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Title:      So Well Remembered (1947)
Author:     James Hilton
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Title:      So Well Remembered (1947)
Author:     James Hilton





PART ONE


That day so well remembered--a day, indeed, impossible to forget--
was the First of September, 1921; on the morning of which George
Boswell--then only Councillor Boswell, then sandy-brown-haired with
not a trace of grey--woke before dawn, looked at his watch, and
promptly slept again till Annie brought in the morning paper, a cup
of tea, and some letters that had just arrived.  Amongst them was a
note from Lord Winslow's secretary, saying that his lordship would
arrive at Browdley Station by the noon train, in good time for the
foundation-stone-laying; and this made George very happy and proud,
because Lord Winslow was not an ordinary kind of lord (a type which
George, never having met any, imagined for himself and then
proceeded to scorn on principle), but a special kind who had not
only devoted a lifetime to public service but had also written
several distinguished books.

At half-past seven George got up, put out his blue serge suit (the
one reserved for big events), and shaved with especial care,
scanning meanwhile the cheerful headlines of the paper propped
against the mirror, and noting with approval, whenever he looked
beyond it, the misty promise of a fine summer day.  By eight he was
at the breakfast-table, eating ham and eggs and exchanging good-
humoured chatter with Annie, the elderly 'help' who looked after
the house and did her best to overfeed him during his wife's
absence; by nine he was at his desk, composing an article for the
Browdley and District Guardian, which he owned and edited.  He did
not write easily as a rule, but this time the phrases came on a
wave of exhilaration, for though he had a few private doubts that
the Treaty of Versailles was all it should be, he was prepared to
give the future the benefit of them, the more so as it was natural
for him to give the future the benefit of anything.  Anyhow by ten
George had composed a suitably optimistic editorial; noon saw him
at the railway station to welcome Lord Winslow; by one o'clock he
had made a short speech at the Town Hall luncheon; and by a quarter
to two he was in his seat on the improvised dais at the corner of
Mill Street, blinking in the sunshine and beaming his satisfaction
to the four winds, one of which, then prevalent, wafted back the
concentrated smell of Browdley's industries.  But George did not
mind that--indeed, it was the remembered perfume of his childhood,
of days spent on the banks of the canal that threaded its way
between factory walls, taking waste water hot from each one, so
that a fog of steam drifted over the surface and spread a low-
hanging reek of oil, chemicals, and machinery.  Waiting on the
platform for the ceremony to begin, George sniffed and was happy.

A great day for Councillor Boswell and for Browdley, and also (one
gathered) for England and for the world.  History, George
reflected, could not have done a better job of dramatization--
August Thirty-First, the Official End of the Great War (some sort
of lawyers' technicality, but it still made good news)--September
First, the Foundation-Stone-Laying of Unit One of the Mill Street
Housing Scheme that was to replace some of Browdley's worst slums.
A great day, indeed.  George, as his glance roved around, was proud
to have the dedicator (a Bishop) on his left, the guest of the
occasion (Lord Winslow) on his right, and various local bigwigs
beyond and behind; but he was proudest of all to see the crowd, and
only wished it as large as it would have been if Browdley folk
weren't such notorious slackers about civic affairs.  He said so
later, when he got up to speak, and was applauded for his
downrightness.  George, in fact, was invariably downright; it was
natural for him, and a quality which, sometimes disconcerting but
always good-humoured, did as well in Browdley as the smooth tongue
of the diplomat, and perhaps better.  There was a legend that when
he had wanted a rich local manufacturer to donate a mansion for use
as a municipal museum, he had said:  "See here, Bob, I'm not ASKING
this--I'm DEMANDING it.  You and your folks have exploited this
town for the best part of a century--if there was any justice you'd
have been hanged long ago.  But as there isn't--let's have that
house."  And he had got it.

Furthermore, George thought, it was a shame that only a few
hundreds, instead of thousands, had turned out to welcome a man
like Lord Winslow--or was it possible they didn't know how
distinguished Lord Winslow really was?  But George's personal
enjoyment of the proceedings was not to be lessened--not even when
the town brass band began to play Sousa rather badly in the shadow
of a large Union Jack hung upside-down--a detail that remained
unnoticed save by a solitary busybody who afterwards wrote a letter
about it which the Guardian did not print.  Altogether the scene
was typical of many a quietly happy English occasion during those
distant years when Englishmen could be quietly happy.

George's face was also typically English (which means, perhaps,
nothing more than that he might have passed, in their respective
countries, for a Dane, a Norwegian, a Swede, a German, or a Norman
Frenchman, but not so easily for an Italian, a Greek, or a
Spaniard); at any rate, he was blue-eyed and ruddy-cheeked, the
mouth expanding into smiles of shy benevolence as greetings came
from the crowd, the chin steady and square, with none of the false
dynamism of the acute angle.  George, at thirty-five, was a good-
looking man, if one cared to call him that, but he seemed to merit
some solider adjective than could be applied equally to youthful
film-actors and tennis-champions; there was a touch of earthiness
in him that matched well with his wide shoulders and strong hands
and genial provincial burr.  It was a quiet, almost a humorous
touch, behind which, in a sort of ambush, there lurked ambitions
and determinations that had already left their mark on Browdley.

This housing development was one of them--a modest triumph (George
called it) of practical idealism over the ninety per cent of apathy
and ten per cent of pure selfishness that comprise idealism's
biggest enemy.  George could justifiably smile as he stared about
him that September afternoon, for this was the first fruit of his
Councillorship and the first post-war improvement in Browdley to
get beyond the talking stage.  Only George knew the struggle it had
been through almost incredible thickets of vested interests and
Government red tape; but here it was at last, something actually
begun after all the argument, and his friends and fellow-citizens
might well give him a cheer.  Even the Mayor, who was among his
strongest political opponents, could not restrain a reluctantly
cordial smile.

George was telling the Bishop that he had been born in one of the
slum houses just demolished--Number Twenty-Four, Mill Street, to be
precise--and the Bishop was chaffing him about not having had it
preserved as a place of historical interest with a mural tablet to
commemorate the great event.  George laughed and said he would have
taken such an idea far more seriously twenty-odd years ago, and
then he confessed that as a small boy he had once read how the
desks at Harrow School were carved with the names of famous men;
and that in order not to disappoint posterity he had carved his own
name on the inside of the privy-door at the end of the backyard of
Number Twenty-Four--not a very romantic substitute for a desk at
Harrow, but the handiest available in his own limited world.

"Ah, dear me," exclaimed the Bishop, who was a Harrovian and a
little shocked at first, but then when he looked at George's face,
so clearly that of a man telling a simple story of something that
had very simply happened, he was won over, as people nearly always
were by George; so he added with a smile:  "Ah, well--a harmless
occupation, I daresay."

George went on without realizing the extent of his conquest:  "Aye,
it was the only place I was ever left alone in those days, because
we were a large family, and a four-roomed house doesn't allow for
much privacy.  Fortunately my father started work at six in the
morning and didn't come home till six at night--I hardly saw him
except on Sundays when he marched us all off to chapel."

"Ah, grand folks, those old Nonconformists," murmured the Bishop,
turning on the magnanimity.

"He was a local preacher too," George continued, pointing suddenly
up Mill Street.  "There's the chapel, and there"--swinging his arm
in the opposite direction--"there's Channing's Mill, where he
worked--"

"CHANNING'S?  Not--er--Channing and Felsby?"

"Aye, that's what it used to be.  You knew of it?"

"I'm afraid so."  The Bishop smiled ruefully.  "I--er--I once had a
few shares in it."

"You were better off than my father, then, because he had a
lifetime in it.  From the age of ten to the day he died--fifty
years, and for half of every year, except on Sundays, he only saw
daylight through the mill windows."

"Ah, terrible--terrible," murmured the Bishop.

George chuckled.  "Maybe, but he didn't feel that way.  I don't
believe it ever occurred to him.  He was quite content all week
looking forward to Sunday."

"When he enjoyed his preaching, no doubt."

"You bet he did, and he was a dab hand at it too.  I've heard him
last a couple of hours, without a note, and fluent all the time."

The Bishop sighed.  "Ah, that's a wonderful thing--to possess the
gift of tongues, so that one never has to think for a word--"

"Maybe that's it," said George.  "It's the thinking that spoils
it."  His eyes twinkled and his voice, as nearly as a voice can,
nudged the Bishop in the ribs.  "Once I remember my father started
off a prayer with 'Oh God, if there be a God'--but he said it in
such a grand booming voice that nobody noticed it any more than he
had."

"Except you," interjected Lord Winslow, who had been overhearing
the conversation from the other side.  George turned, a little
startled at first, and then, seeing a smile on his lordship's face,
smiled back and replied thoughtfully:  "Aye, that's so.  I suppose
I was always a bit of a one for noticing things."

By then the band had finished playing and it was time for George to
open the proceedings.  He did so in a speech that lasted a few
minutes only; one of his virtues, innocently acquired because he
regarded it as a drawback, was that ceremonial oratory did not come
easily to him.  But he had a pleasant voice and a knack of using
simple words as a first-class workman uses tools; his newspaper
editorials were not so good, because he 'polished' them too much.
There was also a hint of the child in him that appeared now in his
unconcealed and quite unconcealable pleasure; he could not help
letting Browdley know how pleased he was, not only with the town
for having elected him one of its councillors, but doubtless also
with himself for having so well merited the honour.  A certain
inward modesty made tolerable, and even attractive, an outward
quality that might have been termed conceit.  And when, having
briefly introduced Lord Winslow, he sat down amidst another gust of
applause, the life of the gathering seemed to centre on his still
beaming countenance rather than on the tall, thin, pallid stranger
who rose to pay him conventional compliments.

Winslow, of course, was a much better speaker by any erudite
standards.  To the acceptable accent of English aristocracy and
officialdom he added an air of slightly bored accomplishment that
often goes with it, and the chiefly working-class audience gave him
respectful attention throughout an address that was considerably
above their heads.  Had he been of their own class they might have
shouted a few ribald interruptions, but they would not do this to a
stranger so clearly of rank; indeed their patient silence implied a
half-affectionate tolerance for 'one of the nobs' who eccentrically
chose to interest himself in Browdley affairs instead of in the far
more glamorous ones they imagined must be his own--the sort of
tolerance that had evoked an audible exclamation of "Poor little
bugger!" from some unknown citizen when, a few years back, a royal
prince had passed through the town on an official tour.  To
Browdley folk, as they looked and listened now, it seemed that Lord
Winslow was all the time thinking of something else (as indeed he
was), but they did not blame him for it; on the contrary, the
cheers when he finished were a friendly concession that he had
doubtless done his best and that it was pretty decent of him to
have bothered to do anything at all.

Then the Bishop prayed, the foundation stone was well and truly
laid, sundry votes of thanks were passed, the band played 'God Save
the King', and the ceremony petered out.  But Councillor Boswell
seemed loth to leave the scene of so much concentrated personal
victory.  He gripped Winslow's arm with proprietary zeal, talking
about his plans for further slum-clearances while from time to time
he introduced various local people who hung around; and finally,
when most had disappeared to their homes and the Bishop had waved a
benign goodbye, George escorted his principal guest to the car that
was to take him back to Browdley Station.  It was not only that he
knew Winslow was important and might at some future date do the
town a service; nor merely that he already liked him, for he found
it easy to like people; the fact was, Winslow was the type that
stirred in George a note of genuine hero-worship--and in spite,
rather than because, of the title.  After all, a man couldn't help
what he inherited, and if he were also a high Government personage
with a string of degrees and academic distinctions after his name,
why hold mere blue blood against him?  It was the truer aristocracy
of intellect that George admired--hence the spell cast over him by
Winslow's scholarly speech, his dome-like forehead, and the absent-
minded professorial manner that George took to be preoccupation
with some abstruse problem.  He had already looked him up in Who's
Who, and during the drive in the car through Browdley streets
humility transformed itself into naïve delight that an Oxford
Doctor of Philosophy had actually accepted an invitation to have
tea at his house.

George was also delighted at the success of his own ruse to side-
track the Mayor and the other councillors and get Winslow on his
own, and most delighted of all, as well as astonished, when Winslow
said:  "Good idea, Boswell--I had been on the point of suggesting
such a thing myself.  My train is not for an hour or so, I
understand."

"That's right, no need to hurry," George replied.  "And there's
later trains for that matter."

Winslow smiled.  "Well, we have time for a cup of tea, anyhow."
And after a pause, as if the personality of George really
interested him:  "So you come of an old Browdley family?"

"As old as we have 'em here, sir, but that's not so old.  My great-
great-grandfather was a farm labourer in Kent, and our branch of
the family moved north when the cotton-mills wanted cheap labour.
I haven't got any famous ancestors, except one who's supposed to
have been transported to Australia for poaching."  He added
regretfully:  "But I could never get any proof of it."

Winslow smiled.  "At any rate, your father lived it down.  He seems
to have been a much respected man in Browdley."

George nodded, pleased by the tribute, but then went on, with that
disconcerting frankness that was (if he had only known it, but then
of course if he had known it, it wouldn't have been) one of his
principal charms:  "Aye, he was much respected, and for twenty
years after he died I went about thinking how much I'd respected
him myself, but then one day when I was afraid of something, it
suddenly occurred to me it was the same feeling I'd had for my
father."

"You mean you DIDN'T respect him?"

"Oh, I did that as well, but where there's fear it doesn't much
matter what goes with it.  There was a lot of fear in our house--
there always is when folks are poor.  Either they're afraid of the
landlord or the policeman or employers or unemployment or having
another mouth to feed or a son getting wed and taking his wage with
him--birth, marriage, and death--it's all summat to worry about.
Even AFTER death, in my father's case, because he was what he
called God-fearing."

Winslow smiled again.  "So you didn't have a very happy childhood?"

"I suppose it wasn't, though at the time I took it as natural.
There was nothing cruel, mind you--only hardships and stern faces."
George then confessed that during the first six years of his life
he was rarely if ever told to do anything without being threatened
with what would happen if he didn't or couldn't; and the fact that
these threats were mostly empty did not prevent the main effect--
which was to give him a first impression of the world as a piece of
adult property in which children were trespassers.  "Only they
weren't prosecuted," he added, with a laugh.  "They were mostly
just yelled at. . . .  D'you know, one of the biggest shocks of my
life was after my parents died and I was sent to live with an uncle
I'd never met before--to find out then that grown-ups could
actually talk to me in a cheerful, casual sort of way, even though
I WAS only a boy!"

"Yes, there must have been a big difference."

"Aye, and I'll tell you what I've often thought the difference
was," George went on, growing bolder and smiling his wide smile.
"Just a matter of a few quid a week.  You see, my father never
earned more than two-pound-ten at the mill, but my uncle had a
little business that brought in about twice that.  Not a fortune--
but enough to keep away some of the fears."

"There's one fear, anyhow, that nobody had in those days," Winslow
commented.  "Wars before 1914 were so far off and so far removed
from his personal life that the average Englishman had only to read
about them in the papers and cheer for his side."

"Not even that if he didn't want to," George replied.  "Take my
father and the Boers, for instance.  Thoroughly approved of them,
he did, especially old Kruger, whom he used to pray for as 'that
great President and the victor of Majuba Hill, which, as Thou
knowest, Lord, is situated near the border of Natal and the
Transvaal Republic. . . .'  He always liked to make sure the Lord
had all the facts."

Despite Winslow's laugh, George checked his flow of reminiscence,
for he had begun to feel he had been led into talking too much
about himself.  Taking advantage, therefore, of a curve in the
street that afforded the view of a large derelict weaving-shed, he
launched into more appropriate chatter about Browdley, its history,
geography, trade conditions, and so on, and how, as Councillor, he
was seeking to alleviate local unemployment.  Winslow began to look
preoccupied during all this, so George eventually stopped talking
altogether as he neared his house--smiling a little to himself,
though.  He suspected that Winslow was already on guard against a
possible solicitation of favours.  "Or else he thinks I'm running
after him because he's a lord," George thought, scornfully amused
at such a plausible error.

The factor George counted on to reveal the error was the room in
which they were both to have tea.  It was not a very large room (in
the small mid-Victorian house adjoining the printing-office in
Market Street), but its four walls, even over the door and under
the windows, were totally covered with books.  One of George's
numerous prides was in having the finest personal library in
Browdley, and probably he had; it was a genuine collection, anyhow,
not an accumulation of sets for the sake of their binding, such as
could be seen in the mansions of rich local manufacturers.
Moreover, George really READ his books--thoroughly and studiously,
often with pencil in hand for note-taking.  Like many men who have
suffered deficiencies in early education, he had more than made up
for them since--except that he had failed to acquire the really
unique thing a good early education can bequeath--the ability to
grow up and forget about it.  George could never forget--neither on
nor off the Education Committee of which he made the best and most
energetic chairman Browdley had ever had.

What he chiefly hoped was that during the interval before Winslow
must catch his train back to London, they might have a serious
intellectual talk--or perhaps the latter would talk, Gamaliel-wise,
while George sat metaphorically at his feet.

Unfortunately the great man failed to pick up the desired cue from
a first sight of the books; indeed, he seemed hardly to notice
them, even when George with an expansive wave of the hand bade him
make himself at home; though there was consolation in reflecting
that Winslow's own library was probably so huge that this one must
appear commonplace.

"Make yourself thoroughly at home, sir," George repeated, with
extra heartiness on account of his disappointment.

"Thank you," answered the other, striding across the room.  He
stood for a few seconds, staring through the back window, then
murmured meditatively:  "H'm--very nice.  Quite a show.  Wonderful
what one can do even in the middle of a town."

George then realized that Winslow must be referring to the small
oblong garden between the house and the wall of the neighbouring
bus-garage.  So he replied quickly:  "Aye, but it's gone a bit to
pieces lately.  Not much in my line, gardening."

"Must compliment you on your roses, anyhow."

"My wife, not me--she's the one for all that if she was here."

"She's away?"

"Aye--on the Continent.  Likes to travel too--all over the place.
But books are more in my line."

"It's certainly been a good season for them."

George wasn't sure what this referred to until Winslow added, still
staring out of the window:  "My wife's another enthusiast--she's
won prizes at our local show."

George still did not think this a promising beginning to an
intellectual conversation, but as Annie was just then bringing in
the tea he said no more about books.  Winslow, however, could not
tear himself away from the spectacle of the roses--which were,
indeed, especially beautiful that year.  "Too bad," he murmured,
"for anyone who loves a garden to miss England just now. . . .  So
you're not keen on foreign holidays, is that it, Boswell?"

"Oh, I wouldn't say no if I had the chance, but I don't suppose I'd
ever be as keen as Livia is.  Anyhow, I've got too much to do in
Browdley to leave the place for months on end."

"MONTHS?  Quite a holiday."

"Aye, but it's not all holiday for her.  She has a job with one of
those travel tours--'Ten Days in Lovely Lucerne'--that kind of
thing.  Pays her expenses and a bit over."

"Convenient."

"For anyone who likes seeing the same sights with different folks
over and over again.  I wouldn't."

"Sort of guide, is she?"

"I reckon so.  She runs the show for 'em, I'll bet.  She's got a
real knack for managing folks when she feels like it."

"I wouldn't say you were entirely without it yourself."

"Ah, but with her it's an art."  George was too genuinely modest to
realize that his own sterling naïveté was just as good a knack,
art, or whatever else it was.  "Maybe you won't believe me, but
when I was a young fellow I was so scared of meeting folks I could
hardly get a word out.  And even now I'm not as happy on a platform
as I am sitting alone in this room with a good book."  He jerked
his head towards the surrounding shelves in another attempt to
steer the conversation, and when Winslow did not immediately reply,
he added more pointedly:  "I expect you're a great reader
yourself?"

"Oh, fairly--when I can find the time."

"Aye, that's the worst of being in public life."  At least they had
THAT bond in common.  "You know, sir, there's only one reason I'd
ever wish to be young again--REALLY young, I mean," he added, as he
saw Winslow smile,--"and that's to have summat I missed years ago--
a right-down good education. . . .  I'll never forget when I
visited Oxford and saw all those lucky lads in the colleges. . . ."
A sincere emotion entered his voice.  "And the professors in their
libraries--I tell you frankly, I . . ."   He saw that Winslow was
still smiling.  "Well, I'll put it this way--there's only one thing
I'd rather be than in politics, and that's one of those university
dons, as they call 'em."

"Yet I doubt if many of them are doing any better work than you are
here--judging by what I've seen today."

George was pleased again, but also slightly shocked by the
comparison; he could not believe that Winslow really meant it, and
he was surprised that such a distinguished man should stoop to mere
flattery.  "Oh, come now, sir, I'll never swallow that.  After all,
think of the books they write--I've got shelves of 'em here--heavy
stuff, I admit, but grand training for the mind."

"Yes, books are all right."  Winslow gave a little sigh.  "Though
it's remarkable how little help they offer in some of the more
curious problems of life."  George was thinking this a rather
strange remark when an even stranger one followed it.  "Look here,
Boswell, I'm going to do something I wasn't sure about before I met
you--partly because I wasn't sure you were the right man, and
partly because even if you were, I couldn't be positive how you'd
take it."

George looked up with a puzzled expression.  There flashed through
his mind the intoxicating possibility that Winslow might be going
to ask his advice about some matter of departmental policy--low-
rent housing, say, or an extension of the school leaving age.

But Winslow continued:  "Quite a coincidence meeting you like this.
Several months ago when I promised to speak at your ceremony today
I hadn't even heard of you--but when quite recently I did, I
decided it might be a good chance to--to approach you--if--if you
seemed the sort of man who might be approachable.  You see, it's a
somewhat unusual and delicate matter, and there aren't any rules of
etiquette to proceed by."

And then there flashed through George's already puzzled mind
another though less welcome possibility--that Winslow was an
emissary of the Government deputed to find out in advance whether
George would accept a title in recognition of his 'public services'
to the town of Browdley.  It was highly unlikely, of course, since
he was a mere town councillor and did not belong to the Government
party, but still, anything could happen when parties and politics
were fluid and Lloyd George was reputed to cast a discerning eye
upon foes as well as friends.  Anyhow, George's reply would be a
straight 'no', because he very simply though a trifle truculently
did not believe in titles.

He saw that Winslow was waiting for a remark, so he called his
thoughts to order and said guardedly:  "I'm afraid I don't quite
catch on so far, but whatever it is, if there's any way I can
help--"

"Thanks, that's very kind of you.  I hope there is.  So if you'll
just let me go ahead and explain . . ."

George nodded, now more puzzled than ever; he could not help
thinking that Winslow was terribly slow in getting to the point,
whatever it was.  Meanwhile the great man had opened up into an
account of a semi-official tour he had lately undertaken to inspect
housing projects, mostly on paper, in some of the Continental
countries.  At this George nodded with enthusiastic comprehension,
and to show that, even without foreign travel, he kept himself well
abreast of such matters, he reached for a book that happened to be
to hand.  "You'll have seen it, I daresay," he interrupted eagerly.
"I got the architect of our local scheme to adopt several of this
fellow's ideas--I've always said we should all pool our post-war
experience--Allies and ex-enemies alike.  Take Vienna, for
instance, where the Socialists are very strong--"

"Yes, yes indeed," Winslow agreed, though with a note in his voice
to check all chatter.  However, he seemed willing enough to take
Vienna, for he continued:  "That was one of the cities I visited
recently.  Apart from business, I had a special reason because my
son Jeff happens to be there too.  He has a job--er--connected with
the Embassy."  He paused and pulled out a small pocket-book; in it
he found a snapshot which he passed to George.  It showed a smiling
young man in ski-costume in company with several pretty girls
against a background panorama of snow-covered mountains.  "Taken at
Kitzbühl," he added.

George had not heard of Kitzbühl, but he knew a fine-looking fellow
when he saw one, and now quite sincerely expressed his admiration.
To reciprocate the intimacy he pointed to one of a number of
photographs on top of a revolving bookcase of encyclopædias.
"Reminds me a bit of the lad just behind you."

Winslow turned to look and confirmed after scrutiny:  "Yes, quite a
resemblance.  Your SON?  I wouldn't have thought you were old
enough--"

"I'm not. . . .  That's one of my brothers--killed on the Somme on
July First, Nineteen-Sixteen.  Fifty thousand killed with him the
same day--according to the records.  Something for folks to
remember when they attack disarmament."

"And THIS?" said Winslow, still seemingly preoccupied with the
photographs.

"That's my wife."

"Ah, yes."

George then felt it was time to relieve his guest of any further
obligation to appear interested in his family, so he returned the
snapshot with the comment:  "Aye, he's a bonny lad--and brainy too,
by the look of him."

"They seemed to think so at Oxford."

"He did well there?"

"Pretty well."

"What did he get?"

"GET?  Oh, a Rowing Blue, and he was also President of the Union--"

"And a good degree?  A First, I suppose?"

"Er . . . yes, I think so."

"DOUBLE First?"

Winslow smiled.  "I believe he took several Firsts in various
subjects, but they don't seem to use the term 'Double First' any
more."

"Gladstone got it."

"Did he?  You seem to know a good deal about these matters,
Boswell. . . ."

"Aye, as an outsider.  Though it was my father who told me about
Gladstone.  I think he was the only man except Bible characters
whom my father really admired. . . .  But go on about your boy."

"Well, as I said, Jeff did pretty well at Oxford till the war cut
into his career.  Then he served in Egypt and got a D.S.O., and
soon after the Armistice he went to France and Germany for
languages, because he was entering the Diplomatic Service and the
usual thing is to get attached for a few years to one of the
embassies or legations.  He's only twenty-five."

"Sounds like a future in front of him."

"That--er--is what I have hoped.  We've always got on excellently
together--good friends, I mean, as well as father and son.  When I
arrived in Vienna recently the first thing he did was to take me
off to some restaurant where we could talk--because I hadn't seen
him for six months, and that's a long time for family gossip to
accumulate."  Winslow began to smile again.  "I thought from the
outset he didn't seem exactly himself--he was preoccupied, somehow,
in the way he behaved and talked--and later I asked if there'd been
any trouble at the Embassy, but he said no, nothing like that.  At
last I got out of him what HAD caused the change."  The smile
became suddenly forced and wan.  "Perfectly natural, you may
think."

"Been worrying about conditions in Austria?  I understand things
are pretty bad, what with the famine and inflation--"

"No--not even all that. . . .  He'd fallen in love."

George chuckled.  "Well, sir, that quite often happens to good-
looking chaps of twenty-five.  The only surprising thing is that it
hadn't happened before."

"Oh, but it had.  That's one of the--er--complications.  He was
engaged to a very charming girl, a neighbour of ours in Berkshire,
but he said he'd already written to her to break it off--on account
of the--er--new attraction."

"I see."  And at this George frowned slightly.  A whiff of
truculence was generated in him as, momentarily, he saw in Winslow
no longer an unworldly scholar but a hidebound aristocrat
conforming to type; for already the probable outlines of the story
seemed clear--a father anxious for his son to make a socially
correct marriage, the son's romance with some pretty but penniless
Austrian girl . . . and George, of course, was all on the side of
the son and the girl, though he would wait to say so till Winslow
had finished.  All he commented now was a blunt:  "Everyone has a
right to change his mind."

"Of course.  It wasn't my place to interfere--provided the
supplanter was all right."

"Not even if you thought she wasn't.  A chap of twenty-five must
choose for himself."

"Yes, in theory, though when--"

"In theory AND in practice, sir.  I don't say a father can't give
advice in these matters, but that's about all he CAN give.  And if
a young fellow makes a mistake, well, it's his mistake, and he
can't blame anyone else.  Haven't we all made mistakes?  And
besides, even if she is a foreigner and recently an enemy--"

"Oh, that wouldn't worry me, and anyhow, she isn't--she's English."

"Then what does worry you?"

"Perhaps I'd better go on with what happened.  Jeff naturally
described her to me in glowing colours and suggested an early
meeting, so we all three dined together the next day, and I must
admit my first impression was favourable--at any rate, she struck
me as both charming and intelligent. . . ."

George was about to pour his guest another cup of tea, but Winslow
made a declining gesture.  "Very kind of you, Boswell, but--but I
really feel in need of something a little stronger--I wonder--if
you--if it isn't too much trouble--if I could have a whisky and
soda?"

At which George could only in his own turn look embarrassed.  "To
tell you the truth I don't have such a thing in the house--you see,
I'm teetotal.  But if you're not feeling well I could send Annie
out for a drop of brandy--"

"Oh, please, no, I'm perfectly well--just tiredness, that's all.  I
really shouldn't have mentioned it.  Of no consequence at all, I
assure you."  What had really been demonstrated was a social
distinction far more revealing than any question of blood or accent--
the fact that Winslow, though he drank sparingly, nevertheless
belonged to the class for whom whisky is as much a household
commonplace as salt or soap; whereas George, though by no means a
bigot, had inherited enough of his father's puritanism to think of
liquor in terms of drunkenness and social problems.

After the gulf had been bridged by renewed apologies on both sides,
Winslow continued:  "To come to the point"--(AT LAST, thought
George)--"I told Jeff afterwards that if they'd both made up their
minds there was nothing much for me to say.  I was just a bit
worried, though, because I gathered it had been a very sudden
affair, and I didn't think he could really know enough about her."

"You mean her family and so on?"

"Partly.  You may think me a snob, but I had to ask myself whether,
as a diplomat's wife, she would have the right background."

"Aye, I suppose that's what counts."  George's voice was severe.

"Yes--though not as much as it used to."

"I'm glad to hear it.  I don't know much about the Diplomatic
Service, but I'm all for democracy in these things.  And since you
have to admit the girl was all right herself--"

"Oh yes, she seemed so.  I could imagine her a good hostess, and
she certainly had intelligence enough to pull wires."

"Do diplomats' wives have to do that?"

"They don't have to, but it can help.  Don't the wives of your
local councillors sometimes do it?"

George grinned.  "Not mine, anyhow.  I could never get her to take
an interest in local affairs at all. . . .  But about your son and
this girl. . . .  So I suppose you consented to the match?"

"I should have done, but for finding out something about her that
was--as I think even you will agree--rather insuperable.  Simply
that she was already married.  The fact came out quite accidentally--
someone I happened to meet in Switzerland on my way home was able
to tell me about her.  She had, it appeared--at least there was no
other conclusion to be drawn--deliberately misled Jeff.  And a
rather pointless deception too--unless of course she was prepared
to commit bigamy."

George pondered a moment.  "Well, you found out in time, that's the
main thing."

"Perhaps not in time, though, to stop him from making an utter fool
of himself."

Winslow paused and seemed suddenly aware of the extent of George's
library, though his ranging glance was hardly one of interest in
it.  At the same moment Annie entered with some letters and was
about to hand them to George, but the latter shook his head and
gestured her to put them on his desk.  Winslow intervened:  "Don't
mind me if there's anything important you ought to attend to."

"They can wait, whatever they are."

"It's good of you to let me take up your time like this."

George was amazed at the humility of such a remark from a man of
Winslow's age and importance.  He could only reply:  "Not at all,
sir.  Besides, you say I can help--though I wouldn't pretend to be
much good at advice about--er--family matters and so on."

"Perhaps because your own family affairs have been happy?"

"Oh, I've had my troubles, same as most folks, I reckon."

"But you've settled them all?"

"I've never had any to settle about a grown-up lad."  And George
added, wryly:  "Worse luck."

"Perhaps that itself makes a sort of trouble?  I mean if--if--of
course I don't know what your--"

"Aye . . . aye . . . but let's get back to YOUR lad.  What's the
mistake he made?  Surely when you told him--"

Winslow leaned forward with his hands pressed down on his knees; he
seemed to be seeking mastery of some strong emotion.  "Forgive me
for not keeping to the point. . . .  Yes, I told him.  We had long
conversations, but only by telephone, unfortunately, because I was
compelled to return to England for an important Government
conference.  That was a further complication--not being in personal
touch with him.  It was very hard to telephone.  Of course if he'd
been his normal self the mere facts would have been enough--he's
always been quick to do the right thing.  But--you see--he's NOT
his normal self any more.  This emotion--love or whatever you call
it--perhaps madness or infatuation's a better word--"

"Doesn't seem to matter much what you call it if it's there."

"I agree--provided one doesn't fall into the error of idealizing.
I'd say, for instance, that I love my own wife, but I can easily
think of things I wouldn't do to please her--things which, even if
she asked me to do them, would destroy the bond between us--like
betraying my friends or my country. . . .  But infatuation's
different--it seems to glory in doing things IN SPITE OF, rather
than BECAUSE OF . . . if you know what I mean."

George made no comment.

"Well, anyhow, the point is, he hasn't dropped her, even though he
knows the truth and she's been forced to admit it.  He's behaving,
in fact, as if he CAN'T drop her.  The last time I talked to him,
which was from Paris, I gathered he'd not only forgiven her for the
deception, but she's made him believe a long story about an unhappy
past and a husband she ran away from because she couldn't stand
him . . . and the upshot of it all is, Jeff's now urging her to get
a divorce so that he can marry her himself."

"What's HER attitude?"

"I only know through him--and of course he's so completely
prejudiced in her favour that it's not much to go by.  But remember
he's quite a catch, even if it does ruin his career."

"And it would?  Because of the scandal?"

"Possibly. . . .  But worst of all, as I see it, is the thing
itself--to put himself at the mercy of someone who has such evident
power to distort and overthrow his judgment . . . JUDGMENT . . .
the most valuable attribute a man of his profession can have . . .
because if he still had any of it left, he'd drop her.  After
all, how could he EXPECT a marriage of that sort to turn out a
success? . . .  It's a sad thing, Boswell, to see a first-class
intelligence functioning like a baby's."

"Why don't you go out and talk to him personally as soon as you
have the time?"

"Yes, I shall do that--I wired him today about it.  But somehow I'm
not sure that I can do much on my own--that last telephone talk was
simply shattering--the most I could get was a promise that he'd
think it over, but he CAN'T think, that's the trouble--he's in a
world utterly beyond logic and argument--you can't prove anything
to him--he just believes this woman's a sort of martyr-heroine and
her husband's an impossible brute and--"

"How do you know he isn't?"

Winslow got up suddenly, walked to the window, then came back and
touched George on the shoulder with a queerly intimate gesture.  "I
didn't know--definitely--until today.  But I'm a bit positive at
this moment. . . ."  And after a second pause, standing in front of
George, he stammered unsurely:  "I hope I haven't been so damned
tactful that you're going to ask me what all this has got to do
with you. . . ."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Then George looked up and saw in a flash what it HAD got to do with
him.

He felt himself growing cold and sick, as if a fist were grasping
him by his insides.  Try as one might, he reflected with queer and
instant detachment, the actual blow of such a revelation must be
sudden; there was no way of leading up that could disperse the
shock over a period; one second one did not know, the next second
one did know; that was all there was to it, so that all Winslow's
delicacy had been in a sense wasted.  He might just as well have
blurted out the truth right at the beginning.

George knew he must say something to acknowledge that Oxford had
managed to convey with subtlety in an hour what Browdley could have
tackled vulgarly in five minutes.  After a long pause, he therefore
spoke the slow Browdley affirmative that, by its tone, could imply
resignation as well as affirmation.

"You mean you DO understand, Boswell?"

"Aye," George repeated.

"I'm terribly sorry--I could think of no other way than to put it
to you--"

"Of course, man, of course."

Winslow gripped George's arm speechlessly, and for several minutes
the two seemed not to know what to say to each other.  Presently
George mumbled:  "Is that--all--you can tell me--about it?  No more
details of any kind?  Not that they'd help much, but still--"

"Honestly, Boswell, I've told you just about everything I know
myself."

"I understand. . . .  But how about the people on the tour whom she
was supposed to be looking after?"

"Maybe she just left them stranded. . . .  It would be crazy and
irresponsible--but no more so than--than--"

"Than anything else.  That's so."

"I admit the whole thing sounds--must sound to you, in fact--well,
if you were to tell me you simply didn't believe a word of it, I'd--"

"Aye, it's a bit of a facer."

"But you DO believe it?"

"Reckon I have to, don't I?  After all, you took a good look at
that photograph. . . ."

"Yes, it's the same.  I knew that at once. . . ."  Winslow's voice
grew almost pathetically eager.  "And you WILL help me, won't you--
now that you know how it is?  What I had in mind was this--if you
agreed--that we go out there together--quite soon--immediately, in
fact--before there can be any open scandal involving him--you see
what I mean?"

"Aye, I see what you mean."

"And you agree?"

To which George retorted with sudden sharpness:  "Why not, for
God's sake?  He may be your son, but she's my wife too.  Don't you
think I'M interested?"

"Of course.  I'm sorry.  I'm afraid I--I--"

"Now, now, don't apologize.  Come to that, we've neither of us much
to apologize for."

"I thought we might leave tomorrow--"

"Aye, if we're going, might as well--"

"Boswell, I can't tell you how much I---"

"None o' that, either, man.  Let's get down to some details.  I'll
need a passport."

And somehow from then on, in spite of what might have been held
more humiliating for George than for Winslow in the situation, it
was nevertheless George who took the leadership, a certain staunch
four-squareness in his make-up easily dominating the other.  They
both belonged to a world in which the accomplishment of any
suddenly urgent task requires the cancelling or postponement of
other less urgent ones; and now, as they eased themselves back into
chairs, there was nothing left but such routine adjustments.
Winslow pulled out a little black notebook and began crossing off
this and that; George reached for a sheet of paper on his desk and
jotted down a few memoranda.  Into the momentary silence there came
the distant chiming of the hour on Browdley church clock, and a
newsboy shouting familiarly but incoherently along Market Street.
GOOD news, perhaps, about the international situation . . . but it
did not seem to matter so much now, so quickly can world affairs be
overshadowed by personal ones in the life of even the most public
man.

Winslow looked up.  "You're optimistic, Boswell?  From your own
knowledge of her--do you feel that--that somehow or other you'll be
able to persuade her to--to--"

George's face was haggard as he replied:  "I wouldn't call my own
knowledge so very reliable--not after this."

"Then perhaps you could talk to my son--try to influence him--"

"Aren't you the one for that?"

"But a new angle, Boswell--YOUR point of view in the matter--he may
not have realized--"

"All right, all right--no good badgering me."  The first shock had
been succeeded by anger--helpless anger, which Winslow's concern
for his own son merely exacerbated.  "I'm damned if I know what
I'll do--YET."

"I'm sorry again."  And the two faced each other, both driven
out of character and somehow aware of it, for it was not like
George to be angry, nor was Winslow accustomed to pleading
and apologizing. Presently an odd smile came over his face.
"Badger . . . BADGER . . ." he repeated.  "It's a long time since
I heard that word, and you'll never guess why it makes me smile."

"Why?"

"My nickname at school--Badger."

Then George smiled too, glad of the momentary side-issue.  "Because
you looked like one or because you did badger people?"

"Both--possibly."

They once called me Apple-Pie George in Browdley, but it sort of
died out."

"Apple-Pie George?"

"Aye . . . because somebody threw some apple-pie in my face during
an election.  The pie stuck but the name didn't."  He laughed and
Winslow laughed, and it was as if one of several barriers between
them was from then on let down.  "Too bad I haven't that drop of
whisky for you," George continued.  "But how about changing your
mind about another cup of tea?"

"Thanks, I will."

George went to the door and shouted down the corridor to Annie,
then came back and began to search a time-table on his desk.  "If
we're both going to start in the morning, maybe you'd like to spend
the night here?"

"That's very kind, but I think I'd better go back to London as I
planned and join you there tomorrow."

"Just as you like.  There's a good train at five-eighteen--that
still gives you an hour, so take it easy."

Winslow seemed now better able to do this, and until the time of
leaving they both relaxed, arranged further details of their
meeting the next day, and talked quite casually on a variety of
subjects--some even verging on the intellectual, though George was
not in the best mood for appreciation.

Then he took Winslow to the train, and only in the final minutes
before its departure did they refer to the personal matter again.
Winslow muttered, leaning out of a first-class compartment:  "I--I
must say it, Boswell--I--I really don't know how to thank you for--
for taking all this in the way you have. . . ."

"What other way was there to take it?"

"I know, I know . . . but it's such an extraordinary situation for
you to have been able to come to terms with."

"Who says I've come to terms with it?"

"Yes, but I mean--when I try to imagine myself in your place--"

"DON'T."  And there was just the ghost of a smile on George's face
to soften the harsh finality of the word.

"All right . . . but I can't help feeling more hopeful already--
thanks to you.  Of course the affair's still incomprehensible to me
in many ways--for instance, to fathom the kind of person who could
do such a thing . . . of course you know her, but then I know Jeff,
and he's not a fool--that's what makes HIS side of it so hard to
understand."

"Oh, maybe not so hard," George replied.  "It's probably what you
said that you couldn't find a name for."

"Infatuation?"

"If you like."  And then, abruptly and without caring for the
awkwardness of time and place, George began to tell something about
Livia that he had never mentioned to anyone before.  Perhaps it was
the atmosphere of a railway station that reminded him, for it had
happened (he said) at the end of their honeymoon when they were to
catch a night train from a seaside place back to London.  They had
spent the last day pottering about the promenade between showers,
and during one of these, while sheltering, they had got into
conversation with a well-dressed and rather distinguished-looking
man of sixty or so.  It was one of those chance acquaintanceships
that flourish amazingly without either background or future
prospects; almost immediately the stranger offered to conduct them
through an adjacent art gallery which, though full of very bad
canvases, gave him the chance to talk so fascinatingly about
paintings that they thought he must belong to that world himself
until later he talked with equal fascination about literature,
music, and politics.  Within an hour they were all chattering
together like old friends, and as evening approached it seemed
perfectly natural to accept the stranger's invitation to dine.  (He
had given them his name and told them he was French, which had
further amazed George because of his completely accentless
English.)  The two newly-weds were presently entertained in a
manner to which they were wholly unaccustomed and which they could
certainly not have afforded--George smilingly declined to break his
temperance pledge, but ate two dozen oysters with gusto while Livia
drank champagne and laughed a great deal.  After dinner it seemed
equally natural that the stranger should drive them back to their
hotel in his car and later take them on to the railway station.
The train was already drawn up at the platform, so the three of
them sat together in an otherwise unoccupied compartment with half
an hour to wait.  Suddenly George discovered the hotel-room key in
his pocket and, excusing himself, walked down the platform to the
station office to arrange for its return.  He wasn't away more than
ten minutes, and when he got back the three resumed their
conversation until the train's departure.

About a year later (George went on), Livia exclaimed suddenly,
during a rather trivial quarrel:  "That Frenchman sized you up all
right--HE said I oughtn't ever to have married you!"  More startled
than angry, George then asked for an explanation.  She wouldn't
give any at first, but on being pressed said that during the few
minutes he had left her alone in the train with the stranger, the
latter had made her an ardent profession of love and had actually
implored her to run off with him.

When George reached this point in the story he commented rather
naïvely:  "I suppose that COULD happen, with a Frenchman, even
though he'd only set eyes on her a few hours before."

"Perhaps in that particular way he was unbalanced."

"No--or at least there wasn't much other evidence of it.  You see,
having once got interested in the man, I'd found out a few things
about him and followed his career.  He'd been married and raised a
family long before his meeting with us, and recently he's become
fairly well known as one of the financial experts to the Peace
Conference.  You'd recognize the name if I told you, but I don't
think that would be quite fair because a few months ago he and his
wife came to London on some official mission, and there were
photographs of them in the papers looking as if they'd both had a
lifetime of happiness."

"Maybe they had."

A sudden commotion of door-banging and engine-whistling drowned
George's reply and caused him to repeat, more loudly:  "I shouldn't
wonder."

"There's one other thing that occurs to me, Boswell, if you'll
forgive my mentioning it--"

"Of course."

"HOW DO YOU KNOW THE INCIDENT REALLY HAPPENED?"

The train began to move and George walked with it for a few
seconds, hastily pondering before he answered:  "Aye. . . .  I can
see what you mean. . . .  Funny--I hadn't ever thought of THAT.
And yet I should have, I know."  His walk accelerated to a scamper;
there was now only time to wave and call out:  "Goodbye . . . see
you tomorrow. . . .  Goodbye. . . ."

When the train had left he stood for a moment as if watching it out
of sight, but actually watching nothing, seeing nothing.  A porter
wheeling a truck along the platform halted and half turned.
"'Night, George."

"Good night," responded George mechanically, then pulled himself
together and walked down the ramp to the station yard.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

He felt he must at all costs avoid the main streets where people
would stop him with congratulations on the success of the day's
events.  There was a footpath skirting the edge of the town that
meant an extra half-mile but led unobtrusively towards the far end
of Market Street.  Nobody went this way at night except lovers
seeking darkness, and darkness alone obscured the ugliness of the
scene--a cindery waste land between town and countryside and
possessing the amenities of neither; it had long been a dream of
his to beautify the whole area with shrubs and lawns, to provide
the youth of Browdley with a more fitting background for its
romance.  But Browdley youth seemed not to care, while those in
Browdley who were no longer youthful objected to the cost.  Perhaps
for the first time in his adult life George now traversed the waste
land without reflecting ruefully upon its continued existence; he
had far more exacting thoughts to assemble, and in truth he hardly
knew where he was.  The day that had begun so well was ending in
trouble whose magnitude he had only just begun to explore, and with
every further step came the deepening of a pain that touched him
physically as well as in every other way, so that he felt sick and
ill as he stumbled along.  He was appalled by the realization that
Livia still had such power to hurt him.

Sombrely he reached his house and, as he entered it, suddenly felt
ALONE.  Which made him think; for he had been just as alone ever
since Livia had left six months before; and if he had not felt it
so much, that proved how hopefully, in his heart, he had looked
upon the separation.  She would come back, he must all along have
secretly believed; or at least the bare possibility had been enough
to encourage his ever-ready optimism about the future.  Night after
night he had entered his empty house, made himself a cup of tea,
spent a last hour with a book or the evening paper, and gone to bed
with the tolerable feeling that anything could be endured provided
it might not last for ever.  There was even a half-ascetic sense in
which he had found tolerable his enforced return to bachelorhood,
and there was certainly a peace of mind that he knew her return
would disturb--yet how welcome that disturbance would be!  And how
insidiously, behind the logic of his thoughts, he had counted on
it! . . .  He was aware of that now, as he entered his house and
felt the alone-ness all-enveloping.  Heavily he climbed the stairs
to his bedroom and began to throw a few necessary articles into a
suitcase.  Even that he did with an extra pang, for it reminded him
of times when Livia had packed for him to attend meetings or
conferences in other parts of the country; she was an expert packer
as well as very particular about his clothes.  And the first thing
she did when he returned was to unpack and repair the ravages of
his own carelessness about such things.  There was that odd streak
of practicality in her, running parallel to other streaks; so that
she not only loved classical music but could repair the gramophone
when something went wrong with it.  And the garden that Winslow had
admired was further evidence; it had been a dumping-ground for
waste paper and old tin cans before she started work on it.  Recent
months without her attention had given the weeds a chance, but
still her hand was in everything, and the roses seemed to have come
into special bloom that week as if expecting her return.  In a sort
of way she had done for that patch of waste land what George
himself had tried to do for Browdley as a whole (yet would never
have bothered to do for his own back garden); but of course she had
done it without any civic sense, and for the simple reason that the
place belonged to her.  George sighed as he thought of that,
recognizing motives that were so strong in her and so absent in
him; but with the sigh came a wave of tolerance, as for someone who
does simple natural things that are the world's curse, doubtless,
but since they cannot be changed, how pointless it is to try.  Yet
the world MUST be changed . . . and so George's mind ran on, facing
an old dilemma as he snapped the locks on his suitcase.  All at
once the house, without Livia in it, became unbearable to him; he
knew he would not sleep that night, and as his train left early in
the morning he might as well not even go to bed; he would take a
walk, a long walk that would tire him physically as well as clarify
some of the problems in his mind.  He went downstairs and put on a
hat, then passed through the partition-doorway that separated the
house from the printing-office.  It was the middle of the week, the
slack time between issues; copy for the next one lay littered on
his desk--mostly local affairs--council meetings, church
activities, births, marriages, and funerals.  Occasionally he wrote
an editorial about some national or international event, and the
one he had composed that morning faced him from the copy-desk as
unfathomably as if someone else had written it in another language.
It read:


"These are times when the clouds of war roll back and THE SUN OF
HUMAN BETTERMENT shines out to be a lamp of memory for the future.
Let us hope, therefore, that AUGUST 31st, NINETEEN HUNDRED AND
TWENTY-ONE, the date selected as that of the official end of the
Great War, will have more than a merely legal significance, that it
will symbolize the actual dying-out of hatreds and bitterness both
at home and abroad.  In this connection it is good news that the
Washington Conference is soon to convene, and that the problem of
world-wide DISARMAMENT will then be tackled in real earnest.  We of
this town, who have just dedicated our first post-war plan for A
BETTER BROWDLEY, can feel especially proud, for our own achievement
makes us part of a mighty movement in which men of goodwill all
over the world are straining to participate."


(A pretty fair example, incidentally, of George's editorial writing--
typical, at any rate, in its use of capitals, in its opening
metaphor that almost gets out of hand, and in its tendency to glib
phrases.  Typical also of George's fondness for linking local and
world affairs into a pleasing dish of optimism.)

And now, reading it over, he had difficulty in gathering what it
was all about.  Disarmament?  DISARMAMENT? . . .  The word echoed
meaninglessly in his mind as he sought, even for a moment, to
concentrate on something non-personal.  What did he know about
disarmament?  And at the form of that question he smiled, because
of the oddest recollection that came to him there and then, as he
crossed the printing-office to the door leading into Market Street.

It was of something that had happened several years before, when he
had just acquired the almost bankrupt Guardian and was full of
visions of the kind of influence a small-town paper could wield,
perhaps even nationally, if its editor were the right sort, and
surely the right sort must be well-educated, which surely in its
turn could mean nothing less than a university degree.  So that had
become one of his numerous ambitions, and since Oxford and
Cambridge were out of the question for a man who had a job to do,
he had concentrated on a near-by provincial foundation of decent
repute that offered degrees by examination only.  It had been a
hard struggle, even so, for he had originally left school at the
age of thirteen, and though the following decade and a half had
contained a good deal of self-education there were many deplorable
gaps.  He could write and speak forcefully, for instance,
but before beginning to study he had scarcely heard of the
technicalities of grammar, he had small knowledge of history, and
none at all of any foreign language.  At the first of the two
necessary examinations he was baffled by the academic atmosphere,
by the courtesy bordering on indifference of the pedagogue in
charge (so unlike the nagging, shouting schoolmasters of his
boyhood days), and he was rather dashed by an English paper which,
though offering the most generous choice of questions, could not
avoid the discovery of so much that he did not know.  To one
question, couched in that very phrase--"What do you know of the
Pathetic Fallacy?"--he had replied, pathetically enough:
"Nothing"; and there were other matters nearly as hopeless.
Leaving the examination hall after that three-hour battle he had
been fairly certain of failure.

But a few weeks later he received a note asking him to appear at
the same place for oral questioning--which, he was cautioned, did
not necessarily imply that he had passed the written tests.  The
coolness of the warning reinforced his pessimism, so that he was in
a thoroughly black mood by the time he faced the ordeal.  A tall,
thin, spectacled man with a dome-like forehead and very precise
clipped speech presided at the interview.  (Ever afterwards he was
the personification of an ideal in George's mind--the pure scholar,
unworldly, incomparable, serenely aloof; so that on meeting Lord
Winslow, for instance, he felt he already knew the type.)

The prototype had talked pleasantly and informally with George's
examination papers before him, and also (though George had not
known this) notes of reminder that the examinee was thirty-one
years old, had had nothing but an elementary-school education, but
was already owner and editor of a local newspaper as well as a town
councillor with reputedly advanced views--altogether a rather
remarkable specimen.  Clearly George both puzzled and attracted
him, though he gave no sign of it; he merely steered the
conversation from one subject to another--which was not difficult,
for George loved to talk.  After half an hour or so the older man
nodded, picked up the examination papers, cleared his throat, and
began rather uncomfortably:  "A pity, Mr. Boswell, that you have
done so badly in one paper--English--that your total marks do not
reach the required minimum."

George's conviction of failure, which had somehow become suspended
during the conversation, now returned with a hard hit to the pit of
the stomach.  "Aye," he said heavily.  "I guessed as much."

"Do you think you will try again, Mr. Boswell?"

"I dunno, sir.  I dunno if I'll have the time to."

"Why not?"

"You see, I'm on the local Council and I run a newspaper--there's a
heap of work in all that--work that I can't cut down on.  If it was
just a question of giving up fun or a hobby I wouldn't mind, but
when it means important things . . ."

"Such as?"

"Well, sir, I doubt if you'd be interested in all the details, but
I'm trying to get a post-war slum-clearance scheme adopted by the
Council, and that's a job, I can tell you--if you knew the sort of
place Browdley is."

"H'm, yes. . . .  I understand.  And I do not dispute the
importance of such work, or the priority you feel you must give to
it.  What does puzzle me--a little--is your motive in entering for
this examination at all.  Did you feel that a university degree
would help you politically--or professionally?"

"No, sir, it isn't that.  But I thought it might help me--sometimes--
inside myself--to feel I was properly educated."

"And what do you mean by 'properly educated'?"

George pondered a moment, then replied:  "I'll put it this way, sir--
sometimes I read a book that seems to me just plain stupid, but
because I'm not properly educated I can't be sure whether IT'S
stupid or whether I'M stupid."

A smile creased over the older man's face as he burrowed afresh
among the papers, finally discovering one and holding it up before
his spectacles.  "H'm . . . h'm. . . .  Such a pity, Mr. Boswell--
such a pity. . . .  Mind you, I didn't mark these English papers
myself, so of course I don't know whether . . ."  And then a long
pause, punctuated by more throat-clearings and spectacle-
fidgetings.  "Take this question, for instance--'What do you know
of the Pathetic Fallacy?'  I see, Mr. Boswell, that your answer is
'Nothing', for which you have been given no marks at all."

George felt it was rather unfair to rub it in; if he had failed, he
had failed; and when (since the examination) he had found out what
the Pathetic Fallacy really was, it had turned out to be so
different from anything he could possibly have guessed that he
thought he had at least done well not to try.  So with this vague
self-justification in mind he now blurted out:  "Well, sir, it was
the truth, anyway.  I did know nothing and I said so."

"Precisely, Mr. Boswell.  I have no reason to suppose that your
answer was not a perfectly correct one to the question as asked,
and if the questioner had wished to judge your answer on any other
merits it seems to me he should have used the formula 'STATE what
you know'--not 'WHAT do you know?'  I shall therefore revise your
rating and give you full marks for that particular question--which,
I think, will just enable you to reach the minimum standard for the
examination. . . .  My congratulations. . . .  I hope you will find
time to work for the final examination next year. . . ."

"Oh yes, sir--yes, INDEED, sir!"

But George hadn't found time, after all, because the year ahead was
the one during which he had met and married Livia.

And what did he know of Livia, for that matter?

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Browdley streets were deserted as he closed the door of the
newspaper office behind him.  From Market Street he turned into
Shawgate, which is Browdley's chief business thoroughfare; he
walked on past all the shops, then through the suburban fringe of
the town--'the best part of Browdley', people sometimes called it.
But the best part of Browdley isn't, and never was, so good.  The
town consists mainly of four-roomed bathroomless houses built in
long parallel rows, dormitories of miners and cotton operatives who
(in George's words to Lord Winslow) had piled up money like muck
for a few local families.  George had not added that his wife
belonged to one of those families, even when the mention of
Channing and Felsby's mill would have given him a cue.  For Livia
was a Channing--one of the Channings of Stoneclough . . . and
suddenly he decided that, since he was trying to kill time by
walking, he would walk to Stoneclough.  It was even appropriate
that he should take there his problem, his distress, and that
brooding sub-current of anger.

Presently his walk quickened and his head lifted as if to meet a
challenge; and in this new mood he reached the top of a small rise
from which Browdley could be seen more magically at night than ever
in the daytime; for at night, especially under a moon, the observer
might be unaware that those glinting windows were factories and not
palaces, and that the shimmer beneath them was no fabled stream,
but a stagnant, stinking canal.  Yet to George, who had known all
this since childhood, there were still fables and palaces in
Browdley, palaces he would build and fables he would never
surrender; and as he walked to Stoneclough that night and looked
back on the roofs of the town, he had a renewal of faith that
certain things were on his side.

The trouble with Livia, he told himself for the fiftieth time, was
that there was no REASON in so many things that she did; or WAS
there a reason this time--the reason he had been reluctant to face?

He climbed steadily along the upland road; it was past one in the
morning when he came within sight of Stoneclough.  The foothills of
the Pennines begin there; there is a river also, the same one that
flows dirty and sluggish through Browdley, but clean and swift in
its fall from the moorland, where it cuts a steep fissure called a
'clough', and in so doing gives the place a name and provides
Browdley citizens with a near-by excursion and picnic-ground.  The
first cotton mills, driven from a water-wheel, were set up in such
places towards the end of the eighteenth century, and one of them
belonged to a certain John Channing of whom little is known save
that he died rich in the year of Waterloo.  The shell of the old
greystone mill that made his fortune still stands astride the
tumbling stream; but the rows of hovels in which the workpeople
lived have long since disappeared, though there are traces of them
on neighbouring slopes, where sheep huddle in rain against weed-
grown fireplaces.

Gone too is the first Channing house that adjoined the mill; it was
demolished about the time of Queen Victoria's accession, when the
Channing family, by then not only rich but numerous, built a new
and much more pretentious house on higher ground where the clough
meets the moorland.  About this time also it became clear that
steam would oust water-power in the cotton industry, and with this
in their shrewd minds the Channings took another plunge; live miles
away, on meadows near what was then the small village of Browdley,
and in partnership with another mill-owner named Felsby, they built
one of the first large steam-driven mills in Lancashire.  Other
speculators obligingly built Mill Street for the new workers to
live in, and the same process, repeated during succeeding decades
with other mills and other streets, made Browdley what it is and
what it shouldn't be--as George said (and then waited for the
cheer) in his popular lecture 'Browdley Past and Present',
delivered fairly frequently to local literary, antiquarian, and
similar societies.  Yes, there was one question at any rate to
which he could return a convincing answer--"What do you know of
Browdley?"--and that answer might well be:  "More than anyone else
in the world."

Suddenly George saw the house--the house which, like the locality,
was called Stoneclough.  It showed wanly in the moonlight against
the background of moorland and foreground of tree-tops.  The moon
was flattering to it, softening its heavy Victorian stolidity,
concealing the grim undershadow that Browdley's smoke had
contributed in the course of half a century of west winds.  This
was the house the Channings had lived in, the Channings of
Stoneclough.  A succession of Channings had travelled the five
miles between Stoneclough and the Browdley mill on foot, on
horseback, by pony carriage and landau, by bicycle and motor-cycle
and car, according to taste and period; and the same succession had
added to the house a hodge-podge of excrescences and outbuildings
that had nothing in common save evidence of the prevalent Channing
trait throughout several generations; one of them might construct a
billiard-room, another remodel the stables, yet another add
terraces to the garden or a bow-window to the drawing-room--but
whatever was done at all was done conscientiously, always with the
best materials, and with a rooted assumption of permanence in the
scheme of things.

George saw Stoneclough as a symbol of that assumption, and--because
the house was now empty and derelict--as a hint that such
permanence would have received its virtual death-blow in 1914, even
apart from the special fate of the Channings.  Only the gardens had
any surviving life, the shrubs growing together till they made an
almost unbroken thicket around the house, the fences down so that
any straggler from the clough could enter the once-sacred precincts
out of curiosity or to gather fuel for a picnic fire.  All the
windows were broken or boarded up; everything loot-able from the
interior had long ago been looted.  Yet the fabric of the house
still stood, too massive to have suffered, and in moonlight and
from a distance almost beautiful.  George wondered, not for the
first time, what could be done with such a property.  No one would
buy it; no one who could afford repairs and taxes would want to
live there or anywhere near Browdley, for that matter.  Once or
twice he had thought of suggesting that the Council take it over
for conversion into a municipal rest-home, sanatorium, or something
of the kind--but then he had cautioned himself not to give his
opponents the chance for another jibe--that he had made Browdley
buy his wife's birthplace.

He did not walk up to the house, but turned back where the road
began its last steep ascent; here, for a space of a few acres, were
the older relics--the original Channing Mill, the broken walls of
cottages that had not been lived in for a hundred years.  George
never saw them without reflecting on the iniquity of that early
industrial age--eight-year-old children slaving at machines for
fourteen hours out of the twenty-four, sunlight falling on the tree-
tops in the clough as later on rubber forests of the Congo and the
Amazon.  Thus had the first Channings flourished; and it might be
Nemesis, of a kind, that had given their grand house to the bats
and the rats.  But its quality showed even in ruin; it was a
substantial ruin.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

By four o'clock George was back in Browdley, tired and a little
footsore.  As he turned into Market Street and fished in his pocket
for the door-key there came a voice from the pavement near his
house:  "'Ow do, George.  Nice night--but I'd rather be in bed all
the same."

"Aye," answered George mechanically.  Then, recognizing the
policeman on his beat, a friendly fellow always ready with a joke
and (at election times) with a vote, George pulled himself together
and made the necessary response:  "How do, Tom?"

"Fine, thanks--bar a touch of rheumatics. . . .  I was at the stone-
layin'.  It's bin a grand day for ye, and I wouldn't say ye don't
deserve it."

"Thanks, Tom."

"Ye've worked for it hard enough.  I can remember when ye used to
swear ye'd have those Mill Street houses pulled down, and folks'd
laugh at ye then, but I'll bet they can see it's no joke now.  Aye,
ye've made a grand start.  How long d'you reckon the whole job'll
take?"

"Years," George answered (but he would have been shocked if he
could have been told how many).  His voice was rather grim, and he
did not amplify as he usually did when anyone encouraged him to
discuss his plans.  Tom noticed this and muttered sympathetically:
"Well, I'll be gettin' along--mustn't keep you talkin' this
hour. . . .  'Night, George--or rather, good mornin'."

George fumbled the key in the lock and re-entered his house.  He
felt, as he had hoped, exhausted, but not, as he had also hoped,
insensitive to the alone-ness.  It flew at him now like a wild
thing as he strode along the lobby and heard, in imagination,
Livia's call from upstairs that had so often greeted him when he
came home late from meetings--"That you, George?"  Who else did she
expect it to be, he would ask her waggishly, and feel sorry that
she was such a light sleeper, since his meetings were so often late
and the late meetings so frequent. . . .

He went to the kitchen and made himself a cup of tea, sitting there
at the small scrubbed table till dawn showed grey through the
windows; then he went to the room with the books in it which he
called his 'study'.  The time-table lay open on the desk, reminding
him of the impending journey for which his tiredness now gave him
even physical distaste; and next to the time-table was the small
pile of letters that Annie had brought in during the interview with
Winslow.  George glanced through them idly, and with equal
distaste.  Suddenly then his glance changed to a gaze and his gaze
to a stare, for the writing on one of the envelopes was Livia's and
the postmark was Vienna.

