A CASE OF CONSCIENCE

Ernest Dowson

........1 Ernest Dowson.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................4 III .......................................A CASE OF CONSCIENCE Table of Contents A CASE OF CONSCIENCE......6 i .......1 I.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................1 II.................................................................................

He took the mutinous hand. and had once been war correspondent of an illustrated paper. that had left its mark upon him. a little absently. You will forget me. he had never been anything but artist. Ploumariel. I am troubled. of life in his day. as one who had seen it very often before. smiling masterfully. half way up the hill: at its lichened church spire. Actually." she said. A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 1 . never more than now when he was no longer young. though Autumn was not yet. let me go. with its little sprig of heather. using English just coloured by a foreign accent. frowning at the memory of so many years in which she had no part.com •I • II • III I IT was in Brittany. at its quiet white houses. where I made my first Communion. there was a touch of military erectness in his carriage which often deceived people as to his vocation. of myself chiefly. His face. grew very tender in addressing this little French girl. strange. and the apples were already acquiring a ruddier. amid their greens and yellows. with its rebellious brown hair braided plainly. which usually took an intonation that his friends found supercilious. from their post of vantage. was growing bald. turning her large. and the country lay very still and fair in the sunset which had befallen. troubled eyes on her companion. the poise of her head. Sebastian. it was worn and rather pale. He seemed to find her insistence adorable. the lines about the firm mouth were full of lassitude. but very beautiful. The man's eyes rested on it complacently. how I love you! but I want to go away from you and pray in the little quiet church. and held it between his own. she held an old parasol. He was a man of more than forty. but very kindly. A man and a girl stood looking down in silence at the village. Sebastian. dotted with little gables. I will come to the world's end with you. like dove−cotes. though he came of a family of soldiers. http://www. curiously. the other played occasionally with a bit of purple heather. he was contrasting her with all other women whom he had known. had streaks of gray in his moustache. all my old landmarks appear to vanish. but a little of you. "You make me afraid. Presently she began to speak. mentally. my God. He had the air of having tasted widely. at the slated roof of its market. with her quaint air of childish dignity. "you make me afraid. In one ungloved hand. that was brown from the sun. I love you.A CASE OF CONSCIENCE Ernest Dowson This page copyright © 2001 Blackmask Online. When you speak. terrible. I even hardly know right from wrong. possessed a certain charm. the eyes rather tired. that made her speech prettier. A certain distinction had always adhered to him. do not ask me. His voice. without being handsome. You suggest so much to me that is new. of reserve which sat piquantly upon her youth. but her gray serious eyes. You cannot care very much for me. finding it charming: the girl's. gave her a little air of dignity. softly and suddenly as is the fashion there.blackmask. prosperous as he seemed now. autumnal tint. with the enjoyment of the painter. built large to an uniform English pattern." The man looked down at her. She was pretty and very young. I am a little girl to you. but oh.

