Skip to Content
Indiana University

Search Options




View Options


Table of Contents



The History of Sir Richard Calmady: a Romance . Malet, Lucas, 1852–1931.
previous
next
page: 85

BOOK II

THE BREAKING OF DREAMS

CHAPTER I

RECORDING SOME ASPECTS OF A SMALL PILGRIM’S PROGRESS

IT is an ill wind that blows nobody good, says the comfortable proverb. Which would appear to be but another manner of declaring that the law of compensation works permanently in human affairs. All quantities, material and immaterial alike, are, of necessity, stable; therefore the loss or defect of one participant must—indirectly, no doubt, yet very surely—make for the gain of some other. As of old, so now, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

Julius March would, how gladly, have been among the martyrs! But the lot fell otherwise. And—always admitting the harshness of the limitations he had imposed on himself—the martyrdom of those he held dearest, did, in fact, work to secure him a measure of content that had otherwise been unattainable. The twelve years following the birth of Lady Calmady’s child were the most fruitful of his life. He filled a post no other person could have filled; one which, while satisfying his religious sense and priestly ideal of detachment, appeased the cravings of his heart and developed the practical man in him. The contemplative and introspective attitude was balanced by an active and objective one. For he continued to live under his dear lady’s roof, seeing her daily and serving her in many matters. He watched her, admiring her clear yet charitable judgment and her prudence in business. He bowed in reverence before her perfect singleness of purpose. He was almost appalled apprehending, now and then, the secret abysses of her womanhood, the immensity of her self‐devotion, the swing of her nature from quick, sensitive shrinking to almost impious page: 86 pride. Man is the outcome of the eternal common sense; woman that of some moment of divine folly. Meanwhile the ways of true love are many, and Julius March, thus watching his dear lady, discovered, as other elect souls have discovered before him, that the way of chastity and silence, notwithstanding its very constant heartache, is by no means among the least sweet. The entries in his diaries of this period are intermittent, concise, and brief—naturally enough, since the central figure of Julius’s mental picture had ceased, happily for him, to be Julius himself.

And, not only Katherine’s sorrows, but the unselfish action of another woman, went to make Julius March’s position at Brockhurst tenable. A few days after Ormiston’s momentous interview with his sister, news came of Mrs. St. Quentin’s death. She had passed hence peacefully in her sleep. Knowledge of the facts of poor, little Dickie Calmady’s ill‐fortune had been spared her. For it would be more satisfactory—so Mademoiselle de Mirancourt had remarked, not without a shade of irony—that if Lucia St. Quentin must learn the sad fact at all, she should learn it where le bon Dieu Himself would be at hand to explain matters, and so, in a degree, set them right.

Early in April Mademoiselle de Mirancourt had gathered together her most precious possessions and closed the pretty apartment in the rue de Rennes. It had been a happy halting‐place on the journey of life. It was haunted by well‐beloved ghosts. It cost her not a little to bid it, the neighbouring church of the St. Germain des Près, where she had so long worshipped, and her little coterie of intimate friends, farewell. Yet she set forth, taking with her Henriette, the hard‐featured, old, Breton maid, and Monsieur Pouf, the grey, Persian cat,—he protesting plaintively from within a large, Manilla basket,—and thus accompanied, made pilgrimage to Brockhurst. And when Katherine, all the lost joys of her girlhood assailing her at sight of her lifelong friend, had broken down for once, and, laying her beautiful head on the elder woman’s shoulder, had sobbed out a question as to when this visit must end, Marie de Mirancourt had answered:—

“That, most dear one, is precisely as you shall see fit to decide. It need not end till I myself end, if you so please.”

And when Katherine, greatly comforted yet fearing to be over‐greedy of comfort, had reasoned with her, reminding her of the difference of climate, the different habits of living in that gay, little, Paris home and this great, English country‐house; reminding her, further, of her so often and fondly expressed desire to page: 87 retire from the world while yet in the complete possession of her powers and prepare for the inevitable close within the calm and sacred precincts of the convent—the other replied almost gaily:—

“Ah, my child! I have still a naughty little spirit of experiment in me which defies the barbarities of your climate. While as to the convent, it has beckoned so long—let it beckon still! It called first when my fiancé died,—God rest his soul,—worn out by the hardships he endured in the war of La Vendée, and I put from me, forever, all thought of marriage. But then my mother, an emigrant here in London, claimed all my care. It called me again when she departed, dear saintly being. But then there were my brother’s sons—orphaned by the guillotine—to place. And when I had established them honourably, our beloved Lucia turned to me, with her many enchantments and exquisite tragedy of the heart. And, now, in my old age I come to you—whom I receive from her as a welcome legacy—to remain just so long as I am not a burden to you. Second childhood and first should understand one another. We will play delightful games together, the dear baby and I. So let the convent beckon. For the convent is perhaps, after all, but an impatient grasping at the rest of paradise, before that rest is fairly earned. I have a good hope that, after all, we give ourselves most acceptably to God in thus giving ourselves to His human creatures.”

Thus did Marie de Mirancourt, for love’s sake, condemn herself to exile, thereby rendering possible—among other things—Julius’s continued residence at Brockhurst. For Captain Ormiston had held true to his resolve of scorning the delights of idleness, the smiles of ladies more fair and kind than wise, and all those other pleasant iniquities to which idleness inclines the young and full‐blooded, of bidding farewell to London and Windsor, and proceeding to “live laborious days” in some far country. He had offered to remain indefinitely with Katherine if she needed him. But she refused. Let him be faithful to the noble profession of arms and make a name for himself therein.

“Brockhurst has ceased to be a place for a soldier,” she said. “Leave it to women and priests!” And then, repenting of the bitterness of her speech, she added:—“Really there is not more work than I can manage, with Julius to help me at times. Iles is a good servant if a little tediously pompous, and Chifney must see to the stables.”—Lady Calmady paused, and her face grew hard. But for her husband’s dying request, she would have sold every horse in the stud, razed the great square page: 88 of buildings to the ground and made the site of it a dunghill.—“Work is a drug to deaden thought. So it is a kindness to let me have plenty of it, dear old man. And I fear, even when the labour of each day is done, and Dickie is safe asleep,—poor darling,—I shall still have more than enough of time for thought, for asking those questions to which there seems no answer, and for desires, vain as they are persistent, that things were somehow, anyhow, other than they are!”

Therefore it came about that a singular quiet settled down on Brockhurst—a quiet of waiting, of pause, rather than of accomplishment. But Julius March, for reasons aforesaid, and Mademoiselle de Mirancourt, in virtue of her unclouded faith in the teachings of her Church,—which assures its members of the beneficent purpose working behind all the sad seeming of this world,—alike rejoiced in that. A change of occupations and of interests came naturally with the change of the seasons, with the time to sow and reap, to plant saplings, to fell timber, to fence, to cut copsing, to build or rebuild, to receive rents or remit them, to listen to many appeals, to readjust differences, to feed game or to shoot it, to bestow charity of meat and fuel, to haul ice in winter to the ice‐house from the lake. But beyond all this there was little of going or coming at Brockhurst. The magnates of the countryside called at decent intervals, and at decent intervals Lady Calmady returned their civilities. But having ceased to entertain, she refused to receive entertainment. She shut herself away in somewhat jealous seclusion, defiant of possibly curious glances and pitying tongues. Before long her neighbours, therefore, came to raise their eyebrows a little in speaking of her, and to utter discreet regrets that Lady Calmady, though handsome and charming when you met her, was so very eccentric, adding:—“Of course everyone knows there is something very uncomfortable about the little boy!” Then would follow confidences as to the disastrous results of popish influences and Romanising tendencies, and an openly expressed conviction—more especially on the part of ladies blessed with daughters of marriageable age—that it would have been so very much better for many people if the late Sir Richard Calmady had looked nearer home for a bride.

But these comments did not affect Katherine. In point of fact they rarely reached her ears. Alone among her neighbours, Mary Cathcart, of the crisp, black hair and gipsy‐like complexion, was still admitted to some intimacy of intercourse. And the girl was far too loyal either to bring in gossip or to carry it out. Brockhurst held the romance of her heart. And, notwithstand‐ page: 89 ing the earnest wooing—as the years went on—of more than one very eligible gentleman, Brockhurst continued to hold it.

Meanwhile the somewhat quaint fixed star around which this whole system of planets, large and small, very really revolved, shone forth upon them all with a cheerful enough light. For Dickie by no means belied the promise of his babyhood. He was a beautiful and healthy little boy, with a charming brilliance of colouring, warm and solid in tone. He had his mother’s changeful eyes, though the blue of them was brighter than hers had now come to be. He had her dark eyebrows and eyelashes too, and her finely curved lips. While he bore likeness to his father in the straight, square‐tipped nose and the close‐fitting cap of bright, brown hair with golden stains in it, growing low in short curling locks on the broad forehead and the nape of the neck—expressing the shape of the head very definitely, and giving it something of antique nobility and grace.

And the little lad’s appearance afforded, in these pleasant early days at all events, fair index to his temperament. He was gay‐natured, affectionate, intelligent, full of a lively yet courteous curiosity, easily moved to laughter, almost inconveniently fearless and experimental; while his occasional thunderbursts of passion cleared off quickly into sunshine and blue sky again. For as yet the burden of deformity rested upon him very lightly. He associated hardly at all with other children, and so had but scant occasion to measure his poor powers of locomotion against their normal ones. Lady Fallowfeild it is true, in obedience to suggestions on the part of her kindly lord and master, offered tentatively to import a carriage‐load—little Ludovic Quayle was just the same age as Dickie—from the Whitney nurseries to spend the day at Brockhurst.

“Good fellow, Calmady. I liked Calmady,” Lord Fallowfeild had said to her. His conversation, it may be observed, was nothing if not interjectional.—“Pretty woman, Lady Calmady—terrible thing for her being left as she is. Always shall regret Calmady. Very sorry for her. Always have been sorry for a pretty woman in trouble. Ought to see something of her, my dear. The two estates join, and, as I always have said, it’s a duty to support your own class. Can’t expect the masses to respect you unless you show them you’re prepared to stand by your own class. Just take some of the children over to see Lady Calmady. Pretty children, do her good to see them. Rode uncommonly straight did Calmady. Terribly upsetting thing his funeral. Never shall forget it. Always did like Calmady—good fellow, Calmady. Nasty thing his death.”

page: 90

But Katherine’s pen was fertile in excuses to avoid the invasion from Whitney. Lady Fallowfeild’s small brains and large domestic complacency were too trying to her. And that noble lady, it must be owned, was secretly not a little glad to have her advances thus firmly, though gently, repulsed. For she was alarmed at Lady Calmady’s reported acquaintance with foreign lands and with books; added to which her simple mind harboured much grisly though vague terror concerning the Roman Church. Picture all her brood of little Quayles incontinently converted into little monks and nuns with shaven heads! How such sudden conversion could be accomplished Lady Fallowfeild did not presume to explain. It sufficed her that “everybody always said Papists were so dreadfully clever and unscrupulous you never could tell what they might not do next.”

Once, when Dickie was about six years old, Colonel St. Quentin brought his young wife and two little girls to stay at Brockhurst. Katherine had a great regard for her cousin, yet the visit was never repeated. On the flat poor Dick could manage fairly well, his strangely shod feet travelling laboriously along in effort after rapidity; his hands hastily outstretched now and again to lay hold of door‐jamb or table‐edge, since his balance was none of the securest. But in that delightfully varied journey from the nursery, by way of his mother’s bedroom, the Chapel‐Room next door, the broad stair‐head,—with its carven balusters, shiny oak flooring, and fine landscapes by Claude and Hobbema,—the state drawing‐room and libraries, to that America of his childish dreams, that country of magnificent distances and large possibility of discovery, the Long Gallery, he was speedily distanced by the three‐year‐old Betty, let alone her six‐year‐old sister Honoria, a tall, slim, little maiden, daintily high‐bred of face and fleet of foot as a hind. This was bad enough. But the stairways afforded yet more afflicting experiences. The descent of even the widest and shallowest flights presented matter of insuperable difficulty, while the ascent was only to be achieved by recourse to all‐fours, against the ignominy of which mode of progression Dickie’s soul revolted. And so the little boy concluded that he did not care much about little girls. And confided to his devoted play‐fellow Clara—Mrs. Denny’s niece and sometime second still‐room maid, now promoted, on account of her many engaging qualities, to be Dickie’s special attendant—that:—

“They went so quick, they always left him behind, and it was not nice to be left behind, and it was very rude of them to do it; didn’t Clara think so?”

page: 91

And Clara, as in duty and affection bound, not without additional testimony in a certain dimness of her pretty, honest, brown eyes, did indeed very much think so. It followed, therefore, that Dickie saw the St. Quentin family drive away, nurses and luggage complete, quite unmoved. And returned, with satisfaction and renewed self‐confidence, to the exclusive society of all those dear, grown‐up people—gentle and simple—who were never guilty of leaving him behind—to that of Camp, the old, white bull‐dog, and young Camp, his son and heir, who, if they so far forgot themselves as to run away, invariably ran back again and apologised, fawning upon him and pushing their broad, ugly, kindly muzzles into his hands—and to that of Monsieur Pouf, the grey Persian cat, who, far from going too quickly, displayed such majestic deliberation of movement and admirable dignity of waving fluffed tail, that it required much patient coaxing on Dickie’s part ever to make him leave his cushion by the fire and go at all.

But, with the above‐mentioned exception, the little boy’s self‐content suffered but slight disturbance. He took himself very much for granted. He was very curious of outside things, very much amused. Moreover, he was king of a far from contemptible kingdom; and in the blessed ignorance of childhood—that finds pride and honour in things which a wider and sadder knowledge often proves far from glad or glorious—it appeared to him not unnatural that a king should differ, even to the point of some slightly impeding disabilities, from the rank and file of his obedient and devoted subjects. For Dickie, happily for him, was as yet given over to that wholly pleasant vanity, the aristocratic idea. The rough justice of democracy, and the harsh breaking of all purely personal and individualistic dreams that comes along with it, for him, was not just yet.

And Richard’s continued and undismayed acquiescence in his physical misfortune was fostered, indirectly, by the captivating poetry of myth and legend with which his mind was fed. He had an insatiable appetite for stories, and Mademoiselle de Mirancourt was an untiring raconteuse. On Sunday afternoons upon the terrace, when the park lay bathed in drowsy sunshine and sapphire shadows haunted the under edge of the great woods, the pretty, old lady—her eyes shining with gentle laughter, for Marie de Mirancourt’s faith had reached the very perfect stage in which the soul dares play, even as lovers play, with that it holds most sacred—would tell Dickie the fairy tales of her Church. Would tell him of blessed St. Francis and of Poverty, his sweet, sad bride; of his sermon to page: 92 the birds dwelling in the oak groves along Tiber valley; of the mystic stigmata, marking as with nail‐prints his hands and feet, and of that indomitable love towards all creatures, which found, alike in the sun in heaven and the heavy‐laden ass, brothers and friends. Or she would tell him of that man of mighty strength and stature, St. Christopher, who, in the stormy darkness,—yielding to its reiterated entreaties,—set forth to bear the little child across the wind‐swept ford. How he staggered, in midstream, amazed and terrified under the awful weight of that, apparently so light, burden; to learn, on struggling ashore at last, that he had borne upon his shoulder no mortal infant, but the whole world and the eternal maker of it, Christ Himself.

These and many another wonder tale of Christian miracle did she tell to Dickie—he squatting on a rug beside her, resting his curly head against her knees, while the pink‐footed pigeons hurried hither and thither, picking up the handfuls of barley he scattered on the flags, and the peacocks sunned themselves with a certain worldly and disdainful grace on the hand‐rails of the grey balustrades, and young Camp, after some wild skirmish in search of sport, flung himself down panting, his tongue lolling out of his grinning jaws, by the boy’s side.

And Katherine, putting aside her cares as regent of Dickie’s kingdom and the sorrow that lay so chill against her heart, would tell him stories too, but of a different order of sentiment and of thought. For Katherine was young yet, and her stories were gallant—since her own spirit was very brave—or merry, because it delighted her to hear the boy laugh. And often, as he grew a little older, she would sit with her arm round him, in the keen, winter twilights before the lamps were lit, on the broad, cushioned bench of the oriel window in the Chapel‐Room. Outside, the stars grew in number and brightness as the dusk deepened. Within, the firelight played over the white‐panelled walls, revealing fitfully the handsome faces of former Calmadys—shortlived, passing hence all unsated with the desperate joys of living—painted by Vandyke and Sir Peter Lely, or by Romney and Sir Joshua. Then she would tell him not only of Aladdin, of Cinderella, and time‐honoured Puss‐in‐Boots, but of Merlin the great enchanter, and of King Arthur and his company of noble knights. And of the loves of Sigurd the Niblung and Brunhilda the wise and terrible queen, and of their lifelong sorrow, and of the fateful treasure of fairy gold which lies buried beneath the rushing waters of the Rhine. Or she would tell him of those cold, clear, far‐off times in the northern page: 93 sojourning places of our race—tell him of the cow Audhumla, alone in the vast plain at the very beginning of things, licking the stones crusted over with hoar frost and salt, till, on the third day, there sprung from them a warrior named Bur, the father of Bör, the father of Odin, who is the father of all the gods. She would tell him of wicked Loki too, the deceiver and cunning plotter against the peace of heaven. And of his three evil children—here Dickie would, for what reason he knew not, always feel his mother hold him more closely, while her voice took a deeper tone—Fenrir the wolf, who, when Thor sought to bind him, bit off the brave god’s right hand; and Jörmungand the Midgard serpent, who, tail in mouth, circles the world; and Hela, the pale queen, who reigns in Niflheim over the dim kingdoms of the dead. And of Baldur the bright‐shining god, joy of Asgard, slain in error by Höder his blind twin‐brother, for whom all things on earth—save one—weep, and will weep, till in the last days he comes again. And of All‐Father Odin himself, plucking out his right eye and bartering it for a draught of wisdom‐giving water from Mirmir’s magic well. Again, she would tell him of the End—which it must be owned frightened Dickie a little, so that he would stroke her cheek, and say softly:— “But, mummy, you really are sure, aren’t you, it won’t happen for a good while yet?”—Of Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods, of the Fimbul winter, and cheerless sun and hurrying, blood‐red moon, and all the direful signs which must needs go before the last great battle between good and evil.

And through all of these stories, of Christian and heathen origin alike, Richard began dimly, almost unconsciously, to trace, recurrent as a strain of austere music, the idea—very common to ages less soft and fastidious than our own—of payment in self‐restraint and labour, or in actual bodily pain, loss, or disablement, for all good gained and knowledge won.

He found the same idea again when, under the teaching of Julius March, he began reading history, and when his little skill in Greek and Latin carried him as far as the easier passages of the classic poets. Dick was a very apt, if somewhat erratic and inaccurate, scholar. His insatiable curiosity drove him forward. He scurried, in childish fashion by all short‐cuts available, to get at the heart of the matter—a habit of mind detestable to pedants, since to them the letter is the main object, not the spirit. Happily Julius was ceasing to be a pedant, even in matters ecclesiastical. He loved the little boy, the mingled charm and pathos of whose personality held him as with a spell. With untiring patience he answered, to the best of his ability, page: 94 Dickie’s endless questions, of how and why. And, perhaps, he learned even more than he taught, under this fire of cross‐examination. He had never come intimately in contact with a child’s mind before; and Dickie’s daring speculations and suggestions opened up very surprising vistas at times. The boy was a born adventurer, a gaily audacious sceptic moreover, notwithstanding his large swallow for romance, until his own morsel of reason and sense of dramatic fitness were satisfied.

And so, having once apprehended that idea of payment, he searched for justification of it instinctively in all he saw and read. He found it again in the immortal story of the siege of Troy, and in the long wanderings and manifold trials of that most experimental of philosophers, the great Ulysses. He found it too in more modern and more authentic history—in the lives of Galileo and Columbus, of Sir Walter Raleigh and many another hero and heroine, of whom, because of some unusual excellence of spirit or attainment, their fellow‐men, and, as it would seem, the very gods themselves, have grown jealous, not enduring to witness a beauty rivalling or surpassing their own.

The idea was all confused as yet, coloured by childish fancies, instinctive merely, not realised. Yet it occupied a very actual place in the little boy’s mind. He lingered over it silently, caressing it, returning to it again and again in half‐frightened delight. It lent a fascination, somewhat morbid perhaps, to all ill‐favoured and unsightly creatures—to blind‐worms and slow‐moving toads, to trapped cats, and dusty, disabled, winter flies; to a winged sea‐gull, property of Bushnell, one of the under‐gardeners, that paced, picking up loathsome living in the matter of slugs and snails, about the cabbage beds, all the tragedy of its lost power of flight and of the freedom of the sea in its wild, pale eyes.

