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The Complete Works of D H Lawrence

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This is the definitive Kindle Edition of the great modernist's works, with every published D.H. Lawrence novel, short story, piece of travel writing, novella, play and much, much more. As with all Delphi Classics, the texts are arranged in chronological order, allowing a scholarly reading and appreciation of Lawrence's works.

Features:
many images relating to Lawrence, his life and works
ALL 12 novels, with annotated introductions, giving contextual information
separate contents table for each novel, aiding navigation around this huge file
includes the rare 'lost' novel MR NOON - appearing for the first time in digital print
ALL 67 short stories, arranged in chronological and alphabetical contents tables
ALL 8 plays, with separate contents tables
ALL of the travel writing books
7 poetry collections, including RARE contributions, with chronological and alphabetical contents tables - find that special poem quickly and easily!
EVEN includes the BONUS text of D.H.Lawrence's Paintings - explore the great man's stunning art - all in beautiful colour - first time in digital print
includes rare non-fiction essays
also includes "A STUDY OF THOMAS HARDY" - explore Lawrence's famous critique of the famous author
front no-nonsense contents table, allowing easy navigation around the enormous file.
also boasts the rare poetry collection LAST POEMS - enjoy Lawrence's final haunting works
the rare school textbook Lawrence wrote when struggling financially
includes REFLECTIONS ON THE DEATH OF A PORCUPINE AND OTHER ESSAYS - appearing here for the first time in digital print
Lawrence's last non-fiction book - the enigmatic APOCALYPSE AND THE WRITINGS ON REVELATION
includes the mammoth PHOENIX: THE POSTHUMOUS PAPERS OF D. H. LAWRENCE - spends hours exploring this collection of literary papers that chart Lawrence's genius
features two bonus biographies - explore the great writer's literary life!
includes Lawrence's wife's intimate biography NOT I, BUT THE WIND... - first time in digital print
UPDATED with rare short stories and special story contents tables

Please note: this file has been extensively updated with many rare texts.

CONTENTS:

The Novels
THE WHITE PEACOCK
THE TRESPASSER
SONS AND LOVERS
THE RAINBOW
WOMEN IN LOVE
THE LOST GIRL
MR NOON
AARON’S ROD
KANGAROO
THE BOY IN THE BUSH
THE PLUMED SERPENT
LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER

The Novellas
THE LADYBIRD
THE FOX
THE CAPTAIN’S DOLL
ST. MAWR
THE VIRGIN AND THE GIPSY
THE ESCAPED COCK

The Short Stories
LIST OF THE SHORT STORIES IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
LIST OF THE SHORT STORIES IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER

The Plays
THE MARRIED MAN
THE FIGHT FOR BARBARA
DAVID
THE DAUGHTER-IN-LAW
THE WIDOWING OF MRS HOLROYD
A COLLIER’S FRIDAY NIGHT
THE MERRY-GO-ROUND
TOUCH AND GO

The Travel Writing
TWILIGHT IN ITALY
SEA AND SARDINIA
SKETCHES OF ETRUSCAN PLACES
MORNINGS IN MEXICO

The Poetry Collections
LOVE POEMS AND OTHERS
BIRDS BEASTS AND FLOWERS
AMORES
BAY: A BOOK OF POEMS
NEW POEMS
IMAGIST POETRY
LOOK! WE HAVE COME THROUGH!
LAST POEMS

The Poetry
POEMS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

POEMS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
The Non-Fiction
A STUDY OF THOMAS HARDY
MOVEMENTS IN EUROPEAN HISTORY
PSYCHOANALYSIS AND THE UNCONSCIOUS
FANTASIA OF THE UNCONSCIOUS
STUDIES IN CLASSIC AMERICAN LITERATURE
REFLECTIONS ON THE DEATH OF A PORCUPINE AND OTHER ESSAYS
A PROPOS OF LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER
APOCALYPSE AND THE WRITINGS ON REVELATION
PHOENIX: THE POSTHUMOUS PAPERS OF D. H. LAWRENCE

A Translation
LITTLE NOVELS OF SICILY

The Paintings
THE PAINTINGS OF D. H. LAWRENCE

The Biographies
NOT I, BUT THE WIND... by Frieda Lawrence
THE SAVAGE PILGRIMAGE by Catherine Carswell

Year:
2011
Publisher:
Delphi Classics
Language:
english
Series:
Delphi Classics
File:
EPUB, 39.87 MB
Download (epub, 39.87 MB)

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THE COMPLETE WORKS OF

D.H. LAWRENCE

(1885-1930)





Contents

The Novels



THE WHITE PEACOCK

THE TRESPASSER

SONS AND LOVERS

THE RAINBOW

WOMEN IN LOVE

THE LOST GIRL

MR NOON

AARON’S ROD

KANGAROO

THE BOY IN THE BUSH

THE PLUMED SERPENT

LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER

The Novellas



THE LADYBIRD

THE FOX

THE CAPTAIN’S DOLL

ST. MAWR

THE VIRGIN AND THE GIPSY

THE ESCAPED COCK

The Short Stories



LIST OF THE SHORT STORIES IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

LIST OF THE SHORT STORIES IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER

The Plays



THE MARRIED MAN

THE FIGHT FOR BARBARA

DAVID

THE DAUGHTER-IN-LAW

THE WIDOWING OF MRS HOLROYD

A COLLIER’S FRIDAY NIGHT

THE MERRY-GO-ROUND

TOUCH AND GO

The Travel Writing



TWILIGHT IN ITALY

SEA AND SARDINIA

SKETCHES OF ETRUSCAN PLACES

MORNINGS IN MEXICO

The Poetry Collections



D .H. LAWRENCE’S POETRY: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

LOVE POEMS AND OTHERS

AMORES

LOOK! WE HAVE COME THROUGH!

NEW POEMS

BAY: A BOOK OF POEMS

BIRDS BEASTS AND FLOWERS

IMAGIST POETRY

PANSIES

NETTLES

LAST POEMS

MORE PANSIES

The Poems



LIST OF POEMS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

LIST OF POEMS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER

The Non-Fiction



A STUDY OF THOMAS HARDY

MOVEMENTS IN EUROPEAN HISTORY

PSYCHOANALYSIS AND THE UNCONSCIOUS

FANTASIA OF THE UNCONSCIOUS

STUDIES IN CLASSIC AMERICAN LITERATURE

REFLECTIONS ON THE DEATH OF A PORCUPINE AND OTHER ESSAYS

A PROPOS OF LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER

APOCALYPSE AND THE WRITINGS ON REVELATION

PHOENIX: THE POSTHUMOUS PAPERS OF D. H. LAWRENCE

A Translation



LITTLE NOVELS OF SICILY

The Paintings



THE PAINTINGS OF D. H. LAWRENCE

The Biographies



NOT I, BUT THE WIND... by Frieda Lawrence

THE SAVAGE PILGRIMAGE by Catherine Carswell





© Delphi Classics 2012

Version 9





THE COMPLETE WORKS OF

D.H. LAWRENCE





By Delphi Classics, 2012





The Novels





Lawrence’s birthplace - Eastwood, Nottingham





THE WHITE PEACOCK





Lawrence started his first novel in 1906, rewriting it three times, before it was published in 1911. The early versions had the working title of Lae; titia. Set in the Eastwood area of his youth, Lawrence’s first novel is narrated in the first person by the somewhat weak character named Cyril Beardsall. It involves such typical Lawerence themes as the damage associated with mismatched marriages and the border country between town and country. A misanthropic gamekeeper makes an appearance, in some ways the prototype of Mellors in Lawrence’s last novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The book includes some notable description of nature and the impact of industrialisation on the countryside and the town.





The Lawrence family, with a young David standing between his parents, 1895





CONTENTS

PART ONE

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

PART TWO

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

PART THREE

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII





Felley Mill, known as Strelly Mill in Lawrrence’s first novel





PART ONE





CHAPTER I



THE PEOPLE OF NETHERMERE



I stood watching the shadowy fish slide through the gloom of the millpond. They were grey, descendants of the silvery things that had darted away from the monks, in the young days when the valley was lusty. The whole place was gathered in the musing of old age. The thick-piled trees on the far shore were too dark and sober to dally with the sun; the weeds stood crowded and motionless. Not even a little wind flickered the willows of the islets. The water lay softly, intensely still. Only the thin stream falling through the millrace murmured to itself of the tumult of life which had once quickened the valley.

I was almost startled into the water from my perch on the alder roots by a voice saying:

“Well, what is there to look at?” My friend was a young farmer, stoutly built, brown-eyed, with a naturally fair skin burned dark and freckled in patches. He laughed, seeing me start, and looked down at me with lazy curiosity.

“I was thinking the place seemed old, brooding over its past.” He looked at me with a lazy indulgent smile, and lay down on his back on the bank, saying:

“It’s all right for a doss — here.”

“Your life is nothing else but a doss. I shall laugh when somebody jerks you awake,” I replied.

He smiled comfortably and put his hands over his eyes because of the light.

“Why shall you laugh?” he drawled.

“Because you’ll be amusing,” said I.

We were silent for a long time, when he rolled over and began to poke with his finger in the bank.

“I thought,” he said in his leisurely fashion, “there was some cause for all this buzzing.”

I looked, and saw that he had poked out an old, papery nest of those pretty field bees which seem to have dipped their tails into bright amber dust. Some agitated insects ran round the cluster of eggs, most of which were empty now, the crowns gone; a few young bees staggered about in uncertain flight before they could gather power to wing away in a strong course. He watched the little ones that ran in and out among the shadows of the grass, hither and thither in consternation.

“Come here — come here!” he said, imprisoning one poor little bee under a grass stalk, while with another stalk he loosened the folded blue wings.

“Don’t tease the little beggar,” I said.

“It doesn’t hurt him — I wanted to see if it was because he couldn’t spread his wings that he couldn’t fly. There he goes — no, he doesn’t. Let’s try another.”

“Leave them alone,” said I. “Let them run in the sun. They’re only just out of the shells. Don’t torment them into flight.”

He persisted, however, and broke the wing of the next.

“Oh, dear — pity!” said he, and he crushed the little thing between his fingers. Then he examined the eggs, and pulled out some silk from round the dead larva, and investigated it all in a desultory manner, asking of me all I knew about the insects. When he had finished he flung the clustered eggs into the water and rose, pulling out his watch from the depth of his breeches’ pocket.

“It thought it was about dinner-time,” said he, smiling at me.

“I always know when it’s about twelve. Are you coming in?”

“I’m coming down at any rate,” said I as we passed along the pond bank, and over the plank bridge that crossed the brow of the falling sluice. The bankside where the grey orchard twisted its trees, was a steep declivity, long and sharp, dropping down to the garden.

The stones of the large house were burdened with ivy and honeysuckle, and the great lilac bush that had once guarded the porch now almost blocked the doorway. We passed out of the front garden into the farmyard, and walked along the brick path to the back door.

“Shut the gate, will you?” he said to me over his shoulder, as he passed on first.

We went through the large scullery into the kitchen. The servant-girl was just hurriedly snatching the table-cloth out of the table drawer, and his mother, a quaint little woman with big, brown eyes, was hovering round the wide fireplace with a fork.

“Dinner not ready?” said he with a shade of resentment.

“No, George,” replied his mother apologetically, “it isn’t. The fire wouldn’t burn a bit. You shall have it in a few minutes, though.”

He dropped on the sofa and began to read a novel. I wanted to go, but his mother insisted on my staying.

“Don’t go,” she pleaded. “Emily will be so glad if you stay — and father will, I’m sure. Sit down, now.”

