.  But nothing
was of any use.  You cannot love flesh that is dead to you.

At last one day, on a heavy thundery afternoon, she took the Austin
and drove herself up to Sizyn Church.

On a day like this Glebeshire is under a curse.  All the weight of
Heaven's anger lies like a mailed fist upon it.  The sky is steel
and relentless.  Over the sea there was a grape-purple cloud like a
looped curtain, and the grey line of the sea was a smudge of
disgust.  The land from the sea to the Moor never stirred.  No tree
was allowed to be friendly, every roof was threatened.  The Moor is
inhuman at such a time and this is what it wishes to be.  It is
ashamed of men.

The Church was white and the stones of the running wall sharp and
cruel.  Behind the Moor, opposing the sea, grey heavy clouds slowly
rose and hung, like wreaths of unblown smoke, in silent sinister
preparation.

Celia got out of the little car and wondered why she had come
there.  She had a wild notion that she would drive on, just as she
was, to Polchester, catch some train to London there.  She could
send for her clothes.  She would write to Julius saying that she
would come back when he wanted her.  But someone else--Mrs. Gayner
perhaps--would open her letter and read it to him.  She could not
bear that.  She knew that if she was lonely now she would be more
lonely yet in London.

She looked about and saw, to her surprise, a boy standing beside a
bicycle quite close to her.  It was young Gilbert Brennan.  She
knew very little about this boy.  Her only contact with him had
been at Mrs. Mark's tea-party, and of that contact all that now
remained was the memory of an ugly mongrel dog.  There was,
however, something desolate about the small thin-legged figure, his
ugly school cap a little crooked on his head.

'Hullo, Gilbert!  How are you?'

He touched his cap shyly.  When he came close to her she saw that
he was sorry that she was there, and she determined to go away at
once.

'I only came out for a little drive.  There's going to be a
thunderstorm.'

'Yes, there is.'

'You'll get awfully wet if you don't bicycle home.'

'I don't care if I do get wet.'

'I hate getting wet myself.'

He turned away.  She saw that his hand was trembling on the handle-
bar.  Then she saw that his upper lip was trembling also.  She was
at once touched to all self-forgetfulness.  He was very unhappy and
alone.

She moved forward towards the Church, which, now that a black cloud
hung over it, was lit with a white iridescence.

'I suppose,' she said, 'it's a bit dull sometimes when you ought to
be at school.'

He nodded.

'Aren't there other boys you can be with?'

'I don't want to be with anybody.  That's why I came out here.'

There was an awkward silence.  She had no experience with little
boys.  She thought of something to say.

'Where's that funny dog you had at Mrs. Mark's?  He ought to be
with you.'

He turned and she was surprised at the fierce bitterness in his
gaze.

'He's gone.'

'Gone!  Why, did he run away?'

'Mother gave him away.'

'Why?'

'I don't know.  It was when I was out walking with Father.'

'Didn't she like him?'

'I don't know.  I thought she did.'

He went on, speaking with little sharp gulps:

'It was some beastly people called Pardoe came to call and one of
them said she'd like Benson who came in just then looking for me
because we couldn't find him for the walk and he was missing me,
and Mother said the Pardoes could have him.  And they took him away
tied with a piece of string and he put his feet down and kept
looking round for me.  I know because Mrs. Boss saw them and she
told me.'

'I suppose your mother thought you didn't care for him.'

'Of course she knew.  She knew I loved him.'

'Then I don't understand--'

'And what was worse was that I was all Benson had.  He's a one-man
dog and I know he's thinking of me all the time and perhaps he
won't eat his food and the Pardoe children are awful.  They are
really.  They don't know anything about dogs at all.'

He held himself erect as though he were making an oath.

'I'll never forgive Mother.  Never!  I won't as long as I live.'

She said at last:

'How far away do the Pardoes live?'

'Oh, not far.'

'Why don't you go and see him then?'

He looked around him, dropped his voice and spoke as though he were
telling her the secret of his life.

'That's what I'm going to do.  And I'm going to take him away, too.
I came out here on my bicycle to think about it.  And if Mother
won't let me keep him I'm going to run away.'

He looked at her with a sudden fearful suspicion.

'You won't tell anyone?'

'But of course not.'

'Do you think--would it be stealing?'

'I suppose technically it is.  But they won't say anything--the
people who took him, I mean.'

'Suppose the Pardoe children have got very fond of Benson?'

'If they have, you had him first.'

'Of course I did.'

'And if, as you say, he's a one-man dog, he'll be miserable away
from you.  You've got to think of the dog's happiness.'

'Yes, of course.'

She said, smiling:

'I shouldn't run away.'

'I will if Mother doesn't let me keep him.'

'We can have him for a little while and you can come and see him
whenever you like.'

She thought amusedly, 'Here, what am I doing?  Encouraging theft,
defying Daisy Brennan's wishes, interfering between mother and
son.'  And she was glad that she was!

The rain began to fall, heavy sulky drops.

'Now the rain IS beginning to fall.  Let's go into the Church.'

The door was unfastened.  They sat down side by side in one of the
pews.  The famous window was dark, and yet the colours, the snow-
white of the hawthorn, the purple lettering, the brown of the
priest's robe, glowed against the blackness.  A flash of lightning
struck it like a sword.  A peal of thunder broke the tension.

'Are you afraid of thunder?' she asked him.

'No, of course not.'

'Some people are, all their lives.'

She seemed to him very little older than himself.  He was quite at
his ease and his unhappiness was less acute.  He spoke low because
he was in church.

'I don't UNDERSTAND Mother,' he said.  What an intensely feeling
little boy he was, she thought.  'She doesn't want me to have
things or make any friends or anything.  She's always stopping me
and saying she's hurt.'

He pulled himself up.  It wasn't right after all, whatever he felt,
to talk like this about his mother to a stranger.  But he had
talked about it all to nobody.  There was something deep inside him
that he could not understand, something new.  He would never think
about people in quite the same way again, and instinctively he knew
it.

Celia was thinking of the day of the picnic, when she and Julius
had sat together in this Church and had loved one another.

She looked at the window and the figures were blurred.  Julius and
she, so little a time ago, had sat there together.  And now--they
would never sit there together again.  Things would never be right,
never, never.

In spite of herself the tears began to trickle down her cheeks.
The Church was very dark, but Gilbert saw them.  They were terrible
to him.  He did not know that grown-up people cried.  He was
terrified.  Why was she crying?  She was unhappy too, and, he
suddenly realized, more unhappy than he.  He wanted to run away.
What ought he to do?

The rain crashed down upon the roof.  She said never a word.  She
did not wipe the tears away.  She sat staring in front of her.

Without knowing that he did it, he put his hand into hers.



CHAPTER III

IN SIMON'S ROOM--ON THE ROAD


Simon had made a small room in the attic entirely his own.  No one
knew or cared about this place.  It was the smallest room of three,
but it had a good-sized window and a deal table and two very
rickety chairs.  Against one wall and piled high to the edge of the
sloping roof were many faded volumes of old magazines--the
Cornhill, Mrs. Henry Wood's Argosy, bound clumsy Illustrated London
News.

On the low wall opposite these volumes Simon had pinned a curious
assortment of pictures that had come his way--aeroplanes in flight,
the King, Queen, and the two Princesses, a vigorous presentment of
Jack Doyle the boxer, and a lovely lady whose name Simon did not
know (Miss Patricia Burke as Principal Boy).  This last he admired
because of her smile, which he thought sporting and comradely.  On
the deal table was a stuffed bird that Jim Burke had once given to
him, the wooden soldier that he had gained at the picnic, and an
empty cigar-case that Mr. Cromwell had given him.

His greatest possession, however, was his 'Detective Book.'  This
was a large, brown-covered exercise-book in which he scribbled so
illegibly that he could not himself read what he had written.  It
was illustrated with tremendous pictures of ships, motorcars,
bleeding corpses, and men with terrific noses.  In a mysterious
fashion he believed that this book was of the greatest importance
and would one day be of national significance.  The rusty lock to
the door possessed a key, and this he kept always about his person.

What he greatly enjoyed was to enter this room very quietly, lock
the door, balance himself on one of the rickety chairs, and either
write in the 'Detective Book' or sit, with a face of grim
seriousness, 'thinking.'  His thoughts were not very connected and
sometimes he fell asleep with his head on the table.

He liked also to gaze from the window and watch, far below, the
movements of people in the garden.  It gave him a tremendous sense
of power to watch people who could not see him.  He hoped that one
day he would see something really tremendous--something to equal
that great occasion when from behind a tree he had seen Jim Burke
kiss Mrs. Cromwell.

Until now his life had been one long sequence of gaiety and
enjoyment.  He had experienced no real troubles beyond a cut
finger, the toothache, stomachache, and the inevitable little
stupidities of his elders.  In the last month, however, trouble had
come to him, and trouble with which it was not easy to deal.

In the first place, he was not seeing Mr. Cromwell.  He had been to
Garth House twice in the last three weeks and on neither occasion
had he been welcome.  It was not that Mr. Cromwell had been unkind.
He had greeted him as he had always done.  Something was wrong.
For some reason that he could not understand he had not dared to
climb on to Mr. Cromwell's knee; he was not sure that Mr. Cromwell
had been aware of his presence.

It made a serious difference that Jim Burke was no longer there.
Oliphant and Curtis and Cotterill were not his friends in the way
that Jim had been.

But there was something deeper than this.  Although he was only
eight years old he had already a quick sense of atmosphere.  There
was trouble in that house.  They were all unhappy.  Mr. Cromwell
was unhappy and Simon did not know how to help him.

So he went there no longer, and knew the first unhappiness of his
life.  And the less he saw of Mr. Cromwell the more deeply he loved
him.

As bad as this was the unhappiness in his own family.  His mother
was unhappy; Dorothy was unhappy; Gilbert was unhappy.  His
mother's unhappiness did not distress him very greatly, for she was
often unhappy for very slender reasons.  He realized that sometimes
she liked to be unhappy because then other people took notice of
her.  He knew all about this because he had tried it himself and
found it very successful.

Dorothy was unhappy because Jim Burke had gone away.  He thought
this very foolish: he was himself sorry that Jim Burke had gone
away, but there were plenty of interesting persons and things
remaining in the world.  He was, however, very fond of Dorothy
although he a little despised her because she was a girl and made
open demands on his affection.  He would like to find Jim Burke for
her if he could.

But his real disturbing distress was for Gilbert.  Gilbert was
unhappy because his mother had given Benson to the Pardoes, and
this Simon could understand completely, partly because a dog WAS a
dog and partly because he hated and scorned the Pardoes.  With
respect to Gilbert in general Simon felt a protective instinct.

He knew that Gilbert 'felt things' in the way that he himself never
did.  If their mother spoke sharply to Gilbert at a meal, for being
greedy about apple tart, or not wiping his mouth, Gilbert went
first red and then white.  Simon never minded in the least if
admonished.  Grown-ups thought this admonishing to be their duty
and liked to see themselves in important positions.  Had Simon been
older he would have expressed his feelings in the Norman proverb:
'Hard words break no windows.'  As it was, he enjoyed greatly
seeing how far he might go.

It was quite different with Gilbert.  He was sensitive to
everything.  But Simon, who enjoyed teasing his mother and Dorothy,
never teased Gilbert.  He respected him because Gilbert always told
the truth, was, in spite of his shyness, brave at crises, and
admired Simon.  If anyone else teased or scolded Gilbert, Simon was
angry, and it was for this reason that he felt little respect for
his mother.

When his mother had scolded Gilbert, Simon 'thought out' a new way
of teasing her.

In this matter of Benson he was altogether on Gilbert's side, and
for every possible reason, to annoy his mother, to damage the
Pardoes, to make Gilbert happy, he was determined to recover
Benson.

After a very serious 'thinking' in his attic and a number of
scribbles and screamingly funny drawings of the Pardoes in his
'Detective Book,' he went to find Gilbert.

It was just after luncheon, a fine water-cloud silver-blue day.
Dorothy had gone off by herself.  Gilbert was kicking his heels in
the garden.

'Hullo, Gillie!'

'Hullo!'

Simon looked very small and square in a blue blouse and diminutive
grey shorts.  He had, as frequently after a visit to the attic, a
smudge on his cheek.  Gilbert, very miserable, looking at him,
thought him 'a very decent kid.'  Because Simon's nose was pug and
his cheeks round and fat he always looked a little like a clown.

'Are you going anywhere?' Simon asked.

'No, I don't think so.'

'Well, I am.'  Gilbert knew that Simon loved his mysteries and that
he liked them to be enquired into but not penetrated.

'Where are you going?'

'Wouldn't you like to know?' Simon said, grinning.

'Yes, I would.'

'Nobody shall.  It's a secret.'

'What did you tell me for then?'

'Just because I wanted to.'

'Oh, all right then.'

This kind of badinage continued for a little and Simon said:

'Gillie--don't you miss Benson like anything?'

'Of course I do, you ass.'  Gillie kicked furious dents in the
lawn.

'I bet the Pardoes don't know how to look after him.'

'I hate the Pardoes.'

'So do I.'  Simon looked at him mischievously.  'Why don't you go
and take him away?'

This was what Gilbert had been asking himself ever since his
conversation with Mrs. Cromwell.  But he was of the Hamlets of this
world.  So soon as action was proposed to him he saw many reasons
against it.

'I don't know.  Perhaps I will one day.'

'If you brought him back, would Mother let you keep him?'

'I don't care what Mother does,' Gilbert answered fiercely.

'Where's Dorothy?'

'She's gone out by herself.'

Simon moved off.

'Where are you going?'

But Simon didn't answer.  With the manner of a sleuth, stepping
lightly, looking cautiously about him, Simon disappeared.

Safely on the village green he was pleased to see that there was no
one about.  He moved away down the road.  He was, for his age, a
most excellent walker.  It was a cool day and there was a pleasant
breeze from the sea.  He was greatly pleased with himself.

He was yet better pleased when, half a mile along, he came up with
a cart, filled with sacks, drawn by a plodding horse, and Mr.
Seabanks, a farmer and a friend of his, seated somnolently in front
of it.

He greeted Mr. Seabanks and asked for a lift.  The Seabanks' farm
was less than a mile from the Pardoes.  Mr. Seabanks, a stout,
heavy, red-faced man, lifted him up, sat him down and asked him a
question or two.  Where was he going?  How were his father and
mother?  When was he going to school?  Simon had long ago learned
that the way to baffle questioners was to ask them questions in his
own turn.  This he did.  He asked about pigs.  He asked about Mrs.
Seabanks.  He asked about Mr. Seabanks' lumbago.  This last was of
real interest to him, for he had once been taken by Mrs. Seabanks
to see Mr. Seabanks in his bed and had then learned that, because
of lumbago, Mr. Seabanks was unable to move and had to be turned in
bed by Mrs. Seabanks.  Mr. Seabanks liked to talk about his
lumbago.

'Strikes you like a knife, you may say, before you can say "Jack
Robinson."  There you are, can't move, not even to eat your
vittles.'

Once Mr. Seabanks asked suspiciously why Simon was going so far
from home, but Simon answered that it was a secret.

'You're young to have secrets.  Does your mother know?'

But Simon grinned and when the Seabanks' farm was in sight,
requested to be lifted down, thanked his host very politely and
started up a side lane.

Now began the exciting and enchanting part of his adventure.  He
not only felt like a detective, he WAS a detective.  He walked up
the lane, then turned into a road, ran for a while, keeping close
to a hedge that he might not be seen, passed some cottages,
hesitated for a moment, unsure of his way, then saw a familiar
cross-roads and, with infinite pride, turned up to the right where
the Pardoes' house was.  He had every reason to be proud, for he
had been to the Pardoes' on only two occasions, but wherever he
went now he always noticed things and laid them up in his mind.
You could never tell when you would need such evidences.

The Pardoes' house was a mean little place with two protuberances
like large inquisitive ears and a chimney like a swollen nose.
Above the door were panes of coloured glass and in front was a
small gritty lawn: also two poverty-bare garden beds.

In the middle of one of these garden beds Benson was sitting!