It further provoked Dickie to expend his not inconsiderable gift of draughtsmanship in the production of long processions of half‐human monsters of a grotesque and essentially uncomfortable character. He scribbled these upon all available pieces of paper, including the fly‐leaves of Todhunter’s Arithmetic, and of his Latin and Greek primers. In an evil hour, for the tidiness of his school books, he came across the ballad of “Aiken‐Drum,” with its rather terrible mixture of humour, realism, and pathos. From thenceforth for some weeks—though he adroitly avoided giving any direct account of the origin of these grisly, imaginative freaks—many margins were adorned, or rather defaced, by fancy portraits of that “foul and stalwart ghaist” the Brownie of Badnock.

page: 95

So did Dickie dwell, through all his childhood and the early years of youth, in the clear land of dreams, petted, considered, sheltered with perhaps almost cruel kindness, from the keen. winds of truth that blow forever across the world. Which winds, while causing all to suffer, and bringing death to the weak and fearful, to the lovers of lies and the makers of them, go in the end to strengthen the strong who dare face them, and fortify these in the acceptance of the only knowledge really worth having—namely the knowledge that romance is no exclusive property of the past, or eternal life of the future, but that both these are here, immediately and actually, for whoso has eyes to see and courage to possess.

The fairest dreams are true. Yet it is so ordered that to know that we must awake from them. And the awakening is an ugly process enough, too often. When Dickie was about thirteen, the awakening began for him. It came in time‐honoured forms—those of horses and of a woman.

CHAPTER II

IN WHICH OUR HERO IMPROVES HIS ACQUAINTANCE WITH MANY THINGS—HIMSELF INCLUDED

IT came about in this wise. Roger Ormiston was expected at Brockhurst, after an absence of some years. He had served with distinction in the Sikh war; and had seen fighting on the grand scale in the battles of Sobraon and Chillianwallah. Later the restless genius of travel had taken hold on him, leading him far eastward into China, and northward across the Himalayan snows. He had dwelt among strange peoples and looked on strange gods. He had hunted strange beasts, moreover, and learnt their polity and their ways. He had seen the bewildering fecundity of nature in the tropic jungle, and her barren and terrible beauty in the out‐stretch of the naked desert. And the thought of all this set Dickie’s imagination on fire. The return of Roger Ormiston was, to him, as the return of the mighty Ulysses himself.

For a change was coming over the boy. He began to weary of fable and cry out for fact. He had just entered his fourteenth year. He was growing fast; and, but for that dwarfing deformity, would have been unusually tall, graceful and well‐proportioned. But along with this increase of stature had come a listless‐ page: 96 ness and languor which troubled Lady Calmady. The boy was sweet‐tempered enough, had his hours, indeed, of overflowing fun and high spirits. Still he was restless and tired easily of each occupation in turn. He developed a disquieting relish for solitude. And took to camping‐out on one of the broad window‐seats of the Long Gallery, in company with volumes of Captain Cook’s and Hakluyt’s voyages, old‐time histories of sport and natural history; not to mention Robinson Crusoe and the merry if but doubtfully decent pages of Geoffrey Gambado. And his mother noted, not without a sinking of the heart, that the window‐seat which in his solitary moods Dickie most frequented was precisely that one of the eastern bay which commanded—beyond the smooth, green expanse and red walls of the troco‐ground—a good view of the grass ride, running parallel with the lime avenue, along which the horses from the racing‐stables were taken out and back, morning and evening, to the galloping ground. Then fears began to assail Katherine that the boy’s childhood, the content and repose of it, were nearly past. Small wonder that her heart should sink!

On the day of her brother’s return, Katherine, after rather anxious search, so found Richard. He was standing on the book‐strewn window‐seat. He had pushed open the tall narrow casement and leaned out. The April afternoon was fitfully bright. A rainbow spanned the landscape, from the Long Water in the valley to the edge of the forest crowning the tableland. Here and there showers of rain fell, showing white against huge masses of purple cloud piled up along the horizon.

And as Katherine drew near, threading her way carefully between the Chinese cabinets, oriental jars, and many quaint treasures furnishing the end of the great room, she saw that, along the grass ride, some twenty racehorses came streelling homeward in single file—a long line of brown, chestnut, black, and of the raw yellows and scarlets of horse‐clothing, against the delicate green of springing turf and opening leaves. Beside them, clad in pepper‐and‐salt mixture breeches and gaiters complete, Mr. Chifney pricked forward soberly on his handsome grey cob. The boys called to one another now and then, admonished a fretful horse breaking away from the string. One of them whistled shrilly a few bars of that popular but undistinguished tune—“Pop goes the weasel.” And Richard craned far out, steadying himself against the stone mullion on either side with uplifted hands, heedless alike of his mother’s presence and of the heavy drops of rain which splattered in at the open casement.

page: 97

“Dickie, Dickie,” Katherine called, in swift anxiety. “Be careful. You will fall.”

She came close, putting her arm round him.—“You reckless darling,” she went on; “don’t you see how dangerous the least slip would be?”

The boy stood upright and looked round at her. His blue eyes were alight. All the fitful brightness, all the wistful charm, of the April evening was in his face.

“But it’s the only place where I can see them, and they’re such beauties,” he said. “And I want to see them so much. You know we always miss them somehow, mummy, when we go out.”

Katherine was off her guard. Three separate strains of feeling influenced her just then. First, her growing recognition of the change in Richard, of that passing away of childhood which could not but make for difficulty and, in a sense, for pain. Secondly, the natural excitement of her brother’s home‐coming, disturbing the monotony of her daily life, bringing, along with very actual joy, memories of a past, well‐beloved yet gone beyond recall. Lastly, the practical and immediate fear that Dickie had come uncommonly near tumbling incontinently out of the window. And so, being moved, she held the boy tightly and answered rather at random, thereby provoking fate.

“Yes, my dearest, I know we always miss them somehow when we go out. It is best so. But do pray be more careful with these high windows.”

“Oh! I’m all right—I’m careful enough.”—His glance had gone back to where the last of the horses passed out of sight behind the red wall of the gardens. “But why is it best so? Ah! they’re gone!” he exclaimed.

Katherine sat down on the window‐seat, and Richard, clinging to the window‐ledge, while she still held him, lowered himself into a sitting position beside her.

“Thank you, mummy,” he said. And the words cut her. They came so often in each day, and always with the same little touch of civil dignity. The courtesy of Richard’s recognition of help given, failed to comfort her for the fact that help was so constantly required. Lady Calmady’s sense of rebellion arose and waxed strong whenever she heard those thanks.

“Mother,” he went on, “I want to ask you something. You won’t mind?”

“Do I ever mind you questioning me?” Yet she felt a certain tightening about her heart.

“Ah, but this is different! I’ve wanted to for a long while, page: 98 but I did not know if I ought—and yet I did not quite like to ask Auntie Marie or Julius. And, of course, one doesn’t speak to the servants about anything of that sort.”

Richard’s curly head went up with a fine, little air of pride as he said the last few words. His mother smiled at him. There was no doubt as to her son’s breeding.

“Well, what then?” she said.

“I want to know—you’re sure you don’t mind—why you dislike the horses, and never go to the stables or take me there? If the horses are wrong, why do we keep them? And if they’re not wrong, why, mother, don’t you see, we may enjoy them, mayn’t we?”

He flushed, looking up at her, spoke coaxingly, merrily, a trifle embarrassed by his own temerity, yet keen to prove his point and acquire possession of this so coveted joy.

Katherine hesitated. She was tempted to put aside his question with some playful excuse. And yet, where was the use? The question must inevitably be answered one day, and Katherine, as had been said, was moved just now, dumbness of long habit somewhat melted. Perhaps this was the appointed time. She drew her arm from around the boy and took both his hands in hers.

“My dearest,” she said, “our keeping the horses is not wrong. But—one of the horses killed your father.”

Richard’s lips parted. His eyes searched hers.

“But how?” he asked presently.

“He was trying it at a fence, and it came down with him—and trampled him.”

There was a pause. At last the boy asked rather breathlessly:—“Was he killed then, mother, at once?”

It had been Katherine’s intention to state the facts simply, gravely, and without emotion. But to speak of these things, after so long silence, proved more trying than she had anticipated. The scene in the red drawing‐room, the long agony of waiting and of farewell, rose up before her after all these years with a vividness and poignancy that refused to be gainsaid.

“No,” she answered, “he lived four days. He spoke to me of many things he wished to do. And—I have done them all, I think. He spoke to me of you”—Katherine closed her eyes. “The boy might care for the stables. The boy must ride straight.” For the moment she could not look at Richard, knowing that which she must see. The irony of those remembered words appeared too great.—“But he suffered,” she went on brokenly, “he suffered—ah! my dear”—

page: 99

“Mummy, darling mummy, don’t look like that!” Dickie cried. He wrenched his hands from her grasp and threw his arms impulsively about her neck. “Don’t—it hurts me. And —and, after all,” he added, reasoningly, consolingly, “it wasn’t one of these horses you know. They’ve never done anybody any harm. It was an accident. There must always be accidents sometimes, mustn’t there? And then, you see, it all happened long, long ago. It must have, for I don’t remember anything about it. It must have happened when I was a baby.”

“Alas, no!” Katherine exclaimed, wrung by the pathos of his innocent egoism; “it happened even before then, my dearest, before you were born.”

With the unconscious arrogance of childhood, Richard had, so far, taken his mother’s devotion very much as a matter of course. He had never doubted that he was, and always had been, the inevitable centre of all her interests. So, now, her words and her bearing, bringing—in as far as he grasped them—the revelation of aspects of her life quite independent of his all‐important, little self, staggered him. For the first time poor Dickie realised that even one’s own mother, be she never so devoted, is not her child’s exclusive and wholly private property, but has a separate existence, joys and sorrows apart. Instinctively he took his arms from about her neck and backed away into the angle of the window‐seat, regarding her with serious and somewhat startled attention. And, doing so, he for the first time realised consciously something more, namely the greatness of her beauty.

For the years had dealt kindly with Katherine Calmady. Not the great sorrows of life, or its great sacrifices, but fretfulness, ignoble worries, sordid cares, are that which draw lines upon a woman’s face and harshen her features. At six and thirty Lady Calmady’s skin was smooth and delicate, her colour still clear and softly bright. Her hair, though somewhat darker than of old, was abundant. Still she wore it rolled up and back from her forehead, showing the perfect oval of her face. Her eyes, too, were darker; and the expression of them had become profound—the eyes of one who has looked on things which may not be told and has chosen her part. Her bosom had become a little fuller; but the long, inward curve of her figure below it to the round and shapely waist, and the poise of her rather small hips, were lithe and free as ever. While there was that enchanting freshness about her which is more than the mere freshness of youth or of physical health—which would seem, indeed, to be the peculiar dowry of those women who, having page: 100 once known love in all its completeness and its strength, of choice live ever afterwards in perfect chastity of act and thought.

And a perception not only of the grace of her person, as she sat sideways on the window‐seat in her close‐fitting, grey gown, with its frilled lace collar and ruffles at the wrists, came to Richard now. He perceived something of this more intimate and subtle charm which belonged to her. He was enthralled by the clear sweetness, as of dewy grass newly turned by the scythe, which always clung about her, and by the whispering of her silken garments when she moved. A sudden reverence for her came upon him, as though, behind her gracious and so familiar figure, he apprehended that which belonged to a region superior, almost divine. And then he was seized—it is too often the fate of worshippers—with jealousy of that past of hers of which he had been, until now, ignorant. And yet another emotion shook him, for, in thus realising and differentiating her personality, he had grown vividly, almost painfully, conscious of his own.

He turned away, laying his cheek against the stone window‐ledge, while the drops of a passing scud of rain beat in on his hot face.

“Then—then my father never saw me,” he exclaimed vehemently. And, after a moment’s pause, added:—“I am glad of that—very glad.”

“Ah! But, my dearest,” Lady Calmady cried, bewildered and aghast, “you don’t know what you are saying—think!”

Richard kept his face to the splashing rain.

“I don’t want to say anything wrong; but,” he repeated, “I am glad.”

He turned to her, his lips quivering a little, and a desolate expression in his eyes, which told Katherine, with only too bitter assurance, that his childhood and the repose of it were indeed over and gone.

She held out her arms to him in silent invitation, and drew the dear curly head on to her bosom.

“You’re not displeased with me, mummy?”

“Does this seem as if I was displeased?” she asked.

Then they sat silent once more, Katherine swaying a little as she held him, soothing him almost as in his baby days.

“I won’t lean out of the window again,” he said presently, with a sigh of comfort. “I promise that.”

“There’s a darling. But I am afraid we must go. Uncle Roger will be here soon.”

page: 101

The boy raised his head.

“Mother,” he said quickly, “will you send Clara, please, to put away these books? And may I have Winter to fetch me? I—I’m tired. If you don’t mind? I don’t care to walk.”

Yet, since happily at thirteen Richard’s moods were still as many and changeful as the aspects of that same April day, he enjoyed some royally unclouded hours before he—most unwillingly—retired to bed that night. For, on close acquaintance, the great Ulysses proved a very satisfactory hero. Roger Ormiston’s character had consolidated. It was to some purpose that he had put away the pleasant follies of his youth. He looked out now with a coolness and patience, born of wide experience, upon men and upon affairs. He had ceased to lose either his temper or his head. Acquiescing with undismayed and cheerful common sense in the fact that life, as we know it, is but a sorry business, and that rough things must of necessity be done and suffered every day, he had developed an active—though far from morbidly sentimental—compassion for the individual, man and beast alike. Not that Colonel Ormiston formulated all that, still less held forth upon it. He was content, as is so many another Englishman, to be a dumb and practical philosopher—for which those who have lived with philosophers of the eloquent sort will unquestionably give thanks, knowing, to their sorrow, how often handsome speech is but a cloak to hide incapacity of honest doing.

And so, after dinner, under plea of an imperative need of cigars, Ormiston had borne Dickie off to the Gun‐Room; and there, in the intervals of questioning him a little about his tastes and occupations, had told him stories many and great. For he wanted to get hold of the boy and judge of what stuff he was made. Like all sound and healthy‐minded men he had an inherent suspicion of the abnormal. He could not but fear that persons unusually constituted in body must be the victims of some corresponding crookedness of spirit. But as the evening drew on he became easy on this point. Whatever Richard’s physical infirmity, his nature was wholesome enough. Therefore when, at close upon ten o’clock, Lady Calmady arrived in person to insist that Dickie must go, there and then, straight to bed, she found a pleasant scene awaiting her.

The square room was gay with lamplight and firelight, which brought into strong relief the pictures of famous horses and trophies of old‐time weapons—matchlocks, basket‐handled swords, and neat, silver‐hilted rapiers, prettiest of toys with which to pink your man—that decorated its white‐panelled walls.

page: 102

Ormiston stood with his back to the fire, one heel on the fender, his broad shoulders resting against the high chimney‐piece, his head bent forward as he looked down, in steady yet kindly scrutiny, at the boy. His face was tanned by the sun and wind of the long sea voyage—people still came home from India by the Cape—till his hair and moustache showed pale against his bronzed skin. And to Richard, listening and watching from the deep arm‐chair drawn up at right angles to the hearth, he appeared as a veritable demigod, master of the secrets of life and death—beheld, moreover, through an atmosphere of fragrant tobacco‐smoke, curiously intoxicating to unaccustomed nostrils. Dickie had tucked himself into as small a space as possible, to make room for young Camp, who lay outstretched beside him. The bull‐dog’s great underhung jaw and pendulous, wrinkled cheeks rested on the arm of the chair, as he stared and blinked rather sullenly at the fire—moved and choked a little, slipping off unwillingly to sleep, to wake with a start, and stare and blink once more. The embroidered couvre‐pieds, which Dickie had spread across him gathering the top edge of it up under the front of his Eton jacket, offered luxurious bedding. But Camp was a typical conservative, slow‐witted, stubborn against the ingress of a new idea. This tall, somewhat masterful stranger must prove himself a good man and true—according to bull‐dog understanding of those terms—before he could hope to gain entrance to that faithful, though narrow heart.

Ormiston meanwhile, finely contemptuous of canine criticism, greeted his sister cheerily.

“You’re bound to give us a little law to‐night, Kitty,” he said, holding out his hand to her. “We won’t break rules and indulge in unbridled license as to late hours again, will we, Dick? But, you see, we’ve both been doing a good deal, one way and another, since we last met, and there were arrears of conversation to make up.”—He smiled very charmingly at Lady Calmady, and his fingers closed firmly on her hand.—“We’ve been getting on famously, notwithstanding our long separation.” He looked down at Richard again.—“Fast friends, already, and mean to remain so, don’t we, old chap?”

Thereupon Lady Calmady’s soul received much comfort. Her pride was always on the alert, fiercely sensitive concerning Richard. And the joy of this meeting had, till now, an edge of jealous anxiety to it. If Roger did not take to the boy, then—deeply though she loved him—Roger must go. For the same elements were constant in Katherine Calmady. Not all the page: 103 discipline of thirteen years had tamed the hot blood in her which made her order out the Clown for execution. But as Ormiston spoke, her face softened, her eyes grew luminous and smiled back at him with an exquisite gladness. The soft gloom of her black, velvet dress emphasised the warm, golden whiteness of her bare shoulders and arms. Ormiston seeing her just then, understanding something of the drama of her thought, was moved from his habitual cool indifference of bearing.

“Katherine,” he said, “do you know you take one rather by surprise? Upon my word you’re more beautiful than ever.”

And Richard’s clear voice rang out eagerly from the depths of the big chair:—

“Yes—yes—isn’t she, Uncle Roger—isn’t she—delicious?”

The man’s smile broadened almost to laughter.

“You young monkey,” he said very gently; “so you have discovered that fact already have you? Well, so much the better. It’s a safe basis to start from; don’t you think so, Kitty?”

But Lady Calmady drew away her hand. The blood had rushed into her face and neck. Her beauty, now for so long, had seemed a negligible quantity, a thing that had out‐lasted its need and use—since he who had so rejoiced in it was dead. What is the value of ever so royal a crown when the throne it represents has fallen to ruin? And yet, being very much a woman, those words of praise came altogether sweetly to Katherine from the lips of her brother and her son. She moved away, embarrassed, not quite mistress of herself, sat down on the arm of Richard’s chair, leaned across him and patted the bull‐dog—who raised his heavy head with a grunt, and slapped Dickie smartly in the stomach with his tail, by way of welcome.

“You dear foolish creatures,” she said, “pray talk of something more profitable. I am growing old, and, in some ways, I am rather thankful for it. All the same, Dickie, darling, you positively must and shall go to bed.”

But Colonel Ormiston interrupted her. He spoke with a trace of hesitation, turning to the fireplace and flicking the ash off the end of his cigar.

“By the bye, Katherine, how’s Mary Cathcart? Have you seen her lately?”

“Yes, last week.”

“Then she’s not gone the way of all flesh and married?”

“No,” Lady Calmady answered. She bent a little lower, tracing out the lines on the dog’s wrinkled forehead with her finger.—“Several men have asked her to marry. But there page: 104 is only one man in the world, I fancy, whom Mary would ever care to marry—poor Camp, did I tickle you?—and he, I believe, has not asked her yet.”

“Ah! there,” Ormiston exclaimed quickly, “you are mistaken.”

“Am I?” Katherine said. “I have great faith in Mary. I suppose she was too wise to accept even him, being not wholly convinced of his love.”

Lady Calmady raised her eyes. Ormiston looked very keenly at her. And Richard, watching them, felt his breath come rather short with excitement, for he understood that his mother was speaking in riddles. He observed, moreover, that Colonel Ormiston’s face had grown pale for all its sunburn.

“And so,” Katherine went on, “I think the man in question had better be quite sure of his own heart before he offers it to Mary Cathcart again.”

Ormiston flung his half‐smoked cigar into the fire. He came and stood in front of Richard.

“Look here, old chap,” he said, “what do you say to our driving over to Newlands to‐morrow? You can set me right if I’ve forgotten any of the turns in the road, you know. And you and Miss Cathcart are great chums, aren’t you?”

“Mother, may I go?” the boy asked.

Lady Calmady kissed his forehead.

“Yes, my dearest,” she said. “I will trust you and Uncle Roger to take care of each other for once. You may go.”

