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The History of Sir Richard Calmady: a Romance . Malet, Lucas, 1852–1931.
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page: 589

CHAPTER X

CONCERNING A DAY OF HONEST WARFARE AND A SUNSET HARBINGER NOT OF THE NIGHT BUT OF THE DAWN

THAT episode, upon the bridge spanning the Long Water, brought Richard would‐be saint, Richard pilgrim along the great white road which leads onward to Perfection, into lively collision with Richard the natural man, not to mention Richard the “wild bull in a net.” These opposing forces engaged battle, with the consequence that the carriage horses took the hill at a rather breakneck pace. Not that Dickie touched them, but that, he being vibrant, they felt his mood down the length of the reins and responded to it.

“Ludovic need hardly have been in such a prodigious hurry,” he broke out. “He might have allowed one a few days’ grace. It was a defect of taste to come over immediately; but then all that family’s taste is liable to lapses.”

Promptly he repented, ashamed both of his anger and such self‐revealing expression of it.

“I daresay it’s all for the best though. Better a thing should be nipped in the bud than in the blossom. And this puts it all on a right footing. One might easily drift into depending too much upon Honoria. I own I was dangerously near doing that this spring. I don’t mind telling you so now, mother, because this, you see, disposes finally of the matter.”

His voice contended oddly with the noise of the wheels, rattle of the pole‐chains, pounding of the hoofs of the pulling horses. The sentences came to Lady Calmady’s ears disjointed, difficult to follow and interpret. Therefore she answered slightly at random.

“My dearest, I could have kept, her longer in the spring if I had only known,” she said, a disquieting suspicion of lost opportunity assailing her. “But, from certain things which you said, I thought you preferred our being alone.”

“So I did. I wanted her to go because I wanted her to stay. Do you see?”

“Ah, yes! I see,” Katherine replied. And at that moment, page: 590 it must be conceded, her sentiments were not conspicuously pacific towards her devoted adherent, Mr. Quayle.

“We’ve a good many interests in common,” Dickie went on, “and there seemed a chance of one’s settling down into a rather charming friendship with her. It was a beguiling prospect. And, for that very reason, it was best she should depart. The prospect, in all its beguilingness, renewed itself to‐day after luncheon.”‐He paused, handling the plunging horses.—“And so, after all, Ludovic shall be reckoned welcome; for, as I say, I might have come to depend on her. And one’s a fool—I ought to have learnt that salutary lesson by this time—a rank fool, to depend on anybody or anything, save oneself, simply and solely oneself”—his tone softened—“and upon you, most dear and long‐suffering mother.—Therefore the dream of friendship goes overboard along with all the rest of one’s little illusions. And every illusion one rids oneself of is so much to the good. It lightens the ship. It lessens the chances of foundering. Clearly it is so much pure gain.”

That evening, pleading—unexampled occurrence in her case—a headache as excuse, Miss St. Quentin did not put in an appearance at dinner. Nor did Richard put in an appearance at breakfast next morning. At an early hour he had received a communication earnestly requesting his presence at the Westchurch Infirmary. His mission promised to be a melancholy one, yet he was not sorry for the demand made by it upon his time and thought. For, notwithstanding the philosophic tone he had adopted with Lady Calmady in speaking of that friendship which, if not nipped in the bud, might have reached perils of too luxuriant blossoming, the would‐be saint and the natural man, the pilgrim on the highroad to Perfection and that very inconvenient animal “the wild bull in a net,” kept up warfare within Richard Calmady. They were hard at it even yet, when, in the fair freshness of the September morning—the grasses and hedge‐fruit, the wild flowers, and low‐growing, tangled coppices by the roadside, still heavy with dew—he drove over to Westchurch. The day was bright, with flying cloud and a westerly breeze. The dust was laid, and the atmosphere, cleared by the storm of the preceding afternoon, had a smack of autumn in it. It was one of those delicious, yet distracting, days when the sea calls, and when whosoever loves sea‐faring grows restless, must seek movement, seek the open, strain his eyes towards the margin of the land—be the coast‐line never so far distant—tormented by desire for sight of the blue water, and the strong and naked joys of the mighty ridge and furrow where go the gallant ships.

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With the upspringing of the wind at dawn, that calling of the sea had made itself heard to Richard. At first it suggested only the practical temptation of putting the Reprieve into commission, and engaging Lady Calmady to go forth with him on a three or four months’ cruise. But that, as he speedily convinced himself, was but a pitifully cheap expedient, a shirking of voluntarily assumed responsibility, a childish cheating of discontent, rather than an honestly attempted cure of it. If cure was to be achieved, the canker must be excised, boldly cut out, not overlaid merely by some trifle of partially concealing plaster. For he knew well enough, as all sea‐lovers know—and, as he drove through the dappled sunlight and shadow, frankly admitted—that though the sea itself very actually and really called, yet its calling was the voice and symbol of much over and above itself. For in it speaks the eternal necessity of going forward, that hunger and thirst for the absolute and ultimate which drives every human creature whose heart and soul and intellect are truly animate. And to him, just now, it spoke more particularly of the natural instincts of his manhood—of ambition, of passion, of headlong desire of sensation, excitement, adventure, of just all that, in fact, which he had forsworn, had agreed with himself to cast aside and forget. And, thinking of this, suspicion assailed him that forswearing had been slightly insincere and perfunctory. He accused himself of nourishing the belief that giving he would also receive,—and that in kind,—while that any sacrifice which he offered would be returned to him doubled in value. Casting his bread upon the waters, he accused himself of having expected to find it, not “after many days,” but immediately—a full baker’s dozen ready to hand in his pocket. His motives had not been wholly pure. Actually, though not at the time consciously, he had essayed to strike a bargain with the Almighty.