Simon could not, for a moment, believe in his luck.  He stood back
in the hedge and stared at Benson.  This dog had never been a
beauty; now he was a disgrace.  It was clear that his coat had not
been brushed for many days, but, more than this, his spirit had
died within him.  He sat up on the dirty garden bed, gazing in
front of him with lackadaisical indifference.  While Simon watched,
Benson thought that he would examine some part of his person, but
his indifference was such that when he was half-way there he
stopped with one leg half-raised and drooped.  He possessed not
even that fragment of energy.

There was no sign of life anywhere.  The little breeze blew through
the hedges, somewhere a woman called sharply, no human being was to
be observed.

Simon acted quickly.  He crossed the road, unlatched the little
gate, and whispered 'Benson.'  Even as he did so he caught the dog
in his arms, held him tightly to his chest and moved back across
the road behind the body of a stout and friendly oak.  He was but
just in time.  The front door opened and Mrs. Pardoe, attended by
Lucy and Laurence, appeared.  They looked, as always, untidy and
entirely without either charm or spirit.

'We had better take Benson with us, I suppose,' Mrs. Pardoe said.
Then she began to call, like a little tuneless whistle, 'Benson!
Benson!'

Simon, in an agony, stroked Benson's untidy head.  Benson neither
moved nor uttered.

'Well, really, how tiresome!  And we are late as it is!  Benson!
Benson!'

The children, without interest, began to peer about.

'See if he's in the house, Laurence.'

Laurence vanished.

'I don't want to go to Mrs. Tibblethwaite's,' Lucy began.

'Now, Lucy, enough of that.  If Mother says yes it IS yes.'

'Anyway we'd better not take Benson.  Mrs. Tibblethwaite has a
cat.'

'Has she?  Dear me!  I didn't know.'

'Mother, I don't want to go to Mrs. Tibblethwaite's.'

'Lucy, if you say that again I shall punish you.'

Laurence appeared.

'I can't see the beastly animal anywhere.'

'Laurence, you are not to use that horrid word.  I've told you
before.  Never mind about the dog.  Lucy says Mrs. Tibblethwaite
has a cat.  Now, children, come along.  We're late as it is.'

They moved off, a dismal trio.  They turned the corner.

Benson licked Simon's face.

'Oh, Benson, they called you a beastly animal!'  He imitated Mrs.
Pardoe, 'Now, children, come along.'

He put Benson down and, turning from the main road, started for
home.


'Where's Dorothy?' Mrs. Brennan was asking Gilbert.

'I don't know, Mother.'

'And Simon?'

'I don't know, Mother.'

His cold politeness infuriated her and made her miserable.  Life
now seemed to be advancing towards her like a masked man
threatening her with some awful disaster.  She was hemmed in by
discontent, malice, and all uncharitableness--she who only six
months ago had been the lovely, radiant Daisy Brennan whom everyone
loved.

'It's tea-time.  And that isn't the way to speak to me.'

'I'm sorry, Mother.'

'But don't you KNOW where Dorothy and Simon are?  Did they go out
together?'

He looked at her and she turned away.  Boys of fourteen were
horrible, mysterious, undecipherable.  And one's own son the worst
of all!

She went out.

Five minutes later Simon appeared in the doorway.  He whispered:
'Gillie, quick!'

'What is it?'

'You'll see!'

He ran up the stairs to the attic, Gilbert following.  He put the
key in the rusty lock.  He drew Gilbert in and shut the door behind
them.

Lying on his belly, his eyes bright with excitement, his ugly tail
wagging, was Benson.


Early on that same afternoon Dorothy had gone out.  She wanted to
be by herself.  She must think, understand if she could some of the
troubles and longings that now besieged her.

Ever since the day of Jim Burke's disappearance it had been as
though she were living inside Garth House.

The only person who would understand this was Mrs. Mark, because
she too lived, in her heart and mind, inside Garth House.  She had
said once to Dorothy:

'You are my youth.  I recapture it in you.  Not that I was like you--
I was much more rebellious than you--but because I, an old woman,
am fond of you I am young again through you.  You don't mind that,
do you?'

Of course she did not mind it, although she did not understand it.
Grown-up people were very strange, but Dorothy was now growing
towards them.  She had realized that ever since the day when she
had looked at her body in the mirror.  And this 'growing towards
them' was deep inside her feeling for Jim Burke, which was
different now from the thing that it had been even a month
ago. . . .'

This change in her feeling for Jim Burke was mixed again in her
thoughts about Julius Cromwell.

She thought about him a great deal.  She felt as though she knew
him and he knew her.

He sat in the centre like a god and they were all grouped round
him.  He was sightless and yet, because he was physically blind, he
saw into all of them, knew what they were doing and thinking.  What
had happened on that night in Garth House?  She had asked her
mother and she had asked Miss Vergil.  Both had told her that 'she
was not old enough yet.'  She had discussed it with Gilbert, and
Gilbert had said that 'Mr. Cromwell and Burke had a row about Mrs.
Cromwell.  Simon saw Mrs. Cromwell and Jim kissing, you know.'

Here there was a mystery.  It was silly of Jim Burke to kiss Mrs.
Cromwell but surely nothing very terrible.  Although now when she
thought of it and visualized it to herself, new emotions were
aroused in her; the beating of her heart was intense, her longings
for Jim were sharp and hurting.  She ached for Jim to kiss her and
then they would go away and live together; she would have children
and work for him.  But none of the explanations that her girl
friend had once offered her meant anything to her.  She and Jim
would kiss one another, he would put his arm around her, they would
walk into space and she would be for ever happy.

She longed for this so desperately that she was sick with longing.
She had the absurd conviction that Mr. Cromwell, sitting blind in
Garth House and listening to music, as Simon said that he did, knew
all about it.

But this concern with people outside her own family was quite new
to her and led to great confusion.  As though her own family were
not preoccupation enough!--for her mother was now always out of
temper, Gilbert, since Benson had been given away, kept to himself
as though he were encased in armour, Simon was mysterious.

Her loneliness was the terrible thing!  She would have talked to
Mrs. Mark had she not been afraid of Mrs Mark's affection for her.
No one else before had ever told her, to her face, that she loved
her.  She was embarrassed by this, and shy because she was sure
that soon Mrs. Mark would be disappointed in her.  She would do
some dreadful thing and Mrs Mark would say:  'Oh dear, I didn't
know that you were like that!'

Now, in her ill-fitting clothes, she walked quickly, she did not
know where.  Always now when she walked, with others or by herself,
she looked for Jim Burke.  She was certain that he had not gone
very far away.  He liked everyone in Garth; that was where his
friends lived.  He would find some work on a farm or in Rafiel.

She had walked without looking about her, and quite suddenly, as
though she had been set down there from an aeroplane, found herself
in a deserted place near a village called Couper, towards Rafiel
and the sea.

From here you could outline the long grey-silk stretch of water and
two black rocks called the Sentinels.  Around her the wind sighed
and moaned, and she went into a little wood to escape it and to see
whether there might be early primroses.  It was dark here and the
sky through the trees was like moss.  Some animal moved.  Twigs
crackled.  Two dogs ran forward, and then, to her horror, as though
it were an evil dream, she saw advancing towards her the little man
in the shabby waterproof whom she had always hated.  She could not
escape.  One of the dogs was already sniffing at her feet.

The little man stood looking at her and grinning.

'It's Henry Sharp,' he said.  Then as she didn't speak he went on:
'You know me, don't you?  We've talked before.  I gave your young
brother a nice little dog.'

She moved to go.  He turned sharply and stood in front of her.  He
was breathing fast, and his breath, stale-drink-tainted, very
slight like a whispered warning, attacked her.

'No.  Don't go.  We're all alone here and can have a talk.'

She was frightened in a way that was quite new to her.  This was
unreal and yet very actual--as things are in dreams.

'I can't stay, I'm afraid.  I'm late as it is.  I must go home.'

'Must you--really?'  He smiled into her face, anxiously as though
he were asking her a favour.  'No.  Must you?  Can't you stay just
five minutes?'  He shuffled his feet.

'I'm afraid not.  Good afternoon.'

But he did not move and she could not turn back because that would
lead her only deeper into the wood.

'You're too proud to talk to me.  That's it--see?'  He had an odd
way of saying excitedly 'See?' and he would do his little shuffle
with his feet on the dead leaves.  The two dogs were roaming in the
undergrowth, and the sound of breaking twigs and the snuffle of
dogs on the hunt were familiar and homely.  Set in the heart of
this homeliness was terror.

'I don't know why, I'm sure--why you should be too proud to talk to
me.  I'm all right--see?  I've been on the halls in tip-top towns
too.  Song and dance.  I gave your young brother a dog--and for
nothing--didn't ask him a bean.'  He smiled and came a step nearer.
'I like you--see?  Always have--ever since I first came here.
Always had a fancy to you.  But I've never said a word--have I?'

'No.  That is--no.'

'Well, then--what are you grousing for, eh?  You're a nice girl.
Ever been kissed--by a man, I mean?'

She looked about her, and up between the trees.  No one.  Only the
blue-moss sky and the dogs snuffling, padding with their feet.

She had courage and she said, even smiling:

'No.  I must go home.  Really I must.  We'll have a talk some other
time.'

'No time like the present, that's what I say.'

He was staring at her.  His small inquisitive eyes moved about her
face, then to her neck, then down, over her body, to her feet.  His
voice was increasingly breathless, and his feet shuffled as though
in a secret, excited rhythm of his own.

'I'll only kiss you.  That's all I'll do.  Christ, I've been
wanting to do it . . . ever since the first time I saw you.  Give
us a kiss.  It isn't anything.  Really it isn't.  You'll like it.
I promise you will.'

For the first time in her experience of life she was aware of a
man's physical self.  She was aware and felt a deep recoiling
horror, as though, quite suddenly, a veil had been lifted from all
existence.  Her childhood was ended as he touched her arm.

He caught her hand in his warm, dirty, damp one, bent forward and
kissed it.  In his little eyes there was a look of modesty, of
reverence.  When he raised them again they were greedy and almost
closed.

'You're lovely--you are really.  Not everyone's fancy perhaps.  But
mine.  I like you, see?  I think you're lovely, see?'

She had snatched her hand away and turned; she took some quick
steps and stumbled.  He caught her with his arm, and at his touch
she began to tremble: she could not move.

Only, in the middle of this nightmare, she saw that one of the dogs
was lying, stretched out, his eyes fixed in adoration on his
master's face.

'There.  You'd have fallen if I hadn't caught you.  There's nothing
to be frightened of--see?  You wouldn't be frightened of me, would
you?  I'm only going to kiss you.'

Like a small child she pushed at him with her hands.

'Leave me alone.  Please, please, leave me alone.  Oh, please.'

But he had touched her and was trembling.  The back of his hand was
against her neck.  He caught her shoulders.  He pressed his mouth,
which was a live trembling thing, independent of his body, against
hers.  Her head was flung back, she half turned, fighting against
him with all her force, and fell.  As she fell she uttered a shrill
beseeching cry.  He stumbled on to his knees.

'Don't cry!  No!  No!  Don't cry!  I won't hurt you.  You're
lovely, see?'

His hands hovered above her.  Then, as happens always in plays and
story-books but very seldom in real life, he was caught by his
miserable collar and thrown back, sprawling, into the bushes.

For the second time Jim Burke had made a quite unnaturally prompt
and accurate appearance.

The little man picked himself up, turned and ran for his life, the
dogs capering joyfully after him.

'Just like a tale in a book, and the second time,' Burke said,
grinning at her.  He pulled her up with his strong hand.  Her hat
lay on the ground: she was crying: tear-streaks stained her cheeks.

'When I catch that bastard I'll break his neck.  Sorry!  Let's sit
down for a moment until you recover yourself.'

They sat down.

She stared at him.  She could not believe.  She blew her nose.

'I don't know . . . It can't be real . . .'

'Easily explained.  I'm working at Couper Farm.  Been there a week.
I saw that little swine passing with his dogs and I followed him
because I wanted to give him a letter--that he could deliver by
hand.  I was at the edge of the wood when I heard you cry.  So it
isn't so wonderful.'

She caught his broad thick arm.  'Oh, Jim!  Jim!  It's a miracle.
I've been thinking of you all the time--all these weeks.  Wondering
where you were.  Every time I went out.'

With her hat off, her hair untidy, the tear-smudge on her cheek,
she looked a child again.  He saw that she had lost all control.
She was crying and sobbing.  He put his arm round her.

'There!  There!  It will be all right in a minute.  I know you were
frightened.'

But, when she felt his arm about her, she caught his head in her
hand and kissed him on his rough unshaven cheek and his mouth.

His body grew rigid.  He held her for a moment tightly against
himself.  He stared out above her head, one hand clenched.  Then
with great gentleness he got up, moved away from her, stood kindly
looking at her.

'You're only a kid.  You don't know about anything.'

She knelt on the rough grass.  There was a hole at the knee of one
stocking.  She examined it.  Then she looked up.

'Jim--I've been wanting to tell you for ever so long, I love you
more than anyone in the world--more than Mother or Gillie.  I'll go
with you anywhere if you like me to, and we'll have children.  I'll
keep the house when you go out to work.'

He looked at her and his face clouded.  He was no saint.  He had
suffered greatly in those weeks.  He was (as it seemed to him) in
passionate love with a woman and he knew the sexual frustration of
being near to her but not seeing her.'  With men of his kind there
is no more positive sexual irritant.  He looked at Dorothy, her
face raised to his, her maturing body, her inciting helplessness.
He lowered his head and stared at the ground.  Then he looked up,
smiling.

'What a kid you are!  You don't know a thing about it.'

'I do.  It isn't a new idea.  I've loved you for ever so long.'

He knelt down beside her, touching her hair for a moment.

'No.  You think that.  You don't know.  You'd be wretched if you
went away with me, my handsome.  You'd hate me in a week for the
things I'd do to you.'

She shook her head violently.  But she didn't touch him now.

'No, I wouldn't.  You could do anything you liked.'

'Anything I liked!'  He repeated her words mockingly.  'You're
wrong there.  Anything I liked!  Have you ever seen me tight?  I'd
say not.  And you know nothing about men, nothing at all.  The
bastards they are.'  He took her hand and patted it.  'There's
another thing.  I'm in love with someone, terribly in love.  I'd be
cut into little pieces for her--small, small pieces.'

She stared at him, then down at the hole in her stocking.

'I see,' she said.

'Will you do something for me?  Do this for me.  Will you?'  He
felt in his pocket and produced a damaged envelope.  'Will you give
this to her when no one's about?  Will you?  There's nothing wrong
in it.  But I must see her.  I must see her when she's alone and
ask her to forgive me.'

Dorothy took the envelope.

'It's Mrs. Cromwell.'

'Yes, it is.'

'It's her you love.'

'Yes, it is.'

'But it's wrong.  She's married.'

'I know she is.  My God, don't I know!'

'And Mr. Cromwell's blind.'

'Yes.  And he's the best friend I ever had.  I'd do anything for
him.'

Dorothy sighed.  She put the letter into her dress.

'Very well, I'll give it her.'

'That's a good girl.'  He kissed her, but she didn't respond at
all.

He got on to his feet and pulled her up beside him.  He picked up
her hat.  She put it on.

'Now I'll see you to the road.  You'll be all right then.'

She didn't reply.  She walked quietly, without saying a word, at
his side.



CHAPTER IV

IN JULIUS' STUDY


Julius Cromwell's Journal

I suppose that there is nothing more ill-advised than for a human
being to write down on paper, even though no eye but his own will
ever see it, the filthy depths into which his soul can sink.
Pepys, Rousseau--oh, well, they were professional fellows.  They
watched their misbehaviour greedily with one eye while the other
watched the public.  Pepys wrote in cypher--but did he not hope
that, one day, that cypher would be publicly translated?--and so,
after a hundred and fifty years, it was.

But I have nothing in common with any professional.  I am an
ordinary man if ever there was one--half beast, half aspiration
towards something other.  As I write now I am altogether miserable--
miserable with that worst of all miseries, cowardice and self-
contempt.  It is perhaps that I may blow up a little courage into
myself that I write this down.  I may find a scrap of that quality
lost somewhere in the general mess.