The immediate consequence of all which was, that Richard went to bed that night with a brain rather dangerously active and eyes rather dangerously bright. So that when sleep at last visited him, it came burdened with dreams, in which the many impressions and emotions of the day took altogether too lively a part, causing him to turn restlessly to and fro, and throw his arms out wide over the cool, linen sheets and pillow.

For there was a new element in Dickie’s dreams to‐night‐namely a recurrent distress of helplessness and incapacity of movement, and therefore of escape, in the presence of some on‐coming, multitudinous terror. He was haunted, moreover, by a certain stanza of the ballad of Chevy Chase. It had given him a peculiar feeling, sickening yet fascinating, ever since he could remember first to have read it, a feeling which caused him to dread reading it beforehand, yet made him turn back to it again and again. And, to‐night, sometimes Richard was himself, sometimes his personality seemed merged in that of Witherington, the crippled fighting‐man, of whose maiming, and deadly courage, page: 105 that stanza tells. And the battle was long and fierce, as, from out a background of steeple‐shaped, honey‐combed rocks and sparse trees with large, golden leaves—like those on the panels of the great, lacquered cabinets in the Long Gallery—innumerable hordes of fanatic Chinamen poured down on him, a hideous bedizenment of vermilion war‐devils painted on their blue tunics and banners and shields. And he, Richard,—or was it he, Witherington?—alone facing them all,—they countless in number, always changing yet always the same. From under their hard, upturned hats, a peacock feather erect in each, the cruel, oblique‐eyed, impassive faces stared at him. They pressed him back and back against the base of a seven‐storied pagoda, the wind‐bells of which jangled far above him from the angles of its tiers of fluted roofs. And the sky was black and polished. Yet it was broad, glaring daylight, every object fearfully distinct. And he was fixed there, unable to get away because—yes, of course, he was Witherington, so there was no need of further explanation of that inability of escape.

And still, at the same time, he could see Chifney on the handsome, grey cob, trotting soberly along the green ride, beside the long string of racehorses coming home from exercise. The young leaves were fragile and green now, not sparse and metallic, and the April rain splashed in his face. He tried to call out to Tom Chifney, but the words died in his throat.—If they would only put him on one of those horses! He knew he could ride, and so be safe and free. He called again. That time his voice came. They must hear. Were they not his own servants, after all, and his own horses—or would be soon, when he was grown up? But neither the trainer, nor the boys so much as turned their heads; and the living ribbon of brown and chestnut swept on and away out of sight. No one would heed him! No one would hearken to his cry!

Once his mother and some man, whom he knew yet did not know, passed by him hand in hand. She wore a white dress, and smiled with a look of ineffable content. Her companion was tall, gracious in bearing and movement, but unsubstantial, a luminous shadow merely. Richard could not see his face. Yet he knew the man was of near kin to him. And to them he tried to speak. But it was useless. For now he was not Richard any more. He was not even Witherington, the crippled fighting‐man of the Chevy Chase ballad. He was—he was the winged seagull, with wild, pale eyes, hiding—abject yet fierce—among the vegetable beds in the Brockhurst kitchen‐gardens, and picking up loathsome provender of snails and slugs. Roger Ormiston, page: 106 calm, able, kindly, yet just a trifle insolent, cigar in mouth, sauntered up and looked at the bird, and it crawled away among the cabbages ignominiously, covered with the shame of its incompleteness and its fallen estate.

And then from out the honey‐combed rocks, under the black, polished sky, the blue‐tunicked Chinamen swept down on Richard again with the maddening horror of infinite number. They crushed in upon him, nearer and nearer, pressing him back against the wall of that evil pagoda. The air was hot and musky with their breath and thick with the muffled roar of their countless footsteps. And they came right in on him, trampling him down, suffocating, choking him with the heat of them and the dead weight.

Shouting aloud—as it seemed to him—in angry terror, the boy woke. He sat up trembling, wet with perspiration, bewildered by the struggle and the wild phantasmagoria of his dream. He pulled open the neck of his night‐shirt, leaned his head against the cool, brass rail of the back of the bedstead, while he listened with growing relief to the rumble of the wind in the chimney, and the swish of the rain against the casements, and watched the narrow line of light under the door of his mother’s room.

Yes, he was Richard Calmady, after all,—here in his own sheltered world, among those who had loved and served him all his life. Nothing hurtful could reach him here, nothing of which he need be afraid. There was no real meaning in that ugly dream.

And then Dickie paused a moment, still sitting up in the warm darkness, pressing his hands down on the mattress on either side to keep himself from slipping. For involuntarily he recalled the feeling which had prompted his declaration that he was glad his father had never seen him; recalled his unwillingness to walk, lest he should meet Ormiston unexpectedly; recalled the instinct which, even during that glorious time in the Gun‐Room, had impelled him to keep the embroidered couvre‐pieds carefully over his legs and feet. And, recalling these things, poor Dickie arrived at conclusions regarding himself which he had happily avoided arriving at before. For they were harsh conclusions, causing him to cower down in the bed, and bury his face in the pillows to stifle the sound of the tearing sobs which would come.

Alas! was there not only too real a meaning in that same ugly dream and that shifting of personality? He understood, while his body quivered with the anguish of it, that he had more page: 107 in common with, and was nearer—far nearer—to the maimed fighting‐man of the old ballad, even to the poor sea‐gull robbed of its power of flight, than to all those dear people whose business in life it seemed to pet and amuse him, and to minister to his every want—to the handsome soldier uncle, whose home‐coming had so excited him, to Julius March, his indulgent tutor, to Mademoiselle de Mirancourt, his delightful companion, to Clara, his obedient playfellow, to brown‐eyed Mary Cathcart, and even to his lovely mother herself!

Thus did the bitter winds of truth, which blow forever across the world, first touch Richard Calmady, cutting his poor boyish pride as with a whip. But he was very young. And the young, mercifully, know no such word as the inevitable; so that the wind of truth is ever tempered for them—the first smart of it over—by the sunshine of ignorant and unlimited hope.

CHAPTER III

CONCERNING THAT WHICH, THANK GOD, HAPPENS ALMOST EVERY DAY

THE merry, spring sky was clear, save in the south where a vast perspective of dappled cloud lay against it, leaving winding rivers of blue here and there, as does ribbed sand for the incoming tide. As the white gate of the inner park—the grey, unpainted palings ranging far away to right and left—swung to behind them, and Henry, the groom, after a smart run, clambered up into his place again beside Camp on the back seat of the double dog‐cart, Richard’s spirits rose. Ahead stretched out the long vista of that peculiar glory of Brockhurst, its avenue of Scotch firs. The trunks of them, rough‐barked and purple below, red, smooth, and glistering above, shot up some thirty odd feet—straight as the pillars of an ancient temple—before the branches, sweeping outward and downward, met, making a whispering, living canopy overhead, through which the sunshine fell in tremulous shafts upon the shining coats and gleaming harness of the horses, upon Ormiston’s clear‐cut, bronzed face and upright figure, and upon the even, straw‐colored gravel of the road. The said road is raised by about three feet above the level of the land on either side. On the left, the self‐sown firs grow in close ranks. The ground below them is bare but for tussocks of coarse grass and ruddy beds of fallen fir page: 108 needles. On the right, the fir wood is broken by coppices of silver‐stemmed birches, and spaces of heather—which shows a purple‐brown against the grey of the reindeer moss out of which it springs. Tits swung and frolicked among the tree‐tops, and a jay flew off noisily with a flash of azure wing‐coverts and volley of harsh, discordant cries.

The rapid movement, the moist, pungent odour of the woodland, the rhythmical trot of the horses, the rattle of the splinter‐bar chains as the traces slackened going downhill, above all the presence of the man beside him, were pleasantly stimulating to Richard Calmady. The boy was still a prey to much innocent enthusiasm. It appeared to him, watching Ormiston’s handling of the reins and whip, there was nothing this man could not do, and do skilfully, yet all with the same easy unconcern. Indeed the present position was so agreeable to him that Dickie’s spirits would have risen to an unusual height, but for a certain chastening of the flesh in the shape of the occasional pressure of a broad strap against his middle, which brought him unwelcome remembrance of recent discoveries it was his earnest desire to ignore, still better to forget.

For just at starting there had been a rather bad moment. Winter, having settled him on the seat of the dog‐cart, was preparing to tuck him in with many rugs, when Ormiston said:—

“Look here, dear old chap, I’ve been thinking about this, and upon my word you don’t seem to me very safe. You see this is a different matter to your donkey‐chair, or the pony‐carriage. There’s no protection at the side, and if the horses shied or anything—well, you’d be in the road. And I can’t afford to spill you the first time we go out together, or there’d be a speedy end of all our fun.”

Richard tried to emulate his uncle’s cool indifference, and take the broad strap as a matter of course. But he was glad the tongue of the buckle slipped so directly into place; and that Henry’s attention was engaged with the near horse, which fretted at standing; and that Leonard, the footman, was busy making Camp jump up at the back; and that his mother, who had been watching him from the lowest of the wide steps, turned away and went up to the flight to join Julius March standing under the grey arcade. As the horses sprang forward, clattering the little pebbles of the drive against the body of the carriage, and swung away round the angle of the house, Katherine came swiftly down the steps again smiling, kissing her hand to him. Still, the strap hurt—not poor Dickie’s somewhat ill‐balanced body, to which in truth it lent an agreeable sense of page: 109 security, but his, just then, all too sensitive mind. So that, notwithstanding a fine assumption of gaiety, as he kissed his hand in return, he found the dear vision of his mother somewhat blurred by foolish tears which he had resolutely to wink away.

But now that disquieting incident was left nearly ten minutes behind. The last park gate and its cluster of mellow‐tinted, thatched cottages was past. Not only out‐of‐doors and all the natural exhilaration of it, but the spectacle of the world beyond the precincts of the park—into which world he, in point of fact, so rarely penetrated—wooed him to interest and enjoyment. To Dickie, whose life through his mother’s jealous tenderness and his own physical infirmity had been so singularly circumscribed, there was an element, slightly pathetic, of discovery and adventure in this ordinary, afternoon drive.

He did not want to talk. He was too busy simply seeing—everything food for those young eyes and brain so greedy of incident and of beauty. He sat upright and stared at the passing show.—At the deep lane, its banks starred with primroses growing in the hollows of the gnarled roots of oaks and ash trees. At Sandyfield rectory, deep‐roofed, bow‐windowed, the red walls and tiles of it half smothered in ivy and cotoneaster. At the low, squat‐towered, Georgian church, standing in its acre of close‐packed graveyard, which is shadowed by yew trees and by the clump of three enormous Scotch firs in the rectory garden adjoining. At the Church Farm, just beyond—a square white house, the slated roofs of it running up steeply to a central block of chimneys, it having, in consequence, somewhat the effect of a monster extinguisher. At the rows of pale, wheat stacks, raised on granite staddles; at the prosperous barns, yards, and stables, built of wood on brick foundations, that surround it, presenting a mass of rich, solid colour and of noisy, crowded, animal life. At the fields, plough and pasture, marked out by long lines of hedgerow trees, broken by coppices—these dashed with tenderest green—stretching up and back to the dark, purple‐blue range of the moorland. At scattered cottages, over the gates of whose gardens gay with daffodils and polyanthus, groups of little girls and babies, in flopping sun‐bonnets and scanty lilac pinafores, stared back at the passing carriage, and then bobbed the accustomed curtsey. In the said groups were no boys, save of infant years. The boys were away shepherding, or to plough, or bird‐minding. For as yet education was free indeed—in the sense that you were free to take it, or leave it, as suited your pocket and your fancy.

page: 110

Richard stared too at the pleasant, furze‐dotted commons, spinning away to right and left as the horses trotted sharply onward—commons whereon meditative donkeys endured rather than enjoyed existence, after the manner of their kind; and prodigiously large families of yellow‐grey goslings streeled after the flocks of white geese, across spaces of fresh sprung grass around shallow ponds, in which the blue and dapple of the sky were reflected. He stared at Sandyfield village too—a straight street of detached houses, very diverse in colour and in shape, standing back, for the most part, amid small orchards and gardens that slope gently up from the brook, which last, backed, here by a row of fine elms, there by one of Lombardy poplars, borders the road. Three or four shops, modest in size as they are ambitious in the variety of objects offered for sale in them, advance their windows boldly. So does the yellow‐washed inn, the Calmady arms displayed upon its swinging sign‐board. A miller’s tented waggon, all powdery with flour, and its team of six horses, brave with brass harness and bells, a timber‐carriage, and a couple of spring‐carts, were drawn up on the half‐moon of gravel before the porch; while, from out the open door, came a sound of voices and odour of many pipes and much stale beer.

And Richard had uninterrupted leisure to bestow on all this seeing, for his companion, Colonel Ormiston, was preoccupied and silent. Once or twice he looked down at the boy as though suddenly remembering his presence and inquired if he was “all right.” But it was not until they had crossed the long, white‐railed bridge, at the end of Sandyfield street—which spans not only the little, brown river overhung by black‐stemmed alders, but a bit of marsh, reminiscent of the ancient ford, lush with water‐grasses, beds of king‐cups, and broad‐leaved docks—not until then, did Colonel Ormiston make sustained effort at conversation. Beyond the bridge the road forks.

“Left to Newlands, isn’t it?” he asked sharply.

Then, as the carriage swept round the turn, he woke up from his long reverie, waking Richard up also, from his long dream of mere seeing, to human drama but dimly apprehended close there at his side.

“Oh, well, well!” the man exclaimed, throwing back his head in sharp impatience, as a horse will against the restraint of the bearing‐rein. He raised his eyebrows, while his lips set in a smile the reverse of gay. Then he looked down at Richard again, an unwonted softness in his expression.

page: 111

“Been happy?” he said. “Enjoyed your drive? That’s right. You understand the art of being really good company, Dick.”

“What’s that?”

“Allowing other people to be just as bad company as they like.”

“I—I don’t see how you could be bad company,” Dickie said, flushing at the audacity of his little compliment.

“Don’t you, dear old chap? Well, that’s very nice of you. All the same I find, at times, I can be precious bad company to myself.”

“Oh! but I don’t see how,” the boy argued, his enthusiasm protesting against all possibility of default in the object of it. Richard wanted to keep his hands down,—unconsciousness, if only assumed, told for personal dignity,—but, in the agitation of protest, spite of himself, he laid hold of the top edge of that same chastening strap. “It must be so awfully jolly to be like you—able to do everything and go everywhere. There must be such a lot to think about.”

The softness was still upon Ormiston’s face.—“Such a lot?” he said. “A jolly lot too much, believe me, very often, Dick.”

He looked away up the copse‐bordered road, over the ears of the trotting horses.

“You’ve read the story of Blue Beard and that unpleasant locked‐up room of his, where the poor, little wives hung all of a row? Well, I’m sorry to say, Dick, most men when they come to my age have a room of that sort. It’s an inhospitable place. One doesn’t invite one’s friends to dine and smoke there. At least no gentleman does. I’ve met one or two persons who set the door open and rather gloried in inviting inspection—but they were blackguards and cads. They don’t count. Still each of us is obliged to go in there sometimes himself. I tell you it’s anything but lively. I’ve been in there just now.”

The dappled cloud creeping upward from the southern horizon veiled the sun, the light of which grew pale and thin. The scent of the larch wood, on the right, hung in the air. Richard’s eyes were wide with inquiry. His mind suffered growing‐pains, as young minds of any intellectual and poetic worth needs must. The possibility of moral experience, incalculable in extent as that golden‐grey outspread of creeping, increasing vapour overhead, presented itself to him. The vastness of life touched him to fear. He struggled to find a limit, clothing his effort in childish realism of statement.

page: 112

“But in that locked‐up room, Uncle Roger, you can’t have dead women—dead wives?”

Ormiston laughed quietly.

“You hit out pretty straight from the shoulder, Master Dick,” he said. “Happily I can reassure you on one point. All manner of things are hung up in there—some ugly—almost all ugly now, to my eyes, though some of them had charming ways with them once upon a time. But, I give you my word, neither ugly nor charming, dead nor alive, are there any wives.”

The boy considered a moment, then said stoutly:—“I wouldn’t go in there again. I’d lock the door and throw away the key.”

“Wait till your time comes! You’ll find that is precisely what you can’t do.”

“Then I’d fetch them out, once and for all, and bury them.”

The carriage had turned in at the lodge gate. Soon a long, low, white house and range of domed conservatories came into view.

“Heroic remedies!” Ormiston remarked, amused at the boy’s vehemence. “But no doubt they do succeed now and then. To tell you the truth, Dick, I have been thinking of something of the kind myself. Only I’m afraid I shall need somebody to help me in carrying out so extensive a funeral.”

“Anybody would be glad enough to help you,” Richard declared, with a strong emphasis on the pronoun.

“Ah! but the bother is anybody can’t help one. Only one person in all this great rough and tumble of a world can really help one. And often one finds out who that person is a little bit too late. However, here we are. Perhaps we shall know more about it all in the next half‐hour, if these good people are at home.”

In point of fact the good people in question were not at home. Ormiston, holding reins and whip in one hand, felt for his card‐case.

“So we’ve had our journey for nothing you see, Dick,” he said.

And to Richard the words sounded regretful. Moreover, the drama of this expedition seemed to him shorn of its climax. He knew there should be something more, and pushed for it.

“You haven’t asked for Mary,” he said. “And I thought we came on purpose to see Mary. She won’t like us to go away like this. Do ask.”

Colonel Ormiston’s expression altered, hardened. And Richard, in his present hypersensitive state, remembered the cool scrutiny bestowed on the winged sea‐gull of his dream last page: 113 night. This man had seemed so near him just now while they talked. Suddenly he became remote again, all understanding of him shut away by that slight insolence of bearing. Still he did as Richard prayed him. Miss Cathcart was at home. She had just come in from riding.

“Tell her Sir Richard Calmady is here, and would like, if he may, to see her.”

Without waiting for a reply, Ormiston unbuckled that same chastening strap silently, quickly. He got down and, coming round to the farther side of the carriage, lifted Richard out; while Camp, who had jumped off the back seat, stood yawning, whining a little, shaking his heavy head and wagging his tail in welcome on the doorstep. With the bull‐dog close at his heels, Ormiston carried the boy into the house.

The inner doors were open, and, up the long, narrow, pleasantly fresh‐tinted drawing‐room, Mary Cathcart came to meet them. The folds of her habit were gathered up in one hand. In the other she carried a bunch of long‐stalked, yellow and scarlet tulips. Her strong, supple figure stood out against the young green of the lawns and shrubberies, seen through the French windows behind her. She walked carefully, with a certain deliberation, thanks to her narrow habit and top‐boots. The young lady carried her thirty‐one years bravely. Her irregular features and large mouth had always been open to criticism. But her teeth, when her lips parted, were white and even, and her brown eyes frankly honest as ever.

“Why, Dickie dear, it is simply glorious to have you and Camp paying visits on your own account.”—Her speech broke into a little cry, while her fingers closed, so tightly on the tulips that the brittle stalks snapped, and the gay‐coloured bells of them hung limply, some falling on to the carpet about her feet. “Roger—Colonel Ormiston—I didn’t know you were home—were here!”—Her voice was uncontrollably glad.

Still carrying the boy, Ormiston stood before her, observing her keenly. But he was no longer remote. His insolence, which, after all, may have been chiefly self‐protective, had vanished.

“I’m very sorry—I mean for those poor tulips. I came to pay my respects to Mr. and Mrs. Cathcart, and not finding them was preparing to drive humbly home again. But”—Certainly she carried her years well. She looked absurdly young. The brown and rose‐red of her complexion was clear as that of the little maiden who had fought with, and over‐ page: 114 come, and kissed the rough, Welsh pony refusing the grip by the roadside long ago. The hint of a moustache emphasised the upturned corners of her mouth—but that was rather captivating. Her eyes danced, under eyelids which fluttered for the moment. She was not beautiful, not a woman to make men run mad. Yet the comeliness of her body, and the spirit to which that body served as index, was so unmistakably healthful, so sincere, that surely no sane man, once gathering her into his arms, need ask a better blessing.—“But,” Ormiston went on, still watching her, “nothing would satisfy Dick but he must see you. With many injunctions regarding his safety, Katherine made him over to me for the afternoon. I’m on duty, you see. Where he goes, I’m bound to go also—even to the destruction of your poor tulips.”

Miss Cathcart made no direct answer.

“Sit here, Dickie,” she said, pointing to a sofa.

“But you don’t really mind our coming in, do you?” he asked, rather anxiously.