I sat down on a rush chair by the long window that looked out into the yard. As he was reading, and as it took all his mother’s powers to watch the potatoes boil and the meat roast, I was left to my thoughts. George, indifferent to all claims, continued to read. It was very annoying to watch him pulling his brown moustache, and reading indolently while the dog rubbed against his leggings and against the knee of his old riding-breeches. He would not even be at the trouble to play with Trip’s ears, he was so content with his novel and his moustache. Round and round twirled his thick fingers, and the muscles of his bare arm moved slightly under the red-brown skin. The little square window above him filtered a green light from the foliage of the great horse-chestnut outside and the glimmer fell on his dark hair, and trembled across the plates which Annie was reaching down from the rack, and across the face of the tall clock. The kitchen was very big; the table looked lonely, and the chairs mourned darkly for the lost companionship of the sofa; the chimney was a black cavern away at the back, and the inglenook seats shut in another little compartment ruddy with firelight, where the mother hovered. It was rather a desolate kitchen, such a bare expanse of uneven grey flagstones, such far-away dark corners and sober furniture. The only gay things were the chintz coverings of the sofa and the arm-chair cushions, bright red in the bare sombre room; some might smile at the old clock, adorned as it was with remarkable and vivid poultry; in me it only provoked wonder and contemplation.

In a little while we heard the scraping of heavy boots outside, and the father entered. He was a big burly farmer, with his half-bald head sprinkled with crisp little curls.

“Hullo, Cyril,” he said cheerfully. “You’ve not forsaken us then,” and turning to his son:

“Have you many more rows in the coppice close?”

“Finished!” replied George, continuing to read.

“That’s all right — you’ve got on with ‘em. The rabbits has bitten them turnips down, Mother.”

“I expect so,” replied his wife, whose soul was in the saucepans. At last she deemed the potatoes cooked and went out with the steaming pan.

The dinner was set on the table and the father began to carve. George looked over his book to survey the fare, then read until his plate was handed him. The maid sat at her little table near the window, and we began the meal. There came the treading of four feet along the brick path, and a little girl entered, followed by her grown-up sister. The child’s long brown hair was tossed wildly back beneath her sailor hat. She flung aside this article of her attire and sat down to dinner, talking endlessly to her mother. The elder sister, a girl of about twenty-one, gave me a smile and a bright look from her brown eyes, and went to wash her hands. Then she came and sat down, and looked disconsolately at the underdone beef on her plate.

“I do hate this raw meat,” she said.

“Good for you,” replied her brother, who was eating industriously. “Give you some muscle to wallop the nippers.” She pushed it aside, and began to eat the vegetables. Her brother re-charged his plate and continued to eat.

“Well, our George, I do think you might pass a body that gravy,” said Mollie, the younger sister, in injured tones.

“Certainly,” he replied. “Won’t you have the joint as well?”

“No!” retorted the young lady of twelve, “I don’t expect you’ve done with it yet.”

“Clever!” he exclaimed across a mouthful.

“Do you think so?” said the elder sister, Emily, sarcastically.

“Yes,” he replied complacently, “you’ve made her as sharp as yourself, I see, since you’ve had her in Standard Six. I’ll try a potato, Mother, if you can find one that’s done.”

“Well, George, they seem mixed, I’m sure that was done that I tried. There — they are mixed — look at this one, it’s soft enough. I’m sure they were boiling long enough.”

“Don’t explain and apologise to him,” said Emily irritably. “Perhaps the kids were too much for her this morning,” he said calmly, to nobody in particular.

“No,” chimed in Mollie, “she knocked a lad across his nose and made it bleed.”

“Little wretch,” said Emily, swallowing with difficulty. “I’m glad I did! Some of my lads belong to — to — ”

“To the devil,” suggested George, but she would not accept it from him.

Her father sat laughing; her mother, with distress in her eyes, looked at her daughter, who hung her head and made patterns on the table-cloth with her finger.

“Are they worse than the last lot?” asked the mother, softly, fearfully.

“No — nothing extra,” was the curt answer.

“She merely felt like bashing ‘em,” said George, calling, as he looked at the sugar-bowl and at his pudding:

“Fetch some more sugar, Annie.”

The maid rose from her little table in the corner, and the mother also hurried to the cupboard. Emily trifled with her dinner and said bitterly to him:

“I only wish you had a taste of teaching, it would cure your self-satisfaction.”

“Pf!” he replied contemptuously, “I could easily bleed the noses of a handful of kids.”

“You wouldn’t sit there bleating like a fatted calf,” she continued.

This speech so tickled Mollie that she went off into a burst of laughter, much to the terror of her mother, who stood up in trembling apprehension lest she should choke.

“You made a joke, Emily,” he said, looking at his younger sister’s contortions.

Emily was too impatient to speak to him further, and left the table. Soon the two men went back to the fallow to the turnips, and I walked along the path with the girls as they were going to school.

“He irritates me in everything he does and says,” burst out Emily with much heat.

“He’s a pig sometimes,” said I.

“He is!” she insisted. “He irritates me past bearing, with his grand know-all way, and his heavy smartness — I can’t bear it. And the way Mother humbles herself to him — !”

“It makes you wild,” said I.

“Wild!” she echoed, her voice vibrating with nervous passion. We walked on in silence, till she asked:

“Have you brought me those verses of yours?”

“No — I’m so sorry — I’ve forgotten them again. As a matter of fact, I’ve sent them away.”

“But you promised me.”

“You know what my promises are. I’m as irresponsible as a puff of wind.”

She frowned with impatience and her disappointment was greater than necessary. When I left her at the corner of the lane I felt a string of her deep reproach in my mind. I always felt the reproach when she had gone.

I ran over the little bright brook that came from the weedy, bottom pond. The stepping-stones were white in the sun, and the water slid sleepily among them. One or two butterflies, indistinguishable against the blue sky, trifled from flower to flower and led me up the hill, across the field where the hot sunshine stood as in a bowl, and I was entering the caverns of the wood, where the oaks bowed over and saved us a grateful shade. Within, everything was so still and cool that my steps hung heavily along the path. The bracken held out arms to me, and the bosom of the wood was full of sweetness, but I journeyed on, spurred by the attacks of an army of flies which kept up a guerrilla warfare round my head till I had passed the black rhododendron bushes in the garden, where they left me, scenting no doubt Rebecca’s pots of vinegar and sugar.

The low red house, with it roof discoloured and sunken, dozed in sunlight, and slept profoundly in the shade thrown by the massive maples encroaching from the wood.

There was no one in the dining-room, but I could hear the whirr of a sewing-machine coming from the little study, a sound as of some great, vindictive insect buzzing about, now louder, now softer, now settling. Then came a jingling of four or five keys at the bottom of the keyboard of the drawing-room piano, continuing till the whole range had been covered in little leaps, as if some very fat frog had jumped from end to end.

“That must be mother dusting the drawing-room,” I thought. The unaccustomed sound of the old piano startled me. The vocal chords behind the green-silk bosom — you only discovered it was not a bronze-silk bosom by poking a fold aside — had become as thin and tuneless as a dried old woman’s. Age had yellowed the teeth of my mother’s little piano, and shrunken its spindle legs. Poor old thing, it could but screech in answer to Lettie’s fingers flying across it in scorn, so the prim, brown lips were always closed save to admit the duster.

Now, however, the little old-maidish piano began to sing a tinkling Victorian melody, and I fancied it must be some demure little woman, with curls like bunches of hops on either side of her face, who was touching it. The coy little tune teased me with old sensations, but my memory would give me no assistance. As I stood trying to fix my vague feelings, Rebecca came in to remove the cloth from the table.

“Who is playing, Beck?” I asked.

“Your mother, Cyril.”

“But she never plays. I thought she couldn’t.”

“Ah,” replied Rebecca, “you forget when you was a little thing sitting playing against her frock with the prayer-book, and she singing to you. You can’t remember her when her curls was long like a piece of brown silk. You can’t remember her when she used to play and sing, before Lettie came and your father was — ”

Rebecca turned and left the room. I went and peeped in the drawing-room. Mother sat before the little brown piano, with her plump, rather stiff fingers moving across the keys, a faint smile on her lips. At that moment Lettie came flying past me, and flung her arms round mother’s neck, kissing her and saying:

“Oh, my Dear, fancy my Dear playing the piano! Oh, Little Woman, we never knew you could!”

“Nor can I,” replied Mother laughing, disengaging herself. “I only wondered if I could just strum out this old tune; I learned it when I was quite a girl, on this piano. It was a cracked one then; the only one I had.”

“But play again, dearie, do play again. It was like the clinking of lustre glasses, and you look so quaint at the piano. Do play, my dear!” pleaded Lettie.

“Nay,” said my mother, “the touch of the old keys on my fingers is making me sentimental — you wouldn’t like to see me reduced to the tears of old age?”

“Old age!” scolded Lettie, kissing her again. “You are young enough to play little romances. Tell us about it, Mother.”

“About what, child?”

“When you used to play.”

“Before my fingers were stiff with fifty-odd years? Where have you been, Cyril, that you weren’t in to dinner?”

“Only down to Strelley Mill,” said I.

“Of course,” said Mother coldly.

“Why ‘of course’?” I asked.

“And you came away as soon as Em went to school?” said Lettie.

“I did,” said I.

They were cross with me, these two women. After I had swallowed my little resentment I said:

“They would have me stay to dinner.”

My mother vouchsafed no reply.

“And has the great George found a girl yet?” asked Lettie. “No,” I replied, “he never will at this rate. Nobody will ever be good enough for him.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you can find in any of them to take you there so much,” said my mother.

“Don’t be so mean, Mater,” I answered, nettled. “You know I like them.”

“I know you like her,” said my mother sarcastically. “As for him — he’s an unlicked cub. What can you expect when his mother has spoiled him as she has. But I wonder you are so interested in licking him.” My mother sniffed contemptuously.

“He is rather good-looking,” said Lettie with a smile.

“You could make a man of him, I am sure,” I said, bowing satirically to her.

“I am not interested,” she replied, also satirical.

Then she tossed her head, and all the fine hairs that were free from bonds made a mist of yellow light in the sun. “What frock shall I wear, Mater?” she asked.

“Nay, don’t ask me,” replied her mother.

“I think I’ll wear the heliotrope — though this sun will fade it,” she said pensively. She was tall, nearly six feet in height, but slenderly formed. Her hair was yellow, tending towards a dun brown. She had beautiful eyes and brows, but not a nice nose. Her hands were very beautiful.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

She did not answer me.

“To Tempest’s!” I said. She did not reply.

“Well, I don’t know what you can see in him,” I continued. “Indeed!” said she. “He’s as good as most folk — ” then we both began to laugh.

“Not,” she continued blushing, “that I think anything about him. I’m merely going for a game of tennis. Are you coming?”

“What shall you say if I agree?” I asked.

“Oh!” she tossed her head. “We shall all be very pleased I’m sure.”

“Ooray!” said I with fine irony.

She laughed at me, blushed, and ran upstairs.

Half an hour afterwards she popped her head in the study to bid me good-bye, wishing to see if I appreciated her. She was so charming in her fresh linen frock and flowered hat, that I could not but be proud of her. She expected me to follow her to the window, for from between the great purple rhododendrons she waved me a lace mitten, then glinted on like a flower moving brightly through the green hazels. Her path lay through the wood in the opposite direction from Strelley Mill, down the red drive across the tree-scattered space to the highroad. This road ran along the end of our lakelet, Nethermere, for about a quarter of a mile. Nethermere is the lowest in a chain of three ponds. The other two are the upper and lower millponds at Strelley; this is the largest and most charming piece of water, a mile long and about a quarter of a mile in width. Our wood runs down to the water’s edge. On the opposite side, on a hill beyond the farthest corner of the lake, stands Highclose. It looks across the water at us in Woodside with one eye as it were, while our cottage casts a sidelong glance back again at the proud house, and peeps coyly through the trees.

I could see Lettie like a distant sail stealing along the water’s edge, her parasol flowing above. She turned through the wicket under the pine clump, climbed the steep field, and was enfolded again in the trees beside Highclose.