He read it through, and through again, stumbling to his armchair
with the alone-ness all around him as he faced the issue.  Time
passed in a curious vacuum of sensation; he did not realize it was
so long until he saw the sunlight brightly shining, glinting
already on the gilt titles of his books.  Then he crossed the room
to his desk and reached for pen and paper.

He wrote out a wire first of all:  "Regret must cancel Vienna trip
for reasons will explain fully in letter."

Then he wrote the letter without pause as follows:


"DEAR LORD WINSLOW--By now you will have got my wire, and are
probably surprised by my change of mind.  The reason for it is
simply that I have just read a letter from my wife.  It came
yesterday--actually while you and I were discussing things.  I put
it aside with other letters and only noticed it an hour ago.
Though short, it is a very frank letter, and in view of what it
says there seems little that I can do now--except what Livia asks.
I do not pretend to understand how these things happen, and why,
but I have to take into account her age, which was not much more
than half mine when I married her, so that if it was a mistake, I'd
blame myself more than her.  Anyhow, it would be unjust and stupid
to expect her to cling to it for the rest of her life.  Maybe she
is old enough now to know what she really does want, and if your
son is also, I won't stand in their way--no, I CAN'T--neither on
moral grounds nor for social and professional reasons such as you
might have.  So there's nothing I could do in Vienna except make
the whole thing more troublesome for all concerned.  Please excuse
what may strike you as a hasty reconsideration and perhaps even the
breaking of a promise, but I've already thought it all over as much
as a thing like this can be thought over.  As for what I feel, that
matters to no one except myself, but I would like to say how deeply
I appreciate the way you approached me yesterday.  No one could
have been kinder and I shall never forget it.--Yours sincerely,
GEO. BOSWELL."


George always signed himself 'Geo.' in important or official
letters because that was how Will Spivey set up his business letter-
heads--'Geo. Boswell, Printer and Bookbinder'.  And under that, in
smaller type:  'Proprietor of the Guardian Press, Market Street,
Browdley'.  And under that, in even smaller type:  'Estimates Free.
Good Work Guaranteed.'

               *     *     *     *     *     *

About seven o'clock he went to the corner, posted the letter, and
re-entered his house to find that Annie had returned from spending
a night with her mother across the town and had already noticed his
bag half packed on the bed upstairs.  "ANOTHER conference?" she
exclaimed.  "Why, it's only last week-end you was away at the last
one. . . ."

"It's cancelled," George answered.  "I'm not going after all."

"Then I'll unpack your things and have breakfast ready in a jiffy."

George was suddenly aware that he had none of his usual healthy
early-morning appetite, but she was in the kitchen before he could
say so, and by the time he followed her there he had decided he
might as well say everything else that had to be said and get it
over.

He stood in the kitchen doorway wondering how to make it sound not
too dramatic, yet not so commonplace that she would miss the full
significance.  He began:  "By the way, I've had news of Livia."
(He always called her 'Livia' to Annie.)

"You have? . . .  Well, that's nice.  Did she say when she was
coming home?"

That was a good opening.  "I'm--er--afraid she's--she's NOT coming
home."

"WHAT?"  Annie swung round in consternation as she interpreted the
remark in the only way that occurred to her.  "Oh, my goodness,
she's not--she's not--you don't mean--"  And then a flood of tears.

It was quite a minute before George realized what was in Annie's
mind.  Then he had to comfort her and meanwhile explain matters
more specifically.  "Good heavens, no--she's all right--she's quite
well--nothing at all's happened to her.  She's just not coming
home. . . .  She's decided to--to leave me.  It does happen
sometimes--that people don't hit it off altogether. . . .  I just
wanted you to know, so that you can get her clothes in order--I
expect she'll be sending for them soon.  No need to talk about it
in the town yet, though of course people will have to know sooner
or later."  (And no need, yet, to tell even Annie the other
details.)

Annie, having been heart-broken, now became furious.  She belonged
to a world in which women do not leave their husbands, but regard
themselves as lucky to get and keep any man who does not drink,
gamble, or beat them.  And George not only possessed these negative
virtues, but others to which Annie had for years accorded
increasing admiration.  She really believed him to be a great man,
and for a wife to be dissatisfied with such a paragon seemed to her
incomprehensible as well as shocking.  She had never liked Livia as
much as George, and that made her now feel that she had never liked
Livia at all.  "She's a bad lot," she whimpered scornfully.  "And
it's all you could expect from where she comes from."

"Nay . . . nay . . ." said George pacifyingly.  "She's all right,
in her own way.  And maybe I'm all right in mine."

"I never really took to her," Annie continued.  "And I'm not the
only one. . . .  There was something queer about her, or folks
wouldn't have talked the way they did about her father's death and
what she had to do with it--because there's never no smoke without
fire--"

"Oh yes, there is, often enough," George interrupted sharply.

"Well, anyhow, there was something queer about Stoneclough
altogether--what with ghosts and drownings and everything--and I'm
sorry if I've let out something I wasn't supposed to. . . ."

She was on the point of weeping again, so George made haste to
reassure her.  "Oh, that's all right, Annie.  I don't think you
could tell me much that I didn't hear at the time.  But it was all
gossip--not worth repeating now or even remembering--that's the way
I look at it.  I doubt if we'll ever know the whole truth about
what really happened."  He found something he could force a smile
at.  "And as for the ghosts--why, that's only an old yarn--a sort
of local legend. . . .  I heard it long before Livia was born. . . ."



PART TWO


Livia had first heard it from Sarah (combined cook, nurse, and
housekeeper to the Channing family for half a century); it was the
story of three girls who had lived about a hundred years ago in the
cottages in the clough.  They had been little girls, not more than
nine or ten, and in those days children of that age went to work at
the Channing Mill (the original one that straddles the stream where
the water-wheel used to be); and what was more, they had to get up
in the dark of early morning to be at their machines by half-past
five.  Because they were always so sleepy at that hour the three
had an arrangement among themselves that while they hurried from
their homes they should link arms together, so that only the middle
girl need keep awake; the two others could then run with eyes
closed, half sleeping for those few extra minutes.  They took it in
turns, of course, to be the unlucky one.  But one winter's morning
the middle girl was so sleepy herself that she couldn't help
closing her eyes too, with the result that all ran over the edge of
the path into the river and were drowned.  And so (according to
legend--the story itself might well have been true) the ghosts of
the three are sometimes to be seen after dark in the clough,
scampering with linked arms along the path towards the old mill.

Sarah told this to Livia by way of warning to the child never to
stray out of the garden into the clough, for it was always dark
there under the trees, and also, added Sarah, improving the legend
to suit the occasion, the ghosts were really liable to be seen at
any time of the day or night.  But that made Livia all the more
eager to stray.  She was an only child, without playmates, and it
would surely be breathlessly exciting to meet three possible
playmates all at once, even if they were only ghosts.  She was not
afraid of ghosts.  In fact she was not then, or ever, afraid of
anything, but she had a precocious aversion to being bored, and it
WAS boring to sit in the Stoneclough drawing-room with her nose
pressed to the window-pane, staring beyond the shrubs of the garden
to that downward distance whence she believed her father, in some
mysterious way, would return, since that was the way Sarah said he
had gone.

One grey October afternoon she managed to elude Sarah and escape
from the house.  There was a wet mist over the moorland; the shrubs
of the garden dripped noisily as she ran among them and through the
gate into the forbidden clough.  She ran on, under the drenched
trees, keeping watch for the ghosts, and presently the moisture
that had been mist higher up turned to heavy rain; then she grew
tired and cold, and--though still not in the least afraid--
considerably disheartened by not meeting anyone.  At last she came
to the road to Browdley, though she did not recognize it, never
having been walked so far by Sarah or her mother; but as she stared
round, a horse and carriage came along which she did recognize.
The horse was William, and Watson was driving, and inside the
carriage, calling to her from the window, was her mother.

So she was promptly rescued and made to sit on the familiar black
cushions through which the ends of hairs stuck out and pricked her
legs.  It was an unfortunate encounter, for it doubtless meant that
her mother would tell Sarah and Sarah would be cross (which Livia
did not fear, but it was tiresome to anticipate), and worst of all,
she would be watched henceforward more carefully than ever.  So she
made a quick and, for a child, a rather remarkable decision; she
would say she had met the three little girls--the ghostly ones--in
the clough, and had run after them because they beckoned her.  That
could serve, at worst, as an excuse; at best, it might completely
divert attention from her own misdeed.  Yet as she began, a moment
later, she was curiously aware that her mother was showing little
interest in the story; nor did she seem angry, or startled, or
impressed, or any of the other things that Livia, aged four, had
ideas but no words for.  Her mother merely said:  "Livia, you're
wet through--you must have a bath and change all your clothes as
soon as you get home."

Nor later on was there any crossness even from Sarah, but instead a
strange unhappy vagueness, as if she were thinking of something
else all the time.  When Livia retold her yarn, Sarah answered
disappointingly:  "It's only a story, Livia, you mustn't really
believe it.  There aren't any such things as ghosts."

"Isn't there the Holy Ghost?" Livia asked, remembering religious
instruction imparted by Miss Fortescue, who came to the house every
week-day morning, and seemed already to Livia the repository of
everything knowable that one did not particularly want to know.

"That's different. . . .  Go to sleep now."

Not till the following morning was Livia told that her father was
dead; and this was not true.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

She had been a baby at the time of her father's trial and sentence,
so that the problem of how much to tell her, and how to explain his
absence or her mother's distress, had not immediately arisen.  The
year had been the last one of the nineteenth century or the first
of the twentieth (according to taste and argument); events in South
Africa had gone badly, and men were being recruited for the least
romantic, though by its supporters and contemporaries the most
romanticized, of all England's wars.  Emily Channing, who was a
romanticist about that and everything else, concocted a dream in
which her husband obtained his release to enlist, and eventually,
on kop or veldt, 'made good' by some extraordinary act of gallantry
which would earn him the King's pardon and possibly a V.C. as well.
It was an absurd idea, for British justice is unsentimental to the
point of irony, preferring to keep the criminal fed, clothed, and
housed in perfect safety at the country's expense, while the non-
criminals risk and lose their lives on foreign fields.  Channing
knew this, and was not in the least surprised when the appeal his
wife had persuaded him to make was turned down.  But Emily was
heartbroken, the more so as she had already told Livia that her
father was 'at the war'.  It was a simple explanation in tune with
the spirit of the times; Emily had found no difficulty in giving
it, but Livia was really too young to know what or where 'the war'
was, and only gradually absorbed her father's absence into a
private imagery of her own.

A couple of years later, however, the South African War was
history, and there came that grey October day in 1903 when even a
prison-interview between husband and wife could not avoid
discussion of the matter.  For John Channing, after several years
to think things over, was in a somewhat changed mood.  Till then
Emily and he had always comforted each other with talk of her
waiting for him and the ultimate joys of reunion; but now, during
the half-hour that was all they were allowed once a month, he
suddenly told her they must both face facts.  And the facts, he
pointed out, were that with the utmost remission of sentence for
good conduct he would not be released until 1913, by which time he
would be fifty, she would be thirty-eight, and Livia fourteen.

But Emily (as before remarked) was a romanticist, and the interview
was distressing in a way that no earlier one had been.  Sincerely
loving her husband, she could accept only two attitudes as proof of
his continued love for her: that he should, as heretofore, expect
her to wait for him, or that he should melodramatically beg her to
'try to forget' him.  And now, in this changed mood, he was doing
neither.  He was merely advising her that she should live her life
realistically, feel free to make any association elsewhere that
might at any time promise happiness, and forget him without feeling
guilty if that should seem the easiest thing to do.  If, on the
other hand, this did not happen, and at the end of the long
interval they both felt they could resume their lives together,
then that would clearly be an experiment to be attempted.  As for
Livia, the suggestion he made was equally realistic--that the child
should be told the plain truth as soon as she was old enough to
understand it.  "Why not?  You certainly won't be able to carry on
with the war story now that there isn't a war."

"I could tell her you were abroad," Emily suggested, "doing some
important work.  Or I could say you were an explorer. . . .  And
perhaps there WILL be another war somewhere soon."

John Channing smiled--and his smile, Emily felt, was also different
from usual.  It was a slanting, uncomfortable smile, and it lasted
a long time before he answered:  "No, Emily--just tell her the
truth.  Of course you'll have to be judge of the right moment, but
there's really no way out of telling her, once she begins to have
school friends.  And it would be far better for her to learn the
facts from you than to pick them up in garbled scraps from other
children."

"I shall tell her you're innocent, of course."

The smile recurred.  "Oh no, NO, Emily--don't ever do that.  First,
because I'm not, and second, because it would give her a grudge to
go through life with--the worst possible thing for a youngster.
Say that I'm guilty of what I'm here for, but you can add, if you
like, that I'm not personally a vile character. . . .  That is, if
you agree that I'm not."

"Wouldn't that be very hard for her to understand at her age?"

"At any age, Emily.  Sometimes even I find it hard to grasp.  But
I'd rather have her puzzled about me than indignant on my behalf."

But Emily, distressed as she was, nevertheless declined to accept
that alternative herself.  To be puzzled was the one thing she
abhorred, and to avoid it she could almost always discover a
romantic formula.  That accounted for her mood when, towards
twilight as she returned home after the interview, she saw Livia
wandering in the road below the clough; it was why she failed to
scold her, or to listen to her prattle about ghosts; and it was
why, next morning, after long consultations with Sarah and Miss
Fortescue, she told Livia the only possible romantic lie about her
father except that he was innocent; and that was, that he was dead.
He had been killed, she said, in South Africa, and the war for
which he had given his life had ended in victory.  Emily found it
possible to say all this convincingly, with genuine tears, and
without going into awkward details.  Doubtless in a few years (she
reckoned) the truth would have to come out, but when it did it
might even seem relatively GOOD news to a child of maturer
intelligence; while for the time being it surely could not upset
Livia too much to think that a father whom she did not remember had
died a hero.  Pride more than grief seemed the likely emotion.

Livia felt neither, however, so much as a queer kind of relief.
She wept easily when her mother wept, for much the same reason that
she made imitative noises when the dog barked or the cat mewed; but
she had stared out of the drawing-room window with such protracted
hopes of her father's return that it was almost pleasanter not to
have to expect him any more.  Instead, she promptly added a new
legend to that of the three little girls whose ghosts were supposed
to haunt the neighbourhood.  She persisted in telling people (the
people at Stoneclough, for she never met anyone else) that she
often saw her father's ghost in the clough, smoking and walking
slowly and looking at the trees.  She was so circumstantial in
describing all this that Miss Fortescue grew nervous about driving
to Browdley after dark, though there were several flaws in Livia's
story when Miss Fortescue analysed it.  For instance, how could
Livia, who did not remember her father, even pretend to recognize
his ghost?  And then, too, the detail about the smoking.  Not only
had John Channing been a non-smoker, but Miss Fortescue was also
sure that ghosts could not smoke.  Livia, however, replied stoutly:
"My daddy's ghost DOES."

Which presented a problem that Emily, Miss Fortescue, Sarah, Dr.
Whiteside (the family physician), and a few others were wholly
unable to evaluate, much less to solve.  Could it be that the
child, in addition to BELIEVING a lie (which was only right and
proper, in the circumstances), was also capable of TELLING one?
Miss Fortescue thought not, again adducing the 'smoking' detail.
If Livia had uttered a falsehood with deliberate intent to deceive,
surely she would not have invented such an incongruity; therefore,
did it not prove that she was speaking what at least she regarded
as the truth?

In fact, it was neither a lie nor the truth, but some halfway
vision in a child's-eye view of the world, a vision that could
start as easily from a lie deliberately told, and as easily end by
sincerely believing it.  Those three children, for instance; Livia
had undoubtedly lied in claiming to have seen them, but later her
fancy convinced her that she DID see them, more than once; and this
made her forget that she had lied in the first place.  Nor was it
ever a conscious lie that she saw her father, for by that time the
clough was a place where she could see anything and anybody.  The
high trees arching over the stream as it tumbled from the moorland,
the ruins of the old cottages where grass grew through the cracks
of the hearthstones, the winding path leading down from the
Stoneclough garden to the road--these were the limits of a world
that did not exist elsewhere save in Grimm and Hans Andersen and
the Tanglewood Tales--a world as young as the children who lived in
it and the belief that alone made it real.

And in the other world, meanwhile, she continued to learn
Mathematics, Spelling, Geography, History and 'Scripture' from Miss
Fortescue, who was everlastingly thrilled by the secret that could
not yet be told and by her own forbearance in not telling it; she
also understood children just enough to feel quite certain that she
understood Livia completely, which she never did.  Old Sarah, who
professed no subtleties, came much closer when she remarked,
leaning over the child's first attempts at arithmetic--"Queer stuff
they put into your head, Livia--no wonder you see ghosts after it."
And it was Sarah who saw nothing queer at all in Livia's question,
when Miss Fortescue had informed her that Ben Nevis was the highest
mountain in the United Kingdom:  "Please, Miss Fortescue, what's
the LOWEST?"

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Another war did begin, as Emily had envisaged (but it was between
Russia and Japan, and so not one in which an English household had
to take sides); meanwhile Livia passed her sixth birthday;
meanwhile also the cotton trade boomed and then slumped.  This
would have mattered more at Stoneclough had not Emily possessed a
little money of her own; indeed, it was a subject of bitter comment
throughout Browdley, where hundreds had been ruined as a result of
the Channing crash, that the family responsible for it seemed to be
flourishing just as formerly.  But this was not quite accurate.
Browdley did not realize how much had been abandoned--the town
house in London, the holidays at Marienbad, the platoon of
servants; and while to Browdley life at Stoneclough was itself a
luxury, to Emily it was an economy enforced by the fact that the
house was of a size and style that made it practically unsaleable,
and thus cheaper to stay in than to give up.  So they stayed--she
and Livia and Miss Fortescue and Watson the gardener-coachman-
handyman (a truly skeleton staff for such an establishment); and
the blacker the looks of Browdley people, as trade worsened and
times became harder, the more advantageous it seemed that
Stoneclough was so remote although so close--a moorland fastness
that no one from the town need approach save in the mood and on the
occasions of holidays.  All of which, in its own way, conditioned
Livia's childhood.  Sundays in summer-time were the days when she
must, above all things, remain within the half-mile of garden
fence; week-days in winter-time permitted her the greatest amount
of freedom.  It was easy, by this means, to keep her ignorant of
everything except Miss Fortescue's teachings and a general
impression that all nature was kind and all humanity to be avoided.

And Emily, who liked to put things off anyway, kept putting off the
time for correcting all this.  "Next year perhaps," she would say,
whenever Dr. Whiteside mentioned the matter.  He was an old man who
had brought both Livia and Livia's father into the world; he did
not greatly care for Emily and doubted the wisdom of most things
that she did.  "It's time the child went to school and mixed with
people," he kept urging.  "Why don't you tell her the truth and get
it over?  You'll have her self-centred and neurotic if she stays
here seeing nobody but you and Sarah and Miss Fortescue. . . .
What does John think about it?"

"He left it to me to tell her when I think the moment is right,"
replied Emily, with strained accuracy.  "She's only eight,
remember."

But it was just the same when Emily was able to say "She's only
nine" and "She's only ten".  And by that time also another thing
had happened.  John had been transferred to a prison in the south
of England, and Emily no longer saw him every month.  After all, it
was a long journey just for the sake of one short interview, and it
was possible also to wonder what good it did, either to him or her;
letters were much easier.

Not that Emily was a hard-hearted woman--far from it.  She had no
bitterness against her husband for either the crash or the crime,
or even against the country for having jailed him; she had no
conviction that he deserved his punishment--nor, on the other hand,
that he had been monstrously over-punished.  The whole situation
was one she could no longer come to terms with at all, since it had
passed the stage of romantic interpretation.  She was still able to
weep whenever she thought of him, but equally able to go without
thinking of him for long periods, and the idea of raking the whole
thing up by telling Livia was not only distasteful, but something
she was a little scared of.  Already she was aware of something in
Livia--character or personality or whatever one called it--that
outclassed her own.  For one thing, Livia had no fear--of ghosts,
or being alone, or anything else.  And also she would sometimes
make scenes--curious, nerve-racking scenes that made Emily feel
peculiarly helpless.  Perhaps Dr. Whiteside was right and the child
WAS neurotic--but would the knowledge that her father was in prison
make her any less so?  It was easy to think not.

Nor was it clear that Livia would be made happier by school, for in
addition to hating the idea of it, the child also seemed perfectly
happy at Stoneclough.  She had far more freedom than children have
in many homes; she could play with dogs, cats, chickens, tame
rabbits, and William the horse; she liked and was permitted to make
cooking experiments in the kitchen and planting experiments in the
garden; she could walk endlessly over near-by moorland and through
the clough on week-days; she could read library books sent up from
Mudie's in London, and there was that new invention, the
phonograph, to amuse her.  And on Sundays, to brighten the one day
of restriction, old Mr. Felsby usually called.  But it did not
brighten things so much for Livia, who early formed the opinion
that Mr. Felsby was a bore.

Richard Felsby was seventy-eight, oaken in physique, the last of a
generation destined to glower (within gilt frames) from above
thousands of mantelpieces upon dwindling families.  Both the
Channings and the Felsbys were, in this matter, typical; once so
prolific, they seemed now in danger of reaching a complete full-
stop, for only the surviving Richard, the absent John, and the
infant Livia could claim direct descent from the original Channing
and Felsby who had built up the firm.  The last of the Felsbys
could not forgive the last of the John Channings--not so much on
personal grounds (for Richard, disliking John's new-fangled
business ideas long before the crash came, had dissolved
partnership and retired a rich man), but because of the disgrace to
the Channing name in a world that still associated a Channing with
a Felsby.  It was said that the trial and the scandal connected
with it had aged Richard considerably, and if so, there were many
in Browdley who wished it had done more, for the old man was
generally disliked.  When younger he had been against drinking,
smoking, gambling, dancing, and theatre-going (anything, indeed,
that might lessen the week-day efficiency of his employees); but of
later years he had mellowed to the extent that he only scowled
wordlessly if he came across Livia sewing or reading a novel during
one of his Sunday visits.  He did not much care for Emily, though
he felt he ought to keep an eye on her; he was disappointed in
Livia, because she was not a boy to carry on and rehabilitate the
Channing name; and, as before remarked, he could not forgive John.
But he was old enough both to remember and revere the memory of
John's father, who had died some years before the turn of the
century.  Friend, partner, and contemporary, this earlier John had
been, in Richard's opinion, the last of the 'good' Channings; and
it was for his sake, chiefly, that the old man now visited
Stoneclough.

Besides being thus a tribute to the dead, the weekly visits were an
undoubted trial to the living, for Richard honestly believed he
conferred great benefits by patting Livia on the head and by
discussing the state of the cotton trade in a loud voice with
Emily.  He discussed this because, with Livia hovering about, and
in his usual mood by the time he arrived at the house, it was
practically the only thing he dared discuss; for Dr. Whiteside had
warned him against undue excitement, however caused.  If he had
anything to say about John he would therefore take Emily into a
corner for a session of mysterious sibilant whispering, and
sometimes in the middle of this Livia would burst into the room,
whereupon Richard would boom out again about the state of the
cotton trade.  After this sort of thing had happened a few times
Livia grew convinced that there was a 'mystery' about her mother
and old Mr. Felsby, and once the idea got into her head she was
quick to notice other evidences of mystery--certain occasions, for
instance, just before and just after her mother went away for a few
days, when a curious air of tension filled the entire house, when
even Sarah and Miss Fortescue seemed to rush from room to room with
secrets as well as pins filling their mouths.  Livia noted too the
almost guilty look they had if she interrupted them at such times;
it made her determined to discover what everything was all about,
like the detectives in some of her favourite stories.  Actually
'the Mystery of Stoneclough' (as she privately decided to call it)
gave her an added interest in life, since it was clearly more
exciting to LIVE in a detective story than merely to read one,
especially when the detective was herself.  For that matter, she
sometimes imagined she was the criminal also, or the suspected
person who was really innocent, or the stupid policeman who made
all the mistakes, or any other of the familiar characters . . . it
was so easy, and so fascinating, to climb on the moors and lie down
and imagine things.

On the afternoon of Christmas Day, 1910, Livia entered the drawing-
room just in time to catch Mr. Felsby inveighing against "any man
who makes a proposal of that kind".  In truth, there was nothing
particularly mysterious about the words, since they referred to the
wickedness of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Lloyd George,
who was still bent on increasing taxes), but from force of habit
Emily shot the old man a warning look, whereat Richard assumed his
glassiest Christmas smile and reached out his less arthritic hand.
Livia then allowed herself to be patted on the head as usual; but
later, while Mr. Felsby enjoyed his usual nap, she pondered alone
in the downstairs room which was her own whenever Miss Fortescue
was away, since it was there that she received lessons, played
quiet games, and felt entrenched in extra-special privacy.  She was
still pondering, with a book on her knee, when she overheard
something else--her mother telephoning from the hall outside.
Without any intention to eavesdrop at first, she gathered it was a
trunk call from London, and after that she listened deliberately.
The talk continued, with long pauses and a lowering of her mother's
voice in short staccato replies; at last she heard her end up--"I
can't hear you--yes--no--I still can't hear you--I'll write . . .
yes, I'll think about it . . . yes, dear, happy Christmas to you
too. . . .  Goodbye. . . ."  Livia then put aside her book and
abandoned herself to wondering who 'dear' was and what 'it' was
that her mother had promised to think about; and suddenly, as she
speculated, an idea came that she instantly labelled as absurd, yet
instantly allowed to take possession of her; supposing 'it' had
been a proposal of marriage?  Doubtless the remark of Mr. Felsby's
she had overheard was really responsible; anyhow, during the next
few minutes the idea became a perfectly tenable theory, and by the
time her mother called her to tea the theory had developed into a
near-certainty, strengthened by the absence of any comment about
the telephone call.  It would have been natural, Livia thought, for
her mother to say--"Guess who rang up just now?"--and because this
did not happen Livia stifled her own natural impulse, which was to
ask.

Presently, however, the near-certainty slipped back into a mere
theory again, and then into its proper place as an absurd idea; a
few guests began to arrive for the Christmas dinner, and the whole
thing passed out of mind till it was revived hours later by a
remark of Mr. Felsby's about something else altogether--he was
discussing the state of the cotton trade and trying to be
seasonably cheerful about it.  "There's only one thing I can say,
Whiteside--booms come after slumps just as slumps come after
booms."

Dr. Whiteside, who wasn't particularly interested in the cotton
trade, though indirectly, like any other Browdley professional man,
he depended on it for the quality of his living, responded
absently:  "That's about it, Richard.  It's always been the same."

"How do you know it always WILL be the same?" Livia asked, with an
air of casualness.  "How do you know that this time it isn't
different?"

Every eye was turned on a girl of eleven who could put such a
question; Dr. Whiteside blinked quizzically, and after a rather
awkward pause Mr. Felsby cleared his throat and snorted:  "Never
you mind.  You'll know what we mean when you grow up."

All at once Livia became really interested, but with a far-away
rapt look that drew even more curious stares around the table.
"But I know what you mean NOW," she said quietly.  "And I don't
think it's right."

Richard Felsby snorted again, then gave a cross look to Emily, as
if this were all her fault for not bringing up the child to have
better manners; while Emily, with her own typical gesture of
helplessness, began to expostulate:  "Now, Livia dear, how CAN you
contradict Mr. Felsby?"

"Nothing's ever just the same," Livia repeated, cryptically and
with the utmost adult solemnity.  She had an odd feeling of being
actually adult at that moment, of being carried along by an emotion
that grew with its own momentum--as if she were dramatizing
something in a rather marvellous extempore way.  The drama she had
constructed that afternoon was now an even bigger one in which she
heard herself speaking lines as if they were being dictated by some
inner yet half-random compulsion.

"Livia dear--what on earth do you mean?"

"Nothing can be just the same, even if it does happen again.  It
can't, mother."  Gradually, inexorably, the words moved to the
vital point of attack, and her eyes flashed as she challenged the
other eyes across the table--no, across the footlights that she had
read about and imagined, but so far never seen.  She knew she was
acting, yet she could have vowed that her emotion was not wholly
counterfeit.

"But--Livia--whatever's the matter?  Has anything upset you?"

"Nothing, mother, except that . . . Oh, how could you even THINK of
such a thing? . . . after being married to father. . . ."

And at that moment she really meant it; the man whom she did not
remember was now more than a ghost, he was at last a holy ghost, in
his daughter's imagination.

A short time afterwards Livia, weeping and exhausted in her
bedroom, gave way to equally sincere remorse.  She knew that the
strange scene had spoilt the evening, that it had distressed her
mother, embarrassed Dr. Whiteside, infuriated Mr. Felsby, and
caused the party to break up early; she knew she had in some way
been rather wicked.  "Oh, mother, I'm so TERRIBLY sorry.  I don't
know WHAT could have possessed me.  I'll never, NEVER say such
things again. . . .  It all sprang out of nothing--I just heard you
talking on the telephone to someone, and the idea got hold of me
that it was a man proposing to you. . . ."

Livia felt her mother's hand tighten over her own.  "But--
darling . . ."

"Yes, I know, mother.  I know it's silly."

But Emily didn't think it was silly so much as uncanny.  There was,
of course, no question of her marrying; that was impossible under
the existing conditions of British law.  But she had fallen in
love, and it was that man who had telephoned, begging her to come
to London again as early as possible in the New Year.  His name was
Standon, and he had met Emily by chance in a London restaurant on
her return north from one of those no longer monthly visits.  He
was several years her junior, and lived in a studio in Baron's
Court, painting portraits when he could get commissions, and idling
when he could not.  He liked Emily because she was easy-going and
had money; she loved him because he was attractive and also (though
she did not realize this) because she was starved for the kind of
attention he was always most happy to provide.  It was not a bad
bargain, in the circumstances.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

After the scene at the Stoneclough Christmas dinner-table of which
Dr. Whiteside had been a witness, he pressed his argument that
Livia should be told the truth and then allowed to mix with
children of her own age; and even Emily (thinking of Mr. Standon)
realized that something had to be done.  However, a solution
occurred to her of a kind that she delighted in--one that really
solved nothing, but merely delayed the issue.  Why not send Livia
to a good boarding-school in another part of the country?  In such
surroundings could she not mix with children of her own age AS WELL
AS remain in happy ignorance about her father?  If the headmistress
were let into the secret beforehand, surely there was no reason why
the plan should not work out perfectly?

So Livia went to Cheldean, in Sussex, where for the first time in
her life she was thoroughly unhappy.  She had tried to look forward
to meeting other girls, imagining that they would all be eager to
know her; but the facts of school life, and even more the fictions,
brought quick disillusionment.  She could not fit herself easily
into the patterns of schoolgirl right and wrong, of not doing
things that were 'not done', of avoiding taboos.  And questions
that Miss Fortescue would have tried to answer even though they
were unanswerable were thought merely exhibitionist or absurd at
Cheldean; so after a few unwelcome experiences Livia ceased to ask
them.  That helped to lessen her initial unpopularity, the more so
as she was growing up rather personably; she was a girl one would
look at twice, even if one did not agree that she was beautiful.

Meanwhile the cotton trade in and around Browdley slumped further,
giving Mr. Felsby more to shout about during family dinners that
took place at least once during every school vacation.  And also
during one of these vacations Livia was introduced to this man
called Standon, who spent a week-end at Stoneclough for the
ostensible purpose of advising Emily about a colour scheme for the
drawing-room.  The visit was not an entire success, for Sarah
thought it nonsense that a man should travel all the way from
London to tell anyone how to paint a house, while Miss Fortescue
could not believe that a youth with such exquisite manners was not
somehow a deceiver.  Livia simply did not like him.  All this was a
rather poor reward for Mr. Standon's efforts to be agreeable to
everybody, as well as for Emily's carefully planned scheme to
introduce him to the family without causing too much comment.  But
it was impossible for Mr. Standon not to cause comment, and though
Mr. Felsby did not meet him, rumours of his visit got through to
the old man and gave him material for unlimited banter afterwards.
"And how's your painter friend?" he would ask, nudging Emily in the
ribs.  "Still sleeping with nothing on?"  (This was according to a
horrified report made by Sarah after taking a cup of tea up to Mr.
Standon's bedroom early one morning.)  Of course Mr. Felsby did not
for a moment suspect that Emily was privileged to know how Mr.
Standon slept.

Standon, on his side, also realized that the visit had not worked
out as well as had been hoped, but he was less disappointed than
Emily because he had found the entire weekend rather a bore--awful
house, undistinguished food, uncouth servants, wet days, bleak
scenery, and a precocious brat of a girl on holiday from a boarding-
school who (he could see) continually got on her mother's nerves.
Altogether he thought Emily much more fun in Baron's Court, and
hoped that all their subsequent meetings would be on his own
ground.  He really DID like her, and forbore to sponge more than a
poor artist must on a better-off woman.  (For instance, she was
going to buy him a motor-car, but in return he had promised to
teach her to drive.)  Knowing all about her past, having
investigated it from newspaper files long before she told him, he
could feel with some justification that he was being as good to her
as to himself.

As for Livia, she immediately connected Mr. Standon in her mind
with the secret, or the mystery, or whatever it was--the more so as
he was always whispering privately to her mother--MORE secrets,
MORE mystery.  And Emily, who had romantically set store on Livia
liking him, was chagrined that the girl didn't, and told her
(truthfully but far too outspokenly on one occasion) that OF COURSE
she wasn't going to marry Mr. Standon.  Whereupon Livia, surprised
at the denial of something that had not been suggested, could feel
only extra certainty that there WAS something between them--
SOMETHING, at any rate.  A few terms of Cheldean had even given her
a vague idea of what, and because she did not like Mr. Standon, she
did not like the idea of that either.  Whereupon a rift opened
between mother and daughter, more insidious because neither would
tackle it frankly; it was as if they understood each other too
well, but also not enough.  Anyhow, Livia went back to Cheldean
with thoughts that cast a shadow over a term that happened to be
her last.  The shadow made it hard for her to write home, and once,
when she had composed a letter in which she tried to be
affectionate, a feeling of guilt, almost of shame, made her tear it
up.

It was Livia's last term at Cheldean because of another unpleasant
thing that happened.

For some time there had been an epidemic of minor thieving on the
school premises--money and small articles missing from dormitories,
coats left in the locker-room, and so on--the sort of thing that,
if it for long goes undetected, can poison the relationships of all
concerned--pupils, teaching staff, and school servants.  Miss
Williams, the Cheldean headmistress, had done all she could to
probe and investigate, yet the thefts continued, culminating in the
disappearance of a wrist-watch belonging to Livia's best friend.
When news of this reached Miss Williams she summoned the whole
school into the main hall--an event which, from its rarity, evoked
an atmosphere of heightened tension.

Miss Williams began by saying that, being convinced the thefts had
been perpetrated by one of the girls, she had decided to call in a
detective who would doubtless discover the culprit, whoever she
was, without delay.  She (Miss Williams) therefore appealed to this
culprit (again WHOEVER SHE WAS) to come forward and confess, thus
avoiding the need for distasteful outside publicity, and also--here
Miss Williams began to glare round the room--earning perhaps some
remission of penalty.

This appeal was followed by a long and, to Livia, terribly dramatic
silence during which the word "detective", as spoken by Miss
Williams, turned somersaults in her mind.

Then:  "Well, girls?  How long is one of you going to keep me
waiting?"

Still silence.

Miss Williams glared round again before raising her voice a notch
higher.  "Girls . . . GIRLS . . . I simply cannot believe this.
Surely I am to get an answer? . . .  Remember--I am particularly
addressing myself to ONE of you--to one of you who is a THIEF--HERE--
NOW--in this hall!  Some of you must be so close that you could
TOUCH her. . . ."

Suddenly Livia felt herself melting into a warmth that seemed to
run liquid in her limbs; she could not check it, and in excitement
let go a book she was carrying; everyone near her turned to stare,
and she knew that her face was already brick-red.

"Come now, girls. . . .  I will wait for sixty seconds and no
longer. . . ."  Miss Williams then pulled an old-fashioned gold
watch on a long chain from some pocket of her mannish attire and
held it conspicuously in the palm of her hand.  "TEN seconds
already . . . TWENTY . . . THIRTY . . ."  And then, in a quite
different voice:  "Dear me . . . will somebody go after Olivia?"

Somebody did, and presently Livia was sitting, limp and still, on
the couch in Miss Williams' study, while Miss Williams, stiff and
fidgety, drummed her bony fingers on the desk-top.

"But, Olivia . . . why do you keep on saying you didn't do it?"

"I didn't, Miss Williams.  You can punish me if you like--I'm not
afraid.  But I really didn't do it."

"But nobody's even accusing you--nobody ever HAS accused you!"

"They thought it was me--they all saw how I looked--and then when I
dropped the book--"

"My dear child, if they did think you behaved suspiciously, whom
have you to blame but yourself?  What made you run out of the hall
like that?  Surely, if you knew you weren't guilty--"

"I knew, Miss Williams, but I couldn't help it.  I wasn't guilty,
and yet--and yet--"

"Yes, Olivia?"

"I FELT guilty."

Miss Williams's eyes and voice, till then sympathetic, now chilled
over.  "I cannot understand how you could FEEL guilty unless you
WERE guilty," she said after a pause.

"But I did, Miss Williams.  I feel guilty--often--like that.
Punish me if you like, though.  I don't care."

After another pause Miss Williams replied:  "Suppose we say no more
about it for the time being."

And there the matter had to remain, for the plain fact was that
Miss Williams did not know whether Livia was guilty or not.  She
rather liked the girl, who had never been in any serious trouble
before; yet there was something odd about her, something
unpredictable; yet also something stoic--which was another thing
Miss Williams rather liked.  She could not avoid thinking of the
secret that Livia did not know, and perhaps ought to know, at her
age . . . or DID she know already . . . partly . . . in the half-
guessing way that was the worst way to get to know anything?  That
feeling of guilt, for instance (assuming there had been no grounds
for it at Cheldean)--could it be that Livia suspected something in
her own family to which guilt attached, and (by a curious
psychological twist) was becoming herself infected by it?  Miss
Williams had not received a very good impression of Mrs. Channing
from the correspondence they had had; she seemed a weak, dilatory
person, incapable of facing her own or her daughter's problems with
any kind of fortitude.  Whereas fortitude, and problems, were Miss
Williams's specialties--whether, for instance, a head-mistress
should tell one of her girls something she had promised not to
tell, if she believed it was in the girl's best interest?  For
several weeks Miss Williams debated this problem with herself,
while she continued to find things likable in Livia; she even
admired the girl for the way she faced up to the deepening mistrust
with which the school as a whole regarded her; she admired the
girl's proud yet stricken eyes as she continued to take part in
games and lessons; but she had had enough experience as a
schoolmistress to know that nothing but absolute proof of someone
else's guilt could ever put things right, and if this did not soon
appear, then there would arise a final problem--could Livia remain
at Cheldean without harm to herself and to the morale of the
school?

One day towards the end of term Miss Williams reached a decision.
She called the girl into her room and very simply told her the
plain truth about her father.  There was no scene, but after a long
pause Livia said:  "Can I go home now, Miss Williams?"

"HOME?  You mean--to your mother?"

"Yes."

"Why do you want to go home?"

"I--I MUST go.  Everything's different.  I said it would be.
Nothing can ever be the same again."

Miss Williams did not ask when Livia had made this cryptic
prophecy; she merely remarked:  "I hope you're not angry with your
mother--she did what she thought was for the best."

"I'm not angry with anybody.  Not even with Mr. Standon any more."

"And who's Mr. Standon?"

"The man my mother goes with."

"Oh, come now. . . ."  And Miss Williams, colouring a little, felt
the ice getting thin even under her own experienced feet.  (But
not, perhaps, so experienced in certain directions.)  She added
hastily:  "Livia . . . I think we had better not discuss this any
further for the present.  And I'm not sure whether you ought to go
home now or wait till the end of term.  I'll think it over and let
you know in a few days."

Miss Williams planned to write Mrs. Channing a long letter of
explanation which would arrive ahead of Livia; but this intention
was frustrated by a much simpler act by the girl herself.  She ran
away from the school that same evening, taking nobody into her
confidence, but leaving for Miss Williams a note in which there
was, perhaps, just a whiff of histrionics:


"DEAR MISS WILLIAMS--I am going home, and since you think I am a
thief, I have stolen money for the fare from Joan Martin's locker.
I took a pound.  Please give it back to her out of my bank-money.--
OLIVIA."


The note was not discovered till the next morning, by which time
Livia would have reached home.  All Miss Williams could do, and
with great luck, was to replace the pound before the loss of that
was discovered also.  She knew Joan was Livia's best friend and
would willingly have lent the money had she been asked. . . .  A
strange girl, Livia--perhaps not a bad girl; but still, it was just
as well not to have her back at Cheldean.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Livia reached Browdley before six o'clock on a windy March morning.
Throughout the night-long train journey she had thought out the
things she would immediately ask her mother; she wanted to know ALL
the secrets, all the details that Miss Williams had not told
because she probably had not known them herself.  The list of these
was mountainous by the time the cab came within sight of
Stoneclough, grey and ghostly in the first light of dawn.  In the
yard beside the stables she was startled to see a new motorcar,
with her mother in the driver's seat and Mr. Standon hastily
stowing bags into the back.

"Livia!  LIVIA!  What on earth are you doing here?"

As her mother spoke Livia noted the exchange of glances between her
and Mr. Standon.  The latter dropped the bags and came over with a
smile of rather weary astonishment.  He was a very elegant young
man, but he did not look his best at six in the morning; and he
had, indeed, received so many astonishments during the past twelve
hours that he felt incapable of responding to any more.  "Hello,
Livia," he remarked; it was all he could think of to say.

Livia ignored him.  "Mother--I've left Cheldean--I've run away--I'm
never going back there--and I want to talk to you--I've got things
to ask you--"

"But Livia . . . not now . . . oh, not now. . . ."  And a look of
panic came over Emily's face as she turned again to Mr. Standon.
"Lawrence, DO make haste . . . we can't stop because of--because of
ANYTHING. . . ."  Then:  "We've--that is, dear--your mother's in a
hurry--"

Livia knew from experience that Emily always called herself 'your
mother' to put distance between herself and the facing of any
issue; it was like a shield behind which she could retire from a
battlefield before the battle had begun.

"Mother, you CAN'T go away yet.  I've got most important things to
talk to you about . . . ALONE."

"No, no, dear. . . .  Lawrence, put those bags in and let's be
off. . . .  If you've got into any trouble at Cheldean, don't
worry . . . Mother will write to Miss Williams and have it all put
right."

"It isn't that, mother. . . .  Mother, PLEASE--please will you come
into the house and let me talk to you for a while."

"Darling, I can't--I just CAN'T--"

But this was too much even for Mr. Standon.  "Perhaps you'd better,
Emily," he advised.  "You can't let her go in without--without--"
And the look between them was exchanged again.

Emily slowly climbed out of the car, her face pale and distraught.
She walked with Livia a few paces towards the side door leading
through the kitchen into the house.  They did not speak, but from
the doorstep Emily gave one despairing look over her shoulder
towards Mr. Standon, as if scared of going out of his sight.  Then
suddenly and hysterically she cried out:  "Lawrence, I can't tell
her--I can't, I CAN'T. . . .  YOU'LL have to."  Whereupon she ran
back to the car and with almost absurd alacrity jumped in and drove
off, leaving him to shout after her in vain and to turn to Livia
with the faintest possible shrug.

"Your mother's upset," he remarked mildly; and then, detaining her
as she stepped towards the house:  "I wouldn't go in yet if I were
you.  Let's have a little chat first."

Livia shook her head.  "It's cold here.  And it's my mother I
wanted to talk to, not you."

"I know . . . but there's something _I_ can tell you, perhaps."

"You don't have to.  I know.  And I don't think it's any of my
business."

Mr. Standon looked nonplussed for a moment, then shifted
uncomfortably.  "That isn't what I . . . er . . . well, what I DO
mean IS your business.  It's about your father."

He draped his hand over her shoulder at that word, as if to lessen
the shock, but the fact that there was none made him so
uncomfortable that he took away his hand before Livia could reply:
"I know about that too.  Miss Williams told me.  He's not dead as
my mother always said.  He's in a prison."

Mr. Standon gulped hard.  "No. . . .  Not any more."

This time there WAS a shock, perceptible but well-controlled; the
girl looked up at him enquiringly.  "You mean he IS dead now?  He's
died?"

"No, Livia.  He's--he's been released.  And--he's here--now--in the
house.  He got here a few days ago."

"But . . . but . . . my mother . . . why . . . ?"

"I can't explain all that."

She stared at him, incredulously, and while she did, the sound of a
motor-horn echoed from the road down below.

He said hastily:  "I'm sorry, Livia, but you see . . . well, that's
how it is."

The horn sounded again, peremptorily.  Mr. Standon fidgeted as he
went on:  "Perhaps you'd like to come along. . . ."

"Come along?  Where?  With you?"

"Not with me, exactly--with your mother.  I'm sure that would be
all right--"

"But with YOU?"

"Well . . . only in case . . . in case you wanted to be with HER."

"But where's she going?  When is she coming back?  Why must she go
away at all?"

"Livia, it's no use asking me these questions.  If you want to walk
down the road and talk to her about it, come with me now."

"With YOU?"

And the horn sounded a third time, causing Standon to exclaim,
under his breath:  "Damnation, she shouldn't have run off like
this. . . ."

Livia added quietly:  "I don't want to go anywhere with you."

"Well, then . . . I'm afraid that settles it."  He walked a few
steps away, then turned again for a last appeal.  "But what are you
going to DO?"

"Stay here."

"But--but your FATHER'S here."

"That's all right."

"You mean you don't mind?"

"I mind my mother going away, but if she goes away I don't mind
anything else."

"Livia . . . I wish there were something I could . . ."

She was moving towards the door.  He continued, for he was not an
entirely insensitive young man:  "Livia, you WANT to see him?
You're SURE of that?"

"Where is he?  Is he in bed?"

"No . . . he's been up all night.  That's why, if you'd like to
think things over first . . ."

"What is there to think over?  Anything ELSE?"

The question was so direct, yet so free from irony, that he could
only reply:  "Maybe I'd better come in with you and--and--er--"  It
sounded idiotic to say 'introduce you', but for the life of him he
could not think of another way to finish the sentence.

"No, I'll know where to go."

"In the drawing-room, I think.  That's where he was."

Livia then went in without another word, while Mr. Standon, after
staring at her retreating figure for a moment, slowly lit a
cigarette and began to walk down the drive-way towards the road,
quickening his pace when he heard the horn a fourth time.  He still
felt extremely uncomfortable.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

The lights throughout the house were unlit, but a flickering glow,
as of firelight, showed beneath the drawing-room door where the
carpet had worn; everything else was dark, except the high window
at the end of the corridor, which showed the dawn in a grey oblong,
Livia turned the door-handle and entered.  Her eyes were dazzled at
first by the firelight, but she was somehow aware of a person in
the room.

"I can't SEE you," she said--the first words she ever spoke to him.

She saw then a tall shape striding across the floor to the light-
switch; next she saw his shoulders, a little stooping; then, when
he turned, all such details as his grey thinning hair, wide
forehead, and odd smile merged into a general first impression that
he was TIRED.

"Livia, isn't it?"

"Hello," she answered; and they shook hands.

When one is young, everything has a stereoscopic clarity, even if
it is not properly understood; no hoard of experience both makes
and compensates for a blurred background.  To Livia as she shook
hands with the stranger who was her father, it seemed that her life
hinged in a new direction, terrifyingly new, puzzling, even
shattering, yet somehow not to be feared.  But for the moment she
thought her mind would break with such a mixture of emotions as she
began to feel: angry love for her mother, cold dislike for Mr.
Standon, and a growing shock over the entire situation, as if her
physical existence were coming out of numbness.  I shall never be
the same again, because NOTHING can ever be the same again, and I
am not NOTHING--she reflected suddenly, remembering the first
lesson in logic that had been almost the last thing she learned at
Cheldean.  But the frantic syllogism comforted her, all the more
because it had not occurred to her till just that moment; and as
she stared from the firelight to the tired face of the man standing
before her, she repeated it to herself:  Whatever happens, whatever
they do to me, however much I am torn apart, I AM NOT NOTHING.

She saw that he was still smiling, waiting perhaps for her to
speak.  She wondered how long she had been silent--minutes or only
seconds?  But the words could come now; she began abruptly:  "Are
you hungry?  _I_ am."

He answered:  "Not very.  But don't let me stop you--"

"Wouldn't you even like a cup of tea?"

"Well . . . er . . . hadn't we better wait till Sarah--"

"Oh, I'll make it.  Let's go into the kitchen."

"All right."

She made not only a cup of tea, but a substantial meal of eggs and
bacon, which they both ate, talking of nothing in particular
meanwhile--just the weather, and the sharp frost that morning, and
how they liked their eggs done.  It was beginning to be easier now--
like the first morning of term when you go into a new class with a
new teacher, and you do not exactly expect to get on with her at
first--in fact you pine for the old one all the time, though you
would not, if the choice were given, stay down in the lower class
just to escape the trials of newness.

When he lit a pipe she commented:  "They said you never used to
smoke."

He did not ask who 'they' were, or why the matter should ever have
been mentioned.  He answered lightly:  "Oh yes, I have most bad
habits."

"You mean you drink too?"

"Well . . . I HAVE been known to touch a drop."

She laughed, because the phrase 'touch a drop' had amused her when
she was a child; it was so funny to touch a drop, if you ever went
to the trouble of doing it, and she had often in those days puzzled
over why old Mr. Felsby should boast so much about never having
done it in his life.

"I don't suppose there's anything here," she went on.  "I think
Watson takes whisky, though--on the sly.  Perhaps he keeps a bottle
somewhere--I can ask him."

He smiled again.  "Don't worry--I never did drink at breakfast.
For that matter, I never drank much at any time.  Not to excess,
that is."

"Then it's not a bad habit."

"All right--so long as you don't think too well of me."

They talked on, as unimportantly as that.  She did not ask him any
direct questions, nor he her, but by the time the first rays of
sunshine poured in through the kitchen window they knew a few
things about each other--such as, for instance, that they had both
arrived at Stoneclough before their time--she from school, having
run away, he from prison, having been released a few months earlier
than he had counted on, owing to a technicality in the reckoning.
She gathered also that his arrival had led to other events in which
her mother and Mr. Standon were involved.  He did not tell her much
about that, but he said it was an odd coincidence that she should
have come that morning, an odd and perhaps an awkward one, but not
so awkward as if she had come a few hours sooner.

"I don't know why she didn't tell me everything before," he added,
as if thinking aloud.  "It would have been all right.  I wouldn't
have blamed her. . . .  I don't blame her now, for that matter.
She just couldn't face facts--never could. . . .  Oh, well, give me
another cup of tea."

While Livia did so he puffed at his pipe and went on:

"Things never turn out quite how you expect, do they?"

She knew that he was addressing her as an adult, either deliberately
or absent-mindedly, and in order not to break the spell she said
nothing in reply.  But he relapsed into silence, and presently,
still under the spell herself, she said brightly:  "Don't I make
good tea?"

He seemed to wake himself up.  "You certainly do."  Then he yawned.
"VERY good."

"I expect you're tired."

"Yes.  Dead tired.  I was up all night."

"So was I--in the train."

"Perhaps we'd both better get some sleep."

She nodded.  "Sarah knows you're here, of course?"

"Oh yes.  AND Miss Fortescue AND Watson.  We'll meet at dinner,
then."

He walked out of the kitchen and a few seconds later she heard him
climbing the stairs.  It was odd to reflect that he knew his way
about the house.

She slept soundly most of the day and was wakened during the
afternoon by the sound of commotion in the yard.  When she ran to
the window, with almost every possibility in mind, she saw it was
only Miss Fortescue driving off in a cab.  Somehow it did not seem
to matter what Miss Fortescue did, but it gave her something to
begin the conversation with when she went down to the dinner-table
that evening.

"She left," he said, "because the whole situation was revolting to
her sensibilities."

Again he was talking to her as to an adult; and she knew what he
meant, if not all the individual words.  Throughout the rest of the
meal he veered between more trivial gossip and silence, but when
Sarah had left the room for good he said:  "I don't know what your
plans are, Livia. . . ."

"PLANS?  I haven't any."

"I mean--what are you going to do?"

"I'm not going to go back to Cheldean."

"Well. . . ."  And he began to light his pipe.  "Some other school,
perhaps?"

"You mean you don't WANT me here?"

"Livia . . . it isn't that.  It hasn't much to do with what I want.
Let's not discuss it yet, though.  All kinds of things can happen."

Which was the kind of world that Livia dreamed of--one in which all
kinds of things could happen.

She said cheerfully:  "The school holidays begin next week, so I'd
have been here soon anyway."

He smiled.  "Naturally . . . and--er--while you ARE here, there's
another thing . . . you mustn't feel you have to entertain me.  I
don't want to interrupt any of your habits. . . .  What do you
usually do after dinner?"

"Sometimes I take a walk in the garden, but I think it's already
begun to rain.  Sometimes I read, or play records."

"Then please do just what you like--as usual."

Without another word she went to the gramophone and put on Mozart;
after it finished she closed the instrument and called from the
doorway:  "Good night."  When he gave no answer she went back to
his chair and saw that he was asleep, so she took the warm pipe out
of his hand in case it set fire to something; then she laid another
cob of coal on the reddened embers in the grate.

It was all very easy the next morning, so far as Livia was
concerned.  But as the day proceeded it became clear that other
people were bent on making difficulties.  First there arrived
Richard Felsby, and a somewhat stormy scene took place from which
Livia was excluded, though she tried to listen at the door and
gathered that the old man was just as shocked as Miss Fortescue.
She was also vaguely aware that matters of importance were being
arranged over her head, and decided there and then to insert her
own personal clause into whatever plans were being concocted.  And
that was simply that she would not, in any circumstances, go back
to Cheldean.  As soon as the chance came she reiterated this.  "And
if you send me," she added, "I'll run away again."  Neither she nor
her father knew that Miss Williams would not have had her back in
any event; it would have saved them an argument.  "Very well," he
said at length, "I'll see about somewhere else."  But it was
already too late for the girl to begin the new term at any other
school.

And the sensation of John Channing's return, combined with the
scandal of Emily Channing's departure, raged like a hurricane
through Browdley and neighbourhood for several weeks, then slowly
sank to the dimensions of a zephyr.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

They became good friends.  It was not that Livia liked him
instantly, still less was she aware of any submerged filial
emotions, nor was there any conscious effort to like him; but a
moment came, quite a casual one, when she realized that she had
already been liking him a good deal for some time.

She did not call him 'father'.  It was hard to begin, and since she
did not begin soon enough, it became impossible to begin.
Eventually, since she had to call him something, she asked if he
would mind 'Martin'.

"MARTIN?  Why Martin?"

"I like the name.  I used to have a friend at school called
Martin . . . Joan Martin."

"Used to have?  It's not so long ago."  He was rather relieved to
find she had had a friend, after what Dr. Whiteside had said when
they met a few days before.  "Don't you keep in touch with her?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because she thinks I stole her watch."

The answer was devastating, and out of it came the story of the
Cheldean incident.  After she had given him the somewhat curious
details he said quizzically:  "And did you?"

"Good heavens, no--what do you think I am?"

"Well, what do you think _I_ am?"

She pondered gravely for a moment, whereupon he laughed, not
because there was anything to laugh at, but because he had at last
found a way of introducing a matter which he wanted to clear up
once and for all.  "You see, Livia, I don't wish you to get any
false ideas.  Don't think up excuses for me.  Don't dramatize me
innocent, for instance, as you dramatized yourself guilty. . . .
On the other hand--don't believe everything you read about me in
the papers. . . .  Know what I mean?"

She nodded and he knew she did.

She added hastily:  "I must tell you something else though. . . .
I didn't steal her watch, but I did steal her money afterwards."

"WHAT?"

Then more explanations.  He finally laughed again and said:
"That's all right.  Perhaps we're neither of us quite as bad as
we're painted--or as good as we ought to be.  And I still think you
ought to keep in touch with Joan.  Mustn't centre yourself on
Stoneclough altogether. . . .  Get out more.  Meet people.  What
did you think of doing this afternoon, for instance?"

"Nothing in particular."

"There's a farm sale I'm going to.  Watson said he wanted more
tools for the garden and I thought I might pick up a few
bargains. . . .  Come with me if you like."

"Oh yes, Martin. . . .  I CAN call you that?  You don't mind?"

"Not a bit. . . .  On the contrary, you've settled what name I'll
give if I bid for anything."

It wasn't only his name, however, so far as Browdley itself was
concerned.  He was recognized by many in the town, despite the long
interval, and one day, after he had called on Dr. Whiteside at his
house in Shawgate, a stranger accosted him in the street and made
offensive remarks.  After that he never visited Browdley again, but
in the other direction, at a somewhat greater distance, lay country
towns and villages where no one knew him by sight; and here he
liked to take Livia with him on casual expeditions--to that farm
sale, for instance (at which he bought some spades and hoes, and
quietly said 'Martin' to the auctioneer); or on other occasions to
an agricultural show, or a cricket match, or a local fair.  He
liked outdoor scenes and functions--the smell of moist, well-
trodden earth, the hum of rural voices blown full and then faint on
a veering wind, the pageantry of flags and bunting against low-
scudding clouds.  Frankly he did not much care whether Livia
enjoyed every moment of these occasions or not; she took the chance
when she agreed to accompany him, and if she were bored, that was
her look-out.  Sometimes she admitted afterwards that she had been.
"But I don't MIND being bored with you, Martin."  To which she
added quickly:  "I mean I don't mind being bored when I'm with
you . . . no, no, not even THAT exactly--what I REALLY mean is, I
don't mind being bored PROVIDED I'm with you."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Of the schools to which he wrote, all declared they had no
vacancies.  Whether they had received unsatisfactory reports from
Miss Williams, or whether the newspaper scandal had scared them
off, was hard to determine; they gave no such reasons, of course,
but after the same kind of letter had arrived from half a dozen
headmistresses he felt there was not much use continuing.  Perhaps
there were schools in France or Switzerland; he would have to look
the matter up.  He did not tell Livia of his lack of success so
far, preferring her to think he had merely dropped the matter;
which she did, without much delay and with great satisfaction.

For it was very pleasant to be at Stoneclough as the seasons
rounded and another spring brought new green to the trees.  After
the battles and scandals of the previous year, peace seemed to have
descended on the house and its occupants; even Sarah, shrill-voiced
as she shared the domestic work with Livia, nagged less if only for
the prosaic reason that she was getting deaf and could hear less.
She too had made her truce, whether of God or of the Devil; without
giving up one jot of her religious scruples, which were of the
strictest kind, she nevertheless contrived to mate them with an old
conviction that a Channing could do no wrong.  He could, and had
done, obviously; and yet, in another sense, it was not so.  Surely
that was no harder to believe than some of the things she heard,
and with relish, from her favourite pulpit every Sunday?  She was a
devout attender at one of the Browdley Methodist chapels, where, as
deafness slowly gained on unobtrusiveness over a period of years,
she had worked her way up to the front pew immediately beneath the
preacher's oratory.  She liked the preacher in a grim, prim way--
the same way that she liked Mr. Felsby.  She had never liked Emily,
or Miss Fortescue, or Watson, or anyone at Stoneclough who was not
a Channing.  And she only half-liked Livia, who was only half a
Channing.  Livia wrangled with her, tolerated her, and thought her
at times insufferable--which she was.  She was also stupid, hard-
working, not very clean, and intensely loyal.

Whereas Watson was not so loyal, rather lazy, and occasionally
drunk.  But he had a knack with plants and machines, and an
affection for the place he worked at rather than for the people he
worked for.  He liked his employer well enough, did not much care
for Livia, whom he thought arrogant, and hated Sarah, who had once
floored him with a saucepan when he came into her kitchen tipsy.

And yet, out of these strains and stresses, a queer equilibrium
emerged--a tideless sea in which all the storms were in teacups.
It was Browdley, that almost foreign land five miles away, where
rancours increased as trade worsened and mill after mill closed
down.  Even Mr. Felsby was rumoured to be losing a small part of
his fortune; one could not be sure, however, since he forbore to
come up the hill and grumble about it.  And Dr. Whiteside, his
closest friend, gradually absented himself also, though he was
cordial enough with Livia when they met, as they sometimes did, in
the streets of the town.

Livia shopped, kept house, and helped with the cooking; while
Martin (since he may as well be called that) spent hours in the
garden, turning waste land into vegetable patches, thinning trees,
repairing terraces and fences.  There was much to be done after so
many years of Watson's neglect and Emily's indifference.

One day he told her she was to go to a school in Switzerland, and
that she would like it very much because Geneva was a very
beautiful city.  Livia was surprised and disappointed; she had
hoped that the whole idea of school might be dropped, but of course
it was quite exciting to be going abroad for the first time, and
doubtless a Swiss school would be nothing like Cheldean.  So there
followed a great scurry of preparation--travel tickets had to be
obtained, clothes to be bought, and the old Cheldean trunk taken
down from the attic over the stables.  Martin, who had visited
Geneva in his youth, told her what she would see and what she must
on no account miss, and that part of the value of being at a
foreign school was merely to be living in a foreign country.

Livia was to leave by a night train on the Wednesday after Easter
week.  During the afternoon she had some last-minute shopping in
Browdley, and returned towards dusk in the rather shabby old car
that Martin had picked up at a bargain price and that only Watson's
constant attention kept in going order.  The trunk was in the hall,
roped and labelled; it was understood that there would be early
dinner while Watson loaded up the car for the drive to the station.
Livia, excited in a way she could not exactly diagnose, walked into
the drawing-room where she found Martin standing in front of the
fireplace reading the paper.  There was nothing odd in that, but
when he put the paper aside to talk to her, Livia was transfixed by
the sight of tears in his eyes.

The conclusion she reached was inescapable.

"Oh, Martin, Martin--what's the matter?  If you don't want me to
go, I won't.  I don't really care about Geneva or Switzerland or
any place except here!  I'd RATHER stay with you, Martin--"

"Come here," he interrupted.  And then he stepped towards the girl
and took her arm with a curious nervous pressure.  "It isn't
THAT. . . ."

"Martin--what's happened?"

He picked up the paper, folded it to a certain place, and handed it
to her.  But she did not look at it; she kept staring at him till
he had to say:  "I'm afraid it's bad news. . . .  Or would you
rather have me tell you?"