The young lady placed herself beside him, drew his hand on to her knee, patted it gently.

“Mind? No; on the whole, I don’t think I do mind very much. In fact, I think I should probably have minded very much more if you had gone away without asking for me.”

“There, I told you so, Uncle Roger,” the boy said triumphantly. Camp had jumped up on to the sofa too. He put his arm comfortably round the dog’s neck. It was as well to acquire support on both sides, for the surface of the glazed chintz was slippery, inconveniently unsustaining to his equilibrium.—“It’s an awfully long time since I’ve seen Mary,” he continued, “more than three weeks.”

“Yes, an awfully long time,” Ormiston echoed, “more than six years.”

“Dear Dickie,” she said; “how pretty of you! Do you always keep count of my visits?”

“Of course I do. They were about the best things that ever happened, till Uncle Roger came home.”

Forgetting herself, Mary Cathcart raised her eyes to Ormiston’s in appeal. The boy’s little declaration stirred all the latent motherhood in her. His fortunes at once passed so very far beyond, and fell so far short of, the ordinary lot. She wondered whether, and could not but trust that, this old friend and new‐comer was not too self‐centred, too hardened by ability and success, to appreciate the intimate pathos of the position. Ormiston read and answered her thought.

page: 115

“Oh! we are going to do something to change all that,” he said confidently. “We are going to enlarge our borders a bit, aren’t we, Dick? Only, I think, we should manage matters much better if Miss Cathcart would help us, don’t you?”

Richard remembering the locked‐up room of evil contents and that proposal of inclusive funeral rites, gave this utterance a wholly individual application. His face grew bright with intelligence. But, greatly restraining himself, he refrained from speech. All that had been revealed to him in confidence, and so his honour was engaged to silence.

Ormiston pulled forward a chair and sat down by him, leaning forward, his hands clasped about one knee, while he gazed at the tulips scattered on the floor.

“So tell Miss Cathcart we all want her to come over to Brockhurst just as often as she can,” he continued, “and help us to make the wheels go round a little faster. Tell her we’ve grown very old, and discreet, and respectable, and that we are absolutely incapable of doing or saying anything foolish or naughty, which she would object to—and”—

But Richard could restrain himself no longer.—“Why don’t you tell her yourself, Uncle Roger?”

“Because, my dear old chap, a burnt child fears the fire. I tried to tell Miss Cathcart something once, long ago. She mayn’t remember”—

“She does remember,” Mary said quietly, looking down at Richard’s hand and patting it as it lay on her lap.

“But she stopped me dead,” Ormiston went on. “It was quite right of her. She gave the most admirable reasons for stopping me. Would you care to hear them?”

“Oh! don’t, pray don’t,” Mary murmured. “It is not generous.”

“Pardon me, your reasons were absolutely just—true in substance and in fact. You said I was a selfish, good‐for‐nothing spendthrift, and so”—

“I was odious,” she broke in. “I was a self‐righteous little Pharisee—forgive me”—

“Why—there’s nothing to forgive. You spoke the truth.”

“I don’t believe it,” Richard cried, in vehement protest.

“Dickie, you’re a darling,” Mary Cathcart said.

Colonel Ormiston left off nursing his knee, and leaned a little farther forward.

“Well then, will you come over to Brockhurst very often, and help us to make the wheels go round, and cheer us all up, and do us no end of good, though—I am a selfish, good‐for‐ page: 116 nothing spendthrift? You see I run through the list of my titles again to make sure this transaction is fair and square and above‐board.”

A silence followed, which appeared to Richard protracted to the point of agitation. He became almost distressingly conscious of the man’s still, bronzed, resolute face on the one hand, of the woman’s mobile, vivid, yet equally resolute face on the other, divining far more to be at stake than he had clear knowledge of. Tired and excited, his impatience touched on anger.

“Say yes, Mary,” he cried impulsively, “say yes. I don’t see how anybody can want to refuse Uncle Roger anything.”

Miss Cathcart’s eyes grew moist. She turned and kissed the boy.

“I don’t think—perhaps—Dickie, that I quite see either,” she answered very gently.

“Mary, you know what you’ve just said?”—Ormiston’s tone was stern. “You understand this little comedy? It means business. This time you’ve got to go the whole hog or none.”

She looked straight at him, and drew her breath in a long half‐laughing sigh.

“Oh, dear me! what a plague of a hurry you are in!” she said. “Well—then—then—I suppose I must—it is hardly a graceful expression, but it is of your choosing, not of mine—I suppose I must go the whole hog.”

Roger Ormiston rose, treading the fallen tulips under foot. And Richard, watching him, beheld that which called to his remembrance, not the hopeless and impotent battle under the black, polished sky of his last night’s dream, but the gallant stories he had heard, earlier last night, of the battles of Sobraon and Chillianwallah, of the swift dangers of sport, and large daring of travel. Here he beheld—so it seemed to his boyish thought‐the aspect of a born conqueror, of the man who can serve and wait long for the good he desires, and who, winning it, lays hold of it with fearless might. And this, while causing Richard an exquisite delight of admiration, caused him also a longing to share those splendid powers so passionate that it amounted to actual pain.

Mary Cathcart’s hand slid from under his hand. She too rose to her feet.

“Then you have actually cared for me all along, all these years?” Ormiston declared in fierce joy.

“Of course—who else could I care for? And—and—you’ve loved me, Roger, all the while?”

And Ormiston answered “Yes,”—speaking the truth, though page: 117 with a difference. There had been interludes that had contributed somewhat freely to the peopling of that same locked‐up room. But it is possible for a man to love many times, yet always love one woman best.

All this, however, Dickie did not know. He only knew they dazzled him—the man triumphantly strong, the woman so bravely glad. He could not watch them any longer. He went hot all over, and his heart beat. He felt strangely desolate too. They were far away from him, in thought, though so close by. Dickie shut his eyes, put his arms round the bull‐dog, pressed his face hard against the faithful beast’s shoulder; while Camp, stretching his short neck to the uttermost, nuzzled against him and essayed to lick his cheek.

Thus did Richard Calmady gain yet further knowledge of things as they are.

CHAPTER IV

WHICH SMELLS VERY VILELY OF THE STABLE

APRIL softened into May, and the hawthorns were in blossom before Richard passed any other very noteworthy milestone on the road of personal development. Then, greatly tempted, he committed a venial sin; received prompt and coarse chastisement; and, by means of the said chastisement, as is the merciful way of the Eternal Justice, found unhoped of emancipation.

It happened thus. As the spring days grew warm Mademoiselle de Mirancourt failed somewhat. The darkness and penetrating chill of the English winter tried her, and this year her recuperative powers seemed sadly deficient. A fuller tide of life had pulsed through Brockhurst since Colonel Ormiston’s arrival. The old stillness was departing, the old order changing. With that change Mademoiselle de Mirancourt had no quarrel, since, to her serene faith, all that came must, of necessity, come through a divine ordering and in conformity to a divine plan. Yet this more of activity and of movement strained her. The weekly drive over to Westchurch, to hear mass at the humble Catholic chapel tucked away in a side street, sorely taxed her strength. She returned fortified, her soul ravished by that heavenly love, which, in pure and innocent natures, bears such gracious kinship to earthly love. Yet in body she was outworn page: 118 and weary. On such occasions she would rally Julius March, not without a touch of malice, saying:—

“Ah! très cher ami, had you only followed the ever blessed footsteps of those dear Oxford friends of yours and entered the fold of the true Church, what fatigue might you not now spare me—let alone the incalculable advantages to your own poor, charming, fatally darkened soul!”

While Julius—who, though no less devout than of yore, was happily less fastidiously sensitive—would reply:—

“But, dearest lady, had I followed the footsteps of my Oxford friends, remember I should not be at Brockhurst at all.”

“Clearly, then, everything is well ordered,” she would say, folding her fragile hands upon her embroidery frame, “since it is altogether impossible we could do without you. Yet I regret for your soul. It is so capable of receiving illumination. You English—even the most finished among you—remain really deplorably stubborn, and nevertheless it is my fate perpetually to set my affections upon one or other of you.”

It followed that Katherine devoted much of her time to Mademoiselle de Mirancourt, walked slowly beside her up and down the sunny, garden paths sheltered by the high, red walls whereon the clematis and jasmine began to show for flower; or took her for quiet, little drives within the precincts of the park. They spoke much of Lucia St. Quentin, of Katherine’s girlhood, and of those pleasant days in Paris long ago. And this brought soothing and comfort, not only to the old lady, but to the young lady also—and of soothing and comfort the latter stood in need just now.

For it is harsh discipline even to a noble woman, whose life is still strong in her, to stand by and see another woman, but a few years her junior, entering on those joys which she has lost—marriage, probably motherhood as well. Roger Ormiston and Mary Cathcart’s love‐making was restrained and dignified. But the very calm of their attitude implied a security of happiness passing all need of advertisement. And Katherine was very far from grudging them this. She was not envious, still less jealous. She did not want to take anything of theirs; but she wanted, she sorely wanted, her own again. A word, a look, a certain quickness of quiet laughter, would pierce her with recollection. Once for her too, below the commonplaces of daily detail, flowed that same magic river of delight. But the springs of it had gone dry. Therefore it was a relief to be alone with Mademoiselle de Mirancourt—virgin and saint—and to speak with her of the days before she, Katherine, had sounded the lovely depths of that page: 119 same magic flood—days when she had known of its existence only by the mirage, born of the dazzle of its waters, which plays over the innocent, vacant spaces of a young girl’s mind.

It was a relief even, though of sterner quality, to go into the red drawing‐room on the ground floor and pace there, her hands clasped behind her, her proud head bowed, by the half‐hour together. If personal joy is dead past resurrection, there is bitter satisfaction in realising to the full personal pain. The room was duly swept, dusted, casements set open to welcome breeze and sunshine, fires lighted in the grate. But no one ever sat there. It knew no cheerfulness of social intercourse. The crimson curtains and covers had become faded. They were not renewed. The furniture, save for the absence of the narrow bed, stood in precisely the same order as on the night when Sir Richard Calmady died. It was pushed back against the walls. And in the wide, empty way between the two doors, Katherine paced, saturating all her being with thoughts of that which was, and must remain, wholly and inalienably her own—namely her immense distress.

And in this she took the more comfort, because something else, until now appearing wholly her own, was slipping a little away from her. Dickie’s health had improved notably in the last few weeks. His listlessness had vanished, while his cheeks showed a wholesome warmth of colour. But his cry was ever—“Mother, Uncle Roger’s going to such a place. He says he’ll take me. I can go, can’t I?” Or—“Mother, Mary’s going to do such a thing. She says she’ll show me how. She may, mayn’t she?” And Katherine’s answer was always “Yes.” She grudged the boy none of his new‐found pleasures, rejoiced indeed to see him interested and gay. Yet to watch the new broom, which sweeps so clean, is rarely exhilarating to those that have swept diligently with the old one. The nest had held her precious fledgling so safely till now, and this fluttering of wings, eager for flight, troubled her somewhat. Not only was Dickie’s readiness to be away from her a trifle hard to bear; but she knew that disappointment, of a certainty, lay in wait for him, and that each effort towards wider action would but reveal to him how circumscribed his powers actually were.

Meanwhile, however, Richard enjoyed himself recklessly, almost feverishly, in the attempt to disprove the teaching of that ugly dream, and keep truth at bay. There had been further drives, and the excitement of witnessing a forest fire—only too frequent in the Brockhurst country when the sap is up, and the easterly wind and May sun have scorched all moisture from the page: 120 surface of the moorland. He and Mary had bumped over fir roots and scuttled down bridle‐paths in the pony‐carriage, to avoid the rush of flame and smoke; had skirmished round at a hand gallop, in search of recruits to reinforce Ormiston, and Iles, and a small army of beaters, battling against the blazing line that threatened destruction to the fir avenue. Now and again, with a mighty roar, which sent Dickie’s heart into his mouth, great tongues of flame, clear as topaz and ruby in the steady sunshine, would leap upwards, converting a whole tall fir into a tree of fire, while the beaters running back, grimed with smoke and sweat, took a moment’s breathing‐space in the open.

There had been more peaceful pastimes as well—several days’ fishing, enchanting beyond the power of language to describe. The clear trout‐stream meandering through the rich water‐meadows; the herds of cattle standing knee‐deep in the grass, lazily chewing the cud and switching their tails at the cloud of flies; the birds and wild creatures haunting the streamside; the long dreamy hours of gentle sport, had opened up to Dickie a whole new world of romance. His donkey‐chair had been left at the yellow‐washed mill beneath the grove of silvery‐leaved, ever‐rustling, balsam poplars. And thence, while Ormiston and Mary sauntered slowly on ahead, the men—Winter in mufti, oblivious of plate‐cleaning and cellarage, and the onerous duties of his high estate, Stamp, the water‐bailiff, and Moorcock, one of the under‐keepers—had carried him across the great, green levels. Winter was an old and tried friend, and it was somewhat diverting to behold him in this novel aspect, affable and chatty with inferiors, displaying, moreover, unexpected knowledge in the mysteries of the angler’s craft. The other two men—sharp‐featured, their faces ruddy as summer apples, merry‐eyed, clad in velveteen coats, that bulged about the pockets, and wrinkled leather gaiters reaching half‐way up the thigh—charmed Richard, when his first shyness was passed. They were eager to please him. Their talk was racy. Their laughter ready and sincere. Did not Stamp point out to him a water‐ouzel, with impudently jerking tail, dipping and wading in the shallows of the stream? Did not Moorcock find him a water‐rail’s nest, hidden in a tuft of reeds and grass, with ten, yellowish, speckled eggs in it? And did not both men pluck him handfuls of cowslips, of tawny‐pink avens, and of mottled, snake‐headed fritillarias, and stow them away in the fishing‐baskets above the load of silver‐and‐red spotted trout?

Mary had protested Dickie could throw a fly, if he had a light enough rod. And not only did he throw a fly, but at the page: 121 fourth or fifth cast a fish rose, and he played it—with skirling reel and much advice and most complimentary excitement on the part of the whole good company—and brought it skilfully within range of Stamp’s landing‐net. Never surely was trout spawned that begot such bliss in the heart of an angler! As, with panting sides and open gills, this three‐quarter‐pound treasure of treasures flopped about on the sunny stream bank all the hereditary instinct of sport spoke up clearly in Dickie. The boy—such is youthful masculine human nature—believed he understood at last why the world was made! At dressing‐time he had his sacred fish carried on a plate up to his room to show Clara; and, but for strong remonstrance on the part of that devoted handmaiden, would have kept it by his bedside all night, so as to assure himself at intervals, by sense of touch—let alone that of smell—of the adorable fact of its veritable existence.

But all this, inspiring though it was, served but as prelude to a more profoundly coveted acquaintance—that with the racing‐stable. For it was after this last that Dickie still supremely longed—the more so, it is to be feared, because it was, if not explicitly, yet implicitly forbidden. A spirit of defiance had entered into him. Being granted the inch, he was disposed to take the ell. And this, not in conscious opposition to his mother’s will; but in protest, not uncourageous, against the limitations imposed on him by physical misfortune. The boy’s blood was up, and consequently, with greater pluck than discretion, he struggled against the intimate, inalienable enemy that so marred his fate. And it was this not ignoble effort which culminated in disobedience.

For driving back one afternoon, later than usual,—Ormiston had met them, and Mary and he had taken a by‐path home through the woods,—the pony‐carriage, turned along the high level road beside the lake, going eastward, just as the string of racehorses, coming home from exercise, passed along it coming west. Richard was driving, Chaplin, the second coachman, sitting in the dickey at the back of the low carriage. He checked the pony, and his eyes took in the whole scene—the blue‐brown expanse of the lake dotted with water‐fowl, on the one hand, the immense, blue‐brown landscape on the other, ranging away to the faint line of the chalk downs in the south; the downward slope of the park, to the great square of red stable‐buildings in the hollow; the horses coming slowly towards him in single file. Cawing rooks streamed back from the fallow‐fields across the valley. Thrushes and blackbirds carolled. A wren, in the bramble‐brake close by, broke into sharp, sweet song. The page: 122 recurrent ring of an axe came from somewhere away in the fir plantations, and the strident rasping of a saw from the wood‐yard in the beech grove near the house.

Richard stared at that oncoming procession. Half‐way between him and the foremost of the horses the tan ride branched off, and wound down the hillside to the stables. The boy set his teeth. He arrived at a desperate decision—touched up the pony and drove on.

Chaplin leaned forward, addressing him over the back of the seat.

“Better wait here, hadn’t we, Sir Richard? They’ll turn off in a minute.”

Richard did not look round. He tried to answer coldly, but his voice shook.

“I know. That’s why I am going on.”

There was a silence save for the cawing of the rooks, ring of the axe, and grinding of wheels on the gravel. Chaplin, responsible, correct, over five‐and‐thirty, and fully intending to succeed old Mr. Wenham, the head coachman, on the latter’s impending retirement from active service, went very red in the face.

“Excuse me, but I have my orders, Sir Richard,” he said.

Dickie still looked straight ahead.

“Very well,” he answered, “then perhaps you’d better get out and walk on home.”

“You know I’m bound not to leave you, sir,” the man said.

Dickie laughed a little in uncontrollable excitement. He was close to them now. The leading horse was just moving off the main road, its shadow lying long across the turf. How was it possible to give way with the prize within reach?—“You can go or stay Chaplin, as you please. I mean to speak to Chifney. I—I mean to see the stables.”

“It’s as much as my place is worth, sir.”

“Oh! bother your place!” the boy cried impetuously.—Dear heart alive, how fine they were as they filed by! That chestnut filly, clean made as a deer, her ears laid back as she reached at the bit; and the brown, just behind her—“I mean, I mean you needn’t be afraid, Chaplin—I’ll speak to her ladyship. I’ll arrange all that. Go to the pony’s head.”

At the end of the long string of horses came the trainer—a square‐built, short‐necked man, sanguine complexioned and clean shaven. Of hair, indeed, Mr. Chifney could only boast a rim of carroty‐grey stubble under the rim of the back of his page: 123 hard hat. His right eye had suffered damage, and the pupil of it was white and viscous. His lips were straight and purplish in colour. He raised his hat and would have followed on down the slope, but Dickie called to him.

As he rode up an unwonted expression came over Mr. Chifney’s shrewd, hard‐favoured face. He took off his hat and sat there, bare‐headed in the sunshine, looking down at the boy his hand on his hip.

“Good‐day, Sir Richard,” he said. “Anything I can do for you?”

“Yes, yes,” Dickie stammered, all his soul in his eyes, his cheeks aflame, “you can do just what I want most. Take me down, Chifney, and show me the horses.”

Here Chaplin coughed discreetly behind his hand. But that proved of small avail, save possibly in the way of provocation. For, socially, between the racing and house stables was a great gulf fixed; and Mr. Chifney could hardly be expected to recognise the existence of a man in livery standing at a pony’s head, still less to accept direction from such a person. Servants must be kept in their place—impudent, lazy enough lot anyhow, bless you! On his feet the trainer had been known to decline to moments of weakness. But in the saddle, a good horse under him, he possessed unlimited belief in his own judgment, fearing neither man, devil, nor even his own meek‐faced wife with lilac ribbons in her cap. Moreover, he felt such heart as he had go out strangely to the beautiful, eager boy gazing up at him.

“Nothing ’ud give me greater pleasure in life, Sir Richard,” he said, “if you’re free to come. We’ve waited a long time, a precious long time, sir, for you to come down and take a look at your horses.”

“I’d have been to see them sooner. I’d have given anything to see them. I’ve never had the chance, somehow.”

Chifney pursed up his lips, and surveyed the distant landscape with a very meaning glance. “I daresay not, Sir Richard. But better late than never, you know; and so, if you are free to come”—

Again Chaplin coughed.

“Free to come? Of course I am free to come,” Dickie asserted, his pride touched to arrogance. And Mr. Chifney looked at him, an approving twinkle in his sound eye.

“I agree, Sir Richard. Quite right, sir, you’re free, of course.”

Stolen waters are sweet, says the proverb. And to Richard Calmady, his not wholly legitimate experience of the next hour page: 124 was sweet indeed. For there remains rich harvest of poetry in all sport worth the name, let squeamish and sentimental persons declaim against it as they may. Strength and endurance, disregard of suffering, have a permanent appeal and value, even in their coarsest manifestations. No doubt the noble gentlemen of the neighbourhood, who “lay at Brockhurst two nights” on the occasion of Sir Denzil’s historic house‐warming, to witness the mighty bear‐baiting, were sensible of something more in that somewhat disgusting exhibition, than the mere gratification of brutal instincts, the mere savage relish for wounds and pain and blood. And to Sir Denzil’s latest descendant the first sight of the training‐stable—as the pony‐carriage came to a standstill alongside the grass plot in the centre of the great, gravelled square—offered very definite and stirring poetry of a kind.

