Inn of Tranquility et al
This etext was produced by David Widger
STUDIES AND ESSAYS
By John Galsworthy
"Je vous dirai que l'exces est toujours un mal."
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
INN OF TRANQUILITY
MAGPIE OVER THE HILL
RIDING IN THE MIST
WIND IN THE ROCKS
MY DISTANT RELATIVE
THE BLACK GODMOTHER
THE INN OF TRANQUILLITY
Under a burning blue sky, among the pine-trees and junipers, the
cypresses and olives of that Odyssean coast, we came one afternoon on
a pink house bearing the legend: "Osteria di Tranquillita,"; and,
partly because of the name, and partly because we did not expect to
find a house at all in those goat-haunted groves above the waves, we
tarried for contemplation. To the familiar simplicity of that
Italian building there were not lacking signs of a certain spiritual
change, for out of the olive-grove which grew to its very doors a
skittle-alley had been formed, and two baby cypress-trees were cut
into the effigies of a cock and hen. The song of a gramophone, too,
was breaking forth into the air, as it were the presiding voice of a
high and cosmopolitan mind. And, lost in admiration, we became
conscious of the odour of a full-flavoured cigar. Yes--in the
skittle-alley a gentleman was standing who wore a bowler hat, a
bright brown suit, pink tie, and very yellow boots. His head was
round, his cheeks fat and well-coloured, his lips red and full under
a black moustache, and he was regarding us through very thick and
Perceiving him to be the proprietor of the high and cosmopolitan
mind, we accosted him.
"Good-day!" he replied: "I spik English. Been in Amurrica yes."
"You have a lovely place here."
Sweeping a glance over the skittle-alley, he sent forth a long puff
of smoke; then, turning to my companion (of the politer sex) with the
air of one who has made himself perfect master of a foreign tongue,
he smiled, and spoke.
"Precisely; the name of your inn, perhaps, suggests----"
"I change all that--soon I call it Anglo-American hotel."
"Ah! yes; you are very up-to-date already."
He closed one eye and smiled.
Having passed a few more compliments, we saluted and walked on; and,
coming presently to the edge of the cliff, lay down on the thyme and
the crumbled leaf-dust. All the small singing birds had long been
shot and eaten; there came to us no sound but that of the waves
swimming in on a gentle south wind. The wanton creatures seemed
stretching out white arms to the land, flying desperately from a sea
of such stupendous serenity; and over their bare shoulders their hair
floated back, pale in the sunshine. If the air was void of sound, it
was full of scent--that delicious and enlivening perfume of mingled
gum, and herbs, and sweet wood being burned somewhere a long way off;
and a silky, golden warmth slanted on to us through the olives and
umbrella pines. Large wine-red violets were growing near. On such a
cliff might Theocritus have lain, spinning his songs; on that divine
sea Odysseus should have passed. And we felt that presently the
goat-god must put his head forth from behind a rock.
It seemed a little queer that our friend in the bowler hat should
move and breathe within one short flight of a cuckoo from this home
of Pan. One could not but at first feelingly remember the old Boer
saying: "O God, what things man sees when he goes out without a gun!"
But soon the infinite incongruity of this juxtaposition began to
produce within one a curious eagerness, a sort of half-philosophical
delight. It began to seem too good, almost too romantic, to be true.
To think of the gramophone wedded to the thin sweet singing of the
olive leaves in the evening wind; to remember the scent of his rank
cigar marrying with this wild incense; to read that enchanted name,
"Inn of Tranquillity," and hear the bland and affable remark of the
gentleman who owned it--such were, indeed, phenomena to stimulate
souls to speculation. And all unconsciously one began to justify
them by thoughts of the other incongruities of existence--the
strange, the passionate incongruities of youth and age, wealth and
poverty, life and death; the wonderful odd bedfellows of this world;
all those lurid contrasts which haunt a man's spirit till sometimes
he is ready to cry out: "Rather than live where such things can be,
let me die!"
Like a wild bird tracking through the air, one's meditation wandered
on, following that trail of thought, till the chance encounter became
spiritually luminous. That Italian gentleman of the world, with his
bowler hat, his skittle-alley, his gramophone, who had planted
himself down in this temple of wild harmony, was he not Progress
itself--the blind figure with the stomach full of new meats and the
brain of raw notions? Was he not the very embodiment of the
wonderful child, Civilisation, so possessed by a new toy each day
that she has no time to master its use--naive creature lost amid her
own discoveries! Was he not the very symbol of that which was making
economists thin, thinkers pale, artists haggard, statesmen bald--the
symbol of Indigestion Incarnate! Did he not, delicious, gross,
unconscious man, personify beneath his Americo-Italian polish all
those rank and primitive instincts, whose satisfaction necessitated
the million miseries of his fellows; all those thick rapacities which
stir the hatred of the humane and thin-skinned! And yet, one's
meditation could not stop there--it was not convenient to the heart!
A little above us, among the olive-trees, two blue-clothed peasants,
man and woman, were gathering the fruit--from some such couple, no
doubt, our friend in the bowler hat had sprung; more "virile" and
adventurous than his brothers, he had not stayed in the home groves,
but had gone forth to drink the waters of hustle and commerce, and
come back--what he was. And he, in turn, would beget children, and
having made his pile out of his 'Anglo-American hotel' would place
those children beyond the coarser influences of life, till they
became, perhaps, even as our selves, the salt of the earth, and
despised him. And I thought: "I do not despise those peasants--far
from it. I do not despise myself--no more than reason; why, then,
despise my friend in the bowler hat, who is, after all, but the
necessary link between them and me?" I did not despise the olive-
trees, the warm sun, the pine scent, all those material things which
had made him so thick and strong; I did not despise the golden,
tenuous imaginings which the trees and rocks and sea were starting in
my own spirit. Why, then, despise the skittle-alley, the gramophone,
those expressions of the spirit of my friend in the billy-cock hat?
To despise them was ridiculous!
And suddenly I was visited by a sensation only to be described as a
sort of smiling certainty, emanating from, and, as it were, still
tingling within every nerve of myself, but yet vibrating harmoniously
with the world around. It was as if I had suddenly seen what was the
truth of things; not perhaps to anybody else, but at all events to
me. And I felt at once tranquil and elated, as when something is met
with which rouses and fascinates in a man all his faculties.
"For," I thought, "if it is ridiculous in me to despise my friend--
that perfect marvel of disharmony--it is ridiculous in me to despise
anything. If he is a little bit of continuity, as perfectly logical
an expression of a necessary phase or mood of existence as I myself
am, then, surely, there is nothing in all the world that is not a
little bit of continuity, the expression of a little necessary mood.
Yes," I thought, "he and I, and those olive-trees, and this spider on
my hand, and everything in the Universe which has an individual
shape, are all fit expressions of the separate moods of a great
underlying Mood or Principle, which must be perfectly adjusted,
volving and revolving on itself. For if It did not volve and revolve
on Itself, It would peter out at one end or the other, and the image
of this petering out no man with his mental apparatus can conceive.
Therefore, one must conclude It to be perfectly adjusted and
everlasting. But if It is perfectly adjusted and everlasting, we are
all little bits of continuity, and if we are all little bits of
continuity it is ridiculous for one of us to despise another. So,"
I thought, "I have now proved it from my friend in the billy-cock hat
up to the Universe, and from the Universe down, back again to my
And I lay on my back and looked at the sky. It seemed friendly to my
thought with its smile, and few white clouds, saffron-tinged like the
plumes of a white duck in sunlight. "And yet," I wondered, "though
my friend and I may be equally necessary, I am certainly irritated by
him, and shall as certainly continue to be irritated, not only by
him, but by a thousand other men and so, with a light heart, you may
go on being irritated with your friend in the bowler hat, you may go
on loving those peasants and this sky and sea. But, since you have
this theory of life, you may not despise any one or any thing, not
even a skittle-alley, for they are all threaded to you, and to
despise them would be to blaspheme against continuity, and to
blaspheme against continuity would be to deny Eternity. Love you
cannot help, and hate you cannot help; but contempt is--for you--the
sovereign idiocy, the irreligious fancy!"
There was a bee weighing down a blossom of thyme close by, and
underneath the stalk a very ugly little centipede. The wild bee,
with his little dark body and his busy bear's legs, was lovely to me,
and the creepy centipede gave me shudderings; but it was a pleasant
thing to feel so sure that he, no less than the bee, was a little
mood expressing himself out in harmony with Designs tiny thread on
the miraculous quilt. And I looked at him with a sudden zest and
curiosity; it seemed to me that in the mystery of his queer little
creepings I was enjoying the Supreme Mystery; and I thought: "If I
knew all about that wriggling beast, then, indeed, I might despise
him; but, truly, if I knew all about him I should know all about
everything--Mystery would be gone, and I could not bear to live!"
So I stirred him with my finger and he went away.
"But how"--I thought "about such as do not feel it ridiculous to
despise; how about those whose temperaments and religions show them
all things so plainly that they know they are right and others wrong?
They must be in a bad way!" And for some seconds I felt sorry for
them, and was discouraged. But then I thought: "Not at all--
obviously not! For if they do not find it ridiculous to feel
contempt, they are perfectly right to feel contempt, it being natural
to them; and you have no business to be sorry for them, for that is,
after all, only your euphemism for contempt. They are all right,
being the expressions of contemptuous moods, having religions and so
forth, suitable to these moods; and the religion of your mood would
be Greek to them, and probably a matter for contempt. But this only
makes it the more interesting. For though to you, for instance, it
may seem impossible to worship Mystery with one lobe of the brain,
and with the other to explain it, the thought that this may not seem
impossible to others should not discourage you; it is but another
little piece of that Mystery which makes life so wonderful and
The sun, fallen now almost to the level of the cliff, was slanting
upward on to the burnt-red pine boughs, which had taken to themselves
a quaint resemblance to the great brown limbs of the wild men Titian
drew in his pagan pictures, and down below us the sea-nymphs, still
swimming to shore, seemed eager to embrace them in the enchanted
groves. All was fused in that golden glow of the sun going down-sea
and land gathered into one transcendent mood of light and colour, as
if Mystery desired to bless us by showing how perfect was that
worshipful adjustment, whose secret we could never know. And I said
to myself: "None of those thoughts of yours are new, and in a vague
way even you have thought them before; but all the same, they have
given you some little feeling of tranquillity."