Leslie was sprawled on a camp-chair, under a copper beech on the lawn, his cigar glowing. He watched the ash grow strange and grey in the warm daylight, and he felt sorry for poor Nell Wycherley, whom he had driven that morning to the station, for would she not be frightfully cut up as the train whirled her farther and farther away? These girls are so daft with a fellow! But she was a nice little thing — he’d get Marie to write to her.

At this point he caught sight of a parasol fluttering along the drive, and immediately he fell in a deep sleep, with just a tiny slit in his slumber to allow him to see Lettie approach. She, finding her watchman ungallantly asleep, and his cigar, instead of his lamp, untrimmed, broke off a twig of syringa whose ivory buds had not yet burst with luscious scent. I know not how the end of his nose tickled in anticipation before she tickled him in reality, but he kept bravely still until the petals swept him. Then, starting from his sleep, he exclaimed:

“Lettie! I was dreaming of kisses!”

“On the bridge of your nose?” laughed she — ”But whose were the kisses?”

“Who produced the sensation?” he smiled.

“Since I only tapped your nose you should dream of — ”

“Go on!” said he, expectantly.

“Of Doctor Slop,” she replied, smiling to herself as she closed her parasol.

“I do not know the gentleman,” he said, afraid that she was laughing at him.

“No — your nose is quite classic,” she answered, giving him one of those brief intimate glances with which women flatter men so cleverly. He radiated with pleasure.





CHAPTER II



DANGLING THE APPLE





The long-drawn booming of the wind in the wood, and the sobbing and moaning in the maples and oaks near the house, had made Lettie restless. She did not want to go anywhere, she did not want to do anything, so she insisted on my just going out with her as far as the edge of the water. We crossed the tangle of fern and bracken, bramble and wild-raspberry canes that spread in the open space before the house, and we went down the grassy slope to the edge of Nethermere. The wind whipped up noisy little wavelets, and the cluck and clatter of these among the pebbles, the swish of the rushes and the freshening of the breeze against our faces, roused us.

The tall meadow-sweet was in bud along the tiny beach and we walked knee-deep among it, watching the foamy race of the ripples and the whitening of the willows on the far shore. At the place where Nethermere narrows to the upper end, and receives the brook from Strelley, the wood sweeps down and stands with its feet washed round with waters. We broke our way along the shore, crushing the sharp-scented wild mint, whose odour checks the breath, and examining here and there among the marshy places ragged nests of water-fowl, now deserted. Some slim young lapwings started at our approach, and sped lightly from us, their necks outstretched in straining fear of that which could not hurt them. One, two, fled cheeping into cover of the wood; almost instantly they coursed back again to where we stood, to dart off from us at an angle, in an ecstasy of bewilderment and terror.

“What had frightened the crazy little things?” asked Lettie.

“I don’t know. They’ve cheek enough sometimes; then they go whining, skelping off from a fancy as if they had a snake under their wings.”

Lettie, however, paid small attention to my eloquence. She pushed aside an elder bush, which graciously showered down upon her myriad crumbs from its flowers like slices of bread, and bathed her in a medicinal scent. I followed her, taking my dose, and was startled to hear her sudden, “Oh, Cyril!”

On the bank before us lay a black cat, both hind paws torn and bloody in a trap. It had no doubt been bounding forward after its prey when it was caught. It was gaunt and wild; no wonder it frightened the poor lapwings into cheeping hysteria. It glared at us fiercely, growling low.

“How cruel — oh, how cruel!” cried Lettie, shuddering.

I wrapped my cap and Lettie’s scarf over my hands and bent to open the trap. The cat struck with her teeth, tearing the cloth convulsively. When it was free, it sprang away with one bound, and fell panting, watching us.

I wrapped the creature in my jacket, and picked her up, murmuring:

“Poor Mrs Nickie Ben — we always prophesied it of you.”

“What will you do with it?” asked Lettie.

“It is one of the Strelley Mill cats,” said I, “and so I’ll take her home.”

The poor animal moved and murmured and I carried her, but we brought her home. They stared, on seeing me enter the kitchen coatless, carrying a strange bundle, while Lettie followed me.

“I have brought poor Mrs Nickie Ben,” said I, unfolding my burden.

“Oh, what a shame!” cried Emily, putting out her hand to touch the cat, but drawing quickly back, like the peewits. “This is how they all go,” said the mother.

“I wish keepers had to sit two or three days with their bare ankles in a trap,” said Mollie in vindictive tones.

We laid the poor brute on the rug, and gave it warm milk. It drank very little, being too feeble. Mollie, full of anger, fetched Mr Nickie Ben, another fine black cat, to survey his crippled mate. Mr Nickie Ben looked, shrugged his sleek shoulders, and walked away with high steps. There was a general feminine outcry on masculine callousness.

George came in for hot water. He exclaimed in surprise on seeing us, and his eyes became animated.

“Look at Mrs Nickie Ben,” cried Mollie. He dropped on his knees on the rug and lifted the wounded paws.

“Broken,” said he.

“How awful!” said Emily, shuddering violently, and leaving the room.

“Both?” I asked.

“Only one — look!”

“You are hurting her!” cried Lettie.

“It’s no good,” said he.

Mollie and the mother hurried out of the kitchen into the parlour.

“What are you going to do?” asked Lettie.

“Put her out of her misery,” he replied, taking up the poor cat. We followed him into the barn.

“The quickest way,” said he, “is to swing her round and knock her head against the wall.”

“You make me sick,” exclaimed Lettie.

“I’ll drown her then,” he said with a smile. We watched him morbidly, as he took a length of twine and fastened a noose round the animal’s neck, and near it an iron goose; he kept a long piece of cord attached to the goose.

“You’re not coming, are you?” said he. Lettie looked at him; she had grown rather white.

“It’ll make you sick,” he said. She did not answer, but followed him across the yard to the garden. On the bank of the lower millpond he turned again to us and said:

“Now for it! — you are chief mourners.” As neither of us replied, he smiled, and dropped the poor writhing cat into the water, saying, “Good-bye, Mrs Nickie Ben.”

We waited on the bank some time. He eyed us curiously. “Cyril,” said Lettie quietly, “isn’t it cruel? — isn’t it awful?” I had nothing to say.

“Do you mean me?” asked George.

“Not you in particular — everything! If we move the blood rises in our heel-prints.”

He looked at her seriously, with dark eyes.

“I had to drown her out of mercy,” said he, fastening the cord he held to an ash-pole. Then he went to get a spade, and with it, he dug a grave in the old black earth.

“If,” said he, “the poor old cat had made a prettier corpse, you’d have thrown violets on her.”

He had struck the spade into the ground, and hauled pup the iron goose.

“Well,” he said, surveying the hideous object, “haven’t her good looks gone! She was a fine cat.”

“Bury it and have done,” Lettie replied.

He did so asking: “Shall you have bad dreams after it?”

“Dreams do not trouble me,” she answered, turning away.

We went indoors, into the parlour, where Emily sat by a window, biting her finger. The room was long and not very high; there was a great rough beam across the ceiling. On the mantelpiece, and in the fireplace, and over the piano were wild flowers and fresh leaves plentifully scattered; the room was cool with the scent of the woods.

“Has he done it?” asked Emily — ”and did you watch him? If I had seen it I should have hated the sight of him, and I’d rather have touched a maggot than him.”

“I shouldn’t be particularly pleased if he touched me,” said Lettie.

“There is something so loathsome about callousness and brutality,” said Emily. “He fills me with disgust.”

“Does he?” said Lettie, smiling coldly. She went across to the old piano. “He’s only healthy. He’s never been sick, not anyway, yet.” She sat down and played at random, letting the numbed notes fall like dead leaves from the haughty, ancient piano.

Emily and I talked oh by the widow, about books and people. She was intensely serious, and generally succeeded in reducing me to the same state.

After a while, when the milking and feeding were finished, George came in. Lettie was still playing the piano. He asked her why she didn’t play something with a tune in it, and this caused her to turn round in her chair to give him a withering answer. His appearance, however, scattered her words like startled birds. He had come straight from washing in the scullery, to the parlour, and he stood behind Lettie’s chair, unconcernedly wiping the moisture from his arms. His sleeves were rolled up to the shoulder, and his shirt was opened wide at the breast. Lettie was somewhat taken aback by the sight of him standing with legs apart, dressed in dirty leggings and boots, and breeches torn at the knee, naked at the breast and arms.

“Why don’t you play something with a tune in it?” he repeated, rubbing the towel over his shoulders beneath the shirt.

“A tune!” she echoed, watching the swelling of his arms as he moved them, and the rise and fall of his breasts, wonderfully solid and white. Then having curiously examined the sudden meeting of the sun-hot skin with the white flesh in his throat, her eyes met his, and she turned again to the piano, while the colour grew in her ears, mercifully sheltered by a profusion of bright curls.

“What shall I play?” she asked, fingering the keys somewhat confusedly.

He dragged out a book of songs from a little heap of music, and set it before her.

“Which do you want to sing?” she asked, thrilling a little as she felt his arms so near her.

“Anything you like.”

“A love song?” she said.

“If you like — yes, a love song — ” he laughed with clumsy insinuation that made the girl writhe.

She did not answer, but began to play Sullivan’s “Tit Willow”. He had a passable bass voice, not of any great depth, and he sang with gusto. Then she gave him “Drink to me only with thine eyes”. At the end she turned and asked him if he liked the words. He replied that he thought them rather daft. But he looked at her with glowing brown eyes, as if in hesitating challenge.

“That’s because you have no wine in your eyes to pledge with,” she replied, answering his challenge with a blue blaze of her eyes. Then her eyelashes drooped on to her cheek. He laughed with a faint ring of consciousness, and asked her how could she know.

“Because,” she said slowly, looking up at him with pretended scorn, “because there’s no change in your eyes when I look at you. I always think people who are worth much talk with their eyes. That’s why you are forced to respect many quite uneducated people. Their eyes are so eloquent, and full of knowledge.” She had continued to look at him as she spoke — watching his faint appreciation of her upturned face, and her hair, where the light was always tangled, watching his brief self-examination to see if he could feel any truth in her words, watching till he broke into a little laugh which was rather more awkward and less satisfied than usual. Then she turned away, smiling also.

“There’s nothing in this book nice to sing,” she said, turning over the leaves discontentedly. I found her a volume, and she sang “Should he upbraid”. She had a fine soprano voice, and the song delighted him. He moved nearer to her, and when at the finish she looked round with a flashing, mischievous air, she found him pledging her with wonderful eyes.

“You like that,” said she with the air of superior knowledge, as if, dear me, all one had to do was to turn over to the right page of the vast volume of one’s soul to suit these people.

“I do,” he answered emphatically, thus acknowledging her triumph.

“I’d rather ‘dance and sing’ round ‘wrinkled care’ than carefully shut the door on him, while I slept in the chimney-seat wouldn’t you?” she asked.

He laughed, and began to consider what she meant before he replied.

“As you do,” she added.

“What?” he asked.

“Keep half your senses asleep — half alive.”

“Do I?” he asked.

“Of course you do; — ’bos bovis; an ox.’ You are like a stalled ox, food and comfort, no more. Don’t you love comfort?” she smiled.

“Don’t you?” he replied, smiling shamefaced.

“Of course. Come and turn over for me while I play this piece. Well, I’ll nod when you must turn — bring a chair.” She began to play a romance of Schubert’s. He leaned nearer to her to take hold of the leaf of music; she felt her loose hair touch his face, and turned to him a quick, laughing glance, while she played. At the end of the page she nodded, but he was oblivious; “Yes!” she said, suddenly impatient, and he tried to get the leaf over; she quickly pushed his hand aside, turned the page herself and continued playing.

“Sorry!” said he, blushing actually.

“Don’t bother,” she said, continuing to play without observing him. When she had finished:

“There!” she said, “now tell me how you felt while I was playing.”

“Oh — a fool!” — he replied, covered with confusion.

