The Cathedral
Hugh Walpole

Part 7 out of 8

"I think it's nearly time for the next dance," said Joan. "Would you
kindly take me back to my mother?"

She was conscious, as they plunged down-stream, of all the burning
glances. She held her head high. Her eyes flashed. She was going to dance
with Johnny, and they could look as much as they liked.

Mr. Forsyth delivered her to her mother and went cantering off. Joan sat
down, smoothed her dress and stared at the vast shiny lake of amber in
which the silver candelabra were reflected like little islands. She looked
at her mother and was suddenly sorry for her. It must be dull, when you
were as old as mother, coming to these dances--and especially when you had
so few friends. Her mother had never made many friends.

"Wasn't that Mr. Morris who was talking to you just now?"

"Yes, dear."

"I like him. He looks kind."

"Yes, dear."

"And where's father?"

"Over there, talking to Lady St. Leath."

She looked across, and there he was, so big and tall and fine, so splendid
in his grand clothes. Her heart swelled with pride.

"Isn't he splendid, mother, dear?"




"Yes; doesn't he look splendid to-night? Better looking than all the rest
of the room put together?" (Johnny wasn't _good-looking_. Better than

"Oh--look splendid. Yes. He's a very handsome man."

Joan felt once again that little chill with which she was so often
familiar when she talked with her mother--a sudden withdrawal of sympathy,
a pushing Joan away with her hand.

But never mind--there was the music again, and here, oh, here, was Johnny!
Someone had once called him Tubby in her hearing, and how indignant she
had been! He was perhaps a little on the fat side, but strong with it....
She went off with him. The waltz began.

She sank into sweet delicious waters--waters that rocked and cradled her,
hugged her and caressed her. She was conscious of his arm. She did not
speak nor did he. Years of utter happiness passed....

He did not take her, as Mr. Forsyth had done, into the public glare of the
passage, but up a crooked staircase behind the Minstrels' Gallery into a
little room, cool and shaded, where, in easy-chairs, they were quite

He was shy, fingering his gloves. She said (just to make conversation):

"How beautiful Miss Daubeney is looking!"

"Do you think so?" said Johnny. "I don't. I'm sick of that girl. She's the
most awful bore. Mother's always shoving her at my head. She's been
staying with us for months. She wants me to marry her because she's rich.
But we've got plenty, and I wouldn't marry her anyway, not if we hadn't a
penny. Because she's a bore, and because"--his voice became suddenly loud
and commanding--"I'm going to marry you."

Something--some lovely bird of Paradise, some splendid coloured breeze,
some carpet of magic pattern--came and swung Joan up to a high tree loaded
with golden apples. There she swung--singing her heart out. Johnny's voice
came up to her.

"Because I'm going to marry you."

"What?" she called down to him.

"I'm going to marry you. I knew it from the very first second I saw you,
that day after Cathedral--from the very first moment I knew it. I wanted
to ask you right away at once, but I thought I'd do the thing properly, so
I went away, and I've been in Paris and Rome and all over the place, and
I've thought of you the _whole_ time--every minute. Then mother made
a fuss about this Daubeney girl--my not being here and all that--so I
thought I'd come home and tell you I was going to marry you."

"Oh, but you can't." Joan swung down from her appletree. "You and me? Why,
what _would_ your mother say?"

"It isn't a case of _would_ but _will_" Johnny said. "Mother
will be very angry--and for a considerable time. But that makes no
difference. Mother's mother and I'm myself."

"It's impossible," said Joan quickly, "from every point of view. Do you
know what my brother has done? I'm proud of Falk and love him; but you're
Lord St. Leath, and Falk has married the daughter of Hogg, the man who
keeps a public-house down in Seatown."

"I heard of that," said Johnny. "But what does that matter? Do you know
what I did last year? I crossed the Atlantic as a stoker in a Cunard boat.
Mother never knew until I got back, and _wasn't_ she furious! But the
world's changing. There isn't going to be any class difference soon--none
at all. You take my word. Look at the Americans! They're the people! We'll
be like them one day.... But what's all this?" he suddenly said. "I'm
going to marry you and you're going to marry me. You love me, don't you?"

"Yes," said Joan faintly.

"Well, then. I knew you did. I'm going to kiss you." He put his arms
around her and kissed her very gently.

"Oh, how I love you!" he said, "and how good I'll be to you!"

"But we must be practical," said Joan wildly. "How can we marry?
Everything's against it. I've no money. I'm nobody. Your mother----"

"Now you just leave my mother alone. Leave me to manage her--I know all
about that----"

"I won't be engaged to you," Joan said firmly, "not for ages and ages--not
for a year anyway."

"That's all right," said Johnny indifferently. "You can settle it any way
you please--but no one's going to marry you but me, and no one's going to
marry me but you."

He would have kissed her again, but Mrs. Preston and a young man came in.

"Now you shall come and speak to my mother," he said to her as they went
out. "There's nothing to be afraid of. Just say 'Bo' to her as you would
to a goose, and she'll answer all right."

"You won't say anything----" began Joan.

"About us? All right. That's a secret for the present; but we shall meet
_every_ day, and if there's a day we don't meet you've got to write.
Do you agree?"

Whether she agreed or no was uncertain, because they were now in a cloud
of people, and, a moment later, were face to face with the old Countess.

She was pleased, it at once appeared. She was in a gracious mood; people
had been pleasant enough--that is, they had been obsequious and
flattering. Also her digestion was behaving properly; those new pills that
old Puddifoot had given her were excellent. She therefore received Joan
very graciously, congratulated her on her appearance, and asked her where
her elder sister was. When Joan explained that she had no sister Lady St.
Leath appeared vexed with her, as though it had been a piece of obvious
impertinence on her part not to produce a sister instantly when she had
asked for one. However, Lady Mary was kind and friendly and made Joan sit
beside her for a little. Joan thought, "I'd like to have you for a sister
one day, if--if--ever----" and allowed her thoughts to go no farther.

Thence she passed into the company of Mrs. Combermere and Ellen Stiles. It
seemd to her--but it was probably her fancy--that as she came to them they
were discussing something that was not for her ears. It seemed to her that
they swiftly changed the conversation and greeted her with quite an
unusual warmth of affection. For the first time that evening a sudden
little chill of foreboding, whence she knew not, seemed to touch her and
shade, for an instant, her marvellous happiness.

Mrs. Combermere was very sweet to her indeed, quite as though she had
been, but now, recovering from an alarming illness. Her bass voice, strong
thick hands and stiff wiry hair went so incongruously with her cloth of
gold that Joan could not help smiling.

"You look very happy, my dear," Mrs. Combermere said.

"Of course I am," said Joan. "How can I help it, my first Ball?"

Mrs. Combermere kicked her trailing garments with her foot, just like a
dame in a pantomime. "Well, enjoy yourself as long as you can. You're
looking very pretty. The prettiest girl in the room. I've just been saying
so to Ellen--haven't I, Ellen?"

Ellen Stiles was at that moment making herself agreeable to the Mayoress,
who was sitting lonely and uncomfortable (weighed down with longing for
sleep) on a little gilt chair.

"I was just saying to Mrs. Branston," Miss Stiles said, turning round,
"that the time one has to be careful with children after whooping-cough is
when they seem practically well. Her little boy has just been ill with it,
and she says he's recovered; but that's the time, as I tell her, when nine
out of ten children die--just when you think you're safe."

"Oh dear," said Mrs. Branston, turning towards them her full anxious eyes.
"You _do_ alarm me, Miss Stiles! And I've been letting Tommy quite
loose, as you may say, these last few days--with his appetite back and
all, there seemed no danger."

"Well, if you find him feverish when you get home tonight," said Ellen,
"don't he surprised. All the excitement of the Jubilee too will be very
bad for him."

At that moment Canon Ronder came up. Joan looked and at once, at the sight
of the round gleaming spectacles, the smiling mouth, the full cheeks
puffed out as though he were blowing perpetual bubbles for his own
amusement, felt her old instinct of repulsion. This man was her father's
enemy, and so hers. All the town knew now that he was trying to ruin her
father so that he might take his place, that he laughed at him and mocked

So fierce did she feel that she could have scratched his cheeks. He was
smiling at them all, and at once was engaged in a wordy duel with Mrs.
Combermere and Miss Stiles. _They_ liked him; every one in the town
liked him. She heard his praises sung by every one. Well, she would never
sing them. She hated him.

And now he was actually speaking to her. He had the impertinence to ask
her for a dance.

"I'm afraid I'm engaged for the next and for the one after that, Canon
Ronder," she said.

"Well, later on then," he said, smiling. "What about an extra?"

Her dark eyes scorned him.

"We are going home early," she said. She pretended to examine her
programme. "I'm afraid I have not one before we go."

She spoke as coldly as she dared. She felt the eyes of Mrs. Combermere and
Ellen Stiles upon her. How stupid of her! She had shown them what her
feelings were, and now they would chatter the more and laugh about her
fighting her father's battles. Why had she not shown her indifference, her
complete indifference?

He was smiling still--not discomfited by her rudeness. He said something--
something polite and outrageously kind--and then young Charles D'Arcy came
up to carry her off for the Lancers.

* * * * *

An hour later her cup of happiness was completely filled. She had danced,
during that hour, four times with Johnny; every one must be talking. Lady
St. Leath must be furious (she did not know that Boadicea had been playing
whist with old Colonel Wotherston and Sir Henry Byles for the last ever so

She would perhaps never have such an hour in all her life again. This
thing that he so wildly proposed was impossible--utterly, completely
impossible; but what was _not_ impossible, what was indeed certain
and sure and beyond any sort of question, was that she loved Johnny St.
Leath with all her heart and soul, and would so love him until the day of
her death. Life could never be purposeless nor mean nor empty for her
again, while she had that treasure to carry about with her in her heart.
Meanwhile she could not look at him and doubt but that, for the moment at
any rate, he loved her--and there was something simple and direct about
Johnny as there was about his dog Andrew, that made his words, few and
clumsy though they might be, most strangely convincing.