And at that word of fear I rose and invited my companion to return
toward the town. But as we stealthy crept by the "Osteria di
Tranquillita," our friend in the bowler hat came out with a gun over
his shoulder and waved his hand toward the Inn.
"You come again in two week--I change all that! And now," he added,
"I go to shoot little bird or two," and he disappeared into the
golden haze under the olive-trees.
A minute later we heard his gun go off, and returned homeward with a
MAGPIE OVER THE HILL
I lay often that summer on a slope of sand and coarse grass, close to
the Cornish sea, trying to catch thoughts; and I was trying very hard
when I saw them coming hand in hand.
She was dressed in blue linen, and a little cloud of honey-coloured
hair; her small face had serious eyes the colour of the chicory
flowers she was holding up to sniff at--a clean sober little maid,
with a very touching upward look of trust. Her companion was a
strong, active boy of perhaps fourteen, and he, too, was serious--his
deep-set, blacklashed eyes looked down at her with a queer protective
wonder; the while he explained in a soft voice broken up between two
ages, that exact process which bees adopt to draw honey out of
flowers. Once or twice this hoarse but charming voice became quite
fervent, when she had evidently failed to follow; it was as if he
would have been impatient, only he knew he must not, because she was
a lady and younger than himself, and he loved her.
They sat down just below my nook, and began to count the petals of a
chicory flower, and slowly she nestled in to him, and he put his arm
round her. Never did I see such sedate, sweet lovering, so trusting
on her part, so guardianlike on his. They were like, in miniature---
though more dewy,--those sober couples who have long lived together,
yet whom one still catches looking at each other with confidential
tenderness, and in whom, one feels, passion is atrophied from never
having been in use.
Long I sat watching them in their cool communion, half-embraced,
talking a little, smiling a little, never once kissing. They did not
seem shy of that; it was rather as if they were too much each other's
to think of such a thing. And then her head slid lower and lower
down his shoulder, and sleep buttoned the lids over those chicory-
blue eyes. How careful he was, then, not to wake her, though I could
see his arm was getting stiff! He still sat, good as gold, holding
her, till it began quite to hurt me to see his shoulder thus in
chancery. But presently I saw him draw his arm away ever so
carefully, lay her head down on the grass, and lean forward to stare
at something. Straight in front of them was a magpie, balancing
itself on a stripped twig of thorn-tree. The agitating bird, painted
of night and day, was making a queer noise and flirting one wing, as
if trying to attract attention. Rising from the twig, it circled,
vivid and stealthy, twice round the tree, and flew to another a dozen
paces off. The boy rose; he looked at his little mate, looked at the
bird, and began quietly to move toward it; but uttering again its
queer call, the bird glided on to a third thorn-tree. The boy
hesitated then--but once more the bird flew on, arid suddenly dipped
over the hill. I saw the boy break into a run; and getting up
quickly, I ran too.
When I reached the crest there was the black and white bird flying
low into a dell, and there the boy, with hair streaming back, was
rushing helter-skelter down the hill. He reached the bottom and
vanished into the dell. I, too, ran down the hill. For all that I
was prying and must not be seen by bird or boy, I crept warily in
among the trees to the edge of a pool that could know but little
sunlight, so thickly arched was it by willows, birch-trees, and wild
hazel. There, in a swing of boughs above the water, was perched no
pied bird, but a young, dark-haired girl with, dangling, bare, brown
legs. And on the brink of the black water goldened, with fallen
leaves, the boy was crouching, gazing up at her with all his soul.
She swung just out of reach and looked down at him across the pool.
How old was she, with her brown limbs, and her gleaming, slanting
eyes? Or was she only the spirit of the dell, this elf-thing
swinging there, entwined with boughs and the dark water, and covered
with a shift of wet birch leaves. So strange a face she had, wild,
almost wicked, yet so tender; a face that I could not take my eyes
from. Her bare toes just touched the pool, and flicked up drops of
water that fell on the boy's face.
>From him all the sober steadfastness was gone; already he looked as
wild as she, and his arms were stretched out trying to reach her
feet. I wanted to cry to him: "Go back, boy, go back!" but could
not; her elf eyes held me dumb-they looked so lost in their tender
And then my heart stood still, for he had slipped and was struggling
in deep water beneath her feet. What a gaze was that he was turning
up to her--not frightened, but so longing, so desperate; and hers how
triumphant, and how happy!
And then he clutched her foot, and clung, and climbed; and bending
down, she drew him up to her, all wet, and clasped him in the swing
I took a long breath then. An orange gleam of sunlight had flamed in
among the shadows and fell round those two where they swung over the
dark water, with lips close together and spirits lost in one
another's, and in their eyes such drowning ecstasy! And then they
kissed! All round me pool, and leaves, and air seemed suddenly to
swirl and melt--I could see nothing plain! . . . What time
passed--I do not know--before their faces slowly again became
visible! His face the sober boy's--was turned away from her, and he
was listening; for above the whispering of leaves a sound of weeping
came from over the hill. It was to that he listened.
And even as I looked he slid down from out of her arms; back into the
pool, and began struggling to gain the edge. What grief and longing
in her wild face then! But she did not wail. She did not try to
pull him back; that elfish heart of dignity could reach out to what
was coming, it could not drag at what was gone. Unmoving as the
boughs and water, she watched him abandon her.
Slowly the struggling boy gained land, and lay there, breathless.
And still that sound of lonely weeping came from over the hill.
Listening, but looking at those wild, mourning eyes that never moved
from him, he lay. Once he turned back toward the water, but fire had
died within him; his hands dropped, nerveless--his young face was all
And the quiet darkness of the pool waited, and the trees, and those
lost eyes of hers, and my heart. And ever from over the hill came
the little fair maiden's lonely weeping.
Then, slowly dragging his feet, stumbling, half-blinded, turning and
turning to look back, the boy groped his way out through the trees
toward that sound; and, as he went, that dark spirit-elf, abandoned,
clasping her own lithe body with her arms, never moved her gaze from
I, too, crept away, and when I was safe outside in the pale evening
sunlight, peered back into the dell. There under the dark trees she
was no longer, but round and round that cage of passion, fluttering
and wailing through the leaves, over the black water, was the magpie,
flighting on its twilight wings.
I turned and ran and ran till I came over the hill and saw the boy
and the little fair, sober maiden sitting together once more on the
open slope, under the high blue heaven. She was nestling her tear-
stained face against his shoulder and speaking already of indifferent
things. And he--he was holding her with his arm and watching over
her with eyes that seemed to see something else.
And so I lay, hearing their sober talk and gazing at their sober
little figures, till I awoke and knew I had dreamed all that little
allegory of sacred and profane love, and from it had returned to
reason, knowing no more than ever which was which.
>From early morning there had been bleating of sheep in the yard, so
that one knew the creatures were being sheared, and toward evening I
went along to see. Thirty or forty naked-looking ghosts of sheep
were penned against the barn, and perhaps a dozen still inhabiting
their coats. Into the wool of one of these bulky ewes the farmer's
small, yellow-haired daughter was twisting her fist, hustling it
toward Fate; though pulled almost off her feet by the frightened,
stubborn creature, she never let go, till, with a despairing cough,
the ewe had passed over the threshold and was fast in the hands of a
shearer. At the far end of the barn, close by the doors, I stood a
minute or two before shifting up to watch the shearing. Into that
dim, beautiful home of age, with its great rafters and mellow stone
archways, the June sunlight shone through loopholes and chinks, in
thin glamour, powdering with its very strangeness the dark
cathedraled air, where, high up, clung a fog of old grey cobwebs so
thick as ever were the stalactites of a huge cave. At this end the
scent of sheep and wool and men had not yet routed that home essence
of the barn, like the savour of acorns and withering beech leaves.
They were shearing by hand this year, nine of them, counting the
postman, who, though farm-bred, "did'n putt much to the shearin',"
but had come to round the sheep up and give general aid.
Sitting on the creatures, or with a leg firmly crooked over their
heads, each shearer, even the two boys, had an air of going at it in
his own way. In their white canvas shearing suits they worked very
steadily, almost in silence, as if drowsed by the "click-clip, click-
clip" of the shears. And the sheep, but for an occasional wriggle of
legs or head, lay quiet enough, having an inborn sense perhaps of the
fitness of things, even when, once in a way, they lost more than
wool; glad too, mayhap, to be rid of their matted vestments. From
time to time the little damsel offered each shearer a jug and glass,
but no man drank till he had finished his sheep; then he would get
up, stretch his cramped muscles, drink deep, and almost instantly sit
down again on a fresh beast. And always there was the buzz of flies
swarming in the sunlight of the open doorway, the dry rustle of the
pollarded lime-trees in the sharp wind outside, the bleating of some
released ewe, upset at her own nakedness, the scrape and shuffle of
heels and sheep's limbs on the floor, together with the "click-clip,
click-clip" of the shears.
As each ewe, finished with, struggled up, helped by a friendly shove,
and bolted out dazedly into the pen, I could not help wondering what
was passing in her head--in the heads of all those unceremoniously
treated creatures; and, moving nearer to the postman, I said:
"They're really very good, on the whole."
He looked at me, I thought, queerly.
"Yaas," he answered; "Mr. Molton's the best of them."