Just as he reached the top of the long, straight hill leading down into Westchurch, Richard arrived at these unflattering conclusions. On either side the road, upon the yellow surface of which the sunlight played through the tossing leaves of the plane trees, were villas of very varied and hybrid styles of architecture. They were, for the most part, smothered in creepers, and set in gardens gay with blossom. Below lay the sprawling, red‐brick town, blotted with purple shadow. A black canal meandered through the heart of it, crossed by mean, humpbacked bridges. The huge, amorphous buildings of its railway station—engine sheds, goods warehouses, trailing of swiftly dispersed white smoke—the grime and clamour of all that, its factory buildings and tall chimneys, were very evident, as were the pale towers of page: 592 its churches. And beyond the ugly, pushing, industrial commonplace of it, striking a very different note, the blue ribbon of the still youthful Thames, backed by high‐lying chalk‐lands fringed with hanging woods, traversed a stretch of flat, green meadows. Richard’s eyes rested upon the scene absently, since thought just now had more empire over him than any outward seeing. For he perceived that he must cleanse himself yet further of self‐seeking. Those words, “if thou wilt be perfect sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and follow thou me,” have not a material and objective significance merely. They deal with each personal desire, even the apparently most legitimate; with each indulgence of personal feeling, even the apparently most innocent; with the inward attitude and the atmosphere of the mind even more closely than with outward action and conduct. And so Richard reached the conclusion that he must strip himself yet nearer to the bone. He must digest the harsh truth that virtue is its own reward in the sense that it is its only reward, and must look for nothing beyond that. He had grown slack of late, seduced by visions of pleasant things permitted most men but to him forbidden; and wearied, too, by the length of the way and inevitable monotony of it now first heat of enthusiasm had evaporated. Well—it was all very simple. He must just re‐dedicate himself. And in this stern and chastened frame of mind he drove through the bustle of the country town—Saturday, market day, its streets unusually alive—nodding to an acquaintance here and there in passing, two or three of his tenant farmers, Mr. Cathcart of Newlands in on county business, Goodall the octogenarian miller from Parson’s Holt, and Lemuel Image the brewer, bursting out of an obviously new suit of very showy tweeds. Then, at the main door of the Infirmary, helped by the stalwart, hospital porter, he got down from the dog‐cart; and subsequently—raked by curious eyes, saluted by hardly repressed tittering from the out‐patients waiting en queue for admission to the dispensary—he made his slow way along the bare, vaultlike, stone passage to the accident ward, in the far corner of which a bed was shut off from the rest by an arrangement of screens and of curtains.

And it was in the same chastened frame of mind that, some four or five hours later, Richard entered the dining‐room at Brockhurst. The two ladies had nearly finished luncheon and were about to rise from the table. Lady Calmady greeted him very gladly; but abstained from inquiry as to his doings or from comment on the lateness of the hour, since experience had long ago taught her that of all known animals man is the one of whom page: 593 it is least profitable for woman to ask questions. Dickie was here at home, alive, intact, her eyes were rejoiced by the sight of him, that was sufficient. If he had anything to tell her, no doubt he would tell it later. For the rest, she had something to tell him; but that too must wait until time and circumstance were propitious, since the conveying of it involved delicate diplomacies. It must be handled lightly. For the life of her she must avoid all appearance of eagerness, all appearance of attaching serious importance to the communication. Lady Calmady had learned, this morning, that Honoria St. Quentin did not propose to marry Ludovic Quayle. The young lady, whose charming nonchalance was curiously in eclipse to‐day, had given her to understand so much; but very briefly, the subject evidently being rather painful to her. She was silent and a little distrait; but she was also very gentle, displaying a disposition to follow Katherine about wherever she went, and a pretty zeal in doing small odd jobs for her. Katherine was touched and tenderly amused by her manner, which was as that of a charming child coveting assurance that it need not be ashamed of itself, and that it has not really done anything naughty! But Katherine sighed too, watching this strong, graceful, capable creature; for, if things had been otherwise with Dickie, how thankfully she would have given the keeping of his future into this woman’s hands. She had ceased to be jealous even of her son’s love. Gladly, gratefully, would she have shared that love, accepting the second place, if only—but all that was beyond possibility of hope. Still the friendship of which he had spoken somewhat bitterly yesterday—poor darling—remained. Ludovic Quayle’s pretensions—she felt very pitifully towards that accomplished gentleman, all his good qualities had started into high relief—but, his pretensions no longer barring the way to that friendship, she pledged herself to work for the promotion of it. Dickie was too severe in self‐repression, was over‐strained in stoicism; and, ignoring the fact that in his fixity of purpose, his exaggerations of self‐abnegation, he proved himself very much her own son, she determined secretly, cautiously, lovingly, to combat all that.

It was, therefore, with warm satisfaction that, as Honoria was about to rise from the table, she observed Richard emerge, in a degree, from his abstraction, and heard him say:—

“You told me you’d like to ride over to Farley this afternoon and see the home for my crippled people. Are you too tired after your headache, or do you still care to go?”

“Oh! I’m not tired, thanks,” Honoria answered. Then she hesitated; and Richard, looking at her, was aware, as on the page: 594 bridge yesterday, of a sudden and singular thickening of her features, which, while marring her beauty, rendered her aspect strangely pathetic, as of one who sustains some mysterious hurt. And to him it seemed, for the moment, as though both that hurt and the infliction of it bore subtle relation to himself. Common sense discredited the notion as unpermissibly fantastic, still it influenced and softened his manner.

“But you know you are looking frightfully done up yourself, Richard,” she went on, with a charming air of half‐reluctant protest. “Isn’t he, Cousin Katherine? Are you sure you want to ride this afternoon? Please don’t go out just on my account.”

“Oh! I’m right enough,” he answered. “I’d infinitely rather go out.”

He pushed back his chair and reached down for his crutches. Still the fantastic notion that, all unwittingly, he had been guilty of doing Honoria some strange injury, clung to him. He was sensible of the desire to offer reparation. This made him more communicative than he would otherwise have been.

“I saw a man die this morning—that’s all,” he said. “I know it’s stupid; but one can’t help it, it knocks one about a bit. You see he didn’t want to die, poor fellow, though, God knows, he’d little enough to live for—or to live with, for that matter.”