“I’m glad to hear it,” she said — ”but I didn’t mean that. I meant how did the music make you feel?”

“I don’t know — whether — it made me feel anything,” he replied deliberately, pondering over his answer, as usual.

“I tell you,” she declared, “you’re either asleep or stupid. Did you really see nothing in the music? But what did you think about?”

He laughed — and thought awhile — and laughed again.

“Why!” he admitted, laughing, and trying to tell the exact truth, “I thought how pretty your hands are — and what they are like to touch — and I thought it was a new experience to feel somebody’s hair tickling my cheek.” When he had finished his deliberate account she gave his hand a little knock, and left him saying:

“You are worse and worse.”

She came across the room to the couch where I was sitting talking to Emily, and put her arm around my neck.

“Isn’t it time to go home, Pat?” she asked.

“Half-past eight — quite early,” said I.

“But I believe — I think I ought to be home now,” she said. “Don’t go,” said he.

“Why?” I asked.

“Stay to supper,” urged Emily.

“But I believe — ” she hesitated.

“She has another fish to fry,” I said.

“I am not sure — ” she hesitated again. Then she flashed into sudden wrath, exclaiming, “Don’t be so mean and nasty, Cyril!”

“Were you going somewhere?” asked George humbly. “Why — no!” she said, blushing.

“Then stay to supper — will you?” he begged. She laughed, and yielded. We went into the kitchen. Mr. Saxton was sitting reading. Trip, the big bull terrier, lay at his feet pretending to sleep; Mr Nickie Ben reposed calmly on the sofa; Mrs Saxton and Mollie were just going to bed. We bade them good night, and sat down. Annie, the servant, had gone home, so Emily prepared the supper.

“Nobody can touch that piano like you,” said Mr Saxton to Lettie, beaming upon her with admiration and deference. He was proud of the stately, mumbling old thing, and used to say that it was full of music for those that liked to ask for it. Lettie laughed, and said that so few folks ever tried it, that her honour was not great.

“What do you think of our George’s singing?” asked the father proudly, but with a deprecating laugh at the end.

“I tell him, when he’s in love he’ll sing quite well,” she said.

“When he’s in love!” echoed the father, laughing aloud, very pleased.

“Yes,” she said, “when he finds out something he wants and can’t have.”

George thought about it, and he laughed also.

Emily, who was laying the table, said, “There is hardly any water in the pippin, George.”

“Oh, dash!” he exclaimed, “I’ve taken my boots off.”

“It’s not a very big job to put them on again,” said his sister. “Why couldn’t Annie fetch it — what’s she here for?” he said angrily.

Emily looked at us, tossed her head, and turned her back on him.

“I’ll go, I’ll go, after supper,” said the father in a comforting tone.

“After supper!” laughed Emily.

George got up and shuffled out. He had to go into the spinney near the house to a well, and being warm disliked turning out.

We had just sat down to supper when Trip rushed barking to the door. “Be quiet,” ordered the father, thinking of those in bed, and he followed the dog.

It was Leslie. He wanted Lettie to go home with him at once. This she refused to do, so he came indoors, and was persuaded to sit down at table. He swallowed a morsel of bread and cheese, and a cup of coffee, talking to Lettie of a garden party which was going to be arranged at Highclose for the following week.

“What is it for then?” interrupted Mr Saxton.

“For?” echoed Leslie.

“Is it for the missionaries, or the unemployed, or something?” explained Mr Saxton.

“It’s a garden-party, not a bazaar,” said Leslie.

“Oh — a private affair. I thought it would be some church matter of your mother’s. She’s very big at the church, isn’t she?”

“She is interested in the church — yes!” said Leslie, then proceeding to explain to Lettie that he was arranging a tennis tournament in which she was to take part. At this point he became aware that he was monopolising the conversation, and turned to George, just as the latter was taking a piece of cheese from his knife with his teeth, asking:

“Do you play tennis, Mr Saxton? — I know Miss Saxton does not.”

“No,” said George, working the piece of cheese into his cheek. “I never learned any ladies’ accomplishments.”

Leslie turned to Emily, who had nervously been pushing two plates over a stain in the cloth, and who was very startled when she found herself addressed.

“My mother would be so glad if you would come to the party, Miss Saxton.”

“I cannot. I shall be at school. Thanks very much.”

“Ah — it’s very good of you,” said the father, beaming. But George smiled contemptuously.

When supper was over Leslie looked at Lettie to inform her that he was ready to go. She, however, refused to see his look, but talked brightly to Mr Saxton, who was delighted. George, flattered, joined in the talk with gusto. Then Leslie’s angry silence began to tell on us all. After a dull lapse, George lifted his head and said to his father:

“Oh, I shouldn’t be surprised if that little red heifer calved tonight.”

Lettie’s eyes flashed with a sparkle of amusement at this thrust.

“No,” assented the father, “I thought so myself.”

After a moment’s silence, George continued deliberately, “I felt her gristles — ”

“George!” said Emily sharply.

“We will go,” said Leslie.

George looked up sideways at Lettie and his black eyes were full of sardonic mischief.

“Lend me a shawl, will you, Emily?” said Lettie. “I brought nothing, and I think the wind is cold.”

Emily, however, regretted that she had no shawl, and so Lettie must needs wear a black coat over her summer dress. It fitted so absurdly that we all laughed, but Leslie was very angry that she should appear ludicrous before them. He showed her all the polite attentions possible, fastened the neck of her coat with his pearl scarf-pin, refusing the pin Emily discovered, after some search. Then we sallied forth.

When we were outside, he offered Lettie his arm with an air of injured dignity. She refused it and he began to remonstrate. “I consider you ought to have been home as you promised.”

“Pardon me.” she replied, “but I did not promise.”

“But you knew I was coming,” said he.

“Well — you found me,” she retorted.

“Yes,” he assented. “I did find you; flirting with a common fellow,” he sneered.

“Well,” she returned. “He did — it is true — call a heifer, a heifer.”

“And I should think you liked it,” he said.

“I didn’t mind,” she said, with galling negligence.

“I thought your taste was more refined,” he replied sarcastically. “But I suppose you thought it romantic.”

“Very! Ruddy, dark, and really thrilling eyes,” said she.

“I hate to hear a girl talk rot,” said Leslie. He himself had crisp hair of the “ginger” class.

“But I mean it,” she insisted, aggravating his anger. Leslie was angry. “I’m glad he amuses you!”

“Of course, I’m not hard to please,” she said pointedly. He was stung to the quick.

“Then there’s some comfort in knowing I don’t please you,” he said coldly.

“Oh! but you do! You amuse me also,” she said.

After that he would not speak, preferring, I suppose, not to amuse her.

Lettie took my arm, and with her disengaged hand held her skirts above the wet grass. When he had left us at the end of the riding in the wood, Lettie said:

“What an infant he is!”

“A bit of an ass,” I admitted.

“But really!” she said, “he’s more agreeable on the whole than — than my Taurus.”

“Your bull!” I repeated, laughing.





CHAPTER III



A VENDOR OF VISIONS





The Sunday following Lettie’s visit to the mill, Leslie came up in the morning, admirably dressed, and perfected by a grand air. I showed him into the dark drawing-room, and left him. Ordinarily he would have wandered to the stairs, and sat there calling to Lettie; today he was silent. I carried the news of his arrival to my sister, who was pinning on her brooch.

“And how is the dear boy?” she asked.

“I have not inquired,” said I.

She laughed, and loitered about till it was time to set off for church before she came downstairs. Then she also assumed the grand air and bowed to him with a beautiful bow. He was somewhat taken aback and had nothing to say. She rustled across the room to the window, where the white geraniums grew magnificently. “I must adorn myself,” she said.

It was Leslie’s custom to bring her flowers. As he had not done so this day, she was piqued. He hated the scent and chalky whiteness of the geraniums. So she smiled at him as she pinned them into the bosom of her dress, saying:

“They are very fine, are they not?”

He muttered that they were. Mother came downstairs, greeted him warmly, and asked him if he would take her to church.

“If you will allow me,” said he.

“You are modest today,” laughed Mother.

“Today!” he repeated.

“I hate modesty in a young man,” said Mother — ”Come, we shall be late.” Lettie wore the geraniums all day — till evening. She brought Alice Gall home to tea, and bade me bring up “Mon Taureau”, when his farm work was over.

The day had been hot and close. The sun was reddening in the west as we leaped across the lesser brook. The evening scents began to awake, and wander unseen through the still air. An occasional yellow sunbeam would slant through the thick roof of leaves and cling passionately to the orange clusters of mountain-ash berries. The trees were silent, drawing together to sleep. Only a few pink orchids stood palely by the path, looking wistfully out at the ranks of red-purple bugle, whose last flowers, glowing from the top of the bronze column, yearned darkly for the sun.

We sauntered on in silence, not breaking the first hush of the woodlands. As we drew near home we heard a murmur from among the trees, from the lover’s seat, where a great tree had fallen and remained mossed and covered with fragile growth. There a crooked bough made a beautiful seat for two.

“Fancy being in love and making a row in such a twilight,” said I as we continued our way. But when we came opposite the fallen tree, we saw no lovers there, but a man sleeping, and muttering through his sleep. The cap had fallen from his grizzled hair, and his head leaned back against a profusion of the little wild geraniums that decorated the dead bough so delicately. The man’s clothing was good, but slovenly and neglected. His face was pale and worn with sickness and dissipation. As he slept, his grey beard wagged, and his loose unlovely mouth moved in indistinct speech. He was acting over again some part of his life, and his features twitched during the unnatural sleep. He would give a little groan, gruesome to hear, and then talk to some woman. His features twitched as if with pain, and he moaned slightly.

The lips opened in a grimace, showing the yellow teeth behind the beard. Then he began again talking in his throat, thickly, so that we could only tell part of what he said. It was very unpleasant. I wondered how we should end it. Suddenly through the gloom of the twilight-haunted woods came the scream of a rabbit caught by a weasel. The man awoke with a sharp “Ah!” — he looked round in consternation, then sinking down again wearily, said, “I was dreaming again.”

“You don’t seem to have nice dreams,” said George.

The man winced then, looking at us, said, almost sneering: “And who are you?”

We did not answer, but waited for him to move. He sat still, looking at us.

“So!” he said at last, wearily, “I do dream. I do, I do.” He sighed heavily. Then he added, sarcastically, “Were you interested?”

“No,” said I. “But you are out of your way surely. Which road did you want?”

“You want me to clear out,” he said.

“Well,” I said, laughing in deprecation, “I don’t mind your dreaming. But this is not the way to anywhere.”

“Where may you be going then?” he asked.

“I? Home,” I replied with dignity.

“You are a Beardsall?” he queried, eyeing me with bloodshot eyes.

“I am!” I replied with more dignity, wondering who the fellow could be.

He sat a few moments looking at me. It was getting dark in the wood. Then he took up an ebony stick with a gold head, and rose. The stick seemed to catch at my imagination. I watched it curiously as we walked with the old man along the path to the gate. We went with him into the open road. When we reached the clear sky where the light from the west fell full on our faces, he turned again and looked at us closely. His mouth opened sharply, as if he would speak, but he stopped himself, and only said, “Good-bye — Good-bye.”

“Shall you be all right?” I asked, seeing him totter. “Yes — all right — good-bye, lad.”

He walked away feebly into the darkness. We saw the lights of a vehicle on the high-road: after a while we heard the bang of a door, and a cab rattled away.

“Well — whoever’s he?” said George, laughing.

“Do you know,” said I, “it’s made me feel a bit rotten.”

“Ay?” he laughed, turning up the end of the exclamation with indulgent surprise.

We went back home, deciding to say nothing to the women. They were sitting in the window seat watching for us, Mother and Alice and Lettie.

“You have been a long time!” said Lettie. “We’ve watched the sun go down — it set splendidly — look — the rim of the hill is smouldering yet. What have you been doing?”

