Part 3 out of 4
subscribe a sum equal to that which they would have had to pay in
funeral expenses if the relative had died while at home. Further
delay was disastrous. The War Memorial must be built at once.
He appealed to the patriotism and the Christian sentiments of all
Henry Wimbush walked home thinking of the books he would present
to the War Memorial Library, if ever it came into existence. He
took the path through the fields; it was pleasanter than the
road. At the first stile a group of village boys, loutish young
fellows all dressed in the hideous ill-fitting black which makes
a funeral of every English Sunday and holiday, were assembled,
drearily guffawing as they smoked their cigarettes. They made
way for Henry Wimbush, touching their caps as he passed. He
returned their salute; his bowler and face were one in their
In Sir Ferdinando's time, he reflected, in the time of his son,
Sir Julius, these young men would have had their Sunday
diversions even at Crome, remote and rustic Crome. There would
have been archery, skittles, dancing--social amusements in which
they would have partaken as members of a conscious community.
Now they had nothing, nothing except Mr. Bodiham's forbidding
Boys' Club and the rare dances and concerts organised by himself.
Boredom or the urban pleasures of the county metropolis were the
alternatives that presented themselves to these poor youths.
Country pleasures were no more; they had been stamped out by the
In Manningham's Diary for 1600 there was a queer passage, he
remembered, a very queer passage. Certain magistrates in
Berkshire, Puritan magistrates, had had wind of a scandal. One
moonlit summer night they had ridden out with their posse and
there, among the hills, they had come upon a company of men and
women, dancing, stark naked, among the sheepcotes. The
magistrates and their men had ridden their horses into the crowd.
How self-conscious the poor people must suddenly have felt, how
helpless without their clothes against armed and booted horsemen!
The dancers were arrested, whipped, gaoled, set in the stocks;
the moonlight dance is never danced again. What old, earthy,
Panic rite came to extinction here? he wondered. Who knows?--
perhaps their ancestors had danced like this in the moonlight
ages before Adam and Eve were so much as thought of. He liked to
think so. And now it was no more. These weary young men, if
they wanted to dance, would have to bicycle six miles to the
town. The country was desolate, without life of its own, without
indigenous pleasures. The pious magistrates had snuffed out for
ever a little happy flame that had burned from the beginning of
"And as on Tullia's tomb one lamp burned clear,
Unchanged for fifteen hundred year..."
He repeated the lines to himself, and was desolated to think of
all the murdered past.
Henry Wimbush's long cigar burned aromatically. The "History of
Crome" lay on his knee; slowly he turned over the pages.
"I can't decide what episode to read you to-night," he said
thoughtfully. "Sir Ferdinando's voyages are not without
interest. Then, of course, there's his son, Sir Julius. It was
he who suffered from the delusion that his perspiration
engendered flies; it drove him finally to suicide. Or there's
Sir Cyprian." He turned the pages more rapidly. "Or Sir Henry.
Or Sir George...No, I'm inclined to think I won't read about any
"But you must read something," insisted Mr. Scogan, taking his
pipe out of his mouth.
"I think I shall read about my grandfather," said Henry Wimbush,
"and the events that led up to his marriage with the eldest
daughter of the last Sir Ferdinando."
"Good," said Mr. Scogan. "We are listening."
"Before I begin reading," said Henry Wimbush, looking up from the
book and taking off the pince-nez which he had just fitted to his
nose--"before their begin, I must say a few preliminary words
about Sir Ferdinando, the last of the Lapiths. At the death of
the virtuous and unfortunate Sir Hercules, Ferdinando found
himself in possession of the family fortune, not a little
increased by his father's temperance and thrift; he applied
himself forthwith to the task of spending it, which he did in an
ample and jovial fashion. By the time he was forty he had eaten
and, above all, drunk and loved away about half his capital, and
would infallibly have soon got rid of the rest in the same
manner, if he had not had the good fortune to become so madly
enamoured of the Rector's daughter as to make a proposal of
marriage. The young lady accepted him, and in less than a year
had become the absolute mistress of Crome and her husband. An
extraordinary reformation made itself apparent in Sir
Ferdinando's character. He grew regular and economical in his
habits; he even became temperate, rarely drinking more than a
bottle and a half of port at a sitting. The waning fortune of
the Lapiths began once more to wax, and that in despite of the
hard times (for Sir Ferdinando married in 1809 in the height of
the Napoleonic Wars). A prosperous and dignified old age,
cheered by the spectacle of his children's growth and happiness--
for Lady Lapith had already borne him three daughters, and there
seemed no good reason why she should not bear many more of them,
and sons as well--a patriarchal decline into the family vault,
seemed now to be Sir Ferdinando's enviable destiny. But
Providence willed otherwise. To Napoleon, cause already of such
infinite mischief, was due, though perhaps indirectly, the
untimely and violent death which put a period to this reformed
"Sir Ferdinando, who was above all things a patriot, had adopted,
from the earliest days of the conflict with the French, his own
peculiar method of celebrating our victories. When the happy
news reached London, it was his custom to purchase immediately a
large store of liquor and, taking a place on whichever of the
outgoing coaches he happened to light on first, to drive through
the country proclaiming the good news to all he met on the road
and dispensing it, along with the liquor, at every stopping-place
to all who cared to listen or drink. Thus, after the Nile, he
had driven as far as Edinburgh; and later, when the coaches,
wreathed with laurel for triumph, with cypress for mourning, were
setting out with the news of Nelson's victory and death, he sat
through all a chilly October night on the box of the Norwich
"Meteor" with a nautical keg of rum on his knees and two cases of
old brandy under the seat. This genial custom was one of the
many habits which he abandoned on his marriage. The victories in
the Peninsula, the retreat from Moscow, Leipzig, and the
abdication of the tyrant all went uncelebrated. It so happened,
however, that in the summer of 1815 Sir Ferdinando was staying
for a few weeks in the capital. There had been a succession of
anxious, doubtful days; then came the glorious news of Waterloo.
It was too much for Sir Ferdinando; his joyous youth awoke again
within him. He hurried to his wine merchant and bought a dozen
bottles of 1760 brandy. The Bath coach was on the point of
starting; he bribed his way on to the box and, seated in glory
beside the driver, proclaimed aloud the downfall of the Corsican
bandit and passed about the warm liquid joy. They clattered
through Uxbridge, Slough, Maidenhead. Sleeping Reading was
awakened by the great news. At Didcot one of the ostlers was so
much overcome by patriotic emotions and the 1760 brandy that he
found it impossible to do up the buckles of the harness. The
night began to grow chilly, and Sir Ferdinando found that it was
not enough to take a nip at every stage: to keep up his vital
warmth he was compelled to drink between the stages as well.
They were approaching Swindon. The coach was travelling at a
dizzy speed--six miles in the last half-hour--when, without
having manifested the slightest premonitory symptom of
unsteadiness, Sir Ferdinando suddenly toppled sideways off his
seat and fell, head foremost, into the road. An unpleasant jolt
awakened the slumbering passengers. The coach was brought to a
standstill; the guard ran back with a light. He found Sir
Ferdinando still alive, but unconscious; blood was oozing from
his mouth. The back wheels of the coach had passed over his
body, breaking most of his ribs and both arms. His skull was
fractured in two places. They picked him up, but he was dead
before they reached the next stage. So perished Sir Ferdinando,
a victim to his own patriotism. Lady Lapith did not marry again,
but determined to devote the rest of her life to the well-being
of her three children--Georgiana, now five years old, and
Emmeline and Caroline, twins of two."
Henry Wimbush paused, and once more put on his pince-nez. "So
much by way of introduction," he said. "Now I can begin to read
about my grandfather."
"One moment," said Mr. Scogan, "till I've refilled my pipe."
Mr. Wimbush waited. Seated apart in a corner of the room, Ivor
was showing Mary his sketches of Spirit Life. They spoke
together in whispers.
Mr. Scogan had lighted his pipe again. "Fire away," he said.
Henry Wimbush fired away.
"It was in the spring of 1833 that my grandfather, George
Wimbush, first made the acquaintance of the 'three lovely
Lapiths,' as they were always called. He was then a young man of
twenty-two, with curly yellow hair and a smooth pink face that
was the mirror of his youthful and ingenuous mind. He had been
educated at Harrow and Christ Church, he enjoyed hunting and all
other field sports, and, though his circumstances were
comfortable to the verge of affluence, his pleasures were
temperate and innocent. His father, an East Indian merchant, had
destined him for a political career, and had gone to considerable
expense in acquiring a pleasant little Cornish borough as a
twenty-first birthday gift for his son. He was justly indignant
when, on the very eve of George's majority, the Reform Bill of
1832 swept the borough out of existence. The inauguration of
George's political career had to be postponed. At the time he
got to know the lovely Lapiths he was waiting; he was not at all
"The lovely Lapiths did not fail to impress him. Georgiana, the
eldest, with her black ringlets, her flashing eyes, her noble
aquiline profile, her swan-like neck, and sloping shoulders, was
orientally dazzling; and the twins, with their delicately turned-
up noses, their blue eyes, and chestnut hair, were an identical
pair of ravishingly English charmers.
"Their conversation at this first meeting proved, however, to be
so forbidding that, but for the invincible attraction exercised
by their beauty, George would never have had the courage to
follow up the acquaintance. The twins, looking up their noses at
him with an air of languid superiority, asked him what he thought
of the latest French poetry and whether he liked the "Indiana" of
George Sand. But what was almost worse was the question with
which Georgiana opened her conversation with him. 'In music,'
she asked, leaning forward and fixing him with her large dark
eyes, 'are you a classicist or a transcendentalist?' George did
not lose his presence of mind. He had enough appreciation of
music to know that he hated anything classical, and so, with a
promptitude which did him credit, he replied, 'I am a
transcendentalist.' Georgiana smiled bewitchingly. 'I am glad,'
she said; 'so am I. You went to hear Paganini last week, of
course. "The prayer of Moses"--ah!' She closed her eyes. 'Do
you know anything more transcendental than that?' 'No,' said
George, 'I don't.' He hesitated, was about to go on speaking,
and then decided that after all it would be wiser not to say--
what was in fact true--that he had enjoyed above all Paganini's
Farmyard Imitations. The man had made his fiddle bray like an
ass, cluck like a hen, grunt, squeal, bark, neigh, quack, bellow,
and growl; that last item, in George's estimation, had almost
compensated for the tediousness of the rest of the concert. He
smiled with pleasure at the thought of it. Yes, decidedly, he
was no classicist in music; he was a thoroughgoing
"George followed up this first introduction by paying a call on
the young ladies and their mother, who occupied, during the
season, a small but elegant house in the neighbourhood of
Berkeley Square. Lady Lapith made a few discreet inquiries, and
having found that George's financial position, character, and
family were all passably good, she asked him to dine. She hoped
and expected that her daughters would all marry into the peerage;
but, being a prudent woman, she knew it was advisable to prepare
for all contingencies. George Wimbush, she thought, would make
an excellent second string for one of the twins.