“Your factory hand?” Honoria asked.

Richard slipped out of his chair and stood upright.

“Yes, my factory hand,” he answered. “Dear, old Knott was fearfully savage about it. He was so tremendously keen on the case, and made sure of pulling him through. But the poor boy had been sliced up a little too thoroughly.”—Richard paused, smiling at Honoria. “So all one could do was to go with him just as far as is permitted out into the great silence, and then—then come home to luncheon. The home at Farley loses its point, rather, now he is dead. Still there are others, plenty of others, enough to satisfy even Knott’s greed of riveting broken human crockery.—Oh yes! I shall enjoy riding over, if you are still good to come. Four o’clock—that’ll suit you? I’ll order the horses.”

And so, in due course, the two rode forth together into the brightness of the September afternoon. The sea still called; but Dickie’s ears were deaf to all dangerous allurements and excitations resident in that calling. It had to him, just now, only the pensive charm of a far‐away melody, which, though no doubt of great and immediate import to others, had ceased to be any concern of his. Beside the deathbed in the hospital page: 595 ward he had renewed his vows, and the efficacy of that renewal was very present with him. It made for repose. It laid the evil spirit of defiance, of self‐consciousness, of humiliation, so often obtaining in his intercourse with women—a spirit begotten by the perpetual prick of his deformity, and in part, too, by his determined adoption of the ascetic attitude in regard to the affections. He was spent by the emotions of the morning, but that also made for repose. For the time being devils were cast out. He was tranquil, yet exalted. His eyes had a smile in them, as though they looked beyond the limit of things transitory and material into the regions of the Pure Idea, where the eternal values are disclosed and Peace has her dwelling. And, precisely because of all this, he could take Honoria’s presence lightly, be chivalrously solicitous of her entertainment and well‐being, and talk to her with greater freedom than ever heretofore. He ceased to be on his guard with her because, in good truth, it seemed to him there ceased to be anything to guard against. For the time being, at all events, he had got to the other side of all that; and so she and his relation to her, had become part of that charming but far‐away melody which was no concern of his—though mighty great and altogether worthy concern of others, of Ludovic Quayle, for example.—And in his present tranquil humour he could listen to the sweetness of that melody ungrudgingly. It was pleasant. He could enjoy it without envy, though it was none of his.

But to Honoria’s seeing it must be owned, matters shaped themselves very differently. For the usually unperturbed, the chaste and fearless soul of her endured violent assaults, violent commotions, the origin of which she but partially understood. And these Richard’s frankness, his courteous, in some sort brotherly, good‐fellowship, served to intensify rather than allay. The feeling of the noble horse under her, the cool, westerly wind in her face, went to brace her nerves, and restore the self‐possession, courage of judgment, and clearness of thought, which had been lacking to her during the past twenty‐four hours. Nevertheless she rode as through a but‐newly‐discovered country, familiar objects displaying alien aspects, familiar phases assuming unlooked‐for significance, a something challenging and fateful meeting her everywhere. The whole future seemed to hang in the balance: and she waited, dreading yet longing, to see the scale turn.

This afternoon the harvesters were carrying the corn. Red‐painted waggons, drawn by sleek, heavy‐made, cart‐horses, crawled slowly across the blond stubble. It was pretty to see the rusty‐ page: 596 gold sheaves tossed up from the shining prongs of the pitchforks on to the mountainous load. Honoria and Richard watched this, a little minute, from the grass‐ride bordering the roadway beneath the elms. Next came the high‐lying moorland, beyond the lodges. The fine‐leaved heath was thick with red‐purple blossom. Patches of dusky heather were frosted with dainty pink. Spikes of genista and beds of needle‐furze showed sharply yellow, vividly green, and a fringe of blue campanula, with frail, quivering bells, outlined all open spaces. The face of the land had been washed by the rain. It shone with an inimitable cleanliness, as though consciously happy in relief from all soil of dust. And it was here, the open country stretching afar on all sides, that Dickie began talking, not, as at first, in desultory fashion, but of matters nearly pertaining and closely interesting to himself.

“You know,” he said, as they walked the horses quietly, neck to neck, along the moorland road, “I don’t go in for system‐making or for reforms on any big scale. That doesn’t come within my province. I must leave that to politicians and to men who are in the push of the world. I admire it. I rejoice in the hot‐headed, narrow‐brained, whole‐hearted agitator, who believes that his system adopted, his reform carried through, the whole show will instantly be put straight. Such faith is very touching.”

“And the reformer has sometimes done some little good after all,” Honoria commented.

“Of course he has,” Dickie agreed. “Only as a rule, poor dear, he can’t be contented but that his special reform should be the final one, that his system should be the universal panacea. And in point of fact no reform is final this side of death, and no panacea is universal, save that which the Maker of the Universe chooses to work out—is working out now, if we could any way grasp it—through the slow course of unnumbered ages. Let the reformer do all he can, but don’t let him turn sour because his pet reform, his pet system, sinks away and is swallowed up in the great sea of things—sea of human progress, if you like. Every system is bound to prove too small, every reform ludicrously inadequate—be it never so radical—because material conditions are perpetually changing, while man in his mental, emotional and physical aspects remains always precisely the same.”

They passed from the breezy upland into the high‐banked lane which, leading downwards, joins the great London and Portsmouth Road just beyond Farley Row.

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“And—and that is where I come in!” Richard said, turning a little in the saddle and smiling sweet‐temperedly, yet with a suggestion of self‐mockery, upon his companion. “Just because, in essential respects, mankind remains—notwithstanding modifications of his environment—substantially the same, from the era of the Pentateuch to the era of the Rougon‐Macquarts, there must always be a lot of wreckage, of waste, and refuse humanity. The inauguration of each new system, each new reform—religious, political, educational, economic—practically they’re all in the same boat—let alone the inevitable breakdown or petering out of each, necessarily produces a fresh crop of such waste and refuse material. And in that a man like myself, who does not aspire to cure or to construct, but merely to alleviate and to pick up the pieces, finds his chance.”