“Waiting till your Taurus finished work.”

“Now be quiet,” she said hastily, and — turning to him — ”You have come to sing hymns?”

“Anything you like,” he replied.

“How nice of you, George!” exclaimed Alice, ironically. She was a short, plump girl, pale, with daring, rebellious eyes. Her mother was a Wyld, a family famous either for shocking lawlessness, or for extreme uprightness. Alice, with an admirable father, and a mother who loved her husband passionately, was wild and lawless on the surface, but at heart very upright and amenable. My mother and she were fast friends, and Lettie had a good deal of sympathy with her. But Lettie generally deplored Alice’s outrageous behaviour, though she relished it — if “superior” friends were not present. Most men enjoyed Alice in company, but they fought shy of being alone with her.

“Would you say the same to me?” she asked.

“It depends what you’d answer,” he said, laughingly.

“Oh, you’re so bloomin’ cautious. I’d rather have a tack in my shoe than a cautious man, wouldn’t you, Lettie?”

“Well — it depends how far I had to walk,” was Lettie’s reply — ”but if I hadn’t to limp too far — — ”

Alice turned away from Lettie, whom she often found rather irritating.

“You do look glum, Sybil,” she said to me, “did somebody want to kiss you?”

I laughed — on the wrong side, understanding her malicious feminine reference — and answered:

“If they had, I should have looked happy.”

“Dear boy, smile now then” — and she tipped me under the chin. I drew away.

“Oh, Gum — we are solemn! What’s the matter with you? Georgie — say something — else I’s’ll begin to feel nervous.”

“What shall I say?” he asked, shifting his feet and resting his elbows on his knees. “Oh, Lor!” she cried in great impatience. He did not help her, but sat clasping his hands, smiling on one side of his face. He was nervous. He looked at the pictures, the ornaments, and everything in the room; Lettie got up to settle some flowers on the mantelpiece, and he scrutinised her closely. She was dressed in some blue foulard stuff, with lace at the throat, and lace cuffs to the elbow. She was tall and supple; her hair had a curling fluffiness very charming. He was no taller than she, and looked shorter, being strongly built. He too had a grace of his own, but not as he sat stiffly on a horse-hair chair. She was elegant in her movements.

After a little while Mother called us in to supper.

“Come,” said Lettie to him, “take me in to supper.” He rose, feeling very awkward.

“Give me your arm,” said she to tease him. He did so, and flushed under his tan, afraid of her round arm half hidden by lace, which lay among his sleeve.

When we were seated she flourished her spoon and asked him what he would have. He hesitated, looked at the strange dishes, and said he would have some cheese. They insisted on his eating new, complicated meats.

“I’m sure you like tantafflins, don’t you, Georgie?” said Alice, in her mocking fashion. He was not sure. He could not analyse the flavours, he felt confused and bewildered even through his sense of taste! Alice begged him to have salad.

“No, thanks,” said he. “I don’t like it.”

“Oh, George!” she said. “How can you say so when I’m offering it you.”

“Well — I’ve only had it once,” said he, “and that was when I was working with Flint, and he gave us fat bacon and bits of lettuce soaked in vinegar — ’Ave a bit more salt,’ he kept saying, but I’d had enough.”

“But all our lettuce,” said Alice with a wink, “is as sweet as a nut, no vinegar about our lettuce.” George laughed in much confusion at her pun on my sister’s name.

“I believe you,” he said, with pompous gallantry.

“Think of that!” cried Alice. “Our Georgie believes me. Oh, I am so, so pleased!”

He smiled painfully. His hand was resting on the table, the thumb tucked tight under the fingers, his knuckles white as he nervously gripped his thumb. At last supper was finished, and he picked up his serviette from the floor and began to fold it. Lettie also seemed ill at ease. She had teased him till the sense of his awkwardness had become uncomfortable. Now she felt sorry, and a trifle repentant, so she went to the piano, as she always did to dispel her moods. When she was angry she played tender fragments of Tchaikovsky, when she was miserable, Mozart. Now she played Handel in a manner that suggested the plains of heaven in the long notes, and in the little trills as if she were waltzing up the ladder of Jacob’s dream like the damsels in Blake’s pictures. I often told her she flattered herself scandalously through the piano; but generally she pretended not to understand me, and occasionally she surprised me by a sudden rush of tears to her eyes. For George’s sake, she played Gounod’s “Ave Maria”, knowing that the sentiment of the chant would appeal to him, and make him sad, forgetful of the petty evils of this life. I smiled as I watched the cheap spell working. When she had finished, her fingers lay motionless for a minute on the keys, then she spun round, and looked him straight in the eyes, giving promise of a smile. But she glanced down at her knee.

“You are tired of music,” she said.

“No,” he replied, shaking his head.

“Like it better than salad?” she asked with a flash of raillery.

He looked up at her with a sudden smile, but did not reply. He was not handsome; his features were too often in a heavy repose; but when he looked up and smiled unexpectedly, he flooded her with an access of tenderness.

“Then you’ll have a little more,” said she, and she turned again to the piano. She played soft, wistful morsels, then suddenly broke off in the midst of one sentimental plaint, and left the piano, dropping into a low chair by the fire. There she sat and looked at him. He was conscious that her eyes were fixed on him, but he dared not look back at her, so he pulled his moustache.

“You are only a boy, after all,” she said to him quietly. Then he turned and asked her why.

“It is a boy that you are,” she repeated, leaning back in her chair, and smiling lazily at him.

“I never thought so,” he replied seriously.

“Really?” she said, chuckling.

“No,” said he, trying to recall his previous impressions. She laughed heartily, saying:

“You’re growing up.”

“How?” he asked.

“Growing up,” she repeated, still laughing.

“But I’m sure I was never boyish,” said he.

“I’m teaching you,” said she, “and when you’re boyish you’ll be a very decent man. A mere man daren’t be a boy for fear of tumbling off his manly dignity, and then he’d be a fool, poor thing.”

He laughed, and sat still to think about it, as was his way. “Do you like pictures?” she asked suddenly, being tired of looking at him.

“Better than anything,” he replied.

“Except dinner, and a warm hearth and a lazy evening,” she said.

He looked at her suddenly, hardening at her insult, and biting his lips at the taste of this humiliation. She repented, and smiled her plaintive regret to him.

“I’ll show you some,” she said, rising and going out of the room. He felt he was nearer her. She returned, carrying a pile of great books.

“Jove — you’re pretty strong!” said he.

“You are charming in your compliment,” she said. He glanced at her to see if she were mocking.

“That’s the highest you could say of me, isn’t it?” she insisted.

“Is it?” he asked, unwilling to compromise himself.

“For sure,” she answered — and then, laying the books on the table, “I know how a man will compliment me by the way he looks at me” — she kneeled before the fire. “Some look at my hair, some watch the rise and fall of my breathing, some look at my neck, and a few — not you among them — look me in the eyes for my thoughts. To you, I’m a fine specimen, strong! Pretty strong! You primitive man!”

He sat twisting his fingers; she was very contrary.

“Bring your chair up,” she said, sitting down at the table and opening a book. She talked to him of each picture, insisting on hearing his opinion. Sometimes he disagreed with her and would not be persuaded. At such times she was piqued.

“If,” said she, “an ancient Briton in his skins came and contradicted me as you do, wouldn’t you tell him not to make an ass of himself?”

“I don’t know,” said he.

“Then you ought to,” she replied. “You know nothing.”

“How is it you ask me then?” he said.

She began to laugh.

“Why — that’s a pertinent question. I think you might be rather nice, you know.”

“Thank you,” he said, smiling ironically.

“Oh!” she said. “I know, you think you’re perfect, but you’re not, you’re very annoying.”

“Yes,” exclaimed Alice, who had entered the room again, dressed ready to depart. “He’s so blooming slow! Great whizz! Who wants fellows to carry cold dinners? Shouldn’t you like to shake him, Lettie?”

“I don’t feel concerned enough,” replied the other calmly. “Did you ever carry a boiled pudding, Georgie?” asked Alice with innocent interest, punching me slyly.

“Me! — why? — what makes you ask?” he replied, quite at a loss.

“Oh, I only wondered if your people needed any indigestion mixture — Pa mixes it — 1/1½ a bottle.”

“I don’t see — ” he began.

“Ta — ta, old boy, I’ll give you time to think about it. Good night, Lettie. Absence makes the heart grow fonder — Georgie — of someone else. Farewell. Come along, Sybil love, the moon is shining — Good night all, good night!”

I escorted her home, while they continued to look at the pictures. He was a romanticist. He liked Copley, Fielding, Cattermole and Birket Foster; he could see nothing whatsoever in Girtin or David Cox. They fell out decidedly over George Clausen.

“But,” said Lettie, “he is a real realist, he makes common things beautiful, he sees the mystery and magnificence that envelops us even when we work menially. I do know and I can speak. If I hoed in the fields beside you — ” This was a very new idea for him, almost a shock to his imagination, and she talked unheeded. The picture under discussion was a water-colour — ”Hoeing” by Clausen.

“You’d be just that colour in the sunset,” she said, thus bringing him back to the subject, “and if you looked at the ground you’d find there was a sense of warm gold fire in it, and once you’d perceived the colour, it would strengthen till you’d see nothing else. You are blind; you are only half-born; you are gross with good living and heavy sleeping. You are a piano which will only play a dozen common notes. Sunset is nothing to you — it merely happens anywhere. Oh, but you make me feel as if I’d like to make you suffer. If you’d ever been sick; if you’d ever been born into a home where there was something oppressed you, and you couldn’t understand; if ever you’d believed, or even doubted, you might have been a man by now. You never grow up, like bulbs which spend all summer getting fat and fleshy, but never wakening the germ of a flower. As for me, the flower is born in me, but it wants bringing forth. Things don’t flower if they’re overfed. You have to suffer before you blossom in this life. When death is just touching a plant, it forces it into a passion of flowering. You wonder how I have touched death. You don’t know. There’s always a sense of death in this home. I believe my mother hated my father before I was born. That was death in her veins for me before I was born. It makes a difference — ”

As he sat listening, his eyes grew wide and his lips were parted, like a child who feels the tale but does not understand the words. She, looking away from herself at last, saw him, began to laugh gently, and patted his hand, saying:

“Oh! my dear heart, are you bewildered? How amiable of you to listen to me — there isn’t any meaning in it all — there isn’t really!”

“But,” said he, “why do you say it?”

“Oh, the question!” she laughed. “Let us go back to our muttons, we’re gazing at each other like two dazed images.” They turned on, chatting casually, till George suddenly exclaimed, “There!”

It was Maurice Griffinhagen’s “Idyll”.

“What of it?” she asked, gradually flushing. She remembered her own enthusiasm over the picture.

“Wouldn’t it be fine?” he exclaimed, looking at her with glowing eyes, his teeth showing white in a smile that was not amusement.

“What?” she asked, dropping her head in confusion. “That — a girl like that — half afraid — and passion!” He lit up curiously.

“She may well be half afraid, when the barbarian comes out in his glory, skins and all.”

“But don’t you like it?” he asked.

She shrugged her shoulders, saying, “Make love to the next girl you meet, and by the time the poppies redden the field, she’ll hang in your arms. She’ll have need to be more than half afraid, won’t she?”

She played with the leaves of the book, and did not look at him.

“But,” he faltered, his eyes glowing, “it would be — rather — ”

“Don’t, sweet lad, don’t!” she cried, laughing.

“But I shouldn’t — ” he insisted. “I don’t know whether I should like any girl I know to — ”

“Precious Sir Galahad,” she said in a mock caressing voice, and stroking his cheek with her finger, “you ought to have been a monk — a martyr, a Carthusian.”

He laughed, taking no notice. He was breathlessly quivering under the new sensation of heavy, unappeased fire in his breast, and in the muscles of his arms. He glanced at her bosom and shivered.

