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Secret Bread
by F. Tennyson Jesse
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Once upon the cliff, Ishmael, walking with Georgie, came on a patch of the most exquisite of spring flowers, the vernal squill. Georgie clapped her hands for joy at sight of the delicate blue blossoms, but Ishmael, lying beside them, buried his face in their rain-washed petals and drew a deep breath of that scent which is like the memory of may-blossom.

As he breathed in the fragrance it seemed to him for one flashing second as though the years fell away, that he was again young in mind as he still felt in body; and for a flash, as on that long-ago evening in Cloom fields when they had cried the Neck and in the parlour that first day at St. Renny, time stood still and everything around the one point where consciousness was poised ceased to be. Youth, spring, and ecstasy itself were in that breath. Ecstasy, the unphilosophic stone which alone transmutes to the semblance of gold ... which alone does not ask what will come next, what has led so far, or where lies actual worth; ecstasy which is sufficient in itself.... Even thus had he felt when he had known that Nicky was to come to him, only then the flood-tide of emotion had been set outwards, while this seemed to beat back and intensify the sense of self.

It was Nicky who broke through this moment now, clamouring in his turn to be allowed access to the patch of blue that so excited the grown-ups, and who then proceeded to rub his brown fists in it and tear the delicate little flowers up before anyone could stop him. Indeed, after the first moment Ishmael did not try. He sat watching until Nicky, with all the uncontrolled excitement of highly-strung children who so often lose their heads and do things for which they suffer agonies in the watches of the night for long afterwards, was shouting and tearing at the flowers and throwing them over Georgie and drawing attention to himself by every extravagance his child's brain could light upon.

"Look at me, Georgie; look at me!" he cried, pulling a bunch of the flowers through his buttonhole and jumping up on a boulder that thrust itself through the turfy cliffside; "I'm the King of the Castle, I'm the King of the Castle!..." Georgie threw a few bits of grass at him and then turned to go on with an argument she had been having with Ishmael when the sight of the vernal squills had distracted them. Nicky would not leave them alone; determined not to be ignored, he went on pelting her and kept up his monotonous chant: "I'm the King of the Castle, I'm the King of the Castle...."

"Don't do that," said Ishmael sharply. "Do you hear me, Nicky? Leave off!" But Nicky went on, and, finding no notice was being taken of him, he flung a frond of bracken, then, losing his temper, a clod of earth and turf he dug up from the ground. It hit Georgie on the cheek and scattered against her; a tiny fragment of stone in it cut her skin slightly, so that a thin thread of blood sprang out. Nicky felt suddenly very frightened. He kept up his song, but his note had altered, and as Ishmael got to his feet his voice died away.

"Don't be angry with him," said Georgie quickly. "He didn't do it on purpose."

She felt the embarrassment one is apt to feel at a display of authority over some third person. She looked at Ishmael as though it were she he was angry with, and felt a ridiculous kinship with Nicky. The little boy stood away from them both, defiant, scowling from below his fair brows, his small chest heaving, his nervous eyes sidelong. He was frightened, therefore all the more likely to make matters worse by rudeness. Ishmael was, unreasonably, more annoyed than he had ever been with Nicky, who had often been far more disobedient and in more of a temper. Ishmael picked him up and held him firmly for all his wriggling. Nicky yelled and screamed; his small face was scarlet with fear and passion; he drummed with his heels against his father's legs and hit out with his pathetically useless fists. Ishmael swung him under his arm.

"Please—" began Georgie.

"I am going to take him home," said Ishmael. "You had better not come. You'll find the others at the foot of the cliff, you know." He went on up over the brow of the cliff, carrying the screaming, struggling Nicky with the terrible ease of a grown-up coping with a child. Georgie remained sitting where she was for a few moments till the exhausted screams of Nicky died in the distance.

Ishmael's annoyance had not abated when they reached Cloom, though by now his arm had tired somewhat, and Nicky, sobbing angrily, walked beside him, firmly led by the hand. Ishmael took him up to the little room over the porch which was Nicky's own and there administered a whipping for the first time. Nicky was too exhausted to scream by then, but his anger grew deeper. He was aware that his father had often passed over worse actions, and that it was not so much his, Nicky's, disobedience in the matter of throwing things at Georgie which was the trouble as some mood of his father's which he had come up against. He resented the knowledge and burned with his resentment. When Ishmael, suddenly sorry, stayed his by no means heavy hand and stood the child between his knees, Nicky would not face his look, but stood with tightly shut eyes and set mouth. Ishmael thought it was shame at his punishment which sealed Nicky's eyes; he knew what agonies it would have occasioned him at that age, and he felt sorrier still. But Nicky never felt shame; he could extract a compensating excitement from every untoward event, and at the present moment he was making a luxury of his rage.

Ishmael tried to get some expression of contrition from the child, but vainly, and at length he left him, safely shut in. He was very puzzled as he went and smoked in the garden below. He would not go out on to the cliff again lest Nicky should be up to any dangerous pranks in his room or have another screaming fit. For the first time it was brought home to him how terribly children differ from the children that their parents were.... Nothing he remembered, be it never so vivid, about himself, helped him to follow Nicky. He would never have drawn attention to himself as Nicky constantly did; he would not have dared—his self-conscious diffidence would not have let him. He had had fits of losing his head, but more quietly, often in his imagination alone. He did not see that the self-consciousness of childhood was at the bottom of both his youthful reserve and Nicky's ebullitions. That his own pride had been his dominating factor, forbidding him to enter into contests where he was bound to be worsted, and that for Nicky pride did not exist in comparison with the luxury of spreading himself and his feelings over the widest possible area with the greatest possible noise, made the difference between them so marked that Ishmael could see nothing else. Nicky had inherited from older sources, he reflected, a flamboyance such as Vassie and Archelaus and, in his underhand way, even Tom possessed, but that had missed himself.

Killigrew and the others were coming over to supper, and the Parson also was expected. Ishmael judged that Nicky had had enough excitement for one day, and so, though not as any further punishment, sent him to bed with a supper-tray instead of letting him come down. He recounted the afternoon's happenings at supper and confessed himself hopelessly puzzled.

"I don't understand the workings of his mind," he admitted; "when I took him up his supper he seemed quite different from the half-an-hour earlier when I'd been up. He'd—it's difficult to describe it—but it was as though he'd adjusted the whole incident in his own mind to what he wanted it to be. He greeted me with a sort of forgiving and yet chastened dignity that made me nearly howl with laughter. He sat up there in his bed as though he were upon a throne and expecting me to beg for pardon, or, rather, as though he knew I wouldn't, but he had the happy consciousness that I ought to. It was confoundingly annoying. I asked him whether he wanted to see Miss Barlow to say good-night—you know the passionate devotion he's had for her of late—and all he said was, 'No, thank you; he didn't think he could trust himself to speak to her just yet!' I said, 'Don't be a little idiot,' and he only smiled in a long-suffering manner, and I came away feeling squashed by my own small son."

"He sounds as though he were going to suffer from what is called the artistic temperament," observed the Parson.

"Let's hope not," chimed in Killigrew, "because the so-called artistic temperament is never found among the people who do things, but only in the lookers-on. The actual creators don't suffer from it."

"It depends what one means by the artistic temperament," said Judy rather soberly. "If you mean the untidy emotional sort of people who excuse everything by saying they have the artistic temperament, I agree with you. That's what the Philistine thinks it is, of course."

"Oh, the real thing, the thing that creates, is nothing in the world but a fusion of sex," said Killigrew swiftly. "It gives to the man intuition and to the woman creativeness—it adds a sixth sense, feminising the man and giving the woman what is generally a masculine attribute. But that's not what the Padre means. He's using the word in its accepted derogatory sense."

"I don't think he is quite, either," said Judy. "I think what you mean is more the deadly literary sense, isn't it, Padre?—the thing some people are cursed with, the voice that gets up and lies down with them, that keeps up a running commentary on whatever they do. The creative people can suffer from that."

"You mean the thing I always had as a youngster," said Killigrew. "If I went fishing I used to hear something like this: 'The boy slipped to the bank with the swift sureness of a young animal, and sat with long brown legs in the water while his skilful fingers fixed the bait on the hook.'"

"That's the sort of thing," said Judith. "It's deadly dangerous."

"Don't you think I've grown out of it, then?" asked Killigrew quickly, but with a laugh. Judy did not reply, but turned to Ishmael.

"Don't you know at all what I mean?" she asked. "You must have had moments like that—every child has. Some people let it grow into a habit—that's what's fatal."

Ishmael thought it over. "Yes," he admitted. "I can remember whole tracks of thought like that in my childhood, but I think I recognised the danger and made myself alter."

"I'm sure you didn't suffer from it," declared Boase. "I knew you very thoroughly, Ishmael, and you were reserved and inarticulate; you never acted for effect." He felt startled, as though a sudden gap had yawned in the dear past; it did not seem to him possible, or only as the grotesque possibility of a nightmare, that the boy Ishmael should have held tendencies, trends of thought, which he had not realised....

Later came a message from Nicky that he would like Miss Parminter to come up and say good-night to him. They all laughed at the masculine tactics adopted thus early, but Judith went upstairs.

Later, when the others were thinking of going, Ishmael went up for her. She was kneeling by the bed, a dark figure in the dim room. Nicky was asleep, one arm still flung round her shoulder: she held hers lightly across him; her head was bowed upon the sheet. Ishmael hesitated a moment, struck by something of abandon in her pose. Then he touched her lightly on the shoulder. She started and looked up.

"Oh, it's you!" she said, peering at him through the darkness. "How you startled me!"