He drew her to him gently. they recognised it. and I am sorely tempted to seal your lips from uttering heresy. "trust yourself to me. with an ugly. his eyes were profoundly in earnest. good man. an admirable figure. They watched the young girl cross it briskly. as the hour suggested: these were brought to them presently by an old servant of the house." he observed. ""I may as well tell you that I happened to overlook you. But I must not linger now. he put her away from him. in any case. and remarked. Marie−Yvonne: it has made you serious−eyed. You would let morbid fancies come between us. white house." She held out her hand. before the scent of English tobacco drew their attention to a figure seated by the road−side. under a hedge. and he drew closer to her. I will never give you up. flushing: "and he must have seen us. who gave the little fingers a private pressure. and removed it to his pocket. and ordered absinthes. little one: change it for me. how he wishes this. After a while the other looked up. and its mildewed odour of dead people. was very low and pleasant. as they drew near: he shook the ashes out of his briar. in the English fashion." Her companion. hitherto. a little consciously. Presently. in the name of Life. with absent eyes." he remarked. presently a bend of the road hid them from it. after a moment: "I shall see your uncle to−morrow and we know. Tregellan. by and by. I would have told Tregellan." His words were half−jesting. For some time they sat in silence. urbanely. outside it. with the white sleeves and apron relieving her linsey dress: with her good Breton face. and. You are a little heretic. more seriously." They took their way in silence towards the village. The impossible conjuncture! Marie−Yvonne. I have seldom seen Ploumariel look better. a little tremor ran through her. with its worm−eaten benches." Sebastian Murch held up his glass. considering its clouded green in various lights. at last. A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 2 . and then her shy lips. Marie−Yvonne. "It is M. helping her with his arm over the rough stones. Emerging. as most Breton hostels." she added breaking a little silence in which none of them seemed quite at ease. "You must have had a charming walk. It was a low. before you have learnt to laugh. Take care." The figure rose. I will not hear one word more. foolish child. a bench and long stained table enticed them to rest. They sat down. just now. my dear fellow. Marie−Yvonne. make it worth while. gravely. and its effective wrinkles. The artist appeared to be absorbed in contemplation of his drink." said the young girl. unintentionally. and started apart. and you ask me to let you go. hardly suppressed a little quick objurgation. Mademoiselle. frowning. Let us go down. "You have already given me your answer.A CASE OF CONSCIENCE "Marie−Yvonne." "Yes. "My uncle will be expecting me to supper. my child! You know. and then to Sebastian Murch. "it has been very pleasant." he added. you will never regret it. clever face. drinking and smoking. belted half way down the front with black stone. to Tregellan. You have lived overmuch in that little church. They had come into the market−place round which most of the houses in Ploumariel were grouped. a pictorial object. He was a slight man. his voice as he greeted them. before you have ever been young. they had gone thirty yards so. abruptly." she said. are worth all the rest of my life to me. "It makes no matter. in one breath. with equal gentleness. saw her blue gown pass out of sight down a bye street: then they turned to their own hotel. Believe me. "Don't mention it. You know that these months that I have been at Ploumariel. The ground floor was a café. and. I come to claim you. You tell me that you love me. and when he bent down and kissed her forehead. It has been a difficult life. she made no resistance: only. it will steal away your youth. and dead ideas.

and so. at the suggestion of their hostess they set off to visit it. as though he expected his friend's subtilty to come to his assistance. out into the street. voted it magnificently picturesque. are you quite justified in playing with that charming girl. quite frankly. the pious pilgrim. And Tregellan sat for a long time without speaking. as they had often done before. at some peril. it hasn't been because I have been blind. They had slept at the Lion d'Or. in compromising her?" The artist looked up at last. harder to defeat. To be very plain. or approved. as you have introduced the subject. It was built steeply on an edge of rock. and the rest! Touring in Brittany. appreciating his purpose. his expressive mouth was set. might compass the A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 3 . at the bottom of which they could discern a brown torrent purling tumidly along. and now I am sorry I did not speak before. wished nothing better than to stand on his defence. as though he hoped to be criticised. but the chance of travel had for once defeated them. a place unknown of Murray. he observed quietly: "You must be a little more explicit." "My dear fellow!" he stopped a little. After a while. who happens to prefer the English method of courtship. absolutely: his eyes had a defiant light in them. smiling. don't be paltry. at two dogs quarrelling oversome offal. Tregellan. and would have gone away and forgotten it. "With Mademoiselle Mitouard?" "Exactly. I have seen how it was all along.A CASE OF CONSCIENCE "I beg your pardon. but I am afraid I must. Only until this afternoon I did not know how far it had gone." said Sebastian Murch. For the convenience of devotees. I have had it on my mind to say something. Sebastian. iron rings. holding desperately to these. he was sure. with the air of a person reciting a little set speech. admit your right to question me: still. at short intervals. And that her uncle. a little away. and she has consented. they had fallen upon it by chance. He reflected how accidental it had all been: their presence there. as Tregellan still halted. in their habit of old friends." "It is you that are impossible. at least. with the niece of a man whose guest you have recently been. considering his words: "You are hasty and uncharitable for such a very moral person! you jump at conclusions. I have known you long enough to hazard it. his curiously anxious face suggested that the question had become to him one of increased nicety." cried the other. it's impossible. but with singular determination." "Ah. Tregellan. that defeated it must be. I don't. and yet. to argue the thing out." The other held his cigar between two fingers. were driven into the wall. But the other was still silent. I gathered it from your letters when I was in England. "I daresay you will be angry: I can't avoid that. "I am sorry. I confess I miss your meaning. not angrily. I have asked Mademoiselle Mitouard to marry me. amongst odorous pines overhanging a ravine. Hard by they heard of the little votive chapel of Saint Bernard. is not likely to refuse. after a moment. absent: his face wore a look of annoyed indifference. with admissions or recriminations. "You know my meaning." he said. He looked at him now. you know. If I have been silent. and the merest chance had held them there. subject to her uncle's approval. "this is worse than I imagined. It seemed more monstrous the closer he considered it: natural enough withal. I may as well satisfy you." He stopped short." He spoke with an extreme deliberation which suggested nervousness. learnt imperfectly: and he looked very straight in front of him. quickly. in Ploumariel.

