In the Wilderness
Part 7 out of 15
"Yes. I've been playing with Robin, building castles with the new
bricks. Good-by, Dion."
She went past him and down the small street rather quickly. He stood
for a moment looking after her; then he turned into the house. As he
shut the door he heard a chord struck on the piano upstairs in
Rosamund's sitting-room. He took off his coat and hat and came into
the little hall. As he did so he heard Rosamund's voice beginning to
sing Brahms's "Wiegenlied" very softly. He guessed that she was
singing to an audience of Robin. The bricks had been put away after
the departure of Aunt Beattie, and now Robin was being sung towards
sleep. How often would he be sung to by Rosamund in the future when
his father would not be there to listen!
Robin was going to have his mother all to himself, and Rosamund was
going to have her little son all to herself. But they did not know
that yet. The long months of their sacred companionship stretched out
before the father as he listened to the lullaby, which he could only
just hear. Rosamund had mastered the art of withdrawing her voice and
yet keeping it perfectly level.
When the song was finished, whispered away into the spaces where music
disperses to carry on its sweet mission, Dion went up the stairs,
opened the door of Rosamund's room, and saw something very simple,
and, to him, very memorable. Rosamund had turned on the music-stool
and put her right arm round Robin, who, in his minute green jersey and
green knickerbockers, stood leaning against her with the languid
happiness and half-wayward demeanor of a child who has been playing,
and who already feels the soothing influence of approaching night with
its gift of profound sleep. Robin's cheeks were flushed, and in his
blue eyes there was a curious expression, drowsily imaginative, as if
he were welcoming dreams which were only for him. With a faint smile
on his small rosy lips he was listening while Rosamund repeated to him
in English the words of the song she had just been singing. Dion heard
"Sink to slumber, good-night,
And angels of light
With love you shall fold
As the Christ Child of old."
"There's Fa!" whispered Robin, sending to Dion a semi-roguish look.
Dion held up his hand and formed "Hush!" with his lips. Rosamund
finished the verse:
"While the stars dimly shine
May no sorrow be thine."
She bent and kissed Robin on the top of his head just in the middle,
choosing the place, and into his hair she breathed a repetition of the
last words, "May no sorrow be thine."
And Dion was going to the war.
Robin slipped from his mother's arm gently and came to his father.
"'Allo, Fa!" he observed confidentially.
Dion bent down.
He picked the little chap up and gave him a kiss. What a small bundle
of contentment Robin was at that moment. In South Africa Dion often
remembered just how Robin had felt to him then, intimate and a
mystery, confidential, sleepy with happiness, a tiny holder of the
Divine, a willing revelation and a soft secret. So much in so little!
"You've been playing with Aunt Beattie."
Robin acknowledged it.
"Auntie's putty good at bricks."
"Did you meet Beattie, Dion?" asked Rosamund.
"On the doorstep."
He thought of Beattie's question. There was no question in Rosamund's
face. But perhaps his own face had changed.
A tap came to the door.
"Master Robin?" said nurse, in a voice that held both inquiry and an
When Robin had gone off to bed, walking vaguely and full of the
forerunners of dreams, Dion knew that his hour had come. He felt a
sort of great stillness within him, stillness of presage, perhaps, or
of mere concentration, of the will to be, to do, to endure, whatever
came. Rosamund shut down the lid of the piano and came away from the
music-stool. Dion looked at her, and thought of the maidens of the
porch and of the columns of the Parthenon.
"Rosamund," he said,--that stillness within him forbade any
preparation, any "leading up,"--"I've joined the City Imperial
"The City Imperial Volunteers?" she said.
He knew by the sound of her voice that she had not grasped the meaning
of what he had done. She looked surprised, and a question was in her
"Why? What are they? I don't understand. And the Artists' Rifles?"
"I've got my transfer from them. I've joined for the war."
"The war? Do you mean----?"
She came up to him, looking suddenly intent.
"Do you mean you have volunteered for active service in South Africa?"
"Without consulting me?"
Her whole face reddened, almost as it had reddened when she spoke to
him about the death of her mother.
"Yes. I haven't signed on yet, but the doctor has passed me. I'm to be
sworn in at the Guildhall on the fourth, I believe. We shall sail very
soon, almost directly, I suppose. They want men out there."
He did not know how bruskly he spoke; he was feeling too much to know.
"I didn't think you could do such a thing without speaking to me
first. My husband, and you----!"
She stopped abruptly, as if afraid of what she might say if she went
on speaking. Two deep lines appeared in her forehead. For the first
time in his life Dion saw an expression of acute hostility in her
eyes. She had been angry, or almost angry with him for a moment in
Elis, when he broke off the branch of wild olive; but she had not
looked like this. There was something piercing in her expression that
was quite new to him.
"I felt I ought to do it," he said dully.
"Did you think I should try to prevent you?"
"No. I scarcely knew what I thought."
"Have you told your mother?"
"No. I had to tell Uncle Biron because of the business. Nobody else
And then suddenly he remembered Beattie.
"At least I haven't told any one else."
"But some one else does know--knew before I did."
"I saw Beattie just now, as I said. I believe she guessed. I didn't
"But how could she guess such a thing if you gave her no hint?"
"That's just what I have been wondering."
Rosamund was silent. She went away from him and stood by the fire,
turning her back to him. He waited for a moment, then he went to the
"Don't you think perhaps it's best for a man to decide such a thing
quite alone? It's a man's job, and each man must judge for himself
what he ought to do in such a moment. If you had asked me not to go I
should have felt bound to go all the same."
"But I should have said 'Go.' Then you never understood me in Greece?
All our talks told you nothing about me? And now Robin is here--you
thought I should ask you not to go!"
She turned round. She seemed almost passionately surprised.
"Perhaps--in a way--I wished to think that."
"Why? Did you wish to despise me?"
"Rosamund! As if I could ever do that."
"If you did a despicable thing I should despise you."
"Don't! I haven't much more time here."
"I never, never shall be able to understand how you could do this
without telling me beforehand that you were going to do it."
"It wasn't from any want of respect or love for you."
"I can't talk about it any more just now."
The flush on her face deepened. She turned and went out of the room.
Dion was painfully affected. He had never before had a serious
disagreement with Rosamund. It was almost intolerable to have one now
on the eve of departure from her. He felt like one who had committed
an outrage out of the depths of a terrible hunger, a hunger of
curiosity. He knew now why he had volunteered for active service
without consulting Rosamund. Obscurely his nature had spoken, saying,
"Put her to the test and make the test drastic." And he had obeyed the
command. He had wanted to know, to find out suddenly, in a moment, the
exact truth of years. And now he had roused a passion of anger in
Her anger wrapped him in pain such as he had never felt till now.
The house seemed full of menace. In the little room the atmosphere was
changed. He looked round it and his eyes rested on the Hermes. He went
up to it and stood before it.
Instantly he felt again the exquisite calm of Elis. The face of the
Hermes made the thought of war seem horrible and ridiculous. Men had
learnt so much when Praxiteles created his Hermes, and they knew so
little now. The enigma of their violence was as great as the enigma of
the celestial calm which the old Greeks had perpetuated to be forever
the joy and the rest of humanity. And he, Dion, was going to take an
active part in violence. The unchanging serenity of the Hermes, which
brought all Elis before him, with its green sights and its wonderful
sounds, of the drowsy insects in the sunshine, of the sheep-bells, and
of the pines whose voices hold within them all the eternal secrets,
increased the intensity of his misery. He realized how unstable are
the foundations of human happiness, and his house of life seemed
crumbling about him.
Presently he went downstairs to his room and wrote letters to his
mother and to Bruce Evelin, telling them what he had done.
When he had directed and stamped these letters he thought of Beattie
and Guy. Beattie knew. What was it which had led her so instantly to a
knowledge denied to Rosamund? Rosamund had evidently not noticed any
difference in him when he came in that evening. But, to be sure, Robin
had been there.
Robin had been there.
Dion sat before the writing-table for a long while doing nothing. Then
a clock struck. He had only half an hour to spare before dinner would
be ready. Quickly he wrote a few words to Beattie:
"MY DEAR BEATTIE,--You were right. I have volunteered for active
service and shall soon be off to South Africa. I don't know yet
exactly when we shall start, but I expect they'll hurry us off as
quickly as they can. Men are wanted out there badly. Lots of
fellows are coming forward. I'll tell you more when I see you
again. Messages to Guy.--Yours affectionately,
It was not an eloquent letter, but Beattie would understand. Beattie
was not a great talker but she was a great understander. He went out
to put the three letters into the pillar-box. Then he hurried upstairs
to his dressing-room. For the first time in his life he almost dreaded
spending an evening alone with Rosamund.
He did not see her till he came into the drawing-room. As he opened
the door he saw her sitting by the fire reading, in a dark blue dress.
"I'm afraid I'm late," he said, as he walked to the hearth. "I wrote
to mother, Beattie and godfather to tell them what I was going to do."
"What you had done," she said quietly, putting down the book.
"I haven't actually been sworn in yet, but of course it is practically
the same thing."
He looked at her almost surreptitiously. She was very grave, but there
was absolutely nothing hostile or angry in her expression or manner.
They went into the dining-room, and talked together much as usual
during dinner. As soon as dinner was over, and the parlor-maid had
gone out, having finished her ministrations, which to Dion that night
had seemed innumerable and well-nigh unbearable, he said:
"I'm dreadfully sorry about to-day. I did the wrong thing in
volunteering without saying anything to you. Of course you were hurt
He looked at her and paused.
"Yes, I was. I couldn't help it, and I don't think you ought to have
done what you did. But you have made a great sacrifice--very great. I
only want to think of that, Dion, of how much you are giving up, and
of the cause--our cause."
She spoke very earnestly and sincerely, and her eyes looked serious
and very kind.
