Part 1 out of 4
This etext was prepared by Sue Asscher
Along this particular stretch of line no express had ever passed.
All the trains--the few that there were--stopped at all the
stations. Denis knew the names of those stations by heart.
Bole, Tritton, Spavin Delawarr, Knipswich for Timpany, West
Bowlby, and, finally, Camlet-on-the-Water. Camlet was where he
always got out, leaving the train to creep indolently onward,
goodness only knew whither, into the green heart of England.
They were snorting out of West Bowlby now. It was the next
station, thank Heaven. Denis took his chattels off the rack and
piled them neatly in the corner opposite his own. A futile
proceeding. But one must have something to do. When he had
finished, he sank back into his seat and closed his eyes. It was
Oh, this journey! It was two hours cut clean out of his life;
two hours in which he might have done so much, so much--written
the perfect poem, for example, or read the one illuminating book.
Instead of which--his gorge rose at the smell of the dusty
cushions against which he was leaning.
Two hours. One hundred and twenty minutes. Anything might be
done in that time. Anything. Nothing. Oh, he had had hundreds
of hours, and what had he done with them? Wasted them, spilt the
precious minutes as though his reservoir were inexhaustible.
Denis groaned in the spirit, condemned himself utterly with all
his works. What right had he to sit in the sunshine, to occupy
corner seats in third-class carriages, to be alive? None, none,
Misery and a nameless nostalgic distress possessed him. He was
twenty-three, and oh! so agonizingly conscious of the fact.
The train came bumpingly to a halt. Here was Camlet at last.
Denis jumped up, crammed his hat over his eyes, deranged his pile
of baggage, leaned out of the window and shouted for a porter,
seized a bag in either hand, and had to put them down again in
order to open the door. When at last he had safely bundled
himself and his baggage on to the platform, he ran up the train
towards the van.
"A bicycle, a bicycle!" he said breathlessly to the guard. He
felt himself a man of action. The guard paid no attention, but
continued methodically to hand out, one by one, the packages
labelled to Camlet. "A bicycle!" Denis repeated. "A green
machine, cross-framed, name of Stone. S-T-O-N-E."
"All in good time, sir," said the guard soothingly. He was a
large, stately man with a naval beard. One pictured him at home,
drinking tea, surrounded by a numerous family. It was in that
tone that he must have spoken to his children when they were
tiresome. "All in good time, sir." Denis's man of action
He left his luggage to be called for later, and pushed off on his
bicycle. He always took his bicycle when he went into the
country. It was part of the theory of exercise. One day one
would get up at six o'clock and pedal away to Kenilworth, or
Stratford-on-Avon--anywhere. And within a radius of twenty miles
there were always Norman churches and Tudor mansions to be seen
in the course of an afternoon's excursion. Somehow they never
did get seen, but all the same it was nice to feel that the
bicycle was there, and that one fine morning one really might get
up at six.
Once at the top of the long hill which led up from Camlet
station, he felt his spirits mounting. The world, he found, was
good. The far-away blue hills, the harvests whitening on the
slopes of the ridge along which his road led him, the treeless
sky-lines that changed as he moved--yes, they were all good. He
was overcome by the beauty of those deeply embayed combes,
scooped in the flanks of the ridge beneath him. Curves, curves:
he repeated the word slowly, trying as he did so to find some
term in which to give expression to his appreciation. Curves--
no, that was inadequate. He made a gesture with his hand, as
though to scoop the achieved expression out of the air, and
almost fell off his bicycle. What was the word to describe the
curves of those little valleys? They were as fine as the lines
of a human body, they were informed with the subtlety of art...
Galbe. That was a good word; but it was French. Le galbe evase
de ses hanches: had one ever read a French novel in which that
phrase didn't occur? Some day he would compile a dictionary for
the use of novelists. Galbe, gonfle, goulu: parfum, peau,
pervers, potele, pudeur: vertu, volupte.
But he really must find that word. Curves curves...Those little
valleys had the lines of a cup moulded round a woman's breast;
they seemed the dinted imprints of some huge divine body that had
rested on these hills. Cumbrous locutions, these; but through
them he seemed to be getting nearer to what he wanted. Dinted,
dimpled, wimpled--his mind wandered down echoing corridors of
assonance and alliteration ever further and further from the
point. He was enamoured with the beauty of words.
Becoming once more aware of the outer world, he found himself on
the crest of a descent. The road plunged down, steep and
straight, into a considerable valley. There, on the opposite
slope, a little higher up the valley, stood Crome, his
destination. He put on his brakes; this view of Crome was
pleasant to linger over. The facade with its three projecting
towers rose precipitously from among the dark trees of the
garden. The house basked in full sunlight; the old brick rosily
glowed. How ripe and rich it was, how superbly mellow! And at
the same time, how austere! The hill was becoming steeper and
steeper; he was gaining speed in spite of his brakes. He loosed
his grip of the levers, and in a moment was rushing headlong
down. Five minutes later he was passing through the gate of the
great courtyard. The front door stood hospitably open. He left
his bicycle leaning against the wall and walked in. He would
take them by surprise.
He took nobody by surprise; there was nobody to take. All was
quiet; Denis wandered from room to empty room, looking with
pleasure at the familiar pictures and furniture, at all the
little untidy signs of life that lay scattered here and there.
He was rather glad that they were all out; it was amusing to
wander through the house as though one were exploring a dead,
deserted Pompeii. What sort of life would the excavator
reconstruct from these remains; how would he people these empty
chambers? There was the long gallery, with its rows of
respectable and (though, of course, one couldn't publicly admit
it) rather boring Italian primitives, its Chinese sculptures, its
unobtrusive, dateless furniture. There was the panelled drawing-
room, where the huge chintz-covered arm-chairs stood, oases of
comfort among the austere flesh-mortifying antiques. There was
the morning-room, with its pale lemon walls, its painted Venetian
chairs and rococo tables, its mirrors, its modern pictures.
There was the library, cool, spacious, and dark, book-lined from
floor to ceiling, rich in portentous folios. There was the
dining-room, solidly, portwinily English, with its great mahogany
table, its eighteenth-century chairs and sideboard, its
eighteenth-century pictures--family portraits, meticulous animal
paintings. What could one reconstruct from such data? There was
much of Henry Wimbush in the long gallery and the library,
something of Anne, perhaps, in the morning-room. That was all.
Among the accumulations of ten generations the living had left
but few traces.
Lying on the table in the morning-room he saw his own book of
poems. What tact! He picked it up and opened it. It was what
the reviewers call "a slim volume." He read at hazard:
"...But silence and the topless dark
Vault in the lights of Luna Park;
And Blackpool from the nightly gloom
Hollows a bright tumultuous tomb."
He put it down again, shook his head, and sighed. "What genius I
had then!" he reflected, echoing the aged Swift. It was nearly
six months since the book had been published; he was glad to
think he would never write anything of the same sort again. Who
could have been reading it, he wondered? Anne, perhaps; he liked
to think so. Perhaps, too, she had at last recognised herself in
the Hamadryad of the poplar sapling; the slim Hamadryad whose
movements were like the swaying of a young tree in the wind.
"The Woman who was a Tree" was what he had called the poem. He
had given her the book when it came out, hoping that the poem
would tell her what he hadn't dared to say. She had never
referred to it.
He shut his eyes and saw a vision of her in a red velvet cloak,
swaying into the little restaurant where they sometimes dined
together in London--three quarters of an hour late, and he at his
table, haggard with anxiety, irritation, hunger. Oh, she was
It occurred to him that perhaps his hostess might be in her
boudoir. It was a possibility; he would go and see. Mrs.
Wimbush's boudoir was in the central tower on the garden front.
A little staircase cork-screwed up to it from the hall. Denis
mounted, tapped at the door. "Come in." Ah, she was there; he
had rather hoped she wouldn't be. He opened the door.
Priscilla Wimbush was lying on the sofa. A blotting-pad rested
on her knees and she was thoughtfully sucking the end of a silver
"Hullo," she said, looking up. "I'd forgotten you were coming."
"Well, here I am, I'm afraid," said Denis deprecatingly. "I'm
Mrs. Wimbush laughed. Her voice, her laughter, were deep and
masculine. Everything about her was manly. She had a large,
square, middle-aged face, with a massive projecting nose and
little greenish eyes, the whole surmounted by a lofty and
elaborate coiffure of a curiously improbable shade of orange.
Looking at her, Denis always thought of Wilkie Bard as the
"That's why I'm going to
Sing in op'ra, sing in op'ra,
Sing in op-pop-pop-pop-pop-popera."
Today she was wearing a purple silk dress with a high collar and
a row of pearls. The costume, so richly dowagerish, so
suggestive of the Royal Family, made her look more than ever like
something on the Halls.
"What have you been doing all this time?" she asked.
"Well," said Denis, and he hesitated, almost voluptuously. He
had a tremendously amusing account of London and its doings all
ripe and ready in his mind. It would be a pleasure to give it
utterance. "To begin with," he said...
But he was too late. Mrs. Wimbush's question had been what the
grammarians call rhetorical; it asked for no answer. It was a
little conversational flourish, a gambit in the polite game.
"You find me busy at my horoscopes," she said, without even being
aware that she had interrupted him.
A little pained, Denis decided to reserve his story for more
receptive ears. He contented himself, by way of revenge, with
saying "Oh?" rather icily.
"Did I tell you how I won four hundred on the Grand National this
"Yes," he replied, still frigid and mono-syllabic. She must have
told him at least six times.
"Wonderful, isn't it? Everything is in the Stars. In the Old
Days, before I had the Stars to help me, I used to lose
thousands. Now"--she paused an instant--"well, look at that four
hundred on the Grand National. That's the Stars."