"At this first dinner, George's partner was Emmeline. They
talked of Nature. Emmeline protested that to her high mountains
were a feeling and the hum of human cities torture. George
agreed that the country was very agreeable, but held that London
during the season also had its charms. He noticed with surprise
and a certain solicitous distress that Miss Emmeline's appetite
was poor, that it didn't, in fact, exist. Two spoonfuls of soup,
a morsel of fish, no bird, no meat, and three grapes--that was
her whole dinner. He looked from time to time at her two
sisters; Georgiana and Caroline seemed to be quite as abstemious.
They waved away whatever was offered them with an expression of
delicate disgust, shutting their eyes and averting their faces
from the proffered dish, as though the lemon sole, the duck, the
loin of veal, the trifle, were objects revolting to the sight and
smell. George, who thought the dinner capital, ventured to
comment on the sisters' lack of appetite.
"'Pray, don't talk to me of eating,' said Emmeline, drooping like
a sensitive plant. 'We find it so coarse, so unspiritual, my
sisters and I. One can't think of one's soul while one is
"George agreed; one couldn't. 'But one must live,' he said.
"'Alas!' Emmeline sighed. 'One must. Death is very beautiful,
don't you think?' She broke a corner off a piece of toast and
began to nibble at it languidly. 'But since, as you say, one
must live...' She made a little gesture of resignation.
'Luckily a very little suffices to keep one alive.' She put down
her corner of toast half eaten.
"George regarded her with some surprise. She was pale, but she
looked extraordinarily healthy, he thought; so did her sisters.
Perhaps if you were really spiritual you needed less food. He,
clearly, was not spiritual.
"After this he saw them frequently. They all liked him, from
Lady Lapith downwards. True, he was not very romantic or
poetical; but he was such a pleasant, unpretentious, kind-hearted
young man, that one couldn't help liking him. For his part, he
thought them wonderful, wonderful, especially Georgiana. He
enveloped them all in a warm, protective affection. For they
needed protection; they were altogether too frail, too spiritual
for this world. They never ate, they were always pale, they
often complained of fever, they talked much and lovingly of
death, they frequently swooned. Georgiana was the most ethereal
of all; of the three she ate least, swooned most often, talked
most of death, and was the palest--with a pallor that was so
startling as to appear positively artificial. At any moment, it
seemed, she might loose her precarious hold on this material
world and become all spirit. To George the thought was a
continual agony. If she were to die...
"She contrived, however, to live through the season, and that in
spite of the numerous balls, routs, and other parties of pleasure
which, in company with the rest of the lovely trio, she never
failed to attend. In the middle of July the whole household
moved down to the country. George was invited to spend the month
of August at Crome.
"The house-party was distinguished; in the list of visitors
figured the names of two marriageable young men of title. George
had hoped that country air, repose, and natural surroundings
might have restored to the three sisters their appetites and the
roses of their cheeks. He was mistaken. For dinner, the first
evening, Georgiana ate only an olive, two or three salted
almonds, and half a peach. She was as pale as ever. During the
meal she spoke of love.
"'True love,' she said, 'being infinite and eternal, can only be
consummated in eternity. Indiana and Sir Rodolphe celebrated the
mystic wedding of their souls by jumping into Niagara. Love is
incompatible with life. The wish of two people who truly love
one another is not to live together but to die together.'
"'Come, come, my dear,' said Lady Lapith, stout and practical.
'What would become of the next generation, pray, if all the world
acted on your principles?'
"'Mamma!...' Georgiana protested, and dropped her eyes.
"'In my young days,' Lady Lapith went on, 'I should have been
laughed out of countenance if I'd said a thing like that. But
then in my young days souls weren't as fashionable as they are
now and we didn't think death was at all poetical. It was just
"'Mamma!...' Emmeline and Caroline implored in unison.
"'In my young days--' Lady Lapith was launched into her subject;
nothing, it seemed, could stop her now. 'In my young days, if
you didn't eat, people told you you needed a dose of rhubarb.
"There was a cry; Georgiana had swooned sideways on to Lord
Timpany's shoulder. It was a desperate expedient; but it was
successful. Lady Lapith was stopped.
"The days passed in an uneventful round of pleasures. Of all the
gay party George alone was unhappy. Lord Timpany was paying his
court to Georgiana, and it was clear that he was not unfavourably
received. George looked on, and his soul was a hell of jealousy
and despair. The boisterous company of the young men became
intolerable to him; he shrank from them, seeking gloom and
solitude. One morning, having broken away from them on some
vague pretext, he returned to the house alone. The young men
were bathing in the pool below; their cries and laughter floated
up to him, making the quiet house seem lonelier and more silent.
The lovely sisters and their mamma still kept their chambers;
they did not customarily make their appearance till luncheon, so
that the male guests had the morning to themselves. George sat
down in the hall and abandoned himself to thought.
"At any moment she might die; at any moment she might become Lady
Timpany. It was terrible, terrible. If she died, then he would
die too; he would go to seek her beyond the grave. If she became
Lady Timpany...ah, then! The solution of the problem would not
be so simple. If she became Lady Timpany: it was a horrible
thought. But then suppose she were in love with Timpany--though
it seemed incredible that anyone could be in love with Timpany--
suppose her life depended on Timpany, suppose she couldn't live
without him? He was fumbling his way along this clueless
labyrinth of suppositions when the clock struck twelve. On the
last stroke, like an automaton released by the turning clockwork,
a little maid, holding a large covered tray, popped out of the
door that led from the kitchen regions into the hall. From his
deep arm-chair George watched her (himself, it was evident,
unobserved) with an idle curiosity. She pattered across the room
and came to a halt in front of what seemed a blank expense of
panelling. She reached out her hand and, to George's extreme
astonishment, a little door swung open, revealing the foot of a
winding staircase. Turning sideways in order to get her tray
through the narrow opening, the little maid darted in with a
rapid crab-like motion. The door closed behind her with a click.
A minute later it opened again and the maid, without her tray,
hurried back across the hall and disappeared in the direction of
the kitchen. George tried to recompose his thoughts, but an
invincible curiosity drew his mind towards the hidden door, the
staircase, the little maid. It was in vain he told himself that
the matter was none of his business, that to explore the secrets
of that surprising door, that mysterious staircase within, would
be a piece of unforgivable rudeness and indiscretion. It was in
vain; for five minutes he struggled heroically with his
curiosity, but at the end of that time he found himself standing
in front of the innocent sheet of panelling through which the
little maid had disappeared. A glance sufficed to show him the
position of the secret door--secret, he perceived, only to those
who looked with a careless eye. It was just an ordinary door let
in flush with the panelling. No latch nor handle betrayed its
position, but an unobtrusive catch sunk in the wood invited the
thumb. George was astonished that he had not noticed it before;
now he had seen it, it was so obvious, almost as obvious as the
cupboard door in the library with its lines of imitation shelves
and its dummy books. He pulled back the catch and peeped inside.
The staircase, of which the degrees were made not of stone but of
blocks of ancient oak, wound up and out of sight. A slit-like
window admitted the daylight; he was at the foot of the central
tower, and the little window looked out over the terrace; they
were still shouting and splashing in the pool below.
"George closed the door and went back to his seat. But his
curiosity was not satisfied. Indeed, this partial satisfaction
had but whetted its appetite. Where did the staircase lead?
What was the errand of the little maid? It was no business of
his, he kept repeating--no business of his. He tried to read,
but his attention wandered. A quarter-past twelve sounded on the
harmonious clock. Suddenly determined, George rose, crossed the
room, opened the hidden door, and began to ascend the stairs. He
passed the first window, corkscrewed round, and came to another.
He paused for a moment to look out; his heart beat uncomfortably,
as though he were affronting some unknown danger. What he was
doing, he told himself, was extremely ungentlemanly, horribly
underbred. He tiptoed onward and upward. One turn more, then
half a turn, and a door confronted him. He halted before it,
listened; he could hear no sound. Putting his eye to the
keyhole, he saw nothing but a stretch of white sunlit wall.
Emboldened, he turned the handle and stepped across the
threshold. There he halted, petrified by what he saw, mutely
"In the middle of a pleasantly sunny little room--'it is now
Priscilla's boudoir,' Mr. Wimbush remarked parenthetically--stood
a small circular table of mahogany. Crystal, porcelain, and
silver,--all the shining apparatus of an elegant meal--were
mirrored in its polished depths. The carcase of a cold chicken,
a bowl of fruit, a great ham, deeply gashed to its heart of
tenderest white and pink, the brown cannon ball of a cold plum-
pudding, a slender Hock bottle, and a decanter of claret jostled
one another for a place on this festive board. And round the
table sat the three sisters, the three lovely Lapiths--eating!
"At George's sudden entrance they had all looked towards the
door, and now they sat, petrified by the same astonishment which
kept George fixed and staring. Georgiana, who sat immediately
facing the door, gazed at him with dark, enormous eyes. Between
the thumb and forefinger of her right hand she was holding a
drumstick of the dismembered chicken; her little finger,
elegantly crooked, stood apart from the rest of her hand. Her
mouth was open, but the drumstick had never reached its
destination; it remained, suspended, frozen, in mid-air. The
other two sisters had turned round to look at the intruder.
Caroline still grasped her knife and fork; Emmeline's fingers
were round the stem of her claret glass. For what seemed a very
long time, George and the three sisters stared at one another in
silence. They were a group of statues. Then suddenly there was
movement. Georgiana dropped her chicken bone, Caroline's knife
and fork clattered on her plate. The movement propagated itself,
grew more decisive; Emmeline sprang to her feet, uttering a cry.
The wave of panic reached George; he turned and, mumbling
something unintelligible as he went, rushed out of the room and
down the winding stairs. He came to a standstill in the hall,
and there, all by himself in the quiet house, he began to laugh.