I looked askance at Mr. Molton; but, with his knee crooked round a
young ewe, he was shearing calmly.
"Yes," I admitted, "he is certainly good."
"Yaas," replied the postman.
Edging back into the darkness, away from that uncomprehending youth,
I escaped into the air, and passing the remains of last year's stacks
under the tall, toppling elms, sat down in a field under the bank.
It seemed to me that I had food for thought. In that little
misunderstanding between me and the postman was all the essence of
the difference between that state of civilisation in which sheep
could prompt a sentiment, and that state in which sheep could not.
The heat from the dropping sun, not far now above the moorline,
struck full into the ferns and long grass of the bank where I was
sitting, and the midges rioted on me in this last warmth. The wind
was barred out, so that one had the full sweetness of the clover,
fast becoming hay, over which the swallows were wheeling and swooping
after flies. And far up, as it were the crown of Nature's beautiful
devouring circle, a buzzard hawk, almost stationary on the air,
floated, intent on something pleasant below him. A number of little
hens crept through the gate one by one, and came round me. It seemed
to them that I was there to feed them; and they held their neat red
or yellow heads to one side and the other, inquiring with their beady
eyes, surprised at my stillness. They were pretty with their
speckled feathers, and as it seemed to me, plump and young, so that I
wondered how many of them would in time feed me. Finding, however,
that I gave them nothing to eat, they went away, and there arose, in
place of their clucking, the thin singing of air passing through some
long tube. I knew it for the whining of my dog, who had nosed me
out, but could not get through the padlocked gate. And as I lifted
him over, I was glad the postman could not see me--for I felt that to
lift a dog over a gate would be against the principles of one for
whom the connection of sheep with good behaviour had been too strange
a thought. And it suddenly rushed into my mind that the time would no
doubt come when the conduct of apples, being plucked from the mother
tree, would inspire us, and we should say: "They're really very
good!" And I wondered, were those future watchers of apple-gathering
farther from me than I, watching sheep-shearing, from the postman?
I thought, too, of the pretty dreams being dreamt about the land, and
of the people who dreamed them. And I looked at that land, covered
with the sweet pinkish-green of the clover, and considered how much
of it, through the medium of sheep, would find its way into me, to
enable me to come out here and be eaten by midges, and speculate
about things, and conceive the sentiment of how good the sheep were.
And it all seemed queer. I thought, too, of a world entirely
composed of people who could see the sheen rippling on that clover,
and feel a sort of sweet elation at the scent of it, and I wondered
how much clover would be sown then? Many things I thought of,
sitting there, till the sun sank below the moor line, the wind died
off the clover, and the midges slept. Here and there in the iris-
coloured sky a star crept out; the soft-hooting owls awoke. But
still I lingered, watching how, one after another, shapes and colours
died into twilight; and I wondered what the postman thought of
twilight, that inconvenient state, when things were neither dark nor
light; and I wondered what the sheep were thinking this first night
without their coats. Then, slinking along the hedge, noiseless,
unheard by my sleeping spaniel, I saw a tawny dog stealing by. He
passed without seeing us, licking his lean chops.
"Yes, friend," I thought, "you have been after something very unholy;
you have been digging up buried lamb, or some desirable person of
Sneaking past, in this sweet night, which stirred in one such
sentiment, that ghoulish cur was like the omnivorousness of Nature.
And it came to me, how wonderful and queer was a world which embraced
within it, not only this red gloating dog, fresh from his feast on
the decaying flesh of lamb, but all those hundreds of beings in whom
the sight of a fly with one leg shortened produced a quiver of
compassion. For in this savage, slinking shadow, I knew that I had
beheld a manifestation of divinity no less than in the smile of the
sky, each minute growing more starry. With what Harmony--
I thought--can these two be enwrapped in this round world so fast
that it cannot be moved! What secret, marvellous, all-pervading
Principle can harmonise these things! And the old words 'good' and
'evil' seemed to me more than ever quaint.
It was almost dark, and the dew falling fast; I roused my spaniel to
Over the high-walled yard, the barns, the moon-white porch, dusk had
brushed its velvet. Through an open window came a roaring sound.
Mr. Molton was singing "The Happy Warrior," to celebrate the finish
of the shearing. The big doors into the garden, passed through, cut
off the full sweetness of that song; for there the owls were already
masters of night with their music.
On the dew-whitened grass of the lawn, we came on a little dark
beast. My spaniel, liking its savour, stood with his nose at point;
but, being called off, I could feel him obedient, still quivering,
under my hand.
In the field, a wan huddle in the blackness, the dismantled sheep lay
under a holly hedge. The wind had died; it was mist-warm.
Coming out of the theatre, we found it utterly impossible to get a
taxicab; and, though it was raining slightly, walked through
Leicester Square in the hope of picking one up as it returned down
Piccadilly. Numbers of hansoms and four-wheelers passed, or stood by
the curb, hailing us feebly, or not even attempting to attract our
attention, but every taxi seemed to have its load. At Piccadilly
Circus, losing patience, we beckoned to a four-wheeler and resigned
ourselves to a long, slow journey. A sou'-westerly air blew through
the open windows, and there was in it the scent of change, that wet
scent which visits even the hearts of towns and inspires the watcher
of their myriad activities with thought of the restless Force that
forever cries: "On, on!" But gradually the steady patter of the
horse's hoofs, the rattling of the windows, the slow thudding of the
wheels, pressed on us so drowsily that when, at last, we reached home
we were more than half asleep. The fare was two shillings, and,
standing in the lamplight to make sure the coin was a half-crown
before handing it to the driver, we happened to look up. This cabman
appeared to be a man of about sixty, with a long, thin face, whose
chin and drooping grey moustaches seemed in permanent repose on the
up-turned collar of his old blue overcoat. But the remarkable
features of his face were the two furrows down his cheeks, so deep
and hollow that it seemed as though that face were a collection of
bones without coherent flesh, among which the eyes were sunk back so
far that they had lost their lustre. He sat quite motionless, gazing
at the tail of his horse. And, almost unconsciously, one added the
rest of one's silver to that half-crown. He took the coins without
speaking; but, as we were turning into the garden gate, we heard him
"Thank you; you've saved my life."
Not knowing, either of us, what to reply to such a curious speech, we
closed the gate again and came back to the cab.
"Are things so very bad?"
"They are," replied the cabman. "It's done with--is this job. We're
not wanted now." And, taking up his whip, he prepared to drive away.
"How long have they been as bad as this?"
The cabman dropped his hand again, as though glad to rest it, and
"Thirty-five year I've been drivin' a cab."
And, sunk again in contemplation of his horse's tail, he could only
be roused by many questions to express himself, having, as it seemed,
no knowledge of the habit.
"I don't blame the taxis, I don't blame nobody. It's come on us,
that's what it has. I left the wife this morning with nothing in the
house. She was saying to me only yesterday: 'What have you brought
home the last four months?' 'Put it at six shillings a week,' I
said. 'No,' she said, 'seven.' Well, that's right--she enters it
all down in her book."
"You are really going short of food?"
The cabman smiled; and that smile between those two deep hollows was
surely as strange as ever shone on a human face.
"You may say that," he said. "Well, what does it amount to? Before
I picked you up, I had one eighteen-penny fare to-day; and yesterday
I took five shillings. And I've got seven bob a day to pay for the
cab, and that's low, too. There's many and many a proprietor that's
broke and gone--every bit as bad as us. They let us down as easy as
ever they can; you can't get blood from a stone, can you?" Once
again he smiled. "I'm sorry for them, too, and I'm sorry for the
horses, though they come out best of the three of us, I do believe."
One of us muttered something about the Public.
The cabman turned his face and stared down through the darkness.
"The Public?" he said, and his voice had in it a faint surprise.
"Well, they all want the taxis. It's natural. They get about faster
in them, and time's money. I was seven hours before I picked you up.
And then you was lookin' for a taxi. Them as take us because they
can't get better, they're not in a good temper, as a rule. And
there's a few old ladies that's frightened of the motors, but old
ladies aren't never very free with their money--can't afford to be,
the most of them, I expect."
"Everybody's sorry for you; one would have thought that----"
He interrupted quietly: "Sorrow don't buy bread . . . . I never
had nobody ask me about things before." And, slowly moving his long
face from side to side, he added: "Besides, what could people do?
They can't be expected to support you; and if they started askin' you
questions they'd feel it very awkward. They know that, I suspect.
Of course, there's such a lot of us; the hansoms are pretty nigh as
bad off as we are. Well, we're gettin' fewer every day, that's one
Not knowing whether or no to manifest sympathy with this extinction,
we approached the horse. It was a horse that "stood over" a good
deal at the knee, and in the darkness seemed to have innumerable
ribs. And suddenly one of us said: "Many people want to see nothing
but taxis on the streets, if only for the sake of the horses."
The cabman nodded.
"This old fellow," he said, "never carried a deal of flesh. His grub
don't put spirit into him nowadays; it's not up to much in quality,
but he gets enough of it."
"And you don't?"
The cabman again took up his whip.
"I don't suppose," he said without emotion, "any one could ever find
another job for me now. I've been at this too long. It'll be the
workhouse, if it's not the other thing."
And hearing us mutter that it seemed cruel, he smiled for the third
"Yes," he said slowly, "it's a bit 'ard on us, because we've done
nothing to deserve it. But things are like that, so far as I can
see. One thing comes pushin' out another, and so you go on. I've
thought about it--you get to thinkin' and worryin' about the rights
o' things, sittin' up here all day. No, I don't see anything for it.
It'll soon be the end of us now--can't last much longer. And I don't
know that I'll be sorry to have done with it. It's pretty well broke
"There was a fund got up."