She looked at the paper then.  It was a small paragraph on an
inside page, reporting that Mrs. John Channing had been killed
instantly when the car she was driving overturned on the road
between Chartres and Orleans, and that a Mr. Standon, who was a
passenger, had been severely injured.  The reading public was
further reminded that Mrs. John Channing was the wife of the same
John Channing who, etc. etc.

Livia did not speak.  She read the paragraph over and over, trying
to grasp not only what it meant, but what it signified in her own
life; and then, because of the tears in Martin's eyes, she began to
weep herself.  "Oh, mother . . . MOTHER . . ." she sobbed.  But
even while she did so a thought came to her in such a guise that
she felt dreadful for having the kind of mind in which it could
even exist--the thought that in his distress, which was also hers,
Martin might now want her to stay at Stoneclough for company's
sake.  Yet how could one help one's thoughts, whatever they were?
And she WAS distressed; her tears, imitative at first, were
perfectly genuine as they proceeded.  But she knew now, for
certain, how much she wanted not to leave Stoneclough, and that all
the excitement of packing to go abroad would be nothing to the
quiet relief, even the sad relief, of unpacking.

But it was not to be.  As soon as she hinted at it, he said no; if
the news had upset her very much she could postpone departure for a
day or two, but that was all; and really, he thought it best for
her to go; the change of scene and new companions would prove a
great help, he assured her.

"And it wouldn't help YOU, Martin, if I stayed?"

He half smiled.  "That's very kind of you, my dear, but I really
don't think it would."

After that she was proud enough to leave that night, as had been
planned, and not accept the short delay that was so pitiable a
substitute for what she had hoped.

But she was not long away from Stoneclough.  The time was April,
1914; she had one term at the Geneva school, then returned to
England for the summer holidays just before war broke out.  And
when the next term began, in September, the Germans were on the
Marne and it was thought inadvisable to send English girls across
France, even to the best Swiss finishing-schools.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

One day, to escape a heavy shower, Livia entered the Browdley
Public Library, and by sheer chance as she wandered in and out of
the alcoves, came upon a section dealing with law cases and
jurisprudence; one of the books, conspicuous by its worn condition,
proved to be a verbatim report of the Channing case.  The name was
a shock that set her heart beating, but a greater one came when she
opened the book and found, against the title-page, a photograph of
her father as he had been at the time of the trial all those years
before.  So young, so handsome, so dashing; she could hardly
believe it was the same man . . . and against the photograph,
scrawled in pencil, was a word unknown to her, but which she
guessed to be foul.  It brought a flush to her face that she
thought everyone in the library must notice, but no one did, and
with a curious hypnotized fascination she took the book to a
secluded table and began to read carefully.  Later, when she had to
leave, she hid it behind some other books, so that nobody should
borrow it before she continued reading the next day.  Not being a
library member she could not borrow it herself, nor did she want to
order a copy from a bookseller.  But every afternoon for a week she
spent an hour or two in the library alcove, trying to understand
the crime that her father had committed.  And for the most part she
was mystified.  It was all to do with another world--a world of
complicated details and strange jargon--false estimates of
reserves, duplicated stock certificates, and so on.  What puzzled
her was the intention behind it all, and to this she found no
positive clue until she came to the defending counsel's speech, in
which her father was portrayed as a brilliant visionary who had
wished to amalgamate a large group of cotton mills with a view to
preventing their eventual bankruptcies as separate competitors.
But then, when she came to the judge's summing-up, the whole
picture was different--that of an ambitious, unscrupulous
adventurer, greedy for power, employing deliberate deceit to tempt
unwary investors. . . .  The two pictures made the problem harder
than ever, the more so as neither bore the slightest resemblance to
the man she herself knew.  She then re-read the examinations and
cross-examinations, seeking to disentangle some corroboration of
one or other viewpoint out of the mass of opposite and bewildering
evidence.  The main thing she gathered was that her father had once
been in a position to deal with vast sums of money, whereas now he
could hardly afford the extra hundred pounds by which the taxes on
Stoneclough had lately been increased.

Some day, she thought, he would tell her all about it; and then he
would be surprised to find out how much she knew already.  But what
DID she know?  The chief clue was missing . . . WHY had he done
whatever it was that he had done?  Not only why had he defrauded
people, for that question had already been given two conflicting
answers, but why had he been either the adventurer greedy for
power, or the visionary with dreams of reorganizing an industry?
Why?  For it had been stated over and over again during the trial,
as if it were against him, that the Channing Mill itself was sound
until his own course of action ruined it; everything would have
been all right, therefore, if he had let things alone.  Only he
hadn't let things alone.

And then, too, she realized with a sense of discovery, though it
was obvious by simple arithmetic, that he had spent many years in
the industrial and financial world before the crash.  His career
was referred to at the trial as having been an 'honourable' one;
distinguished connections were cited with a number of companies
besides his own.  Why, then, had he suddenly broken whatever were
the rules of the game?

There was yet a third character-reading, scattered throughout the
book in sundry pencilled remarks.  "Liar", "Thief", "Swindler",
were among the mildest of them; but on the last page was a clue, if
not to her father's motives, at any rate to his anonymous
accuser's.  For in the margin alongside the judge's pronouncement
of sentence was the scribbled comment:  "And not half what the ----
deserved for ruining me and hundreds more."

Long after she had finished the book and had learned all she could
from it she found that even passing the library gave her an itch of
curiosity--was it still being read, was some other unknown borrower
adding new pencilled insults to the printed lines?  She would
sometimes dash into the building just to see, and one day she
reflected how simple it would be to put the book under her coat and
take it away as she walked out.  But she could not make up her mind
to do this.  It was no question of the morals of stealing, or of
risk in being discovered, but rather of her personal attitude
towards Browdley: to remove the book would somehow be accepting
defeat, whereas to leave it was--if not victory--at least a
challenge and a defiance.  So she left it, and the library took on
a curious significance in her mind: the place where the book was,
and where people went who hated Martin.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

He never spoke to her about the past, or gave her any opening to
ask him direct questions about it; but sometimes, apropos of other
things, he made remarks that connected themselves with it in her
mind--remarks that did not so much reveal the light as illumine the
darkness.  Once he said:  "The hardest thing in the world is to
understand how you were once interested in something that no longer
interests you at all."  And another time, standing with her in the
garden on one of those rare clear days when all Browdley could be
seen in the distance, he said:  "The factories look big, don't
they?  They dominate the town like the cathedrals at Cologne or
Amiens . . . perhaps they ARE cathedrals, in a way, if enough
people believe in them."  And then he mentioned a lecture by a
young fellow named Boswell who was trying to get on the Browdley
Council--a lecture Richard Felsby had told him about in great
indignation because it had blamed the Channing and Felsby families
for much that was wrong about the state of Browdley.  "There's some
truth in it, though.  Whenever I think of those rows and rows of
drab streets huddling under the cathedrals I have the feeling that
if somebody were to send me to jail for THAT, I'd consider it a
just sentence. . . .  We're all guilty, Livia, of everything that
happens.  Read the papers and see how."  (It was the autumn of
1917, the blackest time of the war.)  "And if guilt had to be paid
for by punishment, then the earth would be one vast prison.
Perhaps that's what it is."

"The animals would have a good time if everybody was in prison,"
Livia commented cheerfully.  "THEY aren't guilty, anyhow.  In fact
they don't know anything about our wars and peaces--how can they?
What does it matter to a worm whether he gets cut in half by a
garden spade or by a shell bursting?"

He smiled.  "It would certainly be hard to convince him of the
difference.  Probably about as hard as to explain to Man the mind
of God."  He turned with her into the clough.  "By the way, I'm
going to London for a few days.  Anything you'd like me to get for
you there?"

"Can't I come with you?"

"Wouldn't be much fun for you.  It's--it's mostly a business trip."

"You mean--you're going to--to start doing financial things again?"
That was the nearest she ever came to a direct question.

"Good God, no.  Don't you think I had enough?"  That was the
nearest he ever came to a direct answer.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

While he was gone she realized she was enjoying even the
loneliness, because of the image of his return.  That image hovered
over the edge of every page of every book she turned to, was called
to life by every loved gramophone record.  Her eighteenth birthday
came during his absence, and somehow she was not even disappointed
that he had chosen to be away at such a time; maybe he had had no
choice; there were still many things in his life of which she knew
nothing.  The long interval of the prison years, for instance.  He
never even hinted at them, yet--she argued--what else could have
caused the disconnection between the kind of person he had been and
the kind he now was?  Some day, perhaps, he would tell her about
that also.  Some day, when she was old enough, he would think of
her as a complete adult, within range of every possible adult
confidence.  She already felt she was, however little it might have
occurred to him so far.  She was also beginning to appraise herself
physically, though without vanity, for she considered her body too
small and her mouth too big; but in being thus ruthless she was
merely, of course, denying herself what she did not want.  She knew
no boys or young men, and when sometimes in Browdley they would
stare at her as if she attracted them, she herself was aware only
of disinterest.  She did not want--was sure she would never want--
to attract anyone that way.  There were other ways for which she
felt herself far better equipped; she liked to think there was
something rare and talismanic about her that could appeal to an
older man.

Yet she must not dramatize; he had once cautioned her about that,
and ever afterwards she had known she had better not act before
him; and this, by a subtle transition, meant that she need not act
before him, thus (if she chose to look at it that way) relieving
her of a burden rather than imposing on her a restriction.  It was
pleasant, anyhow, to think of the future that stretched ahead; she
and Martin at Stoneclough, pottering about the garden, taking walks
in the clough and on the moorland, visiting places together--the
eventless days, the long firelit evenings.  And, of course, to
complete such felicity, the war would end sometime.

Sarah, growing deafer and more asthmatic in her old age, seized the
chance of Martin's absence to urge her to 'get out' oftener, to
make friends with young people, to enjoy herself more.  And this,
from Sarah, who had always connected 'enjoyment' with the Devil,
was an amazing suggestion if Livia had been interested enough to
think about it.

But she merely replied, off-handedly as she always did to Sarah:
"I DO enjoy myself.  I'm perfectly happy."

"It's a pity you gave up school," said Sarah.

"Well, I never enjoyed myself much there, anyhow.  And besides, I
didn't give it up--the school gave me up.  Didn't you know that?  I
was practically expelled, and then other schools wouldn't have me--
Martin didn't tell me that, but I once saw some letters on his desk
saying they couldn't take me. . . .  _I_ knew why even if HE
didn't. . . .  You see, I'm a bad lot--like father, like daughter--
isn't that rather natural?"

She knew, of course, that she was acting then; she was always ready
to do so in order to shock old Sarah.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

When Martin came back she had been waiting for him for hours, but
without urgency.  Snow had fallen during the day, and this
presumably had made his train late.  It had also covered the drive
as far as the road so thickly that Watson could not clear it in
time to take the car to the station; so Martin would doubtless
arrive by taxi.  Earlier in the evening she had put on galoshes to
enjoy the garden, where the snow lay piled in knee-high drifts--a
rare enough sight to be novel, and so were the white slopes of the
clough, through which the path ran untraceably except to one as
familiar with it as she.  The sky was blue-black and full of stars;
they and the snow made a paleness bright enough to read by.  And
all around, especially when she listened for any car noise, there
was a great blanket of silence that seemed to follow her into the
house when she re-entered.

He arrived about ten o'clock, having walked the last mile along the
road because the taxi couldn't get any further.

"And with those thin shoes, Martin?  You must be soaking wet. . . .
And carrying that bag all the way. . . ."

"It's not heavy.  I'll go up and change immediately."

"Let me carry it for you."

"No, no. . . .  I'm all right.  If I want anything I'll ring for
Sarah."

"She's got a bad cough and went to bed hours ago."

"All right. . . .  I won't want anything."

By the time he came down she had the drawing-room fire roaring
high, and a tray of refreshments by the side of his favourite
armchair--hot soup, sandwiches, whisky and soda.

"Nice of you, Livia, but really and truly I don't want anything--
except the fire."

"But I'm sure you didn't have any dinner--"

"I managed all right.  Don't worry about me.  PLEASE don't worry
about me."

The way he said that made her instantly begin to do so.  She
noticed how more than usually tired he looked, his whole face drawn
a little, hands trembling as he held them to the fire.

"When you were so late I wondered if perhaps you weren't coming
back till tomorrow."

"No . . . it was just the weather."

"I thought perhaps your business had taken longer than you
expected."

"No . . . there wasn't much business."  His face lightened as he
added:  "I didn't forget your birthday, but--I have an awful
confession--I left what I bought you in the train.  They were some
special records--of Mozart.  I knew you'd like them.  I don't know
how I could have been so stupid, but it's quite possible they'll be
turned in by the finder.  Unless he's so disappointed when he
unwraps the parcel that he smashes them in disgust."

"Oh no--NOBODY could deliberately smash Mozart records!"

He smiled.  "Maybe not.  Anyhow, I left word about it--and if we
don't get them back I'll buy you some more."

"Martin . . . I'm so sorry . . . don't worry about it."

"Who said I was worrying about it?"

"Well, you're worrying about something--I can see from your face."

"I told YOU not to worry."

Suddenly, leaning forward to warm his hands, he slipped and fell to
his knees.  Only her nearness and quickness saved him; another few
inches, another second, and he would have been burned.  As it was,
she managed to pull him back and saw then that it had been more
than a slip, more than just tiredness.  She was calm, yet uncertain
what to do--call Sarah?--call a doctor?--but first, anyhow, there
was the whisky.  She forced a stiff drink between his lips, then
began loosening his collar.  While she was doing this his eyes re-
focussed themselves.

"I think you fainted, Martin."

He nodded, gulping over the taste of the whisky.

"Seems so . . . and by the way, I shouldn't have had that."

"Why not?  It pulled you round."

"Maybe . . . only I'm not supposed to have it--now."

"Why NOW?"

"Well, any time for that matter."

"You said NOW!  Martin, what's wrong?  What's happened?  Are you
ill? . . .  Shall I call a doctor?"

He shook his head.  "No, I've had a doctor.  That's really what I
went to London for.  It's nothing you need worry about. . . .  But
perhaps I'd better go to bed now--and rest.  I ASSURE you it's
nothing you need worry about. . . .  It's--er--to do with my eyes.
I've known for some time they weren't quite as they should be.  Old
Whiteside diagnosed it wrong, of course. . . .  Well, anyhow, let's
hope those records turn up.  At least I can HEAR properly."

He got up and walked to the door, while she ran past him to open
it.

"Martin. . . ."

"I'm really all right, Livia--I didn't even intend to tell you but
for--"

"Martin, I'LL look after you.  You know that?"

"Why, yes, but--"

"Even if you were to go blind--"

"Oh, come now, there's no question of that. . . ."  And then a
laugh.  "You DO like to dramatize, don't you? . . .  But you're
very kind.  I sometimes wonder why.  I never did anything for you--
except bring you into the world, and God knows whether you'll thank
me for that, in the end. . . .  Yes, it puzzles me sometimes--why
you are so kind to me."

"Because I love you," she answered simply, and then she laughed
too, as if to join him in any joke there was.  "Good night,
Martin."

"Good night."

Back in the drawing-room she listened to his footsteps creaking on
the floor above.  Then she ate a sandwich and walked to the window,
opened it, and breathed the cold air.  The blanket of silence was
still covering the world.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

The next morning he asked her not to tell Sarah anything about his
fainting, or the trouble he had mentioned, because Sarah would
fuss, and fussing was just as bad as worrying.  And it was useless
to tell Sarah not to fuss, because she would do so anyway; whereas
if he told Livia not to worry, then he was sure of her compliance.
Livia said she was far too happy to worry about anything, which was
the truth, and it puzzled her.  Perhaps it was because he looked so
much better after his night's sleep.  Or perhaps it was just that
he was home again.  Or perhaps it was her own penchant for having
the oddest emotions at the oddest times.

Anyhow, she was so happy she decided to put the old work-horse
between the shafts of the garden cart and drive over the hill to
fetch eggs and butter from one of the farms; Watson usually did
this in the car, but he was afraid the snow might be too deep in
places, though the horse would manage all right.  So she sat on the
plank seat, surrounded by the rich smells of the empty cart, and
jogged down the road as far as the side turning that climbed again
steeply to the moorland.  The sky over the snow was an incredible
deep blue, and when she had gone a little way and looked back,
there was Stoneclough, a huddle of white roofs against the black-
and-white trees.  And above her now, the mountain lifted up.  In
that strange snow-blue light it seemed to her that she had never
been so near it before, though actually she had climbed to the
summit many times; she felt a sudden wild ecstasy that made her lie
down on the floor of the cart amidst the smells of hay and manure,
to exult in the whole matchless beauty of that moment.  The horse
jogged on, presently stopping before a closed gate.  She jumped
down to open it, laughing aloud.  Then the lane narrowed to a stony
track, and there were other gates.  At last she reached a farmhouse
and saw a fat woman standing at the doorway wiping her arms on an
apron and smiling.  "Laws amussy," she cried, as Livia approached,
"I didn't expect anybody'd come up this morning.  Are you from
Stoneclough?"

Livia said she was, and had the impression she was being taken for
a servant girl; and that, somehow, added to the pleasantness of the
occasion.  Smiling also, she handed over the note on which Sarah
had written out so much butter, so many eggs, and so on; but then
another strange and pleasant thing happened.  The fat woman pushed
back the note with a loud chuckle.  "Nay, that's no use to me, girl--
ye'll have to tell me what it says.  I never was a scholar."

"You mean you can't READ?" queried Livia.

"That's so--and I don't know as I'll ever bother to learn, now I've
let it go so long."

Livia then told her what she wanted, whereupon the woman
disappeared into the farmhouse, returning after a few minutes with
the various items, a handful of carrots for the horse, and a jug
containing a pale frothing liquid.  "Nettle-drink," she cried
triumphantly, "and it'll be the best ye've ever tasted."

That could be easy, thought Livia, who had never tasted any before.
But it WAS delicious, whether because of the woman's special brew,
or for some curious extra congeniality of time and place . . . but
the truth was, everything that morning was to Livia miraculously
right--the drive, the sky, the sunshine, the mountain, the nettle-
drink, and the fact that the woman could not read.  Never again, as
long as she lived, was she quite so happy.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

She would hold his arm firmly (for he was apt to stumble a little),
and walk with him up and down the level paths along the terraces,
sometimes as far as the fence, but not much beyond, because there
might be strangers in the clough, and he did not want to be seen.
All at once a secret between them was removed, so far as this was
concerned; he made no more effort to conceal from her certain
things that he still wished to conceal from others.  She was a co-
conspirator in a small but necessary deception.  For some reason he
did not want outsiders to know that his eyes were bad; he seemed
not to realize that few would care, or even think that a man
walking slowly along with a girl holding his arm was behaving in
any abnormal way for father with daughter.  But she did not mind
the pretence, if it satisfied him.  And inside the garden, with no
one to see or hear, with the empty moorland above and the dark
clough below, she learned the special trick of sharing whatever
mood he was in, even to extremes; if he wanted to laugh, she would
laugh too, and if he had wanted to cry she believed she could have
done that also.  Sometimes she would tell him the only funny
stories she knew, which were about Cheldean or the Geneva school;
they were mostly rather silly yarns, even if they were funny at
all, and it was odd to feel their schoolgirl importance dwindling
in retrospect while she narrated them, so that she could tick them
off afterwards as things never to be told again.  He seemed
interested, however, and often asked about her school friend, Joan
Martin, suggesting again that she should write and try to re-
establish the friendship.  But Livia said it was no use now; she
was sure they wouldn't have a thing in common, even apart from the
doubtful incident of the watch.

"But you ought to have friends, Livia--YOUNG friends.  I know it
would be hard for you to make them in Browdley--for various
reasons . . . but you ought to have them--there ought to be people
of your own age whom you could spend holidays with at their homes."

"Or they could come here to spend holidays with me--how would you
like that?"

The point was taken.  He replied:  "I wouldn't mind it so much.  I
wouldn't have to see a great deal of them, and if they were YOUR
friends, I'd do my best to make them feel at home."

She smiled.  "But they wouldn't be, they couldn't be, and I'd mind
them here, anyway.  Martin, don't you worry about me, either."  And
then sharply:  "Who's been talking to you?  Sarah?  She had no
business to . . . why should she interfere?"

He did not deny that Sarah had talked to him.

"All right," he said temporizingly, "but don't go and nag Sarah
about it.  She means well."

"That's not always a good defence," she said, thinking of it
suddenly, "when people do the wrong thing."

She often gave him cues like that, as they occurred to her on the
spur of the moment, hoping they might lead him into talk of the
past.  But they never did, and she wondered if he ever guessed that
they were deliberately put out, and if he just as deliberately
ignored them.  One evening, however, without any cue at all, he
began to talk of his years in prison.  They were walking in the
garden, with the stars especially bright in the frosty air, and
that drew him to remark that the books he had read in prison were
mostly about astronomy and philosophy.  "You see, in prison, after
the first period of getting used to it, which is rather dreadful,
you slip into a mood of timelessness that isn't either happy or
unhappy, and in that mood--for me, at any rate--the things to think
about were the timeless ones--the mysteries of life and existence
that have sent many men into cells not very different from mine . . .
the cells of monasteries, or the other kind where mad people are
put.  Not that I invented any special philosophy or had any special
vision to match those I read about.  I don't have the tight quality
of mind."

"Neither do I," she answered.  "You liked that kind of book because
you were in prison, but I'd feel in prison if I had to read that
kind of book."

"I know," he smiled.  "But a very kind and gentle prison.  A prison
within the other prison.  It wasn't so bad--although, as I said, my
mind wasn't exactly equal to it--because, after all, I'd only been
a smart business man most of my life."

"And not even so smart," she said softly, taking his arm.

"That's so.  Well, let's say just a business man.  Perhaps that's
why I think now of the end of a man's life as a sort of taking-over
by a junior partner--some cheeky young fellow whom at first you
thought of no account, but he grows and grows inside your affairs
till he begins to touch them all--you'd like to get rid of him but
you can't, he's the fellow you try to forget when you go to sleep,
but he wakes you in the morning with his nagging and needling . . .
the first step you take you know he's still there, at your elbow,
jogging and shoving and hurting like the devil . . . you're at his
mercy--his strength grows all the time at the expense of yours--he
knows he's going to have his own way in the end--it's only a matter
of time, and a horrible time at that . . . and from his point of
view, of course, everything's going exactly as it should--HE is
healthy, striving, spreading--you are just an old decaying out-of-
date thing he feeds on."  He checked himself.  "Am I talking too
much?"

"No," she answered, transfixed.

"Do you know what I'm talking about?"

"Not altogether."  She added quickly:  "But I don't mind not
knowing altogether.  You remember once I said I didn't mind being
bored.  When you don't mind being bored, it isn't boredom, really.
And it's like that when you don't mind not understanding--perhaps
it means that you DO understand--a little."

"I hope so," he said, holding closely to her as they reached an
uphill part of the path.  "Now tell me some more about Cheldean."

She racked her brains to think of a story because she knew that in
some obscure way those yarns about school life took his mind in a
pleasant direction, even if he did not always listen carefully; but
she had already told him most that had happened, and now she could
only think of something that had not happened.  It was an incident
she had once invented during a rather dull service in the Cheldean
school chapel.  The preacher was a local divine who came regularly
and always devoted a large part of his extempore prayer to the
weather; he was never satisfied with it and always wanted God to
change it to something else, so that the slightest sign of floods,
drought, a cold wave or a heat wave, gave him an excuse.  One sunny
Sunday after a week of consecutive fine days, he prayed most
eloquently for rain--which the girls definitely did not want, since
there was a school holiday the next day; and Livia, sharing this
resentment, suddenly noticed a sort of trap-door in the roof of the
chapel just over the pulpit.

What fun, she thought, if one had climbed up there with a bucket of
water and, at the moment of the appeal, had poured it down over the
preacher's head!  The thought was so beguiling that she had giggled
quietly in the pew; but now, telling the story to Martin as a true
one, she had him laughing aloud.

"What really made you do it?" he asked.  "Just for a lark?"

"I wanted to see his face when he looked up," she said, still using
her imagination.  "I thought he might think I was God."

She had to invent the sequel of her own discovery and punishment,
at which he kept on laughing.  In doing so he half stumbled to his
knees; and while she was helping him up Watson entered the garden
from the yard.  He gave them both a rather long and curious stare,
and a few hours afterwards, catching Livia alone, asked how her
father was.  She answered "All right," as she always did to that
question.

Watson grinned.  "Just a little drop too much sometimes, eh?"

"What do you mean?"  Then Livia realized what he did mean and was
immensely relieved.  She had been afraid for a moment that he might
have deduced some real illness, and his mistake seemed the happiest
and simplest alibi, not only for past but possibly future events
also.

She therefore smiled and retorted:  "You ought to know the
symptoms, Watson, if anyone does."

From then on, Livia cared less about what was seen and heard, even
though Watson's knowing impertinences increased.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

One evening Martin called her attention to a white dog walking
along the path towards them, but she saw it was not a dog, but a
piece of newspaper blown in the wind; but he still insisted it was
a dog and stopped to touch it, then said it had run away.  That
made her realize how bad his sight was becoming, and she begged him
to see some other eye doctor; perhaps a special kind of glasses or
treatment would help; even if Dr. Whiteside were no use, surely
there must be someone in Mulcaster or London. . . .  But he said
no; it had all been diagnosed and prescribed for before; there was
really nothing anyone could do about it--perhaps it would not get
any worse.  And he could still see many things perfectly well--
colours, for instance.  The red geraniums, the blue lobelias, the
yellow sunflowers; he welcomed them all each day.  That gave her
the idea to put on a scarlet dress the next time she walked with
him, and he was delighted.  From which she promptly derived another
idea, and that evening, though she was poor at sewing, she worked
hard after he had gone to bed, cutting up an old patchwork quilt
and making it into a multi-coloured dress to wear the following
day.  And he was delighted again.

She then thought he might like a real white dog, and asked Watson
to get one; but when the dog appeared and was duly presented to his
master in the garden, he wriggled loose and scampered into the
clough.  "There you are," Martin laughed, when she fetched the
animal back.  "That's what happened before.  The white dog will
have nothing to do with me."

"Then I must be a white cat," she answered breathlessly.  She had
noticed before that the silliest repartee of this kind seemed to
lift his mood; it was strange, indeed, how much of their talk had
recently been either silly or abstruse, seeming to skip the
ordinary world in between.  And as usual, the silliness worked; he
was lifted.  "Come along, little white cat," he laughed again.

"Yes--and the white cat won't run away," she answered.

She could see that he was recalling something.  "But a holiday,
though . . . that would be all right.  Why don't you take one?"

"A holiday?"

"Yes, why not?"

"Away . . . from YOU?"

"Well, only for a time. . . ."

Suspicion filled her mind.  "One of Sarah's ideas?"

"Now, now, don't get cross with Sarah.  She's not the only one who
thinks you need a holiday."

"Who else, then?"

"Oh . . . several people. . . ."

"Who?  WHO?"

He wouldn't tell her, but it was easy to worm the truth out of
Sarah, and the full truth proved even darker than her suspicion.
For it seemed that old Richard Felsby (he of all people) had
visited Stoneclough recently and talked to Martin not merely about
her taking a holiday, but about her leaving Stoneclough altogether.
Some friends of Richard's who lived on the coast of North Wales had
been approached and had agreed to have her stay with them
indefinitely; Richard had offered to pay all expenses, and Martin
had actually approved the idea.  This was the biggest blow of all;
yet after a wild scene with Sarah she could only reproach him
sombrely.  How could he have even considered such a thing?  And
that awful old man, Richard Felsby--how dared HE interfere with her
and her affairs?  "Oh, Martin, I thought he never visited you any
more.  I thought you'd quarrelled.  I hoped you were enemies for
ever."

"Livia, he just called on business the other day--while you were
out.  Something about a new mortgage on the house."

"But he talked about ME--you both did--planning to have me sent
away--and Sarah already getting my clothes ready--all of you--
behind my back--against me--plotting--and then pretending it was
just a holiday--"

"Livia, please--it wasn't like that at all--"

"Do you know what I'll do?  I'll hate them both as long as I live--
I'll NEVER forgive them--either of them--"

"They were only thinking of what might be your own best interests--"

"To send me away from you?  Is that what YOU think too?  You don't
want me here?"

"Livia, please. . . .  You know how much I like you--"

"I like you too.  I love you.  I've told you that before.  And I
wouldn't go, even for a holiday.  I'll never leave you.  They'd
have to drag me out of the house and if they took me anywhere else
I'd run away and I'd fight them all the time.  I'd kill anybody who
tried to send me away from you."

"Now, Livia, Livia . . . why should you talk like that?"

"Because I'm so happy here.  What on earth would I do alone in a
strange place?"

"You wouldn't be alone--"

"I'd be alone if I left you alone.  I won't go anywhere unless you
go with me.  Then I'll go--wherever it is.  Even if you went out of
your mind I'd go out of mine too.  That's a bargain. . . .  So
don't you try to get rid of me."  She put her hands up to his face
and clawed him gently with her finger-nails, suddenly and rather
hysterically laughing.  "The little white cat will scratch you to
death if you even think of it."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Dr. Whiteside happened to meet Livia in Browdley one afternoon.
She did not mention her father, until asked, and then she said he
was 'all right'.  The doctor was an old man now, long retired from
practice, and for that reason even readier to think out the
problems of the families he had once attended.  He well remembered
advising Emily to tell Livia the truth and send her to school lest
the life at Stoneclough, without playmates of her own age, should
make her grow up neurotic and self-centred; he had not seen the
girl often since then, but now, even to his dimmed perceptions, she
looked as if everything had happened just as he had feared.  There
was the peculiar rapt expression, the angular tension of her whole
body as she stopped to speak to him in the street.  And he made up
his mind there and then to visit Stoneclough unasked; he did not
care how John received him, it was the girl he was thinking about.
She ought to be sent away, and he would tell John this and be
damned to the fellow.

So a few days later, amidst pouring rain that had already flooded
the low-lying districts of Browdley, Dr. Whiteside had his old
coachman-chauffeur drive him up to Stoneclough.  Admitted by
Watson, he was glad to find Livia out, and made his own way across
the hall to the drawing-room.  He walked in without ceremony, being
both in the mood and at an age when such things were possible.
John Channing sat alone by the fireside, with a white wire-haired
terrier on his lap.  It was one of the almost lucid intervals, less
frequent now and more fragmentary; the younger man shook hands,
invited the doctor to sit down, remarked on the weather, and in all
ways but one seemed perfectly normal.  The exception lay in the
fact that though he clearly did not recognize Dr. Whiteside, he
showed no surprise that a stranger should walk in unannounced.

It would have puzzled a man less subject to freaks of behaviour
than Dr. Whiteside himself.  "Good God, man, don't you REMEMBER
me?" was all he exclaimed.  "Whiteside . . . DOCTOR Whiteside.
I've been meaning to look you up for a long while. . . .  How are
you getting on?"

"Oh, not so badly, thanks.  Yes, of course I remember you now.
It's--it's just that I don't SEE very well."

"Still the same trouble?"

"No.  It never was what you diagnosed."

"You don't say?"  Dr. Whiteside was somewhat discomfited.  "Well,
of course, I'm not a specialist.  I hope you consulted one."

"I did."

"And what did he say?"

"That's my business, if you don't mind."

"Why . . . certainly.  I beg your pardon."  But by this time Dr.
Whiteside's interest, both private and professional, was thoroughly
aroused.  He was not really a stupid doctor, only a rather
perfunctory one when people came to him with vague complaints, such
as "a little trouble with my eyes".  On the occasion of that visit
several years before, he had discovered a few symptoms of strain
and had recommended a local oculist who would make a more detailed
examination.  As he never heard that Channing visited the oculist,
he had concluded that whatever was wrong had got right of its own
accord, as so many ailments do; but now, staring closely, he
detected other symptoms--much more serious ones.  Of course he
couldn't be sure, but if what he instantly thought of were
possible, then it was rather appalling. . . .

He continued, automatically turning on the jaunty air that he
always adopted at such moments, yet at the same time reflecting
that the real object of his visit was now more necessary than ever:
"Matter of fact, I didn't come to talk about you at all."

"Good--because it's the one subject I try not to be interested in.
What DID you come to talk about?"

Dr. Whiteside answered bluntly:  "Livia."

"Livia?  Fine--go ahead.  Too bad she's out shopping now, or you
could talk to her yourself. . . .  What about her, though?"  Then
with sudden darkening urgency:  "She's not ill, is she?  There's
nothing happened to her?"

Dr. Whiteside saw a loophole into the argument which he knew had to
come.  "If she WERE ill, John, or if anything WERE to happen to
her . . . and I'm telling you this frankly, mind . . . it would be
nobody's fault but yours."

"But she's NOT ill . . . tell me . . . tell me. . . ."

"No, she's not exactly ill.  She's just in a rather nervous
state. . . ."

"I know--she ought to go away.  Matter of fact it was all arranged--"

"Yes, Richard told me, but he didn't tell me she hadn't gone."

"He doesn't know that yet. . . .  But she's not ILL? . . .  You're
not keeping something from me?"

"I've said she's in a rather nervous state.  That describes it
pretty well.  A VERY nervous state . . . as apparently you are
yourself."

"Oh, never mind me.  Leave me out of it."

"But I can't entirely--in what I have to say."

"Then for God's sake get on with saying it!"

After a pause Dr. Whiteside resumed:  "She's very fond of you,
isn't she?"

The question seemed to bring instant calm to the discussion.

"I daresay.  I am of her too.  She's kind to me.  You'd never
believe how kind to me she is.  I often wonder why, because--as
I've told her--I never did anything for her except bring her into
the world, and that's a doubtful privilege . . . but she's so kind--
so WONDERFULLY kind."

Dr. Whiteside cleared his throat; he would soon be on delicate
ground.  "Has it ever occurred to you . . . ?"  He hesitated, then
leaned forward to pat the head of the terrier and was disconcerted
when the animal growled at him.  "A faithful dog, I can see."

"Livia gave him to me.  Becky, his name is.  She gave me this pipe
too--though I can't smoke any more--it hurts my head to have a pipe
in my mouth.  She doesn't know that--please don't tell her.  She's
always giving me things.  I give her things too, but I can afford
so little nowadays . . . and those records were never returned.
The railway people never found them.  They were Mozart records--she
loves Mozart."

Dr. Whiteside nodded grimly.  Presently he said, beginning afresh:
"Has it ever occurred to you that she never remembered you as a
child . . . so that when she saw you a few years ago it was like
meeting a stranger for the first time?"

"Why, of course.  That's what makes it so remarkable.  Two
strangers.  And very much at odds with the world--both of us.
We've managed to get along pretty well.  But I agree with you--that
is, if the point you're making is about her health . . . a long
holiday. . . .  Richard's right . . . she needs it.  Sarah says so
too. . . ."  Then suddenly, in a changed voice:  "Dr. Whiteside,
I'm not well--I have to admit that.  In fact, there are times when
I'm very far from well.  Will you please tell me--quickly, please--
because there's not a great deal of time . . . exactly what are you
driving at?"

Half an hour later Dr. Whiteside left the house, having discovered
a great deal more than he had allowed the other to realize, and
having said perhaps more than he himself had intended.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Livia's shopping was considerably delayed that afternoon.  She was
not temperamentally a very good driver of a car, and after such
rain as had fallen during several consecutive days there were extra
hazards in travelling to and from Sloneclough.  It was quite a
phenomenal rain; all the streets near the river were under water,
with basements engulfed and families living in upper floors; the
Advertiser and the Guardian both reported it as the worst flood
within living memory.  This would have been enough for Browdley to
gossip about, yet when Livia entered shops to make her purchases
she could feel she was changing the subject of scores of
conversations.  For the town was already full of rumours about
Stoneclough.  A few words from Watson had been sufficient; their
very fewness gave larger scope to theory, interpretation, pure
invention.  The whole history of the Channing family, their crimes,
scandals, and downfall, was revived under a new spotlight.  It was
impossible not to wonder what secrets lay behind the eyes of a girl
who looked and talked as if she were half a child and half an
adult, but nothing at all of an eighteen-year-old.

She shopped at the butcher's, the grocer's, the pastry-cook's.  It
was remembered afterwards (by individuals) that she had bought some
pipe tobacco at the tobacconist's, and some lengths of coloured
ribbon in the drapery department of the Co-operative shop.  She was
quick-spoken, as always; knew exactly what she wanted, what it
should cost, and if it were of good quality.  A true Channing in
that respect, at least.

After dusk she set out on the return journey.  The old Citroën
spluttered slowly uphill with water leaking under the hood; it was
a car that did not take the hill too easily at the best of times,
but now both wind and rain were beating against its progress, and
every cross-street sent rivers of muddy flood-water swirling
against the wheels.  It was all she could do to hold the road, and
no more easily as she climbed, because the stream through the
clough had become a torrent breaking bounds in places.  She hoped
Martin would be asleep by the time she reached the house, because
if not, he might be worrying about her safe arrival.  He usually
dozed off about dusk and would often wake again past midnight, when
it was her habit to cook a small meal which they would eat in the
kitchen; after which they would talk until he felt like dozing
again, or sometimes, in fine weather, they would pace up and down
the garden in the darkness.

The strain of the drive had tired her, and when she finally slewed
the car into the garage she saw with relief that there was no chink
of light at the drawing-room window.  That meant he had already
gone to bed and might well be asleep.  Suddenly as she closed the
garage door she noticed tyre-marks in the yard that were not from
the car, or from Watson's motor-cycle; and a moment later, seeing
Watson wheeling his machine out of the shed where he kept it, she
asked if anyone had called during the day.

"Only Dr. Whiteside."

"HE called?  Why?"

"Oh, for a chat, I suppose.  He didn't stay long."

She remembered then that when she had recently met the doctor in
Browdley he had said something about calling round to see her
father; though she hadn't expected him to do so with such
promptness, especially during the rain.  "You'd better be careful,"
she warned Watson.  "The road's nearly washed out down the hill."

"Oh, I'll be all right, miss."

He jumped on his machine and was off.  She idly wondered where he
could think of going on such a night; she was as far as ever from
guessing that Stoneclough's inhabitants were beginning to get on
his nerves.

She entered the house through the kitchen.  As she passed Sarah's
room, near by, she heard a voice and listened; but it was only
Sarah herself, praying aloud in a curious wheezy whine.  The whine
was based on jumbled recollections of Methodist local preachers
whom Sarah, in the past, had admired; the wheeze was merely
asthmatic.  Sarah had always prayed aloud before going to bed, and
it brought back to Livia memories of a thousand childhood nights
when she herself (at Sarah's command) had done the same, kneeling
and shivering in a night-dress, and how the nightdress popping over
her head just before she began had become a symbol of prayer, so
that the words "Night is drawing nigh" in the hymn had meant
"Nighties drawing nigh" to her until long after she began to read.

She went upstairs to her own bedroom and was asleep within minutes.
She did not pray; somehow the act of prayer seemed more fitting
before a whole night's sleep, not just a few hours until midnight.
And besides, she was apt to pray harder during the day, while she
was doing other things as well.

But that night, had she known, she might have said an extra prayer,
for when she awoke it was almost dawn; from utter exhaustion she
had slept eight hours.  Immediately--and perhaps it had wakened her--
she heard the bark of a dog in the distance, the little white dog
whom Martin had called Becky, because (they had both noticed) it
never seemed to follow them when they walked, but liked to run on
ahead and then turn round, as if beckoning.

The bark continued, giving her a sudden premonition of tragedy.
She hurried through the dark house and across the garden, following
the sound, and Becky came running forward to meet her at the top of
the clough.

Martin's body was wedged between rocks where the river poured in
spate; she made the discovery quickly because Becky jumped into the
torrent near the exact spot.  She tried to drag the body out of the
water, but lacked the strength.  She noticed later that where the
path came nearest to the rocks there had been a small landslide.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

It was full dawn as she returned to Stoneclough.  Sarah was still
asleep, Watson had been out all night; the house was cold and grey
and silent.  Entering it she knew she could not tell anyone yet;
she felt herself spinning into unconsciousness as she flung herself
on a couch in the drawing-room.  Just a little while to gain
control, and then hold it for a lifetime--just half an hour, maybe,
until the sun was up, until Sarah, taking tea to his room, would
herself discover the absence.  Presently she noticed that Becky was
wet and shivering, and the dog's simple need roused her to equally
simple action.  But a moment later, while she was in the kitchen
rubbing him with a towel, some men appeared in the yard outside.
They were Browdley Council workmen, in charge of an engineer; they
had walked up the clough to see if the flood-water was abating; and
in so doing they had found Martin's body.

One of the workmen claimed afterwards that when Livia was given the
news she said in a low voice, "Yes, I know," but she denied this
later in the morning to Dr. Whiteside, and under his tactful
handling the matter was not raised at the inquest, though it was
freely gossiped about in the town.  She was so distracted, anyhow,
that (as all the men agreed) she might not have known what she was
saying even if she HAD said it.  But it was still a little odd, as
were a great many other things.



PART THREE


Christmas and the Christmas Number of the Guardian came a few weeks
later, and George Boswell, summarizing the local events of the year
in a special article, then wrote as follows:


". . . In November Browdley suffered its worst floods within living
memory, while in the same month the death, under suspicious
circumstances, of Mr. John Channing, of Stoneclough, recalled the
Channing Mill crash of a generation ago--an event notable in the
history of our town both on account of the number of its victims
and the sensational criminal trial that followed it. . . ."


When George handed this to Will Spivey, his sub-editor, printer,
proof-reader, ad-salesman, and general all-purposes assistant, the
latter scrutinized it, grunted, then carefully blue-pencilled the
word "suspicious".

"You can't say that, George."

"Why not?  Isn't it true?"

"Have ye never heard 'the greater the truth the greater the
libel'?"

"Libel?  Who's libelling who?"

"The verdict at the inquest was 'accidental death'."

"Aye, and everybody knows why--because old Whiteside was coroner
and made 'em believe what the girl said. . . .  As if anyone sober
or in his right mind would be taking walks in the clough at night
during the worst storm for years--"

"I know, George.  And there's some say he wasn't sober and there's
others say he wasn't in his right mind and I've even heard it
whispered that--"

"Nay--I'm not saying or whispering anything, because I simply don't
know and I refuse to believe gossip.  I'm just content with the
word 'suspicious'."

"No good, George.  The jury found it was accidental--you can't
contradict 'em.  Change to 'tragic' and you'll be safe."

George reluctantly made the substitution.  It was his first year as
editor and he did not want trouble.  Already he had discovered that
the written word had more pitfalls than the spoken, and that the
Guardian was a rather sickly infant whose survival could only be
contrived from week to week by the most delicate nursing.

"There you are then," he muttered, handing back the corrected copy.
"And if I'm safe, that's more than Channing's ever was. . . ."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Ever since he could remember, the Channing name had been part of
his life.  He had known that his father worked at 'Channing's'
before he had any idea what Channing's was, and when he was old
enough to associate the word with the humming, three-storied, soot-
blackened cotton mill at the end of the street, it had taken shape
in his mind as something fixed, universal, and eternal.  As a child
the rows of windows had seemed endless to him as he walked under
their sills, and it became an exciting dream to think that as he
grew up he would presently be tall enough to see through them.
When that time did come he found there was nothing to see--just the
faint suggestion of moving wheels behind the wired and murky glass,
with the humming louder when he put his ears to it.  He had grown
up to feel that work at Channing's was in the natural order of
events, like play along the canal-bank and chapel on Sundays.
Indeed, it was the shrill Channing's 'buzzer' that marked Time, and
the Channing's brick wall that marked Space, in his own small boy's
world.

Even after the death of his parents, when he had gone to live with
his uncle in another part of the town, Channing's merely acquired
an extra attribute, for Uncle Joe called it 'safe'.  George soon
learned that it paid his uncle, who did not work there, just as
regularly as it had paid his father, who HAD worked; though why
this should be, he could not imagine.  It was, however, of
importance because his uncle had promised to send him to Browdley
Grammar School and pay the fees out of 'the Channing's money'.
Then suddenly disaster struck.  Even to an intelligent schoolboy it
was all rather incomprehensible, for the mill still stood, not a
brick disturbed, not a cadence lost from the call of its early
morning and late afternoon siren; and yet, in a way that
undoubtedly hurried Uncle Joe to his grave, Channing's proved no
longer 'safe'.

So George, because of this, had left an elementary school when he
was thirteen, and had taken various jobs that gave him nothing but
a series of pointless and not always pleasant experiences, and then
had come the war, with more pointless and not always pleasant
experiences--in France and elsewhere.  During this time, however,
his dissatisfactions had acquired a pattern, and the pattern had
acquired a trend; so that on seeing Browdley again, war-injured but
recovering, at the age of thirty, he had known what he wanted to do
and had begun right away to do it.  At a Council by-election he won
a victory that surprised even himself, while about the same time he
took over the almost bankrupt Guardian.

And after several months the Guardian was still almost bankrupt.
For one reason, it had no monopoly (the Browdley Advertiser, one of
a chain of local papers, enjoyed a far bigger circulation), and
Browdley folk remained obstinately fixed in their reading habits
even when an increasing number of them favoured George's political
opinions.  He would have been badly off indeed but for the small
printing establishment (two hand presses with three employees),
which not only put out the regular weekly edition but also received
official printing jobs from the Browdley municipality.  And here,
of course, lay an obvious opening for George's political opponents,
some of whom whispered "graft" whenever the Council (George
scrupulously absenting himself from the vote) decided to hand him
another contract.  That they did so at all, however, testified to
his rising popularity as well as to the fact that the enmities he
made were rarely bitter or lasting.  The truth was, as an enemy
once remarked, it was damned hard to hate George, and whispers of
graft did not stick very well because, graft or no graft, it really
was quite obvious that he was not lining his pockets with any
considerable success.  He lived modestly in the oldish,
inconvenient house which, adjoining the printing works, he had
acquired when nobody else wanted either; and he often found it as
hard to pay his newsprint bills as to collect from some of his
customers.  He dressed rather shabbily and rode a bicycle except
when official business entitled him to the use of a municipal car.
The local bank-manager and income-tax assessor knew all these and
other pertinent details, but as they belonged to the opposition
party they were constrained to attack him in reverse: if, they
argued, George succeeded so meagrely with his own small business,
how could Browdley feel confidence in his capacity to run the town?
But humbler citizens were not much influenced by this.  Most of
them knew George personally and felt that his total lack of
prosperity made him all the more human, municipal contracts or not.
They LIKED him, in fact, and a great many fought his battle, and if
a few of them fought it bitterly, he would sometimes reward them
with a speech that made them think he was secretly as bitter as
they were.  But in that they were wrong, for George was just fiery,
effervescent, genuinely indignant over much that he saw around him,
but incurably romantic about what he saw in his own mind.  He was
also naïve in the way he tackled his opponents--first of all
overwhelming them with a sort of Galahad impetuosity, then
wondering if perhaps he had been a little unfair, and later--as
often as not--making some quixotic gesture of retractation or
conciliation.

There was that Council meeting, for instance, in the spring of
1918, at which he first spoke Livia's name--and with a ring of
challenge as he pitched his voice to the public gallery.  "I've
always held," he began, "that no accident of birth should ever
stand in the way of merit--(Cheers)--in fact it's one of the few
things I'm prepared to be thoroughly consistent about.  (Laughter.)
Councillor Whaley has just referred to the great injustice done to
our fellow-citizens many years ago by one whose name has a certain
prominence in the history of this town.  I think Councillor Whaley
put the matter far too mildly in using the word 'injustice'.  I'd
prefer myself to call it the most damnable piece of financial
knavery ever perpetrated by a self-acknowledged crook at the
expense of thousands of honest hard-working folks.  (Loud cheers.)
Oh yes, I know the saying 'De mortuis nil nisi bonum'--if I've got
the pronunciation wrong perhaps some of the gentlemen on the other
side who have had the advantage of a better education than mine will
correct me--(Laughter)--at any rate, they'll agree with me that the
Latin words mean that you shall speak no evil of the dead. . . .
But may I ask THIS question of Councillor Whaley--suppose the
dead reach out from their graves to continue the harm they did
during their lives--are we STILL to keep silent about them?  (Loud
and prolonged cheers).  Gentlemen . . . I wouldn't have referred to
such a matter unless the other side had thought fit to mention it
first.  But since they did, I'll say this much--that in my opinion
our town is STILL suffering from the effects of the Channing Mill
crash and the iniquitous swindle that caused it!  Its victims are
to be found in every street--nay, almost in every house.  Certainly
in ONE of our houses--the workhouse.  (Cheers.)  What shall we say
of any man, living or dead, who can be accounted personally
responsible for such a thing?  To inherit control of an industrial
concern and then behave with such callous dishonesty that working
people lose jobs and life savings together, so that hundreds of
homes are sacrificed and broken up, so that health is imperilled
and countless lives are embittered, so that children have their
educations interrupted and old folks are hastened to their graves--
if one man causes all this havoc, then in God's name what shall we
call him, or the system that gave him such power and opportunity?"

Here the cheers and shouts of the gallery were interrupted by a
shabby little man in the back row who yelled out with piercing
distinctness:  "Don't matter what you call 'im now, George.  The
bugger's dead."  Whereupon cheers dissolved into laughter, and
George, sensing the moment for a change of mood, dropped his voice
to a much more prosaic level and continued:

"Aye . . . let's cut the cackle and get down to the business in
hand.  There's a war still on, and we must save a bit of our bad
language for the Germans.  (Laughter.)  I was just then tempted--as
we all are sometimes--to speak my mind.  (Laughter.)  I couldn't
help it, and I think those who elected me to this Council didn't
really expect me ever to do anything else.  (Cheers and laughter.)
And that's why I'm urging you now, as a man still speaking his
mind, not to pay off an old score on an innocent person.  To begin
with, the score's too big.  And then also, though we're often told
that the sins of the fathers get visited on the children, there
isn't one of us who thinks that's really a fair thing, or ought to
be encouraged. . . .  Well, now let me really come to the facts of
the matter.  We have tonight a subordinate municipal post to fill
for which we invited public applications.  As I see it--and not as
some folks here seem to see it--there's only one thing we ought to
do, and that's what we always have done--choose the best person for
the job and let no other consideration matter.  It's a simple
method, and I'm all against changing it."  And then, dropping his
voice to a monotone as he consulted a sheet of paper:  "I have here
the list of applicants for the position of junior library
assistant, together with their qualifications.  On the basis of
these facts, and these alone, I move that the application of Miss
Olivia Channing be accepted."  (Cheers and some cries of dissent.)

The foregoing has been worth quoting verbatim, not only because it
was one of the events that shaped George's destiny, but as a sample
of his speech-making in those days.  He always said he was no
orator, and sincerely believed it, but his opponents though
reluctant to use the complimentary term, were not so sure; at any
rate they could call him a rabble-rouser.  The speech is typical in
its astute and somewhat excessive preliminary agreement with the
other side (in this case his own side), putting them in a good
humour by stating their case better than they could themselves, so
that afterwards George's real point came as an intended anti-
climax.  He had often by this means won victories almost by
default.  The jibe about his fellow-members' superior education was
also typical; it was true that many of them had been to better
schools, but extremely unlikely that any could remember as much
Latin as George had recently learned.

But most typical of all was his quixotic impulse to be fair; it was
as if, having called the father a crook, he felt in duty bound to
find the daughter a job.

On this occasion victory was anything but by default.  His speech
failed to silence objectors, and there was further argument, some
of it rancorous.  But the motion was eventually passed by a narrow
margin, with much cross-voting; so that in due course Miss Olivia
Channing did indeed become junior assistant in the Browdley Public
Library at a commencing salary of forty-five shillings a week.

"And a nice problem you've handed me," Dick Jordan remarked,
meeting George a few days later in Shawgate.  The Librarian was one
of George's closest friends and political supporters.

"Why, Dick, isn't she any good?"

"She does the work all right, but--well, when you remember her
father there's a lot of things you can't feel sure of."

"Aye, and one of them's heredity," declared George, advancing
stoutly to a favourite topic.  "Thank goodness it's not as
important as environment, because environment's something you can
change."

"Not when you've already had it.  What d'you think HER environment
was like at Stoneclough--up there with a man who'd done a stretch
in prison and drank heavily and was so impossible to live with
that . . . oh, well, you've heard some of the rumours, I daresay."

"I've heard 'em, but I don't see why they should make us condemn
the girl.  Seems to me it's more a case for sympathy."

"She'll not find much of that in Browdley, George.  It's one thing
to swing the Council by a speech, but when it comes to changing the
minds of ordinary folks who've lost their hard cash--"

"But SHE didn't steal it--"

"No, but she lived at Stoneclough, and for years that's been the
symbol in this town of being luckier than you deserve.  And it's
still the symbol, George, in spite of all the mortgages on the
place and no matter what the girl herself had to put up with
there. . . ."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

George did not meet her till some weeks after she had begun work.
He was then studying hard for the final examination that might earn
him a university degree, and it was this that occupied his mind
when he entered the Reference Department of the Library on a sunny
April afternoon.  But when he left, a couple of hours later, he
could only think of the girl who had brought him Volume Four of the
Cambridge Modern History.

He always remembered her first words to him as she took his slip of
paper, scanned it, then him, then stepped back a pace.  "COUNCILLOR
Boswell?"

And his own first words as he stared at her for the first time:
"Aye, that's me."

"Then I want to thank you for--for--"

"Oh . . . so you're Olivia Channing?"

"Yes, that's why I want to thank you.  It was kind of you to put in
a word for me."

"I didn't mean it as kindness--just fairness, that's all.  But I'm
glad it turned out the way it did.  How are you managing?"

"You mean the work?  Oh, it's easy."

"Like it?"

"Pretty well."

"Only that?"

She smiled--a curious smile, for which George, who saw it often
afterwards, long sought an adjective, and in the end could only use
Jordan's description of the girl--he had said she looked 'haunted'.

She said now, with this smile:  "People don't like ME, that's the
trouble."

He smiled back, robustly, cheerfully.  "Can't expect them to, yet
awhile.  You'll just have to live things down a bit."

"Live things down?

"Aye . . . if you know what I mean."

He wondered if, or how much, she did, especially as that ended
their conversation rather abruptly.  She fetched him his book and
did not resume it.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

After that first meeting he began to feel emotionally the full
force of the argument he had stated in abstract terms at the
Council meeting--that the child should not suffer for the sins of
the father.  In this case the sins of the father had been so
considerable that the sufferings of the daughter might well be on
the same scale unless someone intervened on her behalf; and George,
having intervened once, could not help the growth of a feeling of
personal responsibility to match his awakening interest.  He knew
that John Channing had died practically without means, despite the
fact that he had lived at Stoneclough from the time of his release
from prison until his death; and though the daughter's need to go
out and earn her own living did not stir George to any particular
pity (for, after all, that was what most Browdley girls had to do),
he was nevertheless concerned that she should be happy in her job,
the more so as he had obtained it for her.  Not till he met her for
the second time did it occur to him to wonder why on earth she had
applied for any job at all in a place where there was so much local
feeling against her family.

He spoke this thought aloud when (on a bus-top where he found
himself next to her) she admitted having encountered a good deal of
coldness and even a few personal insults at the Library.

"Then how about giving it up?" he asked, suddenly seeing things
from her angle and becoming indignant about them.  "Would you be
happier?"

"I need the money," she said simply.

"Aye, but there'd be other jobs in other places--why not try
London, for instance?"

"I'd rather stay here."

"You mean you LIKE Browdley?"

She shook her head.

"Then why?"

"It's my home--Stoneclough."

"Stoneclough?  You mean the actual house?  It means so much to you?
You still live there?"

"Yes, it's my home."

"I should have thought you'd have been glad to leave a place that
had such--er--unhappy associations."

She shook her head again.

After an awkward pause George continued:  "Well, don't worry.  Most
people have short memories."

"I haven't."

"Oh, I didn't mean THAT. . . .  I meant other people--they'll
change their minds about you if you stick it out."

(And yet as he said this he was aware of another phenomenon that
became familiar to him later--the ease with which, to her or in her
presence, he said things he did not really mean, or that his own
judgment did not support.  For instance, it simply was not true
that Browdley people had short memories--on the contrary, though
the Channing crash had taken place a generation before, it was
still remembered with bitterness, and the fact that the girl had
had unpleasant experiences at the Library proved it.)

She said:  "Please don't think I'm complaining about the job.  It
was you who asked me what it was like, otherwise I shouldn't have
said anything."

"Well, I'm glad it doesn't bother you much.  If it does, let me
know."

(But that also was absurd.  What could he do, even if she did let
him know?  Any other job in Browdley would have the same drawbacks,
and outside Browdley he had no influence to find her a job at all.)

She said, smiling:  "Thanks.  It's very kind of you. . . .  I'm
afraid this is my stop. . . .  Good night."

It was at the corner where the lane to Stoneclough left the main
road.  He suddenly realized that and detained her for a few seconds
with an astonished:  "But--but--are you going home NOW?  How do you
get there from here?"

"I walk."

"But it's three miles."

"I don't mind.  I love walking. . . .  Good night."

After she had gone and the bus had re-started he began to think it
over.  Six miles a day on foot oughtn't to have shocked him (he was
a good walker himself and had often, when he was her age, walked to
and from jobs to save bus fares), but it was strange to realize
that till then he had never wondered how or where the girl did
live, travel to her work, and so on.  So she was still at
Stoneclough? . . .  Too bad there were no other houses in that
direction, or he might have asked the Transport Committee, of which
he was a member, to start a new bus route.

He met her several times again on that same trip and each time he
found himself more interested.  Up to a point they seemed to get
along excellently; she was quick-minded and charmingly friendly,
and when she spoke it was with a sort of grave ardour that made
even chatter sound significant; yet beyond that a shadow seemed to
fall between them.  After thinking it over with some deliberation
he decided what the shadow was; it must be the fact (doubtless
known to her) that he had publicly attacked her father and family.
He was prepared for some inevitable mention of this sooner or
later, and planned to be completely frank and outspoken.  "Now
please," he would say, "let's not waste time over that.  I said
what I meant and I still mean it.  But I don't expect YOU to see
things my way--after all, he was your father, whatever else he
was."

But she never gave him the cue.  One day, however, he met Dick
Jordan in the street again and heard the story of a rather odd
incident that had taken place at the Library.

"I was in my office, George, when I heard a bit of a row going on
at the counter, so I went out to see what it was, and there was old
Horncastle calling the girl names and shouting about her father
having ruined him.  You know Bob Horncastle?"

Yes, George knew him.  He was a gnarled industrial veteran who had
lost both job and money in the Channing crash and had lived ever
since on the verge of penury, his embitterment becoming a shade
nearer lunacy each year.  Browdley knew all about him.  He was a
hard case, but no harder than some others.

"The girl was standing there, George, pale and not saying a word
and with that haunted look I told you about, while the old chap
poured out a stream of abuse.  When he saw me approaching he
stopped, and then the girl said very quietly--'I'm sorry, Mr.
Horncastle.'  She had to get his name from the Library card she was
holding, and the way she did that--the way she looked down, I mean,
and then looked up again and spoke his name . . . well, it was just
like a play, especially when she went on--'But why don't you
scribble it in the margins of the book, as all the other people
do?'  Then she just walked off and left him to me to calm down.  Of
course there wasn't much I could say--he's too old, for one thing,
and the way he was carrying on I was afraid he was going to have a
heart attack.  Finally I got him to go, and then I went back to my
office and nearly had a heart attack myself.  That kind of thing
upsets me."

George was troubled.  "I must admit I didn't think folks would take
it out of the girl so much.  And from what you say, Dick, it wasn't
her fault--she gave no provocation."

"The bare fact of her being there was provocation enough to
Horncastle. . . .  But there's a sequel.  After he'd gone I was
curious about the girl's remark about people scribbling in the
margins of the book. . . .  WHAT book?  There's only one it could
have been, and that's the detailed report of Channing's trial, so I
thought I'd look to see if it was on the shelves.  It was, and sure
enough, the margins were messed up with pencilled comments--
including just about the foulest language I ever heard of--and in
different handwritings too.  Looked as if a good many Browdley
readers had had a go at expressing their opinions. . . .  Of course
it was our own negligence not to have spotted it earlier--we're
supposed to go through all the books at the annual stocktaking and
rub out anything of that sort, but apparently this book had been
overlooked.  So I put it aside and thought I'd do the job myself as
soon as I had time.  But then another queer thing happened.  Later
in the afternoon the girl came to my office and asked where the
book was.  Seems rather as if she kept an eye on it and had already
noticed it was gone--for of course she could check to see it hadn't
been lent out.  I told her I'd taken it and that I intended to have
the objectionable remarks removed, and then she said--and again I
thought of somebody in a play--she said:  'Oh, please don't on my
account.'  I gave her a bit of a sharp answer--I said, 'It's not on
your account at all, young lady, it's simply a Library rule.'  And
that ended the matter. . . .  But I must say, she's a queer
customer.  You'd have thought she'd be glad I was going to do it.
Frankly, I can't make her out."

George nodded thoughtfully.  "Aye, she's a problem, I can see that.
Maybe I made a mistake in getting her the job, but it's done now
and can't be undone.  If I were you, though, I'd try to find her
some kind of work where she doesn't have to meet folks so much. . . .
Isn't there something?"

"She might tackle the indexing.  Yes, that's not a bad idea,
George.  I daresay she's smart enough."

"Attractive-looking too, don't you think?"

Jordan gave George a shrewd glance.  "Can't say.  Maybe I'm no
judge, or maybe she's just not my style.  She attracts ATTENTION,
if that's what you mean, but whether it's by her looks or a sort of
personality, or something else, I can't be sure.  I know I wouldn't
want her in my office."

"She'd give you more heart attacks, is that it?" said George,
laughing.

The Librarian joined in the joke, as boisterously as a man may who
actually does have a weak heart as well as a nagging wife.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

So it was arranged that the girl should tackle the indexing, and
George wondered how it had worked out when next he met her, for she
certainly seemed happier and greeted him with a smile whose warmth
he felt, for the first time, was somehow intimate and personal.
They chatted--on the bus-top as usual--without mentioning anything
important till she said, apropos of nothing in particular:  "Aren't
you soon taking a university degree?"

"Aye, if I can pass the exam, and that's a pretty big 'if'.  Who
told you?"

"I heard someone saying something about it at the Library.  You
see, you ask for so many books."  She added:  "Such DIFFICULT books
too . . . and yet . . ."  And then she hesitated.

"And yet what?"

"Those 'ayes' of yours."

"My EYES?"

"I mean the 'ayes' you say instead of 'yes'."

He flushed, and for a moment fought down a humourless impulse to be
offended.  Then he laughed.  "Aye," he answered, with slow
deliberation.  "I daresay I could drop them if I disliked them
enough.  But I don't.  And if anybody else does . . . well, let
'em."  And then he suddenly gave himself the cue that he had waited
for in vain from her.  "Maybe you feel about your dad like that.
You just don't care what other people THINK--because it's what you
yourself FEEL that matters.  I don't blame you.  I've done my share
in attacking your family in this town--you probably know about that--
and I'm not going to make any apologies or take back a single
word.  But I can't see why that should come between you and me, and
for my part it doesn't have to."