On three sides the quadrangle was shut in by one‐storied, brick buildings, the woodwork of doors and windows immaculate with white paint. Behind, over the wide archway,—closed fortress‐like by heavy doors at night,—were the head‐lad’s and helpers’ quarters. On either side, forge and weighing‐room, saddler’s and doctor’s shop. To right and left a range of stable doors, with round swing‐lights between each; and, above these, the windows of hay and straw lofts and of the boys’ dormitories. In front were the dining‐rooms and kitchens, and the trainer’s house—a square clock tower, carrying an ornate gilt vane, rising from the cluster of red roofs. Twenty years had weathered the raw of brick walls, and painted the tiling with all manner of orange and rusty‐coloured lichens; yet the whole place was admirably spick and span, free of litter. Many cats, as Dickie noted, meditated in sunny corners, or prowled in the open with truly official composure. Over all stretched a square of bluest sky, crossed by a skein of homeward‐wending rooks. While above the roofs, on either side the archway, the high‐lying lands of the park showed up, broken here and there by clumps of trees.

Mr. Chifney slipped out of the saddle.—“Here, boy, take my horse,” he shouted to a little fellow hurrying across the yard. “I’m heartily glad to see you, Sir Richard,” he went on. “Now, if you care, as your father’s son can’t very well be off caring, for horses”—

“If I care!” echoed Dickie, his eyes following the graceful, chestnut filly as she was led in over the threshold of her stable.

“I like that. That’ll do. Chip of the old block after all,” the trainer said, with evident relish. “Well then, since you do care for horses as you ought to, Sir Richard, we’ll just make you page: 125 free of this establishment. About the most first‐class private establishment in England, sir, though I say it that have run the concern pretty well single‐handed for the best part of the last fifteen years—make you free of it right away, sir. And, look you, when you’ve got hold, don’t you leave hold.”

“No, I won’t,” Dickie said stoutly.

Mr. Chifney was in a condition of singular emotion, as he wrapped Richard’s rug about him and bore him away into the stables. He even went so far as to swear a little under his breath; and Chifney was a very fairly clean‐mouthed man, unless members of his team of twenty and odd naughty boys got up to some devilry with their charges. He carried Richard as tenderly as could any woman, while he tramped from stall to stall, loose‐box to loose‐box, praising his racers, calling attention to their points, recounting past prowess, or prophesying future victories.

And the record was a fine one; for good luck had clung to the masterless stable, as Lady Calmady’s bank‐books and ledgers could testify.

“Vinedresser, by Red Burgundy out of Valeria—won two races at the Newmarket Spring Meeting the year before last. Lamed himself somehow in the horse‐box coming back—did nothing for eighteen months—hope to enter him for some of the autumn events.”—Then later:—“Sahara, by North African out of Sally‐in‐our‐Alley. Beautiful mare? I believe you, Sir Richard. Why she won the Oaks for you. Jack White was up. Pretty a race as ever I witnessed, and cleverly ridden. Like to go up to her in the stall? She’s as quiet as a lamb. Catch hold of her head, boy.”

And so Dick found himself seated on the edge of the manger, the trainer’s arm round him, and the historic Sahara snuffing at his jacket pockets.

Then they crossed the quadrangle to inspect the colts and fillies, whose glories still lay ahead.

“Verdigris, by Copper King out of Valeria again. And if he doesn’t make a name I’ll never judge another horse, sir. Strain of the old Touchstone blood there. Rather ugly? Yes, they’re often a bit ugly that lot, but devilish good ’uns to go. You ask Miss Cathcart about them. Never met a lady who’d as much knowledge as she has of a horse. The Baby, by Punch out of Lady Bountiful. Not much good, I’m afraid. No grip, you see, too contracted in the hoofs. Chloroform, by Sawbones out of sister to Castinette.”

And so forth, an endless repetition of genealogies, comments, page: 126 anecdotes to which Dickie lent most attentive ear. He was keen to learn, his attention was on the stretch. He was in process of initiation, and every moment of the sacred rites came to him with power and value. Yet it must be owned that he found the lessening of the strain on his memory and attention not wholly unwelcome when Mr. Chifney, sitting beside him on the big, white‐painted corn‐bin opposite Diplomacy’s loose‐box, began to tell him of the old times when he—a little fellow of eight to ten years of age—had been among the boys in his cousin, Sam Chifney’s famous stable at Newmarket. Of the long, weary travelling, before the days of railways, when the horses were walked by highroad and country lane, ankle deep in mud, from Newmarket to Epsom; and after victory or defeat, walked by slow stages all the way home again. Of how, later, he had migrated to Doncaster; but, not liking the “Yorkshire tykes,” had got taken on in some well‐known stables upon the Berkshire downs.

“And it was there, Sir Richard,” he said, “I met your father, and we fancied each other from the first. And he asked me to come to him. These stables were just building then. And here I’ve been ever since.”

Mr. Chifney stared down at the clean, red quarries of the stable floor, and tapped his neat gaiters with the switch he held in his hand.

“Rum places, racing‐stables,” he went on, meditatively, “and a lot of rum things go on in ’em, one way and another, as you’ll come to know. And it ain’t the easiest thing going, I tell you, to keep your hands clean. Ungrateful business a trainer’s, Sir Richard—wearing business—shortens a man’s temper and makes him old before his time. Out by four o’clock on summer mornings, minding your cattle and keeping your eye on those shirking blackguards of boys. No real rest, sir, day or night. Wearing business—studying all the meetings and entering your horses where you’ve reason to reckon they’ve most chance. And if your horse wins, the jockey gets all the praise and the petting. And if it fails, the trainer gets all the blame. Yes, it’s wearing work. But, confound it all, sir,” he broke out hotly, “there’s nothing like it on the face of God’s earth. Horses—horses—horses—why the very smell of the bedding’s sweeter than a bunch of roses. Love ’em? I believe you. And you’ll love ’em too before you’ve done.”

He turned and gripped Dickie hard by the shoulder.

“For we’ll make a thorough‐paced sportsman of you yet, Sir Richard,” he said, “God bless you—danged if we don’t.”

page: 127

Which assertion Mr. Chifney repeated at frequent intervals over his grog that evening, as he sat, not in the smart dining‐room hung round with portraits of Vinedresser and Sahara and other equine notabilities, but in the snug, little, back parlour looking out on to the yard. Mrs. Chifney was a gentle, pious woman, with whom her husband’s profession went somewhat against the grain. She would have preferred a nice grocery, or other respectable, uneventful business, in a country town, and dissipation in the form of prayer rather than of race‐meetings. But as a slender, slightly self‐righteous, young maiden she had fallen very honestly and completely in love with Tom Chifney. So there was nothing for it but to marry him and regard the horses as her appointed cross. She nursed the boys when they were sick or injured, intervened fairly successfully between their poor, little backs and her husband’s all‐too‐ready ash stick; and assisted Julius March in promoting their spiritual welfare, even while deploring that the latter put his faith in forms and ceremonies rather than in saving grace. Upon the trainer himself she exercised a gently repressive influence.

“We won’t swear, Mr. Chifney,” she remarked mildly now.

“Swear! It’s enough to make the whole bench of bishops swear to see that lad.”

“I did see him,” Mrs. Chifney observed.

“Yes, out of window. But you didn’t carry him round, and hear him talk—knowledgeable talk as you could ask from one of his age. And watch his face—as like as two peas to his father’s.”

“But her ladyship’s eyes,” put in Mrs. Chifney.

“I don’t know whose eyes they are, but I know he can use ’em. It was as pretty as a picture to see how he took it all.”

Chifney tossed off the remainder of his tumbler of brandy and water at a gulp.

“Swear,” he repeated, “I could find it in my heart to swear like hell. But I can find it in my heart to do more than that. I can forgive her ladyship. By all that’s”—

“Thomas, forgiveness and oaths don’t go suitably together.”

“Well, but I can though, and I tell you, I do,” he said solemnly. “I forgive her.—Shoot the Clown! by G—! I beg your pardon, Maria—but upon my soul, once or twice, when I had him in my arms to‐day, I felt I could have understood it if she’d had every horse shot that stood in the stable.”

He held the tumbler up against the lamp. But it was quite empty.

“Uncommon glad she didn’t though, poor lady, all the page: 128 same,” he added, parenthetically, as he set it down on the table again.—“What do you say, Maria—about time we toddled off to bed?”

CHAPTER V

IN WHICH DICKIE IS INTRODUCED TO A LITTLE DANCER WITH BLUSH‐ROSES IN HER HAT

“HER ladyship’s inquired for you more than once, sir.”—This from Winter meeting the pony‐carriage and the returning prodigal at the bottom of the steps.

The sun was low. Across the square lawn—whereon the Clown had found death some thirteen years before—peacocks led home their hens and chicks to roost within the two sexagonal, pepper‐pot summer‐houses that fill in the angles of the red‐walled enclosure. The pea‐fowl stepped mincingly, high‐shouldered, their heads carried low, their long necks undulating with a self‐conscious grace. Dickie’s imagination was aglow like that rose‐red, sunset sky. The virile sentiment of all just heard and seen, and the exultation of admitted ownership were upon him. He felt older, stronger, more secure of himself, than ever before. He proposed to go straight to his mother and confess. In his present mood he entertained no fear but that she would understand.

“Is Lady Calmady alone?” he asked.

“Mr. and Mrs. Cathcart are with her, Sir Richard.”—Winter leant down, loosening the rug. His usual undemonstrative speech took on a loftiness of tone. “Mrs. William Ormiston and her daughter have driven over with Mrs. Cathcart.”—The butler was not without remembrance of that dinner on the day following Dickie’s birth. Socially he had never considered Lady Calmady’s sister‐in‐law quite up to the Brockhurst level.

Richard leaned back, watching the mincing peacocks. It was so fair here out of doors. The scent of the may hung in the air. The flame of the sunset bathed the façade of the stately house. No doubt it would be interesting to see new people, new relations; but he really cared to see no one, just now, except his mother. From her he wanted to receive absolution, so that, his conscience relieved of the burden of his disobedience, he might revel to the full in the thought of the inheritance upon page: 129 which—so it seemed to him—he had to‐day entered. Still, in his present humour, Dickie’s sense of noblesse oblige was strong.

“I suppose I’ve got to go in and help entertain everybody,” he remarked.

“Her ladyship’ll think something’s wrong, Sir Richard, and be anxious if you stay away.”

The boy held out his arms. “All right then, Winter,” he said.

Here Chaplin again gave that admonitory cough. Richard, his face hardening to slight scorn, looked at him over the butler’s shoulder.

“Oh! You need not be uneasy, Chaplin. When I say I’ll do a thing, I don’t forget.”

Which brief speech caused the butler to reflect, as he bore the boy across the hall and upstairs, that Sir Richard was coming to have an uncommonly high manner about him, at times, considering his age.

An unwonted loudness of conversation filled the Chapel‐Room. It was filled also by the rose‐red light of the sunset streaming in through the curve of the oriel‐window. This confused and dazzled Richard slightly, entering upon it from the silence and sober clearness of the stair‐head. A shrill note of laughter.—Mr. Cathcart’s voice saying—“I felt it incumbent upon me to object, Lady Calmady. I spoke very plainly to Fallowfeild.”—Julius March’s delicately refined tones—“I am afraid spirituality is somewhat deficient in that case.”—Then the high, flute‐like notes of a child, rising dearly above the general murmur‐“Ah! enfin—le voilà, Maman. C’est bien lui, n’est‐ce pas?” And with that, Richard was aware of a sudden hush falling upon the assembled company. He was sensible everyone watched him as Winter carried him across the room and set him down in the long, low arm‐chair near the fireplace. Poor Dickie’s self‐consciousness, which had been so agreeably in abeyance, returned upon him, and a red, not of the sunset, dyed his face. But he carried his head proudly. He thought of Chifney and the horses. He refused to be abashed.

And Ormiston, breaking the silence, called to him cheerily:—

“Hello, old chap, what have you been up to? You gave Mary and me the slip.”

“I know I did,” the boy answered bravely. “How d’ye do, Mrs. Cathcart?” as the latter nodded and smiled to him—a large, gentle, comfortable lady, uncertain in outline, thanks to voluminous draperies of black silk and black lace. “How d’ye do, sir?” this to Mr. Cathcart—a tall, neatly‐made man, but for a page: 130 slight roundness of the shoulders. Seeing him, there remained no doubt as to whence Mary inherited her large mouth; but matter for thankfulness that she had avoided further inheritance. For Mr. Cathcart was notably plain. Small eyes and snub nose, long, lower jaw, and grey, forward‐curled whiskers rendered his appearance unfortunately simian. He suggested a caricature; but one, let it be added, of a person undeniably well‐bred.

“My darling, you are very late,” Katherine said. Her back was towards her guests as she stooped down arranging the embroidered rug across Dickie’s feet and legs. Laying his hand on her wrist he squeezed it closely for a moment.

“I—I’ll tell you all about that presently, mummy, when they’re gone. I’ve been enjoying myself awfully—you won’t mind?”

Katherine smiled. But, looking up at her, it appeared to Richard that her face was very white, her eyes very large and dark, and that she was very tall and, somehow, very splendid just then. And this fed his fearlessness, fed his young pride, even as, though in a more subtle and exquisite manner, his late experience of the racing‐stable had fed them. His mother moved away and took up her interrupted conversation with Mr. Cathcart regarding the delinquencies of Lord Fallowfeild. Richard looked coolly round the room.

Everyone was there—Julius, Mary, Mademoiselle de Mirancourt, while away in the oriel‐window Roger Ormiston stood talking to a pretty, plump, very much dressed lady, who chattered, laughed, stared, with surprising vivacity. As Dickie looked at her she stared back at him through a pair of gold eye‐glasses. Against her knee, that rosy light bathing her graceful, little figure, leant a girl about Dickie’s own age. She wore a pale pink and blue frock, short and outstanding in the skirts. She also wore a broad‐brimmed, white hat, with a garland of blush‐roses around the crown of it. The little girl did not stare. She contemplated Richard languidly, yet with sustained attention. Her attitude and bearing were attractive. Richard wanted to see her close, to talk to her. But to call and ask her to come to him was awkward. And to go to her—the boy grew a little hot again—was more awkward still.

Mrs. Ormiston dropped her gold eye‐glasses into her lap.

“It really is ten thousand pities when these things happen in the wrong rank of life,” she said. “Rightly placed they might be so profitable.”

“For goodness sake, be careful, Charlotte,” Ormiston put in quickly.

page: 131

“Oh! my dear creature, don’t be nervous. Everybody’s attending to everybody else, and if they did hear they wouldn’t understand. I’m one of the fortunate persons who are supposed never to talk sense and so I can say what I like.” Mrs. Ormiston gave her shrill little laugh. “Oh! there are consolations, depend upon it, in a well‐sustained reputation for folly!”

The laugh jarred on Richard. He decided that he did not quite like his aunt Charlotte Ormiston. All the same he wished the charming, little girl would come to him.

“But to return.—It’s a waste. To some poor family it might have been a perfect fortune. And I hate waste. Perhaps you have never discovered that?”

Ormiston let his glance rest on the somewhat showy figure.

“I doubt if William has discovered it either,” he remarked.

“Oh! as to your poor brother William, Heaven only knows what he has or has not discovered!—Now, Helen, this conversation becomes undesirable. You’ve asked innumerable questions about your cousin. Go and make acquaintance with him. I’m the best of mothers of course, but, at times, I really can do quite well without you.”

Now surely this was a day of good fortune, for again Dickie had his desire. And a most surprisingly pretty, little desire it proved—seductive even, deliciously finished in person and in manner. The boy gazed at the girl’s small hands and small, daintily shod feet, at the small, lovely, pink and white face set in a cloud of golden‐brown hair, at the innocent, blue eyes, at the mouth with upturned corners to it. Richard was not of age to remark the eyes were rather light in colour, the lips rather thin. The exquisite refinement of the girl’s whole person delighted him. She was delicate as a miniature, as a figure carved in ivory. She was like his uncle Roger, when she was silent and still. She was like—oh, poor Dick!—some bright glancing, small, saucy bird when she spoke and her voice had those clear, flute tones in it.

“Since you did not come to me, I had to come to you,” she said. “I have wanted so much to see you. I had heard about you at home, in Paris.”

“Heard about me?” Dickie repeated, flattered and surprised. “But won’t you sit down? Look—that little chair. I can reach.”

And leaning sideways he stretched out his hand. But his finger‐tips barely touched the top rail. Richard flushed.—“I’m awfully sorry,” he said, “but I am afraid—it isn’t heavy—I must let you get it yourself.”

page: 132

The girl, who had watched him intently, her hands clasped, gave a little sigh. Then the corners of her mouth turned up as she smiled. A delightful dimple showed in her right cheek.

“But, of course,” she replied, “I will get it.”

She settled herself beside him, folded her hands, crossed her feet, exposing a long length of fine, open‐work, silk stocking.

“I desired enormously to see you,” she continued. “But when you came in I grew shy. It is so with one sometimes.”

“You should use your influence, Lady Calmady,” Mr. Cathcart was saying. “Unquestionably the condition of the workhouse is far from satisfactory. And Fallowfeild is too lenient. That laisser‐aller policy of his threatens to land us in serious difficulties. The place is insanitary, and the food is unnecessarily poor. I am not an advocate for extravagance, but I cannot bear to see discomfort which might be avoided. Fallowfeild is the most kind‐hearted of men, but he has a fatal habit of believing what people tell him. And those workhouse officials have got round him. The whole matter ought to be subjected to the strictest investigation.”

“It is very nice of you to have wanted so much to see me,” Dickie said. His eyes were softly bright.

“Oh! but one always wants to see those who are talked about. It is a privilege to have them for one’s relations.”

“But—but—I’m not talked about?” the boy put in, somewhat startled.

“But certainly. You are so rich. You have this superb château. You are”—she put her head on one side with a pretty, saucy, birdlike movement—“enfin,” she said, “I had the greatest curiosity to make your acquaintance. I shall tell all my young friends at the convent about this visit. I promised them that, as soon as mama said we should probably come here. The good sisters also are interested. I shall recount a whole history of this beautiful castle, and of you, and your”—

She paused, clasped her hands, looking away at her mother, then sideways at Richard, bowing her little person backwards and forwards, laughing softly all the while. And her laughing face was extraordinarily pretty under the shade of her broad‐brimmed hat.

“It is a great misfortune we stay so short a time,” she continued. “I shall not see the half of all that I wish to see.”

Then an heroic plan of action occurred to Richard. The daring engendered by his recent act of disobedience was still active in him. He was in the humour to attempt the impossible. He longed, moreover, to give this delectable little person pleasure. page: 133 He was willing even to sacrifice a measure of personal dignity in her service.

“Oh! but if you care so much, I—I will show you the house,” he said.

“Will you?” she cried, “You and I alone together? But that is precisely what I want. It would be ravishing.”

Poor Dickie’s heart misgave him slightly; but he summoned all his resolution. He threw off the concealing rug.

“I—I walk very slowly, I’m afraid,” he said rather huskily, looking up at her, while in his expression appeal mingled pathetically with defiant pride.

“But, so much the better,” she replied. “We shall be the longer together. I shall have the more to observe, to recount.”

She was on her feet. She hovered round him, birdlike, intent on his every movement.

Meanwhile the sound of conversation rose continuous. Lady Calmady, calling to Julius, had moved away to the great writing‐table in the farther window. Together they searched among a pile of papers for a letter of Dr. Knott’s, embodying his scheme of the new hospital at Westchurch. Mr. Cathcart stood by, expounding his views on the subject.

“Of course a considerable income can be derived from letters of recommendation,” he was saying, “in‐patient and out‐patient tickets. The clergy come in there. They cannot be expected to give large donations. It would be unreasonable to expect that of them.”

Mademoiselle de Mirancourt, Mrs. Cathcart, and Mary, had drawn their chairs together. The two elder ladies spoke with a subdued enthusiasm, discussing pleasant details of the approaching wedding, which promised the younger lady so glad a future. Mrs. Ormiston chattered; while Ormiston, listening to her, gazed away down the green length of the elm avenue, beyond the square lawn and pepper‐pot summer‐houses, and pitied men who made such mistakes in the matter of matrimony as his brother William obviously had. The rose of the sunset faded in the west. Bats began to flit forth, hawking against the still‐warm house‐walls for flies.