One of the dreadful things in this affair is my discovery of
myself.  Like most men, I have, I suppose, always wondered in my
heart how I would face the supreme test.  That didn't come, as you
might have expected, in the War.  I was young, in marvellous
health.  I liked the comradeship, the surrender of oneself to
orders, even the adventure of imminent death.

It didn't REALLY come, I can see now, with my blindness.  I knew
some dreadful hours, but everyone was kind and I had a pride in
pulling myself to meet this situation.  I had Elinor.

It has come now.  I have been miserable enough for weeks past, but
nothing to the misery, the abandonment to every horror, of this
present.  Last evening was the worst of my life.  Celia had gone to
bed.  I sat there, quite tranquil, empty of any sensation,
wondering whether I would go too.  Then the abomination of
desolation rushed in upon me.  My heart began to beat furiously as
though I had just been told some fearful news.  My head was hot and
constricted, my brain twisted, like metal wrecked by a bomb.  I sat
staring into darkness, possessed by awful visions.  I saw the world
torn by a fearful devastating war, and this time the evil powers
everywhere triumphed, as I think they may do, for, during these
twenty years, we have been slack, unimaginative, slothful,
careless.  I saw everything for which good men have been working
and hoping for hundreds of years ruined, smashed in a night.

I heard, as though it were literally in my ears, a dreadful wailing
and lamentation go up.  I heard myself crying with the others:
'Why didn't we foresee?  Why didn't we take thought?  Why have we
thrown all the good things away?'

Then I sank to further perceptions.  I was dreadfully afraid.  I
have always rather prided myself on my courage.  I have often said
to myself, since my blindness:  'You stood that very well.  You're
really a fine fellow.  Quite exceptional.  You're ready for
anything.'  (I didn't know that I said this.  But I did.)

Now I saw that I had really no pluck.  After all, even though I was
blind, I was better off than most.  I had possessions, money,
comforts, and people delighted to tend me: a few people loved me.
Two or three thin layers of confidence and self-pride.  Now they
were gone, pierced through in a moment, and I had thought them so
very solid.

As my heart raced my terror grew.  Destruction was coming to the
world and I couldn't face it.  I wanted to hide.  I had always said
to myself that nothing could touch my inner self, but now my inner
self was revealed for the first time, and it was a wretched,
puling, pink, naked little thing.  I have written often in this
Journal about the interesting discoveries I would make as I went
down and down into my very self--that Good Place with the stars and
the peace and God above all.  But now for the first time I was
really 'going down' and there was nothing there but horror.

These terms, 'horror,' 'destruction,' 'smashed in a night,' are
melodramatic unless they are actually true.  But I think 'horror'
is true of the suddenness of this discovery of oneself.  It is as
though a king had been magnificently leading his army against
fearful odds, exhorting them, encouraging them, and then, quite
suddenly, lays down his arms, betraying his country, his men, his
friends, and his allies.  It is betrayal of that kind that I am now
feeling.  I am none of the things that I thought I was.  I am not
brave nor faithful nor honest.

It is not that I have surrendered to jealousy or known panic, but
that I see myself as a poor rotten creature and DON'T CARE THAT I
AM SO!

How fantastic to me during this last week has been my idea of God.
My notion that a benevolent Power had given me free will and was
proud if I exercised it rightly!

Benevolent!  There's humour for you!  Religion is, I suppose, a
confidence in the reality of the spiritual self.  I have no
spiritual self.  Now, in my darkness, I can see nothing but my
physical being, a grotesque object with all its processes ugly and
grotesque.  The act of eating--the pushing of grass and flesh into
a hole in one's face.  The act of sexual intercourse--leaping up
and down with cries and groans, the sweat of human bodies, the dull
apathy after the act is so briefly concluded; the act of
defecation, the gradual dropping of one's body into ugliness and
decay; the PAINS of the body, the torture of toothache, of
rheumatism, of sinus, the little daily ordinary pains; the final
rotting or burning, and in a week forgotten save by one or two.
Our little cheats to salve some of this rottenness.  Our pretence
that music or painting or literature can make up for these.  Our
greed for food or drink.  Our pretended love of nature, when behind
it there is unceasing fear.  The betrayals and falseness of
friendship.  Day after day we rise and clean our bodies and cover
them with clothes and clutch at our alleviations to hide our fear.

Oh, I know that often enough I have cheated myself that there were
pleasures and delights.  But they pleased me only because I thought
myself a fine fellow.  I was the centre of the picture--brave under
misfortune, charming to everyone, admired by all, wearing bright
clothes, clean as a pin, strong as a lion.  Have I not felt myself,
since I have been here, the centre of everything, drawing all the
neighbourhood into the comfort and safety of my splendid
personality, even a child like little Simon Brennan?  When he has
climbed on to my knee and laid his head against my heart, have I
not been proud as though I were a king of men?

I have even flattered myself over my jealousy of Celia, thinking
myself very superior to her and indulgent towards her.  But now not
only am I a coward and base, but all around me are cowardly and
base as well.  The hideous Nazi doctrines are perhaps the only
doctrines human beings are fit for--cruelty, disregard of all cries
for pity, the elimination of individuality because human
individuality is worthless, despicable.

I am sleeping again in the room where I was ill, that room I know
to be hideous although I cannot see it.  Celia said never a word
when I said that I would sleep there.  I woke last night after
hideous dreams and I heard a voice in my ear saying:  'You are not
fighting.  If you don't fight now you are lost and many others
beside you are lost also.  It is now or never with you.'

As a novelist would write--'my mouth curled with scorn.'  Fight?
What is there to fight?  I have not even surrendered, because there
is nothing to surrender.  And yet I lay there wondering.  How long
ago and sentimentally pathetic seemed those days when I had fancied
that there was something to fight for!  Those old words of William
James that I had quoted to myself so often:  'Life SEEMS like a
battle . . . something eternally lost or gained.'  And those words
I have often repeated to myself--'Be still and know that I am God.'
At least I am honest at last.  It is not God that I know now but
myself.

I wish to be honest here--no romance, symbolism, sentimentality.
As I lay on my back staring into bitter blackness--I would like, at
some more tranquil time, to put on record the colours into which I
peer, colours created by sounds, by smells, by touch.  The colour
of a marble-cold shoulder, hard, smooth, strong; and of a woman's
shoulder, soft, yielding, and moving towards one instead of
resisting--these are two violently different colours.  The colour
of a voice--purple with an edge of Chinese white, or grey shot with
an unexpected orange light so that the speaker becomes attractive
unexpectedly to you and you smile . . . so, as I lay, staring into
blackness, I saw a man in armour.  Oh, I have often seen him!  He
is, I fancy, my memory of one of Bellini's Madonnas, seen when I
was twenty and with my father on my first visit to Italy.  The one
in Venice, the Madonna standing in front of an orange-rose curtain,
and the two Saints, one on either side--one with a beard, the other
in armour, holding a staff, round-cheeked, his helmet jewelled,
light on his breast-plate, very strong, broad-shouldered, and with
eyes and set mouth of absolute fidelity.  Some servant about the
place whom Bellini made to sit to him for an hour or two, but he
has been with me always after that Venice visit, and especially
since I was blind.

With what reality did he appear to me last night!  I didn't want
his company.  I was scornful of him when he came.  It is just that
company that is so exasperating to me at present.  He is the kind
of romantic sentimental symbolism with which I have so long been
cheating myself.  'Oh yes,' I say to him, as he stands there with
his white staff, the red cross painted on it, with his solemn
childish eyes, his plump cheeks, his rather too-fearless mouth,
'it's easy for you.  You are a common soldier with no imagination.
All you have to do is to obey.  You have never considered the
rottenness of the world.  You are guarding a child and are yourself
a child.  I have put away childish things.  And what use anyway
will you be against Hitler's soulless robot mechanized army when it
comes rattling across the world?'

He replied to me:  'None of these things are your affair or mine.
You had better get up from your bed and fight.  If you don't there
will be many others lost beside yourself.  We are never alone in a
battle, you know.  So you will find out after you have lost it and
betrayed those depending on you.'

But I wasn't to be taken in by imaginary painted saints any more.
Or I thought I was not.  Even now I am not quite sure, though.

A strange thing has happened.  Why will they not leave me alone?

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in the library.  The sun was
beating on my head.  I had turned on the famous Schubert Quartet in
A minor, Opus 29.  Almost TOO familiar, isn't it, especially the
little Minuet?  And yet it survives its deadly popularity.  It is
so very gentle and kind, and as always with Schubert, even in the
most hackneyed things, you feel the wisdom behind it.  That stocky,
bespectacled man--THE symbol above all dead or living men of
everything that the Nazi spirit is trying to destroy, and that is
indestructible.  Anyway, I was listening to the last movement, the
Allegro Moderato, when a warning voice is suddenly heard.  Again I
was reminded, 'You must FIGHT for these lovely things if they are
to be secure.  Not anybody.  But YOU.  YOU must fight.'  And, with
irritation, I got up and turned it off before it was ended.  At
that moment there was a knock on the door and Violet's successor--
Nancy--a VERY simple girl, said:

'Miss Brennan is in the hall, sir, and wishes to see you.  Only for
a minute, she says.'

'MISS Brennan?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Not Mrs. Brennan?'

'No, sir.  Miss Brennan.'

'Ask her to come in.'

Dorothy Brennan.  I didn't know her at all.  I have only ever had a
few words with her.  A nice simple girl, they tell me.  The door
opened and closed and a very sweet child-like voice said:

'I beg your pardon.'

'Is that Dorothy Brennan?'

'I'm very glad to see you,' I added, smiling.  'Because I CAN'T see
you, draw a chair up.'  She did.  'That's right.  Give me your
hand.'  She did--a soft, young girl's hand but strong in spirit,
with character.  I held it for a moment, then released it.

'Now.  That's splendid.  Will you have some tea with me?  I was
just going to have some.'  I could tell that she was very nervous.

'Oh no, thank you, Mr. Cromwell.  I must get back.  I don't know
whether I'm doing the right thing.'

'I'm sure you are.'

'It was Mrs. Cromwell I really wanted to see.'

'I'm afraid she's gone into Polchester for the day.  But anything I
can do--'

'It's a letter I was asked to give her.  I don't like keeping it.
I thought you might give it her.'

'Of course I will.'

'It's from Jim Burke.'

As soon as she said that I felt an irritation so acute that I could
have shaken the child.  At first I felt nothing but this
irritation.  It was one more evidence that I could not keep my life
to myself.  Imbeciles, idiots, children, must intrude upon it!

Was this child so simple that she could not understand that she
must not hand private letters about in that simple way?  Was Jim
Burke himself so simple that he had not said to her:  'See that you
give it only to Mrs. Cromwell.  No one else must have it'?  Was the
child so immature that she had heard nothing about this miserable
village scandal, had not heard from her elders that Jim Burke had
made trouble in this house?  Had she been so innocently brought up
that she knew nothing about sex life, about love between men and
women?

I held the letter in my hand and knew a monstrous exasperation.

'Did you see Jim Burke in the village then?'

'Oh no, Mr. Cromwell, it was on the way to Rafiel.  I had gone for
a walk and met Jim Burke.'

'What was he doing there?'

'He had been working on a farm for a week.'  She hesitated, and
went on:  There's a horrid little man who goes about in the village
with a lot of dogs.  He gave Gillie one.  He came and frightened
me, and Jim Burke was there just as though it were in a book.'

She laughed--the gayest, most natural, merriest laugh.  And I knew
when I heard it that she herself loved Jim Burke and that she knew
nothing about sexual love at all.  I knew too, at that moment, why
Mrs. Mark loved her.  How involved we all were together!

'So he rescued you, did he?'

'Yes, I suppose he did.  The funny thing is that he has done it
before, and about the same little man.'

'Who is this horrible little man?'

'I don't know.  No one seems to know anything about him except that
his name is Henry Sharp.'

'And was he really rude to you?'

'He tried to kiss me.'

'He did, did he?  We must have him locked up.'

'Oh no!  Although I AM afraid of him.  But not to lock him up.
Don't you think, Mr. Cromwell, being locked up in prison is the
most awful thing that can happen to anybody?'

I said--and I can't think why, because really I'm not sentimental
about myself:  'That's the way I am--being blind.'

'I know.'  Her voice sank to a sort of reverential gravity.  'I've
thought of it often and often.  To tell you the truth, Mr.
Cromwell, I can't get you out of my head.  I'm always thinking of
you.  I hope you don't mind.'

'Mind?  Of course not.'  Then I asked her:  'You're fond of Jim
Burke, aren't you?'

'I love him more than anyone in the world.'

'When you say "love," Dorothy, what do you mean?'

'I would go with him anywhere, do anything for him--if he wanted
me.'

'Do you really mean that?  You know, living with someone, after the
first romantic feelings have passed away, isn't so easy.'

'I know it isn't.  Father and Mother quarrel often, but they love
one another really.  They couldn't bear to separate.'  She sighed--
a most child-like sigh.  'However, he doesn't want me.  I suppose I
shall be an old maid and look after Gillie's children and Simon's.
I don't mind a bit.  There'll be heaps to do.'

'You know, Mrs. Mark is very fond of you?'

'Is she?  I'm ever so glad.'

But it didn't mean a great deal to her emotionally.  I was sorry, a
swift instant, for Mrs. Mark.

'I must be going back.  Good-bye.'

'Good-bye.'  I held out my hand.  She put hers in mine, most
trustfully, most friendlily.  She caught her breath and I could see
(although I couldn't see) her shining eyes.  She said huskily:  'I
think you're wonderful.  We all think so.'

She went away with a kind of rush.  I stood looking into darkness
after her.

I felt something in my hand.  Jim Burke's letter.  Why, I had
forgotten all about it!  Yes, I had forgotten all about it.

Celia came in and I gave it to her.

'There is a letter for you from Jim Burke.'

My voice did not shake, neither did my hand.  My body was so
passionless that it might have been made of soap or butter.  I was
passionless.  Celia was to me like the well-known signature to a
document.  The affair had been completely settled already.  The
signing was of no particular importance.

'Where did you get this?' Celia asked me.

'Dorothy Brennan brought it.  She met Burke by accident in the
country somewhere and he asked her to give it to you.  You were
out, so she gave it to me.'

I felt the edge of the paper against my hand.  She was trying to
give it back to me.

'I don't want to read it.'

'Oh yes, you had better.'

I heard her tearing it to pieces.

'That was a pity.  I should like to know how Burke is.'

She answered furiously:

'That's clever, isn't it?  Pretending you don't care!  And you care
damnably.  You're miserable.  I'm glad you are.  You deserve it.
It's I who haven't done anything!  Not a thing!  Not a thing!'

And she rushed out, slamming the door.  Soon, when the war comes,
as it will, we shall have something real to trouble about.

Meanwhile--this seems real enough to be going on with!



CHAPTER V

SEAGULLS--AT THE RECTORY--SEAGULL ON WET GRASS


After a day or two of violent storm--the thunder of the sea quite
sharp and audible, like the cracking of biscuits--flurries of
seagulls haunted the village with screams and cries.  After ten
days of storm a long day of pause and hush and stillness.  The
light was smoky after the rain; all the colours were dull but the
sky was blue, very open and spacious, with dusky clouds, thin,
transparent, and lit like the scaly windows of lanterns.  Because
the air was so very still the sea could be heard murmuring as
though with its fingers on its lips.

The seagulls remained.  Especially did the village green appear the
right place to them, for they rose and fell above it.  Then,
strutting on the grass, their red beaks lifted, they seemed to
carry the village in their cold scaly eye and place it on the edge
of the sea, spray floundering against the shop windows, and the
chimney-smoke reeking of bacon and sea-weed together.

Simon, his small stout legs firmly planted, watched one large
seagull of dazzling whiteness with a beak of fresh shining crimson,
stride about the green like Judge Jeffries in some devilish Assize.

Simon knew that it was forbidden him to stand about on the village
green doing nothing.  His mother had told him again and again how
common it was.  But he did not mind if he WERE common.  He LIKED to
be common!  Young though he was, he had already discovered that the
common had much more fun, day by day, than the refined.

He stood watching the seagull, because he had so very much to think
about.