So, almost dizzy with happiness, she climbed the stair behind the Gallery
and thought that she would escape for a moment into the little room where
Johnny had proposed to her, and sit there and grow calm. She looked in.
Some one was there. A man sitting by himself and staring in front of him.
She saw at once that he was in some great trouble. His hands were
clenched, his face puckered and set with pain. Then she saw that it was
her father.

He did not move; he might have been a block of stone shining in the
dimness. Terrified, she stood, herself not moving. Then she came forward.
She put her hand on his shoulder.

"Oh, father--father, what is it?" She felt his body trembling beneath her
touch--he, the proudest, finest man in the country. She put her arm round
his neck. She kissed him. His forehead was damp with sweat. His body was
shaking from head to foot. She kissed him again and again, kneeling beside

Then she remembered where they were. Some one might come. No one must see
him like that.

She whispered to him, took his hands between hers.

"Let's go home, Joan," he said. "I want to go home."

She put her arm through his, and together they went down the little

Chapter IV

Sunday, June 20: In the Bedroom

Brandon had been talking to the Precentor at the far end of the ballroom,
when suddenly Ronder had appeared in their midst. Appeared the only word!
And Brandon, armoured, he had thought, for every terror that that night
might bring to him, had been suddenly seized with the lust of murder. A
lust as dominating as any other, that swept upon him in a hot flaming
tide, lapped him from head to foot. It was no matter, this time, of words,
of senses, of thoughts, but of his possession by some other man who filled
his brain, his eyes, his mouth, his stomach, his heart; one second more
and he would have flung himself upon that smiling face, those rounded
limbs; he would have caught that white throat and squeezed it--

The room literally swam in a tide of impulse that carried him against
Ronder's body and left him there, breast beating against breast....

He turned without a word and almost ran from the place. He passed through
the passages, seeing no one, conscious of neither voices nor eyes,
climbing stairs that he did not feel, sheltering in that lonely little
room, sitting there, his hands to his face, shuddering. The lust slowly
withdrew from him, leaving him icy cold. Then he lifted his eyes and saw
his daughter and clung to her--as just then he would have clung to
anybody--for safety.

Had it come to this then, that he was mad? All that night, lying on his
bed, he surveyed himself. That was the way that men murdered. No longer
could he claim control or mastery of his body. God had deserted him and
given him over to devils.

His son, his wife, and now God. His loneliness was terrible. And he could
not think. He must think about this letter and what he should do. He could
not think at all. He was given over to devils.

After Matins in the Cathedral next day one thought came to him. He would
go and see the Bishop. The Bishop had come in from Carpledon for the
Jubilee celebrations and was staying at the Deanery. Brandon spoke to him
for a moment after Matins and asked him whether he might see him for half
an hour in the afternoon on a matter of great urgency. The Bishop asked
him to come at three o'clock.

Seated in the Dean's library, with its old-fashioned cosiness--its book-
shelves and the familiar books, the cases, between the high windows, of
his precious butterflies--Brandon felt, for the first time for many days,
a certain calm descend upon him. The Bishop, looking very frail and small
in the big arm-chair, received him with so warm an affection that he felt,
in spite of his own age, like the old man's son.

"My lord," he began with difficulty, moving his big limbs in his chair
like a restless schoolboy, "it isn't easy for me to come to-day. There's
no one in the world I could speak to except yourself. I find it difficult
even to do that."

"My son," said the Bishop gently, "I am a very, very old man. I cannot
have many more months to live. When one is as near to death as I am, one
loves everything and everybody, because one is going so soon. You needn't
be afraid."

And in his heart he must have wondered at the change in this man who,
through so many years now, had come to him with so much self-confidence
and assurance.

"I have had much trouble lately," Brandon went on. "But I would not have
bothered you with that, knowing as I do all that you have to consider just
now, were it not that for the first time in my life I seem to have lost
control and to be heading toward some great disaster that may bring
scandal not only on myself but on the Church as well."

"Tell me your trouble," said the Bishop.

"Nine months ago I seemed to be at the very height of my powers, my
happiness, my usefulness." Brandon paused. Was it really only nine months
back, that other time? "I had no troubles. I was confident in myself, my
health was good, my family were happy. I seemed to have many friends....
Then suddenly everything changed. I don't want to seem false, my lord, in
anything that I may say, but it was literally as though in the course of a
night all my happiness forsook me.

"It began with my boy being sent down from Oxford. I have only one boy, as
I think your lordship knows. He was--he is, in spite of what has happened
--very dear to me." Brandon paused.

"Yes, I know," said the Bishop.

"After that everything began to go wrong. Little things, little tiny
things--one after another. Some one came to this town who almost at once
seemed to put himself into opposition to me." Brandon paused once more.

The Bishop said again: "Yes, I know."

"At first," Brandon went on, "I didn't realise this. I was preoccupied
with my work. It had never, at any time in my life, seemed to me healthy
to consider about other people's minds, what they were thinking or
imagining. There is quite enough work to do in the world without that. But
soon I was forced to consider this man's opposition to me. It came before
me in a thousand little ways. The attitude of the Chapter changed to me--
especially noticeable at one of the Chapter meetings. I don't want to make
my story so long, my lord, that it will tire you. To cut it short--a day
came when my boy ran off to London with a town girl, the daughter of the
landlord of one of the more disreputable public-houses. That was a
terrible, devastating blow to me. I have quite literally not been the same
man since. I was determined not to allow it to turn me from my proper
work. I still loved the boy; he had not behaved dishonourably to the girl.
He has now married her and is earning his living in London. If that had
been the only blow----" He stopped, cleared his throat, and, turning
excitedly towards the Bishop, almost shouted:

"But it is not! It is not, my lord! My enemy has never ceased his plots
for one instant. It was he who advised my boy to run off with this girl.
He has turned the whole town against me; they laugh at me and mock me! And
now he..." He could not for a moment find breath. He exercised
an impulse of almost superhuman self-control, bringing his body visibly
back into bounds again. He went on more quietly:

"We are in opposite camps over this matter of the Pybus living--we are in
opposition over almost every question that arises here. He is an able man.
I must do him that justice. He can plot...he can scheme...whereas I..."
Brandon beat his hands desperately on his knees.

"It is not only this man!" he cried, "not only this! It is as though there
were some larger conspiracy, something from Heaven itself. God has turned
His face away from me when I have served Him faithfully all my days. No
one has served Him more whole-heartedly than I. He has been my only
thought, His glory my only purpose. Nine months ago I had health, I had
friends, I had honour. I had my family--now my health is going, my friends
have forsaken me, I am mocked at by the lowest men in the town, my son has
left me, my--my..."

He broke off, bending his face in his hands.

The Bishop said: "My dear friend, you are not alone in this. We have all
been tried, like this--tested----"

"Tested!" Brandon broke out. "Why should I be tested? What have I done in
all my life that is not acceptable to God? What sin have I committed! What
disloyalty have I shown? But there is something more that I must tell you,
my lord--the reason why I have come to you to-day. Canon Ronder and I--you
must have known of whom I have been speaking--had a violent quarrel one
afternoon on the way home after luncheon with you at Carpledon. This
quarrel became, in one way or another, the town's property. Ronder
affected to like me, but it was impossible now for him to hide his real
intentions towards me. This thing began to be an obsession with me. I
tried to prevent this. I knew what the danger of such obsessions can be.
But there was something else. My wife--" he paused--went on. "My wife and
I, my lord, have lived together in perfect happiness for twenty years. At
least it had seemed to me to be perfect happiness. She began to behave
strangely. She was not herself. Undoubtedly the affair of our son
disturbed her desperately. She seemed to avoid me, to escape from me when
she could. This, coming with my other troubles, made me feel as though I
were in some horrible dream, as though the very furniture of our home and
the appearance of the streets were changing. I began to be afraid
sometimes that I might be going mad. I have had bad headaches that have
made it difficult for me to think. Then, only last night, a woman brought
me a letter. I wish you most earnestly to believe, my lord, that I believe
my wife to be absolutely loyal to me--loyal in every possible sense of the
word. The letter purported to be in her handwriting. And in this matter
also Canon Ronder had had some hand. The woman admitted that she had been
first to Canon Ronder and that he had advised her to bring it to me."

The Bishop made a movement.

"You will, of course, say nothing of this, my lord, to Canon Ronder. I
have come privately to ask your prayers for me and to have your counsel. I
am making no complaint against Canon Ronder. I must see this thing through
by myself. But last night, when my mind was filled with this letter, I
found myself suddenly next to Canon Ronder, and I had a murderous impulse
that was so fierce and sudden in its power that I--" he broke off,
shuddering. Then cried, suddenly stretching out his hands:

"Oh, my lord, pray for me, pray for me! Help me! I don't know what I do--I
am given over to the powers of Hell!"

A long silence followed. Then the Bishop said:

"You have asked me to say nothing to Canon Render, and of course I must
respect your confidence. But the first thing that I would say to you is
that I think that what you feared has happened--that you have allowed this
thought of him to become an obsession to you. The ways of God are
mysterious and past our finding out; but all of us, in our lives, have
known that time when everything was suddenly turned against us--our work,
those whom we love, our health, even our belief in God Himself. My dear,
dear friend, I myself have known that several times in my own life. Once,
when I was a young man, I lost an appointment on which my whole heart was
set, and lost it, as it seemed, through an extreme injustice. It turned
out afterwards that my losing that was one of the most fortunate things
for me. Once my dear wife and I seemed to lose all our love for one
another, and I was assailed with most desperate temptation--and the end of
that was that we loved and understood one another as we had never done
before. Once--and this was the most terrible period of my life, and it
continued over a long time--I lost, as it seemed, completely all my faith
in God. I came out of that believing only in the beauty of Christ's life,
clinging to that, and saying to myself, 'Such a friend have I--then life
is not all lost to me'--and slowly, gradually, I came back into touch with
Him and knew Him as I had never known Him before, and, through Him, once
again God the Father. And now, even in my old age, temptation is still
with me. I long to die. I am tempted often to look upon men and women as
shadows that have no longer any connection with me. I am very weak and
feeble and I wish to sleep.... But the love of God continues, and through
Jesus Christ, the love of men. It is the only truth--love of God, love of
man--the rest is fantasy and unreality. Look up, my son, bear this with
patience. God is standing at your shoulder and will be with you to the
end. This is training for you. To show you, perhaps, that all through life
you have missed the most important thing. You are learning through this
trouble your need of others, your need to love them, and that they should
love you--the only lesson worth learning in life...."