And so, unobserved, Dickie slipped out of the security of his arm‐chair, and rose to that sadly deficient full height of his. He was nervous, and this rendered his balance more than ever uncertain. He shuffled forward, steadying himself by a piece of furniture here and there in passing, until he reached the wide open space before the door on to the stair‐head. And it page: 134 required some fortitude to cross this space, for here was nothing to lay hold of for support.

Little Helen Ormiston had kept close beside him so far. Now she drew back, leaving him alone. Leaning against a table, she watched his laborious progress. Then a fit of uncontrollable laughter took her. She flew half‐way across to the oriel‐window, her voice ringing out clear and gay, though broken by bursts of irrepressible merriment.

Regardez, regardez donc, Maman! Ma bonne m’avait dit qu’il était un avorton, et que ce serait très amusant de le voir. Elle m’a conseiller de lui faire marcher.

She darted back, and clapping her hands upon the bosom of her charming frock, danced, literally danced and pirouetted around poor Dickie.

Moi, je ne comprenais pas ce que c’était qu’un avorton,” she continued rapidly. “Mais je comprends parfaitement maintenant. C’est un monstre, n’est‐ce pas, Maman?”

She threw back her head, her white throat convulsed by laughter.

“Ah! Mon Dieu, qu’il est drôle!” she cried.

Silence fell on the whole room, for sight and words alike were paralysing in their grotesque cruelty. Ormiston was the first to speak. He laid his hand somewhat roughly on his sister‐in‐law’s shoulder.

“For God’s sake, stop this, Charlotte,” he said. “Take the girl away. Little brute,” he added, under his breath, as he went hastily across to poor Dick.

But Lady Calmady had been beforehand with him. She swept across the room, flinging aside the dainty, dancing figure as she passed. All the primitive fierceness, the savage tenderness, of her motherhood surged up within her. Katherine was in the humour to kill just then, had killing been possible. She was magnificently regardless of consequences, regardless of conventionalities, regardless of every obligation save that of sheltering her child. She cowered down over Richard, putting her arms about him, knew—without question or answer—that he had heard and understood. Then gathering him up against her, she stood upright, facing them all, brother, sister, old and tried friends, a terrible expression in her eyes, the boy’s face pressed down upon her shoulder. For the moment she appeared alienated from, and at war with, even Julius, even Marie de Mirancourt. No love, however faithful, could reach her. She was alone, unapproachable, in her immense anger and immense sense of outrage.

page: 135

“I will ask you to go,” she said to her sister‐in‐law,—“to go and take your daughter with you, and to enter this house no more.”

Mrs. Ormiston did not reply. Even her chatter was for the moment stilled. She pressed a handkerchief against the little dancer’s forehead, and it was stained with blood.

“Ah! she is a wicked woman!” wailed the child. “She has hurt me. She threw me against the table. Maman quel malheur ça se verra. Il y aura certainement une cicatrice!”

“Nonsense,” Ormiston said harshly. “It’s nothing, Kitty, the merest scratch.”

“Yes, my dear, we will have the carriage at once,”—this from Mr. Cathcart to his wife. The incident, from all points of view, shocked his sense of propriety. Immediate retirement became his sole object.

Lady Calmady moved away, carrying the boy. She trembled a little. He was heavy. Moreover, she sickened at the sight of blood. But little Helen Ormiston caught at her dress, and looked up at her.

“I hate you,” she said, hissing the words out with concentrated passion between her pretty even teeth. “You have spoilt me. I will hate you always, when I grow up. I will never forget.”

Alone in the great state‐bedroom next door, a long time elapsed before either Richard or Katherine spoke. The boy leaned back against the sofa cushions, holding his mother’s hand. The casements stood wide open, and little winds laden with the scent of the hawthorns in the park wandered in, gently stirring the curtains of the ebony bed, so that the Trees of the Forest of This Life, thereon embroidered, appeared somewhat mournfully to wave their branches, while the Hart fled forward and the Leopard, relentless in perpetual pursuit, followed close behind. There was a crunching of wheels on the gravel, a sound of hurried farewells. Then in a minute or two more the evening quiet held its own again.

Suddenly Dickie flung himself down across Katherine’s lap, his poor body shaken by a tempest of weeping.

“Mother, I can’t bear it—I can’t bear it,” he sobbed. “Tell me, does everybody do that?”

“Do what, my own precious?” she said, calm from very excess of sorrow. Later she would weep too, in the dark, lying lonely in the cold comfort of that stately bed.

“Laugh at me, mother, mock at me?” and his voice, for all that he tried to control it, tore at his throat and rose almost to a shriek.

page: 136

CHAPTER VI

DEALING WITH A PHYSICIAN OF THE BODY AND A PHYSICIAN OF THE SOUL

HISTORY repeats itself, and to Katherine just now came most unwelcome example of such repetition. She had foreseen that some such crisis must arise as had arisen. Yet when it arose, the crisis proved none the less agonising because of that foreknowledge. Two strains of feeling struggled within her. A blinding sorrow for her child, a fear of and shame at her own violence of anger. Katherine’s mind was of an uncompromising honesty. She knew that her instinct had, for a space at least, been murderous. She knew that, given equal provocation, it would be murderous again.

And this was, after all, but the active, objective aspect of the matter. The passive and subjective aspect showed danger also. In her extremity Katherine’s soul cried out for God—for the sure resting‐place only to be found by conscious union of the individual with the eternal will. But such repose was denied her. For her anger against God, even while thus earnestly desiring Him, was even more profound than her anger against man. The passion of those terrible early days when her child’s evil fortune first became known to her—held in check all these years by constant employment and the many duties incident to her position—returned upon her in its first force. To believe God is not, leaves the poor human soul homeless, sadly desolate, barren in labour as is a slave. But the sorrow of such belief is but a trifle beside the hideous fear that God is careless and unjust, that virtue is but a fond imagination of all‐too‐noble human hearts, that the everlasting purpose is not good but evil continually. And, haunted by such fears, Katherine once again sat in outer darkness. All gracious things appeared to her as illusions; all gentle delights but as passing anodynes with which, in his misery, man weakly tries to deaden the pain of existence. She suffered a profound discouragement.

And so it seemed to her but as part of the cruel whole when history repeated itself yet further, and Dr. Knott, pausing at the door of Richard’s bedroom, turned and said to her:—

“It will be better, you know, Lady Calmady, to let him face it alone. He’ll feel it less without you. Winter can give me all the assistance I want.” Then he added, a queer smile playing page: 137 about his loose lips:—“ Don’t be afraid. I’ll handle him very gently. Probably I shan’t hurt him at all—certainly not much.”

“Ah!” Katherine said, under her breath.

“You see it is done by his own wish,” John Knott went on.

“I know,” she answered.

She respected and trusted this man, entertained for him, notwithstanding his harsh speech and uncouth exterior, something akin to affection. Yet remembering the part he had played in the fate of the father, it was very dreadful to her that he should touch the child. And Dr. Knott read her thought. He did not resent it. It was all natural enough! From his heart he was sorry for her, and would have spared her had that been possible. But he discriminated very clearly between primary and secondary issues, never sacrificing, as do feeble and sentimental persons, the former to the latter. In this case the boy had a right to the stage, and so the mother must stand in the wings. John Knott possessed a keen sense of values in the human drama which the exigencies of his profession so perpetually presented to him. He waited quietly, his hand on the door‐handle, looking at Katherine from under his shaggy eyebrows, silently opposing his will to hers.

Suddenly she turned away with an impatient gesture.

“I will not come with you,” she said.

“You are right.”

“But—but—do you think you can really do anything to help him, to make him happier?” Katherine asked, a desperation in the tones of her voice.

“Happier? Yes, in the long‐run, because certainty of whatever kind, even certainty of failure, makes eventually for peace of mind.”

“That is a hard saying.”

“This is a hard world.”—Dr. Knott looked down at the floor, shrugging his unwieldy shoulders. “The sooner we learn to accept that fact the better, Lady Calmady. I know it is sharp discipline, but it saves time and money, let alone disappointment.—Now as to all these elaborate contrivances I’ve brought down from London, they’re the very best of their kind. But I am bound to own the most ingenious of such arrangements are but clumsy remedies for natural deficiency. Man hasn’t discovered how to make over his own body yet, and never will. The Almighty will always have the whip‐hand of us when it comes to dealing with flesh and blood. All the same we’ve got to try these legs and things”—

Katherine winced, pressing her lips together. It was brutal, page: 138 surely, to speak so plainly? But John Knott went on quietly, commiserating her inwardly, yet unswerving in common sense.

“Try ’em every one, and so convince Sir Richard one way or the other. This is a turning‐point. So far his general health has been remarkably good, and we’ve just got to set our minds to keeping it good. He must not fret if we can help it. If he frets, instead of developing into the sane, manly fellow he should, he may turn peevish, Lady Calmady, and grow up a morbid, neurotic lad, the victim of all manner of brain‐sick fancies—become envious, spiteful, a misery to others and to himself.”

“Is it necessary to say all this?” Katherine asked loftily.

Dr. Knott’s eyes looked very straight into hers, and there were tears in them.

“Indeed, I believe it is,” he replied, “or, trust me, I wouldn’t say it. I take no pleasure in giving pain at this time of day, whether mental or physical. All I want is to spare pain. But one must sacrifice the present to the future, at times, you know‐use the knife to save the limb. Now I must go to my patient. It isn’t fair to keep him waiting any longer. I’ll be as quick as I can. I suppose I shall find you here when I’ve finished?”

As he opened the door Dr. Knott’s heavy person showed in all its ungainliness against the brightness of sunlight flooding Dickie’s room. And to Katherine he seemed hideous just then—inexorable in his great common sense, in the dead weight of his personality and of his will, as some power of nature. He was to her the incarnation of things as they are—not things as they should be, not things as she so passionately desired they might be. He represented rationalism as against miracle, intellect as against imagination, the bitter philosophy of experience as against that for which all mortals so persistently cry out—namely the all‐consoling promise of extravagant hope. As with chains he bound her down to fact. Right home on her he pressed the utter futility of juggling with the actual. From the harsh truth that, neither in matters practical nor spiritual, is any redemption without shedding of blood he permitted her no escape.

And all this Katherine’s clear brain recognised and admitted, even while her poor heart only rebelled the more madly. To be convinced is not to be reconciled. And so she turned away from that closed door in a veritable tempest of feeling, and went out into the Chapel‐Room. It was safer, her mind and heart thus working, to put a space between herself and that closed door.

Just then Julius March crossed the room, coming in from the stair‐head. The austere lines of his cassock emphasised the page: 139 height and emaciation of his figure. His appearance offered a marked contrast to that of the man with whom Katherine had just parted. His occupation offered a marked contrast also. He carried a gold chalice and paten, and his head was bowed reverentially above the sacred vessels. His eyes were downcast, and the dull pallor of his face and of his long, thin hands was very noticeable. He did not look round, but passed silently, still as a dream, into the chapel. Katherine paced the width of the great room, turned and paced back and forth again some half‐dozen times, before he emerged from the chapel door. In her present humour she did not want him, yet she resented his abstraction. The physician of the soul, like the physician of the body, appeared to her lamentably devoid of power to sustain and give comfort at the present juncture.

This, it so happened, was one of those days when the mystic joy of his priestly office held Julius March forcibly. He had ministered to others, and his own soul was satisfied. His expression was exalted, his short‐sighted eyes were alive with inward light. Tired and worn, there was still a remarkable suavity in his bearing. He had come forth from the holy of holies, and the vision beheld there dwelt with him yet.

Meanwhile, brooding storm sat on Katherine’s brow, on her lips, dwelt in her every movement. And something of this Julius perceived, for his devotion to her was intact, as was his self‐abnegation. Throughout all these years he had never sought to approach her more closely. His attitude had remained as delicately scrupulous, untouched by worldliness, or by the baser part of passion, as in the first hour of the discovery of his love. Her near presence gave him exquisite pleasure; but, save when she needed his assistance in some practical matter, he refused to indulge himself by passing much time in her society. Abstinence still remained his rule of life. Just now, however, strong with the mystic strength of his late ministrations and perceiving her troubled state, he permitted himself to remain and pace beside her.

“You have been out all day?” Katherine said.

“Yes, I stayed on to the end with Rebecca Light. They sent for me early this morning. She passed away very peacefully in that little attic at the new lodge looking out into the green heart of the woods.”

“Ah! It’s simple enough to die,” Katherine said, “being old. The difficult thing is to live, being still young.”

“Has my absence been inconvenient? Have you wanted me?” Julius asked.—Those quiet hours spent in the humble page: 140 death‐chamber suddenly appeared to him as an act of possible selfishness.

“Oh no!” she answered bitterly. “Why should I want you Have I not sent Roger and Mary away? Am I not secretly glad dear Marie de Mirancourt is just sufficiently poorly to remain in her room? When the real need comes—one learns that among all the other merciless lessons—one is best by oneself.”

For a while, only the whisper of Lady Calmady’s skirts, the soft, even tread of feet upon the thick carpet. Then she said, almost sharply:—

“Dr. Knott is with Richard.”

“Ah! I understand,” Julius murmured.

But Lady Calmady took up his words with a certain heat.

“No, you do not understand. You none of you understand, and that is why I am better by myself. Mary and Roger in their happiness, dear Marie in her saintly resignation, and you”—Katherine turned her head, smiled at him in lovely scorn—“you, my dear Julius, of all men, what should you know of the bitter pains of motherhood, you who are too good to be quite human, you who regard this world merely as the antechamber of paradise, you, whose whole affection is set on your Church—your God—how should you understand? Between my experience and yours there is a very wide interval. How can you know what I suffer—you who have never loved?”

Under the stress of her excitement Katherine’s pace quickened. The whisper of her skirts grew to a soft rush. Julius kept beside her. His head was bent reverently, even as over the sacred vessels he had so lately carried.

“I too have loved,” he said at last.

Katherine stopped short, and looked at him incredulously.

“Really, Julius?” she said.

Raising his head, he looked back at her. This avowal gave him a strange sense of completeness and mastery. So he allowed his eyes to meet Katherine’s, he allowed himself to reckon with her grace and beauty.

“Very really,” he answered.

“But when?”

“Long ago—and always.”

“Ah!” she said. Her expression had changed. Brooding storm no longer sat on her brow and lips. She was touched. For the moment the weight of her personal distress was lifted. Dickie and Dr. Knott together in that bed‐chamber, experimenting with unlovely, mechanical devices for aiding locomotion page: 141 and concealing the humiliation of deformity, were almost forgotten. To those who have once loved, love must always supremely appeal. Julius appeared to her in a new aspect. She felt she had done him injustice. She placed her hand on his arm with a movement of apology and tenderness. And the man grew faint, trembled, feeling her hand, seeing it lie white and fair on the sleeve of his black cassock. Since childhood it was the first, the solitary, caress he had received.

“Pardon me, dear Julius,” she said. “I must have pained you at times, but I did not know this. I always supposed you coldly indifferent to those histories of the heart which mean so much to some of us; supposed your religion held you wholly, and that you pitied us as the wise pity the foolish, standing above them, looking down. Richard told me many things about you, before he brought me home here, but he never told me this.”

“Richard never knew it,” he answered, smiling. Her perfect unconsciousness at once calmed and pained him. He had kept his secret, all these years, only too well.

Katherine turned and began to pace again, her hands clasped behind her back.

“But, tell me—tell me,” she said. “You can trust me, you know. I will never speak of this unless you speak. But if I knew, it would bring us nearer together, and that would be comforting, perhaps, to us both. Tell me, what happened? Did she know, and did she love you? She must have loved you, I think. Then what separated you? Did she die?”

“No thank God she did not die,” Julius said.—He paused. He longed to gain the relief of fuller confession, yet feared to betray himself. “I believe she loved me truly as a friend—and that was sufficient.”

“Oh no, no!” Katherine cried. “Do not decline upon sophistries. That is never sufficient.”

“In one sense, yes—in another sense, no,” Julius said. “It was thus. I loved her exactly as she was. Had she loved me as I loved her she would have become other than she was.”

“Ah! but surely you are too ingenious, too fastidious!” Katherine’s voice took tones of delicate remonstrance and pleading. “That would be your danger, in such a case. Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien, and you would always risk sacrificing the real to the ideal. I am sorry. I would like you to have tasted the fulness of life. Even though the days of perfect joy are very few, it is well to have had them”—

She threw back her head, her eyebrows drew together, and her face darkened somewhat.

page: 142

“Yes, it is well to have had them, though the memory of them cuts one to the very quick.”—Then her manner changed again, gaining a touch of gaiety. “Really I am very unselfish in wishing all this otherwise,” she said, “for it would have been a sore trial to part with you. I cannot imagine Brockhurst without you. I should have been in great straits deprived of my friend and counsellor. And yet, I would like you to have been very happy, dear Julius.”

Their pacing had just brought them to the arched doorway of the chapel. Katherine stopped, and raising her arm leaned her hand against the stone jamb of it above her head.

“See,” she went on, “I want to be truly unselfish. I know how generous you are. Perhaps you remain here out of all too great kindness towards my poor Dick and me. You mustn’t do that, Julius. You say she is still living. Consider—is it too late?”

Was it indeed too late? All the frustrated manhood cried aloud in Julius March. He covered his face with his hands. His carefully restrained imagination ran riot, presenting enchantments.

And Katherine, watching him, found herself strangely moved. For it was very startling to see this so familiar figure under so unfamiliar an aspect—to see Julius March, her every‐day companion and assistant, his reticence, his priestly aloofness, his mild and courtly calm, swept under by a tide of personal emotion. Lady Calmady was drawn to him by deepened sympathy. Yet regret arose in her that this man proved to be, after all, but as other men are. She was vaguely disappointed, having derived more security than she had quite realised from his apparent detachment and impassibility. And, as an indirect consequence, her revolt against God suffered access of bitterness. For not only was He—to her seeing—callous regarding the fate of the many, but He failed to support those few most devoted to His cause. In the hour of their trial He was careless even of His own elect.

“Ah! I think it is indeed by no means too late!” she exclaimed.

Julius March let his hands drop at his sides. He gazed at her, and her expression was of wistful mockery—compassionate rather than ironical. Then he looked away down the length of the chapel. In the warm afternoon light, the solid and rich brown of the arcaded stalls on either hand, emphasised the harmonious radiance of the great, east window, a radiance as of clear jewels.—Ranks of kneeling saints, the gold of page: 143 whose orioles rose in an upward curve. to the majestic image of the Christ in the central light—a Christ risen and glorified, enthroned, His feet shining forever upon heaven’s sapphire floor. Before the altar hung three, silver‐gilt lamps of Italian workmanship, in the crimson cup of each of which it had so long been Julius’s pleasure to keep the tongue of flame constantly alive. The habits of a lifetime are not hastily set aside. Gazing on these things, his normal attitude returned to him. Not that which he essentially was but that which, by long and careful training of every thought, every faculty, he had become, authoritatively claimed him. His eyes fell from contemplation of the glories of the window to that of the long, straight folds of the cassock which clothed him. It was hardly the garb in which a man goes forth to woo! Then he looked at Lady Calmady—she altogether seductive in her innocence and in her wistful mockery as she leaned against the jamb of the door.

“You are mistaken, dear Katherine,” he said. “It has always been too late.”

“But why—why—if she is free to listen?”

“Because I am not free to speak.”

Julius smiled at her. His suavity had returned, and along with it a dignity of bearing not observable before.

“Let us walk,” he said. And then:—“After all I have given you a very mutilated account of this matter. Soon after I took orders, before I had ever seen the very noble, to me perfect, woman who unconsciously revealed to me the glory of human love, I had dedicated my life, and all my powers—poor enough, I fear—of mind and body to the service of the Church. I was ambitious in those days. Ambition is dead, killed by the knowledge of my own shortcomings. I have proved an unprofitable servant—for which may God in His great mercy forgive me. But, while my faith in myself has withered, my faith in Him has come to maturity. I have learned to think very differently on many subjects, and to perceive that our Heavenly Father’s purposes regarding us are more generous, more far‐reaching, more august, than in my youthful ignorance I had ever dreamed. All things are lawful in His sight. Nothing is common or unclean—if we have once rightly apprehended Him, and He dwells in us. And yet—yet, a vow once made is binding. We may not do evil to gain however great a good.”

Katherine listened in silence. The words came with the power of immutable conviction. She could not believe, yet she was glad to have him believe.

page: 144

“And that vow precludes marriage?” she said at last.