And Honoria listened, musing—approved, enthusiasm gaining her; yet protested, since, even while she admired, she rebelled a little on his account, and for his sake.

“But it is rather a hard life, surely, Richard,” she said, “which you propose to yourself? Always the pieces, the thing broken and spoiled, never the thing in its beauty, full of promise, and whole!”

“It is less hard for me than for most,” he answered, “or should be so. After all, I am to the manner born—a bit of human wreckage myself, with which, but for the accident of wealth, things would have gone pretty badly. I used to be horribly scared sometimes, as a small boy, thinking to what uses I might be put if the kindly, golden rampart ever gave.”

He became silent. As for Honoria, she had neither courage. to look at or to answer him just then.

“And you see, I’m absolutely free,” he added presently.—“ I am alone, always shall be so. If the life is hard, I ask no one to share it, so I may make it what I like.”

“Oh! no, no—you misunderstand, Richard! I didn’t mean that,” Honoria cried quickly, half under her breath.

Again he looked at her, smiling.

“Didn’t you? All the kinder of you,” he said.

Thereupon regret, almost intolerable in its poignancy, invaded Miss St. Quentin that she would have to go away, to go back to the world and all the foolish obtaining fashions of it; that she should have to take that pre‐eminently well‐cushioned and luxurious winter’s journey to Cairo. She longed inexpressibly to remain here, to assist in these experiments made in the name of Holy Charity. She longed inexpressibly to— And there Honoria paused, even in thought. Yet she glanced at the page: 598 young man riding beside her—at the handsome profile, still and set in outline, the suggestion, it was no more, of a scar running downward across the left cheek; at the well‐made, upright, broad‐shouldered figure, and then at the saddle, peaked, back and front, with oddly‐shaped appendages to it resembling old‐fashioned holsters.—And, as yesterday upon the bridge, the ache of a pain at once sweet and terrible laid hold of her, making her queerly hint. The single street, sun‐covered, sleepy, empty save for a brewer’s dray and tax‐cart or two standing before the solid Georgian portals of the White Lion Inn, for a straggling tail of children bearing home small shoppings and jugs of supper beer, for a flock of grey geese proceeding with aggressively self‐righteous demeanour along the very middle of the roadway and lowering long necks to hiss defiance at the passer‐by, and for an old black retriever dozing peacefully beneath one of the rustling sycamores in front of Josiah Appleyard, the saddler’s shop—all these, as she looked at them, became uncertain in outline, and reeled before Honoria’s eyes. For the moment she experienced a difficulty in keeping steady in the saddle. But the horses still walked quietly, neck to neck, their shadows, and those of their riders growing longer, narrower, outstretched before them as the sun declined in the west. All the future hung in the balance; but the scale had not turned as yet.

Then Richard’s voice took up its parable again.

“Perhaps it’s a rather fraudulently comfortable doctrine, yet it does strike one that the justification of disaster, in all its many forms, is the opportunity it affords the individualist. He may use it for self‐aggrandisement, or for self‐devotion—though I rather shy at so showy a word as that last. However, the use he makes of it isn’t the point. What is the point, to my mind at least is this—though it doesn’t sound magnificent, it hardly indeed sounds cleanly—that whatever trade fails, whatever profession, thanks to the advance of civilisation, becomes obsolete, that of the man with the dust‐cart, of the scavenger, of the sweeper, won’t.”

Once more Richard smiled upon his companion charmingly, yet with something of self‐mockery.

“And so, you see, having knocked about enough to grow careless of niceties of prejudice, and to acquire an immense admiration for any vocation which promises permanence, I join hands with the dustman. In the light of science, and in that of religion alike, nothing really is common or unclean. And then—then, if you are beyond the pale in any case, as some of us are, it’s a little too transparently cheap to be afraid of soiling”—He broke off.— page: 599 “Away there to the left, Honoria,” he said. “You see the house? The yellow‐washed one, with the gables and tiled roofs—there, back on the slope.—Bagshaw, the Bond Street poulterer, had it for years. His lease ran out in the spring, and happily he didn’t care to renew. Had bought himself an up‐to‐date, villa residence somewhere in the suburbs—Chislehurst, I believe. So I took the place over. It will do for a beginning—the small end of the wedge of my scavenger’s business. There are over five acres of garden and orchard, and plenty of rooms on each floor, which gives good range for the disabled to move about in—and the stairs, only one flight, are easy. One has to think of these details. And—well, the house commands a magnificent view of Clerke’s Green, and the geese on it, than which nothing clearly can be more exciting!”

The groom rode forward and opened the gate. Before the square, outstanding porch Richard drew up.

“I should like to come in with you,” he said. “But you see it’s rather a business getting off one’s horse, and I can’t very well manage the stairs. So I’ll wait about till you are ready. Don’t hurry. I want you to see all the arrangements, if it doesn’t bore you, and make suggestions. The carpenters are there, doing overtime. They’ll let you through if the caretaker’s out.”

Thus admonished, Miss St. Quentin dismounted and made her way into the house. A broad passage led straight through it. The open door at the farther end disclosed a vista of box‐edged path and flower‐borders where, in gay ranks, stood tall sunflowers, holly‐hocks, Michaelmas‐daisies, and such like. Beyond was orchard, the round‐headed apple‐trees, bright with polished fruit, rising from a carpet of grass. The rooms, to left and right of the passage, were pleasantly sun‐warmed and mellow of aspect, the ceilings of them crossed by massive beams. Honoria visited them, dutifully observant. She encountered the head carpenter, an acquaintance and ally during those four years so great part of which she had spent at Brockhurst. She talked with him, making inquiries concerning wife, children, and trade, incident to such a meeting, her face very serious all the while, the skirt of her habit gathered up in one hand, her gait a trifle stiff and measured owing to her high riding‐boots. But, though she acquitted herself in all kindliness of conversation, though she conscientiously inspected each separate apartment, and noted the cheerful comeliness of orchard and garden, it must be owned all these remained singularly distant from her actual emotion and thought. She was glad to be alone. She was glad to be away from Richard Calmady, though zealously obedient to his page: 600 wishes in respect of this inspection. For his presence became increasingly oppressive from the intensity of feeling it produced in her, and which she was, at present, powerless to direct toward any reasonable and definite end. This rendered her tongue‐tied, and, as she fancied, stupid. Her unreadiness mortified her. She, usually indifferent enough to the impression she produced on others, was sensible of a keen desire to appear at her best. She did in fact, so she believed, appear at her worst, slow of understanding and of sympathy.—But then all the future hung in the balance. The scale delayed to turn. And the strain of waiting became agitating to the point of distress.