"Yes, it helped a few of us to learn the motor-drivin'; but what's
the good of that to me, at my time of life? Sixty, that's my age;
I'm not the only one--there's hundreds like me. We're not fit for
it, that's the fact; we haven't got the nerve now. It'd want a mint
of money to help us. And what you say's the truth--people want to
see the end of us. They want the taxis--our day's over. I'm not
complaining; you asked me about it yourself."
And for the third time he raised his whip.
"Tell me what you would have done if you had been given your fare and
just sixpence over?"
The cabman stared downward, as though puzzled by that question.
"Done? Why, nothing. What could I have done?"
"But you said that it had saved your life."
"Yes, I said that," he answered slowly; "I was feelin' a bit low.
You can't help it sometimes; it's the thing comin' on you, and no way
out of it--that's what gets over you. We try not to think about it,
as a rule."
And this time, with a "Thank you, kindly!" he touched his horse's
flank with the whip. Like a thing aroused from sleep the forgotten
creature started and began to draw the cabman away from us. Very
slowly they travelled down the road among the shadows of the trees
broken by lamplight. Above us, white ships of cloud were sailing
rapidly across the dark river of sky on the wind which smelled of
change. And, after the cab was lost to sight, that wind still
brought to us the dying sound of the slow wheels.
RIDING IN MIST
Wet and hot, having her winter coat, the mare exactly matched the
drenched fox-coloured beech-leaf drifts. As was her wont on such
misty days, she danced along with head held high, her neck a little
arched, her ears pricked, pretending that things were not what they
seemed, and now and then vigorously trying to leave me planted on the
air. Stones which had rolled out of the lane banks were her especial
goblins, for one such had maltreated her nerves before she came into
this ball-room world, and she had not forgotten.
There was no wind that day. On the beech-trees were still just
enough of coppery leaves to look like fires lighted high-up to air
the eeriness; but most of the twigs, pearled with water, were
patterned very naked against universal grey. Berries were few,
except the pink spindle one, so far the most beautiful, of which
there were more than Earth generally vouchsafes. There was no sound
in the deep lanes, none of that sweet, overhead sighing of yesterday
at the same hour, but there was a quality of silence--a dumb mist
murmuration. We passed a tree with a proud pigeon sitting on its top
spire, quite too heavy for the twig delicacy below; undisturbed by
the mare's hoofs or the creaking of saddle leather, he let us pass,
absorbed in his world of tranquil turtledoves. The mist had
thickened to a white, infinitesimal rain-dust, and in it the trees
began to look strange, as though they had lost one another. The
world seemed inhabited only by quick, soundless wraiths as one
Close to a farm-house the mare stood still with that extreme
suddenness peculiar to her at times, and four black pigs scuttled by
and at once became white air. By now we were both hot and inclined
to cling closely together and take liberties with each other; I
telling her about her nature, name, and appearance, together with
comments on her manners; and she giving forth that sterterous, sweet
snuffle, which begins under the star on her forehead. On such days
she did not sneeze, reserving those expressions of her joy for sunny
days and the crisp winds. At a forking of the ways we came suddenly
on one grey and three brown ponies, who shied round and flung away in
front of us, a vision of pretty heads and haunches tangled in the
thin lane, till, conscious that they were beyond their beat, they
faced the bank and, one by one, scrambled over to join the other
ghosts out on the dim common.
Dipping down now over the road, we passed hounds going home. Pied,
dumb-footed shapes, padding along in that soft-eyed, remote world of
theirs, with a tall riding splash of red in front, and a tall splash
of riding red behind. Then through a gate we came on to the moor,
amongst whitened furze. The mist thickened. A curlew was whistling
on its invisible way, far up; and that wistful, wild calling seemed
the very voice of the day. Keeping in view the glint of the road, we
galloped; rejoicing, both of us, to be free of the jog jog of the
And first the voice of the curlew died; then the glint of the road
vanished; and we were quite alone. Even the furze was gone; no shape
of anything left, only the black, peaty ground, and the thickening
mist. We might as well have been that lonely bird crossing up there
in the blind white nothingness, like a human spirit wandering on the
undiscovered moor of its own future.
The mare jumped a pile of stones, which appeared, as it were, after
we had passed over; and it came into my mind that, if we happened to
strike one of the old quarry pits, we should infallibly be killed.
Somehow, there was pleasure in this thought, that we might, or might
not, strike that old quarry pit. The blood in us being hot, we had
pure joy in charging its white, impalpable solidity, which made way,
and at once closed in behind us. There was great fun in this yard-
by-yard discovery that we were not yet dead, this flying, shelterless
challenge to whatever might lie out there, five yards in front. We
felt supremely above the wish to know that our necks were safe; we
were happy, panting in the vapour that beat against our faces from
the sheer speed of our galloping. Suddenly the ground grew lumpy and
made up-hill. The mare slackened pace; we stopped. Before us,
behind, to right and left, white vapour. No sky, no distance, barely
the earth. No wind in our faces, no wind anywhere. At first we just
got our breath, thought nothing, talked a little. Then came a
chillness, a faint clutching over the heart. The mare snuffled; we
turned and made down-hill. And still the mist thickened, and seemed
to darken ever so little; we went slowly, suddenly doubtful of all
that was in front. There came into our minds visions, so distant in
that darkening vapour, of a warm stall and manger of oats; of tea and
a log fire. The mist seemed to have fingers now, long, dark white,
crawling fingers; it seemed, too, to have in its sheer silence a sort
of muttered menace, a shuddery lurkingness, as if from out of it that
spirit of the unknown, which in hot blood we had just now so
gleefully mocked, were creeping up at us, intent on its vengeance.
Since the ground no longer sloped, we could not go down-hill; there
were no means left of telling in what direction we were moving, and
we stopped to listen. There was no sound, not one tiny noise of
water, wind in trees, or man; not even of birds or the moor ponies.
And the mist darkened. The mare reached her head down and walked on,
smelling at the heather; every time she sniffed, one's heart
quivered, hoping she had found the way. She threw up her head,
snorted, and stood still; and there passed just in front of us a pony
and her foal, shapes of scampering dusk, whisked like blurred shadows
across a sheet. Hoof-silent in the long heather--as ever were
visiting ghosts--they were gone in a flash. The mare plunged
forward, following. But, in the feel of her gallop, and the feel of
my heart, there was no more that ecstasy of facing the unknown; there
was only the cold, hasty dread of loneliness. Far asunder as the
poles were those two sensations, evoked by this same motion. The
mare swerved violently and stopped. There, passing within three
yards, from the same direction as before, the soundless shapes of the
pony and her foal flew by again, more intangible, less dusky now
against the darker screen. Were we, then, to be haunted by those
bewildering uncanny ones, flitting past ever from the same direction?
This time the mare did not follow, but stood still; knowing as well
as I that direction was quite lost. Soon, with a whimper, she picked
her way on again, smelling at the heather. And the mist darkened!
Then, out of the heart of that dusky whiteness, came a tiny sound; we
stood, not breathing, turning our heads. I could see the mare's eye
fixed and straining at the vapour. The tiny sound grew till it
became the muttering of wheels. The mare dashed forward. The
muttering ceased untimely; but she did not stop; turning abruptly to
the left, she slid, scrambled, and dropped into a trot. The mist
seemed whiter below us; we were on the road. And involuntarily there
came from me a sound, not quite a shout, not quite an oath. I saw
the mare's eye turn back, faintly derisive, as who should say: Alone
I did it! Then slowly, comfortably, a little ashamed, we jogged on,
in the mood of men and horses when danger is over. So pleasant it
seemed now, in one short half-hour, to have passed through the
circle-swing of the emotions, from the ecstasy of hot recklessness to
the clutching of chill fear. But the meeting-point of those two
sensations we had left out there on the mysterious moor! Why, at one
moment, had we thought it finer than anything on earth to risk the
breaking of our necks; and the next, shuddered at being lost in the
darkening mist with winter night fast coming on?
And very luxuriously we turned once more into the lanes, enjoying the
past, scenting the future. Close to home, the first little eddy of
wind stirred, and the song of dripping twigs began; an owl hooted,
honey-soft, in the fog. We came on two farm hands mending the lane
at the turn of the avenue, and, curled on the top of the bank, their
cosy red collie pup, waiting for them to finish work for the day.
He raised his sharp nose and looked at us dewily. We turned down,
padding softly in the wet fox-red drifts under the beechtrees,
whereon the last leaves still flickered out in the darkening
whiteness, that now seemed so little eerie. We passed the grey-green
skeleton of the farm-yard gate. A hen ran across us, clucking, into
the dusk. The maze drew her long, home-coming snuffle, and stood
In one of those corners of our land canopied by the fumes of blind
industry, there was, on that day, a lull in darkness. A fresh wind
had split the customary heaven, or roof of hell; was sweeping long
drifts of creamy clouds across a blue still pallid with reek. The
sun even shone--a sun whose face seemed white and wondering. And
under that rare sun all the little town, among its slag heaps and few
tall chimneys, had an air of living faster. In those continuous
courts and alleys, where the women worked, smoke from each little
forge rose and dispersed into the wind with strange alacrity; amongst
the women, too, there was that same eagerness, for the sunshine had
crept in and was making pale all those dark-raftered, sooted ceilings
which covered them in, together with their immortal comrades, the
small open furnaces. About their work they had been busy since seven
o'clock; their feet pressing the leather lungs which fanned the
conical heaps of glowing fuel, their hands poking into the glow a
thin iron rod till the end could be curved into a fiery hook;
snapping it with a mallet; threading it with tongs on to the chain;
hammering, closing the link; and; without a second's pause, thrusting
the iron rod again into the glow. And while they worked they
chattered, laughed sometimes, now and then sighed. They seemed of
all ages and all types; from her who looked like a peasant of
Provence, broad, brown, and strong, to the weariest white consumptive
wisp; from old women of seventy, with straggling grey hair, to
fifteen-year-old girls. In the cottage forges there would be but one
worker, or two at most; in the shop forges four, or even five, little
glowing heaps; four or five of the grimy, pale lung-bellows; and
never a moment without a fiery hook about to take its place on the
growing chains, never a second when the thin smoke of the forges, and
of those lives consuming slowly in front of them, did not escape from
out of the dingy, whitewashed spaces past the dark rafters, away to
But there had been in the air that morning something more than the
white sunlight. There had been anticipation. And at two o'clock
began fulfilment. The forges were stilled, and from court and alley
forth came the women. In their ragged working clothes, in their best
clothes--so little different; in bonnets, in hats, bareheaded; with
babies born and unborn, they swarmed into the high street and formed
across it behind the band. A strange, magpie, jay-like flock; black,
white, patched with brown and green and blue, shifting, chattering,
laughing, seeming unconscious of any purpose. A thousand and more of
them, with faces twisted and scored by those myriad deformings which
a desperate town-toiling and little food fasten on human visages; yet
with hardly a single evil or brutal face. Seemingly it was not easy
to be evil or brutal on a wage that scarcely bound soul and body. A
thousand and more of the poorest-paid and hardest-worked human beings
in the world.