“It does,” Julius answered.

For a time they paced again in silence. Then Lady Calmady spoke, a delicate intimacy and affection in her manner, while once more, for a moment, she let her hand rest on his arm.

“So Brockhurst keeps you—I keep you, dear Julius, to the last?”

“Yes, if you will, to the very last.”

“I am thankful for that,” she said. “You must forgive me if in the past I have been inconsiderate at times. I am afraid the constant struggle, which certain circumstances of necessity create, tends to make me harsh and imperious. I carry a trouble, which calls aloud for redress, forever in my arms. They ache with the burden of it. And there is no redress. And the trouble grows stronger, alas! Its voice—so dear, yet so dreaded—grows louder, till it deafens me to all other sounds. The music of this once beautiful world becomes faint. Only angry discord remains. And I become selfish. I am the victim of a fixed idea. I become heedless of the suffering of those about me. And you, my poor Julius, must have suffered very much!”

“Now, less than ever before,” he answered.—But even as he spoke, Katherine was struck by his pallor, by the drawn look of his features and languor of his bearing.

“Ah, you have fasted all day!” she cried.

“What matter?” he said, smiling. “The body surely can sustain a trifle of hunger, if the soul and spirit are fed. I have feasted royally to‐day in that respect. I am strangely at ease. As to baser sort of food, what wonder if I forgot?”

The door of Dickie’s bed‐chamber opened, letting in long shafts of sunlight, and Dr. Knott came slowly forward. His aspect was savage. Even his philosophy had been not wholly proof against the pathos of his patient’s case. It irritated him to fall from his usual relentlessness of common sense into a melting mood. He took refuge in sarcasm, desirous to detect weakness in others, since he was, unwillingly, so disagreeably conscious of it in himself.

“Well, we’re through with our business, Lady Calmady,” he said.—“Eh! Mr. March, what’s wrong with you? Putty‐coloured skin and shortness of breath. A little less prayer and a little more physical exercise is what you want. Successful, Lady Calmady?—Umph—I’m afraid the less said about that the better. Sir Richard will talk it out with you himself. Upset? Yes, I don’t deny he is a little upset—and, like a fool, I’m upset page: 145 too. You can go to him now, Lady Calmady. Keep him cheerful, please, and give him his head as much as you can.”

John Knott watched her as she moved away. He shrugged his shoulders and thrust his hands into his breeches pockets.

“She’s going to hear what she won’t much relish, poor thing,” he said. “But I can’t help that. One man’s meat is another man’s poison; and my affair is with the boy’s meat, even if it should be of a kind to turn his mother’s stomach. He shall have just all the chance I can get him, poor little chap.—And now, Mr. March, I propose to prescribe for you, for you look uncommonly like taking a short‐cut to heaven, and, if I know anything about this house, you’ve got your work cut out for you here below for a long time to come. Through with this business? Pooh! we’ve only taken a preliminary canter as yet. That boy’s out of the common in more ways than one, and, cripple or no cripple, he’s bound to lead you all a pretty lively dance before he’s done.”

CHAPTER VII

AN ATTEMPT TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT

THE day had been hot, though the summer was but young. A wealth of steady sunlight bathed the western front of the house. All was notably still, save for a droning of bees, a sound of wood‐chopping, voices now and again, and the squeak of a wheelbarrow away in the gardens.

Richard lay on his back upon the bed. He had drawn the blue embroidered coverlet up about his waist; but his silk shirt was thrown open, exposing his neck and chest. His arms were flung up and out across the pillow on either side his gold‐brown, close‐curled head. As his mother entered he turned his face towards the open window. There was vigour and distinction in the profile—in the straight nose, full chin, and strong line of the lower jaw, in the round, firm throat, and small ear set close against the head. The muscles of his neck and arms were well developed. Seen thus, lying in the quiet glow of the afternoon sunshine, all possibility of physical disgrace seemed far enough from Richard Calmady. He might indeed, not unfitly, have been compared to one of those nobly graceful lads, who, upon the frieze of some Greek temple, set forth forever the perfect pattern of temperance and high courage, of youth and health.

page: 146

As Katherine sat down beside the bed, Richard thrust out his left hand. She took it in both hers, held and stroked the palm of it. But for a time she could not trust herself to speak. For she saw that, notwithstanding the resolute set of his lips, his breath caught in short quick sobs and that his eyelashes were glued in points by late shed tears. And, seeing this, Katherine’s motherhood arose and confronted her with something of reproach. It seemed to her she had been guilty of disloyalty in permitting her thought to be beguiled even for the brief space of her conversation with Julius March. She felt humbled, a little in Dickie’s debt, since she had not realised to the uttermost each separate moment of his trial as each of those moments passed.

“My darling, I am afraid Dr. Knott has hurt you very much?” she said at last.

“Oh! I don’t know. I suppose he did hurt. He pulled me about awfully, but I didn’t mind that. I told him to keep on till he made sure,” Richard answered huskily, still turning his face from her. “But none of those beastly legs and things fitted. He could not fix them so that I could use them. It was horrid. They only made me more helpless than before. You see—my—my feet are in the way.”

The last words came to Katherine as a shock. The boy had never spoken openly of his deformity, and in thus speaking he appeared to her to rend asunder the last of those veils with which she had earnestly striven to conceal the disgrace of it from him. She remained very still, bracing herself to bear—the while slowly stroking his hand. Suddenly the strong, young fingers closed hard on hers. Richard turned his head.

“Mother,” he said, “the doctor can’t do anything for me. It’s no use. We’ve just got to let it be.”

He set his teeth, choking a little, and drew the back of his right hand across his eyes.

“It’s awfully stupid; but somehow I never knew I should mind so much. I—I never did mind much till just lately. It began—the minding, I mean—the day Uncle Roger came home. It was the way he looked at me, and hearing about things he’d done. And I had a beastly dream that night. And it’s all grown worse since.”

He paused a minute, making a strong effort to speak steadily.

“I suppose it’s silly to mind. I ought to be accustomed to it by this time. I’ve never known anything else. But I never thought of all it meant and—and—how it looked to other people page: 147 till Helen was here and wanted me to show her the house. I supposed everyone would take it for granted, as you all do here at home. And then I’d a hope Dr. Knott might find a way to hide it and so help me. But—but he can’t. That hope’s quite gone.”

“My own darling,” Katherine murmured.

“Yes, please say that!” he cried, looking up eagerly. “I am your darling, mother, am I not, just the same? Dr. Knott said something about you just now. He’s an awfully fine old chap. I like him. He talked to me for a long time after we’d sent Winter away, and he was ever so kind. And he told me it was bad. for you too, you know—for both of us. I’m afraid I had not thought much about that before. I’ve been thinking about it since. And I began to be afraid that—that I might be a nuisance,—that you might be ashamed of me, later, when I am grown up—since I’ve always got to be like this, you see.”

The boy’s voice broke.

“Mother, mother, you’ll never despise me, whoever does, will you?” he sobbed.

And it seemed to Lady Calmady that now she must have touched bottom in this tragedy. There could surely be no farther to go? It was well that her mood was soft, that for a little while she had ceased to be under the dominion of her so sadly fixed idea. In talking with Julius March she had been reminded how constant a quantity is sorrow; how real, notwithstanding their silence, are many griefs; how strong is human patience. And this indirectly had fortified her. Wrung with anguish for the boy, she yet was calm. She knelt down by the bedside and put her arms round him.

“Most precious one—listen,” she said. “You must never ask me such a question again. I am your mother—you cannot measure all that implies, and so you cannot measure the pain your question causes me. Only you must believe, because I tell it you, that your mother’s love will never grow old or wear thin.

It is always there, always fresh, always ready. In utter security you can come back to it again and again. It is like one of those clear springs in the secret places of the deep woods—you know them—which bubble up forever. Drink, often as you may, however heavy the drought or shrunken the streams elsewhere, those springs remain full to the very lip.”—Her tone changed, taking a tender playfulness. “Why, my Dickie, you are the light of my eyes, my darling, the one thing which makes me still care to live. You are your father’s gift to me. And so every page: 148 kiss you give me, every pretty word you say to me, is treasured up for his, as well as for your own, dear sake.”

She leaned back, laid her head on the pillow beside his, cheek to cheek. Katherine was a young woman still—young enough to have moments of delicate shyness in the presence of her son. She could not look at him now as she spoke.

“You know, dearest, if I could take your bodily misfortune upon me, here, directly, and give you my wholeness, I would do it more readily, with greater thankfulness and delight than I have ever done anything in”—

But Richard raised his hand and laid it, almost violently, upon her mouth.

“Oh, stop, mother, stop!” he cried. “Don’t—it’s too dreadful to think of.”

He flung away, and lay at as far a distance as the width of the bed would allow, gazing at her in angry protest.

“You can’t do that. But you don’t suppose I’d let you do it even if you could,” he said fiercely. Then he turned his face to the sunny western window again.—“I like to know that you’re beautiful anyhow, mother, all—all over,” he said.

There followed a long silence between them. Lady Calmady still knelt by the bedside. But she drew herself up, rested her elbows on the bed and clasped her hands under her chin. And as she knelt there something of proud comfort came to her. For so long she had sickened, fearing the hour when Richard should begin clearly to gauge the extent of his own ill‐luck; yet, now the first shock of plain speech over, she experienced relief. For the future they could be honest, she and he,—so she thought,—and speak heart to heart. Moreover, in his so bitter distress, it was to her—not to Mary, his good comrade, not to Roger Ormiston, the Ulysses of his fancy—that the boy had turned. He was given back to her, and she was greatly gladdened by that. She was gladdened too by Richard’s last speech, by his angry and immediate repudiation of the bare mention of any personal gain which should touch her with loss. Katherine’s eyes kindled as she knelt there watching her son. For it was very much to find him thus chivalrous, hotly sensitive of her beauty and the claims of her womanhood. In instinct, in thought, in word, he had shown himself a very gallant, high‐bred gentleman—child though he was. And this gave Katherine not only proud comfort in the present, but cheered the future with hope.

“Look here, Dickie darling,” she said softly at last, “tell me a little more about your talk with Dr. Knott.”

“Oh! he was awfully kind,” Richard answered, turning page: 149 towards her again, while his face brightened. “He said some awfully jolly things to me.”

The boy put out his hand and began playing with the bracelets on Katherine’s wrists. He kept his eyes fixed on them as he fingered them.

“He told me I was very strong and well made—except, of course, for it. And that I was not to imagine myself ill or invalidy, because I’m really less ill than most people, you know. And—and he said—you won’t think me foolish, mother, if I tell you?—he said I was a very handsome fellow.”

Richard glanced up quickly, while his colour deepened.

“Am I really handsome?” he asked.

Katherine smiled at him.

“Yes, you are very handsome, Dickie. You have always been that. You were a beautiful baby, a beautiful little child. And now, every day, you grow more like your father. I can’t quite talk about him, my dear—but ask Uncle Roger—ask Marie de Mirancourt what he was when she knew him first.”

The boy’s face flashed back her smile, as the sea does the sunlight.

“Oh, I say, but that’s good news!” he said. He lay quite still on his back for a little while, thinking about it.

“That seems to give one a shove, you know,” he remarked presently. Then he fell to playing with her bracelets again. “After all, I’ve got a good many shoves to‐day, mother. Dr. Knott’s a regular champion shover. He told me about a number of people he’d known who had got smashed up somehow, or who’d always had something wrong, you know—and how they’d put a good face on it and hadn’t let it interfere, but had done things just the same. And he told me I’d just got to be plucky—he knew I could if I tried—and not let it interfere either. He told me I mustn’t be soft, or lazy, because doing things is more difficult for me than for other people. But that I’d just got to put my back into it, and go in and win. And I told him I would—and you’ll help me, mummy, won’t you?”

“Yes, darling, yes,” Lady Calmady said.

“I want to begin at once,” he went on hurriedly, looking hard at the bracelets. “I shouldn’t like to be unkind to her, mother, but do you think Clara would give me up? I don’t need a nurse now. It’s rather silly. May one of the men‐servants valet me? I should like Winter best, because he’s been here always, and I shouldn’t feel shy with him. Would it bore you awfully to speak about that now, so that he might begin to‐night?”

page: 150

Lady Calmady’s brave smile grew a trifle sad. The boy was less completely given back to her than she had fondly supposed. This day was after all to introduce a new order. And the woman always pays. She was to pay for that advance, so was the devoted handmaiden, Clara. Still the boy must have his way— were it even towards a merely imagined good.

“Very well, dearest, I will settle it,” she answered.

“You don’t mind, though, mother?”

Katherine stroked the short, curly hair back from his forehead.

“I don’t mind anything that promises to make you happier, Dickie,” she said. “What else did you and Dr. Knott settle—anything else?”

Richard waited, then he turned on his elbow and looked full and very earnestly at her.

“Yes, mother, we did settle something more. And something that I’m afraid you won’t like. But it would make me happier than anything else—it would make all the difference that—that can be made, you know.”

He paused, his expression very firm though his lips quivered.

“Dr. Knott wants me to ride.”

Katherine drew back, stood up, threw out her hands as though to keep off some actual and tangible object of offence.

“Not that, Richard!” she cried. “Anything in the world rather than that!”

He looked at her imploringly, yet with a certain determination, for the child was dying fast in him and the forceful desires and intentions of youth growing.

“Don’t say I mustn’t, mother. Pray, pray don’t, because”—

He left the sentence unfinished, overtaken by the old habit of obedience, yet he did not lower his eyes.

But Lady Calmady made no response. For the moment she was outraged to the point of standing apart even from her child. For a moment, even motherhood went down before purely personal feeling—and this, by the irony of circumstance, immediately after motherhood had made supreme confession of immutability. But remembering her husband’s death, remembering the source of all her child’s misfortune, it appeared to her indecent, a wanton insult to all her past suffering, that such a proposition should be made to her. And, in a flash of cruelly vivid perception, she knew how the boy would look on a horse, the grotesque, to the vulgar wholly absurd, spectacle he must, notwithstanding his beauty, necessarily present. For a moment page: 151 the completeness of love failed before pride touched to the very quick.

“But, how can you ride?” she said. “My poor child, think—how is it possible?”

Richard sat upright, pressing his hands down on the bedclothes on either side to steady himself. The colour rushed over his face and throat.

“It is possible, mother,” he answered resolutely, “or Dr. Knott would never have talked about it. He couldn’t have been so unkind. He drew me the plan of a saddle. He said I was to show it to Uncle Roger to‐night. Of course it won’t be easy at first, but I don’t care about that. And Chifney would teach me. I know he would. He said the other day he’d make a sportsman of me yet.”

“When did you talk with Chifney?”—Lady Calmady spoke very quietly, but there was that in her tone which came near frightening the boy. It required all his daring to answer honestly and at once.

“I talked to him the day Aunt Charlotte and Helen were here. I—I went down to the stables with him and saw all the horses.”

“Then either you or he did very wrong,” Lady Calmady remarked.

“It was my fault, mother, all my fault. Chifney would have ridden on, but I stopped him. Chaplin tried to prevent me. I—I told him to mind his own business. I meant to go. I—I saw all the horses, and they were splendid,” he added, enthusiasm gaining over fear.—“I saw the stables, and the weighing‐room, and everything. I never enjoyed myself so much before. I told Chaplin I would tell you, because he ought not to be blamed, you know. I did mean to tell you directly I came in. But all those people were here.”—Richard’s face darkened. “And you remember what happened? That put everything else out of my head.”—A pause. Then he said:—“Are you very angry?”

Katherine made no reply. She moved away round the foot of the bed and stood at the sunny window in silence. Bitterness of hot humiliation possessed her. Heretofore, whatever her trial, she had been mistress of the situation; she had reigned a queen‐mother, her authority undisputed. And now it appeared her kingdom was in revolt, conspiracy was rife. Richard’s will and hers were in conflict; and Richard’s will must eventually obtain, since he would eventually be master. Already courtiers bowed to that will. All this was in her mind. And a wounding of feeling, far deeper and more intimate than this—since Katherine’s nobility of character was great and the worldly aspect, page: 152 the greed of personal power and undisputed rule, could not affect her for long. It wounded her, as a slight upon the memory of the man she had so wholly loved, that this first conflict between Richard and herself should turn on the question of horses and the racing‐stable. The irony of the position appeared unpardonable. And then, the vision of poor Richard—her darling, whom she had striven so jealously to shield ever since the day, over thirteen years ago, when undressing her baby she had first looked upon its malformed limbs—Richard riding forth for all the staring, mocking world to see, again arose before her.

Thinking of all this, Katherine gazed out over the stately home scene—grass plot and gardens, woodland and distant landscape, rich in the golden splendour of steady sunshine—with smarting eyes and a sense of impotent misery that wrapped her about as a burning garment. The boy was beginning to go his own way. And his way was not hers. And those she had trusted were disloyal, helping him to go it. Alone, in retirement, she had borne her great trouble with tremendous courage. But how should she bear it under changed conditions, amid publicity, gossip, comment?

Dickie, meanwhile, had let himself drop back against the pillows. He set his teeth and waited. It was hard. An opportunity of escape from the galling restraints of his infirmity had been presented to him, and his mother—his mother after promise given, after the sympathy of a lifetime, his mother, in whom he trusted absolutely—was unwilling he should accept it! As he lay there all the desperate longing for freedom and activity that had developed in him of late—all the passion for sport, for that primitive, half‐savage manner of life, that intimate, if somewhat brutal, relation to nature, to wild creatures and to the beasts whom man by centuries of usage has broken to his service, which is the special heritage of Englishmen of gentle blood—sprang up in Richard, strong, all‐compelling. He must have his part in all this. He would not be denied. He cried out to her imperiously:—

“Mother, speak to me! I haven’t done anything really wrong. I’ve a right to what any other boy has—as far as I can get it. Don’t you see riding is just the one thing to—to make up—to make a man of me? Don’t you see that?”

He sat bolt upright, stretching out his arms to her in fierce appeal, while the level sunshine touched his bright hair and wildly eager face.

“Mummy, mummy darling, don’t you see? Try to see. You can’t want to take away my one chance!”

page: 153

Katherine turned at that reiterated cry, and her heart melted within her. The boy was her own, bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh. From her he had life. From her he had also lifelong disgrace and deprivation. Was there anything then, which, he asking, she could refuse to give? She cast herself on her knees beside the bed again and buried her face in the sheet.

“My precious one,” she sobbed, “forgive me. I am ashamed, for I have been both harsh and weak. I said I would help you, and then directly I fail you. Forgive me.”

And the boy was amazed, speechless at first, seeing her broken thus; shamed in his turn by the humility of her attitude. To his young chivalry it was an impiety to look upon her tears.

“Please don’t cry, mother,” he entreated tremulously, a childlike simplicity of manner taking him.—“Don’t cry—it is dreadful. I never saw you cry before.”—Then, after a pause, he added:—“And—never mind about my riding. I don’t so very much care about it—really, I don’t believe I do—after all.”

At that dear lie Katherine raised her bowed head, a wonderful sweetness in her tear‐stained face, tender laughter upon her lips. She drew the boy’s hands on to her shoulders, clasped her hands across his extended arms, and kissed him upon the mouth.

“No, no, my beloved, you shall ride,” she said. “You shall have your saddle—twenty thousand saddles if you want them! We will talk to Uncle Roger and Chifney to‐night. All shall be as you wish.”

“But you’re not angry, mother, any more?” he asked, a little bewildered by her change of tone and by the passion of her lovely looks and speech.

Katherine shook her head, and still that tender laughter curved her lips.

“No, I am never going to be angry any more—with you at least, Dick. I must learn to be plucky too. A pair of us, Dickie, trying to keep up one another’s pluck! Only let us go forward hand in hand, you and I, and then, however desperate our doings, I at least shall be content.”

page: 154

CHAPTER VIII

TELLING, INCIDENTALLY, OF A BROKEN‐DOWN POSTBOY AND A COUNTRY FAIR

THE Brockhurst mail‐phaeton waited, in the shade of the three large sycamores, before Appleyard’s shop at Farley Row. A groom stood stiff and straight at the horses’ heads. While upon the high driving‐seat, a trifle excited by the suddenness of his elevation, sat Richard. He held the reins in his right hand, and stretched his left to get the cramp out of his fingers. His arms ached—there was no question about it. He had never driven a pair before, and the horses needed a lot of driving. For the wind was gusty, piling up heavy masses of black‐purple rain‐cloud in the south‐east. It made the horses skittish and unsteady, and Dickie found it was just all he could do to hold them, so that Chifney’s reiterated admonition, “Keep ’em well in hand, Sir Richard,” had been not wholly easy to obey.