"Don't let us go back to anything sad, or to any misunderstanding
now," she continued. "You are doing an admirable thing, and I shall
always be glad you had the will to do it, were able to do it. Tell me
everything. I want to live in your new life as much as I can. I want
you to feel me in it as much as you can."
"She has prayed over it. While I was writing my letters she was
praying over it."
Suddenly Dion knew this as if Rosamund had opened her heart to him and
had told it. And immediately something which was like a great light
seemed not only to illumine the present moment but also to throw a
piercing ray backwards upon all his past life with Rosamund. In the
light of this ray he discerned a shadowy something, which stood
between Rosamund and him, keeping them always apart. It was a
tremendous Presence; his feeling was that it was the Presence of God.
Abruptly he seemed to be aware that God had always stood, was standing
now, between him and his wife. He remembered the words in the marriage
service, "Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder."
"But God," he thought, "did not join us. He stood between us always.
He stands between us now." It was an awful thought. It was like a
great blasphemy. He was afraid of it. And yet he now felt that it was
an old, old thought in his mind which only now had he been able to
formulate. He had known without knowing consciously, but now he
He took care at this moment not to look at Rosamund. If he looked,
surely she would see in his eyes his terrible thought, the thought he
was going to carry with him to South Africa. Making a great effort he
began to tell her all that he knew about the C.I.V. They discussed
matters in a comradely spirit. Rosamund said many warm-hearted things,
showed herself almost eagerly solicitous. They went up to sit by the
fire in her little room. Dion smoked. They talked for a long time. Had
any one been there to listen he would probably have thought, "This man
has got the ideal wife. She's a true comrade as well as a wife." But
all the time Dion kept on saying to himself, "This is the result of
her prayers before dinner. She is being good." Only when it was late,
past their usual hour for going to bed, did he feel that the strong
humanity in Rosamund had definitely gained ground, that she was being
genuinely carried away by warm impulses connected with dear England,
our men, and with him.
When they got up at last to go to bed she exclaimed:
"I shall always love what you have done, Dion. You know that."
"But not the way of my doing it!" trembled on his lips.
He did not say it, however. Why lead her back even for a moment to
That night he lay with his thoughts, and in the darkness the ray was
piercing bright and looked keen like a sharpened sword.
On the fourth of January Dion and about nine hundred other men were
sworn in at the Guildhall; on January the seventeenth, eight hundred
of them, including Dion, were presented with the Freedom of the City
of London; on the nineteenth they were equipped and attended a
farewell service at St. Paul's Cathedral, after which they were
entertained at supper, some at Gray's Inn and some at Lincoln's Inn;
on the twentieth they entrained for Southampton, from which port they
sailed in the afternoon for South Africa. Dion was on board of the
Strangely, perhaps, he was almost glad when the ship cast off and the
shores of England faded and presently were lost beyond the horizon
line. He was alone now with his duty. Life was suddenly simplified. It
was better so. In the last days he had often felt confused, beset, had
often felt that he was struggling in a sea of complications which
threatened to overwhelm him. There had been too much to do and there
had been too much to endure; he had been obliged to be practical when
he was feeling intensely emotional. The effort to dominate and to
conceal his emotion had sometimes almost exhausted him in the midst of
all he had had to do. He had come to the knowledge of the fact that it
is the work of the spirit which leaves the whole man tired. He was
weary, not from hard energies connected with his new profession, not
from getting up at dawn, marching through dense crowds of cheering
countrymen, traveling, settling in on shipboard, but from farewells.
He looked back now upon a sort of panorama of farewells, of partings
from his mother, his uncle, Bruce Evelin, Guy, Beatrice, Robin,
Quite possibly all these human companions had vanished out of his life
for ever. It was a tremendous thought, upon which he was resolved not
to dwell lest his courage and his energies might be weakened.
Through good-bys a man may come to knowledge, and Dion had, in these
last few days, gone down to the bedrock of knowledge concerning some
of those few who were intimately in his life--knowledge of them and
also of himself. Nobody had traveled to Southampton to see him off. He
had a very English horror of scenes, and had said all his good-bys in
private. With Bruce Evelin he had had a long talk; they had spoken
frankly together about the future of Rosamund and Robin in the event
of his not coming back. Dion had expressed his views on the bringing
up of the boy, and, in doing so had let Bruce Evelin into secrets of
Greece. The father did not expect, perhaps did not even desire, that
the little son should develop into a paragon, but he did desire for
Rosamund's child the strong soul in the strong body, and the soft
heart that was not a softy's heart.
In that conversation Bruce Evelin had learnt a great deal about Dion.
They had spoken of Rosamund, perhaps more intimately than they had
ever spoken before, and Dion had said, "I'm bothering so much about
Robin partly because her life is bound up with Robin's."
"Several lives are bound up with that little chap's," Bruce Evelin had
And a sudden sense of loneliness had come upon Dion. But he had only
made some apparently casual remark to the effect that he knew Bruce
Evelin would do his best to see that Robin came to no harm. No absurd
and unnecessary promises had been exchanged between the old and the
young man. Their talk had been British, often seemingly casual, and
nearly always touched with deep feeling. It had not opened to Dion new
vistas of Bruce Evelin. For a long time Dion had felt that he knew
Bruce Evelin. But it had given him a definite revelation of the strong
faithfulness, the tenacity of faithfulness in friendship, which was
perhaps the keynote of Bruce Evelin's character.
The parting from Guy had been less eventful. Nevertheless it had
helped to get rid of certain faint misunderstandings which neither of
the friends had ever acknowledged. Since the Mrs. Clarke episode Dion
had been aware that Guy's feeling towards him had slightly changed.
They were such old and tried friends that they would always care for
each other, but Guy could not help resenting Rosamund's treatment of
Mrs. Clarke, could not help considering Dion's acquiescence in it a
sign of weakness. These feelings, unexpressed, but understood by Dion,
had set up a slight barrier between the two young men; it had fallen
when they said good-by. Mrs. Clarke had been forgotten then by Guy,
who had only remembered the gifts of war, and that possibly this was
his final sight of old Dion. All their common memories had been with
them when the last hand-clasp was given, and perhaps only when their
hands fell apart had they thoroughly tested at last the strength of
the link between them. They were friends for life without knowing
exactly why. Thousands of Englishmen were in the same case.
Dion had gone to De Lorne Mansions to bid good-by to Beattie, and with
her, too, he had talked about Robin. Beattie had known when Dion was
coming, and had taken care to be alone. Always quiet, she had seemed
to Dion quieter even than usual in that final hour by the fire, almost
singularly timid and repressed. There had even been moments when she
had seemed to him cold. But the coldness--if really there had been any
--had been in her manner, perhaps in her voice, but had been absent
from her face. They had sat in the firelight, which Beattie was always
fond of, and Dion had not been able to see her quite clearly. If the
electric light had been turned on she might have told him more; but
she surely would not have told him of the quiet indifference which
manner and voice and even inexpressive attitude had seemed to be
endeavoring to convey to him. For Beattie's only half-revealed face
had looked eloquent in the firelight, eloquent of a sympathy and even
of a sorrow she had said very little about. Whenever Dion had begun to
feel slightly chilled he had looked at her, and the face in the
firelight had assured him. "Beattie does care," he had thought; and he
had realized how much he wanted Beattie to care, how he had come to
depend upon Beattie's sisterly affection and gentle but deep interest
in all the course of his life.
Quickly, too quickly, the moment had come for him to say the last word
to Beattie, and suddenly he had felt shy. It had seemed to him that
something in Beattie--he could not have said what--had brought about
this unusual sensation in him. He had got up abruptly with a "Well, I
suppose I must be off now!" and had thrust out his hand. He had felt
that his manner and action were almost awkward and hard. Beattie had
got up too in a way that looked listless.
"Are you well, Beattie?" he had asked.
"Perhaps you are tired?"
"I fancied--well, good-by, Beattie."
That had been all. At the door he had looked round, and had seen
Beattie standing with her back to him and her face to the firelight,
stooping slightly, and he had felt a strong impulse to go to her
again, and to--he hardly knew what--to say good-by again, perhaps, in
a different, more affectionate or more tender way. But he had not done
it. Instead he had gone out and had shut the door behind him very
quietly. It was odd that Beattie had not even looked after him. Surely
people generally did that when a friend was going away, perhaps for
ever. But Beattie was different from other people, and somehow he was
quite sure she cared.
The three last good-bys had been said to his mother, Robin and
Rosamund, in Queen Anne's Mansions and Little Market Street. He had
stayed with his mother for nearly two hours. She had a very bad cold,
unbecoming, complicated with fits of sneezing, a cold in the "three
handkerchiefs an hour" stage. And this commonplace malady had made him
feel very tender about her, and oddly pitiful about all humanity,
including, of course, himself. While they talked he had thought
several times, "It's hard to see mother in such a state when perhaps I
shall never see her again. I don't want to remember her with a cold."
And the thought, "I shan't be here to see her get well," had pained
"I'm looking and feeling glazed, dee-ar," had been her greeting to
him. "My nose is shiny and my mind is woolly. I don't think you ought
to kiss me or talk to me."
And then he had kissed her, and they had talked, intimately,
sincerely. In those last hours mercifully Dion had not felt shy with
his mother. But perhaps this was because she was never shy, not even
in tenderness or in sorrow. She was not afraid of herself. They had
even been able to discuss the possibility of his being killed in the
war, and Mrs. Leith had been quite simple about it, laying aside all
her usual elaboration of manner.
"The saddest result of such an honorable and noble end would be the
loss to Robin, I think," she had said.
"To Robin? But he's got such a mother!"
"Do you think he doesn't need, won't need much more later on, the
father he's got? Dion, my son, humility is a virtue, no doubt, but I
don't believe in excess even in the practice of virtue, and sometimes
I think you do."