There was the excitement of Benson.  For a whole week he had been
confined (with certain surreptitious excursions) in Simon's attic,
and no one, save Gilbert, knew that he was there.  How had he been
able for so long to keep this secret?  Ah, this was the lovely
thing!  For Simon it was the very salt of life--to sustain a
mystery, to be spending half your life in a manner unknown to your
so-called betters, to be engaged on detective work (Benson's meals,
his outdoor exercise, his physical habits--all these had to be
arranged for), to know something (viz. that Benson was in the
attic) that your elders did not know--all this was honey and manna
to Simon's spiritual stomach.

Very gratifying too was the behaviour of Benson; for that dog,
mongrel of mongrels, begotten in a hedge, delivered in a ditch,
nevertheless showed now the greatest character and astuteness--
even, miraculously, human.  He knew just what was occurring and
that his beloved master's happiness depended on his discretion.

He never complained at his inactivity, and when, after dark, he was
released for a short time, he did, with swift grinning eagerness,
all that he was supposed to do, then raced about, not barking as
was his natural habit, and rejoiced finally at being carried
against his master's chest secretly up the stairs, never uttered a
sound, only once or twice turned his head and licked his master's
cheek.

Simon greatly approved of his discretion and did not mind at all
that Benson's heart was entirely Gilbert's.  Simon had no liking
for sentiment that was aimless self-luxury.  He liked everything to
have its proper place and point.

This brought him to his sister.  Dorothy was changing under his
eyes.  He had seen it coming for a long time.  This change was to
him no new thing, for he had watched a number of girls of his
acquaintance 'go funny' when their chests changed from flat
masculine to rounded feminine.

He did not, as yet, bother himself very much about the sexes.  He
observed the physical differences as he observed the crimson beak
of the seagull, but these physical differences seemed to him of no
importance.  One was made one way and one another.  A nasty fat
schoolfellow of Gilbert's, aged fourteen or so, had attempted once
to enlighten Simon (then aged seven) as to 'what was what,' but in
the middle of the sticky narration Simon had seen a bullfinch,
recently introduced to him by Jim Burke, and had wandered off,
following it from tree to tree.  He would be always, perhaps, one
to whom observation would be more than feeling.  And yet he HAD a
heart, as this conversation with his sister showed.

For she had returned from a walk on that very afternoon when Simon
had rescued Benson, in great distress.  Two days later she summoned
Simon into her bedroom.  She only did this when there was something
of the greatest importance to discuss.  Simon stood just inside the
door, his head cocked a little on one side.  Yes, she was
different.  She had grown up, he decided, and, quite suddenly, he
realized that she was his sister and that she had always been
wonderfully good to him and that he loved her.  There was something
now about her as she looked at him, her eyes distressed, her whole
being asking him for help, that made him for once respond
romantically.  He WOULD help her.  He would do anything that she
asked.

'Simon, I think perhaps I've done a dreadful thing.'

'What's the matter?'

'This is what happened.  I went for a walk by myself, and that
horrid little man that gave Benson to Gillie--you know?'

Simon nodded his head.

'He came up and spoke to me.  And then he tried to kiss me.  It was
horrid and I screamed and fell down, and Jim Burke suddenly
appeared.'

'Jim Burke!  Oh, golly!'

'Yes, it was just like a story.  He knocked the little man down and
he got up and ran away.  Well, then--'  She paused and looked at
Simon with some doubt.  'You won't tell anyone, Simon?  You swear
it?  No one--not Gillie--no one?'

'I swear it,' said Simon rather hoarsely.

'I told Jim,' Dorothy said very solemnly, 'that I loved him more
than anyone in the world and that I would go away with him anywhere
he liked.'

'Oh, you didn't!'

'Yes, I did.  Anyway I do, so why shouldn't I say so?'

'And what did he say?'

'He was most awfully nice but he loves someone else.'

'Yes, I know.  Mrs. Cromwell.'

'Yes, Mrs. Cromwell--and of course Mrs. Cromwell's married, so of
course he couldn't do anything about it.'

'No, of course not,' Simon said.

'But he asked me to give her a letter.  I said I would.'  She
hesitated.  'This is where I think I was awfully silly.'

'Didn't you give it to her?'

'No, I didn't.  I went over yesterday and Mrs. Cromwell was in
Polchester.  So I gave it to Mr. Cromwell.'

'Oh, I say!'

'Yes.  Do you think I did a wrong thing?  You're very young, Simon,
but somehow I can tell you and I couldn't tell Gillie.'

'What did Mr. Cromwell say?'

'He was most awfully nice.  I liked him terribly.'

'I like him better than any man anywhere,' Simon said proudly.

'Yes, and Gillie says he does too.  He asked me if I liked Jim
Burke and I said I loved him and would go with him anywhere, and
Mr. Cromwell said that sort of thing wore off, and I said that I'd
be an old maid and would look after you and Gillie always.'

'I shall look after myself.'

'But the point is,' Dorothy went on, 'was I wrong to give the
letter to Mr. Cromwell?  What do you think, Simon?'

'Did he read it?'

'No, of course not.  How could he?  Besides, people don't read
other people's letters.'

'Then it's all right.'

Dorothy sighed.  'I don't know.  You can never tell with grown-up
people.  What I think, Simon, is that Mr. Cromwell is awfully
unhappy.'

'That's what I think too,' Simon said.  'He doesn't want me over
there any more.'

'I know.  I don't think he wants anybody.  He's so beautiful.  He
was wearing a blue tie and he sat staring in front of him.  He was
most awfully kind, but I couldn't do anything.'

'No.  There's nothing we can do.'


Not only was Mr. Cromwell unhappy, Mrs. Brennan was very unhappy
too.  She had never been so unhappy in her life before.  Everything
had been stable and settled with her until the Cromwells had come
to Garth.

But it was not only the Cromwells.  The earth seemed to be
trembling under her feet.  She was not a woman who had ever taken
much notice of politics or of world events.  But now she was forced
to consider them.  Everyone was considering them; not only her
immediate friends, but the villagers, the farmers.  It was as
though a dark cloud hung just beyond her personal door.  She did
not know what the dark cloud threatened, but for the first time in
her experience it threatened her herself.  She had always been sure
of her own safety.  Little quarrels with her husband or her friends
had seemed at the time important, but now, quite suddenly, they
were important no longer.  Some general unsteadiness was shaking
even the little world of Garth.

One night she asked her husband:  'Do you think there really will
be a war?'

'Very likely.'

'How will it affect us?'

'It will affect everybody.  We are all bound together so closely in
these days.'

That was what she was feeling.  'We were all bound together.'  The
quarrel between Mr. and Mrs. Cromwell (and according to that girl
Violet, who was now living in the village, the trouble had been
really shocking), Gillie's sulks, Simon's rudeness, the bad
behaviour of May Vergil--all these things were working together as
symptoms of a more threatening danger.

She was simple, she was ignorant, she was weak.  She had been
fortunate, as are so many child-like people, to reach mature years
safely without herself being mature.  She had been covered up and
protected because the other people around her were not mature
enough to find her out.  Of all her personal contacts only her
husband was mature, and he was too lazy, and perhaps too fond of
her, to expose her childishness.

Circumstances--her dislike of Mrs. Cromwell, her trouble with her
children--had revealed to her that she was quite alone--alone as
everyone is alone.  But she did not know enough about anyone else
to realize that others, that all men and women on the earth's
surface, were alone.  She thought that she was unique.

She was frightened.  She awoke in the middle of the night and was
frightened.  She was frightened in the middle of a meal, during a
walk, shopping.  She asked others whether they thought there would
be a war, and when they said 'Yes,' she said:  'How dreadful!  Why
do the Germans want a war?'

'Because they want to destroy us.'

The Germans wanted to destroy her!  She was helpless.  Nobody loved
her or cared whether she were destroyed or no.

A dreadful incident was about to bring this forcibly home to her.


Gilbert's secrecy about Benson grew with every day more unpleasant
for him.  Unlike Simon, he had no pleasure in mystery.  His intense
shyness did not mean that he was not honest.  It was because of his
honesty that he was reticent.  He would not be false about his
emotions, and, because of that, he must conceal them because they
were so easily wounded.

He was, of course, conscious of none of this, but he now found
himself involved in deceit on every side.  Except for his mother,
the two most important contacts he had experienced during this last
year had been with Mr. and Mrs. Cromwell--the meeting with Mr.
Cromwell in the Well, the meeting with Mrs. Cromwell at Sizyn.  By
these he had been admitted for the first time to grown-up intimacy.
It was a great leap in his development when he sat in the little
Church, his hand in Mrs. Cromwell's and she crying.

He had a great capacity for loving in his nature and he had the
passionate creative feeling of an artist.  He might be now only a
small boy carving clumsily an obscure head from a lump of wood, but
as the honey-coloured chips flew, he saw with his eyes into far
distances.  He was a young son of Praxiteles.

Now all these feelings of bewilderment--love, creation, Benson's
devotion--centred round his love of his mother.  He loved her and
he hated her.  He hated her because he was deceiving her and she
had forced him into that deception.  He hated her because she
wanted to swallow him up.  He loved her, whether he liked it or no,
because he loved her.

During all this week of the hiding of Benson he was on the edge, at
every meeting on the stair, at every meal, of exposing the mystery.
He detested secrecy and he hated this one the more because Simon
was enjoying it so greatly.  There was something in Simon that he
could not understand any more than Rupert Palatinate would have
understood Mazarin.

But if he had loved Benson before he was given away, he loved him
twice as dearly now.  For that dog was human.  The race of men and
women is divided between those who say of a dog:  'There is really
no difference between him and a human being.  He as good as talks'--
and those who don't.

Benson revealed now, under duress, his soul.  He could not enjoy
confinement, all day long, in Simon's attic.  He must know every
evening, at his ten minutes' release, an intense joy, and yet,
running in the darkness on the lawn, he never uttered a sound,
never barked with joy, never yelped with sensuous pleasure at the
intricate and diverting evening scents and odours.  One soft word
from Simon or Gilbert was enough for him.  And yet, so far as he
could tell, this captivity might be for all time.  He would not
complain while Gilbert was there.

Only one compensation he had--he was fed sumptuously.  Bones,
scraps, biscuits, vegetables were for ever being brought to him.
He began to fatten.

Clearly this situation could not continue for very long.  It did
not.

One evening, warm and scent-laden, when the spring was hinting that
she had her hand on the handle of the door, Gilbert, who should
have been in bed, crept out from the decayed conservatory on to the
lawn and let Benson loose.  At once he disappeared into the warm
stirring darkness.  Gilbert stood looking at the stars and
wondering from whom he could learn more carving.  The Easter
holidays would soon be here and after them he would return to
school.  He understood that great changes had taken place since the
break-up in the autumn.  He learned from listening to his parents
that the school had been in a very bad way, that the old head
master was gone and that there would be a new one.  It would be
altogether a fresh start, and he felt in his bones that his place
in it now would be very different.

He would be older, he would be in one of the upper forms, he would
win, at least, his Second Eleven colours in cricket; perhaps, if
the bowling were not very strong, his First.  He swung his arm
round, as he stood there.  His slow bowling had certain
possibilities because he used his brains.  He thought of Mr.
Cromwell.  He would like, before he went back, to talk to him about
all this.  Mr. Cromwell would be the very man to give him
interesting and trustworthy advice. . . .

Benson returned out of the darkness.  Gilbert picked him up and
stealthily passed through the conservatory into the passage.  On
the turn of the stairs his mother was standing.

Well, it had happened.  He was glad.  The deception was over.  He
caught Benson more tightly to him and stared.

'Gillie!  But why aren't you in bed?'  Then, taking it in:  'The
dog--'

'Yes.  He's been here a week.'

'A week?'

'I've been keeping him in the attic.'  He was resolved that Simon
should not be mentioned.

'Come with me.'

He followed her into the drawing-room.

'Put that dog down.'

He put Benson down.

She sat, leaning forward, and looked at her son.  At that moment
she hated him.  This was the climax to her long-strengthening sense
of betrayal.

'Now.  Tell me, please--why have you disobeyed your father and
myself?'

'I haven't disobeyed.  He was fetched back.  He was my dog.  You
gave him away, but he was MY dog.'

'You knew that your father and myself didn't want him here--I stood
him as long as I could--then his dirty habits made him impossible.'

'He hasn't any dirty habits.'

She was intensely moved with disgust for her son.  Her hands shook.
She was not a cruel woman, but there was something now in his small
cold blind face that made her tremble with rage.

'Come nearer.'

He came nearer.

'How long do you say that dog has been in the house?'

'A week.'

'You have been hiding and feeding him all that time?'

'Yes, I have.'

'What a horrid thing!  Dirty!  To keep a dog--'  She broke off.
'But the wickedness.  You'll have to be beaten for this.  You've
never been beaten.  We've been too gentle with you.  The
disobedience . . .'

'I don't mind being beaten.'

'The dog shall be destroyed.'

A quiver ran through his body.

'If you kill Benson I'll kill YOU!'

'You'll do WHAT?'

'You shan't touch Benson.  You can do what you like to me.  I don't
care.  But if you touch Benson--'

She got up.  She caught Benson in the neck, lifted him.  She did
not know herself what she was going to do.  A moment later Gilbert
threw himself on her.  He caught at her arm.  She threw Benson
across the floor and he landed, greatly to his surprise, against a
little table, which fell over.  Gilbert was beating at her with
both hands.  She slapped his face.

They stood apart, both breathing heavily.  Benson, who found
nothing in life extraordinary, sat on a piece of broken china and
began industriously to lick the inside of a leg.  It appeared to
him, perhaps, the polite thing to do.

She had never struck any of her children before.  She was
horrified.  Gilbert also was horrified.  A new bond, that was to
alter all their relationship in the future, was formed by their
mutual horror.  For they loved one another.

His face was grey-white save where she had struck him.  He did not
move but stood as though at attention.

'I'm sorry . . .' she said, looking at him with puzzled eyes--but
she was really seeing only herself.  'I didn't mean . . .'  Then
she said abruptly:  'You'd better go to bed now.'

He picked up Benson and without a word went from the room.

She sat on the sofa and put her hand on her heart.  It was racing
most dangerously.  But for once she didn't care about her physical
symptoms.  All her principles of living were disrupted.  Those
principles were that she was an English lady and must never forget
it, that she was superior to other English ladies who did so
forget, that she was fine and stately and beyond all possible
disorder.  Now she had behaved like the commonest woman in the
village.  She suddenly cared nothing for her position or the
proprieties or being an English lady.  She discovered that she
loved her husband and her children beyond and above everything else
on earth.

After a while, still bewildered and scarcely knowing what she did,
she crossed the passage and knocked on her husband's door.  He was
sitting, with his feet stretched out, smoking, reading a novel.

'What is it, my dear?' he asked with the voice of the husband who,
at this particular moment, wishes that he had never married.  He
looked at her.  Then he put down his book.

'What is it?  Something's the matter.'

She sat down and began to talk quite incoherently.

'I've struck Gillie--in the face.  He's been very naughty.  But I
lost my temper.  I don't know what's the matter.  I said this
morning when those seagulls were squawking all over the place that
something was going to happen.  It's that dog--'

'Now, my dear,' he said, 'begin at the beginning.  WHAT seagulls?
WHAT dog?  What's Gillie been doing?'

'What has Gillie been doing?'  She repeated his words, staring
across at him, bewildered.  'You'll never believe when I tell you.
He stole the dog back and has been keeping it upstairs, unknown to
any of us, for a week.'

'Well, that shows you--'

'Shows you what?'

'That you can't keep a good man down.  You shouldn't have given his
dog away, in the first place.'

At any ordinary time Daisy Brennan would, at this point, have been
so rightly irritated by her husband that she would have risen and
left him.  Now all was different.  She was not irritated.  She
scarcely heard him.  She was thinking of Gilbert.

'He was standing on the stairs clutching the dog.  You can imagine
the shock I got!  In the first place, I thought Gillie was in bed,
and secondly, of course, I never expected the dog.  I'm afraid I
was dreadfully upset.'

'You should always sleep on things.  Soundest of all rules.'

'How could I sleep on it without some sort of explanation?  I took
Gillie into the drawing-room and asked him what he'd done.'

'Well?'