Denis would have liked to hear more about the Old Days. But he
was too discreet and, still more, too shy to ask. There had been
something of a bust up; that was all he knew. Old Priscilla--not
so old then, of course, and sprightlier--had lost a great deal of
money, dropped it in handfuls and hatfuls on every race-course in
the country. She had gambled too. The number of thousands
varied in the different legends, but all put it high. Henry
Wimbush was forced to sell some of his Primitives--a Taddeo da
Poggibonsi, an Amico di Taddeo, and four or five nameless
Sienese--to the Americans. There was a crisis. For the first
time in his life Henry asserted himself, and with good effect, it
Priscilla's gay and gadding existence had come to an abrupt end.
Nowadays she spent almost all her time at Crome, cultivating a
rather ill-defined malady. For consolation she dallied with New
Thought and the Occult. Her passion for racing still possessed
her, and Henry, who was a kind-hearted fellow at bottom, allowed
her forty pounds a month betting money. Most of Priscilla's days
were spent in casting the horoscopes of horses, and she invested
her money scientifically, as the stars dictated. She betted on
football too, and had a large notebook in which she registered
the horoscopes of all the players in all the teams of the League.
The process of balancing the horoscopes of two elevens one
against the other was a very delicate and difficult one. A match
between the Spurs and the Villa entailed a conflict in the
heavens so vast and so complicated that it was not to be wondered
at if she sometimes made a mistake about the outcome.
"Such a pity you don't believe in these things, Denis, such a
pity," said Mrs. Wimbush in her deep, distinct voice.
"I can't say I feel it so."
"Ah, that's because you don't know what it's like to have faith.
You've no idea how amusing and exciting life becomes when you do
believe. All that happens means something; nothing you do is
ever insignificant. It makes life so jolly, you know. Here am I
at Crome. Dull as ditchwater, you'd think; but no, I don't find
it so. I don't regret the Old Days a bit. I have the Stars..."
She picked up the sheet of paper that was lying on the blotting-
pad. "Inman's horoscope," she explained. "(I thought I'd like
to have a little fling on the billiards championship this
autumn.) I have the Infinite to keep in tune with," she waved
her hand. "And then there's the next world and all the spirits,
and one's Aura, and Mrs. Eddy and saying you're not ill, and the
Christian Mysteries and Mrs. Besant. It's all splendid. One's
never dull for a moment. I can't think how I used to get on
before--in the Old Days. Pleasure--running about, that's all it
was; just running about. Lunch, tea, dinner, theatre, supper
every day. It was fun, of course, while it lasted. But there
wasn't much left of it afterwards. There's rather a good thing
about that in Barbecue-Smith's new book. Where is it?"
She sat up and reached for a book that was lying on the little
table by the head of the sofa.
"Do you know him, by the way?" she asked.
Denis knew of him vaguely. Barbecue-Smith was a name in the
Sunday papers. He wrote about the Conduct of Life. He might
even be the author of "What a Young Girl Ought to Know".
"No, not personally," he said.
"I've invited him for next week-end." She turned over the pages
of the book. "Here's the passage I was thinking of. I marked
it. I always mark the things I like."
Holding the book almost at arm's length, for she was somewhat
long-sighted, and making suitable gestures with her free hand,
she began to read, slowly, dramatically.
"'What are thousand pound fur coats, what are quarter million
incomes?'" She looked up from the page with a histrionic
movement of the head; her orange coiffure nodded portentously.
Denis looked at it, fascinated. Was it the Real Thing and henna,
he wondered, or was it one of those Complete Transformations one
sees in the advertisements?
"'What are Thrones and Sceptres?'"
The orange Transformation--yes, it must be a Transformation--
bobbed up again.
"'What are the gaieties of the Rich, the splendours of the
Powerful, what is the pride of the Great, what are the gaudy
pleasures of High Society?'"
The voice, which had risen in tone, questioningly, from sentence
to sentence, dropped suddenly and boomed reply.
"'They are nothing. Vanity, fluff, dandelion seed in the wind,
thin vapours of fever. The things that matter happen in the
heart. Seen things are sweet, but those unseen are a thousand
times more significant. It is the unseen that counts in Life.'"
Mrs. Wimbush lowered the book. "Beautiful, isn't it?" she said.
Denis preferred not to hazard an opinion, but uttered a non-
"Ah, it's a fine book this, a beautiful book," said Priscilla, as
she let the pages flick back, one by one, from under her thumb.
"And here's the passage about the Lotus Pool. He compares the
Soul to a Lotus Pool, you know." She held up the book again and
read. "'A Friend of mine has a Lotus Pool in his garden. It
lies in a little dell embowered with wild roses and eglantine,
among which the nightingale pours forth its amorous descant all
the summer long. Within the pool the Lotuses blossom, and the
birds of the air come to drink and bathe themselves in its
crystal waters...' Ah, and that reminds me," Priscilla
exclaimed, shutting the book with a clap and uttering her big
profound laugh--"that reminds me of the things that have been
going on in our bathing-pool since you were here last. We gave
the village people leave to come and bathe here in the evenings.
You've no idea of the things that happened."
She leaned forward, speaking in a confidential whisper; every now
and then she uttered a deep gurgle of laughter. "...mixed
bathing...saw them out of my window...sent for a pair of field-
glasses to make sure...no doubt of it..." The laughter broke out
again. Denis laughed too. Barbecue-Smith was tossed on the
It's time we went to see if tea's ready," said Priscilla. She
hoisted herself up from the sofa and went swishing off across the
room, striding beneath the trailing silk. Denis followed her,
faintly humming to himself:
"That's why I'm going to
Sing in op'ra, sing in op'ra,
Sing in op-pop-pop-pop-popera."
And then the little twiddly bit of accompaniment at the end:
The terrace in front of the house was a long narrow strip of
turf, bounded along its outer edge by a graceful stone
balustrade. Two little summer-houses of brick stood at either
end. Below the house the ground sloped very steeply away, and
the terrace was a remarkably high one; from the balusters to the
sloping lawn beneath was a drop of thirty feet. Seen from below,
the high unbroken terrace wall, built like the house itself of
brick, had the almost menacing aspect of a fortification--a
castle bastion, from whose parapet one looked out across airy
depths to distances level with the eye. Below, in the
foreground, hedged in by solid masses of sculptured yew trees,
lay the stone-brimmed swimming-pool. Beyond it stretched the
park, with its massive elms, its green expanses of grass, and, at
the bottom of the valley, the gleam of the narrow river. On the
farther side of the stream the land rose again in a long slope,
chequered with cultivation. Looking up the valley, to the right,
one saw a line of blue, far-off hills.
The tea-table had been planted in the shade of one of the little
summer-houses, and the rest of the party was already assembled
about it when Denis and Priscilla made their appearance. Henry
Wimbush had begun to pour out the tea. He was one of those
ageless, unchanging men on the farther side of fifty, who might
be thirty, who might be anything. Denis had known him almost as
long as he could remember. In all those years his pale, rather
handsome face had never grown any older; it was like the pale
grey bowler hat which he always wore, winter and summer--
unageing, calm, serenely without expression.
Next him, but separated from him and from the rest of the world
by the almost impenetrable barriers of her deafness, sat Jenny
Mullion. She was perhaps thirty, had a tilted nose and a pink-
and-white complexion, and wore her brown hair plaited and coiled
in two lateral buns over her ears. In the secret tower of her
deafness she sat apart, looking down at the world through sharply
piercing eyes. What did she think of men and women and things?
That was something that Denis had never been able to discover.
In her enigmatic remoteness Jenny was a little disquieting. Even
now some interior joke seemed to be amusing her, for she was
smiling to herself, and her brown eyes were like very bright
On his other side the serious, moonlike innocence of Mary
Bracegirdle's face shone pink and childish. She was nearly
twenty-three, but one wouldn't have guessed it. Her short hair,
clipped like a page's, hung in a bell of elastic gold about her
cheeks. She had large blue china eyes, whose expression was one
of ingenuous and often puzzled earnestness.
Next to Mary a small gaunt man was sitting, rigid and erect in
his chair. In appearance Mr. Scogan was like one of those
extinct bird-lizards of the Tertiary. His nose was beaked, his
dark eye had the shining quickness of a robin's. But there was
nothing soft or gracious or feathery about him. The skin of his
wrinkled brown face had a dry and scaly look; his hands were the
hands of a crocodile. His movements were marked by the lizard's
disconcertingly abrupt clockwork speed; his speech was thin,
fluty, and dry. Henry Wimbush's school-fellow and exact
contemporary, Mr. Scogan looked far older and, at the same time,
far more youthfully alive than did that gentle aristocrat with
the face like a grey bowler.
Mr. Scogan might look like an extinct saurian, but Gombauld was
altogether and essentially human. In the old-fashioned natural
histories of the 'thirties he might have figured in a steel
engraving as a type of Homo Sapiens--an honour which at that time
commonly fell to Lord Byron. Indeed, with more hair and less
collar, Gombauld would have been completely Byronic--more than
Byronic, even, for Gombauld was of Provencal descent, a black-
haired young corsair of thirty, with flashing teeth and luminous
large dark eyes. Denis looked at him enviously. He was jealous
of his talent: if only he wrote verse as well as Gombauld
painted pictures! Still more, at the moment, he envied Gombauld
his looks, his vitality, his easy confidence of manner. Was it
surprising that Anne should like him? Like him?--it might even
be something worse, Denis reflected bitterly, as he walked at
Priscilla's side down the long grass terrace.
Between Gombauld and Mr. Scogan a very much lowered deck-chair
presented its back to the new arrivals as they advanced towards
the tea-table. Gombauld was leaning over it; his face moved
vivaciously; he smiled, he laughed, he made quick gestures with
his hands. From the depths of the chair came up a sound of soft,
lazy laughter. Denis started as he heard it. That laughter--how
well he knew it! What emotions it evoked in him! He quickened
In her low deck-chair Anne was nearer to lying than to sitting.