"The others are going," said Ishmael. "It's been good of you to stay up here. How long's the little chap been asleep?"

"Oh, ages! He's so sweet, I couldn't go downstairs to the lamp and all of them somehow. So small and soft.... You are lucky, Ishmael."

"Am I?" said he, rather taken aback. "I hadn't thought of myself in that light. But I know what you mean ... about Nicky."

They left the room together, but Judy cloaked herself in the passage and would not go again into the brightly-lit room. The Parson and Killigrew saw the two girls home, but Georgie and Boase reached the cottage first, and Georgie fell asleep while she was sitting up in bed waiting, scandalised, in spite of her modernity, for the return of Judith.

Nicky, sleeping peacefully in his little bed, had much to answer for that day. He had shown the startled Ishmael the gap that lies between two generations, whatever the tie of blood and affection; he had shown him too, by his anger at being torn out of it, that he could still have a mood of clamour for some thrill almost forgotten, some ecstasy he had thought dead ... and he had sent Judy, trembling, eager, as not for many months past, to the arms of the lover who could be so careless of her, but whom, when she chose, she could still stir to a degree no other woman had ever quite attained.



CHAPTER IX

JUDITH'S WHITE NIGHT

When Judith came in during the young dark hours of that morning, she could not sleep, and for a time she busied herself trying to remove the creases and dew-stains from her gown. Then she sat long by the window before she went to bed and laid the head that a few hours ago had known a sweet-smelling bracken pillow against the linen that could not cool her burning cheek.

She was suffering as she invariably did every time she gave the lover's gift to Killigrew; and always she paid for the joy of yielding with hours of reaction. She was wont to live over again in the drear spaces of time the history of her life since she had known him, and it was the history of her love for him and of very little else. Now as she lay, spent but wakeful, sick at heart and soul, she saw again the self that had stayed in this house when first she grew to know him. How little she had imagined then, in her pride and poise.... That was what stung her on looking back—how little she had guessed. If before her then had been flashed the vision of herself as his secret lover, how impossible she would have thought it. Surely, having come to it, having lived in it now for so long, she ought to be able to see how and exactly when the step had been taken which had brought her to it, which had so altered herself and her views as to make it possible? Yet, looking back, she could see no such one point between the self to whom it would have been impossible and the self to whom it was an acknowledged thing of long standing. If life consisted of sudden steps, how easily could they be avoided, she thought, as she went again through the bitter waters to which she had never succeeded in growing indifferent. It was these gradual slopes.... She could not even say, "It was that moment I first knew I loved him."

She lay, her brow pressed against the pillow, and saw again the Killigrew and the Judy of those early days at Cloom when she had been staying with Blanche, taken down there almost unwillingly, certainly against the wishes of her people, who had not shared her enthusiasm for Miss Grey. She had liked Killigrew at once; his odd, whimsical, slanting way of looking at life had appealed to the clever young girl whose intellect had developed in front of her emotional capacities. It was her brain that had charmed him, more than her uncertain beauty; in those early days her personality had been so strong and her beauty still so hidden beneath its eccentricities, which later had added to it. All the time Ishmael had been so deeply in love with Blanche she and Killigrew had been getting more intimate, and yet there was "nothing in it" then.

When had it begun? Surely on that long train journey up to town there had been a new note, a feeling of something there had not been before ... partly because Blanche had left them at Exeter to make a cross-country connection, and she and he had had those first few hours of an enclosed intimacy they had not had before—in the train. What a queer, stuffy background ... hardly unromantic, though, when you thought of all trains stood for and had seen! She had examined rather anxiously into her own feelings that night at home, she remembered, because she knew Killigrew's views on marriage as the most unsatisfactory and immoral of states, and she did not wish to suffer. She was not given to self-pity, and it never struck her that there was some pathos in that careful wish to avoid suffering formed by one so young, who had already borne an unhappy girlhood with a mother who drugged and a stepfather who dared not show his affection for her for fear of his wife's jealousy. The kind, weak little man had died and left her a few hundreds a year; she was always grateful to him for that, and forgave him for not standing between her and her mother as he might have done. Those hundreds had saved her from any question of taking money from Killigrew. Her poems would not have kept her—that she knew. Also she had never done as well as in that first slim book when she had known nothing of life at all. Real experience had bitten too deep for transmission to paper.

When he came back from Paris, a year after the time at Cloom, he had written to her and she had met him. Then it had all come out—all about her wretched home and her mother—and they had met again and again. Killigrew could not bear the thought of suffering, and he had tried to make up to her by taking her out as much as he could—not alone, for that was impossible in those days, but always with such others as merely formed a pleasant negative background. Between them from the first of those days in London was a consciousness of being man and woman there had not been for her at Cloom, though he now told her she had always disturbed him, that there was for him a something profoundly troubling in her slim sexless body, her burning mind, her quaint little sureness of poise which never let her lose her sense of proportion. That had so appealed to him ... never from her had he heard the talk of women, that love was the greatest thing in the world, or that any one person could matter more than all the many other things put together. She had thought with him that life was far otherwise—made up of many things, a pattern.... And yet it was she who, though in theory keeping all those ideas, had lived and suffered only for the one thing, had her horizon narrowed to his figure. All the time she told herself it was a distorted view, but that did not prevent her suffering; it only enabled her to be aware that it mattered very little whether she suffered or not.

They had gone on meeting, and soon it was a recognised thing that he should kiss her who had never even let herself so much as be kissed at a dance. But this was different, she told herself—he kissed her so kindly. His kisses altered, but still she bore them, dimly aware of portent in them, but trying, with a woman's guile, to laugh them off by seeming to keep a child's uncomprehension of what they meant. Then she had had a bad time to undergo during her mother's lingering illness and death, before she could take her freedom. Her mother left her nothing, but she had the kind little man's small income. She had been worn out by the time everything was over; and owing to her mother's complaint, which had made it impossible to have visitors at the house, and to her jealousy, which had prevented Judy making many friends for herself outside, she knew no one with whom she was intimate enough to ask for advice and help. Killigrew had taken charge of her and been goodness itself.

He kept clear always of the actual words and forms of love-making. He was very fastidious and hated anything that went to vulgarise his relationships, and would not spoil his genuine affection and intimacy and passion for her or any other woman for whom he felt them by using shibboleths that did not express what he really meant.

He took her away up to a quiet mountain country in Wales, and all the weeks he looked after her there never showed any more passion than the kisses and close embraces she was now used to, and those not often. He was not only not ever an inconsiderate lover, but he was too much of an epicure to take too much or too often even when he could. He left her once or twice in those weeks to go to town, and she knew be saw other women there, and the knowledge meant very little to her. Already she was loving him more deeply than she knew and understanding him more deeply still, and she knew jealousy would be the end of everything. If she had begun to be jealous, it would have been so deadly, she would have had so much to be jealous of, that she never dared let herself indulge in it.

She had her reward when he once told her she was the only woman who had never once asked him where he had been or whom he had been with. She was so happy in the pain this self-repression gave her she hardly thought how much happier she could have been had there been no need for it. If that had been the case he would have been entirely different from what he was, and then perhaps she would not have loved him at all.

The time in Wales was not spoilt by anything that made her unable to face her own mind; never did his arms or lips encroach; she came back still feeling she belonged to herself—still clinging to that physical possession of self because she was now aware that her peace of soul was gone into his keeping where it would have no rest again.

After that her true pain began. Sometimes on looking back she wondered how she could have lived through it so often—for of course it was not always at the same pitch. No pain or love or appreciation ever can be. There were whole months when she managed to do very well without him, when he was abroad and she too, perhaps, went on the Continent to some other far-off place and found things in which to interest herself. She belonged to the semi-artistic circle in which alone it was possible in those days to have any liberty of action, and she had the artist's keen appreciation of the externals of life; and when the personal failed her there were always things. But when the pain was at its worst things failed her.

Bad times when a letter from him, written because he happened to be in the mood to write and wanted an answer which, though she knew his mood would have passed by the time he received it, yet she would not be able to prevent herself writing.... Times after he had been to see her, either on a flying visit, or to be near her for several days, taking her about and spoiling her delightfully.... After they were over came a bitterness that would make her moan out loud to herself, "It isn't worth it ... it isn't worth it...." And she would welcome the next few days when they came as thirstily as she had the last.

Only the fact that she had a naturally strong will, made stronger by youthful years of self-repression, and that he never wished from a woman what she did not want to give, kept her so long not his lover in body as she was in heart and mind. Looking back, she marvelled at the length of time she had withstood her own heart. Not her senses; they had not entered into the affair for her at that time. She actually loved him too well, and was too unawakened physically, to feel the promptings of the pulses. She felt in him, for him, by him, so intensely it sometimes seemed to her she must be fused with him. She could have burned away into his being and ceased to have a separate existence if the passionate fusing of the mind could have accomplished it.

For three years she loved and suffered. She saw him always several times a year, was with him during those times, and he never lied to her about what he felt. He never told her she was the "only woman in the world for him" and that he could not live without her. He never mentioned other women to her, except such of his friends as she had met and of those she never knew, except in so far as her own intuition told her, which were only friends, which mingled the give and take of passion with the cooler draught. On the other hand, he never hid his passion when he felt it for her, and he always showed his affection and care of her when in the pleasant spaces between passion. He could not but know she was aware that he would be glad if one day she gave him more; meanwhile he did not make her hate herself and him with actions that would have excited without satisfying. He was the perfect companion, or would have been if she had not loved him.