He paused to give her a chance to say something, but she said
nothing, so he went on:  "Well, thank goodness that's off my chest.
I've been looking for the chance to say it because if you and I are
going to get to know each other well there has to be some sort of
understanding about how we both feel about ancient history.  Aye,
ancient history, that's what it is."  He was relieved to have found
the phrase until he saw her face, turned to him with a look so
uninterpretable that it might have been slight amusement or slight
horror, but mixed, in either case, with a preponderance of simple
curiosity.  She seemed to be waiting to hear what he would say
next, and that, of course, put him off so that he stopped talking
altogether.  Just then the bus reached the corner of the
Stoneclough lane, surprising them both, and as she sprang down the
steps with a quick smile and a good-night he had an overmastering
urge to follow her, if only not to leave the conversation poised
for days, perhaps, at such an impossible angle.  So he ran after
her and overtook her a little way along the lane.  "I don't need to
study tonight," he said breathlessly (she knew that he spent most
of his evenings with the difficult Library books).  "I can walk
part of the way with you--that is, if you don't mind. . . ."

"Why, of course not.  I don't mind at all.  But on one condition."

"Yes?"

"Let's not mention my father again . . . PLEASE."

"All right."

"EVER again?  You promise?"

"Why, certainly--if that's what you wish, but I assure you I DO
understand how you feel--"

"No, no, you don't--you CAN'T . . . but you've promised, remember
that.  From now on.  From this minute on."  And over the strained
emphasis of her words there came, like a veil slowly drawn, that
curious 'haunted' smile.

So he walked with her, puzzled and somewhat discomfited at first,
as he changed the subject to Browdley and its affairs.  He did so
because, after his promise, that seemed the easiest way to keep it;
and sure enough, he was soon at ease amidst the torrent of his own
plans and ambitions, both personal and for the town.  She made few
comments and when they said goodbye at the gates of Stoneclough he
could not forbear the somewhat chastened afterthought:  "I hope
that didn't bore you.  Or weren't you listening?"

She answered, smiling again, but this time differently:  "Well, not
ALL the time.  But I don't have to, do I?  Can't I like you without
liking the new gas-works?"

"Aye," he said, smiling back as he gave her arm a farewell squeeze.
"But I can like you and STILL like the new gas-works.  Why not?"

               *     *     *     *     *     *

But COULD he?  That was to some extent, both then and afterwards,
the question.

He soon realized that he loved her--probably on the way home after
that first walk to Stoneclough.  And immediately, of course, she
became the object of a crusade, for in those days that was the
pattern of all George's emotions--his passion for education, his
eagerness to tear down the slums of Browdley (already he had a
scheme), his secret ambition to become the town's member of
Parliament--all were for the ultimate benefit of others as well as
to satisfy personal desire.  And soon, eclipsing everything else in
intensity, came his desire to marry Livia--that is to say, to
RESCUE her.  To rescue her from Stoneclough, from the thraldom of
ancient history; and now, additionally, to rescue her from a
situation he had himself got her into, where she was at the mercy
of casual insults from strangers as well as of her own morbid
preoccupation with a book about her father's trial.  All this, as
George had to admit, totalled up to a rather substantial piece of
rescue work, but he had the urge to do it, and his Galahad mood
rose as always to put desire into action.  It did not take more
than a few weeks to bring that desire to fever point, especially
when the chance of prompt action was denied.  For she refused his
first proposal of marriage.  She seemed genuinely bewildered, as if
it were the last thing she had ever expected.  She LIKED him, she
admitted--oh yes, she liked him a great deal; but as for marrying--
well, she thought she was far too young, and anyhow, she didn't
think she would ever want to marry anybody.  And she was quite
happy where and how she was--at Stoneclough.  In fact, to bring the
matter to its apparently crucial issue, she couldn't and wouldn't
leave Stoneclough.

George took his 'no' for an answer exactly as he had begun to do on
the Council whenever he brought up his housing scheme--that is to
say, he seemed to accept it good-humouredly and as final while all
the time he was planning how he could best bring the matter up
again.  Besides which, in this case, he was in love.  He had
supposed he had been in love before, on several occasions, but the
difference in what he felt for Livia convinced him that THIS was
love--because why else should he begin to neglect his Council work--
not much, not even in a way that could be noticed by anyone else,
but enough to give him qualms of conscience only to be stifled by
reflecting that as soon as he had won her he would make up for lost
time?  He gave himself the same consolation over similar neglect of
his examination studies.  After all, even in battles, the first
must come first.  He had confidence that he would win her
eventually, not only because he had confidence about most things in
those days, but because--as he saw it--there was no considerable
rival in the field--only Stoneclough, and he felt himself more than
a match for bricks and mortar, however darkly consecrated.  How
could she long hesitate between the past and the future, especially
as there were moments when he felt so sure of her--physical moments
when she seemed to withdraw into a world of her own sensations that
offered neither criticism nor restraint, in contrast to her usual
behaviour, which was to make of most contacts a struggle for
mastery?  He was a clumsy lover, and ruefully aware of it; as he
said once, when she emerged from her private world to laugh at him:
"Aye, I'm a bit better on committees. . . ."

The fact that she would never say, in words, that she loved him
mattered less after she had said, both doubtfully and hopefully, in
reply to his fifth or sixth proposal: "I MIGHT marry you, George,
some day.  If I ever marry anyone at all. . . ."

He never passed beyond the gates of Stoneclough; she never invited
him, and he never suggested it.  She told him little about herself,
and the promise he had given not to mention her father set limits
to his personal questions about other matters, though not to his
curiosity.  He wondered, for instance, why old Richard Felsby, her
father's former partner, had not helped her financially, for
Richard had dissolved partnership and sold out his interest in the
firm before the crash, so that he was still rich and could well
have afforded some gesture of generosity.  But when once George
spoke Richard Felsby's name he knew he had in some way trespassed
on forbidden territory.  "I don't see him," was all she said, "and
I don't want to.  I NEVER want to see him."

She said little, either, about her life at Stoneclough, except to
reiterate, whenever he brought up the matter, that she would rather
live there than anywhere else, despite the inconvenience of the
three-mile walk.  He gathered that there was some old woman, a kind
of housekeeper, living there also, and that the two of them shared
cooking and other domestic jobs; but she gave him few details and
he did not care to probe.  Most of his time with her was spent
along the Stoneclough road, walking evening after evening during
that long fine summer; but as the days shortened and the bad
weather came, they sometimes met in the Library at midday, when she
had an hour off and they could talk in one of the book-lined
alcoves of the Reference Department.  They spoke then in whispers,
because of the 'Silence' notice on the wall; and there was piquancy
in that, because as Chairman of the Public Library Sub-Committee he
had a sort of responsibility for seeing that Library rules were
enforced.

One lunch hour she greeted him in such a distraught way that he
knew immediately something was wrong.  Soon she told him, and even
in face of her distress his heart leapt with every word of the
revelation.  By the time she had finished he knew that fate had
played into his hands, so he proposed again, with all his quiet
triumph hidden behind a veil of sympathy.  For George could not
avoid a technique of persuasion that made his last thrust in battle--
the winning one--always the kindest.  And by sheer coincidence, in
that odd way in which at important moments of life the eye is apt
to be caught by incongruous things, he noticed while he was talking
that just above her hair, and glinting in the same shaft of
sunshine, lay an imposing edition of Creasy's Fifteen Decisive
Battles of the World.  He couldn't help smiling and thinking it a
good omen.

The news that had so distressed her was that the bank had
foreclosed the mortgages on Stoneclough, so that she would have had
to leave the house in any event.  George tried to feel that this
did not detract from his triumph, but merely contributed to it.  He
assured her that she would find it more fun living in a small house
than in a great barracks of a place like Stoneclough.  "I'd like to
know what the bank thinks it can do with it. . . ."

She made no comment, but asked after a pause:  "Do you like dogs?"

"Aye, I like 'em all right.  Used to have one when I lived with my
Uncle Joe--a big black retriever."

"My dog's small--and white.  His name's Becky."

He suddenly realized what she was driving at.  "You mean you want
to bring your dog to live with us?  Why, of course. . . .  And I
like any dog, for that matter."

They were married a few weeks later at Browdley Register Office,
with only a few friends of George's in attendance.  She was
nineteen, and the fact that he was getting on for twice that age
was only one of the reasons why the affair caused a local
sensation.

Councillor Whaley, a seventy-year-old confirmed bachelor and one of
those political opponents whom George had converted into a staunch
personal friend, took him aside after the ceremony to say:  "Well,
George, she's smart enough, and ye've got her, so God bless ye
both. . . .  I doubt if it'll help ye, though, when ye come up for
re-election."

"And d'you think that worries me?" George retorted, with jovial
indignation.  "Would you have me marry for votes?"

Tom Whaley chuckled.  "I'll ask ye ten years hence if ye'd vote for
marriage--that's the real question."  George then laughed back as
he clapped the old man on the shoulder and reflected privately that
Tom Whaley mightn't be alive ten years hence, and how lucky he
himself was, by contrast, to have so much time ahead, and to have
it all with Livia.  For he was still young enough to think of what
he wanted to do as a life-work, the more so as the world looked as
if it would give him a chance to do it.

George, ever ready to be optimistic, was particularly so on that
day of his marriage.

So were millions of others all over the earth--for it was the month
of November, 1918.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

The honeymoon, at Bournemouth, was a happy one, and by the time it
was over George knew a great many things--a few of them
disconcerting--about Livia, but one thing about himself that seemed
to matter and was simple enough, after all: he loved her.  He loved
her more, even, than he had thought he would, or could, love any
woman.  When he woke in the mornings and saw her still sleeping at
his side he had a feeling of tenderness that partly disappeared as
soon as she wakened, but somehow left a fragrance that lasted
through the day, making him tolerant where he might have been
unyielding, amused where he might have been antagonized.  For she
was, he soon discovered, a person with a very definite will of her
own.  He thought she was in some ways more like an animal than any
human being he had ever met; but she was like a REAL animal, he
qualified, not just a human animal.  There was intense physicality
about her, but it was unaware of itself and never gross; on the
other hand, she had a quality of fastidiousness that human beings
rarely have, but animals often.  He could only modestly wonder how
he had ever been so confident of winning her, because now that he
had done so she seemed to him so much more desirable that it was
almost as if he had to keep on winning, or else, in some
incomprehensible way, to risk losing.  And when he returned to
Browdley that was still the case.  He had hoped, after marriage, to
concentrate more than ever on his Council work and on study for the
university examination--to make up for such splendidly lost time
with a vengeance; yet to his slight dismay there came no relief at
all from a nagging preoccupation that he could not grapple with,
much less analyse.  He found it actually harder to concentrate on
the Cambridge Modern History, harder to generate that mixture of
indignation and practical energy that had just barely begun to move
the mountains of opposition to everything he wanted to do as town
councillor.  It was as if the fire with which she consumed him were
now seeking to consume other fires.

For instance, her sudden change of attitude in regard to Browdley,
and her naïve question, within a few weeks of their return:
"George, I've been thinking--couldn't you do your sort of work
somewhere else?"

"Somewhere else?  You mean move into a better part of the town?"

"No, I mean move altogether.  Out of Browdley."

He was too astonished to say much at first.  "Well, I don't
know. . . ."  And then he smiled.  "That's just what I suggested
to you once, and you said you'd rather stay here."

"I said I'd rather stay at Stoneclough.  But I haven't got
Stoneclough now."

"Well, I've still got the Guardian and my Council position.
Wouldn't be so easy for me to give all that up."

"You think it would be hard to find a newspaper or a Council job in
some other town?"

"Aye, that's true too.  But what I said is just what I meant.  It
wouldn't be easy for me to give up Browdley."

She was not the sort of woman to say 'Not even to please ME?'--and
although he did not think it was in her mind, he knew it was rather
uncomfortably in his own.

"It's probably silly of me, George, even to ask you."

"No, I wouldn't call it silly--it's just not practical.  Of course
I can understand how you feel about the place, but surely it's
easier to put up with now than it used to be when you worked at the
Library?"

"Oh, it isn't a question of that.  I can put up with anything.  I
did, didn't I?  It's just that--somehow--I don't think Browdley
will bring us any luck."

"Oh, come now--superstitions--"

"I know--I can't argue it out.  It's just a feeling I have."

He laughed with relief, for the unreasonable in those days did not
seem to him much of an adversary.  "All right, maybe you won't have
to have it long, because I've a bit of news to tell you. . . ."

He told her then what he had known for several days--that the
parliamentary member for Browdley was expected to retire on account
of age within a few months.  When this happened there would be a by-
election and George would be a possible candidate; if he won, he
would be obliged to live in London during parliamentary sessions,
so Livia would enjoy frequent escapes from Browdley that way.

She was much happier at the thought of this, and soon also for
another reason: she was going to have a baby.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

The member for Browdley duly applied for the Chiltern Hundreds; the
writ for the by-election was issued; George was selected as his
party's candidate, and the campaign opened in the summer of the
following year.  George's opponent was a rich local manufacturer
who had made a fortune during the war and declined to entertain the
notion that this was in any way less than his deserts.  His party's
majority at the coupon election just after the Armistice had been
large, but already there were signs of a change in the national
mood, especially in the industrial areas, and it was generally
agreed that George had a chance if he would put up a fight for it.
And there certainly seemed no one likelier or better able to do so.

When George looked back on his life from later years, it was this
period--those few weeks and months--that shone conspicuously,
because upon Livia, always unpredictable, pregnancy seemed to
confer such deep contentment.  George then realized the power she
had over him, for immediately he felt freed for effort just when
effort was most needed.  Never did he work harder than during that
election campaign; every morning, after a few necessary jobs in the
newspaper office, he would leave for a whole day of canvassing,
meetings at street corners and factory gates, culminating in some
'monster rally' in the evening that would send him home tired but
still exhilarated, long after midnight.  Usually Livia would then
have a meal awaiting him, which he would gulp down avidly while he
told her of the manifold triumphs of the day.  In her own way she
seemed to share his enthusiasm, if only on account of what could
happen after his victory, for it was already planned that they
would rent a house in some inner London suburb--Chelsea, perhaps--
where she could live with her baby while George made a name for
himself in Parliament.  Who could set limits to such a future?
Well, the electorate of Browdley could; and that, of course, sent
him out in the morning to work harder than ever, with Livia still
in bed and himself strangely refreshed after no more than a few
hours of snatched sleep.  He had never been so happy, had never
felt so physically enriched, or so alert mentally.  Things that had
seemed a little wrong between him and Livia just after their
marriage had worked themselves right--or something had happened,
anyway; perhaps it was just that they had needed time to get
properly used to each other.

One thing, naturally, had to be postponed for a while--his studies
for the university degree.  But of course he could pursue them just
as easily--nay, more so--in London later on.  And it would be an
added pride to put B.A. after his name when he could already put
M.P.

Gradually during those busy weeks Browdley's long rows of drab four-
roomed houses took on splashes of colour from election cards in
most of the windows--George's colours were yellow, his opponent's
blue.  The latter's slogan was "Put Wetherall In and Keep Higher
Taxes Out".  George, however, struck a less mercenary note.  "A
Vote for Boswell is a Vote for Your Children's Future" proclaimed
his cards, banners, and posters.

(George would remember that one day.)

But he really meant it.  He told the voters of Browdley exactly
what he intended to do if they should choose him to represent them;
he mixed the dream and the business in a way that was something
rather new to the town, and could be both praised and attacked as
such.  He had plans, not merely promises, for slum clearance,
education, medical insurance, and relief of unemployment; and (to
redress the balance, as it were) he had visions, not merely
opinions, about international trade, India, the League of Nations,
currency, and world peace.  He was eager, cheerful, spontaneous,
sincere, and a little naïve.  He battled his opponent trenchantly,
yet with rough-spun humour that took away most of the sting; it was
another of George's special techniques, and he had already become
rather expert at it.  "I don't like to hear Mr. Wetherall attacked
because he made a lot of money during the war," he would say.
"Let's be fair to the man--he couldn't help it.  (Laughter.)  It
wasn't his brains that did it.  (Laughter.)  He didn't even have to
try to do it.  (More laughter.)  The money just came rolling in,
because we hadn't got the laws or the taxes to stop it.  So don't
blame poor Mr. Wetherall.  Blame the laws and the tax system of
this country that enabled one man to become half a millionaire
while others had to fight in the trenches for a shilling a day.
And let's get things changed so that it can't happen again.
(Cheers.)  But of course you mustn't expect Mr. Wetherall to vote
for any such change.  After all, why should he?  (Laughter.) . . ."
And so on.  Political prophets tipped George as the winner, but
whether or not, Browdley had certainly never enjoyed a more bracing
political contest.

Election day dawned unseasonably windy and wet, which was his first
item of bad luck, for the other side had more cars to take voters
to and from the polling stations.  He left his house for the
central committee rooms at an early hour and was kept busy all day
with routine matters; meanwhile, as the rain increased, his spirits
sank a little.  His agent, Jim Saunders, was already giving him
revised last-minute opinions that it would be 'a damned near
thing'.

Polling closed at eight o'clock, and an hour later the count began
in the Town Hall.  George paced up and down amongst the green-baize-
covered trestle tables, keeping his eyes on the mounting piles of
ballot papers; his opponent was absent, preferring to spend the
anxious hours more convivially in a hotel room across the street.
The atmosphere in the Town Hall became tenser as it also grew
thicker with tobacco smoke and the smell of wet mackintoshes.

Towards midnight most of the ballot-boxes had been brought in from
outlying districts and half the count was over, with George leading
by a narrow margin.  Watching the proceedings, he found it hard to
realize that his fate lay in those slips of paper--his own fate and
Livia's.  And then, whimsically, he thought of his election slogan--
"A Vote for Boswell is a Vote for Your Children's Future".  It was
a vote for HIS children's future, anyhow, he reflected.

By midnight he knew what his fate was, for the last few ballot-
boxes, drawn from the suburban fringe where mostly professional and
retired people lived, had contained a heavy preponderance of votes
for Wetherall.  The final figures were not even close enough to
justify a recount; George had lost the election by a hundred and
forty-eight.

As in a trance he received the impact of the news and went through
the ritual prescribed for defeated candidates on such occasions.
He stepped out on the balcony to make a short speech to his
supporters, congratulated and shook hands with the victor, seconded
a vote of thanks to the returning officer; it was all over by one
o'clock in the morning, and the rain had not stopped.

As he was leaving the Town Hall Jim Saunders handed him a throw-
away leaflet printed in the opposition colours that had been given
eleventh-hour circulation throughout the town.

George scanned it over and shrugged more indifferently than he
felt.  "Poor stuff, Jim.  And not even true.  I'll bet it's not
libellous, though."

"I wasn't thinking of that.  But there's a good many voters it may
have influenced."

It was an artfully worded suggestion that George had secured a
municipal appointment for his wife--concealing the all-important
fact that he had not even met her till after she took the job.

"It's the sort of thing that swings votes," Saunders went on.
"Shouldn't wonder if you'd have been in but for this."

"I doubt it, Jim. . . ."  And all the way home George kept telling
himself that he doubted it.

Not till he turned the corner of Market Street and saw the familiar
printing-office (now plastered, and how ironically, with
adjurations to 'Vote for Boswell') did he contemplate the really
worst penalty of failure, and that was having to tell Livia.  He
wondered if she would already have heard.

When he entered the house he waited to hear her voice, but only
Becky came up to him rather forlornly; and then he saw a note on
the table.  It told him she had had to call the doctor early that
evening and had been sent to the hospital.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

An hour later he sat at her bedside, realizing that for a new and
far happier reason this was one of the memorable days of his life.
His child was born, prematurely, but thrivingly--a boy.  And as he
looked first at his son, and then at Livia, a great tenderness
enveloped him, so that he took her hand and could not find words
for anything in his heart or mind.

"I didn't want you to come earlier," she said weakly.  "I wouldn't
let them tell you because I knew you'd be busy. . . .  Is it over
yet?"

"Why . . . don't you know?"  He realized afterwards that he had
doubtless been left the job of breaking the bad news gently, but it
seemed so trivial then that he answered outright and almost
casually:  "Aye, it's all over.  I lost.  By a hundred and forty-
eight. . . ."

"You LOST?"  He was still so happy that the look of disappointment
on her face startled him, especially when she added:  "No luck,
George.  I said so, didn't I?"

"LUCK?  Why, isn't THIS luck?"  And he pointed to the child.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Of course his own personal disappointment returned, though he knew
he would not have felt it so keenly but for hers.  She had, and
always had, that curious capacity to weight or lift his mood with
her own, to give him peace or no-peace at will.  In his own mind
the loss of the election need not have been tragic; after all, he
was still young, and there would be other chances--possibly within
a short time.  But she made it seem tragic by the way she regarded
it, and he, as if in defence of Browdley against this attitude,
plunged anew into work for the town.

Foremost was his plan to stir some civic spirit among the richer
citizens.  There were no millionaires, but a few who were well off,
and one was Richard Felsby, partner of Livia's father and
grandfather in the days when the firm had been Channing and Felsby.
George had never been able to understand what exactly the trouble
was between Livia and the old man, perhaps a family feud of some
kind, certainly no concern of his own; and since Richard was over
eighty, ailing, a bachelor, and the owner of some land on
Browdley's outskirts that would make a fine municipal park if given
to the town, George called on him one evening--quite prepared to be
kicked out unceremoniously, but unwilling to neglect even a hundred-
to-one chance.

Richard Felsby, dressing-gowned, night-capped, and from a bedroom
armchair, astonished him by saying, during their first minute of
conversation:  "Let's not waste time, Boswell. . . .  When ye
married Livia, ye married a problem, and it's not a bit of use
comin' to me about it."

"But--" George protested, and then let the old man have his say,
since the saying might be of interest.

"And neither of ye need think ye're going to get a penny o' MY
money, because I'm leavin' it all to Sarah."

George did not even know who Sarah was, and perhaps his look showed
it, for Richard went on:  "Sarah looked after Livia and her mother
and father and grandmother and grandfather for the best part of
sixty years . . . and where d'ye think she'd be now but for me? . . .
Why, in the workhouse.  That's all Livia cared.  I know the woman's
stone-deaf and cranky and no beauty either, but she deserved better
than to be left stranded when Livia ran off to marry you."

"I never knew that," George gasped.

"Aye, and I don't suppose ye know a good many other things.  But
it's the truth, and ye can tell her so.  Sarah gets my money, and
if ye've come to talk me into anything else it's not a bit of use."

George then felt that his simplest disclaimer was to tell the old
man frankly what he HAD come for, and now it was the latter's turn
to be astonished.  It had clearly never occurred to him that he
owed anything to the town, and George's suggestion that he did so
roused a host of vaguely associated antagonisms--to mollycoddling
and spoon-feeding and high taxes and socialist agitators and what
not.  But the odd thing was that as the interview proceeded,
Richard Felsby found himself rather liking George personally.  (He
was not the first to fall under that spell, or the last either.)
And when George rose to go, he grunted:  "It's all a pack of
nonsense, Boswell.  This boom that's on now isn't going to last,
and when it's over Browdley'll need jobs, not parks."

"So you won't let go any of that land, Mr. Felsby?"

"Not a yard, except at a fair price. . . .  But ye can stay and
have a drink, if ye like."

"Thanks, but I don't drink."

"Just as well, because the drink ye'd have got here is tea. . . .
I've often caught chaps that way.  To my mind it's a misuse of the
word that it should only apply to alcohol. . . .  So ye're a
teetotaller, eh?"

George nodded.

"Teetotal family?"

"Not all of 'em.  My Uncle Joe drank plenty."

"The black sheep?"

"Maybe, but I liked him better than some of the white ones."

"Ye did? . . .  Sit down, lad, and what about a cup?"

George accepted, and then had a chance to verify that Sarah was
indeed as had been described.  Meanwhile Richard Felsby, who had
enjoyed no such congenial human contact since the death of his best
friend, Dr. Whiteside, made the most of the occasion and became
almost garrulous.  He admitted that he wasn't a big "giver" (George
had known this already), but when he did give, he said he liked to
suit his own ideas--as when, for instance, he had offered an annual
prize to the Browdley Grammar School for the boy who achieved "the
best all-round lack of distinction".  "It was the prize I'd have
won myself when I was there," he chuckled asthmatically, "but they
wouldn't even let me offer it."  It appeared, too, that sometimes
he amused himself by sending cheques for small sums to people
momentarily headlined in the news--the farmer who refused to let a
fashionable Hunt cross his fields, the postman's wife with her
second set of triplets, and so on.  "I reckon ye think I'm a queer
sort of chap," he added, after these confessions.

"Aye," answered George, unconsciously giving his voice a riper
Browdley burr to match the other's.  "Ye're queer enough.  And I
suppose ye think I'M queer for wanting Browdley to have a park?"

"Oh, to blazes with the park--are we on that again? . . .  I hear
ye've got a baby."

George nodded.  "A boy."

"Let's hope it takes after you, then.  Because I'll tell ye this,
Boswell, the Channings are queerer than you and me combined. . . .
Must ye go?"

"Getting late," said George, with a smile.

"Drop in again some time."

"Aye . . . but I won't promise not to mention that park."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

George did not tell Livia about his visit, because he felt it would
not please her, however well he could justify it.  And a few weeks
later he visited Richard again, partly in case there was any change
of mind about the park, but chiefly because he was passing the
house and was touched by a sudden vision of the old man's
loneliness in that upstairs room with no one to talk to but a deaf
servant.  A moment later, having acted on impulse, he was touched
again by the evident warmth of Richard's welcome.

"Sit down, lad, and make yourself at home. . . .  See this?"  And
he waved, of all things, a cheque he had been busy writing.  "I'm
givin' it away for charity. . . .  Doesn't it make your mouth
water?"

George laughed, while Richard went on to explain that he was
sending it to a man he did not know, but whose name and address had
appeared in that morning's paper--some fellow who had grown a
hollyhock taller than his house.  "Mebbe ye'll drop it in the post
for me when ye go, Boswell.  He'll get a nice surprise when he
opens my letter tomorrow. . . .  Well, what are ye starin' at me
for?  D'ye think I'm daft?  Or don't ye like hollyhocks taller than
houses?"

"I like 'em all right," answered George, "and houses too.  I'll
count it as one of your BETTER benefactions.  Why didn't ye make it
a bit more, though?  What's a pound from you?"

Whereat Richard enjoyed the best laugh he had had for years, for
despite his reputation for being tight with money, no one had dared
to hint it to his face until George, in sheer naïveté, stumbled
into doing so.  But it made such an instant hit that George was
never quite sure afterwards whether he kept it up out of candour or
to give the old man more fun.

For he formed quite a habit of dropping in to see Felsby, whose
house was not far from the Town Hall.  The visits did not have to
be long ones, and George enjoyed their brevity as much as the
outspokenness of what was said on both sides.

"The trouble with you, George, is that ye think too much of
yourself.  I always thought ye did, ever since ye got on the
Council.  I've sacked hundreds of better men than you for a tenth
of the things ye've said to me tonight."

"Aye," retorted George.  "And ye'd sack me too, if I was an
employee of yours.  But I'm not.  My father was, though, for the
best part of a lifetime.  Or the worst part, whichever way ye look
at it."

That sort of thing . . .

(George reflected afterwards that the old man must like it, or he
would get offended; but then it occurred to him that he would have
got offended already, if he had thought that George really meant
what he said, but he doubtless supposed he didn't.  Yet George DID,
in a way, and knowing this, found himself up against a familiar
dilemma: that to say what you mean without ever offending people is
usually to say what you mean without making them believe you mean
what you say--and what was the use of that?  Well, maybe SOME use,
sometimes.  For, as a victim expressed HIS side of it once:
"George tells you what a bastard you are, and you laugh, and then
after he's gone you suddenly say to yourself--'Of course, George
was only joking--it's a good job he doesn't really know I AM a bit
of a bastard!'")

Richard was frank enough also.  He once said:  "George, I'm sorry
for ye, married to a Channing.  Her father was no good, and her
mother wasn't much better, and the life she lived at Stoneclough
that last year before he died--well, it was no Sunday-school
picnic, believe me."

It was impossible to resent this, in its context, yet George felt
impelled to answer defensively:  "Oh, Livia's all right"--before
curiosity made him add:  "She had a bad time, you mean?"

Richard Felsby said impressively:  "There's only one man who could
have told you--and that's Dr. Whiteside, and he's dead.  He never
told me, for that matter--but I knew how he felt, because I
remember what he said when he got news of her father's death--
'Thank God,' he said, 'for everybody's sake.' . . .  Well, well--
maybe that's more than I should have passed on.  But I'll tell ye
this, George--the Channing blood's had a streak of moonshine in it
lately.  That's what made me leave the firm.  I found I was getting
too sensible for it."

"You're not as sensible as you think," retorted George, allowing
the conversation to become bantering again.  He guessed it would be
good policy not to press his enquiries at this stage, especially as
the old man would doubtless return to the subject at a later
meeting and tell all he knew.  George had had enough experience of
wheedling information to know that an air of not too much concern
is the best wheedler.  And besides, he must keep in mind the other
object of his wheedling.  So he added, still banteringly:  "If ye
WERE sensible ye'd give me that land for a park.  Think of the
taxes ye'd save."

At which the old man shook and spluttered with merriment to a
degree that quite possibly imposed a strain on his heart.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Suddenly it all came to an end.

Livia found out about the more or less regular visits and flew into
the kind of tantrum that George had certainly not anticipated; if
he had, he would doubtless not have called on Felsby in the first
place.  He had been prepared for her coolness over the association,
but he was amazed to discover how profoundly the whole thing must
matter to her.  "Oh, George," she cried, as if she had discovered
him in some mortal sin, "how COULD you do it?  I HATE him--I don't
want to have anything to do with him.  You knew that.  And to think
that secretly--all the time--so that I only got to hear of it by
accident--"

Perhaps because he did feel a little guilty in that one respect, he
was more than usually ready to defend himself.  "Nay, let's keep a
sense of proportion, Livia.  No harm's been done to anyone just
because I've had a few chats with an old man--even if you do count
him an enemy for some reason I've never been told about.  Besides,
I went to him chiefly on business--I wanted him to give the town a
park."

"Oh, George, what does a park matter?"

"Just what HE said."

"The main thing is, you must never, NEVER go there again."

George stared at her, for the first time in his life, with a look
of disenchantment.

"I couldn't promise that, Livia."

"WHAT?"  And she was facing him, the issue suddenly alive between
them.

"I'm sorry, Livia.  I don't like to upset you, but I've got to
think of the town's interests.  If you know what I mean."

"Oh yes, I know.  I didn't know--but that's unimportant.  It makes
no difference."

(She knew what?  What was it she hadn't known?  What was
unimportant?  What made no difference?  He was by now accustomed to
the mental gymnastics that her talk often demanded; she spoke in a
sort of verbal shorthand, so that one had to grab at the meaning as
it flashed by, and even then not be sure of getting it.  Basically,
he felt it to be a species of natural arrogance; she used the
dotted line of her own immediate thoughts and expected others to
follow her without that advantage.)

He said again:  "I'm sorry."  But in his look there was still the
absence of any surrender.

She returned that look for an instant, then quietly went out of the
room.

Yet left alone, he had no sense of victory--only a feeling of
emptiness that made him wonder if the issue had been worth facing
at all.

Would he, despite the stand he had taken, visit Richard Felsby
again?

The next morning, after a troubled night of thinking the matter
over, he was still unsure, and to the end of his life he did not
know what he would have done eventually; for on the evening of that
next day Richard Felsby died peacefully in his sleep.

A few weeks later George happened to meet Ferguson, the lawyer who
was settling the estate.  "Too bad, George," he commented.  "You
nearly pulled it off."

"Pulled what off?"

"You nearly got that park."  Then Ferguson explained in confidence
that a few days before he died Felsby had talked about leaving some
land as a gift to the town, but on one condition--"and this'll make
you sit up, George--on condition that it's called 'The Channing
Memorial Park'!  You'd have had a fine job persuading Browdley to
THAT--some of them have enough to remember the name Channing by,
without a park. . . .  Perhaps it's just as well he didn't have
time to give me definite instructions."

"Aye," said George, "it'd have put me in a tight corner."  But then
he began to laugh.  "And that's just where he wanted me, the old
devil. . . ."

Ferguson went on:  "As matters stand, his housekeeper gets the lot,
and SHE'S made a will leaving everything to a training college for
Methodist ministers. . . .  So there goes the last of the Channing
and Felsby fortunes, George--and you can add that to your lecture
on 'Browdley Past and Present'!"

               *     *     *     *     *     *

The child was called Martin (Livia's choice) and took after George,
in appearance at least, enough to have given the old man a measure
of sardonic satisfaction.  During the first year of his life Martin
grinned far oftener than he cried, almost as if he knew he had been
born on the day his father only narrowly missed becoming a member
of Parliament; and when George grinned back, it was as if to say:
Don't worry, I'll manage it next time.  But political affairs are
incalculable, and as events developed, it began to seem highly
unlikely that any next time would come soon.

This revived Livia's plea that George should pack up and leave
Browdley.  He tried to avoid serious argument on the issue, yet it
was clear his attitude had not changed, and there grew a hard core
of deadlock between them, always liable to jar nerves and send off
sparks if any subordinate differences occurred.  They did occur, as
in all married lives; nevertheless, by and large, Councillor and
Mrs. Boswell could have been called a fairly happy couple--except
on those few occasions when they could have been called Councillor
and Mrs. Boswell.  For Livia's dislike of the town made her scorn
the slightest official recognition of her existence.  After a few
experiments, she declined to attend civic functions so persistently
that George ceased to ask her, and in the end she was not even
invited.  This must have helped rather than hindered him, for Livia
was still unpopular in Browdley, especially when the world-wide
post-war depression brought sudden distress to the town.  It was
easy to choose a local name as a scapegoat--easier than to figure
what the whole thing was about.  And who COULD figure what the
whole thing was about, anyway?

George evidently thought he could, for on a certain day in July,
1920, he wrote the following in one of his Guardian editorials:


"The signing by Germany of the protocol containing the disarmament
terms of the Allies marks another landmark on the long road towards
world recovery.  There are some who profess to be concerned about
the future of thousands of workers in the arms industry if
production is cut down to a minimum; but to that naïve misgiving
every economist and social worker has a ready answer.  For the real
wealth of the world consists, not merely in things created by hand
or brain, but in things so created THAT ARE WORTH CREATING.  For
this reason we may regard yesterday's event as a step not only
towards peace, but BECAUSE of that, towards PROSPERITY."


George himself needed a step towards prosperity as much as anyone,
for his paper was losing both circulation and advertising revenue,
and he found himself suddenly on the edge of a precipice which a
financially shrewder man would have foreseen.  Everything then
happened at once, as it usually does; people to whom he owed money
(the bank, the newsprint company, the income-tax authorities)
demanded payment; those who owed George money, and there were
hundreds of them, made excuses for further delay.  In this crisis
Livia stepped into the breach and proved herself, to George's utter
astonishment, a thoroughly capable business woman.  The first thing
she did was to produce some sort of order in the printing-office,
where Will Spivey's slackness had held sway for years.  By making
Will's life a misery she pared expenses to a minimum and increased
the margin of profit on whatever small printing orders came in.
Then she began a campaign to secure at least part payment of what
was owing, while at the same time she made contact with creditors
and persuaded most of them to have patience.  Altogether it was an
excellent job of reorganization, carried out so expeditiously that
George made the mistake of supposing that she enjoyed doing it.

"The fact is, I'm not cut out for business," he admitted, after
congratulating her on having saved the Guardian from bankruptcy.

"And do you think _I_ am?  Do you think I LIKE asking Browdley
people for favours?  Do you really think I'm doing this for your
sake or my sake or for your old Guardian?"

There was another thing that she did.  It so happened that
Councillor Whaley carried influence at the bank where the Guardian
had an overdraft, and with this in mind, Livia readily agreed to
something she had long balked at, and that was simply to have
Councillor Whaley to tea.  She had always said she knew Whaley
disliked her and she had no desire to meet him, and George had
always urged that Whaley was his friend and that she ought at least
to give him the chance to change his mind about her.  Her sudden
surrender on the matter brought joy to George that was unmarred by
the slightest suspicion of an ulterior motive, and when the day
came and Tom Whaley arrived (for a 'high tea', according to
Browdley fashion), George was sheerly delighted by the result.  It
was almost ludicrous to see a cynical old chap like Tom falling so
obviously under her spell, yet no wonder, for George thought he
had never seen her in such a fascinating humour--warm, gay,
sympathetic.  Tom--it was his weakness as well as George's--liked
to talk, and Livia not only listened, but gave him continual
openings, making his chatter seem at times even brilliant (which it
never was); and as George looked on, quietly satisfied that all was
going so well, he could not help adoring her with such intensity
that he wondered what exactly caused the feeling in him.  Would it
have been the same had there been some fractional mathematical
difference in the angle of her nose and forehead?  His experience
of women before Livia had been limited, but enough for him to know
or think he knew what sex-attraction was; yet now, honestly though
he tried, he could neither confirm nor deny that what he felt for
Livia had anything to do with sex.  It puzzled him enormously and
quite happily as he sat there, staring at her face across the
crumpets and cold ham.

When, having stayed much longer than they had expected, Whaley put
on his overcoat to go, he seized a chance to whisper to George at
the street door:  "George--she's a winner--whether she wins
elections for ye or not!"  He was in a mellow, sentimental,
patriarchal mood--so utterly had Livia bewitched him.

A moment later George, still beaming from the effect of his
friend's remark, found Livia on her knees on the hearthrug, warming
her hands at the fire.  Her face was turned away from him as he
approached; he began cheerfully:  "Ah, that's been a grand time!
You should have heard what Tom thinks about you--he just told me--"

All at once he stopped, because she had turned round, and the look
on her face was as startling as her first words.

"Oh, George, what a BORE!  Such a SILLY old man!  How can you
possibly endure him?  That awful, high-pitched voice, and the way
he talks, talks, TALKS--"

George gasped incredulously:  "You mean you don't LIKE him?  You
don't like Tom Whaley?"

"What is there to like?"

"But--but--he's a good fellow--he's against me on the Council, I
know that--but he's really all right, Tom is--"

"George, he's dull and he's pompous and he loves the sound of his
own voice.  And he WILL go on explaining the same thing over and
over again.  I thought I should have screamed while he was telling
me the difference between the Local Government Board and the
Ministry of Health--"

"He's one of my best friends, anyhow."

"Oh, George, I'm sorry . . . maybe I was in the wrong mood."

"You didn't seem to be."

"Couldn't you see I was pretending?"

No; he hadn't seen it.  He said, anxious to ease matters:  "Well,
if you were, I appreciate that much.  It was nice of you to give
such a good impression."

Not till long afterwards did he guess why she had done so, but
Whaley's visit undoubtedly led to a second social occasion, far
less pleasant, that showed how much further she was prepared to go.
It began by her asking George if he would meet some friends of
hers, Mr. and Mrs. Wallington by name, for dinner one evening in
Mulcaster.  It seemed she had picked up a chance acquaintance with
Mrs. Wallington in a Mulcaster dress shop, and George, who thought
it odd that he should be dragged into it, demurred at first, but on
being reminded of how hospitably she had behaved towards Tom
Whaley, consented on one condition--that he himself should be the
host.  "Then if I don't like 'em I don't have to invite 'em back,"
he explained, with sturdy if not too flattering independence.

So in due course Livia took him to a Mulcaster restaurant where the
appointment had been arranged.  There he was presented, not only to
the couple, but to an extra man, and also to the revelation that
all of them seemed to know Livia far better than he had
anticipated.  Although he was usually able to get on well with
strangers from the outset, he felt curiously ill at ease that
evening, and as it progressed he became less and less happy for a
variety of reasons, one of which was quite humiliating--he didn't
think he would have enough money to pay the bill, especially as
they were all ordering expensive drinks.  But apart from that, he
found none of his previous pleasure in witnessing Livia's social
success; it was one thing to introduce her to a friend of his own
and watch the magic begin to operate, but to see the fait accompli
in the shape of already established friendships with strangers was
another matter.  He did not think it was jealousy that he felt, but
rather a sense of annoyance that, after sneering at Whaley, she
should show her preference for men like those two.  For they were
both of the blustery, aggressive type, especially the one who was
not the husband and had not been invited.  His name was Mangin, and
from certain boastful references George gathered that he had lately
made a good deal of money in the advertising business.  There was a
cold swagger about him that met more than its match in Livia's
repartee, but George himself could not come to terms with it, and
was made even less comfortable by his wife's peculiar ability to do
so.

As the dinner went on and more drinks fed the bluster, he fell into
a glum silence that became equally a torture to maintain or to try
to break.  He was relieved when Mangin made a move to leave,
mentioning a train he must catch; but then came the problem of the
bill; why on earth had Livia chosen such a swank establishment, and
would such a place be satisfied with his personal cheque?  He was
trying rather clumsily to signal the waiter and learn the worst
when Mangin shouted:  "What the deuce are you bothering about,
Boswell?  Everything's taken care of at source--don't you know me
yet?  Anyhow, your wife does--that's the main thing. . . ."
Whereupon, with a lordly gesture amidst ensuing laughter, he
intercepted the waiter whom George had summoned and ostentatiously
tipped him a pound note, then adding to George:  "By the way,
Boswell, I'd like a word with you if you can spare a moment."

George could say nothing; to argue without enough in his pocket to
pay the bill would have been even more humiliating.  In his
confusion he somehow found himself leaving the table and being
piloted by Mangin into the restaurant lobby.

"So you're a newspaper man, Boswell?"

George nodded, still inclined to be speechless.

"Know much about advertising?"

"Advertising? . . .  Er . . .  Well, I take in advertising,
naturally."

"Ever WRITTEN ads?"

"Oh yes, my customers often ask me to help them--"

"I mean big stuff--campaign advertising--things like patent
medicines--"

"No, I can't say I--"

Mangin threw a half-crown into the plate on the cloakroom counter
and began putting on his overcoat.

"Well, I'll tell you what. . . .  You don't seem to have had any
experience, but I'll give you a chance . . . start at six pounds a
week for the first three months and we'll see what happens. . . .
But you'll have to LEARN, Boswell, and learn plenty if you want to
stay in the game."

"But--but--"  George was slowly recovering his voice.  "But I don't
understand--I don't know what you're talking about."

"I'm offering you a job, that's all.  In my London office."

"But I don't want a job.  I've got a job already--"

"You mean that newspaper--in--what's the name of the place--in--"

"Aye, in Browdley.  I'm owner and editor of the Browdley Guardian."

"But I thought you wanted to give it up!  Wasn't that the idea . . .
to try somewhere else?"

George suddenly flushed.  "There must have been a mistake."

"MISTAKE, eh?  Looks like it. . . ."  Mangin smirked as he
signalled the doorman for a taxi.  "Better have that out with
Livia. . . .  I've got to rush for my train . . .  G'bye."

George did not go back to the table immediately; he calmed himself
first, then discovered (as he had hoped) that the rest of the party
was breaking up.  He murmured his goodbyes, and could not find
words to address Livia during the first few hundred yards of their
walk together along the pavement from the restaurant.  Eventually
she broke the silence herself.  "Don't be so angry, George, just
because Mr. Mangin paid for the dinner.  You know you only asked
the other two--and then all those drinks . . . they wouldn't have
felt free to have what they wanted if they'd thought you were
paying for everything."

"Why not?  How do they know what I earn?  I'm not poor just because
I can't afford to buy champagne cocktails."

"That's it, George, you can't afford them and Mr. Mangin can--and
besides that, you don't drink yourself--that's another thing."

He said, half to himself:  "Seems to me there's a more important
matter than the one we're discussing."

She answered eagerly:  "I hope so.  I don't know what Mr. Mangin
said to you outside.  I was afraid you hadn't given him much of an
impression of how clever you are--because you ARE clever, George--I
know you are--in your own way."

"Thanks," he retorted.  "And perhaps you'll tell me why in God's
name you should care WHAT impression I make on a man like that?"

"Only because he might find you some work.  I thought it was a
stroke of luck when I met somebody who knew him--he's very
influential in the newspaper world, so Mrs. Wallington told me.
And it would get us out of Browdley--that is, if he DID say he
could find you something."

George gritted his teeth and replied:  "Aye, he said he could.  He
offered me six pounds a week in his London office--provided I
learned enough."

"Oh, but George, that's--that's WONDERFUL!  You don't make nearly
so much out of the Guardian--not lately, anyhow."

"Livia. . . ."  He stopped suddenly in the street and faced her.
"Do you really mean you'd have me give up my own paper and all the
work I do on the Council--just to have a job under a man like that?
And WHAT a job--writing patent-medicine ads. . . .  Livia, would
you REALLY have me do that?"

He knew what her answer would have been but for the look on his
face, which made her temporize:  "Maybe it isn't exactly the life
you'd choose.  But _I_ don't choose the life I have, either. . . .
And why keep on saying 'a man like that'?  They can't all be men
like you."

He began walking again.  "Livia, let's not quarrel.  You did a
silly thing, but I daresay you meant well.  You asked this man to
find me a job--you made yourself agreeable to him--you were
pretending just as you were with Tom Whaley, weren't you?"  His
eagerness to think so fanned a warmth between them.  "I believe you
really thought you were doing the best for me."

"No . . . I was thinking about Martin more than you.  That was the
real reason."

Then she told him the bare economic facts of his own household
(which he had hardly guessed, so preoccupied had he been with the
bare economic facts of the whole town)--the fact, for instance,
that sometimes lately she hadn't been able to afford the kind of
food and clothing the child most needed, and had to make do with
the second best.  Though this was a condition common all over
Browdley, and formed the subject-matter of countless speeches he
made, he was nevertheless shocked to find it so close to his own
personal affairs--not because he thought he ought to have been
exempt from what afflicted others, but simply because it had never
occurred to him.  And once it did, OF COURSE, something must be
done about it.  But what COULD be done?--persisted Livia, coolly
stemming his indignation.  It was no use her asking for more money
because she knew, and none better, that the Guardian didn't make
it; she knew also there were no more business economies possible.
Nor were there domestic ones; she herself did all the house-work,
and some of the office-work too, now that she knew how careless
Will Spivey was.  As she very calmly explained, it had become her
honest opinion after George's electoral defeat that it would be a
wise thing to leave Browdley, even apart from her own desire to do
so.

"But--my Council work, Livia--"

"Where's it getting you?"

"I don't know, but I've not been defeated in THAT . . . YET.  I
don't have all my own way--after all, who does?--but I am ON the
Council, pretty safely on too, judging by my last majority.  And
the job's worth doing.  I know you're not interested in it--I don't
ask you to be, but do believe me when I say this--IT'S WORTH
DOING. . . .  Livia, don't hinder me in it--even if you can't help
me. . . .  And as for the extra things you need for Martin, you
shall have them.  Of course you shall--I had no idea you were doing
without. . . .  I'd rather go without everything myself--"

"But you can't, George.  You don't drink or smoke--there's nothing
you could give up . . . except Browdley.  THAT'S your hobby, or
your luxury--whatever you'd rather call it.  And I don't say you're
not entitled to it--you personally, that is--everyone has his own
tastes.  But what sort of a place is it for a child to grow up in?"

But that only gave him his own private cue for optimism, as she
would have known if she had attended more of his meetings.  For he
answered, beginning quietly but with rising confidence as he
proceeded:  "Not such a bad place as it used to be . . . and I'll
make it better.  You wait.  You don't know all the plans I have.
And they're not just dreams--they're practical.  I don't tell you
much--because I know you don't want to hear about it--I WISH you
did . . . but never mind that.  Mark my words, though, I'll DO
things with this town.  I'll get the slums off the map.  I'll build
schools . . . and a new hospital. . . .  I'll . . . well, laugh at
me if you like--I don't care."

She did not laugh, but she smiled as she took his arm.  "I wouldn't
care either, but for Martin.  You'd do anything for Browdley--I'd
do anything for him."

"So would I too--I just don't see any conflict between them.  Don't
you think I'm as devoted to the kid as you are?"

He was; but nevertheless in his heart he looked forward to the time
when Martin would be a little older--old enough for the friendly
father-and-son relationship to develop, old enough also to start
the kind of education on which George set so much store.  Whereas
for Livia every tomorrow seemed a future far enough ahead and
complete in itself; it was almost as if she hoarded the days of
babyhood, unwilling to lose the separate richness of each one.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

She was wrong, though, in saying there was nothing he could give
up.  There was, and he gave it up.  She never knew, because she had
never known anything about it at all.  The fact was, after his
electoral defeat George had gone back to his earlier ambition, the
university degree.  The long interval he had let pass meant digging
over a good deal of old as well as new ground, but he tackled the
job, as he did all his chosen jobs, with enthusiasm.  Most of the
necessary time he put in late at nights, in the room which he had
now begun to call his 'study'; and without actually telling Livia a
direct lie, he allowed her to think he was busy preparing material
for the Guardian.  As she was generally asleep when he came up to
bed she did not know how long he worked; sometimes it was half the
night.  He had a curious unwillingness to let her know what he
still hankered after, partly because he was not sure he would ever
succeed in winning it, but chiefly out of a sort of embarrassment;
he was sure she would smile as at a grown man caught playing with a
toy, for book-learning to her was something you had forced on you
during youth and then were mercifully released from ever
afterwards.  She might also (a more valid attitude) feel that if he
had such time to spare it would be better spent in trying to
sustain his own precarious livelihood.  Anyhow, he did not tell
her, and having not done so, it was easy to give the whole thing up
without a word to anyone in the world.  There were the examination
fees he would now avoid, and he could also sell some of the
expensive text-books he had had to purchase.  He did this and gave
her everything thus saved, spreading it over a period so that she
needed no explanation.

But the habit of reading in his study at nights continued--in fact,
the whole habit of study continued, for it was something bigger
than a mere competitive examination that had inspired George.  The
fringe of scholarship he had touched had left him with an
admiration for learned men all the more passionate because he
almost never met them either in business or politics; and there
came to him, a constant vision, the memory of the dome-headed
spectacled examining professor who had been so indulgent to him
about the Pathetic Fallacy.

Perhaps Martin would grow up into a learned man--which was another
reason for not discussing the matter with Livia.

One thing, however, became both an immediate and a practical
ambition--that the boy should have a vastly different childhood
from his own.  Not that his own had been cruel or vicious; merely
that, in recollecting it, he was aware of how far it had been from
the ideal.  Perhaps equally far from the worst that it might have
been, in Browdley, for George's father had always had regular
employment in a job that set him among the aristocracy of cotton-
mill labour--a spinner's wage being at that time more than twice
that of the lowest-paid.  And though Mill Street became a byword
later, it was no worse during George's childhood than nine-tenths
of Browdley; for the Boswells, like many other families, had lived
in a four-roomed bathroomless house more because there were no
others available than because they could not have afforded better.
Anyhow, Number Twenty-Four, in which George was born, had been
clean and decently furnished, and its occupants, though
overcrowded, were never without enough plain food and strong soap
and good winter fuel; they were "respectable chapel folk",
moreover, which meant that their children were nagged at without
the use of technical bad language; and if the young Boswells feared
their father too much, and their father feared his Heavenly Father,
it was doubtless on general principles rather than for any more
definite reason.

Even George's early education, which was poor enough, had had a few
passable things in it; indeed, at the old-fashioned prison-like
elementary school he was taught reading, writing, spelling, and
arithmetic far more thoroughly than were the youngsters in the
luxurious modern school that George persuaded the Council to build
years later.  But there was a drawback to the thoroughness, for the
teacher, a Mr. Rimington, was dull-witted enough to think history
and geography 'easy' subjects, and therefore somewhat to be
despised.  All George learned of the former was that somebody was a
'good' king and somebody else a 'bad' one, plus a few scraps of
information such as that Henry the Second never smiled again and
that Oliver Cromwell had a wart on his nose; while geography
consisted largely of memorizing 'what belongs to England', and of
copying maps--an occupation which Mr. Rimington approved of because
it took so long and kept the class quiet.  He was also dull-witted
enough to think that a boy who turned over a page during a reading
lesson without waiting for the order to do so was guilty of a
serious breach of discipline.  George had been punished for this
once or twice, after which he hated and feared Mr. Rimington and
formed a self-protective habit of concentrating his attention and
disengaging his intelligence whenever he crossed the school
threshold.  Not till years afterwards when, as Chairman of the
Browdley Education Committee, he had the task of choosing
applicants for teaching posts, did he realize that Mr. Rimington
had made himself thus terrifying because when he first became a
teacher the rougher products of Browdley homes had terrified HIM.

And now, as the father of the product of another Browdley home,
George turned over in his mind his own childhood memories, not
without a certain nostalgia, but with a resolute determination that
Martin's early life should contain happier ones.  He remembered the
crowded house in Mill Street, his mother's continual nagging
(behind which he had failed to diagnose the harassed affection that
was really there), his father's doomful voice at home and from the
pulpit; the canal-bank where he sneaked off to play when his father
was at work and his mother was ill (the only time of real freedom
he enjoyed); the elementary school round the corner and Mr.
Rimington's classroom, with its torn maps and dirty walls, the
smell of wet clothes and steaming water-pipes in winter, and of
sweat in summer; the slabs of dust-laden sunlight into which he so
often stared after finishing tasks adjusted to the speed of the
stupidest pupil; terrifying Mr. Rimington himself, and the not-
quite-so-terrifying headmaster, old 'Daddy' Simmons, whose habit,
fascinating to all, was to stick his little finger into his ear and
waggle furiously; and the paragraph in the tattered reading-book
that said:  "Harrow is one of the great schools of England.  Many
famous Englishmen went there when they were boys.  Some of them
carved their names on the school desks, and these names can still
be read.  You must not carve your name on your school desk, but you
can make up your mind to become a famous Englishman when you grow
up. . . ."

George's own ambitions, even if he should ever become both a member
of Parliament and a Bachelor of Arts, had never permitted
themselves to soar as far as being 'a famous Englishman'.  But for
Martin . . . why not?  What obstacles were there?  Surely not
boyhood in Browdley, since winning scholarships was no harder from
there than from anywhere else.  Perhaps Martin might win such
scholarships--not to Harrow (for George, though he could admire
some of their products as individuals, was of the opinion that
public schools encourage snobbery), but to Oxford--or Cambridge, at
least.  That faint preference in favour of Oxford was nothing but a
recollection of Gladstone's Double-First.

There came a day when Martin seemed old enough to be taken by his
father to the Browdley Town Hall, there to imbibe some vague first
impression which George could hardly seek to clarify at such an
early age, but which would later, he hoped, inspire the lad to an
interest in civics, local government, the history of his country,
the parliament of man, and the federation of the world.  (After
all, there was no limit to the effects of a child's first
impression.)  So George held the boy lovingly in his arms in front
of the rather bad stained-glass window in the main lobby of the
Town Hall--stained glass depicting a woman carrying some sheaves of
wheat in one hand and what looked like a coffee-grinder in the
other ("mechanical power", it was supposed to represent); he hoped
Martin would at least notice the bright colours.  And in due course
the child's eyes rounded with all the excitement, nay more than the
excitement that George had hoped for, but unfortunately those eyes
were not on the stained glass at all.

George looked down and saw a large rat scampering across the Town
Hall floor.

He was horrified, not only that the child should have seen such a
thing, but that such a thing should exist; it argued bad drains or
something--he would certainly bring the matter up at the next
meeting of the Building Committee.

But Martin was by no means horrified.  He knew nothing about rats,
but perhaps he thought that what he had seen was some extremely
swift and fascinating kind of pussy-cat (for pussy-cats WERE known
to him), and with this to wonder about, the visit to the Town Hall
did indeed enshrine an experience.

Martin loved his father less than his mother and perhaps even than
Becky, but George did not mind this, reflecting magnanimously that
the balance would be evened up later on.  After all it was a result
of the physical contacts of mother and child, the domestic routine,
the humble, seriocomic intimacies; and Livia made a perfect mother--
unexpectedly so, indeed.  It was as if all the nonsense that
cropped up so often in her behaviour with adults was resolved into
complete naturalness between herself and Martin; she never raised
her voice to him, or was angry, or even irritated.  In an odd way
she gave the appearance of being with the boy in his own world,
rather than of looking into it from hers; perhaps there was a sense
in which she had never grown up herself, or perhaps it was just the
animal quality in her that George had noticed before, that
extraordinary paradoxical knack of being shameless and fastidious
at the same time.  When George came upon his wife and child romping
together, he sometimes felt that to make them even aware of him was
an intrusion, the breaking of a lovely spell, and he would tiptoe
away rather than do this; for again he was able to fortify himself
by thinking that his own time would come later.

One night, as he sat with a book in his study, the impulse came to
write something that might, if anything untimely should happen, be
a help to the boy or at least a reminder that a man had once
existed who had dreamed things about him and hoped things for him;
and in this mood, rare because of its slightly melancholy flavour,
George wrote:


"Everything depends on childhood, Martin, and if you ever have
children of your own, remember that, just as I, remembering my
childhood, intend to make yours good to remember.  When I was a boy
of seven my parents died and I went to live with an uncle who kept
a newspaper and stationery shop in Shawgate, and living in his
house gave me, I think, the germ of all my later interest in
printed things--perhaps even in politics too, because it so
happened that at the time of my arrival there was an election in
progress, and Uncle Joe, who was a Liberal (the only thing he had
in common with my father), sent me out to distribute hand-bills.
All I had to do was to walk about Browdley slipping them under
doors and through letter-boxes, yet I don't think the world was or
ever could be more wonderful to me than during those few weeks.  I
kept hearing about some mysterious person called the Candidate, who
was opposed in some mysterious way to another person who was called
the Other Candidate, and it seemed to me that the great battle of
Good and Evil was being fought in the streets of this town, and
that I and my uncle were soldiers fighting it.  I suppose it was
then, before I really knew what things were all about, that I had
the first hankering that made me later decide to go on fighting the
same sort of battle when I grew up.  And if that's a strange reason
for a young man to enter politics, then perhaps it isn't the real
reason, but just the flick of a button in the signal-cabin that can
send a train to any one of a hundred different places.

"But of course all that was years ago--and in another age, because
1914 was really the end of an age.  It was not only that things
happened differently before then--they happened to people who FELT
them differently.  Take chapel-going, for instance.  If you had
walked up Mill Street almost any Sunday forty years ago, you would
have seen from the notice-board outside that William Boswell was to
preach there.  That man was my father.  It would be a cold, raw
night, maybe, with mist peeling off the moors, but the folk who
wanted to hear him were hard-wearing stuff; in twos and threes they
mustered, till by six o'clock the little gas-lit pitch-pine
interior was almost full.  Punctually on the hour old Jack Slater
went to the pedal harmonium (the Methodists of the sect my father
belonged to did not believe in pipe-organs) and let his fingers
wander over the keys according to a style of his own, beginning
softly and working up to a great roar, his feet pounding as if he
were bicycling uphill to save a life.  By this time my father had
emerged from the side vestry, Bible in hand, and climbed the steps
to the pulpit, where he prayed standing (for the sect did not
believe in kneeling or stooping), and announced the opening hymn in
the boomingest voice I ever heard.  He was a fine-looking man, as
you can judge from the photograph in my study; his hands were big
and thick-fingered; his hair, black and bushy, crowned a well-
shaped head set firmly on broad shoulders.  He never drank, smoked,
played cards, went to Browdley's one theatre (there were no cinemas
in those days), or read a novel or a Sunday newspaper.  A life that
might have seemed, to an outsider, full of hardships relieved only
by boredoms, had somehow or other produced in him an air of sombre
majesty that I could never come to terms with, and I don't think my
mother ever could either.  We lived at Number Twenty-Four, a four-
roomed house identical with eleven on one side of it and thirty-two
on the other.  Parallel with Mill Street stood Jenny Street and
Nathaniel Street, composed of houses exactly similar.  From the
pavement one entered by a single step through the usually unlatched
front door; at the back, however, there was an exit through the
kitchen into a small paved yard where coal was stored and clothes
were hung to dry.  I suppose there was no labour-saving device in
general use in those days except the Singer sewing machine that,
surmounted by a plant pot with or without a plant in it, stood
behind the lace curtains in nearly every front window.  And there
was gas-light downstairs, but not upstairs; and sanitation had but
recently progressed in Browdley from the stinking midden to the
back-to-back water-privy.  There were no bathrooms, and baths were
taken once a week by heating pans of water over the kitchen fire.
I give you all these details because I hope by the time you grow up
most of them will be a bit historical--at any rate I hope Mill
Street won't be in existence for you to verify.  Mind you, these
houses were not slums (as they are today), but typical dwellings of
respectable working folk such as my parents were.  Respectability
even imposed a toll of extra labour, for it was a sort of ritual to
wash and scrub the street-pavement from the front door to the kerb,
a task undone by the next passer-by or the next rain-shower.  When
my mother was ill, as she often was during the last years of her
life, this necessary tribute to tribal gods was made on her behalf
by an obliging neighbour, though I doubt if my mother would have
cared much if it hadn't been.  She was a merry little woman with an
independent mind uncoupled with any determination to stake out a
claim for itself; this made her easy to get on with and rather
hopeless to rely on.  My father only saw her between six and ten in
the evenings (the rest of the time he was either at work or
asleep), and during the annual holiday which they took together,
always at Blackpool, the strain of trying to seem familiar to a man
whose life was so separate from hers made her almost glad when the
week was over and she could return to the far more familiar routine
of Mill Street.  She loved my father well enough, but the emotion
of being in love had probably not survived courtship, and by her
thirties, with an already numerous family to look after, she had
worn her life of household drudgery into an almost comfortable
groove.  Every morning in the bedroom overlooking the backs of the
houses in Nathaniel Street, the alarm-clock rang at five-fifteen;
without a word my mother would get up, come downstairs in her
nightdress, and poke up the kitchen fire that had been banked with
small coal overnight.  Then she would fill the kettle to make tea,
and by the time this was ready my father would be down himself,
washing at the kitchen sink and ready to leave as soon as the clock-
hand approached the half-hour.  He was never exactly bad-tempered,
but the fact that they were both sleepy made them reluctant to
talk; there was, anyhow, nothing much to talk about.  A few minutes
after he had left the house the whole town resounded with the
crescendo of the mill 'buzzer ', but by that time my mother was
back in the warm bed, content to doze again while the clogged
footsteps rang along the pavement outside.  To her this pause
between my father's departure for work and the beginning of her own
was the pleasantest time of the day--and the only time she was
really alone.  By eight o'clock she was dressed and downstairs,
glancing at the morning paper, making more tea and frying a rasher
of bacon for herself.  Then came attendance on us children, getting
us off to school when we were old enough, and after that a routine
of house-work and the morning walk along Mill Street to the shop at
the corner where nearly everything could be bought, from feeding-
bottles to flypapers.  She would chat there to Mr. and Mrs.
Molesworth while they served her; she liked a joke and an exchange
of gossip, and often, if the jokes and the gossip were good enough,
she would stay talking and laughing until other customers joined
in, so that the shop became a sort of neighbourhood club for
housewives.