Her long, slender body reposed in an attitude of listless and
indolent grace. Within its setting of light brown hair her face
had a pretty regularity that was almost doll-like. And indeed
there were moments when she seemed nothing more than a doll; when
the oval face, with its long-lashed, pale blue eyes, expressed
nothing; when it was no more than a lazy mask of wax. She was
Henry Wimbush's own niece; that bowler-like countenance was one
of the Wimbush heirlooms; it ran in the family, appearing in its
female members as a blank doll-face. But across this dollish
mask, like a gay melody dancing over an unchanging fundamental
bass, passed Anne's other inheritance--quick laughter, light
ironic amusement, and the changing expressions of many moods.
She was smiling now as Denis looked down at her: her cat's
smile, he called it, for no very good reason. The mouth was
compressed, and on either side of it two tiny wrinkles had formed
themselves in her cheeks. An infinity of slightly malicious
amusement lurked in those little folds, in the puckers about the
half-closed eyes, in the eyes themselves, bright and laughing
between the narrowed lids.
The preliminary greetings spoken, Denis found an empty chair
between Gombauld and Jenny and sat down.
"How are you, Jenny?" he shouted to her.
Jenny nodded and smiled in mysterious silence, as though the
subject of her health were a secret that could not be publicly
"How's London been since I went away?" Anne inquired from the
depth of her chair.
The moment had come; the tremendously amusing narrative was
waiting for utterance. "Well," said Denis, smiling happily, "to
"Has Priscilla told you of our great antiquarian find?" Henry
Wimbush leaned forward; the most promising of buds was nipped.
"To begin with," said Denis desperately, "there was the
"Last week," Mr. Wimbush went on softly and implacably, "we dug
up fifty yards of oaken drain-pipes; just tree trunks with a hole
bored through the middle. Very interesting indeed. Whether they
were laid down by the monks in the fifteenth century, or
Denis listened gloomily. "Extraordinary!" he said, when Mr.
Wimbush had finished; "quite extraordinary!" He helped himself
to another slice of cake. He didn't even want to tell his tale
about London now; he was damped.
For some time past Mary's grave blue eyes had been fixed upon
him. "What have you been writing lately?" she asked. It would
be nice to have a little literary conversation.
"Oh, verse and prose," said Denis--"just verse and prose."
"Prose?" Mr. Scogan pounced alarmingly on the word. "You've been
"Not a novel?"
"My poor Denis!" exclaimed Mr. Scogan. "What about?"
Denis felt rather uncomfortable. "Oh, about the usual things,
"Of course," Mr. Scogan groaned. "I'll describe the plot for
you. Little Percy, the hero, was never good at games, but he was
always clever. He passes through the usual public school and the
usual university and comes to London, where he lives among the
artists. He is bowed down with melancholy thought; he carries
the whole weight of the universe upon his shoulders. He writes a
novel of dazzling brilliance; he dabbles delicately in Amour and
disappears, at the end of the book, into the luminous Future."
Denis blushed scarlet. Mr. Scogan had described the plan of his
novel with an accuracy that was appalling. He made an effort to
laugh. "You're entirely wrong," he said. "My novel is not in
the least like that." It was a heroic lie. Luckily, he
reflected, only two chapters were written. He would tear them up
that very evening when he unpacked.
Mr. Scogan paid no attention to his denial, but went on: "Why
will you young men continue to write about things that are so
entirely uninteresting as the mentality of adolescents and
artists? Professional anthropologists might find it interesting
to turn sometimes from the beliefs of the Blackfellow to the
philosophical preoccupations of the undergraduate. But you can't
expect an ordinary adult man, like myself, to be much moved by
the story of his spiritual troubles. And after all, even in
England, even in Germany and Russia, there are more adults than
adolescents. As for the artist, he is preoccupied with problems
that are so utterly unlike those of the ordinary adult man--
problems of pure aesthetics which don't so much as present
themselves to people like myself--that a description of his
mental processes is as boring to the ordinary reader as a piece
of pure mathematics. A serious book about artists regarded as
artists is unreadable; and a book about artists regarded as
lovers, husbands, dipsomaniacs, heroes, and the like is really
not worth writing again. Jean-Christophe is the stock artist of
literature, just as Professor Radium of "Comic Cuts" is its stock
man of science."
'I'm sorry to hear I'm as uninteresting as all that," said
"Not at all, my dear Gombauld," Mr. Scogan hastened to explain.
"As a lover or a dipsomaniac, I've no doubt of your being a most
fascinating specimen. But as a combiner of forms, you must
honestly admit it, you're a bore."
"I entirely disagree with you," exclaimed Mary. She was somehow
always out of breath when she talked. And her speech was
punctuated by little gasps. "I've known a great many artists,
and I've always found their mentality very interesting.
Especially in Paris. Tschuplitski, for example--I saw a great
deal of Tschuplitski in Paris this spring..."
"Ah, but then you're an exception, Mary, you're an exception,"
said Mr. Scogan. "You are a femme superieure."
A flush of pleasure turned Mary's face into a harvest moon.
Denis woke up next morning to find the sun shining, the sky
serene. He decided to wear white flannel trousers--white flannel
trousers and a black jacket, with a silk shirt and his new peach-
coloured tie. And what shoes? White was the obvious choice, but
there was something rather pleasing about the notion of black
patent leather. He lay in bed for several minutes considering
Before he went down--patent leather was his final choice--he
looked at himself critically in the glass. His hair might have
been more golden, he reflected. As it was, its yellowness had
the hint of a greenish tinge in it. But his forehead was good.
His forehead made up in height what his chin lacked in
prominence. His nose might have been longer, but it would pass.
His eyes might have been blue and not green. But his coat was
very well cut and, discreetly padded, made him seem robuster than
he actually was. His legs, in their white casing, were long and
elegant. Satisfied, he descended the stairs. Most of the party
had already finished their breakfast. He found himself alone
"I hope you slept well," he said.
"Yes, isn't it lovely?" Jenny replied, giving two rapid little
nods. "But we had such awful thunderstorms last week."
Parallel straight lines, Denis reflected, meet only at infinity.
He might talk for ever of care-charmer sleep and she of
meteorology till the end of time. Did one ever establish contact
with anyone? We are all parallel straight lines. Jenny was only
a little more parallel than most.
"They are very alarming, these thunderstorms," he said, helping
himself to porridge. "Don't you think so? Or are you above
"No. I always go to bed in a storm. One is so much safer lying
"Because," said Jenny, making a descriptive gesture, "because
lightning goes downwards and not flat ways. When you're lying
down you're out of the current."
"That's very ingenious."
There was a silence. Denis finished his porridge and helped
himself to bacon. For lack of anything better to say, and
because Mr. Scogan's absurd phrase was for some reason running in
his head, he turned to Jenny and asked:
"Do you consider yourself a femme superieure?" He had to repeat
the question several times before Jenny got the hang of it.
"No," she said, rather indignantly, when at last she heard what
Denis was saying. "Certainly not. Has anyone been suggesting
that I am?"
"No," said Denis. "Mr. Scogan told Mary she was one."
"Did he?" Jenny lowered her voice. "Shall I tell you what I
think of that man? I think he's slightly sinister."
Having made this pronouncement, she entered the ivory tower of
her deafness and closed the door. Denis could not induce her to
say anything more, could not induce her even to listen. She just
smiled at him, smiled and occasionally nodded.
Denis went out on to the terrace to smoke his after-breakfast
pipe and to read his morning paper. An hour later, when Anne
came down, she found him still reading. By this time he had got
to the Court Circular and the Forthcoming Weddings. He got up to
meet her as she approached, a Hamadryad in white muslin, across
"Why, Denis," she exclaimed, "you look perfectly sweet in your
Denis was dreadfully taken aback. There was no possible retort.
"You speak as though I were a child in a new frock," he said,
with a show of irritation.
"But that's how I feel about you, Denis dear."
"Then you oughtn't to."
"But I can't help it. I'm so much older than you."
"I like that," he said. "Four years older."
"And if you do look perfectly sweet in your white trousers, why
shouldn't I say so? And why did you put them on, if you didn't
think you were going to look sweet in them?"
"Let's go into the garden," said Denis. He was put out; the
conversation had taken such a preposterous and unexpected turn.
He had planned a very different opening, in which he was to lead
off with, "You look adorable this morning," or something of the
kind, and she was to answer, "Do I?" and then there was to be a
pregnant silence. And now she had got in first with the
trousers. It was provoking; his pride was hurt.
That part of the garden that sloped down from the foot of the
terrace to the pool had a beauty which did not depend on colour
so much as on forms. It was as beautiful by moonlight as in the
sun. The silver of water, the dark shapes of yew and ilex trees
remained, at all hours and seasons, the dominant features of the
scene. It was a landscape in black and white. For colour there
was the flower-garden; it lay to one side of the pool, separated
from it by a huge Babylonian wall of yews. You passed through a
tunnel in the hedge, you opened a wicket in a wall, and you found
yourself, startlingly and suddenly, in the world of colour. The
July borders blazed and flared under the sun. Within its high
brick walls the garden was like a great tank of warmth and
perfume and colour.
Denis held open the little iron gate for his companion. "It's
like passing from a cloister into an Oriental palace," he said,
and took a deep breath of the warm, flower-scented air. "'In
fragrant volleys they let fly...' How does it go?
"'Well shot, ye firemen! Oh how sweet
And round your equal fires do meet;
Whose shrill report no ear can tell,
But echoes to the eye and smell...'"
"You have a bad habit of quoting," said Anne. "As I never know
the context or author, I find it humiliating."
Denis apologized. "It's the fault of one's education. Things
somehow seem more real and vivid when one can apply somebody
else's ready-made phrase about them. And then there are lots of
lovely names and words--Monophysite, Iamblichus, Pomponazzi; you
bring them out triumphantly, and feel you've clinched the
argument with the mere magical sound of them. That's what comes
of the higher education."