For three years she never told him that she did; she met his kisses only with frank affection, and though she felt no urge of passion in herself to teach her lips, yet she began to feel that which would have made her more the eager one, and less the kissed, as she always sternly kept herself. For these three years she did not imagine he lived a chaste existence; there was no reason, with his pagan and quite genuine convictions, why he should. Fidelity in so far as it meant keeping to one person was to him foolishness. In so far as it meant loyalty of affection and absolute honesty he was faithful to everyone.

At the end of the three years she had become aware that things were different ... at first she could not say how. Then she slowly saw that unless she gave more, made herself more to him, she would become less.

He made no demands on her; he would have resented the idea of possessing a woman as much as that of any woman possessing him—freedom to him was the salt of every dish. Judy told him sometimes that he made the marriage service of too great importance, just as much as did the advocates of it, though in a different way. They thought there ought to be no love outside it; he thought there could be none within-it. To her mind, which always went for the essentials and left the trappings alone, the actual legal compact would not have mattered either way. That was what her instinct, which in her was as nicely balanced as reason, told her. But there was a side of her, as was inevitable, which was the child of her period and upbringing, and that side had never been talked over by Killigrew's philosophy, with the result that when she gave him everything she suffered in her conscience as well as in her heart. She had suffered ever since. Truth was with her a passion, and yet she had to pretend to the world. She suffered acutely when with girls of her own age, because she felt unfit to be with them. Often, with Georgie, who had not half her fineness, she would feel she ought not to be sitting talking to her or letting her come and stay in the same house. She suffered sometimes from a morbid wish to tell the world what she really was. And yet, as she told herself sometimes, if suffering can purge, surely she was clean enough....

She had never breathed the word "marriage" to Killigrew, who had no reason for knowing she was not as happy as himself in what was too spontaneous and delightful even to be called an arrangement. It had been a "success"; the life they had lived since Judy had let him know he could take her as he wished. Killigrew would as soon have married as have installed a woman as his mistress; the freedom of a union libre held no illusions for him. Yet to do him justice it was even more that he would have hated to have their relationship spoiled by anything so hard-and-fast. They met as before, went for wonderful holidays together, and if she knew he was "fitting her in," she was too wonderfully poignantly happy when with him, too satisfied in every fibre of her nature, to think of it; while afterwards, if she had allowed herself to dwell on it—beyond the one or two days of acute suffering that would follow upon every time—she would have died, in heart and mind, if not in body, of the pain.

Sometimes, when she was either very happy with him or drowning in the bitter aftermath, she would lie pretending to herself as a child does. These imaginings always took the same form, and on this night at Paradise she began the old childish-womanly game again when she saw sleep would not come.

The pretence was that she was going to have a baby. In her heart of hearts she knew she wanted Killigrew to marry her, or rather to want to marry her. With all her knowledge of him she could not quite come to the belief that she could not make him happy if he were married to her.... Perhaps if she were going to have a baby, he would want to. He would not; but he would have done it as soon as he saw she really wanted it, though without seeing the necessity, which would not have existed in a world constructed on his plan. Still, she knew he would do it, given the right circumstances; also she knew he had the deep love for children derived from a Jewish strain in his family. With that baby he would come to a fuller love of her than ever before; its advent would surely give him what even she admitted he lacked.

She lay now, picturing it to herself and planning a cunningly-laid deceit by which she should appear a lovely and noble figure in his eyes. She would have a very "bad time," of course, or somehow the thing would lose significance, and she would ask, nay implore, the doctor to promise her, if he could only save either the child or herself, to let it be the child. And Joe would hear of it and know that it was because he wanted a child so much.... She might pretend to be delirious and murmur that he wanted the child so much more than he did her.... He would be in the room and hear her and she would pretend not to know it....

Thus Judy, luxuriating in the darkness, knowing in her clear brain that looked on so unswayed by her passionate weary heart, that Killigrew, for all his instinct for children, did not want them in the concrete, that if she bore him one he would love her just as much as he did now and no more. That he would love her as much even while she was carrying it she believed, and rightly, for he was too natural a man himself ever to think nature ugly.

Judy lay imagining ... imagining ... and she thought of Nicky's firm, soft little body, and how it had felt to her hungry hands and tried to feel it all over again in her bed and imagine it belonged to her and Joe. And she saw the cold, pale dawn come in, and her dream shivered and fled before it, and she was left with only her bitter knowledge that it would never happen, and if it did, not that way. And she wished with a futile frenzy of longing that she had never chosen to keep Killigrew by giving him her whole self in fee, but by refusing herself to him had been able to leave him and live down the hold he had on her soul and mind which had grown to such strength in those first three years. Her first fear when she gave him everything had been lest attainment should dull even that want he had of her, but she found he had spoken truth when he said that that was a quality which grew with having. For fewer men are bored with satiety than kept by a custom that becomes necessity, and his habit for her would in itself be an attraction for him. But Killigrew, for all his cleverness, was not the man to know, if any could have, how passionate her withholding had been, how passionless was her surrender.



CHAPTER X

LONE TRAILS

So much of mental passion could be lived through upon one side of a wall and on the other Georgie wake fresh and unknowing of it all, stretch a moment, wonder as to what time Judy had come in, tip-toe to her room and peep, to see a sleeping face so pale and haggard that she withdrew, suddenly sorry, she did not quite know why. Judy could look old ... she reflected. Georgie herself felt a lilting sense of interest in this day which she had not hitherto during her stay at Paradise Cottage. Nothing had happened, and yet somehow she felt different. It was not even that she had had a letter from Val, for he had written two days ago, and so she would not hear again for several days, a ready pen not being his. And she was beginning to be guiltily conscious that she did not enjoy getting his letters; they seemed somehow to disrupt atmosphere instead of creating it. Everything was different from that day on the river when Val had told her he loved her and it had all seemed so simple. She had accepted him then because she was so fond of him, and she knew everyone would be pleased, and also she was pleased herself. He was so young and jolly, and they had always fitted so well, though in his music—he was by way of being a young composer—he was out of her depth.

They fitted too well; since their engagement Georgie, feeling it lacked excitement and being both very young and a woman, and therefore an experimentalist, had tried to get up little scenes so as to have quarrels and reconciliations. She would do things which she had first got him to say he did not like; then she defied him, only to meet with an ineffectual annoyance on his part. When after each scene she gave way, as she had meant to do all along, she knew in her heart that it was because she chose to submit, not because he had the strength to compel her. He was too young and inexperienced to see that she was young enough to be craving for a master, while at the same time he was old enough to want peace and mutual consideration. He would have been shocked at the idea of using brutality to her, and brutality was what Georgie, without recognising it, wanted.

She shook herself impatiently now as the thought of Val came to her when, turning over her handkerchiefs to choose a clean one, she came upon his last letter. Dear old Val! ... but he had no part in this clear, pale spring day and all it was going to hold.

She checked herself as she was bursting into song in her bath because she thought of tired-looking Judy still asleep in the next room, but something in her went on singing to meet this new fine day. She had her breakfast in solitary state, because Mrs. Penticost would neither let her wait nor Judy be disturbed, and then she flung a coat over her "Fishwife" dress and went out into the morning. She went over to Cloom to see whether Nicky had forgiven her and would sit for his portrait as usual.

Thinking of Nicky made her think of Ishmael, and she went over again in her mind what he had looked like when he had been so angry yesterday. She had seen a new Ishmael then, a more interesting one; she was vaguely aware of liking him better than before. Perhaps it might be rather fun to see if she could make him angry. Probably he would only be really angry with anyone he cared for, and of course he didn't care for her at all. Georgie pondered that point as she went. She was honest and sweet, but she was an arrant little flirt, and Val was not the first man who had kissed her. She never pretended anything to herself, but she could pretend things to other people. She was too vital to be vulgar, but she was also too vital to be quite well-bred, and often her methods were startling, as for her age and period she cared remarkably little what she said. She would try and wake Ishmael up; it would do him good. For all her plainness of actual feature, if that wonderful mouth were excepted, no one knew better than Georgie that she had beaute de diable, and the sheer impudent vitality of her swept nearly every man off his feet if she wished it to. "Me, m'dear?" she would protest to Judy or any friend who pointed this out to her. "Most hideous female, m'dear. Face like a pudding." Here she would puff out her cheeks and hold them distended till her soft infectious laughter made them collapse. "Everyone's kind to me, because I'm so plain they're sorry for me...."

Privately she considered she knew everything in the world there was to know about men. In reality she knew very little, placing as much too much importance on sex as Judy placed too little.

Arrived at the Manor, she found that Nicky had disappeared, after an annoying and rather alarming habit of his, and was not expected back, by those who knew his roving ways, till the evening. Ishmael informed her of this with rather a rueful smile.

"He's always had these wild fits ever since he's been big enough to go off on his own," he told her; "and he steals something out of the larder, or if he can't do that he just trusts to his eyes and tongue when he meets some kind good lady, and he scours the countryside till late. The worst of it is I shan't be able to do anything to him when he turns up this evening, because he'll pretend he ran away because he was so afraid of me after yesterday."

"Are you so terrifying?" said Georgie, peeping up at him from under her shady hat.

"Not at all. I am a very easily-led person."

Georgie considered this, her head on one side. Then she said briskly: "Then will you please help me take my sketching things somewhere, as I can't get on with the portrait? After all, it's a bit your fault, isn't it? You should have brought your son up better."

"Of course, I'll take them anywhere you like," said Ishmael; "where shall it be?"

Thus it came about that Killigrew and Judy, a couple of hours later, coming to the plateau, found Georgie there, busy over a sketch of Ishmael in profile, with his head telling dark against the grey sunlit cliff wall, because Georgie said it was easier to paint dark against light. She was really working in her vivid, effective way, and Killigrew found little to criticise.