"At luncheon it was noticed that the sisters ate a little more
than usual. Georgiana toyed with some French beans and a
spoonful of calves'-foot jelly. 'I feel a little stronger to-
day,' she said to Lord Timpany, when he congratulated her on this
increase of appetite; 'a little more material,' she added, with a
nervous laugh. Looking up, she caught George's eye; a blush
suffused her cheeks and she looked hastily away.
"In the garden that afternoon they found themselves for a moment
"You won't tell anyone, George? Promise you won't tell anyone,'
she implored. 'It would make us look so ridiculous. And
besides, eating IS unspiritual, isn't it? Say you won't tell
"'I will,' said George brutally. 'I'll tell everyone, unless...'
"'I don't care, said George. 'I'll give you twenty-four hours to
"Lady Lapith was disappointed, of course; she had hoped for
better things--for Timpany and a coronet. But George, after all,
wasn't so bad. They were married at the New Year.
"My poor grandfather!" Mr. Wimbush added, as he closed his book
and put away his pince-nez. "Whenever I read in the papers about
oppressed nationalities, I think of him." He relighted his
cigar. "It was a maternal government, highly centralised, and
there were no representative institutions."
Henry Wimbush ceased speaking. In the silence that ensued Ivor's
whispered commentary on the spirit sketches once more became
audible. Priscilla, who had been dozing, suddenly woke up.
"What?" she said in the startled tones of one newly returned to
Jenny caught the words. She looked up, smiled, nodded
reassuringly. "It's about a ham," she said.
"What's about a ham?"
"What Henry has been reading." She closed the red notebook lying
on her knees and slipped a rubber band round it. "I'm going to
bed," she announced, and got up.
"So am I," said Anne, yawning. But she lacked the energy to rise
from her arm-chair.
The night was hot and oppressive. Round the open windows the
curtains hung unmoving. Ivor, fanning himself with the portrait
of an Astral Being, looked out into the darkness and drew a
"The air's like wool," he declared.
"It will get cooler after midnight," said Henry Wimbush, and
cautiously added, "perhaps."
"I shan't sleep, I know."
Priscilla turned her head in his direction; the monumental
coiffure nodded exorbitantly at her slightest movement. "You
must make an effort," she said. "When I can't sleep, I
concentrate my will: I say, 'I will sleep, I am asleep!' And
pop! off I go. That's the power of thought."
"But does it work on stuffy nights?" Ivor inquired. "I simply
cannot sleep on a stuffy night."
"Nor can I," said Mary, "except out of doors."
"Out of doors! What a wonderful idea!" In the end they decided
to sleep on the towers--Mary on the western tower, Ivor on the
eastern. There was a flat expanse of leads on each of the
towers, and you could get a mattress through the trap doors that
opened on to them. Under the stars, under the gibbous moon,
assuredly they would sleep. The mattresses were hauled up,
sheets and blankets were spread, and an hour later the two
insomniasts, each on his separate tower, were crying their good-
nights across the dividing gulf.
On Mary the sleep-compelling charm of the open air did not work
with its expected magic. Even through the mattress one could not
fail to be aware that the leads were extremely hard. Then there
were noises: the owls screeched tirelessly, and once, roused by
some unknown terror, all the geese of the farmyard burst into a
sudden frenzy of cackling. The stars and the gibbous moon
demanded to be looked at, and when one meteorite had streaked
across the sky, you could not help waiting, open-eyed and alert,
for the next. Time passed; the moon climbed higher and higher in
the sky. Mary felt less sleepy than she had when she first came
out. She sat up and looked over the parapet. Had Ivor been able
to sleep? she wondered. And as though in answer to her mental
question, from behind the chimney-stack at the farther end of the
roof a white form noiselessly emerged--a form that, in the
moonlight, was recognisably Ivor's. Spreading his arms to right
and left, like a tight-rope dancer, he began to walk forward
along the roof-tree of the house. He swayed terrifyingly as he
advanced. Mary looked on speechlessly; perhaps he was walking in
his sleep! Suppose he were to wake up suddenly, now! If she
spoke or moved it might mean his death. She dared look no more,
but sank back on her pillows. She listened intently. For what
seemed an immensely long time there was no sound. Then there was
a patter of feet on the tiles, followed by a scrabbling noise and
a whispered "Damn!" And suddenly Ivor's head and shoulders
appeared above the parapet. One leg followed, then the other.
He was on the leads. Mary pretended to wake up with a start.
"Oh!" she said. "What are you doing here?"
"I couldn't sleep," he explained, "so I came along to see if you
couldn't. One gets bored by oneself on a tower. Don't you find
It was light before five. Long, narrow clouds barred the east,
their edges bright with orange fire. The sky was pale and
watery. With the mournful scream of a soul in pain, a monstrous
peacock, flying heavily up from below, alighted on the parapet of
the tower. Ivor and Mary started broad awake.
"Catch him!" cried Ivor, jumping up. "We'll have a feather."
The frightened peacock ran up and down the parapet in an absurd
distress, curtseying and bobbing and clucking; his long tail
swung ponderously back and forth as he turned and turned again.
Then with a flap and swish he launched himself upon the air and
sailed magnificently earthward, with a recovered dignity. But he
had left a trophy. Ivor had his feather, a long-lashed eye of
purple and green, of blue and gold. He handed it to his
"An angel's feather," he said.
Mary looked at it for a moment, gravely and intently. Her purple
pyjamas clothed her with an ampleness that hid the lines of her
body; she looked like some large, comfortable, unjointed toy, a
sort of Teddy-bear--but a Teddy bear with an angel's head, pink
cheeks, and hair like a bell of gold. An angel's face, the
feather of an angel's wing...Somehow the whole atmosphere of this
sunrise was rather angelic.
"It's extraordinary to think of sexual selection," she said at
last, looking up from her contemplation of the miraculous
"Extraordinary!" Ivor echoed. "I select you, you select me.
He put his arm round her shoulders and they stood looking
eastward. The first sunlight had begun to warm and colour the
pale light of the dawn. Mauve pyjamas and white pyjamas; they
were a young and charming couple. The rising sun touched their
faces. It was all extremely symbolic; but then, if you choose to
think so, nothing in this world is not symbolical. Profound and
"I must be getting back to my tower," said Ivor at last.
"I'm afraid so. The varletry will soon be up and about."
"Ivor..." There was a prolonged and silent farewell.
"And now," said Ivor, "I repeat my tight-rope stunt."
Mary threw her arms round his neck. "You mustn't, Ivor. It's
He had to yield at last to her entreaties. "All right," he said,
"I'll go down through the house and up at the other end."
He vanished through the trap door into the darkness that still
lurked within the shuttered house. A minute later he had
reappeared on the farther tower; he waved his hand, and then sank
down, out of sight, behind the parapet. From below, in the
house, came the thin wasp-like buzzing of an alarum-clock. He
had gone back just in time.
Ivor was gone. Lounging behind the wind-screen in his yellow
sedan he was whirling across rural England. Social and amorous
engagements of the most urgent character called him from hall to
baronial hall, from castle to castle, from Elizabethan manor-
house to Georgian mansion, over the whole expanse of the kingdom.
To-day in Somerset, to-morrow in Warwickshire, on Saturday in the
West riding, by Tuesday morning in Argyll--Ivor never rested.
The whole summer through, from the beginning of July till the end
of September, he devoted himself to his engagements; he was a
martyr to them. In the autumn he went back to London for a
holiday. Crome had been a little incident, an evanescent bubble
on the stream of his life; it belonged already to the past. By
tea-time he would be at Gobley, and there would be Zenobia's
welcoming smile. And on Thursday morning--but that was a long,
long way ahead. He would think of Thursday morning when Thursday
morning arrived. Meanwhile there was Gobley, meanwhile Zenobia.
In the visitor's book at Crome Ivor had left, according to his
invariable custom in these cases, a poem. He had improvised it
magisterially in the ten minutes preceding his departure. Denis
and Mr. Scogan strolled back together from the gates of the
courtyard, whence they had bidden their last farewells; on the
writing-table in the hall they found the visitor's book, open,
and Ivor's composition scarcely dry. Mr. Scogan read it aloud:
"The magic of those immemorial kings,
Who webbed enchantment on the bowls of night.
Sleeps in the soul of all created things;
In the blue sea, th' Acroceraunian height,
In the eyed butterfly's auricular wings
And orgied visions of the anchorite;
In all that singing flies and flying sings,
In rain, in pain, in delicate delight.
But much more magic, much more cogent spells
Weave here their wizardries about my soul.
Crome calls me like the voice of vesperal bells,
Haunts like a ghostly-peopled necropole.
Fate tears me hence. Hard fate! since far from Crome
My soul must weep, remembering its Home."
"Very nice and tasteful and tactful," said Mr. Scogan, when he
had finished. "I am only troubled by the butterfly's auricular
wings. You have a first-hand knowledge of the workings of a
poet's mind, Denis; perhaps you can explain."
"What could be simpler," said Denis. "It's a beautiful word, and
Ivor wanted to say that the wings were golden."
"You make it luminously clear."
"One suffers so much," Denis went on, "from the fact that
beautiful words don't always mean what they ought to mean.
Recently, for example, I had a whole poem ruined, just because
the word 'carminative' didn't mean what it ought to have meant.
Carminative--it's admirable, isn't it?"
"Admirable," Mr. Scogan agreed. "And what does it mean?"
"It's a word I've treasured from my earliest infancy," said
Denis, "treasured and loved. They used to give me cinnamon when
I had a cold--quite useless, but not disagreeable. One poured it
drop by drop out of narrow bottles, a golden liquor, fierce and
fiery. On the label was a list of its virtues, and among other
things it was described as being in the highest degree
carminative. I adored the word. 'Isn't it carminative?' I used
to say to myself when I'd taken my dose. It seemed so
wonderfully to describe that sensation of internal warmth, that
glow, that--what shall I call it?--physical self-satisfaction
which followed the drinking of cinnamon. Later, when I
discovered alcohol, 'carminative' described for me that similar,
but nobler, more spiritual glow which wine evokes not only in the
body but in the soul as well. The carminative virtues of
burgundy, of rum, of old brandy, of Lacryma Christi, of Marsala,
of Aleatico, of stout, of gin, of champagne, of claret, of the
raw new wine of this year's Tuscan vintage--I compared them, I
classified them. Marsala is rosily, downily carminative; gin
pricks and refreshes while it warms. I had a whole table of
carmination values. And now"--Denis spread out his hands, palms
upwards, despairingly--"now I know what carminative really
"Well, what DOES it mean?" asked Mr. Scogan, a little
"Carminative," said Denis, lingering lovingly over the syllables,
"carminative. I imagined vaguely that it had something to do
with carmen-carminis, still more vaguely with caro-carnis, and
its derivations, like carnival and carnation. Carminative--there
was the idea of singing and the idea of flesh, rose-coloured and
warm, with a suggestion of the jollities of mi-Careme and the
masked holidays of Venice. Carminative--the warmth, the glow,
the interior ripeness were all in the word. Instead of which..."