might be considerably forgot. For. in the beginnings of an intimacy. from Tregellan half−hearted. he found him lying on a grass terrace. And there. all the clever bores. who was charmed with the wild beauty of the scene. Tregellan. "to me it seems impossible. after a pause. le Docteur Mitouard insisted that the invalid could be cared for properly at his house alone. It seemed. spiritually." "She is a child. It was with a sensible relief. in spite of protestations. finding this persistence perhaps a trifle crude. making his way rapidly down a winding path. with a suggestion of irony. why do you ask?" I imagined not. and teach her their 'fads. for the fall had the illusion of great depth. Tregellan had protested: and the Saint. half−way round. Caring greatly for things foreign. Tregellan! though I may remind you it is also yours. I think it would interfere a little with my career. bearing away with him. saying an oraison to Saint Bernard. you will go back to London with your little Breton wife. he was installed. who is as charming here as the apple−blossom in her own garden. resenting the purely æesthetic motive of the feat. a clear dispensation of Providence. I think she is being starved in this corner. a country whence his brother had brought back a wife. and within the hour he had returned with two stalwart Bretons and M. Their tour had been. earnest from Sebastian. Tregellan left him with an easy mind. in which. and with an especial passion for England. that the amiable doctor should prove an hospitable person. and one inspiring confidence no less. cursing his folly. as he had seen her standing by his friend's sofa when he paid his adieux. who will receive her with open arms. le Docteur Mitouard. to begin with. his impatience at an enforced detention.'" "That is a caricature of my circle. not the girl. and everybody who has a 'fad'. had been seized with a fit of emulation: not in any mood of devotion. and are talked about between Bloomsbury and Kensington. and some ten Aves. You will introduce her to your circle. She has a beautiful soul. half enviously. considering your history it takes me by surprise. during which you have seen almost as much of her as I.A CASE OF CONSCIENCE circuit. there is five−and−twenty years' disparity between you. "Not precisely. two days later. lost his hold. and paint. charming face of a girl. Sebastian. and holding a lamentably sprained ankle. growing giddy may be. Everybody who is emancipated will know her. as you call it. naturally." II 4 . had seemed to intervene. the recollection of the young. M. And there. the petulance of the invalid. with a little cry of horror. and talk. drawing to its close. II "I am sorry you don't see it. in a country ordinarily so placid. the Doctor's niece. he remarked good−humouredly enough: "Will you be good enough to explain your opposition? Do you object to the girl? You have been back a week now. but for the rest uninjured! Tregellan had made off in haste to Ploumariel in search of assistance. But it's the relation I object to. saw him disappear amidst crumbling mortar and uprooted ferns. and it has had no chance. and I am not afraid of the result. amidst débris twenty feet lower. Tregellan indeed had an imperative need to be in London within the week. Do you intend to live in Ploumariel?" Sebastian smiled. as he foresaw. and they will come in a body and emancipate her. therefore. that. And all that had been two months ago. who write." continued Tregellan. but for the sake of a wider prospect." The other frowned slightly. the artist had made a false step. I propose to give it one.