On the pavement alongside this strange, acquiescing assembly of
revolt, about to march in protest against the conditions of their
lives, stood a young woman without a hat and in poor clothes, but
with a sort of beauty in her rough-haired, high cheek-boned, dark-
eyed face. She was not one of them; yet, by a stroke of Nature's
irony, there was graven on her face alone of all those faces, the
true look of rebellion; a haughty, almost fierce, uneasy look--an
untamed look. On all the other thousand faces one could see no
bitterness, no fierceness, not even enthusiasm; only a half-stolid,
half-vivacious patience and eagerness as of children going to a
The band played; and they began to march.
Laughing, talking, waving flags, trying to keep step; with the same
expression slowly but surely coming over every face; the future was
not; only the present--this happy present of marching behind the
discordance of a brass band; this strange present of crowded movement
and laughter in open air.
We others--some dozen accidentals like myself, and the tall, grey-
haired lady interested in "the people," together with those few kind
spirits in charge of "the show"--marched too, a little self-
conscious, desiring with a vague military sensation to hold our heads
up, but not too much, under the eyes of the curious bystanders.
These--nearly all men--were well-wishers, it was said, though their
faces, pale from their own work in shop or furnace, expressed nothing
but apathy. They wished well, very dumbly, in the presence of this
new thing, as if they found it queer that women should be doing
something for themselves; queer and rather dangerous. A few, indeed,
shuffled along between the column and the little hopeless shops and
grimy factory sheds, and one or two accompanied their women, carrying
the baby. Now and then there passed us some better-to-do citizen-a
housewife, or lawyer's clerk, or ironmonger, with lips pressed rather
tightly together and an air of taking no notice of this disturbance
of traffic, as though the whole thing were a rather poor joke which
they had already heard too often.
So, with laughter and a continual crack of voices our jay-like crew
swung on, swaying and thumping in the strange ecstasy of
irreflection, happy to be moving they knew not where, nor greatly
why, under the visiting sun, to the sound of murdered music.
Whenever the band stopped playing, discipline became as
tatterdemalion as the very flags and garments; but never once did
they lose that look of essential order, as if indeed they knew that,
being the worst-served creatures in the Christian world, they were
the chief guardians of the inherent dignity of man.
Hatless, in the very front row, marched a tall slip of a girl, arrow-
straight, and so thin, with dirty fair hair, in a blouse and skirt
gaping behind, ever turning her pretty face on its pretty slim neck
from side to side, so that one could see her blue eyes sweeping here,
there, everywhere, with a sort of flower-like wildness, as if a
secret embracing of each moment forbade her to let them rest on
anything and break this pleasure of just marching. It seemed that in
the never-still eyes of that anaemic, happy girl the spirit of our
march had elected to enshrine itself and to make thence its little
excursions to each ecstatic follower. Just behind her marched a
little old woman--a maker of chains, they said, for forty years--
whose black slits of eyes were sparkling, who fluttered a bit of
ribbon, and reeled with her sense of the exquisite humour of the
world. Every now and then she would make a rush at one of her
leaders to demonstrate how immoderately glorious was life. And each
time she spoke the woman next to her, laden with a heavy baby, went
off into squeals of laughter. Behind her, again, marched one who
beat time with her head and waved a little bit of stick, intoxicated
by this noble music.
For an hour the pageant wound through the dejected street, pursuing
neither method nor set route, till it came to a deserted slag-heap,
selected for the speech-making. Slowly the motley regiment swung
into that grim amphitheatre under the pale sunshine; and, as I
watched, a strange fancy visited my brain. I seemed to see over
every ragged head of those marching women a little yellow flame, a
thin, flickering gleam, spiring upward and blown back by the wind. A
trick of the sunlight, maybe? Or was it that the life in their
hearts, the inextinguishable breath of happiness, had for a moment
escaped prison, and was fluttering at the pleasure of the breeze?
Silent now, just enjoying the sound of the words thrown down to them,
they stood, unimaginably patient, with that happiness of they knew
not what gilding the air above them between the patchwork ribands of
their poor flags. If they could not tell very much why they had
come, nor believe very much that they would gain anything by coming;
if their demonstration did not mean to the world quite all that
oratory would have them think; if they themselves were but the
poorest, humblest, least learned women in the land--for all that, it
seemed to me that in those tattered, wistful figures, so still, so
trustful, I was looking on such beauty as I had never beheld. All
the elaborated glory of things made, the perfected dreams of
aesthetes, the embroideries of romance, seemed as nothing beside this
sudden vision of the wild goodness native in humble hearts.
One day that summer, I came away from a luncheon in company of an old
College chum. Always exciting to meet those one hasn't seen for
years; and as we walked across the Park together I kept looking at
him askance. He had altered a good deal. Lean he always was, but
now very lean, and so upright that his parson's coat was overhung by
the back of his long and narrow head, with its dark grizzled hair,
which thought had not yet loosened on his forehead. His clean-shorn
face, so thin and oblong, was remarkable only for the eyes: dark-
browed and lashed, and coloured like bright steel, they had a fixity
in them, a sort of absence, on one couldn't tell what business. They
made me think of torture. And his mouth always gently smiling, as if
its pinched curly sweetness had been commanded, was the mouth of a
man crucified--yes, crucified!
Tramping silently over the parched grass, I felt that if we talked,
we must infallibly disagree; his straight-up, narrow forehead so
suggested a nature divided within itself into compartments of iron.
It was hot that day, and we rested presently beside the Serpentine.
On its bright waters were the usual young men, sculling themselves to
and fro with their usual sad energy, the usual promenaders loitering
and watching them, the usual dog that swam when it did not bark, and
barked when it did not swim; and my friend sat smiling, twisting
between his thin fingers the little gold cross on his silk vest.
Then all of a sudden we did begin to talk; and not of those matters
of which the well-bred naturally converse--the habits of the rarer
kinds of ducks, and the careers of our College friends, but of
something never mentioned in polite society.
At lunch our hostess had told me the sad story of an unhappy
marriage, and I had itched spiritually to find out what my friend,
who seemed so far away from me, felt about such things. And now I
determined to find out.
"Tell me," I asked him, "which do you consider most important--the
letter or the spirit of Christ's teachings?"
"My dear fellow," he answered gently, "what a question! How can you
"Well, is it not the essence of His doctrine that the spirit is all
important, and the forms of little value? Does not that run through
all the Sermon on the Mount?"
"If, then," I said, "Christ's teaching is concerned with the spirit,
do you consider that Christians are justified in holding others bound
by formal rules of conduct, without reference to what is passing in
"If it is for their good."
"What enables you to decide what is for their good?"
"Surely, we are told."
"Not to judge, that ye be not judged."
"Oh! but we do not, ourselves, judge; we are but impersonal ministers
of the rules of God."
"Ah! Do general rules of conduct take account of the variations of
the individual spirit?"
He looked at me hard, as if he began to scent heresy.
"You had better explain yourself more fully," he said. "I really
"Well, let us take a concrete instance. We know Christ's saying of
the married that they are one flesh! But we know also that there are
wives who continue to live the married life with dreadful feelings of
spiritual revolt wives who have found out that, in spite of all their
efforts, they have no spiritual affinity with their husbands. Is
that in accordance with the spirit of Christ's teaching, or is it
"We are told----" he began.
"I have admitted the definite commandment: 'They twain shall be one
flesh.' There could not be, seemingly, any more rigid law laid down;
how do you reconcile it with the essence of Christ's teaching?
Frankly, I want to know: Is there or is there not a spiritual
coherence in Christianity, or is it only a gathering of laws and
precepts, with no inherent connected spiritual philosophy?"
"Of course," he said, in his long-suffering voice, "we don't look at
things like that--for us there is no questioning."
"But how do you reconcile such marriages as I speak of, with the
spirit of Christ's teaching? I think you ought to answer me."
"Oh! I can, perfectly," he answered; "the reconciliation is through
suffering. What a poor woman in such a case must suffer makes for
the salvation of her spirit. That is the spiritual fulfilment, and
in such a case the justification of the law."
"So then," I said, "sacrifice or suffering is the coherent thread of
"Suffering cheerfully borne," he answered.
"You do not think," I said, "that there is a touch of extravagance in
that? Would you say, for example, that an unhappy marriage is a more
Christian thing than a happy one, where there is no suffering, but
A line came between his brows. "Well!" he said at last, "I would
say, I think, that a woman who crucifies her flesh with a cheerful
spirit in obedience to God's law, stands higher in the eyes of God
than one who undergoes no such sacrifice in her married life." And I
had the feeling that his stare was passing through me, on its way to
an unseen goal.
"You would desire, then, I suppose, suffering as the greatest
blessing for yourself?"