"Do come to the point, my dear Denis," protested Mr. Scogan. "Do
come to the point."
"Well, I wrote a poem the other day," said Denis; "I wrote a poem
about the effects of love."
"Others have done the same before you," said Mr. Scogan. "There
is no need to be ashamed."
"I was putting forward the notion," Denis went on, "that the
effects of love were often similar to the effects of wine, that
Eros could intoxicate as well as Bacchus. Love, for example, is
essentially carminative. It gives one the sense of warmth, the
'And passion carminative as wine...'
was what I wrote. Not only was the line elegantly sonorous; it
was also, I flattered myself, very aptly compendiously
expressive. Everything was in the word carminative--a detailed,
exact foreground, an immense, indefinite hinterland of
'And passion carminative as wine...'
I was not ill-pleased. And then suddenly it occurred to me that
I had never actually looked up the word in a dictionary.
Carminative had grown up with me from the days of the cinnamon
bottle. It had always been taken for granted. Carminative: for
me the word was as rich in content as some tremendous, elaborate
work of art; it was a complete landscape with figures.
'And passion carminative as wine...'
It was the first time I had ever committed the word to writing,
and all at once I felt I would like lexicographical authority for
it. A small English-German dictionary was all I had at hand. I
turned up C, ca, car, carm. There it was: 'Carminative:
windtreibend.' Windtreibend!" he repeated. Mr. Scogan laughed.
Denis shook his head. "Ah," he said, "for me it was no laughing
matter. For me it marked the end of a chapter, the death of
something young and precious. There were the years--years of
childhood and innocence--when I had believed that carminative
meant--well, carminative. And now, before me lies the rest of my
life--a day, perhaps, ten years, half a century, when I shall
know that carminative means windtreibend.
'Plus ne suis ce que j'ai ete
Et ne le saurai jamais etre.'
It is a realisation that makes one rather melancholy."
"Carminative," said Mr. Scogan thoughtfully.
"Carminative," Denis repeated, and they were silent for a time.
"Words," said Denis at last, "words--I wonder if you can realise
how much I love them. You are too much preoccupied with mere
things and ideas and people to understand the full beauty of
words. Your mind is not a literary mind. The spectacle of Mr.
Gladstone finding thirty-four rhymes to the name 'Margot' seems
to you rather pathetic than anything else. Mallarme's envelopes
with their versified addresses leave you cold, unless they leave
you pitiful; you can't see that
'Apte a ne point te cabrer, hue!
Poste et j'ajouterai, dia!
Si tu ne fuis onze-bis Rue
Balzac, chez cet Heredia,'
is a little miracle."
"You're right," said Mr. Scogan. "I can't."
"You don't feel it to be magical?"
"That's the test for the literary mind," said Denis; "the feeling
of magic, the sense that words have power. The technical, verbal
part of literature is simply a development of magic. Words are
man's first and most grandiose invention. With language he
created a whole new universe; what wonder if he loved words and
attributed power to them! With fitted, harmonious words the
magicians summoned rabbits out of empty hats and spirits from the
elements. Their descendants, the literary men, still go on with
the process, morticing their verbal formulas together, and,
before the power of the finished spell, trembling with delight
and awe. Rabbits out of empty hats? No, their spells are more
subtly powerful, for they evoke emotions out of empty minds.
Formulated by their art the most insipid statements become
enormously significant. For example, I proffer the constatation,
'Black ladders lack bladders.' A self-evident truth, one on
which it would not have been worth while to insist, had I chosen
to formulate it in such words as 'Black fire-escapes have no
bladders,' or, 'Les echelles noires manquent de vessie.' But
since I put it as I do, 'Black ladders lack bladders,' it
becomes, for all its self-evidence, significant, unforgettable,
moving. The creation by word-power of something out of nothing--
what is that but magic? And, I may add, what is that but
literature? Half the world's greatest poetry is simply 'Les
echelles noires manquent de vessie,' translated into magic
significance as, 'Black ladders lack bladders.' And you can't
appreciate words. I'm sorry for you."
"A mental carminative," said Mr. Scogan reflectively. "That's
what you need."
Perched on its four stone mushrooms, the little granary stood two
or three feet above the grass of the green close. Beneath it
there was a perpetual shade and a damp growth of long, luxuriant
grasses. Here, in the shadow, in the green dampness, a family of
white ducks had sought shelter from the afternoon sun. Some
stood, preening themselves, some reposed with their long bellies
pressed to the ground, as though the cool grass were water.
Little social noises burst fitfully forth, and from time to time
some pointed tail would execute a brilliant Lisztian tremolo.
Suddenly their jovial repose was shattered. A prodigious thump
shook the wooden flooring above their heads; the whole granary
trembled, little fragments of dirt and crumbled wood rained down
among them. With a loud, continuous quacking the ducks rushed
out from beneath this nameless menace, and did not stay their
flight till they were safely in the farmyard.
"Don't lose your temper," Anne was saying. "Listen! You've
frightened the ducks. Poor dears! no wonder." She was sitting
sideways in a low, wooden chair. Her right elbow rested on the
back of the chair and she supported her cheek on her hand. Her
long, slender body drooped into curves of a lazy grace. She was
smiling, and she looked at Gombauld through half-closed eyes.
"Damn you!" Gombauld repeated, and stamped his foot again. He
glared at her round the half-finished portrait on the easel.
"Poor ducks!" Anne repeated. The sound of their quacking was
faint in the distance; it was inaudible.
"Can't you see you make me lose my time?" he asked. "I can't
work with you dangling about distractingly like this."
"You'd lose less time if you stopped talking and stamping your
feet and did a little painting for a change. After all, what am
I dangling about for, except to be painted?"
Gombauld made a noise like a growl. "You're awful," he said,
with conviction. "Why do you ask me to come and stay here? Why
do you tell me you'd like me to paint your portrait?"
"For the simple reasons that I like you--at least, when you're in
a good temper--and that I think you're a good painter."
"For the simple reason"--Gombauld mimicked her voice--"that you
want me to make love to you and, when I do, to have the amusement
of running away."
Anne threw back her head and laughed. "So you think it amuses me
to have to evade your advances! So like a man! If you only knew
how gross and awful and boring men are when they try to make love
and you don't want them to make love! If you could only see
yourselves through our eyes!"
Gombauld picked up his palette and brushes and attacked his
canvas with the ardour of irritation. "I suppose you'll be
saying next that you didn't start the game, that it was I who
made the first advances, and that you were the innocent victim
who sat still and never did anything that could invite or allure
"So like a man again!" said Anne. "It's always the same old
story about the woman tempting the man. The woman lures,
fascinates, invites; and man--noble man, innocent man--falls a
victim. My poor Gombauld! Surely you're not going to sing that
old song again. It's so unintelligent, and I always thought you
were a man of sense."
"Thanks," said Gombauld.
"Be a little objective," Anne went on. "Can't you see that
you're simply externalising your own emotions? That's what you
men are always doing; it's so barbarously naive. You feel one of
your loose desires for some woman, and because you desire her
strongly you immediately accuse her of luring you on, of
deliberately provoking and inviting the desire. You have the
mentality of savages. You might just as well say that a plate of
strawberries and cream deliberately lures you on to feel greedy.
In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred women are as passive and
innocent as the strawberries and cream."
"Well, all I can say is that this must be the hundredth case,"
said Gombauld, without looking up.
Anne shrugged her shoulders and gave vent to a sigh. "I'm at a
loss to know whether you're more silly or more rude."
After painting for a little time in silence Gombauld began to
speak again. "And then there's Denis," he said, renewing the
conversation as though it had only just been broken off. "You're
playing the same game with him. Why can't you leave that
wretched young man in peace?"
Anne flushed with a sudden and uncontrollable anger. "It's
perfectly untrue about Denis," she said indignantly. "I never
dreamt of playing what you beautifully call the same game with
him." Recovering her calm, she added in her ordinary cooing
voice and with her exacerbating smile, "You've become very
protective towards poor Denis all of a sudden."
"I have," Gombauld replied, with a gravity that was somehow a
little too solemn. "I don't like to see a young man..."
"...being whirled along the road to ruin," said Anne, continuing
his sentence for him. I admire your sentiments and, believe me,
I share them."
She was curiously irritated at what Gombauld had said about
Denis. It happened to be so completely untrue. Gombauld might
have some slight ground for his reproaches. But Denis--no, she
had never flirted with Denis. Poor boy! He was very sweet. She
became somewhat pensive.
Gombauld painted on with fury. The restlessness of an
unsatisfied desire, which, before, had distracted his mind,
making work impossible, seemed now to have converted itself into
a kind of feverish energy. When it was finished, he told
himself, the portrait would be diabolic. He was painting her in
the pose she had naturally adopted at the first sitting. Seated
sideways, her elbow on the back of the chair, her head and
shoulders turned at an angle from the rest of her body, towards
the front, she had fallen into an attitude of indolent
abandonment. He had emphasised the lazy curves of her body; the
lines sagged as they crossed the canvas, the grace of the painted
figure seemed to be melting into a kind of soft decay. The hand
that lay along the knee was as limp as a glove. He was at work
on the face now; it had begun to emerge on the canvas, doll-like
in its regularity and listlessness. It was Anne's face--but her
face as it would be, utterly unillumined by the inward lights of
thought and emotion. It was the lazy, expressionless mask which
was sometimes her face. The portrait was terribly like; and at
the same time it was the most malicious of lies. Yes, it would
be diabolic when it was finished, Gombauld decided; he wondered
what she would think of it.