Judy was no longer looking tired. Joe had met her perfectly, holding her away and looking into her eyes in the whimsical tender way he had as though he were saying: "It's absurd, isn't it, to make out what we did together is of any importance, and yet as long as we're human beings we can't help feeling it's wonderful ..." and he had thanked her, hardly in words, for the hours of the night before, though there had been words too, as she had buried her head against him. With that and her usual careful aids to beauty Judy was glowing, and though there was never a shade of possessiveness in her manner towards Killigrew, yet this morning there was so much of confidence and possession of herself that it almost amounted to the same thing when she made her appearance by his side.

Georgie declared a rest when the two of them appeared, and Ishmael also came to look at what she had been doing. He was standing a little behind her and looking down, not so much at the painting as at the back of her bent neck, where the absurd little drake's tails curved against the skin, so white in the sunshine. One ear was rosy where the light shone through it, and behind it lay a soft blue crescent of shadow.

As he looked that odd something occurred to Ishmael which suddenly puts a person in a new light—the slipping of the plane, the freakish turn of the kaleidoscope which makes the new light strike at a fresh angle something seen before and makes it different. He fell in love with Georgie in that moment, staring at her bent neck and the curve of her ear.

All day a delightful exaltation possessed him; he was not yet at the stage when a man is plagued with doubts of success or advisability; he was only tingling with a new delight. He helped her along any rough place when they all walked over to the Vicarage to tea with a joy he had not felt the day before, and he did not even know how irrational it all was.

At tea the conversation turned on different types of men, and Killigrew held forth on what he held to be the only true and vital classification.

"The only division in mankind is the same as the only division in the animal world, of course," he said.

"What is that?" asked the Parson. "Wild and tame?"

"No; it is the division between the animal who goes with the pack and him who hunts a solitary trail. The bee is kin to the wolf because both are subject to a community-life with strict laws. The bee is nearer of kin to the wolf than it is to the butterfly, which lives to itself alone. The fox, who hunts and is harried as a solitary, is further removed from his brother the wolf than he is from the wild cat, who has like habits to himself. My natural history may be wrong, but you see the theory!"

"And you carry that into the world of man?" said Judith lightly. In her heart was a sick pain and anger, and the brightness of the day had fled for her; with his few careless words Killigrew had re-created all the old atmosphere of depression, of—"It's no good, I know he's as he is, and that nothing I can do or that happens to me will ever make him any different...."

"Certainly it is the great division. Between the born adventurer and the community-man there is a far greater gulf fixed than between the former and an eagle or the latter and a cony. Lone trail or circumscribed hearth—between these lies the only incompatibility."

"There is a good deal in your theory," said Boase, "but it goes too much for externals. The home-keeping man may be the one with the free spirit and the wanderer the man who cannot get away from habits that tie him to other people wherever he goes."

"Sounds like a perambulating bigamist," said Killigrew, laughing. "But you're right as usual, Padre, and go to the heart of it while I'm being merely superficial. According to my division your brother Archelaus is a fox and an eagle and all the other lone things right enough, isn't he, Ishmael?"

"Yes," said Ishmael slowly, "I think he is."

"Whereas you are the bee, the wolf, the cony," declared Killigrew. "Isn't he, Padre?"

Boase smiled. "Shall I tell you what I think, Joe?" he answered, "It is this. Ishmael is by circumstances and inclination a dweller in one spot, and custom and humanity incline him to tie himself always more closely to it and the people in it. But man is not as simple as your animals, and in most of us is something alien, some strain of other instincts. The man who lives intimately on one piece of earth may have a deep instinct in spite, perhaps because, of it, to keep himself free and to resent claims even while he acknowledges them. Just as a man who is free to go where he likes, as you do, may carry his own chains with him. For the only slavery is to oneself, and it is the man who flows inwards instead of outwards who is not free."

"I wonder ..." said Killigrew.

"The real flaw in your argument, Joe," said Ishmael, "is that your lone hunter in the animal world always has his mate and his young, whereas when you make the division apply to mankind you class all that with the herd and deny it to the man who would be free."

"Because that's how it translates into terms of humanity," said Killigrew swiftly. "Civilisation has made the taking of a mate a bond as firm as pack-law, and woe to him who, having yielded to it, transgresses it. It is not I who have made that division, it is the world."

"He might have spared me this to-night ..." thought Judith.

Ishmael kept silence. He was thinking of the truth of what Killigrew had been saying, and weighing it against this new flame that had sprung up within him that day. Freedom—loneliness is the price paid for liberty, he knew that. And he had found loneliness sweet, or, when not actually that, at least very bearable. Yet even as he thought it he knew for him there was, as ever, at any crisis of his life, only the one way. He had that directness which, though seeing all ways—for it is not the same thing as simplicity—yet never doubted as to the only one possible for himself. On that long-ago day on the cliffs near St. Renny, when he had played with the notion of running away to sea, he had known all along in his heart that that way was not for him. When, to other natures, a struggle might have arisen between staying on at Cloom, carrying out his work there, and taking Blanche into the life she would have shared with him, the point had not even arisen for him. During the turmoil of mind and body that the break with her had left to him his victory over himself had never really been in doubt. When the passion in him had met, as he could now see it had, the same feeling in Phoebe and he had been swept into that disaster, release had not appeared to him even a possibility. The new duties that had devolved on him since he had been free again all seemed to come quite naturally, without being sought by him, or even imagined until they floated into his horizon. So now this new thing had come upon him, and, wiser than he had been when he loved Blanche, wiser than when he had married Phoebe, he saw it glamour-enwrapped, yet he recognised the glamour. That he would marry Georgie if he could he was fairly certain, but that there was, as ever, the something in him which resented it, this mingling of himself with another human being, this passionate inroad on spaces which can otherwise be kept free even of self, he knew too. Acute personal relationships with others makes for acute accentuation of self, and that was what, at the root of the matter, Ishmael always resented and feared.



CHAPTER XI

WAYS OF LOVE

A week later Boase said Evensong, as far as he was aware, to the usual emptiness, but when he went down the church afterwards to lock it up he saw a kneeling figure crouching in a dim corner. He went closer and saw that it was Judith—there was no mistaking that slim, graceful back and the heavy knot of dark hair. Her shoulders were very still and she was making no sound, so it was a shock to Boase when, on his touching her, she glanced round and he saw her eyelids were red and swollen in the haggard pallor of her face. She stared at him dully for a minute.

"What is it, my child?" asked Boase.

"I can't tell you," said Judith dully. "You wouldn't understand and you'd be shocked."

Boase smiled as he sat down in the pew just in front of her. She leant back against her seat and looked pitifully at his kind deeply-lined old face.

"Besides, I'm not sorry!" she went on; "at least, not the sorry that means to give it up, only the sorry that wishes I had never started...."

"Tell me about him, my child!" said Boase. And Judy did. It was the first time she had ever spoken of him—what he was to her and what her life had been—to anyone. She made no wail beyond once saying, "I did not know it was possible that a person could make one suffer so...."

Gradually Boase drew what little story there was to tell from her, but more than she told him he gathered for himself, from his watching of her and his knowledge of Killigrew. He was an old man now and a wise one. The priest in him yearned over her to wean her from her sin, but the patient wisdom in him told him that not that way had she yet come. He talked quietly to her, soothing her by his calmness, his lack of reproaches or adjurations, and presently she was sitting forward in the pew in the gathering dusk talking more normally.

"There are some sheep who are not only not of this fold," he said at last, "but who seem as though they never could be on this side of the grave. Joe has the odd quality of never having felt spiritual want, and probably he never will."

"It is that uncertainty of edge about him that has always been the difficulty," she said. "That—oh, it's so difficult to explain. I mean, he has never seemed to realise the limits of individuality. Woman is woman to him—not one woman. He's often said that the affinity made-for-each-other theory must be pure nonsense; that you meet during your little life hundreds of people who all have more or less of an affinity for you—some more, some less—and that it's practically your duty to fuse that alikeness wherever you meet it. Of course he agrees that among the lot there's bound to be one with whom the overlap is bigger than it is with any of the others, but then he looks on that as no reason for thinking that person is the one person for you. There are probably several more people knocking round with whom your overlap would be still wider, only you never happen to meet them. And to bind yourself irrevocably to one would be to prevent your fusing with them if you did meet them. It works out at this—that the greatest giving and the greatest taking is the ideal state of affairs. Give to everyone you meet and take all you can from them. But, you see, my trouble is I have nothing left to give anyone but him. I've always given him everything—I want no one and nothing else. And he's wanted so many and so much. I see the logic and admirable sense of his attitude so clearly that even while a primitive root jealousy is eating me up I am so infected by his theory that I don't blame him. I feel myself nebulous as regards him, as blurred at edge as he is."

"Oh, my dear child!" said Boase, "this—this in a way bigness of his view just makes him more of an individualist than anyone. He limits himself nowhere, but simply because it's all gain to his individuality. That it is gain to others too is neither here nor there."

"It can be loss to the others; there is such a thing as all taking and no giving."

"Ah, now you're looking on it from the point of view of payment! Take for a moment the truer view that sorrow is as much gain as pleasure. The only gain on earth is experience, and both emotions go to feed that."

"And then," continued Judith, pursuing her own line of thought, "something in me seems to say that that wide view, that merging of individuality, has the right idea at the root of it. It's an old strain of Puritanism in me, I suppose, that tells me anything is good which implies a loosening of individualism."