“Are you studying just how to play the part?” she asked.

“No — but — ” he tried to look at her, but failed. He shrank, laughing, and dropped his head.

“What?” she asked with vibrant curiosity.

Having become a few degrees calmer, he looked up at her now, his eyes wide and vivid with a declaration that made her shrink back as if flame had leaped towards her face. She bent down her head and picked at her dress.

“Didn’t you know the picture before?” she said, in a low, toneless voice.

He shut his eyes and shrank with shame.

“No, I’ve never seen it before,” he said.

“I’m surprised,” she said. “It is a very common one.”

“Is it?” he answered, and this make-belief conversation fell. She looked up, and found his eyes. They gazed at each other for a moment before they hid their faces again. It was a torture to each of them to look thus nakedly at the other, a dazzled, shrinking pain that they forced themselves to undergo for a moment, that they might the moment after tremble with a fierce sensation that filled their veins with fluid, fiery electricity. She sought, almost in panic, for something to say.

“I believe it’s in Liverpool, the picture,” she contrived to say.

He dared not kill this conversation, he was too self-conscious. He forced himself to reply, “I didn’t know there was a gallery in Liverpool.”

“Oh yes, a very good one,” she said.

Their eyes met in the briefest flash of a glance, then both turned their faces aside. Thus averted, one from the other, they made talk. At last she rose, gathered the books together, and carried them off. At the door she turned. She must steal another keen moment: “Are you admiring my strength?” she asked. Her pose was fine. With her head thrown back, the roundness of her throat ran finely down to the bosom, which swelled above the pile of books held by her straight arms. He looked at her. Their lips smiled curiously. She put back her throat as if she were drinking. They felt the blood beating madly in their necks. Then, suddenly breaking into a slight trembling, she turned round and left the room.

While she was out, he sat twisting his moustache. She came back along the hall talking madly to herself in French. Having been much impressed by Sarah Bernhardt’s “Dame aux Camélias” and “Adrienne Lecouvreur”, Lettie had caught something of the weird tone of this great actress, and her raillery and mockery came out in little wild waves. She laughed at him, and at herself, and at men in general, and at love in particular. Whatever he said to her, she answered in the same mad clatter of French, speaking high and harshly. The sound was strange and uncomfortable. There was a painful perplexity in his brow, such as I often perceived afterwards, a sense of something hurting, something he could not understand.

“Well, well, well, well!” she exclaimed at last. “We must be mad sometimes, or we should be getting aged, hein?”

“I wish I could understand,” he said plaintively.

“Poor dear!” she laughed. “How sober he is! And will you really go? They will think we’ve given you no supper, you look so sad.”

“I have supped — full — ” he began, his eyes dancing with a smile as he ventured upon a quotation. He was very much excited.

“Of horrors!” she cried, completing it. “Now that is worse than anything I have given you.”

“Is it?” he replied, and they smiled at each other.

“Far worse,” she answered. They waited in suspense for some moments. He looked at her.

“Good-bye,” she said, holding out her hand. Her voice was full of insurgent tenderness. He looked at her again, his eyes flickering. Then he took her hand. She pressed his fingers, holding them a little while. Then ashamed of her display of feeling, she looked down. He had a deep cut across his thumb.

“What a gash!” she exclaimed, shivering, and clinging a little tighter to his fingers before she released them. He gave a little laugh.

“Does it hurt you?” she asked very gently.

He laughed again — ”No!” he said softly, as if his thumb were not worthy of consideration.

They smiled again at each other, and, with a blind movement, he broke the spell and was gone.





CHAPTER IV



THE FATHER





Autumn set in, and the red dahlias which kept the warm light alive in their bosoms so late into the evening died in the night, and the morning had nothing but brown balls of rottenness to show.

They called me as I passed the post office door in Eberwich one evening, and they gave me a letter for my mother. The distorted, sprawling handwriting perplexed me with a dim uneasiness; I put the letter away, and forgot it. I remembered it later in the evening, when I wished to recall something to interest my mother. She looked at the handwriting, and began hastily and nervously to tear open the envelope; she held it away from her in the light of the lamp, and with eyes drawn half closed, tried to scan it. So I found her spectacles, but she did not speak her thanks, and her hand trembled. She read the short letter quickly; then she sat down, and read it again, and continued to look at it.

“What is it, Mother?” I asked.

She did not answer, but continued staring at the letter. I went up to her, and put my hand on her shoulder, feeling very uncomfortable. She took no notice of me, beginning to murmur, “Poor Frank — Poor Frank.” That was my father’s name.

“But what is it, Mother? — tell me what’s the matter!”

She turned and looked at me as if I were a stranger; she got up, and began to walk about the room; then she left the room, and I heard her go out of the house.

The letter had fallen on to the floor. I picked it up. The handwriting was very broken. The address gave a village some few miles away; the date was three days before.

“My Dear Lettice:

“You will want to know I am gone. I can hardly last a day or two — my kidneys are nearly gone.

“I came over one day. I didn’t see you, but I saw the girl by the window, and I had a few words with the lad. He never knew, and he felt nothing. I think the girl might have done. If you knew how awfully lonely I am, Lettice — how awfully I have been, you might feel sorry.

“I have saved what I could, to pay you back. I have had the worst of it, Lettice, and I’m glad the end has come. I have had the worst of it.

“Good-bye — for ever — your husband,

“FRANK BEARDSALL.”

I was numbed by this letter of my father’s. With almost agonised effort I strove to recall him, But I knew that my image of a tall, handsome, dark man with pale grey eyes was made up from my mother’s few words, and from a portrait I had once seen.

The marriage had been unhappy. My father was of frivolous, rather vulgar character, but plausible, having a good deal of charm. He was a liar, without notion of honesty, and he had deceived my mother thoroughly. One after another she discovered his mean dishonesties and deceits, and her soul revolted from him, and because the illusion of him had broken into a thousand vulgar fragments, she turned away with the scorn of a woman who finds her romance has been a trumpery tale. When he left her for other pleasures — Lettie being a baby of three years, while I was five — she rejoiced bitterly. She had heard of him indirectly — and of him nothing good, although he prospered — but he had never come to see her or written to her in all the eighteen years.

In a while my mother came in. She sat down, pleating up the hem of her black apron, and smoothing it out again. “You know,” she said, “he had a right to the children, and I’ve kept them all the time.”

“He could have come,” said I.

“I set them against him, I have kept them from him, and he wanted them. I ought to be by him now — I ought to have taken you to him long ago.”

“But how could you, when you knew nothing of him?”

“He would have come — he wanted to come — I have felt it for years. But I kept him away. I know I have kept him away. I have felt it, and he has. Poor Frank — he’ll see his mistakes now. He would not have been as cruel as I have been — ”

“Nay, Mother, it is only the shock that makes you say so.”

“This makes me know. I have felt in myself a long time that he was suffering; I have had the feeling of him in me. I knew, yes, I did know he wanted me, and you, I felt it. I have had the feeling of him upon me this last three months especially...I have been cruel to him.”

“Well — we’ll go to him now, shall we?” I said. “Tomorrow — tomorrow,” she replied, noticing me really for the first time. “I go in the morning.”

“And I’ll go with you.”

“Yes — in the morning. Lettie has her party to Chatsworth — don’t tell her — we won’t tell her.”

“No,” said I.

Shortly after, my mother went upstairs. Lettie came in rather late from Highclose; Leslie did not come in. In the morning they were going with a motor party into Matloch and Chatsworth, and she was excited, and did not observe anything.

After all, Mother and I could not set out until the warm tempered afternoon. The air was full of a soft yellowness when we stepped down from the train at Cossethay. My mother insisted on walking the long two miles to the village. We went slowly along the road, lingering over the little red flowers in the high hedge-bottom up the hillside. We were reluctant to come to our destination. As we came in sight of the little grey tower of the church, we heard the sound of braying, brassy music. Before us, filling a little croft, the Wakes was in full swing.

Some wooden horses careered gaily round, and the swingboats leaped into the mild blue sky. We sat upon the stile, my mother and I, and watched. There were booths, and coconut shies and roundabouts scattered in the small field. Groups of children moved quietly from attraction to attraction. A deeply tanned man came across the field swinging two dripping buckets of water. Women looked from the doors of their brilliant caravans, and lean dogs rose lazily and settled down again under the steps. The fair moved slowly, for all its noise. A stout lady, with a husky masculine voice, invited the excited children into her peep-show. A swarthy man stood with his thin legs astride on the platform of the roundabouts, and sloping backwards, his mouth distended with a row of fingers, he whistled astonishingly to the coarse row of the organ, and his whistling sounded clear, like the flight of a wild goose high over the chimney tops, as he was carried round and round. A little fat man with an ugly swelling on his chest stood screaming from a filthy booth to a crowd of urchins, bidding them challenge a big, stolid young man who stood with folded arms, his fists pushing out his biceps. On being asked if he would undertake any of these prospective challenges, this young man nodded, not having yet attained a talking stage: — yes he would take two at a time, screamed the little fat man with the big excrescence on his chest, pointing at the cowering lads and girls. Farther off, Punch’s quaint voice could be heard when the coconut man ceased grinding out screeches from his rattle. The coconut man was wroth, for these youngsters would not risk a penny shy, and the rattle yelled like a fiend. A little girl came along to look at us, daintily licking an ice-cream sandwich. We were uninteresting, however, so she passed on to stare at the caravans.

We had almost gathered courage to cross the wakes, when the cracked bell of the church sent its note falling over the babble.

“One — two — three” — had it really sounded three! Then it rang on a lower bell — ”One — two — three.” A passing bell for a man! I looked at my mother — she turned away from me.

The organ flared on — the husky woman came forward to make another appeal. Then there was a lull. The man with the lump on his chest had gone inside the rag to spar with the solid fellow. The coconut man had gone to the “Three Tunns” in fury, and a brazen girl of seventeen or so was in charge of the nuts. The horses careered round, carrying two frightened boys.

Suddenly the quick, throbbing note of the low bell struck again through the din. I listened — but could not keep count. One, two, three, four — for the third time that great lad had determined to go on the horses, and they had started while his foot was on the step, and he had been foiled — eight, nine, ten — no wonder that whistling man had such a big Adam’s apple — I wondered if it hurt his neck when he talked, being so pointed — nineteen, twenty — the girl was licking more ice-cream, with precious, tiny licks — twenty-five, twenty-six — I wondered if I did count to twenty-six mechanically. At this point I gave it up, and watched for Lord Tennyson’s bald head to come spinning round on the painted rim of the roundabouts, followed by a red-faced Lord Roberts, and a villainous-looking Disraeli.

“Fifty-one — ” said my mother. “Come — come along.” We hurried through the fair, towards the church; towards a garden where the last red sentinels looked out from the top of the hollyhock spires. The garden was a tousled mass of faded pink chrysanthemums, and weak-eyed Michaelmas daisies, and spectre stalks of hollyhocks. It belonged to a low, dark house, which crouched behind a screen of yews. We walked along to the front. The blinds were down, and in one room we could see the stale light of candles burning.

“Is this Yew Cottage?” asked my mother of a curious lad.

“It’s Mrs May’s,” replied the boy.

“Does she live alone?” I asked.

“She ‘ad French Carlin — but he’s dead — an’ she’s letten th’ candles ter keep th’ owd lad off’n ‘im.”

We went to the house and knocked.

“An’ ye come about him?” hoarsely whispered a bent old woman, looking up with very blue eyes, nodding her old head with its velvet net significantly towards the inner room.

“Yes — ” said my mother, “we had a letter.”

“Ay, poor fellow — he’s gone, missis,” and the old lady shook her head. Then she looked at us curiously, leaned forward, and, putting her withered old hand on my mother’s arm, her hand with its dark blue veins, she whispered in confidence, “And the candles ‘as gone out twice. ‘E wor a funny feller, very funny!”