"You may regret your education," said Anne; "I'm ashamed of my
lack of it. Look at those sunflowers! Aren't they magnificent?"
"Dark faces and golden crowns--they're kings of Ethiopia. And I
like the way the tits cling to the flowers and pick out the
seeds, while the other loutish birds, grubbing dirtily for their
food, look up in envy from the ground. Do they look up in envy?
That's the literary touch, I'm afraid. Education again. It
always comes back to that." He was silent.
Anne had sat down on a bench that stood in the shade of an old
apple tree. "I'm listening," she said.
He did not sit down, but walked backwards and forwards in front
of the bench, gesticulating a little as he talked. "Books," he
said--"books. One reads so many, and one sees so few people and
so little of the world. Great thick books about the universe and
the mind and ethics. You've no idea how many there are. I must
have read twenty or thirty tons of them in the last five years.
Twenty tons of ratiocination. Weighted with that, one's pushed
out into the world."
He went on walking up and down. His voice rose, fell, was silent
a moment, and then talked on. He moved his hands, sometimes he
waved his arms. Anne looked and listened quietly, as though she
were at a lecture. He was a nice boy, and to-day he looked
One entered the world, Denis pursued, having ready-made ideas
about everything. One had a philosophy and tried to make life
fit into it. One should have lived first and then made one's
philosophy to fit life...Life, facts, things were horribly
complicated; ideas, even the most difficult of them, deceptively
simple. In the world of ideas everything was clear; in life all
was obscure, embroiled. Was it surprising that one was
miserable, horribly unhappy? Denis came to a halt in front of
the bench, and as he asked this last question he stretched out
his arms and stood for an instant in an attitude of crucifixion,
then let them fall again to his sides.
"My poor Denis!" Anne was touched. He was really too pathetic
as he stood there in front of her in his white flannel trousers.
"But does one suffer about these things? It seems very
"You're like Scogan," cried Denis bitterly. "You regard me as a
specimen for an anthropologist. Well, I suppose I am."
"No, no," she protested, and drew in her skirt with a gesture
that indicated that he was to sit down beside her. He sat down.
"Why can't you just take things for granted and as they come?"
she asked. "It's so much simpler."
"Of course it is," said Denis. "But it's a lesson to be learnt
gradually. There are the twenty tons of ratiocination to be got
rid of first."
"I've always taken things as they come," said Anne. "It seems so
obvious. One enjoys the pleasant things, avoids the nasty ones.
There's nothing more to be said."
"Nothing--for you. But, then, you were born a pagan; I am trying
laboriously to make myself one. I can take nothing for granted,
I can enjoy nothing as it comes along. Beauty, pleasure, art,
women--I have to invent an excuse, a justification for everything
that's delightful. Otherwise I can't enjoy it with an easy
conscience. I make up a little story about beauty and pretend
that it has something to do with truth and goodness. I have to
say that art is the process by which one reconstructs the divine
reality out of chaos. Pleasure is one of the mystical roads to
union with the infinite--the ecstasies of drinking, dancing,
love-making. As for women, I am perpetually assuring myself that
they're the broad highway to divinity. And to think that I'm
only just beginning to see through the silliness of the whole
thing! It's incredible to me that anyone should have escaped
"It's still more incredible to me," said Anne, "that anyone
should have been a victim to them. I should like to see myself
believing that men are the highway to divinity." The amused
malice of her smile planted two little folds on either side of
her mouth, and through their half-closed lids her eyes shone with
laughter. "What you need, Denis, is a nice plump young wife, a
fixed income, and a little congenial but regular work."
"What I need is you." That was what he ought to have retorted,
that was what he wanted passionately to say. He could not say
it. His desire fought against his shyness. "What I need is
you." Mentally he shouted the words, but not a sound issued from
his lips. He looked at her despairingly. Couldn't she see what
was going on inside him? Couldn't she understand? "What I need
is you." He would say it, he would--he would.
"I think I shall go and bathe," said Anne. "It's so hot." The
opportunity had passed.
Mr. Wimbush had taken them to see the sights of the Home Farm,
and now they were standing, all six of them--Henry Wimbush, Mr.
Scogan, Denis, Gombauld, Anne, and Mary--by the low wall of the
piggery, looking into one of the styes.
"This is a good sow," said Henry Wimbush. "She had a litter of
"Fourteen?" Mary echoed incredulously. She turned astonished
blue eyes towards Mr. Wimbush, then let them fall onto the
seething mass of elan vital that fermented in the sty.
An immense sow reposed on her side in the middle of the pen. Her
round, black belly, fringed with a double line of dugs, presented
itself to the assault of an army of small, brownish-black swine.
With a frantic greed they tugged at their mother's flank. The
old sow stirred sometimes uneasily or uttered a little grunt of
pain. One small pig, the runt, the weakling of the litter, had
been unable to secure a place at the banquet. Squealing shrilly,
he ran backwards and forwards, trying to push in among his
stronger brothers or even to climb over their tight little black
backs towards the maternal reservoir.
"There ARE fourteen," said Mary. "You're quite right. I
counted. It's extraordinary."
"The sow next door," Mr. Wimbush went on, "has done very badly.
She only had five in her litter. I shall give her another
chance. If she does no better next time, I shall fat her up and
kill her. There's the boar," he pointed towards a farther sty.
"Fine old beast, isn't he? But he's getting past his prime.
He'll have to go too."
"How cruel!" Anne exclaimed.
"But how practical, how eminently realistic!" said Mr. Scogan.
"In this farm we have a model of sound paternal government. Make
them breed, make them work, and when they're past working or
breeding or begetting, slaughter them."
"Farming seems to be mostly indecency and cruelty," said Anne.
With the ferrule of his walking-stick Denis began to scratch the
boar's long bristly back. The animal moved a little so as to
bring himself within easier range of the instrument that evoked
in him such delicious sensations; then he stood stock still,
softly grunting his contentment. The mud of years flaked off his
sides in a grey powdery scurf.
"What a pleasure it is," said Denis, "to do somebody a kindness.
I believe I enjoy scratching this pig quite as much as he enjoys
being scratched. If only one could always be kind with so little
expense or trouble..."
A gate slammed; there was a sound of heavy footsteps.
"Morning, Rowley!" said Henry Wimbush.
"Morning, sir," old Rowley answered. He was the most venerable
of the labourers on the farm--a tall, solid man, still unbent,
with grey side-whiskers and a steep, dignified profile. Grave,
weighty in his manner, splendidly respectable, Rowley had the air
of a great English statesman of the mid-nineteenth century. He
halted on the outskirts of the group, and for a moment they all
looked at the pigs in a silence that was only broken by the sound
of grunting or the squelch of a sharp hoof in the mire. Rowley
turned at last, slowly and ponderously and nobly, as he did
everything, and addressed himself to Henry Wimbush.
"Look at them, sir," he said, with a motion of his hand towards
the wallowing swine. "Rightly is they called pigs."
"Rightly indeed," Mr. Wimbush agreed.
"I am abashed by that man," said Mr. Scogan, as old Rowley
plodded off slowly and with dignity. "What wisdom, what
judgment, what a sense of values! 'Rightly are they called
swine.' Yes. And I wish I could, with as much justice, say,
'Rightly are we called men.'"
They walked on towards the cowsheds and the stables of the cart-
horses. Five white geese, taking the air this fine morning, even
as they were doing, met them in the way. They hesitated,
cackled; then, converting their lifted necks into rigid,
horizontal snakes, they rushed off in disorder, hissing horribly
as they went. Red calves paddled in the dung and mud of a
spacious yard. In another enclosure stood the bull, massive as a
locomotive. He was a very calm bull, and his face wore an
expression of melancholy stupidity. He gazed with reddish-brown
eyes at his visitors, chewed thoughtfully at the tangible
memories of an earlier meal, swallowed and regurgitated, chewed
again. His tail lashed savagely from side to side; it seemed to
have nothing to do with his impassive bulk. Between his short
horns was a triangle of red curls, short and dense.
"Splendid animal," said Henry Wimbush. "Pedigree stock. But
he's getting a little old, like the boar."
"Fat him up and slaughter him," Mr. Scogan pronounced, with a
delicate old-maidish precision of utterance.
"Couldn't you give the animals a little holiday from producing
children?" asked Anne. "I'm so sorry for the poor things."
Mr. Wimbush shook his head. "Personally," he said, "I rather
like seeing fourteen pigs grow where only one grew before. The
spectacle of so much crude life is refreshing."
"I'm glad to hear you say so," Gombauld broke in warmly. "Lots
of life: that's what we want. I like pullulation; everything
ought to increase and multiply as hard as it can."
Gombauld grew lyrical. Everybody ought to have children--Anne
ought to have them, Mary ought to have them--dozens and dozens.
He emphasised his point by thumping with his walking-stick on the
bull's leather flanks. Mr. Scogan ought to pass on his
intelligence to little Scogans, and Denis to little Denises. The
bull turned his head to see what was happening, regarded the
drumming stick for several seconds, then turned back again
satisfied, it seemed, that nothing was happening. Sterility was
odious, unnatural, a sin against life. Life, life, and still
more life. The ribs of the placid bull resounded.
Standing with his back against the farmyard pump, a little apart,
Denis examined the group. Gombauld, passionate and vivacious,
was its centre. The others stood round, listening--Henry
Wimbush, calm and polite beneath his grey bowler; Mary, with
parted lips and eyes that shone with the indignation of a
convinced birth-controller. Anne looked on through half-shut
eyes, smiling; and beside her stood Mr. Scogan, bolt upright in
an attitude of metallic rigidity that contrasted strangely with
that fluid grace of hers which even in stillness suggested a soft
Gombauld ceased talking, and Mary, flushed and outraged, opened
her mouth to refute him. But she was too slow. Before she could
utter a word Mr. Scogan's fluty voice had pronounced the opening
phrases of a discourse. There was no hope of getting so much as
a word in edgeways; Mary had perforce to resign herself.