'He was terribly rude.  He told me he'd fetched the dog back
because it wasn't mine to give away.'

'There he was quite right.'

'But when I said that of course we'd have the dog destroyed he said
a most dreadful thing.'

'What did he say?'

'He said if I touched the dog he'd kill me.'

'I suppose he was in a rage just as you were.'

'No, but what a thing for a son to say to his mother!'

'Oedipus complex--or something like it.  Well, go on.'

'I picked the dog up and Gillie flew at me.  Beat at me with his
fists.'

'Didn't think he had it in him.'

'Then I threw the dog away and slapped Gillie's face.'

'How do you mean--you threw the dog away?'

'I threw it against a table, which fell over.'

'What did Gillie do when you hit him?'

'Do?  I don't know.  We looked at one another.'

'Did he say anything?'

'Not a word.  I said "You'd better go to bed now," and he went--
with the dog.'

'I see.  And that was all?'

'Yes.  That was all.'

Brennan looked at his wife and she seemed to him a child like his
other children.  Although he had been married to her for so long,
he had never realized that until now.  He realized another thing--
that, through all these years, he had completely failed in his duty
to her.  Behind this little conversation of theirs he had felt that
she was looking at him in quite a new way, that she was saying to
him, 'I don't know where I've got to.  I'm bewildered, distressed.
I've just done a thing that I would never have believed I could do.
Please help me.  Only you in the world can.'

He knew, too, that this moment, here and now, was a test of their
whole life together.  If he failed now, he would lose her and
perhaps himself.  And he might fail because he was such a lazy man.

He said easily:  'I shouldn't worry about it, my dear.  Let Gillie
keep his dog.  He'll be going back to school soon.  He's been
unsettled by staying so long away.  As to smacking him, that's what
every mother does to her children sooner or later.  He's a decent
kid really.'

But he hadn't helped her at all.  He saw that at once.  She
continued to stare at him in the same bewildered, perplexed
fashion.

'It isn't that.  I can't explain . . . I've been frightened for
months.  I've lost all confidence in myself.  What is it?'

'What is what?'

'Why am I frightened?'

'It's nothing,' he said reassuringly.  'Everyone gets like that
sometimes.'

'Why am I frightened?' she repeated.

'I suppose there's a general nervousness.  People are afraid of a
war.'

'Yes.  We're all afraid.  God doesn't seem real.'

'He's real all right.'  He puffed at his pipe.  'It's we who aren't
real enough.'

She began to cry.  Tears rolled down her cheeks.  She sobbed out
uncertain words.  'Those seagulls this morning.  I thought they
were threatening me.  I've been thinking for years I'm a fine
woman.  And I'm not at all.  I hadn't known--how much I loved you--
you and the children.  Nothing else matters.'

She went over to him, knelt at his feet, came close to him.  His
pipe fell; he put his arms around her.

'Darling--don't cry.  I've been to blame.  I love you, too.  We'll
be all right.  A new life.  Oh, God, give us, through adversity, a
new life.'


On the early afternoon of that same day May Vergil had stood at the
door of her cottage watching three seagulls quarrel angrily over a
small crust on her lawn.  One of the gulls limped and was always
late for the fair.  The other two, their prize divided between
them, flew off with deep powerful drives of their wings.  The lame
one, seeming to May Vergil oddly to resemble the character that, in
all fiction, she most detested, Tom Pinch, stood virtuously, his
head cocked, looking as though he were in search of a church organ
and the pleasant practice of a hymn tune.

'He's a prig and a hypocrite,' she said, going back into the
sitting-room, where Phyllis Lock was eating chocolates.  She had
been lunching with her friend.

'Who is?'

'A seagull with a lame leg--on the lawn.'

'You don't like people with lame legs, do you?' Phyllis said, and
felt really clever.

'I don't like people who make themselves sick with chocolates--
after a decent lunch, too.'

She took the box away.

'Miss Quilter brought the box yesterday.  I told her that when she
knew me better she would abstain.  I forgot you were coming today.'

'Miss Quilter?  That's that fluffy yellow little thing from Rafiel.
A new friend.  I'm jealous.'

'You have no need to be.'

May Vergil stopped opposite her friend and looked at her.  Phyllis
giggled.

'I hate it when you look at me like that.'

'You've no need to be jealous about anybody.  You know that.'  She
put her hand for a moment against Phyllis's cheek, then drew it
swiftly away.

'Why?  Why?  Why?'

'Why what?'

'Why have I loved you for so long?  Why have I loved you at all?'

'That isn't very complimentary.'  Phyllis pouted.  'I'm sure I'm
very fond of you too.'

'Yes, yes,' May said impatiently.  'That isn't the point.  For
years I've cared for you, looked after you, protected you,
prevented you as well as I could from making a fool of yourself
over rotten men. . . .  If I hadn't held you back you'd have tried
to flirt with Julius Cromwell.'

'Well, I haven't--so why bring it up?'

'No.  But what do you SEE in men?  Cromwell is one of the better
kind, I admit.  But most of them!--stupid, conceited, rough, and
when they've kissed you once or twice it's all over.  Marriage--
children, perhaps that's different.  But you don't WANT to be
married, Phyllis.  All you've ever wanted is something physical,
and even that mustn't be dangerous.  If Cromwell kissed you you'd
be in Heaven, but if he offered to spend the night with you you'd
be horrified.  There's a very vulgar word men have for women like
you.'

'Really, May!  I don't know why I stand it!'

'You'd stand anything--any kind of insult.  You're ignorant, weak,
silly!'

'May!  I won't--'

'I've wanted to say this for months.  I've been blind--a bloody
fool if there ever was one.'

Phyllis stared up at May and her eyes brimmed with tears, as they
did very easily.  She was fond of May.

'There's another thing.  I've been meaning to ask you if you know
who it was.'

'Who what was?'

'Ages ago.  It was the Christmas party that the Cromwells gave.  It
meant a lot to me, that party, because, although I didn't talk to
them much, I got to like them both enormously that afternoon.  They
were so kind, so human, so normal. . . .  They were what I wanted.'

'He is.'

'So is she.  And although I've seen very little of them since, I've
been conscious of them.  They've changed me.  I'm going up to
London, Phil, and start something worth while.  I'm sure a war's
coming and there'll be plenty to do.'

'What!  And leave me?'

'Yes--and leave you.  High time I did.  What I wanted to ask you
was this.  Celia Cromwell told me one day that all her trouble with
her husband began because someone at that party was cad enough to
whisper in Cromwell's ear that his wife was misbehaving with Jim
Burke.  It was a woman.'

'What a filthy thing to do!'

'Yes, wasn't it?  Who do you think it could have been?'

'Alice Lamplough.'

'I don't think it was.'

'But it couldn't have been anyone else.  It was just the sort of
thing she'd do.'

'It wasn't you by any chance?'

'Me!  May!  Of all the rotten things!'  She got up.  'I'll never
speak to you again for this.'

'Swear to me it wasn't you.'

'Of course it wasn't.'

'Swear--Oh, Phil, please!'  May Vergil's voice softened.  'Please,
Phil!  I've been haunted by this.  I haven't dared to ask you lest
you should lie to me.  But if you'll swear it wasn't I'll believe
you, and I can't say--you wouldn't understand--how happy I'll be.'

'Of course it wasn't.  Do you think I'd--?'

'No.  But swear.  A good old-fashioned oath.  Swear.  "I, Phyllis
Lock, swear by everything I value that I didn't--"'

Phyllis broke in furiously:

'I won't swear!  You're bullying me as you always do.  I won't be
bullied.  I won't.  I'll leave the house and never speak to you
again.'

'Then it WAS you!'

Phyllis sank down on the sofa and began to cry.

'I didn't mean to. . . .  I said it before I knew what I was
saying.  I was in love with him.  I am still.  It was such a shame
that beastly woman carrying on with a servant. . . .  Oh, May, you
won't tell anyone, will you?'

'No, I won't tell anyone.'

'I suppose you'll never speak to me again?'

'I'm not your friend any longer, if that's what you mean.'

'Oh, May. . . .  You can't give me up.  After all this time--such a
little thing.'

'And now you'd better go home.'

'Yes, I suppose I had.  You promise not to tell anyone?'

'I promise.'

Phyllis got up, gave one look at May which said:  'You'll be all
right tomorrow.  You often lose your temper, but you're always all
right afterwards.'

She picked up her hat and trailed away.

May Vergil said:  'That's the end of that.'  Her odd ugly face had
the rigidity of an unescapable but nevertheless resolute
loneliness.


There was a thin quick shower of rain.  The grass of May Vergil's
lawn was gleaming wet.  The seagull was still there, hopping slowly
from place to place.  A little man, with two mongrels at his heels,
slouched by.  He stopped at the gate and saw the bird.  Stealthily
he came into the garden and advanced to the lawn.  The gull, oddly,
did not move.

The man knelt down on the wet grass and examined the leg.  The bird
was quite still, watching him with a bright strong eye.

'It's a cut.  It wants watching.'  The bird seemed not to be
frightened of the dogs.  The man picked up the gull and furtively,
as though he had stolen something, which indeed he so often had,
crossed the road, the dogs following at his heels.



CHAPTER VI

THIRD OF MARCH--A STORMY NIGHT--GARTH HOUSE--WALK THROUGH WIND AND
RAIN--GARTH HOUSE


The relation between a man and woman who love one another is never
static.  When trouble comes, as it had come now with the Cromwells,
the movement is often so swift that, like a retiring army before a
swiftly advancing enemy, the ground cannot be defended before it is
lost.

So it was now with Celia Cromwell.  This was her first experience
of love.  She seemed to be fighting an enemy hooded and masked.
This was no exaggerated metaphor.  It really seemed to her that
Julius was her enemy, and she could neither see him nor touch him.
With every day's increasing hatred of him she knew that she loved
him more.

Not only was he elusive but she was also unable to keep contact
with herself.  When life moves quietly we think that we are such
and such.  These temptations we have, but we have dealt with them.
We have established ourselves securely for ever.  Our religion is
formed, our social behaviour is established, we are wise and
controlled and safe.  Then a wind blows, someone knocks on the
door, a sentence is spoken and, in a moment, there is no security.

The only thing that she wanted in life was to re-establish her
relations with Julius.  But for the first time in her relationship
with any human being she was baffled.  The one thing that she would
not do was to throw herself at his feet and ask for his pity.  Why
should she when she had done no wrong?  With every hour the
distance between them grew.  With every day a new self was growing
within her old self--something crazy and wild.  Instinctively she
was terrified of her own craziness.  She had thoughts and impulses
now so abnormal that she had no rule of life or morals with which
to control them.

For every one of us there is a territory so dark and dangerous that
we refuse to consider it.  And yet without preparation we may be
swept into it and see with terrified eyes roads, fields, hills, so
new and dangerous that our very terror of them bewilders us.

It was this terror and darkness and newness that she felt
increasingly.  Many times she was on the brink of going to him,
taking his hand and saying:

'I am sorry.  I have been to blame.  Forgive me.  Please, please,
forgive me.'

It was his blindness that always stopped her.  The meaning, the
prophecy of the fear that had come upon her on that first drive
into Garth was now fully realized.  For his blindness was entirely
established.  It was the mask that he was now wearing.  He had
gathered it about him like a dark enveloping cloak.  Because of it
he had always distrusted the world that he could not see.  Had he
ever seen her with physical gaze he could not have distrusted her.
Men can read the soul through the eyes.  But if they are blind,
however strongly they believe, there are constant clouds of
circumstance, created in a world to which they do not belong, that
darken that belief.

They must be very lonely from time to time.

Also, young though she was, Celia realized that Julius was engaged
in some terrific battle with himself.  It was not only that he was
distrustful of her but also that he was distrustful of himself.

In the early days of their marriage he had told her that he could
not believe that she loved him.  He so much older and blind.  'You
will come to hate my blindness and then I will hate myself.  I'm
not only this fine loving husband.  There is another man as well
who is mean and cruel and revengeful.  It is only my belief in you,
my darling, that keeps the other man down.'

She hadn't understood him in the least.  She knew him through and
through, soul and body.  But she understood now that she was
dealing with that other man and that he was dealing with him too.
It was for her to help him in that battle if she knew how.  But she
didn't know.  She was terrified of this other man who was veiled
from her.  His blindness became abhorrent to her, and yet she knew
that, were things otherwise, she could love him all the more
because he was blind.  If he had brought his blindness to her and
surrendered it and said:  'I give it you with the rest of me
because I love you,' all her maternity and protection would have
taken him in and cared for him.  But he didn't say that.  He said:
'I am blind and don't trust you.  So keep away.'

With every day through that horrible spring her impulse to go away
increased.  But her imagination was vivid enough to see that away
from him her unhappiness would only increase because she loved him.

Once, when she had been very young, she had thought for a brief
while that she loved a young man.  On a Sunday he had taken her to
luncheon at Ranelagh.  Just before luncheon they had had some
ridiculous quarrel and, on an impulse, she had gone home.  The
dreariness of the rest of that Sunday she had never forgotten, for
it had rained, she was alone, she had nothing to do, and the young
man seemed to her twice as desirable as in fact, on reconciliation,
she found him.

But the knowledge that she could not leave Julius drove her crazy.
If she went to London perhaps he would not care: she would sit
there waiting (as she knew she would) for a letter or a telegram,
or best of all, the opening of a door and his figure inside it.
That waiting would be terrible and might lead to a complete
separation--if he did not care.

But he MUST still love her.  He could not suddenly cease to love
her over so ridiculous a cause, when so little a time ago he had
loved her so dearly.  That other Julius loved her, but this one
perhaps did not.  This BLIND one that sat in the chair, or walked
touching a table so lightly, or sat opposite to her, feeling with
his fork for a potato.

Then came a dreadful day--the third of March.  When she woke she
heard every window in the house rattling and every door.  The rain
beat on the house with a passion of curses.  It drove down upon the
lawn as though it were sadistic in its punishment.  It was a
nervous storm.  At the moment of waking she felt it.  She looked
out from her window.  The sky was leaden and, across the grey,
white spumish clouds drove in fury.  She turned back into the room,
shivering.  She felt so strong an apprehension that it was like an
act challenging fate to put on her clothes.  'Something will happen
today.  Before night something dreadful will have happened.'

Her body was cold and hard, shrunken within itself, separate from
her clothes.

When she came into the dining-room the fire was smoking.

'What a horrible day!' she said.

'Isn't it?'  Julius smiled.  'But it's March.  We must expect it.'

'How did you sleep?'

'Very well, thank you.'

The room was intolerably cold, and she went over to the fire to
stir it into flame.  A little bluster of spiteful thick smoke shot
out at her.

'I'm afraid this fire is smoking horribly.'

'It always does when the wind is this way.'

She wanted to say to him:  'Do you feel this?  Are you nervous as I
am?'  But he did not seem to be nervous.  His fingers moved with
their beautiful trained adroitness.  He always seemed to be neater
about his food and his drink than a normal man who could see.

They did not speak.  Her hands were trembling.  His were beautiful,
strong, and steady.

She said at last:

'I don't know what's the matter with me.  I feel nervous and
jumpy.'

'That's the wind.  It's a beastly wind.  One of the drawbacks to
this coast.'

After breakfast she saw Mrs. Gayner as usual.  Mrs. Gayner too was
nervous, but then for a long time she had not been her quiet self.

'Mrs. Gayner, is there nothing we can do about these fires?'

'I'm afraid not.  When the wind's this way they always smoke.'

'I'm a mass of nerves today--as though something were going to
happen.'

'I feel it myself, Mrs. Cromwell.  I always do when the wind's this
way.'

She was alone all the morning.  No one came near her.  She tried to
write some letters but abandoned the silly business.  It was as
though she had been placed out of contact with everyone living.
She picked up a book--a heavy brown volume on the table at her
elbow!  The Letters of D. H. Lawrence.  There had been a time when
it had been the fashion among her friends to read Lawrence, as
though there were a new gospel here.  And perhaps there was.  She
could never be sure, because so much of The Rainbow and Women in
Love bored and wearied her, and sometimes there were magnificent
things.