"I don't agree with you," said Boase energetically. "The root of all things good and great is personality. The success of any movement depends on the individuality of the leader, just as the whole of creation depends, whether it knows it or not, on the personality of Christ. 'Be individual' is a counsel of perfection—that is the only drawback to it. If the great mass of people were only nearer perfection the rein could be given to individualism; as it is it's a dangerous horse to drive—it so often runs away with its driver. Conceive now of the immense advantage it would be if, instead of a criminal being tried by the clumsy machinery of the law, the judge were to investigate the case quietly and thoroughly himself, get to know the man, his belongings and environment, and then deal with him as he saw fit. The thing's not workable; the judge might have an attack of indigestion that would jaundice his view, or be in a rosy glow of sentimentality after port. But if the judge could be depended on for sympathy and intuitiveness, half the crime in the world would be stamped out. It's the same everywhere. If priests could be allowed to discriminate between divorced persons they thought it fit and desirable to remarry and those they did not, much sin might be avoided. But it wouldn't work, simply because the individual can't yet be trusted, and so it is quite right that the law should be as it is. But that doesn't prevent rank individualism from being the counsel of perfection—in which, curiously enough, Joe would agree with me more than Ishmael, who fights against the individual in life to an extraordinary extent. I wish something would happen to make him succumb to it again. I don't want him to grow inhuman...."

"I wish it were possible to grow inhuman," said Judy.

"If you knew," said Boase slowly, "that besides doing—as I must tell you—a right action by leaving off all connection with Joe Killigrew, you could also cease at once to feel anything for him, would you then leave him?"

"Ah! not yet ..." said Judith. "I must have a little longer. Wait till I'm older—till I can't make him want me...."

As she went home, comforted more than she could have thought possible by the mere telling of what had accompanied her so long, she knew that she had not been wholly disingenuous. That Killigrew would cease to want her for at least a good while to come she did not believe, and it was not that dread which had sent her shaking for the first time to the help from which she had hitherto held proudly aloof. As a matter of fact she kept up the illusion of youth better with Killigrew than with the rest of the world, and she knew it. For one thing, he was never away from her long enough at a time to get a thoroughly new vision of her on his return, a vision apart from that which he was expecting to see. For another, she took more care with him. Other people might see her unpowdered, bleak—never he. And for this, too, she had paid the penalty. Sometimes when he held her, gazing down into the face she had prepared with so much skill to meet that look—counting half upon the material aids upon her skin and half upon the state she should have evoked in him before she courted that gaze—then she would think to herself: "And if I were not 'tidied,' if I were 'endy,' looking greasy, as I have all day, he would not be feeling like this...." Then with that thought would flash into her aching heart: "On so frail a thread hangs love...."

But it was not anything in Killigrew which had eaten into her consciousness this past week—it was something in herself. Something which had risen to its crest that night among the bracken had failed ever since, was falling on deadness, and that something was her own power to feel the love which had made her life for so long. There were always periods of deadness—she knew that—but this held a quality none of them had had. What if even she were subject to the inevitable law, if for her too after the apex came the downward slope? That was the fear that gnawed at her, that was what she dreaded when the Parson had held out exactly that as a hope.

While she had been suffering and loving she had longed for the release of cessation; now she dreaded it, for it undermined to her the whole of the past. She was one of those women to whom faithfulness in herself was a necessity of self-respect, and failure of love, without any deflection of it, was to her a failure of faithfulness. She had nothing tangible to go upon; it was only that she felt this deadness now upon her was not the mere reaction of feeling, but an actual snapping of something in the fabric of life. She told herself it was not possible, that not so could she give the lie to all she had suffered.

As she went up the lane to Paradise she met Ishmael coming down it; evidently he had been taking Georgie home. She stopped to speak to him, and, feeling he was reluctant to pass on by himself yet awhile, she leant over a gate and let him talk to her. For a minute or so he said nothing that was not an ordinary commonplace of encounter, but after a short silence had fallen between them he began abruptly on another note.

"Judy," he said, "do you believe in what is called 'falling in love'?"

"Do I believe in it?" echoed Judith. "It depends on how you mean that. If you ask do I believe that there is such a phenomenon, I do, for the simple reason that one sees it happening all around one and people doing the maddest things under its influence. If you mean do I think it's a good thing, or a pleasant thing, or a thing that lasts ...?"

"Yes, that's what I meant, I think."

"Falling in love is giving someone the power to hurt you.... I suppose it depends on you, or rather on them, if it's worth it or not. But how can one say anything of any value about a thing unless one has first clearly defined what that thing is? And love is like religion, like the vision of truth itself—it means something different to every man."

"I thought women were always supposed to love in much the same way," said Ishmael vaguely—"better than we do. They always say so."

"Oh, it depends on the individual, as always. Chiefly it depends on whether you're the sort of person that loves 'in spite of' or 'because of.' If you're the 'because of' kind, all sorts of things, external drawbacks and disappointments in character, put you off. If you're the 'in spite of,' they don't. I think the only difference between men and women is that as a rule men love because of and women in spite of."

"I'm afraid I should be the 'because of.'"

"Yes, I think perhaps you would. If a woman loves 'in spite of,' all the little external things that at the beginning might have shocked her only make her care more."

"Like eating with one's knife, you mean?"

"Yes, even that. Or the person having a cold in his head or a spot on the end of his nose! She notices whatever it happens to be and has a little shock of surprise at finding it makes no difference. And that makes her feel how strong her love must be; and pouf! it gets stronger than ever."

"And the underneath things, like finding out little insincerities, little meannesses even?"

"The same plan works there—if you're the 'in spite of' lover."

"Tell me," said Ishmael suddenly, "do you—does any woman—have moments when the very word 'love' is an insufferable intrusion, when it all seems petty and of no account, a tiresome thing in whose presence it suddenly doesn't seem possible to breathe?"

"When one is sick of the whole question, and the way life is supposed to be built round it? Yes; but when a woman feels like that it generally is in reaction from too much of it. She doesn't feel it purely academically, so to speak, as a man can." Judy's voice was suddenly very weary. Her eyes met Ishmael's, and in that look a comprehension was born between them that was never quite to fail, that was, in its best moments, to mean true intimacy. Judy blinked at him with her sad monkey-eyes, smiled a little, and held out her hand in farewell. He took it—suddenly ejaculated a "Good-night" accompanied by a "Thank you" which he felt, though he could not quite have told why. He went off down the lane without seeing her back to the cottage, and she stayed awhile, grateful in her turn that meeting him had taken the keen edge off her own problems. She went in to supper and bed feeling very tired, a tiredness that was in her mind and soul, but that had the pleasantness of a healthy physical exhaustion. Georgie showed a disposition to come into her room and ask her her opinion of "falling in love" over mutual hair-brushes, but Judith evaded the tentative suggestion. By then she was feeling that the word was a meaningless string of four letters, and the thing she supposed it stood for as fantastic and far-off as the recurring fragment of a dream, which seems so vivid in the dreaming and is a broken kaleidoscope of ill-fitting colours on awaking. She went to bed and slept soundly, better than she had done for months.

She was to wake to the old weight, half-joy, half-pain, but more and more she was to feel the new dread that she was growing out even of that, left in a dryness that belittled the past; but the periods of numbness once begun had to go on in spite of her, and with their bitterness was mingled at least the negative healing of indifference.



CHAPTER XII

GEORGIE

Georgie had been up to the village to post a very important letter—so important that her hand stayed hesitant over the slit in the box for a moment or two while she made up her mind all over again. Then, with a gasp, she pushed the letter through and heard it fall with a faint thud to the bottom of the box. The last chance was still not gone, for the friendly old postmaster would have given it back to her if she had asked for it, but the mere noise it made in falling—one of the most distinctive and irrevocable sounding in the world—caused her to feel a lightening of the heart that meant satisfaction. She turned and went away down the bare village street, past the last row of whitewashed slate-roofed cottages, with the dark clumps of myrtle or tamarisk by their doors, and then she struck off the hard, bleak road, where the wind sang mournfully in the insulators at every telegraph post, and made for the open moor.

It was one of those mood-ridden days of spring when the whole countryside changes in the passing of a cloud from pearly grey to a pale brightness unmarred by any dark note. Even the cloud-shadows were no deeper than wine-stains as they trailed over the slopes; against the cold, clear blue of the sky the branches of the thorns seemed of pencilled silver—their leaves were a rich green amid the colder verdure of the elders and the soft hue of the breaking ash leaves. Ploughed lands were a delicate purple, and the pastures still held the pure emerald of the rainy winter, though paled by the quality of the light to a tone no deeper than that of the delicate young bracken fronds which were uncurling upon the moor. Everywhere was lightness—in all colour, in the wandering airs, in the texture of leaf and blade—in Georgie's soul as she went over the soft turf and hummed little tunes to herself. She ran up a grassy peak crested with grey boulders and flung herself against them, half-leaning, half-standing, over a rough cool curve of grey granite, arms outstretched, eyes closed.

She was conscious of the fabric of her body as never before. She felt her heart beating as a thing heavier and more powerful than the rest of her frame; she was aware of the breath passing through the delicate skin of her nostrils, of a faint, sweet aching in her thighs, of the tenderness of her breast crushed against the rock, of the acuteness of life beating in her outspread finger-tips against the rough granite and in her toes pressed against the turf. She dropped to the ground and, rolling over, stretched to utmost tension, then relaxed to limpness, eyelids closed and the hair blowing upon them the only moving thing about her. Then she scrambled to her feet again and set off towards Cloom.