"Then during afternoons, if the weather were fine, she would put
the youngest of us (me, in fact) into a pram and wheel it round a
few streets, sometimes as far as the canal-bank or the Shawgate
shops.  Towards four she would be home again, in good time to
prepare an evening meal.  Then came the second pleasantest interval--
the hour in the rocking-chair with a cup of tea at her elbow
before the children came home from school.  While winter dusk crept
across the sky, and until the passing of the lamp-lighter sent a
green-yellow glow through the fanlight over the front door, my
mother would 'save the gas' by poking the fire to a blaze while she
rocked and sang.  She had a nice voice, small in volume but always
true on the pitch, and though most of the tunes she knew were
chapel hymns with rather grim words to them, she sang them somehow
gaily and with a lilt, breaking off occasionally into a popular
song of the moment, something half-remembered from the previous
year's Blackpool holiday, or from summer performances of the Silver
Prize Band in Browdley market-place.

"My earliest recollections, Martin, were of my mother rocking and
singing like that.  There was a brass rail that ran along the whole
length of the mantelshelf, and as I first remember it this rail
would shine in the firelight with the shadows darkening all around
and my mother's face growing fainter and fainter as she swung
backwards and forwards; till there was only the sound of her
singing, the creak of the rocking-chair, and the simmer of the
kettle on the fire-bar. . . .  Then, all at once, I would wake up
to see the room already gas-lit, with my father standing, huge and
unsmiling, in the doorway.

"I feared my father and loved my mother and that's about the plain
truth of it.  On Sundays he locked up all story-books, picture-
books, and even bricks that spelt out words; but while he was at
chapel my mother used to unlock them with a key of her own and let
me play till just before his return was expected; then she would
whisk away the forbidden things with a knowing glance that finally
became a sort of joke between us.

"That is the home I was born in, Martin--not as happy as it might
have been, but not as unhappy either.  So I don't complain of it,
but I do want to make YOURS happier.  Which is why I intend soon to
begin putting books in your way, because the more freely and
vividly you see things while you are young, even if you can't fully
understand them, the more actively they will possess you when you
grow up--especially if, in adult life, you have hard battles to
fight and bitter disappointments to face.  New worlds, Martin, are
for the young to explore; later one is glad of a new room, or even
of a view from a new window. . . ."


He put aside the fragment then, thinking he would add to it on many
succeeding nights, but he never did; perhaps the rare mood never
recurred.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

As the post-war slump deepened and unemployment filled the street
corners with lounging, workless men, George encountered new
opposition to his Mill Street housing scheme.  Many of the cotton
mills were closing down completely; some of them went bankrupt as
catastrophically as had Channing's a generation before, but without
the criminal taint, though the short-lived boom had been pushed by
speculators to limits that were almost criminal.

Among the mills that closed was the one still called Channing's,
though long operated by another firm; now, when George walked down
Mill Street, the mill loomed up, symbolically as well as actually,
at the dead end of the street.  Derelict, like Stoneclough five
miles away, it stood for the dead end of what the Channings
themselves had stood for.  Still physically intact, with machines
inside that could spin and weave, nobody would buy it or use it,
because nobody wanted what it could do.  Yet the illusion that it
still had some real value was preserved; it was regularly taxed and
insured; the Browdley police kept an eye on it, the fire department
were ready to quench the blaze should any lightning or arsonist
strike.  But neither did, though lightning had once, when George
was a boy, struck the Methodist chapel at the other end of the
street.

The chapel also stood, a little less forlorn than the mill--
derelict, one might say, only six days out of the seven.  For
Methodism in Browdley, like the cotton trade, was not what it had
been.  People could not afford to give so much to their chapels,
nor were there so many Methodists.  George, walking along the
street where he was born and which he planned to rebuild for others
to be born in, remembered those early days when both mill and
chapel had flourished, and when his own father, sharing the week
between them in that mystic proportion of six to one, and with his
house half-way between, had served a life-sentence longer though
less stigmatized than that of his boss.

The reason George visited the Mill Street area so often was not a
sentimental one.  Indeed, it was concerned with drains rather than
dreams; for the more graphically he could report to the Council how
bad the houses were and what disease-traps they had become, the
sooner he hoped to get his scheme actually started.

He found a powerful ally in Dr. Swift, Browdley's medical officer,
who had himself issued many warnings.  After a long struggle and
against the bitter opposition of a few of the town's old-
established doctors, a system of free immunization against
diphtheria had been set up, enabling parents to have their children
inoculated at a municipal clinic.  It was, however, impossible to
make this compulsory, and the whole question became impregnated
with political and even religious prejudices that George deplored
and perhaps at the same time aggravated by his own constant
argument that it was not enough to immunize; the CAUSES of
epidemics should be tackled, and the chief was bad housing.  To
which the opposition retorted that George was using the health
issue for his own political ends, that Browdley was in no greater
danger than other manufacturing towns, and that though the Mill
Street area was somewhat less salubrious than the rest, what could
be done about it when local tax rates were almost the highest in
the country?  And since the opposition, fighting on this tax issue,
had won seats at recent Council by-elections, George found his slum-
clearance project losing rather than gaining ground for the time
being.

He often walked with Dr. Swift through the worst of the streets,
the medical officer supplying scientific ammunition for George's
continuing struggle on the Council.  For George would not give in;
there was a point, even though at times it was hard to find, beyond
which he would not even waver or compromise.  Indeed, his mere
mention of Mill Street had begun to send a smile or a sigh across
the Council Chamber, so well was the subject now recognized as the
bee in George's bonnet.  But he did not mind.  "Sooner or later
I'll wear 'em down," he assured Swift, to which the latter replied
grimly:  "Better be sooner."

For it had been a hot summer.  Towards the end of September over
twenty diphtheria cases appeared in and around Mill Street, mostly
among young children, of whom five quickly died.

In such an emergency Dr. Swift was given command almost without
restrictions; everything remedial was promptly organized--the
quarantining of families, wholesale inoculations, closing of
schools, and so on.  The Council had adjourned for its four weeks'
annual recess; many councillors were still on holiday.  But George,
who had the Guardian to look after and could not afford a holiday,
was right on the spot to say 'I told you so' to any former
opponents he might meet.  They were not so much his opponents now.
They all agreed, in principle, that something would have to be done
about the Mill Street area.  And most agreed, in principle, with
the Guardian editorial in which George wrote:


"We must learn our lesson from this tragic visitation.  Though the
epidemic has now (according to the latest assurance of our eminent
and indefatigable Medical Officer, Dr. Swift) been checked, we can
never again feel secure until preventable disease has been
ABOLISHED AT ITS SOURCE.  Let those citizens who live in the more
fortunate parts of Browdley and whose children have remained
unscathed, bear in mind the joint responsibility of us all for what
we allow to happen anywhere in our town, and let them do their
share, and PAY their share, in making Browdley safe for our
children's future."


The only adverse comment George got about this was from a new
Catholic priest, Father Harry Wendover, of St. Patrick's, who
questioned the phrase "what we allow to happen in our town".
Having been introduced to George at a meeting, he immediately
buttonholed him with the query:  "Isn't that a bit arrogant, Mr.
Boswell?  After all, even if you don't believe in the hand of God,
you might at least recognize that there are limits to what the hand
of Man can do."

George noted the newcomer's tall gaunt frame and deep-socketed
eyes, the strong chin and the cultured accent, and decided that
here was a man to be both respected and tackled.  Rumour had
already informed him that Wendover was something of the proud
cleric, so George answered, giving as well as taking measure:
"Aye, there are limits, I daresay, but in Browdley we're still a
few thousand miles away from 'em.  And as for the hand of God, what
makes you think I don't believe in it?"

Wendover smiled--a rather pleasant smile.  "To be frank--just
gossip.  That's all a priest has to go by when he comes to a new
place and wants to find out who's who."

"So they gossip about me, do they?"  And immediately George was
thinking about Livia and what sort of gossip might still be
circulated about her.

"Oh, nothing malicious.  In fact, you seem to be extremely popular.
But they also say that you're not a God-fearing man like your
father, that you don't often go to church or chapel, and that
you're on good terms with atheists and agnostics."

It was all spoken with a twinkle that made it inoffensive and not
quite serious, but George would not have been offended in any case.
He was already too interested in what promised to be an argument.

"Aye," he answered.  "I'm on good terms with anyone who'll help me
make Browdley better.  Romans, Church of England, Methodists,
Atheists, Agnostics--they're all one to me if they'll do that."

"So religion has no place in your better Browdley?"

George appreciated a nicely laid trap, especially when he was in no
danger of falling into it.  He smiled as he had so often smiled
across the Council Chamber or a meeting-hall.  "Nay--I'd rather ask
you if MY better Browdley has a place in YOUR religion?  Because if
it hasn't you'll not do so well at St. Patrick's.  I've got a lot
of supporters there."

"Is that a threat, Mr. Boswell?"

"No--just a tip.  I've no hell-fire in my armoury.  All I can tell
folks is that diphtheria comes from bad drains, but of course if
they're more interested in pearly gates that's their look-out."

Wendover's smile broadened.  "If I were old-fashioned I'd probably
say that God would punish you for blasphemy.  But my conception of
God isn't like that.  I doubt that He'll find it necessary to
strike down you or one of your family just to prove a point."

George grunted.  He had an idea that Wendover was enjoying the
encounter as much as he was, and already he recognized an agile
mind.  Agile minds were useful, and it might be that Wendover would
take the progressive side in many of the town's controversial
issues.  George also realized that priests and parsons had to stand
on some ground of their own, not merely on what they could share
with every liberal-minded thinker, politician, or social worker.
All this weighed against his impulse to continue the argument
combatively, so he replied:  "I assure you I didn't intend to be
blasphemous, and I hope you're right about God.  I don't think I
know enough to agree or disagree with you.  So I'm sticking to what
I do know something about, and that's Man.  Seems to me Man could
give himself a pretty good time on earth if only he went about it
the right way, but he just won't.  You'd almost think he didn't
WANT a good time, the way he carries on."  But that looked like the
beginning of another argument, so he shook hands with a final smile
and left the priest wondering.

A few days later Wendover wondered afresh when news spread over the
town that Councillor Boswell's baby had been stricken.  But being
honest he did not exploit the situation.  Nor did he actually
believe that the hand of God was in it.  He just thought it an
extraordinary coincidence, which it was, and wrote George a note
that merely expressed sympathy and hoped the child would be well
again soon.  For he liked George.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

During those dark days Livia and George hardly spoke, except when
she asked him to do this or that; and he obeyed her then, blindly
as a child himself.

They hardly spoke because there was simply nothing to say after the
one sharp, inevitable, and rather dreadful argument.

When George came home late after a meeting and found Livia sitting
up with Martin, who was ill and had a temperature, he was
concerned, but not unduly so; and when he guessed that the thought
of diphtheria was in her mind, he told her confidently not to
worry, since the boy had been immunized.  She just looked at him
then and shook her head.

Over the small tossing body and whilst waiting for the doctor, they
thrashed the matter out.

The fact was that when the free immunization scheme had gone into
operation and he had told her to take Martin to the municipal
clinic, she simply had not done so.  And she had lied to him about
it afterwards.

He kept pacing up and down the bedroom, trying to grasp the
situation.  "So you DIDN'T do it?  Oh, Livia, WHY didn't you?  How
COULD you not do what I asked about a thing like that?  Did you
forget and then tell me a lie to cover it? . . .  Oh, Livia . . .
Livia. . . ."

She answered:  "I didn't forget, George.  I went to the clinic once
and saw the crowd lined up outside.  I didn't want to take Martin
to a place like that."

His anger mounted.  "Why not?  For God's sake what was wrong about
it?"

"I didn't like it.  I didn't like the people there--I mean the
other people with their children."

"SNOB!"  He shouted the word.  "Weren't they well-dressed enough
for you?"

"Most of them were as well-dressed as I could afford to be."

Yes, he knew that; he had let his anger tempt him into an absurdity
as well as a side issue.  "Then why--WHY?" he reiterated.  "Why
didn't you have it done?"

"I told you--I didn't like the place.  Some of the children looked
dirty, and they had bad colds--"

"And Martin might have caught one!  Or a flea perhaps!  So to save
him from that you let him catch diphtheria--"

She interrupted in a dead-level voice:  "I don't want to quarrel,
George.  But don't you remember I asked if it couldn't be done by a
private doctor?  And do you remember what you said?"

Yes, he remembered.  There had been a wrangle, though a less bitter
one, about that also.  Couldn't she realize, he had asked her
indignantly, that for months he had been making speeches all over
the town in favour of free public immunization?  What would it look
like if, after all that, he took his own child to a private doctor?
Couldn't she see what a fool and a hypocrite it would make him
appear?  So Martin MUST go to the clinic.  "Livia, I wouldn't
insist if it meant that the child would be getting anything second-
best.  But the free immunization's just as good--just the same, in
fact--as anything a private doctor could give.  The only difference
is in where you take him to get it.  Don't you see we have to set
an example to the town in these things?  If we don't use the new
facilities ourselves, if we behave as if we thought them not good
enough for our own children, how can we expect anyone else to trust
them?"

Thus the argument when Martin was six months old.  George had
thought it ended in his own victory; now, six months later, he
realized that the end was neither victory nor defeat, but just post-
dated disaster.

He cried out, desperately:  "I know all that, Livia. . . .  And I
don't want to quarrel, either--it's no good now--it's too late.
But why . . . whatever you did . . . why didn't you do SOMETHING?
Why DIDN'T you take him to a private doctor if you absolutely
refused to do what I wanted?  Oh, anything--ANYTHING rather than
this. . . .  Or why didn't you let ME do it? . . .  Why didn't you
TELL me, anyway?  Why did you LIE to me?"

He saw her hurt, stung face, and knew she was suffering so
profoundly that his accusations made little difference.  But she
could sting back and make HIM suffer more, as when she answered
with deadly irrelevance:  "I did tell you one thing.  I said we
ought to leave Browdley."

"Oh no, that's not the point--"

"It is and always will be.  If we hadn't stayed here, nothing like
this would have happened."

Even that wasn't certain, he knew, but he saw the certainty in her
eyes, and knew also that she would never believe otherwise, however
much he went on arguing.

The arrival of the doctor interrupted them.  His visit lasted an
hour, and when it ended there was nothing more to argue about, only
a dreadful possibility to face.

The local hospital was already overcrowded, so Martin lay in the
spare room above the printing-office.  Livia shared it with him,
while George slept on his study couch--so far, that is, as he could
sleep at all.  Becky, banished from upstairs, curled mournfully
under the desk.  George had not realized till then the depth of his
affection for the child.  He was like that with all his affections--
they grew, and then lurked, and then sprang to give him pain.  He
was torn unutterably by remorse at having been so busy those past
few months, so busy with the affairs of the town, too busy to look
after the physical safety of his own household.  He should have
made sure that the immunization had taken place, instead of just
mentioning the matter to Livia and taking it for granted that she
had done it.  It was HER fault--and yet it was HIS fault too, for
leaving everything of that sort to her.  It was the streak of
unreasonableness in her cropping up again, and this time tragically--
he should have been prepared for it, in all vital matters he
should have watched for it.  He wished . . . he wished . . . and
one of the things he did wish now, but dared not wish aloud, was
that he HAD left Browdley.  He almost dared not wish it in thought,
lest there should pass some spark between his eyes and hers, some
spark to set off a conflagration, or--even worse--to indicate a
mood which she would take to be surrender.  So it had come to THAT--
that he thought of her as an enemy, or of his love for her as an
enemy?  Which--or both?  He puzzled over it, far too modest to
think his own emotions unique, but wondering if there were
outsiders who would understand them better than he did--novelists,
say, or psycho-analysts.  Or that fellow Wendover, if ever he got
to know him well enough?  Though how could a priest . . . and yet,
after all, it WAS a spiritual matter in some ways.  Thus he argued
with himself, and as the days passed and Martin did not improve, it
occurred to him that the greatest single difference between Livia
and himself was that she was too utterly fearless to be reasonable,
while he was too reasonable to be utterly fearless.  And at a
certain level of experience there was simply no compromise between
them.

Just before dawn one morning he dozed off in the chair and dreamed
of his own boyhood, a dream he had had recurrently before, though
never with such clarity.  It was about his Uncle Joe, whom he had
gone to live with when he was seven years old, and of whom he had
had more fear (on one occasion only) than ever before or since of
anything or anyone.  What had happened actually, though not always
in the dream, was that uncle and nephew had met for the first time
at the house in Mill Street, when no one else was there.  This was
a few months after his father had died, a week after the funeral of
his mother, and a few hours after the door had closed on his elder
brother Harry, his elder sister Jane, and the furniture-removers.

George had been the youngest of a family of six, with a gap so wide
between himself and the rest that at the time he was left
parentless all the others were grown-up and some of them married.
Their bickerings about who should take care of him (each one having
a completely plausible alibi) had made them jump at an unexpected
offer from their mother's brother, despite the fact that he and
their father had quarrelled years before over some point of
behaviour which (according to the latter) "just shows what a wicked
man Joe is".  Nobody ever told George more than that; all Harry
would add was an especially sinister:  "You'll find out soon
enough, Georgie."  And when the Mill Street household was broken
up, Jane and Harry watched the last of the furniture stowed away in
the van, then looked at George as if it were somehow disobliging of
him to be alive.  Finally Jane whispered:  "We might as well go
now, Harry--George'll be all right by himself till Uncle Joe comes--
he said he'd be along as soon as he closed the shop."

Which made an excellent excuse to go about their respective affairs
and leave a boy of seven alone in an empty house in which both his
parents had recently died, there to await (with no lights and dusk
approaching) the arrival of a man he had never seen before, and
who, from mysterious hints and rumours he had heard, must surely be
some kind of monster.

And about nine o'clock this legendary Uncle Joe, having paused
longer than he intended at the Liberal Club, came striding along
Mill Street to knock at Number Twenty-Four.  George could not, at
that moment of panic, decide whether he were more frightened of the
darkness or of his uncle; he could only crouch under the stairs
until the knock was repeated.  Then he decided that the unknown
peril was worse and that he would not open the door at all.  But in
the meantime Uncle Joe had gone round to the back of the house and
found a door there unlocked, so that he simply walked in, stumbling
and making a great commotion in the dark while he struck matches
and called for George.

George saw his face first of all in the light of the quick-spurting
flame--not, perhaps, the most reassuring way for anyone bordering
on hysteria to encounter a feared stranger.  He saw a big reddish
face, with bristling moustaches, tufts of hair sticking out of the
nose and ears, and eyebrows which, owing to the shadow, seemed to
reach across the entire forehead.

The result of all this was that by the time Uncle Joe, groping
after a series of wild screams that jumped alarmingly from room to
room, finally traced them to the corner of an upstairs cupboard,
George had fainted and the old man had used up all his matches.

The only thing he could think of was to carry the boy downstairs in
his arms and thence out of the house into the street.  They had
reached the corner before George came-to, whereupon Uncle Joe,
panting for breath, gladly set him down on the edge of the kerb
with a lamp-post to lean against.  Then, being a man of much
kindness but little imagination, he could think of nothing further
but to relight his pipe while the boy 'got over it', whatever 'it'
was.

Presently George looked up from the kerb, saw the big man bending
over him, and despite the now less terrifying eyebrows, would have
raced away in renewed flight had there been any power left in his
legs.  But there seemed not to be, so he sat there helpless,
resigned to the worst as he heard his captor fumbling around and
muttering huskily:  "Bugger it!  No more matches--wasted 'em all
looking for you, young shaver!"

Suddenly then, by a sort of miracle, the heartening message came
through--that everything was ALL RIGHT; but only years afterwards
was George able to reflect that in that same first kindly breath
there had been the two things that had made his father call Uncle
Joe a wicked man--namely, a 'swear' and the smell of whisky.

All this was what REALLY happened . . . but in the dream it did not
always end like that; sometimes the fear of the stranger's
footsteps in the empty house lasted till the crisis of waking.

And now, years later, while his son lay desperately ill in the room
above, George dreamed of this fear again, and was wakened by the
doctor's hand.  "Sorry, George . . . but I think you'd best go up."

"Is it--is it--bad?"

"Pretty bad . . . this time."

George went upstairs, still with the agony of the dream pulsating
in his veins; and then, from the bedroom doorway, he saw Livia's
face.  There was no fear in it as she glanced not to him, but to
the doctor.

The doctor walked over to the bed, stooped for a moment, then
looked up and slowly nodded.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

One thing was now settled more definitely than ever: George would
not leave Browdley, and if she should ever ask him again he would
answer from a core of bitterness in his heart.  But she did not
even mention the matter.  She seemed not to care where they lived
any more, and if an absence of argument were the only test, then
they were at peace during the days that followed.  But George knew
differently, and he knew that Livia knew also.  It was no peace,
but an armistice on terms, and one only tolerable so long as both
parties fenced off large parts of their lives as individual
territory.

They both grieved over Martin, and comforted each other up to the
boundary line, but that was fixed, and beyond it lay inflexibility.
When, for instance, she said a week or so later:  "Tom Whaley
telephoned while you were out to say that the Council reconvenes on
the seventeenth," George simply nodded, and went to his study.

She followed him, adding:  "He wanted to know if you'd be there."
She waited for him to reply, then said:  "_I_ don't mind you going,
George.  I don't mind being left alone in the evenings."

He answered:  "Aye, I shall go."

"Perhaps you'd better let him know then--"

"Don't worry--I met him in the street after he telephoned you.  I
told him I'd be going."

And there was finality in that.

He went to the meeting, and found there an atmosphere not only of
warm personal sympathy, but of eagerness to accept him as a
prophet; so that he scored, almost without opposition, the biggest
personal triumph of his career.  The housing scheme he had urged
for years went through the first stage of its acceptance that very
night; even his bitterest antagonists gave way, while to his
friends he became manifestly the leader of a cause no longer lost.
There was irony (unknown to any but himself) that, at such a moment
of easy victory, he had never felt grimmer in spirit.  When he
reached home late that night Livia was in bed, and he would not
disturb her, for the news he had did not seem enough excuse; she
could read about it if she wished (and there was irony there too)
in the pages of the next Guardian.  But the excitements of the
evening had made him sleepless, so he sat up in his study till
daylight, reading and writing and thinking and working out in his
mind the terms of the unspoken armistice.

One afternoon he found her with Fred, the messenger boy from the
printing works, busily engaged in clearing up the yard behind the
office that had always (as far back as anyone could remember) been
a dumping-ground for old papers, cardboard boxes, tin cans, etc.
It was such a small area, enclosed on two sides by buildings and on
the remaining ones by high brick walls, that nobody had ever
thought of any other use for it.  But now, when she saw his
curiosity, she asked if he would mind her turning it into a garden.

"Why, of course not," he answered, pleased that she should show
such an interest.  "But I doubt if anything'll grow there."

"We'll see," she said.

"I'll give you a hand with it if you like."

"No, there's no need.  Fred will dig it over, and then I can do all
the rest myself."

"What'll you plant?"

"I don't know."

"I'll get you some books about gardening if you like."

"Oh no, no. . . .  I don't want BOOKS."

And there was just the hint of a barb in that.  It was as if she
had chosen books as a symbol of HIS world, just as flowers were to
be of HERS.  The books, too, were increasing all the time; some of
them came as review copies addressed to the Guardian by publishers
who did not realize how small and unimportant the paper was; many
he bought, a few were sent him as chairman of this or that
municipal committee.  He had no collecting spirit, no special
desire to make a show of what he had read.  Yet as the books filled
up the room, and new shelves had to be rigged till they covered
most of the wall space, he could not help a little pride in them to
match Livia's pride (and his own too) in the transformed dumping-
ground below.  And his pride grew definite from the moment that
Councillor Whaley, visiting him once while Livia was out,
exclaimed:  "George, I reckon this must be just about the best
library in Browdley--in anyone's house, I mean.  What does your
wife think about it?"

"LIVIA? . . .  Why . . . why do you ask that?"

"Only because she once worked in a library herself--I thought maybe
books were in her line too."

"No," George answered.  "She likes gardening better."  And he took
Tom to the window and pointed down to the rectangle of cleared
ground.  "She says she'll plant roses."

"Why, that'll be fine."  And then as an afterthought:  "Nobody'll
see it, though--except you.  Maybe that's the idea--to give you
something to look at."

George smiled.  "I don't know, Tom.  But MY idea is that it gives
her an interest in life.  She needs it--since losing the boy."

"Naturally.  But I'll tell you what, George, if you don't mind
plain speaking from an old bachelor."  He whispered something in
George's ear about Livia's youth and having more children.  "Aye,"
George replied heavily, and changed the subject.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Martin's death seemed to bring him into immediate friendship
with Father Wendover.  Neither ever referred to the curious
'coincidence' that both must often have recollected; nor did the
priest talk much from the standpoint of his profession.  He showed,
however, considerable interest in George's family background, and
once he said:  "You'd have made a fine upstanding atheist, George,
if only your father had lived a bit longer."

"Maybe," George answered, "but Uncle Joe didn't continue the
training, and the result is I'm no more an atheist today than you
are. . . .  Not that he was AGAINST religion, mind you.  He even
sent me to Sunday school."

"Why?"

"To be frank, I think it was because he thought Sunday schools were
a good way of giving kids something to do when they were too
dressed-up to do anything else."

"An appalling idea."

"Oh, I don't know.  He was all right."  George mused for a moment.
"It's odd we should be discussing him, because I dreamed about him
the night Martin died. . . .  Aye, he was all right.  And he liked
his Sundays too--in his own way.  To my father they were days of
gloom and mystery and foreboding, and that was the way he wanted
'em, but to my uncle they were nice comfortable days when you had a
late breakfast and took a walk along the canal-bank while dinner
was cooking and then had a snooze in the afternoon and high tea at
five o'clock--and that was the way HE wanted 'em."

"Did he ever go to church?"

"Aye, when he felt like it.  It's true he felt like it less and
less as he grew older, but he still counted church as part of a
proper Sunday programme.  He used to say he'd attend regularly if
only Aunt Flo were a bit better on her feet, and he'd have liked to
put more in the collection plate if only he hadn't lost so much in
cotton investments, and he'd have been proud as Punch if I'd had a
voice to sing in the choir--but I hadn't. . . .  Altogether what
he'd have liked to do was so well-meaning you could hardly call him
irreligious, while what he actually did was so little that he
interfered with nobody--not even me."

Wendover, having watched George's face during all this with a
growing conviction that its look of guilelessness was sincere, now
slowly smiled.  "Is that your portrait of a good man, George?"

"Well, he was good to me," George answered, simply.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Trade remained sluggish in the town, but the Guardian, owing mainly
to Livia's reorganization, began to show a small profit.  George
was then able to give her more money, but she seemed to care as
little about it as about anything else over which he had any
control.  Yet she did not mope, brood, or look particularly
unhappy.  Nor did she nag, upbraid, or quarrel.  It was merely that
she seemed in some peculiar way to have withdrawn into a world of
her own, where George was not invited nor could have followed her
if he had been.

One evening early in 1921 he came home after a long day out of the
town on municipal business, having left in the morning before she
was awake.  But now, hearing him enter, she came scampering down
the stairs, and at the instant of recognition he gasped with the
sensation of pain suddenly switched off inside him.  Then, as
always when he saw her afresh after even a few hours' absence,
recognition dissolved into a curious feeling of never having seen
her before, but of experiencing some primitive thrill that the few
years of their marriage had neither enhanced nor made stale.
Whatever that was to him, it had been from their first moment of
meeting and would be till their last; it was something simple that
only became complex when he sought to analyse it.  Just now he was
glad to hold her in a brief hug of welcome and feel that everything
was miraculously all right, even if it wasn't, and that nothing
needed explaining, even if it did.

He said he was sorry he was late, and she answered brightly:  "Oh,
that's all right--the dinner won't spoil.  Lamb stew--can't you
smell it?"

He sniffed hard and joyfully; lamb stew was one of his favourite
dishes, and he would relish it all the more from thinking that
perhaps she had prepared it to please him.

"Ah," he gasped.

"And we'll have it in the kitchen to save time," she said,
evidently reaching an impromptu decision.  "Annie--did you hear?
We'll all eat in the kitchen, so hurry up."

That was like her; the knack of taking short cuts to get what she
wanted--the quick plan, or change of plan, generally based on
something so elemental that only a child could have avoided the
mistake of reading into it more than was there.  This eating in the
kitchen, for instance, had nothing to do with any feeling on
Livia's part that Annie was an equal (only George could, and did,
sometimes think of such a thing); really, it was just that Livia
was hungry and, as with all her desires, could not bear to be kept
waiting.  George was generally amused by this, and often quoted the
occasion when, having attended a Council meeting at which he
presided, she had left exclaiming:  "Oh, George, I'll NEVER go to
one of those affairs again!  They drive me silly--all that
proposing and seconding and moving the nominations closed and
appointing a sub-committee to report to the next meeting. . . .  No
wonder nothing ever gets done!"  But something DOES get done, had
been George's slightly hurt rejoinder--unspoken, however, because
he knew she would then argue that what he called SOMETHING was not
much more than what she called next to nothing. . . .

But now, walking after her into the kitchen, his spirits rose,
crowning the physical ease that came over him as he entered the
warm small room and sat at the scrubbed table between the gas-stove
and the meat-safe.  A curious half-painful happiness clutched at
him as he watched her across the table-top; she was, he had to
admit, as sheerly fascinating to him as ever, with those dark,
almost violet-blue eyes that glowed rather than sparkled and gave
her whole face a rapt, almost mystic expression; the hair so straw-
pale that it could look white against mere gold, the mouth too big
for the nose, but the nose so small and perfect that he had
sometimes thought that if he were a sculptor he would model it and
stick it on a model of someone else's face--yet he had never found
that more matching face, and doubtless never would.

She was talking--most unusually for her--about events of the day,
conditions in Europe, and how interesting it must be to visit
foreign countries now that the basic comforts of peace-time travel
had begun to return.

"Aye," he agreed.  "I'll bet it's interesting.  I've got a book
about post-war Europe if you'd like to--"

"Oh, I don't mean BOOKS, George.  It isn't here where you can
understand things always"--and she touched her head--"it's more
like THIS--" and he expected her to touch her heart, but instead
she put up her small fist and shook it in his face, laughing
meanwhile.  "Oh, George--you and your books and meetings and
speeches. . . ."

He did not mind the mockery he was accustomed to, especially as she
seemed so happy over it.  She went on chattering till the meal was
ended; then, as they left the kitchen for Annie to wash up, he said--
and it was the truth:  "Livia, that's the best lamb stew I ever
tasted.  How about a cup of tea with me in the study before I get
down to some work?"

"You've got work to do tonight?"

"Aye--just a bit to finish up.  The Education Committee meets
tomorrow and I've got to hammer at them again for that new school."

She accompanied him to the study and presently Annie brought in
tea.  He was so happy, sitting there with her, in his own room with
the books in it, and with her own garden below the window outside.
And suddenly, as if to signalize the height of his content, the
vagrant thought came to him that this was the moment, if a man were
a smoker, to light up a pipe, or a cigar, or a cigarette.  He
laughed to himself at the notion, and then had to tell her what he
had been laughing at.

"Well, why don't you?" she asked.  "I've got some cigarettes."

"Nay. . . .  I was only joking, Livia."

"But George, if you WANT to--"

"I don't want to--it was just that now would be the time if I ever
did want to."

And then he saw her face cloud over as if something in his words
had sent her into a new mood.  She went to the window, stared out
over the dark garden for a moment, then turned round and said very
quietly:  "Now's the time for me too.  George, I want to leave
you."

"WHAT?"  The happiness--so passing, so brief--drained away from
mind and body, so that he felt older by years within seconds.
"Livia . . . WHAT?  WHAT'S THAT?"

"I--I MUST leave you, George."

"But, Livia--WHY--what on earth--"  He was on his feet and crossing
the room towards her.

"No, George--don't--don't. . . .  Or you can if you like--I don't
mind.  It isn't that I've changed in how I feel toward you.  And
there's nobody else . . . but I'm not happy, George, since Martin
died."

"Livia--my little Livia--neither am I--you know that--but after
all--"  And then he could only add:

"I thought you DID look happy tonight."

"That's because I'd made up my mind."

"To do what?"

"To leave you, George."

Then she went into further details.  It seemed that years before
(and he had never known this) she had been to some school in Geneva
and had made friends with local people there; she had lately been
in correspondence with them and they had asked her to visit them
and stay as long as she liked.  So she had accepted.

"But . . ."  And even amidst his unhappiness the germ of optimism
began to sprout.  "But, Livia--that's another matter altogether!
You have friends in Geneva, so you want to spend a holiday with
them!  Well--why not, for heaven's sake?"  And he began to laugh.
"My little Livia'--what a dramatic way of putting it--that you're
going to LEAVE me!  Of course you are--for as long as you like--I
daresay you DO need a holiday--I'd come with you if I could spare
the time--but as you know, I can't.  I don't mind you going at all--
or rather, I don't mind so much, because although I'll miss you
I'll be happy knowing you're having such a good time."

"I may not have a good time, George."

"Of course you will, and when you've had enough of it you'll come
back to smoky old Browdley like a new woman.  I'll take care of
things here while you're away--I'll look after Becky--"

"Oh no, I'll take Becky with me."

"You will? . . .  All right, if you want.  Anything you want. . . .
You're run down, Livia--a holiday's just what you need--I'm sure a
doctor would say so.  And don't worry about money--I'll go to the
bank tomorrow and see if there's a bit extra I can find for
you. . . ."

"Thank you, George, but I have enough. . . .  And now I know you
want to work."

"I did want to, but I don't know as I'll do much after this.  When--
when are you going to go?"

"Tomorrow.  I have all the tickets and things and I'm pretty nearly
packed."

"Oh, Livia, LIVIA. . . ."  And for a moment the battle was on again
between despair and optimism, the latter winning by a hairline in
the end.  "All right, Livia--all right."

"Good night, George.  Please do your work.  Please."  And she ran
out of the room.

A little later, when he went up to bed, she was asleep.  He smiled
gently and with relief as he saw her thus, for he had already
schooled and drilled his optimism, and that she could sleep so
soon, as calmly as a child, was reassurance to all his hopes; while
into his bones, as he watched her quiet breathing through slightly
parted lips, there came an ache of pity for her--as if in sleep she
told the plain wordless truth, that it was not in his power to make
her happy enough.  She was so small, so mysterious, and to him a
part of something so incurable that he wondered, watching her in
the light that came in from a street lamp, what would have happened
had he been a shade less eloquent at that Council meeting three
years earlier--if, for instance, the voting had been seventeen to
fifteen AGAINST the motion instead of FOR it?  Why, then, so far as
he could see, he would never have met Livia at all.  And he would
have taken that second examination according to plan and have
obtained his university degree.  And possibly also he would have
won the by-election that would have sent him to Parliament as
member for Browdley.  And also he would not have known such
happiness, or such unhappiness either. . . .

"My little Livia," he whispered, stooping to touch her forehead
with his lips.  He knew she would not wake.

The next morning she left.  He travelled also as far as Mulcaster,
shepherding her and her luggage and her dog during that first stage
of the journey, and fending off all sad thoughts by the resolute
pretence that it was just a holiday.  He was disappointed when a
friend and fellow-councillor entered the same compartment at
Browdley Station; it was hard to concentrate upon a discussion of
local political news, but then, later on, he thought it was
probably easier than to have made conversation with Livia.  She sat
cosily, almost demurely, in a corner by the window, staring with
quiet interest upon the familiar scenes.  The hour-long journey,
with stops at every station, built up in George a certain
resignation, so that when the train reached the terminus he was
well able to take command of the situation when Councillor Ridyard
noticed the luggage.  "Why, what's all this?" Ridyard exclaimed,
reading the labels.  "GENEVA?  Who's going to Geneva?"

"My wife," said George, as if it were the most natural thing in the
world.  "She's visiting friends there."

"Well, well!  You don't say!  Just for the moment I thought they'd
appointed you to the League of Nations, and I was wondering how on
earth we'd manage without you on the Housing Committee. . . ."

At which they all three laughed.

Just before George saw her off on the London train, Ridyard's joke
put him in mind of something to say at a time when it is always
hardest to think of anything to say to anybody.  "Geneva must be
pretty interesting these days, Livia.  There's probably a place for
the public at the League of Nations meetings--you might find some
of them worth looking in at . . . but of course they do everything
in French, don't they?"

"Do they?" she answered.  "But I know French, anyhow."

"You do?"

"Yes."

"I never knew you did.  You never told me."

"I never told you lots of things."

"Aye, that's about it. . . ."

And then the train began to move, and there was no more time for
anything but the last shouted goodbyes.

Two hours later he was back in Browdley, desperately unhappy,
fighting again to believe that it was just a holiday.  But after a
little while to get used to it he established a fairly permanent
victory over his misgivings; for she wrote several letters, quite
normal ones, reporting what sort of a time she was having, where
she went, and whom she met.  And he, in return, reported upon his
own doings in Browdley--his continuing struggle to manoeuvre the
housing scheme towards its first stage of accomplishment.  When she
had been away a couple of months she wrote that she had found a job
with a tourist agency, conducting travel parties about Switzerland
and Austria, and this, though it seemed to make her near return
less likely, reinforced his belief that she was benefiting by the
change.  After all, it was quite natural not to stay too long as a
guest in a friend's house, and if a temporary job offered itself,
was it not sensible to take it?  What really cheered him was the
knowledge that those tourist-guide jobs WERE temporary--the season
began about May and did not last beyond October.  So that when
October should come . . .

But before October came, Lord Winslow came, on that First of
September, 1921, to lay the foundation stone of the first unit of
the Mill Street Housing Scheme.



PART FOUR


Between 1921 and 1938 much happened in the world; America had the
biggest boom and then the biggest slump in history; England went on
the gold standard and then off again; Germany rose from defeat to
power and then from power to arrogance; flying became a commonplace
and radio the fifth estate; people changed from being bored with
the last war to being scared of the next--with one short interval
of cynical, clinical absorption.

And those were the years during which, in Browdley, the Mill Street
Housing Scheme was progressing unit by unit.

One afternoon in the first week of October, 1938, the Mayor of
Browdley presided at official ceremonies to mark the scheme's
completion.  It had taken a long time, with many intervals of delay
and inaction, but at last it was finished, and clusters of cheerful
little red-brick semi-detached cottages covered the entire area of
what had once been slums.  George Boswell himself was also
cheerful; in his early fifties he wore both his years and his
mayoralty well; except for grey hair he had not changed much, it
was remarked, since the day so long before when the foundation
stone had been laid upon the first unit.

"Remember that day, George?" someone buttonholed him afterwards.
"You had Lord Thingumbob here, and my wife slipped on the way home
and busted her ankle--that's how it sticks in my mind."

This ancient mishap seemed to amuse the husband more than it did
the Mayor, whose face momentarily clouded over as he answered:
"Aye, I remember that day."

"And so you should, after the fight you've had.  Seventeen years,
George, and without a Council majority till lately, so that you
couldn't vote 'em down, you just had to wear 'em out. . . .  Well,
it's all over now, and a big job well done."

"Aye, but there's plenty more to do."

The cloud then lifted, and the Mayor was seen to be enjoying the
triumph he deserved.  True, there was no noble lord on hand this
time, but there was to have been a personage of equal if not
superior importance, none other than a Cabinet Minister--and
everyone knew that his absence was not George's fault, but
Hitler's.  George did not like Hitler--for other reasons than that;
but now that the Pact of Munich had been signed he could not help
seeing a certain symbolism in what had happened--the removal of the
threat of war by a last-minute miracle so that the final ceremonies
of the Mill Street Housing Scheme could take place as planned.  And
a further touch: the very same workmen who had erected the flags
and platform had been taken right off the job of building an air-
raid shelter under the Town Hall.  George mentioned this in his
speech, and again in a Guardian editorial that concluded:


"We people of Browdley--quiet folks who ask for nothing more than
to do our work in peace and live out our lives in decency--we do
not profess to understand the complicated geographic, ethnographic,
and historical problem of the Sudetenland which has come so close
to plunging a whole continent into the infinite disaster of war.
We cannot be sure even now that the settlement just reached will be
administered fairly to all parties, or whether, in certain phases
of the negotiations, the threat of the sword did not prevail over
the scales of justice.  What we DO know, by and large, is that at
the eleventh hour a decision has been made that every honest
citizen of every country will endorse in principle--because it is
AGAINST WAR.  Let every man of Browdley whose death-sentence has
thus been commuted, let every woman of Browdley who will not now
face sorrow and bereavement, let every child of Browdley who will
grow up to inherit a happier world--let them face anew THE TASKS OF
PEACE AND RECONSTRUCTION."


After the ceremonies George walked home across the town and had tea
alone in his study--the same study, though enlarged by a bay-window
built over the garden, as well as by inclusion of a book-lined
alcove that had formerly been part of the lobby.  For George's
library was now more certainly than ever the largest private one in
Browdley, the years having just about doubled its contents.

Everything else was much the same, including Annie, and the
printing-office, and Will Spivey.  When George handed in his Munich
editorial, the old fellow, a little crustier but otherwise
unchanged by the years, read it through, grunted, and said at
length:  "Do you want this AS WELL AS the one about the new sewage
scheme?"

"No," answered George.  "Instead of."

"What'll I do with the sewage one then?"

"Keep it till next week."

But by the next morning George's slight misgiving about Munich had
thriven, and he took the opportunity to cut out that final
sentence.  Instead he wrote:


". . . For the rest, we must wait and see whether Hitler's word is
to be trusted.  If his desire for 'peace in our time' is as sincere
as our own, we should expect to see some corresponding reduction in
German armaments, and until we have evidence of this we can only
continue, however reluctantly, the process of bringing our own
armaments up to a minimum safety-level.  THAT THE GOVERNMENT WILL
DO THIS WE DO NOT DOUBT."


George's optimism had merely swerved in another direction.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Like most Englishmen, he was shocked rather than surprised when
war came.  1938 had been the year of hypnosis, the sleep-walk
into tragedy, but the first half of 1939 brought a brand of
disillusionment that made the actual outbreak of hostilities almost
an anti-climax.  After that there was so much to be done, and so
little time for self-scrutiny, that George was spared the full
chagrin of awakening; like all mayors of towns, he found his office
had become practically a branch of the national government, with
his own tasks and personal responsibilities greatly increased.  He
shouldered them with gusto from before dawn till often past
midnight, while England slowly dissolved into a new era--slowly, it
seemed, because it had been natural to expect change and
catastrophe overnight.  When no bombs fell on London, and when all
continued to be quiet along the Western Front, a curious hangover
of illusion recurred; it was a 'phony' war, said some; perhaps it
was not even a war at all.  One morning at his editorial desk,
aware of this unreality and not knowing how else to handle it,
George indulged in a little spree of optimism.  After all, he
reflected, the good citizens of Browdley deserved a pick-me-up;
they had done wonders in response to all his war-emergency appeals,
had enlisted splendidly for air-raid protection and civilian
defence, and were resolutely creating a strong Home Front while
across the Channel hundreds of their sons were already facing the
enemy, but so far, thank Heaven, not being killed by him.  It was
astonishing, compared with the First World War, how few casualties
there were along that Western Front.  And thinking things out,
George composed the following:


"We have now been at war for almost six months, and though it would
be premature to offer ourselves any congratulations, nevertheless
we may justifiably wonder whether the Germans are able to do so
either.  True, their tanks and mechanized armies have scored
victories over the farm-carts and cavalry of Poland, but at the
cost of overrunning that country they have brought against them a
factor which, with memories of a quarter of a century ago, must
chill the blood of even the most ardent Nazi--namely, THE FULL
FIGHTING STRENGTH OF ENGLAND AND FRANCE.  For today that strength
is assembled, not in a line of half-flooded trenches hastily
improvised, but along the mightiest system of steel and concrete
fortifications ever constructed by man--THE MAGINOT LINE.  No
wonder that the Nazi Juggernaut has satisfied itself with triumphs
elsewhere.  No wonder that (as some people are whispering, almost
as if there were a mystery about it)--'nothing is happening' on the
Western Front.  If nothing is happening, then surely that is the
measure of our victory, and of the enemy's defeat.  For that is
precisely what the Maginot Line was built for--in order THAT
NOTHING SHOULD HAPPEN."


George thought this rather good, for it rationalized something that
had begun to puzzle even himself slightly--that so-called 'phony'
war.  But of course the Maginot Line was the clue.  A high military
officer had shown him some photographs of it--after which the whole
business became no puzzle at all.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Perhaps as a result of this, he wrote fewer editorials after the
war ceased to be 'phony'.  For one thing, he was overworked, and if
he ever found himself with an hour to spare he preferred to drop in
at St. Patrick's to see Father Wendover, who had long been his best
friend.  As George had somehow suspected from the first, Wendover
was not only agile-minded but considerably sympathetic to George's
work in the town.  He had always held what were considered
'advanced' ideas for a priest, with the result that he more often
had to defend himself for being one than for having them; and that,
he claimed, was as good for him as for his opponents.

Such controversies had flourished in peace-time, and George had
often joined in them; during the war, however, and especially after
the Norwegian fiasco and the French collapse, nothing seemed to
matter but the bare facts of life and death, disaster and survival,
enemy and friend.  And George found Wendover congenial because,
beneath the surface of the proud ecclesiastic, there lay a deep
humility which, in a curious way, matched his own.  Thus it was to
Wendover that George took his thoughts during the difficult days of
1940, and there was one day, just after Dunkirk, when he brought
over some notes of a speech he was due to make to a local patriotic
organization.  He wanted to know what Wendover thought about it.

And the latter, while he was listening, smiled slightly.  Here was
George Boswell, Mayor of Browdley--this decent, hard-working, well-
meaning, quite talented fellow--a good citizen and a stout-hearted
friend--a man whose powers of leadership were considerable and
might have been greater had he not been so personally likeable, and
had he not liked to be so likeable--here was George Boswell, with
the Germans poised along the European coastline from Narvik to
Bordeaux, thinking it really mattered what he said to a few hundred
people gathered together in Browdley Co-operative Hall.  But then,
as an honest man, Wendover had to admit that a similar comment
might have been made on his own sermons at such a time . . . for
were George's speeches of any less PRACTICAL importance?  So he
listened patiently and said, at the end:  "Not bad, George--not bad
at all.  Cheerful, anyhow."

"You mean it's TOO cheerful?"

"Well, you always were an optimist, weren't you?"  Then he smiled,
but it was a rather grim, troubled smile.  "You know, George, I
don't want to discourage you, but things do look pretty bad.  We've
lost our army and all its equipment, and we've about one plane for
every ten the Germans have, and the Channel's only a ditch
nowadays. . . ."

George's eyes widened with a sort of bewilderment.  "Aye, I've
thought of all that myself.  I've even wondered--sometimes--if
they've got a chance."

"You mean to invade us?"

"Aye."

"They might have.  Recognizing the fact shouldn't alter our resolve
to fight to the last man.  On the contrary, it's the basis of it."

George swallowed hard, then said, after a pause of gloomy
thoughtfulness:  "So it boils down to this--we might even LOSE the
bloody war?"

"I think we'd be fools to assume that it's impossible.  But of
course I don't say we shall.  I'm only speaking the thoughts that
came into my mind while I was listening to you--perhaps because you
HAVE been wrong before when you've made such gallant prophecies."

George suddenly stuffed the notes of his speech into his pocket.
"Then by God I'll be wrong again!" he almost shouted.  "After all,
as you say, I've got no reputation to lose.  Aye, and I'll not do
it by halves either!  I'll tell folks that Hitler's on the verge of
his first great defeat, and that whatever else the Germans succeed
in, they'll never lick England!"

So George did this, and it was among his most quotable prophetic
utterances.  It was certainly the only one he had ever conquered a
qualm about, and one of the very few that proved completely
correct.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

But as the summer months passed and the air assaults that had been
expected a year before began now upon London and the large
provincial cities, it became clear that this was not like the First
World War, when every rostrum and pulpit had resounded to the call
of a somewhat romantic patriotism.  George could remember the Mayor
of that day orating in Browdley market-square about the injustices
of poor little Belgium, and thereafter luring recruits from the
audience as a revivalist preacher extracts penitents.  Thank
goodness we don't have THAT to do, thought George more than once as
he began his work on those fateful autumn days; and besides, it
wasn't poor little Belgium any more, but poor little England--yet
was there any Englishman who wouldn't somehow resent that phrase?
Why, even poor little Browdley didn't seem to suit.  Indeed, as
George went about his war-time business in the town, visiting
factories and homes and organizations, it seemed to him it had
never been less 'poor', in any sense of the word.  And it wasn't so
little either.  One day, in company with other local mayors, he was
taken up in an R.A.F. plane (his first flight), and when he stared
down from three thousand feet upon the roofs of the town, he
couldn't help exclaiming:  "Why, it looks like a city!"  To which
an Air Force officer replied:  "Let's hope it doesn't, or it'll be
put on the blitz list."  For Browdley had so far escaped, though
bombs had fallen in the neighbourhood at several places.

And there were other curious things about the war--for instance,
that even with all the new food-rationing restrictions, many
Browdley families were being better fed than in peace-time, because
they now had full employment and money to spend.  And the children
in the schools, so the Medical Officer reported, were actually
healthier than ever before in the history of the town.

It was nervous tension that weighed most heavily during that first
terrible year of the real war--the loss of sleep through air-raid
warnings even if the raiders did not come or merely passed over;
the extra hours of work without holidays, the ten-hour shifts plus
overtime of men and women desperately striving to repair the losses
at Dunkirk; the irritations of tired folk waiting in long lines for
buses to and from their factories; the continual wear and tear on
older persons and those of weaker fibre.  But on others the
tensions, hardships, occasional dangers, and ever-present awareness
of possible danger, seemed to have a toughening effect; many men
who had worked all day found they were no worse off attending Home
Guard drills in the evenings or patrolling the streets as air-raid
wardens than they would have been in the pubs and cinemas of their
peace-time choice.  And in this George discovered (to his surprise,
for he had never taken deliberate exercise and had rarely given his
physical condition a thought) that he belonged to the tougher
breed.  He was fortunate.  There was even pleasure to him, after a
hard day of mainly sedentary work, in transferring mind and body to
physical tasks of air-raid defence, in the long walks up and down
familiar pavements, in chats with passers-by, in hours afforded for
private thinking, in the chance of comradeship with men he would
otherwise have missed getting to know.  Not that he ever
romanticized about it; he was ready to admit that any fun he
derived from what, in a sane world, would be a waste of time, was
due to the fact that so far there had been no actual raids; if
there were, he did not expect to enjoy them any more than the next
man.  But for all that, there WERE good moments, supreme moments,
and if there were bad ones ahead, he would take them too, as and
when they came, sharing them with his fellow-citizens as
straightforwardly as he shared with them so many cups of hot,
strong, sugary tea.

A few things gave him emotions in which pleasure, if it could be
called that, came from an ironic appreciation of events.  For
instance, that the old Channing Mill in Mill Street had at last
found a use; its unwanted machinery was junked for scrap metal,
while its large ground-floor, levelled off, served as a
headquarters and mess-room for the air-raid wardens.

And also that Richard Felsby's land, which the old man had decided
too late to give the town for a municipal park, had been
compulsorily requisitioned for the drills and manoeuvrings of the
Home Guard.

But no use could be found for Stoneclough.  It remained a derelict
in even greater solitude now that there were no holidays to tempt
Browdley folks on hikes and picnics.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

George was an exceedingly busy man.  Not only was his printing
business getting all the work it could handle, but his position as
Mayor counted for more and more as the national and local
governments of the country became closely integrated.  For the
first time in his life he had the feeling that he really
represented the town, not merely his own party on the Town Council;
and if this showed how limited his conception of mayoralty had been
until then, he was disposed to concede the point.  Anyhow, it was a
satisfactory feeling, especially as his tasks were far too numerous
to permit him to luxuriate in it.  He was not a luxuriator, anyhow.
And when he came home after a fourteen-hour spell of work, it was
rarely with time left over to indulge a mood.

He did not even read in his study most nights, but made himself a
cup of tea and went immediately to bed and to sleep.

The ordeal of the great cities continued.  Night after night the
wail of sirens and thudding of gunfire wakened Browdley, and
sometimes a wide glow on one of the horizons gave a clue as to
which of the greater near-by cities was being attacked.  One night
there came an emergency call for help from Mulcaster, and George
accompanied several lorry-loads of Browdley men in a top-speed
drive to the stricken area.  Till then all his fire-fighting and
similar work had been a rehearsal; but that night, from soon after
midnight till long past dawn, he knew what the real thing was, and
of course, like all real things, it was different.  Crawling into
smoking ruins while bombs were still falling in the neighbourhood,
giving first-aid to the injured before a doctor could arrive, he
directed his squad of co-workers under conditions which, despite
all the training they had had, were in a dreadful and profound
sense novel.

A youngish doctor asked him when the raid was over:  "Been in this
sort of thing before?"

George shook his head.

"I'd have thought you had, from the way you handled those
stretchers."

"Oh, I've done THAT before."

"The last war?"

"Aye."

"How would you compare it--this sort of thing--and that?"

George answered irritably:  "I wouldn't.  And nor would you if you
could."

The men returned to Browdley with scorched and blackened faces,
minor injuries, and a grim weariness of soul which, after sleep,
changed to bitterness, determination, cheerfulness, even ribaldry--
so strange is the alchemy of experience on men of differing make-
up.

On George, after that first irritable outburst (which he later
regretted as being needlessly melodramatic and quite out of
character), the principal effect was a decision to do something
which, at any previous time, would have been an acknowledgment of
defeat, but which now, the way he could look at it, seemed more
like victory over himself.  He gave up the Guardian.  He did not
even try to sell it; he abandoned it.  For years it had never more
than just paid its way, and sometimes not even that; but the real
issue, in George's mind, was not financial at all.  He suddenly
realized that the paper had been costing too much in human effort,
including his own, that could better be devoted elsewhere.

"It's one thing with another," he explained to Wendover.  "Will
Spivey's getting old--it's all he can do to manage the job printing--
I'll have to keep THAT going, of course--it's my living.  And then
there've been newsprint difficulties, and you can't get paper-boys
any more, and I've just lost another man to the Army. . . .  And
besides all that, I haven't the time myself nowadays.  If we should
get a big raid on Browdley one of these nights, we'd all have our
hands full.  I know what I'm talking about, after what I saw in
Mulcaster.  Because I'd be responsible for things here, in a sort
of way.  There's a lot more work in being Mayor than there used to
be."

"And I haven't heard any complaints about how you're doing it,
George."

"I'll do it better, though, when the paper's off my hands."

"You're sure you won't regret not being an editor any more?"

"EDITOR?"  George grinned.  "What did I edit?  Births, marriages,
funerals, meetings, whist drives, church bazaars.  The Advertiser'll
do that just as well--and one paper's enough in a town of this size.
Most folks always did prefer the Advertiser, anyway."

"But you used to write your own stuff in the Guardian sometimes."

"Aye, and there you come to another reason why I'm giving it up.
D'you remember when I came to talk to you about that speech I made
just after Dunkirk?"

"You mean the one in which you prophesied that Hitler would never
lick us?  Yes, I remember.  And I'm beginning to think you were
right."

"For once.  But as you said, I'd been pretty wrong before.  I'm
glad you said that because it made me think about it, and I never
realized how wrong I actually had been till the other day I got
out the back-files of the Guardian and re-read some of my old
editorials.  By God, they were wrong.  After Locarno, for instance,
I wrote about France and Germany finally burying the hatchet, and
after Munich I said that even though the settlement wasn't perfect,
at any rate it might keep the peace of Europe for a generation . . .
and only a few months ago I was blabbing that the Germans couldn't
break through in the West because of the Maginot Line. . . .  Mind
you, I was always perfectly sincere at the time, but that only makes
it worse.  Seems to me, Harry, I'm just not cut out to deal with
world affairs."

"You've been as right as a good many of the politicians."

"Aye, and that's no compliment.  Maybe it was a good thing I never
got to Westminster--I'd have been just another fool with a bigger
platform to spout from. . . .  And another thing occurred to me--I
was thinking about it last night on warden's duty--and it's this--
that the nearer I stay to Browdley the more use I am and the fewer
mistakes I make.  Look round the place--I have done SOME good
things--not many, not enough--but they're here, such as they are,
and I don't have to try to forget 'em same as I do the stuff I used
to put in the paper. . . .  Look at the Mill Street Housing Scheme,
and the new Council School, and the Municipal Hospital, and the
electric power station the Government took over.  Aye, and the
sewage farm, if you like--that's mine too--remember what a fight I
had over it?  Those things are REAL, Harry--they exist--they're
something attempted, something done.  They're what I've been right
about, whereas Czechoslovakia's something I've been wrong about.
So give me Browdley."

"You've got Browdley, George."

"Aye, and it's got me.  Till the war's over, anyhow."

"And afterwards, perhaps."

"Don't be too sure.  There's young chaps coming along as'll make
me a back number some day, but they're in uniform now, most of
'em. . . .  'Vote for Boswell and Your Children's Future'--that
was my old election slogan.  I hope nobody else remembers it.  I'd
rather be remembered for the lavatories I put in the market square.
Because they're good lavatories, as lavatories go.  Whereas the
children's future that I talked so much about . . ."

Wendover smiled.  "I get your point, George.  But don't over-
simplify it.  And don't throw all your books on world affairs in
the fire."

"Oh no, I won't do that.  In fact when I've got the time I'll study
more of 'em.  I want to find out why we've all been let in for what
we have.  And I want to find out why folks ten times better
educated than me have made the same mistakes."

"Maybe because education hasn't much to do with it, George."
Wendover added:  "And another thing--don't be too humble about
yourself."

George thought a moment, then came out with one of those
devastatingly sincere things that endeared him to his opponents
even oftener than to his friends.  "Oh, don't you worry--I'm not as
humble as I sound.  That's what Livia once said. . . ."

He did not often mention her now, and when he did the name slipped
out casually, by accident, giving him neither embarrassment nor a
pang.  So much time can do.

But the remark gave Wendover the cue to ask:  "By the way, heard
anything of her lately?"

"No, I suppose she's still out there."

And then, after a silence, the subject was changed.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Even in Browdley by now the affair was almost forgotten, and George
could assess with some impartiality the extent to which it had
damaged his career.  Probably it had lost him his chance at the
general election of 1923, though his subsequent failure at two
other parliamentary elections might well have happened in any case.
Undoubtedly the divorce had alienated some of his early supporters,
especially when (owing to the legal technique of such things in
those days) it had been made to seem that he himself was the guilty
party.  Many of his friends knew this to be untrue, but a few did
not, and it was always a matter liable to be brought up by an
unscrupulous opponent, like the old accusation that he had put his
wife on the municipal pay-roll.  But time had had its main effect,
not so much in dulling memories, but in changing the moral
viewpoints even of those who imagined theirs to be least
changeable, so that the whole idea of divorce, which had been a
shocking topic in the twenties, was now, in the forties, rather a
stale one.  George knew that a great many young people in the town
neither knew nor would have been much interested in the details
that had so scandalized their parents.

Those details included Livia's re-marriage, at the earliest legal
date, to the Honourable Jeffrey Winslow, who had given up a
diplomatic career to take some job in Malaya.  Except that Lord
Winslow died in 1925 and left a large fortune, some of which must
have gone to the younger son, George knew nothing more.  The
Winslow name did not get into the general news, and George did not
read the kind of papers in which, if anywhere, it would still
appear.  But when Singapore fell, early in 1942, he could not
suppress a recurrent preoccupation, hardly to be called anxiety; it
made him ask the direct question if ever he met anyone likely to
know the answer and unlikely to know of his own personal
relationship.  "I think they must have got away," he was told once,
on fairly high authority.  It satisfied him to believe that the
fairly high authority had not said this merely because it was the
easiest thing to say.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Those years, 1941 and 1942, contained long intervals of time during
which it might almost have been said that nothing was happening in
Browdley while so much was happening in the rest of the world.  But
that, of course, was an illusion; everything was happening, but in
a continuous melting flow of social and economic change; the war,
as it went on, had become more like an atmosphere to be breathed
with every breath than a series of events to be separately
experienced.  Even air-raids and the threat of them dropped to a
minimum, while apathy, tiredness, and simple human wear-and-tear
offered problems far harder to tackle.  But there were cheerful
days among the dark ones, days when the Mayor of Browdley (re-
elected annually owing to a war-time party truce) looked round his
little world and saw that it was--well, not good, but better than
it might have been.  And worse, naturally, than it should have
been.  Sometimes his almost incurable optimism remounted, reaching
the same flashpoint at which it always exploded into indignation
against those old Victorian mill-masters with no thought in their
minds but profit, and the jerry-builders who had aided and abetted
them in nothing less than the creation of Browdley itself.  Yet out
of that shameless grab for fortunes now mostly lost had come a
place where men could have stalwart dreams.  George realized this
when--a little doubtfully, for he thought it might be regarded as
almost frivolous in war-time--he arranged for an exhibition of post-
war rehousing plans in the Town Hall--architects' sketches
(optimism on paper) of what could be done with Browdley if only the
war were won and the tragedy of peace-time unemployment were not
repeated.  And by God, he thought, it WOULDN'T be repeated--not if
he had anything to do with it; and at that he wandered off in mind
into a stimulating post-war crusade.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

One day he was visiting a large hospital near Mulcaster on official
business; as chairman of a regional welfare association it fell to
him to organize co-operation between the hospital authorities and
various local citizen-groups.  He was good at this kind of
organizing, and he was good because he was human; with a proper
disregard of red tape he combined a flair for side-tracking well-
meaning cranks and busybodies that was the admiration of all who
saw it in operation.  Indeed, by this stage of the war, he had won
for himself a local importance that had become almost as regional
as many of the associations and committees on which he served.
More and more frequently, within a radius that took in Mulcaster
and other large cities, his name would be mentioned with a touch of
legendary allusiveness; somebody or other somewhere, puzzled
momentarily about something, would say to someone else:  "I'll tell
you what, let's see if we can get hold of old George Boswell. . . ."
And if then the question came:  "Who's he?"--the answer would
be:  "Just the Mayor of Browdley, but pretty good at this sort of
thing"--the implication being that George's official position gave
only a small hint of the kind of service he could render.  And if a
further question were asked:  "Where's Browdley?"--the answer to
that might well be the devastating truth:  "Oh, one of those awful
little manufacturing towns--the kind that were nearly bankrupt
before the war and are now booming like blazes."