"Even your eloquence, my dear Gombauld," he was saying--"even
your eloquence must prove inadequate to reconvert the world to a
belief in the delights of mere multiplication. With the
gramophone, the cinema, and the automatic pistol, the goddess of
Applied Science has presented the world with another gift, more
precious even than these--the means of dissociating love from
propagation. Eros, for those who wish it, is now an entirely
free god; his deplorable associations with Lucina may be broken
at will. In the course of the next few centuries, who knows? the
world may see a more complete severance. I look forward to it
optimistically. Where the great Erasmus Darwin and Miss Anna
Seward, Swan of Lichfield, experimented--and, for all their
scientific ardour, failed--our descendants will experiment and
succeed. An impersonal generation will take the place of
Nature's hideous system. In vast state incubators, rows upon
rows of gravid bottles will supply the world with the population
it requires. The family system will disappear; society, sapped
at its very base, will have to find new foundations; and Eros,
beautifully and irresponsibly free, will flit like a gay
butterfly from flower to flower through a sunlit world."
"It sounds lovely," said Anne.
"The distant future always does."
Mary's china blue eyes, more serious and more astonished than
ever, were fixed on Mr. Scogan. "Bottles?" she said. "Do you
really think so? Bottles..."
Mr. Barbecue-Smith arrived in time for tea on Saturday afternoon.
He was a short and corpulent man, with a very large head and no
neck. In his earlier middle age he had been distressed by this
absence of neck, but was comforted by reading in Balzac's "Louis
Lambert" that all the world's great men have been marked by the
same peculiarity, and for a simple and obvious reason: Greatness
is nothing more nor less than the harmonious functioning of the
faculties of the head and heart; the shorter the neck, the more
closely these two organs approach one another; argal...It was
Mr. Barbecue-Smith belonged to the old school of journalists. He
sported a leonine head with a greyish-black mane of oddly
unappetising hair brushed back from a broad but low forehead.
And somehow he always seemed slightly, ever so slightly, soiled.
In younger days he had gaily called himself a Bohemian. He did
so no longer. He was a teacher now, a kind of prophet. Some of
his books of comfort and spiritual teaching were in their hundred
and twentieth thousand.
Priscilla received him with every mark of esteem. He had never
been to Crome before; she showed him round the house. Mr.
Barbecue-Smith was full of admiration.
"So quaint, so old-world," he kept repeating. He had a rich,
rather unctuous voice.
Priscilla praised his latest book. "Splendid, I thought it was,"
she said in her large, jolly way.
"I'm happy to think you found it a comfort," said Mr. Barbecue-
"Oh, tremendously! And the bit about the Lotus Pool--I thought
that so beautiful."
"I knew you would like that. It came to me, you know, from
without." He waved his hand to indicate the astral world.
They went out into the garden for tea. Mr. Barbecue-Smith was
"Mr. Stone is a writer too," said Priscilla, as she introduced
"Indeed!" Mr. Barbecue-Smith smiled benignly, and, looking up at
Denis with an expression of Olympian condescension, "And what
sort of things do you write?"
Denis was furious, and, to make matters worse, he felt himself
blushing hotly. Had Priscilla no sense of proportion? She was
putting them in the same category--Barbecue-Smith and himself.
They were both writers, they both used pen and ink. To Mr.
Barbecue-Smith's question he answered, "Oh, nothing much,
nothing," and looked away.
"Mr. Stone is one of our younger poets." It was Anne's voice.
He scowled at her, and she smiled back exasperatingly.
"Excellent, excellent," said Mr. Barbecue-Smith, and he squeezed
Denis's arm encouragingly. "The Bard's is a noble calling."
As soon as tea was over Mr. Barbecue-Smith excused himself; he
had to do some writing before dinner. Priscilla quite
understood. The prophet retired to his chamber.
Mr. Barbecue-Smith came down to the drawing-room at ten to eight.
He was in a good humour, and, as he descended the stairs, he
smiled to himself and rubbed his large white hands together. In
the drawing-room someone was playing softly and ramblingly on the
piano. He wondered who it could be. One of the young ladies,
perhaps. But no, it was only Denis, who got up hurriedly and
with some embarrassment as he came into the room.
"Do go on, do go on," said Mr. Barbecue-Smith. "I am very fond
"Then I couldn't possibly go on," Denis replied. "I only make
There was a silence. Mr. Barbecue-Smith stood with his back to
the hearth, warming himself at the memory of last winter's fires.
He could not control his interior satisfaction, but still went on
smiling to himself. At last he turned to Denis.
"You write," he asked, "don't you?"
"Well, yes--a little, you know."
"How many words do you find you can write in an hour?"
"I don't think I've ever counted."
"Oh, you ought to, you ought to. It's most important."
Denis exercised his memory. "When I'm in good form," he said, "I
fancy I do a twelve-hundred-word review in about four hours. But
sometimes it takes me much longer."
Mr. Barbecue-Smith nodded. "Yes, three hundred words an hour at
your best." He walked out into the middle of the room, turned
round on his heels, and confronted Denis again. "Guess how many
words I wrote this evening between five and half-past seven."
"I can't imagine."
"No, but you must guess. Between five and half-past seven--
that's two and a half hours."
"Twelve hundred words," Denis hazarded.
"No, no, no." Mr. Barbecue-Smith's expanded face shone with
gaiety. "Try again."
"I give it up," said Denis. He found he couldn't summon up much
interest in Mr. Barbecue-Smith's writing.
"Well, I'll tell you. Three thousand eight hundred."
Denis opened his eyes. "You must get a lot done in a day," he
Mr. Barbecue-Smith suddenly became extremely confidential. He
pulled up a stool to the side of Denis's arm-chair, sat down in
it, and began to talk softly and rapidly.
"Listen to me," he said, laying his hand on Denis's sleeve. "You
want to make your living by writing; you're young, you're
inexperienced. Let me give you a little sound advice."
What was the fellow going to do? Denis wondered: give him an
introduction to the editor of "John o' London's Weekly", or tell
him where he could sell a light middle for seven guineas? Mr.
Barbecue-Smith patted his arm several times and went on.
"The secret of writing," he said, breathing it into the young
man's ear--"the secret of writing is Inspiration."
Denis looked at him in astonishment.
"Inspiration..." Mr. Barbecue-Smith repeated.
"You mean the native wood-note business?"
Mr. Barbecue-Smith nodded.
"Oh, then I entirely agree with you," said Denis. "But what if
one hasn't got Inspiration?"
"That was precisely the question I was waiting for," said Mr.
Barbecue-Smith. "You ask me what one should do if one hasn't got
Inspiration. I answer: you have Inspiration; everyone has
Inspiration. It's simply a question of getting it to function."
The clock struck eight. There was no sign of any of the other
guests; everybody was always late at Crome. Mr. Barbecue-Smith
"That's my secret," he said. "I give it you freely." (Denis
made a suitably grateful murmur and grimace.) "I'll help you to
find your Inspiration, because I don't like to see a nice, steady
young man like you exhausting his vitality and wasting the best
years of his life in a grinding intellectual labour that could be
completely obviated by Inspiration. I did it myself, so I know
what it's like. Up till the time I was thirty-eight I was a
writer like you--a writer without Inspiration. All I wrote I
squeezed out of myself by sheer hard work. Why, in those days I
was never able to do more than six-fifty words an hour, and
what's more, I often didn't sell what I wrote." He sighed. "We
artists," he said parenthetically, "we intellectuals aren't much
appreciated here in England." Denis wondered if there was any
method, consistent, of course, with politeness, by which he could
dissociate himself from Mr. Barbecue-Smith's "we." There was
none; and besides, it was too late now, for Mr. Barbecue-Smith
was once more pursuing the tenor of his discourse.
"At thirty-eight I was a poor, struggling, tired, overworked,
unknown journalist. Now, at fifty..." He paused modestly and
made a little gesture, moving his fat hands outwards, away from
one another, and expanding his fingers as though in
demonstration. He was exhibiting himself. Denis thought of that
advertisement of Nestle's milk--the two cats on the wall, under
the moon, one black and thin, the other white, sleek, and fat.
Before Inspiration and after.
"Inspiration has made the difference," said Mr. Barbecue-Smith
solemnly. "It came quite suddenly--like a gentle dew from
heaven." He lifted his hand and let it fall back on to his knee
to indicate the descent of the dew. "It was one evening. I was
writing my first little book about the Conduct of Life--'Humble
Heroisms'. You may have read it; it has been a comfort--at least
I hope and think so--a comfort to many thousands. I was in the
middle of the second chapter, and I was stuck. Fatigue,
overwork--I had only written a hundred words in the last hour,
and I could get no further. I sat biting the end of my pen and
looking at the electric light, which hung above my table, a
little above and in front of me." He indicated the position of
the lamp with elaborate care. "Have you ever looked at a bright
light intently for a long time?" he asked, turning to Denis.
Denis didn't think he had. "You can hypnotise yourself that
way," Mr. Barbecue-Smith went on.
The gong sounded in a terrific crescendo from the hall. Still no
sign of the others. Denis was horribly hungry.
"That's what happened to me," said Mr. Barbecue-Smith. "I was
hypnotised. I lost consciousness like that." He snapped his
fingers. "When I came to, I found that it was past midnight, and
I had written four thousand words. Four thousand," he repeated,
opening his mouth very wide on the "ou" of thousand.
"Inspiration had come to me."
"What a very extraordinary thing," said Denis.
"I was afraid of it at first. It didn't seem to me natural. I
didn't feel, somehow, that it was quite right, quite fair, I
might almost say, to produce a literary composition
unconsciously. Besides, I was afraid I might have written
"And had you written nonsense?" Denis asked.