I can't see that I am wrong. a world without definitions. "Consider what a transplantation. "but I must say it. her English mother: passionate Catholicism! a touch of Puritan! Have you quite made up your mind. curiously. I have watched it. compassionately. ideas." "You are candid. of lassitude." said the artist. ignoring his interruption. terrify her. or her uncle. Sebastian.A CASE OF CONSCIENCE Tregellan threw away the stump of his cigar into the darkling street. Yes?" "Then I should understand that there was no further question of your marriage. And no harm has come of it. could least afford to lose. "I could not have said more myself. Have you explained to Mademoiselle. Tregellan!" "Let her go. allow me to know her. Tregellan shook his head." "You must be going to say something." The other continued." exclaimed his friend. "why should she be so limited? I would give her scope. the one I value most. "The Breton blood. with a touch of resentment at what he found his lack of subtilty. Then he said at last: "I called it impossible: you force me to be very explicit. "She has had great luck. at least until it gave you the occasion of making love to her." put in the artist. to yours. so ordered. Sebastian?" "I made it up long ago." said the artist. I must remind you. at last he said coldly: "If I were to answer. from this world of Plotmariel where everything is fixed for her by that venerable old Curé. youryour peculiar position?" Sebastian was silent for a moment. your ideas. that you are. "I am. extremely disagreeable! something horrible. even cruel." II 5 . with a little gesture of discouragement. slowly. on the English system of growing up as she liked. a little grimly." "Exactly. with increasing gravity. divide you. of all my friends. let her go. where life is so easy. a perfect thing. where everything is an open question. ours. "She has had the chance to become what she is. Tregellan!" The other looked at him. frowning: the lines about his mouth grew a little sterner." said Tregellan. in the end." he continued. She has been brought up by an old eccentric." "She will not accept them." "At least. It is not an elastic nature." "My dear fellow. They will trouble her.

but I swear you love the girl yourself. I shall say nothing." The other was watching his face. tossed to and fro irresolutely. "well. looking out on it all with their anxious faces. and pave the way to your own success. Then he added very quietly as one breaks supreme bad tidings. Presently they brought him in a pencilled note. . For all I know she may be actually dead. He spent an hour painfully invoking casuistry. this knowledge tied his hands. of course. it must be I. Tregellan?" asked the artist at last." he cried aloud. leaden voice. I shall not tell her. if you must. their glasses empty. morally. "No. "It's not true. I am infinitely sorry. I have suffered enough for a youthful folly. I refuse to allow an infamous woman to wreck my future life as she has disgraced my past. of the complex aching life of cities. Sebastian! Believe me. "I must tell you something which I fear you have not realised." There was extremest peace in the quiet square." He read the note through twice before he grasped its purport. but not its object. Legally. very gray and old now. "It must be. and if it be not you. with tangled hair and fair dirty faces. with an anxious compassion. "Is that your final word. Sebastian. he wondered if the artist was making his difficult confession. but a moment later knew himself for a self−deceiver all along. and their smoking over. she has passed out of it. I have not told Marie−Yvonne that. There was no more to do or say. the houses seemed sleepy at last. If she marry you and find out." he answered quickly. "You know she is not dead. Ite! missa est! . an act of mad generosity. with its troubles and Its difficulties. but never for a moment III 6 . after a day of exhausting tranquillity. some day she will find it out. and the chestnuts. Tell her what you will. Sebastian. and your unjustifiable interference. his face grown singularly gray. Very placid! the place and the few peasants in their pictorial hats and caps who lingered. Do you see the tragedy. a little wearily. legally. to save you both somebody shall tell her. and are no right arbiter here." "Yes. and. . Never had self−consciousness been more sudden. No damnable secret like that keeps itself for ever: an old newspaper. I am entirely in your hands: at the mercy of your extraordinary notions of duty. I will sleep on it. brought in a contrasting note of modern life. Only the two Englishmen sitting. she is not my wife. still played. or complete. The Catholic Church does not recognise divorce. Sebastian Murch. acidly. dying hard it seemed over the street in which the Mitouards lived. the misery of it? By God." he said simply. under which a few children. the deluge. it's not true. both wore the bruised harassed air which tells of a night passed without benefit of sleep. Immediately afterwards Murch went out alone: Tregellan could guess the direction of his visit. and they heard suddenly the tinkle of an Angelus bell. with some surprise. his friend's tortuous hand. rightly or wrongly she will believe that she has been living in sin.A CASE OF CONSCIENCE Presently the other commenced in a hard. The last glow of the sun fell on the gray roofs opposite. he recognised. then sat holding it in lax fingers. unexpected. a chance remark from one of your dear friends. "I have considered our conversation." III They made their first breakfast in an almost total silence.