At last the course of her so‐dutiful survey brought her to a quaint, little chamber, situated immediately over the square, outstanding porch. It was lighted by a single, hooded window placed in the centre of the front wall. It was evidently designed for a linen room, and was in process of being fitted with shelves and cupboards of white pine. The floor was deep in shavings, long, curly, wafer‐coloured, semi‐transparent. They rustled like fallen leaves when Honoria stepped among them. The air was filled with the odour of them, dry and resinous as that of the fir forest. Ever after that odour affected Honoria with a sense of half‐fearful joy and of impending fate. She stood in the middle of the quaint, little chamber. The ceiling was low. She had to bend her head to avoid violent contact between the central beam of it and the crown of her felt hat. But circumscribed though the space, and uncomfortable though her posture, she had an absurd longing to lock the door of the little room, never to come out, to stay here forever! Here she was safe. But outside, on the threshold, stood something she dared not name. It drew her with a pain at once terrible and lovely. She dreaded it. Yet once close to it, once face to face with it, she knew it would have her; that it would not take no for an answer. Her pride, her chastity, was in arms. Was this, she wondered, what men and women speak of so lightly, laugh and joke about? Was this love?—To her it seemed wholly awe‐inspiring. And so she clung strangely to the shelter of the quaint, little room with its sea of rustling, resinous shavings. On the other side the door of it waited that momentous decision which would cause the scale to turn. Yet the minutes passed. To prolong her absence became impossible.

Just then there was a movement below, a crunching of the gravel, as though of a horse growing restless, impatient of standing. Honoria moved forward, opened the window, pushing back the casement against a cluster of late‐blossoming, red roses, page: 601 the petals of which floated slowly downward describing fluttering circles. Richard Calmady was just below. Honoria called to him.

“I am coming, Richard, I am coming!” she said.

He turned in the saddle and looked up at her smiling—a smile at once courageous and resigned. Yet, notwithstanding that smile, Honoria once again discovered in his eyes the chill desolation and homelessness of the sky of the winter night. Then the scale turned, turned at last; for that same lovely pain grew lovelier, more desirable than any possibility of ease, until such time as that desolation should pass, that homelessness be cradled to content in some sure harbourage.—Here was the thing given her to do, and she must do it! She would risk all to win all. And, with that decision, her serenity and freedom of soul returned. The white light of a noble self‐devotion, reckless of self‐spending, reckless of consequence, the joy of a great giving, illuminated her face.

As to Richard, he, looking up at her, though ignorant of her purpose, misreading the cause of that inspired aspect, still thought he had never witnessed so graciously gallant a sight. The nymph whom he had first known, who had baffled and crossed him, was here still, strong, untamed, elusive, remote. But a woman was here too, of finest fibre, faithful and loyal, capable of undying tenderness, of an all‐encircling and heroic love. Then the desires of the natural man stirred somewhat in Richard, just because—paradox though it undoubtedly was—she provoked less the carnal, perishing passion of the flesh, than the pure and imperishable passion of the spirit. Irrepressible envy of Ludovic Quayle, her lover, seized him, irrepressible demand for just all those things which that other Richard, the would‐be saint, had so sternly condemned himself to repudiate, to cast aside and forget. And the would‐be saint triumphed—beating down thought of all that, trampling it under foot—so that after briefest interval he called up to her cheerily enough.

“Well, what do you make of the dust‐cart? Rather fascinating, isn’t it? Notwithstanding its uncleanly name, it’s really rather sweet.”

To which she answered, speaking from out the wide background of her own emotion and purpose:—

“Yes, yes—it’s sad in a way, Richard, penetratingly, splendidly sad. But one wouldn’t have it otherwise; for it is splendid, and it is sweet, abundantly sweet.”—Then her tone changed.—“I won’t keep you waiting any longer, I’m coming,” she said.

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Honoria looked round the quaint, little room, with its half‐adjusted shelves and cupboards, the floor of it deep in resinous, semi‐transparent, wafer‐coloured shavings, bidding it adieu. For good or evil, happiness or sorrow, she was sensible it told for much in her life’s experience. Then, something delicately militant in her carriage, she swung away downstairs and out of the house. She was going forth to war indeed, to a war which in no shape or form had she ever waged as yet. Many men had wooed her, and their wooing had left her cold. She had never wooed any man. Why should she? To her no man had ever mattered one little bit.

So she mounted, and they rode away.—A spin across the level turf to hearten her up, satisfy the fulness of sensation which held her, and shake her nerves into place. It was exhilarating. She grew keen and tense, her whole economy becoming reliable and well‐knit by the strong exercise and sense of the superbly healthy and unperplexed vitality of the horse under her. Honoria could have fought with dragons just then, had such been there to fight with! But, in point of fact, nothing more aggressively dangerous presented itself for encounter than the shallow ford which divides the parish of Farley from that of Sandyfield and the tithing of Brockhurst. Snorting a little, the horses splashed through the clear, brown water and entered upon the rough, rutted road, grass‐grown in places, which, ending beneath a broken avenue of ancient, stag‐headed oaks, leads to the entrance of the Brockhurst woods. These, crowned by the dark, ragged line of the fir forest, rose in a soft, dense mass against the western sky, in which showed promise of a fair pageant of sunset. A covey of partridges ran up the sandy ruts before the horses, and, rising at last with a long‐drawn whir of wings, skimmed the top of the crumbling bank and dropped in the stubble‐field on the right. A pause, while the keeper’s wife ran out to open the white gate,—the dogs meanwhile, from their wooden kennels under the Spanish chestnuts upon the hillock behind the lodge, pulling at their chains and keeping up a vociferous chorus. Thus heralded, the riders passed into the mysteriously whispering quiet of the great woods.