"I didn't know it."
"This going to the war is a splendid thing for you. I wouldn't have
you out of it even though----"
Here she had been overcome by a tremendous fit of sneezing from which
she had emerged with the smiling remark:
"I'm not permitted to improve the occasion."
"I believe I know what you mean. Perhaps you're right, mother. You're
cleverer than I am. Still I can't help seeing that Robin's got a
mother such as few children have. Look round at all the mothers you
know in London!"
"Yes. Rosamund was created to be a mother. But just to-day I want to
look at Robin's father."
And so they had talked of him.
That talk had done Dion good. It had set his face towards a shining
future. If he came back from the war he now felt, through the feeling
of his mother, that he would surely come back tempered, tried, better
fitted to Robin's uses, more worthy of any woman's gift of herself.
Without preaching, even without being remarkably definite, his mother
had made him see in this distant war a great opportunity, not to win a
V.C. or any splashing honor that would raise him up in the eyes of the
world, but to reach out and grip hold of his own best possibilities.
Had his mother done even more than this? Had she set before him some
other goal which the war might enable him to gain if he had not
already gained it? Had she been very subtle when seeming to be very
direct? Even when she held him in her arms--despite the cold!--and
gave him the final kiss and blessing, he was not sure. If it had been
done it had been done with extraordinary delicacy, with the marvelous
cunning of clever love which knows how to avoid all the pitfalls. And
it had been done, too, with the marvelous unselfishness of which,
perhaps, only the highest type of mother-love is capable.
After he had left his mother, and was just going out of the flat, Dion
had heard through the half-open door a sound, a ridiculous sound,
which had made him love her terribly, and with the sudden yearning
which is the keenest pain of the heart because it defines all the
human limitations: she was sneezing again violently. As he shut the
front door, "If she were to die while I'm away, and I were to come
back!" had stabbed his mind. Outside in the court he had gazed up at
the towering rows of lighted windows and had said another good-by out
Shutting his eyes for a moment as the "Ariosto" plowed her way onwards
through a rather malignant sea, Dion saw again those rows of lighted
windows, and he wondered, almost as earnestly as a child wonders,
whether his mother's cold was better. What he had done, volunteering
for active service and joining the C.I.V. battalion, had made him feel
simpler than usual; but he did not know it, did not look on at his own
And then, last of all, had come the parting from Robin and Rosamund.
Rosamund and Dion had agreed not to make very much of his departure to
Robin. Father was going way for a time, going over the sea
picturesquely, with a lot of friends, all men, all happy to be
together and to see wonderful things in a country quite different from
England. Some day, when Robin was a big as his father, perhaps he,
too, would make such a voyage with his friends. Robin had been deeply
interested, and had shown his usual ardor in comment and--this was
more embarrassing--in research. He had wanted to know a great deal
about his father's intentions and the intentions of father's numerous
male friends. What were they going to do when they arrived in the
extremely odd country which had taken it into its head to be different
from England? How many male friends was father taking with him? Why
hadn't they all been to "see us?" Was Uncle Guy one of them? Was Mr.
Thrush going too? Why wasn't Mr. Thrush going? If he was too old to go
was Uncle Guy too old? Did Mr. Thrush want to go? Was he disappointed
at father's not being able to take him? Was it all a holiday for
father? Would mummy have liked to go? No lies had been told to Robin,
but some of the information he had sought had been withheld. Dion had
made skilful use of Mr. Thrush when matters had become difficult, when
Robin had nearly driven him into a corner. The ex-chemist, though
seldom seen, loomed large in Robin's world, on account of his
impressive coloring and ancient respectabilities. Robin regarded him
with awful admiration, and looked forward to growing like him in some
far distant future. Dion had frequently ridden off from difficult
questions on Mr. Thrush. Even in the final interview between father
and son Mr. Thrush had been much discussed.
The final interview had taken place in the nursery among Aunt
Beattie's bricks, by which Robin was still obsessed. Dion had sat on
the floor and built towers with his boy, and had wondered, as he
handled the bricks in the shining of the nursery fire, whether he
would come back to help Robin with his building later on. He was going
out to build, for England and for himself, perhaps for Robin and
Rosamund, too. Would he be allowed to see the fruits of his labors?
The towers of bricks had grown high, and with it Dion had built up
another tower, unknown to Robin, a tower of hopes for the child. So
much ardor in so tiny a frame! It was a revelation of the wonder of
life. What a marvel to have helped to create that life and what a
responsibility. And he was going away to destroy life, if possible.
The grotesqueness of war had come upon him then, as he had built up
the tower with Robin. And he had longed for a released world in which
his boy might be allowed to walk as a man. The simplicity of Robin,
his complete trustfulness, his eager appreciation of human nature, his
constant reaching out after kindness without fear of being denied,
seemed to imply a world other than the world which must keep on
letting blood in order to get along. Robin, and all the other Robins,
female and male, revealed war in its true light. Terrible children
whose unconscious comment on life bites deep like an acid! Terrible
Robin in that last hour with the bricks!
When the tower had become a marvel such as had been seen in no nursery
before, Dion had suggested letting it be. Another brick and it must
surely fall. The moment was at hand when he must see the last of
Robin. He had had a furtive but strong desire to see the tower he and
his son had built still standing slenderly erect when he went out of
the nursery. Just then he had been the man who seeks a good omen.
Robin had agreed with his suggestion after a long moment of rapt
contemplation of the tower.
"I wish Mr. Thrush could see it," he had observed, laying down the
brick he had taken up to add to the tower just before his father had
spoken. "He /would/ be pleased."
The words had been lifted out on a sigh, the sigh of the wonder-worker
who had achieved his mission. And then they had talked of Mr. Thrush,
sitting carefully, almost motionless, beside the tower, and speaking
softly "for fear." The firelight had danced upon the yellow bricks and
upon the cream-colored nursery walls, filtering through the high
nursery "guard" which protected Robin from annihilation by fire, and
the whisper, whisper of their voices had only emphasized the quiet.
And, with every moment that went by, the lit-up tower had seemed more
like a symbol to Dion. Then at last the cuckoo-clock had chimed and
the wooden bird, with trembling tail, had made its jerky obeisance.
Dion had put his arm round the little figure in the green jersey and
the tiny knickerbockers, and had whispered, still governed by the
"I must go now, Robin."
"Good-by, Fa," Robin had whispered back, with his eyes on the tower.
With a very careful movement he had lifted his face to be kissed, and
on his soft lips Dion had felt a certain remoteness. Did the tower
stand between him and his little son as he said good-by to Robin?
Just as he had reluctantly let Robin go and, with his legs crossed,
had been about to perform the feat of getting up without touching the
floor with his hands, and without shaking the bricks in their places,
--moved to this trifling bodily feat by the desire to confront his
emotion with an adversary,--the door behind him had been opened.
Already in movement he had instinctively half-turned round. Something
had happened,--he never knew exactly what,--something had escaped from
his physical control because his mind had abruptly been deflected from
its task of vigilance; there had been a crash and a cry of "Oh, /Fa/!"
from Robin, and he had met Rosamund's eyes as the tower toppled down
in ruin. Not so much as one brick had been left upon another.
Robin had been greatly distressed. Tears had come into his eyes, and
for a moment he had looked reproachfully at his father. Then, almost
immediately, something chivalrous had spoken within him, admonishing
him, and he had managed a smile.
"It'll be higher next time, Fa, won't it?" he had murmured, still
evidently fighting a keen disappointment.
And Dion had caught him up, given him a hug, whispered "My boy!" to
him, put him down and gone straight out of the room with Rosamund, who
had not spoken a word.
And that had been the last of Robin for his father.
In the evening, when Robin was asleep, Dion had said good-by to
Rosamund. The catastrophe of the tower of bricks had haunted his mind.
As he had chosen to make of the tower an omen, in its destruction he
had found a presage of evil which depressed him, which even woke in
him ugly fears of the future. He had had a great deal out of life, not
all he had wanted, but still a great deal. Perhaps he was not going to
have much more. He had not spoken of his fears to Rosamund, but had
been resolutely cheerful with her in their last conversation. Neither
of them had mentioned the possibility of his not coming back. They had
talked of what probably lay before him in South Africa, and of Robin,
and presently Rosamund had said:
"I want to make a suggestion. Will you promise to tell me if you
"Yes. What is it?"
"Would you mind if I succeeded in letting this house and went into the
country with Robin to wait for your coming back?"
"Letting it furnished, do you mean?"
"But won't you be dull in the country, away from mother, and Beattie,
and godfather, and all our friends?"
"I could never be dull with Robin and nature, never, and I wouldn't go
very far from London. I thought of something near Welsley."
"So that you could go in to Cathedral service when 'The Wilderness'
He had smiled as he had said it, but his own reference to Rosamund's
once-spoken-of love of the wilderness had, in a flash, brought the
hill of Drouva before him, and he had faced man's tragedy--remembered
joys of the past in a shadowed present.
"Go into the country, Rose. I only want you to be happy, but"--he had
hesitated, and then had added, almost in spite of himself--"but not
Not too happy! That really was the great fear at his heart now that he
was voyaging towards South Africa, that Rosamund would be too happy
without him. He no longer deceived himself. This drastic change in his
life had either taught him to face realities, or simply prevented him
from being able to do anything else. He told himself the truth, and it
was this, that Rosamund did not love him at all as he loved her. She
was fond of him, she trusted him, she got on excellently with him, she
believed in him, she even admired him for having been able to live as
he had lived before their marriage, but she did not passionately love
him. He might have been tempted to think that, with all her fine, even
splendid, qualities, she was deprived of the power of loving intensely
if he had not seen her with Robin, if he had not once spoken with her
about her mother.