"Certainly not," Mr. Barbecue-Smith replied, with a trace of
annoyance. "Certainly not. It was admirable. Just a few
spelling mistakes and slips, such as there generally are in
automatic writing. But the style, the thought--all the
essentials were admirable. After that, Inspiration came to me
regularly. I wrote the whole of 'Humble Heroisms' like that. It
was a great success, and so has everything been that I have
written since." He leaned forward and jabbed at Denis with his
finger. "That's my secret," he said, "and that's how you could
write too, if you tried--without effort, fluently, well."
"But how?" asked Denis, trying not to show how deeply he had been
insulted by that final "well."
"By cultivating your Inspiration, by getting into touch with your
Subconscious. Have you ever read my little book, 'Pipe-Lines to
Denis had to confess that that was, precisely, one of the few,
perhaps the only one, of Mr. Barbecue-Smith's works he had not
"Never mind, never mind," said Mr. Barbecue-Smith. "It's just a
little book about the connection of the Subconscious with the
Infinite. Get into touch with the Subconscious and you are in
touch with the Universe. Inspiration, in fact. You follow me?"
"Perfectly, perfectly," said Denis. "But don't you find that the
Universe sometimes sends you very irrelevant messages?"
"I don't allow it to," Mr. Barbecue-Smith replied. "I canalise
it. I bring it down through pipes to work the turbines of my
"Like Niagara," Denis suggested. Some of Mr. Barbecue-Smith's
remarks sounded strangely like quotations--quotations from his
own works, no doubt.
"Precisely. Like Niagara. And this is how I do it." He leaned
forward, and with a raised forefinger marked his points as he
made them, beating time, as it were, to his discourse. "Before I
go off into my trance, I concentrate on the subject I wish to be
inspired about. Let us say I am writing about the humble
heroisms; for ten minutes before I go into the trance I think of
nothing but orphans supporting their little brothers and sisters,
of dull work well and patiently done, and I focus my mind on such
great philosophical truths as the purification and uplifting of
the soul by suffering, and the alchemical transformation of
leaden evil into golden good." (Denis again hung up his little
festoon of quotation marks.) "Then I pop off. Two or three
hours later I wake up again, and find that inspiration has done
its work. Thousands of words, comforting, uplifting words, lie
before me. I type them out neatly on my machine and they are
ready for the printer."
"It all sounds wonderfully simple," said Denis.
"It is. All the great and splendid and divine things of life are
wonderfully simple." (Quotation marks again.) "When I have to
do my aphorisms," Mr. Barbecue-Smith continued, "I prelude my
trance by turning over the pages of any Dictionary of Quotations
or Shakespeare Calendar that comes to hand. That sets the key,
so to speak; that ensures that the Universe shall come flowing
in, not in a continuous rush, but in aphorismic drops. You see
Denis nodded. Mr. Barbecue-Smith put his hand in his pocket and
pulled out a notebook. "I did a few in the train to-day," he
said, turning over the pages. "Just dropped off into a trance in
the corner of my carriage. I find the train very conducive to
good work. Here they are." He cleared his throat and read:
"The Mountain Road may be steep, but the air is pure up there,
and it is from the Summit that one gets the view."
"The Things that Really Matter happen in the Heart."
It was curious, Denis reflected, the way the Infinite sometimes
"Seeing is Believing. Yes, but Believing is also Seeing. If I
believe in God, I see God, even in the things that seem to be
Mr. Barbecue-Smith looked up from his notebook. "That last one,"
he said, "is particularly subtle and beautiful, don't you think?
Without Inspiration I could never have hit on that." He re-read
the apophthegm with a slower and more solemn utterance.
"Straight from the Infinite," he commented reflectively, then
addressed himself to the next aphorism.
"The flame of a candle gives Light, but it also Burns."
Puzzled wrinkles appeared on Mr. Barbecue-Smith's forehead. "I
don't exactly know what that means," he said. "It's very gnomic.
One could apply it, of course to the Higher Education--
illuminating, but provoking the Lower Classes to discontent and
revolution. Yes, I suppose that's what it is. But it's gnomic,
it's gnomic." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. The gong sounded
again, clamorously, it seemed imploringly: dinner was growing
cold. It roused Mr. Barbecue-Smith from meditation. He turned
"You understand me now when I advise you to cultivate your
Inspiration. Let your Subconscious work for you; turn on the
Niagara of the Infinite."
There was the sound of feet on the stairs. Mr. Barbecue-Smith
got up, laid his hand for an instant on Denis's shoulder, and
"No more now. Another time. And remember, I rely absolutely on
your discretion in this matter. There are intimate, sacred
things that one doesn't wish to be generally known."
"Of course," said Denis. "I quite understand."
At Crome all the beds were ancient hereditary pieces of
furniture. Huge beds, like four-masted ships, with furled sails
of shining coloured stuff. Beds carved and inlaid, beds painted
and gilded. Beds of walnut and oak, of rare exotic woods. Beds
of every date and fashion from the time of Sir Ferdinando, who
built the house, to the time of his namesake in the late
eighteenth century, the last of the family, but all of them
The finest of all was now Anne's bed. Sir Julius, son to Sir
Ferdinando, had had it made in Venice against his wife's first
lying-in. Early seicento Venice had expended all its extravagant
art in the making of it. The body of the bed was like a great
square sarcophagus. Clustering roses were carved in high relief
on its wooden panels, and luscious putti wallowed among the
roses. On the black ground-work of the panels the carved reliefs
were gilded and burnished. The golden roses twined in spirals up
the four pillar-like posts, and cherubs, seated at the top of
each column, supported a wooden canopy fretted with the same
Anne was reading in bed. Two candles stood on the little table
beside her, in their rich light her face, her bare arm and
shoulder took on warm hues and a sort of peach-like quality of
surface. Here and there in the canopy above her carved golden
petals shone brightly among profound shadows, and the soft light,
falling on the sculptured panel of the bed, broke restlessly
among the intricate roses, lingered in a broad caress on the
blown cheeks, the dimpled bellies, the tight, absurd little
posteriors of the sprawling putti.
There was a discreet tap at the door. She looked up. "Come in,
come in." A face, round and childish, within its sleek bell of
golden hair, peered round the opening door. More childish-
looking still, a suit of mauve pyjamas made its entrance.
It was Mary. "I thought I'd just look in for a moment to say
good-night," she said, and sat down on the edge of the bed.
Anne closed her book. "That was very sweet of you."
"What are you reading?" She looked at the book. "Rather second-
rate, isn't it?" The tone in which Mary pronounced the word
"second-rate" implied an almost infinite denigration. She was
accustomed in London to associate only with first-rate people who
liked first-rate things, and she knew that there were very, very
few first-rate things in the world, and that those were mostly
"Well, I'm afraid I like it," said Anne. There was nothing more
to be said. The silence that followed was a rather uncomfortable
one. Mary fiddled uneasily with the bottom button of her pyjama
jacket. Leaning back on her mound of heaped-up pillows, Anne
waited and wondered what was coming.
"I'm so awfully afraid of repressions," said Mary at last,
bursting suddenly and surprisingly into speech. She pronounced
the words on the tail-end of an expiring breath, and had to gasp
for new air almost before the phrase was finished.
"What's there to be depressed about?"
"I said repressions, not depressions."
"Oh, repressions; I see," said Anne. "But repressions of what?"
Mary had to explain. "The natural instincts of sex..." she began
didactically. But Anne cut her short.
"Yes, yes. Perfectly. I understand. Repressions! old maids and
all the rest. But what about them?"
"That's just it," said Mary. "I'm afraid of them. It's always
dangerous to repress one's instincts. I'm beginning to detect in
myself symptoms like the ones you read of in the books. I
constantly dream that I'm falling down wells; and sometimes I
even dream that I'm climbing up ladders. It's most disquieting.
The symptoms are only too clear."
"One may become a nymphomaniac of one's not careful. You've no
idea how serious these repressions are if you don't get rid of
them in time."
"It sounds too awful," said Anne. "But I don't see that I can do
anything to help you."
"I thought I'd just like to talk it over with you."
"Why, of course; I'm only too happy, Mary darling."
Mary coughed and drew a deep breath. "I presume," she began
sententiously, "I presume we may take for granted that an
intelligent young woman of twenty-three who has lived in
civilised society in the twentieth century has no prejudices."
"Well, I confess I still have a few."
"But not about repressions."
"No, not many about repressions; that's true."
"Or, rather, about getting rid of repressions."
"So much for our fundamental postulate," said Mary. Solemnity
was expressed in every feature of her round young face, radiated
from her large blue eyes. "We come next to the desirability of
possessing experience. I hope we are agreed that knowledge is
desirable and that ignorance is undesirable."
Obedient as one of those complaisant disciples from whom Socrates
could get whatever answer he chose, Anne gave her assent to this
"And we are equally agreed, I hope, that marriage is what it is."
"Good!" said Mary. "And repressions being what they are..."
"There would therefore seem to be only one conclusion."
"But I knew that," Anne exclaimed, "before you began."
"Yes, but now it's been proved," said Mary. "One must do things
logically. The question is now..."
"But where does the question come in? You've reached your only
possible conclusion--logically, which is more than I could have
done. All that remains is to impart the information to someone
you like--someone you like really rather a lot, someone you're in
love with, if I may express myself so baldly."
"But that's just where the question comes in," Mary exclaimed.
"I'm not in love with anybody."
"Then, if I were you, I should wait till you are."
"But I can't go on dreaming night after night that I'm falling
down a well. It's too dangerous."
"Well, if it really is TOO dangerous, then of course you must do
something about it; you must find somebody else."