As she neared it she saw on the far slope a plough at work, looking like a tiny toy, the horses a rich bright brown in the sunlight. Her strong young eyes could see the darker blown mesh of their manes and the long hair about their fetlocks; she could see, too, that the man in a faded blue shirt and earth-coloured trousers driving them was John-James, for even at that distance his sturdy build and the copper red of his broad neck were unmistakable. She saw that the man standing talking by the gate was Ishmael, and she stayed still, wondering if he would see and recognise her. The tiny figure turned, stood staring, and then waved its hat above its head; Georgie fluttered her handkerchief and turned off down towards the stream at the bottom of the moor while Ishmael was still watching.

It was warmer down by the stream than on the crest above, and the air was as though filled with a bright sparkle with the refractions of the sun from ripple and eddy. The stream was a mere thread of water, but broken by stone and drooping bough to the semblance of urgency, and with its mazy lights went a clear murmur of sound. Georgie took off her little cloth jacket and threw herself down on the grassy slope that, amidst a tangle of hemlock, edged the purling water. Between her and the sunlight drooped an alder; she saw against the sun the showers of yellow catkins all gleaming transparent, like sunlit raindrops caught at the moment when they lengthen.... She lay under the glory of this Danaean shower and half-closed her eyes to stare up at the wonder of it. Presently she heard the sound of twigs and leaves being crushed under advancing feet, but she did not look up, only started to hum a little tune, though she could not hear it for the rising beat of her own heart in her ears.

When Ishmael merely dropped down beside her and, asking if he might smoke, proceeded to light his pipe, she calmed a trifle—a sick dread that she dismissed as impossible flashed through her; she peeped at him from her tilted hat brim, and saw his hands were trembling slightly as he struck the match. In a moment she had caught back her own poise; she watched sidelong, noting with an odd precision exactly how he looked, how his brown skin glistened a little in the sun, so close to her that she could see the infinitesimal criss-cross of lines upon the backs of his hands and the stronger seams upon his reddened neck. She saw the glisten of a few grey hairs in the dark thick patch above his ear; she could see the texture of his lip as it pouted beneath the sideways hang of his pipe. She wondered why anyone ever really loved someone else; looked at like that, and thought of clearly, reasonably, they did not look very wonderful, but only obvious flesh and blood, enclosing something that, try as one might, must always remain alien, cut off. Yet she knew that, reason as she might, this particular piece of flesh and blood, animated by this particular soul, had power over hers that her leaping pulses at the very sound of his footfalls, that her eager planning mind at night in her bed, would not let her deny. Suddenly she looked away from him, and, twisting her hands in the dew-wet grass, spoke. "I've written to Val," she said.

Ishmael did not answer, and she went on:

"You don't seem very interested, but I'm so full of it I must tell someone. After all one doesn't break off an engagement every day...."

He turned towards her then, dropped his pipe, and looked full at her.

"You mean that? You have definitely done it?"

"Undone it," she said cheerfully; "it would never have answered. I've known that for ages. He's so much cleverer than I am, but so much less wise! He's just a nice boy who would be the ordinary simple kind if it weren't for his music. And even there we can't agree, you see."

"I'm not clever—not the kind that can do clever things," said Ishmael.

"It's not the doing clever things that matters, I've come to the conclusion, though Val would think that was heresy. Being things matters more, somehow. He knows all about music, and they say he's going to be the great English composer, and I only know that even a barrel-organ in the street has always made me feel what I used to call when I was small all 'live-y and love-y.'"

"There is nothing one can get drunk on like music and poetry," said Ishmael slowly. "Pictures one needs to understand before they can intoxicate, and prose can fill and satisfy you, but it's only the other two one can go mad on, and this—"

He pulled her to him, a hand beneath her chin, his other arm round her sturdy, soft little body, and she met his eyes bravely for a moment. Then hers closed, but he still paused before he kissed her.

"Georgie, are you sure?" he asked. "Have you thought over all the drawbacks?"

"Such as—?"

"My brothers ... even my son, who will have to come before any we may have.... I don't want any more bad blood over this heritage, Georgie! And I—I'm a good many years older than you—"

"And terribly sot in your ways, as Mrs. Penticost says ..." murmured Georgie. "Ishmael, aren't you going to ...?"

Then he did, and Georgie nestled close to him with a sigh of satisfaction. After a little while her indefatigable tongue began again.

"Ishmael, isn't it funny to think it might never have happened? Just suppose I had been actually married to Val instead of only sort of engaged.... I might have been, you know."

"If you didn't care about him," began Ishmael, then stopped, feeling he was a poor advocate of a simple and unmistakable method of loving.

"Well, it's very difficult for a girl," explained Georgie. "Even when I was getting fond of him I knew it wasn't what I'd imagined falling in love to be like, but I thought it might be all I could manage. You see, in real life, the second-best has such a disconcerting habit of coming along first. You know all the time that it is only the second-best, but you think to yourself, 'Suppose the first-best never comes along for me, and I have said No to this, then there'll be nothing but a third-best to fall back on.' That's why so many women marry just not the right man."

"And I—am I the first-best ...?" asked Ishmael in a low voice.

Georgie nodded.

"Ah!" she said; "you need never be jealous of poor Val. If anyone has anything to be jealous over, it's me—not that I'm going to be. After all, one can't be a man's first love and his last, and it's more important to be his last! What's the matter ...? You look funny, somehow...."

"Nothing," said Ishmael; "I was only thinking what a dear you are. You're so sporting about everything. And I—sometimes in the middle of being happy everything seems suddenly empty and stupid to me, and I dread your finding that out. Arid spaces.... I don't know how to explain it. They'll come even in my love for you."

Georgie nodded again, like a wise baby mandarin, as she sat there with her feet tucked up under her. She stared ahead, and slowly a change came over her face, a change like the suffusion of dawn. She caught his head to her and drew it to her breast.

"I've had nothing to make me tired yet, not like you. I almost want you to feel tired and sad and lost if it'll make you come to me, like this...." She stroked his hair gently, holding his head very lightly. He pressed it hard against her; he could feel her heart beating at his ear; he rubbed his cheek against her breast. "You make me feel like a child again," he said. "No one has ever done, that...."

"Do you know," said Georgie, still stroking rhythmically, "that every woman wants her husband to be four things—her lover, her comrade, her child, and her master? Did you know that?"

"No; I think I thought it was only the lover they cared about. I'm very ignorant, Georgie! Have I to be all that? D'you think I can?"

"Which of them do you doubt?" asked Georgie slyly.

"Sometimes the lover, sometimes the comrade, sometimes the child, and always the master, though I'll play at even that if you want me to. But the other three—I shall always be all of them underneath, even in the dry spaces."

Georgie slowly kissed his ruffled head, and then started to try and tie the longer hairs on the crown into tight knots. He twisted his head away and sat up, laughing. "If that's how you're going to treat me when I'm being your child," he threatened, "I'll—"

"You'll what?" asked Georgie.

Ishmael did precisely what every other lover in the world would have done in answer to that question at that moment. Later, when the sun had moved high and they scrambled up to go home, Georgie was the laughing child again; only for a second, as they stood on the ridge above and looked down to the silvery patch where the bright grass was flattened where they had lain, she wore the look that had transfigured her before.

In the early autumn Ishmael married, and a new phase began for him at Cloom. For the first years his precision of them held very true, except that, though they held more of deep and actual satisfaction than he had imagined, the moments of rapture were less glamorous.

Ishmael was one of those unlucky and rare people to whom everything has lost poignancy when it is occurring not for the first time. He knew how far dearer to him was Georgie than Blanche had ever been—how far more lovable she was. But his love had not the keenness, the exquisite sharpness, of the earlier love, because that first time had taken from him what in spite of himself he could not give again. If Georgie had left him he would not have suffered the agonies he had lived down after Blanche had gone.

In the same way he loved Georgie incomparably more than Phoebe, and between them passion was a deeper though not a sweeter thing; yet never again was he to feel the abandon that had delighted and finally satiated him with Phoebe. His relation towards any other human being could never now stretch from rim to rim of the world for him as had so nearly been the case when he loved Blanche. No one thing could seem to him to overtop all others as he had tried to make it in the first months with Phoebe.

As time went on there came about many measures of which he was as keen an advocate as he had been of school reform and the ballot, yet never did he recapture that first fine glow which had fired him at his entry into the world of men who worked at these things. He believed as time went on, more firmly, because more vitally, in God and the future of the soul than ever he had in his fervid schooldays, yet these beliefs aroused less enthusiasm of response within him.

He could still feel as strongly in body, soul or mind, but never did he have those flashing periods when all three are fused together in that one white passion of feeling which is the genius of youth. Always one of the three stood aloof, the jarring spectator in the trinity, and affected the quality of what the other two might feel. Life, as he went through its midway, seemed to him to disintegrate, not to move inevitably towards any one culmination of its varied pattern. When he had been young he lived by what might happen any golden to-morrow; now he lived by what did happen day by day.



BOOK IV

THE SHADOW OF THE SCYTHE



CHAPTER I

QUESTIONS OF VISION

"I am getting on, you know," said Nicky Ruan. "At twenty-two—nearly twenty-three—a fellow isn't as young as he was. And I don't want to stick here till I'm too old to enjoy seeing the world."

"What should you consider too old, Nicky?" asked Ishmael.

Nicky hesitated; he made a rapid calculation in his head, and arriving at the fact that his father must be quite forty-six or seven, and being always averse to hurting anyone's feelings unless it was very worth while, he temporised.

"Oh, well! it depends on the fellow, doesn't it? I expect, for instance, you weren't nearly as old as me when you were my age, because you didn't go to the 'Varsity, and of course that makes a difference...."