If he were killed in South Africa would Rosamund be angry at his
death? That was her greatest tribute, anger, directed surely not
against any human being, but against the God Whom she loved and Who,
so she believed, ruled the world and directed the ways of men. Once
Rosamund had said that she knew it was possible for human beings to
hurt God. She had doubtless spoken out of the depths of her personal
experience. She had felt sure that by her anger at the death of her
mother she had hurt God. Such a conviction showed how she thought of
God, in what a closeness of relation with God she felt herself to be.
Dion knew now that she had loved her mother, that she loved Robin, as
she did not love him. If he were to die she would be very sorry, but
she would not be very angry. No, she would be able to breathe out a
"farewell!" simply, with a resignation comparable to that of the
Greeks on those tombs which she loved, and then--she would concentrate
If he, Dion, were to be shot, and had time for a thought before dying,
he knew what his thought would be: that the Boer's bullet had only hit
a man, not, like so many bullets fired in war, a man and a woman. And
that thought would add an exquisite bitterness to the normal
bitterness of death.
So Dion, on the "Ariosto," voyaged towards South Africa, companioned
by new and definite knowledge--new at any rate in the light and on the
surface, definite because in the very big moments of life truth
becomes as definite as the bayonet piercing to the man who is pierced.
His comrades were a mixed lot, mostly quite young. The average age was
about twenty-five. Among them were barristers, law students, dentists,
bank clerks, clerks, men of the Civil Service, architects,
auctioneers, engineers, schoolmasters, builders, plumbers, jewelers,
tailors, Stock Exchange men, etc., etc. There were representatives of
more than a hundred and fifty trades, and adherents to nine religions,
among the men of the C.I.V. Their free patriotism welded them
together, the thing they had all spontaneously done abolished
differences between Baptists and Jews, Methodists and Unitarians,
Catholics and Protestants. The perfumery manager and the marine
engineer comprehended each other's language; the dentist and the
insurance broker "hit it off together" at first sight; printers and
plumbers, pawnbrokers and solicitors, varnish testers and hop factors
--they were all friendly and all cheerful together. Each one of them
had done a thing which all the rest secretly admired. Respect is a
good cement, and can stand a lot of testing. In his comrades Dion was
not disappointed. Among them were a few acquaintances, men whom he had
met in the City, but there was only one man whom he could count as a
friend, a barrister named Worthington, a bachelor, who belonged to the
Greville Club, and who was an intimate of Guy Daventry's. Worthington
knew Daventry much better than he knew Dion, but both Dion and he were
glad to be together and to exchange impressions in the new life which
they had entered so abruptly, moved by a common impulse. Worthington
was a dark, sallow, narrow-faced man, wiry, with an eager intellect,
fearless and energetic, one of the most cheerful men of the battalion.
His company braced Dion.
The second day at sea was disagreeable; the ship rolled considerably,
and many officers and men were sea-sick. Dion was well, but
Worthington was prostrated, and did not show on deck. Towards evening
Dion went down to have a look at him, and found him in his bunk, lead-
colored, with pinched features, but still cheerful and able to laugh
at his own misery. They had a small "jaw" together about people and
things at home, and in the course of it Worthington mentioned Mrs.
Clarke, whom he had several times met at De Lorne Gardens.
"You know she's back in London?" he said. "The winter's almost
impossible at Constantinople because of the winds from the Black Sea."
"Yes, I heard she was in London, but I haven't seen her this winter."
"I half thought--only half--she'd send me a wire to wish me good luck
when we embarked," said Worthington, shifting uneasily in his bunk,
and twisting his white lips. "But she didn't. She's a fascinating
woman. I should have liked to have had a wire from her."
"By Jove!" exclaimed Dion.
"What is it?"
"I've just remembered I got some telegrams when we were going off. I
read one, from my wife, and stuffed the others away. There was such a
lot to do and think of. I believe they're here."
He thrust a hand into one of his pockets and brought out four
telegrams, one, Rosamund's, open, the rest unopened. Worthington lay
staring at him and them, glad perhaps to be turned for a moment from
self-contemplation by any incident, however trifling.
"I'll bet I know whom they're from," said Dion. "One's from old Guy,
one's from Bruce Evelin, and one's from----" He paused, fingering the
"Eh?" said Worthington, still screwing his lips about.
"Perhaps from Beattie, my sister-in-law, unless she and Guy have
clubbed together. Well, let's see."
He tore open the first telegram.
"May you have good luck and come back safe and soon.--BEATTIE--
He opened the second. It was from Bruce Evelin.
"May you be a happy warrior.--BRUCE EVELIN."
Dion read it more than once, and his lips quivered for a second. He
shot a glance at Worthington, and said, rather bruskly:
"Beatrice and Guy Daventry and Bruce Evelin!"
Worthington gave a little faint nod in the direction of the telegram
that was still unopened.
"No; she wrote to me. She hates telegrams, says they're public
property. I wonder who it is."
He pushed a forefinger under the envelope, tore it and pulled out the
"The forgotten do not always forget. May Allah have you and all
brave men in His hand.--CYNTHIA CLARKE."
Dion felt Worthington's observant eyes upon him, looked up and met
them as the "Ariosto" rolled and creaked in the heavy gray wash of the
"Funny!" he jerked out.
Worthington lifted inquiring eyebrows but evidently hesitated to speak
"It's from Mrs. Clarke."
"Beastly of her!" tipped out Worthington. "What--she say?"
"Just wishes me well."
And Dion stuck the telegram back into the flimsy envelope.
When he looked at it again that night he thought the woman from
Stamboul was a very forgiving woman. Almost he wished that she were
less forgiving. She made him now, she had made him in days gone by,
feel as if he had behaved to her almost badly, like a bit of a brute.
Of course that wasn't true. If he hadn't been married, no doubt they
might have been good friends. As things were, friendship between them
was impossible. He did not long for friendship with Mrs. Clarke. His
life was full. There was no room in it for her. But he slightly
regretted that he had met her, and he regretted more that she had
wished to know Rosamund and him better than Rosamund had wished. He
kept her telegram, with the rest of the telegrams he had received on
his departure; now and then he looked at it, and wondered whether its
wording was not the least bit indelicate. It would surely have been
wiser if Mrs. Clarke had omitted the opening six words. They conveyed
a reproach; they conveyed, too, a curious suggestion of will power, of
quiet persistence. When he read them Dion seemed to feel the touch--or
the grip--of Stamboul, listless apparently, yet not easily to be
evaded or got rid of.
That telegram caused him to wonder whether he had made a really strong
impression upon Mrs. Clarke, such as he had not suspected till now,
whether she had not, perhaps, liked him a good deal more than she
liked most people. "May Allah have you and all brave men in His hand."
Worthington would have been glad to have had that message. Dion had
discovered that Worthington was half in love with Mrs. Clarke. He
chaffed Dion about Mrs. Clarke's telegram with a rather persistent
gaiety which did not hide a faint, semi-humorous jealousy. One day he
even said, "To him that hath shall be given. It's so like a woman to
sent her word of encouragement to the man who's got a wife to
encourage him, and to leave the poor beggar who's got no one out in
the cold. It's a cruel world, and three-quarters of the cruelty in it
is the production of women." He spoke with a smile, and the argument
which followed was not serious. They laughed and bantered each other,
but Dion understood that Worthington really envied him because Mrs.
Clarke had thought of him at the moment of departure. Perhaps he had
been rather stupid in letting Worthington know about her telegram. But
Worthington had been watching him; he had had the feeling that
Worthington had guessed whom the telegram was from. The matter was of
no importance. If Mrs. Clarke had cared for him, or if he had cared
for her, he would have kept her message secret; as they were merely
acquaintances who no longer met each other, her good wishes from a
distance meant very little, merely a kindly thought, for which he was
grateful and about which no mystery need be made.
Of course he must write a letter of thanks to Mrs. Clarke.
One day, after he had written to Rosamund, to Robin, to his mother, to
Beattie and to Bruce Evelin, Mrs. Clarke's turn came. His letter to
her was short and cheery, but he was slow in writing it. There was a
noise of men, a turmoil of activity all about him. In the midst of it
he heard a husky, very individual voice, he saw a pair of wide-open
distressed eyes looking directly at him. And an odd conviction came to
him that life would bring Mrs. Clarke and him together again. Then he
would come back from South Africa? He had no premonition about that.
What he felt as he wrote his letter was simply that somehow,
somewhere, Mrs. Clarke and he would get to know each other better than
they knew each other now. Kismet! In the vast Turkish cemeteries there
were moldering bodies innumerable. Why did he think of them whenever
he thought of Mrs. Clarke? No doubt because she lived in
Constantinople, because much of her life was passed in the shadow of
the towering cypresses. He had thought of her as a cypress. Did she
keep watch over bodies of the dead?
A bugle rang out. He put his letter into the envelope and hastily
scribbled the address. Mrs. Clarke was again at Claridge's.
* * * * *
Every man who loves very deeply wishes to conquer the woman he loves,
to conquer the heart of her and to have it as his possession. Dion had
left England knowing that he had won Rosamund but had never conquered
her. This South African campaign had come upon him like a great blow
delivered with intention; a blow which does not stun a man but which
wakes the whole man up. If this war had not broken out his life would
have gone on as before, harmoniously, comfortably, with the daily
work, and the daily exercise, and the daily intercourse with wife and
child and friends. And would he ever have absolutely known what he
knew now, what--he was certain of it!--his mother knew, what perhaps
Beattie and even Bruce Evelin knew?
He had surely failed in a great enterprise, but he was resolved to
succeed if long enough life were given to him. He was now awake and
walked in full knowledge. Surely, Rosamund being what she was, the
issue lay with himself. If God had stood between them that must be
because he, Dion, was not yet worthy of the full happiness which was
his greatest earthly desire. Dion was certain that God did not stand
between Rosamund and Robin.