From out the open shop‐door came mingled odour of new leather and of horse clothing. Within Mr. Chifney delivered himself of certain orders; while Appleyard—a small, fair man, thin of nose, a spot of violent colour on either cheek‐bone—skipped before him lamb‐like, in a fury of complacent intelligence. For it was not every day so notable a personage as the Brockhurst trainer crossed his threshold. To Josiah Appleyard, indeed—not to mention his two apprentices stretching eyes and ears from the back‐shop, to catch any chance word of Mr. Chifney’s conversation—it appeared as though the gods very really condescended to visit the habitations of men. While Mrs. Appleyard, peeping from behind the wire blind of the parlour, had—as she afterwards repeatedly declared—“felt her insides turn right over,” when she saw the carriage draw up. The conversation was prolonged and low‐toned. For the order was of a peculiar and confidential character, demanding much explanation on the one part, much application on the other. It was an order, in short, wholly flattering to the self‐esteem of the saddler, both as tribute to his social discretion and his technical skill. Thus did Josiah skip lamb‐like, being glad.

Meanwhile, Richard Calmady waited without, resting his aching arms, gazing down the wide, dusty street, his senses lulled by the flutter of the sycamore leaves overhead. The said street page: 155 offered but small matter of interest. For Farley Row is one of those dead‐alive, little towns on the borders of the forest land, across which progress, even at the time in question, 1856, had written Ichabod in capital letters. During the early years of the century some ninety odd coaches, plying upon the London and Portsmouth road, would stop to change horses at the White Lion in the course of each twenty‐four hours. That was the golden age of the Row. Horns twanged, heavy wheels rumbled, steaming teams were led away, with drooping heads, into the spacious inn yard, and fresh horses stepped out cheerily to take their place between the traces. The next stage across Spendle Flats was known as a risky one. Legends of Claude Duval and his fellow‐highwaymen still haunt the woods and moors that top the long hill going north‐eastward. And the passengers by those ninety coaches were wont to recover themselves from terrors escaped, or fortify themselves against terrors to come, by plentiful libations at the bar of the handsome red‐brick inn. The house did a roaring trade. But now the traffic upon the great road had assumed a local and altogether undemonstrative character. The coaches had fallen into lumber, the spanking teams had each and all made their squalid last journey to the knacker’s. And the once famous Gentlemen of the Road had long lain at rest in Mother Earth’s lap—sleeping there none the less peacefully because the necks of many of them had suffered a nasty rick from the hangman’s rope, and because the hard‐trodden pavement of the prison‐yard covered them.

The fine stables of the White Lion stood tenantless, now, from year’s end to year’s end. Rats scampered, and bats squeaked in unlovely ardours of courtship, about the ranges of empty stalls and cobweb‐hung rafters. Yet one ghost from out the golden age haunted the place still—a lean, withered, bandy‐legged, little stick of a man, arrayed in frayed and tarnished splendour of sky‐blue waist‐jacket, silver lace, and jackboots—of which the soles and upper leathers threatened speedy and final divorce. In all weathers this bit of human wreckage—Jackie Deeds by name—might be seen wandering aimlessly about the vacant yard, or seated upon the bench beside the portico of the silent, bow‐windowed inn, pulling at a, too often empty, clay‐pipe and spitting automatically.

Over Richard, tender‐hearted as yet towards all creatures whom nature or fortune had treated cavalierly, the decrepit postboy exercised a fascination. One day, when driving through the Row with Mary Cathcart, he had succeeded in establishing relations with Jackie Deeds through the medium of a half‐crown. page: 156 And now, as he waited beneath the rustling sycamores, it was with a sensation of quick, yet half‐shy, pleasure, that he saw the disreputable figure lurch out of the inn yard, stand for a minute shading eyes with hand while making observations, and then hobble across the street, touching the peak of a battered, black‐velvet cap as it advanced.

“Be ’e come to zee the show, sir?” the old man coughed out, peering with dim, blear eyes up into the boy’s fresh face.

“No, we’ve come about something from Appleyard’s. I—I didn’t know there was a show.”

“Oh! bain’t there though, Sir Richard! I tell ’e there be a prime sight of a show. There be monkeys down town, and dorgs what dances on their ’inder legs, and gurt iron cages chock‐full er wild beastises, by what they tells me.”

Dickie, feeling anxiously in his pockets for some coin of sufficient size to be worthy of Mr. Deeds’ acceptance, ejaculated involuntarily:—“Oh! are there? I’d give anything to see them.”

“Sixpence ’ud do most er they ’ere shows, I expect. The wild beastises ’ud run into a shilling may be.”—The old postboy made a joyless, creaking sound, bearing but slightest affinity to laughter. “But you ’ud see your way round more’n a shilling, Sir Richard. A terrible, rich, young gentleman, by what they tells me.”

Something a trifle malicious obtained in this attempt at jocosity, causing Dickie to bend down rather hastily over the wheel, and thrust his offering into the crumpled, shaky hands.

“There,” he said. “Oh! it’s nothing. I’m so pleased you—you don’t mind. Where do you say this show is?”

“Gor a’mighty bless ’e, sir,” the old man whimpered, with a change of tone. “Tain’t every day poor old Jackie Deeds runs across a rich, young gentleman as ’ll give him ’arf a crown. Times is bad, mortal bad—couldn’t be much wuss.”

“I’m so sorry,” Richard answered. He felt apologetic, as though in some manner responsible for the decay of the coaching system and his companion’s fallen estate.

“Mortal bad, couldn’t be no wuss.”

“I’m very sorry. But about the show—where is it, please?” the boy asked again, a little anxious to change the subject.

“Oh! that there show. Tain’t much of a show neither, by what they tells me.”

Mr. Deeds spoke with sudden irritability. Uplifted by the possession of half a crown, he became contemptuous of the present, jealous of the past when such coin was more plentiful with him.

page: 157

“Not much of a show,” he repeated. “The young ’uns’ll crack up most anything as comes along. But that’s their stoopidness. Never zee’d nothing better. Law bless ’e, this ain’t a patch on the shows I’ve a‐zeen in my day. Cock‐fightings, and fellows—wi’ a lot er money laid on ’em by the gentry too—a‐pounding of each other till there weren’t an inch above the belt of ’em as weren’t bloody. And the Irish giant, and dwarfs ’ad over from France. They tell me most Frencheys’s made that way. Ole Boney ’isself wasn’t much of a one to look at. And I can mind a calf wi’ two ’eads—’ud eat wi’ both mouths at once, and all the food ’ud go down into the same belly. And a man wi’ no arms, never ’ad none, by what they used to tell me”—

“Ah!” Richard exclaimed quickly.

“No, never ’ad none, and yet ’ud play the drum wi’ ’is toes and fire off a horse pistol. Lor, you would er laughed to ’ave zeen ’im. ’E made fine sport for the folks ’e did.”

Jackie Deeds had recovered his good‐humour. He peered up into the boy’s face again maliciously, and broke into cheerless, creaking merriment.

“Gor a’mighty ’as ’is jokes too,” he said. “I’m thinking, by the curous‐made creeturs ’e sends along sometimes.”

“Chifney,” Richard called imperatively. “Chifney, are you nearly ready? We ought to get home. There’s a storm coming up.”

“Well, we shall get that matter of the saddle done right enough, Sir Richard,” the trainer remarked presently, as the carriage bowled up the street. “Don’t be too free with the whip, sir.—Steady, steady there.—Mind the donkey‐cart.—Bear away to the right. Don’t let ’em get above themselves. Excuse me, Sir Richard.”

He leaned forward and laid both hands quietly on the reins.

“Look here, sir,” he said, “I think you’d better let Henry lead the horses past all this variety business.”

The end of the street was reached. On either hand small red or white houses trend away in a broken line along the edge of a flat, grass common, backed by plantations of pollarded oak trees. In the foreground, fringing the broad roadway, were booths, tents, and vans. And the staring colours of these last, raw reds and yellows, the blue smoke beating down from their little stove‐pipe chimneys, the dirty white of tent flaps and awnings, stood out harshly in a flare of stormy sunlight against the solid green of the oaks and uprolling masses of black‐purple cloud.

Here indeed was the show. But to Richard Calmady’s eyes it lacked disappointingly in attraction. His nerves were some‐ page: 158 what a‐quiver. All the coarse detail, all the unlovely foundations, of the business of pleasure were rather distressingly obvious to his sight. A merry‐go‐round was in full activity—wooden horses and most unseaworthy boats describing a jerky circle to the squeaking of tin whistles and purposeless thumpings of a drum. Close by a crop‐eared lurcher, tied beneath one of the vans, dragged choking at his chain and barked himself frantic under the stones and teasing of a knot of idle boys. A half‐tipsy slut of a woman threatened a child, who, in soiled tights and spangles, crouched against the muddy hind‐wheel of a waggon, tears dribbling down his cheeks, his arm raised to ward off the impending blow. From the menagerie—an amorphous huddle of grey tents, ranged behind a flight of wooden steps leading up to an open gallery hung with advertisements of the many attractions within—came the hideous laughter of a hyena, and the sullen roar of a lion weary of the rows of stolid English faces staring daily, hourly, between the bars of his foul and narrow cage, heart‐sick with longing for sight of the open, starlit heaven and the white‐domed, Moslem tombs amid the prickly, desert thickets and plains of clean, hot sand. On the edge of the encampment horses grazed—sorry beasts for the most part, galled, broken‐kneed and spavined, weary and heart‐sick as the captive lion. But weary not from idleness, as he. Weary from heavy loads and hard travelling and scant provender. Sick of collar and whip and reiterated curses.

About the tents and booths, across the grass, and along the roadway, loitered a sad‐coloured, country crowd. Even to the children, it took its pleasure slowly and silently; save in the case of a hulking, young carter in a smock‐frock, who, being pretty far gone in liquor, alternately shouted bawdy songs and offered invitation to the company generally to come on and have its head punched.

Such were the pictures that impressed themselves upon Richard’s brain, as Henry led the dancing carriage‐horses up the road. And it must be owned that from this first sight of life, as the common populations live it, his soul revolted. Delicately nurtured, finely bred, his sensibility accentuated by the prickings of that thorn in the flesh which was so intimate a part of his otherwise noble heritage, the grossness and brutality of much which most boys of his age have already learned to take for granted affected him to the point of loathing. And more especially did he loathe the last picture presented to him on the outskirts of the common. At the door of a gaudily‐painted van, somewhat apart from the rest, stood a strapping lass, page: 159 tambourine in one hand, tin mug for the holding of pennies in the other. She wore a black, velvet bodice, rusty with age, and a blue, silk skirt of doubtful cleanliness, looped up over a widely distended scarlet petticoat. Rows of amber beads encircled her brown throat. She laughed and leered, bold‐eyed and coarsely alluring, at a couple of sheepish country lads on the green below. She called to them, pointing over her shoulder with the tin cup, to the sign‐board of her show. At the painting on that board Richard Calmady gave one glance. His lips grew thin and his face white. He jerked at the reins, causing the horses to start and swerve. Was it possible that, as old Jackie Deeds said, God Almighty had His jokes too, jokes at the expense of His own creation? That in cynical abuse of human impotence, as a wanton pastime, He sent human beings forth into the world thus ludicrously defective? The thought was unformulated. It amounted hardly to a thought indeed,—was but a blind terror of insecurity, which, coursing through the boy’s mind, filled him with agonised and angry pity towards all disgraced fellow‐beings, all enslaved and captive beasts. Dimly he recognised his kinship to all such.

Meanwhile the carriage bowled along the smooth road and up the long hill, bordered by fir and beech plantations, which leads to Spendle Flats. And there, in the open, the storm came down, in rolling thunder and lashing rain. Tall, shifting, white columns chased each other madly across the bronze expanse of the moorland. Chifney, mindful of his charge, hurried Dickie into a greatcoat, buttoned it carefully round him, offered to drive, almost insisted on doing so. But the boy refused curtly. He welcomed the stinging rain, the swirling wind, the swift glare of lightning, the ache and strain of holding the pulling horses. The violence of it all heated his blood as with the stern passion of battle. And under the influence of that passion his humour changed from agonised pity to a fierce determination of conquest. He would fight, he would come through, he would win, he would slay dragons. Prometheus‐like he would defy the gods. Again his thought was unformulated, little more than the push of young, untamed energy impatient of opposition. But that he could face this wild mood of nature and control and guide these high‐mettled, headstrong horses gave him coolness and self‐confidence. It yielded him assurance that there was, after all, an immensity of distance between himself and all caged, outworn creatures, and that the horrible example of deformity upon the brazen‐faced girl’s show‐board had really nothing to do with him. Dickie’s last humour was less noble page: 160 than his first, it is to be feared. But in all healthy natures, in all those in whom the love of beauty is keen, there must be in youth strong repudiation of the brotherhood of suffering. Time will teach a finer and deeper lesson to those that have faith and courage to receive it; yet it is well the young should defy sorrow, hate suffering, gallantly, however hopelessly, fight.

And the warlike instinct remained by Dickie all that evening. He was determined to assert himself, to measure his power, to obtain. While Winter was helping him dress for dinner he gave orders that his chair should be placed at the bottom of the table.

“But the colonel sits there, Sir Richard.”

Dickie’s face did not give in the least.

“He has sat there,” he answered rather shortly. “But I have spoken to her ladyship, and in future he will sit by her. I’ll go down early, Winter. I prefer being in my place when the others come in.”

It must be added that Ormiston accepted his deposition in the best possible spirit, patting the boy on the shoulder as he passed him.

“Quite right, old chap. I like to see you there. Claim your own, and keep it.”

At which a lump rose in Dickie’s throat, nearly causing him to choke over his first spoonful of soup. But Mary Cathcart, whose kind eyes saw most things, smiled first upon her lover and then upon him, and began talking to him of horses, as one sportsman to another. And so Dickie speedily recovered himself and grew eager, playing host very prettily at his own table.

He demanded to sit up to prayers, moreover, and took his place in the dead Richard Calmady’s stall nearest the altar rails on the gospel side. Next him was Dr. Knott, who had come in unexpectedly just before dinner. He had the boy a little on his mind; and, while contemptuous of his own solicitude in the matter, wanted badly to know just how he was. Lady Calmady had begged him to stay. He could be excellent company when he pleased. He had laid aside his roughness of manner and been excellent company to‐night. Next him was Ormiston, while the seats immediately below were occupied by the men‐servants, Winter at their head.

Opposite to Richard, across the chapel, sat Lady Calmady. The fair, summer moonlight streaming in through the east window spread a network of fairy jewels upon her stately, grey‐clad figure and beautiful head. Beside her was Mary Cathcart, and then came a range of dark, vacant stalls. And below these page: 161 was a long line of women‐servants, ranging from Denny, in rustling, black silk, and Clara,—alert and pretty, though a trifle tearful,—through many grades and orders, down to the little scullery‐maid, fresh from the keeper’s cottage on the Warren—home‐sick, and half scared by the grand gentlemen and ladies in evening‐dress, by the strange, lovely figures in the stained‐glass windows, by the great, gold cross and flowers, and the rich altar‐cloth and costly hangings but half seen in the conflicting light of the moonbeams and flickering candles.

John Knott was impressed by the scene too, though hardly on the same lines as the little scullery‐maid. He had long ago passed the doors of orthodoxy and dogma. Christian church and heathen temple—could he have had the interesting experience of entering the latter—were alike to him. The attitude and office of the priest, the same in every age and under every form of religion, filled him with cynical scorn. Yet he had to own there was something inexpressibly touching in the nightly gathering together of this great household, gentle and simple; and in this bowing before the source of the impenetrable mystery which surrounds and encloses the so curiously urgent and vivid consciousness of the individual. He had to own, too, that there was something inexpressibly touching in the tones of Julius March’s voice as he read of the young Galilean prophet “going about and doing good ”—simple and gracious record of tenderness and pity, upon which, in the course of centuries, the colossal fabric of the modern Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, has been built up.

“‘And great multitudes came to Him,’” read Julius, “‘having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them; insomuch that the multitude marvelled when they saw the dumb to speak, and the maimed to be whole, and the lame to walk’”—

How simple it all sounded in that sweet, old‐world story! And yet how lamentably, in striving to accomplish just these same things, his own far‐reaching science failed!

“‘The maimed to be whole, the lame to walk’”—involuntarily he looked round at the boy beside him.

Richard leaned back in his stall, tired with the long day and its varying emotions. His eyes were half closed, and his profile showed pale as wax against the background of dark woodwork. His eyebrows were drawn into a slight frown, and his face bore a peculiar expression of reticence. Once he glanced up at the reader, as though on a sudden a pleasant thought occurred to page: 162 him. But the movement was a passing one. He leaned back in his stall again and folded his arms, with a movement of quiet pride, almost of contempt.

Later that night, as her custom was, Katherine opened the door of Richard’s room softly, and entering bent over his bed in the warm dimness to give him a last look before going to rest herself. To‐night Dickie was awake. He put his arms round her coaxingly.

“Stay a little, mummy darling,” he said. “I am not a bit sleepy. I want to talk.”

Katherine sat down on the edge of the bed. All the mass of her hair was unbound, and fell in a cloud about her to the waist. Richard, leaning on one elbow, gathered it together, held and kissed it. He was possessed by the sense of his mother’s great beauty. She seemed so magnificently far removed from all that is coarse, spoiled, or degraded. She seemed so superb, so exquisite a personage. So he gazed at her, kissed her hair, and gently touched her arms, where the open sleeves of her white dressing‐gown left them bare, in reverential ecstasy.

Katherine became almost perplexed.

“My dearest, what is it?” she asked at last.

“Oh! it’s only that you’re so perfect, mother,” he said. “You make me feel so safe somehow. I’m never afraid when you are there.”

“Afraid of what?” she asked. A hope came upon her that he had grown nervous of riding, and wanted her to help him to retire gracefully from the matter. But his next words undeceived her. He threw himself back against the pillow and clasped his hands under his head.

“That’s just it,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what I am afraid of, and yet I do get awfully scared at times. I suppose, mother, if one’s in a good position—the position we’re in, you know—nobody can ill‐use one very much?”

Lady Calmady’s eyes blazed with indignation.—“Ill‐use you? Who has ever dared to hint at, to dream of, such a thing, dear Richard?”

“Oh, no one—no one! Only I can’t help wondering about things, you know. And some—some people do get most awfully ill‐used. I can’t help seeing that.”

Katherine paused before answering. The boy did not look at her. She spoke with quiet conviction, her eyes gazing out into the dimness of the room.

“I know,” she said, almost reluctantly. “And perhaps it is as well you should know it too, though it is sad knowledge. page: 163 People are not always very considerate of one another. But ill‐usage cannot touch you, my dearest. You are saved by love, by position, by wealth.”

“You are sure of that, mother?”

“Sure? Of course I am sure, darling,” she answered. Yet even while speaking her heart sank.

Richard remained silent for a space. Then he said, with certain hesitancy:—“Mother, tell me, it is true then that I am rich?”

“Quite true, Dick.”

“But sometimes people lose their money.”

Katherine smiled.—“ Your money is not kept in a stocking, dearest.”

“I don’t suppose it is,” the boy said, turning towards her. “But don’t banks break?”

“Yes, banks break. But a good many broken banks would not affect you. It is too long a story to tell you now, Dickie, but your income is very safe. It would almost need a revolution to ruin you. You are rich now; and I am able to save considerable sums for you yearly.”

“It’s—it’s awfully good of you to take so much trouble for me, mother,” he interrupted, stroking her bare arm again delicately.

To Katherine his half‐shy endearments were the most delicious thing in life—so delicious that at moments she could hardly endure them. They made her heart too full.

“Eight years hence, when you come of age and I give account of my stewardship, you will be very rich,” she said.

Richard lay quite still, his eyes again fixed on the dimness.

“That—that’s good news,” he said at last, drawing a long breath. “I saw things to‐day, mother, while we were driving. It was nobody’s fault. There was a fair with a menagerie and shows at Farley Row. I couldn’t help seeing. Don’t ask me about it, mother. I’d rather forget, if I can. Only it made me understand that it is safer for anyone—well, anyone like—me—don’t you know, to be rich.”

Richard sat up, flung his arms round her and kissed her with sudden passion.

“Beautiful mother, honey‐sweet mother,” he cried, “you’ve told me just everything I wanted to know. I won’t be afraid any more.” Then he added, in a charming little tone of authority:—“Now you mustn’t stay here any longer. You must be tired. You must go to bed and go to sleep.”

previous
next