The Bishop came over to Brandon and put his hand on his head. Strange
peace come into Brandon's heart, not from the old man's words, but from
the contact with him, the touch of his thin trembling hand. The room was
filled with peace. Ronder was suddenly of little importance. The Cathedral
faded. For a time he rested.

For the rest of that day, until evening, that peace stayed with him. With
it still in his heart he came, late that night, into their bedroom. Mrs.
Brandon was in bed, awake, staring in front of her, not moving. He sat
down in the chair beside the bed, stretched out his hand, and took hers.

"Amy, dear," he said, "I want us to have a little talk."

Her little hand lay still and hot in his large cool one.

"I've been very unhappy," he went on with difficulty, "lately about you--I
have seen that you yourself are not happy. I want you to be. I will do
anything that is in my power to make you so!"

"You would not," she said, without looking at him, "have troubled to think
of me had not your own private affairs gone wrong and--had not Falk left

The sound of her hostility irritated him against his will; he beat the
irritation down. He felt suddenly very tired, quite exhausted. He had an
almost irresistible temptation to go down into his dressing-room, lie on
his sofa there, and go instantly to sleep.

"That's not quite fair, Amy," he said. "But we won't dispute about that. I
want to know why, after our being happy for twenty years, something now
has come in between us or seems to have done so; I want to clear that away
if I can, so that we can be as we were before."

Be as they were before! At the strange, ludicrous irony of that phrase she
turned on her elbow and looked at him, stared at him as though she could
not see enough of him.

"Why do you think that there is anything the matter?" she asked softly,
almost gently.

"Why, of course I can see," he said, holding her hand more tightly as
though the sudden gentleness in her voice had touched him. "When one has
lived with some one a long time," he went on rather awkwardly, "one
notices things. Of course I've seen that you were not happy. And Falk
leaving us in that way must have made you very miserable. It made me
miserable too," he added, suddenly stroking her hand a little.

She could not bear that and very quietly withdrew her hand.

"Did it really hurt you, Falk's going?" she asked, still staring at him.

"Hurt me?" he cried, staring back at her in utter astonishment. "Hurt me?

"Then why," she went on, "didn't you go up to London after him?"

The question was so entirely unexpected that he could only repeat:


"Oh, well, it doesn't matter now," she said, wearily turning away.

"Perhaps I did wrong. I think perhaps I've done wrong in many ways during
these last years. I am seeing many things for the first time. The truth is
I have been so absorbed in my work that I've thought of nothing else. I
took it too much for granted that you were happy because I was happy. And
now I want to make it right. I do indeed, Amy. Tell me what's the matter."

She said nothing. He waited for a long time. Her immobility always angered
him. He said at last more impatiently.

"Please tell me, Amy, what you have against me."

"I have nothing against you."

"Then why are things wrong between us?"

"Are things wrong?"

"You know they are--ever since that morning when you wouldn't come to Holy

"I was tired that morning."

"It is more than tiredness," he said, with sudden impatience, beating upon
the counterpane with his fist. "Amy--you're not behaving fairly. You must
talk to me. I insist on it."

She turned once more towards him.

"What is it you want me to say?"

"Why you're unhappy."

"But if I am not unhappy?"

"You are."

"But suppose I say that I am not?"

"You are. You are. You are!" he shouted at her.

"Very well, then, I am."

"Why are you?"

"Who _is_ happy really? At any rate for more than a moment. Only very
thoughtless and silly people."

"You're putting me off." He took her hand again. "I'm to blame, Amy--to
blame in many ways. But people are talking."

She snatched her hand away.

"People talking? Who?...But as though that mattered."

"It _does_ matter. It has gone far--much farther than I thought."

She looked at him then, quickly, and turned her face away again.

"Who's talking? And what are they saying?"

"They are saying----" He broke off. What _were_ they saying? Until
the arrival of that horrible letter he had not realised that they were
saying anything at all.

"Don't think for a single moment, Amy, that I pay the slightest attention
to any of their talk. I would not have bothered you with any of this had
it not been for something else--of which I'll speak in a moment. If
everything is right between us--between you and me--then it doesn't matter
if the whole world talks until it's blue in the face."

"Leave it alone, then," she said. "Let them talk."

Her indifference stung him. She didn't care, then, whether things were
right between himself and her or no? It was the same to her. She cared so
little for him.... That sudden realisation struck him so sharply that it
was as though some one had hit him in the back. For so many years he had
taken it for granted...taken something for granted that was not to be so
taken. Very dimly some one was approaching him--that dark, misty, gigantic
figure--blotting out the light from the windows. That figure was becoming
day by day more closely his companion.

Looking at her now more intently, and with a new urgency, he said:

"Some one brought me a letter, Amy. They said it was a letter of yours."

She did not move nor stir. Then, after a long silence, she said, "Let me
see it."

He felt in his pocket and produced it. She stretched out her hand and took
it. She read it through slowly. "You think that I wrote this?" she asked.

"No, I know that you did not."

"To whom was it supposed to be written?"

"To 'Morris of St. James'."

She nodded her head. "Ah, yes. We're friends. That's why they chose him.
Of course it's a forgery," she added--"a very clever one."

"What I don't understand," he said eagerly, at his heart the strangest
relief that he did not dare to stop to analyse, "is why any one should
have troubled to do this--the risk, the danger----"

"You have enemies," she said. "Of course you know that. People who are

"One enemy," he answered fiercely. "Ronder. The woman had been to him with
this letter before she came to me."

"The woman! What woman?

"The woman who brought it to me was a Miss Milton--a wretched creature who
was once at the Library."

"And she had been with this to Canon Ronder before she came to you?"



Then she said very quietly:

"And what do you mean to do about the letter?"

"I will do whatever you wish me to do. What I would like to do is to leave
no step untaken to bring the authors of this forgery to justice. No step.
I will----"

"No," she broke in quickly. "It is much better to leave it alone. What
good can it do to follow it up? It only tells every one about it. We
should despise it. The thing is so obviously false. Why you can see,"
suddenly holding the letter towards him, "it isn't even like my writing.
My s's, my m's--they're not like that----"

"No, no," he said eagerly. "I see that they are not. I saw that at once."

"You knew at once that it was a forgery?"

"I knew at once. I never doubted for an instant."

She sighed; then settled back into the pillow with a little shudder.

"This town," she said; "the things they do. Oh! to get away from it, to
get away!"

"And we will!" he cried eagerly. "That's what we need, both of us--a
holiday. I've been thinking it over. We're both tired. When this Jubilee
is over we'll go abroad--Italy, Greece. We'll have a second honeymoon. Oh,
Amy, we'll begin life again. I've been much to blame--much to blame. Give
me that letter. I'll destroy it. I know my enemy, but I'll not think of
him or of any one but our two selves. I'll be good to you now if you'll
let me."

She gave him the letter.

"Look at it before you tear it up," she said, staring at him as though she
would not miss any change in his features. "You're sure that it is a

"Why, of course."

"It's nothing like my handwriting?"

"Nothing at all."

"You know that I am devoted to you, that I would never be untrue to you in
thought, word or deed?"

"Why, of course, of course. As though I didn't know----"

"And that I'll love to come abroad with you?"

"Yes, yes."

"And that we'll have a second honeymoon?"

"Yes, yes. Indeed, Amy, we will."

"Look well at that letter. You are wrong. It is not a forgery. I did write

He did not answer her, but stayed staring at the letter like a boy
detected in a theft. She repeated:

"The woman was quite right. I did write that letter."

Brandon said, staring at her, "Don't laugh at me. This is too serious."

"I'm not laughing. I wrote it. I sent it down by Gladys. If you recall the
day to her she'll remember."

She watched his face. It had turned suddenly grey, as though some one had
slipped a grey mask over the original features.

She thought, "Now perhaps he'll kill me. I'm not sorry."

He whispered, leaning quite close to her as though he were afraid she
would not hear.

"You wrote that letter to Morris?"

"I did." Then suddenly springing up, half out of bed, she cried, "You're
not to touch him. Do you hear? You're not to touch him! It's not his
fault. He's had nothing to do with this. He's only my friend. I love him,
but he doesn't love me. Do you hear? He's had nothing to do with this!"

"You love him!" whispered Brandon.

"I've loved him since the first moment I saw him. I've wanted some one to
love for years--years and years and years. You didn't love me, so then I
hoped Falk would, and Falk didn't, so then I found the first person--any
one who would be kind to me. And he was kind--he _is_ kind--the
kindest man in the world. And he saw that I was lonely, so he let me talk
to him and go to him--but none of this is his doing. He's only been kind.

"Your letter says 'Dearest'," said Brandon. "If you wrote that letter it
says 'Dearest'."

"That was my foolishness. It was wrong of me. He told me that I mustn't
say anything affectionate. He's good and I'm bad. And I'm bad because
you've made me."

Brandon took the letter and tore it into little pieces; they scattered
upon the counterpane.

"You've been unfaithful to me?" he said, bending over her.

She did not shrink back, although that strange, unknown, grey face was
very close to her. "Yes. At first he wouldn't. He refused anything. But I
would.... I wanted to be. I hate you. I've hated you for years."

"Why?" His hand closed on her shoulder.