He had dreams of returning to England a different, or perhaps a
developed, man. The perfect lovers ought to stand together on the same
level. Rosamund and he had never done that yet. He resolved to gain in
South Africa, to get a grip on his best possibilities, to go back to
England, if he ever went back, a bigger soul, freer, more competent,
more generous, more fearless. He could never be a mystic. He did not
want to be that. But surely he could learn in this interval of
separation which, like a river, divided his life from Rosamund's, to
match her mysticism with something which would be able to call it out
of its mysterious understanding. Instead of retreating to God alone
she might then, perhaps, take him with her; instead of praying over
him she might pray with him. If, after he returned from South Africa,
Rosamund were ever again to be deliberately good with him, making such
an effort as she had made on that horrible evening in Little Market
Street when he had told her he was going on active service, he felt
that he simply couldn't bear it.
He put firmly aside the natural longings for home which often assailed
him, and threw himself heart and soul into his new duties. Already he
felt happier, for he was "out" to draw from the present, from the
whole of it, all the building material it contained, and was resolute
to use all that material in the construction of a palace, a future
based on marble, strong, simple, noble, a Parthenon of the future.
Only the weak man looks to omens, is governed in his mind, and so in
his actions, by them. That which he had not known how to win in an
easy life he must learn to win in a life that was hard. This war he
would take as a gift to him, something to be used finely. If he fell
in it still he would have had his gift, the chance to realize some of
his latent and best possibilities. He swept out of his mind an old
thought, the creeping surmise that perhaps Rosamund had given him all
she had to give in lover's love, that she knew how to love as child
and as mother, but that she was incapable of being a great lover in
man's sense of the term when he applies it to woman.
Madeira was passed on January the twenty-fifth, and the men, staring
across the sea, saw its lofty hills rising dreamily out of the haze,
watchers of those who would not stop, who had no time for any eating
of the lotus. Heat came upon the ship, and there were some who
pretended that they heard sounds, and smelled perfumes wafted, like
messages, from the hidden shores on which probably they would never
land. Every one was kept busy, after a sail bath, with drilling,
musketry instruction, physical drill, cleaning of accouterments, a
dozen things which made the hours go quickly in a buzz of human
activities. Some of the men, Dion among them, were trying to learn
Dutch under an instructor who knew the mysteries. A call came for
volunteers for inoculation, and both Dion and Worthington answered it,
with between forty and fifty other men. The prick of the needle was
like the touch of a spark; soon after came a mystery of general
wretchedness, followed by pains in the loins, a rise of temperature
and extreme, in Dion's case even intense, weakness. He lay in his bunk
trying to play the detective on himself, to stand outside of his body,
saying to himself, "This is I, and I am quite unaffected by my bodily
condition." For what seemed to him a long time he was fairly
successful in his effort; then the body began to show definitely the
power of its weakness upon the Ego, to asset itself by feebleness. His
will became like an invalid who is fretful upon the pillows. Soon his
strong resolutions, cherished and never to be parted from till out of
them the deeds had blossomed, lost blood and fell upon the evil day of
anemia. He had a sensation of going out. When the midnight came he
could not sleep, and with it came a thought feeble but persistent: "If
she loves me it's because I've given her Robin." And in the creaking
darkness, encompassed by the restlessness of the sea, again and again
he repeated to himself the words--"it's because I've given her Robin."
That was the plain truth. If he was loved, he was loved because of
something he had done, not because of something that he was. Towards
dawn he felt so weak that his hold on life seemed relaxing, and at
last he almost wished to let it go. He understood why dying people do
not usually fear death.
Three days later he was quite well and at work, but the memory of his
illness stayed with him all through the South African campaign. Often
at night he returned to that night on shipboard, and said to himself,
"The doctor's needle helped me to think clearly."
The voyage slipped away with the unnoticed swiftness that is the child
of monotony. The Southern Cross shone above the ship. When the great
heat set in the men were allowed to sleep on deck, and Dion lay all
night long under the wheeling stars, and often thought of the stars
above Drouva, and heard Rosamund's voice saying, "I can see the
The ship crossed the line. Early in February the moon began to show a
benign face to the crowd of men. One night there was a concert which
was followed by boxing. Dion boxed and won his bout easily on points.
This little success had upon him a bracing effect, and gave him a
certain prestige among his comrades. He did well also at revolver and
musketry practice--better than many men who, though good enough shots
at Bisley, found sectional practice with the service rifle a difficult
job, were adepts at missing a mark with the revolver, and knew nothing
of fire discipline. Because he had set an aim before him on which he
knew that his future happiness depended, he was able to put his whole
heart into everything he did. In the simplest duty he saw a means to
an end which he desired intensely. Everything that lay to hand in the
life of the soldier was building material which he must use to the
best advantage. He knew fully, for the first time, the joy of work.
On a day in the middle of February the "Ariosto" passed the mail-boat
from the Cape bound for England, sighted Table Mountain, and came to
anchor between Robben Island and the docks. On the following morning
the men of the C.I.V. felt the earth with eager feet as they marched
to Green Point Camp.
"Robin," said Rosamund, "would you like to go and live in the
Robin looked very serious and, after a moment of silent consideration,
"Where there's no houses?"
"Some houses, but not nearly so many as here."
"Would Mr. Thrush be there?"
"Well no, I'm afraid he wouldn't."
Robin began to look decidedly adverse to the proposition.
"You see Mr. Thrush has always lived in London," began Rosamund
"But so've we," interrupted Robin.
"But we aren't as old as Mr. Thrush."
"Is he very old, mummie? How old is he?"
"I don't know, but he's a very great deal older than you are."
"I s'poses," observed Robin meditatively, slightly wrinkling his
little nose where the freckles were. "Well, mummie?"
"Old people don't generally like to move about much, but I think it
would be very good for you and me to go into the country while
And taking Robin on her knees, and putting her arms round him,
Rosamund began to tell him about the country, developing enthusiasm as
she talked, bending over the little fair head that was so dear to her
--the little fair head which contained Robin's dear little thoughts,
funny and very touching, but every one of them dear.
She described to Robin the Spring as it is in the English country,
frail and fragrant, washed by showers that come and go with a
waywardness that seems very conscious, warmed by sunbeams not fully
grown up and therefore not able to do the work of the sunbeams of
summer. She told him of the rainbow that is set in the clouds like a
promise made from a very great distance, and of the pale and innocent
flowers of Spring: primroses, periwinkles, violets, cowslips, flowers
of dells in the budding woods, and of clearings round which the trees
stand on guard about the safe little daisies and wild hyacinths and
wild crocuses; flowers of the sloping meadows that go down to the
streams of Spring. And all along the streams the twigs are budding;
the yellow "lambs' tails" swing in the breeze, as if answering to the
white lambs' tails that are wagging in the fields. The thrush sings in
the copse, and in his piercing sweet note is the sound of Spring.
Bending over Robin, Rosamund imitated the note of the thrush, and
Robin stared up at her with ardent eyes.
"Does Mr. Thrush ever do that?"
"I've never heard him do it."
And she went on talking about the Spring.
How she loved that hour talking of Spring in the country with her
human Spring in her arms. What was the war to her just then? Robin
abolished war. While she had him there was always the rainbow, the
perfect rainbow, rising from the world to the heavens and falling from
the heavens to the world. The showers were fleeting Spring showers,
and the clouds were fleecy and showed the blue.
"Robin, Robin, Robin!" she breathed over her child, when they had
lived in the Spring together, the pure and exquisite Spring.
And Robin, all glowing with the ardor he had caught from her, declared
for the country.
A few days later Rosamund wrote to Canon Wilton, who happened to be in
residence at Welsley out of his usual time, and asked him if he knew
of any pretty small house, with a garden, in the neighborhood, where
she and Robin could settle down till Dion came back from the war. In
answer she got a letter from the Canon inviting her to spend a night
or two at his house in the Precincts. In a P.S. he wrote:
"If you can come next week I think I can arrange with Mr. Soames,
our precentor, for Wesley's 'Wilderness' to be sung at one of the
afternoon services; but let me know by return what days you will
Rosamund replied by telegraph. Aunt Beatrice was installed in Little
Market Street for a couple of nights as Robin's protector, and
Rosamund went down to Welsley, and spent two days with the Canon.
She had never been alone with him before, except now and then for a
few minutes, but he was such a sincere and plain-spoken man that she
had always felt she genuinely knew him. To every one with whom he
spoke he gave himself as he was. This unusual sincerity in Rosamund's
eyes was a great attraction. She often said that she could never feel
at home with pretense even if the intention behind it was kindly.
Perhaps, however, she did not always detect it, although she possessed
the great gift of feminine intuition.
She arrived by the express, which reached Welsley Station in the
evening, and found Canon Wilton at the station to meet her. His
"The 'Wilderness,' Wesley, at the afternoon service to-morrow."
"That's good of you!" she exclaimed, with the warm and radiant
cordiality that won her so many friends. "I shall revel in my little
visit here. It's an unexpected treat."
The Canon seemed for a moment almost surprised by her buoyant
anticipation, and a look that was sad flitted across his face; but she
did not notice it.
As they drove in a fly to his house in the Precincts she looked out at
the busy provincial life in the narrow streets of the old country
town, and enjoyed the intimate concentration of it all.
"I should like to poke about here," she said. "I should feel at home
as I never do in London. I believe I'm thoroughly provincial at
In the highest tower of the Cathedral, which stood in the heart of the
town, the melodious chimes lifted up their crystalline voices, and
"Great John" boomed out the hour in a voice of large authority.
"Seven o'clock," said the Canon. "Dinner is at eight. You'll be all
alone with me this evening."
"To-morrow too, I hope," Rosamund said, with a smile.
"No, to-morrow we shall be the awkward number--three. Mr. Robertson,
from Liverpool, is coming to stay with me for a few days. He preaches
here next Sunday evening."