For the sake of peace and quiet Denis had retired earlier on this
same afternoon to his bedroom. He wanted to work, but the hour
was a drowsy one, and lunch, so recently eaten, weighed heavily
on body and mind. The meridian demon was upon him; he was
possessed by that bored and hopeless post-prandial melancholy
which the coenobites of old knew and feared under the name of
"accidie." He felt, like Ernest Dowson, "a little weary." He
was in the mood to write something rather exquisite and gentle
and quietist in tone; something a little droopy and at the same
time--how should he put it?--a little infinite. He thought of
Anne, of love hopeless and unattainable. Perhaps that was the
ideal kind of love, the hopeless kind--the quiet, theoretical
kind of love. In this sad mood of repletion he could well
believe it. He began to write. One elegant quatrain had flowed
from beneath his pen:
"A brooding love which is at most
The stealth of moonbeams when they slide,
Evoking colour's bloodless ghost,
O'er some scarce-breathing breast or side..."
when his attention was attracted by a sound from outside. He
looked down from his window; there they were, Anne and Gombauld,
talking, laughing together. They crossed the courtyard in front,
and passed out of sight through the gate in the right-hand wall.
That was the way to the green close and the granary; she was
going to sit for him again. His pleasantly depressing melancholy
was dissipated by a puff of violent emotion; angrily he threw his
quatrain into the waste-paper basket and ran downstairs. "The
stealth of moonbeams," indeed!
In the hall he saw Mr. Scogan; the man seemed to be lying in
wait. Denis tried to escape, but in vain. Mr. Scogan's eye
glittered like the eye of the Ancient Mariner.
"Not so fast," he said, stretching out a small saurian hand with
pointed nails--"not so fast. I was just going down to the flower
garden to take the sun. We'll go together."
Denis abandoned himself; Mr. Scogan put on his hat and they went
out arm in arm. On the shaven turf of the terrace Henry Wimbush
and Mary were playing a solemn game of bowls. They descended by
the yew-tree walk. It was here, thought Denis, here that Anne
had fallen, here that he had kissed her, here--and he blushed
with retrospective shame at the memory--here that he had tried to
carry her and failed. Life was awful!
"Sanity!" said Mr. Scogan, suddenly breaking a long silence.
"Sanity--that's what's wrong with me and that's what will be
wrong with you, my dear Denis, when you're old enough to be sane
or insane. In a sane world I should be a great man; as things
are, in this curious establishment, I am nothing at all; to all
intents and purposes I don't exist. I am just Vox et praeterea
Denis made no response; he was thinking of other things. "After
all," he said to himself--"after all, Gombauld is better looking
than I, more entertaining, more confident; and, besides, he's
already somebody and I'm still only potential..."
"Everything that ever gets done in this world is done by madmen,"
Mr. Scogan went on. Denis tried not to listen, but the tireless
insistence of Mr. Scogan's discourse gradually compelled his
attention. "Men such as I am, such as you may possibly become,
have never achieved anything. We're too sane; we're merely
reasonable. We lack the human touch, the compelling enthusiastic
mania. People are quite ready to listen to the philosophers for
a little amusement, just as they would listen to a fiddler or a
mountebank. But as to acting on the advice of the men of reason
--never. Wherever the choice has had to be made between the man
of reason and the madman, the world has unhesitatingly followed
the madman. For the madman appeals to what is fundamental, to
passion and the instincts; the philosophers to what is
superficial and supererogatory--reason."
They entered the garden; at the head of one of the alleys stood a
green wooden bench, embayed in the midst of a fragrant continent
of lavender bushes. It was here, though the place was shadeless
and one breathed hot, dry perfume instead of air--it was here
that Mr. Scogan elected to sit. He thrived on untempered
"Consider, for example, the case of Luther and Erasmus." He took
out his pipe and began to fill it as he talked. "There was
Erasmus, a man of reason if ever there was one. People listened
to him at first--a new virtuoso performing on that elegant and
resourceful instrument, the intellect; they even admired and
venerated him. But did he move them to behave as he wanted them
to behave--reasonably, decently, or at least a little less
porkishly than usual? He did not. And then Luther appears,
violent, passionate, a madman insanely convinced about matters in
which there can be no conviction. He shouted, and men rushed to
follow him. Erasmus was no longer listened to; he was reviled
for his reasonableness. Luther was serious, Luther was reality--
like the Great War. Erasmus was only reason and decency; he
lacked the power, being a sage, to move men to action. Europe
followed Luther and embarked on a century and a half of war and
bloody persecution. It's a melancholy story." Mr. Scogan
lighted a match. In the intense light the flame was all but
invisible. The smell of burning tobacco began to mingle with the
sweetly acrid smell of the lavender.
"If you want to get men to act reasonably, you must set about
persuading them in a maniacal manner. The very sane precepts of
the founders of religions are only made infectious by means of
enthusiasms which to a sane man must appear deplorable. It is
humiliating to find how impotent unadulterated sanity is.
Sanity, for example, informs us that the only way in which we can
preserve civilisation is by behaving decently and intelligently.
Sanity appeals and argues; our rulers persevere in their
customary porkishness, while we acquiesce and obey. The only
hope is a maniacal crusade; I am ready, when it comes, to beat a
tambourine with the loudest, but at the same time I shall feel a
little ashamed of myself. However"--Mr. Scogan shrugged his
shoulders and, pipe in hand, made a gesture of resignation--"It's
futile to complain that things are as they are. The fact remains
that sanity unassisted is useless. What we want, then, is a sane
and reasonable exploitation of the forces of insanity. We sane
men will have the power yet." Mr. Scogan's eyes shone with a
more than ordinary brightness, and, taking his pipe out of his
mouth, he gave vent to his loud, dry, and somehow rather fiendish
"But I don't want power," said Denis. He was sitting in limp
discomfort at one end of the bench, shading his eyes from the
intolerable light. Mr. Scogan, bolt upright at the other end,
"Everybody wants power," he said. "Power in some form or other.
The sort of power you hanker for is literary power. Some people
want power to persecute other human beings; you expend your lust
for power in persecuting words, twisting them, moulding them,
torturing them to obey you. But I divagate."
"Do you?" asked Denis faintly.
"Yes," Mr. Scogan continued, unheeding, "the time will come. We
men of intelligence will learn to harness the insanities to the
service of reason. We can't leave the world any longer to the
direction of chance. We can't allow dangerous maniacs like
Luther, mad about dogma, like Napoleon, mad about himself, to go
on casually appearing and turning everything upside down. In the
past it didn't so much matter; but our modern machine is too
delicate. A few more knocks like the Great War, another Luther
or two, and the whole concern will go to pieces. In future, the
men of reason must see that the madness of the world's maniacs is
canalised into proper channels, is made to do useful work, like a
mountain torrent driving a dynamo..."
"Making electricity to light a Swiss hotel," said Denis. "You
ought to complete the simile."
Mr. Scogan waved away the interruption. "There's only one thing
to be done," he said. "The men of intelligence must combine,
must conspire, and seize power from the imbeciles and maniacs who
now direct us. They must found the Rational State."
The heat that was slowly paralysing all Denis's mental and bodily
faculties, seemed to bring to Mr. Scogan additional vitality. He
talked with an ever-increasing energy, his hands moved in sharp,
quick, precise gestures, his eyes shone. Hard, dry, and
continuous, his voice went on sounding and sounding in Denis's
ears with the insistence of a mechanical noise.
"In the Rational State," he heard Mr. Scogan saying, "human
beings will be separated out into distinct species, not according
to the colour of their eyes or the shape of their skulls, but
according to the qualities of their mind and temperament.
Examining psychologists, trained to what would now seem an almost
superhuman clairvoyance, will test each child that is born and
assign it to its proper species. Duly labelled and docketed, the
child will be given the education suitable to members of its
species, and will be set, in adult life, to perform those
functions which human beings of his variety are capable of
"How many species will there be?" asked Denis.
"A great many, no doubt," Mr. Scogan answered; "the
classification will be subtle and elaborate. But it is not in
the power of a prophet to go into details, nor is it his
business. I will do more than indicate the three main species
into which the subjects of the Rational State will be divided."
He paused, cleared his throat, and coughed once or twice, evoking
in Denis's mind the vision of a table with a glass and water-
bottle, and, lying across one corner, a long white pointer for
the lantern pictures.
"The three main species," Mr. Scogan went on, "will be these:
the Directing Intelligences, the Men of Faith, and the Herd.
Among the Intelligences will be found all those capable of
thought, those who know how to attain a certain degree of
freedom--and, alas, how limited, even among the most intelligent,
that freedom is!--from the mental bondage of their time. A
select body of Intelligences, drawn from among those who have
turned their attention to the problems of practical life, will be
the governors of the Rational State. They will employ as their
instruments of power the second great species of humanity--the
men of Faith, the Madmen, as I have been calling them, who
believe in things unreasonably, with passion, and are ready to
die for their beliefs and their desires. These wild men, with
their fearful potentialities for good or for mischief, will no
longer be allowed to react casually to a casual environment.
There will be no more Caesar Borgias, no more Luthers and
Mohammeds, no more Joanna Southcotts, no more Comstocks. The
old-fashioned Man of Faith and Desire, that haphazard creature of
brute circumstance, who might drive men to tears and repentance,
or who might equally well set them on to cutting one another's
throats, will be replaced by a new sort of madman, still
externally the same, still bubbling with a seemingly spontaneous
enthusiasm, but, ah, how very different from the madman of the
past! For the new Man of Faith will be expending his passion,
his desire, and his enthusiasm in the propagation of some
reasonable idea. He will be, all unawares, the tool of some
Mr. Scogan chuckled maliciously; it was as though he were taking
a revenge, in the name of reason, on enthusiasts. "From their
earliest years, as soon, that is, as the examining psychologists
have assigned them their place in the classified scheme, the Men
of Faith will have had their special education under the eye of
the Intelligences. Moulded by a long process of suggestion, they
will go out into the world, preaching and practising with a
generous mania the coldly reasonable projects of the Directors
from above. When these projects are accomplished, or when the
ideas that were useful a decade ago have ceased to be useful, the
Intelligences will inspire a new generation of madmen with a new
eternal truth. The principal function of the Men of Faith will
be to move and direct the Multitude, that third great species
consisting of those countless millions who lack intelligence and
are without valuable enthusiasm. When any particular effort is
required of the Herd, when it is thought necessary, for the sake
of solidarity, that humanity shall be kindled and united by some
single enthusiastic desire or idea, the Men of Faith, primed with
some simple and satisfying creed, will be sent out on a mission
of evangelisation. At ordinary times, when the high spiritual
temperature of a Crusade would be unhealthy, the Men of Faith
will be quietly and earnestly busy with the great work of
education. In the upbringing of the Herd, humanity's almost
boundless suggestibility will be scientifically exploited.