"But who?" A thoughtful frown puckered Mary's brow. "It must be
somebody intelligent, somebody with intellectual interests that I
can share. And it must be somebody with a proper respect for
women, somebody who's prepared to talk seriously about his work
and his ideas and about my work and my ideas. It isn't, as you
see, at all easy to find the right person."
"Well" said Anne, "there are three unattached and intelligent men
in the house at the present time. There's Mr. Scogan, to begin
with; but perhaps he's rather too much of a genuine antique. And
there are Gombauld and Denis. Shall we say that the choice is
limited to the last two?"
Mary nodded. "I think we had better," she said, and then
hesitated, with a certain air of embarrassment.
"What is it?"
"I was wondering," said Mary, with a gasp, "whether they really
were unattached. I thought that perhaps you might...you
"It was very nice of you to think of me, Mary darling," said
Anne, smiling the tight cat's smile. "But as far as I'm
concerned, they are both entirely unattached."
"I'm very glad of that," said Mary, looking relieved. "We are
now confronted with the question: Which of the two?"
"I can give no advice. It's a matter for your taste."
"It's not a matter of my taste," Mary pronounced, "but of their
merits. We must weigh them and consider them carefully and
"You must do the weighing yourself," said Anne; there was still
the trace of a smile at the corners of her mouth and round the
half-closed eyes. "I won't run the risk of advising you
"Gombauld has more talent," Mary began, "but he is less civilised
than Denis." Mary's pronunciation of "civilised" gave the word a
special and additional significance. She uttered it
meticulously, in the very front of her mouth, hissing delicately
on the opening sibilant. So few people were civilised, and they,
like the first-rate works of art, were mostly French.
"Civilisation is most important, don't you think?"
Anne held up her hand. "I won't advise," she said. "You must
make the decision."
"Gombauld's family," Mary went on reflectively, "comes from
Marseilles. Rather a dangerous heredity, when one thinks of the
Latin attitude towards women. But then, I sometimes wonder
whether Denis is altogether serious-minded, whether he isn't
rather a dilettante. It's very difficult. What do you think?"
"I'm not listening," said Anne. "I refuse to take any
Mary sighed. "Well," she said, "I think I had better go to bed
and think about it."
"Carefully and dispassionately," said Anne.
At the door Mary turned round. "Good-night," she said, and
wondered as she said the words why Anne was smiling in that
curious way. It was probably nothing, she reflected. Anne often
smiled for no apparent reason; it was probably just a habit. "I
hope I shan't dream of falling down wells again to-night," she
"Ladders are worse," said Anne.
Mary nodded. "Yes, ladders are much graver."
Breakfast on Sunday morning was an hour later than on week-days,
and Priscilla, who usually made no public appearance before
luncheon, honoured it by her presence. Dressed in black silk,
with a ruby cross as well as her customary string of pearls round
her neck, she presided. An enormous Sunday paper concealed all
but the extreme pinnacle of her coiffure from the outer world.
"I see Surrey has won," she said, with her mouth full, "by four
wickets. The sun is in Leo: that would account for it!"
"Splendid game, cricket," remarked Mr. Barbecue-Smith heartily to
no one in particular; "so thoroughly English."
Jenny, who was sitting next to him, woke up suddenly with a
start. "What?" she said. "What?"
"So English," repeated Mr. Barbecue-Smith.
Jenny looked at him, surprised. "English? Of course I am."
He was beginning to explain, when Mrs. Wimbush vailed her Sunday
paper, and appeared, a square, mauve-powdered face in the midst
of orange splendours. "I see there's a new series of articles on
the next world just beginning," she said to Mr. Barbecue-Smith.
"This one's called 'Summer Land and Gehenna.'"
"Summer Land," echoed Mr. Barbecue-Smith, closing his eyes.
"Summer Land. A beautiful name. Beautiful--beautiful."
Mary had taken the seat next to Denis's. After a night of
careful consideration she had decided on Denis. He might have
less talent than Gombauld, he might be a little lacking in
seriousness, but somehow he was safer.
"Are you writing much poetry here in the country?" she asked,
with a bright gravity.
"None," said Denis curtly. "I haven't brought my typewriter."
"But do you mean to say you can't write without a typewriter?"
Denis shook his head. He hated talking at breakfast, and,
besides, he wanted to hear what Mr. Scogan was saying at the
other end of the table.
"...My scheme for dealing with the Church," Mr. Scogan was
saying, "is beautifully simple. At the present time the Anglican
clergy wear their collars the wrong way round. I would compel
them to wear, not only their collars, but all their clothes,
turned back to frantic--coat, waistcoat, trousers, boots--so that
every clergyman should present to the world a smooth facade,
unbroken by stud, button, or lace. The enforcement of such a
livery would act as a wholesome deterrent to those intending to
enter the Church. At the same time it would enormously enhance,
what Archbishop Laud so rightly insisted on, the 'beauty of
holiness' in the few incorrigibles who could not be deterred."
"In hell, it seems," said Priscilla, reading in her Sunday paper,
"the children amuse themselves by flaying lambs alive."
"Ah, but, dear lady, that's only a symbol," exclaimed Mr.
Barbecue-Smith, "a material symbol of a h-piritual truth. Lambs
"Then there are military uniforms," Mr. Scogan went on. "When
scarlet and pipe-clay were abandoned for khaki, there were some
who trembled for the future of war. But then, finding how
elegant the new tunic was, how closely it clipped the waist, how
voluptuously, with the lateral bustles of the pockets, it
exaggerated the hips; when they realized the brilliant
potentialities of breeches and top-boots, they were reassured.
Abolish these military elegances, standardise a uniform of sack-
cloth and mackintosh, you will very soon find that..."
"Is anyone coming to church with me this morning?" asked Henry
Wimbush. No one responded. He baited his bare invitation. "I
read the lessons, you know. And there's Mr. Bodiham. His
sermons are sometimes worth hearing."
"Thank you, thank you," said Mr. Barbecue-Smith. "I for one
prefer to worship in the infinite church of Nature. How does our
Shakespeare put it? 'Sermons in books, stones in the running
brooks.'" He waved his arm in a fine gesture towards the window,
and even as he did so he became vaguely, but none the less
insistently, none the less uncomfortably aware that something had
gone wrong with the quotation. Something--what could it be?
Sermons? Stones? Books?
Mr. Bodiham was sitting in his study at the Rectory. The
nineteenth-century Gothic windows, narrow and pointed, admitted
the light grudgingly; in spite of the brilliant July weather, the
room was sombre. Brown varnished bookshelves lined the walls,
filled with row upon row of those thick, heavy theological works
which the second-hand booksellers generally sell by weight. The
mantelpiece, the over-mantel, a towering structure of spindly
pillars and little shelves, were brown and varnished. The
writing-desk was brown and varnished. So were the chairs, so was
the door. A dark red-brown carpet with patterns covered the
floor. Everything was brown in the room, and there was a curious
In the midst of this brown gloom Mr. Bodiham sat at his desk. He
was the man in the Iron Mask. A grey metallic face with iron
cheek-bones and a narrow iron brow; iron folds, hard and
unchanging, ran perpendicularly down his cheeks; his nose was the
iron beak of some thin, delicate bird of rapine. He had brown
eyes, set in sockets rimmed with iron; round them the skin was
dark, as though it had been charred. Dense wiry hair covered his
skull; it had been black, it was turning grey. His ears were
very small and fine. His jaws, his chin, his upper lip were
dark, iron-dark, where he had shaved. His voice, when he spoke
and especially when he raised it in preaching, was harsh, like
the grating of iron hinges when a seldom-used door is opened.
It was nearly half-past twelve. He had just come back from
church, hoarse and weary with preaching. He preached with fury,
with passion, an iron man beating with a flail upon the souls of
his congregation. But the souls of the faithful at Crome were
made of india-rubber, solid rubber; the flail rebounded. They
were used to Mr. Bodiham at Crome. The flail thumped on india-
rubber, and as often as not the rubber slept.
That morning he had preached, as he had often preached before, on
the nature of God. He had tried to make them understand about
God, what a fearful thing it was to fall into His hands. God--
they thought of something soft and merciful. They blinded
themselves to facts; still more, they blinded themselves to the
Bible. The passengers on the "Titanic" sang "Nearer my God to
Thee" as the ship was going down. Did they realise what they
were asking to be brought nearer to? A white fire of
righteousness, an angry fire...
When Savonarola preached, men sobbed and groaned aloud. Nothing
broke the polite silence with which Crome listened to Mr.
Bodiham--only an occasional cough and sometimes the sound of
heavy breathing. In the front pew sat Henry Wimbush, calm, well-
bred, beautifully dressed. There were times when Mr. Bodiham
wanted to jump down from the pulpit and shake him into life,--
times when he would have liked to beat and kill his whole
He sat at his desk dejectedly. Outside the Gothic windows the
earth was warm and marvellously calm. Everything was as it had
always been. And yet, and yet...It was nearly four years now
since he had preached that sermon on Matthew xxiv. 7: "For
nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in
divers places." It was nearly four years. He had had the sermon
printed; it was so terribly, so vitally important that all the
world should know what he had to say. A copy of the little
pamphlet lay on his desk--eight small grey pages, printed by a
fount of type that had grown blunt, like an old dog's teeth, by
the endless champing and champing of the press. He opened it and
began to read it yet once again.
"'For nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against
kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and
earthquakes, in divers places.'
"Nineteen centuries have elapsed since Our Lord gave utterance to
those words, and not a single one of them has been without wars,
plagues, famines, and earthquakes. Mighty empires have crashed
in ruin to the ground, diseases have unpeopled half the globe,
there have been vast natural cataclysms in which thousands have
been overwhelmed by flood and fire and whirlwind. Time and
again, in the course of these nineteen centuries, such things
have happened, but they have not brought Christ back to earth.
They were 'signs of the times' inasmuch as they were signs of
God's wrath against the chronic wickedness of mankind, but they
were not signs of the times in connection with the Second Coming.