Rosamund's thought was carried back to a foggy night in London, when
she had heard a sermon on egoism, and a quotation she had never
forgotten: /"Ego dormio et cor meum vigilat."/
"Can you manage with two clergymen?" said Canon Wilton.
"I'll try. I don't think they'll frighten me, and I've been wishing to
meet Mr. Robertson for a long time."
"He's a good man," said Canon Wilton very simply. But the statement as
he made it was like an accolade.
Rosamund enjoyed her quiet evening with the Canon in the house with
the high green gate, the elm trees and the gray gables. As they
talked, at first in the oak-paneled dining-room, later in the Canon's
library by a big wood fire, she was always pleasantly conscious of
being enclosed, of being closely sheltered in the arms of the
Precincts, which held also the mighty Cathedral with its cloisters,
its subterranean passages, its ancient tombs, its mysterious courts,
its staircases, its towers hidden in the night. The ecclesiastical
flavor which she tasted was pleasant to her palate. She loved the
nearness of those stones which had been pressed by the knees of
pilgrims, of those walls between which so many prayers had been
uttered, so many praises had been sung. A cosiness of religion
enwrapped her. She had a delicious feeling of safety. They could hear
the chimes where they sat encompassed by a silence which was not like
ordinary silences, but which to Rosamund seemed impregnated with the
peace of long meditations and of communings with the unseen.
"This rests me," she said to her host. "Don't you love your time
"I'm fond of Welsley, but I don't think I should like to pass all my
year in it. I don't believe in sinking down into religion, or into
practises connected with it, as a soft old man sinks down into a
feather bed. And that's what some people do."
"Do they?" said Rosamund abstractedly.
Just then a large and murmurous sound, apparently from very far off,
had begun to steal upon her ears, level and deep, suggestive almost of
the vast slumber of a world and of the underthings that are sleepless
but keep at a distance.
"Is it the organ?" she asked, in a listening voice.
Canon Wilton nodded.
They sat in silence for a long time listening. In that silence the
Canon was watching Rosamund. He thought how beautiful she was and how
good, but he almost disliked the joy which he discerned in her
expression, in her complete repose. He rebuked himself for this
approach to dislike, but his rebuke was not efficacious. In this
enclosed calm of the precincts of Welsley where, pacing within the
walls by the edge of the velvety lawns, the watchman would presently
cry out the hour Canon Wilton was conscious of a life at a distance,
the life of a man he had met first in St. James's Square. The
beautiful woman in the chair by the fire had surely forgotten that
Presently the distant sound of the organ ceased.
"I love Welsley," said Rosamund, on a little sigh. "I just love it. I
should like to live in the Precincts."
That brought them to a discussion of plans in which Dion was talked of
with warm affection and admiration by Rosamund; and all the time she
was talking, Canon Wilton saw the beautiful woman in the chair
listening to the distant organ. He knew of a house that was to be let
in the Precincts, but that night he did not mention it. Something
prevented him from doing so--something against which he struggled, but
which he failed to overcome.
When they separated it was nearly eleven o'clock. As Rosamund took her
silver candlestick from the Canon at the foot of the shallow oak
staircase she said:
"I've had /such/ a happy evening!"
It was a very sweet compliment very sweetly paid. No man could have
been quite indifferent to it. Canon Wilton was not. As he looked at
Rosamund a voice within him said:
"That's a very dear woman."
It spoke undeniable truth. Yet another voice whispered:
"Oh, if I could change her!"
But that was impossible. The Canon knew that, for he was very sincere
with himself; and he realized that the change he wanted to see could
only come from within, could never be imposed by him from without upon
the mysterious dweller in the Temple of Rosamund.
That night Rosamund undressed very slowly and "pottered about" in her
room, doing dreamily unnecessary things. She heard the chimes, and she
heard the watchman calling the midnight hour near her window as "Great
John" lifted up his voice. In the drawers where her clothes were laid
the Canon's housekeeper had put lavender. She smelt it as she listened
to the watchman's voice, shutting her eyes. Presently she drew aside
curtain and blind and looked out of the window. She saw the outline of
part of the great Cathedral with the principal tower, the home of
"Great John"; she felt the embracing arms of the Precincts; and when
she knelt down to say her prayers she thought:
"Here is a place where I can really pray."
Nuns surely are helped by their convents and monks by the peace of
their whitewashed cells.
"It is only in sweet places of retirement that one can pray as one
ought to pray," thought Rosamund that night as she lay in bed.
She forgot that the greatest prayer ever offered up was uttered on a
cross in the midst of a shrieking crowd.
On the following day she went to the morning service in the Cathedral,
and afterwards heard something which filled her with joyful
anticipation. Canon Wilton told her there was a house to let in the
"I'll take it," said Rosamund at once. "Esme Darlington has found me a
tenant for No. 5, an old friend of his, or rather two old friends, Sir
John and Lady Tenby. Where is it?"
He took her to see it.
The house in question had been occupied by the widow of a Dean, who
had recently been driven by her health to "relapse upon Bournemouth."
It was a small old house with two very large rooms--one was the
drawing-room, the other a bed-room.
The house stood at right angles to the east end of the Cathedral, from
which it was only divided by a strip of turf broken up by fragments of
old gray ruins, and edged by an iron railing, and by a paved passage-
way, which led through the Dark Entry from the "Green Court," where
the Deanery and Minor Canons' houses were situated, to the pleasaunce
immediately around the Cathedral. To the green lawns of this wide
pleasaunce the houses of the residentiary Canons gave access. One
projecting latticed window of the drawing-room of Mrs. Browning's
house, another of the big bedroom above it, and the windows of the
kitchen and the servants' quarters looked on to the passage-way and
the Cathedral; all the other windows looked into an old garden
surrounded by a very high brick wall, a garden of green turf like
moss, of elm trees, and, in summer, of gay herbaceous borders, a
garden to which the voices of the chimes dropped down, and to which
the Cathedral organ sent its message, as if to a place that knew how
to keep safely all things that were precious. Even the pure and chill
voices of the boy choristers found a way to this hidden garden, in
which there were straight and narrow paths, where nuns might have
loved to walk unseen of the eyes of men.
The Dean's widow had left behind all her furniture, and was now
adorning a Bournemouth hotel, in which her sprightly invalidism and
close knowledge of the investments of the Ecclesiastical
Commissioners, and of the habits and customs of the lesser clergy,
were greatly appreciated. Some of the furniture did not wholly commend
itself to Rosamund. There were certain settees and back-to-backs,
certain whatnots and occasional tables, which seemed to stamp the
character of the Dean's widow as meretricious. But these could easily
be "managed." Rosamund was enchanted with the house, and went from
room to room with Canon Wilton radiantly curious, and almost as
excited as a joyous schoolgirl.
"I must poke my nose into everything!" she exclaimed.
And she did it, and made the Canon poke his too.
Presently, opening the lattice of the second window in the big, low-
ceiled drawing-room, she leaned out to the moist and secluded garden.
She was sitting sideways on the window-seat, of which she had just
said, "I won't have this dreadful boudoir color on /my/ cushions!"
Canon Wilton was standing behind her, and presently heard her sigh
gently, and almost voluptuously, as if she prolonged the sigh and did
not want to let it go.
"Yes?" he said, with a half-humorous inflection of the voice.
Rosamund looked round gravely.
"Did you say something?"
"Only--yes?--in answer to your sigh."
"Did I? Yes, I must have. I was thinking----"
She hesitated, while he stood looking at her with his strong, steady
"I was thinking of a life I shall never live."
He came up to the window-seat.
"Some of it might have been passed in just such a garden as this
within sound of bells."
With a change of voice she added:
"How Robin will love it!"
"The life you will never live?" said the Canon, smiling gravely.
"No, the garden."
"Then you haven't a doubt?"
"Oh no. When I know a thing there's no room in me for hesitation. I
shall love being here with Robin as I have never loved anything yet."
The quarter struck in the Cathedral tower.
"Very different from South Africa!" said Canon Wilton.
Rosamund knitted her brows for a moment.
"I wonder whether Dion will come back altered," she said.
"D'you wish him to?"
She got up from the window-seat, put out her hand, and softly pulled
the lattice towards her.
"Not in most ways. He's so dear as he is. It would all depend on the
She latched the window gently, and again looked at the garden through
"I may be altered, too, by living here!" she said. "All alone with
Robin. I think I shall be."
Canon Wilton made no comment. He was thinking:
"And when the two, altered, come together again, if they ever do, what
He had noticed that Rosamund never seemed to think of Dion's death in
South Africa as a possibility. When she spoke of him she assumed his
return as a matter of course. Did she never think of death, then? Did
she, under the spell of her radiant and splendidly healthy youth,
forget all the tragic possibilities? He wondered, but he did not ask.
Mr. Robertson arrived at the Canon's house just in time for the
afternoon service--"my Wilderness service," as Rosamund called it. The
bells were ringing as he drove up with his modest luggage, and
Rosamund had already gone to the Cathedral and was seated in a stall.
"I should like to have half an hour's quiet meditation in church
before the service begins," she had remarked to Canon Wilton. And the
Canon had put her in a stall close to where he would presently be
sitting, and had then hurried back to meet Father Robertson.
"My Welsley!" was Rosamund's thought as she sat in her stall, quite
alone, looking up at the old jeweled glass in the narrow Gothic
windows, at the wonderful somber oak, age-colored, of the return
stalls and canopy beneath which Canon Wilton, as Canon-in-Residence,
would soon be sitting at right angles to her, at the distant altar
lifted on high and backed by a delicate marble screen, beyond which
stretched a further, tranquilly obscure vista of the great church. The
sound of the bells ringing far above her head in the gray central
tower was heard by her, but only just heard, as we hear the voices of
the past murmuring of old memories and of deeds which are almost
forgotten. Distant footsteps echoed among the great tombs of stone and
of marble, which commemorated the dead who had served God in that
place in the gray years gone by. In her nostrils there seemed to be a
perfume, like an essence of concentrated prayers sent up among these
stone traceries, these pointed arches, these delicate columns, by
generations of believers. She felt wrapped in a robe never woven by
hands, in a robe that gave warmth to her spirit.