After a meeting of the hospital board George was taken over the
premises, and here too he was good; he knew how to say cheery words
to soldiers without either mawkishness or patronage.  And if any of
the men were from Browdley or district he would make a point of
drawing them into neighbourly gossip about local affairs.  It was
noticeable then that his accent became somewhat more 'Browdley'
than usual, as if HOW as well as WHAT he spoke made instinctive
communion with those whose roots were his own.

On this occasion his tour of the wards was to be followed by tea in
the head surgeon's room; and on the way there, waiting with his
nurse escort for a lift, he happened to glance at a list of names
attached to a notice-board near by.  One of them was 'Winslow'.  It
gave him a slow and delayed shock that did not affect the
naturalness of his question; she answered that the list was of
patients occupying private rooms along an adjacent corridor--all of
them serious cases and most of them war casualties.  He did not
question her further, but a few moments later, meeting the head
surgeon and others of the hospital staff, he found himself too
preoccupied to join in general conversation; the name was already
echoing disconcertingly in his mind--Winslow . . . WINSLOW. . . .
Not such a common name, yet not so uncommon either.  Surely it
would be too much of a coincidence--and yet those coincidences DID
happen.  At least it was worth enquiry.

So he asked, forgetting to care whether any of those present knew
anything of his own personal affairs:  "I noticed a name on my
way here . . . a patient in one of the private rooms . . .
Winslow. . . ."

"Winslow?"

"Aye, Winslow."

Someone said:  "Oh yes . . . rather badly smashed up, poor chap.
You know him?"

"Er--no. . . .  But I . . . I know OF him--that is, if he belongs
to the same family.  Is he--er--related to LORD Winslow?"

The head surgeon thought he might be.  Somebody else said he was.
The head surgeon then said:  "You can see him if you want.  He's
not TOO bad."

"Oh no, no--I wasn't thinking of that."

But afterwards, while he was trying to talk about something else
altogether, George wondered if he HAD been thinking of that.  For
the idea, once in his head, engaged those sympathies of his that
were always eager for a quixotic gesture.  Years before, he had
come near to hating the man who had taken Livia from him--hating
him BECAUSE as well as IN SPITE OF the generosity with which he,
George, had treated them both.  But now there was no hate or near-
hate left, but only a wry curiosity, plus the warmth George felt
for any man broken by the war.  Would it not be worth while to
clinch this attitude by a few words of well-wishing?  Could it
possibly do any harm?  Might it not, if it had any effect at all,
do good?

When he was about to leave he said that perhaps he would visit that
fellow Winslow after all.

"Certainly. . . .  Briggs here will take you over."  The head
surgeon singled out a young colleague who responded with respectful
alacrity.  "Don't stay too long, though."

"Oh no, only a few minutes.  Not even that if you think it might--"

The surgeon smiled.  "It won't.  You're too modest, Boswell."  But
he added quietly to Briggs:  "Better go in first, though, and see
how he is."

As George accompanied the younger man across lawns and courtyards
to the block in which Winslow's room was situated, they discussed
the weather, the big raid on Mulcaster (history by now), the
widening circle of war all over the world, and the difficulties of
obtaining whisky and cigarettes that had lately become so acute
that George had begun to feel almost ashamed of his own total
exemption from such common hardships.  But they provided a theme
for conversation, and only when Briggs left him in the corridor did
his thoughts recur to the nearer urgency, and then with a certain
qualm.  Was he doing a wise or a foolish thing, or merely an
unnecessary one?  While he was still wondering, Briggs emerged, his
face youthfully flushed as he stammered:  "I'm afraid, sir, he--I
mean, if you could perhaps come round again some other time--"

"Why, of course. . . .  Not convenient, is that it?"

"That's it."  But the assent to such a vague explanation was so
eager that George went on:  "Is he asleep?  Or isn't he feeling
good?"

"No . . . he's no worse . . . and he's not asleep. . . ."

"Then what?"

"Well, sir, to be frank, he--he said he--er--he'd rather not--er--"

"Didn't want to see me, eh?  Well, that's all right.  Don't bother
about it."

"It's a mood they get into sometimes.  They feel so low they just
don't feel like having visitors at all."

George said he perfectly understood, and then, to cover an
embarrassment that was more the young doctor's than his own, added:
"I'm glad it isn't because he's worse."

"No . . . he's getting on as well as can be expected."

They walked away together, again discussing topics of general
interest.  At the hospital gate George said:  "You did give him my
name, I suppose?"

"Oh yes.  I also said you were the Mayor of Browdley, but--but--"

"But it made no difference, eh?  Well, why should it?"

George laughed, and then they both went on laughing as they shook
hands.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

But by the time he reached Browdley he could not see much of a joke
in the situation, nor did he feel his usual zest for tackling the
pile of clerical work on his desk.  So he walked across the town to
St. Patrick's clergy-house.  Wendover was in, and George, on
impulse, told him all about his visit to the hospital and his
discovery of Winslow there.  This led to a longer talk about Livia
than George had had for years with anyone, and also to a franker
expression of Wendover's personal attitudes than George had yet
encountered, despite his many years of close friendship with the
priest.

"You see, George, I never felt it my duty to discuss your affairs--
especially as you never told me much about them."

"Aye, I never felt like it--which is no reflection on you, of
course.  And I wouldn't say you've missed much.  I'll bet you find
it hard listening to stuff about other people's private lives."

"Even if I did, it would still be part of my job.  Another part is
to offer advice."

"And that's even harder, I should think."

"Well, you know, a priest has one advantage--so many things are
decided for him by authority.  Take divorce, for instance.  The
view of my Church is very simple--we think it's wrong, and
therefore we're against it."

"Aye, I know.  And that makes me guilty of compounding a felony
because I made it as easy as I could for the two of them?  Isn't
that how you'd look at it--and at me?"

Wendover gazed at George very steadily for a moment before saying:
"Do you really want my opinion of you?"

"Mightn't be a bad moment to get it out of you."

"All right.  I have it ready.  Nothing new, either--I've had it for
years.  I think you're much more like a Christian than many people
who come to my church."

"Quite a compliment."

"Less than you think."

It certainly failed to please George as most compliments did;
indeed, for some reason it made him feel uncomfortable.  He said,
almost truculently, after a pause:  "I'd do the same again if I had
to.  You can't hold a woman if she'd rather be with someone else.
And anyway, twenty-odd years is a long time to go on bearing a
grudge.  That's what puzzles me--why should HE bear a grudge? . . .
Well, maybe I can guess.  I can remember a few things Livia once
told him."

"About what?"

"About ME."

"Do you mean AGAINST you?"

George nodded.

"Why should you think that possible?"

And then, for the first time, after an almost quarter-century
interval, George disclosed to another human being the events of
that memorable day, September the First, 1921--the day of the
foundation-stone-laying at which Lord Winslow had officiated, and
after which the two had had their long conversation in George's
study.

When he had finished Wendover made no reply at first, though he did
not seem particularly surprised.  And George, with his usual
revulsion of feeling in favour of someone he had lately been
criticizing, hastened to continue:  "Mind you, don't get too bad an
impression.  If I've given you that, then--"

"No, George--and I don't rely on impressions.  You've only told me
that she lied, and that she may have been unfaithful while she was
still legally your wife--"

"Aye, it sounds bad enough.  But the funny thing is, she had her
good points."

"It would be very funny indeed if she hadn't."

George caught the note in the other's voice.  "I know--you probably
think I don't blame her enough.  But after all, she was MY choice--
and when she was only nineteen, don't forget.  Might have been my
own fault for not making HER happy too.  Maybe she's been really
happy with this other chap.  I've nothing against either of 'em.
And if he's ill or crippled, if there were anything I could do--
though I don't suppose there is. . . .  Well, I took the first step
today and got snubbed for it, and that's about the whole story.  So
with all this off my chest, I'll now go home and try to work."

Wendover accompanied him to the street door.  "Snubs are
unimportant, George."

"Of course--and I've got a hide like an elephant for 'em.  I'd call
it my secret weapon, only it's no secret."

"It never was.  Most of the saints had it."

George grinned.  "Oh, get along with you.  Don't you go calling me
names!"

"All right--I won't.  I can't teach you much, but perhaps there IS
one thing--a piece of advice that Christiana need sometimes.  While
you're trying so hard to be fair to everybody, remember to include
yourself.  That's all."

"I suppose the truth is, I get a bigger kick out of being fair to
the other fellow.  So there's no credit in it."

"Was I offering you any?"

George's grin turned to a laugh.  "Good night, Harry.  Thanks for
listening to me.  That's the help I really needed, because there's
nothing I can do if Winslow feels the way he does.  Nothing at
all. . . .  Good night."

"Good night, George."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

George walked slowly across the dark town.  From St. Patrick's to
Market Street was about a mile; it took him past the Library and
the Town Hall and the main shopping length of Shawgate.  The night
was moonless and cloudy--almost pitch-dark, therefore, in the black-
out; but to George this made for no more than a little groping, and
in the groping there was a sudden awareness of his whole life,
shaped by and shaping those familiar streets and walls.  It was as
if, at the moment that things half-forgotten were coming back to
trouble and confuse, the town rallied invisibly to his aid,
assuring him that what he had done so far had not been in vain, and
that what he had yet to do could be limitless within the same
limits.  That these were circumscribed, even narrow by some
standards, was evident; but there was gain to match that loss--the
gain of warm personal contacts, the 'How do, Tom?' and 'Good night,
Mr. Mayor' that he would not by now have exchanged for empire.  And
tonight, as he received and answered the greetings that his known
footsteps drew from passers-by, he felt upon his heart the touch of
benediction.  These were his people, from whom he had sprung, and
whom he would serve to the end, because he believed in them and in
the destiny of their kind to make this world, if it can ever be, a
happier place.

Comforted, he reached his house, entered the study, and turned over
the papers on his desk, driving himself to concentration.  He still
felt disturbed by the day's curious incident, but somehow not as
hurt as he had been or might have been.  Presently he carried
papers over to his armchair and settled himself in comfort.  They
were the minutes of the last Council meeting and required his
approval.  The dry official phraseology merely emphasized the part
of his life that had gone on for so many years, and would continue
to do so--whether or not, whether or not.  Like the rhythm of train-
wheels that go up hill and down dale, through cities and across
country . . . WHETHER OR NOT.  But that again, the blessed rhythm
and routine of work he knew so well, led deeper into springs of
comfort already found along the dark pavements; and soon a measure
of tranquillity was on him.  He read every item of the minutes
carefully, corrected a few, initialed others, then soon after
midnight went to bed and slept dreamlessly till dawn, when the
early-morning buses wakened him as they started up in the garage
just beyond the garden--Livia's garden, as he still thought of it.
Then he got up, went back to his desk, and dug deeper into the pile
of work there; and at eight, when Annie brought in the morning
postal delivery and some tea, he was still working.

Among the envelopes was one that bore the Mulcaster postmark.  Like
so many that reached him it was addressed merely to "The Mayor,
Browdley", but the handwriting looked like a child's.  Inside he
found a note scribbled in pencil with the heading "Hospital", and
so briefly worded that he hardly grasped what it was all about till
he had read it over twice.  Just--"I don't know what there is about
mayors that got my goat this afternoon, but next time, if you want
to see me, drop in."  And signed with the initial "W".

The note chilled George with its contrast of childish script and
adult irony.  Presently he surmised that the look of childishness
might have come from writing with the left hand--doubtless an
effort, yet not too great for the extra words that hurt and were
probably meant to.

Nevertheless, he caught the nine-five to Mulcaster.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

At the hospital the nurse on duty told him he could see the patient
'now' if he wanted.  He asked, because of her peculiar emphasis on
the word:  "What made him change his mind?"

"Well, I think it was because of what Dr. Briggs and I both said."
She blushed as she explained further:  "We said you were awfully
nice and that everybody liked you."

George's smile was a little ghastly, as if he had heard what might
be his own epitaph.  He answered:  "Thanks for the testimonial. . . .
All right, I'll see him.  That's what I've come for.  Does he
have many visitors?"

"None, so far.  He's only been here a fortnight."

All this as they walked along the corridor.  She opened the door
and George followed her.  The room was cheerfully bleak, and
contained bed, side table, two small chairs, and a table in front
of the window surmounted by a large bowl of roses.  The shape of a
human being was recognizable on the bed, but the face was so
swathed in bandages that nothing could be seen of it, while the
legs, similarly swathed, were held in an up-slanting position by an
assembly of slings and frames.  George was appalled, but the nurse
began cheerfully:  "Well . . . here's Mr. Boswell AGAIN."

George waited for her to go out, but she stayed, fussing around
with the pillow and drawing a chair to the bedside, so he said the
only possible thing, which was "Good morning".

From the bed came a curious muffled voice returning the greeting.

"You'll have to stoop a little to him, then you'll hear better. . . .
His words get all tied up with the bandages."

The voice grunted, and George placed his chair closer.

"There's only one rule," she added, finally moving to the door.
"You mustn't smoke."

"I don't smoke," George answered.

When the door had closed on her George heard what might have been a
sigh from the bed and then the question, abruptly:  "Has she gone?"

"Aye," said George.

"She's a good nurse, though."

"I can believe it."  And then after a pause:  "I got your note this
morning.  It's a bit quick to have taken you at your word, but I
thought--"

"Oh, not at all.  And don't be impressed by all these bandages and
contraptions.  I'm not as much of a wreck as I look."

"I'm glad to hear you're getting on all right."

"Yes, they seem to be patching me up.  Would you mind giving me a
tablet out of that bottle on the side table?"

George did so.  He saw that the left hand was comparatively usable,
though the skin was pink and shrivelled.

"Thanks . . . they're only throat lozenges."

"I hope talking doesn't bother you.  I won't stay long.  I just
wanted to bring you my good wishes."

"Thanks. . . .  I can listen, anyway."

But George for once found himself without chatter.  He said,
stammering somewhat:  "There isn't much else I have to say--except
that I'm sorry we meet for the first time under these somewhat
awkward circumstances.  I used to know your father--slightly.  I
met him--once--several years before his death--"

"WHAT?"  The exclamation was so sharp that it discounted the
enforced motionlessness of the body.  And a rush of words
continued:  "What do you mean?  His DEATH!  Have you heard
anything?  Who told you that?  Have they been trying to keep it
from me?"

George realized there was a misunderstanding somewhere, though he
could not yet tell what.  For a moment the wild thought seized him
that this Winslow might not be of the same Winslow family at all.
He said:  "I'm sorry if I'm making a mistake.  I was referring to
LORD Winslow--the one who used to be Secretary of Housing--"

A strange muffled sound came from the bed, uninterpretable except
as one of relief, though the words that followed were still tense
with excitement:  "You certainly have got it all balled up, Mr.
Mayor. . . .  That was my GRANDfather."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

George described the rest of the interview to Wendover the same
evening.  "Aye, it was my mistake all right, but even when I
realized it I didn't realize everything else immediately, because
he kept on asking me about his father--did I KNOW anything, had
there been any news, and so on--and of course I could only repeat
what I'd heard from the man in London--that they'd both got out of
Singapore in time.  But then he told me they hadn't been in
Singapore at all, but in Hong Kong, where his father had a job.

"I didn't stay long after that.  I could see I'd put him in a
nervous mood, and I felt it was my fault, in a way, for not
verifying things beforehand.  And I was a bit excited myself,
because it was hard to realize that he must be Livia's boy--and not
more than twenty-two, if that. . . .  Charles, he told me his name
was. . . .  I could have talked better to his father, if it had
been him, but with the boy I felt tongue-tied . . . because as he
went on talking it became clear to me that he hadn't the faintest
idea who I was--or rather who I had been in his mother's life."

"You didn't tell him?"

"No, Harry, I didn't."

"He must have thought it odd that you should take all that trouble
to visit him."

"Aye, and he said so, before I left.  He got quite cordial--in a
nervous sort of way.  He tried to apologize for having refused to
see me the day before--he blamed what he called the superstition
that provincial mayors are pompous old bores--'I wonder why people
think so,' he said, and although it was a back-handed compliment,
I knew he was meaning it all right.  So I answered:  'Probably
because many of 'em are'--and we had a good laugh.  Or rather,
he couldn't laugh, but I knew it was the same as if he was
laughing. . . .  I promised to visit him again.  He made a point
of asking me to, if ever I was in that part of the world."

"Don't you intend to tell him?"

"Not just yet.  I don't see that it can matter much--to HIM.  Or if
it did, it wouldn't help.  You see, he NEEDS help.  His nerves are
all to pieces and he's pretty low-spirited about things in general--
I gathered that.  Maybe I can cheer him up . . . and if I can't--
if he finds me a nuisance--then it'll be easier for him to tell me
so if he thinks I'm only the Mayor of Browdley."

Wendover smiled.  "You'd make a good Jesuit, George.  You can find
more reasons for doing what you want to do. . . ."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

George visited the Mulcaster hospital every week or so from then
on.  Not all the visits were on account of Winslow; some would have
had to be made on official business in any case.  But he found
himself looking forward to them all, and not grudging the length of
the journey, which meant less sleep, for it was in the nature of
his own work that hardly any of it could be postponed, shortened,
or abandoned.  And gradually, as the youth continued to improve,
there came to George the intense pleasure of noting definite
improvements each time--the slow removal of bandages; the first
time the cradles and slings were discarded; the first step from the
bed to a wheel-chair; and most of all, the lifting of the mind from
despondency.  All this took months, and the visits, though regular,
could not last long.  The Mayor of Browdley was curiously shy
during the early ones--almost desperately afraid of intruding where
he might not be really as welcome as it appeared--reluctant, it
would seem, to believe that the invitations to come again were
genuine.  It was unlike George, who was so used to being liked, to
have such diffidence; and yet there was in him all the uncertainty
of a man in whom the touch of bravado masks only a deep humility
and an awareness of personal inadequacy.

They talked of many things, from hospital gossip to world affairs,
with no plan or aim in the talking; and this, perhaps, was as good
a way to get to know each other as if either had deliberately
tried.  George was often tempted to lead the subject to Livia, but
always forbore; he had an odd feeling of conscience about it--that
his own concealment of identity could only be justified so long as
he did not take such advantages.  Sometimes, however, information
slipped out without any probing.  Charles liked to talk about the
family home in Berkshire, the big centuries-old house that belonged
now to his uncle, the inheritor of the title--"and thank Heaven it
does--my father never wanted it, and neither do I, though it's a
lovely old place to visit."  He spoke affectionately of both
parents, but seemed to have spent comparatively little time with
them since he was very young.  "But that's the way it is when your
people are overseas.  They pack you off to school in England and
you hardly see them for years at a stretch, and then when you do
they're almost strangers.  It was better for a while after 1934,
when dad gave up his job and they went to live in Ireland, near
Galway.  It was a sort of farm, and I used to stay there during the
school holidays.  Mother made a good farmer--she had a knack for
anything to do with crops or animals.  She could squeeze warbles on
a cow, and that's a thing you can't do without being sick unless
you really love farming."

George didn't enquire what squeezing warbles was.

"And yet she could be the great lady too--doing the society stuff
if ever she felt like it.  I've often thought she'd have made a
damn fine actress. . . .  And when she made up her mind about
something, nothing on earth or under heaven would stop her. . . .
My God, the wires she pulled to get out to Hong Kong after the war
started."

"I thought you said he'd given up the job."

"He had, but he didn't much like farming, and after a year of it he
went abroad again--for an oil company.  Mother didn't like it, but
she followed him, and I didn't see either of them again till
'thirty-nine, when they came home on six months' leave.  They were
still in London in the September, and father offered his services
to the Government but they told him he couldn't do better than go
back to his job with the oil company.  So he did--alone at first,
because of the war and because mother was mad with him for wanting
to go back at all--but of course she soon followed as before.  She
always followed him everywhere, though I guess they neither of them
expected to end up in a Jap prison-camp."

"End up?"

"Well, no, I didn't mean THAT.  Oh God, I hope not."

"You don't really know what happened?"

"Not a thing--except that they WERE in Hong Kong when the Japs took
over.  That's definite.  All the rest is rumour."

George caught the sudden tremor in his voice, and made haste to
change the subject.

Once--and for the first time since the initial interview and
misunderstanding--they mentioned the former Lord Winslow.  "I don't
really remember him," Charles said.  "I think he disapproved of
dad's marriage, or something of the sort.  But from all accounts he
was a very distinguished piece of Stilton in his way."

George was not quite sure what this meant; besides, he was thinking
of the phrase 'something of the sort' and wondering how much, or
little, it concealed.  "A great authority on housing," he remarked
safely.

"So are you, aren't you?"

George smiled.  "I was one of six kids brought up in four rooms.
Not a bad way to become a PRACTICAL authority."

"I should think it was also a pretty good education for your
father."

"Well, no--because he wasn't interested in earthly houses so much
as in heavenly mansions."  George chuckled.

"A good thing his son didn't take after him, then.  I hear you've
done rather well for that town of yours."

"Not so badly.  I reckon Browdley's five per cent better than it
might have been if I'd never been born."

"That's modest of you."

"Nay, I'd call it swelled head.  Takes a lot for one man by himself
to make five per cent of difference to anything."

"Same in flying.  The idea of the lone hero soaring into the blue
on a mission of his own is a bit outmoded."

"Aye, it's all team-work nowadays."  George added hastily:  "Not
that I'm much of an expert on military affairs."

"Is anybody?  What about all the so-called experts who've been
wrong?  About the Maginot Line, for instance?"

George sighed.  "I was wrong about that too, without being an
expert."

"I suppose you were fooled by the last war--superiority of defence
over attack, and so on?"

"To some extent.  I couldn't help remembering the Somme."

"You were there?"

"Er . . . yes."

"What were you in--the poor bloody infantry?"

"No."

"Artillery?  Sappers?"

"No . . . I . . . er . . . I wasn't in the armed forces at all."

"War correspondent?  You're still in the newspaper business, aren't
you?"

"I was--in a small way--until recently."

Charles laughed.  "I WON'T be fobbed off with a mystery!  What WERE
you in the last war, for God's sake?"

George then answered the question that he had not been asked for a
long time, and which he never went out of his way to encounter, but
which, when it was put directly, he always answered with equal
directness.  "I was a conscientious objector," he said.

There was a little silence for a moment--not an awkward one, but a
necessary measuring-point in the progress of an intimacy.  And this
was the moment that made George sure he was liked and not merely
tolerated by the youth whose less injured hand moved slowly across
the arm of the wheelchair towards him.

"Conchy in the last war, eh?"  The hand reached out.  "Shake, then.
Because that's what _I_ might be in the next--if they have a next."

George took the wrinkled burned-red hand, though he thought it an
ironic occasion to have first done so.  Presently Charles went on:
"What happened?  You had a bad time?"

"Well," answered George, a little dazed at the extent to which they
were talking as if they had known each other all their lives, "I
was on the Somme, as I said, and THAT was a pretty bad time.  My
brother--one of my brothers--and I--were in the same Ambulance
Unit.  He was killed."

"Driving an ambulance?"

"No.  We were both stretcher-bearers."

"Not exactly the safest job on earth."

"No."

"But you came through all right?"

"I was gassed--not very badly, but it led to pneumonia and a
medical discharge.  Probably saved my life in the long run."

Charles said, with a touch of pathos:  "What did it feel like--
after that?  When you were out of hospital, I mean, but still not
well enough to do things normally?  How did you get used to things
again?"

"I didn't, because the things I'd been used to before the war were
things I didn't intend to get used to again--ever. . . .  But of
course in your case it's different."

"I don't know that it is, particularly. . . .  But tell me about
how you got started again.  In business, wasn't it?  A newspaper?"

"Aye, but it sounds too important when you put it that way.  Just a
bankrupt small-town weekly.  Nobody's bargain, they practically
threw it at me, but I thought it would help me in local politics."

"And it did?"

George nodded.  "I was lucky.  One of those handy by-elections
cropped up, and there I was--the youngest town councillor Browdley
had ever had."

"How old were you then?"

"Let me see . . . it was April 'seventeen when they let me out of
hospital, and the election was in the September following.  I'd be
thirty-one."

"You didn't lose any time."  Charles thought for a moment, then
added:  "Wasn't it against you to have been a conscientious
objector?"

"Quite a bit.  The other side used it for all they were worth, but
Browdley's got a mind of its own in local matters even in war-
time."  George chuckled.  "I was for lowering the fares on
municipal buses before eight in the morning.  That got all the
factory workers."

Charles smiled.  "You weren't a pacifist in the election, then?"

"I was if anybody asked me, but I used most of my eloquence on the
bus fares."

"The war must have been on your mind, though."

"Aye, it was--just as it still is."

After another pause Charles said thoughtfully:  "So you think it's
wrong to take human life under any circumstances?"

"I did then."

"You mean you don't think so any more?"

"That's about it.  I'm not so sure of a lot of things as I was in
those days.  I don't hate war any less, but the problem doesn't
look so simple for an individual to make up his mind about.  Seems
to me there are times when life's less important than a few other
things, and those are the times when taking it--and giving it--are
the only things we can do.  It's the price we have to pay if we
can't get what we want any cheaper."

"And what IS it that we want?"

"I don't know what YOU want, but if I had a boy I'd want a better
world for him than either your generation or mine has had."

"A world fit for heroes to live in, eh?"

"Nay, I'd rather call it a world fit for ordinary folks to be
heroic in. . . .  And I can't see it coming unless we win this war.
I don't see it necessarily coming even if we DO win it. . . .  But
there's a CHANCE if we do."

"Quite a change in your attitude from last time."

"Aye--but that doesn't mean I regret what I did then.  Seems to me
I was right for a reason I couldn't have foreseen.  Doesn't what's
happening now prove it?  What good did that first war do--all the
misery and butchery I saw on the Somme?  What was it for?  To save
freedom?  There was less in the world afterwards.  To crush
Germany?  Germany was strong again within a generation.  To fix
Europe once and for all?  Europe got unfixed again worse than
ever. . . ."

"I'll tell you one thing it did, Mr. Boswell--it gave some of you
chaps who survived it twenty years of a damned good time.  It gave
you twenty years of movies and dog-racing and charabanc-outings and
stock-market gambles and holidays on the Continent and comfortable
living--twenty years of the kind of fun WE may not have, even if we
DO survive."

George answered:  "_I_ didn't have twenty years of fun.  I had
twenty years of trying to improve a little town called Browdley--
trying to put up a few schools and pull down a few slums--trying to
make some headway against the greed and selfishness of those old
Victorian shysters who ran the place for half a century like a
slave-barracks. . . ."

"And what does that prove?  Merely that we all get saddled with old
debts.  You had the Victorian mess to deal with--I've got yours."

"MINE?"

"Who else's?  You surely don't claim that you used those twenty
years successfully?  The last war mightn't have been so worthless
unless you'd made it so. . . ."  Charles added, smiling:  "Not that
I mean anything personal, of course.  You risked your life, same as
I have, and then you came home and did what seemed to you worth
doing.  But it WASN'T worth doing--because the main thing wasn't
right.  And the main thing was the peace.  Why weren't you a
conscientious objector to THAT?"

George answered gravely:  "Aye, you've a right to ask.  I'm quite
ready to take blame for plenty that I did--and plenty that I didn't
do.  I can see now, like a lot of folks, that I was living in a
fool's paradise--if by any stretch of imagination you can call
Browdley any sort of paradise.  Maybe if I'd had a better
education--"

"Depends on what you call a better education."

"I daresay I'd call yours one.  What was it--Eton and Oxford?"

"No.  Charterhouse and Cambridge . . . and also Berlin."

"WHAT?  You were educated in BERLIN?"

"Not IN Berlin--OVER Berlin."  And then the boy laughed rather
wildly.  "Sorry.  I've been waiting to work that off on somebody,
but you were the first to give me a cue."

George smiled.  "I see what you mean."

"You ought to.  After all, you were at the University of the Somme
yourself."

"Aye, but don't let's be over-dramatic.  War doesn't teach anybody
much--except to hate it.  If you hate it beyond a certain point you
go out of your mind, so if you don't want to do that you have to
forget it somehow or other, and I suppose that's mostly what I and
millions of others did."  George paused a moment before taking a
further plunge in intimacy:  "And that's what you'll do too, my
lad, unless you're the exception that proves the rule.  Maybe you
are.  But if you aren't . . . well, there's a maternity ward next
door for you to think of.  Aren't you afraid that some day all
those kids will blame you as you're blaming me--not personally, but
as a generation?"

"A damned hard question, and the answer is yes, I AM afraid.  I'm
scared stiff . . . and I'm not hopeful.  But what the hell can I
do?  Lads of my age, as you call them, have the war to win first,
before we can bother with anything else.  Give us a chance to do
one thing at a time, for Christ's sake."

"Give US a chance, then, too--even if it's only a chance to help
you.  Some of us still have one foot out of the grave."

The door opened and the nurse entered.  She had heard the raised
voices and the laughter-sound as she walked along the corridor, and
now she was in time to catch George's last sentence.  It must have
seemed to her a strange conjunction, justifying the acerbity with
which she approached the wheel-chair, whipped out a thermometer,
and said to George:  "You mustn't make him laugh, Mr. Boswell--it
would be very bad for the new skin.  And you really have talked to
him enough, I think . . . if you don't mind. . . ."

It was true; it was the longest time George had yet stayed.  "I
understand," he said, smiling to both of them.

Charles then asked the nurse if she would fetch him some more of
the lozenges.

She went out exclaiming:  "My goodness, Lieutenant, have you used
them up already?"

"Seems like it, nurse."  Then, when the door closed, he turned
quietly to George.  "Just a moment--before you go.  I wanted to say
this, but we got talking about so many other things. . . .  I've
had the tip they mean to transfer me somewhere else--for facial
surgery and what not.  Probably before you come again . . . so if
they do, and I send you my new address, would you--would you have
the time--to--to write to me--occasionally?"

George laid his hand on the boy's shoulder.  "Aye," he answered.
"I will that."  The long argument had given him such mental
stimulation that now emotion came to him with an impact; after
those four words he was speechless, stricken at the sudden thought
of an end to the visits.

The nurse came hurrying back with a fresh bottle of lozenges, then
spied one still half-full on the table beside the bed.  "Well, I do
declare--you didn't finish the others after all!  He's so absent-
minded, Mr. Boswell. . . .  Aren't you, Lieutenant?"

George stammered his goodbyes, and wondered as he left the hospital
what was the matter with him to have used up so much time in
talking politics.  Of course it was the mere zest of a debate that
had led him on, exhilarating him as it always did--recalling the
remark once made by a teetotal friend that drink would have been
wasted on George, since a good hard-hitting argument produced on
him the same effects, even to the hangover the next day, when he
wondered what he had said in the heat of the moment that might have
given offence, or that he didn't exactly mean.

But now his emotions were of a different kind.  Sadness grew in him
all the way back to Browdley, coupled with and finally outweighed
by a breathless satisfaction that the boy had asked him to write.
Of course he would write.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Winslow was transferred during the following week to a hospital in
the South of England, where specialists were reputed to work
miracles with skin and cartilage; but it was not of this that he
wrote in his first letter to George.  He wrote:


"DEAR MR. BOSWELL--Just a line to let you know my new address.  I
expect to be here several months, as the work they do here takes
time--and patience too, I expect, by all concerned.  The men call
it the beauty shop.  But the main thing I have to tell you is about
my mother.  I've had news that she is among those to be repatriated
from a Jap prison-camp.  The Foreign Office sent me word a few
hours ago, and though they couldn't give me any information as to
how she is, or about my father at all, it certainly is great news
that she is actually out of enemy hands and on the first stage of
her way home.  They don't expect her to arrive for at least six or
eight weeks, as the ship is slow and has to take a roundabout
route.  By that time I hope to be well enough myself to meet her--
though the doctors here only smile when I say it.  I'm a bit
stubborn, though, when I set my mind on anything, which is a
quality I inherit from her.  Incidentally, I'd like you to meet
her, because I'm sure she'll want to thank you personally for your
great kindness to me while I was at Mulcaster. . . ."


When George took this over to Wendover the latter read it through
and turned on his friend a somewhat quizzical expression.  "Well,
George," he commented at length, "it settles one thing."

"Aye, I've got to tell him."

Wendover nodded.  "And quickly too.  You don't want him writing to
HER about you."

"I don't see how he could."

"There might be some port of call where he could send air-mail."

"That's so.  Anyhow, I agree with you.  Spill the beans and get it
over.  Might even have been better to tell him in the first place."

"One of the penalties of being too subtle, George.  I could never
quite make out what your aim was--or still is, for that matter."

"My AIM?"

"Yes--in regard to the boy."

George answered:  "I haven't got an aim--except that I'd like to
help him because I like him.  I never realized how much I like him
till now that I can't see him.  And I don't think it's because he's
Livia's boy--it's because I like HIM.  He's a fine young chap--and
a brain too. . . .  But I suppose it'll be an impossible situation
when Livia gets back."

"It might be.  You'll have to take that chance.  But take it now--
by telling him."

"Aye, I will.  I'll write tonight."

George wrote a short letter containing the simple fact, and
received in reply by return the following:


"DEAR MR. BOSWELL--What a hell of a surprise!  I'll admit you could
have knocked me down with a feather, as they say.  I'm a bit
puzzled why you didn't tell me earlier, but perhaps it doesn't
matter.  Of course I'd known that my mother was previously married,
but I was never told any of the details.  Frankly, the whole thing
makes no difference to me, but of course it may to her when she
gets here.  I don't want to worry her, because from what I hear and
can guess, she must have had a pretty bad time. . . ."


George wrote back, and they both kept up the correspondence without
ever referring to the personal matter again; nor did the youth even
mention his mother, or the progress of her homeward journey across
the world.  George could not but feel that a barrier--temporarily,
at any rate--had come between them, and there returned to him his
earlier shyness, diffidence, and reluctance to believe that Charles
really wanted to continue the friendship.  Then one day he read
that the ship containing some hundreds of women and children
repatriated from Japanese prison-camps had put into an English
harbour.  It was his turn to write, but he put it off, thinking
that even out of turn he could expect a letter from the boy about
his mother--telling of her arrival, condition, and attitude.  When
such a letter did not come he eventually wrote briefly and rather
meaninglessly about nothing in particular, but to that letter he
received no answer, and when, after writing again, there was still
no answer, he could reach only one conclusion.

"I'm not surprised," he told Wendover.  "He probably thought it as
good a way as any other to close an episode."

"That's a rather tragic interpretation, George."

"I don't think so.  I wanted to help him, nothing more--and now
Livia's back, perhaps he doesn't need help.  Or at any rate,
perhaps I'm no longer one who CAN help him."

"I hope it isn't going to worry you."

"No."  George's answer was decisive.  "Give me something to do and
I'll worry over it.  But when I can do nothing . . ."

But George did worry, nevertheless, if that was an adequate word
for the quiet intrusion of thoughts about the boy into every
momentarily unoccupied fragment of his time and mind.  Those
fragments, however, were few on account of increasing pressure of
official work.  There was, for instance, Browdley's annual budget
which, as chairman of the Finance Committee, he must prepare for
annual presentation.  More urgent still was a general tightening-up
of air-raid precautions and civilian defence, for which London had
issued specific instructions, believing that northern England's
long period of relative freedom from enemy air attacks might be
coming to an end.  There were also meetings and conferences on
other matters with the Medical Officer about a chickenpox outbreak,
with local union officials and plant-management committees, with
regional groups in charge of War Loan drives, charitable funds, and
so on.  Least arduous of all--indeed, a kind of optional luxury in
which George frankly indulged himself amidst all the urgent
necessities--was an interview with an idealist town-planner whose
vision of a new Browdley included wide boulevards, American-style
apartment houses, and glass-walled factories.

George almost forgot his personal affairs as he turned over the
nicely water-coloured drawings and marvelled at large green blobs
representing trees that could not possibly grow to such a size in
less than twenty years.  But there was an even more fundamental
anachronism.  "Do you realize," he said, a trifle impishly, "that
your plan would mean pulling down practically the whole town?"

"That was rather the idea," came the quiet reply.

George laughed.  "I see.  And it might be a good one except that if
you once did pull the place down I can't really imagine why anyone
should want to rebuild it at all.  It's really only here because
it's here, so to say.  A century ago they needed coal for the
cotton mills, so they had to build the cotton mills near the coal--
but now they don't need the coal so much, in normal times, or the
cotton mills either.  I doubt if they'd put up half of these towns
if they had the chance to begin all over again."

"I know what you mean, sir.  Growth and then decay.  It happens
with towns as with human beings."

"With countries, too, and empires."

"And down to the smallest villages.  There's a place near here
called Stoneclough--"

George started at the sound of the mispronounced word.  "CLUFF--
they call it.  You've been there?"

"Yes, I just happened along--by accident.  Very interesting.  Seems
to be completely uninhabited, including the big house at the top of
the hill."

"Aye--there's nobody at Stoneclough any more."

"I took some photographs--thought of working it up into an article--
The Forsaken Village, or some such title.  But I doubt if it would
be of enough general interest till after the war."

"And maybe not then," George answered moodily.

But he liked all such contacts with enthusiasts in their own
special fields.  As a contrast, it fell to him the same week to
visit the parliamentary member for Browdley, none other than that
same Wetherall (now Sir Samuel) who had defeated him in the 1919 by-
election, again in the general election of 1923, and had
represented the town in the House of Commons ever since.  An old
man now; and like most former enemies, he had made his peace with
George.  The political truce since the war began had brought them
even closer, so that George was genuinely sorry to hear that
Wetherall was ill.  They spent an afternoon together in the
manufacturer's house just outside Browdley, talking over old times
and old squabbles.  Wetherall was still rich, still worried about
taxes, still unaware that anything had happened to make the world
vitally different since he was a boy.  His solution for the
problems of the post-war cotton trade was that all Indians should
wear their shirts a few inches longer, and he couldn't understand
how the Japs could possibly have taken Singapore after the place
had cost the British taxpayer so much money to fortify.  Capping it
all, he persisted in believing that George had changed during the
years into someone much more like himself; it gave him satisfaction
to say (as if to justify his own liking for the Mayor)--"Ah, you're
not such a firebrand as you used to be.  You've seen a bit of
reason these last few years."

George, reflecting what he HAD seen--the blitz raid on Mulcaster,
for instance--hardly thought he would call it reason.  But why
argue with an old fellow who looked as if only his illusions could
nourish him precariously for a few more years at most?

Wetherall went on:  "Just as well I've kept you out of Parliament
till you've grown sensible, George.  You'll not do so bad when your
time comes."

"Why . . . what . . . what makes you say that?"

"George, you old twister, don't pretend it never entered your mind
before!  Listen--and this is in confidence--I probably won't stand
at the next election.  God knows when that'll be--after the war or
after I kick the bucket, whichever comes first.  But I'm telling
you this so you'll be ready."

George was suddenly aware of the peculiar truth that it HADN'T been
in his mind, not for quite a time, and that it revisited him now as
an almost strange idea, with all kinds of new angles and aspects to
be considered.  He said, sincerely enough:  "I'm sorry you're
thinking of giving up, Sam.  Over twenty years for the same
constituency must be pretty near the record. . . ."

"Yes, and it's meant a lot of hard work, one way and another, but I
don't grudge anything I've done for the town, any more than you do,
George.  After all, it's Browdley that made me what I am."

George thought that was very possible.

"So when they sent me to Parliament I made up my mind I'd do the
best I could for them."

George thought that was very possible also, since during the entire
period of his membership of the House, Wetherall had made only two
speeches.  One was about the local sewage scheme, which George had
persuaded him to be for; the other was against the revision of the
Anglican Prayer Book, which nothing could persuade him to be
anything but against.

George said cheerfully:  "Well, Sam--don't give up yet.  And I wish
you'd try to fix things with the Ministry about our Children's
Home.  We ought to get an extra grant for that, what with all the
kids from the bombed areas we've taken in. . . ."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Sometimes the cheerfulness sagged a little and George saw the
future in a hard bleak flash of momentary disillusionment; but even
then he was prone to diagnose his mood as due to overwork, and
therefore not to be taken too seriously.  The cure was usually a
good night's sleep or a chat with Wendover.  The priest's help was
all the more tonic because of the fixity of their disagreements,
and also because (as George once laughingly confessed) he was far
too modest to suppose that he could exercise any influence in
reverse; but Wendover, with equal banter, wouldn't even concede
that this was modesty.  "It's your instinct for self-preservation,
George.  We authoritarians keep you going.  How would you know your
opinions were free unless you had ours to attack? . . .  But I'll
suggest this--that before the century ends, it may not be freedom
that the world values, so much as order.  Order out of chaos.  A
new world, George, with an old discipline."

"Aye, but suppose that road leads to Moscow, not to Rome--what
would you chaps do then?"

"I should follow my Church, of course.  But why assume that the two
roads are ultimately so far apart?  One thing I DO know--that if
the Church so decided, it would be very easy for a Catholic to
change his mind about Communism, just as Moscow could doubtless
make terms with Rome for as good a reason as Constantine ever
had. . . .  And what a tremendous bond that is in a chaotic world--
two major disciplined forces that know their own power to enforce a
decision!"

"You've forgotten the Standard Oil Company.  That makes three."

"Let's say, then, forces that can command not only obedience, but
willing sacrifice."

"Which lets in Hitler.  He could command all that at first.  But in
the end he was defeated by free men."

"Only when they themselves learned to organize, obey, and
sacrifice.  And as soon as they forget that lesson there'll be
other Hitlers."

"Aye, and as soon as we forget we're free we'll have Hitlers in our
own ranks."

"There's danger in whatever we do, George. . . .  But don't
misunderstand me. . . .  I'm not pleading a cause."

"Well, I AM--and millions are fighting for it too!  Today's my
future--like theirs--and what happens by the end of the century
doesn't give us much comfort--"

"Nor me either.  It's merely that I'm content to let wiser men
shape events that can't yet be properly foreseen.  Whereas you have
to settle the whole destiny of mankind here and now to satisfy an
itching conscience.  Quite a handicap!"

"I'd do better if I didn't think for myself, is that what you mean?
Maybe I would--depends on who did the thinking for me.  But I want
to CHOOSE who . . . see?  And that's democracy--even for a little
fellow."

"You're not a little fellow, George.  You're a very shrewd dictator
who made up his mind years ago to have his own way in Browdley--and
you HAVE had it, against a big majority who've been either against
your ideas or indifferent to them--and the methods by which you've
succeeded have been slyness, smartness, blarney, importunity,
intrigue, compromise, a certain amount of downright trickery, and a
vast amount of personal charm!  But you prefer to call it
democracy!"

By the time they reached that kind of point in argument George was
usually in a good humour and his normal cheerfulness renewed.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

He never realized the majestic and in some ways rather terrifying
alchemy of English life so much as when he attended official
conferences in London.  He had been attending them for years, until
now they were something rather like routine, but he always
remembered his first one--when, as a young man just elected to
the Browdley Council, he had been sent as its delegate to a
consultation with high officials of one of the Whitehall
ministries.  Because the Government in power was of the opposite
political party to his own he had expected to be frostily received
and was full of carefully rehearsed truculence that evaporated at
the first calm, polite, and curiously impersonal meeting with
people whom he had thought of as his enemies.  But it had left him
baffled afterwards.  "Talk about raising the standard of
revolution!" he had reported, when he got back to Browdley.  "It
was hard enough to make anyone raise a couple of eyebrows!"  Was it
possible that London did not know what a potentially dangerous man
he was?  Or did not care?  Or both knew and cared, yet was imbued
with some classic spirit that would only return cool civility for
warm antagonism?  After he had attended half a dozen more such
conferences, George's bafflement lessened, not because he had
entirely solved the problem, but because he had come to terms with
it; it was as peculiar, yet could seem as normal, as the normally
peculiar smell of the London tubes.

By now, of course, he was not baffled at all.  Whenever he visited
the Ministries on business he met important men who knew him, who
called him George, who took him to lunch and kidded him good-
humouredly about his being teetotal.  The war years had only
continued, with some intensification, the natural process of all
the years; and when, as sometimes happened, George spent half a day
at the House of Commons, he found himself surrounded by a platoon
of ex-firebrands who held official positions.  "Too bad you aren't
here, George," he had often been told.  "You'd have been at least
an under-secretary by now."

"But then I wouldn't have been Mayor of Browdley," answered George,
seeking to console himself from force of habit, yet no longer
really needing to.  He liked London; but to be a stranger to it,
even a familiar stranger, kept him alive to that same majestic and
rather terrifying alchemy of English life, as slow and sure and
relentless almost as the grinding of the mills of God.

That it had helped to save England after Dunkirk and during the
blitz autumn of 1940, George thought very probable.  For then its
virtue had shown like good bones under the flesh--especially its
abiding combination of firmness and benignity, so that the same
machine of government could jail a baronet for a rationing offence
and organize the distribution to small children of Mickey Mouse gas-
masks.  Nothing was too small, and no one too great, to be beyond
the range of that cool-headed but never cold-hearted survey.  And
George, administering Browdley, had tried to generate something of
that dual mood in microcosm.

And yet . . . whenever he went to London he felt the strength of
Browdley in him, rebelling against certain things.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

One morning, walking briskly along Whitehall after a meeting with
officials, George ran into a man named Sprigge whom he had first
met years before on the Terrace of the House of Commons.  George
was pleased to be remembered, and willingly accepted the other's
invitation to have lunch at a near-by club.  They talked about the
war and politics; Sprigge said that since their previous meeting he
had lived a good deal in China and the Malay States, getting out
just in time after Pearl Harbour.  It was natural then for George
to ask, with an air of casualness, if he had ever come across the
Winslows.

"You mean Jeff Winslow, brother of Lord Winslow?"

"Aye, that's him."

"Knew him well, my dear chap.  Often dined at his house.  Good
parties he used to give--not so starchy as the really official
ones, because, as he used to say, he wasn't really official.  You
see, he was attached to the Sultan of Somewhere-or-other, and that
made a difference.  The lady next to you at dinner might be an
Italian spy or an Egyptian princess or a Javanese snake-charmer--
used to be fun finding out. . . .  Was he a friend of yours--
Winslow?"

George answered:  "Not--er--exactly, but I knew his father slightly--
and I've also met his son."

"And as a result of that you're sort of interested in the
middleman, eh?"

"That's it," George agreed.  And then, to steer the conversation
very gently:  "I remember his father expected so much of his
career."

"Well, he was a brilliant fellow--no doubt about that."  Sprigge
paused, then added:  "Wasted, though, the way things turned out."

"Wasted?"

"Perhaps that's too strong a word.  But he'd have done well in the
regular Diplomatic if he'd stayed in it . . . and also if . . .
well, anyhow, perhaps it wasn't his fault that he didn't.  Not
ALTOGETHER his fault."

George said nothing.

"Of course I'm only repeating things I've heard--but there was said
to have been some scandal about his wife--an earlier divorce or
something.  And then other matters . . . later . . . well, one
shouldn't gossip."

"Did you meet the boy?"

Sprigge shook his head.  "He was at school in England.  I suppose
he's of age now to be in the fighting somewhere."

"Aye," said George thoughtfully.  He would have liked Sprigge to go
on chattering, but just then a fellow club member said 'hello' in
passing and Sprigge insisted on making an introduction--Henry
Millbay, the name was, which to George seemed familiar though he
could not exactly place it.  Millbay shook hands, declined a drink,
and regarded George with a certain friendly shrewdness while, to re-
start the conversation, Sprigge went on:  "We were just talking
about Jeff Winslow--the one who was in Malaya. . . .  Boswell knows
the family. . . .  Ever meet him out there, Millbay?"

Millbay shook his head, and the subject was dropped.

Half an hour later, after talk that would have been more agreeable
had he not been thinking of other things all the time, George
remembered an appointment and took his leave; but in the club
lobby, as he was retrieving hat and coat, Millbay overtook him.
"I'm a busy man too," he commented, with just the slightest
derogatory implication that Sprigge was less so.  "Wonder if we're
going in the same direction?"

They found they were not; nevertheless Millbay kept George chatting
for several minutes on the pavement outside.  Presently he said:
"I didn't want to talk much in front of Sprigge, who's the biggest
male gossip in London, but he said you knew the Winslows--Jeff
Winslow. . . ."

"I didn't actually know HIM," George answered.

Millbay's glance quickened.  "Oh, you mean you knew her?"

George experienced again, and for the first time in years, that old
sensation of a fist grasping his insides.  "Aye, but a long while
ago."

"Rather remarkable woman."

"Aye."

"She's just home from a Jap prison-camp in Hong Kong.  I saw her
the other day."  Something in George's face made Millbay add:
"Part of my job, you know, to interview repatriates.  The idea is
to get information about the enemy.  They all knew plenty, but it
was mostly horrors. . . .  Of course HER story was particularly
interesting to me because I'd known her and her husband before the
war. . . .  Remarkable woman."

"Aye."

"Even if I hadn't known that already I'd have thought so after
interviewing some of the other women.  They said she looked after
English and American children in the prison-camp.  Seems to have
been so bloody fearless that even the Japs let her have her own way
as often as not.  Anyhow, she got the kids extra food and medicines
when nobody else could."

"What about her husband?"

"She didn't know.  Nobody knows.  After the first few months the
Japs took to separating the men from the women and shipped the men
to another camp--some said in Japan itself.  Incidentally, she
needn't have been interned in the first place--there was a chance
for some of the women to get away, but she insisted on staying with
Jeff.  At the Foreign Office we're still pressing enquiries about
him, but so far without luck, and it's hard to be optimistic."

George then asked, so softly that he had to repeat the question:
"Do you know anything about the boy?"

"He was in the R.A.F. and got smashed in one of the Berlin raids.
I think he's discharged now, and up at Cambridge.  The mother's
staying at the family place in the country."  Millbay paused as if
to give George time to realize where the conversation stood again,
but George, though realizing it, said nothing.  Presently Millbay
smiled and added:  "I've told you a lot--now you tell me something.
What did you think of her?"

"Of . . . HER?"

"Yes.  Of Livia Winslow."

The utterance of the name made George stammer:  "I--I thought she
was what you called her--REMARKABLE."

"Did you know her at all well?"

"Aye, pretty well . . . but years ago, as I said."

"Then maybe you can answer one specific question--was she--er--when
you knew her--politically--er--reliable?"

"Politically RELIABLE?  What's that?"

"Rather vague, I admit . . . but perhaps elastic enough to describe
something a diplomat's wife should be.  After all, Jeff had to
handle fairly important matters--important, I mean, to British
policy."

"And you're asking me if she always agreed with that policy?  How
on earth do I know?  But I can tell you this much--_I_ don't always
agree with it, and if that's become a crime lately, by all means
put me down on your black list."

George had reacted normally to a familiar stimulus, and Millbay
reacted normally to that type of reaction, with which he was
equally familiar.  He smiled.  "We're not as stupid as all that,
Boswell, even at the Foreign Office.  And our black list is largely
a grey list--or should I use the phrase 'neutral tints'?"  He
paused a moment, then asked quietly:  "Did you know her when she
was in Ireland?"

"No."  George caught the alertness of Millbay's glance and
countered it with a more humorous alertness of his own.  Suddenly
he laughed.  "Look here . . . what are you driving at?  Are you a
detective or something?"

Millbay also laughed.  "I might be the 'something'.  To tell you
the truth, I'm just a Government official who once wrote a few
novels."  George then knew where he had seen Millbay's name, and
also why he had not clearly remembered it; he was not much of a
novel-reader.  Millbay continued:  "Perhaps that's why I'm handed
all these war-time psychological problems.  They're quite
interesting, though, as a rule. . . .  Take this woman we've been
talking about--from all accounts she's top-notch for sheer physical
and mental courage against appalling odds.  Yet all that--and every
novelist knows it--doesn't guarantee that she couldn't be a
complete bitch in other ways.  Did you, incidentally, ever discuss
Hitler with her?"

"Good God, no--the time I knew her was years before Hitler was even
heard of.  You're not suspecting her of being a Nazi spy, are you?"

Millbay laughed again.  "Stolen treaties tucked away in the
corsage, eh? . . .  Hardly. . . .  So you don't think she'd have
made a good spy?"

George answered:  "From my judgment she'd make the worst spy in the
world."

"What makes you say that?"

George answered:  "Of course it's long ago that I knew her, but
people don't change their whole nature.  What I mean is--if
they're . . . well, outspoken . . . not always too tactful . . ."

Millbay touched George's arm with a half-affectionate gesture.
"Thank you for confirming my own private opinion.  I never did
believe there was anything really wrong with her in THAT way--
especially on the basis of the incident that gave rise to most of
the talk. . . .  You heard about it, perhaps?"

"I don't think so.  What was it?"

"Some big dinner-party in Batavia, with a crowd of officials,
attachés, army people, and so on.  I was told about it by several
who were there.  Before the war, of course--1932 or 1933.
Conversation turned on Hitler, and most of what was said was
unflattering--especially from the viewpoint of the career diplomat.
Suddenly Livia said--'Isn't it odd that people who profess to
follow a religion founded by a carpenter are so ready to sneer at
someone for having once been a house-painter?'  Quite a sensation!
Of course she was tabbed as pro-Hitler after that, but I really
don't think she had to be.  I think she could have meant exactly
what she said. . . .  Because it IS odd, when you reckon it up.
With all the perfectly sound reasons the democracies have for
hating that man, they choose to sneer at him because he once
followed a trade.  How do house-painters feel about it, I wonder?
If I knew any, I'd ask 'em."

"I do know some, so I will ask 'em."

"And then tell me?  Well, anyhow, you can imagine that sort of
remark didn't do her husband any good professionally."

"Aye, I can see that."

They were still at the kerbside, but a Government car had driven up
and the chauffeur was waiting.  Millbay said hastily:  "Sorry there
hasn't been more time to talk.  Always interesting to compare notes
about people one knows. . . .  Incidentally, if you're free
tonight, why don't you dine with me?  Then we'd have more time."

George was free and accepted, though not without a misgiving that
grew and crystallized during the afternoon into a determination to
pursue a certain course of action if Millbay should make it
necessary.  Before they were halfway through the meal, at a service
flat in Smith Square, Millbay HAD made it necessary.  They had
discussed general topics at first, but then Millbay had continued:
"You know, Boswell, I'm still a bit curious about Livia Winslow.
She always rather fascinated me, in a sort of way, and to meet
someone else who knew her . . . well, I suppose it's the novelist
in me cropping up again, even though it's years since I last
published anything.  And I certainly don't intend to publish
anything you tell me, so don't worry."

"Anything _I_ tell you?"

"Yes--if you feel like it.  I wish you would."

"About what?"

"About Livia . . . that is, of course, unless you'd rather not
discuss her."

George then said what he had made up his mind to say if this
situation should arise.  He said:  "I don't mind discussing her,
but I'd better tell you something in advance.  I was once married
to her."

"GOOD GOD!  You don't say?"

Till then George had felt slightly uncomfortable, but now, relaxed
by his own candour, he could almost enjoy the other's unbounded
astonishment.  He grinned across the table.  "I dunno why I felt I
had to tell you, but now I have done, I hope you'll go ahead and
give me any more news you have about her."

"So you're just as interested as I am?"

"Probably.  That's rather natural, isn't it?"

"You haven't kept in touch with her at all?"

"No--not since . . ."  He left the sentence unfinished.

"And that was--when?"

"September First, Nineteen-Twenty-One."

"Well remembered, eh?"

George nodded.

Millbay gave him a slow, shrewd glance, then continued:  "Jeffrey
happens to be a friend of mine. . . .  Would you like me to talk
about his marriage?"

"Aye--if YOU feel like it."

"And you won't mind if I'm frank?"

"We'd both be wasting our time if you weren't, wouldn't we?"

"Glad you think so.  And in exchange will you give me your own
frank opinion . . . afterwards?"

George smiled.  "Nay, I'll not promise that.  Let's hear your story
first."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

I first met Jeffrey Winslow, Millbay said, in connection with the
Kemalpan affair.  I don't suppose you heard much about that.  It
didn't get publicized.  Things like it are always apt to happen,
and to happen with the same declension of eventfulness--that is to
say, they begin excitingly--bloodshed in the jungle, perhaps--and
end a year or so later with quiet voices pronouncing judgment
across some departmental desk-top in Whitehall.  Mine was one of
the quiet voices; I had all the papers relating to the affair
before me, and I'd given several days to the most careful study of
them.  After all, you don't squash a man's career without good
reason, especially if he belongs to a family like the Winslows.  I
was as tactful as I could be.  I rather liked the look of the
fellow from the outset; he was neither truculent nor obsequious,
and heaven knows he could have been either.  He just sat at the
other side of the desk--a little nervous, as was natural; he
answered questions briefly and clearly, and there was a pleasant
ring in his voice that I would have taken for sincerity had not the
circumstances of the moment put doubts in my mind.

Of course the Kemalpan affair needs some explanation--that is, if
you don't already know about it.  (George said he didn't.)  Oh,
well, I can put it in a few sentences.  Kemalpan is a technically
independent Sultanate that the British Government has a treaty
with; Jeffrey Winslow was adviser to the Sultan on matters
connected with imperial relations--somewhat of a nebulous job, but
semi-diplomatic, with tentacles reaching into commercial and
military spheres.  Decidedly no plum--but not badly paid, and easy
enough, as a rule, if you didn't mind burying yourself in a place
like Kemalpan.  That, I should add, is the name of the capital city
as well as of the state; the capital is inland, in the midst of
jungle and rubber plantations; Winslow preferred to live with his
wife at a settlement on the coast fifty miles away--healthier
there, or so he reckoned.  There's a telegraph line between the
coast and the capital, and a sort of rough trail that you can drive
over in a Ford--but no good roads, no railway, and in those days no
air line.  These details are important in view of what happened.
Also I should add that a small colony of British and Dutch rubber
planters lived on their estates near the inland capital, and were
on good terms with the Sultan, whose subjects they employed.  The
Sultan didn't mind low wages for the tappers so long as he got a
cut of the plantation profits--which he did, more or less, in the
form of thoroughly legalized taxation.  Quite a nice set-up as long
as it lasted, and it lasted throughout the twenties, when rubber
rose to four shillings a pound; but later the fall to sixpence led
to labour troubles, and by the mid-thirties these had reached
danger-point.  All this is necessary to give the background to what
happened in October 'thirty-four, when an insurrection in the
capital threatened to depose the Sultan in favour of some native
'leader' whom the planters called a Communist--it's a conditioned
reflex, you know.  But it was true that the plantations couldn't
pay higher wages without going bankrupt, and equally true that the
mob was in a mood to overthrow things if the millennium didn't
appear overnight.  The Sultan, who was a sly old debauchee with no
real interest in life but graft and women, rapidly slipped into
panic; meanwhile the planters with their wives and families moved
in from outlying districts to seek protection in the royal palace--
protection being a few hundred of the Sultan's private army, poor
in quality and doubtful in allegiance.

The crisis developed within a matter of hours, while the Winslows
were at their home on the coast; Winslow wired the news to London,
which was part of his job, and was told to await instructions.  A
day later those instructions were sent.  He was told to assure the
Sultan that the British Government would back him to the full in
suppressing the revolt, and that therefore the capital must be held
at all costs until such assistance was forthcoming. . . .

Now this was the point.  Those instructions were SENT, and we had
evidence later that they reached the coast settlement where Winslow
lived; but he swore he never got them.  Thus he didn't give the
Sultan any assurance of British help and the Sultan promptly gave
in to the rebels.  There followed a nasty little affray at the
palace in which three white men and two white women were butchered.
Well, that was the Kemalpan affair . . . nothing very remarkable,
but thoroughly reprehensible from every official standpoint, and a
year later we were still holding enquiries about it in Whitehall,
still collecting more evidence that the instructions to Winslow had
actually been transmitted and must have been received by him,
though he still swore that they hadn't.

A further point cropped up: the telegraph line from the coast to
the inland capital had been cut, so that if Winslow HAD received
his orders he could only have properly obeyed them by making the
fifty-mile trip in person over the rough trail; and this, with most
of the intervening country in the hands of the rebels, might not
have been so safe.  In fact, it might have been decidedly unsafe--
which was why he couldn't have relied on anyone else to do the job.
So you see where all this is leading . . . and where it had already
led on that foggy Friday in November 'thirty-five when I first
talked to the fellow in my office.  Was his denial of having
received instructions just the only thing he could think of as an
excuse for having been scared?  If that were the true interpretation,
it added up to something rather serious.

You know, it's a queer thing when you have to talk to a gentleman
in the social sense who has somehow broken the code of a gentleman
in the ethical sense.  You can never quite come to grips with the
situation.  You fence and evade and know that he knows all the time
what you're really thinking.  I never, for instance, came anywhere
near hinting to Winslow that he might be both a liar and a coward,
yet he must have known that that was the inevitable implication
behind all the questioning.  And presently it all boiled down to
that simple question:  Had he or had he not received those
instructions?  He stuck to it that he hadn't, and he sounded
convincing, but long experience has left me with the opinion that
lies are, if anything, easier to tell convincingly than the truth.
Besides, evidence that the instructions HAD reached him was almost
watertight, so I had to accept it.  But of course I did not say so.
I said, quietly and politely:  "Well, Winslow, we seem to have
reached a deadlock.  Maybe there'll be some further evidence . . .
if so, perhaps you'll be good enough to come here again."

He answered then, with a certain austere dignity which I liked
(whether he were a liar and a coward or not):  "Of course I will,
but it's nine months now since I was advised to come home on leave,
and since then I've been kept waiting for the enquiry to finish.
It's rather a strain, in some ways.  Besides, I should very much
like to go back to my job."

It was then my duty to tell him that there was little chance of his
ever resuming that kind of job under Government service.  He took
it very well.  He said he was sorry--which I knew did not mean any
kind of confession, but merely that the outcome was a blow to him.
I said I was sorry too--and by that I did not mean that as a liar
and a coward he deserved any special leniency, but merely that it
grieved me, as a member of the so-called ruling class, to see
another member acquitting himself out of style.  You see what snobs
we all are. . . .  Anyhow, I shook hands with him and wished him
well and didn't expect to see him again.

But I just couldn't get the fellow out of my mind.  He'd interested
me--not only because the departure from tradition is always more
interesting than the tradition itself, of which one gets a little
bored when one is, as I am, a somewhat cynical conformist.  I
should be believed, no doubt, if I said that after talking to
Winslow I paced up and down my office floor wondering if, in his
place, I should have behaved any better.  Yet actually I didn't
wonder at all, because I knew.  I have fought in wars, and there
have been several occasions on which I risked my life, not because
I was brave, nor because I hated the enemy, but because risking my
life was the thing to do in those particular circumstances, and
all my training had been to make me act both accordingly and
automatically.  That's one of the reasons why Winslow interested me--
because his training had been, if anything, more traditional than
mine.  Who's Who and Debrett were sufficient authorities for that.
He'd been to a good public school and to Oxford, had then passed
into the Diplomatic and been an attaché at various European
embassies.  Quite brilliant at Oxford, by the way, and with his
family connections he must have been exactly the type for whom one
would forecast a distinguished future.  All of which added to the
mystery--for why, if one came to think of it, should such a fellow
ever fetch up at Kemalpan?  That was decidedly NOT the thing to
have done . . . and since it was unlikely that anybody would take
Kemalpan from choice, what had forced him into it?  Well, there
were people I knew who could throw out a few hints.  Our friend
Sprigge is the expert there.  Scandals, women, mésalliances, bad
cheques--he can usually tell you.  In Winslow's case it was a
divorce--which in those prim days didn't help anyone . . . and I
needn't say more about that to you.