The heavy, summer foliage remained as yet untouched by the hectic of autumn. Diversity was observable in form rather than in tint, and from this resulted a remarkable effect of unity, a singleness of intention, and of far‐reaching secrecy. The multitudinous leaves and the all‐pervading green gloom of them around, above, seemed to engulf horses and riders. It was as though they rode across the floor of ocean, the green tides page: 603 sweeping overhead. Yet the trees of the wood asserted their intelligent presence now and again. Audibly they talked together, bent themselves a little to listen and to look, as though curious of the aspect and purposes of these wandering mortals. And all this, the unity and secrecy of the place, affected both Richard and Honoria strangely, circling them about with something of earth‐magic, removing them far from ordinary conditions of social intercourse, and thus rendering it possible, inevitable even, that they should think such thoughts and say such words as part company with subterfuge and concealment, go naked, and speak uttermost truth. For, with only the trees of the wood to listen, with that sibilant whisper of the green tide overhead, with strong emotion compelling them—in the one case towards death of self, in the other towards giving of self—in the one towards austere passivity, in the other towards activity taxing all capital of pride, of delicacy, and of tact—developments became imminent, and those of the most vital sort.

The conversation had been broken, desultory; but now, by tacit consent, the pace became quiet again, the horses were permitted to walk. To have gone other than softly through the living heart of the greenwood must have savoured of desecration. Yet Richard was not insensible to a certain danger. He tried, rousing himself to conversation, to rouse himself also to the practical and commonplace.

“I am glad you liked my house,” he said. “But I hear the aristocracy of the Row laments. It shies at the idea of being invaded by more or less frightful creatures. But I remain deaf. I really can’t bother about that. It is so immeasurably more unpleasant to be frightful than to see that which is so, that I’m afraid my sympathies remain rather pig‐headedly one‐sided. I propose to educate the Row in the grace of pity. It may lay up merit by due exercise of that.”

Richard took off his hat and rode bare‐headed, looking away into the delicious, green gloom. Here, where the wood was thickest, oak and beech shutting out the sky, clasping hands overhead, the ground beneath them deep in moss and fern, that gloom was exactly like the colour of Honoria’s eyes. He wished it wasn’t so. He tried to forget it. But the resemblance haunted him. Look where he might, still he seemed to look into those singular and charming eyes. He talked on determinedly, putting a force upon himself, too often saying that which, no sooner was it out of his mouth, than he wished unsaid.

“I don’t want to be too hard on the Row, though. It has a page: 604 right, after all, to its little prejudices. Only you see for those who, poor souls, are different to other people it becomes of such supreme importance to keep in touch with the average. I have found that out in practice. And so I refuse to shut my waste humanity away. They must neither hide themselves nor be hidden, be spared seeing how much other people enjoy from which they are debarred, nor grow over‐conscious of their own ungainliness. That is why I’ve planted them and their gardens, and their pigs and their poultry—we’ll have a lot of live stock, a second generation, even of chickens, offers remarkable consolations—on the highroad, at the entrance of the little town, where, on a small scale at all events, they’ll see the world that’s straight‐backed and has its proper complement of limbs and senses, go by. Envy, hatred, and malice, and the seven devils of morbidity are forever lying in wait for them—well—for us—for me and those like me, I mean. In proportion as one’s brought up tenderly—as I was—one doesn’t realise the deprivation and disgust of one’s condition at the start. But once realised, one’s inclination is to kill. At least a man’s is. A woman may accept it more quietly, I suppose.”

“Richard,” Honoria said slowly, “are you sure you don’t greatly exaggerate all—all that?”

He shook his head.

“Thirty years’ experience—no, I don’t exaggerate! Each time one makes a fresh acquaintance, each time a pretty woman is just that bit kinder to one than she would dare be to any man who was not out of it, each time people are manifestly interested—politely, of course—and form a circle, make room for one as they did at that particularly disagreeable Grimshott garden‐party yesterday, each time—I don’t want to drivel, but so it is—one sees a pair of lovers—oh! well, it’s not easy to retain one’s philosophy, not to obey the primitive instincts of any animal when it’s ill‐used and hurt, and to revenge oneself—to want to kill, in short.”

“You—you don’t hate women, then?” Honoria said, still slowly.

Richard stared at her for a moment. “Hate them?” he said. “I only wish to goodness I did.”

“But in that case,” she began bravely, “why”—

“This is why,” he broke in.—“You may remember my engagement to Lady Constance Quayle, and the part you, very properly, took in the cancelling of it? You know better than I do—though my imagination is pretty fertile in dealing with the page: 605 situation—what instincts and feelings prompted you to take that part.”

The young lady turned to him, her arms outstretched, notwithstanding bridle‐reins and whip, her face, and those strange eyes which seemed so integral a part of the fair greenwood, full of sorrowful entreaty and distress.

“Richard, Richard,” she cried, “will you never forgive me that? She didn’t love you. It was horrible, yet in doing that which I did, I believed—I believe so still—I did what was right by you both.”

“Undoubtedly you did right, and that justifies my contention. In doing that which you did you gave voice to the opinion of all wholesome‐minded people. That’s exactly where it is. You felt the whole business to be outrageous. So it was. I heartily agree.”—He paused, and the trees talked softly together, bending down a little to listen and to look.—“As you say, she wasn’t in love. Poor child, how could she be? No woman ever will be—at least not in love of the nobler sort, of the sort which if one cannot have it, one had a vast deal better have no love at all.”