Systematically, from earliest infancy, its members will be
assured that there is no happiness to be found except in work and
obedience; they will be made to believe that they are happy, that
they are tremendously important beings, and that everything they
do is noble and significant. For the lower species the earth
will be restored to the centre of the universe and man to pre-
eminence on the earth. Oh, I envy the lot of the commonality in
the Rational State! Working their eight hours a day, obeying
their betters, convinced of their own grandeur and significance
and immortality, they will be marvellously happy, happier than
any race of men has ever been. They will go through life in a
rosy state of intoxication, from which they will never awake.
The Men of Faith will play the cup-bearers at this lifelong
bacchanal, filling and ever filling again with the warm liquor
that the Intelligences, in sad and sober privacy behind the
scenes, will brew for the intoxication of their subjects."
"And what will be my place in the Rational State?" Denis drowsily
inquired from under his shading hand.
Mr. Scogan looked at him for a moment in silence. "It's
difficult to see where you would fit in," he said at last. "You
couldn't do manual work; you're too independent and unsuggestible
to belong to the larger Herd; you have none of the
characteristics required in a Man of Faith. As for the Directing
Intelligences, they will have to be marvellously clear and
merciless and penetrating." He paused and shook his head. "No,
I can see no place for you; only the lethal chamber."
Deeply hurt, Denis emitted the imitation of a loud Homeric laugh.
"I'm getting sunstroke here," he said, and got up.
Mr. Scogan followed his example, and they walked slowly away down
the narrow path, brushing the blue lavender flowers in their
passage. Denis pulled a sprig of lavender and sniffed at it;
then some dark leaves of rosemary that smelt like incense in a
cavernous church. They passed a bed of opium poppies, dispetaled
now; the round, ripe seedheads were brown and dry--like
Polynesian trophies, Denis thought; severed heads stuck on poles.
He liked the fancy enough to impart it to Mr. Scogan.
"Like Polynesian trophies..." Uttered aloud, the fancy seemed
less charming and significant than it did when it first occurred
There was a silence, and in a growing wave of sound the whir of
the reaping machines swelled up from the fields beyond the garden
and then receded into a remoter hum.
"It is satisfactory to think," said Mr. Scogan, as they strolled
slowly onward, "that a multitude of people are toiling in the
harvest fields in order that we may talk of Polynesia. Like
every other good thing in this world, leisure and culture have to
be paid for. Fortunately, however, it is not the leisured and
the cultured who have to pay. Let us be duly thankful for that,
my dear Denis--duly thankful," he repeated, and knocked the ashes
out of his pipe.
Denis was not listening. He had suddenly remembered Anne. She
was with Gombauld--alone with him in his studio. It was an
"Shall we go and pay a call on Gombauld?" he suggested
carelessly. It would be amusing to see what he's doing now."
He laughed inwardly to think how furious Gombauld would be when
he saw them arriving.
Gombauld was by no means so furious at their apparition as Denis
had hoped and expected he would be. Indeed, he was rather
pleased than annoyed when the two faces, one brown and pointed,
the other round and pale, appeared in the frame of the open door.
The energy born of his restless irritation was dying within him,
returning to its emotional elements. A moment more and he would
have been losing his temper again--and Anne would be keeping
hers, infuriatingly. Yes, he was positively glad to see them.
"Come in, come in," he called out hospitably.
Followed by Mr. Scogan, Denis climbed the little ladder and
stepped over the threshold. He looked suspiciously from Gombauld
to his sitter, and could learn nothing from the expression of
their faces except that they both seemed pleased to see the
visitors. Were they really glad, or were they cunningly
simulating gladness? He wondered.
Mr. Scogan, meanwhile, was looking at the portrait.
"Excellent," he said approvingly, "excellent. Almost too true to
character, if that is possible; yes, positively too true. But
I'm surprised to find you putting in all this psychology
business." He pointed to the face, and with his extended finger
followed the slack curves of the painted figure. "I thought you
were one of the fellows who went in exclusively for balanced
masses and impinging planes."
Gombauld laughed. "This is a little infidelity," he said.
"I'm sorry," said Mr. Scogan. "I for one, without ever having
had the slightest appreciation of painting, have always taken
particular pleasure in Cubismus. I like to see pictures from
which nature has been completely banished, pictures which are
exclusively the product of the human mind. They give me the same
pleasure as I derive from a good piece of reasoning or a
mathematical problem or an achievement of engineering. Nature,
or anything that reminds me of nature, disturbs me; it is too
large, too complicated, above all too utterly pointless and
incomprehensible. I am at home with the works of man; if I
choose to set my mind to it, I can understand anything that any
man has made or thought. That is why I always travel by Tube,
never by bus if I can possibly help it. For, travelling by bus,
one can't avoid seeing, even in London, a few stray works of God
--the sky, for example, an occasional tree, the flowers in the
window-boxes. But travel by Tube and you see nothing but the
works of man--iron riveted into geometrical forms, straight lines
of concrete, patterned expanses of tiles. All is human and the
product of friendly and comprehensible minds. All philosophies
and all religions--what are they but spiritual Tubes bored
through the universe! Through these narrow tunnels, where all is
recognisably human, one travels comfortable and secure,
contriving to forget that all round and below and above them
stretches the blind mass of earth, endless and unexplored. Yes,
give me the Tube and Cubismus every time; give me ideas, so snug
and neat and simple and well made. And preserve me from nature,
preserve me from all that's inhumanly large and complicated and
obscure. I haven't the courage, and, above all, I haven't the
time to start wandering in that labyrinth."
While Mr. Scogan was discoursing, Denis had crossed over to the
farther side of the little square chamber, where Anne was
sitting, still in her graceful, lazy pose, on the low chair.
"Well?" he demanded, looking at her almost fiercely. What was he
asking of her? He hardly knew himself.
Anne looked up at him, and for answer echoed his "Well?" in
another, a laughing key.
Denis had nothing more, at the moment, to say. Two or three
canvases stood in the corner behind Anne's chair, their faces
turned to the wall. He pulled them out and began to look at the
"May I see too?" Anne requested.
He stood them in a row against the wall. Anne had to turn round
in her chair to look at them. There was the big canvas of the
man fallen from the horse, there was a painting of flowers, there
was a small landscape. His hands on the back of the chair, Denis
leaned over her. From behind the easel at the other side of the
room Mr. Scogan was talking away. For a long time they looked at
the pictures, saying nothing; or, rather, Anne looked at the
pictures, while Denis, for the most part, looked at Anne.
"I like the man and the horse; don't you?" she said at last,
looking up with an inquiring smile.
Denis nodded, and then in a queer, strangled voice, as though it
had cost him a great effort to utter the words, he said, "I love
It was a remark which Anne had heard a good many times before and
mostly heard with equanimity. But on this occasion--perhaps
because they had come so unexpectedly , perhaps for some other
reason--the words provoked in her a certain surprised commotion.
"My poor Denis," she managed to say, with a laugh; but she was
blushing as she spoke.
It was noon. Denis, descending from his chamber, where he had
been making an unsuccessful effort to write something about
nothing in particular, found the drawing-room deserted. He was
about to go out into the garden when his eye fell on a familiar
but mysterious object--the large red notebook in which he had so
often seen Jenny quietly and busily scribbling. She had left it
lying on the window-seat. The temptation was great. He picked
up the book and slipped off the elastic band that kept it
"Private. Not to be opened," was written in capital letters on
the cover. He raised his eyebrows. It was the sort of thing one
wrote in one's Latin Grammar while one was still at one's
"Black is the raven, black is the rook,
But blacker the theif who steals this book!"
It was curiously childish, he thought, and he smiled to himself.
He opened the book. What he saw made him wince as though he had
Denis was his own severest critic; so, at least, he had always
believed. He liked to think of himself as a merciless vivisector
probing into the palpitating entrails of his own soul; he was
Brown Dog to himself. His weaknesses, his absurdities--no one
knew them better than he did. Indeed, in a vague way he imagined
that nobody beside himself was aware of them at all. It seemed,
somehow, inconceivable that he should appear to other people as
they appeared to him; inconceivable that they ever spoke of him
among themselves in that same freely critical and, to be quite
honest, mildly malicious tone in which he was accustomed to talk
of them. In his own eyes he had defects, but to see them was a
privilege reserved to him alone. For the rest of the world he
was surely an image of flawless crystal. It was almost
On opening the red notebook that crystal image of himself crashed
to the ground, and was irreparably shattered. He was not his own
severest critic after all. The discovery was a painful one.
The fruit of Jenny's unobtrusive scribbling lay before him. A
caricature of himself, reading (the book was upside-down). In
the background a dancing couple, recognisable as Gombauld and
Anne. Beneath, the legend: "Fable of the Wallflower and the
Sour Grapes." Fascinated and horrified, Denis pored over the
drawing. It was masterful. A mute, inglorious Rouveyre appeared
in every one of those cruelly clear lines. The expression of the
face, an assumed aloofness and superiority tempered by a feeble
envy; the attitude of the body and limbs, an attitude of studious
and scholarly dignity, given away by the fidgety pose of the
turned-in feet--these things were terrible. And, more terrible
still, was the likeness, was the magisterial certainty with which
his physical peculiarities were all recorded and subtly
Denis looked deeper into the book. There were caricatures of
other people: of Priscilla and Mr. Barbecue-Smith; of Henry
Wimbush, of Anne and Gombauld; of Mr. Scogan, whom Jenny had
represented in a light that was more than slightly sinister, that
was, indeed, diabolic; of Mary and Ivor. He scarcely glanced at
them. A fearful desire to know the worst about himself possessed
him. He turned over the leaves, lingering at nothing that was
not his own image. Seven full pages were devoted to him.
"Private. Not to be opened." He had disobeyed the injunction;
he had only got what he deserved. Thoughtfully he closed the
book, and slid the rubber band once more into its place. Sadder
and wiser, he went out on to the terrace. And so this, he
reflected, this was how Jenny employed the leisure hours in her
ivory tower apart. And he had thought her a simple-minded,
uncritical creature! It was he, it seemed, who was the fool. He
felt no resentment towards Jenny. No, the distressing thing
wasn't Jenny herself; it was what she and the phenomenon of her
red book represented, what they stood for and concretely
symbolised. They represented all the vast conscious world of men
outside himself; they symbolised something that in his studious
solitariness he was apt not to believe in. He could stand at
Piccadilly Circus, could watch the crowds shuffle past, and still
imagine himself the one fully conscious, intelligent, individual
being among all those thousands. It seemed, somehow, impossible
that other people should be in their way as elaborate and
complete as he in his. Impossible; and yet, periodically he
would make some painful discovery about the external world and
the horrible reality of its consciousness and its intelligence.