I also discovered that Winslow had written a book of essays on
moral philosophy that had attracted some attention in its field,
and might have led to a useful subsidiary reputation had not his
main career gone off at such a tangent.  I was interested enough to
get hold of the book.  I found it a bit above my head, but I
thought it showed signs of a first-class mind, and first-class
minds are such rare things in our time and land that it becomes a
crime, in my opinion, to frustrate, side-track, or otherwise
stultify them.  And his, at least, had been side-tracked at
Kemalpan, for--apart from the career--there had been no succeeding
books.

During the following months a trickle of further evidence came in,
but none of it helpful to his case.  A Chinese clerk reported that
he had personally delivered the coded cable message from the
telegraph station to Winslow's bungalow, where he had handed it to
a responsible servant; the servant said Winslow was out at the
time, so he had placed it on his desk along with other messages and
letters. . . .  The case also began to look blacker from another
angle, for at the time the message was received it was known at the
coast settlement that the lives of white refugees in the Sultan's
palace were endangered, so that if Winslow had been concerned with
his own personal safety he must also have weighed it against the
safety of others.  About twenty, to be precise--including women and
children.  And to complete the indictment, it seemed reasonably
probable that if he had managed to get the message through to the
Sultan, the latter would have put up a defence instead of a
surrender, and the five lives might have been saved.  Altogether
there was very little excuse for Winslow, and when, just about the
time this latter evidence came in, I got a letter from him in
Ireland I was in a rather unsympathetic mood for considering it,
especially as the first few sentences showed me he was asking the
impossible.  Briefly, he wanted a job.  Not, of course, the same
job in Kemalpan, or even that kind of job in that kind of place;
yet, he argued, could not a decade of experience in the Far East,
plus the knowledge of several obscure languages and dialects, be
put to some use somehow and somewhere?  What he hinted at was a job
in some Government office, where he could continue in the public
service, however humbly.

I wrote back and told him how little chance he had.  And a week
later Mrs. Winslow herself came to see me.

It was another interesting meeting.  I had heard of this Mrs.
Winslow once before, in connection with her oft-quoted and
misquoted remark about Hitler at the Batavia dinner-party; I hadn't
disliked her for that (because it seemed to me she had probably
been misunderstood), but it had given me an impression that she was
a dangerous partner for a man of affairs.  And now, when I saw her
across my desk, I was immediately struck by a certain controlled
intention in her whole look and attitude.  She faced me as if she
knew what she wanted and meant to get her own way at all costs.
After a mere good-morning she plunged right in--couldn't I possibly
find her husband some desk job in Whitehall?  Apparently my letter
had been the final blow to his hopes, and she was afraid of a
breakdown if he didn't find some work where he felt he could be
useful.  And though she herself preferred to live in Ireland, she
would not say no to London if Jeffrey had to be there.  She talked
of living in London as a sort of sacrifice she would make for her
husband if the Government in return would do its part.

I told her flatly it was impossible, and when she stressed the
personal angle I delicately hinted that Government posts were not
handed out to prevent breakdowns.  The Kemalpan incident, I said,
was of a kind that they must both recognize had called at least a
halt to Jeffrey's career.  At that she began to protest and argue,
but of course I wouldn't go over all the details with her.  "Even
assuming some tragic mistake, one can do nothing about it now.
Men's careers have been ruined before by mistakes--it would be
nothing new."

"You look at it very coldly," she said.

"I look at it very logically," I answered.  "The whole incident,
affair, or whatever you call it, is closed now and can't be
reopened unless some totally new item of evidence should crop up.
And that's so unlikely that we can almost say it won't happen."

She then said quietly:  "It can happen.  That's what I came here
for--to tell you something.  It was I who intercepted the cable.
I decoded it, found out what it meant, then decided that Jeffrey
shouldn't ever see it.  Of course he doesn't know I did that, or
that I'm admitting it now to you."

She waited for me to show surprise, and perhaps I did, but it was
not surprise at what she said so much as surprise that she should
expect me to believe it.  Naturally I didn't.  But it would have
been equally unwise to dismiss the matter without further probing.

"What made you do such a thing?" I asked guardedly.

"I just had to," she answered.  "The telegraph line was cut, so I
knew he'd want to take the message himself, and as the country was
in the hands of the rebels I didn't think he'd have much chance of
getting through.  And he might have got killed."

"He might," I agreed.  "And five others did."

She said nothing.

"Probably as a result of the message not being delivered."

"I wouldn't say PROBABLY.  POSSIBLY."

"You knew the planters and their families were in danger when you
intercepted the message?"

"Yes."

"And you deliberately let them take their chance in order to ensure
your husband's personal safety?"

"Yes."

"Don't you think that rather indefensible?"

"I'm not defending it.  I'm just saying it's what I did.  My
husband was dearer to me than a crowd of people I didn't know."

"How many people would you be willing to sacrifice for such a
reason?"

She didn't answer.

I went on, with more sarcasm:  "Or shall I put it this way--at what
point would the lives of strangers, by sheer weight of numbers,
tilt the balance against the life of the man you love?"

She answered:  "Never."

"So you'd sacrifice millions, if one can conceive of such a
situation?"

She nodded.

She really was at this point beginning to surprise me.  It's rare
that people, especially women, are willing to let a logical point
be pressed home.  I said, rather severely:  "I'm glad to think you
are probably unique in looking at things that way."

"Oh, but I'm not," she answered.  "In war-time wouldn't you press a
button, if you could, to destroy a million of the enemy rather than
lose a single life on your side?"

"But this wasn't war-time."

"When you love somebody it's always war-time."

"When YOU love somebody, maybe."

She nodded.  "Then why is my attitude so extraordinary?"

What WAS extraordinary, of course, was her argument, and it was one
that didn't seem to me profitable to continue.  I was still
disinclined to believe her confession, but I was clear in my mind
as to the implications of the alternatives.  Either she was lying
to save her husband's reputation--in which case one could possibly
like her for it; or she had actually told the truth--in which case
she was ruthless, unprincipled, and wholly the kind of wife whom a
man in a responsible position should not have.

But in any case nothing could be done.  Even if her confession were
accepted at its face value it would not help Jeffrey to get his job
back.  The most it could do would be to win him a measure of half-
incredulous sympathy.

I explained all this to her, and it seemed to me that she picked up
the cue, as it were, and from then on made a bid for the sympathy.
Jeffrey, she repeated, was on the verge of a breakdown.  All he
asked was some job, however small and ill-paid, just to give him
the feeling--perhaps even the illusion--that he had not been
dishonourably discharged.  It had even come to the point, she said,
that their marriage might founder if he could not get such a job;
he was finding it hard to settle down in Ireland, and the book he
was trying to write was not going well.  This was the first I had
heard about another book and I asked her for details.  She said it
was a book about the Far East--one he had long projected--something
rather scholarly and definitive.  She had been urging him to use up
his time that way ever since he came home, and surely conditions in
Ireland were ideal for authorship--a quiet place in the country,
nothing else to do, and ample money to live on.  "Really," she
added, "he's quite well off--there's no reason why he should worry
about a career, or about writing books either, so far as that goes.
The whole Kemalpan business wouldn't matter if only he didn't think
it mattered."

"Perhaps, though, the relatives of the people who were killed there
might still think it mattered."

"Oh, THEM.  I wasn't thinking about THEM."

And she wasn't.  She was just thinking of herself and Jeffrey.
That seemed to close the argument quite finally.  I got up and made
it clear that there was nothing more I could say or do.

During the next few weeks I found myself thinking even more
compellingly about the Winslows.  First, HE had interested me, then
she; but now my interest in each of them separately was more than
redoubled in them both.  What went on between such a pair?  What
sort of thing was their life together?  If she had been lying on
his behalf, it was possible that the appalling selfishness of her
argument might not have been sincere.  Or had she been telling the
truth, both as to fact and attitude?  To summarize it another way:
if she were a liar, one liked her better and her husband less; but
if she were not a liar, one disliked her intensely and felt
sympathy for her husband.  And I still could not properly make up
my mind.  I have rarely been so puzzled about anything.  Then
suddenly more evidence filtered through--I needn't go into details,
but it was of a kind that weighed down one of the scales pretty
conclusively.  She HAD told the truth.  She HAD intercepted the
message.  Which meant that Jeffrey himself was neither a liar nor a
coward, but at worst a victim.

The revelation swung me into a mood in which I recollected our
meeting and how much, from first appearance, I had liked him.  I
remembered his quietness, his austere dignity, the simple
unassumingness which, I knew, concealed a mind whose quality had
been demonstrated.  So on impulse I wrote him a friendly letter,
saying nothing much except that I hoped he was getting on all right
and that if he ever visited London he might find time to have lunch
with me.  To my surprise he answered by return and took the
invitation with far more seriousness than I should have thought.
He would have been so glad, he said, to come to London and see me
(I hadn't suggested that, by any means), but he was not very well
and couldn't get away . . . would I, however, visit him in Ireland--
stay a week or two--there was good shooting, fishing, climbing, if
that sort of thing appealed to me?  He would be very happy, and
please make it soon, because the late summer (and it was then
August) was perhaps the best time of the year at Carrigole.


It happened that I had not had a holiday that year, and though the
idea of visiting the Winslows seemed quite fantastic at first, I
soon found myself thinking of reasons why I might take Jeffrey at
his word.  After all, I liked him; it might even be that if he were
feeling low-spirited I could help him by talk and companionship.
But I will not disguise that my overmastering motive was sheer
curiosity.  I wanted to find out what sort of people they both
were, in their own home and with their own domestic problems.  And
at least it could do no harm to call on them if I happened to be
holiday-making thereabouts.

So I looked up Carrigole on the map and found it was a dozen miles
from Galway--a small place, not very accessible, in a district of
lakes and mountains.  And that's why I asked you, Boswell, if you
ever knew the Winslows in Ireland, because I should have liked your
opinion of Carrigole.

It began to rain when I first came within sight of it.  I had hired
a car for the last stage of the trip and all the way I felt oddly
excited about getting there.  Actually I had never been in Ireland
before, and crossing the country from Dublin it had occurred to me
that even the trains were antique--and not contemptibly, as on so
many outdated railways all over the world, but honourably, with
dignity, like good sound Victorian mahogany furniture.  And when,
at Galway, my train reached its destination, there was again the
contrast with other rail-heads I had seen; for here was no mere
petering out into obscurity, but a grand finale in stone--the
massive quayside station, far too large and almost quiet as a
cathedral, shaking a granite fist into the sea.

But my first glimpse of Carrigole was equally memorable--or perhaps
the mood I was in gave me extra percipience--a kind of mystic
awareness I am naturally distrustful of, but can't deny exists, at
certain rare times and places.  I knew Ireland was supposed to be
like that, and therefore I was perversely surprised to find it so.
Through the rainswept windows of the car I saw blue smoke drifting
over the roofs of whitewashed cottages, and beyond them a mountain
rising into clouds that totally covered the summit.  I gathered,
from the map on my knee, that this must be Slieve Baragh, not much
higher than a hill, yet as I saw it then for the first time it
seemed in another world of measurement.  Presently the car slowed
down for the village, and here the swollen clouds dipped lower,
bringing no raindrops but emptying silently; Slieve Baragh was now
hidden behind a curtain that suggested Himalayan heights--and yet,
I remembered again, it was not much of a mountain--a mere two
thousand feet.  I couldn't help making other mental notes of the
near and the practical--the uneven walls and mud-brown pavements,
the butcher who called himself a 'flesher' and the chemist's shop
magnificently styled a 'Medical Hall'.  I wound down the side
window to catch the whiff of peat on the wet breeze as the car
bumped over a bridge across a river--only a minor river, like the
minor mountain, but turbulent now as it filled almost directly from
the sky.

A mile or so past the village the Winslows' house stood behind a
drenched garden, and Jeffrey was waiting at the gate in the rain.
He looked pale and worn, and there was intense nervousness in the
way he greeted me.

I ought to describe the house; it was substantially built, thick-
walled and small-windowed, in a style conditioned by roaring
Atlantic gales for half the year, and political troubles for half a
century.  These indeed had left the house with its most conspicuous
attribute--a large, burnt-out wing, blackened and roofless, which
provided a ready topic of conversation.  "They tried to burn the
whole place down in 'twenty-two," Jeffrey explained.  "Livy got it
cheap because it hadn't been lived in since then and needed so much
repairing, but part of it's beyond repair--it would be too large
for us, anyway.  We have a couple of servants and the boy when he's
home from school--that only makes five. . . ."

By then we were in the square hall, from which the main rooms of
the house opened on all sides, and it was there that Livia met me.
Perhaps because of the dark afternoon it seemed to me that she
appeared from nowhere, a sudden distillation of shadows.  I was not
surprised when she greeted me as a stranger, allowing Jeffrey to
make the unnecessary introduction.  I played up accordingly and
thought it equally unnecessary when, a few minutes later in the
bedroom I had been shown to, she closed the door behind her and
said with a sort of conspiratory quietness:  "Jeffrey still doesn't
know I came to see you in London."

I nodded and said I would have surmised that he didn't.

"And of course he doesn't know anything else either."

I knew what she meant, and I nodded to that also.

"I hope you won't ever repeat what I told you in confidence," she
went on.

I said temporizingly and in the bland way which I have cultivated
as part of my official equipment:  "My dear Mrs. Winslow, I wasn't
aware that you were telling me anything in confidence, but as a
matter of fact I don't usually gossip."  I added, to change the
subject:  "It's so kind of you to have me here, and I hope it isn't
too much trouble."

"Not at all," she answered, with cold politeness.  "You're on your
way to Limerick, aren't you?"

That was as broad a hint as I needed, and clear proof of what I had
already guessed--that she didn't want me to stay, and that Jeffrey
had invited me either without her knowledge or against her wishes.
I had guessed this subconsciously enough to have wired my time of
arrival too late for any cancellation of the invitation--and, as it
happened, too late even for Jeffrey to meet me at Galway.

"Yes," I said.  "I'm on my way to Limerick."

I had a bath, changed into drier tweeds, and went down to dinner.
I met the boy then, Charles I think his name was--a youth of
thirteen, at Charterhouse--tall, good-looking, shy, likable.
Intelligent, too, as I discovered after a few casual remarks.  He
was piling turf on the old-fashioned fire as I entered, for it was
chilly enough to have one, and that set us talking of turf and
electricity, old and new, the Shannon hydro-electric scheme and the
ancient Irish tongue that nobody spoke except illiterate peasants
and modern school teachers.  Livia then said:  "We're all half mad
with our opposites," which seemed to end rather than clinch any
discussion.  She had a curious way of saying things that were never
quite clear, yet never so meaningless as to be easy to ignore.
Jeffrey noticed my interest in the boy and soon found a chance to
tell me, like any other proud father, that Charlie was keen on
music and by no means a bad piano-player.  We went on chatting
desultorily throughout the meal; then the boy made a polite excuse
and left us three adults together.  I somehow had an impression
that he got on better with his father than with Livia, accepting
the shy approach more readily than the frontal assault; and it has
amused me since to reflect that Livia ranged against the polite
taboos of the English public-school system would be a unique
example of an irresistible force meeting an immovable body.

After he had gone there was a change of atmosphere that became
almost baleful; it had been tense before, but now it was menacing,
a curious hostility between Jeffrey and Livia that was due, I could
not help feeling, to my own presence.  A sort of invisible cat
crouching on the table-top to spring at any of our throats at an
unknown signal--if the metaphor isn't too far-fetched.  In an
attempt to ease the conversation into some harmless groove I said,
unimportantly:  "It's probably not a good day to sight-see, but I
did at least get a good whiff of Ireland as I drove over."

Livia answered, as if she must dispute with me at all costs:  "It
IS a good day to sight-see.  Ireland's a sad country, so you see it
best when it looks sad, but the sadness is alive--it comes out of
the earth--it isn't like the dead sadness of London, especially the
West End."

"Oh, come now," I said facetiously.  "The Café Royal at midnight
hasn't got much dead sadness."

"Jeff and I love it here," she went on defensively, as if I had
ever denied it.  "That is, he could if he wanted to," she added, as
if Jeffrey had ever denied it.

"But what do you do all the time?" I asked, still facetiously.

"Livy looks after the farm," Jeffrey answered.  "She likes that
sort of work, though it's not very good land--far too stony, and
the gales come in full of salt spray that sours the soil. . . .
I'll take you round tomorrow."

"Mr. Millbay won't have time," Livia said pointedly.  "He's got to
leave for Limerick tomorrow."  She added:  "Jeffrey's busy too.  He
has to write his book."

"If he can," Jeffrey commented, with a note of ruefulness.

"He doesn't concentrate enough," she countered.  They were both
talking at each other, it seemed, with me as a needed yet somehow
exacerbating audience.

The question of the book raised Jeffrey a notch higher in whatever
emotion was being generated between them.  "Livy," he said,
"appears to think that writing is just a simple matter of one page
after another."

"Well, isn't it?" Livia asked, appealing to me.

I tried to lower the tension by asking Jeffrey how far the book had
progressed.

Livia answered for him:  "About a hundred pages, and it ought to be
easy for him to finish because it's all about Far Eastern affairs
that he's an expert on."

Jeffrey said, still in the same mood of self-scarifying irony:
"Livy thinks that with a record like mine people will be eager to
accept me as an authority."

I gathered that this had been argued between them before, since
Livia retorted:  "What does his record have to do with what he
writes? . . .  That's what I always ask him."

Jeffrey nodded.  "Yes, that's what she always asks me, and I think
the answer is rather obvious.  Wouldn't you say so, Millbay?"

I didn't want to get into such an argument, so I said nothing.

Livia went on, as if even my silence irritated her:  "And what OF
his record, anyway?  Who bothers about it except a few people in
the Government?"

Jeffrey answered, heavily:  "I think Charlie would bother about it
if he knew--and perhaps he does know, or can guess."

"Charlie has no right to be ashamed of his father," Livia retorted,
and then she added astoundingly:  "My father spent twelve years in
jail and _I_ wasn't ashamed of HIM."

I hadn't known about that, and made up my mind to look into the
matter when I got back to London.  And of course I afterwards found
who her father had been.  But in the meantime I felt I had to be
honest and side with Jeffrey about the book.  He was undoubtedly
right, and his Far Eastern opus, however good, might well fall
under the curse of Kemalpan--the more so since, if it were very
good indeed, it might even attract publicity to what would
otherwise have been ignored or forgotten.  I didn't bring up that
point, but my general support of Jeffrey's attitude led to what I
had feared--and that was the whole Kemalpan issue spouting up like
a volcano.  Jeffrey muttered gloomily that he wondered if it were
worth while even to finish the book at all, what he really wanted
was a job, something he could work at to prove himself more than a
failure and an idler.  A job, a job . . . to get away from the
everlasting western gales and the stony soured soil and the clouds
dripping over the mountain and nothing to do . . . nothing to
do. . . .

I could feel the tension mounting now like a physical wave through
the shadows, and again to ease it I said:  "You know, Jeffrey,
there ARE jobs, if you really want one.  It wouldn't have to be in
Government service.  Your Far Eastern experience would be a bargain
for a good commercial firm, and it's true, as you know, that a man
can serve his country in, say, British-American Tobacco quite as
valuably as in an embassy."

I saw his eyes light up at that.  "Do you think they'd even
consider me?"

But then a strange and disconcerting thing happened.  Livia got up
from her chair and leaned across the table towards us with a gleam
in her eyes that was of a very different kind.  It gave her face a
rather frightening radiance, emphasizing the curious profile of
nose and forehead as she stared down at us like, I thought, the
figurehead of a ship about to dive into a storm.  "He's not going!"
she screamed, in a wild angry whisper.  "He must stay HERE.  This
is the place for him . . . ALWAYS. . . ."

After that there was little I could say.  The scene subsided,
leaving us to stammer a few commonplaces about this and that; Livia
seemed to realize she had said too much, or had somehow been caught
off-guard.

We adjourned to the drawing-room and sat up, the three of us, till
it became clear that Jeffrey wanted to talk to me alone if there
were any chance.  Towards midnight I began yawning, to bring the
thing to an issue, and Livia said it was time we all went to bed;
whereupon Jeffrey announced that he and I would stay up and chat
for a while.  He said that with an air of challenge, and there was
nothing much she could do about it except leave us together.  Such
a small victory, and yet, from his whole attitude, I gathered it
was both a narrow and a crucial one.

When we were alone he asked me again about the possibility of a
commercial job--had I meant what I said--did I really think there
was a chance of it?--Certainly, I answered, if that was what he
really wanted, and I offered there and then to put in a good word
for him.  But the imminence of something practical and decisive
seemed to reverse his mood and deflate his eagerness, so that I
told him to think it over carefully; maybe he didn't want to go as
much as he thought he did.  He answered, far TOO carefully:  "I'd
go like a shot but for Livy."

Then he lapsed into a mumble of pitiful things about her--almost as
if he had learned most of them by heart and were repeating them as
much for his own benefit as for mine.  She would be dead against
his going abroad again; she had spent ten years in Malaya and that
was understandably as much as she wanted; she loved Ireland and the
farm; she worked so hard, was so good to him, they really got on
all right together despite occasional bickerings . . . and so on.

And of course, knowing what I did, it antagonized me to the point
of saying:  "So you really mean you'll stay here for the rest of
your life just to please her?"

He answered:  "Perhaps I ought to stay here.  After all, she's been
very decent about the whole thing.  The Kemalpan business, I mean.
She's never reproached me about it."

That did the trick.  Accustomed as I am to the severest verbal self-
discipline I simply couldn't keep back my answer.  "By God," I
exclaimed, "she damn well oughtn't to, since she was the whole
cause of it herself!"

Then I told him what I hadn't promised Livia not to tell him,
though I should have broken that promise anyway.


Of course he was appalled.  He wouldn't believe it at first, even
when I said I had documents, depositions, and so on, that I could
send or show him later.  "Besides," I said, "she confessed to it
even before there was proof."  That appalled him also, and I had to
tell him about her visit to my office.  When he still seemed unable
or unwilling to grasp the situation, I said:  "You mean you don't
think she's capable of it?"

He answered heavily:  "She's capable of anything."  And then he
went on with a touch of anger:  "Why did you tell me?  Do you want
me to think badly of her?  After all, though what she did was quite
dreadful, it only shows how much she loves me . . . in her way."

"Certainly, if you think so," I answered.  "She shows she loves you
by ruining your career--to say nothing of sacrificing the lives of
five strangers.  I didn't intend to say all this when I came here,
and I admit I acted on impulse in doing so, but now I'm rather glad
I did."  I thought it was a good moment then to say good-night and
tell him I'd be leaving in the morning early.  "Perhaps there's
somewhere in the village I can hire a car to take me on to
Limerick. . . ."  He said there was, and pulled himself together
enough to telephone about it.  Then he took me up to my room.  At
the door we shook hands and I repeated my offer to try to find him
a commercial job if he wanted one.  I also said that in any case I
hoped he'd give me a ring if ever he were in London.

I slept badly and got up soon after dawn.  The mists were over the
mountain and a gale from the sea was already tearing them to
shreds.  I did not think Carrigole was a place I should like to
stay in for long, much less to live in altogether.  There was
something elemental and primitive about it that would get on my
nerves unless I could become elemental and primitive myself.

The car had already arrived and stood in the lane beyond the
garden, but as I was crossing the latter from the house I saw Livia
hurrying towards me from a side gate.  She was dressed in a sort of
waterproof smock, tied loosely at the waist; her head was almost
hidden behind a low-brimmed sou-wester, and she wore also knee-high
boots caked with mud.  I don't know why I remember such things,
except that I was aware of a curious half-hypnotized tension that
made me stir my mind over details to keep it from somehow freezing
at her approach.

I was prepared for a scene, but there was none.  "So you're going
now?" she greeted me.

I said I had thought it better to leave early, so as to reach
Limerick by midday.

"Why, yes, of course.  Much better.  I'm always up like this.
There's so much to be done on a farm."

I said I was sure she was kept very busy.

"Of course Jeff's still asleep," she went on.  "Nine's early enough
for him to start writing, don't you think?"  And then, with a
bright smile:  "What time would YOU begin writing if you were a
writer?"

I answered, smiling back:  "Any time I damn well felt like it--and
I speak with authority because I AM a writer."  She didn't seem to
take offence--and yet I knew, from something in her eyes, that
Jeffrey had told her I had told him everything, and that she hated
me for it.  And I had a feeling that to be hated by Livia Winslow
was no mild experience.

She accompanied me to the car.  "Jeff is really happy here," she
said, as if I were again denying the fact.  "And no wonder, is it?"
And then she added, in a phrase I remember because I wasn't quite
sure what it meant:  "When I first saw this place I thought I had
found where I was born in another world. . . ."


So I finished my Irish holiday and returned to London with such
thoughts about the Winslows as you can imagine.  Some months later
Jeffrey rang me up at my office, the tone of his voice conveying a
certain urgency, but also, I thought, a very welcome quality of
decision.  He sounded like a man who had finally yet in a sense
firmly reached the end of his tether.  We lunched at my club, and
afterwards he asked if my offer to aid him in finding a job still
held.

Not only it did, I told him, but it so happened that a few days
before I had mentioned his name to a friend in one of the big oil
companies, and the reaction had been distinctly favourable.  "Only
I didn't know whether you'd changed your mind, so I hardly cared to
approach you about it."

"I'll take the job whatever it is," he said.  "Where do I go and
when can I start?"

"Look here," I answered, "I don't own the company.  You'll have to
fix all that yourself--but if you like I can telephone my friend
this afternoon and let him know you're in town.  I should imagine,
from the way he talked, that it would be something fairly immediate,
and he did also tell me where it was. . . .  Hong Kong. . . .  How
does that suit?  You speak Cantonese?"

He said he did.

"They'll probably jump at you then."

He seemed so relieved that I told him how glad I was to see him in
such a different mood from the last time we had talked.

"Yes," he said.  "You can call it that if you like--a different
mood."

I asked him what had happened to make the change, and then he told
me something so extraordinary that if I hadn't known enough about
Livia beforehand I should have disbelieved it, or him, or both of
them, and even now I'm not a hundred per cent certain.  It seemed
that after my one-night visit they had had many arguments about his
taking another job abroad, Livia becoming more and more obstinate
in her insistence that he should stay at Carrigole.  It was almost
as if she had some obsession about the place--and perhaps, for that
matter, she had.  Most of her ideas were obsessions, anyhow, just
as most of her affections were passions--she did nothing by halves.
In such an atmosphere as had developed between them Jeffrey found
it impossible to write his book and presently did not even wish to;
what he craved was a job, and that too was for him an obsession.
Their disagreements had culminated, he said, in an angry scene in
which she accused him of pretending to want the job when what he
really wanted was to leave her; this he denied emphatically, but in
the very act of doing so caught himself wondering if it were half
true.  And then she staged an astonishing climax.  She told him she
would never leave him, that she loved him too much, that wherever
he went she would follow, and that rather than lose him she would
kill anyone who stood in the way of their life together.  He took
that for melodrama till she added, with a terrifying sort of
casualness:  "I did that once, you know."

He thought she meant the five victims at Kemalpan, and though he
knew she could be held accountable for their deaths, he thought it
was going too far to say that she had actually killed them.  But
then she always did go too far, and he always tried to drag her
back by being severely and irritatingly logical; it was almost a
routine.  So he said:  "Oh, come now, don't put it that way.  They
might have lost their lives in any event."

"THEY?" she echoed.  And then it turned out that she hadn't been
thinking of Kemalpan at all.  "Then who?" he asked, puzzled but
also wryly amused.

"Don't you remember Anne Westerholme?" she answered.

He told me that when she spoke that name he first had to make an
effort to recollect it, but that when he did so he felt himself
growing pale and cold with an emotion he would have called fear,
except that he had known fear before, and this was nothing like it.

He also told me about Anne Westerholme, and the story took him back
almost ten years, to the time when he was adviser to another
Sultanate and lived with Livia at a place called Tanjong Palai.  It
was not such a good job as the one he obtained later, but the
district was healthier and they had a pleasant bungalow in the
hills, with the usual neighbourhood society of tea and rubber
planters.  One of these, a friend of Jeffrey's, was bringing out a
young governess from England to look after his three small boys,
but as they developed scarlet fever while she was en route he had
arranged with the Winslows that the girl should stay with them
until the end of quarantine.  So Anne Westerholme arrived one
afternoon at the Winslows' bungalow, and the next morning she was
dead.  She had been bitten by a five-foot krait, the most venomous
of Malayan snakes, and as it could be surmised that she had opened
her bedroom window without fixing the screen there was no hitch in
the presumption of accidental death.  Thousands die from snake-bite
every year in that part of the world; it was tragic, but hardly
remarkable.

But now, a decade later, Livia had more to say about this, and what
she said was quite dreadful.  She said that very early in the
morning she had entered the girl's room and seen her asleep with
the krait curled up at the foot of the bed.  It would have been
easy then to kill the snake (she had killed scores) but she simply
did not do so.  She went back to the kitchen, calmly gave the
Chinese houseboy his daily orders, played some Mozart records on
the gramophone, and waited for the call that summoned her, along
with the servants, too late.

Jeffrey said that when she told him this, sitting over the turf
fire at Carrigole late one night, he was so horrified that it did
not occur to him at first that he had only her word for the story;
but that later, when he did realize that, his feelings of horror
hardly diminished.  He made her go to bed, he said, and himself
spent the night in his downstairs workroom, arranging the
manuscript of the book he knew he would never finish--not at
Carrigole, anyhow.  And in the morning he took the train for Dublin
en route for Holyhead and London.

We sat over coffee in the club smoke-room discussing the matter
throughout most of the afternoon.

"But do you really think she was speaking the truth?" I asked.

"I think she could have been," he answered, with no kind of
reluctance.  "But I also think she could have made up the story."

"But what motive could she possibly have had?  A girl fresh from
England--how could Livia have had any concern with whether she
lived or died?"

"Jealousy," Jeffrey answered.  "She saw in this girl some menace to
her own life with me--or so she said when she made the confession."

"But that's equally absurd!" I persisted.  "How long had you known
the girl?  A few hours, I suppose. . . .  Had you had any chance
to . . . but of course it's preposterous . . . and what sort of a
girl was she?  I suppose you hardly remember--even the name didn't
stay in your mind--"

Jeffrey nodded thoughtfully.  "Yes, I'd almost forgotten that, but
I do remember HER--she had reddish hair and a rather calm face."

"Not pretty, though?"

"No, but calm . . . CALM."

"And Livia was with you the whole of the time--"

"Oh yes.  The three of us just talked during dinner, that's all."

"Well, it's still absurd," I repeated.  "Even for Livia it's
absurd.  How could she possibly imagine there was anything for her
to be jealous of?"

He nodded again, but then suddenly moved restlessly in the club
armchair.  "You know," he said at length, "I'll be perfectly frank
with you, since you deserve that much for all you've done for me
lately. . . .  It's true of course that there was nothing between
me and that girl.  Yet . . . there almost might have been . . .
eventually.  I knew that, in a queer sort of way, while we were
just chatting during dinner.  Nothing special or exciting or
significant or provocative--and yet--and I was aware of it--that
girl's calmness came over to me . . . and Livy intercepted it, just
as later on she intercepted the cable."  He got up, clenching and
unclenching his hands.  "That's the really frightening thing about
it," he exclaimed, when he had let me order a second brandy.  "Livy
KNEW.  She ALWAYS knew.  She doesn't miss a thing. . . ."


The Mayor of Browdley sat for a long time in silence after Millbay
had finished.  He was--and he was aware of it--a little out of his
depth.  This world of rubber-planters and Sultans and five-foot
kraits was so foreign to him, or seemed so when he tried to get it
into extempore focus; how different from that other world of cotton
mills and council meetings!  And yet, after all, it was the same
world, governed by the same passions, the same greeds, the same
basic gulf between those who take and those who give.  True, there
were no snakes in Browdley, but there was diphtheria that could
kill (and had killed, hadn't it?) just as effectively; and there
had once been a murder in a street not far from Mill Street, a
particularly lurid murder that had made headlines in all the Sunday
papers.  From Browdley to Kemalpan and Tanjong Palai was only a
matter of miles, but from Livia's mind to his own . . . how far was
that?

Millbay interrupted his musings.  "Well, Boswell, you stipulated
for my story first.  Now what about yours?"

George answered at length:  "Aye . . . but I haven't one.  Nothing
to match what you've told me, anyhow.  I can't say I'm glad to have
heard it, but it's been good of you to give me so much time."

"No need to be grateful.  I'd rather know how it all strikes you."

"That's just it," George answered.  "It DOES strike me.  It strikes
me all of a heap."

"You mean you don't altogether believe it?"

"I don't disbelieve it, because I've been struck all of a heap
before by some of the things Livia did."

"Oh, you have?"

"Aye. . . .  When she left me I was a bit like that for years.  But
I got over it. . . ."

And that was all.  Millbay, though disappointed, was tactful enough
not to press him.  "Seems to me," he said later, "that those who
want to plan the future with everything neatly laid out in squares
and rectangles are going to find the Livias of this world sticking
out like a sore thumb."

"Maybe," replied George.  "But maybe also if the world was planned
a bit better there wouldn't be so many Livias."

"You evidently accept that as a desirable state."

"Nay," said George quickly.  "I'll not say too much against her.
We had some good times.  And this jealousy you've talked about--I
never noticed it particularly. . . ."

Millbay smiled.  "May I be very personal?"

"Anything you want."

"It's perhaps such ancient history that you won't feel hurt if I
suggest it . . . that perhaps she wasn't as jealous in your case
because she didn't . . . love you . . . as much."

"Aye, that might have been it."


It was getting late and George took his leave soon after that.  He
thanked Millbay again, walked from Smith Square to his hotel in a
street behind the Strand, and rather to his surprise slept well and
did not dream.  The next day was a Saturday and he was busy at a
conference.  The conference was about nothing more or less
momentous than the coordination of local authorities in the
grouping of road-transport services throughout the northern
industrial areas; and George, again to his surprise, found it quite
possible to intervene in the discussion and secure for Browdley
favourable treatment in the proposed set-up.  The conference then
adjourned till Monday, and with a day to spare George could not
think of anything better to do than visit Cambridge.  He had never
been there before, and thought it would be a good opportunity to
compare it with Oxford, which he had visited once, in a mood of
envy and adoration, thirty years earlier.  So he took the train at
Liverpool Street and eventually arrived, after a journey in which
war-time and Sunday discomforts were incredibly combined, at a
railway station whose form and situation roused in him the most
drastic instincts of the rebuilder.  He then took a bus into the
town, got off at the Post Office, had a late and rather bad lunch
at a restaurant, and entered the nearest of the colleges.

Here at last he felt an authentic thrill that years had scarcely
dimmed; for George still worshipped education and could still think
nostalgically of never-tasted joys.  To be young, to live in one of
these old colleges, to have years for nothing but study, and then
to emerge into the world's fray already armoured with academic
letters after one's name--this was the kind of past George would
like to have had for himself, and the kind of future he would have
wanted for his own boy, if his own boy had lived.  The multiple
disillusionments of the inter-war years had not dulled this dream,
because it had been a dream only--for George, in Browdley, had
never heard about fully-trained university men having to cadge jobs
as vacuum-cleaner salesmen.  So he could pass through the college
archway and stare across the quadrangle at sixteenth-century
buildings with the feeling that here, at any rate, was something
almost perfect in a far from perfect world.

Civilian sightseers being rare in war-time, the college porter,
scenting a tip, came out of his office to ask George if he would
like to be shown over.  George said yes, with some enthusiasm, and
for the next hour was piloted through various courts, and into a
quiet garden containing a famous mulberry-tree; he was also shown
the rooms in which there had lived, during the most impressionable
years of their lives, such varied personages as John Milton and Jan
Smuts.  George was entranced with all this, and by the time the
tour was completed had absorbed much assorted information about the
habits of undergraduates in pre-war days.  It did not entirely
conform to what he had imagined, or even thought desirable.  But
perhaps after the war things would be a little different in some
respects.  He soon found that everything the porter was afraid of,
he himself most warmly hoped for; and presently he summed the man
up as an incurable snob, of a kind almost never met in Browdley.
However, all that did not matter in war-time, since the man, from
his own statements, was an air-raid warden and doubtless doing his
duty like everyone else.  George gave him five shillings, which he
thought was enough; and the man took it as if he thought it just
about enough.

"By the way," George added, as an afterthought, "have you a list of
all the men in the University--not just this college only?"

He had, and George inspected it.  It did not take him more than a
moment to find that Winslow was at St. Jude's.  The porter then
told him where St. Jude's was and he walked there across the town.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

He did not know whether he really intended to visit Winslow or not,
but as he was strolling towards the College entrance he saw a man
leaning on two sticks walk out towards the kerb and there hesitate,
as if uncertain whether to risk crossing.  George caught his glance
from a distance and immediately changed direction to help him;
whereupon the man turned away, evidently deciding not to cross
after all.  But the whole manoeuvre puzzled George, so that he
approached nevertheless and asked if he could be of any service.
The man was a tall young fellow in a rather ill-fitting tweed
jacket and grey-flannel trousers, with a hat turned down over his
forehead in such a way that, with the further obstruction of dark
glasses, the face was hardly to be seen.

Yet immediately--from some curious instinct rather than from any
arguable recognition--George knew who it was.  He had never seen
him dressed before, or even standing up before, yet there was not a
shadow of doubt as he exclaimed:  "Why, Charles . . ." and took the
other's arm.

Charles stared at him for a moment before forcing a smile.  "I--I
didn't expect you'd recognize me."

"Don't say you didn't want me to!"

"I won't say it if you'd rather not."  The voice and the tone were
ironic.  "What are you doing in these parts, anyhow?"

George explained and added heartily:  "No need to ask what YOU'RE
doing."

"Isn't there?  At present I'm going to have my hair cut by a barber
who most obligingly does it for me privately every third Sunday
afternoon.  I can't face that sort of thing when there's the usual
audience."

George nodded with understanding.  "Then I mustn't keep you.  But
perhaps afterwards. . . .  How about having a meal with me?"

Charles declined with a brusqueness that softened into an only
slightly irritated explanation that he hardly ever left the College
after dusk.  "For one thing there's the damned black-out."  And
then, either shyly or grudgingly (George could not be sure which):
"I'm in Room D One in the First Court.  Come up tonight after
dinner if you like.  About eight."

George had been intending to return to London by the seven-thirty
train, but he cancelled the arrangement quickly enough to accept
without an appearance of hesitation.  A later train, however
inconvenient, would do all right.  He said:  "Thanks, I will.  And
now, since you WERE wanting to cross the street . . ."

He helped the boy as far as the opposite kerb, then left him after
a few conversational commonplaces.  George's sense of timing was
never, indeed, so infallible as when he found himself up against
that rare phenomenon--someone who didn't seem particularly glad to
see him.

He spent an hour or two in further sightseeing, then made his way
to St. Jude's after another bad meal.  The night was cloudy, and
the staircase leading to D One proved hard to find, even by
enquiry.  To George's astonishment, after he had knocked, the door
was opened by a rather pretty girl in nurse's uniform who admitted
him to a large pleasant room in which Charles, with one arm bared
to the shoulder, had evidently been undergoing some sort of
treatment which George's arrival had interrupted.  George
apologized for being early (though actually he was punctual), but
Charles assured him the job was finished and introduced the girl,
who joined in unimportant conversation while she packed her
equipment.  She seemed very charming, friendly, and efficient, and
George, whose mind always flew to Browdley on the slightest
provocation, wished he had her in the towns health department.  He
had also noticed the state of the arm, and Charles, aware of this,
felt constrained to cover a certain embarrassment by making light
of it.  "Still have to be patched up, but I'm sure a lot of fellows
would envy me the method."  The girl laughed and made business-like
arrangements for her next visit.  She demurred at first as George
picked up her bag, but when he insisted she let him carry it down
the stairs.  Outside the door he said:  "It isn't just that I'm
being polite.  I'd really like to know how that boy is, and I
thought you'd be the one to give me the true facts."

She replied calmly as they walked across the court and through the
gateway into the street:  "He's not well at all--but that's a usual
experience after the sort of crash he had.  They seem to improve,
and then they get worse again.  It's partly because they expect to
recover too soon and too completely--and it doesn't happen."

"But it will eventually--in his case?"

"He has a good chance.  Physically he's doing fine.  He fractured
both ankles, and one of his hands and arms had bad burns--that's
the one I'm working on--the muscle's damaged.  And his face, too--
that was burned, but they did a wonderful job with plastic surgery--
I've seen a photograph of him as he used to be and it's really
remarkable.  Of course the shock is really the hardest thing to get
over."

"But he WILL?"

"I hope so, though he's pretty bad at times.  He has sudden nerve-
storms--you can't imagine what they're like until you've seen
him. . . .  But he should improve gradually."

"It all sounds serious enough," George said.

"It is--though I've seen many worse.  And he has heaps of courage.
You know he got a D.F.C.?"

"No? . . .  When was that?"

She mentioned a time earlier than that of George's visits to the
Mulcaster Hospital.

He said:  "He never told me."

"I'm not surprised."

"But isn't he proud of it?"

She smiled.  "He's just shy about those things, that's all.  Do you
know him well?"

"Not very.  But I--I like him a great deal."

"So do I."

They had reached the pavement where she said she would wait for a
bus.  George would have liked to go on talking, but the bus came up
almost immediately.  "And where are you off to now?" he asked,
curious as always about the lives and work of others.

"Back to the hospital here.  They keep me busy."

"I'll bet they do," he answered admiringly.  The bus moved away and
he walked back to the College room encouraged by a feeling of
community with all who worked with such quiet, cheerful skill--the
real aristocracy on earth, he reflected, if there ever were such a
thing.

Charles had put on his coat and was making sure the curtains were
drawn over the windows.  George apologized again for having arrived
perhaps inopportunely.

"Not at all. . . .  Sit down.  You've had dinner, of course.  How
about some coffee?  I make it here, on my own."

George agreed and watched Charles as he busied himself with the
small but intricate task.  It was as if he wanted to show how he
could do things--as if embarrassment, aware of itself, could find
relief in a kind of exhibitionism.  He made excellent coffee,
anyhow, and over several cups they fell to discussing the business
that had brought George to London, which George explained in as
much detail as was interesting to himself until it occurred to him
that Charles might not be similarly enthralled.  But the boy urged
him to continue.  "Go ahead.  It's shop talk, but I always enjoy
that from anyone who knows what he's talking about."

George acknowledged the compliment with a pleased 'Aye', and then,
to keep it modest, added:  "So long as it's anything to do with
Browdley. . . .  Now tell me YOUR gossip."

"Nothing to tell except a lot of dull stories about hospitals."

"They moved you about a lot?"

"Yes.  Everybody who thought he could do anything had a go at me.
Not that I'm complaining.  They did rather well, I reckon.  And the
French johnny who fixed up my nose really improved on the original.
I had to spend six weeks in his private nursing home in Leeds."

"Leeds?  As near to Browdley as all that?  Why didn't you let me
know?  I'd have visited you."

Charles looked embarrassed.  "Well, you stopped writing, so I
thought you'd got a bit bored with that sort of thing.  I wouldn't
blame you."

"_I_ stopped writing?"

And then, of course, the matter was explored; it appeared that
George's last two letters had never reached Charles; it was all as
trivial as that.  (They did arrive, eventually, after a series of
fantastic re-forwardings).  George exclaimed, laughing because his
relief was so much greater than he could have believed possible:
"And _I_ thought it was YOU who didn't want to write!"

Just then the air-raid siren went off, effectively changing the
subject.  "There's a shelter in the next court," Charles said, "if
you'd like to go there."

"What do YOU generally do?"

"It's only happened two or three times before, but I've always
stayed here.  I don't think it's a very good shelter anyway."

George said staying where they were was all right with him, so they
went on talking.  Now that the contretemps of the letters had been
cleared up, the mood came on them both for subsidiary confessions;
Charles, for instance, admitted that when he had caught sight of
George outside the College that afternoon he had deliberately
looked the other way.  "It was partly because I thought perhaps you
really didn't want to see me--not now that you know I know who you
are.  There's also a bit of a phobia I have about my new face.  It
gives me the most conflicting impulses--for instance, in YOUR case,
because you never saw my old face, I didn't mind so much, yet
because I also didn't think you'd recognize me I was glad to think
you wouldn't realize I was avoiding you. . . .  Or is all that too
complicated?"

"Aye--and so are most human impulses, if you get down to analysing
'em."

"I'm glad you think so.  I've had a good deal of time to analyse
myself lately--perhaps too much--and on the whole I prefer
flying. . . .  I suppose you know I'll never be able to do that
again?"

George had all along thought so, but deemed it best to appear
surprised.  Charles went on:  "The doctors simply hooted when I
mentioned it.  Asked me whether I wasn't satisfied with the way
they'd fixed me up for a life of strictly civilian usefulness."

"And aren't you?"

"I guess I've got to be.  I'm damned lucky compared with thousands.
The fact is, though, I really WANTED to fly again. . . .  As long
as I could be useful that way I was satisfied.  But now that I have
to wonder how I CAN be useful, I'm NOT satisfied."

"What's wrong with just being here?"

"Probably quite a lot.  And that's what makes the big difference.
There never was much wrong with the R.A.F., and even if there had
been it was none of my business.  My job was to fly."

"And now your job's to get ready for some other job that'll be just
as useful in its way by then."

"I'd like to believe that.  I'd like to think the things I'm being
lectured about have the slightest connection with anything that
matters.  The Statute of Mortmain, for example--or the Amphictyonic
Council."

"The Amphictyonic Council certainly has--because it was a sort of
League of Nations, wasn't it?"

Charles gasped.  "Good God!  Now how the hell did you know that?"

"Because I once studied history for a university examination same
as you're doing now."

"You DID?  You mean you . . ."  The first gunfire could be heard in
the far distance; it seemed to cause a break in the youth's
astonishment, giving him the chance to reflect, perhaps, that it
was not very polite to be so astonished.  He stammered:  "It's just
that I didn't realize you were--well, what I mean is . . ."

George let him flounder with a certain grim joy.  "Aye, I get what
you mean," he said at length.  "You thought education wasn't much
in my line, I daresay.  But you're wrong there.  I had great
ambitions when I was a lad, and to get a university degree was one
of 'em.  But it didn't come off--and perhaps it doesn't matter so
much when I look back on it now.  I've done other things."

"That's what my father used to say.  His ambition was always to be
an ambassador in one of the important capitals, but things didn't
work out that way.  In fact they worked out damned badly. . . .
You know he's probably dead?"

George said gently:  "Not PROBABLY.  I don't think anyone knows
enough to say that."

"I wish they did.  I wish it was a certainty.  I can't bear to
think of him being--"

George caught the note of hysteria and checked it by putting out
his cup for more coffee.  "Come now. . . .  I know it could be bad,
but maybe it's not as bad as that. . . .  Isn't it possible to get
word from him?  Doesn't anybody have an idea where he is?"

The whole room began to shake as if a train were rumbling deeply
underground.  A flake of plaster fell from the ceiling with almost
dainty nonchalance.  Charles answered:  "My mother thinks he's in
Japan.  I don't know what evidence she has--if any.  She's--she's a
little strange--in some ways.  She's been writing to all kinds of
people in the Government--making rather extraordinary suggestions
for rescuing him.  Quite extraordinary.  I'm terribly sorry for
her."  His voice trembled.

The underground train noise began again.  George took his refilled
cup of coffee.  "Thanks," he said.  And then:  "I'm sorry too,
lad."

Charles lit a cigarette.  "Air-raid warden in Browdley, aren't
you?"

George nodded.

"Ever had a raid?"

"Not so far, thank goodness.  But I know what they're like.  I was
at Mulcaster in one of the worst."

"I was in a few too."

"So I understand."

"Oh, I don't mean THOSE.  I mean as one of the underdogs.  A few
hours after my mother landed there was a bad one on the docks
there. . . .  She wasn't scared.  I was, though."  He smiled.  "Not
that I wouldn't rather be here than in a shelter.  It's a bit of a
bother for me to get down steps, and I hate strangers staring at my
funny face."

"It's not funny to me."

"That's because you never saw it before.  The really funny thing is
that you should ever have seen it at all. . . .  Just coincidence,
wasn't it, that you noticed my name on the list at that hospital?"

"Aye--but when you come to think of it, there's a lot of
coincidence in the world."

"That's so . . . Boy meets Girl--always the perfect coincidence.
My father meeting my mother. . . .  YOU meeting my mother.  Where
was it?  In Browdley?"

George nodded.

"My father met her first in Vienna."

"Aye."

"You knew that?"

George nodded.  After a pause he asked:  "By the way . . . did
you . . . did you tell her you'd met me?"

"Yes."

"Did she mind?"

"She seemed a bit surprised, that's all."  An explosion came,
nearer than any before.  Charles began to laugh.

George said:  "Steady, lad."

"Oh, I'm all right.  I was just laughing at something she said
about you when I happened to mention you were Mayor of Browdley.
She said you were like a lion when you talked at public meetings,
and behind that you were rather like a friendly old dog that nobody
need be afraid of, but behind everything else you had the secret
strength of the dove."

"The WHAT?"

Charles repeated the phrase, after which they both laughed
together.  "Well, it's the first time _I_ ever heard of it," George
said.  "And I still don't know whether she meant that doves are
strong or that I'm weak. . . .  Maybe she didn't know herself when
she said it."

"Maybe.  My father once said she said things not because they meant
anything but to find out if they DID mean anything."

George made no comment.

"And sometimes her mind seems full of words waiting for other words
to set them off like fire-crackers."  The distant underground
rumbling died away and all was silence.  "Sounds as if it might be
over. . . .  Where d'you think it was?  Just tip and run on some
little place--they do that, don't they?"  With difficulty the boy
got up and walked to the window.  "George--do you mind if I call
you George?--George, I WISH I could be of some use--some REAL use--
in this blasted country. . . .  If only I could fly again--but
that's out, and so far I can't seem to settle to what's in.  I
guess millions of us are going to feel like that after the war."
He moved restlessly.  "How about a stroll?  I can, if I'm careful."

"Not till the all-clear sounds.  Take it easy."

"All right, all right.  I'll bet you make a good warden.  When are
you going back to that town of yours?"

"Tomorrow night, I hope."

"So soon?"

"I'll have finished my work in London and I've got plenty waiting
for me at home."

"They can't do without you?"

"They could, but they mightn't want to."

"I'll bet you're a good mayor too.  I'll bet everything in that
town runs like clockwork."

"Oh, not so bad.  I'd match it against any other place in England
for being efficiently managed, if that's what you mean."  George
smiled to himself as he thought of the matter, then saw the other's
quizzical, slightly sardonic glance, and wondered if he were being
baited.  "Look here," he continued, in some embarrassment, "I'm
showing off too much. . . .  Aye, and I'd have been down that
shelter too, but for showing off.  Maybe that's what kept us both
here like a couple of fools."

Charles shook his head, so George added:  "Or maybe not in your
case."

"No, George.  Oh God, no.  If you MUST have a reason, it's simply
that I don't give a damn what happens.  To me personally, that is.
I'm scared, and yet I don't care.  When you've seen a lot of your
friends killed you can't think you've survived by any special
virtue of your own.  Then why the hell HAVE you survived?  And the
next step in argument is why the hell should you go on surviving?"

George said quietly:  "I don't like to hear you talk like that."

"It's better than having you think it was bravery--or even
bravado. . . .  Well, let's discuss something pleasanter.  That
town of yours, if you like."

"Provided it doesn't bore you."

"Not at all.  I wouldn't even mind seeing the place sometime."

"Why don't you then--sometime?"

It was half an hour before the all-clear sounded, and George was
just in time to catch his train.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

Of course they began to correspond again, and within a short time
it happened that George was called to London for another official
conference.  This time it did not spread over a week-end, and he
was far too conscientious to pretend it did; but by routing his
return journey, with much extra discomfort, through Cambridge, he
was able to spend a whole afternoon with Charles.  He was delighted
to note an improvement in the boy's physical condition; he could
use his legs more easily, and since he had been recommended to do
so for exercise, the two spent part of the time strolling slowly
about the Backs, which at that time of the year were at their
loveliest.

Less reassuring to George was Charles's state of mind, which still
seemed listless and rather cynical, especially at the outset.  He
still questioned the value of anything he was doing at Cambridge,
and George was too tactful to reply that even if it had no value at
all, it was as good a way of passing a difficult time as any other.
"But you like it here, don't you?" George asked.  "Or would you
rather be at home?"

"I haven't a home," Charles answered, so sharply that George did
not probe the point.  But then the boy smiled.  "I'm sorry--you
must think I'm very hard to please.  Of course Cambridge is all
right, and I've really nothing to complain of.  Everybody's
perfectly charming to me.  The dons don't mind whether I work or
not--the whole atmosphere is timeless.  It's a bit frightening at
first.  And that air of detachment people have here.  One of the
St. Jude's dons--a little wizened fellow who's the greatest living
authority on something or other--began talking to me quite casually
the other day about the Channing case--took it for granted that I
didn't mind everyone knowing that my grandfather served a long
sentence in jail.  And of course I don't mind--why should I?  After
all, my father didn't exactly distinguish himself either--ever
heard of Kemalpan?  Well, I won't go into that . . . and damn it
all, I don't care--why SHOULD I care?"

"Aye, why should you?" George interrupted.  "You haven't done so
badly yourself--so far."

"So far and no further, though--that's what it looks like."

George looked straight into the boy's eyes.  "You were talking
about one of the dons here."

"Oh yes--the one who reminded me that my grandfather was a crook.
But he must have studied the trial pretty closely from the way he
talked.  He said John Channing was quite a pioneer in his way, and
that his scheme for reorganizing the cotton industry was very
similar to the one sponsored by the Bank of England twenty years
later.  'Unfortunate that your grandfather was tempted to borrow
money by printing too many stock certificates.  He should have
become Governor of the Bank, then he could have printed the
money.'"  Charles imitated the high-pitched voice of the don.  "So
utterly detached--it made things rather easy between us afterwards.
And then there's another fellow--a very famous scientist--who
remarked pleasantly to a small crowd of us at a tea-party--'The
Germans really do have the most God-awful luck--you almost feel
sorry for them'--but nobody turned a hair or thought anything of
it, because everyone knows he's working day and night on some
poison-gas to kill the whole German nation if they start that game
themselves."

George answered:  "You put your finger on a point, though, when you
said 'a very famous scientist'.  Anyone not so famous could get
into trouble if he talked like that at the Marble Arch to a crowd."

"Oh, I don't know.  He might be booted out of the Park by a few bus-
drivers.  Probably nothing more. . . .  Because the English, after
all, are a race of eccentrics.  They don't think it's odd that
people should be odd.  And they always bear in mind the possibility
that the lunatic view might, after all, be right.  That's what
makes them tolerant of their enemies."

George nodded.  "Which is rather wise, because often it's only from
amongst your enemies that you can pick your friends."

"Has that been your experience, George?"

"Aye--as a minority member on a Town Council where I've had more of
my own way, I reckon, than most of the chaps on the other side with
all their voting majority.  But it's taken time--and patience."

"But what happens to the battle, George, if you win over all your
enemies to help you fight it?"

"Why, I'll tell you what happens--the battle's over, and that's
what everybody's after, isn't it?"

"No, not exactly.  What everybody wants is victory."

"And everybody can't get it.  But you can make a lot of folks THINK
they've got it.  Remember Philip Snowden back in 1929--no, you'd be
too young--anyhow, we all cheered like mad because he made France
pay an extra million pounds of war debt!  Think of it--one whole
extra million pounds!  The Fighting Yorkshireman!  Wouldn't have
been easy to forecast how we'd all feel about the Fighting
Frenchman a bit later!"

"Does it prove we shouldn't have cheered?"

"Maybe not.  Perhaps it proves that though it's hard to get the
victory you want, it's even harder to want the victory you got ten
years back."

"Which is the devil of a way to look at things in the middle of a
war."

"Aye, I can see it might be."

Charles walked on for a little way, then said thoughtfully:  "You
know, George, you have a rather Machiavellian mind."

George laughed.  "Twisty, you mean, eh?  That's what my opponents
say.  But I'll give you one good tip in politics--Keep straight
from year to year, and you can twist as much as you find convenient
from day to day.  And as for the really big fellows--the great men
of the world--if THEY keep straight from century to century, they
can do THEIR twisting on a yearly basis.  Does that make any
sense?"

Charles laughed.  "What DOESN'T make sense to me is that you didn't
try for Parliament.  Or did you--ever?"

"Aye, a few times."

"And no luck?  How was that?"

George answered after a pause:  "Hard to say.  Perhaps just what
you said--no luck."

But the recollection was now without a pang, or at any rate the
pang was smothered in much greater pleasure; for George had made a
discovery--that he could talk to Charles as he had never been able
to talk to anyone--even Wendover, with whom there had always been
the prickly territory of dogma.  But the boy, less schooled in
dialectic than the priest, nevertheless had a clear, intricate mind--
almost too intricate, almost ice-clear; and George argued with him
joyfully every foot of the way from St. Jude's to Queens' and then
back again, on that lovely May afternoon.  All the time a curious
happiness was growing in him--something he did not diagnose at
first, but when he did, it came in the guise of a guess--that this
must be what it felt like to have a grown-up son.  During the last
half-mile they increased pace, because Charles was in a hurry to
get to his rooms.

"That's what your arguments do, George--make me forget the
time. . . .  And I don't want to keep Julie waiting."

"Julie?"

"The . . . er . . . the nurse you met.  Miss Petersham."

George didn't think it could matter much if she did wait for a few
minutes, but he said merely:  "And a very nice girl, too."

"You thought so?"

"Aye."  George smiled and added:  "We had quite a conversation on
the way to her bus.  She told me one thing you didn't let out."

To George's immense astonishment Charles flushed deeply and began
to stammer:  "You mean--about--our--engagement?"

George swallowed hard.  "Well, no--as a matter of fact, it was your
Distinguished Flying Cross."

"Oh, THAT. . . ."

George could see that Charles regretted having given himself away.
He held the youth's arm as they began to climb the staircase.  He
said:  "I'm sorry if they were both things you didn't want me to
know, but now I DO know I'd like to offer my congratulations . . .
and double ones."

"Thanks. . . .  Of course there's no secret about a D.F.C. . . .
The other thing IS more or less--has to be--because--well, it
depends on what sort of a recovery I make.  I wouldn't have her tie
herself to an old crock.  Or even a young one."

He had left his room unlocked, and the girl was already there when
they entered it.  She greeted them both and immediately set about
preparing the equipment for massage treatment.

Charles said abruptly:  "He knows all about us, Julie."

She looked up, startled--to Charles, then to George, then to
Charles again.  "Did you tell him?"

"No . . . it sort of slipped out.  But I don't really mind."

Then Charles laughed and George shook hands with the girl and said
how pleased he was.  "I was praising you to him even before I
knew," he said.  It was a happy moment.  "And now I'd better leave
if I'm going to catch my train. . . .  I'll see you both again
before long, I'm sure."

He shook hands again, but the girl followed him to the door.  "My
turn to see you to the bus this time."

"All right."

Crossing the court towards the College entrance she said:  "I'm
glad you know.  Charles thinks such a lot of you."

"He DOES?"

Something in his voice made her laugh and ask:  "Why, are you
surprised?"

And George, who was so used to being liked yet could never somehow
get over the surprise of having it happen to him again, replied
truthfully:  "In a way, I am, because it's hard for a lad of his
age to get along with an old chap like me.  Yet we do get along."

"I know.  And you're not old."

"Older, then."

"You can be a great help to him anyhow."

"You too, lass.  And far more than I can."

"Well . . . he needs all the help we can both give him."

"He's getting better, though?"

"Oh yes--physically.  It's in other ways we can help him most."

"I understand.  There's something he hasn't got--yet.  It's a sort
of reason to be alive.  He doesn't know why he wasn't killed like
so many others--he's said that to me more than once.  Does he talk
like that to you?"

"Sometimes," she answered.

They walked a little way in silence; then, as they reached the
kerb, she said:  "Mr Boswell, I'm going to be very frank and ask
you something--as a friend of his. . . ."

"Yes?"

"Will you . . . would you help him . . . EVEN AGAINST HIS MOTHER?"

A bus to the station came along.  "The next one will do," George
muttered.  And then, as they stepped back from the commotion of
passengers getting on and off, he went on muttering:  "Help him--
against his mother--eh?  Why, what's wrong about his mother?"

She answered:  "I only saw her once, when she came to visit him,
and of course to her I was only a nurse.  And I WAS only a nurse--
THEN.  But I could see that she wasn't good for Charles.  She got
on his nerves.  She wants to POSSESS him--her whole attitude was
like that--and I don't think she's the right person, and even if
she were, I don't think he's the sort of person who OUGHT to be
possessed--by anyone.  He should be free."  She continued after a
pause:  "Maybe you're wondering about my motives in all this.
Well, so far as I'm concerned he IS free.  I love him, that's true,
but I only agreed to the engagement because I thought it would help
him--which it did, and still does.  But when he's better he may
feel differently.  I shan't try to hold him.  He's too young,
anyhow, to decide about a wife. . . .  I want him to be FREE.  I
don't want him to be possessed."

"And you think . . . his mother . . . ?"

"That's what SHE wants.  I know it.  I think he knows it too, but
he can't easily resist, for the time being--that is, till he's
recovered.  She's so strong."

"Strong?"

"Yes, but there are two kinds of strong people.  There's the kind
that make you feel strong yourself, and there's the other kind that
make you feel weak. . . .  She's that kind.  And he's so sorry for
her--naturally, on account of what's happened.  Everybody is--she's
a tragic figure. . . .  Which makes another reason.  He's had
enough tragedy."

George could sense the girl's emotion from the way she suddenly
stopped at the word 'tragedy' and laughed, as if that were the only
thing left to do.  She said, after the laugh:  "Well, I've told you
now.  I don't know what you can do, but you're a friend of
Charles's and I took advantage of it.  Don't do anything at all if
you'd rather not.  I really haven't any right to ask."

Another bus was approaching along King's Parade.  George answered:
"Nay, Julie, we've all a right to ask anything when it's a matter
of helping somebody."