A few people began stealing quietly in through the narrow archway in
the great screen which shut out the raised choir from the nave. Only
one bell sounded now in the gray tower. A faint noise, like an
oncoming sigh, above Rosamund's head heralded the organ's awakening,
and was followed by the whisper of its most distant voice, a voice
which made her think--she knew not why--of the sea whispering about a
coral reef in an isle of the Southern Seas, part of God's world,
mysteriously linked to "my Welsley." She shut her eyes, seeking to
feel more strongly the sensation of unity. When she opened them she
saw, sitting close to her in the return stalls, Father Robertson. His
softly glowing eyes were looking at her, and did not turn away
immediately. She felt that he knew she was his fellow-guest, and was
conscious of a delicious sensation of sympathy, of giving and taking,
of cross currents of sympathy between the Father and herself.
"I love this hour--I love all this!" she said to herself.
If only little Robin were submerged in the stall beside her!
The feet of the slow procession were heard, and the silver wand of the
chief verger shone out of the delicate gloom.
When the anthem was given out Rosamund looked across at Canon Wilton,
and her eyes said to him, "Thank you." Then she stood up, folded her
hands on the great cushion in front of her, and looked at the gray
vistas and at the dim sparkle of the ancient glass in the narrow
"The wilderness and the solitary places . . ."
She had spoken of this to Dion as they looked at Zante together,
before little Robin had come, and she had said that if she had
committed a great sin she would like to take her sin into the
Wilderness, because purification might be found there. And she had
meant what she said, had spoken out of her heart sincerely. But now,
as she listened to this anthem, she saw a walled-in garden, with green
turf like moss, old elm trees and straight narrow paths. Perhaps she
had been mistaken when she had spoken of the sin and the Wilderness,
perhaps she would find purification with fewer tears and less agony in
the cloister, within the sound of the bells which called men to the
service of God, and of the human voices which sang His praises. Saints
had fled into the Wilderness to seek God there, but was He not in the
Garden between the sheltering walls, ready there, as in the farthest
desert, to receive the submission of the soul, to listen to the cry,
"I have sinned"?
As in Elis the spell of the green wild had been upon Rosamund, so now
the spell of these old Precincts was upon her, and spoke to her
innermost being, and as in Elis Dion had been woven into her dream of
the Wilderness, so now in Welsley Robin was woven into it. But Dion
had seemed a forerunner, and little Robin seemed That for which she
had long waited, the fulfilment of the root desire of her whole being
as applied to human life.
When the service was over and the procession had gone out Rosamund sat
very still listening to the organ. She believed that Canon Wilton had
given the organist a hint that he would have an attentive hearer, for
he was playing one of Bach's greatest preludes and fugues. Father
Robertson stayed on in his place. All the rest of the small
congregation drifted away through the archway in the rood-screen and
down the steps to the nave. The fugue was a glorious, sturdy thing,
like a great solid body inhabited by a big, noble, unquestioning soul
--a soul free from hesitations, that knew its way to God and would not
be hindered from taking it. A straight course to the predestined end--
that was good, that was glorious! The splendid clamor of the organ
above her, growing in sonorous force, filled Rosamund with exultation.
She longed to open her mouth and sing; the blood came to her cheeks;
her eyes shone; she mounted on the waves of sound; she was wound up
with the great fugue, and felt herself part of it. The gradual working
up thrilled her whole being; she was physically and spiritually seized
hold of and carried along towards a great and satisfying end. At last
came the trumpet with its sound of triumphant flame, and the roar of
the pedals was like the roaring of the sea. Already the end was there,
grandly inherent in the music, inevitably, desired by all the voices
of the organ. All the powers of the organ thundered towards it,
straining to be there.
It came, like something on the top of the world.
"If I were a man that's the way I should like to go to God!" said
Rosamund to herself, springing up. "That's the way, in a chariot of
Unconscious of what she was doing she stretched out her hands with a
big gesture and opened her lips to let out a breath; then, in the gray
silence of the now empty Cathedral, she saw Father Robertson's eyes.
He stepped down from his stall and went out through the archway, and
she followed him. On the steps, just beyond the rood-screen, she met a
small, determined-looking man with hot cheeks and shining eyes. She
guessed at once that he was the organist, went up to him and thanked
The organist was the first person she captivated in Welsley, where she
was to have so many warm adherents very soon.
Father Robertson went back to Canon Wilton's house while Rosamund
talked to the organist, with whom she walked as far as a high wooden
gate labeled "Mr. Dickinson."
"You've got a walled garden too!" she remarked, as her companion took
off his hat with an "I live here."
The organist looked inquiring. Rosamund laughed.
"How could you know? It's only that I've been visiting a delicious old
house, with a walled garden, to-day. It's to let."
"Oh, Mrs. Duncan Browning's!" said Mr. Dickinson. "I--I'm sure I hope
you're going to take it."
"I may!" said Rosamund. "Good-by, and thank you again for your
splendid music. It's done me good."
"My dear!" exclaimed Mr. Dickinson, about a minute later, bursting--
rather than going--into his wife's small drawing-room, "I've just met
the most delightful woman, a goddess to look at, and as charming as a
siren brought up to be a saint."
"More epigrams, Henry!" murmured Mrs. Dickinson.
"She's staying with Canon Wilton. She's a thorough musician such as
one seldom comes across. There's a chance--I hope it materializes--of
"Your tea is nearly cold, Henry."
"Her name is Mrs. Dion Leith. If she really does come here we must be
Thus urged, Mr. Dickinson's body for the moment took precedence of his
Rosamund knew she was going to like Mr. Robertson as she liked very
few people. She felt as if already she was his friend, and when they
shook hands in Canon Wilton's drawing-room she cordially told him so,
and referred to the Sunday evening when she had heard him preach. The
rooks were cawing among the elms in the Canon's garden. She could hear
their voices in the treetops while she was speaking. A wind was
stirring as the afternoon waned, and there came a patter of rain on
the lofty windows. And the voices of the rooks, in the windy treetops,
the patter of the rain, and the sigh of the wind were delightful to
Rosamund, because she was safely within the Precincts, like a bird
surrounded by the warmth of its nest.
"I'm coming to live here," she said to Mr. Robertson, as she poured
out tea for the two clergymen. "My husband has gone to South Africa
with the City Imperial Volunteers. He's in business, so we live in
London. But while he's away I mean to stay here."
And eagerly almost as a child, she told him about the house of the
Dean's widow, and described to him the garden.
"It's like a convent garden, isn't it?" she asked Canon Wilton, who
assented. "That's why I love it. It gives me the feeling of enclosed
peace that must be so dear to nuns."
Something in her voice and look as she said this evidently struck Mr.
Robertson, and when she presently left the room he said to Canon
"If I didn't know that sweet woman had a husband I should say she was
born with the vocation for a religious life. From the first moment I
spoke to her, looked at her, I felt that, and the feeling grows upon
me. Can't one see her among sisters?"
"I don't wish to," said Canon Wilton bluntly. "Shall we go to my
With the composed gentleness that was characteristic of him Father
Robertson assented, and they went downstairs. When they were safely
shut up in the big room, guarded by multitudes of soberly bound
volumes, Canon Wilton said:
"Robertson, I want to talk to you in confidence about my guest, who,
as you say, is a very sweet woman. You could do something for her
which I couldn't do. I have none of your impelling gentleness. You
know how to stir that which dwells in the inner sanctuary, to start it
working for itself; I'm more apt to try to work for it, or at it.
Perhaps I can rouse up a sinner and make him think. I've got a good
bit of the instinct of the missioner. But my dear guest there isn't a
sinner, except as we all are! She's a very good woman who doesn't
quite understand. I think perhaps you might help her to understand.
She possesses a great love, and she doesn't know quite how to handle
it, or even to value it."
The clock struck seven when they stopped talking.
That evening, after dinner, Canon Wilton asked Rosamund to sing.
Almost eagerly she agreed.
"I shall love to sing in the Precincts," she said, as she went to the
Father Robertson, who had been sitting with his back to the piano,
moved to the other side of the room. While Rosamund sang he watched
her closely. He saw that she was quite unconscious of being watched,
and her unconsciousness of herself made him almost love her. Her great
talent he appreciated fully, for he was devoted to music; but he
appreciated much more the moral qualities she showed in her singing.
He was a man who could not forbear from searching for the soul, from
following its workings. He had met all sorts and conditions of men,
and with few he had not been friends. He had known, knew now,
scientists for whose characters and lives he had strong admiration,
and who felt positive that the so-called soul of man was merely the
product of the brain, resided in the brain, and must cease with the
dispersal of the brain at death. He was not able to prove the
contrary. That did not trouble him at all. It was not within the power
of anything or of any one to trouble this man's faith. He did not mind
being thought a fool. Indeed, being without conceit, and even very
modest, he believed himself to be sometimes very foolish. But he knew
he was not a fool in his faith, which transcended forms, and swore
instinctively brotherhood with all honest beliefs, and even with all
honest disbeliefs. In his gentle, sometimes slightly whimsical way, he
was as sincere as Canon Wilton; but whereas the Canon showed the blunt
side of sincerity, he usually showed the tender and winning side. He
found good in others as easily and as surely as the diviner finds the
spring hidden under the hard earth's surface. His hazel twig twisted
if there was present only one drop of the holy water.