"Because of your conceit and pride. Because you've never thought of me.
Because I've always been a piece of furniture to you--less than that.
Because you've been so pleased with yourself and well-satisfied and
stupid. Yes. Yes. Most because you're so stupid. So stupid. Never seeing
anything, never knowing anything and always--so satisfied. And when the
town was pleased with you and said you were so fine I've laughed, knowing
what you were, and I thought to myself, 'There'll come a time when they'll
find him out'--and now they have. They know what you are at last. And I'm
glad! I'm glad! I'm glad!" She stopped, her breast rising and falling
beneath her nightdress, her voice shrill, almost a scream.

He put his hands on her thin bony shoulders and pushed her back into the
bed. His hands moved to her throat. His whole weight, he now kneeling on
the bed, was on top of her.

"Kill me! Kill me!" she whispered. "I'll be glad."

All the while their eyes stared at one another inquisitively, as though
they were strangers meeting for the first time.

His hands met round her throat. His knees were over her. He felt her thin
throat between his hands and a voice in his ear whispered, "That's right,
squeeze tighter. Splendid! Splendid!"

Suddenly his eyes recognised hers. His hands dropped. He crawled from the
bed. Then he felt his way, blindly, out of the room.

Chapter V

Tuesday, June 22: I. The Cathedral

The Great Day arrived, escorted sumptuously with skies of burning blue.
How many heads looked out of how many windows, the country over, that
morning! In Polchester it was considered as only another proof of the
esteem in which that city was held by the Almighty. The Old Lady might
deserve and did unquestionably obtain divinely condescending weather for
her various excursions, but it was nothing to that which the Old Town got
and deserved.

Deserved or no, the town rose to the occasion. The High Street was
swimming in flags and bunting; even in Seatown most of the grimy windows
showed those little cheap flags that during the past week hawkers had been
so industriously selling. From quite early in the morning the squeak and
scream of the roundabouts in the Fair could be heard dimly penetrating the
sanctities and privacies of the Precincts. But it was the Cathedral bells,
pealing, crashing, echoing, rocking, as early as nine o'clock in the
morning, that first awoke the consciousness of most of the Polcastrians to
the glories of the day.

I suppose that nearly all souls that morning subconsciously divided the
order of the festival into three periods; in the morning the Cathedral and
its service, in the afternoon the social, friendly, man-to-man
celebration, and in the evening, torch-light, bonfire, skies ablaze, drink
and love.

Certain it is that many eyes turned towards the Cathedral accustomed for
many years to look in quite other directions. There was to be a grand
service, they said, with "trumpets and shawms" and the big drum, and the
old Bishop preaching, making, in all probability, his very last public
appearance. Up from the dark mysteries of Seatown, down from the chaste
proprieties of the villas above Orange Street, from the purlieus of the
market, from the shops of the High Street, sailors and merchantmen,
traders and sea-captains and, from the wild fastness of the Fair, gipsies
with silver rings in their ears and, perhaps, who can tell? bells on their
dusky toes.

Very early were Lawrence and Cobbett about their duties. This was, in all
probability, Lawrence's last Great Day before the final and all-judging
one, and well both he and Cobbett were aware of it. Cobbett could see
himself that morning almost stepping into the old man's shoes, and the old
man himself was not well this morning--not well at all. Rheumatism, gout,
what hadn't he got?--and, above all, that strange, mysterious pain
somewhere in his very vitals, a pain that was not precisely a pain, too
dull and homely for that, but a warning, a foreboding.

On an ordinary day, in spite of his dislike of allowing Cobbett any of
those duties that were so properly his own, he would have stayed in bed,
but to-day?--no, thank you! On such a day as this he would defy the Devil
himself and all his red-hot pincers! So there he was in his long purple
gown, with his lovely snow-white beard, and his gold-topped staff,
patronising Mrs. Muffit (who superintended the cleaning) and her ancient
servitors, seeing that the places for the Band (just under the choir-
screen) and for the extra members of the choir were all in order, and,
above all, that the Bishop's Throne up by the altar was guiltless of a
speck of dust, of a shadow of a shadow of disorder. Cobbett saw, beyond
any question or doubt, death in the old man's face, and suddenly, to his
own amazement, was sorry. For years now he had been waiting for the day
when he should succeed the tiresome old fool, for years he had cursed him
for a thousand pomposities, blunders, tedious garrulities, and now,
suddenly, he was sorry. What had come over him? But he wasn't a bad old
man; plucky, too; you could see how he was suffering. They had, after all,
been companions together for so many years....

Quite early in the morning arrivals began--visitors from the country most
likely, sitting there at the back of the nave, bathed in the great silence
and the dim light, just looking and wondering and expecting. Some of them
wanted to move about and examine the brasses and the tombs and the
windows--yes, move about with their families, and their bags of
sandwiches, and their oranges. But not this morning, oh, dear, no! They
could come in or go out, but if they came in they must stay quiet. Did
they but subterraneously giggle, Cobbet was on their tracks in no time.

The light flooded in, throwing great splashes and lakes of blue and gold
and purple on to flag and pillar. Great in its strength, magnificent in
its beauty, the Cathedral prepared....

* * * * *

Mrs. Combermere walked rather solemnly that morning from her house to the
Cathedral. In spite of the lovely morning she was feeling suddenly old.
Things like Jubilees do date you--no doubt about it. Nearly fifty. Three-
quarters of life behind her and what had she to show for it? An unlucky
marriage, much physical health and fun, some friends--but, at the last,
lonely--lonely as perhaps every human being in this queer world was. That
old woman now preparing to ride in fantastic procession before her
worshipping subjects, she was lonely too. Poor, little, lonely, old woman!
Well, then, Charity to all and sundry--Charity, kindliness, the one and
only thing. Aggie Combermere was not a sentimental woman, nor did she see
life falsely, but she was suddenly aware, walking under the blazing blue
sky, that she had been unkind, for amusement's sake, more often than she
need.... Well, why not? She was ready to allow people to have a shy at
herself--any one who liked.... "'Ere you are! Old Aunt Sally! Three shies
a penny!" And she _was_ an Aunt Sally, a ludicrous creature, caring
for her dogs more than for any living creature, shovelling food into her
mouth for no particular purpose, doing physical exercises in the morning,
and _nearly_ fifty!

She found then, just as she reached the Arden Gate, that, to her own
immense surprise, it was not of herself that, all this time, she had been
thinking, but rather of Brandon and the Brandon family. The Brandons! What
an extraordinary affair! The Town was now bursting its fat sides with
excitement over it all! The Town was now generally aware (but how it was
aware no one quite knew) that there was a mysterious letter that Mrs.
Brandon had written to Morris, and that Miss Milton, librarian who was,
had obtained this letter and had taken it to Ronder. And the next move,
the next! the next! Oh, tell us! Tell us! The Town stands on tiptoe; its
hair on end. Let us see! Let us see! Let us not miss the tiniest detail of
this extraordinary affair!

And really how extraordinary! First the boy runs off with that girl; then
Mrs. Brandon, the quietest, dullest woman for years and years, throws her
cap over the mill and behaves like a madwoman; and Johnny St. Leath, they
say, is in love with the daughter, and his old mother is furious; and
Brandon, they say, wants to cut Ronder's throat. Ronder! Mrs. Combermere
paused, partly to get her breath, partly to enjoy for an instant the
shining, glittering grass, dotted with figures, stretching like a carpet
from the vast greyness of the Cathedral. Ronder! There was a remarkable
man! Mrs. Combermere was conquered by him, in spite of herself. How, in
seven short months, he had conquered everybody! What an amusing talker,
what a good preacher, what a clever business head! And yet she did not
really like him. His praises now were in every one's mouth, but she did
not _really_ like him. Old Brandon was still her favourite, her old
friend of ten years; but there was no doubt that he _was_ behind the
times, Ronder had shown them that! No use living in the 'Eighties any
longer. But she was fond of him, she did not want him to be unhappy--and
unhappy he was, that any one could see. Most of all, she did not want him
to do anything foolish--and he might, his temper was strange, he was not
so strong as he looked; he had felt his son's escapade terribly--and now
his wife!

"Well, if I had a wife like that," was Mrs. Combermere's conclusion before
she joined Ellen Stiles and Julia Preston, "I'd let her go off with any
one! Pay any one to take her!"

Ellen was, of course, full of it all. "My dear, _what_ do you think
is the latest! They say that the Archdeacon threatens to poison the whole
of the Chapter if they don't let Forsyth have Pybus, and that Boadicea has
ordered Johnny to take a voyage to the Canary Islands for his health, and
that he says he'll see her shot first! And Miss Milton is selling the
letter for a thousand pounds to the first comer!"

Mrs. Combermere stopped her sharply--"Mind your own business, Ellen. The
whole thing now is past a joke. And as to Johnny St. Leath, he shows his
good taste. There isn't a sweeter, prettier girl in England than Joan
Brandon, and he's lucky if he gets her."

"I don't want to be ill-natured," said Ellen Stiles rather plaintively,
"but that family would test anybody's reticence. We'd better go in or old
Lawrence will be letting some one have our seats."

* * * * *

Joan came with her mother slowly across the grass. In her dress was this

Dearest, dearest, _dearest_ Joan--The first thing you have
thoroughly to realise is that it doesn't matter _what_ you say or
what mother says or what any one says. Mother's angry. Of course she
is. She's been angry a thousand million times before and will be a
thousand million times again. But it doesn't _mean_ anything.
Mother likes to be angry, it does her good, and the longer she's
angry with you the better she'll like you, if you understand what I
mean. What I want to get into your head is that you can't alter
anything. Of course if you didn't love me it would be another matter,
and you tried to tell me you didn't love me yesterday just for my
good, but you did it so badly that you had to admit yourself that it
was a failure. Don't talk about your brother; he's a fine fellow, and
I'm going to look him up when I'm in London next month. Don't talk
about not seeing me, because you can't help seeing me if I'm right in
front of you. I'm no silph. (The way he spelt it.) I'm quite ready to
wait for a certain time anyway. But marry we will, and happy we'll be
for ever and ever!--Your adoring


And what was she to do about it? She was certainly very unmodern and
inexperienced by the standards of to-day--on the other hand, she was a
very long way indeed from the Lily Dales and Eleanor Hardings of Mr.
Trollope. She had not told her father--that she was resolved to do so soon
as he seemed a little less worried by his affairs; but say that she did
not love Johnny she had found that she could not, and as to damaging him
by marrying him, his love for her had strengthened her own pride in
herself. She did not understand his love, it was astounding to her after
the indifference with which her own family had always treated her. But
there it was: he, with all his experience of life, loved her more than any
one else in the world, so there _must_ be something in her. And she
knew there was; privately she had always known it. As to his mother--well,
so long as Johnny loved her she could face anybody.