“I must come in and settle things — I am his nearest relative,” said my mother, trembling.

“Yes — I must ‘a dozed, for when I looked up, it wor black darkness. Missis, I dursn’t sit up wi’ ‘im no more, an’ many a one I’ve laid out. Eh, but his sufferin’s, Missis — poor feller — eh, Missis!” — she lifted her ancient hands, and looked up at my mother, with her eyes so intensely blue.

“Do you know where he kept his papers?” asked my mother.

“Yis, I axed Father Burns about it; he said we mun pray for ‘im. I bought him candles out o’ my own pocket. He wor a rum feller, he wor!” and again she shook her grey head mournfully. My mother took a step forward.

“Did ye want to see ‘im?” asked the old woman with half-timid questioning.

“Yes,” replied my mother, with a vigorous nod. She perceived now that the old lady was deaf.

We followed the woman into the kitchen, a long, low room, dark, with drawn blinds.

“Sit ye down,” said the old lady in the same low tone, as if she were speaking to herself:

“Ye are his sister, ‘appen?”

My mother shook her head.

“Oh — his brother’s wife!” persisted the old lady.

We shook our heads.

“Only a cousin?” she guessed, and looked at us appealingly. I nodded assent.

“Sit ye there a minute,” she said, and trotted off. She banged the door, and jarred a chair as she went. When she returned, she set down a bottle and two glasses with a thump on the table in front of us. Her thin, skinny wrist seemed hardly capable of carrying the bottle.

“It’s one as he’d only just begun of — ’ave a drop to keep ye up — do now, poor thing,” she said, pushing the bottle to my mother and hurrying off, returning with the sugar and the kettle. We refused.

“‘E won’t want it no more, poor feller — an’ it’s good, Missis, he allers drank it good. Ay — an’ ‘e ‘adn’t a drop the last three days, poor man, poor feller, not a drop. Come now, it’ll stay ye, come now.” We refused.

“‘T’s in there,” she whispered, pointing to a closed door in a dark corner of the gloomy kitchen. I stumbled up a little step, and went plunging against a rickety table on which was a candle in a tall brass candlestick. Over went the candle, and it rolled on the floor, and the brass holder fell with much clanging.

“Eh! — Eh! Dear — Lord, Dear — Heart. Dear — Heart!” wailed the old woman. She hastened trembling round to the other side of the bed, and relit the extinguished candle at the taper which was still burning. As she returned, the light glowed on her old, wrinkled face, and on the burnished knobs of the dark mahogany bedstead, while a stream of wax dripped down on to the floor. By the glimmering light of the two tapers we could see the outlined form under the counterpane. She turned back the hem and began to make painful wailing sounds. My heart was beating heavily, and I felt choked. I did not want to look — but I must. It was the man I had seen in the woods — with the puffiness gone from his face. I felt the great wild pity, and a sense of terror, and a sense of horror, and a sense of awful littleness and loneliness among a great empty space. I felt beyond myself as if I were a mere fleck drifting unconsciously through the dark. Then I felt my mother’s arm round my shoulders, and she cried pitifully, “Oh, my son, my son!”

I shivered, and came back to myself. There were no tears in my mother’s face, only a great pleading. “Never mind, Mother — never mind,” I said incoherently.

She rose and covered the face again, and went round to the old lady, and held her still, and stayed her little wailings. The woman wiped from her cheeks the few tears of old age, and pushed her grey hair smooth under the velvet network.

“Where are all his things?” asked mother.

“Eh?” said the old lady, lifting up her ear.

“Are all his things here?” repeated mother in a louder tone.

“Here?” — the woman waved her hand round the room. It contained the great mahogany bedstead naked of hangings, a desk, and an oak chest, and two or three mahogany chairs. “I couldn’t get him upstairs; he’s only been here about a three week.”

“Where’s the key to the desk?” said my mother loudly in the woman’s ear.

“Yes,” she replied — ”it’s his desk.” She looked at us, perplexed and doubtful, fearing she had misunderstood us. This was dreadful.

“Key!” I shouted. “Where is the key?”

Her old face was full of trouble as she shook her head. I took it that she did not know.

“Where are his clothes? Clothes,” I repeated, pointing to my coat. She understood, and muttered, “I’ll fetch ‘em ye.” We should have followed her as she hurried upstairs through a door near the head of the bed, had we not heard a heavy footstep in the kitchen, and a voice saying, “Is the old lady going to drink with the Devil? Hullo, Mrs May, come and drink with me!” We heard the tinkle of the liquor poured into a glass, and almost immediately the light tap of the empty tumbler on the table.

“I’ll see what the old girl’s up to,” he said, and the heavy tread came towards us. Like me, he stumbled at the little step, but escaped collision with the table.

“Damn that fool’s step,” he said heartily. It was the doctor — for he kept his hat on his head, and did not hesitate to stroll about the house. He was a big, burly, red-faced man.

“I beg your pardon,” he said, observing my mother. My mother bowed.

“Mrs Beardsall?” he asked, taking off his hat.

My mother bowed.

“I posted a letter to you. You are a relative of his — of poor old Carlin’s?” — he nodded sideways towards the bed. “The nearest,” said my mother.

“Poor fellow — he was a bit stranded. Comes of being a bachelor, Ma’am.”

“I was very much surprised to hear from him,” said my mother.

“Yes, I guess he’s not been much of a one for writing to his friends. He’s had a bad time lately. You have to pay some time or other. We bring them on ourselves — silly devils as we are. — I beg your pardon.”

There was a moment of silence, during which the doctor sighed, and then began to whistle softly.

“Well — we might be more comfortable if we had the blind up,” he said, letting daylight in among the glimmer of the tapers as he spoke.

“At any rate,” he said, “you won’t have any trouble settling up — no debts or anything of that. I believe there’s a bit to leave — so it’s not so bad. Poor devil — he was very down at the last; but we have to pay at one end or the other. What on earth is the old girl after?” he asked, looking up at the raftered ceiling, which was rumbling and thundering with the old lady’s violent rummaging.

“We wanted the key of his desk,” said my mother.

“Oh — I can find you that — and the will. He told me where they were, and to give them you when you came. He seemed to think a lot of you. Perhaps he might ha’ done better for himself — ”

Here we heard the heavy tread of the old lady coming downstairs. The doctor went to the foot of the stairs.

“Hello, now — be careful!” he bawled. The poor old woman did as he expected, and trod on the braces of the trousers she was trailing, and came crashing into his arms. He set her tenderly down, saying, “Not hurt, are you? — no!” and he smiled at her and shook his head.

“Eh, Doctor — Eh, Doctor — bless ye, I’m thankful ye’ve come. Ye’ll see to ‘em now, will ye?”

“Yes — ” he nodded in his bluff, winning way, and hurrying into the kitchen, he mixed her a glass of whisky, and brought one for himself, saying to her, “There you are — ’twas a nasty shaking for you.”

The poor old woman sat in a chair by the open door of the staircase, the pile of clothing tumbled about her feet. She looked round pitifully at us, and at the daylight struggling among the candle-light, making a ghostly gleam on the bed where the rigid figure lay unmoved; her hand trembled so that she could scarcely hold her glass.

The doctor gave us the keys, and we rifled the desk and the drawers, sorting out all the papers. The doctor sat sipping and talking to us all the time.

“Yes,” he said, “he’s only been here about two years. Felt himself beginning to break up then, I think. He’d been a long time abroad; they always called him Frenchy.” The doctor sipped and reflected, and sipped again, “Ay — he’d run the rig in his day — used to dream dreadfully. Good thing the old woman was so deaf. Awful, when a man gives himself away in his sleep; played the deuce with him, knowing it.” Sip, sip, sip — and more reflections — and another glass to be mixed.

“But he was a jolly decent fellow — generous, open-handed. The folks didn’t like him, because they couldn’t get to the bottom of him; they always hate a thing they can’t fathom. He was close, there’s no mistake — save when he was asleep sometimes.” The doctor looked at his glass and sighed.

“However — we shall miss him — shan’t we, Mrs May?” he bawled suddenly, startling us, making us glance at the bed.

He lit his pipe and puffed voluminously in order to obscure the attraction of his glass. Meanwhile we examined the papers. There were very few letters — one or two addressed to Paris. There were many bills, and receipts, and notes — business, all business.

There was hardly a trace of sentiment among all the litter. My mother sorted out such papers as she considered valuable; the others, letters and missives which she glanced at cursorily and put aside, she took into the kitchen and burned. She seemed afraid to find out too much.

The doctor continued to colour his tobacco smoke with a few pensive words.

“Ay,” he said, “there are two ways. You can burn your lamp with a big draught, and it’ll flare away, till the oil’s gone, then it’ll stink and smoke itself out. Or you can keep it trim on the kitchen table, dirty your fingers occasionally trimming it up, and it’ll last a long time, and sink out mildly.” Here he turned to his glass, and finding it empty, was awakened to reality.

“Anything I can do, Madam?” he asked.

“No, thank you.”

“Ay, I don’t suppose there’s much to settle. Nor many tears to shed — when a fellow spends his years an’ his prime on the Lord knows who, you can’t expect those that remember him young to feel his loss too keenly. He’d had his fling in his day, though, ma’am. Ay — must ha’ had some rich times. No lasting satisfaction in it though — always wanting, craving. There’s nothing like marrying — you’ve got your dish before you then, and you’ve got to eat it.” He lapsed again into reflection, from which he did not rouse till we had locked up the desk, burned the useless papers, put the others into my pocket and the black bag, and were standing ready to depart. Then the doctor looked up suddenly and said:

“But what about the funeral?”

Then he noticed the weariness of my mother’s look, and he jumped up, and quickly seized his hat, saying:

“Come across to my wife and have a cup of tea. Buried in these dam holes a fellow gets such a boor. Do come — my little wife is lonely — come just to see her.”

My mother smiled and thanked him. We turned to go. My mother hesitated in her walk; on the threshold of the room she glanced round at the bed, but she went on.

Outside, in the fresh air of the fading afternoon, I could not believe it was true. It was not true, that sad, colourless face with grey beard, wavering in the yellow candle-light. It was a lie — that wooden bedstead, that deaf woman, they were fading phrases of the untruth. That yellow blaze of little sunflowers was true, and the shadow from the sun-dial on the warm old almshouses — that was real. The heavy afternoon sunlight came round us warm and reviving; we shivered, and the untruth went out of our veins, and we were no longer chilled.

The doctor’s house stood sweetly among the beech trees, and at the iron fence in front of the little lawn a woman was talking to a beautiful Jersey cow that pushed its dark nose through the fence from the field beyond. She was a little, dark woman with vivid colouring; she rubbed the nose of the delicate animal, peeped right into the dark eyes, and talked in a lovable Scottish speech; talked as a mother talks softly to her child. When she turned round in surprise to greet us there was still the softness of a rich affection in her eyes. She gave us tea, and scones, and apple jelly, and all the time we listened with delight to her voice, which was musical as bees humming in the lime trees. Though she said nothing significant, we listened to her attentively.

Her husband was merry and kind. She glanced at him with quick glances of apprehension, and her eyes avoided him. He, in his merry, frank way, chaffed her, and praised her extravagantly, and teased her again. Then he became a trifle uneasy. I think she was afraid he had been drinking; I think she was shaken with horror when she found him tipsy, and bewildered and terrified when she saw him drunk. They had no children. I noticed he ceased to joke when she became a little constrained. He glanced at her often, and looked somewhat pitiful when she avoided his looks, and he grew uneasy, and I could see he wanted to go away.

“I had better go with you to see the vicar, then,” he said to me, and we left the room, whose windows looked south, over the meadows, the room where dainty little water-colours, and beautiful bits of embroidery, and empty flower-vases, and two dirty novels from the town library, and the closed piano, and the odd cups, and the chipped spout of the teapot causing stains on the cloth — all told one story.