Ishmael sat smoking and looking at the boy in silence. He felt he knew what the old Bible phrase meant when it spoke of yearning over a child. He felt the helpless desire to protect, to stand between this golden boy and all that must come to him, and he knew that not only can no one live for anyone else, but that youth would refuse the gift were it possible to make it.

Nicky, about whom he knew so little, about whom he realised he had always known so little.... What did he really know about Nicky's life, his doings up at Oxford, his thoughts? Roughly he was aware of his tastes, his habits at home, his affections; but of the other Nicky, the individual that stood towards life, not the boy who stood in his relation of son towards him, he knew nothing. Women, now ... what lay behind that smooth lean young face—what of knowledge about women? Ishmael had no means of telling. Whether Nicky were still as pure as his two little sisters, whether he had the technical purity that may for some time go with a certain amount of curiosity and corruption of the mind, whether he had already had his "adventures," or whether he were still too undeveloped, too immersed in sports and himself to have bothered about women, Ishmael could not really tell, any more than could any other parent.

The only thing in which Ishmael differed from the average parent was in acknowledging his ignorance to himself. But then Nicky had always had that curious intangible quality, that mental slipping-away from all grip, which had made it especially difficult ever really to know what his thoughts were and what he really knew. Not that there was any reserve about Nicky—he was not at all averse to talking freely about himself; but it seemed as though either there were in him a hollow where most people keep the root of self, or else that a very deep-seated personality held court there. Whichever it was, the effect was the same, the effect as of a sealed place.

Father and son sat looking at each other, and there was something inimical in the eyes of both. Nicky sat thinking: "Of course father's a brick in all sorts of ways, and there isn't anybody quite like him, but he doesn't understand. He never was young like me...." Thus Nicky, and saw no inconsistency with his statement of a minute earlier that his father had been so much younger than he at the same age. And Ishmael thought: "He has the only thing that matters in the world.... And I was like that once...." And almost, for a moment, hated him that he should have the youth which slipped so fast. The moment died, and with it his bitterness, merged in the pity of youth which welled up in him as he sat fronting Nicky's superb confidence, his health, his swelling appetite for life.

"But why Canada?" asked Ishmael at last, temporising in his turn.

"Because I'm sure it's the country of the future; you should hear Uncle Dan about it!... And of course he knows so many people there, so I should have introductions and all that. You know you believe in Uncle Dan!"

"Yes, I believe, as you call it, in your Uncle Dan's sincerity, if only because he's done so many inconsistent and apparently contradictory things in his life. But that doesn't make me see any real reason why you should go to Canada."

Nicky's bright face took on a sulky expression, he swung a foot, and his jaw stood out as it did when he was angry, thickening his whole aspect.

"Because, if you want to know, I'm not going to be content to spend my whole life in an obscure farm in Cornwall, as you've done!" he burst out. "There's the whole world to see and I want to see it. There's—oh, a thousand and one things to do and feel one could never get down here, things I want to do and feel. You can't understand."

That was true, and Ishmael knew it. What human being, he reflected, marooned as each of us is on the island of individuality, can understand another even when there is no barrier of a generation between, that barrier which only the element of sexual interest can overleap? There had been moments when he had wished that his destiny had not tied him quite so much, but on the whole he had loved that to which he was tied too dearly to resent it. He could see that Nicky thought his life had been very wasted; he allowed himself a little smile as he thought of what Cloom would have been like as a heritage for Nicky if he had not taken the view of his destiny that he had. What would Nicky's own position in life have been? Probably no better than that of his grandfather, old James Ruan. Ishmael laughed outright, much to Nicky's indignation, but when he spoke again his voice was gentler.

"I'll think it over," he promised, "and I'll write to your uncle and ask him what he thinks. I don't want to clip your wings, Nicky, Heaven forbid! I mayn't always have enjoyed having my own flights so circumscribed, you know."

Into Nicky's generous young heart rushed a flood of sympathy on the instant. "It must have been rotten for you," he said eagerly. "I know the old Parson's always saying how splendid you've been about this place and all that; you mustn't think I don't realise."

Ishmael, aware that he had not really wished his flights to be wider, that his nature had been satisfied, as far as satisfaction lay in his power, by Cloom, by the soil which was the fabric of life to him, felt he was obtaining sympathy and approbation on false pretences—indeed, he had deliberately angled for them. They were too sweet to refuse, however come by. Nicky, the young and splendid, whom he loved so dearly in spite of—or could it be because of?—his elusiveness, did not so often warm his heart that he could spurn this. He crossed over to where Nicky sat on the edge of the table and allowed himself one of his rare caresses, slipping his arm about the boy's shoulders. "We'll see, Nicky!" he said.

At that moment there came a crash against the door, and it burst open to admit the two little girls, Vassilissa and Ruth. Vassilissa, always called Lissa, to avoid confusion when her aunt came to stay, was a slim, vivid-looking child, not pretty, but with a face that changed with every emotion and a pair of lovely grey eyes. Ruth was simpler, sweeter, more stolid; a bundle of fat and a mane of brown hair chiefly represented her personality at present. Lissa was twelve, and looked more, but Ruth seemed younger than her eleven years by reason of her shyness in company and her slow speech. Ishmael privately thought Lissa a very remarkable child, but something in him, some touch of the woman, made him in his heart of hearts love better the quiet little Ruth, who was apt to be dismissed as "stodgy." He frowned now as they both came tumbling in—Lissa with the sure bounds with which she seemed to take the world, Ruth with her usual heaviness. This room, the little one over the porch that had been Nicky's bedroom in his boyhood, was now supposed to be Ishmael's business room, and as such inviolate.

"Nicky! Nicky!" cried Lissa. "How late you are! And you know you promised for twelve o'clock, and we've been waiting for ages and ages!"

"Promised what?" asked Nicky.

"Oh, Nicky ...!" on a wail of disgust; "you don't mean to say you've forgotten! Why, only yesterday you promised that to-day if it was fine you'd take us out in your tandem. You know you did!"

"Oh, Lord! Well, I can't, anyway. I've got an engagement."

"Nicky!" Ruth joined in the wail, but it was Lissa who passed rapidly to passion, her face crimson and her eyes full of tears of rage.

"Then you're a pig, that's what you are—a perfect pig, and I hate you! You never do what you say you will now, and I think it's very caddish of you. It's all that beastly Oxford; you've never been the same since you went there. Mother says so too. She says it's made you a conceited young puppy; I heard her!"

"Lissa!" Ishmael's voice was very angry. "Never repeat what anyone has said about anyone else—never, never. Do you hear me?"

"I don't care, she did say it, so there!"

Nicky was crimson. He went to the door. "Then it's easy to see where you get your good manners from!" he retorted, and was gone before Ishmael could say anything to him. Lissa was still trembling with rage, and Ruth, who was rather a cry-baby, lifted up her voice and wept, partly because of the disappointment and partly because she could not bear people not to be what she called "all comfy together."

Georgie Ruan heard the noise and came in briskly. Ishmael made her a despairing gesture to remove the two children.

Georgie stood taking in the scene. She had altered in fourteen years more than either Ishmael, who was seldom away from her, or than she herself, had realised; for she had never been a beauty anxiously to watch the glass, and motherhood had absorbed her to the overshadowing of self. She had coarsened more than actually changed—her sturdy little figure had lost its litheness in solidity, her round face had thickened and the skin roughened. Her movements were as vigorous and her mouth as wonderful, though it was more lost in her face, but her small blue eyes were still bright. She still managed to keep her air of a great baby, and it went rather sweetly with her obvious matronliness. She swept like a whirlwind on the two little girls, scolding and coaxing in a breath. Lissa at once started to pour out her grievance about the faithless Nicky.

"He said he had an engagement," put in Ishmael, seeing Georgie's face harden.

"Oh, of course," she retorted, "and we can guess what it is...." She broke off as Ishmael made a warning sign towards the children. "Anyway, I think it's too bad of him to promise the children to take them out and then not to do it," she insisted. "That's the third time he's done that lately, and I know how they were looking forward to it. They came home from school half an hour earlier on purpose."

Lissa and Ruth went to a small private school, whose scholars only consisted of the half-dozen children of the local gentry, and which was held at the village. It was called "school," and Lissa and Ruth felt very proud of going to it, but in reality it was no more than going out to a governess one shared with other girls instead of having a governess to oneself at home. Ruth ran to her father and clung to his knee heavily; he stroked her shock of brown hair and said: "Cheer up, little Piggy-widden"—which was his pet name for her, partly because she was the youngest and smallest of the family, partly because she was so fat, and in Cornwall the "piggy-widden" is the name for the smallest of the litter.

Lissa still stormed, but Georgie, with one of the sudden little gusts of temper to which she had always been liable, swept on to her and bade her be quiet at once and have a little self-control. She seized a child in each hand and whirled them out of the room with instructions to go to Nanny and have their faces washed. Then she came back to Ishmael and perched herself on the arm of his chair. She looked very young at the moment, for her attitude was of the Georgie of old days, and her round face was screwed up in an expression of mock-penitence as she rumpled his hair. She would have looked younger if the fashions had been kinder, but the beginning of the 'nineties was not a gracious period for women's dress. The sweep of the crinoline, the piquancy of the fluted draperies and deliciously absurd bustle, had alike been lost; in their stead reigned serge and cloth gowns that buttoned rigidly and had high stiff little collars. Braid meandered over Georgie's chest on either side of the buttons, and her pretty round neck was hidden and her cheeks made to seem coarse by the stiff collar, while her plump arms looked as though stuck on like those of a doll in their sleeves of black cloth which contrasted with the bodice and skirt of fawn-coloured serge. Her straight fringe that had had the merit of suiting her face was now frizzed, while the rest of her hair was twisted into what was known as a "tea-pot handle" at the back of her head.