So this wonderful morning she was radiantly happy. Child as she was, she
adored this excitement. It was splendid of it to be this glorious time
just when she was having her own glorious time! Splendid of the weather to
be so beautiful, of the bells to clash, of every one to wear their best
clothes, of the Jubilee to arrange itself so exactly at the right moment!
And could it be only last Saturday that he had spoken to her? And it
seemed centuries, centuries ago!

She chattered eagerly, smiling at Betty Callender, and then at the D'Arcy
girls, and then at Mrs. Bentinck-Major. She supposed that they were all
talking about her. Well, let them. There was nothing to be ashamed of.
Quite the contrary. She did not notice her mother's silence. But she
_had_ noticed, before they left the house, how ill her mother was
looking. A very bad night--another of her dreadful headaches. Her father
had not come in to breakfast at all. Everything had been wrong at home
since that day when Talk had been sent down from Oxford. She longed to put
her arms around her father's neck and hug him. Behind her own happiness,
ever since the night of the Ball, there had been a longing, an aching
urgent longing to pet him, comfort him, make love to him. And she would,
too--as soon as all these festivities were over.

And then suddenly there were Johnny and his mother and his sisters walking
towards the West door! What a situation! And then there was Johnny
breaking away from his own family and hurrying towards them, lifting his
hat, smiling!

How splendid he looked and how happy! And how happy she also was looking
had she only known it!

"Good morning, Mrs. Brandon."

Mrs. Brandon didn't appear to remember him at all. Then suddenly, as
though she had picked her conscience out of her pocket:

"Oh, good morning, Lord St. Leath."

Joan, out of the corner, saw Boadicea, her head with its absurd bonnet
high, striding indignantly ahead.

"What lovely weather, is it not?"

"Yes, aren't we lucky? Good morning, Joan."

"Good morning."

"Isn't it a lovely day?"

"Oh, yes, it is."

"Are you going to see the Torchlight Procession to-night?"

"They come through the Precincts, you know."

"Of course they do. We're going to have five bonfires all around us.
Mother's afraid they'll set the Castle on fire."

They both laughed--much too happy to know what they were laughing at.

Mrs. Sampson joined them. Johnny and Joan walked ahead. Only two steps and
they would be in the Cathedral.

"Did you get my letter?"


"I love you, I love you, I love you." This in a hoarse whisper.

"Johnny--you mustn't--you know--we can't--you know I oughtn't----"

They passed through into the Cathedral.

Mrs. Bentinck-Major came with Miss Ronder, slowly, across the grass. It
was not necessary for them to hurry because they knew that their seats
were reserved for them. Mrs. Bentinck-Major thought Miss Ronder "queer"
because of the clever things that she said and of the odd fashion in which
she always dressed. To say anything clever was, with Mrs. Bentinck-Major,
at once to be classed as "queer."

"It _is_ hot!"

Miss Ronder, thin and piky above her stiff white collar, looked
immaculately cool. "A lovely day," she said, sniffing the colour and the
warmth, and loving it.

Mrs. Bentinck-Major was thinking of the Brandon scandal, but it was one of
her habits never to let her left-hand voice know what her right-hand brain
was doing. Secretly she often wondered about sexual things--what people
_really_ did, whether they enjoyed what they did, and whether she
would have enjoyed the same things had life gone that way with her instead
of leading her to Bentinck-Major.

But she never, never spoke of such things. She was thinking now of Mrs.
Brandon and Morris. They said that some one had found a letter, a
disgraceful letter. How _extraordinary_!

"It's loneliness," suddenly said Miss Ronder, "that drives people to do
the things they do."

Mrs. Bentinck-Major started as though some one had struck her in the small
of her back. Was the woman a witch? How amazing!

"I beg your pardon," she said nervously.

"I was speaking," said Miss Ronder in her clear incisive voice, "of one of
our maids, who has suddenly engaged herself to the most unpleasing-looking
butcher's assistant you can imagine--all spots and stammer. Quite a pretty
girl, too. But it's fear of loneliness that does it. Wanting affection."

Dear me! Mrs. Bentinck-Major had never had very much affection from Mr.
Bentinck-Major, and had not very consciously missed it, but then she had a
dog, a spaniel, whom she loved most dearly.

"We're all lonely--all of us--to the very end," said Miss Ronder, as
though she was thinking of some one in especial. And she was. She was
thinking of her nephew. "I shouldn't wonder if the Queen isn't feeling
more lonely to-day than she has ever felt in all her life before."

And then they saw that dreadful man, Davray, lurching along. _He_ was
lonely, but then he deserved to be, with his _drink_ and all.
_Wicked_ man! Mrs. Bentinck-Major shivered. She didn't know how he
dared to go to church. He shouldn't be allowed. On such a day, too. What
would the Queen herself think, did she know?

The two ladies and Davray passed through the door at the same time.

* * * * *

And now every one was inside. The great bell dropped notes like heavy
weights into a liquid well. For the cup of the Cathedral swam in colour,
the light pouring through the great Rose window, and that multitude of
persons seeming to sway like shadows beneath a sheet of water from amber
to purple, from purple to crimson, from crimson to darkest green.

Individuality was lost. The Cathedral, thinking nothing of Kings and
Queens, of history, of movement forward and retrograde, but only of itself
and of the life that it had been given, that it now claimed for its own,
with haughty confidence assumed its Power...the Power of its own
Immortality that is neither man's nor God's.

The trumpets began. They rang out the Psalm that had been given them, and
transformed it into a cry of exultant triumph. Their notes rose, were
caught by the pillars, acclaimed, tossed higher, caught again in the eaves
and corners of the great building, swinging backwards and forwards....

"Now listen to My greatness! You created Me for the Worship of your God!

"And now I am your God! Out of your forms and ceremonies you have made a
new God! And I, thy God, am a jealous God...."

Ronder read the First Lesson.

"That's Ronder," the town-people whispered, "the new Canon. Oh! he's
clever. You should hear him preach!"

"Reads _beautiful!_" Gladys, the Brandons' maid, whispered to Annie,
the kitchen-maid. "I do like a bit of fine reading."

By those accustomed to observe it was noticed that Ronder read with very
much more assurance than he had done three months ago. It was as though he
knew now where he was, as though he were settled down now and had his
place--and it would take some very strong people to shift him from that
place. Oh, yes. It would!

And Brandon read the Second Lesson. As usual, when he stepped down from
the choir, slowly, impressively, pausing for a moment before he turned to
the Lectern, strangers whispered to one another, "That's a handsome
parson, that is." He seemed to hesitate again before going up as though he
had stumbled over a step. Very slowly he read the opening words; slowly he

Puddifoot, looking up across from his seat in the side aisle, thought,
"There's something the matter with him." Suddenly he paused, looked about
him, stared over the congregation as though he were searching for
somebody, then slowly again went on and finished:

"Here endeth--the Second Lesson."

Then, instead of turning, he leaned forward, gripping the Lectern with
both hands, and seemed again to be searching for some one.

"Looks as though he were going to have a stroke," thought Puddifoot. Then
very carefully, as though he were moving in darkness, he turned and groped
his way downwards. With bent head he walked back into the choir.

Soon they were scattered--every one according to his or her own
individuality--the prayers had broken them up, too many of them, too long,
and the wooden kneelers so hard. Minds flew like birds about the
Cathedral--ideas, gold and silver, black and grey, soapy and soft, hard as
iron. The men yawned behind their trumpets, the School played Noughts and
Crosses--the Old Lady and her Triumph stepped away into limbo.

And then suddenly it was time for the Bishop's sermon. Every one hoped
that it would not be long; passing clouds veiled the light behind the East
window and the Roses faded to ashes. The organ rumbled in its crotchety
voice as the old man slowly disentangled himself from his throne, and
slowly, slowly, slowly advanced down the choir. When he appeared above the
nave, and paused for an instant to make sure of the step, all the minds in
the Cathedral suddenly concentrated again, the birds flew back, the air
was still. At the sight of that very old man, that little bag of shaking
bones, all the brief history of the world was suddenly apparent. Greater
than Alexander, more beautiful than Helen of Troy, wiser than Gamaliel,
more powerful than Artaxerxes, he made the secret of immortal life visible
to all.

His hair was white, and his face was ashen grey, and his hands were like
bird's claws. Like a child finding its way across its nursery floor he
climbed to the pulpit, being now so far distant in heaven that earth was
dark to him.

"The Lord be with you."

"And with Thy Spirit."

His voice was clear and could be heard by all. He spoke for a very short
time. He told them about the Queen, and that she had been good to her
people for sixty years, and that she had feared God; he told them that
that goodness was the only secret of happiness; he told them that Jesus
Christ came nearer and nearer, and ever more near, did one but ask Him.

He said, "I suppose that I shall never speak to you in this place again. I
am very old. Some of you have thought, perhaps, that I was too old to do
my work here--others have wanted me to stay. I have loved you all very
much, and it is lonely to go away from you. Our great and good Queen also
is old now, and perhaps she, too, in the middle of her triumph, is feeling
lonely. So pray for her, and then pray for me a little, that when I meet
God He may forgive me my sins and help me to do better work than I have
done here. Life is sad sometimes, and often it is dark, but at the end it
is beautiful and wonderful, for which we must thank God."