pointed to his valise. with its one incongruous apple tree. Coming in later in the day. shortly." "It was true then?" said Sebastian. with places for four. I have not been near her. "I wish I had never known. but there was no one visible. the least misery for you and her. the glass of which had long perished. when the chamber− maid entered for his luggage. you should have known me better than that. silently. which waited outside the post−office." he said. I am going by it." As Sebastian said nothing. settled himself on the shiny leather cushion: he appeared to be the only passenger. "God help you both! I would have saved you if you had let me. a dusty ancient vehicle. and presently. which had persuaded him to a disagreeable interference. "I have been walking about the hills like a madman for hours. shrugged his shoulders. curiously. Tregellan! How could I ever tell her!" III 7 . carrying Tregellan's things. Sebastian had tied his hands. they went down and out into the splendid sunshine. A man in a blue blouse preceded them. my poor friend. "I did not know it then. arch and sad as her nature. a brush. only the best. Sebastian Murch found his friend packing. suddenly: "Is it true. hooded. he went on after a moment: "You did me a grave injustice. anxious gaze. God knows I meant nothing shameful. watched him trivial things. I shall catch a night train to Paris. which the other packed mechanically with elaborate care. There was no more to say. They had to cross the Square to reach the carriage. and outside them both. The Quimperlé Courrier passes in half−an−hour. Things must be! He was a man nicely conscientious. and so at last he was left to decide with a sigh. Sebastian stood looking drearily in at the window. and their eyes both sought the white house of Doctor Mitouard. This suspicion of an ulterior motive had altered it. that because he loved these two so well. and now all the elaborate devices of his honour. Presently. His voice was very cold. were contraposed against him. had loved her all along. he must let them go their own way to misery." He had climbed into his place at the back." said Tregellan. He regarded the thing as it had been very remote. Tregellan found him altered. I am afraid. The little Breton wild flower! how cruel it seemed to gather her! And he could do no more. Sebastian. and he handed him from time to time a book. standing back a little in its trim garden. Yes! he loved her. that you said last night: divorce to a Catholic?" Tregellan interrupted him. He knelt down again and resumed his packing. Sebastian asked. From the corner they could look down the road to Quimperlé. Tell me what you mean to do?" Tregellan rose. "It is absolutely true.A CASE OF CONSCIENCE disputing that plain fact which Sebastian had so brutally illuminated. leaning against the bed. "I have come to get your answer. Marie−Yvonne! how the name expressed her! at once sweet and serious. continued to regard him with the same dull.

" he replied. but in sheer impotence. to recognise the long stooping figure of Sebastian Murch. She watched it out of sight.A CASE OF CONSCIENCE Inside." The carriage lumbered off. in a large straw hat. a young girl. As it passed the Mitouards' house. "if you find it. then she turned. with a lurch to the right." said the other." "Ah. Tregellan shrugged his shoulders: not impatiently. or angrily. too late to discover whom it contained." The driver cracked his whip. who advanced to meet her. as it turned the corner. "Well. III 8 . suggestively. it rattled down the hill. as one who gave it up. "I can't help you. Sebastian drew back a little further from the off wheel. came down the garden. Sebastian. raising a cloud of white dust. "Yes! I will write. it's too difficult!" cried the other: "I can't find my way. "you must arrange it with your own conscience. indifferently. leaning on the little iron gate." "Good−bye." he said. write and tell me. I am very sorry.

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