The red notebook was one of these discoveries, a footprint in the
sand. It put beyond a doubt the fact that the outer world really
Sitting on the balustrade of the terrace, he ruminated this
unpleasant truth for some time. Still chewing on it, he strolled
pensively down towards the swimming-pool. A peacock and his hen
trailed their shabby finery across the turf of the lower lawn.
Odious birds! Their necks, thick and greedily fleshy at the
roots, tapered up to the cruel inanity of their brainless heads,
their flat eyes and piercing beaks. The fabulists were right, he
reflected, when they took beasts to illustrate their tractates of
human morality. Animals resemble men with all the truthfulness
of a caricature. (Oh, the red notebook!) He threw a piece of
stick at the slowly pacing birds. They rushed towards it,
thinking it was something to eat.
He walked on. The profound shade of a giant ilex tree engulfed
him. Like a great wooden octopus, it spread its long arms
"Under the spreading ilex tree..."
He tried to remember who the poem was by, but couldn't.
"The smith, a brawny man is he,
With arms like rubber bands."
Just like his; he would have to try and do his Muller exercises
He emerged once more into the sunshine. The pool lay before him,
reflecting in its bronze mirror the blue and various green of the
summer day. Looking at it, he thought of Anne's bare arms and
seal-sleek bathing-dress, her moving knees and feet.
"And little Luce with the white legs,
And bouncing Barbary..."
Oh, these rags and tags of other people's making! Would he ever
be able to call his brain his own? Was there, indeed, anything
in it that was truly his own, or was it simply an education?
He walked slowly round the water's edge. In an embayed recess
among the surrounding yew trees, leaning her back against the
pedestal of a pleasantly comic version of the Medici Venus,
executed by some nameless mason of the seicento, he saw Mary
"Hullo!" he said, for he was passing so close to her that he had
to say something.
Mary looked up. "Hullo!" she answered in a melancholy,
In this alcove hewed out of the dark trees, the atmosphere seemed
to Denis agreeably elegiac. He sat down beside her under the
shadow of the pudic goddess. There was a prolonged silence.
At breakfast that morning Mary had found on her plate a picture
postcard of Gobley Great Park. A stately Georgian pile, with a
facade sixteen windows wide; parterres in the foreground; huge,
smooth lawns receding out of the picture to right and left. Ten
years more of the hard times and Gobley, with all its peers, will
be deserted and decaying. Fifty years, and the countryside will
know the old landmarks no more. They will have vanished as the
monasteries vanished before them. At the moment, however, Mary's
mind was not moved by these considerations.
On the back of the postcard, next to the address, was written, in
Ivor's bold, large hand, a single quatrain.
"Hail, maid of moonlight! Bride of the sun, farewell!
Like bright plumes moulted in an angel's flight,
There sleep within my heart's most mystic cell
Memories of morning, memories of the night."
There followed a postscript of three lines: "Would you mind
asking one of the housemaids to forward the packet of safety-
razor blades I left in the drawer of my washstand. Thanks.--
Seated under the Venus's immemorial gesture, Mary considered life
and love. The abolition of her repressions, so far from bringing
the expected peace of mind, had brought nothing but disquiet, a
new and hitherto unexperienced misery. Ivor, Ivor...She couldn't
do without him now. It was evident, on the other hand, from the
poem on the back of the picture postcard, that Ivor could very
well do without her. He was at Gobley now, so was Zenobia. Mary
knew Zenobia. She thought of the last verse of the song he had
sung that night in the garden.
"Le lendemain, Phillis peu sage
Aurait donne moutons et chien
Pour un baiser que le volage
A Lisette donnait pour rien."
Mary shed tears at the memory; she had never been so unhappy in
all her life before.
It was Denis who first broke the silence. "The individual," he
began in a soft and sadly philosophical tone, "is not a self-
supporting universe. There are times when he comes into contact
with other individuals, when he is forced to take cognisance of
the existence of other universes besides himself."
He had contrived this highly abstract generalisation as a
preliminary to a personal confidence. It was the first gambit in
a conversation that was to lead up to Jenny's caricatures.
"True," said Mary; and, generalising for herself, she added,
"When one individual comes into intimate contact with another,
she--or he, of course, as the case may be--must almost inevitably
receive or inflict suffering."
"One is apt, Denis went on, "to be so spellbound by the spectacle
of one's own personality that one forgets that the spectacle
presents itself to other people as well as to oneself."
Mary was not listening. "The difficulty," she said, "makes
itself acutely felt in matters of sex. If one individual seeks
intimate contact with another individual in the natural way, she
is certain to receive or inflict suffering. If on the other
hand, she avoids contacts, she risks the equally grave sufferings
that follow on unnatural repressions. As you see, it's a
"When I think of my own case," said Denis, making a more decided
move in the desired direction, "I am amazed how ignorant I am of
other people's mentality in general, and above all and in
particular, of their opinions about myself. Our minds are sealed
books only occasionally opened to the outside world." He made a
gesture that was faintly suggestive of the drawing off of a
"It's an awful problem," said Mary thoughtfully. "One has to
have had personal experience to realise quite how awful it is."
"Exactly." Denis nodded. "One has to have had first-hand
experience." He leaned towards her and slightly lowered his
voice. "This very morning, for example..." he began, but his
confidences were cut short. The deep voice of the gong, tempered
by distance to a pleasant booming, floated down from the house.
It was lunch-time. Mechanically Mary rose to her feet, and
Denis, a little hurt that she should exhibit such a desperate
anxiety for her food and so slight an interest in his spiritual
experiences, followed her. They made their way up to the house
"I hope you all realise," said Henry Wimbush during dinner, "that
next Monday is Bank Holiday, and that you will all be expected to
help in the Fair."
"Heavens!" cried Anne. "The Fair--I had forgotten all about it.
What a nightmare! Couldn't you put a stop to it, Uncle Henry?"
Mr. Wimbush sighed and shook his head. "Alas," he said, "I fear
I cannot. I should have liked to put an end to it years ago; but
the claims of Charity are strong."
"It's not charity we want," Anne murmured rebelliously; "it's
"Besides," Mr. Wimbush went on, "the Fair has become an
institution. Let me see, it must be twenty-two years since we
started it. It was a modest affair then. Now..." he made a
sweeping movement with his hand and was silent.
It spoke highly for Mr. Wimbush's public spirit that he still
continued to tolerate the Fair. Beginning as a sort of glorified
church bazaar, Crome's yearly Charity Fair had grown into a noisy
thing of merry-go-rounds, cocoanut shies, and miscellaneous side
shows--a real genuine fair on the grand scale. It was the local
St. Bartholomew, and the people of all the neighbouring villages,
with even a contingent from the county town, flocked into the
park for their Bank Holiday amusement. The local hospital
profited handsomely, and it was this fact alone which prevented
Mr. Wimbush, to whom the Fair was a cause of recurrent and never-
diminishing agony, from putting a stop to the nuisance which
yearly desecrated his park and garden.
"I've made all the arrangements already," Henry Wimbush went on.
"Some of the larger marquees will be put up to-morrow. The
swings and the merry-go-round arrive on Sunday."
"So there's no escape," said Anne, turning to the rest of the
party. "You'll all have to do something. As a special favour
you're allowed to choose your slavery. My job is the tea tent,
as usual, Aunt Priscilla..."
"My dear," said Mrs. Wimbush, interrupting her, "I have more
important things to think about than the Fair. But you need have
no doubt that I shall do my best when Monday comes to encourage
"That's splendid," said Anne. "Aunt Priscilla will encourage the
villagers. What will you do, Mary?"
"I won't do anything where I have to stand by and watch other
"Then you'll look after the children's sports."
"All right," Mary agreed. "I'll look after the children's
"And Mr. Scogan?"
Mr. Scogan reflected. "May I be allowed to tell fortunes?" he
asked at last. "I think I should be good at telling fortunes."
"But you can't tell fortunes in that costume!"
"Can't I?" Mr. Scogan surveyed himself.
"You'll have to be dressed up. Do you still persist?"
"I'm ready to suffer all indignities."
"Good!" said Anne; and turning to Gombauld, "You must be our
lightning artist," she said. "'Your portrait for a shilling in
"It's a pity I'm not Ivor," said Gombauld, with a laugh. "I
could throw in a picture of their Auras for an extra sixpence."
Mary flushed. "Nothing is to be gained," she said severely, "by
speaking with levity of serious subjects. And, after all,
whatever your personal views may be, psychical research is a
perfectly serious subject."
"And what about Denis?"
Denis made a deprecating gesture. "I have no accomplishments,"
he said, "I'll just be one of those men who wear a thing in their
buttonholes and go about telling people which is the way to tea
and not to walk on the grass."
"No, no," said Anne. "That won't do. You must do something more
"But what? All the good jobs are taken, and I can do nothing but
lisp in numbers."
"Well, then, you must lisp," concluded Anne. "You must write a
poem for the occasion--an 'Ode on Bank Holiday.' We'll print it
on Uncle Henry's press and sell it at twopence a copy."
"Sixpence," Denis protested. "It'll be worth sixpence."
Anne shook her head. "Twopence," she repeated firmly. "Nobody
will pay more than twopence."
"And now there's Jenny," said Mr Wimbush. "Jenny," he said,
raising his voice, "what will you do?"
Denis thought of suggesting that she might draw caricatures at
sixpence an execution, but decided it would be wiser to go on
feigning ignorance of her talent. His mind reverted to the red
notebook. Could it really be true that he looked like that?
"What will I do," Jenny echoed, "what will I do?" She frowned
thoughtfully for a moment; then her face brightened and she
smiled. "When I was young," she said, "I learnt to play the
Jenny nodded, and, in proof of her assertion, agitated her knife
and fork, like a pair of drumsticks, over her plate. "If there's
any opportunity of playing the drums..." she began.
"But of course," said Anne, "there's any amount of opportunity.
We'll put you down definitely for the drums. That's the lot,"
"And a very good lot too," said Gombauld. "I look forward to my
Bank Holiday. It ought to be gay."