“But I am not so sure of that,” Honoria said stoutly. “You rush to conclusions. Isn’t it rather a reflection on all the rest of us to take little Lady Constance as the measure of the insight and sensibility of the whole sex? And then she had already lost all her innocent, little heart to Captain Decies. Indeed you’re not fair to us.—Wait”—

“Like Ludovic Quayle?”

Miss St. Quentin straightened herself in the saddle.

“Oh! dear no, not the least like Ludovic Quayle!” she said. Which enigmatic reply produced silence for a while on Dickie’s part. For there were various ways in which it might be interpreted, some flattering, some eminently unflattering, to himself. And from every point of view it was wisest to accept that last form of interpretation. The whole conversation had been perilous in character. It had been too intimate, had touched him too nearly, taking place here in the clear glooms of the greenwood moreover which bore such haunting kinship to those singularly sincere, and yet mysterious, eyes. It is dangerous to ride across the floor of ocean with the whispering tides sweeping overhead, and in such gallant company, besides, that to ride thus forever could hardly come amiss!—Richard, in his turn, straightened himself up in the saddle, opened his chest, taking a long breath, carried his head high, said a stern “get thee behind me, Satan,” to encroaching sentiment and emotion, and to those fair visions which his companion’s presence and page: 606 her somewhat daring talk had conjured up. He defied the earth‐magic, defied those sylvan deities who, as he divined, sought to enthral him. For the moment he confounded Honoria’s influence with theirs. It was something of a battle, and not the first one he had fought to‐day. For the great, white road which leads onward to Perfection looked dusty and arid enough—no reposeful shadow, no mystery, no beguiling green glooms over it. Stark, straight, hard, it stretched on endlessly, as it seemed, ahead. To travel it was slow and tedious work, in any case; and to travel it on crutches!—But it was worse than useless to play with such thoughts as these. He would put a stop to this disintegrating talk. He turned to Honoria and spoke lightly, with a return of self‐mockery.

“Oh! your first instinct was the true one, depend upon it,” he said. “Though I don’t deny it contributed, indirectly, to giving me a pretty rough time.”

“Oh! dear me!” Honoria cried, almost piteously. Then she added:—“ But I don’t see, why was that?”

“Because, I suppose, I had a sort of unwilling belief in you,” he said, smiling.—Oh! this accursed conversation, why would it insistently drift back into intimacy thus!

“Have I justified that belief?” she asked, with a certain pride yet a certain eagerness.

“More than justified it,” Dickie answered. “My mother, who has a touchstone for all that is of high worth, knew you from the first. Like the devils, I—I believed and trembled—at least that is how I see it all now. So your action came as a rather searching revelation and condemnation. When I perceived all that it involved—oh, well! first I went to the dogs, and then”—

The horses walked side by side. Honoria stretched out her hand impulsively, laid it on his arm.

“Richard, Richard, for pity’s sake don’t! You hurt me too much. It’s terrible to have been the cause of such suffering.”

“You weren’t the cause,” he said. “Lies were the cause, behind which, like a fool, I’d tried to shelter myself. You’ve been right, Honoria, from first to last. What does it matter after all?—Don’t take it to heart. For it’s over now, all over, thank God, and I have got back into normal relations with things and with people.”—He looked at her very charmingly, and spoke with a fine courtesy of tone.—“One way and another you have taught me a lot, and I am grateful. And, in the future, though the conditions will be altered, I hope you’ll come back here often, Honoria, and just see for yourself that my mother is content; and give my schemes and fads a kindly look in at the page: 607 same time. And perhaps give me a trifle of sound advice. I shall need it safe enough. You see what I want to get at is temperance—temperance all round, towards everything and everybody—not fanaticism, which, in some respects, is a much easier attitude of mind.”

Richard looked up into the whispering, green tide overhead.

“Yes, one must deny oneself the luxury of fanaticism, if possible,” he said, “deny oneself the vanity of eccentricity. One must take everything simply, just in the day’s work. One must keep in touch. Keep in touch with your world, the great world, the world which cultivates pleasure and incidentally makes history, as well as with the world of the dust‐cart—I know that well enough—if one’s to be quite sane. You see loneliness, a loneliness of which I am thankful to think you can form no conception, is the curse of persons like myself. It inclines one to hide, to sulk, to shut oneself away and become misanthropic. To hug one’s misery becomes one’s chiefest pleasure—to nurse one’s grief and one’s sense of injury. Oh! I’m wary, very wary now, I tell you,” he added, half laughing. “I know all the insidious temptations, the tricks and frauds and pit‐falls of this affair. And so I’ll continue to go to Grimshott garden‐parties as discipline now and then, while I gather my disabled and decrepit family very closely about me and say words of wisdom to it—wisdom derived from a mature and extensive personal experience.”

There was a pause before Miss St. Quentin spoke. Then she said slowly.

“And you refuse to let anyone help? You, you refuse to let anyone share the cares of that disabled family?”

Again Dickie stared at her, arrested by her speech and doubtful of the intention of it. He could have sworn there were tears in her voice, that it shook. But her face was averted, and he could see no more than the slightly angular outline of her cheek and chin.

“Isn’t that a rather superfluous question?” he remarked. “As you pointed out a little while ago, mine is not a superabundantly cheerful programme. No one would volunteer for such service—at least no one likely to be acceptable to my mother, or indeed likely to satisfy my own requirements. I admit, I’m a little fastidious, a little critical and exacting, when it comes to close quarters and—well—permanent association, even yet.”

“I am very glad to hear that,” Honoria said. Her face remained averted, but there was a change in her attitude, a decision in the pose of her figure, suggestive both of challenge and of triumph.

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Richard was nonplussed, but his blood was up. This conversation had gone far enough—indeed too far. Very certainly he would make an end of it.