Ishmael let her pull his head against the scratchy curves of braid, but he was preoccupied and kept up a tattoo on the writing-table with a paper-knife. There had been so many of these scenes since Nicky had been growing up; Georgie had changed towards the boy ever since her own children had been born. She was never unfair to him, but she seemed as though always on the watch. He must not come near the babies with his dirty boots on, must stay where he had been before he came near them at all, for fear he had wandered where she considered there might be infection. His dogs had come under the same ban, and one way and another she had gone the right way to sicken Nicky of his little sisters if he had not been both sweet-natured and rather impervious. Ishmael had sometimes resented all this on Nicky's behalf, and then Georgie had accused him of loving his son the most. Of course, she knew the others were "only girls," and therefore she supposed of no interest to a farmer.... Scenes such as this would end in penitence on her part and a weary forgiveness on Ishmael's. He loved Georgie and all his children deeply—perhaps his children meant something more to him—but he never could quite do away with the feeling that there was something rather absurd about the father of a family....

"What were you going to say about Nicky when I stopped you?" he asked. "Where is it he goes? Is it anywhere in particular?"

"I thought you knew," said Georgie slowly, "though I might have known you didn't; you never see anything, which may be very beautiful, but, believe me, can be very trying to a poor female! If you really want to know, he goes over to Penzance in his tandem every early-closing day to take out Miss Polly Behenna—from Behenna the draper's in Market Jew Street."

"Good Lord! ... there's nothing in it, is there?"

"I shouldn't think so; but you know how silly it is in a place like this ... and she's a very pretty girl, and oh, so dreadfully genteel!"

"That'll save him, then! Dairymaids are far more dangerous. But, as you say, it doesn't do.... I think there's something in the Canadian plan," he added to himself. He took up the lists of accounts he had been busy on when first interrupted by Nicky and began to examine them. He had to hold them far away from his eyes and even then to pucker up his lids before he could quite make them out. Georgie watched him.

"You know, Ishmael, you want specs," she said suddenly. "I'm sure of it! I've been watching you for ages and you never seem able to take in anything unless it's a mile off. And all your headaches, too...."

Ishmael thought angrily: "Is there anything women won't say outright? Can't she see I've been sick with terror about my eyes for months, and that's why I haven't done anything about it?" Aloud he only said gruffly: "I'm all right!"

"But you aren't!" persisted Georgie. "What's the good of saying you are when you aren't?"

"Well, if you like I'll go and see an oculist next time I go to Plymouth," promised Ishmael. "Will that do you?"

"I like that. It's not for me. I only said," began Georgie indignantly; but he pulled her head to him and held it there a moment before kissing her.

"Run away, there's a dear!" he said. "Eyes or no eyes, I've got to get this done, and you know you can't add two and two, so it's no good saying you'll stay and help."

"I can make two and two make five, which is the whole art of life," retorted Georgie, laughing. "But as there's the dinner to order, and as you could no more do that than I could see to the accounts, I'll go." She bent over him, and wickedly parted his hair away from a thin patch that was coming on the crown of his head before kissing him full upon it.

When she was gone Ishmael let the accounts lie untouched before him, and, getting up, he crossed to the window and stood looking out. He heard the sound of wheels and hoofs coming along the lane at the side of the garden wall, and the next moment saw the head of Nicky's leader, apparently protesting violently, come beyond the angle of the wall. Nicky was evidently trying to turn it in the direction of the main road, but the leader had other views, and gave expression to them by sitting down suddenly on his haunches, with his white-stockinged forelegs struck straight out, his fiddle-head, with the white blaze between his wicked eyes, looking round over his shoulder at the invisible Nicky, whose remarks came floating up to Ishmael on the breeze. Finally the leader was made to see the error of his ways, and the light dog-cart swung round the corner, and with a flourish of the whip and a clatter and a heart-catching swerve round the angle of the hedge Nicky's tandem bore him swiftly down the road towards where the telegraph wires told of the way which led to Miss Polly Behenna.

Ishmael watched as long as the cart was in sight, taking pride and comfort in the fact that his eyes could see the minutest detail as far as the turn on to the high-road; then he came back into the room, and with a smile and a sigh took up the accounts. Some absurd little thing within him made him determine that he would not take to spectacles till Nicky had gone to Canada and could not remark on them.



CHAPTER II

AUTUMN

A few evenings later Ishmael went out alone on to the moors, filled with very different ideas from any that had held him of late. Not the petty friction of domesticity, nor the pervading thought of that queer feeling in his eyes, nor care for Nicky's future, or anything of the present, stirred within him. A letter received by Georgie that day, and the thought and realisation of which Ishmael had carried about with him through all his varied work, now swamped his mind in memories so vivid that the present was only in his mind as a faint bitter flavour hardly to be noticed.

Judy had written to Georgie, had written to say she was coming down some time soon, but primarily the letter had been to give news of Killigrew. Ishmael and Georgie knew—exactly how they could not have told—in what relationship Judith and Killigrew had stood to each other; Ishmael felt he had known ever since that evening when he met Judy in Paradise Lane, and to Georgie the certainty had come with greater knowledge of life and realisation of herself. They had hardly mentioned the affair to each other, and then only in a round-about manner, but each guessed at the other's knowledge. Georgie was aware that for some years now Judith had seen very little of Killigrew, but how or why the severance had come about neither she nor Ishmael could guess. Judith had never mentioned Killigrew to them except as a mutual friend; she always had the strength of her own sins. Never till this letter had she spoken or written otherwise, but now she told that Killigrew was very ill in Paris and that she had gone to him. Very ill was practically all she said, beyond a mere mention that the illness was typhoid; but Ishmael knew at once what she meant, though she either would not or could not write it. Through all Georgie's comments and hopes that soon better news would come he never doubted, though he said little, that Killigrew was dying, if not already dead, when Judith wrote. He knew her well enough, and guessed at her still more acutely, to know that she was quite capable of so much of reticence. And why did she speak so confidently of coming down to Cloom some time quite soon? She would not leave Paris while Joe was still unwell.... Ishmael knew, with the sureness he had once or twice before known things in his life, and the knowledge affected him strangely. He felt no violent grief, but a great blank. He had not seen Killigrew for years; but with the knowledge that he was to see him no more went something of himself—something that had belonged to Killigrew alone and that had responded to something in him which henceforth would be sealed and dead. He kept himself busy all day, but now he walked fast along the road, only accompanied by his thoughts.

The first hint of autumn was in the air that evening. The bracken had begun to turn, and its hue was intensified by the russet warmth of the evening sunlight, that touched each frond with fire, burnished the granite boulders, and turned the purple of the heather to a warm ruddiness. As Ishmael went along the hard pale road a hare, chased by a greyhound belonging to a couple of miners, came thudding down it, and the light turned its dim fur to bronze. It flashed past over a low wall, and was happily lost in the confusion of furze and bracken over an old mine-shaft. Ishmael felt a moment's gladness for its escape; then he went on, and, soon leaving the road, he struck out over the moor.

On he went till he came to a disused china-clay pit, showing pale flanks in the curve of the moor. A ruined shaft stood at the head, the last of the sunset glowing through its empty window-sockets; an owl called tremulously, the sheep answered their lambs from the dim moor. A round pearl-pale moon swung in the east, level with the westering sun; as he sank she rose, till the twilight suddenly wrapped the air in a soft blue that was half a shadow, half a lighting. The last of the warm glow had gone; only the acres of feathery bents still held a pinkish warmth in their bleached masses.

Ishmael sat upon the dry grass, where the tiny yellow stars of the creeping potentilla gleamed up at him through the soft dusk, and lay almost too idle for thought.

He wondered both why he did not feel more, and why he was feeling so much. If Killigrew had died when they were both young, Ishmael would have felt a more passionate grief—an emptiness, a resentment that never again would he see and talk with him; but part of himself would not have died too. As he lay, there suddenly came into his mind the first two occasions on which he had heard of deaths that affected him at all intimately—the deaths of Polkinghorne and of Hilaria. Of both he had heard from Killigrew, he remembered. Polkinghorne—that news could not have been said actually to have grieved either of them, but it had been the first time in Ishmael's life that even the thought of death as a possible happening had occurred to him. Hilaria—a sense of outrage had been added to that; it was not her death that taught him anything beyond the mere commonplace that death can be a boon, but the news of her illness, that illness which unseen had been upon her even in the days when they had tramped the moors together and she had read to an enthralled ring of boys the breathless instalments of "The Woman in White." It had been the first time he had recognised that fear and horror lie in wait along the path of life, that not naturally can we ever leave it, that sooner or later illness or accident must inevitably make an end. Even with his passionate distaste for the mere idea of death, this recognition would not have hit him so hard, if it had not been that the fact of Hilaria's youth, of her having been, as he phrased it, "Just like anyone else, just like I am ..." had shown him that not only for strangers, for people who are mere names in newspapers, do the hard things of life lie in wait. There was always this something waiting to spring—that might or might not show teeth and claws any time in life, that did not, in the form of an out-of-the-ordinary fate such as Hilaria's, often touch even on the fringe of knowledge, but that nevertheless was shown to be possible. That was the rub, that was what he had been aware of ever since. Life was not a simple going-forward, lit by splendid things, marked maybe by the usual happenings such as the death of parents, and even friends; but it could hold such grim things as this.... Once one had seen what tricks life could play there was no trusting it in quite the same way again. That such happenings should be possible would have seemed incredible till the realisation of Hilaria drove it home. Of no use to say that these things were the exception. They could still happen.

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