He knelt down and prayed, and every one, Davray and Mrs. Combermere, Ellen
Stiles and Morris, Lady St. Leath and Mrs. Brandon, Joan and Lawrence,
Ronder and Foster, prayed too.

And then they all, all for a moment utterly united in soul and body and
spirit, knelt down and the old man blessed them from the pulpit.

Then they sang "Now Thank We All Our God."

Afterwards came the Benediction.

Chapter VI

Tuesday, June 22: II. The Fair

As Brandon left the Cathedral Ronder came up to him. Brandon, with bowed
head, had turned into the Cloisters, although that was not the quickest
way to his home. The two men were alone in the greyness lit from without
by the brilliant sun as though it had been a stage setting.

"I beg your pardon, Archdeacon, I must speak to you."

Brandon raised his head. He stared at Ronder, then said:

"I have nothing to say to you. I do not wish to speak to you."

"I know that you do not." Ronder's face was really troubled; there was an
expression in his eyes that his aunt had never seen.

Brandon moved on, looking neither to right nor left.

Ronder continued: "I know how you feel about me. But to-day--somehow--this
service--I feel that I can't allow our quarrel to continue without
speaking. It isn't easy for me----" He broke off.

Brandon's voice shook.

"I have nothing to say to you. I do not wish to say anything to you. You
have been my enemy since you first came to this town. My work--my

"I am not your enemy. Indeed, indeed I am not. I won't deny that when I
came here I found that you, who were the most important man in the place,
thought differently from myself on every important question. You,
yourself, who are an honest man, would not have had me back out from what
I believed to be my duty. I could do no other. But this personal quarrel
between us was most truly not of my own seeking. I have liked and admired
you from the beginning. Such a matter as the Pybus living has forced us
into opposition, but I am convinced that there are many views that we have
in common, that we could be friends working together--"

Brandon stopped.

"Did my son, or did he not, come to see you before he went up to London?"

Ronder hesitated.

"Yes," he said, "he did. But--"

"Did he, or did he not, ask your advice?"

"Yes, he did. But--"

"Did you advise him to take the course which he afterwards followed?"

"No, on my honour, Archdeacon, I did not. I did not know what his personal
trouble was. I did not ask him and he did not tell me. We talked of

"Had you heard, before he came to you, gossip about my son?"

"I had heard some silly talk--"

"Very well, then."

"But you _shall_ listen to me, Archdeacon. I scarcely knew your son.
I had met him only once before, at some one's house, and talked to him
then only for five minutes. He himself asked to come and see me. I could
not refuse him when he asked me. I did not, of course, wish to refuse him.
I liked the look of him, and simply for his own sake wished to know him
better. When he came he was not with me for very long and our talk was
entirely about religion, belief, faith in God, the meaning of life,
nothing more particular than such things."

"Did he say, when he left you, that what you had told him had helped him
to make up his mind?"


"Were you, when he talked to you, quite unconscious that he was my son,
and that any action that he took would at once affect my life, my

"Of course I was aware that he was your son. But----"

"There is another question that I wish to ask you, Canon Ronder. Did some
one come to you not long ago with a letter that purported to be written by
my wife?"

Again Ronder hesitated.

"Yes," he said.

"Did she show you that letter?"

"She did."

"Did she ask your advice as to what she should do with it?"

"She did--I told her----"

"Did you tell her to come with it to me?"

"No. On my life, Archdeacon, no. I told her to destroy it and that she was
behaving with the utmost wickedness."

"Did you believe that that letter was written by my wife."


"Then why, if you believed that this woman was going about the town with a
forged letter directed against my happiness and my family's happiness, did
you not come to me and tell me of it?"

"You must remember, Archdeacon, that we were not on good terms. We had had
a ridiculous quarrel that had, by some means or another, become public
property throughout the whole town. I will not deny that I felt sore about
that. I did not know what sort of reception I might get if I came to you."

"Very well. There is a further question that I wish to ask you. Will you
deny that from the moment that you set foot in this town you have been
plotting against me in respect to the Pybus living? You found out on which
side I was standing and at once took the other. From that moment you went
about the town, having secret interviews with every sort of person,
working them by flattery and suggestion round to your side. Will you deny

Against his will and his absolute determination Ronder's anger began to
rise: "That I have been plotting as you call it," he said, "I absolutely
and utterly deny. That is an insulting word. That I have been against you
in the matter of Pybus from the first has, of course, been known to every
one here. I have been against you because of what I believe to be the
future good of our Church and of our work here. There has been nothing
personal in that matter at all."

"You lie," said Brandon, suddenly raising his voice. "Every word that you
have spoken to me this morning has been a lie. You are an enemy of myself
and of my Church, and with God's help your plots and falsehoods shall yet
be defeated. You may take from me my wife and my children, you may ruin my
career here that has been built up through ten years of unfaltering
loyalty and work, but God Himself is stronger than your inventions--and
God will see to it. I am your enemy, Canon Ronder, to the end, as you are
mine. You had better look to yourself. You have been concerned in certain
things that the Law may have something to say about. Look to yourself!
Look to yourself!"

He strode off down the Cloisters.

People came to luncheon; there had been an invitation of some weeks
before. He scarcely recognised them; one was Mr. Martin, another Dr.
Trudon, an old Mrs. Purley, a well-established widow, an ancient resident,
a Miss Barrester. He scarcely recognised them although he talked so
exactly in his accustomed way that no one noticed anything at all. Mrs.
Brandon also talked in her accustomed way; that is, she scarcely spoke.
Only that afternoon, at tea at the Dean's, Dr. Trudon confided to Julia
Preston that he could assure her that all the rumours were false; the
Archdeacon had never seemed better...funny for him afterwards to

Shadows of a shade! When they left Brandon it was as though they had never
been; the echo of their voices died away into the ticking of the clock,
the movement of plates, the shifting of chairs.

He shut himself into his study. Here was his stronghold, his fortress. He
settled into his chair and the things in the room gathered around him with
friendly consoling gestures.

"We are still here, we are your old friends. We know you for what you
truly are. We do not change like the world."

He fell into a deep sleep; he was desperately tired; he had not slept at
all last night. He was sunk into deep fathomless unconsciousness. Then he
rose from that, climbing up, up, seeing before him a high, black, snow-
tipped mountain. The ascent of this he must achieve, his life depended
upon it. He seemed to be naked, the wind lashing his body, icy cold, so
cold that his breath stabbed him. He climbed, the rocks cut his knees and
hands; then, on every side his enemies appeared, Bentinck-Major and
Foster, the Bishop's Chaplain, women, even children, laughing, and behind
them Hogg and that drunken painter. Their hands were on him, they pulled
at his flesh, they beat on his face--then, suddenly, rising like a full
moon behind the hill--Ronder!

He woke with a cry; the sun was flooding the room, and at the joy of that
great light and of finding himself alone he could have burst into tears of

His thoughts came to him quickly, his brain had been clarified by that
sleep, horrible though it had been. He thought steadily now, the facts all
arranged before him. His wife had told him, almost with vindictive pride,
that she had been guilty of adultery. He did not at present think of
Morris at all.

To him adultery was an awful, a terrible sin. He himself had been
physically faithful to his wife, although he had perhaps never, in the
true sense of the word, loved her. Because he had been a man of splendid
physique and great animal spirits he had, of course, and especially in his
earlier days, known what physical temptation was, but the extreme
preoccupation of his time with every kind of business had saved him from
that acutest lure that idleness brings. Nevertheless, it may confidently
be said that, had temptation been of the sharpest and the most
aggravating, he would never have, even for a moment, dwelt upon the
possibility of yielding to it. To him this was the "sin against the Holy

He had not indeed the purity of the Saint to whom these sins are simply
not realisable; he had the confidence of one who had made his vows to God
and, having made them, could not conceive that they should be broken.

And yet, strangely enough, with all the horror that his wife's confession
had raised in him there was mingled, against his will, the strangest fear
for her. She had lived with him during all these years, he had been her
guard, protector, husband.

Her immortal soul now was lost unless in some way he could save it for
her. And it was he who should save it. She had suddenly a new poignant
importance for him that she had never had before. Her danger was as deadly
and as imminent to him as though she had been in peril from wild beasts.

In peril? But she had fallen. He could not save her. Nothing that he could
do now could prevent her sin. At that realisation utter despair seized
him; he moaned aloud, shutting out the light from his eyes with his hands.

There followed then wild disbelief; what she had told him was untrue, she
had said it to anger him, to spite him. He sprang from his chair and moved
towards the door. He would find her and tell her that he knew that she had
been lying to him, that he did not believe----

Mid-way he stopped. He knew that she had spoken the truth, that last
moment when they had looked at one another had been compounded, built up,
of truth. Both a glass and a wall--a glass to reveal absolutely, a wall to
divide them, the one from the other, for ever.

His brain, active now like a snake coiling and uncoiling within the
flaming spaces of his mind, darted upon Morris. He must find Morris at
once--no delay--at once--at once. What to do? He did not know. But he must
be face to face with him and deal with him--that wretched, miserable,
whining, crying fool. That he--!--HE!...But the picture stopped there.
He saw now neither Morris nor his wife. Only a clerical hat, a high white
collar like a wall, a sniggering laugh, a door closing.

And his headache was upon him again, his heart pounding and leaping. No
matter. He must find Morris. Nothing else. He went to the door, opened it,
and walked cautiously into the hall as though he had intruded into some
one else's house and was there to rob.

As he came into the hall Mrs. Brandon was crossing it, also furtively.
They saw one another and stood staring. She would have spoken, but
something in his face terrified her, terrified her so desperately that she
suddenly turned and stumbled upstairs, repeating some words over and over
to herself. He did not move, but stayed there watching until she had gone.

Something made him change his clothes. He put on trousers and an old
overcoat and a shabby old clerical hat. He was a long time in his
dressing-room, and he was a while before his looking-glass in his shirt
and drawers, staring as though he were trying to find himself.