She smiled.  "That's a nice way to look at it. . . .  You'd better
catch this bus or you'll be late."

He nodded.  And then at the last minute:  "I wonder . . . do you
know who I am?"

She replied, in a rather puzzled voice:  "Why, yes--you're the
Mayor of Browdley, isn't that it?"

"Aye," he answered, with a slow smile.  "And I'll bet you'd never
heard of Browdley till Charles told you.  That's how important it
makes me."  He gripped her arm.  "See you again soon, lass."  And
then from the bus platform:  "I'll do what I can.  I dunno how, but
I will."

Inside the bus and all the way to Browdley, by various slow-train
connections that took all evening and half the night, George still
did not know how he would keep his promise, though his determination
to do so surged into the familiar dimensions of a crusade.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

George might have a Machiavellian mind, as Charles had said, or he
might have made a Jesuit, as Wendover had once said; but there were
times when he knew that nothing is more effective than the direct
approach.  So after pondering long on the problem of how to help
Charles, he decided that the first step must be to meet Livia
himself and judge what help was needed; and to meet Livia the
simplest method seemed to write and ask for a meeting.

She returned a characteristic brief note that he could visit her
any time he wanted while she was at Castle Winslow.

It was a week before George could arrange to be away from Browdley
long enough to make the trip, and once again there was the
complicated uncomfortable journey by a series of trains.  He was
not surprised when no one met him at Castle Winslow station, and as
it was fine weather and there were no cabs he walked the three
miles from the station to the lodge gates, wearing down by sheer
physical fatigue a mounting excitement over the fact that at last,
after over twenty years, he was about to see Livia again.  It was
curious how something had lingered to produce that excitement
still.  He remembered the months immediately after he had known
definitely that she would not return to him--how she had been on
his mind night and day, so that he had scarcely been able to work;
he remembered how he would wonder whether to avoid the Stoneclough
road with all its memories, or to exorcise them deliberately by the
self-torture of walking there; and how for weeks he would try the
one method and then, in despair, the other.  But for years now
there had been nothing particular to remember or to try to forget.

At the lodge an old man hoeing potatoes in a patch of garden
pointed further along the road when George spoke the name MRS.
Winslow.  "She's at the Dower House--that's about a mile.  Turn
left at the signpost and then it's the first place on the right
behind the trees.  There's a lot of kids there--you can't miss it."

George walked on, puzzled at the reference to 'a lot of kids', and
more so when he came near enough to hear their shrill cries and
screams.  At length he glimpsed a rather large rambling house, well
set back from the road behind tall poplars.  In the space between
the road and the building children of all ages from three or four
to ten or eleven were romping as in a school playground.

George walked in and the children took no notice of him, but a
buxom middle-aged woman who looked like a farmer's wife changed her
direction across the yard as he approached.  He gave his name and
repeated who it was he wanted to see.

"I don't know whether she will," answered the woman doubtfully.
"She won't see anybody as a rule.  You're not from a newspaper, are
you?"

George assured her he wasn't.

He waited till a moment later the woman beckoned him from a
doorway.  As she led him through the cool interior she explained
the presence of the children.  They had been bombed out of their
homes in some of the big industrial cities, and this was one of the
rehabilitation centres set up by the Government for the recovery of
special cases--'like shell-shock', some of them, she said.  George
knew all about it, for there was a similar centre not far from
Browdley, which he had visited.  "And does Mrs. Winslow help in
looking after them?" he asked, eager for some clue to what he might
expect.

"Yes, she helps.  She's all right with the children."

Presently the woman opened a door leading to a kind of verandah in
which a few children were lying asleep or strangely awake in open
cots.  That strangeness was another thing George had seen before--
the tense stare, the twitching muscles; these were the worst cases.
And beyond them, arranging pots of geraniums along a ledge, was
Livia.  She wore a large, shabby straw hat and a bright-coloured
dress.

At the instant of recognition he gasped with the sensation of
something suddenly switched off inside him, but it was not pain any
more; and as always when he had seen her afresh after an absence,
recognition dissolved into a curious feeling of never having seen
her before, but of experiencing some primitive thrill that time had
neither enhanced nor made stale; but it was no longer a thrill
entirely of pleasure.

"Livia . . ." he said.

She looked up.  "Hello, George."  She gave him an odd sort of
smile.  She had not changed much in appearance--at least, not as
much as he had expected.  She went on:  "I didn't think you'd be
coming today when you didn't get here earlier."

"I walked from the station."

"Oh, didn't Howard send the car?  I asked him to."

"Howard?"

"My brother-in-law.  He probably didn't do it deliberately.  I mean
he did do it deliberately.  I mean, he deliberately didn't send the
car.  Just because I asked him.  He doesn't like me.  None of them
do--except these."  As her eyes ranged over the cots something came
into her face that made George reflect how beautiful she still was,
provided one had ever thought her beautiful at all.

"Well, it didn't matter.  I enjoyed the walk."

"Come into the garden."

He followed her.  She had been taking cuttings from geraniums,
planting them in pots for the verandah, and without a word of
apology or excuse she now resumed the task, and with such
concentration that George did not feel she was giving him more than
a part of her attention.  At any rate, there was to be no such
dramatic or over-dramatic encounter as he had half expected, and
for this at least he was thankful.

He stammered:  "I hope you're well, Livia--after--after all the--
the trouble--you've had."

"Oh, I'm all right.  Poor Jeff, though.  He's in Japan, only nobody
knows where.  If only the Government would send me out I'd find him--
surely it's possible by submarine?  They could put me ashore on a
dark night--like Casement in Ireland.  Don't they do that
sometimes?  Do you know anyone at the Admiralty you could ask?  I
told Jeff I would. . . .  People thought I was against his work--
and so I was--because I could see all this coming.  In Hong Kong, I
mean.  The place stank of what was coming. . . .  And then he had
to go back into it all like a fool.  I'd never have left him no
matter where he went, but they took him away.  They took him away,
George.  I wish I was with him still, even in a prison-camp.  Where
you are doesn't really matter.  The earth is all the same."  She
began to pick up a handful of soil and sprinkle it into a pot.  "I
always liked planting things.  Then you can let history slip
through your fingers--like peasants do.  That's why I want Charlie
to give up Cambridge and live on a farm."

"To give up Cambridge?"

"Yes--what's the good of it?  We argued about it but he didn't
understand.  Nobody ever does.  They argue and argue but they don't
FEEL.  It's a little farm off the coast of Galway.  I'd like him to
settle down there and rest from thinking, arguing, books . . . all
that . . . dead things that have caused all the upset. . . ."

George watched her with curious intensity.  She went on:  "You
don't know what the world is all about, George.  You never did.
All your meetings and speeches--must have been thousands of
them . . . what did they do?  Or what did they stop?"

George did not reply.  The heedless fever of her voice had not only
been hard to keep pace with as a listener, but it had given him an
inward tension that left him without power or will to reply.
Presently she exclaimed:  "Well?  Don't say you agree with me--that
would be too amazing!"

He still couldn't answer.

"Never mind," she smiled, after another pause.  "Tell me about
Browdley."

"Browdley's all right," he managed to say, in hardly more than a
whisper.

"Not been bombed to bits yet?"

"Thank God, no."

"Annie still with you?"

"Aye."

"And Will Spivey?"

"Aye."

"And there's still the little garden I made?"

"It's still there."  He added:  "And Stoneclough too."

She suddenly began to cry, but without any sound.  The tears fell
into the soil as she went on filling up the pot.  "Oh, George, what
a long time ago!  I hope you've been happy."

"YOU have, haven't you?"

She nodded.

"I'm glad."

"Yes . . . it was a thing to try for, wasn't it?  Love, I mean--not
happiness."  She stopped crying as abruptly as she had begun.
"Poor Jeff. . . .  I wish I knew someone at the Admiralty--Howard
knows them all but he won't help.  He doesn't like me--Howard, I
mean--Lord Winslow, that is.  He thinks I ruined Jeff's career.
And now he thinks I want to ruin Charlie's.  Ruin . . . ruin . . .
how can anyone make more than there is?  I loved my father and then
I loved my husband and now I love my son . . . anything wrong in
all that?  Or in these children . . . these have been ruined too,
but not by love.  I'll tell you what I do about them--are you
interested?"

George murmured assent and she began to chatter with eager
animation.  "They're in need of almost everything when they come
here--they have to be clothed, as a rule, as well as fed--I get
some of the older ones to help in cooking and serving their own
meals, also repairing their own clothes--that is, if they can--and
of course we grow most of our own fruits and vegetables, so there's
always plenty of work in the garden.  But the worst cases can't do
anything at all for a time--they just scream and cry and there's
nothing helps but when I talk to them, and I do that.  I talk
nonsense mostly.  When bad things are on their minds that's all
they want to hear.  Nothing serious.  Not even politics."  She
smiled.  "Charlie told me you were Mayor of Browdley now?"

George said that was so.

"You should have come here wearing your Mayor's chain.  To make the
children laugh.  Always a good thing to make them laugh."

George smiled back.  "Aye, I might have."

"You would, I know.  You're very kind.  It's just that you don't
think of things, isn't it?  Or rather you think of too many other
things. . . ."

After that she continued to work on the geraniums for a long
interval--so long that George began to wonder whether she had
forgotten he was there.

But presently, with the air of a duchess at a reception, she turned
to him brimming over with graciousness.  "It was so nice of you to
come.  And you'll come again, won't you?"

"Do you--do you really WANT me to--Livia?"

"Of course.  Any time.  That is, before we go to Ireland. . . ."

"You're . . . going to take Charles . . . to Ireland?"

"Yes, for the vacation.  And if I can I shall persuade him not to
go back next term--he only likes Cambridge because he's got himself
entangled with a girl there."

"WHAT?"

"Of course he doesn't know I know, but it was plain as soon as I
saw them together.  Poor boy . . . rather pathetic to watch him
pretending she was just a hospital nurse that came to give him
massage treatment.  Of course I don't blame HIM.  In his state he'd
be an easy victim."

"You mean . . . you . . . you think she's THAT sort of a girl?"

"I don't care what sort she is, I'm going to put a stop to it."

"Why?"

"Because I have other plans for my own son.  It's about time we got
to know each other--what with all the separations of school, and
then the war . . . and the peace isn't going to be much better, for
most people.  Or are you optimistic about it?  You probably are--
you always were about most things. . . .  I won't shake hands--
mine are too dirty.  But do come again--before we go. . . .
Goodbye. . . ."

"Goodbye, Livia."

"And you will come again?"

"Aye."  He walked to the door, then hesitated and said:  "My advice
would be to let that boy live his own life."

"And marry the first girl he meets?  That WOULD be optimism."

He wasn't sure whether she meant that such a marriage would be
optimism, or whether it would be optimistic of him to suppose that
she would ever let Charles do such a thing; and whichever she
meant, he wasn't sure whether she were serious or merely ironic.
Anyhow, he knew there was little use in continuing the argument,
the more so as she had again resumed the potting of the plants.  He
said from the door, watching her:  "I wish you were as good with
grown-ups as you are with kids, Livia.  You're doing a fine job
with these.  Their parents'll bless you for it."

"Their parents are dead, George.  Dead--DEAD."  Her eyes looked up,
but her hands worked on.  "Fancy you not knowing that."

George also felt he ought to have known it--though after all, why?
But Livia had always been like that, possessed of some curious
power to impose guilt, or at least embarrassment; and so he stood
there in the doorway, staring at her till he knew there was nothing
else to say.  Then he walked off.

The woman who looked like a farmer's wife accosted him as he was
leaving the house.  "They telephoned from the Hall, sir," she said,
with new respect in her voice.  "His lordship wished to apologize
about the car--it had a puncture on the way to the station.  But
he's sent another car to take you back, and he also asked if you'd
call and see him on the way."

"Where would I find him?"

"The chauffeur will take you, sir."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

The Rolls-Royce swung into the last curve of the mile-long drive
and pulled up outside the portico of Winslow Hall.  It was an
imposing structure, in Palladian style; and George's reflection at
any normal time would have been concerned with its possible use as
state or municipal property; but this was not a normal time, and to
be frank, he did not give Winslow Hall a thought as he entered it.
He was thinking of Livia.

Even the library, when he was shown in, did not stir in him more
than a glance of casual admiration, though this was the kind of
room he had all his life dreamed of--immense, monastic, and book-
lined.

"Nice of you to drop in, Boswell," began Lord Winslow, getting up
from an armchair.

The two men shook hands.  The present Lord Winslow was a revised
edition of the former one, but with all qualities a shade nearer
the ordinary--thus a little plumper, rather less erudite, more of a
dilettante, worldlier, colder beneath the surface.

George declined a drink, but began to take in his surroundings--the
ornately carved mantelpiece, a smell of old leather bindings, the
huge mullioned window through which a view of rolling parkland was
superb.

"First time you've been in this part of the country perhaps?"  And
Winslow began to chatter about local beauty spots, while the butler
brought sherry.  "Good of you to take such an interest in Charles.
He sends me glowing accounts of you."

"It's a pleasure to help the boy."

"That's how we all feel. . . ."  And then a rather awkward pause.
"Cigar?"

"No, thanks--I don't smoke."

Lord Winslow got up and closed a door that had swung open after the
butler had not properly closed it.  Coming back across the room he
said:  "So you've seen Livia?"

"Aye, I've just come from seeing her."

"She's a little off her head, as I daresay you must have noticed."

George, despite his own liking for downright statements, was
somewhat shocked by the coolness of the remark.

Winslow went on:  "I suppose it's what she went through in Hong
Kong."

"It might have been."

"Though to tell you the truth, she was rather--er--unpredictable,
even before that. . . .  Of course it's a problem to know quite
what to do.  Especially in regard to Charles."

"Aye, that's what matters."

"I'm glad you think so.  She's dead set on taking him to live with
her in Ireland, but in my opinion that would be a mistake, even if
it were feasible, which it probably isn't.  I doubt if the
Government would issue permits."

"Permits?"

"You see, it's Southern Ireland.  Neutral country.  They wouldn't
be quite sure what she was up to in a place like that. . . .  I
heard this in confidence from a chap in the Passport Office.  They
have everybody tabbed, you know."

"But I don't see--"

"Oh, nothing significant--nothing at all, I'm quite certain.  She
probably mixed with some of the wrong people somewhere--she's
really rather eccentric in her choice of friends.  Personally I
don't think it ever meant a thing, though it certainly can't have
helped Jeff . . . any more than it would help Charles."  Suddenly
Winslow rang the bell, and when the butler appeared, turned to
George with the remark:  "I hope you'll stay to dinner."  George
was surprised by this on top of other surprises, and had hardly
begun to stammer his regrets when Winslow interpreted them to the
butler as an acceptance.

"It's kind of you," George said when the man had gone, "but I was
thinking of my train.  It leaves at six-fifteen."

"Oh, there's another one after that."

"Are you sure?  Because I looked it up and--"

"Positive. . . .  I'm so glad you'll stay.  I'd like to talk things
over with you. . . .  I'm sure we both have the boy's best
interests at heart."

So George found himself dining at Winslow Hall--just himself and
Lord Winslow in the enormous panelled room that could have seated
fifty with ease.  The sunset slanted through the windows as they
began the meal, but later, when the butler approached to draw the
black-out curtains, Winslow left his seat and beckoned George to
share with him a last look at the view.  "You see how it is," he
said quietly.  "I have no children.  All that--and this--may belong
to Charles eventually."  They went back to their places at the
table.  Winslow went on:  "Oh yes, I know what you're going to say--
one can't keep up these great estates any more--all this sort of
thing's done for, outmoded, a feudal anachronism, and so on.
That's the fashionable attitude, I'm aware.  But fashionable things
are usually wrong--or half wrong.  All kinds of Englishmen are busy
nowadays explaining to other countries how England has changed, is
changing, and will change after the war.  No doubt it goes down
very well--especially with Americans.  But between you and me
England may not change as much as some people expect.  And the kind
of people who talk most about change don't seem to have changed
much themselves--at least not to my somewhat jaundiced scrutiny."

"Aye," answered George.  "You might be right about that.  And
there's certainly one thing about England that won't change--and
hasn't changed."

"What's that?"

"Ninety-five per cent of us are working folks and have been for a
thousand years."

A slight flush came into Winslow's face.  He poured himself an
extra brandy.  "True, of course--as well as a useful demagogic
statistic. . . .  It only remains now for you to assure me that
it's the rich what gets the pleasure, it's the poor what gets
the--."

"Nay, I don't say that.  There hasn't been much pleasure for your
brother or your nephew these past few years--rich or not.  And
there isn't going to be much for them--or for any of us, maybe--in
the years ahead. . . .  That's why I'd like you to think twice
about what you want Charles to do when he grows up."  And George,
now in a proper stride, became talkative for the first time since
his arrival.  "I'm very fond of the boy.  He's taught me a bit
since I knew him and maybe I've taught him a bit too.  Don't saddle
him with all this stuff.  When I was a lad the rich had all of what
were called advantages, but there's been a difference lately.  It
isn't that there's going to be a bloody revolution to take all this
away, but are these things going to go on being such advantages?
That's what folks are beginning to wonder, and once they start
wondering, the bottom's out of the market.  Take the Right School
and the Right Accent, for instance.  You've got the right ones,
I've got the wrong ones, but suppose some day we all wake up and
find the whole thing doesn't matter?"

"Of course.  I'd be all for it.  But what if some of your extremist
fellows merely reverse the positions and call your accent right and
mine wrong--what then?"

George gave a faint grin.  "Aye, that would be a pity.  But I
daresay some of the chaps on your side are pretty good mimics.  Our
side always produced a few."

Winslow's flush deepened.  "Maybe it will come to that.  Lip-
service to Demos could hardly be more literal."

George had to think that one out.  Then he answered:  "I don't know
what you mean by Demos.  I don't care for words like that.  I don't
like to hear people called 'the masses' or 'the proletariat' or
even 'the average man'.  Take my own town of Browdley.  There's not
an average man in the place--they're all individuals--different,
separate, with their own personal problems same as we all have.
And we don't know any Demos either.  We've never seen the animal."

Winslow smiled coolly.  "I think we're straying rather far from the
point--if there ever was a point. . . .  You obviously think
there's no future in inheriting a title, a place like this, a seat
in the House of Lords--and all the responsibilities as well as
privileges it entails?"

George answered:  "I never like to say what there's a future in.
Sounds too much like a tip on the stock market. . . .  It's WHAT'S
IN THE FUTURE that matters more.  I can't forecast that, nor can
anybody.  But I've often thought it's as if we're all in a train
going somewhere.  Some people don't like travelling, and just
grumble about having to.  And others think that trains go backwards
or that you can push a train by leaning on a door-handle.  And
quite a lot of folks seem to think that miracles can happen to a
train.  But it really doesn't matter what you think unless it's
based on what you can see out of the window.  The train's going to
get you somewhere, wherever that is--and the one place it certainly
won't be is the place you started from."

"Sounds very wise, Boswell.  But whenever I hear a man enunciating
a philosophy, I always ask him how has he handled his own life by
its aid?  Has he been a success or a failure?  Has he been right
when other men have been wrong?  Has he made many mistakes? . . .
Or is all that too personal?"

"Aye, it's personal, but I don't mind answering it.  I've made
plenty of mistakes, and I've often been wrong.  And I've been a
failure if you measure by what I once had ambitions about."

Winslow helped himself to more brandy.  "Very honest of you to
admit it . . . and if I might be personal again and suggest a
reason--not perhaps the ONLY reason, but A reason . . . might it
not be the same one as in the case of my unfortunate brother?"

George was silent and Winslow went on, after waiting for some
answer:  "To put it bluntly . . . LIVIA."

George pushed his chair back from the table.  "I think we've
discussed her enough," he said gruffly.  "Perhaps I ought to be
thinking of my train."

"Yes, of course."  Winslow rang the bell again and told the butler:
"Mr Boswell will be catching the nine-forty.  Will you telephone
the stationmaster?"

"Very good, your lordship."

"Why do you have to worry the stationmaster about me?" George
asked.  "I can find a seat, or if I can't, it doesn't matter."

Winslow smiled.  "My dear chap, if I didn't telephone, you wouldn't
even find a train.  The nine-forty's fast from Bristol to London
unless I have it stopped for you."

"You mean you can stop an express at that little local station just
to pick up one passenger?  And in war-time?"

"Certainly--but it isn't done by favour.  It's a legal right,
dating back to the time the railway was built a hundred years ago.
My great-grandfather wouldn't sell land to the company except on
that condition--in perpetuity.  Damned thoughtful of him, I must
say."

Soon afterwards Lord Winslow shook hands most cordially with
George, and the latter was driven to Castle Winslow station in the
Rolls-Royce.  The station was normally closed at that time of
night, but the stationmaster had opened it for the occasion and
personally escorted him along the deserted platform.

"First-class, sir?"

"No, third," George answered grimly.

After that they conversed till the train came in.  The
stationmaster agreed that England was changing, but he also thought
he never remembered farmers so prosperous or farmland selling at so
high a price.

"How about taxes?" George asked.  "I suppose the big estates are
pretty hard hit?"

"Oh, they're all right if they did what Lord Winslow did.  He made
himself into a company years ago.  He's a smart chap."

"Aye. . . .  Knows how to keep up with the old and play around with
the new, is that it?"

But the stationmaster was cautious.  "He's smart," he repeated.
"Travels third like yourself, as often as not. . . .  Because the
firsts are just as crowded and he don't see why he should pay extra
for nothing.  You can't blame him, can you?"

George agreed that you could not.

But on the way to London the stopping of the express became a
symbol--and a very handy one--of the kind of thing he found himself
rather passionately against.  And it was equally handy as a symbol
of the kind of thing he felt Charles would be unlucky to inherit.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

The University term was nearly over, and soon Charles would have to
decide where to go for the vacation.  His mother, he told George,
wanted him to spend it with her in Ireland (she had been pulling
wires, as only she knew how, to get the necessary permits); but
Uncle Howard had asked him to Winslow Hall; and Julie, of course,
though she would never suggest it, naturally hoped he would stay in
Cambridge, like many other undergraduates in war-time.  As for
Charles himself, he didn't exactly know what he wanted to do.  He
was so damned sorry for his mother and anxious to give her a good
time--especially after the nice letter she had written him about
George's visit.  So had Uncle Howard.  In fact Charles showed
George the two letters, and George, reading between the lines,
deduced in both writers a desire to enlist him as an ally against
the other.  He did not, however, worry the boy with this
interpretation, but kept it filed, as it were, in that department
of his mind where the shrewder things took place.

Of course what Charles would really like best, he admitted, was to
stay where he could see Julie, at least for part of the vacation.
The only objection was that this, he felt sure, would either bring
his mother to Cambridge forthwith (in which case he couldn't see
Julie at all), or else she would guess there was some girl in the
case, and make a scene about it.

"What makes you think she'd do that?" George asked.

"Oh, just a few odd hints in letters and so on.  And once in an air-
raid shelter just after she landed.  Some girl was a bit scared,
and as I was too, we talked together till the raid was over.
Mother of course couldn't understand it."

"That you talked--or that you were scared?"

"Both. . . .  Anyhow, I can't stand scenes, and I know if she were
to learn about Julie she'd make another one."

"But you can't keep it a secret indefinitely."

"I'll let her know, when _I_ know for certain I'm going to get all
right.  Because, as I told you, I wouldn't marry at all otherwise."

"You'll get all right."

"That's what everybody says, but of course saying so is part of the
treatment.  You can't really believe them--least of all doctors--in
a matter like that."

"Well, what do YOU think?  Don't YOU believe you're going to get
all right?"

"Sometimes I do, sometimes not.  So many things change my mind
about it.  Trivial--ridiculous things. . . .  Sometimes I stop in
front of a lamp-post as if the future of the world depended on
which side I walk round.  Of course you may say it DOES depend on
that.  I mean, if you believe in predestination, every little thing
must be charted out in advance, so that if it were possible for
even a caterpillar to walk just once on the wrong side of a
lamppost, then the whole cosmic blueprint goes to pot.  On the
other hand, you can say that my hesitation in front of the lamp-
post was itself predestined, so that--"

"That's enough," George interrupted.  "You're much too clever for
me.  And if that's what you get from studying philosophy at a
university--"

"No, George.  That's what I got from piloting a bomber over
Germany.  You have to think of SOMETHING then.  Something fearful
and logical, like predestination, or else mystic and mathematical,
like the square root of minus one."  The boy's eyes were streaked
now with flashes of wildness.  "Anyway, how did we get on to all
this?"

"I was saying you're going to get better--and meaning it too.  That
is, if you tackle the future the right way."

"I know.  And avoid scenes.  Scenes don't help.  And when I feel
better enough to tell my mother about Julie there'll be a scene.
And then I'll feel worse again. . . .  Sort of a vicious circle,
isn't it?"

George nodded.  "All the same, though, I wouldn't wait too long."

"You mean, before I tell her?"

"Nay, don't bother your head about that.  I mean, before you marry
the girl."

A strained smile came over Charles's face.  "Where's the hurry?" he
asked, with sudden excitement.  "What makes you give me that
advice?"

George answered:  "Because it seems to me there's another vicious
circle knocking around.  You say you won't marry till you know for
certain you're going to get all right, but perhaps marriage is one
of the things that would help to MAKE you certain."

Charles laughed.  "I see!  Doctor Boswell's advice to those about
to get married--DO!  Advice based on his own experience of long,
happy, and fruitful wedlock!"  After a wilder outburst of hilarity,
the laughter drained suddenly from the boy's face and a scared look
took its place.  He clutched frantically at George's arm.  "Oh God,
I'm sorry--I didn't mean that. . . .  I never thought. . . .  I
forgot for the moment. . . .  George. . . .  Oh, George, PLEASE
forgive me. . . ."  His voice and body began to shake convulsively.

It was the first time George had seen the kind of thing Julie had
told him about, and it shocked him immeasurably.  He put his arms
round the boy and fought the enemy with a silent, secret strength
of his own.  There was not much to say.  He kept saying:  "Steady,
lad . . . it's all right . . . all right. . . ."

"George, I didn't mean . . . I swear I didn't mean anything
personal--"

"Aye, I know you didn't.  And what if you did, for that matter?  To
blazes with everything except you getting well again. . . .  Quiet
down a bit more, lad, and then let's take a walk. . . ."


All this took place during another of George's visits to Cambridge.
He had been in London on business, as before--one of those fairly
frequent conferences that had often been a nuisance in the past,
but which now he looked forward to with an excitement entirely
unshared by his colleagues.  Nobody had at times been more severe
than he in castigating the week-end hiatus in official circles, but
now on a Saturday morning in some Whitehall Government office he
found himself almost gleeful over slow-moving procedure, actually
hoping in his heart for an adjournment till Monday.

This had happened, once more, so he was enjoying the intervening
day with a clear conscience.  And another item of good fortune was
that Charles could now walk short distances, with only one stick,
and relish the exercise.  Perhaps it was this that made him seem
more boyish, even school-boyish on occasions; and for the first
time George ceased to be startled when he reflected that Charles
was only in his twenty-third year.

But other startling ideas filled the gap, and one of them was
unique because it came to George in--of all places--a public-house.

Charles had mentioned this pub as being a rather pleasant place
within easy walking distance in the country, and after an evening
meal George let him lead the way there.  The scene a few hours
earlier seemed to have drawn them closer together, though in a way
that neither could have expressed or would have wished to talk
about; but George, at least, was aware of it and satisfied.  It
gave an edge to his enjoyment of the full moon over the fields, and
the scents of crops and flowers that lay heavy on the warm air.
Familiar as he was with the grimmer landscape of the north, he
thought he had never known anything so richly serene as those rural
outskirts of the university town--a quality enhanced, somehow, by
the counterpoint of events overhead.  For while they walked the hum
and throbbing never ceased, sometimes increasing to a roar as
planes in formation flew directly above.  The R.A.F. was evidently
out in force, heading for the Continent, and George guessed and was
a little apprehensive of Charles's mood as he heard and was perhaps
reminded.

For that reason George tried to keep the conversation on
trivialities.  During the walk they overtook several other
pedestrians, which George commented must make a red-letter event in
Charles's post-hospital experience, even though the slower movers
were only old bent men plodding along at a mile an hour.  Charles
drily rejoined that there was a good deal of rheumatism locally,
which was a peculiar thing in an otherwise healthy district.

"Maybe not so peculiar," George countered, getting on to one of his
favourite topics.  "Give people decent houses, in town or country,
and don't think that roses round the door make up for bad drains
and damp walls."

Charles laughed.  "Not bad, George.  You might win a parliamentary
election yet.  Castle Winslow would give you a chance, anyway.
It's a family constituency--with the Winslow influence you'd
probably romp home.  Unfortunately the old boy who represents it
now may hang on for another twenty years."

George laughed also, and in the same mood.  "Pity.  But in the
meantime there might be a chance for YOU--in Browdley.  Then I
could demonstrate a bit of MY influence."

They both went on with the joke till the passage of planes in even
greater numbers changed the subject back to an earlier one.  "I
once tried to write a poem," Charles said, "about the contrast
between those old chaps and the boys upstairs.  I thought of it
actually while I was flying back from Germany after a raid.  You
have to think of something then, when your nerves are all on edge.
I can't remember more than one of the verses--I think it went


          'Each with a goal his own--
            Beginner's or Ender's luck--
          Four hundred miles to Cologne,
            Two to the Dog and Duck. . . .'


It's less than two from where we are now, but some of those
veterans wouldn't miss their nightly pint if it were twice
that. . . .  By the way, though, you don't drink?"

"No, but I'll swill lemonade while you have all the beer you want."

"All I can get, you mean.  Don't be so bloody optimistic."

Presently they reached the pub and pushed into the already crowded
bar, where Charles received a few cordial but quiet greetings from
people whom he had presumably met there before.  A few air-crews
from the near-by station were taking their drinks, and others were
having a dart game, but perhaps half the crowd were civilians,
mostly old farm labourers with tanned and wrinkled faces.  The
changing world met here with the less changing earth, tilled
throughout the ages by men who had worked heedless amidst clashes
of knights in armour, and were now just as heedless up to the very
edge of runways and bomb craters.  HEEDLESS?  But the word failed
to express the rueful sagacity, the merry ignorance, that
flourished nightly in the bar parlour of the Dog and Duck.  Like
all genuine English country pubs, it was always a cheerful but
rarely a boisterous and never a Bacchanalian place--it was a
microcosm of that England in which so many things are not done,
including the act of wondering too truculently why they are not.
George, even with his small personal knowledge of pubs, recognized
at once the same spirit that usually obtained at Council meetings
and Whitehall conferences, and thus he felt immediately at home.
And in that heart-warming mood, while he leaned over his glass of
lemonade and Charles over his tankard, George's startling idea came
to him for the second time, but really startlingly now because, in
a fantastic way, he half meant it.  "Why DON'T you stand for
Browdley at the next election?"

Charles looked puzzled.  "You mean--for Parliament?"

"Aye.  It's an idea."

"No, it's a joke, George, and not a very good one."

"Of course there won't be an election till after the war--so far as
one can foresee.  But there might be worse things that a chap like
you could do when the time comes."

Charles smiled and drank deep.  "And better things, I hope."

"Listen. . . .  When I visited you in that hospital at Mulcaster
you said something I hope you remember.  You said you blamed my
generation for not making a proper peace after the last war.
And I asked you then if you weren't afraid that the kids now in
their prams might grow up to blame YOUR generation for the same
thing. . . .  Well, lad, they will--unless you do something about
it."

"Maybe--but not in politics."

"How else?"

"I don't know, George--don't ask me.  I can't fly any more, or I
might drop a few bombs somewhere.  But I do know I couldn't face
the political racket.  Nobody would ever vote for me, anyway--I'm
not the type that goes around kissing babies and promising
everything to everybody.  I'd say the wrong thing, and probably
think it too--because, to be frank, I've never seen an election
without feeling that the whole machinery of it is a bit ridiculous--"

"And it is.  But it's the machinery we've got, and we'd better use
it while we've got it."

"Oh, certainly--but leave it to the right man.  YOU'RE probably the
right man for Browdley--you were born there, and you know the
people.  I wouldn't understand them--factory workers and miners--
not because I'm a snob, but because I've never lived in that sort
of a place."

"They'd understand you, that's the main thing.  They'd understand
you because they're doing a job same as you've done a job, and some
of them are risking lives and health at it same as you've risked
yours.  You wouldn't be talking to them except as equals.  Besides,
it might be years off yet--there's plenty of time."

"You really are a most persistent fellow, George.  Anyone would
think it was something I'd agreed to."

George laughed.  "Aye, we'll not worry about it.  Twenty-two's full
young."  And then he laughed again as he added:  "Though William
Pitt was Prime Minister at twenty-four.  You won't beat THAT."

But a dark look came into Charles's face.  "There's one final
reason, George, even if there weren't any other.  You've heard me
spout my opinions, and you're taking it for granted I'd think it
worth while to convert others to them.  But I'm not sure that I
would, even if I could.  Don't think me cynical--it's merely that
I'm not sentimental.  As I've found the world, so far, it's a
pretty lousy place, especially when you get a glimpse of what goes
on behind the scenes.  Most people don't--and perhaps they're
better off.  That's why I wouldn't make a good vote-catcher.  He
has to be such a bloody optimist--like you.  Even if he warns of
doom he has to promise that if only you'll elect him he'll prevent
it.  Frankly, I don't kid myself to that extent and I don't think
I'd find it easy to kid Tom, Dick, and Harry."

"Aye, things are bad enough, I'll admit that."  George drank the
rest of his lemonade in slow gulps.  "But as for what goes on
behind the scenes, that's just what gives me hope.  Go behind the
scenes of everyday life and see the courage and decency most folks
have--see the raw material we've got to work on, if only those who
have the brains for the job can keep faith in it."

"I know what you're driving at, George.  Just a simple little job
of rebuilding the world."

"Ah, now, that IS cynical.  Of course it's not simple--was it
simple to invent a plane?  It's appallingly difficult and
complicated--and that's where chaps like you come in.  It'll need
all your brains and education, but it'll also need something I'VE
got--and that's a bit of faith in Tom, Dick, and Harry."  George
then added softly, administering the gentle shock with which he had
wheedled so much of his own way in his time:  "Since you once said
you'd like to, why don't you come to Browdley when term ends and
have a look at the place?"

"You mean--VISIT Browdley?"

"Aye, why not?  Or were you only joking when you said you'd like
to?"

"No, I wasn't joking--matter of fact I wouldn't MIND coming, only--
"  He hesitated and then added:  "I hate disappointing so many
other people."

"But you can't please 'em all, no matter what you do.  Why not
please yourself for a change?  And of course you needn't stay
longer than you want. . . ."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

George felt very happy as he sat in the London train that night.
Thinking back upon the long conversation at the Dog and Duck he
could not exactly remember when the idea of taking Charles to
Browdley had first occurred to him, but he knew that as soon as it
had, there had come to him the feeling of instant lightness.  It
was like trying a new key in a strange lock and knowing, even
before the turn, that somehow it would work.  And it all happened,
as so many things happened in George's life, because he got talking
and couldn't stop.  He hadn't, of course, been really serious about
Charles embarking on a political career.  It was much too soon to
be serious about ANY kind of career for a youth who was still so
far from mental and physical health.  But that led straight to the
point; for part of the cure lay in BEING serious about something.
And suddenly George saw beyond the merely personal relationship
between them; he saw the boy's problem as that of every boy
returned from battle with body, mind, and spirit scarred by
experience; and he knew that the problem must be tackled better
than the last time, when millions who had faced the realities of
war were too embittered, or too apathetic or (like George himself)
too easy-optimistic, to face those of peace.  But Charles was not
optimistic enough; and that, for George, made the task of
rehabilitation even more congenial.  So if he could interest him in
Browdley, why not?  And if, in due course, interest should deepen
into faith . . . faith in the things George had faith in . . .

George's heart was already warm to the prospect, but his head
cautioned him against that same over-optimism while optimism gave
him answer that the boy himself would check that.  He's got a
better mind than I have, George reflected humbly; HE'LL be good for
ME, too; he'll not stand any of my nonsense. . . .  And then
optimism soared ridiculously as George day-dreamed them both as co-
workers for Browdley--Mayor and Member--what a team!  His eyes
filled as he thought of it . . . highly unlikely, of course, but
not quite impossible . . . and what more need a dream be?

Before taking the train he had mentioned to Julie his plan to have
Charles at Browdley.  He had had only a few moments with the girl
because she was going on night duty; they had met by appointment in
the market square where she had to change buses.  She had told him
then, since her arriving bus brought up the subject, that she lived
in a suburb of the town and that her father was a schoolmaster
there.  George rode with her on another bus to the big hospital not
far from the railway station, and perhaps because they found a seat
on the top deck he was reminded of other bus rides, so many of
them, years before, with Livia.  And the reminder, of course,
emphasized the difference of everything else, for no one in the
world, he was sure, could be less like Livia than Julie was. . . .

She was delighted with his idea.  "Oh, I'm so glad, Mr. Boswell.
It'll be a real holiday for him."

"Not much of a holiday resort, Browdley, but I'll do my best to
give him a good time."

"He'll be with you, that's the main thing, because I've noticed how
good for him you are."

"You'll be better, though, one of these days."

"I hope so."  And then she added:  "By the way, I know who you are
now.  He told me."

"He did.  That's fine.  Now we none of us have any secrets from one
another."

And suddenly again the same impulse he had had with Charles made
him add:  "Why don't you marry him soon?"

She seemed startled by a word rather than by the question.
"Soon? . . .  You mean--before he--before he gets better?"

"Aye, why not?  Don't you want to?"

"I'd love to, but . . . in a way it would be taking an advantage.
So many men in hospitals fall in love with their nurses--THINK
they've fallen in love, anyhow.  It often makes part of the cure,
so the nurses don't mind.  But a sensible nurse doesn't take it too
seriously, even if she falls in love herself.  That's why I don't
consider our engagement as binding--not on Charles, anyway.  When
he gets better he may prefer someone else."

"And if he prefers someone else he may not get better.  If I were
you I'd take THAT seriously."

"You mean . . ."

"Aye, but think it over first.  You're pretty right and reasonable
about most things, I'd say."

That was all they had time for, but he was left with a comfortable
reassurance that to be right and reasonable was not always to be
prim and cold; and this, for him personally, was like a pat on the
back from the Almighty.

So he enjoyed his thoughts during the journey back to Browdley.

A couple of weeks later, as he left a Council meeting, the Town
Hall porter handed him a wire that read:  "Have just taken your
advice.  Honeymoon at Scarborough.  Then may we both accept your
invitation to the Mayor's Nest?  Julie and Charles."

George stood for a few seconds in the Town Hall lobby, holding the
wire under the dim lamp; then his face broke suddenly into a wide
slow smile that made Tom Roberts grin back with cheerful impudence.
"Backed a winner, Mr. Mayor?" he quipped--the joke of that being
the Mayor's well-known antipathy to betting of all kinds.

"Nay, Tom . . . TWO winners!" George answered, surprisingly, as he
strode down the Town Hall steps into Shawgate.

               *     *     *     *     *     *

On his way to Browdley station to meet them, he could not help
reflecting what an extraordinary thing it really was that he should
be welcoming Livia's son to his home.

He had spent the evening with Wendover, being far too excited to
settle to any solitary work; and towards midnight, for a change and
because of the bright moon, he chose the slightly longer route
through the waste land on the fringe of the town, where factories
met fields and--less metaphorically--lovers met each other.  And he
thought of that evening, so many years before, yet so well
remembered, when he had passed that way in the other direction,
having taken old Lord Winslow to his train after the unforgettable
interview.  And now it was that man's grandson and a young wife
whom he was meeting--as happily as if he himself were young again
and happy about most things.

In fact he was momentarily so excited that when the train drew in
and they had all exchanged the first greetings, he was glad that a
heavy suitcase provided something immediate and practical to attend
to--there being neither cabs nor luggage delivery till next
morning.  Meanwhile Charles was smiling and assuring George that he
didn't in the least object to a walk on such a night, if it wasn't
too far.  "Not far at all," George answered, chiefly for something
to say to the stationmaster as they passed the exit.  "Except when
I'm hurrying for the nine-five to Mulcaster--eh, Ted?"

They crossed the cobbled station yard and turned into the huddle of
streets.  A few other walkers passed or overtook them, even so
late--men on their way to night-working factories, policemen, air
wardens.  George pointed out the stationer's shop in Shawgate that
had formerly been his Uncle Joe's, and which still, after two
changes of ownership, displayed the same mixture of leather-bound
ledgers, morocco editions of the standard poets, Bibles, cookery
books, and the works of Miss Florence Barclay.  But as a concession
to the day and age, and with that ironic innocence of which the
English are so capable because they are unaware of it, a single
modern edition occupied pride of place in the very centre of the
window--Mein Kampf in an unexpurgated translation.  George did not
point this out, because he saw in it nothing remarkable; but he did
draw attention to the Mayor's office in the Town Hall with its
rather florid stained-glass windows that an earlier generation had
considered stylish.  He kept up a running gossip, also, about
Browdley people whom Charles and Julie would probably meet in due
course.  "The Vicar--he'll amuse you.  He's writing a book about
Roman numerals--has a theory about them--been busy on it for years--
he's eighty-eight, I think. . . .  There's a younger chap of
seventy-odd--Catholic priest--Wendover, by name--my best friend--
you'll like HIM. . . .  That's the new municipal swimming-bath--
just finished before the war began.  Like a fool I said I'd make
the first dive when it was opened--used to be quite a swimmer when
I was a lad--but I hadn't done any for years and I made a belly-
flop that splashed all the other councillors and their wives . . .
it was the laugh of the place the day after. . . .  Here's the real
business centre--the banks, Woolworth's, Lipton's.  And down that
street is where I managed to enter the world--the house isn't there
any more, and that's another thing I managed."

Julie said:  "You'd make a good guide, Mr. Boswell.  Too bad there
aren't any Cook's tours to places like this."

"Aye, it IS too bad.  Some of the London folks ought to come here
once in a lifetime.  They'd learn more than they would on the
French Riviera--and about their own country at that. . . .  And
don't you go on calling me Mr. Boswell.  Nobody here does."

Presently Charles remarked:  "And you've never had a raid?"

"So far, not a solitary bomb.  They say you shouldn't even whisper
such a thing--but I'm not superstitious.  All I sometimes wish is
that I could clear everybody out of the town and organize my own
raid.  There's still a few thousand folks living in houses that
oughtn't to exist, and it'll take me ten years to finish 'em off--
the houses, I mean--even when peace comes."

George was silent again, and for a rather odd reason: at the very
utterance of the phrase 'when peace comes' he had been swept by a
sudden illusion that peace HAD come, and that Browdley under the
moonlit sky was the most peaceful spot, just then, on earth.

"Now you'll have to let ME make YOU some coffee," he said, as they
turned the corner from Shawgate into Market Street.  "Because here
we are--this is the old Guardian office--my printing works--this is
where I live.  You've seen most of the sights already--it's only a
small town."

"And an honest one too," Charles commented, as George opened the
front door by merely turning the handle.  "You live alone?"

"There's Annie comes in every day to clean up a bit.  She's an old
woman now, but she'll be glad to see you because--"  He was on the
point of saying "because she knows who you are", but he changed it
at the last moment to "because she's got three nephews in the
R.A.F."  Which was true.

While George was ushering them inside, somebody passed along the
pavement and called out the usual welcome.  "'Ow do, George.  Back
again?"

"How do, John.  Aye, I'm back."

It was the fourth or fifth exchange of similar greetings on their
way from the station.  Charles laughed and commented that George
certainly seemed to be well known.  George laughed also and said
Aye, he wasn't exactly a stranger in those parts.  The triteness of
the remarks masked the tension they both felt as they entered the
little house.  George led the way along the hall and into his
study, where he switched on a light after verifying that the
curtains were drawn.  Usually, on bringing anyone there for the
first time, he watched for some sign of amazement at the shelves of
books, but now he actually forgot to do so and was recalled from
far different thoughts when Charles exclaimed:  "Quite a library."

George then made his familiar boast that it was the best private
collection in Browdley.  But he added:  "Not that I'd say the
competition's been very keen."  And then he heard himself launching
into what now seemed just a ruefully amusing anecdote.  "You know
what your mother did once while I was away?  Took off a lot of the
paper covers and burned 'em. . . .  Thought she was making the
place tidy for me. . . .  My, I lost my temper--and that's a thing
I don't often do. . . .  Well, how about some coffee?  Come in the
kitchen--it's easier. . . ."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

They sat with the bare scrubbed table between them and had tea,
after all, not coffee, because at the last moment George had felt
shy of his coffee-making prowess compared with Charles's, and asked
if tea wouldn't do as well.  Charles and Julie said it would, so
George made his own favourite brew, which he could not imagine
anyone disliking, though for the connoisseur it would have been
nauseatingly strong.  He then put plenty of milk and sugar into his
own large cup, stirred it round, and was reminded of innumerable
times when, as a boy, he had carried a can of the same mixture to
his father at Channing's Mill on cold winter mornings and had
sneaked a sip or two on the way.

George talked about the war and the post-war world; the news in the
papers was very encouraging, and he found it hard as ever not to be
optimistic, though after a lifetime of experience he could keep his
optimism under wry control.  He still had ambitions, dreams, plans,
and hopes; and if a small portion of them ever came to anything,
well, that was as much as a reasonable man could expect, but it was
also as little as a patient man would accept.  "It's no good your
people asking for the moon," a testy political opponent had said at
the last Council meeting; to which he had replied:  "Nay, Tom--it's
the SUN they're asking for--the MOON'S what I've promised 'em when
the war's over.  And if you fellers have any sense ye'll settle for
that as a fair compromise."

So now, by an easy transition, his talk with Charles led back to
Browdley again--its industries, homes, people, and future.  "You'll
know what I mean tomorrow when you look over the place.  The war
seems to have solved our chief local problems--bad trade and
unemployment--though it's only a fake solution, we'll have our
troubles again later.  But for the time being we're better off, in
some ways, than we used to be--everybody's got money, the Council
has a budget surplus, and as for jobs--why, we're even short of men
to fill 'em."

"I suppose there's a good deal of female employment then?"

George began to laugh.  "You mean, DO THE WOMEN WORK?  Of course
they do. . . .  And I'm laughing same as when I read in some of
those shiny-paper fashion magazines what a marvellous thing's
happening in England because of the war--the women are actually not
idling any more!  But the women of Browdley never HAVE idled.
They've worked in their homes and in factories and in both together
ever since the town began.  Even when the men had nothing to do,
the women had plenty.  So don't you go praising 'em in your
speeches for the novelty of getting their hands soiled!"

"You're still dreaming, George.  I shan't make any speeches."

"Aye, I forgot. . . .  I was just the same when I was your age--I
could talk, but I couldn't make a speech.  And even when I could I
hated it at first. . . .  But you're not such a fool as to do
anything you hate."

"Who's speaking now, George--the lion, the dog, or the dove?"

The remark put them in a mood in which Julie told them to go back
to the study and talk while she washed up in the kitchen; she
insisted on this with such emphasis that George wondered if she
were deliberately contriving a chance for him to talk to Charles
alone.  He was not sorry to have that chance, anyway.  The boy
entered the study first and was drawing the curtains aside before
George could press the switch.  The sudden flood of moonlight criss-
crossed the rows of books; it lay on his desk, on the litter of
papers and Council reports; full of gleams and shadows, it caught
the glass in front of photographs on the mantelpiece.

"Just wondered what sort of view you had, George."

"Not much, I'm afraid.  That's the wall of the bus garage."

"But the GARDEN. . . .  Come over here!"

George crossed the room, and as he approached the window, which was
partly open, the scent of summer flowers came to him as he never
remembered it before--geraniums, roses, carnations, stocks,
mignonette.

"Aye, it's nice this time of the year.  I'm not much of a gardener
myself, but Annie likes it and does a bit now and again. . . .
Livia's garden, we still call it--used to be a piece of waste
ground till she took it in hand."

At the word, uttered like a spell between them, Charles stirred
uneasily.  "Livia," he muttered.  "My father used to call her
Livy. . . .  The lost books of Livy, he used to say, what wouldn't
I give to look into them!"  He breathed deeply into the scented air.
"So she planted the garden and burned your book-covers?  Anything
else?"

George did not speak.

Charles went on:  "My father used to say she made you into a nerve
of her own body and let you do the aching instead of her . . .
unless you were ill or a child, and then she took all the aches to
herself and rocked you to sleep."  He sat on the arm of a chair,
fidgeting nervously with his cigarette-case.  "But that wouldn't
suit me.  I'm not a child, and I don't expect always to be ill."

"You won't be.  You'll get better."

"I want to work too."

"You will."

"Mind if I smoke?"

"Watch the light if you're not going to pull the curtains."

"Good old warden.  The moon's so bright you could turn on all the
street lamps."  He suddenly pointed to a photograph on the
mantelpiece.  "THAT her?"

"Aye."

"And the baby?"

"He died."

"She was young then."

"Aye.  Nearly a quarter of a century ago."

"You make it sound a long time."

"It has been a long time."

"I feel so damned sorry for her, George.  My uncle never liked her.
Nobody seems to like her much, for that matter--not how she is now.
And the chances are my father won't come back.  She thinks he will,
but to me it doesn't seem probable."

George exclaimed:  "By God, though, if she thinks he will, he may.
In fact he'd almost better!"

Charles stared for a moment, then slowly smiled.  "Yes, I know.
She gets her own way as a rule.  That's why, when she learns about
Julie and me--"

"You haven't told her yet?"

"Not yet.  Do you think I should?"

George thought a moment, then said:  "Aye, might as well get it
over."

"I will then.  I'll wire her tomorrow.  Your advice has been pretty
good so far."

"You mean you're happy?"

Charles nodded profoundly.

"That's good.  I can see Julie is too.  And don't feel you ought to
be looking after your mother.  It's she who feels she ought to be
looking after you . . . but you're against that, and so am I."

"I know.  And she doesn't really need me, she only needs me to need
her."

"That's not a bad way of putting it."

"Because she's got a sort of secret strength to face things--and
less fear than anyone I ever met--man or woman.  I often used to
think when I was sweating it out over Berlin--God, I wish I had
guts of iron like hers. . . .  It was crazy, sometimes, the things
she'd do.  We were at a restaurant in Munich once and a crowd of
army officers sat down at the next table.  They were pretty drunk
and high-tempered, started abusing a waiter for something or other.
Eventually one of them struck the man, and my mother, who was
closer than I was, leaned over and bopped the officer over the head
with a Chianti bottle.  Suddenly--quietly--without a word--just
like that."  Charles swung his arm.  "Pure slapstick comedy but for
the time and place."

"What happened?"

"Blood and Chianti all over everything.  A riot.  Amidst which I
managed to get her out by a back door.  The restaurant owner was as
keen to save his premises as I was to avoid an international
incident."

George laughed.  "It wasn't always so serious.  Once she and I were
arguing at dinner about something or other quite trivial when she
picked up a piece of apple-pie and threw it at me.  And it happened
that you could see in from the street and somebody HAD seen in--and
also it was the middle of an election campaign.  They called me
'Apple-Pie George' after that for a time."  George laughed louder
at the recollection.  "I used to think it harmed my chances--maybe
it did.  But I'm glad to know about all this.  I'd forgive her a
lot for that."

"Didn't you forgive her anyway?"

"Aye, I always found it pretty easy."

"My father used to say it was easy to forgive her if she was wrong,
but if she turned out to be right then you might as well never
forgive yourself."

George said after a long pause:  "I don't want to send you away,
but if you're feeling sleepy . . . I've booked a room for you both
at the Greyhound."

"The Greyhound?"

"Just along the street.  More comfortable than here."

Charles crossed the room and George put his arm round the boy's
shoulder as the two walked back to the kitchen.  "Don't you worry,
lad.  If I can help her I shall.  It won't all be your job.  You
can count on me for that."

"Seems to me I count on you for a lot of things, George."

               *     *     *     *     *     *

George took them over to the Greyhound, said good-night, and began
the short stroll back to his house.  But he felt so wakeful he made
a detour past the Town Hall, his mind being still full of thoughts,
strange thoughts, such as that Charles had actually been under his
roof, and that Browdley in moonlight was really a beautiful place.
Not only the Town Hall, but the main office of the Browdley
Building Society, Joe Hardman's fish-shop, even Ridgeway's garage
on whose doors, as a halcyon reminder, there could still be seen
the painting of a very gay peace-time charabanc for hire . . . all
so beautiful . . . which was absurd, of course; yet even as he
admitted it, beauty and a little sadness remained in what he felt.
He could not hope for sleep in such a mood; but he could work,
there was always that.  As he entered his house the hall was bright
as bars of silver; he could even read the headline of the
Advertiser, and a typical one, even after five years of war--"Shall
Browdley Have Sunday Cinemas?"  So THAT was how his old
journalistic rival still looked at the world, he mused, with extra
irony because the Sunday cinema question had been debated in
Browdley ever since he had campaigned as a young man for his first
Council election . . . and now they were at it again! . . .  No
wonder Lord Winslow could remark that England didn't change!  But
it did change, for all that, beneath the surface of dead issues
regularly flogged to life.  George slipped the paper into his
pocket as he walked into the open study doorway.

Suddenly he knew he was not alone.  Someone was standing in front
of the window, staring out--as Charles had done earlier--into the
garden.  The figure turned, offered a profile against the
moonlight, was unmistakable. . . .

"LIVIA!"

At the instant of recognition he felt his hands clench with shock
for which he must brace mind and heart as well; and he did so,
almost as instantly.

"Where is he?  He's been here, George.  I know that.  I want to see
him."

He answered in a level voice:  "They're not here now, Livia."

"THEY?  Who're THEY?"

He answered because it was the way he himself thought of them:
"Charles and Julie."

He caught his breath, having spoken the phrase; he would have
expected a scene, but for knowing that with Livia one could never
expect the expected.  All she did was to cross the room and sit on
the arm of his armchair, while he drew the curtains and switched on
the light.  He saw then that she looked tired and rather pale, but
not uncomposed.  Because he wanted to give her time to grasp the
situation, he did not speak, but went back to the curtains and
pretended to be fixing them with especial care.

"Julie," she said at last, still quietly.  "So that's her name.
Charlie and Julie.  How sweet!  Where are they?"

"Why did you come here, Livia?" he countered.  "What made you think
it would help?"

"I don't want it to help.  I mean to stop this nonsense.  And I
know they ARE here, now you've told me she's with him, because
I went to Cambridge first and talked to his servant at the
College. . . .  I know, it's no use you denying it.  Of course I
know.  And I know your part in it all.  I ALWAYS know."

"Aye, there's not much misses you--or ever did.  But there's
something extra to tell you this time."  He added, in a kindly
voice, with no note of triumph in it:  "I told you, Livia, my
advice would be to let the boy live his own life.  That's what he's
going to do, and I'll admit I'm all for it.  So whatever you've
come to stop you're too late."

"I'M too late?"  She stared at him with glazed eyes.  "Oh no, no.
You're the one who's late.  You have been all along.  And he's
where you put him because of that.  You and your kind of people.
You talk about letting him live his own life--why DIDN'T you, then,
when he had one to live--not just half a one?  That's all he has
now because of the mess you've made of everything.  You said my
father's victims were all over the town--but yours are all over
the world--people like you who went on making speeches . . .
speeches . . . you were making them before he was born--just as
you still are--"

"Livia, you surely haven't come here just for an argument--"

"I told you what I came here for.  I want Charlie.  I WANT him.
What's left of him, that is, after your kind have said all their
prayers and made all their speeches--"

"I don't know what you're driving at, Livia.  If you mean that my
generation's largely responsible for the war, then I'll agree with
you.  Charles and I once discussed the same point--"

"Oh, you did, did you?  Just a nice friendly discussion.  And he
forgave you, I suppose.  Man to man and all that.  With his
shattered nerves and smashed legs and burned eyes he forgave you--
because he too may need to be forgiven some day."

"Aye, if he just sits back and lets things happen.  I told him
that.  There was a children's ward next to where he was in the
hospital, and I asked if he wasn't afraid that those kids when they
grew up--or his own kids for that matter--"

Her eyes sharpened.

"HIS?  He'll never have any.  Maybe he can't.  It's like that
sometimes.  I hope so, because that would be the best way to end
it.  My father, me, him, full-stop. . . ."

"Livia, that's a terrible thing to say."

"More terrible to mean."

"I hope you'll never let him know you do mean it."

"I shan't have to.  It'll come to him when we're in Ireland."

"Ireland?  I doubt he'll want to go there now so much."

"He doesn't know what he wants.  He thinks he wants this girl, but
that's absurd.  I can make him want what he really wants."

"Livia . . . remember I said you were too late."  George paused,
then added:  "They're married."

"WHAT?"

"Three days ago in London.  He was going to wire you about it
tomorrow.  Perhaps he ought to have done so before, but you can
hardly blame him. . . ."

George then saw something which, despite all Millbay had said, he
had tried to believe did not exist.  It was a look of implacability
so vivid, so pure in a sense, that he recoiled from it less in
revulsion than in elemental awareness of what it signified.  For he
was all against it, as a stream of yielding water is against the
rock it will wear down in a million years or so.  And suddenly,
without bitterness, he saw Livia as a symbol of all that must so be
worn down, no matter how hard or long the struggle, no matter how
often the victories of greed and despair and intolerance seem to
make nonsense of it.

With his own gentler implacability he stared at hers till the
transfiguration disappeared.

She said at length:  "So . . . you think . . . you've done the
trick?"

"It's no trick, Livia."

"Last-minute victory, then?  Narrow majority?  And a hearty vote of
thanks to Mister Mayor . . . ?"  But she was her masked self again,
so that the stress on the prefix was only ironic.  She went on:
"Perhaps you still don't know what I'm driving at?  You never did--
and you're afraid Charlie might if he got the chance.  You're
afraid he might see things my way.  So's Howard.  He wants him to
have lands and a title and riches--"

"Aye, I know, and I agree with you there.  They'd be just a burden
to him, and that's why--"

"That's why you'd rather give him YOUR kind of burden.  Speeches--
promises--the same old never-again stuff.  But you shan't, George--
I can stop that, even now.  And as for the little schemer he's been
duped by, does she think HER influence is going to count?"

"Nay, Livia, not hers.  Nor mine, nor his uncle's, nor yours.  Let
him get on his feet, build up his own ideas, see things with his
own eyes when he has the strength to see clearly--that's all I'm
aiming for.  He'll influence me as much as I will him--I'm not so
sure of my own opinions that I'd try to ram them down somebody's
throat.  I'll take his--if he can convince me.  Or we can keep our
own.  It doesn't matter.  I know you look at things differently--"

"So does the man from Mars, maybe."

That stumped him; he blinked bewilderedly till she continued:  "If
he could see the world today he'd think it was in charge of raving
lunatics and the asylums were for sane people who'd gone there for
safety.  So if anybody thinks I'm a little out of my mind--Howard
does, I know--"

"Livia, _I_ don't.  But I do think--for the time being--you're
not able to help the boy as he most needs helping . . . Later,
perhaps. . . ."

"Too late--and already you talk of LATER. . . ."  She suddenly got
up and began walking towards the door.  "I can see this is wasting
more time.  I'd better start on my way back.  The five-ten, isn't
it?  I remember.  Can I have a cup of tea first?"

"Why . . . of course.  I'm only sorry you . . ."  But then he
stopped; he didn't know what he was only sorry about, except that
she had come.

She said, from the hall as she crossed it to the kitchen:  "No
pressing invitation to stay a few days, then?"

"Nay, Livia, and you know why.  I'm anxious that Charlie shouldn't
have any shocks."  He had called the boy Charlie because she had
and it seemed almost something shared and sharable at last between
them, something that warmed his voice as he added:  "Give him a
chance, Livia.  Leave him alone a bit.  God knows that's a hard
thing to say, but I mean it."

She said after a pause:  "Do you hate me, George?"

He shook his head.  "I never did and I never could.  I'm not much
use at hating folks, to be frank.  But I can fight 'em when I have
to . . . and I'd have to now, if you made me."

"And you think you'd win?"

"I'm not so sure, but I'm not sure I'd lose, either.  That's why I
say give him a chance.  Give us all a chance this time."

In the kitchen she prepared tea herself, not letting him do so, as
if she were certain nothing had been changed (and practically
nothing had).  She began to cry a little while she moved about.
George watched her unhappily, puzzled not so much by her behaviour
as by his own, for he found himself less moved by her tears than by
her simple act of tightening a tap that had been leaking into the
sink for days.  Nobody could do things so deftly, quickly, tidily,
incontrovertibly.  She had probably got her own way with Japs
pretty much as she did with taps, George reflected whimsically; and
then again he was touched by her next remark, clairvoyant in that
old familiar blinding way of hers:  "You think I'm acting, don't
you, George?  And you think that means I'm not sincere? . . .  You
don't understand that sometimes I mean things so much I HAVE to
act? . . .  You don't understand that, because you NEVER mean
things so much. . . .  Oh, George, you don't know how terrible it
is to be alive in this world!"

"Perhaps I do, Livia, perhaps I don't feel it the way you do, but I
know it, and I also know this--there's not only terror--there's
hope--and love--"

"But they're the most terrible of all--"

"Nay, nay, not how I see things."

"But do you see ANYTHING?  Anything to match love and hate?  I love
my son and I hate that girl--I'd kill her if I got the chance. . . ."

"You would?"

"That shocks you, doesn't it?"

"Nay . . . it doesn't exactly do that.  But it makes me think."

"And you think it's awful . . . yet all the other killing that's
going on--killing without hate--oh, THAT you can take for granted.
Duty.  Honour.  Jeffrey did too--and with better brains than
yours. . . .  What do you SEE, George?  In the future, I mean?
What chance is there?  This humanity you do everything for--what
do you see in it?"

George saw the greyness round the edges of the curtains; he looked
at his watch, then crossed to the window and let in the summer
dawn.  Already it was staring the moon out of the sky.  It seemed
to him that the world, like Livia, was snarled with memories and
desires, beauty and blackness and lies and truth and hope and
despair; you might as well leave it alone unless you had a driving
love for the thankless job of tackling it.  But if you had that
love, then you could go ahead.  George saw the roofs across the
street as they took form and substance, and knew that the love in
his own heart was more than he could speak or even make a speech
about--and least of all to Livia; but the thought of it, and the
continual vision of it, had governed all he had ever done that
seemed either weak or strong.

"Aye," he said as he turned back to her.  "I've often wondered that
myself, but it doesn't make any difference."  He came over and
touched her shoulder with a kindliness induced by his own thoughts
rather than by any more personal emotion.  "Drink up, Livia--we'll
have to hurry if you want to catch the five-ten.  And no more
arguments, because we'll not change each other, I reckon, from now
till doomsday. . . ."


THE END




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