“But God forbid,” he exclaimed, “that I should ever fall to such a depth of selfishness as to invite any person who would satisfy my taste, my demands, to share my life! I mayn’t amount to very much, but at least I have never used my personal ill‐luck to trade on a woman’s generosity and pity. What I have had from women, I’ve paid for, in hard cash. In that respect my conscience is clear. It has been a bargain, fair and square and above board, and all my debts are settled in full. You hardly think at this time of day I should use my proposed schemes of philanthropy as a bait?”

Richard sent his horse forward at a sharp trot.

“No, no, Honoria,” he said, “let it be understood that side of things is over forever.”

But here came relief from the green glooms of the greenwood and the dangerous magic of them. For the riders had reached the summit of the hill, and entered upon the levels of the great tableland, at the edge of which Brockhurst House stands. Here was the open, the fresh breeze, the long‐drawn, sighing song of the fir forest—a song more austere, more courageous, more virile, than any ever sung by the trees of the wood which drop their leaves for fear of the sharp‐toothed winter, and only put them forth again beneath the kisses of soft‐lipped spring. Covering all the western sky were lines of softly‐rounded, broken cloud, rank behind rank, in endless perspective, the whole shaped like a mighty fan. The under side of them was flushed with living rose. The clear spaces behind them paved with sapphire at the zenith, and palest topaz where they skirted the far horizon.

“How very beautiful it is!” Honoria cried, joyously. “Richard, let us see this.”

She turned her horse at the green ride which leads to the white Temple, situated situate on that outstanding spur of hill. She rode on quickly till she reached the platform of turf before the summer‐house. Richard followed her with deliberation. He was shaken. His calm was broken up, his whole being in tumult. Why had she pressed just all those matters home on him which he had agreed with himself to cast aside and forget? It was a little cruel, surely, that temptation should assail him thus, and the white road towards Perfection be made so difficult to tread, just when he had re‐dedicated himself and renewed his vows? He looked after her. It was here he had met her first—after the time when, as a little maid, she had proved too swift of foot, page: 609 leaving him so far behind that it sorely hurt his small dignity and caused him to see her depart without regret. She was still swift of foot. She left him behind now. For the moment he was ready to swear that not only without regret but with actual thankfulness, he could again witness her departure.—Yes, he wanted her to go, because he so desperately wanted her to stay —that was the truth. For not only Dickie the natural man, but Dickie “the wild bull in a net,” had a word to say just then. God in heaven what hard work it is to be good!

Miss St. Quentin kicked her left foot out of the stirrup, threw her right leg over the pommel, turned, and slipped straight out of the saddle. She stood there a somewhat severely tall, dark figure, strong and positive in effect, against the immense and reposeful landscape—far‐ranging, purple distance, golden harvest‐fields, silver glint of water in the hollows, all the massive grandeur of the woods, and that superb pageant of sunset sky.

The groom rode forward, took her horse, led it away to the far side of the grass platform behind the Temple. Those ranks of rosy cloud in infinite perspective, with spaces of clearest topaz and sapphire light between, converged to the glowing glory of the sun, the rim of which now touched the margin of the world. They were as ranks of worshippers, of blessèd souls redeemed and sainted, united in a common act of adoration, every form clothed by reflection of His glory, every heart, every thought centred upon God.—Richard looked at all that, but it failed to speak to him. Then he saw Honoria resolutely turn her back upon the glory. She came directly towards him. Her face was very thin, her manner very calm. She laid her left hand on the peak of his saddle. She looked him full in the eyes.

“Richard,” she said, “be patient a minute and listen. It comes to this, that a woman—your equal in position, of your own age, and not without money—does volunteer to share your work. It’s no forlorn hope. She is not disappointed. On the contrary she has, and can have, pretty well all the world’s got to give. Only—perhaps very foolishly, for she doesn’t know much about the matter, having been rather cold‐blooded so far—she has fallen in love.”

There was a silence, save that the wind came out of the west, out of the majesty of the sunset; and with it came the calling of the sea—not only of the blue water, or of those green tides that sweep above wandering mortals in the magic greenwood, but of the sea of faith, of the sea of love—love human, love divine, love universal—which circles not only this, but all possible states of being, all possible worlds.

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Presently Richard spoke hoarsely, under his breath.

“With whom?” he said.

“With you”—

Dickie went white to the lips. He sat absolutely still for a little space, his hands resting on his thighs.

“Tell her to think,” he said, at last.—“She proposes to do that which the world will condemn, and rightly from its point of view. It will misread her motives. It won’t spare disagreeable comment. Tell her to think.—Tell—tell her to look.—Cripple, dwarf, the last, as he ought to be, of an unlucky race—a man who’s carried up and down stairs like a baby, who’s strapped to the saddle, strapped to the driving‐seat—who is cut off from most forms of activity and of sport—a man who will never have any sort of career; who has given himself, in expiation of past sins, to the service of human beings a degree more unfortunate than himself.—No, no, stop—hear me out.—She must know it all!—A man who has lived far from cleanly, who has evil memories and evil knowledge of life—no—listen. A man whom you—yes, you yourself, Honoria—have condemned bitterly; from whom, notwithstanding your splendid nerve and pluck, so hateful is his deformity, you have shrunk a hundred times.”

“She has thought of all that,” Honoria answered calmly. “But she has thought of this too—that, going up and down the world to find the most excellent thing in it, she has found this thing, love. And so to her, Richard, your crippling has come to be dearer than any other man’s wholeness. Your wrong doings—may God forgive her—dearer than any other man’s virtue. Your virtues so wholly beautiful that—that”—

The tears came into her eyes, her lips quivered, she backed away a little from rider and horse.

“Richard,” she cried fiercely, “if you don’t care for me, if you don’t want me, be honourable, tell me so straight out and let us have done with it! I am strong enough, I am man enough, for that. For Heaven’s sake don’t take me out of pity. I would never forgive you. There’s a good deal of us both, one way and another, and we should give each other a hell of a time if I was in love and you were not. But”—she put her hand on the peak of that very ugly saddle again—“but, if you do care, here I am. I have never failed anyone yet. I will never fail you. I am yours body and soul. Marry me,” she said.

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