While he looked he fancied that some one was behind him, and he searched
for his shadow in the glass, but could find nothing. He moved cautiously
out of the house, closing the heavy hall-door very softly behind him; the
afternoon was advanced, and the faint fair shadows of the summer evening
were stealing from place to place.

He had intended to go at once to Morris's house, but his head was now
aching so violently that he thought he would walk a little first so that
he might have more control. That was what he wanted, self-control! self-
control! That was their plot, to make him lose command of himself, so that
he should show to every one that he was unfit to hold his position. He
must have perfect control of everything--his voice, his body, his
thoughts. And that was why, just now, he must walk in the darker places,
in the smaller streets, until soon he would be, outwardly, himself again.
So he chose for his walk the little dark winding path that runs steeply
from the Cathedral, along behind Canon's Yard and Bodger's Street, down to
the Pol. It was dark here, even on this lovely summer evening, and no one
was about, but sounds broke through, cries and bells and the distant bray
of bands, and from the hill opposite the clash of the Fair.

At the bottom of the path he stood for a while looking down the bank to
the river; here the Pol runs very quietly and sweetly, like a little
country river. He crossed it and, still moving like a man in a dream,
started up the hill on the other side. He was not, now, consciously
thinking of anything at all; he was aware only of a great pain at his
heart and a terrible loneliness. Loneliness! What an agony! No one near
him, no one to speak to him, every eye mocking him--God as well, far, far
away from him, hidden by walls and hills.

As he climbed upward the Fair came nearer to him. He did not notice it. He
crossed a path and was at a turnstile. A man asked him for money. He paid
a shilling and moved forward. He liked crowds; he wanted crowds now.
Either crowds or no one. Crowds where he would be lost and not noticed.

So many thousands were there, but nevertheless he was noticed. That was
the Archdeacon. Who would have thought that he would come to the Fair? Too
grand. But there he was. Yes, that was the Archdeacon. That tall man in
the soft black hat. Yes, some noticed him. But many thousands did not. The
Fair was packed; strangers from all the county over, sailors and gipsies
and farmers and tramps, women no better than they should be, and shop-
girls and decent farmers' wives, and village girls--all sorts! Thousands,
of course, to whom the Archdeacon meant nothing.

And that _was_ a Fair, the most wonderful our town had ever seen, the
most wonderful it ever was to see! As with many other things, that Jubilee
Fair marked a period. No Fairs again like the good old Fairs--general
education has seen to that.

It was a Fair, as there are still some to remember, that had in it a
strange element of fantasy. All the accustomed accompaniments of Fairs
were there--The Two Fat Sisters (outside whose booth a notice was posted
begging the public not to prod with umbrellas to discover whether the Fat
were Fat or Wadding); Trixie, the little lady with neither arms nor legs,
sews and writes with her teeth; the Great Albert, the strongest man in
Europe, who will lift weights against all comers; Battling Edwardes, the
Champion Boxer of the Southern Counties; Hippo's World Circus, with six
monkeys, two lions, three tigers and a rhino; all the pistol-firing, ball-
throwing, coconut contrivances conceivable, and roundabouts at every turn.

All these were there, but behind them, on the outskirts of them and yet in
the very heart of them, there were other unaccustomed things.

Some said that a ship from the East had arrived at Drymouth, and that
certain jugglers and Chinese and foreign merchants, instead of going on to
London as they had intended, turned to Polchester. How do I know at this
time of day? How do we, any of us, know how anything gets here, and what
does it matter? But there is at this very moment, living in the
magnificently renovated Seatown, an old Chinaman, who came in Jubilee
Year, and has been there ever since, doing washing and behaving with
admirable propriety, no sign of opium about him anywhere. One element that
they introduced was Colour. Our modern Fairs are not very strong in the
element of Colour. It is true that one of the roundabouts was ablaze with
gilt and tinsel, and in the centre of it, whence comes the music, there
were women with brazen faces and bosoms of gold. It is true also that
outside the Circus and the Fat Sisters and Battling Edwardes there were
flaming pictures with reds and yellows thrown about like temperance
tracts, but the modern figures in these pictures spoilt the colour, the
photography spoilt it--too much reality where there should have been
mystery, too much mystery where realism was needed.

But here, only two yards from the Circus, was a booth hung with strange
cloths, purple and yellow and crimson, and behind the wooden boards a man
and a woman with brown faces and busy, twirling, twisting, brown hands,
were making strange sweets which they wrapped into coloured packets, and
on the other side of the Fat Sisters there was a tent with Li Hung above
it in letters of gold and red, and inside the tents, boards on trestles,
and on the boards a long purple cloth, and on the cloth little toys and
figures and images, all of the gayest colours and the strangest shapes,
and all as cheap as nothing.

Farther down the lane of booths was the tent of Hayakawa the Juggler. A
little boy in primrose-coloured tights turned, on a board outside the
tent, round and round and round on his head like a teetotum, and inside,
once every half-hour, Hayakawa, in a lovely jacket of gold and silver,
gave his entertainment, eating fire, piercing himself with silver swords,
finding white mice in his toes, and pulling ribbons of crimson and scarlet
out of his ears.

Farther away again there were the Brothers Gomez, Spaniards perhaps, dark,
magnificent in figure, running on one wire across the air, balancing
sunshades on their noses, leaping, jumping, standing pyramid-high, their
muscles gleaming like billiard-balls.

And behind and before and in and out there were strange figures moving
through the Fair, strange voices raised against the evening sky, strange
smells of cooking, strange songs suddenly rising, dying as soon as heard.

Only a breath away the English fields were quietly lying safe behind their
hedges and the English sky changed from blue to green and from green to
mother-of-pearl, and from mother-of-pearl to ivory, and stars stabbed,
like silver nails, the great canopy of heaven, and the Cathedral bells
rang peal after peal above the slowly lighting town.

Brandon was conscious of little of this as he moved on. Even the thought
of Morris had faded from him. He could not think consecutively. His mind
was broken up like a mirror that had been smashed into a thousand pieces.
He was most truly in a dream. Soon he would wake up, out of this noise,
away from these cries and lights, and would find it all as he had for so
many years known it. He would be sitting in his drawing-room, his legs
stretched out, his wife and daughter near to him, the rumble of the organ
coming through the wall to them, thinking perhaps of to-morrow's duties,
the town quiet all around them, friends and well-wishers everywhere, no
terrible pain in his head, happily arranging how everything should be...
happy...happy.... Ah! how happy that real life was! When he awoke from
his dream he would realise that and thank God for it. When he awoke.... He
stumbled over something, and looking up realised that he was in a very
crowded part of the Fair, a fire was blazing somewhere near, gas-jets,
although the evening was bright and clear, were naming, screams and cries
seemed to make the very sky rock above his head.

Where was he? What was he doing here? Why had he come? He would go home.
He turned.

He turned to face the fire that leapt close at his heel. It was burning at
the back of a caravan, in a dark cul-de-sac away from the main
thoroughfare; to its blazing light the bare boards and ugly plankings of
the booth, splashed here and there with torn paper that rustled a little
in the evening breeze, were all that offered themselves. Near by a horse,
untethered, was quietly nosing at the trodden soil.

Behind the caravan the field ran down to a ditch and thick hedging.

Brandon stared at the fire as though absorbed by its light. What did he
see there? Visions perhaps? Did he see the Cathedral, the Precincts, the
quiet circle of demure old houses, his own door, his own bedroom? Did he
see his wife moving hurriedly about the room, opening drawers and shutting
them, pausing for a moment to listen, then coming out, closing the door,
listening again, then stepping downstairs, pausing for a moment in the
hall to lay something on the table, then stepping out into the green
wavering evening light? Or did the flames make pictures for him of the
deserted railway-station, the long platform, lit only by one lamp, two
figures meeting, exchanging almost no word, pacing for a little in silence
the dreary spaces, stepping back as the London express rolled in--such a
safe night to choose for escape--then burying themselves in it like
rabbits in their burrow?

Did his vision lead him back to the deserted house, silent save for its
ticking clocks, black in that ring of lights and bells and shouting

Or was he conscious only of the warmth and the life of the fire, of some
sudden companionship with the woman bending over it to stir the sticks and
lift some pot from the heart of the flame? He was feeling, perhaps, a
sudden peace here and a silence, and was aware of the stars breaking into
beauty one by one above his head.

But his peace, if for a moment he had found it, was soon interrupted. A
voice that he knew came across to him from the other side of the fire.

"Why, Archdeacon, who would have thought to find you here?"

He looked up and saw, through the fire, the face of Davray the painter.

He turned to go, and at once Davray was at his side.

"No. Don't go. You're in my country now, Archdeacon, not your own. You're
not cock of _this_ walk, you know. Last time we met you thought you
owned the place. Well, you can't think you own this. Fight it out, Mr.
Archdeacon, fight it out."

Brandon answered:

"I have no quarrel with you, Mr. Davray. Nor have I anything to say to

"No quarrel? I like that. I'd knock your face in for two-pence, you
blasted hypocrite. And I will too. All free ground here."

Davray's voice was shrill. He was swaying on his legs. The woman looked up
from the fire and watched them.

Brandon turned his back to him and saw, facing him, Samuel Hogg and some
men behind him.

"Why, good evening, Mr. Archdeacon," said Hogg, taking off his hat and
bowing. "What a delightful place for a meeting!"

Brandon said quietly, "Is there anything you want with me?" He realised at
once that Hogg was drunk.

"Nothing," said Hogg, "except to give you a damned good hiding. I've been
waiting for that these many weeks. See him, boys," he continued, turning
to the men behind him. "'Ere's this parson who ruined my daughter--as fine
a girl as ever you've seen--ruined 'er, he did--him and his blasted son.
What d'you say, boys? Is it right for him to be paradin' round here as
proud as a peacock and nobody touchin' him? What d'you say to givin' him a
damned good hiding?"