But now she read on and on and it was as though Lawrence screamed
in her ear, telling her that catastrophe was on the way.  She could
not understand why he rejected everything and everybody--rejection,
hate, misery.  And then would come some passage of natural
description so lovely and quiet that his voice dropped to a loving
encouraging whisper.  He rejected all living human beings.  He said
again and again with sickening reiteration that he trusted no one.
His dearest friends he would embrace at one moment and reject with
loathing at the next.  Everything revolved around himself.  He was
sick, he was poor, he was betrayed, and he said so over and over
again.  But he had genius, that strange gift of seeing everything
and everybody for the first time, as though no one had ever lived
on this earth before himself.

But his thin nervous cry increased her own fear.  He was right.
The world was dreadful because the people in it were dreadful--
dreadful and menacing.

In the afternoon she thought that she would drive over to see Mrs.
Mark.  She would be sure to be indoors on such a day.

She put on her hat and coat and then stood, in the middle of her
bedroom, hesitating.  Mrs. Mark wasn't the person she wanted to be
with.  Mrs. Mark was good and kind and broadminded, but she was
dull--not always dull, but dull for Celia on that day.

She would be affectionate and consoling, but she was a century old
and belonged altogether to the past.  At that moment the storm was
so violent that the floor seemed to rock under her feet.  There
went the past!  It was gone, it was gone!  Some horrible new world
was preparing, a world made after the Nazi German fashion, where
there would be no mercy nor kindness nor understanding of the
individual.

She took off her hat and coat and wondered what she was going to
do.  She felt such a despair as she had never before known.  She
looked in the mirror and it seemed that she saw two figures there:
one Celia behind another Celia, and the second Celia she had no
mastery over.  The second Celia might commit any folly, any
madness.

As she went down the dark stairs, hearing the rain like the loud
snapping of fiddle-strings against the staircase window, she heard
the second Celia say to the first Celia:  'I must get out!  I must
get out!'  And the first Celia answered:  'Leave me alone!  You are
driving me to something crazy.'

During dinner they spoke very little.  The curtains were drawn, the
fire was not smoking, the storm now was like distant drums.

'I'm afraid I'm not very gay tonight,' she said, smiling, and then
remembered as she so often did that he could not see her smile.

'A day like this is awfully tiring.'

She watched him while he peeled an apple.  He must, she thought,
have East Anglian blood in his veins--the fairness, the thickness,
the heaviness, the sense of yellow light and fragrance,
Scandinavian, Viking . . . and, at that instant, he looked up and
stared across the table at her.  His blue loving eyes stared into
her face.  His loving eyes that yet meant nothing, said nothing,
because they saw nothing.  But it was now as though they opened--
the strangest thing!  As though he could see again!  She, although
she had been married to him for so long, found it difficult to
believe that he was not gazing at her with all his soul, loving
her, wanting her, needing her.

She did then a very odd thing.  She remembered that, soon after
they had come to Garth, one night she had jumped out of bed and
hidden in the room, teasing him.  At last he had caught her and
covered her with kisses.

Now, without a sound, she slipped out of her chair and into one at
the side of the table.  His hearing was so much acuter than the
hearing of any normal man that he would, she thought, detect her.
But he did not.  He continued to stare in front of him at the place
where she had been, the candlelight shiny on the raised half-peeled
apple in his hand.

So he had not been staring at her!  She knew, of course, that he
had not, but there was something terrible now in seeing him
continue with those wide blue eyes to look into space as though he
loved a ghost.  When she heard the door open she slipped back into
her seat.  It was the maid bringing in the coffee.

'Coffee, Julius?'

'Thank you.  I'm just ready for it to-night.'  He crunched the
apple with his teeth.  His eyes closed for a moment as he drank his
coffee.

'Do you mind if we have a little music?' he asked.

'Oh no,' she said, hating it.  'The storm's worse than ever.'

His broad back bent over the gramophone.  'Help me, my dear, will
you?  We'll have the Brahms Trio in E Flat major.  You'll find it
in the Brahms drawer.  Yes, that's the one--For Pianoforte, Violin,
and Horn.  The Horn comes in as a kind of consoler, comforting:
"Things aren't so bad--never so bad as you think."  That's what the
Horn says.  Sort of thing you want on a night like this.  And the
Finale's grand--Allegro con brio--The Ride to Hounds.  Grand.  Ah,
yes.'  He sank down, listening with a happy smile to the first
notes of the Andante.

'Ah, yes.  Now you're happy,' she thought savagely.  She hated him--
or at any rate, the second Celia hated him as he sat, curled up
now in the chair, huddled, a great mass of body, piled up, his head
back, his strong neck brown and bare so that it would be a real
pleasure to squeeze it.  And she had once been held by those arms,
naked breast to breast, and now in her rose-coloured evening dress
that he could not see she stood staring at him, while the great
curve of his thigh bulged over the arm of the chair, and his
groping blind fingers beat time, in the air, to the music.

One disc rattled down.  The Scherzo began.

'I'm going to bed.'

'Oh, just wait for the Ride to Hounds.'

'No.  I'm tired.  This beastly day . . .'

'Good night, then.'

'Good night.'

On the stairs the storm raged about her.  From some distant part of
the house a door furiously banged.

Most unexpectedly she fell at once asleep.  She was awakened by a
sudden flinging open of a window because the catch had been snapped
by the storm.  Wind and rain poured in.  She got up to close the
window.  She looked at her clock.  It was a quarter-past two.  She
saw that there was a little pool of water just below the ledge of
the window and, as she stared at it, a frenzy of loneliness,
unhappiness, terror, seized her.

She could not stay here!  She could not see Julius again.  He would
play music when she was so unhappy.  She saw his thigh hunched over
the side of the chair and his naked throat stretched out between
chin and collar.

She threw off her nightdress and stood staring at the little pool
of rain.  The pool enlarged.  It covered the floor.  It invited her
to step into it and to allow the water to rise and close, like a
velvet clasp, above her throat.

She dressed, and while she dressed she talked to herself.

'He plays music.  He rides to hounds.  He plays music.  I'm so
unhappy that I don't mind if the water does rise.  And it's all
about nothing.  I love him but I've lost him.  And I've lost my
make-up box.  I've lost my make-up box.  I'm going away and never
coming back.'

She ran out of the house and the wind knocked her back against the
stone pillar of the steps.  She ran crookedly through the streaming
dark into the garage and got the small Austin.  She drove out into
the road with one window of the car wide open, and the rain slashed
her in the face and the eyes.

She drove towards the Moor and Sizyn.  She was going perhaps to
London.

But she didn't go to London, for just above the Well Wood the car
ran into a signpost and turned over.

She climbed out, and, through the rain and storm, began to run.

Although Celia did not know it, that had been also a terrible day
for Julius.  He too had felt the nervousness of the storm, the
irritability that came from the ceaseless racket and driving
hostility of the rain.

He reached, on that day, it seemed to him, the lowest depths of his
own darkness.  He had experienced before times when it was
suggested to him, as though by an evil spirit, that man's whole
trust in goodness was a fantasy.

He was a man neither philosophic nor of a penetrating intellect.
He had believed in goodness because of the lovely things in life--
affection between human beings, physical passion, music, the sun,
the moon, flowers, all scents (now so especially valuable to him),
bodily health, kindliness, the brave spirit in ordinary men, the
progress of justice, men of good will.  Because of these things he
thought that the experience of life--in spite of evil, pain,
betrayal, fear, greed, selfishness--fell with so preponderating a
weight on the side of good that there must be a ruling power of
love and hope.  There had been also an assurance within him of a
deep, progressing life towards some future good, finer and stronger
than anything this life afforded.

All this was perhaps very simple, and clever men might call it the
immature experience of a child.  But he was not a child in his own
experience: he had suffered and withstood and sometimes conquered
like a man.

Throughout this day the belief had grown in him--strengthened by
many weeks of unhappiness--that he had, his life long, not only
been cheated but had, wishfully, cheated himself.  Another war was
threatening the world and might soon be upon them all, with the
added horrors of modern mechanism and science.  There was no true
evidence that there was a root of goodness in human life.  Men
cheated themselves with their little toys and pleasures.  What if
this belief in greater forces was illusory and if men, poor pitiful
stupid men, were only like ants in an ant-heap, blindly tumbling,
one upon another, to destruction?  If men were indeed alone, then
he had no hope, for they were not able, of themselves, to live
wisely, to conquer greed and fear.

This awareness of a ghastly, unmeaning, unreasoning loneliness was
terrifying, and he saw only the powers of force and mechanical
might remaining supreme.  The end of civilized, hoping, progressing
man!

In the tiny figures of himself and Celia he saw the symbols of
man's powerlessness.  They had had everything on their side--good
dispositions, wealth, health, love--and they had failed because
they were not wise enough to trust and compromise their
selfishness.

He was to blame.  He had fallen, for so little a reason, into a
slough of suspicion and jealousy.

He could not raise himself out of it.  It was as though he were
held down by some strong evil power to which he had submitted
almost without a struggle.

After Celia had gone to bed he sat there, unable to move, unable to
think, so unhappy that it resembled an illness that had seized him.
When he had been really ill he had had evil dreams.  Now he was
hemmed in by something that was no dream but a reality of negation,
of powerlessness, of weakness of all will.

He sat on without moving, looking into a darkness shot with
horrible colours and beset by a misery so chill that his body
trembled with cold although his head was on fire.

Two o'clock struck but he did not hear it.  He felt in his mouth
and throat a loathsome taste as though he had swallowed some evil
thing.  He thought that he would get a whisky and soda from the
dining-room.  He moved through the room, into the hall, and opened
the dining-room door.

Then he stopped.  Once again, as on that night in Celia's bedroom,
he was aware that someone was there.  He felt against the wall and
switched on the light.

'Who's there?' he said.  There was no answer.  He felt a relief in
his heart.  There was some action to be taken and any action was
better than the horrid passivity of the last hours.

'Who's there?' he said again.  'Is it you, Mrs. Gayner?  Who is it?
Come on, I know someone is there.'

Something dropped to the floor.  Someone rushed at the door, but he
caught with his hand a thin trembling shoulder, and then held
strongly a small body, constricting, writhing, then limply
submitting.

A whining voice, crowded with terror, was revoltingly pleading.

'Oh, Mr. Cromwell, please!  Let me go.  I didn't mean anything,
truly I didn't.  I came in for a drink, truly I did.  It's an awful
night and I was perished.  Oh, Mr. Cromwell, I didn't mean any
harm.  I'm telling you gospel truth, straight I am.'

'Who are you?'

'You know me, Mr. Cromwell.  You've spoken to me once.  Sharp's my
name--Henry Sharp.'

'What are you doing here?'

'I told you, Mr. Cromwell.  I slipped in for a drink.'

'At THIS hour?  What were you doing round here, anyway, in the
middle of the night?'

'I'm always walking around night-time, I am really, Mr. Cromwell.
I'm like that.  And I walked into your garden and--'

But Julius had been passing his hand over the thin trembling body.
From a pocket he drew out what he knew to be his two silver match-
boxes, and a small paper-knife that he also knew--one of agate and
gold.

'So you've been stealing things?'

There was no answer.  The body trembled in his grasp like a bird's.

'Why?  Why come here?'

The man whispered:  'I didn't mean . . . I came in for a drink as I
said.  I haven't any money.'

'Who ARE you?'

'He's my son, Mr. Cromwell--more shame be it said.'

Mrs. Gayner was standing close beside him.

He drew her in, shutting the door behind him.  'Quietly.  I don't
want to wake Mrs. Cromwell.'  He had let the man go.  'Now, Mrs.
Gayner, what is all this?'

'This is my son, sir.  He lives in the village and comes to see me
at night.  He's been doing it for a long time.  Because he's a
thief and no good I've told nobody, and he's kept it dark too,
living in another name.  That's why I haven't told you and Mrs.
Cromwell.'

'Ah!' Julius said.  'That's what's been the matter with you!

'Yes, sir.'  Lizzie Gayner began to sob, little dry sobs like the
rustlings of twigs.

Julius said:  'Come, Lizzie, sit down here beside me.  Let me have
my hand on yours.  Your son can go.  I'll do nothing about this.'

'He's gone,' she said quite simply.  'He slipped out when you moved
from the door, sir.  He's like that,' she added.

'Well, he can't stay on in the village after this.'

'No, sir.  I'm sure, sir.  You're quite right, of course.  And I
mustn't stay on either.'

'You not stay on?  Why ever not?'

'You and Mrs. Cromwell wouldn't want the mother of a vagabond and a
thief as housekeeper.'

'Nonsense!  Whatever difference does that make?  Why didn't you
tell me long ago?  Aren't we friends?'

'Of course, sir.  But I was so afraid you'd send me away--and my
heart's here.  I couldn't live away from here, I think.'

He felt her terror beating now in her breast.  He touched for a
moment the sleeve of her woollen dressing-gown.

'I would never have sent you away.  How could you dream of it?  But
tell me about this dreadful boy of yours.  Has he no profession--no
trade?'

'Well, sir, he was on the halls--dancing and such.  Then when that
failed he came here, where he knew I was.  He had been a
gentleman's servant but lost that through stealing.  He can't keep
his hands off other people's things--and that's the truth.  I tried
to get him abroad.  I found him the money and a place with a
relation of mine in Jamaica.  But it was no use.  He wouldn't go.
And in a sort of way I was glad he wouldn't.  Although I've been in
a terror and miserable of your knowing, I was comforted too, having
him so close all these months.'

'Why!  Are you fond of him after all he's done?'

'Fond of him!  Oh, Mr. Cromwell, he's all I've got!  I know he's no
good and worthless and a thief, but he's terribly good to animals
and to me sometimes.  I love him, whatever he does, however he
behaves.  He's my son and my only one, and I'll never turn from him
whatever he may do.'

At her words a sudden longing for Celia sprang like a bright fire
in Julius' heart.  'A bright fire.'  It was like that.  A quick
illumination, shining, leaping, that will come to any man at any
time about another human being.  'Why have I been fooling like
this, missing the true place, the right word, the only meeting?'

'I don't see how you can love him--'

'Loving has nothing to do with reason,' Mrs. Gayner answered.
'Why, Mr. Cromwell, my husband was, in a way, a really bad man--
that is, he couldn't keep away from girls--any girl--it didn't
matter whether she was plain or pretty.  He must have her.  It was
like a constant irritation.  But I had to love him.  And he loved
me in his own way.  When you love a person you love a person.  At
least, that's the way I look at it.'

'Yes, I see.  I hadn't seen it that way, or thought I hadn't.'

She got up.  'I must go back to bed, sir.  You've been most kind
and it's a great relief to me that you know now.'

'Yes, but he can't stay here--in the village, I mean.'

'No, sir.  Of course not.'

'We'll manage something.'

'Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.'

He stood up.  'Lizzie, do you know something?'

'No, sir.  What, sir?'

'You're the best friend I have in the world.'

'Oh, thank you, sir.  But it isn't true.  You have Mrs. Cromwell.'

'Yes.  I have Mrs. Cromwell.  But, as you say, that's different.
That's love.'

'I'm very glad--very glad, I mean, that you two have come all right
again, sir.  I hope that isn't impertinent.  She's very young and
most lovable--and she adores you, sir, if I may say so.'

She had been scarcely gone when the telephone bell rang, loud,
insistent, as it is in the middle of the night.  He went to it and
the voice at the other end was Jim Burke's.

When he heard those very familiar, soft, rather drowsy tones his
whole body stiffened.  So this night was the night, was it?  In a
swift second of vision he knew that the events of these hours were
arranged like the hoops for the horse-jumps at the Circus.  HOW he
jumped was his own free affair and his action now depended on all
the other actions that had gone to build up his character in the
past.

'Well?' he said.

'Oh, Mr. Cromwell, is that you?  I AM glad I've got you.  I'm at
Raglan's Farm near Sizyn.'

'Well, well--what is it?'

'Mrs. Cromwell is here--soaked through.  She's ill.  She's been
wandering over the country.'

The enemy, almost defeated, had one last thrust.  She knew Burke
was there.  She went to meet him.

'Yes, Mr. Cromwell.  I've been working at Raglan's for the past
week.  Raglan found her in a swoon at the door.  Mrs. Raglan put
her to bed.  I thought I should tell you, lest you should be
anxious.'