"Humbly," he said, "I would try to."
"And naturally, for others?"
"But surely that is inconsistent."
He murmured: "You see, I have suffered."
We were silent. At last I said: "Yes, that makes much which was dark
quite clear to me."
"Oh?" he asked.
I answered slowly: "Not many men, you know, even in your profession,
have really suffered. That is why they do not feel the difficulty
which you feel in desiring suffering for others."
He threw up his head exactly as if I had hit him on the jaw: "It's
weakness in me, I know," he said.
"I should have rather called it weakness in them. But suppose you
are right, and that it's weakness not to be able to desire
promiscuous suffering for others, would you go further and say that
it is Christian for those, who have not experienced a certain kind of
suffering, to force that particular kind on others?"
He sat silent for a full minute, trying evidently to reach to the
bottom of my thought.
"Surely not," he said at last, "except as ministers of God's laws."
"You do not then think that it is Christian for the husband of such a
woman to keep her in that state of suffering--not being, of course, a
minister of God?"
He began stammering at that: "I--I----" he said. "No; that is, I
think not-not Christian. No, certainly."
"Then, such a marriage, if persisted in, makes of the wife indeed a
Christian, but of the husband--the reverse."
"The answer to that is clear," he said quietly: "The husband must
"Yes, that is, perhaps, coherently Christian, on your theory: They
would then both suffer. But the marriage, of course, has become no
marriage. They are no longer one flesh."
He looked at me, almost impatiently as if to say: Do not compel me to
enforce silence on you!
"But, suppose," I went on, "and this, you know; is the more frequent
case, the man refuses to abstain. Would you then say it was more
Christian to allow him to become daily less Christian through his
unchristian conduct, than to relieve the woman of her suffering at
the expense of the spiritual benefit she thence derives? Why, in
fact, do you favour one case more than the other?"
"All question of relief," he replied, "is a matter for Caesar; it
cannot concern me."
There had come into his face a rigidity--as if I might hit it with my
questions till my tongue was tired, and it be no more moved than.
the bench on which we were sitting.
"One more question," I said, "and I have done. Since the Christian
teaching is concerned with the spirit and not forms, and the thread
in it which binds all together and makes it coherent, is that of
"Redemption by suffering," he put in.
"If you will--in one word, self-crucifixion--I must ask you, and
don't take it personally, because of what you told me of yourself: In
life generally, one does not accept from people any teaching that is
not the result of firsthand experience on their parts. Do you
believe that this Christian teaching of yours is valid from the
mouths of those who have not themselves suffered--who have not
themselves, as it were, been crucified?"
He did not answer for a minute; then he said, with painful slowness:
"Christ laid hands on his apostles and sent them forth; and they in
turn, and so on, to our day."
"Do you say, then, that this guarantees that they have themselves
suffered, so that in spirit they are identified with their teaching?"
He answered bravely: "No--I do not--I cannot say that in fact it is
"Is not then their teaching born of forms, and not of the spirit?"
He rose; and with a sort of deep sorrow at my stubbornness said: "We
are not permitted to know the way of this; it is so ordained; we must
As he stood there, turned from me, with his hat off, and his neck
painfully flushed under the sharp outcurve of his dark head, a
feeling of pity surged up in me, as if I had taken an unfair
"Reason--coherence--philosophy," he said suddenly. "You don't
understand. All that is nothing to me--nothing--nothing!"
WIND IN THE ROCKS
Though dew-dark when we set forth, there was stealing into the frozen
air an invisible white host of the wan-winged light--born beyond the
mountains, and already, like a drift of doves, harbouring grey-white
high up on the snowy skycaves of Monte Cristallo; and within us,
tramping over the valley meadows, was the incredible elation of those
who set out before the sun has risen; every minute of the precious
day before us--we had not lost one!
At the mouth of that enchanted chine, across which for a million
years the howdahed rock elephant has marched, but never yet passed
from sight, we crossed the stream, and among the trees began our
ascent. Very far away the first cowbells chimed; and, over the dark
heights, we saw the thin, sinking moon, looking like the white horns
of some devotional beast watching and waiting up there for the god of
light. That god came slowly, stalking across far over our heads from
top to top; then, of a sudden, his flame-white form was seen standing
in a gap of the valley walls; the trees flung themselves along the
ground before him, and censers of pine gum began swinging in the dark
aisles, releasing their perfumed steam. Throughout these happy
ravines where no man lives, he shows himself naked and unashamed, the
colour of pale honey; on his golden hair such shining as one has not
elsewhere seen; his eyes like old wine on fire. And already he had
swept his hand across the invisible strings, for there had arisen,
the music of uncurling leaves and flitting things.
A legend runs, that, driven from land to land by Christians, Apollo
hid himself in Lower Austria, but those who ever they saw him there
in the thirteenth century were wrong; it was to these enchanted
chines, frequented only by the mountain shepherds, that he certainly
And as we were lying on the grass, of the first alp, with the star
gentians--those fallen drops of the sky--and the burnt-brown
dandelions, and scattered shrubs of alpen-rose round us, we were
visited by one of these very shepherds, passing with his flock--the
fiercest-looking man who ever, spoke in a gentle voice; six feet
high, with an orange cloak, bare knees; burnt as the very dandelions,
a beard blacker than black, and eyes more glorious than if sun and
night had dived and were lying imprisoned in their depths. He spoke
in an unknown tongue, and could certainly not understand any word of
ours; but he smelled of the good earth, and only through interminable
watches under sun and stars could so great a gentleman have been
Presently, while we rested outside that Alpine hut which faces the
three sphinx-like mountains, there came back, from climbing the
smallest and most dangerous of those peaks, one, pale from heat, and
trembling with fatigue; a tall man, with long brown hands, and a
long, thin, bearded face. And, as he sipped cautiously of red wine
and water, he looked at his little conquered mountain. His kindly,
screwed-up eyes, his kindly, bearded lips, even his limbs seemed
smiling; and not for the world would we have jarred with words that
rapt, smiling man, enjoying the sacred hour of him who has just
proved himself. In silence we watched, in silence left him smiling,
knowing somehow that we should remember him all our days. For there
was in his smile the glamour of adventure just for the sake of
danger; all that high instinct which takes a man out of his chair to
brave what he need not.
Between that hut and the three mountains lies a saddle--astride of
all beauty and all colour, master of a titanic chaos of deep clefts,
tawny heights, red domes, far snow, and the purple of long shadows;
and, standing there, we comprehended a little of what Earth had been
through in her time, to have made this playground for most glorious
demons. Mother Earth! What travail undergone, what long heroic
throes, had brought on her face such majesty!
Hereabout edelweiss was clinging to smoothed-out rubble; but a little
higher, even the everlasting plant was lost, there was no more life.
And presently we lay down on the mountain side, rather far apart. Up
here above trees and pasture the wind had a strange, bare voice, free
from all outer influence, sweeping along with a cold, whiffing sound.
On the warm stones, in full sunlight, uplifted over all the beauty of
Italy, one felt at first only delight in space and wild loveliness,
in the unknown valleys, and the strength of the sun. It was so good
to be alive; so ineffably good to be living in this most wonderful
world, drinking air nectar.
Behind us, from the three mountains, came the frequent thud and
scuffle of falling rocks, loosened by rains. The wind, mist, and
winter snow had ground the powdery stones on which we lay to a
pleasant bed, but once on a time they, too, had clung up there. And
very slowly, one could not say how or when, the sense of joy began
changing to a sense of fear. The awful impersonality of those great
rock-creatures, the terrible impartiality of that cold, clinging wind
which swept by, never an inch lifted above ground! Not one tiny
soul, the size of a midge or rock flower, lived here. Not one little
"I" breathed here, and loved!
And we, too, some day would no longer love, having become part of
this monstrous, lovely earth, of that cold, whiffling air. To be no
longer able to love! It seemed incredible, too grim to bear; yet it
was true! To become powder, and the wind; no more to feel the
sunlight; to be loved no more! To become a whiffling noise, cold,
without one's self! To drift on the breath of that noise, homeless!
Up here, there were not even those little velvet, grey-white flower-
comrades we had plucked. No life! Nothing but the creeping wind,
and those great rocky heights, whence came the sound of falling-
symbols of that cold, untimely state into which we, too, must pass.
Never more to love, nor to be loved! One could but turn to the
earth, and press one's face to it, away from the wild loveliness. Of
what use loveliness that must be lost; of what use loveliness when
one could not love? The earth was warm and firm beneath the palms of
the hands; but there still came the sound of the impartial wind, and
the careless roar of the stories falling.
Below, in those valleys amongst the living trees and grass, was the
comradeship of unnumbered life, so that to pass out into Peace, to
step beyond, to die, seemed but a brotherly act, amongst all those
others; but up here, where no creature breathed, we saw the heart of
the desert that stretches before each little human soul. Up here, it
froze the spirit; even Peace seemed mocking--hard as a stone. Yet,
to try and hide, to tuck one's head under one's own wing, was not
possible in this air so crystal clear, so far above incense and the
narcotics of set creeds, and the fevered breath of prayers and
protestations. Even to know that between organic and inorganic
matter there is no gulf fixed, was of no peculiar comfort. The
jealous wind came creeping over the lifeless limestone, removing even
the poor solace of its warmth; one turned from it, desperate, to look
up at the sky, the blue, burning, wide, ineffable, far sky.
Then slowly, without reason, that icy fear passed into a feeling, not
of joy, not of peace, but as if Life and Death were exalted into what
was neither life nor death, a strange and motionless vibration, in
which one had been merged, and rested, utterly content, equipoised,
divested of desire, endowed with life and death.
But since this moment had come before its time, we got up, and, close
together, marched on rather silently, in the hot sun.