The men smiled and pressed forward. Davray from the other side suddenly
lurched into Brandon. Brandon struck out, and Davray fell and lay where he

Hogg cried, "Now for 'im, boys----", and at once they were upon him.
Hogg's face rose before Brandon's, extended, magnified in all its details.
Brandon hit out and then was conscious of blows upon his face, of some one
kicking him in the back, of himself hitting wildly, of the fire leaping
mountains-high behind him, of a woman's cry, of something trickling down
into his eye, of sudden contact with warm, naked, sweating flesh, of a
small pinched face, the eyes almost closed, rising before him and falling
again, of a shout, then sudden silence and himself on his knees groping in
darkness for his hat, of his voice far from him murmuring to him, "It's
all right.... It's my's my hat I must find."

He wiped his forehead. The back of his hand was covered with blood.

He saw once again the fire, low now and darkly illumined by some more
distant light, heard the scream of the merry-go-round, stared about him
and saw no living soul, climbed to his feet and saw the stars, then very
slowly, like a blind man in the dark, felt his way to the field's edge,
found a gate, passed through and collapsed, shuddering in the hedge's

Chapter VII

Tuesday, June 22: III. Torchlight

Joan came home about seven o'clock that evening. Dinner was at half-past
seven, and after dinner she was going to the Deanery to watch the
Torchlight Procession from the Deanery garden. She had had the most
wonderful afternoon. Mrs. Combermere, who had been very kind to her
lately, had taken her up to the Flower Show in the Castle grounds, and
there she had had the most marvellous and beautiful talk with Johnny. They
had talked right under his mother's nose, so to speak, and had settled
everything. Yes--simply everything! They had told one another that their
love was immortal, that nothing could touch it, nor lessen it, nor twist

Joan, on her side, had stated that she would never be engaged to Johnny
until his mother consented, and that until they were engaged they must
behave exactly as though they were not engaged, that is, never see one
another alone, never write letters that might not be read by any one; but
she had also asserted that no representations on the part of anybody that
she was ruining Johnny, or that she was a nasty little intriguer, or that
nice girls didn't behave "so," would make the slightest difference to her;
that she knew what she was and Johnny knew what _he_ was, and that
was enough for both of them.

Johnny on his side had said that he would be patient for a time under this
arrangement, but that the time would not be a very long one, and that she
couldn't object to accepting a little ring that he had bought for her,
that she needn't wear it, but just keep it beside her to remind her of

But Joan had said that to take the ring would be as good as to be engaged,
and that therefore she would not take it, but that he could keep it ready
for the day of their betrothal.

She had come home, through the lovely evening, in such a state of
happiness that she was forced to tell Mrs. Combermere all about it, and
Mrs. Combermere had been a darling and assured her that she was quite
right in all that she had done, and that it made her, Mrs. Combermere,
feel quite young again, and that she would help them in every way that she
could, and parting at the Arden Gate, she had kissed Joan just as though
she were her very own daughter.

So Joan, shining with happiness, came back to the house. It seemed very
quiet after the sun and glitter and laughter of the Flower Show. She went
straight up to her room at the top of the house, washed her face and
hands, brushed her hair and put on her white frock.

As she came downstairs the clock struck half-past seven. In the hall she
met Gladys.

"Please, miss," said Gladys, "is dinner to be kept back?"

"Why," said Joan, "isn't mother in?"

"No, miss, she went out about six o'clock and she hasn't come in."

"Isn't father in?"

"No, miss."

"Did she say that she'd be late?"

"No, miss."

"Oh, well--we must wait until mother comes in."

"Yes, miss."

She saw then a letter on the hall-table. She picked it up. It was
addressed to her father, a note left by somebody. She thought nothing of
that--notes were so often left; the hand-writing was exactly like her
mother's, but of course it could not be hers. She went into the drawing-

Here the silence was oppressive. She walked up and down, looking out of
the long windows at the violet dusk. Gladys came in to draw the blinds.

"Didn't mother say _anything_ about when she'd be in?"

"No, miss."

"She left no message for me?"

"No, miss. Your mother seemed in a hurry like."

"She didn't ask where I was?"

"No, miss."

"Did she go out with father?"

"No, miss--your father went out a quarter of an hour earlier."

Gladys coughed. "Please, miss, Cook and me's wanting to go out and see the

"Oh, of course you must. But that won't be until half-past nine. They come
past here, you know."

"Yes, miss."

Joan picked up the new number of the _Cornhill Magazine_ and tried to
settle down. But she was restless. Her own happiness made her so. And then
the house was "queer." It had the sense of itself waiting for some effort,
and holding its breath in expectation.

As Joan sat there trying to read the _Cornhill_ serial, and most
sadly failing, it seemed to her stranger and stranger that her mother was
not in. She had not been well lately; Joan had noticed how white she had
looked; she had always a "headache" when you asked her how she was. Joan
had fancied that she had never been the same since Falk had been away. She
had a letter in her dress now from Falk. She took it out and read it over
again. As to himself it had only good news; he was well and happy, Annie
was "splendid." His work went on finely. His only sadness was his breach
with his father; again and again he broke out about this, and begged,
implored Joan to do something. If she did not, he said, he would soon come
down himself and risk a row. There was one sentence towards the end of the
letter which read oddly to Joan just now. "I suppose the old man's in his
proper element over all the Jubilee celebrations. I can see him strutting
up and down the Cathedral as though he owned every stone in it, bless his
old heart! I tell you, Joan, I just ache to see him. I do really. Annie's
father hasn't been near us since we came up here. Funny! I'd have thought
he'd have bothered me long before this. I'm ready for him if he comes. By
the way, if mother shows any signs of wanting to come up to town just now,
do your best to prevent her. Father needs her, and it's her place to look
after him. I've special reasons for saying this...."

What a funny thing for Falk to say! and the only allusion to his mother in
the whole of the letter.

Joan smiled to herself as she read it. What did Falk think her power was?
Why, her mother and father had never listened to her for a single moment,
nor had he, Falk, when he had been at home. She had never counted at all--
to any one save Johnny. She put down the letter and tried to lose herself
in the happy country of her own love, but she could not. Her honesty
prevented her; its silence was now oppressive and heavy-weighted. Where
could her mother be? And dinner already half an hour late in that so
utterly punctual house! What had Falk meant about mother going to London?
Of course she would not go to London--at any rate without father. How
could Falk imagine such a thing? More than an hour passed.

She began to walk about the room, wondering what she should do about the
dinner. She must give up the Sampsons, and she was very hungry. She had
had no tea at the Flower Show and very little luncheon.

She was about to go and speak to Gladys when she heard the hall door open.
It closed. Something--some unexpressed fear or foreboding--kept her where
she was. Steps were in the hall, but they were not her father's; he always
moved with determined stride to his study or the stairs. These steps
hesitated and faltered as though some one were there who did not know the

At last she went into the hall and saw that it was indeed her father now
going slowly upstairs.

"Father!" she cried; "I'm so glad you're in. Dinner's been waiting for
hours. Shall I tell them to send it up?"

He did not answer nor look back. She went to the bottom of the stairs and
said again:

"Shall I, father?"

But still he did not answer. She heard him close his door behind him.

She went back into the drawing-room terribly frightened. There was
something in the bowed head and slow steps that terrified her, and
suddenly she was aware that she had been frightened for many weeks past,
but that she had never owned to herself that it was so.

She waited for a long time wondering what she should do. At last, calling
her courage, she climbed the stairs, waited, and then, as though compelled
by the overhanging silence of the house, knocked on his dressing-room

"Father, what shall we do about dinner? Mother hasn't come in yet." There
was no answer.

"Will you have dinner now?" she asked again.

A voice suddenly answered her as though he were listening on the other
side of the door. "No, no. I want no dinner."

She went down again, told Gladys that she would eat something, then sat in
the lonely dining-room swallowing her soup and cutlet in the utmost haste.

Something was terribly wrong. Her father was covering all the rest of her
view--the Jubilee, her mother, even Johnny. He was in great trouble, and
she must help him, but she felt desperately her youth, her inexperience,
her inadequacy.

She waited again, when she had finished her meal, wondering what she had
better do. Oh! how stupid not to know instantly the right thing and to
feel this fear when it was her own father!

She went half-way upstairs, and then stood listening. No sound. Again she
waited outside his door. With trembling hand she turned the handle. He
faced her, staring at her. On his left temple was a big black bruise, on
his forehead a cut, and on his left cheek a thin red mark that looked like
a scratch.

"Father, you're hurt!"

"Yes, I fell down--stumbled over something, coming up from the river." He
looked at her impatiently. "Well, well, what is it?"

"Nothing, father--only they're still keeping some dinner--"

"I don't want anything. Where is your mother?"

"She hasn't come back."

"Not come back? Why, where did she go to?"

"I don't know. Gladys says she went out about six."

He pushed past her into the passage. He went down into the hall; she
followed him timidly. From the bottom of the stairs he saw the letter on
the table, and he went straight to it. He tore open the envelope and read:

* * * * *

I have left you for ever. All that I told you on Sunday night was true,
and you may use that information as you please. Whatever may come to me,
at least I know that I am never to live under the same roof with you
again, and that is happiness enough for me, whatever other misery there
may be in store for me. Now, at last, perhaps, you will realise that
loneliness is worse than any other hell, and that's the hell you've made
me suffer for twenty years. Look around you and see what your selfishness
has done for you. It will be useless to try to persuade me to return to
you. I hope to God that I shall never see you again.


* * * * *

He turned and said in his ordinary voice, "Your mother has left me."

He came across to her, suddenly caught her by the shoulders, and said:
"Now, _you'd_ better go, do you hear? They've all left me, your
mother, Falk, all of them. They've fallen on me and beaten me. They've
kicked me. They've spied on me and mocked me. Well, then, you join them.
Do you hear? What do you stay for? Why do you remain with me? Do you hear?
Do you hear?"


Back to Full Books