"If earnest Christians have regarded the present war as a true
sign of the Lord's approaching return, it is not merely because
it happens to be a great war involving the lives of millions of
people, not merely because famine is tightening its grip on every
country in Europe, not merely because disease of every kind, from
syphilis to spotted fever, is rife among the warring nations; no,
it is not for these reasons that we regard this war as a true
Sign of the Times, but because in its origin and its progress it
is marked by certain characteristics which seem to connect it
almost beyond a doubt with the predictions in Christian Prophecy
relating to the Second Coming of the Lord.
"Let me enumerate the features of the present war which most
clearly suggest that it is a Sign foretelling the near approach
of the Second Advent. Our Lord said that 'this Gospel of the
Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all
nations; and then shall the end come.' Although it would be
presumptuous for us to say what degree of evangelisation will be
regarded by God as sufficient, we may at least confidently hope
that a century of unflagging missionary work has brought the
fulfilment of this condition at any rate near. True, the larger
number of the world's inhabitants have remained deaf to the
preaching of the true religion; but that does not vitiate the
fact that the Gospel HAS been preached 'for a witness' to all
unbelievers from the Papist to the Zulu. The responsibility for
the continued prevalence of unbelief lies, not with the
preachers, but with those preached to.
"Again, it has been generally recognised that 'the drying up of
the waters of the great river Euphrates,' mentioned in the
sixteenth chapter of Revelation, refers to the decay and
extinction of Turkish power, and is a sign of the near
approaching end of the world as we know it. The capture of
Jerusalem and the successes in Mesopotamia are great strides
forward in the destruction of the Ottoman Empire; though it must
be admitted that the Gallipoli episode proved that the Turk still
possesses a 'notable horn' of strength. Historically speaking,
this drying up of Ottoman power has been going on for the past
century; the last two years have witnessed a great acceleration
of the process, and there can be no doubt that complete
desiccation is within sight.
"Closely following on the words concerning the drying up of
Euphrates comes the prophecy of Armageddon, that world war with
which the Second Coming is to be so closely associated. Once
begun, the world war can end only with the return of Christ, and
His coming will be sudden and unexpected, like that of a thief in
"Let us examine the facts. In history, exactly as in St. John's
Gospel, the world war is immediately preceded by the drying up of
Euphrates, or the decay of Turkish power. This fact alone would
be enough to connect the present conflict with the Armageddon of
Revelation and therefore to point to the near approach of the
Second Advent. But further evidence of an even more solid and
convincing nature can be adduced.
"Armageddon is brought about by the activities of three unclean
spirits, as it were toads, which come out of the mouths of the
Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet. If we can identify
these three powers of evil much light will clearly be thrown on
the whole question.
"The Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet can all be
identified in history. Satan, who can only work through human
agency, has used these three powers in the long war against
Christ which has filled the last nineteen centuries with
religious strife. The Dragon, it has been sufficiently
established, is pagan Rome, and the spirit issuing from its mouth
is the spirit of Infidelity. The Beast, alternatively symbolised
as a Woman, is undoubtedly the Papal power, and Popery is the
spirit which it spews forth. There is only one power which
answers to the description of the False Prophet, the wolf in
sheep's clothing, the agent of the devil working in the guise of
the Lamb, and that power is the so-called 'Society of Jesus.'
The spirit that issues from the mouth of the False Prophet is the
spirit of False Morality.
"We may assume, then, that the three evil spirits are Infidelity,
Popery, and False Morality. Have these three influences been the
real cause of the present conflict? The answer is clear.
"The spirit of Infidelity is the very spirit of German criticism.
The Higher Criticism, as it is mockingly called, denies the
possibility of miracles, prediction, and real inspiration, and
attempts to account for the Bible as a natural development.
Slowly but surely, during the last eighty years, the spirit of
Infidelity has been robbing the Germans of their Bible and their
faith, so that Germany is to-day a nation of unbelievers. Higher
Criticism has thus made the war possible; for it would be
absolutely impossible for any Christian nation to wage war as
Germany is waging it.
"We come next to the spirit of Popery, whose influence in causing
the war was quite as great as that of Infidelity, though not,
perhaps, so immediately obvious. Since the Franco-Prussian War
the Papal power has steadily declined in France, while in Germany
it has steadily increased. To-day France is an anti-papal state,
while Germany possesses a powerful Roman Catholic minority. Two
papally controlled states, Germany and Austria, are at war with
six anti-papal states--England, France, Italy, Russia, Serbia,
and Portugal. Belgium is, of course, a thoroughly papal state,
and there can be little doubt that the presence on the Allies'
side of an element so essentially hostile has done much to hamper
the righteous cause and is responsible for our comparative ill-
success. That the spirit of Popery is behind the war is thus
seen clearly enough in the grouping of the opposed powers, while
the rebellion in the Roman Catholic parts of Ireland has merely
confirmed a conclusion already obvious to any unbiased mind.
"The spirit of False Morality has played as great a part in this
war as the two other evil spirits. The Scrap of Paper incident
is the nearest and most obvious example of Germany's adherence to
this essentially unchristian or Jesuitical morality. The end is
German world-power, and in the attainment of this end, any means
are justifiable. It is the true principle of Jesuitry applied to
"The identification is now complete. As was predicted in
Revelation, the three evil spirits have gone forth just as the
decay of the Ottoman power was nearing completion, and have
joined together to make the world war. The warning, 'Behold, I
come as a thief,' is therefore meant for the present period--for
you and me and all the world. This war will lead on inevitably
to the war of Armageddon, and will only be brought to an end by
the Lord's personal return.
"And when He returns, what will happen? Those who are in Christ,
St. John tells us, will be called to the Supper of the Lamb.
Those who are found fighting against Him will be called to the
Supper of the Great God--that grim banquet where they shall not
feast, but be feasted on. 'For,' as St. John says, 'I saw an
angel standing in the sun; and he cried in a loud voice, saying
to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather
yourselves together unto the supper of the Great God; that ye may
eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh
of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on
them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small
and great.' All the enemies of Christ will be slain with the
sword of him that sits upon the horse, 'and all the fowls will be
filled with their flesh.' That is the Supper of the Great God.
"It may be soon or it may, as men reckon time, be long; but
sooner or later, inevitably, the Lord will come and deliver the
world from its present troubles. And woe unto them who are
called, not to the Supper of the Lamb, but to the Supper of the
Great God. They will realise then, but too late, that God is a
God of Wrath as well as a God of Forgiveness. The God who sent
bears to devour the mockers of Elisha, the God who smote the
Egyptians for their stubborn wickedness, will assuredly smite
them too, unless they make haste to repent. But perhaps it is
already too late. Who knows but that to-morrow, in a moment
even, Christ may be upon us unawares, like a thief? In a little
while, who knows? The angel standing in the sun may be summoning
the ravens and vultures from their crannies in the rocks to feed
upon the putrefying flesh of the millions of unrighteous whom
God's wrath has destroyed. Be ready, then; the coming of the
Lord is at hand. May it be for all of you an object of hope, not
a moment to look forward to with terror and trembling."
Mr. Bodiham closed the little pamphlet and leaned back in his
chair. The argument was sound, absolutely compelling; and yet--
it was four years since he had preached that sermon; four years,
and England was at peace, the sun shone, the people of Crome were
as wicked and indifferent as ever--more so, indeed, if that were
possible. If only he could understand, if the heavens would but
make a sign! But his questionings remained unanswered. Seated
there in his brown varnished chair under the Ruskinian window, he
could have screamed aloud. He gripped the arms of his chair--
gripping, gripping for control. The knuckles of his hands
whitened; he bit his lip. In a few seconds he was able to relax
the tension; he began to rebuke himself for his rebellious
Four years, he reflected; what were four years, after all? It
must inevitably take a long time for Armageddon to ripen to yeast
itself up. The episode of 1914 had been a preliminary skirmish.
And as for the war having come to an end--why, that, of course,
was illusory. It was still going on, smouldering away in
Silesia, in Ireland, in Anatolia; the discontent in Egypt and
India was preparing the way, perhaps, for a great extension of
the slaughter among the heathen peoples. The Chinese boycott of
Japan, and the rivalries of that country and America in the
Pacific, might be breeding a great new war in the East. The
prospect, Mr. Bodiham tried to assure himself, was hopeful; the
real, the genuine Armageddon might soon begin, and then, like a
thief in the night...But, in spite of all his comfortable
reasoning, he remained unhappy, dissatisfied. Four years ago he
had been so confident; God's intention seemed then so plain. And
now? Now, he did well to be angry. And now he suffered too.
Sudden and silent as a phantom Mrs. Bodiham appeared, gliding
noiselessly across the room. Above her black dress her face was
pale with an opaque whiteness, her eyes were pale as water in a
glass, and her strawy hair was almost colourless. She held a
large envelope in her hand.
"This came for you by the post," she said softly.
The envelope was unsealed. Mechanically Mr. Bodiham tore it
open. It contained a pamphlet, larger than his own and more
elegant in appearance. "The House of Sheeny, Clerical
Outfitters, Birmingham." He turned over the pages. The
catalogue was tastefully and ecclesiastically printed in antique
characters with illuminated Gothic initials. Red marginal lines,
crossed at the corners after the manner of an Oxford picture
frame, enclosed each page of type, little red crosses took the
place of full stops. Mr. Bodiham turned the pages.
"Soutane in best black merino. Ready to wear; in all sizes.
Clerical frock coats. From nine guineas. A dressy garment,
tailored by our own experienced ecclesiastical cutters."
Half-tone illustrations represented young curates, some dapper,
some Rugbeian and muscular, some with ascetic faces and large
ecstatic eyes, dressed in jackets, in frock-coats, in surplices,
in clerical evening dress, in black Norfolk suitings.
"A large assortment of chasubles.
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