'I'll come at once.'



CHAPTER VII

MARCH THE FOURTH--AT RAGLAN'S FARM--DAWN BY SIZYN CHURCH


He roused Curtis.  They went straight to the garage and got out the
car.

He noticed that the storm had died away.  A heavy blackness lay
upon the earth and a hushed stillness as though the world were
recovering itself after its whipping.

He did not think as they drove; he had a picture before him of
Celia, wet, swooning, knocking on Raglan's door.  He went into no
question as to why she had gone, what had driven her to that.  No
thought as to her guilt or his--only a driving, all-possessing
urgency to have her safe under his care.

Curtis drove the car into the yard.  Julius jumped out, and Raglan
met him and helped him to the door.  Inside the kitchen Mrs. Raglan
told him that they had given Mrs. Cromwell a warm bath and put her
to bed.  She had been passive in their hands as though she had been
sleep-walking.  She had said nothing at all, only shivered and
turned her head from side to side.  Now, they hoped, she was
sleeping.

Julius stood, knowing from their voices that Mrs. Raglan was tall,
Raglan short.  Mrs. Raglan kind and business-like.  Raglan a little
bemused and out of his element.  They showed no kind of curiosity;
they might have known Julius all their lives.  He remembered that
when he had got out of the car Raglan had come to him and led him
into the house with a touch that was protective, caring, as he
might use to a strayed sheep that had been rescued.  He heard the
door open and Jim Burke's voice.  There was no embarrassment
between them.

'I want to see her for a moment,' Julius said, and an instant later
he felt Burke's hand on his arm, exactly as it had been so often at
Garth.

'I left Curtis outside in the car,' he said as they climbed the
stair.

A door was opened and then he heard Burke cry out:

'She's gone!'

He clutched Burke's arm.

'Gone!'

'Yes.  She must have slipped out.  There's the nightdress Mrs.
Raglan lent her.  She must have put on the wet clothes she was
wearing.'

'Quick!'  He plunged blindly back into the passage.  'Why didn't
someone watch her?  My God, anything may happen!'  He would have
fallen headlong down the crooked stair had not Burke caught him
round the waist.

'Steady!  Steady now.  Hold on to me.  We'll find her!  It's all
right!  Don't be disturbed now.  She can't have gone far.'

Even at this moment he felt again Burke's comradeship.  There had
never been any man he liked so much, nor anyone who knew so exactly
what he was and how he was.

In the kitchen he heard the Raglans' exclamations but didn't wait
for them.

Raglan said:  'Shall I come with you?'

'No, I'll take Burke.'

'I have a torch.  A big one.  It lights everything up.'

'Give it him then.'

With Burke's arm through his he passed, almost running, through the
yard.

'How far can she have gone?  How long since anyone saw her?'

'When I telephoned to you Mrs. Raglan had just been up to see her.'

'Ah!  Not so long.  We'll find her if we cover the Moor.  She'd be
walking and stumbling.  Oh, God! in those wet clothes.  What have I
done?'

They walked together like one man down the road that led to the
Moor.  Burke flashed the torch.  Julius was in a fever.  He clasped
Burke's arm and clenched it, stumbled in his eagerness, breathing
as though he had run a distance.

'There's no rain.  The storm is over.  Any sign of dawn?'

'No, not yet.  Although it's coming earlier now it's March.  We'll
find her.  Don't be scared.  She'll be all right.'

'But when you saw her--was she ill?  How did she look?  Didn't she
speak at all?  Not a word?'

'No, Mr. Cromwell.  She sighed.  I heard her sigh.  But she seemed
all dazed.  Mrs. Raglan said when she was giving her her bath she
was like a child.  Let her turn her over and dry her just like a
child.'

'There!  Jim, don't you hear something?  A voice crying.'

They stopped.  Jim flashed his torch.  There was a silence as
though they were underground, and then, like a door opening, came
the rhythm, an undertone, of the sea.  The air was fresh and
brilliant with the recent rain.

Julius suddenly called, 'Celia!  Celia!' and there was such a
loving urgency in his voice that Burke, who also loved her, started
as though it had been his own voice.

'Come on, man!  Come on!' Julius cried, catching down at Burke's
warm dry hand.  'What are you waiting for?'  And he began to talk,
with a wild incoherency and yet with purpose too.

'She'll be weak after that bath and the bed.  She won't be able to
go far.  After all, she's only a child.  I know you were in love
with her, Jim.  Maybe you still are.  I don't care.  All the world
can love her.  Everybody!  Everybody!  Because she loves me with
all her heart and soul.  Don't you see that she does?  She wouldn't
have run away and lost her head else.  She was desperate because
she thought I didn't love her.  I was jealous, Jim--jealous of you.
I was in a black cloud of jealousy.'

'I want to tell you, Mr. Cromwell,' Burke said.  'I want you to
know that I would never have done her any harm.  And she didn't
care for me--not a jot or tittle.  As you say, she was very young
and I was mightily to blame.  You don't know how I blame myself.
Besides, there's never been a man in my life I've cared for as I
have for you, Mr. Cromwell.  Only I loved her and I do love her.  I
can't help that, can I?  God knows, I didn't want to.  But
something puts that kind of love into our hearts and we're mad for
a time.  I'll never see her again after tonight, so there's nothing
for you to worry over.'

'When we find her,' Julius said, 'everything is all right.  Nothing
will be wrong again.  I'll look after her and care for her and love
her.  We all have a devil in us, Jim.  It's all in Lear.  This
night and the heath and the storm.  Everyone lost in the darkness.
Flash your torch.  There's someone crying out.  Listen!  Listen!'

They stopped again.  Burke, knowing the night and the country so
well, was aware that it was the pause before the beginning of the
dawn--the pause when, as though it had never happened before, the
darkness prepares to break before the power of a new world.  He
felt it everywhere, the slight stirring, the faint rustling, a
great universal preparation for departure.

It was strange to him, too, hearing Cromwell's voice, broken,
urgent, revealing his very spirit.  For Cromwell had always been
controlled, in perfect self-command, a blind man standing strong in
the fortress of his own blindness.

Now Cromwell had revealed himself totally, he was keeping nothing
back, and Burke felt that he would do anything for him, anything in
the world that Cromwell demanded.

They were now in the middle of the Moor, on the way towards Sizyn.

'Here.  In that hollow.  Let me see.  There's something white
there.'

Burke went over, flashing his torch.  No.  It was nothing--a slab
of white stone.  He felt, for a moment, the hopelessness of this.
She might have gone anywhere, down the road away from the Moor, or
along the Rafiel road.  She would be found in the morning.  It
would be better to go back to the farm and wait for the day.  But
he could not say that.  He no more than Cromwell could wait
passively, doing nothing.

'I know!' Cromwell cried.  'I know where she will go.  Come on,
man.  Come on.  Sizyn Church.  We had a picnic there once--don't
you remember?--and she and I sat in the Church, talking of
ourselves.  She'll remember that.  She'll be there.  Come on.  Come
on.'

He dragged Burke by the arm.  'It's as though I could see,' he
said.  'Everything.  Every stone, every blade of grass.  There's a
light everywhere.  When it's dark I can see and hear and smell.
That's what they do for blind men, Jim.  A kind of compensation,
isn't it?  God's never so hard as you think He is.  He's given me
sight in the dark so that I can find her.'

Was the dark less heavy?  Burke thought that it was--as though one
veil had been withdrawn from the many that remained.  Yes, it must
be so, for quite suddenly he saw, grey against black, the tower of
Sizyn Church.

'That's the Church,' he said.  'We're almost on to it.'

Cromwell broke from him and ran, stumbling, forward, crying,
'Celia!  Celia!'

He was right.  She was there, huddled up against the rough stone
wall.  How did he know?  Burke saw him stiffen, point in front of
him with both hands and then run straight forward.  Burke himself
could see nothing but the faint line of the Church, the grey stone
wall, and, he wasn't certain, a donkey against the wall there.  But
all these--the Church, the wall, the animal--were shadows against
shadows.  The dark was less heavy than it had been ten minutes
earlier.  That is all that one could say.  But Cromwell had known
no doubt, was kneeling on the grass.  Burke joined him.  Mrs.
Cromwell was there, huddled up, her face turned towards the wall.

Burke took a long look at the little form, shapeless, colourless in
the moving dark, part of the wall, of the soil, of the sky.  There
was centred all that he loved in the world.  All that he loved in
that moment of time.  There would be many other moments for him.

Perhaps he realized this, for he looked up at the sky and all about
him like a dog sniffing the wind.  The freshness was good.  He
could quite clearly feel the pulse of the coming light like a bird
driving through the air.  After the storm it would be a lovely day.

'Can I do anything, Mr. Cromwell?' he asked.

There was no answer.

'Is there anything I can do?'

There was still no answer.  So he shook his head like someone who
suddenly and unexpectedly finds himself free.  He stretched out his
shoulders.

'So-long, Mr. Cromwell.  So-long then.'

He strode off and never gave a look behind.

The turf was sodden wet, but Julius gave no heed.  He had taken
Celia in his arms.  She lay without moving, her eyes closed, her
damp clenched hand unconsciously against his.  A flood of words
came from him.

'My darling, you shouldn't have done this.  Running away!  It
wasn't kind.  But it was all my fault.  Mine.  Mine.  All mine.
And I've learnt my lesson.  I have indeed.  I've learnt my lesson.'

She moved, raised her head and let it fall.  He felt her movement.
Her action made him realize the sort of fool he was, pouring out
sentimental nonsense and forgetting her state.  He had been walking
in a waterproof and this he wrapped round her.  Her clothes,
although stiff, were not sodden.  Mrs. Raglan must have dried them.
She was not cold.  Her cheek to the touch of his hand was warm and
soft.  He had brought brandy and he forced some between her lips.

She swallowed it but still lay, her eyes closed, against his chest.

He stood up, holding her like a baby in his arms.  He moved forward
and came against the stone wall.  Then he had an idea.  He knew
that the Church was always open.  The porch was to the left; he
walked with cautious steps, holding her carefully against him.  He
could not now stretch his hands out to guard himself, but it was
true that he had a stronger sense of things in the dark than people
who could see.  It was as though, like a fool and a drunkard, there
was protection somewhere for him.  His shoulder knocked against the
stone of the porch.  He turned and pushed with his knee against the
door.  It was latched and he leaned forward with his burden, felt
for the latch with the ends of his fingers, jerked it open and
moved in.

The little Church was cold but not damp.  It seemed to receive him
friendlily.  He felt the pew-end and sat down.  Then he took her
and cradled her on the seat within his arm.

He sat there in silence.  Her breath stroked his cheek.  Her hand
was in his.  He was filled with unutterable love and gratitude.

She stirred and took her hand from his.  She sat up and said in the
voice of a startled child:  'Where am I?  What is it?'

'We are in Sizyn Church,' he said.  'Just for a moment, resting
before we go home.'

'It's Julius.'

'Yes.  It's Julius.'

She snatched herself from him.  She tried to get up, but sat down
again.

'But I'm not going home.  I'm not going back.'

'Where are you going?' he asked.

'I don't know, but I'm not going back.'  Again she tried to get up
and this time she succeeded.  She would push past him, but with his
hand at her breast he held her.

'Wait.  Rest a little.  Whatever else you do, rest a little now.
Afterwards you can do what you want.'

'The car broke down or I would be near London by now.  I ran into a
post.'

'Never mind about the post.  How do you feel?'

'Rotten.'

'Will you have some more brandy?'

'No.  I'd be sick.  I have a dreadful headache.'

She put her hand to her head like a child.  He could not see that.
He knew it was better for the moment not to touch her, so he sat
apart.

'Why are you running away like this?' he asked her.

'Because I hate you and I hate Garth and everyone in it.'

'Were you hurt when the car hit the post?'

'No, I don't think so.'  Then she asked again.  'Where are we?'

'In Sizyn Church.'

'What time is it?'

'I don't know.  It will be dawn soon.'  He waited and then added
very gently:

'I have the other car at Raglan's farm.  Won't you come back to
Garth for an hour or two and rest?  Then you can go back to London
if you want to.'

'No.  No.  No.'

'Very well then.'

After a silence, she began in a trembling voice:

'Why did you come after me?  Why can't you leave me alone?'

'You're my wife.  I love you.'

There was silence again.

Julius said:

'Won't you at least come back for an hour or two, Celia?  Change
your clothes, have a bath.  Then you can go up to London by train.'

'I have such a headache.  I can't think.  When I walked from the
car I didn't know where I was going.  I saw a light in a house.
Then I think I fainted.'

He reached out and took her hand.  She didn't resist.

'Listen, my darling.  You're as free as air.  You need never see me
again if you don't want to, although I shall be very unhappy if
that's so.  But I want you to understand this:  It's all my fault.
I was jealous and couldn't put myself out of it.  I couldn't speak.
I wanted to, but I couldn't.  And then, when I knew you'd run away,
it all cleared.  In a moment I cared for nothing in the world but
you, and so I always will.'

Her fingers stirred a little in his hand.

'How did you know I had gone away?'

'Jim Burke telephoned from the Raglans'.'

'Was Jim Burke there?'

'Yes.  Didn't you know?'

'I don't remember anything.'  Her voice was infinitely weary.

'You're terribly tired.  Please, please, Celia, come back to Garth
for a little.'

'No.  No.  I'll never go back to Garth.'

'Why do you hate it so?'

'I've been so unhappy there.'

'Will you come to the car at Raglan's, then, and Curtis shall go
back and fetch some things?'

'No.  I like it here.  Although the seat's very hard.'

He took off his coat and spread it under her.  To his surprise and
joy she allowed him to do this, and even once more lay back against
him.  He thought she was falling asleep, but she said:

'We don't love one another any more.  Why do we pretend?  Our
marriage has been a dreadful failure.'

'I don't think it has,' he said quietly.  'We both wanted to have
our own way perhaps.  Because I'm blind, both of us imagine things.
We hadn't wanted to depend upon one another but only on ourselves.
But I see now how interdependent we are.  We all are.  All the
world.  The world hasn't realized it yet, but it will.'

'I don't care about the world.  You thought I could be unfaithful
to you.  At the first chance you thought it.'

'I was jealous.  Most men are, some time or other, when they love a
person.'

She sat up, shaking her head.  He felt that she had some of her
real vigour again.  Her voice was stronger.

'No.  We aren't suited.  That's the trouble, Julius.  We aren't
suited.'

'Don't you love me any more then?'

She didn't answer.  Instead she gave a little cry.

'Oh, the light's coming in!  The Church is waking.'

She stared at the trembling grey colour that began to wash the
walls of the little Church.  It was going to be a lovely, glorious
day.  The window seemed to move forward towards her, the hawthorn
blossom, the monk, the donkey with his silver bells.  The sun was
not up yet, but everything was preparing for its rising.  Already a
faint shadow from the purple glass streaked the chancel.  Beyond
the two side windows white shadows in the sky warmed very gently
with an invisible light.

'Look, Julius!  The sun is coming.  Forgive me.  I had forgotten.
Oh, you look so tired!'

Then she threw herself on his breast.  She drew his head against
her cheek.  She kissed his eyes.  Then his mouth.

'I love you!  Of course I love you!  I've never stopped for a
single moment!  But you were angry and you didn't trust me any
more, and they all hated me.  Julius, hold me close.  Not now only.
Always.  Let me never be alone again.  I'm not strong enough.
Darling Julius!  Darling, darling Julius!'

She caught his hands, his beloved hands, and held them.

'Oh, how silly we've been!  How silly and how unhappy!'

He held her in his arms against his breast.  His blind eyes looked
out, over her body, to the Window.  He felt the light warm upon his
face.



CHAPTER VIII

IN JULIUS' STUDY


Julius Cromwell's Journal

I have perhaps found nothing stranger in this life than the way in
which the Past huddles back into the Past--not only huddles but
rushes back the moment it IS the Past, flings itself on to the
general dust-heap and becomes nothing but waste.  I mean by the
Past anything that is unimportant enough to BECOME the Past--
everything and everyone still alive--that is, the Present and the
Future.