"It ought indeed," Mr Scogan assented. "But you may rest assured
that it won't be. No holiday is ever anything but a
"Come, come," protested Gombauld. "My holiday at Crome isn't
being a disappointment."
"Isn't it?" Anne turned an ingenuous mask towards him.
"No, it isn't," he answered.
"I'm delighted to hear it."
"It's in the very nature of things," Mr. Scogan went on; "our
holidays can't help being disappointments. Reflect for a moment.
What is a holiday? The ideal, the Platonic Holiday of Holidays
is surely a complete and absolute change. You agree with me in
my definition?" Mr. Scogan glanced from face to face round the
table; his sharp nose moved in a series of rapid jerks through
all the points of the compass. There was no sign of dissent; he
continued: "A complete and absolute change; very well. But
isn't a complete and absolute change precisely the thing we can
never have--never, in the very nature of things?" Mr. Scogan
once more looked rapidly about him. "Of course it is. As
ourselves, as specimens of Homo Sapiens, as members of a society,
how can we hope to have anything like an absolute change? We are
tied down by the frightful limitation of our human faculties, by
the notions which society imposes on us through our fatal
suggestibility, by our own personalities. For us, a complete
holiday is out of the question. Some of us struggle manfully to
take one, but we never succeed, if I may be allowed to express
myself metaphorically, we never succeed in getting farther than
"You're depressing," said Anne.
"I mean to be," Mr. Scogan replied, and, expanding the fingers of
his right hand, he went on: "Look at me, for example. What sort
of a holiday can I take? In endowing me with passions and
faculties Nature has been horribly niggardly. The full range of
human potentialities is in any case distressingly limited; my
range is a limitation within a limitation. Out of the ten
octaves that make up the human instrument, I can compass perhaps
two. Thus, while I may have a certain amount of intelligence, I
have no aesthetic sense; while I possess the mathematical
faculty, I am wholly without the religious emotions; while I am
naturally addicted to venery, I have little ambition and am not
at all avaricious. Education has further limited my scope.
Having been brought up in society, I am impregnated with its
laws; not only should I be afraid of taking a holiday from them,
I should also feel it painful to try to do so. In a word, I have
a conscience as well as a fear of gaol. Yes, I know it by
experience. How often have I tried to take holidays, to get away
from myself, my own boring nature, my insufferable mental
surroundings!" Mr. Scogan sighed. "But always without success,"
he added, "always without success. In my youth I was always
striving--how hard!--to feel religiously and aesthetically.
Here, said I to myself, are two tremendously important and
exciting emotions. Life would be richer, warmer, brighter,
altogether more amusing, if I could feel them. I try to feel
them. I read the works of the mystics. They seemed to me
nothing but the most deplorable claptrap--as indeed they always
must to anyone who does not feel the same emotion as the authors
felt when they were writing. For it is the emotion that matters.
The written work is simply an attempt to express emotion, which
is in itself inexpressible, in terms of intellect and logic. The
mystic objectifies a rich feeling in the pit of the stomach into
a cosmology. For other mystics that cosmology is a symbol of the
rich feeling. For the unreligious it is a symbol of nothing, and
so appears merely grotesque. A melancholy fact! But I
divagate." Mr. Scogan checked himself. "So much for the
religious emotion. As for the aesthetic--I was at even greater
pains to cultivate that. I have looked at all the right works of
art in every part of Europe. There was a time when, I venture to
believe, I knew more about Taddeo da Poggibonsi, more about the
cryptic Amico di Taddeo, even than Henry does. To-day, I am
happy to say, I have forgotten most of the knowledge I then so
laboriously acquired; but without vanity I can assert that it was
prodigious. I don't pretend, of course, to know anything about
nigger sculpture or the later seventeenth century in Italy; but
about all the periods that were fashionable before 1900 I am, or
was, omniscient. Yes, I repeat it, omniscient. But did that
fact make me any more appreciative of art in general? It did
not. Confronted by a picture, of which I could tell you all the
known and presumed history--the date when it was painted, the
character of the painter, the influences that had gone to make it
what it was--I felt none of that strange excitement and
exaltation which is, as I am informed by those who do feel it,
the true aesthetic emotion. I felt nothing but a certain
interest in the subject of the picture; or more often, when the
subject was hackneyed and religious, I felt nothing but a great
weariness of spirit. Nevertheless, I must have gone on looking
at pictures for ten years before I would honestly admit to myself
that they merely bored me. Since then I have given up all
attempts to take a holiday. I go on cultivating my old stale
daily self in the resigned spirit with which a bank clerk
performs from ten till six his daily task. A holiday, indeed!
I'm sorry for you, Gombauld, if you still look forward to having
Gombauld shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps," he said, "my
standards aren't as elevated as yours. But personally I found
the war quite as thorough a holiday from all the ordinary
decencies and sanities, all the common emotions and
preoccupations, as I ever want to have."
"Yes," Mr. Scogan thoughtfully agreed. "Yes, the war was
certainly something of a holiday. It was a step beyond Southend;
it was Weston-super-Mare; it was almost Ilfracombe."
A little canvas village of tents and booths had sprung up, just
beyond the boundaries of the garden, in the green expanse of the
park. A crowd thronged its streets, the men dressed mostly in
black--holiday best, funeral best--the women in pale muslins.
Here and there tricolour bunting hung inert. In the midst of the
canvas town, scarlet and gold and crystal, the merry-go-round
glittered in the sun. The balloon-man walked among the crowd,
and above his head, like a huge, inverted bunch of many-coloured
grapes, the balloons strained upwards. With a scythe-like motion
the boat-swings reaped the air, and from the funnel of the engine
which worked the roundabout rose a thin, scarcely wavering column
of black smoke.
Denis had climbed to the top of one of Sir Ferdinando's towers,
and there, standing on the sun-baked leads, his elbows resting on
the parapet, he surveyed the scene. The steam-organ sent up
prodigious music. The clashing of automatic cymbals beat out
with inexorable precision the rhythm of piercingly sounded
melodies. The harmonies were like a musical shattering of glass
and brass. Far down in the bass the Last Trump was hugely
blowing, and with such persistence, such resonance, that its
alternate tonic and dominant detached themselves from the rest of
the music and made a tune of their own, a loud, monotonous see-
Denis leaned over the gulf of swirling noise. If he threw
himself over the parapet, the noise would surely buoy him up,
keep him suspended, bobbing, as a fountain balances a ball on its
breaking crest. Another fancy came to him, this time in metrical
"My soul is a thin white sheet of parchment stretched
Over a bubbling cauldron."
Bad, bad. But he liked the idea of something thin and distended
being blown up from underneath.
"My soul is a thin tent of gut..."
"My soul is a pale, tenuous membrane..."
That was pleasing: a thin, tenuous membrane. It had the right
anatomical quality. Tight blown, quivering in the blast of noisy
life. It was time for him to descend from the serene empyrean of
words into the actual vortex. He went down slowly. "My soul is
a thin, tenuous membrane..."
On the terrace stood a knot of distinguished visitors. There was
old Lord Moleyn, like a caricature of an English milord in a
French comic paper: a long man, with a long nose and long,
drooping moustaches and long teeth of old ivory, and lower down,
absurdly, a short covert coat, and below that long, long legs
cased in pearl-grey trousers--legs that bent unsteadily at the
knee and gave a kind of sideways wobble as he walked. Beside
him, short and thick-set, stood Mr. Callamay, the venerable
conservative statesman, with a face like a Roman bust, and short
white hair. Young girls didn't much like going for motor drives
alone with Mr. Callamay; and of old Lord Moleyn one wondered why
he wasn't living in gilded exile on the island of Capri among the
other distinguished persons who, for one reason or another, find
it impossible to live in England. They were talking to Anne,
laughing, the one profoundly, the other hootingly.
A black silk balloon towing a black-and-white striped parachute
proved to be old Mrs. Budge from the big house on the other side
of the valley. She stood low on the ground, and the spikes of
her black-and-white sunshade menaced the eyes of Priscilla
Wimbush, who towered over her--a massive figure dressed in purple
and topped with a queenly toque on which the nodding black plumes
recalled the splendours of a first-class Parisian funeral.
Denis peeped at them discreetly from the window of the morning-
room. His eyes were suddenly become innocent, childlike,
unprejudiced. They seemed, these people, inconceivably
fantastic. And yet they really existed, they functioned by
themselves, they were conscious, they had minds. Moreover, he
was like them. Could one believe it? But the evidence of the
red notebook was conclusive.
It would have been polite to go and say, "How d'you do?" But at
the moment Denis did not want to talk, could not have talked.
His soul was a tenuous, tremulous, pale membrane. He would keep
its sensibility intact and virgin as long as he could.
Cautiously he crept out by a side door and made his way down
towards the park. His soul fluttered as he approached the noise
and movement of the fair. He paused for a moment on the brink,
then stepped in and was engulfed.
Hundreds of people, each with his own private face and all of
them real, separate, alive: the thought was disquieting. He
paid twopence and saw the Tatooed Woman; twopence more, the
Largest Rat in the World. From the home of the Rat he emerged
just in time to see a hydrogen-filled balloon break loose for
home. A child howled up after it; but calmly, a perfect sphere
of flushed opal, it mounted, mounted. Denis followed it with his
eyes until it became lost in the blinding sunlight. If he could
but send his soul to follow it!...
He sighed, stuck his steward's rosette in his buttonhole, and
started to push his way, aimlessly but officially, through the
Mr. Scogan had been accommodated in a little canvas hut. Dressed
in a black skirt and a red bodice, with a yellow-and-red bandana
handkerchief tied round his black wig, he looked--sharp-nosed,
brown, and wrinkled--like the Bohemian Hag of Frith's Derby Day.
A placard pinned to the curtain of the doorway announced the
presence within the tent of "Sesostris, the Sorceress of
Ecbatana." Seated at a table, Mr. Scogan received his clients in
mysterious silence, indicating with a movement of the finger that
they were to sit down opposite him and to extend their hands for
his inspection. He then examined the palm that was presented
him, using a magnifying glass and a pair of horn spectacles. He
had a terrifying way of shaking his head, frowning and clicking
with his tongue as he looked at the lines. Sometimes he would
whisper, as though to himself, "Terrible, terrible!" or "God
preserve us!" sketching out the sign of the cross as he uttered
the words. The clients who came in laughing grew suddenly grave;
they began to take the witch seriously. She was a formidable-
looking woman; could it be, was it possible, that there was
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