MY DISTANT RELATIVE
Though I had not seen my distant relative for years--not, in fact,
since he was obliged to give Vancouver Island up as a bad job--I knew
him at once, when, with head a little on one side, and tea-cup held
high, as if, to confer a blessing, he said: "Hallo!" across the Club
Thin as a lath--not one ounce heavier--tall, and very upright, with
his pale forehead, and pale eyes, and pale beard, he had the air of a
ghost of a man. He had always had that air. And his voice--that
matter-of-fact and slightly nasal voice, with its thin, pragmatical
tone--was like a wraith of optimism, issuing between pale lips. I
noticed; too, that his town habiliments still had their unspeakable
pale neatness, as if, poor things, they were trying to stare the
daylight out of countenance.
He brought his tea across to my bay window, with that wistful
sociability of his, as of a man who cannot always find a listener.
"But what are you doing in town?" I said. "I thought you were in
Yorkshire with your aunt."
Over his round, light eyes, fixed on something in the street, the
lids fell quickly twice, as the film falls over the eyes of a parrot.
"I'm after a job," he answered. "Must be on the spot just now."
And it seemed to me that I had heard those words from him before.
"Ah, yes," I said, "and do you think you'll get it?"
But even as I spoke I felt sorry, remembering how many jobs he had
been after in his time, and how soon they ended when he had got them.
"Oh, yes! They ought to give it me," then added rather suddenly:
"You never know, though. People are so funny!"
And crossing his thin legs, he went on to tell me, with quaint
impersonality, a number of instances of how people had been funny in
connection with jobs he had not been given.
"You see," he ended, "the country's in such a state--capital going
out of it every day. Enterprise being killed all over the place.
There's practically nothing to be had!"
"Ah!" I said, "you think it's worse, then, than it used to be?"
He smiled; in that smile there was a shade of patronage.
"We're going down-hill as fast as ever we can. National character's
losing all its backbone. No wonder, with all this molly-coddling
"Oh!" I murmured, "molly-coddling? Isn't that excessive?"
"Well! Look at the way everything's being done for them! The
working classes are losing their, self-respect as fast as ever they
can. Their independence is gone already!"
"Sure of it! I'll give you an instance----" and he went on to
describe to me the degeneracy of certain working men employed by his
aunt and his eldest brother Claud and his youngest brother Alan.
"They don't do a stroke more than they're obliged," he ended; "they
know jolly well they've got their Unions, and their pensions, and
this Insurance, to fall back on."
It was evidently a subject on which he felt strongly.
"Yes," he muttered, "the nation is being rotted down."
And a faint thrill of surprise passed through me. For the affairs of
the nation moved him so much more strongly than his own. His voice
already had a different ring, his eyes a different look. He eagerly
leaned forward, and his long, straight backbone looked longer and
straighter than ever. He was less the ghost of a man. A faint flush
even had come into his pale cheeks, and he moved his well-kept hands
"Oh, yes!" he said: "The country is going to the dogs, right enough;
but you can't get them to see it. They go on sapping and sapping the
independence of the people. If the working man's to be looked after,
whatever he does--what on earth's to become of his go, and foresight,
In his rising voice a certain piquancy was left to its accent of the
ruling class by that faint twang, which came, I remembered, from some
slight defect in his tonsils.
"Mark my words! So long as we're on these lines, we shall do
nothing. It's going against evolution. They say Darwin's getting
old-fashioned; all I know is, he's good enough for me. Competition
is the only thing."
"But competition," I said, "is bitter cruel, and some people can't
stand against it!" And I looked at him rather hard: "Do you object
to putting any sort of floor under the feet of people like that?"
He let his voice drop a little, as if in deference to my scruples.
"Ah!" he said; "but if you once begin this sort of thing, there's no
end to it. It's so insidious. The more they have, the more they
want; and all the time they're losing fighting power. I've thought
pretty deeply about this. It's shortsighted; it really doesn't do!"
"But," I said, "surely you're not against saving people from being
knocked out of time by old age, and accidents like illness, and the
fluctuations of trade?"
"Oh!" he said, "I'm not a bit against charity. Aunt Emma's splendid
about that. And Claud's awfully good. I do what I can, myself." He
looked at me, so queerly deprecating, that I quite liked him at that
moment. At heart--I felt he was a good fellow. "All I think is," he
went on, "that to give them something that they can rely on as a
matter of course, apart from their own exertions, is the wrong
principle altogether," and suddenly his voice began to rise again,
and his eyes to stare. "I'm convinced that all this doing things for
other people, and bolstering up the weak, is rotten. It stands to
reason that it must be."
He had risen to his feet, so preoccupied with the wrongness of that
principle that he seemed to have forgotten my presence. And as he
stood there in the window the light was too strong for him. All the
thin incapacity of that shadowy figure was pitilessly displayed; the
desperate narrowness in that long, pale face; the wambling look of
those pale, well-kept hands--all that made him such a ghost of a man.
But his nasal, dogmatic voice rose and rose.
"There's nothing for it but bracing up! We must cut away all this
State support; we must teach them to rely on themselves. It's all
And suddenly there shot through me the fear that he might burst one
of those little blue veins in his pale forehead, so vehement had he
become; and hastily I changed the subject.
"Do you like living up there with your aunt?" I asked: "Isn't it a
He turned, as if I had awakened him from a dream.
"Oh, well!" he said, "it's only till I get this job."
"Let me see--how long is it since you----?"
"Four years. She's very glad to have me, of course."
"And how's your brother Claud?"
"Oh! All right, thanks; a bit worried with the estate. The poor old
gov'nor left it in rather a mess, you know."
"Ah! Yes. Does he do other work?"
"Oh! Always busy in the parish."
"And your brother Richard?"
"He's all right. Came home this year. Got just enough to live on,
with his pension--hasn't saved a rap, of course."
"And Willie? Is he still delicate?"
"Easy job, his, you know. And even if his health does give out, his
college pals will always find him some sort of sinecure. So jolly
popular, old Willie!"
"And Alan? I haven't heard anything of him since his Peruvian thing
came to grief. He married, didn't he?"
"Rather! One of the Burleys. Nice girl--heiress; lot of property in
Hampshire. He looks after it for her now."
"Doesn't do anything else, I suppose?"
"Keeps up his antiquarianism."
I had exhausted the members of his family.
Then, as though by eliciting the good fortunes of his brothers I had
cast some slur upon himself, he said suddenly: "If the railway had
come, as it ought to have, while I was out there, I should have done
quite well with my fruit farm."
"Of course," I agreed; "it was bad luck. But after all, you're sure
to get a job soon, and--so long as you can live up there with your
aunt--you can afford to wait, and not bother."
"Yes," he murmured. And I got up.
"Well, it's been very jolly to hear about you all!"
He followed me out.
"Awfully glad, old man," he said, "to have seen you, and had this
talk. I was feeling rather low. Waiting to know whether I get that
job--it's not lively."
He came down the Club steps with me. By the door of my cab a loafer
was standing; a tall tatterdemalion with a pale, bearded face. My
distant relative fended him away, and leaning through the window,
murmured: "Awful lot of these chaps about now!"
For the life of me I could not help looking at him very straight.
But no flicker of apprehension crossed his face.
"Well, good-by again!" he said: "You've cheered me up a lot!"
I glanced back from my moving cab. Some monetary transaction was
passing between him and the loafer, but, short-sighted as I am, I
found it difficult to decide which of those tall, pale, bearded
figures was giving the other one a penny. And by some strange freak
an awful vision shot up before me--of myself, and my distant
relative, and Claud, and Richard, and Willie, and Alan, all suddenly
relying on ourselves. I took out my handkerchief to mop my brow; but
a thought struck me, and I put it back. Was it possible for me, and
my distant relatives, and their distant relatives, and so on to
infinity of those who be longed to a class provided by birth with a
certain position, raised by Providence on to a platform made up of
money inherited, of interest, of education fitting us for certain
privileged pursuits, of friends similarly endowed, of substantial
homes, and substantial relatives of some sort or other, on whom we
could fall back--was it possible for any of us ever to be in the
position of having to rely absolutely on ourselves? For several
minutes I pondered that question; and slowly I came to the conclusion
that, short of crime, or that unlikely event, marooning, it was not
possible. Never, never--try as we might--could any single one of us
be quite in the position of one of those whose approaching
pauperisation my distant relative had so vehemently deplored. We
were already pauperised. If we served our country, we were
pensioned.... If we inherited land, it could not be taken from us.
If we went into the Church, we were there for life, whether we were
suitable or no. If we attempted the more hazardous occupations of
the law, medicine, the arts, or business, there were always those
homes, those relations, those friends of ours to fall back on, if we
failed. No! We could never have to rely entirely on ourselves; we
could never be pauperised more than we were already! And a light
burst in on me. That explained why my distant relative felt so
keenly. It bit him, for he saw, of course, how dreadful it would be
for these poor people of the working classes when legislation had
succeeded in placing them in the humiliating position in which we
already were--the dreadful position of having something to depend on
apart from our own exertions, some sort of security in our lives.
I saw it now. It was his secret pride, gnawing at him all the time,
that made him so rabid on the point. He was longing, doubtless, day
and night, not to have had a father who had land, and had left a
sister well enough off to keep him while he was waiting for his job.
He must be feeling how horribly degrading was the position of Claud--
inheriting that land; and of Richard, who, just because he had served
in the Indian Civil Service, had got to live on a pension all the
rest of his days; and of Willie, who was in danger at any moment, if
his health--always delicate--gave out, of having a sinecure found for
him by his college friends; and of Alan, whose educated charm had
enabled him to marry an heiress and live by managing her estates.
All, all sapped of go and foresight and perseverance by a cruel
Providence! That was what he was really feeling, and concealing, be
cause he was too well-bred to show his secret grief. And I felt
suddenly quite warm toward him, now that I saw how he was suffering.