My old nurse, for instance.  She was called Minnie Bax.  She had
flaming red hair and was as thin as a neatly-rolled umbrella.  She
would smack my bottom with relish and then kiss my little round
tummy.  She sucked peppermints and loved a fat butler up the
street.  She must have been pretty then.  I saw her once kiss the
butler's two chins when we were out promenading.  I remember that
of all extraordinary things she had a tattoo of an anchor on her
right thigh.  I used to see it when she undressed.  She said it
belonged to a sailor once.  Well--does all this mean anything?
Yes, that Minnie Bax is alive and the Versailles Treaty dead as a
door-nail.  So we live on, buttressed with love and reality.  For I
loved Minnie Bax and she is so real to me that I can feel her
wedding ring hitting my behind at this moment.  But all the rest,
all that we do not discard, what queer rubbish it is!

All the 1914-18 War--what remains of it but the heroism, the
unselfishness, the comradeship?  And now we darken under the cloud
of the next one--and of that, too, only the creative things will
remain.

I love Celia--oh, how I love her!  And yet a short time ago, in
that rubbish-heap past, I was hidden from her by the ignominy of
that battle between the jealous animal in me and the seeing spirit.
Had I lost her--as I so nearly did--how many others, how much good
life, would have been lost with her!

I am going to take her with me.  We are going travelling--to Greece
perhaps--somewhere, and she will tell me of the beauties that I
can't see, and I will let her go with the handsomest traveller in
the Seven Seas and never know a tremor.

But, for a moment, to be practical, I am haunted by the three
Brennan children.  Not by their actual presence, for only Simon has
been here, but by the constant pricking sense that I owe them
something.  I would love to have a child of my own, and still may,
thank God.  These are not children of mine, although that odd tick
Simon seems maliciously to adore me and to feel that he belongs to
me.  He was here two days ago and sitting on the floor.  He caught
my leg with both his hands to draw my attention, and said:

'Why have I always got to do what other people tell me?'

'Because they are older and know better.'

'I know better what _I_ want.'

'Yes, but you're not alone on this globe.'

'No, but there's nobody else like me.  Dorothy isn't, nor Gillie,
nor Mother or Father.  You aren't.'

'No.  We're all different.  But we've got to live together.'

'I don't see why.  I can live by myself.'

'No you can't.  You can only do that if you don't love anybody, and
from what I've seen of you you'll love plenty.  The moment you love
anybody you're not alone.'

He laughed.

'People are awfully silly.  They don't know you're watching them,
but you are.'

'Luckily,' I said, 'you're silly too, and people are watching YOU.
We're all bound up together.  Everything we do affects everybody.'

He caught my hand in his rather sticky one.

'You'd better go and wash your hands,' I said.

'You'll always be here, won't you?' he said.  'When you're quite
old I shall come and see you just as I do now.'

'As a matter of fact Mrs. Cromwell and I are going away very soon.
We're going travelling.'

He started away from me like a wild animal.  I felt his urgent
dismay.

'It's all right.  We'll come back again.'

He still didn't say anything.

'You can be fond of someone just as much when he's away as when
he's with you.  More, sometimes.'

'Where are you going to?' he asked.

'Greece perhaps.  Lots of places.'

He sighed with satisfaction.

'You can send me postcards.  Those coloured ones.  They'll have
stamps too, won't they?  Don't send them to the others.  Send them
only to me.'

'All right.  But aren't Dorothy and Gillie to have any?'

'Oh, I suppose so.  But it doesn't really matter.  You don't like
them as you do me.'


The Brennans have given a farewell tea-party for Celia and me.  It
was an odd experience.  I wrote the other day in this book
something about the creative things being the only things that
remain.  It isn't the fearful losses at Passchendaele that now
remain, but the resolve created by those losses that nothing like
that shall ever happen again.  Something just as bad will happen in
the next war, I don't doubt, but it won't be THAT.  I see Hitler's
bogy sort of power and cleverness.  He'll bring tremendous ruin
with him before he finishes.  But it is all destructive.  The idea
of Nazi Germany ruling the world has neither bigness nor spiritual
grandeur enough.  So it must ultimately fall.  Even Napoleon's idea
wasn't big enough.  A St. Francis vision, even a Calvin vision, is
big enough creatively, not a Napoleon, and oh, how much less a
Hitler-Goering-Himmler!

All this big stuff comes down to a little tiny scene, as in The
Dynasts you move from vast planetary systems to the Wessex peasant
ploughing his English soil--to wit, tea-party for us at the
Rectory.

My point is that for me it was a creative moment which will, as
long as I am alive, outlast all the Hitlers.  A creative moment for
me indeed, for it seemed to me that I myself had created everybody
present!  I was, I must confess, radiantly happy.

Such a capacity for happiness have Celia and I!  And yet we
permitted ourselves for weeks most desperate miseries.

She has told me how, when she left the house that night, she was
MAD with unhappiness.  When the car hit the post she remembers
thinking, 'I hope that's killed me,' and, after that, she was
really crazy, feeling that she had lost not only me but all life.
She wanted to die.  She preferred to die.

And when she ran away from the Raglans' she had a knife with her
and meant to kill herself at Sizyn Church, and fell asleep instead!

All incredible nonsense to her as she lay in my arms last night.  A
brainstorm, you call it.  But it wasn't.  It was simply that we
both lost contact.  Not only with one another but the central force
of life--call it God or what you will.  To that, I know now, we
must always hold.  All of us.  Not only because we keep touch with
God, but still more perhaps because we keep touch with one another.
Contact.  Contact.  'Only connect . . .' as some writer keeps
saying somewhere.

The last thing I meant though, here, was to indulge in amateur
metaphysics.  The grandiloquent point I wanted to make was that
everyone at the Brennan tea-party--Dorothy, Gilbert, Simon, Mr. and
Mrs. B., the Lamploughs, silly Fred Ironing, the two old girls
Phyllis Lock and May Vergil--seemed to belong to me, to have been
created by me.  Only Mrs. Mark, who was created by the house I now
own, didn't belong to me.  A phantasy.  I had never seen any of
them.  I had my own idea of them from their voices, their scents,
the things they said.

Dorothy Brennan for instance:  'What I really want now, Mr.
Cromwell, is to learn typewriting.  I must DO something, mustn't
I?'

Gilbert:  'Do you think, Mr. Cromwell, when I go back to school
they'd let someone in Polchester teach me carving?'

Simon:  'I don't want you to go away.'

And I:  'What about the postcards?'

'Well, of course, that's a pity, but I'd rather you stayed and I
didn't have the postcards.'

Mrs. Brennan:  'I'm very happy, Mr. Cromwell, and it's all due to
you.'  (What she meant I haven't the least idea!)

That silly girl, Miss Lock:  'I want to make a confession, Mr.
Cromwell.  It was I--'

But I stopped her.

'No confessions.  I'm a conjurer.  I can make my rabbits tell me
everything.'

I knew she was staring at me and her mouth was open.  Her breath
smelt of peppermint.

'I believe you can, Mr. Cromwell.'

And Miss Vergil:  'When you get to the Island of Thasos, Mr.
Cromwell, you will find an altar to Pan half-way up the hill.
Place some flowers there for me.'

'Certainly, Miss Vergil.'

'My gratitude to you for releasing me from a ridiculous obsession.'

And old Lamplough, taking me by the arm to the window:  'I've told
her everything, Julius.  Not what a mean skinny common informer she
is, but of that night when I was with you and the stars blazed.
You couldn't see them, but you FELT them, and I told her what a
poor pair of mortals we were and that we stayed together simply
because no one else would have us, and that one day the stars would
blaze again and she'd go out like a twopenny dip.

'I told her to read Troilus and Cressida--Shakespeare's version.
The most Elizabethan of all the plays, isn't it?  And to study
Thersites and Pandarus.  To learn even one lesson in horrid
baseness before it was too late.'

'And what did she say?'

'She said she was a virtuous woman, far too good for an old horror
like me.  But I frightened her.  Thanks to you, Julius, she'll
always be a little bit frightened now before she dies.'

'Why to me?'

'Because she thinks you're even better than she is at knowing
what's going on.  She thinks you have unholy powers, Julius.'

And lastly, Brennan himself:  'You know, Cromwell, it's an awful
thing to believe in God and not do a thing about it.  All right if
you don't believe.  But if you do--I've been blind for years--
another kind of blindness from yours.'

I wanted to get away then.  My illusion of grandeur was over.  I
had created nothing.  We were all only half-made.  There's every
kind of thing still to be done.

Sometimes I can frighten people.  Why, I cannot imagine.  On this
occasion it has been useful, for I understand that the loathsome
Douglas Gayner left London yesterday morning for the West Indies.
I was in his company once more for five minutes before he left this
place.  His mother was with him.

'I always knew you could see in the dark,' he said.

He had, so far as I can tell, no redeeming trait except, as his
mother continues to insist, his kindness towards sick animals.  A
fellow-feeling, I suppose.  In a well-organized state, citizens
below a certain standard of morality will be anaesthetized--public
morality, I mean.  And as to that, I'm not sure that I'm not below
it myself.  Given certain conditions and circumstances--enough
hunger of those dependent on me--would I not steal?  The especial
physical attraction, some drink, the certainty of secrecy--might I
not yield?  Enough torture and would I not give even Celia away?  I
think not.  I tell myself no.  But my experiences of the last few
months are not encouraging.  The most astonishing specimen of
humanity known to me is the completely self-assured human--often a
convinced Christian.  Did not Christ Himself cry 'My God, my God,
why . . . ?'

But what I want to put down here is the love of Mrs Gayner.  Simply
to record it so that if a day may once again come when I am false
in my heart to Celia, I may remember what I wrote on this page.
For it was Mrs. Gayner's words that night about her horrible son
that saved me.  For me, as I suppose for most men, there must be an
element of admiration in my love--there must be something for me to
admire.  Not so with the best women.  The more despicable the
object, the more faithful the love.

Listen to Lizzie Gayner as I fill her chair in her room, her cat
upon my knee.

'You could have gone to London to see him off, Lizzie.'

'I didn't wish to, sir.  And I'm glad he's gone.'

'You'll be lonely.'

'As to that, he hasn't been much with me for donkey's years.  And
these last weeks have been something terrible.  Of course he's not
a good son--he's not good in any way--but mothers can't lose the
innocent things their son has done and the trusting things when he
was too small to act for himself.  Not that he ever was beautiful,
even as a baby, and he liked to play tricks on visitors as soon as
he could walk, but he'd always see the cat had her milk, and he
wasn't more than six when he nearly killed another boy for throwing
stones at a dog.  I understand that in these days, sir, they say
that all wickedness is due to something in the brain, or a gland.

'But that doesn't really excuse anything.  Douglas has been bad all
his life and he'll have to pay for it, but I'd share his punishment
if I could, for I brought him into the world and some of it's my
responsibility.'  She added:  'You know that girl Violet that was
here?'

'Of course.'

'She's run away to London with a married man.  Jacob Tinnes at
Caldicote Farm.  His wife's broken-hearted.  They've been together,
happy, with children for twenty years.  Of course there's
wickedness in the world and always will be.  Otherwise there'd be
no fighting.'

I told her we'd be gone in another week.  I hoped she wouldn't be
lonely.

'I've plenty to do,' she said, quite sharply.  'I'm teaching
Oliphant to embroider.'

'Oliphant!' I cried, amazed.

'Yes, he tells me there's nothing he wants to learn as much as
embroider.  But you're not to tell anybody, sir.  He'd die of shame
if anyone was to know.  He was so disappointed when he found you
weren't taking him, and we talked a bit, and at last, very
shamefaced, he asked me whether I could embroider.  So I showed him
that chair in the corner there.  Then it all came out.  He thinks
he has a gift, and I wouldn't wonder.'


In two days we shall be gone.  Mrs. Mark came to say good-bye.  I
told her that of course she could come here whenever she wished.
But she laughed and said she wouldn't dare.

'It's the funniest thing.  You can't go back.  For months I've been
sentimental about this house, but I've begun a new life, and the
two lives don't join.  There isn't, in fact, any of the old life
left.  My mother was the most dominating woman who ever lived, I
adored both my brother and sister.  But I've found there isn't a
fragment of them left.  My sentiment about the rooms, the stairs,
the garden--it's all nonsense.  When I first came here, before I
started a new life in this place, I fancied that I could recover
it.  But all you living people are too vital.  You killed the
ghosts, if there ever were any.  I've got Dorothy Brennan to be
fond of, and my cottage, and there's some rheumatism and a war
coming.  And you'll be back in three months.  No, the present's the
thing.'

But to me, although I didn't tell her so, she's herself something
of a ghost.  We are already passing over into a new country so long
before we cross the border.

And at the top of the stairs in this house, I see her looking down,
a charming girl, watching for her lover.  Her real life now is in
Dorothy, who herself will only realize that years and years later,
when she looks back and understands what once she was given but
didn't know it. . . .


The last night--the last evening.  When, in half an hour's time, I
close this book I leave it in its rather priggish honesty for three
months' seclusion.  I shan't take it with me.

Celia came in, a little frightened.  She had nearly fallen into the
old Italian chest in the hall, looking down into it for some
handkerchiefs, nearly over-balanced and fallen in.  'And then the
lid comes down on you and nobody can find you and you choke and
die.'

She was frightened and I had to console her.  Hadn't all our
trouble been that I had never realized the child she was and is?

I have her now inside my heart to protect and guard.

Meanwhile I learn--can it be with a little shiver of apprehension?--
that I in my turn am to be protected and guarded.  The things that
I am to be shown--by word of mouth!

All beautiful places--the little white ports, the purple seas, the
islands scattered on the glittering waters like water-lilies, the
sun rising, the sun setting!  SHE will be my eyes!

But at least I have learned this lesson of our interdependence.
The lesson that all mankind now must learn.  The twin lessons of
interdependence and charity.  No one of us can move any more--can
sigh or sneeze, cough or whisper--without disturbing the rest of
us.

The Brennans, the old maids, Lizzie's dreadful Douglas, old
Lamplough, my friend Mrs. Mark, Celia and I--unless we have
fellowship together we have nothing.  It seems to me that until we
learn this fellowship--the fellowship, generous and understanding--
of all living men on this earth, made so essential now by our close
quarters, the impossibility of our escape from one another, there
will be no peace.

I must not judge Douglas Gayner, and old Mrs. Lamplough must be
throttled if she spreads her evil mind, and Dorothy and Gilbert and
Simon must be trained, like plants, to grow straight into light and
loveliness, and I must not lose myself in selfish attempts to save
my own soul--and for why?  Because we are all brothers together
under God and are all of us, one with another, our brother's
keeper.

And so I got Celia, as the final word in this house for a month or
two, to get out my beloved-from-a-boy Dream of John Ball, and I
have written down on the opposite page of this Journal these famous
words that I have so long known by heart.  And when I lay the pen
down Celia kneels by me and reads them.  Then I catch her up in my
arms, 'And so to bed--'


Forsooth, brothers, fellowship is heaven, and lack of fellowship is
hell; fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death; and the
deeds that ye do upon the earth, it is for fellowship's sake that
ye do them, and the life that is in it, that shall live on and on
for ever, and each one of you part of it, while many a man's life
upon the earth from the earth shall wane.  Therefore, I bid you not
dwell in hell but in heaven, or while ye must, upon earth, which is
a part of heaven, and forsooth no foul part.



CHAPTER IX

BY THE VILLAGE GREEN--THREE FIGURES--ONE FIGURE


Sunday morning, and the village of Garth in Roselands is as still
and lifeless as the remotest crater of the farthest of the dead
moons.  The sea-mist has writhed its way across the fields, through
the Sunday-morning houses, across the village green, where its
watery web moistens the wings of the limping seagull, now the
pampered, petted mascot of the village.

Three children stand just inside the Rectory gate waiting.  On the
other side of the green, poker-stiff in her neat manly jacket and
skirt, the brass buttons of the waistcoat damped by the mist, the
gaily-coloured fishing fly jaunty in her hat, a lady stands.

A motor-car appears.  The children wave.  It is gone.

Two of the children turn slowly into the house.  But the smallest
of them comes out of the gate and stares down the road.

The lady with the brass buttons on her waistcoat also stands there
staring.



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