We went to the joiner’s and ordered the coffin, and the doctor had a glass of whisky on it; the graveyard fees were paid, and the doctor sealed the engagement with a drop of brandy; the vicar’s port completed the doctor’s joviality, and we went home.

This time the disquiet in the little woman’s dark eyes could not dispel the doctor’s merriment. He rattled away, and she nervously twisted her wedding-ring. He insisted on driving us to the station, in spite of our alarm.

“But you will be quite safe with him,” said his wife, in her caressing Highland speech. When she shook hands at parting I noticed the hardness of the little palm; — and I have always hated an old, black alpaca dress.

It is such a long way home from the station at Eberwich. We rode part way in the bus; then we walked. It is a very Hong way for my mother, when her steps are heavy with trouble.

Rebecca was out by the rhododendrons looking for us. She hurried to us all solicitous, and asked Mother if she had had tea.

“But you’ll do with another cup,” she said, and ran back into the house.

She came into the dining-room to take my mother’s bonnet and coat. She wanted us to talk; she was distressed on my mother’s behalf; she noticed the blackness that lay under her eyes, and she fidgeted about, unwilling to ask anything, yet uneasy and anxious to know.

“Lettie has been home,” she said.

“And gone back again?” asked Mother.

“She only came to change her dress. She put the green poplin on. She wondered where you’d gone.”

“What did you tell her?”

“I said you’d just gone out a bit. She said she was glad. She was as lively as a squirrel.”

Rebecca looked wistfully at my mother. At length the latter said:

“He’s dead, Rebecca. I have seen him.”

“Now thank God for that — no more need to worry over him.”

“Well! — He died all alone, Rebecca — all alone.”

“He died as you’ve lived,” said Becky with some asperity. “But I’ve had the children, I’ve had the children — we won’t tell Lettie, Rebecca.”

“No ‘m.” Rebecca left the room.

“You and Lettie will have the money,” said mother to me. There was a sum of four thousand pounds or so. It was left to my mother; or, in default to Lettie and me.”

“Well, Mother — if it’s ours, it’s yours.”

There was silence for some minutes, then she said, “You might have had a father — ”

“We’re thankful we hadn’t, Mother. You spared us that.”

“But how can you tell?” said my mother.

“I can,” I replied. “And I am thankful to you.”

“If ever you feel scorn for one who is near you rising in your throat, try and be generous, my lad.”

“Well — ” said I.

“Yes,” she replied, “we’ll say no more. Sometime you must tell Lettie — you tell her.”

I did tell her, a week or so afterwards.

“Who knows?” she asked, her face hardening.

“Mother, Becky, and ourselves.”

“Nobody else?”

“No.”

“Then it’s a good thing he is out of the way if he was such a nuisance to Mother. Where is she?”

“Upstairs.”

Lettie ran to her.





CHAPTER V



THE SCENT OF BLOOD





The death of the man who was our father changed our lives. It was not that we suffered a great grief; the chief trouble was the unanswered crying of failure. But we were changed in our feelings and in our relations; there was a new consciousness, a new carefulness.

We had lived between the woods and the water all our lives, Lettie and I, and she had sought the bright notes in everything. She seemed to hear the water laughing, and the leaves tittering and giggling like young girls; the aspen fluttered like the draperies of a flirt, and the sound of the wood-pigeons was almost foolish in its sentimentality.

Lately, however, she had noticed again the cruel, pitiful crying of a hedgehog caught in a gin, and she had noticed the traps for the fierce little murderers, traps walled in with a small fence of fir, and baited with the guts of a killed rabbit.

On an afternoon a short time after our visit to Cossethay, Lettie sat in the window seat. The sun clung to her hair, and kissed her with passionate splashes of colour brought from the vermilion, dying creeper outside. The sun loved Lettie, and was loath to leave her. She looked out over Nethermere to Highclose, vague in the September mist. Had it not been for the scarlet light on her face, I should have thought her look was sad and serious. She nestled up to the window, and leaned her head against the wooden shaft. Gradually she drooped into sleep. Then she became wonderfully childish again — it was the girl of seventeen sleeping there, with her full pouting lips slightly apart, and the breath coming lightly. I felt the old feeling of responsibility; I must protect her, and take care of her.

There was a crunch of the gravel. It was Leslie coming. He lifted his hat to her, thinking she was looking. He had that fine, lithe physique, suggestive of much animal vigour; his person was exceedingly attractive; one watched him move about, and felt pleasure. His face was less pleasing than his person. He was not handsome; his eyebrows were too light, his nose was large and ugly, and his forehead, though high and fair, was without dignity. But he had a frank, good-natured expression, and a fine, wholesome laugh.

He wondered why she did not move. As he came nearer he saw. Then he winked at me and came in. He tiptoed across the room to look at her. The sweet carelessness of her attitude, the appealing, half-pitiful girlishness of her face touched his responsive heart, and he leaned forward and kissed her cheek where already was a crimson stain of sunshine.

She roused half out of her sleep with a little, petulant “Oh!” as an awkward child. He sat down behind her, and gently drew her head against him, looking down at her with a tender, soothing smile. I thought she was going to fall asleep thus. But her eyelids quivered, and her eyes beneath them flickered into consciousness.

“Leslie! — oh! — Let me go!” she exclaimed, pushing him away. He loosed her, and rose, looking at her reproachfully. She shook her dress, and went quickly to the mirror to arrange her hair.

“You are mean!” she exclaimed, looking very flushed, vexed, and dishevelled.

He laughed indulgently, saying, “You shouldn’t go to sleep then and look so pretty. Who could help?”

“It is not nice!” she said, frowning with irritation.

“We are not ‘nice’ — are we? I thought we were proud of our unconventionality. Why shouldn’t I kiss you?”

“Because it is a question of me, not of you alone.”

“Dear me, you are in a way!”

“Mother is coming.”

“Is she? You had better tell her.”

Mother was very fond of Leslie.

“Well, sir,” she said, “why are you frowning?”

He broke into a laugh.

“Lettie is scolding me for kissing her when she was playing ‘Sleeping Beauty’.”

“The conceit of the boy, to play Prince!” said my mother. “Oh, but it appears I was sadly out of character,” he said ruefully.

Lettie laughed and forgave him.

“Well,” he said, looking at her and smiling, “I came to ask you to go out.”

“It is a lovely afternoon,” said Mother.

She glanced at him, and said:

“I feel dreadfully lazy.”

“Never mind!” he replied, “you’ll wake up. Go and put your hat on.”

He sounded impatient. She looked at him.

He seemed to be smiling peculiarly.

She lowered her eyes and went out of the room.

“She’ll come all right,” he said to himself, and to me. “She likes to play you on a string.”

She must have heard him. When she came in again, drawing on her gloves, she said quietly:

“You come as well, Pat.”

He swung round and stared at her in angry amazement.

“I had rather stay and finish this sketch,” I said, feeling uncomfortable.

“No, but do come, there’s a dear.” She took the brush from my hand, and drew me from my chair. The blood flushed into his cheeks. He went quietly into the hall and brought my cap.

“All right!” he said angrily. “Women like to fancy themselves Napoleons.”

“They do, dear Iron Duke, they do,” she mocked.

“Yet, there’s a Waterloo in all their histories,” he said, since she had supplied him with the idea.

“Say Peterloo, my general, say Peterloo.”

“Ay, Peterloo,” he replied, with a splendid curl of the lip — ”Easy conquests!”

“‘He came, he saw, he conquered,’“ Lettie recited.

“Are you coming?” he said, getting more angry.

“When you bid me,” she replied, taking my arm.

We went through the wood, and through the dishevelled border-land to the high road, through the border-land that should have been park-like, but which was shaggy with loose grass and yellow mole-hills, ragged with gorse and bramble and briar, with wandering old thorn trees, and a queer clump of Scotch firs.

On the highway the leaves were falling, and they chattered under our steps. The water was mild and blue, and the corn stood drowsily in “stook”.

We climbed the hill behind Highclose, and walked on along the upland, looking across towards the hills of arid Derbyshire, and seeing them not, because it was autumn. We came in sight of the head-stocks of the pit at Selsby, and of the ugly village standing blank and naked on the brow of the hill.

Lettie was in very high spirits. She laughed and joked continually. She picked bunches of hips and stuck them in her dress. Having got a thorn in her finger from a spray of blackberries, she went to Leslie to have it squeezed out. We were all quite gay as we turned off the high road and went along the bridle path, with the woods on our right, the high Strelley hills shutting in our small valley in front, and the fields and the common to the left. About half-way down the lane we heard the slurr of the scythe-stone on the scythe. Lettie went to the hedge to see. It was George mowing the oats on the steep hillside where the machine could not go. His father was tying up the corn into sheaves.

Straightening his back, Mr Saxton saw us, and called to us to come and help. We pushed through a gap in the hedge and went up to him.

“Now then,” said the father to me, “take that coat off,” and to Lettie, “Have you brought us a drink? No; — come, that sounds bad! Going a walk I guess. You see what it is to get fat,” and he pulled a wry face as he bent over to tie the corn. He was a man beautifully ruddy and burly, in the prime of life.

“Show me, I’ll do some,” said Lettie.

“Nay,” he answered gently, “it would scratch your wrists and break your stays. Hark at my hands” — he rubbed them together — ”like sandpaper!”

George had his back to us, and had not noticed us. He continued to mow. Leslie watched him.

“That’s a fine movement!” he exclaimed.

“Yes,” replied the father, rising very red in the face from the tying, “and our George enjoys a bit o’ mowing. It puts you in fine condition when you get over the first stiffness.”

We moved across to the standing corn. The sun being mild, George had thrown off his hat, and his black hair was moist and twisted into confused half-curls. Firmly planted, he swung with a beautiful rhythm from the waist. On the hip of his belted breeches hung the scythe-stone; his shirt, faded almost white, was torn just above the belt, and showed the muscles of his back playing like lights upon the white sand of a brook. There was something exceedingly attractive in the rhythmic body.

I spoke to him, and he turned round. He looked straight at Lettie with a flashing, betraying smile. He was remarkably handsome. He tried to say some words of greeting, then he bent down and gathered an armful of corn, and deliberately bound it up.

Like him, Lettie had found nothing to say. Leslie, however, remarked:

“I should think mowing is a nice exercise.”

“It is,” he replied, and continued, as Leslie picked up the scythe, “but it will make you sweat, and your hands will be sore.”

Leslie tossed his head a little, threw off his coat, and said briefly:

“How do you do it?” Without waiting for a reply he proceeded. George said nothing, but turned to Lettie.

“You are picturesque,” she said, a trifle awkwardly, “quite fit for an Idyll.”

“And you?” he said.

She shrugged her shoulders, laughed, and turned to pick up a scarlet pimpernel.

“How do you bind the corn?” she asked.

He took some long straws, cleaned them, and showed her the way to hold them. Instead of attending, she looked at his hands, big, hard, inflamed by the snaith of the scythe.

“I don’t think I could do it,” she said.

“No,” he replied quietly, and watched Leslie mowing. The latter who was wonderfully ready at everything, was doing fairly well, but he had not the invincible sweep of the other, nor did he make his same crisp crunching music.

“I bet he’ll sweat,” said George.

“Don’t you?” she replied.

“A bit — but I’m not dressed up.”

“Do you know,” she said suddenly, “your arms tempt me to touch them. They are such a fine brown colour, and they look so hard.”

He held out one arm to her. She hesitated, then she swiftly put her finger-tips on the smooth brown muscle, and drew them along. Quickly she hid her hand into the folds of her skirt, blushing.

He laughed a low, quiet laugh, at once pleasant and startling to hear.

“I wish I could work here,” she said, looking away at the standing corn, and the dim blue woods. He followed her look, and laughed quietly, with indulgent resignation.

“I do!” she said emphatically.

“You feel so fine,” he said, pushing his hand through his open shirt-front, and gently rubbing the muscles of his side. “It’s a pleasure to work or t