I understood how bound he felt in honour to combat with all his force
this attempt to place others in his own distressing situation. At
the same time I was honest enough to confess to myself sitting there
in the cab--that I did not personally share that pride of his, or
feel that I was being rotted by my own position; I even felt some dim
gratitude that if my powers gave out at any time, and I had not saved
anything, I should still not be left destitute to face the prospect
of a bleak and impoverished old age; and I could not help a weak
pleasure in the thought that a certain relative security was being
guaranteed to those people of the working classes who had never had
it before. At the same moment I quite saw that to a prouder and
stronger heart it must indeed be bitter to have to sit still under
your own security, and even more bitter to have to watch that
pauperising security coming closer and closer to others--for the
generous soul is always more concerned for others than for himself.
No doubt, I thought, if truth were known, my distant relative is
consumed with longing to change places with that loafer who tried to
open the door of my cab--for surely he must see, as I do, that that
is just what he himself--having failed to stand the pressure of
competition in his life--would be doing if it were not for the
accident of his birth, which has so lamentably insured him against
coming to that.
"Yes," I thought, "you have learnt something to-day; it does not do,
you see, hastily to despise those distant relatives of yours, who
talk about pauperising and molly-coddling the lower classes. No, no!
One must look deeper than that! One must have generosity!"
And with that I stopped the cab and got out. for I wanted a breath
THE BLACK GODMOTHER
Sitting out on the lawn at tea with our friend and his retriever, we
had been discussing those massacres of the helpless which had of late
occurred, and wondering that they should have been committed by the
soldiery of so civilised a State, when, in a momentary pause of our
astonishment, our friend, who had been listening in silence,
crumpling the drooping soft ear of his dog, looked up and said, "The
cause of atrocities is generally the violence of Fear. Panic's at
the back of most crimes and follies."
Knowing that his philosophical statements were always the result of
concrete instance, and that he would not tell us what that instance
was if we asked him--such being his nature--we were careful not to
He gave us a look out of those eyes of his, so like the eyes of a
mild eagle, and said abruptly: "What do you say to this, then?.....
I was out in the dog-days last year with this fellow of mine, looking
for Osmunda, and stayed some days in a village--never mind the name.
Coming back one evening from my tramp, I saw some boys stoning
a mealy-coloured dog. I went up and told the young devils to stop
it. They only looked at me in the injured way boys do, and one of
them called out, 'It's mad, guv'nor!' I told them to clear off, and
they took to their heels. The dog followed me. It was a young,
leggy, mild looking mongrel, cross--I should say--between a brown
retriever and an Irish terrier. There was froth about its lips, and
its eyes were watery; it looked indeed as if it might be in
distemper. I was afraid of infection for this fellow of mine, and
whenever it came too close shooed it away, till at last it slunk off
altogether. Well, about nine o'clock, when I was settling down to
write by the open window of my sitting-room--still daylight, and very
quiet and warm--there began that most maddening sound, the barking of
an unhappy dog. I could do nothing with that continual 'Yap yap!'
going on, and it was too hot to shut the window; so I went out to see
if I could stop it. The men were all at the pub, and the women just
finished with their gossip; there was no sound at all but the
continual barking of this dog, somewhere away out in the fields. I
travelled by ear across three meadows, till I came on a hay-stack by
a pool of water. There was the dog sure enough--the same mealy-
coloured mongrel, tied to a stake, yapping, and making frantic little
runs on a bit of rusty chain; whirling round and round the stake,
then standing quite still, and shivering. I went up and spoke to it,
but it backed into the hay-stack, and there it stayed shrinking away
from me, with its tongue hanging out. It had been heavily struck by
something on the head; the cheek was cut, one eye half-closed, and an
ear badly swollen. I tried to get hold of it, but the poor thing was
beside itself with fear. It snapped and flew round so that I had to
give it up, and sit down with this fellow here beside me, to try and
quiet it--a strange dog, you know, will generally form his estimate
of you from the way it sees you treat another dog. I had to sit
there quite half an hour before it would let me go up to it, pull the
stake out, and lead it away. The poor beast, though it was so feeble
from the blows it had received, was still half-frantic, and I didn't
dare to touch it; and all the time I took good care that this fellow
here didn't come too near. Then came the question what was to be
done. There was no vet, of course, and I'd no place to put it except
my sitting-room, which didn't belong to me. But, looking at its
battered head, and its half-mad eyes, I thought: 'No trusting you
with these bumpkins; you'll have to come in here for the night!'
Well, I got it in, and heaped two or three of those hairy little red
rugs landladies are so fond of, up in a corner; and got it on to
them, and put down my bread and milk. But it wouldn't eat--its sense
of proportion was all gone, fairly destroyed by terror. It lay there
moaning, and every now and then it raised its head with a 'yap' of
sheer fright, dreadful to hear, and bit the air, as if its enemies
were on it again; and this fellow of mine lay in the opposite corner,
with his head on his paw, watching it. I sat up for a long time with
that poor beast, sick enough, and wondering how it had come to be
stoned and kicked and battered into this state; and next day I made
it my business to find out."
Our friend paused, scanned us a little angrily, and then went on: "It
had made its first appearance, it seems, following a bicyclist.
There are men, you know--save the mark--who, when their beasts get
ill or too expensive, jump on their bicycles and take them for a
quick run, taking care never to look behind them. When they get back
home they say: 'Hallo! where's Fido?' Fido is nowhere, and there's
an end! Well, this poor puppy gave up just as it got to our village;
and, roaming shout in search of water, attached itself to a farm
labourer. The man with excellent intentions--as he told me himself--
tried to take hold of it, but too abruptly, so that it was startled,
and snapped at him. Whereon he kicked it for a dangerous cur, and it
went drifting back toward the village, and fell in with the boys
coming home from school. It thought, no doubt, that they were going
to kick it too, and nipped one of them who took it by the collar.
Thereupon they hullabalooed and stoned it down the road to where I
found them. Then I put in my little bit of torture, and drove it
away, through fear of infection to my own dog. After that it seems
to have fallen in with a man who told me: 'Well, you see, he came
sneakin' round my house, with the children playin', and snapped at
them when they went to stroke him, so that they came running in to
their mother, an' she' called to me in a fine takin' about a mad dog.
I ran out with a shovel and gave 'im one, and drove him out. I'm
sorry if he wasn't mad, he looked it right enough; you can't be too
careful with strange dogs.' Its next acquaintance was an old stone-
breaker, a very decent sort. 'Well! you see,' the old man explained
to me, 'the dog came smellin' round my stones, an' it wouldn' come
near, an' it wouldn' go away; it was all froth and blood about the
jaw, and its eyes glared green at me. I thought to meself, bein' the
dog-days--I don't like the look o' you, you look funny! So I took a
stone, an' got it here, just on the ear; an' it fell over. And I
thought to meself: Well, you've got to finish it, or it'll go bitin'
somebody, for sure! But when I come to it with my hammer, the dog it
got up--an' you know how it is when there's somethin' you've 'alf
killed, and you feel sorry, and yet you feel you must finish it, an'
you hit at it blind, you hit at it agen an' agen. The poor thing, it
wriggled and snapped, an' I was terrified it'd bite me, an' some'ow
it got away."' Again our friend paused, and this time we dared not
look at him.
"The next hospitality it was shown," he went on presently, "was by a
farmer, who, seeing it all bloody, drove it off, thinking it had been
digging up a lamb that he'd just buried. The poor homeless beast
came sneaking back, so he told his men to get rid of it. Well, they
got hold of it somehow--there was a hole in its neck that looked as
if they'd used a pitchfork--and, mortally afraid of its biting them,
but not liking, as they told me, to drown it, for fear the owner
might come on them, they got a stake and a chain, and fastened it up,
and left it in the water by the hay-stack where I found it. I had
some conversation with that farmer. 'That's right,' he said, 'but
who was to know? I couldn't have my sheep worried. The brute had
blood on his muzzle. These curs do a lot of harm when they've once
been blooded. You can't run risks."' Our friend cut viciously at a
dandelion with his stick. "Run risks!" he broke out suddenly: "That
was it from beginning to end of that poor beast's sufferings, fear!
>From that fellow on the bicycle, afraid of the worry and expense, as
soon as it showed signs of distemper, to myself and the man with the
pitch fork--not one of us, I daresay, would have gone out of our way
to do it--a harm. But we felt fear, and so by the law of self-
preservation, or what ever you like--it all began, till there the
poor thing was, with a battered head and a hole in its neck, ravenous
with hunger, and too distraught even to lap my bread and milk. Yes,
and there's something uncanny about a suffering animal--we sat
watching it, and again we were afraid, looking at its eyes and the
way it bit the air. Fear! It's the black godmother of all damnable
Our friend bent down, crumpling and crumpling at his dog's ears. We,
too, gazed at the ground, thinking of, that poor lost puppy, and the
horrible inevitability of all that happens, seeing men are what they
are; thinking of all the foul doings in the world, whose black
godmother is Fear.
"And what became of the poor dog?" one of us asked at last.
"When," said our friend slowly, "I'd had my fill of watching, I
covered it with a rug, took this fellow away with me, and went to
bed. There was nothing else to do. At dawn I was awakened by three
dreadful cries--not like a dog's at all. I hurried down. There was
the poor beast--wriggled out from under the rug-stretched on its
side, dead. This fellow of mine had followed me in, and he went and
sat down by the body. When I spoke to him he just looked round, and
wagged his tail along the ground, but would not come away; and there
he sat till it was buried, very interested, but not sorry at all."
Our friend was silent, looking angrily at something in the distance.
And we, too, were silent, seeing in spirit that vigil of early
morning: The thin, lifeless, sandy-coloured body, stretched on those
red mats; and this black creature--now lying at our feet--propped on
its haunches like the dog in "The Death of Procris," patient,
curious, ungrieved, staring down at it with his bright, interested
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