He discerned many drops in Rosamund. In nothing of her was her
enthusiasm for what was noble and clean and sane and beautiful more
apparent than in her singing. Her voice and her talent were in service
when she sang, in service to the good. Music can be evil, neurotic,
decadent and even utterly base. She never touched musical filth, which
she recognized as swiftly as dirt on a body or corruption in a soul.
"We must have Bach's 'Heart ever faithful,'" said Canon Wilton
strongly, when Rosamund, after much singing, was about to get up from
Almost joyfully she obeyed his smiling command. When at last she shut
the piano she said to Father Robertson:
"That's Dion's--my husband's--best-loved melody."
"I should like to know your husband," said Father Robertson.
"You must, when he comes back."
"You have no idea, I suppose, how long he will be away?"
"No, nor has he."
"Then what are you going to do about Mrs. Browning's house?" said the
Two lines appeared in her forehead.
"I thought of taking it for six months, and then I can see. My little
house in Westminster is let for six months from the first of March."
She had turned to Father Robertson: "I'm only afraid----" She paused.
She looked almost disturbed.
"What are you afraid of?" asked Canon Wilton.
"I'm afraid of getting too fond of Welsley."
The Canon looked across at Father Robertson on the other side of the
* * * * *
Rosamund went back to Robin and London on the following afternoon. In
the morning she took Father Robertson to see Mrs. Browning's house.
Canon Wilton was busy. After the morning service in the Cathedral he
had to go to a meeting of the Chapter, and later on to a meeting in
the City about something connected with education.
"I shall be in bonds till lunch," he said, "unless I burst them, as
I'm afraid I sometimes feel inclined to do when people talk at great
length on subjects they know nothing about."
"Perhaps Mrs. Leith will kindly take me to see her house and garden,"
observed Father Robertson.
Rosamund was frankly delighted.
"Bless you for calling them mine!" she said. "That's just what I'm
longing to do."
The wind and the rain were till hanging about in a fashion rather
undecided. It was a morning of gusts and of showers. The rooks swayed
in the elm tops, or flew up under the scudding clouds of a treacherous
sky. There was a strong smell of damp earth, and the turf of the wide
spreading lawns looked spongy.
"Oh, how English this is!" said Rosamund enthusiastically to the
Father as they set forth together. "It's like the smell of the soul of
England. I love it. I should like to lie on the grass and feel the
rain on my face."
"You know nothing of rheumatism evidently," said Father Robertson, in
a voice that was smiling.
"No, but I suppose I should if I gave way to my impulse. And the rooks
would be shocked."
"Do you mean the Cathedral dignitaries?"
They were gently gay as they walked along, but very soon Rosamund, in
her very human but wholly unconscious way, put her hand on Father
"There it is!"
"Yes. Isn't it sweet? Doesn't it look peacefully old? I should like to
grow old like that, calmly, unafraid and unrepining. I knew you'd love
He had not said so, but that did not matter.
"There's a dear old caretaker, with only one tooth in front and such
nice eyes, who'll let us in. Not an electric bell!"
She gave him a look half confidential, half humorous, and wholly
"We have to pull it. That's so much nicer!"
She pulled, and the dear old caretaker, a woman in Cathedral black,
with the look of a verger's widow all over her, showed the tooth in a
smile as she peeped round the door.
"And now the garden!" said Rosamund, in the withdrawn voice of an
intense anticipation, half an hour later, when Father Robertson had
seen, and been consulted, about everything from kitchen to attic.
She turned round to Mrs. Soper, as the verger's widow--indeed she was
"Shall you mind if we stay a good while in the garden, Mrs. Soper?
It's so delightful there. Will it bother you?"
"Most pleased, ma'am! I couldn't wish for anything else. You do hear
the chimes most beautiful from there. But it's very damp. That we must
"Are you afraid of the damp, Father?"
"Not a bit."
"I knew you wouldn't be," she said, almost exultantly.
Mrs. Soper took her stand by the drawing-room window and gazed through
the lattice with the deep interest which seems peculiar to provincial
towns, and which is seldom manifested in capitals, where the curiosity
is rather of the surface than of the very entrails of humanity. She
showed the tooth as she stood, but not in a smile. She was far too
interested in the lady and the white-haired clergyman to smile.
"I shouldn't wonder but what they're going to be married!" was her
feminine thought, as she watched them walking about the garden, and
presently pacing up and down one of the narrow paths, to the far-off
wall that bordered one end of the Bishop's Palace, and back again to
the wall near the Dark Entry. Canon Wilton had not mentioned
Rosamund's name to the verger's widow, who had no evil thoughts of
bigamy. Presently the chimes sounded in the tower, and Mrs. Soper saw
the two visitors pause in their walk to listen. They both looked
upwards towards the Cathedral, and on the lady's face there was a rapt
expression which was remarked by Mrs. Soper.
"She do look religious," murmured that lady to the tooth. "She might
be a bishop's lady when she a-stands like that."
The chimes died away, the visitors resumed their pacing walk, and Mrs.
Soper presently retired to the kitchen, which looked out on the
passage-way, to cook herself "a bit of something" for the midday
staying of her stomach.
In the garden that morning Rosamund and Father Robertson became
friends. Rosamund had never had an Anglican confessor, though she had
sometimes wished to confess, not because she was specially conscious
of a burden of sin, but rather because she longed to speak to some one
of those inmost thoughts which men and women seldom care to discuss
with those who are always in their lives. In Father Robertson she had
found the exceptional man with whom she would not mind being perfectly
frank about matters which were not for Dion, not for Beattie, not for
godfather--matters which she could never have hinted at even to Canon
Wilton, whose strong serenity she deeply admired. Had any of her
nearest and dearest heard Rosamund's talk with Father Robertson that
day, they would have realized, perhaps with astonishment, how strong
was the reserve which underlay her forthcoming manner and capacious
frankness about the ordinary matters of everyday existence.
"Father, a sermon from you changed my life, I think," she said, when
they had paced up and down the path only two or three times; and,
without any self-consciousness, she told him of Dion's proposal on
that foggy afternoon in London, of her visit to St. Mary's, Welby
Street, and of the impression the sermon had made upon her. She
described her return home, and the painful sensation which had beset
her when she lost herself in the fog--the sensation of desertion, of a
horror of loneliness.
"The next day I accepted my husband," she said. "I resolved to take
the path of life along which I could walk with another. I decided to
share. Do you remember?"
She looked at him gently, earnestly, and he understood the allusion to
"Yes, I remember. But,"--his question came very gently--"in coming to
that decision, were you making a sacrifice?"
"Yes, I was."
And then Rosamund made a confession such as she had never yet made to
any one, though once she had allowed Dion to know a little of what was
in her heart. She told Father Robertson of the something almost
imperious within her which had longed for the religious life. He
listened to the story of a vocation; and he was able to understand it
as certainly Canon Wilton could not have understood it. For Rosamund's
creeping hunger had been not for the life of hard work among the poor
in religion, not for the dedication of all her energies to the lost
and unreclaimed, who are sunk in the mire of the world, but for that
peculiar life of the mystic who leaves the court of the outer things
for the court of the mysteries, the inner things, who enters into
prayer as into a dark shell filled with the vast and unceasing murmur
of the voice which is not human.
"I wished to sing in public for a time. Something made me long to use
my voice, to express myself in singing noble music, in helping on its
message. But I meant to retire while I was still quite young. And
always at the back of my mind there was the thought--'then I'll leave
the world, I'll give myself up to God.' I longed for the enclosed life
of perpetual devotion. I didn't know whether there was any community
in our Church which I could join, and in which I could find what I
thought I needed. I didn't get so far as that. You see I meant to be a
singer at first."
"Yes, I quite understand. And the giving up of this mystical dream was
a great sacrifice?"
"Really it was. I had a sort of absolute hunger in me to do eventually
what I have told you."
"I understand that hunger," said Father Robertson.
Just then the chimes sounded in the Cathedral, and they stopped on the
narrow path to listen, looking up at the great gray tower which held
the voices sweet to their souls.
"I understand that hunger," he repeated, when the chimes died away.
"It can be fierce as any hunger after a sin. In your case you felt it
was not free from egoism, this strong desire?"
"Your sermon made me look into my heart, and I did think that perhaps
I was an egoist in my religious feeling, that I was selfishly intent
on my own soul, that in my religion, if I did what I longed presently
to do, I should be thinking almost solely of myself."
Rather abruptly Father Robertson put a question:
"There was nothing else which drew you towards marriage?"
"I liked and admired Dion very much. I thought him an exceptional sort
of man. I knew he cared for me in a beautiful sort of way. That
touched me. And"--she slightly hesitated, and a soft flush came to her
cheeks--"I felt that he was a good man in a way--I believe, I am
almost sure, that very few young men are good in the particular way I
mean. Of all the things in Dion that was the one which most strongly
called to me."
Father Robertson understood her allusion to physical purity.
"I couldn't have married him but for that," she added.
"If I had known you when you were a girl I believe I should not have
expected you to marry," said Father Robertson.
Afterwards, when he had seen Rosamund with Robin, he thought he had
been very blind when he had said that.
"You understand me," she said, very simply. "But I knew you would."
"You have given up something. Many people, perhaps most people, would
deny that. But I know how difficult it is"--his voice became lower--
"to give up retirement, to give up that food which the soul
instinctively longs to find, thinks perhaps it only can find, in
silence, perpetual meditation, perpetual prayer, in the world that is
purged of the insistent clamor of human voices. But"--he straightened
himself with a quick movement, and his voice became firmer--"a man may
wish to draw near to God in the Wilderness, or in the desert, and may
find Him most surely in"--and here he hesitated slightly, almost as a
few minutes before Rosamund had hesitated--"in the Liverpool slums.
What a blessing it is, what an unspeakable blessing it is, when one
has learnt the lesson that God is everywhere. But how difficult it is
They walked together for a long time in the garden, and Rosamund felt
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